Brand Basics for Start-ups – Why brand management?


The upcoming two blog-entries will focus on brand strategy basics which start-ups should consider. However, I won’t deal with the visual aspects of branding. So, if you’re looking for answers on design issues like “What should a logo look like?” or “Which colors to combine?” this blog entry won’t help you. But it should give you orientation: Let’s talk about basic (key) decisions concerning your brand.

Why take care of your brand right from the start?

The answer is quite simple: Your brand evolves strategic importance as soon as it’s recognized! From that very moment people start to develop structures of meaning around your brand and with it your whole offer. This leads to two conclusions:

  1. Nobody will wait until you work out a strategy. If you don’t take part in the process of meaning creation, your brand will develop completely by chance without you.
  2. Once a brand has become meaningful to your customers, shareholders, media etc., it’s very hard and costly to regain influence on this meaning: Never again, you will have so much impact on your brand than while starting your business.

Take-away: Brands are structures of meaning that develop automatically when they enter the market. Your influence on its evolvement will never again be as strong as in the beginning.

Brand is meaning is value

Well, that’s nice. But the topic of this blog is pricing. So, what does meaning have to do with pricing? The meaning of a brand is represented in the mind of stakeholders and directly influences the perceived value of your offer, thus buying decisions, customer loyalty and of course: willingness to pay. As you could read in previous posts of Martin, prices depend heavily on perceived value. You will find masses of examples for value impact on brands in the web, so I’ll mention just a few:

  • Apple sells “creative individuality” – despite standardized products and realizes a price premium, too!
  • In a blind tasting of Pepsi and Coca-Cola (Chernatony/MacDonald, 1992) consumers were asked which one tastes better. The majority voted for Pepsi. In a second step the brand they were drinking was disclosed. Now Coca-Cola clearly won the contest.
  • LUXKASTENS analyzed the socially established meaning structures of BMW and Mercedes in Germany. Besides other interesting results it turned out that “expensive” was part of BMW’s meaning, not of Mercedes’.
  • A recent worldwide study by Havas-Media dealing with the impact of meaning concluded, that very meaningful brands boost financial KPIs by 100%, gain 46% more share of wallet and outperform stock market by 133% compared to rather meaningless brands.

Take away: Your brand offers meaning that boosts perceived value for which people are willing to pay more than for comparable offers of competitors.


Dr. Stefan Strötgen

About Dr. Stefan Strötgen

Dr. Stefan Strötgen, formerly partner at the Institut für Marken-Emergenz, Cologne, and now partner at LUXKASTENS, Zurich (, is an expert for semantic brand strategies. He read Musicology, Business Administration and Linguistics at the universities in Bonn and Cologne. At the University of Bayreuth he graduated with a PhD-thesis on semantics of music with regard to brand management. Furthermore he fills the position of an information designer at Simon-Kucher & Partners, Bonn.

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