How to create a brand for your EdTech startup

Two women from MusicUs posing for a picture

From the colours on your website to mission statement and values: everything your startup does contributes to its brand. This is why it can be challenging to grasp where to get started when branding your startup. We have gathered information for you on common steps to take when creating a brand for a new company. If you feel like you need more guidance, our EdTech Incubator program offers more in-depth and practical support and coaching for branding your startup. 

What is a brand and why does it matter

A brand is a reason to choose.
-Cheryl Burgess

A brand is a result – it’s a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. It’s in their heads and in their hearts. A brand is your reputation.
-Marty Neumayer

While there are multiple different ways of defining a brand, the most common perspective is that a brand consists of the things that distinguish your company from its competitors.

When choosing a product or a service your potential customers can compare prices, features and convenience of different options. However, how different companies and products make us feel plays often even a more important role in purchasing decisions, and these emotions are something you can affect with branding. 

A good brand helps you to:

  • differentiate you from your competitors
  • create familiarity and allow your customers to get attached to you
  • make you memorable
  • attract investors
  • charge more for your products
  • improve employee pride and job satisfaction

In the EdTech field, Duolingo is a model example of the power of great branding. Even though there are a number of different language learning apps, in ten years the company has built a $250 million brand and their little green owl has become recognizable worldwide. With its funny, silly and even bold marketing style it stands out from its competitors. Interestingly, Duolingo has also moulded its brand identity to match different channels: compare their style for example in Instagram and in TikTok, and you’ll see what we mean. 

Start from the strategic level

We advise you to start your branding process by crystallising your company’s value proposition: what value does your company bring to its customers? Remember that customers are always interested mostly in their own goals and problems, not in your company. You need to define and communicate clearly how you answer their problem better than anyone else.

There are a number of different frameworks to help you define your value proposition. One of the most used ones is value proposition canvas.

The value proposition canvas by Strategyzer helps you to understand customers’ biggest needs and to design your concept around them. The canvas forces you to list goals your customer is trying to achieve in their work or in their life in general. You also list obstacles they are facing related to their goals, as well as gains that they are trying to achieve. Only after taking time to understand your customer, can you turn to your value proposition: how are you going to ease the pains and help to acquire gains? You can use this framework to design your business plan as well as to plan customer-centric marketing messages.

When building a solution for the education field, you need to understand the goals and struggles of teachers. In our EdTech Incubator program you’ll have a chance to meet with pedagogical experts and experienced actors in the field, and to get plenty of insights. Teachers might for example look for ways to customise their teaching to match different learning styles or look for ways to balance their workload. Teachers might find the existing solutions for example too complicated to be taught quickly to pupils, the technical solutions not well enough suited for big classes, or the solutions don’t take into account pupils of different ages or with special needs.

While you are trying to find the differentiating factors, remember that especially as a newcomer you also need to build trust with your potential customers and other stakeholders. There are likely to be aspects where you need to follow your competitors in order to join the game. In the EdTech field, if you need to acquire customers from the public sector, your company and products might have to pass strict accessibility and data privacy and protection requirements in order to be accepted as a public sector vendor. The EdTech Incubator program helps you stay on top of all the different requirements.

Get practical with your brand identity and its visual identity

Often when we start contemplating branding, we first think about what it looks like. However, it’s easier to create a memorable brand visual identity once you have fully understood your customers, your value proposition and your position in the market. You can start moulding your brand identity by asking yourself each of these questions:

  • What three things do you want your customer to associate with your brand?
  • What feelings do these associations evoke in your customers mind?
  • If your brand was a person, what kind of personality would they have? (your brand’s persona)
  • If your brand was a person, how would they communicate? (your brand’s tone of voice)

Once you understand who you want to be as a brand, it is time to build a visual identity that will bring your brand to life and make you instantly recognizable to your stakeholders.

Plan how you are going to use visuals to guide customers thoughts: What kind of feelings do you want evoke with your brand colours? How do you make your logo memorable? What kind of font supports your tone of voice? If visuality and graphic design aren’t your strong suits, you might want to consider asking for external advice here in order to make long-lasting choices. You can also get support for building your brand identity in our EdTech incubator program. 

You can collect your choices into a brand style guide using templates from Miro or Templafy. If your brand visual identity is built by an external service provider, ask them to craft a brand book for you. The brand guide will help you stay consistent with your communication and it will also help to communicate your brand identity in an easier way to new team members as well.

Branding is not a project

Remember that your brand book and marketing actions based on your brand strategy don’t themselves create and maintain your brand. The choices you have made should be rooted in your company’s culture and policies: how you email to your clients, how using your products feels like, how you support your customers, and so on. Pay attention to whether all of your touchpoints signal the same things about your brand.

Even though consistency is key in creating a strong and memorable brand, your brand will and should evolve over time. It might even become the opposite of what it was when you first started out. As your products evolve, markets change, and even the underlying values in our society change, you should be ready to adjust your brand. 

Learn more about the EdTech Incubator Helsinki program here!