Branding your billion dollar startup

You’ve probably heard that London-based Improbable are the latest billion dollar startup. I have no connection the company apart from the fact that they’re based in my old office in Farringdon in Central London. It’s fun to think that we left some creative energy hanging in the air for the new tenants to breathe in – especially as their simulation platform owes quite a bit to the world of the Matrix.

You can be fairly sure Improbable wouldn’t have such a high valuation if their brand and trademarks weren’t in order and that they’ve taken the time to get the right brand and trademark protection in place for their business and their platform.

Without the right brand and trademark protection you could find your startup doesn’t have the value you’d expect

You may have already built your website, your brand identity and your social media channels, but if you haven’t had the time or the inclination to get expert advice your startup and your product could be in a serious situation. Without the right brand and trademark protection you could find your startup doesn’t have the value you’d expect.

It’s not enough to have a brand. You need to have a brand that’s unique and one you can defend and protect when it comes to seeking major investment and when registering your name and trademark for international markets. And don’t make the mistake that because you can register a domain name that’s all you’ll ever need.

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Every great brand tells a great story – what’s your story?

It was Mad Men’s Don Draper who said that every great ad tells a great story. But you no longer need a Madison Avenue advertising agency to tell that story for you. You need good design, a great website and social media channels. And lots of hard work of course!

In my view every great brand needs to tell a great story. If you’re a brand owner or a marketing professional I think you’ll probably agree.

Each new Steve Jobs keynote created a chapter of the Apple story with every new product launch. Usually that was an insanely great story that anyone could connect with.

Enzo Ferrari took the famous prancing horse logo from a design on the fuselage of a World War 1 plane. He added the yellow background and invented the Ferrari logo as a good luck symbol. But you don’t need to be a petrolhead to understand and admire the power and history of the Ferrari brand.

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Building a total brand experience for Nuvem 9

Nuvem 9 are a new type of financial and accounting consultancy service that specialises in working with companies and entrepreneurs with ambitions to take the profitability in their business to the next level.

‘We are not advisors with an MBA who have never actually worked in a business,’ says partner Niall McGinnity.

We developed a real ‘cloud 9’ experience for Nuvem 9 – a total brand experience that creates a unique tone of voice for their market.

The first thing we did was to sit down with the partners and fully understand their business and even more importantly help them understand what makes their business different from other brands and their competitors.

Only then did we start redesigning the logo to make the ‘nuvem’ or cloud part of their brand more legible and approachable, in keeping with their brand positioning. We developed a real ‘cloud 9’ experience for Nuvem 9 – a total brand experience that creates a unique tone of voice for their market.

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Continuous branding can help startups and all companies grow their business

Most startups and companies use their brand at about twenty percent of full power. Don’t take my word for it, look around you and look at your own business. Have you considered that absolutely everything you do is an important part of your brand and product experience?

That tweet you posted doesn’t simply represent your business and your brand – it’s part of your brand experience so it’s an essential part of your brand.

‘Social media in service of a product experience is not just media – it’s the experience of the product itself,’ says Forrester analyst James McQuivey in his book Digital Disruption, Unleashing The Next Wave Of Innovation. That’s quite a statement if you think about it.

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That breath beyond – branding in the age of disruptive technology

In our latest ebook we look at how brands can win and still be authentic in the ever-changing business market where disruptive technology rules, and we offer some interesting points for business owners and marketing professionals to consider.

Technology and design can really help brands go stratospheric and see real business growth. For instance it’s important to realise that everything you do is an important part of your brand and product experience. Your brand is how you speak and interact with your users and your customers. It’s everything you do. That’s why in the always on, always connected, always accessible world – everything matters.

‘Everything that surrounds your service and your product can be described as part of your total product experience. Your website, the totality of your digital presence, including all your social media accounts, are all essential parts of your brand experience. This has implications for business owners of all types and brand managers in all business sectors, as there are some that haven’t quite got the message yet.’

It’s important to realise then that to be a successful twenty-first century brand, everything you do is important. That includes your social media presence too, in all its forms:

‘Social media in service of a product experience is not just media, it’s the experience of the product itself.’

Brands win in the disruptive technology world by using digital tools as a means of production, rather than as a means of consumption, and this applies to all territories and virtually all sectors.

‘You must move from merely using technology to get the job done to disrupting yourself and your market by depending on, exploiting and pushing the boundaries of technology.’

In branding, this authentic approach means developing a design and visual language that really says who you are and what you do.

It’s not borrowed or reimagined from someone else – it’s authentic for you and suits your brand’s personality and your company values.

It’s an approach we would do well to apply to each area of our own work and life, if we want to produce original thoughts, create new and cutting edge brands, or have authentic feelings that are something more than the strung together sequences from someone else’s movie.

You can download That Breath Beyond here.

Eugene Burns

 

 

 

Total product experience – why everything matters

Everything that surrounds your service and your product is part of your total product experience. Your website, the totality of your digital presence, including all your social media accounts, are all essential parts of your brand experience. This has implications for business owners of all types and brand managers in all business sectors, as there are some that haven’t quite got the message yet.

If you’re selling a car, a new flavour of cupcake, building materials, a cleaning service, or a digital app that will revolutionise the healthcare sector, in short almost anything digital or analogue, your customers will evaluate the digital experience you give them, as that’s how they first experiencing your brand.

Everything you do is part of your total product experience

Today the digital expression of your product is almost as important as the design of the product itself and the packaging and delivery method you use to get it to your customer. To be a successful twenty-first century brand, everything you do is important. A large percentage of your customers are already online looking for value and not only value in terms of being cheaper than your competitor. They’re looking for value in brands that can deliver more of their needs, more of the things that they want in a product or service, than they’re already getting.

Successful twenty-first century brands need to keep seeking ways to innovate their products and offer extra value that their customers and their competitors haven’t even thought of yet. To do this you need to put your customer first, while not being afraid to make sure that what you offer is not just forward thinking, but profitable and worthwhile for your business.

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As Forrester analyst James McQuivey says: ‘(We’re) not suggesting innovation for innovation’s sake, but that you’re innovating in the interests of your customer while explicitly tying those interests of the company.’ (Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation, 2013)

If you want to see some total product experience in action have a look at what facecake.com are doing. It’s interesting to see how companies are using technology to change the way brands and customers interact with each other to enrich their online experience and make buying decisions.

Social media in service of a product experience is not just media, it’s the experience of the product itself

What does this mean for you? It means that your website and your social media are part of the product and the service you offer. They are not some optional extras but an integral part of your brand experience.

Here’s something to make you think: ‘…social media in service of a product experience is not just media, it’s the experience of the product itself,’ James McQuivey, as above.

So what about you? How proud are you of your design and digital presence in every area of your brand communication? When customers search for you and your product are you sure you’re completely in control of the total product experience they’re getting? There’s always room for improvement.

Brangento is the tool we’ve developed to help you better manage and control your brand

Brangento is the tool we’ve developed that helps you to better manage and control your brand, then use your brand to grow your business.

Based on the concept of continuous branding and total brand experience it lets you see you brand all in one place. It helps you grow your brand and grow your business. Try it for yourself at Brangento.com and watch the video below.

Eugene Burns

 

Authentic design – a lesson from cinema

It was while reading how exiled Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami approached his work that I realised that the great filmmaker has something important to say to designers and marketing professionals in every sector. Kiarostami says ‘in all my films not a single shot comes from cinema,’ thereby highlighting that the freshness and originality of his vision doesn’t come from other films, but from real life and his own experiences and emotions.

If you’re a designer how often have you persuaded a client to take a specific approach or creative solution mainly because you had seen it done elsewhere and thought it was cool? That’s like taking a sequence from someone else’s movie and making it part of your own. Great influences are always useful, but if you don’t learn to create with your own voice and accent then you’ll always be a follower instead of a leader.

Similarly, if you’re a marketing professional or business owner, how often do you want to use the latest trend or marketing tool because you’ve seen it somewhere else, or read about it in a LinkedIn post and want that feature as part of your site and brand experience? Sometimes in the always-on rush of modern business, it’s hard to stop and simply ask why.

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There’s much to be said for keeping up with the latest trends such as parallax scrolling and flat design, or the coming implications for businesses of 3D printing and the internet of things. But it’s also good to realize that those great ideas that you’re looking for may not be in the latest edition of Wired, but may already be in your own head and in your own business and creative plan.

Think about who you are and what you’re planning to achieve with you life and your business and then chose the tools that will help to get you there. Use the approach that will help you reach the targets you really want to reach, rather than one that’s fashionable.

In design, this authentic approach means developing a design and visual language that really says who you are and what you do. It’s not borrowed or reimagined from someone else – it’s authentic for you and suits your personality and your values.

An authentic approach to design creates authentic brands – brands that don’t need to borrow everything from somewhere else as they have a point of view they want people to know about and unique values they are confident in expressing.

You’ll find that if you take a Kiarostami approach, the people who use your products and services, or visit your site, will feel they are connecting with something real – something they can understand and relate to, as it’s not simply something they’ve seen better executed elsewhere.

By all means have influences, but learn from them rather than be overpowered by them, and celebrate the authentic voice of your personality and your brand.

‘I am what I show to people’ says Kiarostami showing us in his work an original view of life and of cinema. It’s an approach we would do well to apply to each area of our own work and life, if we want to produce original thoughts, create new and cutting edge brands, or have authentic feelings that are something more than the strung together sequences from someone else’s movie.

Eugene Burns

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Put a tiger in your tank – the advertising revolution

There was a time when a great headline, image, copy and strapline were all you needed to get your message across to your target audiences. And once you had a great campaign in place, you could pretty much broadcast it to the known world without thinking too much about nuance and local adaptation.

The Esso ‘Put a tiger in your tank’ campaign is a good example of an old style company ‘brandcasting’ its message to a captive audience in every corner of the then developed world. Have a look at the example below. When you consider these campaigns were often beautifully produced and hand drawn without the help of any technology, they seem to belong to a very distant world.

Multinational agencies grew as the campaigns grew, but it really wasn’t that long ago when I was a young designer in McCann Erickson, I could pretty much guarantee that anyone that saw a Peugeot advert in Ireland in any given day, in any media format, would be looking at a version of the layout I had designed.

It’s the ability to target that has revolutionised the advertising industry, so that it’s possible to say the best forms of advertising today are not really advertising at all.

TV, radio and 48-sheet posters, of course, could extend the brand message and target customers as they travelled and went to work, but advertising was essentially ‘brandcasting’ with very little personalisation.

It’s the ability to target that has revolutionised the advertising industry, so that it’s possible to say the best forms of advertising today are not really advertising at all, and certainly have little relation to old-style brandcasting.

The tiger in the tank of business owners and marketing professionals today is technology. Instead of roaring an unambiguous brand message, the best targeted and most effective results are found using personalised marketing and social media that purr in the ear of the target audiences. You have the opportunity to get closer to your target market than the old advertising tigers could ever dream of getting.

Through digital and social media you can engage with virtually anyone, even when they’re behind the wheel of their car, without resorting to large radio and outdoor budgets. You can speak to them though social technology on their smart phone, be part of their entertainment and lifestyle though sponsorship and branded content and use existing sales and research data to refine your message and grow your business.

This is the advertising revolution. This is the new tiger’s roar.

If you take a total product experience approach to your brand and your business, everything you do is an important part of your brand and product experience.

Note that I use the term social technology, as social media really owes it reach to the software and hardware-driven technology that has changed our lives and businesses in recent times and continues to evolve and revolutionise our communication on an almost daily basis.

And if, like many of our clients, you take a total product experience approach to your business, everything you do is an important part of your brand and product experience. Your technology and everything you do is your advertising.

You will need help to deliver the best targeted messages that fit the positioning and voice of your brand. To grow your business you must be hungry to communicate and get as close as possible to those you want to speak to, but without biting them of course!

Let your social media purr…

Eugene Burns

 

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Grow your business? Luckily humans are hard-wired to connect

Doing business is essentially about making connections in the real world, but making connections online is becoming even more important every day. And the good news for you, if you’re a business owner or marketing professional who wants to grow your business, is that humans are hard-wired to connect with each other and have evolved to value connections at a deep psychological level.

Of course demographic, social and cultural factors play a big part in how we connect with each other online as well as in the real world and, as I mentioned in my recent post, I recommend you read Nathalie Nahai’s book, Webs Of Influence – The Psychology Of Online Persuasion, for more detail on the cultural factors involved in the psychology of online decision-making.

From a branding perspective, it helps to understand that storytelling is hard-wired into our consciousness when it comes to communication and connecting with your users. Why do many billions of us read books, or iPads and watch TV if not to consume real or invented stories on a daily basis.

‘The story is one of the oldest and most powerful forms of communication known to man’ (See Nathalie Nahai as above page 109)

Think Arthurian tale in Le Mort d’Arthur, think the wanderings of Ulysses in The Odyssey, think overlapping narratives of Game of Thrones, or Mad Men, or the latest invented blockbuster myth. Humans connect with stories and it helps your brand and your online business communication if you understand the importance of storytelling and the benefits for you and your business when you get it right.

What is your brand story and how are you delivering it? That’s a question that business owners and marketers don’t get asked often enough.

‘We’ve long known that storytelling is an incredibly powerful, primal medium through which we connect as a species, but the extraordinary fact that our brains are hard-wired to understand each other in this way has huge implications for the manner in which we deliver information.’ (As above page 110)

What is your brand story and how are you delivering it? That’s a question that business owners and marketers don’t get asked often enough.

‘Our success as a species has depended on our ability to form and maintain social groups, so it is no surprise that we have evolved to value reciprocal exchanges at a very deep level.’

Then there’s the role interactivity and social media play in your online story and in connecting with your customers. If we’re all hard-wired to respond to connections then reciprocity – the give and take of online transactions – is an important part of doing business in the twenty-first century. Online transactions are becoming more of a social activity.

Social media too has been evolving. Social media is no longer social media it quite simply is the media and everything you in your business communication – your Twitter feed, your Facebook page, or your LinkedIn profile – plays an important part in your total brand and product experience. Simply put, social media is one of the primary ways users today experience you business and your brand.

‘Our success as a species has depended on our ability to form and maintain social groups, so it is no surprise that we have evolved to value reciprocal exchanges at a very deep level.’ (As above page 138)

The message is, no matter what your business or the sector and countries in which you operate, you ignore the interactive, social aspects of your brand communication at your peril, and leave the door open for your competitors to talk to your customers if you turn a deaf ear to what they’re saying. Social media should be part of your brand experience and an intrinsic part of your business activities.

Talk to your clients. Listen to what they have to say and you’ll soon find out what they’re looking for and maybe even begin to anticipate their needs. Easy to say, I know, but we can all get there if we stop broadcasting and listen between the silences.

The Holy Grail for any business is to be loved by your customers. And in this week of yet another iPhone launch, Apple gives us the perfect example.

Of course the Holy Grail for any business is to be loved by your customers. And in this week of yet another iPhone launch, Apple gives us the perfect example.

‘Areas of the brain that light up when believers look at religious imagery, also light up when Apple fans view their favourite brand’s logo and products.’ (As above page 208)

So if you want people to buy your products or your services, offer them something they’ll fall in love with. Easy isn’t it?

Eugene Burns

 

 

 

 

Get what you want – the art of online persuasion

It’s really quite simple. In business you get what you want by persuading people to do what you want them to do. There’s nothing easier, right? We all know that persuasion is hard at the best of times, but in the online world it’s an even harder task.

There are several things that can help a business owner and her/his designer get what they want in terms of getting your user, your potential customer after all, to do what you want and help you grow your business.

In the online world getting what you want means knowing something about how the unconscious mind works. It comes down to an examination of free will.

In her recent book Webs Of Influence – The Psychology Of Online Persuasion, Nathalie Nahai outlines the most recent research in the psychology of human decision-making.

‘Our conscious experience of free will happens only after the neural events that caused it… put simply, your brain knows what you are going to do before you do.’

It turns out that most of our decision-making processes occur in parallel, without our conscious awareness.

Business owners, marketing professionals and interactive designers can learn a lot from a more than superficial study of the science of human psychological behaviour.

‘We are not rational beings, as classical economists would have you believe. In fact, the reality is that we are malleable, impressionable creatures, whose behaviours can be heavily influenced by our situations and surroundings, without us even being aware of it.’

Leaving aside the spiritual and philosophical implications of this view, it’s clear that business owners, marketing professionals and interactive designers can learn a lot from a more than superficial study of the science of human psychological behaviour.

It can tell us all a lot about how we can achieve what we want to achieve, and because we are essentially measuring online human behaviours, it gives us data that we can measure and act upon to fine-tune and re-target our approach.

‘Our emotions exert a great influence on our thoughts… beyond making us feel good or bad, emotions play a vital role in how we make decisions.

Emotions play a part as well as intellect when it comes to our on-line decision-making processes.

‘Our emotions exert a great influence on our thoughts… beyond making us feel good or bad, emotions play a vital role in how we make decisions.’

Here is where creativity, ideas and design intuition can play a major part in the online design process and help you to get want you want. Design and creativity, based on a solid grasp of recent psychological research, can help any online business get where it needs to go faster and more efficiently. This approach can integrate well with any off-line and related social media campaigns that you may want to run at the same time.

In the online world, creativity and good design thinking are not only scientific but also measurable in terns of the results and the targets they achieve.

If you know what your customers are trying to achieve, then it’s easier for you to help get them there.

So what do you want to achieve for yourself and for your business? And what approaches are you using to help get you there?

‘The ability to manufacture persuasion is a powerful one and its success hinges on the accuracy of your demographic data.’

In a later post I’ll go on to look at these demographic, social and cultural factors that help colour your approach to influencing your online customers. But to sum up, if you know what your customers are trying to achieve, then it’s easier for you to help get them there.

We know that our customers want us to help them achieve their goals through the intelligent use of technology, social media and design. We know that because we asked them. But what do your customers really want? Perhaps we can help you find out.

Eugene Burns

 

Every great brand tells a great story.

Let's talk about your story.