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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.
Tags: brand good-ats, Brand Strategy, Customer care-abouts, follow the patent, startup brand strategy, whats the idea, whatstheidea, zude
I worked at a web start-up a few years ago that offered users a free way to build web pages without code. It was called Zude. We had two rounds of funding, about $10M, and were often covered by Tech Crunch, Scobleizer and GigaOm and ReadWrite Web. The business monetization model was tied to advertising. An afterthought really. Let’s face it, in the web world advertising is everyone’s go-to monetization.
There is an important competing force for monetization today in the start-up world and that is marketing data. Marketing data is not served, viewed, or clicked. It is sold. As behavior, demographics and proclivities. For future use.
When What’s App sold to Facebook it probably assumed advertising would be in its future. It marginally may have thought selling data would be in its future. But, now, the time has come.
Advertising is an opt-in thing. Personally data is not. Not really. Data will become more and more of a privacy issue. Millennials say “Go ahead sell my data,” now. But when they season a bit more, they’ll realize privacy is way more important than seeing advertising.
Data vs. advertising is the new battlefield.
If you put all the paper Americans receive in direct mail and catalogs in a pile, for one year, you’d create Mount Hood (I just made that up, please don’t fact check it.) Imagine what spam folders, robo calls, door knockers and TV ads will look like when data really catches on. Oy!
Tags: advertising versus data, advertising versus privacy, facebook, gigaom, mount hood, personal data, readwrite web, scobleizer, start-up branding, start-up marketing, start-up monetization, tech crunch, whats app privacy, whats the idea, whatstheidea, what’s app, zude
I was driving to Rhode Island last week and happened to notice that a number of really rural road names were quite descriptive. Niatic River Road. Stone Heights Turnpike. Waterford Parkway. Sunset Drive. It got me thinking about naming. Back in the 1600 and 1700 (and before) when there weren’t a lot of maps and people didn’t travel that far, thoroughfares were named based upon features and geographic realities. Heartbreak hill. Point O’Woods. Tip of the mitt.
Names that were easy to remember and descriptive were the strongest names. They added value. Names with no endemic meaning, less so.
The best brand names today follow this old maxim. They are descriptive. They are descriptive of product, value, and uniqueness. The strongest brands in the world are not silly constructs of Madison Avenue, they are like packaging…part of the selling fabric. Coca-Cola used cola beans to build its brand.
Naming is hard work. Just look at all the silly pharmaceutical brand names on TV today. It’s like we ran out of words to use. So the naming companies put the alphabet in the blender and BAM.
While director of marketing at a web start-up, I wanted to name the drag and drop web creation tool Mash Pan. The Chief Technology Officer who used to say “dude” a lot, opted for Zude.
Opt for communication value. Consumers don’t need to work so hard.
Tags: coca cola, Mash pan, mashpan, naming, whats the idea, whatstheidea, zude
Good brand planners are collectors. They question, amass, sort, collect and divine. Great planners take all that and find the truffle. Like the truffle hunting pigs and dogs of Europe. I was recently on a call with some web app people, looking to fund the next big platform. I couldn’t quite tell what the platform was. Or wanted to be. Other than the next big web property. Money lined up, so they said, but the idea was hidden in 10 ideas. So what’s the Is-Does I wondered.
Well turns out the original idea was and is genius! Never done before. Done qith a capital D. In demand. In users’ hearts. And tied to one of the biggest investments a person is likely to make in a lifetime. Did I mention it hadn’t been done? The current construct, however, was nothing more than a Facebook Group.
This truffle hunter (me) listened and in minutes knew the problem.
What’s the Idea? Answer that, you of the web world, and you may proceed. Take it from someone who missed out on a brilliant web property (Google Zude+Scoble) because it was overbuilt. Suffered from feature creep. Didn’t follow the “idea.”
Tags: brand planner, great brand planners, Is-Does, scoble, Truffle hunting, web startup mistakes, whats the idea, whatstheidea, zude
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 (Zude.com) 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.
Tags: actifio, brand slack, Brand Strategy, marketing plan, mike troiano, robert scoble, slack, tech crunch, TechCrunch, vc, vcs, whats the idea, whatstheidea, zude
When doing a brand brief I often look at two primary target types: movements and independents. Movement targets are communities of people driven by a desire for an outcome. When doing a brief for an obesity product this was a movement target; see how it extends beyond the patient to the family.
Ill Fitting – The morbidly obese understand morbid obesity is a diagnosis not an adjective. We call them Ill Fitting because they are both ill and view themselves as not fitting in with the normal population. They look different and are treated differently. (Other than home, the only place with chairs built for them is the bariatric physician’s office.) The Ill Fitting are loved, liked and often conduct their lives in typical ways, but know they suffer discrimination. Just as is the case with those who are discriminated against for race, religion, and sexual preference, the Ill Fitting have their hypersensitivities. The Ill Fitting are quietly defensive about their condition but willing to accept help so long as it is nonjudgmental. Much of their learning about the diagnosis takes place online. The ability of the Ill-Fitting to actively participate in their wellness is welcome but extremely difficult.
The non-obese population, caregivers and loved one of the Ill Fitting are also Ill Fitting when it comes to the condition. It is a topic they find hard to broach.
The other type of target, the independent, appeals to the individuality in people. The opposite of community really. Sometimes people don’t want to follow the crowd. They want to be the trail blazer. It’s a natural phenomenon but for marketers a little more daring. When writing the brief for Zude, the web’s first drag and drop web publishing tool, I used a target called Webertarians – web libertarians — a construct that identified people tired of being governed by closed, proprietary software tools.
Both approaches are viable. Pick one, don’t waver.
Tags: brand brief, brand brief targets, Brand Planning, brand target, ill fitting obesity, webertarians, whats the idea, whatstheidea, zude
I’m not a big template fan. They stifle natural creativity. A while back as director of marketing at Zude.com, a drag-and-drop web page building tool, I lobbied hard for no templates. The CTO and CEO understood where I was coming from but felt the masses when confronted with a blank white page would seize up. Better to give them some starter designs to build personal web pages. (So they could look like everybody else.) We were competing with Facebook when it had 18M users.
Facebook and MySpace were both template based products – database fed. Zude was more freehand. But expressive. The people who took the time to build their own pages (no HTML code was needed) created pages that looked beautiful – way more so than Face and My. There were also a lot of homely pages, mine included. But on my pages you could feel me. On my Facebook page – not so much.
In our jobs and lives we need to rely less on templates so we can experience new – experience more. Taking the annual marketing budget and shuffling the numbers is using a template. Revising the website using last year’s wire frame is templating. Sending out an email blast to a well-worn list? Templating. We all template but we need to do less of it. You smiling up there Mr. Jobs?
Tags: creativity, facebook, marketingtemplates, myspace, no html code, steve jobs, templates suck, templating, whats the idea, whatstheidea, zude
Back in 2006 while I was writing the brand strategy for Zude.com, there was an 18 million user upstart cutting its teeth called Facebook. You had to be a college kid to have an account back then. Ish. They brilliantly referred to the property as a “social network.”
Zude on the other hand was not a social network. It was a webpage building tool. Our CTO might have called it an “authoring tool” to make is sound more technical. The genius of Zude was in its ability to let uses drag and drop images, text, video and other web objects onto a blank white page and create a web page. No HTML coding required. If you could type and drag and drop, I used to say, you could create your own website.
The biggest problem with Zude was our company’s Facebook envy. The CTO wanted to be a social network; it was the haps. It was about friending, and community and growth. So we lost our positioning way and started to build in clunky Facebook-like functionality. The brand strategy “Zude takes web development to the people,” which was built from the product’s greatest strength, was cast aside due to MySpace and Facebook envy. And we were afloat amidst the tides, currents and winds of a different business model.
I’m a big boy. I can change strategy when directed. But just because you call a goat a horse, doesn’t make it ride-able. Lessons from the crypt. Peace.
Tags: cto, facebook at 18 million users, lessons from the cript, lessons from the cyrpt, myspace, whats the idea, whatstheidea, zude