A Little Bit of Courage and Color | Software Branding

Choosing good brand colors for your software has risk and reward.

January 7, 2021

It takes balls to do something unexpected and different. In the case of choosing brand colors for your software, this is most evident and it matters greatly. Color is one of the core ways your brand coheres its marketing efforts, expresses itself, and distinguishes your brand from competitors.

Uber demonstrated this well during their rebrand in 2018. The black and white base of their brand colors allowed them to expand their marketing efforts globally and uniformly while shifting the focus to rich photography of their users. Difficult to do if you're playing with a myriad of colors.

Compared to their largest competitor, Lyft, who bolsters a hot pink badge of courage, the Uber color palette connotes feelings of maturity, elitism, and professionalism. A smart move in trying to distance themselves from the hyper-friendly and childish Lyft.

What's cool is that the flip-side of this is also true and valid for Lyft's color choices. It takes just as much fortitude to come up with the hot pinks, poppin' purples, and other vibrant hues that construct their energetic and playful appearance. There is no way you'd mistake ads from either brand for each other, in large part due to color.

The point? Have the courage to use color boldly and to stake your claim emotionally. Use it often, with confidence, and throughout your product as well as the pieces that sell it.

More you say?

I Just Need...

And another phrase that make your startup appear desperate.

6.17.2020

Giving startups confidence is my mission. While this is related to design because that's the medium I've experienced these phrases through, it's applicable in other areas like pitching and sales.With that in mind, here are two phrases that make your startup sound desperate.

Phrase I:

I just need...
This is a red flag as it implies that you are unaware of the gravitas needed for whatever you're asking for, or that you are aware and are trying to belittle the investment needed from whoever you're asking.

What to say instead:
I need to (task goes here), how can make it happen?

Damn, look at you and your confidence. This phrase is what would come from someone who is ready to partner up. They know what their goal is and they aren't trying to make it seem insignificant. Because if it was insignificant, they wouldn't care.

Phrase II:

It's a simple site/logo/brochure/investment/whatever...
If it was simple you'd do it yourself. Don't bullshit. The truth is that simplicity is the greatest form of sophistication. Making something simple is hard and the fact that you're asking for help shows it.

What to say instead:
I need to (task goes here), how can we make it happen?

Notice a pattern forming here?

Look, the point is that asking for stuff is hard and it takes courage. But trying to belittle what you're asking for makes the results you want to achieve seem far fetched and not worth the effort.

Ask for things with confidence and be ready to accept answers you don't like. It will get you to the good ones.

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Auditing Your Startup's Brand

Assessing the causes for a low brand score.

5.1.2020

Yesterday, I wrote about measuring a brand's effectiveness and actually assigning a value to it. It followed a scoresheet with specific levels of customer appreciation for the brand. This article is going to address some of the tangible assets that lead to getting those number higher.

Level 1: Satisfied

The company/product has met my expectations.
People don't want to buy shit products, at least not more than once. Even the least affluent customer isn't stupid enough to buy something that continually breaks simply because it's affordable. At the most core level of your brand, you must be able to live up to your promises and deliver. Be it a product, service, experience, whatever. If you don't have this in order, fix it first.

The company charges a fair price for the product.
Aligning with the fulfillment of your promise is the value it is worth. This in part has to do with who you are trying to make something for. If said target wants to pay a premium for a premium product, you better give it to them. If they want to spend middle tier, you need to let them. "Fair," is relative and is determined based on the person you are making something for.

$100k is a fair price for a brand new Tesla if experience, ease-of-use, and being on the forefront of innovation are what matter to someone. $100k for a Honda Civic is not.

Things that can help affect this level:

  • Improving products or creating new ones
  • Customer avatars
  • Journey mapping

Level 2: Delighted

I've been pleasantly surprised by the company/product.
This is a build up of small things that were pleasant surprises. Things like a special email follow-up after purchase, nice packaging, good design, or something as simple as saying, "my pleasure" (thank you Chick-Fil-A). It's hard to pin-point exactly what these elements would be, but I'd offer this general statement: if a customer comes into contact with it, can you make it special and unique to your company?

I would happily recommend it to others.
I'd ask this: do you make it easy and worthwhile to get referrals? If not, how could you make it a win-win-win for you, the new customer, and the one who referred you?

Things that can help affect this level:

  • Touchpoint audit
  • Brand identity refresh
  • Improved messaging
  • Referral program/process

Level 3: Engaged

I identify well with the other customers of this company/product.
We do business with companies and people that have the same values as us. That being said, you have to offer something that isn't found in other players in your market. You have to ask yourself "who would choose you over your competitors and why would they do it?" It can be for subjective reasons too, not just pricing or features. Some people just want things to match up with their lifestyle. Someone who values sophistication, aesthetic, and craftsmanship is not going to shop at Walmart.

I would go out of my way for the company and its customers.
Something to keep in mind with this statement, in order to go out of your way, there have to be other options available. This is about differentiation and why someone would seek you out, even it if wasn't the most convenient.

Things that can help affect this level:

  • Brand positioning
  • Competitive audits
  • Voice and tone
  • Look and feel
  • Establishing brand values

Level 4: Empowered

The company/product is essential to my life.
Here is where you assess the value and permanence of your product. You own a couple items, I'm sure, that fit this category. Your phone, favorite pair of jeans, necessary software, or a favorite restaurant. Not only is the product so good, but the entire experience is enough to make you a repeat buyer.

I would be very sorry if it went out of business.
Are you irreplaceable or not? Have you impacted a core area of your customer's life?

Things that can help affect this level:

  • User experience design
  • Product line expansion
  • Knowing your customer's biggest challenges

What are you going to work on first?

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