San Francisco Bay Startups: Good and Bad Branding

With today’s fierce competition for startups in the San Francisco Bay area, it’s important for new companies to establish a brand early. A good brand can easily help a startup make it big, and a bad one can just as easily kill it.

What makes a good brand?
Good branding goes beyond just an attractive logo and catchy name. It’s important for startups to be consistent in all of their branding, and take every opportunity to convey their brand’s image. Everything a company does or says should reflect the brand, creating brand unity. A brand’s message should be unique and fresh, communicating regularly with its audience in a distinctive voice.

Example: Airbnb
San Francisco-based startup, Airbnb, has become a go-to app for travelers and vacationers looking for an affordable place to stay. The app provides rooms and guest houses all over the world that are available to rent by the night.

Airbnb uses several different social media platforms to spread their message and convey their brand. Their Facebook page is updated every few days with photos and videos related to travel and hot vacation spots, as well as interviews with Airbnb hosts. Their Twitter page shares Tweets from app users as they travel and explore. All of these platforms share a consistent voice and focus on travelling and enjoying new experiences, which ties into the purpose of the Airbnb app.

What makes a bad brand?
Bad branding happens when a company suffers from an identity crisis, confusing customers by being inconsistent and not delivering on promises. A bad brand is one that has no distinctive voice or unique image, and does not take advantage of the many ways to communicate with its audience and spread its message.

branding2Example: Graphicly
Another San Francisco-based startup, Graphicly, developed its brand at a time when thousands of other startups were using names ending in “-ly.” This trend began as a clever way to establish a unique domain name by using Libya’s country domain suffix, “.ly,” thus allowing the company to incorporate the suffix into the name, as in “” Many other San Francisco startups, like Visually, Recurly, Lovely and Zaarly, have followed the same naming trend.

Graphicly began in 2010 as what CEO, Micah Baldwin, referred to as “iTunes for comic books.” Graphicly was designed to help independent comic book creators build their audiences by distributing their work through a mobile app. At the height of its popularity, Graphicly added a paid distribution service that converted comics to digital format and published them through platforms like iBookstore and Amazon. The service promised to pay back the comic creators a portion of the proceeds after fees.

In 2012, Graphicly discontinued its popular app to focus solely on its paid distribution service. Rather than helping independent publishers, the company was now concentrating mainly on its highest selling comics, like X-Men and Spider-Man. This sudden shift in brand image and values most likely lead to the company closing its doors in 2014. Many of the publishers who used its distribution service were never paid their promised proceeds.

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