Minimal Viable Brand: The Branding A Startup Needs

Minimal Viable Brand is the essence of the brand that a startup can build to separate themselves from the competition.

At Giant Shoulders, we love working with startups. We are one ourselves. We started our agency because we have experienced the limitations of the traditional design process in the world of nimble and fast moving startups. It challenged us to reframe the purpose of design to better serve our clients.

Focusing on what's most important

If you are an entrepreneur, especially in Silicon Valley, you’ll be very familiar with the concept of Minimal Viable Product. It is the most basic product that a startup can build to prove out their differentiator. Likewise, MVB focuses on why a potential customer should buy into the promise that you are making, where your competition will have a hard time matching.

The minimal viable mindset isn’t about taking shortcuts, producing a subpar product. MVB and MVP is about focus. MVP focuses on the feature that none of your competition has or will have a hard time copying, giving you a competitive advantage. Likewise, MVB focuses on the reason why a potential customer should buy into the promise that you are making that your competition will have a hard time matching.

Putting a Stake in the Ground

It is bad business to be everything to everyone. Brand building is all about understanding who you are and the promise you are making. We believe that a brand is a promise made, a product is a promise kept, and marketing is a promise shared. We believe these are all one experience. By understanding your promise, you’ll attract the right kind of customers.

Great brands are clear what they stand for and organize their business around it. For example, Walmart isn’t known for their customer service, but for their competitive prices. That is their promise, and if they spend money improving their customer service, it will only drive their prices up.

The Giant Shoulders’ MVB process helps entrepreneurs focus on what is most important to them: How they are different from their competition and why customers should care.

While turning an abstract idea into a tangible brand is very important to get started, it isn’t yet the full expression of what your brand can grow into.

Example Case Study: SpringTide

Partnering with Startups

Branding is difficult. It requires turning an abstract idea into something tangible that connects emotionally. It involves making a series of big decision, including: What is the name of your business? What are people going to remember you by? How do you describe yourself? What should your logo look like?

We believe that the best way to serve our startup partners and entrepreneurs is to work shoulder to shoulder answering tough questions like these. Time and resources are always in short supply at a startup, so we have to be creative in how we deliver the most impact in the least amount of time. We designed our process to cut through the chaos: identifying the most important stories, connecting them to the promise, and developing a cohesive brand.

The Giant Shoulders’ Minimum Viable Brand program runs for roughly six weeks in two parts, split by a co-creation workshop in the middle of the process. The first three weeks is a discovery process where we find clarity in chaos. Through a series of exercises, meetups, and conversations, we work to discover and distill the promise.

During the workshop, startup leadership will collaborate with our strategists and creatives to develop the most effective visual and verbal brand. We designed a workshop around the hardest decisions that you’ll have to make, so that our experience can facilitate and support confident decisions that set the brand up for success. Once these decisions are made, we spend the last three weeks refining the direction and give form to the brand.

Focused on Impactful Outcomes

At Giant Shoulders, we believe in creating impact. While we take pride in making beautiful in-depth brand books, we focus on building the tools that equip you to engage your audience with your brand immediately.

We’ve developed brochure websites on platforms like Squarespace to quickly and cost effectively bring their brand and message online. We’ve built decks for entrepreneurs who are pitching to investors and customers alike. We’ve also use the Minimum Viable Brand process to help a client align their team around the vision and promise of the company, and created an internal onboarding document.

MVB is not the end

A clear promise and well communicated brand attracts the right customers, but also serves as the north star of why you do what you do. Looking back at your own promise can be a great reminder, and a guiding light for new team members to better understand and align themselves with the business.

While turning an abstract idea into a tangible brand is very important to get started, it isn’t yet the full expression of what your brand can grow into. The power of brands come from relationships that are built over time. People come to associate them with an idea or an emotion by repeating and fulfilling their promise. It took time for Nike to come to stand for ‘Just do it’, Apple with beautiful Design, Target with accessible quality. Your brand will take time to grow. You can only make the best decisions you can today, because you can’t control the future. What you can do today is focus on the things that make you who you are.

Tino Chow