Building a brand from the ground up is a wild ride. And you’d better hold on tight, because today, you’re learning the ins and outs (and loop-de-loops) of crafting a killer brand strategy that will guide your org as you launch, scale, and thrive.

First things first, let’s clear up a common mix-up: Brand strategy is not marketing. Marketing is all about the tactics you use to promote and sell your products and services, while your brand strategy includes the long-term vision and objectives. Basically your brand strategy is the foundation of your brand, while marketing serves as the building blocks that turn your business into the skyscraper it’s meant to be.

Of course, marketing is crucial to creating, growing, and sustaining a thriving business. But you can’t start marketing without a brand strategy. It’s the “why” behind your brand, defining who you are, what you stand for, and why you exist. Once you’ve got a rock-solid brand strategy, your marketing becomes turbocharged because it’s aligned with your core identity.

So, let’s dive into our step-by-step guide for crafting your startup’s best brand strategy:

Step 1: Unearth Your Brand’s Purpose

Ask yourself the big question: Why does your startup exist, other than just to make a profit? What problem are you solving, and how do you hope to impact the world? Your purpose should be crystal-clear to your internal team, and something that hits home with your target audience. Once you nail down your purpose, you’ll be able to use it to develop all the other key components of your brand’s foundation — including your mission, vision, and values.

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Step 2: Know Your Audience Inside-Out

Now it’s time to get inside your audience’s head. What do they need? What motivates them to buy? How can your startup not just solve their problems, but connect with them on an authentic, meaningful level? Creating vivid customer personas that illuminate their needs, pain points, and dreams will help you tailor your brand messaging and offerings at every touchpoint with your audience.

Step 3: Define Your Brand’s Personality

Your brand should have its own unique personality that resonates with your audience in an authentic way. (You can’t just talk the talk of your brand values — you need to walk the walk.) Are you the new, daring maverick on the block? Is your vibe more buttoned-up and trustworthy? Or are you a comforting presence that feels like home? Consider these questions as you nail down your tone of voice, writing style, and visual identity to match your brand’s personality. (P.S. We love creating unique personas for the startups we work with — it’s a fun, enlightening exercise to discover who your brand really is!)

Step 4: Conduct a Competitive Analysis

Analyze your competitors’ branding strategies. What makes you unique from them, and how can you differentiate yourself in the market? Your goal is to find a position that sets you apart so there’s no mistaking what kind of experience customers will get if they choose you over someone else.

Step 5: Tell Your Brand Story

People love stories — and guess what? Your brand loves people! This is your chance to craft an authentic narrative that illuminates your organization’s purpose, values, and personality. Share your journey — the highs, lows, and everything in between. This emotional connection will build trust among your loyal fans.

Step 6: Establish Your Visual Identity

You’ve already done a lot of the footwork for this — now it’s time to put it into action. Taking everything you’ve learned so far about your brand, you can now land on a visual identity that immediately sets your org apart and gives a sense of who you are. This includes a logo, color palette, typography, and imagery guidelines.

Step 7: Define Your Brand Guidelines

Put your brand guidelines down on paper to make sure everyone’s on the same page. This includes how to use your logo, fonts, colors, specific word choice, and the tone of your messaging. Share these guidelines with your team to keep your brand in sync at all times. Remember, consistency in these elements, across every touchpoint, is key to making sure your brand sticks in your audience’s mind.

Step 8: Sprinkle Brand Magic Everywhere

Make sure your brand strategy is the star of the show across your website, social media, packaging, customer service — really, anyplace your brand touches. Every encounter should showcase your brand’s identity.

Step 9: Keep an Eye on the Prize

Don’t kick back just yet! Regularly check the pulse of your brand strategy. Collect feedback from customers, watch your brand awareness grow, and track the numbers. Be ready to pivot and adjust as your startup grows and the winds of change blow through the market.

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About the Author: Jenny Farias

Meet Jenny — the founder and brand-alchemist-at-large here at BxH. She's an award-winning marketer and speaker dedicated to helping founders turn their unicorn dreams into reality. When she's not crushing it at work, you can find her jet-setting across the globe, supporting fellow female founders (hello, gWen!), or hitting up Charlotte's vibrant entrepreneurial scene with her boyfriend, Ben (#BenTheGem). Wherever she goes, Jenny brings her infectious energy and can-do attitude to the table — preferably alongside a spicy margarita.

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