City Unrulyversity – “The Startup Branding Toolkit (Part 1)”


A couple of weeks back I attended yet another great evening talk at City Unrulyversity in Shoreditch.

If you can’t remember who they are and what the story behind them is – here’s my last blog on them which gives a bit more background:

Once again the event was held in the awesome “Clubhouse” space, up on the top floor of the Unruly offices in Shoreditch. I’m starting to quite like this venue!

The title for this talk was “The StartUp Branding Toolkit”, and as the name suggests; it was all about taking a good hard look at how to brand and publicise your startup business or product from scratch. The approach was quite different to other talk type events though, in that it was more of a workshop, and it was also being led by a young management graduate who had spent time researching the subject as part of his recent studies. The evening was prepared and presented by Nico (Nicolas Lux), a Masters student of CASS Business School at City University. Nico has just completed his Masters, an MSc in Management, and a major part of his work went into developing his ‘StartUp Branding Toolkit’; which is exactly what he offered to us on the night.

Nico’s background is in digital, design and branding. He previously worked a couple of years as a consultant at the global branding agency Interbrand – apparently they’re the one’s who publish the “Best Global Brands” ranking. So he knows his stuff, this came across quickly in his presentation and he was also easy to listen to and engage with. Following his earlier work though, Nico’s recent interests have seen him move more towards startups, and it’s the unique opportunity to work on a new brand and from scratch, that seems to have enticed him this way.

(A Quote on the big screen): “A brand is a gut feeling” – Marty Neumier (The Brand Gap).

Fair comment Marty. The discussion around this statement was that a brand is not the actual logo, but rather the perception and association we make with it. Though we might quickly spot the Nike swoosh/tick logo and associate it with Nike – the logo itself, the physical graphic, isn’t a brand. The brand is what we connect and associate with the logo.

Nico handed out hardback copies of his multi-page branding toolkit to the whole room and we got down to working through the concepts and ideas held within.

A quick run-down of the topics covered-off in Nico’s StartUp Branding Toolkit:

STEP 1 – Brand Positioning

(We watched a video: which demonstrates a company positioning it’s brand fantastically).

STEP 2 – Your Brand Values

Got to have these – what are you about? What’s your mission?

STEP 3 – Your Brand Personality

What kind of company are you? Reserved? Outgoing and adventurous? What personality are your customers going to identify with?

Step 4 – Your Tone of Voice

You’re not going to put on a childish persona and tone of voice when marketing your legal consultancy now are you?!

(Another video, this one’s pretty bizarre and funny: )

STEP 5 – Your Brand Name

The source of great impact, inspiration, and also frustration if you can’t think of one!

STEP 6 – Briefing Designers with Visuals

–          A good way to do this is use Pinterest.

–          Here’s a Pinterest mood board of some different posters and illustrations that I’ve found quite interesting and inspiring recently:

After we’d gone through a fair chunk of the toolkit, we then split off into groups to discuss the business ideas we each had and how we might want to approach our branding using these headings/prompts. This was good fun, and I quite enjoyed making suggestions for other people’s projects, particularly creative brand names – that’s always a laugh!

To round off the evening, one of the senior in-house brand designers from Unruly took to the font and gave us a tour (visual and audio with the aid of the big screen/projector) through the history of Unruly as a brand. This was quite interesting. It was interesting to see how the branding, design, and artwork have all changed subtly over the years to match how the positioning of Unruly has moved. The big emphasis was on how the team had started with the Unruly culture, and then built the brand out from that.