I’ve done a good deal of brand work with startups. It’s not the easiest work but it is exciting because a great deal of the planning takes place “beyond the dashboard.” When I break out the “24 Questions,” (the follow the money questions) there’s not a lot of history to discuss. No last year’s earnings. No market segments. Just lots of nos and nones. (Note: Beyond the dashboard planning refers to tabula rasa planning, contrasting with the more common “rearview mirror” or “side view mirror” planning.)
And let’s not even start talking about how founders, especially in the tech space, can change strategy. Like underwear. More disciplined startup founders may change business strategy only once or twice. Sometimes a meandering proof-of-concept is the culprit, e.g., you build a brand around family doctors and specialists want to purchase, or you focus on ecommerce and people keep paying you for search. Shit happens.
The more flighty founders (the underwear changers) can be influenced by the last meeting they were in; say, an investor or a key industry blogger. (Been there, learned from that.)
But startups are a good training grounds for brand planners. Planners can have a powerful influence on direction. Even if founders don’t abide It creates structure for them. Yeses and Nos. Ones and Zeroes.
If you are a brand planner, you need to bracket your experience with some startups. Trust me.