In 1977, coming-of-age-themed television sitcom Happy Days aired their fifth season, which is more widely remembered for creatin
g a catchphrase than any of its inane plotlines. As TV’s machismo mainstay, The Fonz, catapulted himself on a pair of water-skis over a shark (with goofy leatherjacket on, of course) in the season finale, the popular show had hit an irrevocable new low with audiences. It added to our popular parlance the phrase “jumping the shark”: a reference to something that has simply gone down the tubes after a dream initial run. For every decade, that clutch of era-defining television programming, whether it was M.A.S.H.’s dark comedy of errors, Jerry Seinfeld’s “show about nothing”, or Tony Soprano’s Machiavellian character arcs, ran their course with consistency on their side. The showrunners’ success at creating a brand, one brimming with recall value and timeless relevance, is what raked in decades of syndication profits and perennial re-runs across networks, like Happy Days had when it first aired.
At a time when Bangalore-based start-ups are crawling out of the woodwork in unprecedented numbers, there’s a real dearth of focus on developing a brand. Chatting with Pranav K, “mad scientist” at Logic and Madness Creative Labs, he mentioned that a lot of branding efforts
from start-ups are “extremely-adhoc”. While quite a few see branding as an abstract enigma that more funding will help eventually demystify, the rest of consider it through a very narrow lens—logo, business card and letterhead (logos that fail the first test of consistency and use different colours each time, even.)
According to Pranav, start-ups ignore branding as a cost-cutting measure in the early days, but it comes back to hit them when they’re suddenly sitting on huge funding and find themselves in sixes and sevens, scrambling over an identity. What he advocates instead, through Logic and Madness’ StartMad initiative, is that start-ups evolve their brand gradually, right from the very beginning. Of course, the requirements are different based on how far along the road you’ve come; the basket of options for a single-entrepreneur client might vary dramatically from the branding blueprint for a start-up in their sophomore phase.
And contrary to the prevalent wisdom of the age, it isn’t simply about online branding, Pranav mentions. “While just social media alone might seem comfortable for some start-ups, it’s equally important to take your products out there and really find your market demographic through offline branding initiatives,” he says. Because fundamentally, like he puts it, branding is essentially “the clothes you put on your product”.