With the Cannes festival going on right now there's a lot of discussion on the value of brand marketing and the incentives in the industry. I agree with Andrew directionally. I think he hit the nail on the head with this:
Here's the punchline. Great brand is a lagging indicator of success. But it is confusing for founders and early-stage entrepreneurs because, on top of badly incentivized actors who want to "help you with marketing for X$", you see a lot of successful companies who have great brands. I've blogged about imitating consequences before. It's a very tempting thing to do.
If anything, brand marketing is more about everyone else than your customers.
I'm adding a tweet by a fellow planner (Stefano Augello) that I think is extremely on point. Let's not confuse everything here. Brand > Brand Identity > Brand Advertising, etc. There are different components in a brand – not matter what lingo you use. And not all parts should be treated equally.
The takeaway here is that if you're startup and you're still looking for product/market fit, you should not overspend of brand marketing.
Hiring a PR agency for 5K to get 2 press mentions in a niche media won't help you survive the next quarter. Spending 75K for a rebranding by the top design agency in town won't help you in the short term either. Spending 45K for a series of events that reach influencers that will never engage in consider buying your products is also a bad idea.
But you can take a day with your team/co-founder to think about the kind of organization you want to build – and what the brand should stand for. You can do the 3-hour brand sprint developed by Google. It can be a straightforward Vision / Mission / Values / Strategy statement. It can be a paragraph or a 2 pager. You can develop a brand identity around that with an affordable designer/agency. But do the 20% that covers 80% of your needs. Not the other way around. Because you'll run out of money real quick otherwise.