follow the patent

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How do you make something out of nothing?  That’s the question for the brand planner when working on a startup. 

When I was hire #1 at Zude as marketing director, brand strategy was one of my jobs.  I didn’t start brand planning in earnest for months while the CTO and CEO were building, raising and creating the physical business.  In previous blog posts I’ve suggested the first thing one must do when developing brand strategy for a start-up is “follow the patent.”  I stand by that. 

Startups, as you know, are quite fluid. It’s product and code first, business requirements second. And what the build is one day it may not be the next. So when it comes to customer care-abouts, that’s the easy part – unless you are breaking new functional ground. It’s the brand good-ats that are hard.  There are none.

So what does the brand planner do at this stage? Keep following the patent.  Have daily observation and update sessions with development team, even for a few minutes.  Insinuate yourself into the product development process in a positive way. Offer help as needed. Do not get in the way of the creativity. Provide marketing stim to the team — subconsciously, it can help.  And continue to play back (to the dev team) any recurring patterns that smell like good-ats.

It’s a gnarly time. Work to enjoy it.

Peace.

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Yesterday I wrote about the role and importance of mining proof as it relates to creating a brand strategy.  But what does one do if working for a start-up – a company with no past? A company with no product?  Certainly that makes things tougher.

I’ve been-there-done-that and there always is a past. There is always some kernel of a product or service. In previous posts it’s been mentioned to “follow the patent.” In most start-ups there is a patent or a patent filing paperwork. There must be proof in there. Normal brand planning discovery looks at two things: customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. So for a start-ups, you’ll find it easier to rely on care-abouts. Always a good place to start.

While the director of marketing at Zude, a start-up in the social computing space, knowing what customers cared about helped form the brand idea which, then, informed product development (noun and verb). The Zude brand strategy claim was “the fastest easiest way to build a web page.” The idea came from the brilliant underlying drag and drop technology. With that as the North Star, everything moving forward became easier. For everyone – even the lawyers.

Start-ups think of brand but not brand strategy. Pity.

Peace.

 

 

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Follow The Patent.

I’ve done brand work on a number of start-ups and it’s hard. Hard, because there is often no product to evaluate pre-launch. No customers to interview. In the tech world you can work off user experience (UE) of the Beta or demo, but that’s not always real world. So how do you mine “care-abouts” and “good-ats”?

You follow the patent.

To receive a patent you must have a product or service that offers something appreciably different from what currently exists in the commercial world. Something worth defending. For most of my clients I like to follow the money but with start-ups, pre-product, it’s the patent. Start with qualitative, move to quantitative, maybe go back to quant, then get the founders to buy in. If they don’t buy in to the claim and proof planks, and I mean totally, you don’t have a brand strategy. Likely, you don’t have a business strategy.

Peace.

 

 

 

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I talk to brand strategy clients in simple terms. Brand strategy — an organizing principle to improve product, experience and messaging — is the result of a bold down of consumer “care-abouts” and brand “good-ats.”

Looking at Yahoo, as it begins what appears to be the final stages of life as we know it, I’d like to suggest a couple of observations. Yahoo customer care-abouts include: communications, digital content (not TV content), immediacy and sports. Yahoo good-ats include: ad sales, consumer reach, brand, fantasy sports and  production.

When care-abouts and good –ats don’t align, you have product failure which leads to brand failure.

I was speaking with a start-up owner recently and told him, when dealing with brand strategy for nascent companies I “follow the patent.” For mature companies like Yahoo! with lots of twists, turns and portal creeps, I suggest go back to care-abouts and good-ats. Make tough decision. Toss a few babies out with the bathwater. And get your olfactory on. Imagine if Starbucks also served garlic bread.

Yahoo may have one last chance. If Ms. Mayer doesn’t focus, her company, a beloved company, will be sold for parts. Peace.

 

 

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