The Power of (Minimum Viable) Brand

April 8, 2020
5 min read

There has been an almost obsessive romance with the concept of the Minimum Viable Product - more fondly referred to by its shorthand, the MVP.

It's the darling of startups, the beating heart of the lean methodology. It's a concept so straightforward, so elegant: create a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development. In the fast-paced space of tech and innovation, it's become gospel. But if I may nudge your attention away from product for a moment, let me introduce you to a less tangible, but arguably equally important concept: the Minimum Viable Brand (MVB).

In the same way the MVP asks, "What's the least we need to build for our product to be viable?", the MVB asks, "What's the least we need to communicate for our brand to be viable?" This is not about downsizing the value of your brand, rather, it's about distilling it to its most potent essence. It's the equivalent of the first few chords of a song that immediately hook you in or the opening sentence of a novel that you can't put down.

The MVB is the most basic version of your brand that still effectively communicates your values, your mission, and the unique elements that differentiate you from the competition. It's the core story, the central promise, the defining aesthetic. But why, you may ask, is it important?

In our world of hyper-connectivity and information overload, customers are faced with more options than ever. Faced with such a deluge, they often make decisions based on the stories that resonate with them, the brands that speak to them on a deeper level. The MVB is your best chance to tell that story, to make that connection, as quickly and powerfully as possible.

Think of it like meeting someone for the first time. You don't have the luxury of time to fully unpack who you are, your life story, your hopes and dreams. You have to present the best, most authentic version of yourself quickly. That's the essence of the MVB.

It's important to note that the MVB is not a static thing. Like the MVP, it's a starting point. It's the foundation upon which you build, refine and expand as you gain more insights about your customers and your market.

But how does one initiate the process of shaping a Minimum Viable Brand? While the conventional wisdom might suggest that expertise comes with extensive time investment, let's investigate a condensed approach to crafting your MVB:

  1. Define your mission: What is the driving force behind your brand? What change do you want to effect in the world? Your mission should be the guiding star that aligns all your actions.
  2. Understand your audience: Who are they? What motivates them? What are their needs and desires? The more deeply you understand your audience, the better you can tailor your brand to resonate with them.
  3. Differentiate yourself: What makes you unique? How do you stand out from the competition? This can be a particular feature of your product, your approach to service, your company culture, or anything else that sets you apart.
  4. Create a consistent visual and verbal identity: This includes your logo, color scheme, typography, and tone of voice. They should all work together to communicate your brand's personality and values.
  5. Test and refine: Like the MVP, the MVB is a process of iteration. Test your brand with your audience, gather feedback, and refine accordingly.

In the end, the Minimum Viable Brand is more than just a way to communicate your product or service. It's a vehicle for connection, for storytelling, for creating relationships with your customers that go beyond the transactional. So, while you're perfecting your MVP, remember not to neglect your MVB. After all, your product may draw customers in, but your brand is what keeps them coming back.

Here's another way to think about it. Remember the classic Malcolm Gladwell tale about the 'tipping point,' where he dissects the precise moment when a trend becomes a social epidemic? In the world of branding, your MVB could well be your own tipping point.

Now, envision your business strategy augmented with the creation of a Minimum Viable Brand. Not only will it help you articulate your brand's essence but it will also create a compass for every decision you make, be it marketing, product development, or customer service. It will dictate not just what you say, but how you say it, and to whom. It will guide you on how to act, how to think, and ultimately, how to grow.

Your actionable steps? Begin by auditing your existing brand. Does it have a strong mission statement that all employees can articulate? Are you clear on who your target audience is, what they want, and how your product or service fits into their lives? Have you differentiated your brand effectively in a crowded market? Is your visual and verbal identity consistent and reflective of your values? Finally, are you committed to testing, refining, and evolving your brand as you learn more about your market and customers?

If you answered 'no' to any of these questions, it's time to get to work. Your MVB isn't going to build itself. But remember, while the process takes effort, the payoff - a strong, resonant, powerful brand that connects with customers on a deep level - is well worth it.

So, to all the startup founders, marketers, and product developers out there, I pose a challenge. As you tirelessly work on creating the perfect MVP, give equal thought, if not more, to creating your MVB. As you will discover, this step will not be an extra burden but rather the key to unlocking your brand's full potential.

As you embark on this journey, always remember that in today's fast-paced, hyper-connected world, the brands that succeed are those that tell a compelling story, create a strong emotional connection, and offer a promise of consistency. They are the ones that have not only a solid product but a powerful brand, starting with their Minimum Viable Brand.

The MVP got you started, but it's the MVB that will keep you going. So, take this advice and keep it close. Let your MVB become your brand's tipping point, the moment your brand goes from being just another name in the market to becoming a social epidemic.

And remember, in the grand scheme of things, your product is what you sell, but your brand, that's what people buy.

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©Bora Nikolic 2023

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