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Building an identity before entering the marketplace
May 16, 2019

From the the GIST TechConnect webchat “Getting Your Name Out There: Branding and Marketing for Startups.”

Small businesses and corporate giants alike can be passionately devoted to their product development. But before launching themselves into the marketplace, a business should have an established brand identity and marketing plan, which could make the difference between success and failure. Effective branding and consistent marketing are challenges that startups often face.

Leading experts helped entrepreneurs watching the webchat “Getting Your Name Out There” learn how to approach establishing a brand identity and ways to get out their brand names. YLAI Network members can learn from the following insights shared by Ray Sanchez and Jane Sugiyama, who spoke about formulating a carefully crafted brand strategy and approaching marketing elements in ways that will stick in consumers’ minds.

Learn to See Branding and Marketing Differently

Branding communicates the WHY of the business. It helps consumers clearly identify who the business is and what exactly the business does through its mission and core values. This clear vision helps the public understand the personality of the business, which can make it easier for consumers to trust and connect with the brand. A business leader should think of a brand like a person, with its own identity, voice, values and story.

While branding is the WHY of the business, marketing is HOW the business reaches its customers. This includes a clear plan of how to advertise within the marketplace in order for consumers to take action and be convinced to buy products or services. “For your business to survive, it needs marketing. The stronger and healthier it is, the more successful your business will be,” says Sugiyama. Whether a business is mission-driven or just passionate about providing their services to a certain group of consumers, knowing how to reach customers effectively only happens through marketing decisions that show the brand’s personality. These marketing decisions can be many things, including efforts to reach customers online or in person. Advertising on a billboard along the highway, going live on Facebook, or handing out flyers at an event are all examples of marketing decisions that help spread your message.

Plan Ahead

Sanchez encourages leaders to have marketing plans in place to avoid both internal and external pressures that can derail a business’s marketing in unforeseen ways. “The demands of daily business operation can keep leaders from actively thinking about marketing their business, and having a plan in place to follow can be guide points for a leader to use,” he says.

Developing a local customer base should be the most important goal in building a strong marketing plan. Building this base is the foundation for attracting new customers. With a marketplace filled with both big and small players, consumers are constantly exposed to brands each day. With a marketing plan in place, you can be sure to stay relevant to audiences as they decide which brands resonate with them.

Aside from the customer-facing attributes of planning out a business’s marketing actions, it can make a large impact internally. Having a plan in place streamlines operational efficiency and gives a structured timeline for the organization to clearly follow without doubt or ambiguity clouding the judgement of decision-makers. Additionally, there are outside marketing sources that offer cheap and flashy time-sensitive deals for radio and television exposure, though business leaders may not have planned to spend any money on those outlets. “To avoid being reactive to salespeople and to your own pressures, you need a plan that will keep you focused and easily trackable in relating to your audience,” Sanchez says.

Get Your Name Recognized

Sugiyama speaks candidly about getting audiences to recognize brands quickly, “It’s all about consistency from the start. You don’t control what people think about you, but you can control what they see when they see you.” By developing branding elements that are consistent, the brand has a better chance to stick out in the minds of consumers and investors. When putting a brand logo on anything, make sure that same logo is on emails, business cards and shirts! Putting the logo consistently on all materials that audiences can see is a main step in building brand recognition quickly.

"You don't control what people think about you, but you can control what they see when they see you." Jane Sugiyama

Read our follow-up article, “Strategic Approaches to Your Marketing,” to get deeper insights into developing a marketing plan, optimizing limited resources and exploring easy frameworks to take advertising to the next level!


Ray Sanchez: Partner and co-founder of Ghostlight Creative. He established Ghostlight in 2006 after working in brand management and growing brands such as Church’s Chicken and Gas Natural. He graduated with degrees in advertising and theater arts from the University of Texas-El Paso.

Jane Sugiyama: Marketing specialist for the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship’s Technology Acceleration Programs, She works in supporting faculty and researchers looking to turn their inventive technology solutions into commercial opportunities. Additionally, she oversees digital marketing and communications at MCity, a public-private partnership that accelerates advanced mobility vehicles and technologies. Jane graduated with a B.A. in Communication and Media Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.