The past two Saturdays have been awesome. A client of mine and I have dove deep into the brand of his meal prep company and developed an outline of what his website should look like. It's safe to say that he and I are on the exact same page as to who this website is for, how it should feel, look, and the expected path this person will take. Before diving into the brand discovery, he asked something I thought was fascinating, "do you think we are putting the cart before the horse doing the branding before we do the website?"
I thought about this for a bit, and replied: "not at all."
Looking back at what we've done and the order in which we outlined these deliverables, we are both glad we started where we did.
Currently, my client's branding efforts are minimal and veer toward a male audience looking to get ripped. During the brand discovery, we unearthed that his most successful clients were busy, professional women who valued an easy-going, Southern California lifestyle. Diving deeper, my client had deep connections with farming and the peace that comes from working with your hands. That's a totally different story to tell, for a different audience, and so great a chasm between his current brand and those it was meant to serve.
How would we have come to that conclusion by focusing on building his website first? In short, we would have had a hard time getting aligned and the project would be a bust. We'd still be trying to talk with dudes who want to be ripped. We are going a whole new direction with the entire project. Hell, we're even changing the name of the company.
Here's the thing:
Whether you're building a website, designing a business card, marketing collateral, writing messaging, or coming up with the name for your company, understanding the brand you are trying to build is the foundation for a fluid design process and seeing results.
FYI, I stole this concept and story from Sprint by Jake Knapp, enjoy!
I don't drink coffee, but I'd imagine the most people wouldn't if they had to drink coffee without using coffee filters. You see, before the filter coffee was brewed the same way you'd steep a bag of tea. The result was a lot of over-brewed, grit filled, coffee. Gross.
Filters had been attempted before, but to no avail. They were made of cloth.
It wasn't until a woman named Melitta Bentz saw blotting paper on her son's desk that the idea for our modern filters came to her. Blotting paper was used to clean up excess ink , it was porous enough to let liquid pass, but not enough to let the gritty grounds come through. Sure enough, after using it in place of cloth, she was astounded. The flavor was great and clean up was a snap.
What does this have to do with branding?
Sometimes the obvious solution to your brand isn't where you'd expect. You won't find it looking at competitors or digging within the muck of your day-to-day, it's somewhere else. Perhaps it's a different industry, or in a game you used to play, your favorite movie, a song. Instead of trying to create the perfect brand, find it and repurpose it.
Startups dilute their branding potential when they set their eyes on big brands like Apple or Nike. Not saying those brands aren't respectable, they are for many reasons, but they are not startups. They can't afford to be something unique because the reputation at stake is too high. In short, they cannot afford to turn people off.
But you, the scrappy startup, can.
You can nurture your brand to be bold, daring, and different from what is expected and it will give you the edge you are looking for. In fact, it would be a good bet to double-down on the elements of your startup's personality to make sure you are recognized as something different.
Now, I want to be clear, I'm not asking you to go Miley Cyrus and do weird shit for shock value (please don't twerk on Robert Thicke). But you can absolutely veer away from the staid and trite phraseology, colors, and rigid nature you see from your competitors. You can turn on a dime and move fast without getting approval from 30 people. You can do something truly impactful for you and your audience. All the while saying, "you don't have to like what we're doing, because it's probably not for you."
The win of being small is that you can do the things big brands cannot. Small wins.