Branding Sprint: 6 Critical Exercises for Startups

Startups are exhilarating. Founders have to wear many more hats than anyone should, and need to make big decisions that affect the trajectory of their company—daily. Among those decisions are “what is our brand image?” and “what does our logo look like?”

Many founders just pick something and roll with it. At some point, however, a company needs to take a serious look at their brand—preferably early on while they can still pivot. One of the best ways to do this is by conducting a “Brand Sprint” exercise with key stakeholders. The goal of this exercise is to get everyone aligned on these key questions:

  • What language do you use to talk about your company?
  • If the brand were a person, how would you describe its personality?
  • What are your company’s core values?
  • What is the profile of your top 3 customers?

6 guided exercises

The Brand Sprint is the first step to building a brand guideline that will help shape the communication, visual design, and tone of your customer touch points for years to come. It also helps to align the thinking of your company’s key stakeholders so they can accurately and independently measure what’s “on brand” and what’s not. That’s a big deal when faced with making decisions about everything from company policy on down to marketing and event activation choices. 

Typically a Brand Sprint can be conducted over a 3 hour guided workshop with the company stakeholders, although it is possible to break the sessions up, or even conduct abridged sessions to at least get the ball rolling. The 6 segments are:

  1. What is the 20 year vision?
  2. The "Golden Circle:" What, How, and Why
  3. What are the top 3 values?
  4. What are the top 3 customer segments
  5. What are the brand's personality traits
  6. Competitive landscape matrix

Who should attend?

The Brand Sprint should be keep down to a lean and mean mix of company executives - from 2–6 attendees max. The CEO is a must. Founders, heads of marketing and product design should also be included. Determine who of the group will be the final arbiter of brand positioning decisions?

Preparation before the Brand Sprint Exercise

Below is a list of questions that participants are encouraged to think about before the Branding Sprint guided event. Participants should come prepared with thoughts about these questions, as they map to each of the 6 exercise segments.

  1. Where could your company be in 20 years? How would that manifest over a series of 5 year increments: today, in 5 years, in 10 years, in 15 and 20 years?
  2. What is the “why” of this company? People don’t buy what you make, they buy why you make it. This is the essence of a lifestyle brand.
  3. What are the company's top 3 values? Think of short words, adjectives and phrases that your best customer would use to describe the brand.
  4. Who is the audience? In other words, whose opinion do you care about most? Who is the secondary and tertiary audience?
  5. What is the brand’s personality? If it were a person, what adjectives would you use to describe them?
  6. Competitive landscape. Think of 2–6 competitive companies. Think of where they position themselves in the marketplace compared to your company.

Wrap up

In conclusion, a Branding Sprint guided exercise is a must for startups and scale-ups in growth mode. It is designed to bring clarity and alignment to the executive stakeholders, so they can independently and authoritatively measure what is "on brand" and what is not as they continue to build their empire.

Lisa Lopuck

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Lisa Lopuck has been a pioneer in interactive media and digital design for 30+ years.

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