Unpacking the Minimum Viable Brand

For most people the idea of a Minimum Viable Brand or MVB is a new concept, but for many founders or those in venture communities it is not, so let’s step through this accordingly. It’ll be fun, I promise.

Kaga Bryan
July 31, 2022
5 min read

For most people the idea of a Minimum Viable Brand or MVB is a new concept, but for many founders or those in venture communities it is not, so let’s step through this accordingly. It’ll be fun, I promise.

The idea of the Minimum Viable Product or MVP is more broadly understood than the MVB. It’s been around for roughly 20 years, is commonly known as a major milestone for start-ups and has countless literature written about it. Some of the content on MVP is so widely used that it borders on oversimplification or misapplication, but for the most part the concept and processes involved are well defined, with entire professions now devoted to its development.

With that evolution and commonplace acceptance, we thought it made sense to explain why an MVB might just make damn good sense.

MVB? You know me.

To risk stating the obvious, an MVB is not a fully fledged brand. Instead it is a well-considered set of components that constitute an identity that feels legitimate and communicates something clearly.

We’ll talk about the components later, but the idea that a small collection of elements can constitute an effective and compelling identity requires an excellent understanding of what is crucial and what is superfluous.

So at this point we’re not talking about designing livery for your private jet, instead we’re providing answers to fundamental questions such as

  • What makes you different? (Brand framework)
  • What are you called? (Naming)
  • What do you look like? (Visual Identity)
  • What do you sound like? (Vocal identity)

Now you might be thinking that this is the foundations of any brand, but the devil is in what is carefully considered, identified and importantly, excluded. More on that now.

Crafting the MVB

The private jet example above was a joke, but at its core it speaks to 2 fundamental questions we consider in the MVB process:

  • What’s crucial?
  • What allows us bandwidth for change?

When it comes to what we consider crucial, we work through the following in order

  1. Brand Framework
  2. Naming
  3. Visual & Vocal identity

It is in the Brand Framework and subsequently the Naming, where we decide what flexibility we need to insulate against future change.

1. Brand Framework

This part comprises of a workshop or two with the early team to unpack why they thought this whole business was a good idea to begin with. We work through a range of questions, interrogate things, unpack rationale and generally bash the idea about. It sounds aggressive but trust us, it’s both cathartic and enlightening, From here we do a small but not insignificant amount of research to form an opinion comprising what we suspect and what we know very little about.

After this we get into crafting the framework, with key considerations such as

  • Audience — who are they, what do they look like?
  • Our value proposition. Why do we matter to them?
  • Our mission. We like missions because they’re tactical and allow for precision. A mission isn’t fluffy, it’s what soldiers do! We tend to look at the short term with realistic goals.
  • Our elevator pitch. Simple, snappy and to the point.
  • Our purpose. Probably the hardest part to pin this early, however the exercises around it often help lift the focus to the future and allow for greater inclusion and interpretation.

Ultimately this work should be able to ascertain what you need to say to the world and importantly, what not to say. That makes naming your company easier.

2. Naming

Now, unlike any other element here, including the purpose, the name is the one part of the MVB we don’t do lightly. You can change colours, update fonts and even add yoga courses to your subscription egg timer app, but if you trademarked yourself as OnlyEggs you might be in trouble.

Names are often expensive to change in time, resource and brand awareness. In addition, they can be notoriously hard to come up with. We have a nice process at UntilNow where we test a range of parameters as well as perform trademark searches and integrate with top tier IP firms should a client want to secure rights early.

3. Visual and Vocal identity

With your eyes on the mission and a catchy name, it’s time to express the brand through an identity. Typically we’ll consider the key elements such as:

  • Logo and wordmark
  • Typography
  • Colours
  • Tone of voice
  • A guide on imagery (photography or illustration)
  • Key applications to hit the ground (email signatures, icons and a presentation deck)

It’s here where the experience of the design team shines through. Having seen what your desired market looks like, as well as constantly reviewing the state of brand identities, we work to deliver something that is:

  • Digital first
  • Unique and
  • Communicates your brand intent clearly
So where to next?

We see the MVB as a big step beyond plucking a name and commissioning a freelance designer to whack up a logo, but nowhere near the resource intensive process a typical brand building exercise requires. Our approach relies on small but senior teams to apply the same MVP principles of moving fast with as much information as possible, to design something that performs exceptionally for you in the most crucial stage of your business. From here, the brand can (and should) evolve as more information is obtained about the audience and opportunities. Conscious restrictions placed in the beginning should be examined later as requirements ask more of branding.

When resources are scarce and your product can be removed from a user’s device without a second thought, the MVB fights to keep you in the hearts and minds of your target audience while you continue to grow and build your relevance further.

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