I think we all agree that a name, logo and color palette, a.k.a. brand, are very important to the entire experience of any company — and startups are no exception.
The goal of most every brand is to become the household name; the first name that comes to mind when there is a thought of a particular industry. The real question here, is “at what stage are resources best spent on branding in your startup?”
If you have been involved with business activities on any level, you should have heard the age old saying, ”cash is king,” quite frequently. Cash is the key to many closed doors and is the fuel to many fires, so why would you want to spend cash on something that may not even exist in the near future? Although this ”something” may pique interest of prospects or act as a conversation starter at conferences, this ”something” shouldn’t be where your resources are spent at first or duringpre-validation. This ”something” is a brand.
Your big question at this point has to be “Why?”
“…things change, Mox…” (Varsity Blues)
Things change indeed and a name, subsequently a brand, is no different. Far too often do startups spend some of their ever-so-important early stage capital on branding, logos, domain names, etc. Startup venture studios, like Differential, practice lean startup and rely heavily on validation and customer feedback to drive the next iterations. Sometimes, based on customer feedback, those iterations may involve changing a name very early causing sunken waste piles of intangible assets and a bank account that could really use those extra few thousand dollars. Sometimes peer groups, mentors or advisors may strike a chord with you on their reasoning for changing a name and, a week later, you’re back to spending money on branding.
So, the question now is “Where?”
Where should you spend your time and money at the early stages? It should be on validating your startup, developing your customers and actually making money rather than spend it on something as volatile as a name, a domain, a brand. As soon as you’ve developed a customer and recorded your first bit of revenue (exciting for sure, but not easy), then start looking at refining the image, refining the brand, refining the message and even getting that professionally designed logo you’ve been dreaming about.
Please don’t get me wrong, a brand is very important to the long term success of a business. It’s just that it isn’t a smart way to spend early resources due to the fact that: there are business activities that are more important to the success of your startup (validation, customer development, preorders) and the chances that your name and subsequently brand will change. Plenty of startups have iterated on their name. For example, VouchedFor changed to Repp, Pingage changed to Ahalogy and Untitled Startup became Simply Measured, and, although the reasoning is different in each case, the $1,000 “.com” domain, or the $700 logo just didn’t get the job done. Add your own startup that successfully changed their names on my list and help prove my point!