While you might be riding the high of your new years resolutions and that burst of motivation, when thinking of starting a new brand well, where exactly should you start?
Working with an Agency is always a good first step to creating the foundations of your company. But there's so many DIY options as well as things you should think about saving for before investing. Having a starting branding RFP is a good way to start - but what can you expect to actually invest in all the pieces needed before you get started?
Here's our top tips for new indie brands looking to launch their dream brand this year from start to finish:
1) Start with your name
You would not believe how many startups we talked to this year that had an amazing idea, ground breaking formulation, even got photography done only to be stopped in their tracks and almost wiped off the map with a cease-and-desist letter because their name was too similar to a big competitor.
Your brand, and brand name, is not something to mess around with and just decide on something because "you like it" and "it's good enough". No great and lasting brand just plucked a name out of thin air and had it stick without some sort of backstory, deep meaning, and well researched uniqueness behind it.
If you're struggling with finding a brand name that sticks, reach out and we can help start the process with our branding partners who can help concept, research, and find a name that sticks that you can keep long term, trademark and buy a domain and registry social handles for.
What to budget: Around $3-$5k USD for naming service, trademark registrations.
When to start: ASAP! If you let it sit, chances are someone else will start it before you do, so don't sit on your great idea!
How long to plan for this to take: Approx 1 month lead time and 2-4 weeks for brand naming.
2) Craft the visual identity
And not just your logo. A brand is created of 3 parts: what you want your customers to know you for (values, ethos, audience strategy), how you want them to talk about you when you're not in the room (customer service, brand voice, clear messaging strategy), and what devices you use to create recognition (logo, colors, type, marks, packaging).
If you don't have a brand yet created, don't feel paralyzed with everything you need to check off first. There is no ONE or RIGHT way to go about creating your brand. Of course, working with a professional like us to help you clarify your vision and communicate it to the world is a great place to start. However, we have worked with countless brands that have taken a more bootstrapping method, creating their "version 1" logo and packaging using the tools at their disposal to get their product in the hands of people who will be their future customers.
What to budget: Around $3-$10k + USD for branding identity, packaging, and other ephemera to be done professionally.
On a budget: Start with the basics of a brand identity - we have packages as low as $2.5k USD for an accelerated branding experience. Get your manufacturer to give your some packaging concepts, they sometimes will give you a deal for a proof-of-concept package. When you want it to be more beautiful, get a professional to help.
When to start: Book your service in WHILE you get your brand named, and AFTER you have your manufactured formulations.
How long to plan for this to take: Approx 1-2 month lead time to book a spot. Branding takes between 2 weeks to 1.5 months depending on scope. We can also help choose packaging containers that will best suit your ideal audience.
3) Prove Market Fit with your Product
Get your product into the hands of people you imagine would be your ideal customers, BEFORE you're ready. We love to call this "Product Market Fit" - proving to yourself (and potential investors if you need a cash injection) that your product is going to sell and you've identified some early tweaks you can make.
Having a great working prototype of your product that you actually get people to USE can help you identify:
- Changes to your packaging to make it more user friendly/size for quantity
- Common complaints/raves from testers on quality
- How to support your first customers in finding success when using the product
- What kind of post-purchase or use support you need to provide
- Weird/wacky ways your customers use it you didn't even think of
- Raving fans who want to show others their new find like ASAP
- Who your ideal client is so you can make them an avatar for the brand
- "Like" customers or fringe audiences you can think of how to market to
What to budget: Around $1-$5k + USD for influencer outreach, and PR boxes + companion print materials like a postcard or handwritten note on a branded print-out. We recommend that you reach out to a Public relations professional ASAP and start a relationship with someone with experience in this avenue.
On a budget: Don't be afraid to get your product in the hands of others you know and trust and work your network. You need to get comfortable being uncomfortable and selling your product to strangers. This will help hone your message and value pillars.
When to start: AFTER you have your manufactured formulations. Don't wait until your branding and packaging is finished. Doing this with a proof-of-concept is all you need. Order a few samples, mail them out with a nice handwritten postcard or maybe a QR code with a personalized video message to your brand-ambassadors to be.
How long to plan for this to take: As long as you want, I would do this to build hype as you work on your website and packaging production.
Pro tip: Take your audience you are building behind the scenes along with you on this journey and make them feel close to you and your brand - it makes you more relatable and wouldn't it be nice to have a band of "OG" followers?
4) Custom brand photos (product and editorial)
A lot of our founders are confused as to why they need photos. But photos MAKE your website. Not the other way around. And it's impossible to standout with stock photography, and stock photos no matter how pretty are just NOT going to cut it with the amount of competition you have to stand against. In 2023, the quality of images you can even get with your smartphone if you're a savvy user is pretty outstanding. To help your customers image how your product fits into their life.
Not only this, but getting you brand to be picked up by publications, they're going to want more than your logo. Professionally shot images (especially with models in a natural environment or beautiful product-scapes) are MUST-HAVE. Online publications are ALWAYS looks for brands that have images that feel like a natural extension of their editorial content and make your products really "jump off the page" so to speak. You will also set up for the best success with your social, marketing and website strategy with that minimum must-have for your brand.
We recommend having a minimum of:
- 30 "hero" lifestyle shots of your product in action for web and social,
- 15 landscape photos for desktop wide banners,
- 15 for mobile and social posts,
- 1 plain isolated white background shot of each product(s) in crystal clear focus in every aspect: Front, back and sides of all packaging.
Why custom brand photography?
- Increase your products perceived value,
- Creates brand equity,
- Helps to tell a story,
- Improved customer comprehension ,
- Helps your customer understand physical attributes like size, weight shape,
- Help people to understand scale, texture, and other tactical information,
- Makes your brand memorable,
- Decreases bounce rate and increases time on page,
- Reduces confusion,
- Creates product usage clarity.
What to budget: Around $2-$8k + USD your photographers fee, model per-diem, location rental, prop sourcing and art direction from your designer.
On a budget: That pre-launch fanbase you're building? USE THEM! Reach out or do a casting call on social and get your real customers to be part of your shoot experience. Document this behind the scenes and get video testimonials on the day. You would be surprised how amaaaaazing iPhone shot videos and photos can be with a person with the right eye and some bangin' light.
When to start: AFTER you have your branding done, your photographer and/or designer will have their own lead times for art direction and day-of-shoot.
How long to plan for this to take: Approx 1 month lead time. 2-3 weeks for post-production editing and delivery.
Pro tip: Make sure your models are people you want representing in your actual audience. Be conscious of showing different builds, weight, ethnicity, ability, and more for a brand that really stands out by living its values.
Not sure who to reach out to? Send us a message and we'd be happy to help you get started.
5) Get your store running and into the hands of people FAST
Don't be afraid to start your Shopify store before you have professional help to get you set up. Start getting your name out there and accepting orders, bring in cash flow, and prove product market fit. Get some profitability or at least some income before investing in more professional services. Especially if you're feeling some mindset blocks and beliefs that investing more than 4 figures into your brand to help it grow isn't money well spent.
We have seen countless brands start with the default Shopify template, Debut, and not Dawn, to create multi 5-figure-per-month sales with just their packaging and some iPhone photos and a CLEAR message.
Personally, we love premium templates with WAY more design flexibility from the start: Turbo, Flex, and Superstore from Out of the sandbox are hand-down the best template investment out there.
Final thoughts: Just START. Stop being paralyzed by fear or perfectionism.
We don't believe all brands need to be in Vogue-level perfection before starting. And you have nothing to be embarrassed by. But just get started before your idea loses steam and someone else does it before you. Have no regrets this year.
If the recession and pandemic has the same affect on the wider consumer behavior worldwide, wellness brands and products that help people live a more healthy life will just continue to explode. People need you, and they need what you have to offer the world. Own that and be excited to go on the journey of entrepreneurship.
And if you need a helping hand, we would be so honoured to be part of your story - just send us a note and we would love to chat, no strings attached,