How to build a standout startup brand

Building a strong and consistent brand – and more than this, actually understanding what’s at the core of your brand – is vital for every business. It helps you stand out, resonates with your audience, and builds loyalty.

Few understand this more than Laura Roeder, founder of Edgar – a social media automation tools where your updates don’t go to waste - and David Karp, founder of Tumblr, the enormously popular microblogging platform that boasts millions of daily users. They joined Virgin Unite for a Google Hangout to talk about how to build an amazing brand. Watch the hangout below, and read our key takeaways for startups.

Finding your people

“I was attracted to this community of ‘Tumbleloggers’ – the original microbloggers - who were doing something different,” says David. “There had been a shift from the Wild West of internet where you could build anything from scratch with HTML, or hack your MySpace page to get it exactly how you wanted it, to a generation of platforms and tools that had  more restrictive templates, such as Facebook. But the community that wanted more customisation was really excited by Tumblr, and it’s this community that Tumblr embraced.”

“Social media makes everything public now,” says Laura. “You can no longer ignore customers and your audience, due to platforms such as Twitter and Reddit. But a lot of good from social can come if you’re genuine with your community.”

Mentoring and asking for advice

“My tendency is to be more open than not,” says David. “The more people you can find to open up to in your regular networking meetings, the more you can get some unexpected and wonderful advice. That openness means a lot to people, the fact that you’re willing to be open – it leaves an impression – and even if they don’t help you right that second they feel closer for you and might be there for you next time. Finding mentors who can be a part of your life is huge – it’s a real luxury if you can find those people.”


“My first tip for starting a business is to make sure you have something people actually want,” says Laura. “People get stuck on ‘Product-market fit’, but it’s something you either have or you don’t – when David founded Tumblr he had no idea the community was going to be so massive, but he tapped into something that people were looking for. You need to get really clear on that right from the beginning. If you’re trying to sell something for six months and nobody has bought it, move on; no amount of branding matters for this. If people don’t want it your product or service, it doesn’t matter how amazing your brand is.”

Solve a problem you’re excited about

“Try and write off problems that you’re excited about solving,” advises David. “The more you can bring a vision, the more you can see. Step into your users’ shoes and implement feedback – you’re the first user of your community. There are way more like-minded humans out there than you realise. With Tumblr, suddenly you could put out a silly thought and find others who think like you. Build something for yourself first that gets you excited, and you’ll find it makes some like-minded humans really excited too.”

Starting small

“It’s a waste of time to keep targeting someone and bothering them,” says Laura. “With some people your product will really resonate, but with others it won’t. Don’t spend too much time digging into that one person – tell a wider circle that you exist, that you launched, and see who’s interested from there.”

“As much as you can, define a small product and a specific use-case, and really chew on that,” says David. “Be wary about spreading yourself too thin, and be sure to maintain the focus. Your success is determined on the ability to execute the idea, so if the idea is smaller its easier to focus. Startups have limited resources, and it’s easier if you focus on getting that one thing right.”


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