Branding exercises for startups

Feb 6, 2024

Empower startups with simple branding exercises to define identity & engage audiences effectively.

Branding is the heartbeat of every startup. It's more than just a logo or a color scheme; it's the essence of your identity in the market. For startups, crafting a strong brand is crucial—it tells your story, conveys your values, and sets you apart from the competition. This article dives into simple, yet powerful branding exercises that can help startups define and refine their brand identity. These exercises are designed to be straightforward and effective, helping you connect with your audience on a deeper level. Let's embark on this journey to make your brand truly resonate with your target market.

DIY approach to kickstarting your brand

At its core, "brand strategy" sounds like a big, costly endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. Imagine choosing between hiring a high-end agency for a six-figure sum to build your website or going the DIY route with user-friendly platforms like Squarespace, Wix, or others. Similarly, developing a brand strategy can be a straightforward, cost-effective process that aligns with your startup’s pace and budget.

Effective brand strategy is essentially making your startup’s communication bulletproof. It starts with a simple yet profound discussion among founders, asking, “Why are we here?” and documenting the answers.

Consider these essential questions every quarter:

  • What’s our purpose? (in one sentence)

  • Who are we here for?

  • Why should people care about our work?

  • What change will we see in the world if we succeed?

  • What three words truly represent us? (skip the buzzwords)

  • Can we encapsulate our business in a sentence or two?

If these conversations are new to you, jot them down and revisit them quarterly. Keeping everyone on the same page from the start means less frequent changes but more significant alignment and consistency in your message. Plus, these discussions are gold for spotting and addressing any misalignments in vision.

Simple yet impactful internal exercises

Embracing a DIY spirit for brand strategy means you can facilitate growth and alignment through simple exercises. Here are three to get started:

  1. The Onliness Statement: This is an internal mantra, not for your tagline or website, but a beacon for your unique path. For instance, "We're the only tech startup in Tokyo dedicated to enabling people with disabilities to find online work independently." Even if others come close, owning your online statement—and ensuring team buy-in—guides your vision.

Incorporating these exercises and discussions into your strategy doesn't just align your team—it connects your startup’s heart to every beat of your brand's presence online, from our team's ethos to how we talk about our work. Keep it simple, direct, and genuine to see your brand's identity resonate more deeply with your audience.

"Two-year goal" exercise: a roadmap to your future

Setting goals is vital for any startup's journey, and the "Two-Year Goal" exercise is a perfect way to get your leadership team aligned and focused. Here's how it works: each leader gets five minutes to jot down as many two-year objectives as they can imagine. Then, everyone casts three votes to highlight the top goals for the next biennium. This democratic approach ensures that the most resonant and critical goals rise to the top. Next, dive deeper by brainstorming the top five strategies to reach the chosen goal, asking, "How do we achieve Goal #1?" This method encourages open dialogue and collaborative problem-solving, ensuring that your team is not just aligned in vision but also in action.

Explore more on strategic planning and alignment with our insights on building a memorable identity from scratch.

The good old "Impact vs. Effort" chart

Once your startup's goals are clear, it's time to prioritize them efficiently. The "Impact vs. Effort" chart is a straightforward yet powerful tool to help your team evaluate where to focus energy first. Gather your team and allocate ten minutes for everyone to list goals—either from the "Two-Year Goal" exercise or other company objectives. Then, organize these goals on an "Impact vs. Effort" chart. This visual aid helps you quickly see which initiatives will offer the most value for the least effort, allowing you to prioritize tasks that are both impactful and manageable.

Dive deeper into effective team collaboration and goal alignment with our process overview.

Staying aligned on goals and efforts

Just like you, we at heartbeat are a team aiming for coherence in our vision and efforts. We plan our projects, workshops, and even our blog posts collectively. To facilitate this collaborative process, we utilize tools like MURAL boards (, providing a dynamic, interactive platform for our team to brainstorm, plan, and stay aligned, no matter where we are in the world. This digital workspace mirrors a workshop environment, enabling seamless communication and shared creativity across the team.

For more insights on team collaboration and maintaining alignment on your goals, check out our team's ethos and approach and discover how we create impactful work together at heartbeat.