Auditing Your Startup's Brand

Assessing the causes for a low brand score.

May 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?

More you say?

The biggest positive from COVID-19

A silver-lining to make things less troublesome.

3.24.2020

I've been racking my head around this since the initial quarantine mandates were put into place. It sucks that we are in a situation like this, but there is one key things that has seemed prevalent throughout all the chaos:

Remote Work is now commonplace and it actually helps in a lot of ways.

Obviously, I'm biased, since I work from home normally, but it seems that COVID-19 was the push we needed to expand our abilities in working from home or outside the office.

What makes this important is showing the flexibility of the workforce when forced to adapt. Maybe there is something more there, a microcosm of a greater potential to overcome adversity, but I digress. Anyway, back to remote work. It's a good thing and for many reasons. These would be the top three:

More time doing things instead of commuting
Double-edged sword on this one, as more people working from home means the people that have to go in will endure less traffic. On average, this would save people two hours per day, 10 hours per week, and 520 hours per year (give or take). Wow! Can you imagine putting that time toward personal health, cooking, or spending time with family? You'd be a different person if you really took advantage of all that time.

Less chit-chat, more deep work
Being an extrovert, like me, has its advantages, but the downside is that I will always prefer to talk with people rather than being left alone to do important work. When I worked for a startup after college, I would lock myself in a private room to focus for a couple hours because I knew I would take any opportunity to talk with coworkers. And while interaction is not a bad thing and should be used when doing brainstorming or collaborating on projects, a majority of our work can be (and should be) done independently. Why? So you can focus, dive deep into the problem, and get the thing done. Which segues into the next point.

Intentional social interaction
Though working from home has its benefits, we all need genuine social interaction. This is a shot in the dark, but if everyone is able to focus on the actual work they need to get done while working at home, then they can dive deeper during social interaction, especially with coworkers. Follow me for a sec, would you rather have 10, five minute conversations spread out over eight hours, or one, hour-long conversation without interruption? If you're like me, I prefer the latter. Deep conversations, like deep work, cannot be interrupted. My guess is that working remotely will create an environment where longer conversations take the place of spaced-out small ones as meeting up in person will be more intentional and focused.

What does this have to do with design and branding? I'm not entirely sure at the moment, but there is definitely a connection to the depth attained when working by yourself on a project without interruption. Maybe this shows that work, like design, is all about intention. If you intentionally make time to work, have conversations, or have fun instead of juggling them all at once, we'll be better off.

read more

Who Cares?

An excerpt from Obviously Awesome, part IV.

5.29.2020

This is the fourth article in a small series of punches surrounding April Dunford's Obviously Awesome! and how good positioning relates to good branding. Please read the first article, second article, and third article, before jumping into this one.

Enjoy!

You know what the alternatives are, you know the special things that your startup unique, and you've established what makes that valuable. All of these are great, but fall to pieces if no one buys.

The first approach most startups will take in finding customers is shotgunning any and every kind of market. Decent plan of action if you have time to experiment. Truth is, hardly anyone is capable of making this happen effectively, especially when concerned with time. It makes sense to be hyper-focused and test with less variables that you can either pursue further or pivot away from.

Why?

Because you need to communicate and trigger a response from someone who cares. Someone who feels that the solution you bring to the table is worth more than the dollars they will pay for it.

How do you do that? You think about them and craft messages around them that fit within their lifestyle.

What kind of person are they? Where do they work? What do they do for fun? What about their life sucks that they want to fix? Your goal is to get to know someone and find out if the solution you provide is of use to them. If not, it might be time to switch.

Tactically, you can do this with interviews within a particular segment or you can think of aspirational personas. The point is to have someone to make stuff for and be targeted. You're chances of hitting something become a lot higher if you know what you're aiming for.

read more