In Marvel's Captain America: the First Avenger, Steve Rogers is transformed from a scrawny pipsqueak into the formidable super-soldier, Captain America.
After completing a successful rescue mission using nothing but a stage-prop shield, famous inventor and colleague, Howard Stark offers to improve upon the shield design.
He presents Rogers with a dozen different designs, some outfitted with electronics to zap his adversaries, some with spikes and other baggage. He glances on the ground and picks up a round disc.
"What's it made of?" he asks.
"That's vibranium, it's completely vibration absorbent." say's Stark.
After being put through a spur of the moment bullet deflection test, courtesy of an angry love-interest, Rogers chooses the shield and gives it a fresh paint job to match his uniform.
That was in 1944.
Fast forward into 2020 and the same shield is used in later battles without losing its gusto or its alignment with Cap's identity.
Why? Because it was a simple, elegant, and timeless choice. Unhindered by fads, excess, or things that would weigh it down.
The point? treat branding design the same way. Don't be bogged down by choices simply because they are popular today, aim for something genuinely useful and timeless.
The clip from the movie, for you poor souls who haven't seen it.
When venture capitalists search for companies to invest in, they are counting on the competence of the founders and the entire team to win. Meaning, if there are more hints that this company will result in failure than it will success, it's unlikely they will invest in it. They look for indicators to assess worthy startups.
A similar and time-tested method is seen in the duck test coined by James Whitcomb Riley. You've heard it before, "when I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck."
Now let's apply this to a startup, specifically two kinds of startups. One that is a good investment and one that is a risky investment.
A startup that walks like a good investment
The manner by which a startup carries itself says a lot. This includes outward appearance and poise. If you look like trash or are missing key pieces of attire, expect the reception of your appearance to follow suit. For example, not having a website in the 21st century is the equivalent of showing up to a party without pants. You're missing something and it reveals a hole in your competence. Same could be said of the design of your product or your branding. Negligence of these is reason to believe that you are not a worthwhile investment.
A startup that swims like a good investment
A duck's primary function is to swim. They are very good at it. Similarly, a startup's job is to make money through having a worthy offering. There needs to be proof of this. If you don't have a solution to a prevalent problem that will make a difference, customers will not use you. If customers don't use you then investors can't either. If you want revenue, of any kind, you need something worth giving up money to have.
A startup that quacks like a good investment
Trickier than the last two, but important nonetheless. A duck's quack is the outward expression to signify "I AM A DUCK." What's a startups outward expression? "I am valuable to others." Meaning, people will pay for what I have to offer because it is more valuable than their money. The brevity of a quack is just as important. The more succinct, the easier it is to identify. This comes in the form of positioning and high-level brand messaging. Failure to define your quack will make it difficult for investors to identify you as a good investment.
If it walks like a worthy startup, swims like a worthy startup, and quacks like a worthy startup... it must be a worthy startup. Worthy of customer buy-in and investor money.
Can you pass the duck test?
If you don't know where you want to go, then any map, trail, tactic, or maneuver is useless.
The same holds true in design and branding. If you don't know what emotions/values you want your logo, colors, language, website, or collateral to align with, it's unlikely you'll be satisfied. At the very least, you'll have no objective way of dictating right decisions from wrong decisions.
That's the point of strategy. Strategy gets you aligned. It points you in a direction. How you get there can take many forms, so long as it gets you to the destination.
Where do you want your brand to go?