The role of brand design for investment in startups

By Luke Sapsed

What are investors looking for when considering investing in your food & drink start-up? “People buy from people’ is the most common belief that one hears when talking to investors and producers. This is true but it’s only part of the story.

There are 4 key areas of interest for investors:

  1. a charismatic and focussed management team
  2. a financial forecast that is ambitious, profitable, tax efficient
  3. a perceived or proven market need
  4. a powerful brand identity and packaging design

The fourth is often overlooked by start-ups. But without this investors are unlikely to part with their cash. Products simply must be wrapped in great branding for them to succeed. Strong design is the underpinning of the brand and longer-term adds value to the bottom line. This is a big part of what Investors look for once they have satisfied themselves that the management team can deliver on the plan.

Why do great products so often lack the brand design that will convince investors?

  • insufficient time and money has been spent on brand design
  • a lack of imagination
  • the founders have a misplaced belief that you need the brand and packaging design to follow the market norms

To quote Bernadette Jiwa “We make our biggest contribution when we dare to do what only a handful will do. Being one of the few is underrated.” Your product will have been made with love and perhaps even a passion to improve the world, but it must at least be better than the competition if it is to succeed.  So the brand, if it’s to be any good, must now convey that passion, that essence and that truth to its consumer and in particular the unique reason why it’s better than its competitors.

Too often, young brands try and emulate what others are doing – they see a design trend and what to jump on the bandwagon. It’s a trap that’s all too easy to fall into.

Ask yourself these questions to help review if your brand and pack design has enough value for potential investors.

  • Is there strong shelf stand out that “pops” to consumers
  • Does your brand design give your consumer an emotional reason to buy your brand over a competitor
  • Does it do the talking for you when you have relinquished the market stall for the supermarket shelf
  • Does it have a unique design that aids recognition when the consumer re-purchases
  • Have you taken the time to delve deeply into the why of your product and truly defining its market positioning? Is this then reflected in your design?

And don’t forget investors are people too! they love the power a disruptive brand has – the authority that comes with explicit belief. There are few Investors who don’t get a buzz from being the ambassador for a brand they have invested in.

My Story

Above all, the investor knows that great brand design adds serious worth to the value of a product. When I sold my soft drinks brand Koji, I sold it to a competitor. What the buyer really wanted was the brand identity – the visual equity – that stood for something and the customers that it attracted.

My business partner and I relished the experience of working alongside great designers and learned many lessons along the way. We came to appreciate the value of high-quality design and how much easier it is to transmit your passion when it has been realised in a beautiful pack design.

Steely-eyed Investors look for many things as they hand over cash for equity in your brand and good packaging design is high on their list of criteria. When all the legal due diligence is done, the shares issued, the financial plan approved and the first orders are being fulfilled, they will feel good to have invested in great design.