Launching a New Business? Branding 101 Q&A with Ray Hirschman

by / ⠀Startup Advice / July 28, 2012

Startup newbies, don’t despair, you can brand on a shoestring.  Award winning Creative Director Ray Hirschman explains the nuts and bolts of branding in this Q & A.

At what stage does a startup need to think about branding itself?

Think about branding right away. If you are doing a startup, you have to know what benefit your product or service offers and develop a strategy that allows you to execute your communication in a way that differentiates that product or service from your competition.

What are the steps a business needs to take for branding itself?

First, you need to create a brand. Your brand could be a logo, a tagline, or a personality in the organization. For example, Nike’s swoosh is a brand. A brand can be any kind of symbol that represents who the business is and what it does. When choosing a brand, find something that differentiates your business from the next person’s business. Once you identify your brand, you have to build brand equity.

What is brand equity?

Brand equity is the way people think about your business from a positive standpoint, and why they would choose you over another business. It’s also the way you as the person (or people) running the business think about your business.

How do you build brand equity?

The key to building brand equity is to build a strong brand identity and communicate that identity consistently. Everything your business does should play back to your particular brand and not deviate from it. Always ask yourself, “Is this who I am? Is this what I stand for?”

Is it completely out of the question for people doing a startup to think they can work with an agency and on a very limited budget?

No. A lot of small agencies and consultants will work on a limited budget if they can make a deal with the startup company. For instance, an agency might work for a minimal amount up front in exchange for a small percentage of the startup’s sales in the first year of launching. If you go this route, make sure to find an agency that has immersed itself in branding case studies and understands how to launch a startup company. You as the startup need to see proof that the agency has successfully branded startup companies.

Can a startup bootstrap branding?

Yes. You don’t need to unnecessarily pay for someone to design a fancy logo or pick out your font. You can find quality moonlight graphic designers who could also contribute to the writing of your tagline.

How do you come up with a good tagline?

It’s important to come up with a tagline (or positioning line) that embodies an emotional end benefit. An emotional end benefit creates an emotional connection between the customer and the company. To figure out a tagline, ask yourself, “How does our company benefit our customers?” A tagline isn’t about saying how great your business is, it’s always about what the company can do for its customers.

What’s an example of a company with a winning tagline?

Nike. “Just do it” is a compelling statement. They’re saying, “Go out there and kick some butt!” The message is that by buying Nike sneakers you’re going to be able to do that.

What is a common branding mistake that people make?

Using too much language and not making the logo simple enough are two common mistakes.

In general, what is the bare minimum that a business needs to do to brand itself?

If I had to put a number to it, I’d say that you probably need at least $2500 to get off the ground. You need a business card, stationary, and a website that explains who you are and what you do. It’s important to make sure that everything is consistent; make your stationary match your business cards and the colors you use on your website, for example.

Would you dissuade people from using online tools to create their own logo?

No. Just remember to get feedback from someone who is in the business.

What are some strong brands that startups can look to as a model?

Apple and Marshalls are all great examples of strong brands. Apple, of course, has an incredibly strong brand. Everything they do from the signature on their laptops to the colors they use to the way their retail stores are setup communicates their brand consistently.

Marshalls also does a great job maintaining their brand by continually providing opportunities for customers to find high-end fashions and goods at low prices. You would never go into Marshalls and see clothing for prices similar to prices you’d find at Banana Republic. People just wouldn’t continue to shop there if they did that.

Some other strong brands are Coca-Cola, Nike, Gatorade, and Macy’s.

Is there anything else people need to take into consideration when building a brand?

If you are fairly successful, let’s say that you have developed a brand and people are beginning to understand who you are, you really need to maintain the course. Stay true to your brand identity.

For more tips on branding, contact

Suzanne Kaplan is the founder of Job Talk 4 All, which features interviews with people about their jobs and other career-related articles. As an unemployed High School English teacher, she decided that she can’t wait around for the right job, so she has tapped into her entrepreneurial spirit and is starting her own business.

About The Author


Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.

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