How to stand out – 13 tips to building an awesome tech brand [updated for 2020]

We’re about to discuss how you can start building an awesome tech brand that stands out in the industry. Let’s start by addressing some common misconceptions about what a brand actually is.

If you’re interested in reading why branding is essential as a tech startup, check out our recent article on that.

  1. Understanding What is “Brand”
  2. Positioning
  3. Your Cause
  4. Your Values
  5. Develop User Personas
  6. Logo
  7. Name
  8. Colour
  9. Typography
  10. Tone-of-voice
  11. Photography
  12. Website
  13. Graphical elements
  14. Next Steps

The Groundwork

Understanding What is “Brand”

The word ‘brand’ was derived from farmers marking their cattle with a logo or trademark so that they would be recognised as their own. From this, you might infer that your logo or trademark is synonymous with your brand but this isn’t really the case these days.

The word brand has evolved into something far more intangible than that. Your brand is what’s described by the great Marty Neumeier as, “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organisation.”. This translates as any touchpoint your customer has with your services that convey an idea, feeling or promise to them.

Your brand includes your logo but also your customer service, the way you answer the phone, the design of your website and even where you position yourself in the market! At any point your customer comes into contact with you is an opportunity to convey a consistent and relevant image of who you are and what you stand for. In the same way, your brand should be easily identifiable but as you’ll learn, being identifiable is the sum of many attributes. If you’re interested to learn more, we speak about this in our blog post about what Brand Strategy is.

So given this, how do you start to build your tech brand? Here at Jupiter and the Giraffe we follow a tried and tested process that enables us to understand your unique proposition, even if you don’t quite know what that is yet.

Positioning

If you’re speaking to everyone then, unfortunately, you’re speaking to no one. Understanding your place in the market not only allows you to hone in on your understanding of your brand, but it also makes good business sense as you’re the one person to go to for that specific problem. If they recognise you as the industry leader then you will become the business to approach for that particular problem. There are many types of positioning strategies that you can employ.

Types of Positioning Strategies for your tech brand

  • Product features/benefits
  • Price
  • Quality

Features/Benefits

You may wish to position yourself based on your features or benefits. If you’re a service it may be the services you offer. Although this should play a part in your tech brand positioning, we wouldn’t recommend this as the chances you are offering something completely new are relatively low.

Price

Price is another way you can segment yourself. High price often portrays high quality, notice I say “portrays” – just because you offer a high priced product doesn’t necessarily equate to high quality. There are examples where this tactic works but it’s a risky game to play. It’s not just your product that should deliver but everything around it should warrant that high price. With a high price comes high expectations.

Quality

Similarly to price, there are certain associations that come with positioning yourselves based on quality, but once again this doesn’t necessarily mean high quality, high price. As technology becomes faster and less expensive organisations are able to offer great quality at low prices.

An exercise you might like to run is to map out your competitors on a chart and where they sit on the price/quality spectrum. The chart may look something like this…

If you’re at the beginning of your journey, this is a great place to start but in some cases, this might call for a reposition. There have been cases of very successful reposition by tech brands through developments in the marketplace or an intentional shift into a new market. Repositioning should forever be a consideration for any business looking to lead in the market. This requires listening and being aware of shifts and developments and having a proactive rather than reactive mindset.

Understanding your position in the market

Understanding your position in the market via your offering is one small part to consider. At Jupiter and the Giraffe we’re big advocates of the Onliness Statement (once again developed by Marty Neumeier). The Onliness Statement gets you to not only think about what it is you do but also why you do it. We wrote a blog post about what an Onliness Statment is so we wont repeat ourselves, but essentially it looks like this;

[Company Name] is THE ONLY (category)
THAT (differentiation characteristic)
FOR (customer)
IN (market geography)
WHO (need state)
DURING (underling trend)

For context, Harley Davidsons is as follows…

Harley Davidson The ONLY motorcycle manufacturer
THAT makes big, loud motorcycles
FOR macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)
mostly IN the United States
WHO wants to join a gang of cowboys
DURING an era of decreasing personal freedom

You must fill in the blanks but as you can see there are several areas that drill further and further into your niche. This represents your promise to your customers. Your tech brand should live and breath this promise with every touchpoint going forward and will likely play a key role when we get to actually creating your brand assets. This is a great exercise in further understanding your position in the market. Pay close attention to the “Underlying trend” as this helps you clarify your purpose.

We developed a FREE tool you can use to create your own onliness statement here.

Your Cause

People are much more socially aware nowadays and your brand needs to reflect this. This is why you need to ask why your brand exists and what do you contribute to society. This is bigger than just providing you product or service, it needs to serve a bigger purpose. Luckily, we’ve written a whole article on this. Why Do You Matter? The Cause Branding.

Your Values

Here at Jupiter and the Giraffe we have only 3 values as we want them to remain concise, clear and easy to follow. They are Creative, Inspiring, Impactful. Creative – because we want to be known for not only building practical web apps but also beautiful. Inspiring – because we want the work we do to inspire others to do things even better than before and to push humanity forward and finally impactful. We want the work we do to have an impact on the world, not only in the way we execute but the product itself needs to serve a higher purpose.

Choose 3 – 5 words which you can live by and keep you on track and inspired

Patagonia’s values

Develop User Personas

With all that done, you should have a strong idea about who you are and why you do what you do. Next, you must begin to think about your customers as after all, without your customers your business will fail.

Why user personas?

The reason why you need to think about your customers when it comes to your tech brand is down to relatability. You need to understand your users so that you are able to engage with them in a way that they can understand. Use the same tone-of-voice that they might expect whilst solving any problems they might have.

Having user personas also gives you a person (albeit make-believe) to resolve all conflicts that may arise between you and your colleagues around a decision, design choice or feature of your tech brand. Resolving the conflict by asking what would X want, instead of what do we want. The way we do this is developing user personas. If you’ve never heard of a user persona before then quite simply it’s a make-believe person that represents a customer (or a desired customer). Personas can be based on your real customers if you have them and one persona can contain many attributes of different customers. It’s ok to generalise here but the result should be specific and represent one user.

If you find that you’re not targeting the right customers (another reason for a rebrand) then we believe it’s useful to create a single person based on a customer that you would like to be serving. You may even want to conduct actual market research to generate these user persona’s if you don’t already have a customer base. User Personas are most effective when they’re derived from real data so if you have it, use it.

The most important aspect of these personas should be the problems or pain-points that they are experiencing. This is key to making sure you’re serving that customer for a specific reason.

How many personas should I create?

The number of user personas you create really shouldn’t exceed four. Beyond this, you start to lose clarity and focus and your tech brand will end up appealing to no one. Your user persona should, of course, contain a name. Use a photo of someone you feel best encapsulates the person in your mind so that you can bring this person to life. You can then look at the demographic of your customer – age, sex, where they are from, how much they earn, what they do for a living. You can even find this data out on Google Analytics if you have it installed on your website!

Make a note of their archetype e.g. “Messy creative” or “Neat and tidy musician”. If you’re struggling to be creative then definitely check out the most common archetypes. You can then look at their personalities. This helps us make assumptions about how they might react in different scenarios. Go into as much depth as you feel is necessary.

Brand Assets/Identity

With all that said, that’s just the groundwork to developing your tech brand. It’s important to know who you are, why you are different, who you serve and why you serve them. Understanding your promise and the values you hold is essentially your brand, just make sure you stick to this idea no matter what. We’re now going to talk about what we believe every new business should have. These are known as ‘brand assets’ and are what are typically confused as a brand. Your brand identity is the face of your business and should reinforce the values and emotions that you identified in the previous steps.

Logo

No surprise here, you need a logo and for us, a good logo is one that addresses more than representing what you do. Your logo should be a manifestation as to the why you do what you do. For example, having a cloud computing business called “Cloud9” and your logo being nine clouds may look great (it won’t, nine is way too many clouds) but this shows that not much thought has gone into your logo and is a missed opportunity to connect with the right audience and create a logo with depth. On a piece of paper, start jotting down words that come to mind when you think about your business. Try and think about your values and words that represent these values. It’s ok to think about what you do but the aim is to keep it abstract. We go in-depth about how to design a logo in another post.

Name

Name?! Yes, name! Once again, your name is a touchpoint with your customer. Why not take all that we have learned from discussing your business, your customers and your values and come up with a name that reflects that. It’s always fascinating when you discover the story behind the name and when there’s more than meets the eye. Coming up with a name can be an artform in itself so take that time to really think about it.

Colour

Colours invoke emotion so play on colour psychology. We’ve written a post about colour psychology. It’s not always the same on every continent so be conscious of your market and use colours that represent your values and make sure they mean the right things in the right regions. Have at least two colours. One primary that you’ll use almost everywhere and a secondary that compliments it.

Use a tool like Adobe Colour to help you figure out what colours work well together. Note down the HEX value, RGB and, if possible the Pantone and make sure that these are the only colours used whenever you create anything. There’s nothing worse than seeing 15 different shades of blue. Here’s Jupiter and the Giraffe’s Colour Palette:

Jupiter and the Giraffe’s Colour Palette

Typography

Typography is important too and you’ll want to have at least two typographic families or variants for maximum flexibility. The first is typically used for headers and possibly makes an appearance in the logo (look at Jupiter and the Giraffes “KG Summertime Storm” font) the other main font is for generic body copy. You’ll want something that is easily legible.

There are some examples where the font looks pretty but is impossible to read. Don’t make this same mistake and ask people if they can read your font. Broadly, fonts can invoke meaning.

You might consider serif (fonts with little feet at the ends of the letters) as formal. Legal businesses or banks may choose to use this font. Sans-serif fonts (without ‘feet’) are more modern. If you’re at the stage where you’re putting your own tech brand together, go for a font that you like or check out some recommended font pairings from sites such as Google fonts. Large organisations often design their own fonts and obviously, this is out of reach for most businesses starting out as it’s expensive.

There are situations where you may need more fonts but don’t overcomplicate things at this stage and only use two at one time. Just be warned, there’s no escaping the rabbit hole that is choosing a font!

Tone-of-voice

Finally, one thing very few businesses think about when they first start their company is their tone-of-voice. Think about it, groups of friends often use the same words and speak in a similar way so your business should also speak in a way that your customers find relatable. Your tone should further imply the values of your brand and what you say should be understood by the right people. Make your employees aware so that when they are engaging with potential clients, they are speaking in this same way too.

Tone-of-voice is where your tech brands personality shines. It’s where you’re really engaging with your customers and not just any customers, the right customers. Think of three words that best summarise your business if it was a person and use these to develop your tone.

Next steps

So we’ve breezed over how a company starting out can create it’s brand and start to develop its bare-minimum brand identity. We hope to release many more in-depth articles on the individual assets so look out for those but this should be enough to get you going.

A few more helpful things you could work on as a next step that equally portray your brand are…

Photography

Choose the photos you use wisely. This is an often overlooked aspect of your brand. What should be the subject of your photos? Should there be people in your photo? What are they wearing? Showing images of the people you expect to use your product is a great, easy way for people to feel affiliated with your brand. Also you may think more creatively and think of the style of the photography. The treatment of your photography should be the same in order to create consistency.

Website

Every business needs a website. It’s the shop window to your product or service. Here, your brand assets will exist throughout the design of your site alongside any photography and the tone of voice you’ve established. Your website should encapsulate almost everything about your brand so don’t let this slip. Templates are great to get you started but when your brand evolves its important to move onto something more bespoke. Contact us if you’re in the market for a website.

Graphical elements

Graphic elements can be as small or large as you deem fit. Little flourishes peppered throughout your design is a great way to identify your brand. Think of these like a birth mark that is unmistakably yours and have fun with them! Maybe this is something taken from your logo or something different entirely but make it relevant.

Wrap up

So there we are, you’ve just had a crash course in what a brand actually is and what it isn’t. Understanding your business and how it’s different, identifying the promise it’s making to its customers and having that shine through makes up your brand identity. Invest in the time to think about your brand assets and make them more meaningful than just something that reflects what you do – make it something about why you do what you do. We capture all the necessary elements in our Brand Strategy workshop which enables us to create an amazing brand. You can read more about what brand strategy is in our blog.