Defining your startup brand in 3 hours

Written by Yasin Kheramand
October 4, 2022
10 min read

Founding a startup can be a very difficult and stressful process. As a founder you have decided to take a risk, and to gamble on your belief in a particular business idea which you believe is going to change the world. You have conducted market research, spoken with leaders and visionaries, and taken a step on the path of entrepreneurship; by no means an easy decision. Becoming a startup founder is of course only the first of a series of big decisions that you will have to make. Almost immediately, you need to make decisions on budget allocation, product prioritisation, hires and other complicated and thorny decisions that you may feel unprepared for.

To help you in these early days, you need a framework for these decisions, something to ground you as you chart your course, and to make sure you remain on track in your product, growth and business decisions. You need to know what your brand means.

Brand is just a perception, and perception will meet reality over time
— Elon Musk

When you founded your startup, you likely had some ideas and visions on what the brand should look like. Will it

  • Be serious, or playful
  • Target the masses, or be a product only for elites

You also know what product you want to build, how you want to present it and may also have a long term vision for what your company will become in 5, 10 or 20 years.

Overall, you have some intangible concept of what “our brand” looks like.

But it’s important to get these ideas on paper, to think long and hard about each and every question, and to come up with brand guidelines, design language, and most importantly for growth–brand messaging that not only represents your beliefs and thoughts, but also resonates with your target audience. In short, to turn the concept of “our brand” into something tangible.

The decisions you make will affect your company name (if you don’t have one already), logo, product design language, marketing creatives and strategy, growth priorities, your relationship with your customers and employees, and almost every single day-to-day task at your startup.

The Move78 Brand Sprint

At Move78, we use what is commonly known as a “brand-sprint” in order to help founders make these decisions, and create the basics of “our brand”.

The concepts behind the brand sprint draw on inspiration from branding and marketing greats such as Steve Jobs and Phil Knight, and are tried and tested methods that have been implemented by various agencies and brands in the past. We have adapted a version of what is known as the Google Ventures brand sprint which we think is very effective at helping early stage startups visualise their brand.


The brand sprint consists of six exercises. First, you’ll consider your company’s motivation (at an early stage startup, this can also mean your motivation as the founder):

  • What is your company’s 20-year roadmap?

Teams can be so caught up with what they’re doing right now that this question might seem ridiculous, almost naive. Who knows if our brand will even be around in 20 years time when we’re struggling to raise funding right now and only have 9 months of runway?

But that isn’t the point. The goal here is to think about the lifetime of your brand. We all want to build a brand that lasts for years. Visualising this is a first step in that direction.

During this exercise, you will be asked to come up with predictions on where you expect your company to be in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years, and you will write these down.

Of course no one expects you to stick to these predictions (all great startups pivot at some point), but envisioning your company in 20 years will help you think deeply about what you want the brand to represent.

  • The Why, What, How Exercise

This exercise is based on work by Simon Sinek. The goal is to visualise everything about your brand on one page.

  • What do you do?

In other words, what is your product or service. What are you offering to your would-be customers? The answer to this is usually fairly straightforward, but in some cases it may not be 100% clear to you what exactly you’re offering users. If you don’t know what you're offering, and what your value proposition is, how do you expect to be able to convince customers to use your brand?

  • How do you do it differently?

What sets your brand apart from other brands? Is your product faster, cheaper, or easier to use? Is your product completely revolutionary? The answer to this question is what sets you apart from competitors, what differentiates you, and what will make your company the next unicorn.

If your product is something that is drastically changing the way something is done, you will immediately know the answer to this question. If what you’re building is already out there, and your product isn’t that different then it will take some more time to figure this out.

But it is important to have an answer here, because this will help you decide what to focus on in your product development, and what to promote.

  • Why are you doing this? What is your motivation?

Making money is one thing, but all great brands have a motivation that goes beyond making money. It’s not easy to make a great brand when you don’t know why you’re doing it.

  • Apple wanted to enable artists to express themselves
  • Nike is about winning (and running really fast)
  • Revolut set out to revolutionise the way people bank.

If you’re a founder, you will probably already have a reason why you stepped on this path; an experience that made you think something could be done more easily–like Uber’s founders trying to get a taxi in Paris in the cold winter–or perhaps you worked in an industry where things are stuck in the past, and you want to change it all.

Whatever your motivation is, jotting it down will help remind you, and everyone who works for you in the future why you do this.

Next, you will add some details to each of these by:

  • Deciding on your top 3 values

The goal of this exercise is to make the “Why?” more specific. Having “Company values” sounds so corporate, and can sometimes feel like a pointless exercise. But forget about gas companies talking about wanting to make the world a better place–your company values are things that really matter to you, or principles you will use in order to make your decisions going forward.

Usually founders have a lot of values that are important to them, and will want to include them in this exercise, which brings us to an important step; cutting down.

It’s important to cut down to only a handful of values so you can focus on actually implementing them across your brand for years to come. Of course your values will not necessarily stay the same over the years, and you will go back and reconsider some of them down the line.

  • Deciding who are your top 3 audiences.

An audience isn’t just the people you’re going to be targeting with your brand’s advertising. Of course your customers are part of your audience, but the term audience is much broader.

Your audience consists of all the people whose opinions matter to you. Write down as many categories or segments of stakeholders you can think of, and then, you guessed it, cut down to a handful of groups–your core audience.

Who are we?

Finally, you will position your brand in relation to other brands. This is your brand’s personality, how is your brand different to competitors? The goal with this exercise is to make the “How?” more specific. How is your brand, your company and your product different to that of your competitors?

  • Is your company more conventional, or more of a rebel?
  • Are you mature or young and innovative?

Most business school graduates have learnt about these dualities, and despite the fact that it sounds kind of boring, this positioning actually helps you and your partners make decisions on everything from UX design to workplace culture and hires.

Our Brand

After going through these steps, your team will have a very good idea of what you want your brand to be about, and the output will take the form of a powerpoint or slide deck that can then be used by an experienced design team to create everything from fonts and logos to colour palettes and website maps.

But most importantly, after this exercise you as a founder will know what your company is all about, where it’s headed, and how you’re going to get there.

In future articles we will explore how you can use some elements of your brand deck to hammer your messaging down and create simple and persuasive “one-liners” to convince your customers to use your brand.

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