So there you are at 2AM, staring at a blinking cursor on a blank Word document while trying to articulate your startup’s brand on the page. The words just aren’t coming, and you’re feeling frustrated.
Don’t worry; it’s fine. Not everyone is a copywriter, and most startup entrepreneurs may never be great at it. But seriously – it’s fine.
Successful creative agencies use a mix of online and offline brainstorming to get those creative juices flowing, and creating a mood board is a great way to get a better grasp on your brand’s visual representation while further defining the brand in other areas. Given the undeniable complexity of comprehensive, cohesive branding, the mood board is just one tool in the toolkit, but it’s an easy DIY startup project and a great way to get yourself and your team thinking “bigger branding picture.”
All you need to get started is a clear wall or board, a printer, tape and maybe some other visual sources like magazines or other clippings. It’s also totally fine to use Pinterest! Just make sure to bring that offline with a printer. You’ll read why below.
Create a Yaasss-Yaasss Board
You’d be surprised how effective this exercise is! Using a curated collage of visuals to express your intended brand direction allows you to visually target your customer, understand their aesthetic taste (and how it may differ from your own), establish your brand’s attitude and identify your peers and competition while envisioning future applications of the brand. And you may have noticed that we haven’t mentioned a “logo” in this post until just now – and that omission is intentional.
My favorite benefit of a mood board is the ongoing positive inspiration it provides. Being an entrepreneur is tough, and you need constant motivation and reinforcement of your purpose. By strategically placing that mood board right next to your startup workstation, you’ll reap the benefits by being reminded of that materialized vision and the basis for your business every time you take to task.
Pin your target customer.
After your mood board breeds motivation, try a little visualization exercise to help you better identify and relate to your target customer. Close your eyes and think: “Who is my customer, and what do they look like?” Of course, targeted customer segmentation should be defined by research and data, but this is a fun exercise through which you can garner some critical information about your targets out of all those analytics and reports. Clip and pin photos of real people as an ongoing reminder of who you’re talking to and how you need to mold your brand around them. You’ll keep your focus on the customer instead of your own personal preferences and aesthetics – because relying on the latter is a common way folks kill their brands.
Looks-like / feels-like.
Another helpful step involves pinning visuals of your competition and peers to keep you mindful of the constantly moving market. Let’s say you’re offering the very first subscription service for flavored honeys. A common response in such a situation is “Well, I don’t have any competition.” Not so. Subscription marketing is wide and vast, and those consumers are low-hanging fruit in the big scheme of your product. Pin other brands that are “like you” or that inspire you, even if they’re outside of your industry, for inspiration.
If your brand was a fictional pop culture character, who would it be? Think about that character’s voice, style, attitude and overall vibe. Pinning photos of your character will help keep you thinking “What should the brand say or do?” instead of “What would I say or do?”
While background music and sound is often overlooked, providing the right soundtrack can boost any startup, whether you’re a medical tech company or a contemporary brand with your own predesigned soundtrack. Creating a playlist drives theme and mood, helping better define brand personality, and it can also influences internal company culture, recruitment, app development, customer mood and so on. Pin snapshots of album cover art and keep in mind, as previously noted – this probably shouldn’t look like your personal Spotify playlist.
Don’t stop. I’ve pin-boarded a 20-foot wall before, covering a near-endless stream of categories through which brand development can evolve. Other categories to explore include interior design, screenshots of apps, internal company culture, merchandising, product packaging, and targeted partnerships with other companies/brands, among others, that will vary based on the nature of your startup.
But you’re not done just yet. While it’s fun and inspiring to pin and envision the positive future for your brand, you need also need to create a board that steers you clear of brand fails! For more, delve into DIY Your Startup’s Brand-Fail Mood Board.
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 AWECollective.com.