On deciding the right time to invest in branding your business

I often speak to business owners who are unsure at what point they should invest in their branding. Do you go big with your branding right at the beginning? Is it better to do your branding 'properly' once your business has gathered a bit of steam? And what if you're running an established business - when is the right time then?

I believe that every business deserves a brand which truly communicates what they do really well. Powerful branding has the ability to articulate what you do and how you do it before you've spoken a word; it makes selling imeasurably easier and helps you to attract more of the clients you want - the ones who rave about your business and are happy to pay what you charge. Which business doesn't want this?! But I digress. Today I'm here to give you my totally honest view on the pros and cons of investing in brand design at different stages of your business, to help you decide when's the right time for you.

1/ The ambitious start up

You've got a business idea. You want it to be a roaring success. You haven't sold anything yet. Is now the right time?

Pros: by creating a solid brand identity before you launch, it'll be so much easier to get customers on board from day one. If you'll be hiring a team - or getting funding from investors - a strong and intentional brand identity will help you secure confidence and communicate your vision consistently so that everyone around you knows exactly what to expect.

Cons: I'm yet to meet a business owner whos business hasn't evolved in some way since they launched it. Sometimes, despite all the research in the world, your business takes off in a slightly different direction to the one you had planned. This could mean that your visual identity is less relevant as time goes by. Financially, branding can feel like a big commitment at a stage when demands are being made on your cash from every imaginable direction.

I'd add that if you're selling a very premium product or service then you simply cant launch without a decent brand identity. Consumers are getting increasingly discerning and will not part with their cash if they don't have confidence in what you do.

2/ The growing business

A good chunk of the brands we design are for businesses who started with a shoe-string budget and a cheaply made logo design. Their idea has gathered steam, proven itself to be successful and they've outgrown their look.

Pros: You've got confidence in your business idea, you've proved that it works and you've probably got a clearer idea of what's working and what isn't - which means that your visual identity can be engineered to play up your strengths and move away from any products or services which aren't successful. You're probably more financially stable and better able to invest in creating the brand that your business deserves.

Cons: If you didn't invest in branding in the beginning, rebranding at this stage can be a bit more of a task and can be more expensive. You'll probably have a lot of material that will need updating (from business cards and stationery to shop fronts, uniforms, packaging and so on), which means that your investment will be higher due to all of the extra elements which will need updating. It can also be harder to refocus perception and be taken seriously if you've gathered a reputation which isn't commercially favourable.

3/ The established business

You've passed the fledgling stage long ago; your business is 5 or more years old. You have a strong following and are successful at what you do, but your visual identity is lagging behind. Perhaps it looks dated, or maybe the business has evolved to the extent that you've outgrown it.

Pros: Our clients typically expect three things out of a rebrand: to become better known, to be able to sell more or to be able to increase their prices. Ideally a combination of all three! Rebranding is almost always seen as a positive thing which is a sign of success, and it can be really newsworthy, too. A great opportunity to gain publicity and reconnect with your community. We find that for established businesses, rebranding can not only influence external perception, but really influence the mindset internally too which in turn can have a big boost on energy levels and productivity.

Cons: Established businesses are often nervous about changing a look that they've become known for. The longer you've had a brand for, the scarier it can be to change it - and it certainly becomes more expensive over time as you have more 'stuff' that will need to be thrown out and redesigned. With this in mind, the initial investment in having a new brand identity designed can be dwarfed by the cost in implementing it.

Finding a newsworthy event to anchor your rebrand to can make rebranding an established business - no matter how old it is - an awful lot easier. For example, rebranding to celebrate a business anniversary, the opening of a new location, partnering with another brand or launching a new product line can provide better context for unveiling a new look.

Over to you

What's your experience of creating a brand for your business? Did you go all-out from the beginning, or invest later on? I'd love to hear your stories!