StartUp Arrogance: Brand Beats Product. Every Single Day.
"Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points." — Jonah Sachs
Welcome to the era where brand doesn’t just beat product; it annihilates it. Founders who don’t recognize that brand needs to be one step ahead of product will learn the hard way. [Tweet This]
Brand isn’t just a logo or website. It’s the entire experience, it’s the person’s gut feeling about your product. It’s the promise that you make to a prospect based on how you treat them and how you make them feel. Done right, even for an early stage StartUp, it lets you operate on a different level.
How you choose to represent your StartUp is a glimpse into your mind, how you think and what you prioritize. It’s the unwritten mission and values that go beyond survival. Don’t underestimate the assumptions prospects or investors make about you based on how you present your brand.
Products come and go, brands can live forever.
Book: “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek – Focuses on the importance of understanding and communicating the “why” behind your brand.
Last week: StartUp Founders: The Misunderstood Lunatics? 🚀
The rise of no-code platforms, even before AI Mania have obliterated traditional barriers to entry. Anyone with an idea can bring a product to market, leveling the playing field. Prospects are overwhelmed with choice, and features are quickly commoditized. A good product alone no longer sets you apart.
Your edge isn’t just what your product does, its the trifecta of your product, your brand and your strategy.
Extraordinary founders recognize the leap of faith customers took in choosing them. They don’t just acknowledge it; they honor it, dedicating themselves to ensuring that every customer feels recognized, earned, and deserved. Done right, it creates loyal customers who will stand by you in your moment of need, embedding your brand both transactionally and emotionally.
Why did you know to use Slack before you even used Slack, did you even try Teams? Why did you download Duolingo without even considering Rosetta Stone? You didn’t even compare features; you were drawn to the brand, the approach, the way they made you feel, and the community they fostered. It wasn’t the product that first hooked you; it was the brand.
Want to know your brand? Ask your fanatic customers why they chose you and how they describe your tool or platform. Their words, their feelings, their perceptions – that’s your brand.
Brand is your heartbeat, particularly in the early stages; It’s the details that shape the customer experience. If you hide pricing, your brand is difficult. If leads must navigate through junior BDRs, your brand is inaccessible. Your brand is a reflection of how you handle literally everything. It’s an unspoken covenant with your customers, a promise that resonates at every touchpoint.
Founders who understand this, they see how it accelerates PLG (Product-Led Growth) and rapidly drives second-order revenue. A brand that people want to tell others about.
All I am suggesting, is you take a second look at the unintentional deprioritization of small moments that matter.
Initial impressions are formed within milliseconds – the decision has been made, an opinion formed, and if positive, every subsequent step is about validating that initial feeling, or it becomes a stat on your bounce %, a prospect you didn’t even know you lost. Equally applicable to the investors you are reaching out to.
Brand is your first defense against Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) – your competitor grenades like “They’re new, unproven, lacking in security.” Perception is key, and FUD can make a prospect pause, even for a second, it puts you on the defensive. Your brand’s transparency makes this a strength. Being forthcoming can transform ‘Not ideal’ into ‘We appreciate the transparency; let’s make this work.’ It’s this trust that turns uncertainty into opportunity.
In both B2B and DTC, brand is also trust and implied credibility. It’s why partnerships are vital, not just transactions but endorsements. It’s why the new sales plays focus on nearbound / ecosystem opportunities. It’s why you need to be thinking about how your brand aligns with others, the co-sell motions, the “better together” strategy. Trust accelerates sales cycles.
Just to avoid doubt. Brand is not the superficial pursuit of fame or a catch-all for “awareness” that founders love to use as an excuse for a marketing activity that doesn’t drive deals. It’s not about founders on a podcast and conference circuit, wasting time and money. That’s ego, and it often hides deeper problems.
Exceptional founders understand that 90% of brand building is unseen, hard work that drives real value. Choose where to allocate time and resources to meet objectives, and understand which elements of your brand to prioritize. Do I have more chance of driving a deal being at this conference (awareness) or making this customer a fanatic.
Investors and customers want you heads down, driving value, day in, day out.
Don’t just build a product; build a brand. Build a legacy. Because in the end, it’s not your product that people will remember; it’s how you made them feel.
Now go fix your website 🙂