When entering a space like internet security, you'd think that the best bet would be to rely on a stoic and staid brand. That is, of course, unless everyone else in your market is boring, difficult to work with, and doesn't provide any emotional value to the customer.
Dashlane is a password manager (I use them personally so I don't spend hours trying to get all of my passwords in a row). I've gotta say, having used their top competitor, LastPass, it's evident what makes Dashlane's positioning so potent: they made password protection snazzy and cool.
LastPass, the only major competitor to Dashlane, goes for $3 per month for the same features as Dashlane's $4 per month premium personal plan. Something they seem to be totally ok with given that they are pushing for a higher-end experience.
Smart move, here's why:
They win on a more refined experience instead of driving down prices within their market. Think about it, both of these softwares do the same thing, yet Dashlane earns an extra dollar over LastPass users. Sure, they might have less customers, but they earn 33% more money per user. In turn, LastPass' 16M users at $3 per month earn $48M compared to Dashlane's 10M users that earn them $40M in monthly revenue.
If Dashlane had gone the route of charging a dollar less their revenue would be cut in half. But by positioning the brand to be a premium alternative and an experience worth paying extra money for, they can compete. Clearly, there is some serious validity to playing up in a "downgraded" market.
With the numbers established, let's take a look at some brass tacks: who is this brand for and why they care.
This is all speculation, but given that I'd seen ads for Dashlane on several design-related YouTube channels, I'm guessing Dashlane's ideal user is someone in the tech scene with money to spare and willing to pay for an elevated experience. Why this matters to this user is the fact that they don't have time to fiddle in run-of-the-mill tech like LastPass and instead yearn for something fresh and easy to use. They are neophiles with a taste for well-designed software. Paying the extra dollar is worth the boost in esteem and status. Dashlane built their brand around this.
Compared to the consumer LastPass attracts (the person looking for a conservative, affordable option), this tech-savvy user base allowed Dashlane level up the market.
Your customers are the hero and they aren't looking for you to join them in the winner's circle, they are looking for someone to help them find the path there. Someone who has been in the winner's circle before, but is not seeking to stand within it this time around. A guide who can confidently help them get on track and succeed.
What qualities would make for someone to fit this role?
Two things: competence and empathy.
Competence, meaning the ability to go forth and complete a goal thoroughly, honestly, and ethically. Why? Because no one is going to want a guide with zero experience or one who cheats. They want someone who has been there already and succeeded honorably.
Empathy, because having been there already, the guide will know how difficult the challenges ahead are and knows what it feels like to be in their shoes.
Want to build an irreplaceable brand? Become a guide for your hero – err customer.
There are big elements of design and there are small elements. Both are necessary if you want to use design as an asset within your startup.
Design is the process of crafting with intention. This sets the trajectory for allowing design to be an integral part of your startup. In fact, it speaks to the idea that it should be intrinsically woven into every decision the company makes. If you act with the purpose of achieve a specific goal, you are designing. The opposite would be aimlessness or choosing to craft without purpose.
While such endeavors can lead to interesting results, it's not the best mindset to adopt with investors breathing down your neck or crucial deadlines looming int he background. Choosing to adopt a design-driven mindset is what allows you to measure progress and iterate with precision. In short, design turns wandering ideas into obtainable goals.
That's way different than making things prettier.
Yes, this concept tends to be confined within the areas of improving the aesthetic of apps, websites, interiors, products, or brand identities (a bunch of small elements), but these outlets don't give it power. Look beyond aesthetic and focus on creating things with purpose. How you want them to make people feel, what you want them to do, the goals a project is supposed to achieve.
I guess the main point is this: if you see design as only making things look pretty, even the things you want to look pretty will fall short of expectation. But, if you decide to see design as crafting with intention, you will be able to get results... and maybe make something beautiful int he process.