I'm Bleeding

Self-diagnosing your startup's branding problems.

July 28, 2020

It's easy to notice when you've cut yourself in the kitchen or by scratching against something you didn't intend to. You know it happened because blood starting to pour out from the place of the interaction. It's easy.

What happens when you start bleeding and you don't know why? Or when there is another form of pain in your body that isn't normal and unprecedented? You have a couple options: you could self-diagnose and hope your assumptions turn out ok, or you could go to the doctor and get a professional consultation. Surface-level problems are easy, deep problems are harder to spot and infinitely more costly.

Branding problems are rarely surface level, like a scratch or cut from a chef's knife. Branding problems are ethereal and hard to decipher, even harder to connect to the surface-level symptoms they produce. In the same way a doctor, who has run into medical problems for years and is trained to ask targeted questions, branding experts use experience and training to unearth the real problem.

Now I can hear you saying, "I know a good logo when I see one," congratulations. You still aren't sure why yours sucks and how to fix it. Shit, if asked, it's unlikely that you can even define branding in a succinct, easy-to-understand way. It takes courage to admit that. The same courage that admits you aren't a sushi chef, auto mechanic, or plumber, it's just not something you've taken the time to gain expertise in.

Back to our initial analogy, "I'm bleeding." Don't be surprised if the branding issue is deeper than what's on the surface. Cuts go deep, sometimes you can't even see them, thoughnthey are tearing your insides apart. Be it in the form of harsh rejections from investors, feeling like your company is without purpose, or doubting the integrity of this company that you have spent days, even years trying to grow. Bravely look inward and tend to your wounds, and if you're having trouble finding the cause, ask for help.

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Needs and Wants

Two very different things that need to be balanced in your branding.

12.11.2019

I love backpacking. Nothing makes me feel more alive or at peace than sitting on top of a mountain with no one around me for miles. Backpacking requires a substantial amount of gear for surviving out where there are no grocery stores or hospitals nearby. It's safe to say that the needs of a backpacker are vast. Backpackers need food, they need water, and they need shelter. Those are basics. If you don't have those, you're screwed.

So why did I bring a tactical axe with me on my last trip and why did my friend Joey bring a huge buck knife? Sure, we could use them to cut fishing line, chop up firewood, and my axe even doubled as a hammer, but the truth is, we really didn't need either of those things. We wanted them to feel manly and adventurous. Our wants justified the need of bringing along these items for the tasks they could accomplish.

We conjured logical needs to suit an emotional desire.

You could argue that this doesn't apply to everything, but I'd beg to differ. Even the essential needs we had like food, water, and shelter were all emotional decisions. If we were logical, we probably wouldn't have even gone backpacking because we would have saved money and subjected ourselves to less risk. But we decided to forego those essentials in the search of greater adventure. That's why we bought a $110 water filter and why I bought a bunch of compact, lightweight food for a premium price. Essential needs, but definitely an emotional decision.

The needs were simple, food, water, shelter, but the want was freedom, adventure, and camaraderie.

Ask yourself, what is the want behind the need people are looking to our startup to fulfill? Build your brand around it.

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Good Logos Do Not Make More Money

What designers need to understand about logos and how they apply to the business world.

1.9.2020

Business is comprised of two key objectives: saving money and earning money. So, if you are in a B2B industry, it is crucial to understand how your service aids a business within these objectives. As an identity and web designer, I'd like to think that my work has an impact on helping businesses succeed. But, I'm not one to throw around lies about my craft either. Which brings me to the point of this punch: good logos do not make more money. 

Believe me, it was hard writing out those words, as I'm sure I've got a target painted on my back now because of them. Sorry design friends, but it's true. A logo is not a magic bullet that suddenly gives businesses a truckload of new revenue. We're not done there though, as logos are important in business, but not in the way we'd think.

What a good logo does is mitigate loss. Do you hear that? It's not about what is gained, but about what you keep on the table now and for years to come.

Here's an example:

Put yourself in the shoes of a SaaS startup founder. She has set a few goals for herself.

Right now, her goal is to have business cards, a website, social profiles, and an email newsletter set up for her SaaS product.

1 year from today, her goal is to have 1000 paying customers, an expanded product line, trade booths, monthly investor meetings, and a suite of marketing collateral in addition to her previous goals.

5 years from now, she wants to have an office, 20 employees, run daily content marketing campaigns, expand the online tools for her users, and also product merch in addition to her previous goals.

10 years from now, she could potentially exit the company but hopes to leave behind a legacy.

Let's break this down:

Right now, her goal is to have business cards, a website, social profiles, and an email newsletter set up for her SaaS product.

Attaching some numbers to this, let's say she gets 1000 business cards printed for the year, gets 80 visitors to her site per month, has 10 visitors between her three social platforms per day, and has 30 subscribers to her weekly email list. In the first year, that is over 7,000 touchpoints and the logo is on every single one of them. 

Now imagine this: the logo is hideous, poorly designed, and sticks out like a sore thumb on all 7,000 of those impressions. Whether consciously or subconsciously, all 7,000 of those impressions could have been better, if it wasn't for that hideous logo.

I was thinking that'd I'd do the math on every single one of these milestones, but let's just imagine the number of touchpoints increases by 25% each year for those entire 10 years (remember this is impressions, not sales, paying investors, or paying users). At year ten, that's just over 65,000 touchpoints. 65,000 opportunities to make an impression on a potential user. Now imagine 30% of them go away because the design of the logo reminded them of something scammy. Or maybe because it looks like a phallus flying across the sky.

Is it worth the risk of putting all of that revenue at stake because your logo makes people feel gross? Or what about the cost of having to reprint 6,000 brochures because the logo was not delivered in proper formats?

It's not about earning more money, it's about keeping what's on the table. Do not let your logo be the Achilles heel of your business.

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