Ride the Wave

An excerpt from Obviously Awesome, part VI.

June 2, 2020

This is the sixth article in a small series of punches surrounding April Dunford's Obviously Awesome! and how good positioning relates to good branding. Please read the first article, second article, third article, fourth article, and fifth article before jumping into this one.

Enjoy!

You know what the alternatives are, you know the special things that make your startup unique, you've established what makes that valuable, you know who finds it the most valuable, and you can frame your impact in a market that makes it easy for users to understand your company. This next step is only optional, it isn't crucial to positioning, but it can help if implemented well.

Step six is riding a trend to give your positioning an extra boost. Trends are macro movements that continually grow and shift culture. For example, plant based foods, sustainability, data privacy etc. It's like adding a rocket to your positioning, propelling you along with the strength of the trend.

Now, the reason this is optional is because it's tricky and can easily fall by the wayside.

Imagine you were selling drinking water during the start of the gluten free trend. You could slap a sticker on your bottles that says "gluten-free" to hopefully ride the trend. But you'd be stupid. Why? Because anyone who is truly gluten-free knows that water doesn't have gluten... at all.

On the other hand, if you were a health-conscious brewery and could come up with a gluten-free formula, it'd be smart to jump on the gluten-free wave. Why? Because it's relative to the product, since almost all beer is made with gluten, and aligned with the mission of the company.

Which brings up the last point on this: trends say a lot about your brand. They are often political and carry strong emotional qualities. Before you jump onto a trend, you better know yourself and the beliefs shared between you and your audience. If you betray either of those, every step in positioning your company is forfeited.

More you say?

Diamond in the Rough

You do not have to be like everyone else.

3.13.2020

When it comes to design and startups, a common misconception is if everyone in your industry looks terrible and has unpleasant experiences, it's ok for follow suit.

False.

This has been disproven time and time again by the companies we all love. Design-driven companies yield a greater emotional connection with their customers and are an all around better company to work with. Even something as simple as having an easier website to navigate makes a big difference.

The difference? A customer being stuck with you instead of sticking with you. If given the chance, they will leave and pay a premium to someone who can treat them better. You have to design an experience that makes you irreplaceable.

Don't use the excuse, "everyone does it that way," when surrounded by mediocrity. Take it as an opportunity to be a diamond in the rough.

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Ugly Scaffold

Why you shouldn't be surprised by any of the creative you make.

10.28.2020

Cinema has done a phenomenal job of showing us drama. Think about it, if everything in a movie went according to plan and the characters acted rationally, there'd be no tension and therefore no movie. It'd just be a walk through of good decision making and civic discussion about what to do next. It'd follow a logical progression.

What sucks is that creatives often infuse that drama into their creative process in the form of a pitch or a big reveal.

This isn't good. Pitches put both parties in a bad position and create an ultimatum from the event. How do we fix that?

We scaffold. More importantly, we build an ugly scaffold.

A scaffold? Yes, like the one's you see on the sides of skyscrapers. These structures follow the building from the ground up and work alongside the deliverable until it is ready to show. They are hideous, but they allow everyone to safely navigate from the ground-level to the top.

What does scaffolding look like for building a brand identity?

  • Discovery and research
  • Strategic alignment and goal setting
  • Brand audit
  • Stylescapes and creative direction
  • Showing sketches and ugly iterations
  • A final deliverable

A good designer can educate and guide folks along the process (and it better be a process) from nothing to something. Instead of a giant presentation where clients give a giant "yes" or a giant "no," scaffolding allows for small tweaks along the way and a unified effort.

Build an ugly scaffold.

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