What startups can learn from Minimum Viable Brand

As a startup you need an agile approach to business. – and that can extend to developing your brand. Richard Golding takes a look at the concept of Minimum Viable Brand.

Guest Posts
Richard Golding
May 2020
What startups can learn from Minimum Viable Brand

It is unequivocal that branding is essential to the growth and success of any business, but even more so for startups. Done correctly, the vision and purpose will become entwined within the whole organisation, and project both outwards and inwards. Subsequently, branding can become a very heavy investment of time, money, and energy, with the tangible grasp sometimes difficult to visualise when it comes to return on investment.

When starting out, investing in brand strategy might not at the top of the list, but even just simple direction setting is very much a make or break consideration when setting up for market. It could also be that you don’t actually know what your brand stands for yet; or that you just don’t believe branding to be all that important. If any of these are the case, perhaps the concept of a Minimum Viable Brand (based on Minimum Viable Product) may be of interest to you.

Most brand models consist of a substantial amount of consideration, involving rigorous research and development, large scale industry expertise (both strategical and creative) and substantial time to create, develop, deliver and test a successful brand; not to mention the ongoing leadership and innovation that goes on afterwards.

The beauty of MVB is that it engages and communicates with its audience without overcomplicating things, allowing your business to maintain its agility and low cost overheads. In its simplest form, it relies on the three core components, which are needed to produce an ‘authentic’ brand strategy: the what, the why and the how; or the proposition, the purpose and the personality.

There are many different takes on the MVB model but taking from the Wolff Olins MVB toolkit, in order to achieve the level of understanding required for successful brand clarity, essential questions to ask are as follows;

  1. Why it matters: The bigger purpose of the brand in the world.
  2. Why we exist: How the brand achieves the bigger purpose.
  3. What can you do: The action the user takes and the impact on their life.
  4. How it will feel: The emotional experience for the user.

On face value, MVB is lean, boasting reduced time frames and significantly smaller financial investment. Its open-source attitude lends itself to gradual, organic growth and depends on a 'call and response' with its audience. It’s cyclical triad of ‘Measure-Learn-Develop’ offers a smart and efficient approach to determine what works and what doesn’t, and adjusting accordingly. In today's fast, ever changing world where the flexibility and agility of a startup could prove make or break, the MVB model could prove vital to your direction setting.

One of the downsides to the MVB model is that it relies on a foundation of the right kind of creative thinking and strategy, that not everyone can be fortunate to possess. While it is a great starting point, the model will not fit your organisation forever and will require further development and re-evaluation later on down the line.

In conclusion, MVB is an excellent white label model among many others and a good foundation to begin work on. It will not fit for every organisation and certainly not be the best isolated solution for more seasoned and matured brands.

Thanks for reading!
Richard Golding

About the author

Richard Golding
Creative Strategist

A creative brand and business leader with more than 10 years of experience providing strategy and design to most industries, sectors, and markets.
Currently specialising in real estate and shaping the future of Gleeds, an international property and construction consultancy.