This is part of a 5-piece case study on Dashlane. Be sure to check out the previous pieces for more insight.
In my last article about Dashlane, I foreshadowed what could be done better about the brand experience. Keep in mind, I love this product and I use it daily. It has greatly impacted my life and I hope other people will use it so they can live a simpler, safer life online. These suggestions serve as takeaways for other software companies working through building a brand and (if anyone from Dashlane ever reads this, it'll hopefully inspire them too).
There is only one critique that seems to be present in Dashlane's branding efforts: their advertising, specifically the integration of humor.
Humor is awesome and every brand can flex different emotions when trying to resonate with an audience. The key is to make sure it all points to the same emotion at the core. For Dashlane, those core emotions appear to be premium experience, sophistication, expensive, and bordering on elite.
Check out this ad they released for the Super Bowl in 2020:
The ad is evocative, however the humor conveyed seems a bit more childish and playful than Dashlane's other experiences. Dashlane's website is a straightforward, easy to understand information piece that demonstrates the reasons why this brand charges a premium price.
It's 100% possible to be humorous and expensive, but it's a bit more complex that zealous acting and funky plot scenarios.
What's the solution? I hate to bring them up as an example, because they're used so frequently, but Apple's Mac vs PC campaign is a flawless example of how to execute a humorous, yet premium ad. The refined structure of the ads gave them an elevated feel and the actors appear authentic. Not a whole lot of showmanship, but still entertaining.
If this is something your brand struggles with try this example: find a TV character, movie star, or otherwise well-known figure and mirror the emotion they bring to the table. Guaranteed they have specific phraseology, joke patterns, etc, that you can emulate.
Remember, as long as the marketing efforts point to the same place, you are on the right track to building a brand. Don't deviate from your compass.
I had a call with a prospective client yesterday looking to get some collateral made for their company. During our call it became clear that there were going to be multiple people making the decisions and signing off on creative.
It's not like it was just two people either, hell it wasn't even four. On this project, there would be eight people that would have to look at this an approve it. Eight!
That's a lot of cooks. Respectfully, I said that it doesn't work out well to design by committee and that it didn't sound like it would be a good fit. They agreed and we got off the call.
Here is why design by committee is a bad idea: vanilla ice cream.
Allow me to explain, there are hundreds of unique ice cream flavors. From cookies and cream, mint and chip, rainbow sherbet, Ben and Jerry's Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Cookie Dough (my personal favorite), or even ice cream with candied grasshoppers. These flavors are memorable, whether you like them or not, because they have elements of distinction.
Now imagine you have eight different people in a room and you try and get them to agree on one flavor. Fat chance.
You will end up with choosing vanilla because it's good enough to do the job and it won't upset anyone. But it's not going to turn heads like the others. What's more is that if one person decided on getting a unique ice cream flavor, like cookies and cream, I doubt anyone would be morbidly detested by the choice. It's ice cream for Pete's sake.
Same thing with design. As long as you follow the basic principles, it's difficult to arrive at a detestable solution. It's well designed, that's what matters.
The alternative is this: understand that you aren't building something for yourself, you are building something for someone else. Be it investors, customers, whomever it is, build for them.
Next, establish one decision maker. Someone who can be trusted to make a good decision and let them do their job.
Do not design by committee.
I go on a run in the morning every Monday-Friday. I frequently pass by a woman who always seems to be loading her kids in her car for school as I run by her house. As she got in the car, she rolled down her window and said, "you should do crossfit!"
My response, "I like to keep it minimal."
What she doesn't know is that I've been to crossfit gyms before. They are expensive and truth be told, the workouts are outrageously intense. Could I do them? Maybe. But that's beside the point. The point is that it is a step I'm not ready to take and taking it would do me more harm than good. Crossfit is designed for people who are looking to go to the extremes of human fitness. While it certainly won't take me there (yet), I've got a good routine that is affordable, keeps me in shape, and that is patiently scalable.
The same principle applies to startups and developing a brand. While your brand is always there, since it's the gut feeling someone has toward your startup, you do not need a fully-fleshed out brand from the get-go. You don't need to hire a full-time designer, you don't need a flawless identity system, and you don't even need a formalized brand strategy to get started. There are many reasons for this but here would be the top three:
If you are getting your startup off the ground, you cannot expect that it will be perfect or that you will be successful overnight. It takes time. So when you hear people selling you services like design, SEO, digital marketing, business planning, and the like, ask yourself: "do I really need this to get started?" Chances are the answer is no. Those things are important and, if you can afford to do them, it would be worth it. But you do not need them to get started.
Caveat: this is not an excuse to release something you are morbidly embarrassed by. You should always do the best you can and be honest with yourself about the quality of what you put into the world. But do not bite off more than you can chew and have the fortitude to be patient.