How accelerators can create a powerful brand extension

May 2019 | Mahesh Tailor

Accelerators have been popping up across the globe as startups have been on the rise; set up to support, nurture and guide fledgeling operations to find their way in the big exciting world of business.

For startups, the advantages of working with an accelerator are apparent. Who doesn't need funding, mentoring and exposure? The toughest decision is which accelerator to select.

Excelling Accelerators
While many accelerators, in the beginning, were stand-alone businesses, there is a growing number of influential brands launching their own accelerators in order to tap into new technology, new ways of thinking and new products to take to market. Think of Sainsbury's Future Brands, or Barclay's Rise, both created to attract, nurture and grow startups with mutual benefit in mind.

While the original accelerator model was created as an investment tool, opening an accelerator today is more of a strategic move that helps big brands to gain exposure to startups and their innovation. Brands that set up accelerators get inroads into new, innovative and relevant markets and technologies which can help them gain a competitive edge in their sector. It also builds credibility and equity in their own brands – all massive positives.

Brand Extension Done Well
Big brands venturing into the accelerator space tend to struggle between how much to lean on their big brand vs how much to shift to a new brand focussed on the startup space. It can be tempting to either leverage too heavily the existing brand, falsely believing that it's the big brand logo that has the power to attract startups or the temptation is to create a completely brand new brand which under-represents the power that comes with the big brand supporting it — neither one of these work.

Brand Extension, done well, needs to be done without a monolithic approach. The new brand should not be a spin-off of the big brand. It has to be a representation of something entirely new; designed to appeal to the startups it wants to attract while striking a delicate balance between showcasing the benefits it offers in its big brand connections, without seeming arrogant and leaving startups to feel as though their dreams will be trampled by someone bigger and stronger.

Brand is Key
Despite the value that accelerators bring to startups, they are facing a challenge of relevance as more and more enter into the market. New startups are therefore heavily influenced by those that present their value best; not necessarily those who offer the most.

It's a battle of the brands, and it is those that strike the best balance and really understand how to appeal to their audience that are going to come out on top.

More than just applying an existing logo to a new program, brands launching new accelerators need to show the startups they wish to attract that they are genuinely interested, they understand their pain-points, they're on their level and they offer the solutions that are going to get them ahead. They must show startups how they will benefit from their brand credibility, how they will support and not take over.

Breaking New Territory
For most existing big brands, startup territory is new territory, and creating a new brand here requires a shift away from the traditional to build engagement with the right audience, refresh the thinking from existing customers and boost the acquisition of new customers, all while generating a return on investment.

What does that actually look like?

When we created a brand extension for one of the UK’s biggest supermarkets we first set out to bridge all of the great things that the master brand stood for while bringing in something younger, more dynamic and forward thinking. Building on the core brands identity assets, we created something that was not a total departure from the core identity, and considered the relationship between the core brand and the new initiative, giving the perfect blend to connect with the right audience and to talk to the entrepreneurs we sought to attract.

This approach is flexible and works across both B2B and B2C audiences to deliver cut through and allow brands to stand out through core brand credibility and new brand appeal.

You cannot have brand success without a brand that knows its audience and how to connect with them.