Building a brand from the ground up can feel like a daunting task, especially when you’re juggling the many responsibilities that come with starting a business. You might be wondering where to even begin. You’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed and uncertain about how to create a brand that truly resonates with their target audience.

As a seasoned branding consultant with over nine years of experience, I understand these challenges intimately. At Phoenix Brand Consultancy, we specialize in helping startups and growth-stage companies develop strong, memorable brands. This blog post, however, is dedicated to very early-stage startups that are at the very beginning of their branding journey and need free, hands-on advice.

In this blog post, you will learn practical, actionable steps to build your Minimum Viable Brand (MVB) and set a solid foundation for your business.

We’ll cover everything from the initial mindset you need to adopt, to positioning your brand, choosing a name, and building a cohesive brand identity. Additionally, we’ll discuss the importance of trademarking your brand name and how to plan for future iterations of your branding. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear roadmap to create a brand that stands out in a crowded market and resonates with your audience.

Let’s dive in and start building your MVB!

Understanding the Minimum Viable Brand (MVB)

Creating a strong brand doesn’t have to start with a fully polished and perfected image. In fact, for startups and new businesses, it’s more practical to begin with a Minimum Viable Brand (MVB). But what exactly is an MVB, and why is it important?

What is an MVB?

An MVB, or Minimum Viable Brand, is the most basic version of your brand that is good enough to be launched and tested in the market. This concept is similar to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in product development. The idea is to have a functional brand that you can put out there to see if people are interested, and then refine it over time based on feedback.

From napkin brand to MVB to your fully grown-up Brand. We always work in iterations.

Why is an MVB Important?

Starting with an MVB has several key benefits. It saves time and resources by focusing on the essential elements of your brand, allowing you to launch quicker. An MVB allows you to test and refine your brand based on actual customer feedback and market conditions. By starting with a minimal version, you reduce the risk of investing heavily in branding elements that might not resonate with your audience.

Steps to Create an MVB

  1. Mindset: Detaching Ego from Brand
  2. Positioning Your Brand
  3. Naming Your Brand
  4. Designing Your Brand Identity

1. Mindset: Detaching Ego from Brand

Building a brand is deeply personal. It often feels like an extension of ourselves, filled with our vision and hard work. However, it’s crucial to detach your ego from your brand and view it as a strategic asset.

Brand is deeply personal. That's why you have to detach your ego.

Why Detaching Ego is Crucial

Branding involves showing your creation to others, which can be vulnerable. By detaching your ego, you can evaluate your brand objectively and make strategic decisions based on feedback and market needs, rather than personal feelings.

Strategies for Maintaining a Balanced Perspective

Embrace feedback. Listen to feedback from customers, partners, and critics. It provides valuable insights that help refine and improve your brand. Treat branding as an ongoing process. Start with a Minimum Viable Brand (MVB) and be prepared to make adjustments based on data and feedback. Remember, your brand represents your business, not you as an individual. This distinction helps in making decisions that are best for your brand’s growth.

By adopting this mindset, you can create a brand that reflects your vision and resonates with your audience, evolving into a strong asset over time.

2. Positioning Your Brand

Positioning is crucial for your brand’s identity. It defines what you want people to think and feel when they encounter your brand.

Importance of Positioning

Positioning helps your brand stand out in a crowded market and ensures it resonates with your target audience. It determines how your brand is perceived by consumers.

Steps to DIY Your Brand Positioning

To effectively position your brand, start by understanding mental networks. Your brand name acts as an anchor in a mental network, with various associations like thoughts, feelings, images, and experiences linked to it.

For example, when you hear “Coca-Cola,” you might think of Christmas, happiness, refreshment, Santa Claus, the color red, beach and fun times, lots of sugar, and the iconic bottle shape. These associations form a mental network around the brand name.

Associations, thoughts and feelings form a mental network around the brand name.

Of course, we don't invent what people think but you can reverse engineer your intended brand image. What would you like to be known for?

Conduct thorough research by engaging in customer interviews, stakeholder interviews, competitive analysis, and market research. Use the data gathered from these sources to make an educated guess about the associations you want people to have with your brand.

After gathering the necessary insights, craft a simple positioning statement. The goal is to keep it straightforward and memorable. The more cohesive and connected these associations are, the stronger your brand will be in the minds of consumers.

Finally, create a cohesive story that ties these associations together. Developing a narrative around your brand helps your audience easily remember and connect with it. Positioning work is very deliberate work and can be tough to do on your own. If you feel like you need help with that, check out our very accessible offer on Brand Positioning "Ignite", which is designed for early-stage founders.

3. Naming Your Brand

Choosing the right name for your brand is a critical step in building a strong identity. A good brand name is memorable, easy to pronounce, and reflects your brand’s essence. There are various approaches to naming your brand, each with its own advantages and considerations.

Types of Brand Names

Different types of brand names come with their own ups and downs.

Descriptive names describe what a company or product does. While they can be clear and straightforward, they are often difficult to trademark and might not stand out in the market. Examples include “General Motors” or “British Airways.”

Invented names are made-up words with no direct meaning but can be easy to trademark and memorable. Examples include “Google” and “Kodak.”

Experiential names describe the experience of using the product or service. They go beyond describing what the product does and focus on the benefit or experience. Examples include “United Airlines” and “Airbnb.”

Evocative names evoke a certain feeling or image. They are often metaphorical and can create a strong brand identity. Examples include “Apple” and “Virgin Airlines.”

Tips for Choosing a Memorable Name

Aim for simplicity.
A simple name is easier to remember and pronounce. Avoid complex or lengthy names that might confuse your audience. Ensure distinctiveness. Your brand name should stand out from competitors. Conduct research to ensure it is unique and not easily confused with other brands in your industry. Consider future growth.

Choose a name that allows for future expansion.
Avoid names that are too specific to a particular product or service, as they might limit your brand’s growth. Check for trademarks. Before finalizing a name, ensure it is available for trademark registration. This will protect your brand legally and prevent others from using a similar name. Test the name. Gather feedback from potential customers, partners, and stakeholders. See how they react to the name and if it evokes the desired associations and feelings.

Once you have found a name you want to keep, trademarking it is essential to protect your brand legally.

For your Minimum Viable Brand (MVB), start with a name that fits these criteria and can be easily evolved as your brand grows. You might begin with something simple and straightforward, then refine it as your brand identity becomes more established.

Our Recipe for your MVB Name

By focusing on these principles, you can choose a brand name that not only represents your business well but also sets the foundation for a strong, memorable brand identity.

Naming startups is our bread and butter here at Phoenix Brand Consultancy®! We'd be honored to partner with your early-stage startup to find the perfect brand name.

4. Designing Your Brand Identity

Your brand identity is a combination of visual elements that create your brand's overall look and feel. A strong brand identity differentiates your brand and makes it memorable. Here’s how you can build a cohesive brand identity:

Choosing Colors

Begin by conducting a visual audit of your competitors to spot gaps in their color usage. Select a primary color that will make your brand stand out in your category. This primary color should be distinctive and define your brand’s identity. Next, choose a secondary color to complement and contrast with the primary color. To create a cohesive color scheme, develop tints by adding white and shades by adding black. Additionally, ensure your chosen colors are accessible to all users by maintaining sufficient contrast.

Our recipe for your MVB color palette

Choosing Typography

Simplicity is essential when selecting typography. Start with one typeface to ensure a consistent look across all your materials. Choose a font that is easy to read and versatile enough for various uses. Then, create visual hierarchy and emphasis by using different weights, such as regular and bold, and styles, like italic.

Creating a Simple Yet Effective Logo

Your logo is a crucial part of your brand identity. Start with a wordmark by using your chosen typeface and primary color to create a straightforward logo. This is simply your brand name written in your main font and color. 

To enhance the visual appeal and make your logo versatile across different media, add a secondary color or an icon, creating a combination mark. For social media and other applications, create a monogram or icon version of your logo. This could be the initials of your brand name or a simple graphic element representing your brand.

Our recipe for your MVB logo

For example, imagine an accounting firm with a primary color of mutes green and a secondary color of light purple. The logo could be the firm's name in a clean, modern typeface using the primary color. A monogram version could use the initials "GA" in the same font and color scheme.

By focusing on these elements, you can create a cohesive and professional brand identity that effectively communicates your brand’s essence and makes a lasting impression.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

Building a brand from the ground up is a journey that involves careful planning, creativity, and continuous refinement. Starting with a Minimum Viable Brand (MVB) allows you to launch quickly and gather valuable feedback. Detaching your ego from your brand helps you make objective decisions, while effective positioning ensures your brand stands out and resonates with your target audience.

Recap of Key Points:

  1. Launch a basic version of your brand that is good enough to test and iterate.
  2. Detach your ego from your brand and view it as a strategic asset.
  3. Identify key associations and craft a cohesive story for your brand.
  4. Choose a simple, distinctive, and memorable name. Trademark it once you decide to keep it.
  5. Develop a cohesive visual identity with carefully chosen colors, typography, and a simple logo. As your brand evolves, plan for different logo versions.

By following these steps, you can create a strong, memorable brand that effectively communicates your business's essence and stands out in the market.

Next Steps:

First, implement your initial branding elements and introduce your brand to the market. Then, actively seek customer, partner, and stakeholder feedback to refine your brand. Use the feedback to make informed adjustments and improvements to your brand identity. When you feel ready, consider working with a branding professional to further refine and enhance your brand.

Creating a brand is an ongoing process. As your business grows, continue to revisit and refine your branding elements to ensure they remain relevant and effective. Your brand is a powerful tool that can significantly impact your business's success, so invest time and effort into making it the best it can be. Whenever you're ready, I'd be happy to work on your brand with my team at the Phoenix Brand Consultancy®!

The Phoenix Brand Consultancy® helps startups attract and keep customers. Our tools are razor-sharp positioning and memorable branding.