Why every startup needs a Brand Bible

May 12, 2017

 

 

Last week, in my post on what Vikings and Brands have in common I talked a lot about the origins of brands, why branding matters and the massive impact it can have on your business - whether big or small. 

 

So if brand really matters the next logical question is “OK, when do I start? What can I do today?” and if you’re a scrappy entrepreneur with little budget then “What can I can I do that won’t cost much?”

 

In the 20+ years I’ve been working in marketing and building brands ranging Pepsi Max (in South America) to rave parties in Spain, selling video games in England or marketing App Stores in the US my answer is simple: start as early as you possibly can.

You don’t have to spend much but there are two things to keep in mind when you think about branding:

  1. Branding is a long term investment. As I stated in my previous article, it’s an insurance policy or an investment account but you have to invest in it. It takes time to materialize and become valuable.

  2. Branding affects everything else you do and is the foundation of your company. Think of it like a house. You always start by building the basement / foundation not by building the roof. 

So where do you start?

 

Whether it was rebranding GetJar in 2008 or creating the Google play brand in 2012, I always start the same way: developing the company’s Brand Bible. 

Think of your Brand Bible as a set of rules or a sacred book. It contains the essential truths or tenets of your brand. It’s the comprehensive guide to everything there is to know not just about your brand but also about your company and your company culture. The Brand Bible, when done properly, provides a clear roadmap or north star to what the company does and doesn’t do. 

 

What does a Brand Bible contain:

  1. Your Reason for Being or Vision - The “Why” of why your company does what it does. Why did you first employees join you? It’s the big hairy audacious goal that puts goose bumps on everyone’s arms every time you talk about it (and you should talk about it often!). This is your long term goal - such as to make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation (Phillips) or to make all the world’s information universally accessible (Google). This is meant to inspire the troops.

  2. Mission - your 2-3 year plan for how you’re going to move that vision forward. This is meant to provide a roadmap.

  3. Strategy - your overall plan for the next 12-18 months. This is meant to provide focus. 

  4. Brand Pyramid - the Brand pyramid is a pyramid that illustrates everything from your brand / product functionality (at the very bottom) to what the very essence of your brand is (at the very top).  Here's a post I recently wrote on how to build one.  

  5. Brand Persona - If you were to describe your brand as a person what would that person be like? How would you describe them? What kind of personality would they have? This gives your brand a more human “face”. 

  6. Brand Tone of Voice - When speaking with customers, partners or prospective employees what’s your tone of voice are you serious, friendly, flippant, humorous, slightly crazy (yours truly). 

  7. Brand Values - what do you stand for? What core values do you stand for such as honesty, integrity, transparency?

  8. Brand words & phrases - what words would you like your customers, employees and partners to associate with you if asked? What phrases would you like them to use? On the flip side what words do you definitively not want to be associated with? Be clear about what you are and aren’t.

There’s often a misperception in Tech that branding is the domain of big companies or that branding is expensive and not worth your time as a early stage company. Both are false. 

 

The Brand Bible lays the foundation for your brand, your values, your culture and the big "Why" which should inspire employees, partners and customers. It's the starting point and foundation for your company. Keep in mind that products change, people change, markets change but great brands and the stories they inspire are constants. Good companies build products. Great companies build brands.

Which would you rather be?

 

Oh!  and in case you're curious or just need some help, here's a link to the brand bible I wrote for madmork stories itself.  Hope that's useful!

 

Mad mork

Chief Storyteller

 

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