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Mike Troiano, CMO of Actifio, pointed to an article today about a company called Slack that just got another round of funding, this time for $160M.  Slack is an office instant messenger, Drop Box sharing, productivity app. I’m sure there is more to it, but it does sound familiar. Anyway, Slack will take this money, bank it, then go out and buy a number of Aeron chairs, a distressed oak conference table, and 6 interactive flat screen video panels. Also lots of servers and next year’s head ware. (Last year was the fedora, this year the knit cap.) What they won’t put on their shopping list is a brand strategy.

They already have nice videos and graphics. A good logo and copy, but the most fundamental strategic document they can own, won’t even be on their radar: a brand strategy. Business plan – check. Mission statement –check. Founder’s vision – check. Cultural manifesto – check. But unless one of the founders has a brand planner as a friend, there will be no check next to brand strategy. Their VCs should know better but they don’t.

This is not meant to pick on Slack. I worked at a start-up ( that Robert Scoble and TechCrunch loved. We failed and had a brand plan. This is not me as a furniture salesman saying every company needs new furniture. This is me as a house builder saying every house needs a design and a plan.

Good luck Slack. Get yourself a brand strategy, approve it, and stick to it. (BTW, it’s not a marketing plan.) Peace.

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The two most exciting yet frustrating years of my work life were at a web start-up. I was director of marketing at a social media site called The CTO was 7/8ths genius.  A wonderful coder, an infectious and eloquent geekus, he built the world’s first drag and drop web publishing tool.  His object wrappers allowed me to tell consumers “If you can drag and drop, you can build a website.” In a world where we knew people would get tired of templated, database-driven web and social sites like Facebook and MySpace, this free-hand design tool was going to be the haps.

I remember standing on the back steps of my home telling the CTO that the decisions we made regarding usability and positioning were billion dollar decisions. Well, we burned through $10M and I’m still on those steps. I do love those steps, by the way.

What came out of this 2 year education was the realization that I’m an engineer whisperer. The CTO heard me, understood me, but he opted to go another route. He continued to build and add features and creep the product. He loved the rush of presenting to Robert Scoble and  Erick Schnofeld and hearing “coooool.”  Though I failed him, our CEO and investors, I learned that not all engineers can be whispered.  And probably shouldn’t be. VCs know what I’m talking about. Peace!

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