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Two alarming questions that are sure signs of trouble for startups

brand personality from branding expertsEntrepreneurs have to answer a lot of questions. It comes with the territory. Some, like “how much money are you going to need?” are quite welcome. Others are sure signs of trouble for startups.

If you can recognize certain questions as the warning signals they are, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and dramatically improve your odds of success. If you never hear these questions, you’re going to do well!

sure signs of trouble for startups - BN Branding

Let’s assume, for a minute, that you have a legitimate idea for a great new product or a startup…

There’s an obvious problem that you can solve for a large population of people. You have some kind of authentic differentiation — a secret sauce of some kind. And you can realistically build an operation that delivers on your promise.

If you’re going to build your big idea into a successful business you need a thick skin, a fat wallet and a sharp ear for signs of trouble. Below are the two most troubling questions that you need to watch out for. Avoid these questions like the plague.

So here are the two questions that are sure signs of trouble for startups:

1. “What’s that name again?”

If you hear anything like this, beware! It’s a sure sign that your brand identity is not communicating clearly.

I’ve seen this many times. An entrepreneur will be deep into a sales pitch, explaining in mind-numbing detail all the reasons why they’re going to “absolutely kill it,” when someone looks up and asks, “What’s that name again?”


They didn’t catch it the first time. Or the second time. Or the third. They’re looking at the name on the screen, and still for whatever reason, it does not stick. Not even for five minutes.

That’s a bad sign.

If your brand name is not memorable and unique you’ll be constantly paddling upstream. Everything you do from a marketing, branding and sales standpoint will be harder than it needs to be.

One of the keys to memorability is sound. Your brand name can’t just look good, it has to sound good too.

In the human brain echoic memory is much more powerful than iconic (visual) memory. That’s why eye witness testimony is notoriously unreliable in court. And why we can remember all those dumb jingles from our childhoods, like this straight product description for the Big Mac:


It’s how those ingredients sound when all run together that made that campaign so memorable.

So the sound of the word should be one of the main criteria when you’re choosing a brand name. If your current name isn’t sticking, it’s probably because it doesn’t sound right.

If it’s in one ear and out the other, change it now!

It’s better to rebrand early than to fight it for years. A bad sounding brand name will drag you down like a 10 ton anchor on a 20 foot boat.

If you need help sounding out a new name, start by reading my new book. It’s a great shortcut.

​(Shameless plug:  If you’re going to read a book about how to name a company, choose the one with the best name! Duh. It also includes a simple, effective methodology for being more objective in your naming decision.)

2. “Wait… What is it that you do?”


This is another other common question that’s a sure sign of trouble for startups, entrepreneurs and even well-established companies. If you’re giving a sales pitch or making small talk at a networking event, you should not have to repeat yourself on this.

I hear pitches all the time that are totally unclear and confusing. They are based on broad generalities and baseless assumptions… that I understand the technology behind their great new service, that I fit into their elaborate targeting algorithm, that people actually give a shit about what they’re trying to sell.

You know what they say about assumptions…

Your value proposition and your elevator pitch are the crux of your brand strategy. They need to be methodically researched, perfectly positioned, and articulated very clearly. It takes time to accomplish that. It’s not something that you can just crank out in a Zoom call of brainstorming.

It needs to be written, re-written, polished, tested and re-tested in various forms, both written and verbal.

The goal is absolute, bullet-proof clarity, with a touch of curiosity built in. That way, people understand, AND they want to learn more.

Frankly, very few businesses achieve that.

Even big companies that have been in business for years struggle to articulate the gist of their business. It’s the root cause of many marketing issues. Nike fumbled around with their messaging for 20 years, until “Just Do It” came along.

Call BN Branding and we can help you get more clear, so you’ll never hear those two pesky questions.

We can walk you through the brand strategy process that leads to a successful naming process that will help you avoid those signs of trouble for startups.

Contact me here for personalized, done-for-you marketing services that can help turn your company into an iconic brand. Or reach out on LinkedIn. 


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