Silicon Harlem

Next Generation Branding

On Brand Strategy

What’s your anthem?
Dance to it. Know it word for word. In short, your anthem should be a crystal clear chorus of what you stand for. This will be the guiding principle for your brand’s strategy. Capture that essence in a few very special words. Then get clear on your story. What is your story and why should I care? This is a bit of the origin story and why that brand matters to your clients/consumers/constituents. This personalizes the brand and gives the client something to believe in or not believe in!

Is your plan on an enormous whiteboard?
Plan for the micro & macro interactions and then “unplan”. Understand that branding is a process. Not a launch, milestone, or project. A successful brand starts with a very detailed plan that assesses the long and short term objectives outfitted with contingencies and dependencies. But also understand that you don’t own your brand; specifically, you don’t own its perceived value. Brand value is a perceived notion – owned by those that interact with your business. Though you can influence it.

What are you really saying?
If your “stuff” is lame, none of this brand talk matters. Spend even more time on your business offerings/services vs. your brand. (Yes, they are interdependent). Everything noted so far presupposes that you are offering something of unique value. It’s table stakes. Build great products or services – bring forward a great brand.

Advice for small businesses or early stage entrepreneurs

Pretotype first
This is a term coined by Alberto Savoia – the idea that before you build out an idea to a full fledge product there are more inexpensive, quicker ways to test if it is the right thing to create. So first, determine that you have the right product idea, and develop that MVP (minimum viable product) AND MVB (minimum viable brand) as well. An MVB as it relates to brand may mean first having a very well articulated brand platform (vision, core values, and position) rather than a shiny new logo and fully functioning app or website.

Advice for international brands

Brands are in relationships with their consumers
It only follows that brands need to adapt to regional and cultural differences, but not to the point where they are not discernible or where the basic underpinnings vanish. People are more global-minded now then ever because of technological connectivity. Appeal to their values more than their nationality.

No translation required
If your offering is truly valuable it translates on its own. Now at the product level or more granular levels of your offering, of course you will have to make adjustments to accommodate international differences and needs. But the value being delivered is inherent and present regardless of location. Therefore - Think Global. Think Human.

Trend to prepare for in the future

Brands are in relationships with their consumers
Business models are changing drastically. Ex: Multi-Sided Platforms (Airbnb), “Me” centric and personalized tools (Social media business platforms). Consumers are not just having conversations about the brands – they are part of the brand and shaping it as participants. In other instances, consumers are indeed the brand – the rise of the creative entrepreneur, the YouTube star, the independent blogger. The distinction between a brand, a person, a business will no longer be relevant. Managing your brand will rely more and more on that specific value you offer and less and less on brand messages and tactics.


Silicon Harlem is committed to advancing technology’s role in the transformation and sustainability of Harlem as a Technology and Innovation Hub. Each year, a conference is held to gather experts, leaders, and entrepreneurs, towards this end.