Got an idea that meets a need? That’s a good foundation for starting your own business. But a brilliant idea is nowhere near enough to succeed on the market. In Switzerland alone, an average of around 44,000 companies are founded each year, according to the Institut für Jungunternehmen (Institute for Young Enterprises). To win over customers, employees, partners and even investors, you need more than just a comprehensive analysis and a clear strategy – you also need a distinctive brand. Many company founders would rather get on with their work rather than “waste” time and financial resources on brand development. But for startups, it’s the first impression that counts. So deal with your vision statement and then your corporate identity first before launching a product or opening a shop.
Vision statement and corporate identity for startups
Startups are well known for their ingenious concepts that meet customer requirements. But they often fail to develop their brand. It takes too long. It costs too much. We’ll do it later. But later may be too late. That’s why you should take the time to define your vision statement and corporate identity. We’ve put together a branding guide providing advice and guidance.
Vision statement: How startups want to achieve their goals
Knowing how you want to position your startup on the market is key – the same goes for building your brand. While the vision paints a picture of the future, the mission defines how you want to achieve your goals. For example, LinkedIn’s vision statement is: “Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce”. And its mission statement is: “Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful”.
How startups come up with a vision statement
Setting out the vision is a process that takes some time. Ideally, you should put together a team and work out your vision statement step by step.
The vision statement should reflect your startup’s vision and motivate you and your team to do everything you can to achieve it. It should be realistic, but not too easy to achieve.
As a first step, set up a working group with your co-founders, managers and key employees. That’ll allow you to gather lots of ideas from different perspectives. Those involved in producing the statement will usually also be motivated to implement it.
In an initial brainstorming session, list all the words related to your mission, your goals or your solution. In a second session, consider the purpose of your startup, your values, the strengths of the business, your aspirations, and what you want to achieve. In a third session, you can discuss which answers and words best apply to your company, and summarise the key points.
Once all the central statements have been defined, the next step is to formulate them as simply as possible. Don’t use technical jargon and over-complicated words, and avoid ambiguity and negative formulations. Fine-tune your vision statement until you have a single sentence that perfectly encapsulates your message.
Your vision statement should clearly communicate your corporate goal. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it concrete but not too specific?
- Is it ambitious, but not unrealistic?
- Is it inspiring, clear and understandable?
If all these points are met, you can go public. Important: A vision isn’t static. Your startup and the market are both constantly evolving. That means you should adjust your vision statement, if necessary.
Corporate identity: How startups can build a strong brand
A strong brand is defined by a distinctive identity. Use consistent language and a coherent, memorable visual and auditory presence, to put your startup in the minds of your customers. Other key components of the corporate identity are the communication and the conduct of your employees. Think about Starbucks, for example. Whether it’s in Seattle or Zurich, the baristas serve you in exactly the same way at every branch around the world, creating a unique Starbucks vibe.
How startups achieve their corporate identity
Your corporate language, design and sounds create recognition value for your startup, enabling it to attract, inspire and retain customers in the long term.
How do you want to communicate with your customers? Always start with the target group and ask yourself what your customers expect from your startup. While the staff at a skateboard shop might have an informal relationship with their customers, insurance advisors may choose more formal language to explain a complex product to non-specialists in a way that inspires confidence. In any event, uniform communication is very important for your corporate identity. You should set clear language rules or specific guidelines for this purpose. For example, you should decide whether to use ...
... short or long sentences.
.. basic or complex terminology.
... simple language or jargon.
... active or passive formulations.
... gendered or gender-neutral language.
- Where does the name of your company come from?
- What values do you and your employees seek to represent?
- Do your products have their own story?
By selecting a consistent colour scheme, you set the mood you want to convey. So when developing your corporate identity, you should consider which colour best suits your company and define a colour palette. Red draws attention. Blue tends to have a calming effect. But you don’t necessarily have to adhere to conventional colour symbolism. What really matters is consistency. Ideally, customers should recognise your startup from the chosen colour scheme alone. It’s no coincidence that PostFinance is known as the “yellow bank” or that red springs to mind immediately when you think of Coca-Cola.
The font you choose contributes to a uniform corporate identity. Select one or a few fonts and only use these. What brand personality do you want the font to reflect? Is it speed, strength, trustworthiness or perhaps attention to detail?
You don’t need lots of images to create a successful visual world. It is much more important for your corporate identity to use good quality and meaningful images. So consider what feelings you want your customers to associate with your startup. Based on that, define the rules for your visual world. Should you use light or dark images? Should your images mainly feature people, animals or landscapes? Should they have a modern or retro look?
You’re bound to know Mobiliar’s cartoon characters. Swiss Mobiliar sketches are an excellent example of how a company achieves recognition on the market through a simple drawing alone – even without a company logo. Decide on a consistent image for all graphics, animation and drawings used in relation to your startup’s corporate identity.
The corporate design is the visual implementation of the corporate identity. Not just the logo, the business card or the website, but the entire identity. This includes the packaging, if you’re launching a product, or the fittings and employee clothing, if you are providing a service. Field staff should also ideally be on the road in branded vehicles.
A company rarely just conveys its image visually. Are you familiar with the Swisscom ringtone? Or the fizzing sound on the Rivella advert that comes with the satisfaction of opening a bottle? Give your startup a consistent sound. That way, you provide your customers with an integral experience for all the senses – ensuring you remain etched into their memory.
And finally: It’s never over
This lays the foundation for an appealing brand that inspires confidence and creates an emotional connection. But don’t forget another key component when building your brand: your target group. The only way one-time visitors will become regular customers or even fans who’ll recommend you, is if they feel understood and your startup provides added value. And last, but not least: A brand needs to be nurtured. On the one hand, you have to remain present. On the other hand, your customers’ needs are changing. So you should regularly assess their satisfaction, respond to criticism, and monitor what is written about you online. This allows you to improve and continuously develop your brand.
Good to know: Protect your brand
Check early to ensure that your preferred brand name is still available and that it meets the criteria for trademark protection. If so, protect your new company name by entering it in the Swiss trademark register (Swissreg) at The link will open in a new window swissreg.ch.