Auditing Your Startup's Brand

Assessing the causes for a low brand score.

April 30, 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?

Typefaces and Fonts for Startups

How do you navigate using fonts and typefaces in your startup?

4.16.2020

Let's set a boundary here: the design elements of your startup can change and evolve as your company grows. As such, the earlier your startup, the simpler the solution. As you grow and scale, things can get more dynamic. This article is dedicated to new startups that are experimenting on their own and have found choosing fonts to be a hurdle.

I'd imagine the scenario that led you to this article is something along these lines: you're putting together pitch decks, business cards, websites, etc. and you feel like you have to pick a new font every time. It's draining and you're not even sure if you're picking a good one for your brand.

The solution? Pick one, generic, easy-to-read typeface and use it everywhere.

Yep. Skip over mulling through MyFonts or TypeKit and use something that has been around for a while as a starting point.

Some recommendations:

Helvetica

Avenir

Futura

Montserrat (this one is free)

"But Zach, I want something unique and pertinent to my brand."

Yes, you do, but you're not ready yet if you can't afford to hire an in-house designer or outside consultant to even define your brand. Your goal right now is to appear trustworthy and dependable to investors and customers. Trying to choose unique typefaces will end poorly and hinder you from getting you to a point where you can pay someone to take this off your plate.

Pick a typeface from any of the above, use a bold, regular, and light versions, and play with hierarchy and scale to create compositions.

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Branding and Marketing

Branding, so you do marketing, right?

1.23.2020

Branding and marketing appear inextricable. At least that's what thousands of handshakes and responses to "I build rebellious brands," has let me know. So let's set the record straight.

Branding expert Marty Neumeier phrases it, "marketing is any effort to get customers, branding is any effort to keep them." Or, branding is the emotional glue that makes someone prefer your business after you've shown that you can meet their needs.

It's kinda like this, any guy can draw the attention of a woman by showing that he is, in fact, a man (assuming she's looking for one). However, it's not the size of his muscles, the amount of money in his wallet, or the car he drives that creates a lasting impression. It's his character and the fact that his character doesn't waver. He markets his features, but wins the heart by triggering emotions. Without them, he's a commodity.

Here is when marketing and branding enter into conflict:

When marketing efforts get pushy/spammy without emotionally priming the customer. 

Good marketing doesn't feel like marketing. An example of this is when you get an email from a company you love and happily open it. Without a doubt, the opposite happens too. you know, those emails you get that let you know this company is looking to get into your wallet. At that point, it's clear that the brand has been tarnished. Good luck getting your reputation back.

When the brand is not placed in front of the right people. 

It's no surprise that the creative side has trouble putting things out there. The most well-thought-out and cohesive brand is worth nothing if no one sees it. Good marketing puts the brand out in the open to the right people, at the right time, and with the right message. Remember, good marketing doesn't feel like marketing.

You need both and they need to work together.

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