How much does it cost to brand a startup company?

Phil Davis

Branding & Naming Expert President of Tungsten Branding

Branding a new business depends on a number of key factors, starting with the definition of branding

Branding is one of those words like “media,” it can mean many different things to different people. For the purpose of this article, the cost to brand a company, we’ll focus on three distinct phases.

Phase 1: Company Naming & Visual Identity (Visual)

Phase 2: Company Messaging & Positioning (Verbal)

Phase 3: Brand Implementation & Design (Actionable)

All three phases are necessary to create, communicate and sustain a believable business brand. In addition, for determining the cost of branding a business, size matters. For a local company, unconcerned with trademark or linguistic analysis, the cost to brand is much less than a global company needing brand name research and trademark clearance in multiple countries. For this reason, we’ll provide a range that reflects realistic budgets for smaller, startup companies, consultants and entrepreneurs.

Small businesses typically includes startups, consultants, professional service providers and retailers. The needs are mostly focused on the identity piece (name, tag line, domain and logo) with less emphasis on research, extensive trademark and linguistic studies. It’s more of a “get it done” mentality with a need to go to market with something credible and memorable. Depending on resources, here are options for small business branding.

1. Budgeted Minded Startup Approach ($3,000 to $5,000)

For those startups operating on a shoestring, don’t give up hope! You will have to do some of your own internal evaluation and exploration of your pivot point, the thing that makes you unique and different. Once you know that, you can find names by going to various brand name sites or hiring freelancers to brainstorm names based on the creative brief, or brand criteria, you provide them. If you have just a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to create your brand, try using services such as the following:

CrowdSpring.com – Use the wisdom of the masses to generate hundreds or thousands of names
FrozenLemons.com – A Netherlands based group that comes up with ideas on the cheap
BrandBucket.com – A site with thousands of brandable domain names categorized by industry
Brandpa.com – Similar to offerings on BrandBucket
Brandroot.com – Another domain selling site

For the logo design, you can use

Fiverr
DesignCrowd
99Designs

Again, you will be the equivalent of your own “contractor” hiring your own sub contractors. You will need to put the pieces together including the brand rationale and how the company brand name, logo and tagline all fit together.

If the domain name is paramount to your success (such as an e-commerce company) consider searching the inventory on the following sites for ideas:

Afternic.com
BuyDomains.com
HugeDomains.com
GoDaddy.com

You can also look up domain on LeanDomainSearch.com using a keyword. Navigation on the left side lets you put the keyword first or second.

Caution! Don’t let the tail wag the dog. The company name has to work based on your pivot point, communicating and projecting your core strength, and not just because the domain was available.

2. Mid Level Business Branding Cost ($5,000 to $10,000)

At this point you can start using professional branding services, or “brand in a box” type of companies with business ready brand names. One resource we developed is Flipswitch Brands. This site is similar to the domain/logo sites but with a more developed approach including…

Company name
Brand rationale
Brand story
Multiple taglines
Customized logo design
Collateral package including biz card artwork
Social media banners
Company folder design
Brand usage style guide

Think of this like visiting a model home you love, where you would change very little, and it’s just what you wanted. If you have a firm grasp on your brand message and positioning, and one of these names fits that theme, buying a pre-prepared brand can save both time and money.

3. Customized Startup Company Naming Cost: $10,000 to $20,000

If you prefer eating at a restaurant vs. shopping at a grocery store, then hiring a naming company might be the right choice for you. To use our other analogy, instead of being the general contractor and hiring/supervising all the sub contractors (e.g. namers, logo designers, copy writers, domain brokers, etc.) you have a general contractor (a naming firm) to do it all on your behalf. After all, this is what they do.

So what actual improvements and benefits come with hiring a naming company vs. going it alone? The short answer is process, expertise and time savings. Most entrepreneurs, in trying to run a business and go to market, will skip crucial steps in the naming process, which may come back to haunt them later. By hiring a professional naming agency, you will make sure no stone is left unturned when it comes to finding the right brand name for your company at a reasonable price. Typically a branding company will take you through the following steps.

A naming process that keeps the project focused and on track
Discovery and exploration of your key attributes and differentiators
A brand rationale and “story” that makes you more three dimensional than two dimensional
A brand with both identity and personality
Exploration of differing naming strategies
Researching of names, domain availability, trademark availability
Presentation of names, taglines and overall look and feel of the brand
Creation of a customized logo design
Supportive brand collateral such as biz card package, social media templates
Brand style guide to help designers, graphic artists and vendors use your brand correctly

To brand a startup company requires an investment from a new business. Often funds are low and resources stretched, so making the right decisions in allocating time, money and resources can be the difference between a great idea and a successful business. Use these budget guidelines to determine the best use of your marketing dollars, the most bang for the buck, to help build, message and sustain your company brand.

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