In less than two decades, the distribution potential of the internet and the new digital production tools gave way to a new economy where everyone can become a creator, a company of one. With the rise of no-code platforms like Bubble, publishing platforms like Substack, or social networks like TikTok, becoming the next tech unicorn, thought leader or the celebrity influencer seems within easy reach.
But lower barriers to entry means increased competition and in turn, higher benchmark for success. As competition drives prices down, it also drives consumer expectations up. Having a great product has become table stakes. How do you truly differentiate your products when technology levels the playground and democratises innovation for everyone?
The playbook for success in the past century has been advertising: wrap your products in feel-good attributes, be present in the mind of the consumer and on store shelves and you’re good to go . In this century, differentiation with advertising alone won’t work when you are competing for headspace not only with other advertisers in your niche but every app, notification, subscription and entertainment option that exists.
The answer lies in the brand. A brand is a mental shortcut that helps people cut through the clutter and make decisions. It’s the collection of associations in people’s minds that set you apart from everyone else.
Most startup founders consider brand to be a glorified logo at worst, and an expensive outdoor campaign at best. Sure, a great logo or a big advertising campaign might help, but a brand is much more than that. It is a promise you make to consumers, and the value of your brand is how well you fulfill that promise.
Brands create irrational margins, which provides the fuel for growth. Great brands are built by having a meaning and being consistent. As a founder building a brand, first you have to decide what your company stands for, and then you have to deliver on that promise in every interaction with your consumers consistently for years. That’s it, that’s all there is to it.
Investing in building your brand is your biggest weapon in the fight against commoditisation and the right time to start is now.