7-step guide for branding your impactful startup.

Learn how to:

• Forge your brand's philosophy
Position your brand successfully
• Develop a brand personality
• And more!

Read now

As an impact entrepreneur...

You've always been driven to contribute to the social good and help the Earth thrive. Unfortunately, the vast corporations that pollute our environment, harm our communities, and mistreat their employees have built massive mainstream brands, making it seem impossible for your startup to stand a chance.

But it's not. Brands that do good can do well. Your startup can take on toxic market staples with your fairly-sourced, innovative, and eco-friendly offerings. By following this guide you will be several steps ahead of many of your competitors––even some of those that are seemingly insurmountable.

Captivate more investors

Attract your ideal customers

Disrupt competitive markets


The world is becoming a brighter place because of people like you. Your entrepreneurial priorities are clear: people, planet, purpose, and profit, in that order. Ingenious visionaries like yourself are modern-day superheroes, and it’s time to save the world.

Whether your impact startup has just begun to raise funding, or is almost ready for a mainstream market launch, one thing is certain-- you’re ready to claim your rightful market share and disrupt the status quo. But, in order to take on the big bad corporations that stand in your way, you’ll need a brand that outshines theirs.

We’ll be the first to admit it: creating a modern brand that stands a chance at connecting with everyday consumers is a daunting task. That’s why we created this guide for ethically-motivated entrepreneurs like you. If you follow this seven step checklist, you’ll be on the path to building a stronger brand than those of even your largest competitors (and no, that’s not an exaggeration).

Many impact startups fail simply because their branding can’t compete with mainstream offerings, even if their products and practices are objectively better for our society and our planet. The good news is that research by Unilever shows that consumers love to buy from social and environmental impact brands-- it’s just a matter of properly communicating your startup’s value.

Top-performing brands have three traits in common. They are:

1. Authentic

They have a strong internal compass, and they’re not afraid to show it. As a result, their customers respect them, admire them, and are proud to buy from them.

2. Differentiated

Whether by breakthrough product innovation, distinctive design, unforgettable personality, or all of the above, the most successful brands stake their claim in a unique space in the minds of consumers and the eyes of their competitors.

3. Consistent

Top brands follow stringent and strategic communication and design guidelines. The brand memorably and regularly communicates its key messages, and customers can recognize the brand by its font, color scheme, and style.

The seven steps in this guide will help you to achieve these three golden brand traits. If you do the work to develop them fully, you’ll be miles ahead of your average competitor.

Questions to Ask

1. Develop Your Internal Brand

What is it?

You’ve probably heard the terms vision, mission, values, and purpose. That’s because they are the keys to the long-term success of any brand. These traits define the integrity and authenticity of your brand and are the vital components of your internal brand.

Why bother?

Most brands don’t take the time to develop their internal compass. As a result, when they try to scale, their company culture, customer satisfaction, and higher ambitions can easily fall apart. These crucial elements are responsible for guiding the ship that is your brand, no matter who is at the helm or manning the sails, and their development should be a top priority. An authentic brand with an internal foundation appeals to your target audience at their moral and emotional core, and that connection returns major dividends.


Two-thirds (64%) of consumers around the world said that they would buy from a brand or boycott it solely because of its position on a social or political issue (Edelman, 2019)


77% of consumers buy from brands who share the same values as they do


Studies show that mission-driven workers are 54% more likely to stay at a company for five years or more

Questions to Ask

• How well do we know who we’re helping and how we’re helping them?

• How would we like our customers, employees, and industry colleagues to describe our brand as if it were a person they know?

• Do we have clear long-term goals for our company and our impact?

• Have we forged clear guidelines that empower us to approach daily business tasks in ways that align with our ideals and values?

Ben and Jerry's

Ben and Jerry’s owes much of its ongoing success to its strong mission and values. Their support of social justice, climate action, and standing against industry issues such as the use of rBGH and lack of GMO labeling has earned the respect and admiration of their audience. Ben and Jerry’s continues to attract new customers every day as they take the right side of each social, ethical, and environmental movement.

2. Conduct Market Research

What is it?

Market positioning consists of two elements: developing your audience personas and evaluating your competition.

An Audience Persona is an imaginary conception of your ideal customer or client. It’s important to flesh out not only their demographic information, but also their psychographic information. Psychographics include their beliefs, their fears, their pain points related to your industry, their goals, and all of the other complexities of nuanced, realistic human. By understanding every facet of your ideal customer, you’ll be able to target them more easily and appeal to their concerns, desires, and values with ease.

Competitive Analysis involves conducting comprehensive research on the current state of the market and understanding the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities present among your competition, including their products, services, and online presences.

With a strong understanding of your target customers, and a keen awareness of your competitive environment, you can confidently position your brand and differentiate it meaningfully from the competition.

Why bother?

Many brands launch without any consideration of the market landscape or developing a competitive advantage. In many cases, startups (and particularly small business ventures) enter the market blindly with only a logo and a name, setting out to target “everyone” as their ideal customer.

This is the common path to failure. Your startup or small business idea should arise out of an existing market gap, whether by addressing the pain points of an existing audience, or by targeting an as yet unrecognized group.


80% of consumers don’t think brands actually understand them as a person


48% of consumers expect brands to know them and help them discover new products or services that fit their needs


71% of companies that exceed lead generation and revenue goals have documented buyer personas

Questions to Ask

• Do we have an in-depth understanding of our competitors’ strengths, vulnerabilities, and communication tactics?

• Have we developed a comprehensive understanding of our target audience’s personalities, goals, and obstacles?

Bizzy Coffee

Bizzy Coffee was inspired by the pain points of its founders: there were no premium quality, excellent tasting cold brew options for everyday consumers. After validating the problem with their ideal customers, they set out to create “the best tasting coffee in the world”. Their commitment to sustainability is evident: they use BPA-free, 100% recyclable packaging, organic and non-GMO products, and ethically sourced beans.

3. Position Strategically

What is it?

As we touched on in the previous section, it’s crucial that your brand addresses an unmet need in the market, whether by targeting an existing pain point or providing solutions for an unseen audience. Additionally, in the social and environmental impact space, there are pervasive visual and personality tropes that dominate the market. Think leaves, earth symbols, and cliché tag lines. You must differentiate your brand by its innovation, design, and personality in order to stand a chance at thriving in the mainstream marketplace.

Why bother?

Most brands are ‘look-a-like’ brands. They imitate what their top competitors are doing in an effort to ‘keep up’ and succeed. Unfortunately, this has the opposite effect for your business--blending into the existing market is the last thing that you should do. Nothing is more important than positioning your brand to occupy a specific space in the minds of consumers.

Human brains are wired to organize concepts as simply as possible so as to conserve energy. That means that if another brand has already occupied a certain niche in your audience’s minds, it is nearly futile to try to replace them. Instead, take the time to uncover your unique approach and develop an unforgettable brand.


According to the WPP and Millward Brown 2015 “BrandZ Top 100 Global Brands” Report, which studied brands from 2006 to 2015, differentiation is the single most important contributor to a brand’s success


77% of B2B marketing leaders say branding is critical to growth (Circle Research)

Questions to Ask

• What is the root of our differentiation?

• Do we occupy a unique position in the existing market?

• Do we own a unique space in our audience’s mind?

• Are we wasting time imitating our competitors in areas we could be strongly differentiated?


Pact manufactures sustainable clothing made from organic cotton in Fair TradeCertifiedTM factories, as well as offering numerous innovations such as the option to offset the carbon footprint of your shipment, and providing a “Give Back Box”you can use to donate your clothing to nonprofits. They have cleverly positioned their brand as Earth’s Favorite Clothing Company.

4. Forge Your Brand Personality

What is it?

The best brands on the market have nuanced and engaging personalities, which shine through on their website, their social media, and their in-person interactions. Aligning your brand personality with that of your audience, or better yet, aligning it with the relationship that your ideal customers are seeking, is key to forming long-term connections.

Why bother?

Brands with a documented personality framework are equipped to form genuine ongoing connections with their audience, and those connections are crucial to driving customer loyalty and consistent sales. By developing a personality that can be represented by any employee at your company, regardless of their individual quirks, your brand will shine among other more lifeless ones.


86% of consumers prefer an authentic and honest brand personality on social networks (HubSpot)


Customers who have an emotional connection with a brand have a 3X higher lifetime value


When a client feels an emotional connection to a brand, they have a 306% higher lifetime value to your business, and 64% of customers say shared values improve their relationship with a brand

Questions to Ask

• Does our brand embody a personality that connects with our audience?

• Is our brand personality grounded in research and competitive analysis?

Remember, the key is here is to create the relationship that your customer is craving, rather than creating any personality that you wish from thin air, or imitating whatever personality is trendy. Be strategic and creative.

Tarte Cosmetics

Tarte Cosmetics is a makeup company that is cruelty-free and has no harmful ingredients in its products. Their sassy, optimistic, and authentic brand personality shines through their social media communications and allows them to connect with everyday customers who want to make a difference.

5. Create a Communication Framework

What is it?

A detailed communication framework enables you to quickly and easily communicate your brand story, positioning, and internal brand on any platform without worrying about what to say, when to say it, or how to best relate to your audience.

Why bother?

Reposting your mission statement on Instagram every day is no way to build a loyal audience.A communication framework outlines key messages that must be communicated; however, it’s up to you how you decide to communicate them. A single message (for example,
your positioning statement) could be broken into multiple posts, blogs, and videos. The possibilities are endless!


52% of consumers expect brands to know when the right moments are to communicate


50% of consumers feel like most brand communication is irrelevant

Questions to Ask

• Do we have a primary framework to which we can refer to create content related to our positioning, or competitive advantage, and identified audience?

• Do we have a secondary framework for communicating our internal brand and higher purpose?

Be broad with this framework and include as many specifics as possible while remaining concise. This way, a wealth of content can blossom from each key message, but the framework won’t be too dense and can serve as a guide on-the-fly.


Dropps produces truly eco-friendly dishwasher and laundry pods. They create heaps of interesting content, and always communicate the same key benefits of using their brand and the values that they share with their customers.

6. Refine Your Visual Brand

What is it?

Your visual brand is the art, typography, color scheme, image styles, and logo that represent your brand to the public. Top impact startup brands have striking and strategically-inspired visual identities, and they maintain consistency across media channels by implementing a style guide. A style guide is a short booklet that provides a custom visual framework and specific direction as to how and when to use certain visual elements.

Why bother?

Excellent design helps build trust with your market and is often cited by consumers as a direct indicator of brand quality. A creative and strategic visual identity draws your ideal customers in and meaningfully engages them.


Consistent presentation of a brand has seen to increase revenue by 33 percent


It takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember your brand


Consistently presented brands are 3.5x more likely to enjoy excellent brand visibility than those with an inconsistent brand presentation (Demand Metric)

Questions to Ask

After you’ve completed the internal branding and strategic positioning processes, reach out to a professional graphic designer or design agency. If you work with a full-service branding agency likeBrandShine, we will provide visual identity services along with brand development/strategy.

Visual identities aren’t something that you should design by yourself on the internet or commission for $5. Talented designers understand how design is interpreted psychologically and have a strong grasp of design principles that effectively attract ideal customers and stake a visual territory in the marketplace.

Youth to the People is a sustainable, vegan, and cruelty-free skincare brand.Their website and social media accounts share a consistent and distinctive visual style.

7. Build an Outstanding Online Presence

What is it?

Your brand’s website and social media presence will most often be your audience’s first exposure to your brand. Make it count! While build-your-own website platforms are commonly used by entrepreneurs, they present a multitude of issues that are unrecognizable to non-professionals.

By hiring a professional web designer, you give your brand the opportunity to confidently compete with market-leading brands. The same goes for social marketing graphics; DIY solutions simply won’t cut it for your brand if you’re ready to go to market. It’s time to upgrade.

Why bother?

Beginner-friendly site builders present serious complications for uninformed designers. Site speed, SEO, and responsive design are critical considerations about which most amateur designers and developers are unaware. Cliched and overused default layouts go against the core concept of branding: standing out in a sea of sameness. Your website design should be catered to the needs and desires of your unique users, optimized to serve them the most important information and provide opportunities for them to take action. If you’ve raised funding, your brand and website should be a priority for spending.


75% of consumers admit to making judgements on a company’s credibility based on the company’s website design


85% of adults think that a company’s website when viewed on a mobile device should be as good or better than its desktop website


First impressions are 94% design-related

Questions to Ask

Do we have a clear call-to-action and value proposition? Is our site beautiful and user-friendly? These are difficult questions to answer if you aren’t a professional. Work with an experienced freelancer or an agency like ours to bring your dream website to life. When it comes to web design, you will find that you’ll save more money, time, and headaches by working with a professional from the start.

We highly recommend working with a designer/developer that uses Webflow (like we do at BrandShine). This cutting-edge platform is light years ahead of Wordpress, Wix, and Squarespace in terms of creating custom experiences and making it easy to make changes to your site.

Reel Paper

Reel Paper produces 100% tree-free toilet paper, and their website is fantastic. The layout is elegant, the color scheme is apt, and it’s easy to navigate. Reel also partners with an organization called SOIL which provides sanitation alternatives and removes waste for underserved Haitian communities.


Just like that, you’re on track to shaping an unforgettable and market-disrupting brand for your impact startup, and you’re well on your way to changing the world!

As you’ve probably gathered, building a market-ready brand before launching is key to connecting with mainstream consumers and claiming your rightful market share. If you had trouble answering the key questions we posed in the guide, don’t fret. Properly and fully executing these steps, conducting extensive research, and expertly positioning your brand for success is best achieved by collaborating with expert brand strategists, savant copywriters, and professional designers like those at our agency.

At BrandShine, we forge meaningful brands for companies that make a difference by fueling them with intelligent strategies, memorable visuals, and outstanding websites. If you’d like our help building a brand that stands a chance in competitive markets, you can book a free brand audit below. Or, reach out to us directly at hello@brandshinecreative.com.

Questions to Ask

We help impactful startups say more with less.

During your brand audit, we’ll explore your current brand strategy and marketing assets to ascertain opportunities for improvement. Then, we’ll offer actionable insights and solutions.

Book now