How Savvy Entrepreneurs Transform A Small Idea Into A Big Brand


Destiny is a dramatic word – but the first step in starting a successful venture is identifying your commercial destiny, determining what specific business you – and only you – were born to create. The best idea for you will involve the perfect convergence of your skills, talents, and passions with the needs in the marketplace. It also takes great branding.

Transforming your idea into a brand, though, takes something more, what I call breakthrough branding. Smart entrepreneurs who build brands do things differently starting with the way they begin their businesses. In researching startups that grew big in various global markets for my book, Breakthrough Branding, four branding habits set them apart:

1.  They Find A “Small Idea,” A Business Idea That’s Focused, Different And Perfectly Positioned

Forget the big idea, go for a small idea – The reality is big ideas start out small
In branding, it all starts with an idea. Everyone talks of finding a big idea. But I say, “Forget the big idea, go for a small idea.” The reality is big ideas start out small – simple, focused and specific so that they can own a unique niche and dominate the category. That way, you’re building a business on something that’s different and small enough to own and create a brand identity around.

Sometimes you can find your “small idea” in unlikely places just by being observant. On a business trip to Thailand, Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz discovered a local drink called Krating Daeng that miraculously cured his jet lag and gave him a jolt of energy. Mateschitz kept the original Thai formula with one modification; he added carbonisation. He named the drink Red Bull, a close translation of its Thai name (Daeng means “red” and Krating means “water buffalo” in Thai). His real genius was in positioning the brand spot on for teenage boys and young men not as a new carbonated beverage, but as an “energy drink,” an entirely new category at the time that appealed to virile young men.

2.  They Realise That The Name You Choose For The Business Can Make Or Break You

Just like with a newborn baby, your first branding act is to come up with a name for your business. This beginning moment in the creative process of branding is full of possibility and fear. How do you get it right? Ideally, you want a name that is different, memorable, conveys meaning, and translates globally.

Look at Twitter, a name that has gone from bird talk to one of the most-used words in English and is known globally. The name Twitter was the result of a brainstorming session with a small group of employees led by Jack Dorsey, who was the creative brain behind the new messaging concept. What analogy could they make? The closest thing was getting a text message. Your phone would buzz. It would jitter. It would twitch. So the team explored names like Jitter and Twitch. Searching for words that begin with “tw,” they discover “twitter.” Dorsey looked up the meaning of twitter: “ a short burst of inconsequential information” and “chirps for birds.” The name was perfect.

If you’re an entrepreneur from China, finding a name that can go global can be hard if you stick to Chinese language words. You have to think laterally. An English teacher in China, Jack Ma came to the United States as a visiting scholar and got interested in the Internet and how it might lead to a startup business idea when he returned home. While in a coffee shop in San Francisco, Ma thought that Alibaba might be a good name for the business e-commerce concept. So he asked his waitress, “Do you know about Alibaba?” And she said, “Forty Thieves.” Then he asked people on the street from Germany, Japan, China, and other countries. They all knew, “Alibaba and the Forty Thieves.”

From Ma’s perspective, the name had a lot going for it. It was well known and recognised by people all over the world. It was easy to say and spell unlike many Chinese words. It had the repetition of the “ba” sound, a good linguistic device in naming things. Plus Alibaba had a meaning that related to Ma’s idea for an Internet business-to-business services company. If you know the story, the character Ali Baba is not a thief but a kind, smart businessman who helped the villages. As Ma relates, “Alibaba opens sesame for small-to-medium sized companies.”

Today, Alibaba is an e-commerce giant, controlling about 80 percent of China’s online commerce market with a market capitalization estimated at $200 billion.

3.  They Use Unconventional Marketing Tactics

It’s very powerful when you get others to market your brand for you
It’s always smart to zig when everyone else is zagging. And, as marketers know, it’s very powerful when you get others to market your brand for you. It can take some improvising if you’re a startup with little money. It takes even more improvising if you’re still in school, like the four enterprising MBA students at the reputable University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business who launched Warby Parker, a cool yet inexpensive internet prescription eyewear company. The four found that school was the ideal incubator for their startup because their classmates were their target customers. To sell their glasses, they recruited brand ambassadors from their classmates. After they graduated, they enlisted department store buyers, restaurant maîtreds and other people who came into contact with lots of potential customers as brand ambassadors. The deal? They get a free pair of glasses and a discount code for their friends.

The founders have also aligned the brand with a cause. Of course, blending commerce with good works as a marketing strategy has been around for decades, but what’s new today is linking the brand and the philanthropy so closely together that you can’t think of the brand without the charity work and vice versa. To do that, Warby Parker launched “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair.” For every pair of prescription glasses it sells, Warby gives away a pair to someone in need somewhere in the world.

4.  They Know How To Spin A Good PR Story

Don’t neglect the PR power of story-telling, beginning with your creation story
Having a great product is key, but don’t neglect the PR power of story-telling, beginning with your creation story. Innocent was launched by three Cambridge graduates. The trio set up a stall at a music festival in the U.K. to test the fruit smoothie drinks they had concocted. They put two bins in front of their stall with a sign that asked customers to vote by casing their empties in the Yes bin if they thought the group should start a business and quit their jobs. Only a few empty containers ending up in the No bin, so the three friends resigned the next day. And its creation story became part of its marketing lore.

The small idea behind Innocent is authenticity – healthy fruit drinks made of 100 percent fresh ingredients. The logo is a quirky apple shape, almost like a child’s drawing, with two eyes and a halo above to underscore the honesty and playfulness of the brand along with its promise of pure ingredients. In its early days, Innocent experimented with labels that listed ingredients such as “banana, orange, and a lawnmower.” When it did a label that listed “plump nuns” among its ingredients they received a reprimand from the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority asking them to change their labels or “start putting said items in your drinks.” Nonetheless, all of its playful antics led to fun breakthrough branding and PR that connected with its target audience of young, hip, health-conscious adults. Initially, a U.K. fruit smoothie brand, Innocent sold part of its business to Coca Cola and is rolling out in global markets.

The breakthrough branding mindset is both strategic and creative and real that branding ideas can come from anywhere. Traditional approaches often don’t work. There are always creative ways you can tweak and market your brand. There are always new strategies you can explore and tactics you can test in your quest for breakthrough branding.