TECH STARTUP BRAND TRAPS
Brand realities dismantling the power of tech startups.
The tech startup world is exploding. These game-changing startups continue to shake up our culture, reshape how we live our lives, and dismantle perceptions of impossible. They are the ones unleashing visionary ideas that bring progress, change and betterment to the world.
Tech startups’ fundamental ambition is to fuel and direct their company to realize their full growth potential and set them up for unstoppable market momentum. But for a startup whose primary job is growth, ‘brand’ is often something that’s deprioritized on their growth journey.
Thinking of brand as more of a shiny package on their offering – logo and visual identity – many tech startups focus their energy, capital and brand messaging on their product.
But brand is so much bigger than design or logo. Brand is the merging of the company’s conviction and the articulation of the powerful impact the product/offering delivers. It’s these drivers that create brand relevance that sparks consumer connection and, hopefully, drives adoption. That value and point of view are then infused into everything connected to the company.
Having a clear, disruptive and meaningful brand promise is critical for startups to gain market traction and drive growth. If people don’t understand your offering and the impact it will have on them, it doesn’t matter how groundbreaking your technology or product idea is.
AND GIVEN THE CURRENT LANDSCAPE – TECH STARTUPS' BRANDS MATTER MORE THAN EVER.
GIVEN THIS, NEVER BEFORE HAS BRAND BEEN SO CRITICAL FOR TECH STARTUPS.
From working with a broad spectrum of tech startups, FOUR COMMON BRAND TRAPS are evident, and it’s those brand traps that dismantle tech startups’ power and weaken their potential for unstoppable market traction and growth.
Tech startups often take a very self-focused approach to their brands – making themselves and their offering the core focus. With tech startups, the focus is often on their technology and unique offering, more than the customers they serve and their impact. Scroll through most tech startups’ home pages and it’s rare to even find a mention of the customers they serve. That inward brand focus both impacts consumer connection and understanding – and connection and understanding are critical to overcoming adoption barriers. Tech startups need to turn their brand lens onto their customer – focusing their brand on what they can do for their customer, not just their tech offering.
Tech driven startup brands often lean into the complexity of innovation, almost holding up complex tech features and language as a badge vs. owning the simple value the tech delivers. Tech and product features lead their brand message – riddled with the promise of AI, machine learning, NLP, etc. What’s held up as powerhouse tech language actually dismantles brand connection, as advanced tech not only can fuel lack of understanding and intimidation barriers, it can drive the perception of a high-price tag and steep usage learning curve. All of these barriers can impact adoption potential. Tech startups increase their brand relatability when they own the impact of the tech, not just their innovation.
Most tech startups are founded on and fuelled by an inspiring and bold mission. It’s often the passion and conviction behind the startups that fuels connection and relevancy of the brand – not only connection with potential customers, but connection to attract talent. When you read a companies’ mission, like ‘democratizing the law’ (Ross Intelligence – AI powered legal research ), or ‘removing all the barriers to stock trading’ (Robinhood investing platform), or ’enable women to own their fertility and their future’ (Modern Fertility – home fertility testing) – there’s instant emotional connection to the company. But often there’s a complete disconnect between how tech startups talk about their brand and the mission and conviction it’s founded on. The mission and brand promise often seem like two completely separate brands. Greater brand meaning lives in creating strong linkage between the conviction tech startups are founded on and the brand promise they deliver.
Take a macro scan across key players of any tech startup category and you will quickly see overwhelming promise sameness. Emerging tech categories often fall into promise and language convention traps. What they think are a distinct and meaningful promise and language actually blurs into the tech category sea of sameness. For example, in the freelance talent portal startup space, taking a macro-level look across key players’ brand promises reveals the point of entry promises sameness in the category – with every player owning the promise of connecting businesses to freelancers. Having a standout brand means disrupting the promise and language sameness.
This is just a snapshot into the brand trap realities and brand opportunities for tech startups. And, it’s important to note that specific tech categories often have brand traps unique to their focus and category.
These startup brand traps both dismantle consumer connection and understanding of what the startup can do for customers – and connection and understanding are critical to driving engagement and overcoming adoption barriers.
Having a relevant, clear and disruptive brand promise from the ground floor gives startups the foundation they need to gain market traction, drive growth and provides a compelling platform to attract talent.
The tech startup brand reality – a strong brand promise out of the gate prevents stalling growth before it starts.