8 Ways For Startups To Better Understand Branding / by Chris W. Hubbard


Branding. It's one of those words—like creativity, art, or innovation—that feels hard to clearly define. The problem, or perhaps the blessing, is that engaging in conversations on the 'how's-and-why's and the what-to-dos of branding can become tremendously complex, very quickly. This complexity increases when we haven't developed our own definitions to a word that almost always emerges—at some point—and demands a decision to be made. 

I’ve written and shared a lot on the subject of branding. It's good content that can work as a momentum generator for startups looking to gain a deeper understanding on the subject and how it can help, or hurt, their own ambitions for success.

I've compiled 8 pieces of content, I feel can help startups—or any business—begin to form better understandings, and definitions of branding.

1 - What is branding and why should companies care about it?

I started my career as a designer. I never really understood what separated design from branding until a former creative director I worked under showed me a complete brand campaign—with design, packaging, retail, advertising, web, and promotional materials—all pasted up on a wall in our old office. He said, "see, now that's branding." I never forgot that because it was the first time I had a feeling about what branding really was and how design and all these other things worked together to build it. 

The question "what is branding" is where everyone should start. You'll find very quickly, a range of responses, and that's a good thing. 

2 - What is a 'good brand' and how do they use a catalyst?

Again, defining a 'good brand' often feels like defining what is 'creative' or what is 'innovative.' It's not black and white. It does, however, tend to move along a line from worse to better, and it's generally easy for people to place companies and their services somewhere on this line and have a conversation about it. 

One of the first brands I remember making an emotional impression on me was Ocean Pacific. As a kid, I remember really feeling the image and the 'idea' the clothes and the graphics were communicating to me. It resonated with my ten-year-old self. That forever shaped my idea of what a 'good brand' is and could be. 

3 - Brand naming for the global market

My Chinese name is 李悟. (pronounced LeeWu) When said, it sounds like the Chinese word for 'gift.' The spelling, however, is different and contains an even deeper meaning. When I introduce my self to others using this name, it almost always surprises people. That surprise turns to more surprise when I explain the real meaning and the story behind the name itself. It leads to conversation, compliments, and sometimes even more stories. I had some help coming up with this great name, and forever owe that friend a debt, because people never forget it.

The true power of naming for brands continues to rise. Naming used to be simple, now it's complex and extremely competitive. Even Jeff Bezos of Amazon put naming on his top ten list for success.

4 - Power distance: The hidden reason behind Taiwan's scarcity of global brands

This idea would have made no sense to me had I never lived in Taiwan. However, after 8 years of work, for multiple companies and many different clients, I get it, and I understand the role it plays in corporate culture and it's ability to hinder innovation, creativity, and momentum. For startups in Taiwan, the ability to put a label on something they probably intrinsically understand could help them find new solutions that contribute to brand growth.

5 - Why Taiwan's companies should think about culture

Most startups are at ground zero, which gives them an amazing opportunity to build the right type of culture from the get-go. For very large organizations, changing culture is a mission impossible. And yet, culture has such a big impact on brand success, they now invest millions to influence it and nudge it in the right direction. It's possible to change course later, but startups would be wise think about how the culture they foster now, impacts the brand they grow into later.

6 - What can Elon Musk teach Taiwan about chasing orders?

For me personally, Tesla is replacing Apple as my celebrity-crush brand idol. Elon Musk is the new example of how companies and startups CAN think and be built and developed and driven by passion and ideas—as long as there is purpose attached to it all. 

7 - What do you wish more people understood about branding?

I've always wished that people could understand that branding doesn’t have to be about making things up that aren’t true, just to look good. Branding CAN be honest, and authentic and good. And branding can bring something special and meaningful to an otherwise insignificant product. Take Coca-Cola for example. It's sugar water. I don't even like it. And yet, the Coca-Cola brand delivers moments of indisputable inspiration and joy. 'Taste the Feeling' has to be one of the best taglines ever written, and it proves to me the power of branding and good communications to bring a sense of excitement to life—regardless of my beverage preference.

8 - Is your website content hurting your business?

This is a good one to end with, because in all truth, if your website—or social media, or consumer-facing content—is subpar, so is your brand. Content is the not-so-new king, and its power just continues to grow with no end in sight. So, for startups looking to build a brand in the years to come, having a basic understanding of content and communications strategy is the new must-have of the season.