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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Our new work for Brooklyn’s Lifestyle magazine in New York

Brooklyn’s Lifestyle is a hyper-local digital magazine about all things Brooklyn NY and sometimes beyond. The site’s founder Nat Cleary asked us to help her rebrand and relaunch her site, having seen our work for Luger London featured on a global web design showcase.

The new brand identity echoes Massimo Vignelli’s pioneering design work for the New York transportation system. The Helvetica typeface gives the design a classic feel and we’ve reworked some iconic elements of Brooklyn and New York metro signage. We combined this with lifestyle imagery but given it a distinctive style that’s urban, engaging and works well on social media.

The new design has helped Nat bring some major new advertisers on board including Mercedes-Benz and the new site is already getting lots of extremely positive feedback. Have a look at the new site here.

It’s significant that although we’re based in Ireland and the UK we can work with a client In Brooklyn NY and help them grow their brand, grow their business and get the best results.  We already have lots of experience of working with clients in Silicon Valley, China, Japan and mainland Europe, so we’re very proud of our international reputation.

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Future Now – an introduction to Big Data

Google, LinkedIn and Amazon are essentially Big Data companies, so you’re probably using at least some of the tools they offer every day. Google search, for example, is a Big Data tool that everyone can use – the trick is to turn it into a tool that works for you and your business. But let’s look at Big Data and what it is. Essentially Big Data is about finding meaning in what you can measure about your business performance and you may have already come across data mining tools that measure specific business areas such as social media.

Essentially Big Data is about finding meaning in what you can measure about your business performance.

A Big Data approach allows business owners and managers to see the future before it happens, to see the meaning and the patterns in what they are doing now that can tell them what will happen to them and their business tomorrow.

In other words it gives you a better, more reliable view of your own performance and customer behaviour and takes a lot of the gut feeling out of business strategy by giving fast, reliable, real-time insights.

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Paul Smith and the power of a simple brand story

There will hardly be any Paul Smith customers unaware of the simple, yet powerful ‘origins’ story of the Paul Smith brand. A 17-year-old with a driving desire to become a professional racing cyclist, Smith had a serious accident and ended up in hospital for several months. While in hospital he made some new friends involved in the local art and design scene in Nottingham. So young Paul started to take an interest in their stories about the Bauhaus and contemporary design.

As the story goes ‘with the help of his then-girlfriend (now wife), Pauline Denyer, who was a Royal College of Art graduate, and a small amount of savings, he opened his first shop on 10 Byard Lane, Nottingham in 1970 named Paul Smith Vêtements pour Hommes.’ With no formal design training and having never gone to art school, Paul Smith still became one of the great English fashion designers, developing his own ‘classic with a twist’ style which has evolved for well over forty years.

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The Paul Smith brand story is simple, but compelling. It’s the story of the thwarted athlete who is still becomes a world beater. It’s the story of an outsider, not a fashionista, who makes interesting and enduring clothes and accessories with taste and quality. You don’t have to be one of the elite to be able to afford them. It’s the brand story of an everyman, which everyone can relate to.

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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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Five lessons from the Uber brand experience

Many of my clients are exciting startups intent on changing their market and, in some cases, changing the world too. But in the post-‘Zero To One’ business landscape every company is a startup. Every business needs to keep learning and every brand needs to keep evolving otherwise you risk becoming irrelevant. A fascinating long read on the history, failings and ‘uberise’ of Uber in London (you can read it here) led me to an in-depth look at the rise and rise of the Uber brand experience. And of course ‘uberize’ has become a verb meaning to change a market or economic model by the introduction of a cheap and efficient alternative.

1. Your brand needs to evolve

If you live in a city, Uber makes it very easy to not own a car. In fact it makes it cool not to own one, as co-founder Travis Kalanick explains: ‘Uber started out as everyone’s private driver. Today we aspire to make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere and for everyone.’

Where it was once ‘everyone’s private driver’ now the essence of the Uber brand and the product that it sells is movement itself. As Kalanick told Wired, “The early app was an attempt at something luxury. That’s where we came from, but it’s not where we are today.”

The lesson for every business is that continuous brand evolution has played a huge part in Uber’s growth.

No one can accuse Uber of not thinking big: ‘Today we aspire to make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere and for everyone.’

The lesson for every business is that continuous brand evolution has played a huge part in Uber’s growth. If your brand is static you get overtaken. It you don’t move, you get run over. Read more

Total brand experience – use your brand to grow your business

It’s an often overlooked but self-evident principle, that seeing how your brand performs helps you build your brand and grow your business.

The biggest headache for any business, is finding new users and new customers. Having a stronger and more powerful brand can help you solve that problem.

Growing your brand means growing your business. It’s your most effective sales and marketing asset.

Total Brand Experience

Everything you say. Every update you post, or link you share. Everything you do is part of your total brand experience. That’s why everything that surrounds your business is important.

Your latest tweet isn’t just a part of your social media. In real and measurable ways your latest tweet is your brand and your product itself, no matter what you sell, or what sector you work in.

Your social media and marketing is your brand and your product. It’s how your users and your customers see and interact with you. Everything you do is part of your total brand experience. Read more

Cola wars – Coca-Cola’s new ‘one brand’ strategy

Around about the time the Beatles were becoming famous, Coca-Cola already had a ‘one-sight, one-sound, one-sell’ strategy in place, along with a worldwide advertising campaign based on the proposition “Things Go Better With Coke”. Developed with the creative input of McCann-Erickson (an agency I worked for several decades later), it was a campaign that dominated the sixties, fighting for attention with Pepsi’s rallying call “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation.”

A brand expert could see Coke’s new ‘one brand’ strategy as a reflection of the ‘one-sight, one-sound, one-sell’ strategy and applaud the consistency of the approach. The problem is that in the sixties, leaving aside Fanta and some other syrupy diversions, Coca-Cola was still essentially a one-product company, but today the Coca-Cola Company manages a series of distinct and different brands. You don’t meet many Diet Coke drinkers who are just as happy with the full-fat alternative.

Jon Woods, General Manager of Coca-Cola in Great Britain & Ireland explains the company’s thinking: “With our new ‘one brand’ approach, we are uniting four distinct brands under the umbrella of Coca-Cola. We believe our no and lower sugar variants will benefit from this closer association with Coca-Cola and that featuring all variants in our advertising will make clear to more consumers the full choice we offer them.” Read more

CultureTech’s creative marketplace – a designer’s view

In my early days as a Creative Director in London it wasn’t unusual to invite key members of a client’s marketing team for a strategy dinner in Paris, or to fly them business class to Monte Carlo for an industry specific conference.

Which is why it was extremely refreshing to be invited to take part in CutureTech’s creative marketplace in Derry, an event where clients and agencies could meet and agree deals and where the businesses attending had been given access to funding to buy design services on the day. As an experienced designer this was one of the most enlightened and trail-blazing events I have attended anywhere in the world.

Outsiders wouldn’t perhaps think of Derry as a shining example of new creative thinking – a place where the new wave of design agencies could gather and help define the future of business, but that is how the city is presenting itself through CultureTech. Read more

Design your future

When you work with new business start-ups and established companies it soon becomes clear which ones give themselves a greater chance of growing their business and having a brighter future.

Companies that value design and value ideas and creativity in everything they do always seem to do better and grow faster than those that simply go with the flow. As a company owner or marketing specialist, if you’re not moving forward and thinking creatively every day then you’re not using the power that design and inventive thinking give you to grow your brand and design your future.

Design is important in everything you do in your business. From the way you design and reply to your emails, to the typeface and logotype you use and the subtle communication your web site and social media accounts convey to the people who interact with you and potentially buy your products and your services. Good design helps you engage with, learn from and better understand your customers.

The future of your business is the way you design your business. I have recently seen at first hand businesses that have used external funding to quickly establish and develop their brand and build credibility and value in a matter of weeks all through using the power of good design and inventive thinking. I’ve also seen businesses struggle as they’ve become mired in meaningless processes and outdated ideas leading to the uncertainty of an undesigned future. Read more

Every great brand tells a great story.

Let's talk about your story.