As an entrepreneur, it can be tempting to spend big money on branding right off the bat. After all, you want to put your best foot forward and make a splash in the market—especially in the increasingly visual world we live in.
Luckily for you (and your bottom line), Saskia Ketz, founder of brand identity startup Mojomox, can help you significantly slash your initial design spend. She’s using her 15+ years of experience working as a brand strategist to help early-stage startups create successful branding, even with their smaller budgets.
Startups shouldn’t waste money on early branding
The idea for Mojomox came while Ketz was busy building her design agency, MMarch NY, and started offering free “office hours” calls to connect with potential customers.
“A lot of small startups would come to me asking about how much they really needed to spend on design work or what advice I had for ways to cut costs while still getting stunning designs,” Ketz recalled. “I wanted to find a way to support these amazing founders without downgrading the value of my work.”
It was through these conversations that Ketz realized a few key things about startups and design work. The first was just how little they realistically have to spend.
“When you think about customer acquisition costs, the general rule of thumb is to not spend more than a third of your product’s lifetime value on marketing. Since early startups are still figuring out their lifetime value, they’re going to be even more conservative, and you realize really quickly that they can’t spend a lot on design.”
But you get what you pay for in the design world. Ketz noticed many companies she talked to would try hiring a cheap designer and end up unhappy with the work.
It also dawned on her that startups shouldn’t be spending a ton on design even if they could. “Good branding is rooted in business strategy,” explained Ketz. “If you’re a company that’s just starting out, you don’t know where you’re going to end up. You’re going to change your strategy and pivot along the way, so any work you put into strong designs during the early stages really won’t be worth anything.”
The ‘black dress’ theory of design
Still, Ketz couldn’t recommend a totally do-it-yourself approach, either. “When people without a design background try to put together their own designs, even using accessible tools like Canva, I find it often ends up overcomplicated or it lacks the consistency that’s so important to branding. It ends up clouding the messaging,” she said.
She decided to build her own tool that would help startups create an initial brand identity using her theory of “black dress” design. “When it comes to early startup branding, I think it’s best to strip it down to the basics,” Ketz explained. “It’s kind of like a black dress: Simple enough that you can’t go wrong, but still sleek and professional, and with enough flexibility to adjust as things change for your business.”
The Mojomox brand identity builder allows users to easily create a basic wordmark, or a logo made with a brand name in a modern and clean font, and get a custom color palette based on best practices of color theory.
Soon to come are a simple icon-based logo maker, design suggestions for specific industries, customized social media banner and flyer templates, and ways to easily apply a brand identity to a variety of design materials. While you can always tweak things to your liking, Mojomox does so much of the work for you, with Ketz’s design knowledge backing it up.
Solidify your business before you brand
With this simple and affordable brand kit, you can reallocate energy into the critical work of figuring out what your business is all about.
“At this stage, there are more important things than creating a really amazing logo,” Ketz shared, advising instead that early startups put their time and money into solidifying their product-market fit, their positioning, their ideal customer, and other core business questions that will ultimately affect branding decisions.
“If you can really understand who you are and what you’re doing, then you’ve laid the groundwork for any good design. I created free branding workbooks to provide guidance on the sorts of questions and priorities to focus on.”
Eventually, of course, many companies will want to shell out to work with a branding agency and upgrade from these simple designs. But Ketz hopes that her tools can help bridge the gap, giving startups more time to firm up their strategy and their budget before it’s time to invest.