Beyond the Basics: What Makes Startup Brand Books Unique?



Developing a solid brand identity is a crucial step toward carving out a unique space in the market. We've previously delved into the key moments of creating a compelling brand identity for startups.

Now, we're excited to take a closer look at a critical element of that journey: the brand book. How does a startup's brand book differ from that of an established company? What should startups focus on while creating their brand book? Let's dive in.


A brand book is the DNA blueprint of a company's identity, and a visual grammar guide sets the standard for the brand's presence in the world. It's a comprehensive document that defines and collates everything that forms the brand, from its core values and voice to its visual elements like logos, color palettes, typography, and imagery. The brand book is the company's bible, carrying within its pages the essence of what makes the brand unique.


The brand book, also known as a brand style guide or brand guide, is an integral part of brand identity. It weaves together all the various strands that make up your brand's persona. 

Just as an individual's identity is formed by appearance, personality, and values, a brand's identity is shaped by analogous elements - logo, color scheme, tone of voice, mission statement, etc. The brand book is the repository for all these elements, articulating them in a clear, consistent, and compelling manner. It’s where all your brand's visual and verbal elements combine to create a unified, distinctive identity.


A brand book is far more than a manual for design dos and don'ts. It serves as the guiding light for your entire team - from marketing and sales to design and customer service - ensuring that everyone speaks the same language when it comes to your brand.

For startups, in particular, a brand book is crucial. Everything is in flux in the early stages of a company's journey. The brand book provides stability and direction amidst this change. It sets the course for how your brand will be presented and perceived, helping to foster consistency and coherence in all your communications. This is vital in building recognition and trust with your audience.

A well-crafted brand book communicates the startup's vision and values to potential investors, stakeholders, and partners, painting a vivid picture of what the company stands for and where it's heading. This can be a potent tool in attracting the right kind of support and collaboration.


We often use the term "startup" to talk about a young tech venture or a small company just taking its first steps toward success. But what happens when we consider big names like Xiaomi, Airbnb, and Uber? There was a time when these powerhouses were startups too, but they've since grown into towering giants in their industries. So, we're left with a question: how do we tell the difference between a young upstart and a more mature, attention-grabbing company that's making waves around the world?

To answer this, we first need to delve into what constitutes a startup mindset.


Startups, on the other hand, typically have more room for maneuvering and are free to take risks and act swiftly, unconstrained by the conventional protocols of a company or bureaucracy.

Like many things, the distinction between a startup and a regular company lies primarily in the details, and there's no clear-cut definition. A venture will always be a startup to its founder, but it ceases to be so when the entrepreneur no longer perceives it as such.

A concluding point: many believe that a "startup" harbors more of a unique mentality than a typical business. In other words, a company becomes a mature business when it loses its startup culture.

Again, this comes down to the general differences between startups and large corporations. Large corporations primarily have shareholders to consider, and this tends to make their outlooks short-term focused and more conservative.


The difference stems from their mindset right from the get-go. Small business enterprises usually focus on turning a profit as soon as possible and strive to become stable businesses designed to provide a livelihood and career for the business owner. Startups, on the other hand, are more risk-laden experiments, geared towards exploring a new business model or market facet with the potential for substantial growth.

The key difference lies in the fact that while a small business would seek significant growth via organic expansion, a startup is designed from the outset to be scalable. Startups aim to create new markets or disrupt existing ones, and in pursuing either path, they aspire to achieve high growth.

Another critical difference lies in the growth strategies that a small business or startup could pursue. Where a small company might focus on increasing revenue with a short-term view of boosting profitability, startups have several alternative pathways to define growth.


What distinguishes a startup's brand from any other? A startup is a dynamically evolving company, either searching for its product-market fit or scaling the one it has found. How does this impact the brand book, and what should it look like, considering the goals typically set by startups like market share growth, attracting new users, and educating them?

The key lies in the inherent dynamism and flux of startups. Unlike established companies, startups are often in the process of defining and refining their brand identity. Therefore, their brand books need to be flexible and adaptable, capturing the essence of the startup while allowing room for evolution and growth. 

While both types of brand books seek to ensure consistency in brand presentation, the startup's brand book is more focused on defining the startup's vision, mission, values, and unique selling proposition. It’s less about cementing a century-old legacy, and more about carving out a fresh, disruptive presence in the market.

Let's delve deeper into this by comparing real-life examples of startup and established company brand books. Let's take Budweiser and OpenAI, for instance.

Budweiser's brand book spends a significant portion delving into the brand's history, with an entire timeline depicting the company's evolution since its founding - it essentially encapsulates a century of its history. This speaks volumes about Budweiser's established brand identity and market positioning, with the brand book serving as a testament to its storied legacy.

On the other hand, OpenAI's brand book doesn't delve into such historical narratives. Instead, the focus is on the needs of the consumer and on innovation. This is reflective of OpenAI's status as a cutting-edge startup, where the emphasis is on demonstrating how the brand is poised to shape the future. The brand book here serves more as a roadmap, illustrating the unique aspects of the brand and how it plans to impact the world through its innovative solutions.

Startup vs any other company's brand book

Focus on Innovation

Startup brand books are more likely to focus on highlighting innovation, demonstrating how the startup plans to disrupt the industry or bring about new changes. On the other hand, established companies might place more emphasis on their legacy, success stories, and time-tested strategies.


As startups are in the early stages of their journey, their brand books need to accommodate possible changes as the company grows and evolves. The brand book of an established company may be more fixed and less open to frequent alterations.

Purpose and Vision

While both types of brand books will include the company's purpose and vision, startups often put a stronger emphasis on these aspects. They aim to create a strong emotional connection with their audience by vividly illustrating the change they aspire to bring about in the world.

Less Historical Flex

Unlike established companies, startups usually lack an extensive history, so their brand books focus less on the past and more on the present and future journey.

User-centric Approach

Startup brand books often highlight a strong user-centric approach, focusing on user needs, expectations, and experiences, reflecting the startup's commitment to putting the customer at the heart of their business.

Strong Emphasis on Culture

Startups often place a greater emphasis on their culture and values in their brand book. This includes outlining their approach to work, their team dynamics, and the qualities they value most in their employees.

Simplicity and Clarity

Given that startups are often introducing new concepts, ideas, or technologies, their brand books aim to simplify and clearly explain these complex ideas to ensure everyone understands what they do and why it's important.

Stakeholder Engagement

Startups are in constant pitch mode to attract investors, users, and talent. Therefore, their brand books often serve as a persuasive communication tool, aiming to engage and convince a variety of stakeholders about the potential of the startup.

Remember, these are general tendencies and not strict rules. The exact contents and focus of a brand book can significantly vary from one company to another based on their specific needs, industry, target audience, and strategic goals.

See you at Bolder

Creating a compelling brand book is no small task, particularly in the ever-evolving landscape of startups. It needs to be forward-looking, adaptable, and able to strike a balance between maintaining consistency and allowing room for growth. We hope that this exploration has shed some light on the unique features that set startup brand books apart from those of established companies.

If you're a startup owner and you find yourself needing assistance with crafting a captivating brand identity, or if you simply need a consultation to clarify your ideas, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. 

We're here to support your journey, helping you shape a brand that resonates with your audience and stands out in the bustling startup scene. Your brand's success story is waiting to be written - let's start that journey together.

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