Branding from the Ground Up


As part of Twin Cities Start Up Week, Ultra Creative will lead a conversation about branding from the ground up with Cari Mosher, Brand Design Manager at General Mills, and Sam and Peter Blankenship, founders of medical device company Streamline and Wahi Nutrition. Save your spot for the panel on Tuesday, October 15th here.

The entrepreneurial spirit is a powerful thing. If you're one who passionately believes you've got the next great idea, product, or service we can appreciate your enthusiasm for wanting to get it out there. But before you're able to turn those ambitions into something that captivates the hearts and minds of consumers, you need ask yourself a few hard questions.

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When you build a brand, you take a stand about your place in the world. As an entrepreneur, you saw an opportunity and acted upon it. You're likely familiar with the industry. You have an understanding of your competitors and the general audience you're looking to reach.

From here, it's about positioning yourself to win within that space.  



Strategy is about making hard choices. And these three are among the toughest ones you'll need to answer:  Who is this for? What it does remarkably well? What benefit does it provide? 

Transform the responses to those questions into a single sentence. This is your positioning statement. Stay true to it. You will learn more as you go. Your statement may evolve over time. But today is about establishing a brand and charting a course. You can't navigate further without those parameters defined.



Why do you exist? Brand purpose more than what you do, it's about how you benefit others. It should be higher minded. It's emotional, energizing and ambitious. If you get your purpose right, you'll also create new opportunities for growth and innovation because it'll be done in the spirit of your purpose.

Consumers align with brands that share their values. Give them clearly defined reasons to rally behind yours. The more reasons you give them to believe in who you are, what you do and stand for, the more likely they'll consume and evangelize your brand.

It also sets the tone for the kind of business you'll run and the people you'll partner with to make it a reality. Values give you guideposts for making informed business decisions on your brand. 



Think of your brand as a person. Give it a set of human characteristics. These traits will define how your brand talks, acts and looks. What is the feeling you want someone to have when they interact with your brand for the first time? Once defined, stay true to it. It's who you are and will be your guidepost for how you act in the world.



As the proud parent of this new brand, it's time to name your baby and introduce it to the world in a way you can authentically own.

But where do you begin? The possibilities seem endless. Consider naming conventions that suit your offering. Here are a few approaches to kickstart your name generation.


If it's completely unique to the category and requires greater consumer understanding, a descriptive name could help carry that message.


When you're entering a saturated category filled with established players, you may need a more disruptive brand name to stands out in the crowded competitive set. 


Think about the feeling one gets when they use your product. Create a name that speaks to the emotional state you hope to achieve. Telegraph how this might benefit their life. 


It can be challenging to invent a new brand name that hasn't already been taken. When you're struggling to fine one, consider an esoteric approach. Just know if you choose the unconventional approach, you'll need the rest of your branding to work harder to support the name or story it's based on.



If you're offering comes from an interesting story, place or person, an origin-based name may be in play. It immediately provides authenticity and a platform for your brand back story. 

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Explore what it could be, before deciding what it should be. How do you know you've got the right one? Look back to your strategy. Does it fit within those parameters? Does it feel authentic, believable and ownable? Can your offering live up to the reputable name you just created?



You've laid the foundation for who you are and what your brand is all about. To date, it's all been in your mind, a part of conversations and on paper. Now it's time to visually and verbally articulate your brand essence. These core brand assets will be how others recognize you moving forward.



The most iconic brandmarks are the ones that are understood without words. Make yours memorable, ownable and simple. Symbolically, what does it say about your brand? Can it translate well to a black-and-white format? These are the questions you'll want to ask yourself at final selection time.



A tagline needs to say a lot in just a few words. Choose them carefully. To help with idea generation, try starting with these leading questions. What benefit do you ultimately want your consumer to gain? How does it make their lives better? What's the true point of difference between your brand and others out there? How can you connect with them on a more emotional level? What's that feeling or takeaway? Avoid the kitchen sink approach. If you can't do it in about 5 words or less, try again. 



It's time to give your brand a voice. To set the tone, revisit your brand personality development.

How will speak to your consumer? To help find your voice, think of your brand as a distinctive character in a story.  Are you inspiring? Irreverent? Bold? Innocent? A trusted friend? Bring voice to those characteristics. 



When you have a limited media or promotional budget, your package needs to do a lot of the heavy lifting. It's the personification of your brand and may be only consumer touch point you get. Make it count. If it's a consumer packaged good, study the aisle it'll be shelved in. Does the design have stopping power? Does it quickly convey the offering? What are the core design tenants that consumers will instantly recognize? Overall, is it doing a standout job?



All of the hard work you've put into to carving out a place for your brand in purpose, positioning, personality and beyond will serve you well. Pull all of these key brand decisions into one document. This is your brand asset guide. Refer to it often. It's an important resource to share with future partners as you look to maintain brand consistency across various platforms and touch points.

The 'brand' is what you've just defined.

 Moving forward is about the 'branding,’ which is the consistent, on-going conversations you have with your consumers. The assets you’ve created will be how they recognize you in the world. Stay true to those across all consumer touch points and you'll start to create a consistent brand language that people will come to look and love you for.