Minimum Viable Brand: What You Need To Start Marketing

Starting a business can be exciting. But when you also have to think about branding, brand strategy, and brand identity design, things get a little complicated. That’s perhaps one reason why some business owners do not focus too much on branding until their business is live and running. However, by then people already have framed an opinion of your business and branding can be challenging. What if we told you that there is a workaround for this? And this workaround is called a minimum viable brand. 

In this blog, we’ll talk about minimum viable brand, how startups benefit from this concept and what it takes to create a minimum viable brand. 

So, what exactly is a minimum viable brand? 

Yes, it sounds very much like the concept of minimum viable product that was popularized by Eric Ries in his book called, The Lean Startup

A minimum viable product is one with the bare minimum features. It does what it is supposed to do. The product has basic functionalities without frills. It lets you answer the basic question – “will the solution you provide for a common consumer problem be accepted by the consumers?”

So, the idea here is to dip your toes without taking big risks. You put your idea out there, in front of the right people and see if they like it. And with the feedback you gather, the response from your customers, you know how to improvise your idea, what more features to add and where to allot your funds for the next steps. 

If you have to extend this idea of a minimum viable product to a startup looking for a low-risk approach to launching a business, you have the concept of minimum viable brand (MVB). 

A minimum viable brand is a strategy of defining just the essential entities that make up a brand. So, you launch your business, create your brand, without spreading yourself too thin. 

“A big business starts small”

-Richard Branson

MVB lets you start small and build your way up the branding ladder by slowly scaling up in the most effective direction. 

Do you really need a minimum viable brand?

Social media design by Kimp

Well, the decision depends on the resources you have at your disposal in the early stages of your startup. Unless you have enough time and money to dive head first, it is always a good idea to test the waters. A minimum viable brand lets you do exactly that. Here are some benefits of using this methodology for startups. 

  • You get to create a responsive brand that accommodates and grows based on what the customers are looking for. 
  • A minimum viable brand lets you establish a strong foundation for your brand from the very beginning of your business without getting too much into the dynamics of branding. In short, you do not make huge investments, yet you introduce not just your product, but also your “brand” to your customers. 
  • By using the MVB strategy, you are allowing enough room for growth, enough room for scaling your idea in the near future. You are not getting into the accurate specifics of what your brand has in store but you give customers an overview of what you stand for. Therefore, if you wish to expand your business to keep up with the demand, you can do so without losing out on your brand identity. 
  • The above flexibility is also available in case you have to pivot your business for some reason. With traditional branding, you go all in and your customers start perceiving your brand a certain way from day one. Therefore, if you wish to introduce a new business model, or diverge from your initial idea because the response was not as expected, you are losing out on a lot. However, with a minimum viable brand, you have a better feedback loop. You gauge the response and can pivot as intended in order to improve the results.

The components of a good minimum viable brand 

So, you know that a minimum viable brand helps a startup attract attention and gain immediate results with minimum resources. But how much can you strip down? What are the basic components that you need to create a minimum viable brand? Let’s find out. 

1. The essence of your brand 

In other words, you need to answer the question “what does your brand stand for?”. 

This is where you get to the specifics and tell people about the kind of value your brand creates. To get the ball rolling, you need to come up with a set of descriptors that best capture the idea of your brand. 

Social media design by Kimp

We’ll explain this with an example. Let’s consider a handmade jewelry business as an example throughout this blog. 

You know what you are offering your customers – handmade jewelry in this case. But that’s not enough. When there are many other businesses offering the same product, what’s your brand’s essence? Perhaps something like customization. Say you offer engraved details in your jewelry. This could be the essence of your brand. 

2. Brand values 

If you have impressive ideologies for your brand, people will start noticing your business and they will have a stronger reason to connect with it. These define “what you believe”.

In our jewelry business example, this can be something like the use of locally sourced ingredients. Or even selling jewelry made by local artisans. So, the core values are supporting the local artisan community. That’s a strong value to build upon. Even if you pivot and expand your product lines, you can still continue working with these values at the crux of your business. This way, your customers will have a more convincing reason to choose your brand. They know that they are supporting the local artisans when they buy from your brand. 

Kimp Tip: 

Nearly 89% of shoppers find it easier to trust a brand that shares its values. So, irrespective of the branding strategy you adopt, ensure that you showcase your brand values from day one. But how exactly do you talk about your brand values? Through your brand designs of course. Visuals and copy both! For example, in the case of jewelry handmade by local artisans, you can include pictures of artisans at work and add a quick fact that will make customers appreciate their hard work a little more. 

And if you need a reliable design team to help you with the visuals without blowing your budget, choose Kimp subscriptions

3. The target audience 

One of the other key components you cannot ignore in branding, even with just the minimum viable brand framework, will be the target audience. You should know “who your business serves”. After all, MVB is about expanding or pivoting based on the response from the target audience. To get accurate responses, you should be focusing on the right people. 

Remember, you are going the MVB path because of the limited resources you have. Therefore, you cannot take a scattershot approach. The bigger your target audience, the more you need to spend. And the more challenging it becomes to understand the response. 

In the case of the handmade jewelry business, your target audience group could be something like young women looking for trendy personalized jewelry and young men looking for personalized jewelry as a gift. 

And if you are selling fine jewelry in the luxury segment, you might be targeting working professionals. You can even define the age group as say 25-40. And married men in the age group 30-45. These are just tentative figures but you get the picture, yes? 

4. Brand differentiation 

Here you define “what makes your brand different from your competitors”. That’s one way to start strong and sustain in a competitive market. Without a doubt, one of the strongest reasons why startups should focus on branding from day one is to strengthen brand differentiation. 

In a minimum viable brand framework, to be able to clearly define what distinguishes your brand you should know your industry and your competitors well. 

  • What are the limitations of the products or services that your competitors offer?
  • What common challenges do customers face? 
  • Are there any common negative reviews that you find for most businesses in your industry? 

Addressing these pain points will be one way to show your customers why your business is worth their attention. 

Most customized jewelry businesses might have a long turnaround time. Some of them might be too expensive. And others might have limited options to choose from. Identify such limitations and figure out ways to tackle them. Provide faster turnaround times and deliveries and people will remember your jewelry brand. 

5. The overall experience 

One other critical element in any minimum viable brand strategy is the definition of “what you offer”. In fact, this is one area that differentiates an MVP and MVB. With a minimum viable product, you define the product and keep the features minimal. In the case of a minimum value brand, you do not restrict or narrow down the product offerings. You simply shift your attention to the experience rather than the tangible product. 

In our case, you say that your business deals with “customized handmade jewelry for gifting” rather than defining categories like necklaces, rings, and the likes. We spoke about avoiding underfitting or broad targeting earlier. And how this can be expensive. Similarly, overfitting or narrowing down your target market too much can be detrimental too. 

People might like the idea of engraved jewelry and want to give it a try. But when you only talk about engraved rings, what about those consumers who know that they want a customized piece of jewelry for their loved one but are skeptical about the size and fitting of rings ordered online? They might still be ready to go for something like a pendant. 

The crux remains the same. They get to choose exactly what the jewelry looks like – the color, the embellishments, and the design. And they also get their product delivered in a short time. In other words, the experience remains the same. 

A minimum viable brand, therefore, defines what kind of experience the brand offers. 

For example, when Dropbox started out as a minimum viable product, here is a video the brand used to promote its idea. Notice how the brand focuses on the overall experience rather than getting stuck on the idea of the product itself. 

6. Brand identity 

In other words, a minimum viable brand strategy should also define “what you say and show” to your customers about your brand. 

This is where you give your brand identity a proper shape. This can be in the form of logos, brand taglines, and other identity designs that you need as the preliminary details to launch your business. 

Of course, you can start your business even without these but then your business is more likely to get lost in a sea of competition. People will look at your customized jewelry pieces as just another random unbranded product that is hard to trust. You do not want that! 

Even if you are not going to go full swing in your branding efforts, you should still get your logo ready. This is an area that is totally worth spending on, even when you have limited resources. 

And when you work with a design subscription like Kimp you can save a lot of money by choosing a fixed monthly price for all your branding designs. And you also get the option to scale, request as many additional designs as you like, increase the design output, add subscriptions, and so on. 

Implementing your minimum viable brand 

Start with identifying the concept on which your business is built. Find out the right target market for this idea to be launched. And then paint a clear picture of your brand in front of this target audience. That’s how you build a brand. 

Focus on the visual factors 

Visual factors have a strong influence on a customer’s perception of your brand. So, that’s a good area to start working on when you build a minimum viable brand. For example, color alone can improve brand recognition by around 80%. So, even if you start with a minimum viable brand, work with your design team and come up with brand guidelines, identify brand colors, and start the groundwork for all your brand identity design elements.

Brand guidelines designed by Kimp 

You can just define the basics like color palette, fonts, and logo style. You can always update your brand guidelines with more versions of your logo, secondary color palettes, and font combinations later as you expand your marketing plan. 

Visual factors also matter because they help evoke the right kind of emotional response from your audience. And when they start reacting to your ads and social media posts the way you predicted, you have built a strong foundation for customer engagement. 

Deliver consistent experience 

Experience comes in the form of social media interactions as the primary touch points in many cases. The second kind of experience will be when customers actually hold your product in their hands. And here, your brand packaging design comes to play. 

You do not have to finalize and freeze your brand’s packaging design. With the minimum viable brand model, you can always come up with a basic idea of how you want your product packaging to be. This includes the choice of materials and also the aesthetic. Do you want bare minimum layers or do you want luxury packaging? Should it be a minimalistic design or a fancy one? With the basic idea in place, you can create a scalable packaging design that can always be customized further to accommodate your future branding measures. 

Minimalistic packaging design by Kimp 
Build a resourceful database 

The whole idea of a minimum viable brand is to implement your idea and see how well the idea will work. The interest your target audience express and the kind of challenges they face are all essential inputs to gather at this stage. That’s why a minimum viable brand concept is a great tool to build your brand’s data reserve for better targeting and better marketing in the future. 

You do not even have to have a fully-functional feature-packed website, to begin with. You can simply start selling through social media. Or in the case of the handmade jewelry example above, you can simply sell through ecommerce portals like Etsy and Amazon. But still with your brand name and identity clearly defined. And once your brand gains momentum you can create your own website for selling your products. 

Kimp Tip: 

You can use social media to gather responses, like polls on Story posts. And digital ads and social media ads backed up by a lead capture landing page to accumulate your email list. This way you can start strong with your email marketing and work your way up. 

Did you know that a single Kimp subscription is all it takes to create your logo design, social media designs, ads and even landing pages? What’s more? You get unlimited revisions. So, in a stage where you are not too sure of the kind of designs that will work for your business, you can do A/B testing and go back and change your designs as many times as you like. 

Build your minimum viable brand with Kimp’s design team by your side 

Startups decide to choose the minimum viable brand approach mainly to save resources and build a responsive business model. But at the same time, you cannot compromise on the quality of your brand designs. With your budget stretched thin and your strategy open to evolve and expand at any time, what’s your dependable solution to design production? How about having a dedicated design team with a wide scope of service and support for unlimited revisions? That’s exactly what you get when you choose a Kimp subscription. So, if you are planning to use the idea of minimum viable brand for your startup, sign up for a free trial of Kimp.