The brand platform is an essential element of Communications strategies. It guarantees the relevance and consistency of all produced content. For some reason, many startup companies consider that it is only the concern of large firms. The brand platform actually is for all types of companies, including startups, whatever their size, activity, targets, or budget.
THE BRAND PLATFORM IS AT THE HEART OF YOUR STARTUP’S CONTENT STRATEGY
The brand platform determines the type of relationship which your startup wants to entertain, over time, with its different target audiences. It is the source of your content strategy, in order to ensure:
Consistency across content-carrying media, and
Relevance with content meeting the expectations and needs of your target audiences.
Digital tools, regardless of their degree of technological sophistication, remain only means. Although they are essential to help your brand enter in contact with its prospects and customers on a wide scale, their effectiveness does not go further.
Only a consistent and relevant content strategy can convince your target audiences and thus sell.
A PREREQUISITE FOR SETTING UP YOUR PLATFORM: IN-DEPTH KNOWLEDGE OF YOUR TARGETS
Whatever you do or say meets the needs of your target audiences. You know them, but do you know who they really are?
The personas make it possible to establish the typical profile of your targets in one or two synthetic pages. They describe their socio-demographic profile and their media consumption habits (incl. the influencers they follow). Moreover, they identify their needs, their "pain points" in your market, their motivations, their objections to your offer and depict their purchase journey.
All these elements will allow you to find relevant topics and keywords for content.
The personas are a prerequisite to build your brand platform.
THE TWO MAIN FUNCTIONS OF THE BRAND PLATFORM
The brand platform provides the foundation of your brand:
It is indeed essential that customers can instantly understand who you are and what makes you different. The brand platform is the beginning of the “story” that tells what the brand is, how it behaves and what it is committed to.
1 - DESCRIBE THE IDENTITY OF YOUR BRAND
Identity is what makes someone recognize your brand spontaneously. This is the portrait of your brand as it would be of a person: with values, physique, relationship, cultural background, story etc.
If you skip brand identity, your target audiences will build it by themselves until it escapes you completely and it will be a nightmare to recapture it.
There are many tools to build your brand identity, such as the Kapferer & Variot’s Brand Identity Prism, the Aaker’s Brand Identity or the IPSE model, etc.
Generally but not exhaustively, they allow you to define for your brand:
When it communicates, the brand reveals its main traits of character. The stronger the personality of your brand, the faster it will prevail in your target audiences’ mind.
The objective is not to project your own values on your brand. The goal is to find the values both appealing to your target audiences and fitting your own identity.
Whether through oral or written communications, you will have to find your tone, your style. Will you use humour, connivance, empathy or conversely a very institutional, informative, expert tone? Once the tone of the relationship is chosen, you will stick to it and will not take the risk to create dissonance or indifference by using another one.
The physical aspect of your brand (colours, typography, graphics...) plays a very important role in its identification. It will be the perfect reflection of your brand’s personality, starting with its logo.
To illustrate your content with images or videos, you will need to identify 3 to 4 iconographic axes. You will choose them according to the cultural universe in which your offer evolves and the positioning that you will have determined for your brand.
The use of your brand will give your customers a certain image vs. the others (statutory, dynamic, connected, etc.). In the same way, your customers will have a certain image of themselves by using your brand (self-image). Those can be identical or not. You will need to adopt the appropriate codes to reinforce them (or fight against them).
2 - AFFIRM YOUR BRAND’S POSITIONING
If it is essential that your brand can be identified, it is capital that your target audiences quickly perceive what makes it different.
When you are a startup, it is common that your innovation is strong enough to directly inspire your Communications positioning. For example, when Dyson communicated about "The bagless vacuum cleaner", the company knew that it did not need to say more to position and differentiate.
Communications positioning is built on your identity, but also on your offer, the expectations and the needs of your target audiences, and a possible competition.
Even in the case of a strong innovation, the Communications positioning remains important because the competition, which you may not have yet, will emerge soon.
Thanks to your positioning, you will be able to:
Short and synthetic, it will be the creative expression of your positioning and will accompany all your content.
In line with your signature, you will need a short description (about 250 characters) and a boilerplate of your offer (see our article: How To Pitch Your Startup To Your Grandma?).
It will allow your target audiences to understand your project more easily and engage with you.
In more detail, you will develop a dozen key messages that will be relevant value propositions to detail your offer according to the needs of your target audiences.
WHAT ABOUT THE NAME OF YOUR BRAND?
Do not choose a random name, an acronym, or a name coming directly from the creative mind of the founder. You need to find a relevant name, in line with your identity, based on a thorough knowledge of your offer, your target audiences and their needs, as well as any direct or indirect competition.
The best way to find it will be to rely on your pre-established brand platform. In practice, we know that your startup has chosen its name well before having established a brand platform. As a result, plan to change your name sooner or later, which will inevitably make you lose time (and money).
YOUR BRAND PLATFORM FEEDS YOUR CONTENT STRATEGY
To express itself, your brand will rely on the fundamentals of its platform. In the case of a startup, it will communicate mainly through content related to the offer.
The challenge of your content strategy is to make priority choices, to orchestrate them, and to set up a consistent production and distribution process.
This is also called Content Marketing, which will allow you to deploy consistent and relevant content through media such as website, blog posts, newsletters, social media posts, case studies, testimonials, product factsheets, videos, white papers, infographics, events, etc.
YOUR STARTUP CAN BUILD ITS BRAND PLATFORM ON ITS OWN, BUT IT'S BETTER IF IT'S ACCOMPANIED
You can do the exercise by yourself. However, it is better to have a third party accompany you, such as PlanningStrat-Station.
The main risk to build your personas by yourself is to see only what you want to see, and not see, for example, that your offer does not meet a real need or the need that you thought.
In the same way, when talking about brand identity, the risk is to give in to the projections or the personal tastes of the founders, which could be detrimental to your brand. This will not happen with a third party.
As for Communications positioning, the temptation is great for a startup to rely only on the features of its offering. An outside view will include in its reflection the possible emergence of direct competition and anticipate the ability of your brand to support the development of complementary offers.
PlanningStrat-Station has developed a special offer to support startup companies in their Content Marketing. Its approach integrates a strong brand strategy to produce relevant and consistent contents from the beginning.
For more information or a free diagnosis:
Les marques, capital de l'entreprise, by Jean-Noël Kapferer (2007)
Brand Leadership, by David A. Aaker (2000)
La fabrique des marques (IPSE model), IAE-Paris-Sorbonne thesis by Fabienne Berger-Rémy (2013)