Save the Dates: February 19–23, 2018

startup moodboard branding don'ts

Avoid Brand Fails: DIY Your Startup’s Anti-Brand Mood Board

So, you’ve created your startup’s DIY brand mood board. Great! Now it’s time to be more critical of your industry, products, brand and personal influence. You’ve started to define what the brand is, but it’s equally essential that you identify what it isn’t.

Again, all you need is a clear wall or board, a printer, tape and maybe some other visual sources, such as magazines or other clippings. And it’s totally fine to use Pinterest! Just make sure to print the images and and pin them on an actual, tangible space near your workstation.

Create a Nah-Nah Board

OK, hear me out — you’ve gotta do this. We wholeheartedly believe that every startup should create an anti-brand board! Establishing a narrow, focused road for your brand is a must, but it’s also great to define where the cliff is. It’s the old “do’s and don’t’s” approach, and it will keep you trekking along the right path while avoiding common pitfalls.

Industry white noise.

A modern pizza restaurant wants to introduce their chic, fresh new take on brunch, lunch, dinner and late-night dining. Great! Their nah-nah board might include cliche Italian visuals such as red, green and white colors, checkered tablecloths, wine-bottle decor, black and white imagery, and so on. The bottom line is that you want your brand to stand out, rather than blend in, with the competition.


Take a look at other brands in your industry and identify the dated elements of their branding or marketing. Do you see a pattern of stock photography? Are they all relying on the same color scheme? What are the similarities (bad ones) between all their websites? Are there cringe-worthy social media posts? Pin ‘em, learn to recognize them, and work to avoid such fails.

Old trends.

“I’ve loved this ever since I first saw it in 2013!” Well, so did everyone else, and most likely, they’ve since moved on. The busy startup life leaves little time to keep tabs on our own style and trends, so sometimes we don’t recognize when our own personal look might be dated. The same can be said for your brand. Think critically twice, or even three times,about pinning brand trends that are a year or more old. (We’re looking at you, barnwood, upcycled pallet boards, edison bulbs and Dollar Shave commercial knock-offs!)

Customer service fails.

If you’re launching a fleet of coffee food trucks, consider where customer service falls short in that industry. Maybe snooty baristas aren’t right for your target customer, or perhaps an overly zealous 20-year-old who hangs out the service window and asks too many questions might not be in line with your target market. Or is it? A no-no list of customer service experiences will help better define and create their best-case scenario in visiting your truck.

In short, identifying the direction you don’t want your brand to go in can be as beneficial as pinpointing the direction in which you do want things to travel. So sit back, take an honest look at what you’ve pinned on both sides of the spectrum, and structure your brand campaign in accordance with your selections.  


This post was contributed by Ty James Largo, Owner + Creative Director at AWE Collective

College dropout-turned top of his game, two-fold minority business owner Ty James Largo pilots his award-winning creative PR, marketing, branding and social media agency, AWE Collective, which reps some of the biggest hospitality, retail, finance, restaurants, startups, events and real estate brands in the Southwest. Once described as the “Top Brass of Badass Ideas,” engage Ty to deliver the “mic-drop moment” and dream up impossibly creative ideas that truly inspire awe. Follow him at @JuxtaPalate or



Leave a Reply

Our Sponsors