Why Is Branding Essential for a Tech Startup in 2019? 7 important steps

In 2018, there where 8671 digital product launches by tech startups on Product Hunt alone. We know that paying for your brand is low down on the agenda when a startup starts out but hopefully in this article we can convince you that, when the time is right, investing in a brand is a worthwhile decision.

If you’re unfamiliar with what Product Hunt is, it’s a platform for developers and teams to share their latest product. Other users can “Upvote” or comment with support or questions on that product. Creators can hope that they receive enough upvotes on their product to hit the top of that day’s leaderboard. To give you an idea of the success of Product Hunt and its importance in the market, Google regularly shares their releases as well as highly influential product-makers.

Standing out as a tech startup is a big problem in this ever-expanding market. Although Product Hunt gives a product the glitz and glamour of being top of a leaderboard, there is very little to suggest that this will ever mean that the product will reach mass-appeal. Product Hunt is by developers for developers and there’s little room for creative expression other than that of the logo and app imagery.

Standing out is where branding comes in. Branding is, in most cases, under the umbrella of marketing. We believe it’s a blend of business strategy and creativity. Branding can not only enhance and improve your tech experience and grow your customer base but also drive effective company culture. Branding is a lot more than just your logo, which we’ll get into below.

  1. What is brand in a nutshell?
  2. Why is branding important?
    1. Position in the market
    2. Perceived value
    3. Recognition
    4. More customers and referrals
    5. Engaged employees
    6. Stand out and build trust
    7. Clear direction

What is “brand” in a nutshell?

At its core, branding is a marketing tactic that helps identify you amongst your competitors. This can be done in a variety of ways. With branding, you want to leave the potential customer with a clear idea of the promise that you are making to them. That promise can be physical things like – we will make your life easier with our product – or it can be something slightly more intangible.

Take Coke for instance. Instead of selling the drink, Coke promises to sell you the idea of happiness, family or sharing. You want to be the sole provider to a clear solution to your customers problem and your brand gives you a voice to be able to achieve that.

Whatever your promise is, it should be consistent in everything you do. It should be a guiding light to all your marketing efforts but this doesn’t need to be just a fake marketing effort.

Branding is often deeply rooted in the values and ideas of its founders so is often born from genuine beliefs. This should set you aside from your competitors because although your product might be similar to another, you’re able to eke out the USP (‘Unique Selling Point’) and promise something deeper. Your customer should feel that promise in the entire customer experience and this can only be achieved through a well-defined brand strategy.

A final point to make is that for your brand, and the following points to work, you must understand your customer. Who are you talking to and why? What are their pain points and how do you solve them? Only then, can you build something effective into your efforts.

We have a post on how to develop your brand strategy here.

So why is branding important for my tech startup?

Branding is so important for many reasons (both internal and external). From an internal perspective, it can help align the business on why you are building your product or service so that you are all speaking the same language. The business should be geared towards the same objective so by going through the motions of developing your brand, this becomes clear. A great consequence of this is improved company culture – something that is integral to the success of any tech startup.

Position in the market

As mentioned, going through the motions of your brand strategy should identify your position in the market. Shouting about it is your way of standing out and setting yourself apart from the competition. Positioning is integral to standing out so we hold this process highly in a brand strategy workshop.

Perceived value

 A brand with a higher value (from investors etc.) is perceived to be a bigger market player. This allows you more leverage and increased investment opportunities as your brand should represent establishment, confidence and success.

Recognition

As a tech startup, in a sea of competition, recognition is also important. Having an attractive and engaging brand is one way to stand out. It’s also another way to remain in the minds of the consumer. Launching a new product becomes easier as the customer will be familiar with your brand. Everyone can recongnise Google products when they see them. They all use similar colours and illustration style.

Building recognition also builds brand equity and so improves the chances that if you seek investment, you’re more likely to appeal to investors. This is because your brand equity is strong and this builds on the value we spoke of previously.

More Customers and referrals

When you engage with your customers you should give them a great service, and believe it or not, by having your brand consistently play a part in that process, it’s a way to drive up customer satisfaction. Their impression of your tech startup is further imprinted in their mind with every successful engagement.

Happy customers also mean you’re likely to get referred as that customer seeks to recruit more into the brand ecosystem.

Note: A concept called “brand tribalism” also contributes to the fact that raving fans will want to refer their friends. We won’t go into brand tribalism now but it essentially means that customers buy into the feeling it gives them. Sometimes they buy that more than the product itself. If they can grow this sense of pride, this can work well in your favour.

Engaged employees

From the offset, if your brand is strong you’re likely to attract a specific kind of employee -hopefully one that aligns with the values you are trying to convey in your brand. When your employees believe in the values themselves and are encouraged they are likely to be proud and become a raving fan of their employer. They will also have a greater sense of belonging which is what we all pine for. They will feel like they are part of something bigger! We know that culture is a huge part of a positive atmosphere so if you have everyone believing in the same thing, you’re going to have a good atmosphere.

Stand out and build trust

Having a strong brand is a sure-fire way of looking professional, established and legitimate. As a growing tech startup, you’re likely to feel a bit of imposter syndrome sometimes and taking on tech giants can be a daunting task. With a strong product paired with a great brand, you’ll stand out and build trust within the market. People will be more likely to engage and purchase from you if they trust you and a well-put-together brand looks like a well-put-together business. This will lead on to gaining loyal followers and subsequently repeat purchases.

Clear and easy direction

Having a set of brand guidelines and a clear idea of the message your tech startup wants to convey is a huge weight off your shoulders. A lot of the heavy lifting has already been done for you allowing you to focus on more important things (the product). Getting the right emotional and visual direction nailed means you can forget about wondering if you’re conveying the right message and trust in the brand working its magic.

So as you can see, having an effective brand strategy for your tech startup matters so much more than just the appearance of your website or the design of your logo. There are clear benefits to it both internally and externally that you can leverage and utilise.

8 Practical Tips on How to Run an Effective Remote Brand Strategy Workshop

Brand Strategy (Strategy) is our name for the discovery process we run to unlock hidden knowledge in the minds of our clients. As a remote design studio, this poses some immediate problems on how to run an effective workshop when you aren’t in the room.

It’s important to say that every detail discussed below is client dependent. These won’t necessarily apply to all clients so discuss with them what they are comfortable with. This guide can also serve to answer questions like “Ways to improve Voice over IP (VoIP) quality?”, “What are the best times to schedule a meeting?” and “How to run a VoIP meeting or workshop?”.

Brand strategy workshops tips

Brand strategy helps us maximise the value of delivery and narrow our design efforts by asking key questions right at the beginning of the project. We’ve written an article on what Brand Strategy is so we won’t bore you with that. Strategy can run for at least four hours if pushed for time but it can also run for days. It depends on how many people are in the room and how many voices need to be heard. We look at things like brand positioning, brand architecture, users, business goals and more.

Discovery workshops run best when you can motivate people to be hands-on and energetic as they participate. Strategy requires active participation from key stakeholders in the organisation. This means post-it exercises and creative thinking all-round. As a facilitator, you also need to be aware of the energy levels in the room and be able to read people easily enough to spot the tell-tail signs of fatigue. It’s good to be aware so that you can call for a break or engage a particular participant to bring them back into the room.

1. Break it up

You need to be pro-active in your approach to minimising fatigue, maximising energy and increasing engagement. Rather than push attendees until they are tired, we reimagine the discovery process so that they never get tired in the first place. After some testing, we found attendees start to tire after about 1 hour of workshopping over Zoom. We took a look at our Strategy workshop and have now broken it up logically into 1 – 1.5-hour segments. This enables us to get everything covered without losing context and before attendees tire. We suggest breaking your workshops up into logical chunks while keeping context.

How you break it up will depend on whether you’re in the same time-zones or not. Most segments are run once a day but if you are in a similar time-zone you might be able to run it several times in a day.

A benefit to meeting each day is that the chit-chat at the beginning of the call often involves catch up on the rest of the previous day. Because of this, we feel like we were all part of each others entire day. Each day we bond and grow as a team over the course of a week which puts us in a better position going forward and as ultimately we have a better relationship right from the beginning.

2. Homework

Not necessary in every workshop but homework is also something we offer. Some of the tasks in the workshop are quite frankly repetitive. An example being user personas. If we can clearly facilitate the first persona then that is often enough for the participants to build out the other personas without our involvement. We could oversee the second persona for instance with little input and leave the remaining 1 or 2 to the participants.

The other benefit of having homework is time. Depending on the client, we feel having a 1-hour touchpoint a day can leave all involved twiddling their thumbs a little. A session that could run over 1 or 2 days is stretched out over the course of a week which could be less than ideal. With homework, this isn’t the case and the session remains productive outside the call.

3. Choose time wisely

Choosing the right time of day to run brand strategy is very important to maximise productivity. Obviously being remote you sometimes don’t have that luxury as you might be in different time-zones but we should discuss this nonetheless. Monday’s aren’t great for meetings and neither are Friday’s as they are both impacted by the weekend. On Monday’s, people are still thinking about the weekend and are in “weekend mode” and on Friday’s, people are gearing up for the weekend so might lack focus.

Try to avoid mornings

We need our participants engaged and energetic in brand strategy as we require active thinking and participation. It’s creative too and some attendees might not have a creative bone in their body so will require being tempted out of their comfort zones. In the morning, people are still sleepy and this is not good.

Mid-mornings are ideal

People are most energetic in the mid-morning so utilising this burst of energy is recommended – 10am is a great time. If you’re running one brand strategy session per day, then running it at 10am each day is perfect. If it’s not your 10am, bring your A-game! One thing to be conscious of is running close too lunch. People can get hangry (hungry + angry) just before lunch so finishing at around 11:30/45 is ideal.

Lunchtimes can work

As long as you provide food you can run a meeting over lunch. It’s a great way to squeeze in some more time and can help post-lunch productivity if food is chosen wisely (sandwiches and salads come to mind. Avoid stodge) as explained below…

Don’t schedule meetings straight after lunch.

I think this goes without saying as we all know how we feel after a big lunch. Unless you run your brand strategy over lunch and you can somehow control peoples consumption.

Late afternoon isn’t ideal

People are clock-watching from around 4:30pm so finish up by that. It could be a great time if you’re doing introductions or need to rattle through some loose ends as people will be wanting to get home so could be achieved in record time.

In conclusion, have your brand strategy at 10am between Tuesday and Thursday as people are energised and focussed. If you’re running several in a day, try to avoid having more than two and make the second at around 2:30pm.

Consider evenings

Depending on the profile of the company, you might be dealing with busy senior staff. As with all brand strategy sessions, you should be running it with the C-suite stakeholders. You need fundamental information and most importantly, with regards to brand, you need buy-in. If they are busy, float the option of an evening or before work (if they are hyper-productive). This can even work for time-zones that don’t sync up so bear that in mind.

4. Prepare your client

Make sure your client knows what they need for the session. Post-its? Pre-call considerations (such as competitors). Think about what you would need from them in the room and prepare them before the call. We do this in the meeting invite as well as verbally. In our case, we do introductions on the first call so nothing is needed. This gives us an opportunity to tell them what they will need going forward and to look to the invites for further information. Then we, of course, provide information in the invites.

5. Have good Wifi in a quiet area

I think this point goes without saying. VoIP calls are bandwidth-intensive so make sure you and your client(s) have good Wifi. Book a room so that it both looks professional and people aren’t moving around in the background and most importantly, make sure it’s quiet. If you have an ethernet connection, this is far more reliable than Wifi, so use it.

Also, bonus tip – try not to have the call in what can only be described as a cave!

6. Have backup options if disaster strikes

One reason why we use Zoom is that it gives the client WORLDWIDE teleconference capabilities. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and a good old fashioned phone call is necessary. Having that option and being prepared to be a little more descriptive with your workshop activities can reduce time. With Zoom, clients can call a local number to attend the session.

7. Record the calls

If you have a terrible memory or your handwriting is poor consider recording your calls for future reference. We create a summary document of the brand strategy call and although we fill out the keynote as we go along, we sometimes need to clarify something or add additional context or information. If you have recorded the call you can simply go back over it and watch for the information. We then share our calls on a privately hosted Youtube. This not only saves storage on our computers but is easily accessed by everyone.

8. Clarify your instructions

If you’re giving instructions always clarify if they make sense and give your client the option to speak up. This is just polite during a meeting especially if acronyms or industry-specific terminology is thrown around but especially in VoIP calls as the call may have dropped and not everything will have been heard.

So there you have it. 8 considerations for having a productive remote client discovery workshop. We offer brand strategy workshop after a free 1-hour consultation – just contact us on our website. Give it a try and let us know if you have any tips for remote discovery calls.

Photography lovingly used from Unsplash

What is Brand Strategy?

There are many different types of Strategies when it comes to business. Business Strategy, Corporate Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Content Strategy but what is Brand Strategy?

TL;DR; Brand Strategy is highlighting the long-term goals of a business and understanding how your brand can help achieve them.

Let’s start by defining what ‘Brand’ is. Brand in itself is very intangible. Often mistaken for a logo or the ‘look’ of something be it a website or marketing materials. Brand is actually the feeling someone gets whenever they interact with your business. A great example and one commonly used is Nike. Their brand could be considered the feeling of a get-up-and-go attitude with regard to sport. No thinking. No second guesses. Give it your all. Their slogan “Just Do It” is a perfect encapsulation of this attitude.

This idea of “Just Do It” is probably printed on a document somewhere in the Nike offices along with other intangible feelings and values that they adhere to. From this “document” every single thing that is written, presented, spoken, recorded or broadcasted will revert back to this document and the idea of “Just Do It”. Before anything is sent out to the masses, it is asked the question “Does this resonate with our values and our ethos?”.

Brand cannot end there. It’s all well and good that a company sits round a table and decides “this is our brand, we must always adhere to this”. It’s not until this idea enters the minds of the consumer before it starts to take shape. The great Marty Neumeier said “Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is”. Meaning it’s only until the prospect “gets it” and feels it that it becomes your brand.

No that we’ve established what brand is, how does strategy fall into this and what different types of brand strategies are there?

As will all aspects of a business, you must have a purpose and goals. You need a reason to exist and these reasons should dictate everything that you do. Brand strategy is no different so highlighting the long-term goals of a business and understanding how your brand can help achieve them is what brand strategy is. This can be a fairly intangible thing, particularly in the eyes of an accountant. Brand Value or “brand equity” cannot be measured in the short-term as it’s a pretty intagible asset. If goals are met, what percentage can be attributed to your brand?

This makes brand strategy all the more important as recognising a goal and assigning a particular tactic executed by a brand action is the only possible way to even come close to start to understand how well your brand is doing. It’s likely though that multiple strategies have been assigned to a particular goal and so there lies the dilema. A truly chicken-egg type of scenario particularly with marketing. I always describe marketing as the megaphone and brand as the voice. The two are intrinsically linked and you often see this as VP’s of marketing are assigned to the management of an organisations brand. To an extent they are appropriately given the task but they are definitely different skillsets. Ultimately, you can’t beat having a single person assigned to one task.

Brand Strategy can be said to drive they why from an emotional standpoint of the business strategy and marketing can be considered how. Knowing why you do things is key to really connect with your market. It’s the only human-like asset they can resonate with so it’s important to make it known. You often see “Vision Statements” on websites to really highlight this. Personally, I like the idea of this resonating from within the behaviours and actions of the brand to help your customers understand your vision statement.

Brand Strategy at Jupiter and the Giraffe is the process of running diagnosis of the current state of the business and what goals it has as well as the market in and around the business to help define a brand. That includes user personas and competitor analysis. Finally, we propose a set of actions to accomplish your brand goals. This is crucial as it gives purpose the tasks at hand and gives us measurable results we hope to achieve at given points in the strategy. We distil this down to a creative brief, outlining actions against a prioritised list of goals created during the session. This session is attended by C-suite members of the organisation because it’s important to know the long-term goals of the company, something only these individuals have sight of. The founder is also a great person to have in the room as they often have sight of the vision as this is key to staying focussed.

Staying consistent with these ideas is important. We run brand audits every 3 months as they can easily get shaken due to changes in the market place and company goals changing. Brand should be an evolving aspect of the company but should always be anchored to the “why” of the organisation. Reverting back to the “Document” is a great way to do this.

It’s amazing what results can come from a brand strategy. Most notably is how to create a good brand name. To create a brand name or company name that has rooted meaning can only be achieved from looking deep within your brand and seeing further than simply what you do. Some of the best brand name examples in my opinion are Spotify, Kindle and Apple. It doesn’t take long to find out what inspired these seemingly arbitrary names. Once brand strategy is in place, you’ll have a hard time choosing a brand name! If you want help naming your brand, I suggest the book Hello, my name is awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick.

I hope this clears up any ambiguity. The very process of brand strategy should get the minds of everyone working together and involved while leaving everyone feeling like they are on the same page. Super important if this document stays relevant for as long as the organisation is in existence.

At Jupiter and the Giraffe we offer Brand Strategy but we also offer Brand Experience which aims to fulfil most of the actions identified in Strategy. If you’re interested in having a chat, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. We love talking about everything brand related!

OnlinessStatementGenerator.com and what all the fuss is about

Onliness isn’t even a real word. It was coined by the great Marty Neumeier in his book Zag. Although not the godfather of what the onliness statement tool is used for (that was done by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves) he certainly helped it reach the masses. Originally, Rosser described a “Unique Selling Proposition” or USP as a differentiation characteristic of your brand in the marketplace. It’s one of the most important strategic actions one can take when starting a business or building a product and is a key element to building a brand.

Marty takes Rossers idea further in his Onliness Statement by getting us to figure out the “Big Idea” behind our product or service. He also encapsulates the what, how, who, where, why and when of your business cutting through the noise in the market and positioning you well. The Onliness Statement acts as a decision filter for all future encounters and to ultimately remain on brand. Reaching a fork in the road is a simple case of referring to your Onliness Statement to figure out if this aligns with your goal as a business.

So what is the Onliness Statement?

You fill in the blanks…

[Company Name] is THE ONLY (category)
THAT (differentiation characteristic)
FOR (customer)
IN (market geography)
WHO (need state)
DURING (underling trend)

Here are some examples:

Harley Davidson The ONLY motorcycle manufacturer
THAT makes big, loud motorcycles
FOR macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)
mostly IN the United States
WHO wants to join a gang of cowboys
DURING an era of decreasing personal freedom

Jupiter and the Giraffe is THE ONLY branding agency
THAT brings ambitious and interesting global brand thinking
FOR young, creative entrepreneurs
IN and around Planet Earth
WHO want to demonstrate their uniqueness
DURING an era of boring sameness

You can really see that you’re not only challenged to think of HOW your product is different but also WHY it’s different.

So have a go yourself. It only takes a few moments. There may be some tasks you need to undertake to fill it in which may make it longer (such as your target market) but it will ultimately be a very powerful tool.

Luckily, We’ve built a tool to help you over at OnlinessStatementGenerator.com. We hope this helps streamline the process.


Bring strategic thinking to your brand

Jupiter and the Giraffe describe themselves as a brand strategy and design agency, but what does this mean? More specifically the term “agency” and how does it differ to freelancers?

You can find freelancers on websites like Upwork and Fiverr. These sites are a great place to find creatives and technical individuals to help you build what you want. Want a new logo? Someone on Fiverr will create you one for your up and coming business. Need a new website? Upwork’s got you covered. Although you may get exactly what you’re looking for, there’s one huge thing that individuals behind the computer screen lack. Strategic thinking.

I’m not calling these creatives stupid and it’s not that these people can’t think, it’s that they don’t need to in this context. It’s just not what they are getting paid to do. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr are all about getting work done for cheap but what’s the cost? Freelancers thrive as individuals on these platforms because a freelancer can be a cog in a machine. There’s normally someone above them like an analyst or a creative lead that tells them exactly what to create. The huge thing missing here though is “why” they are creating something and some creatives are happy not knowing the why. Just tell them what to do and they’ll do it. This is great if you have an idea for a logo in your head and can picture bits of it but need a whizz at Photoshop to polish it up for you and refine a few creative decisions around your concept.

The problem here though is that there is no purpose or meaning to their ideas. As much as you might think creative assets like this need to look cool, there’s much more below the surface. It all starts with business goals and what you want to achieve as a company. More specifically, what is your brand and your company’s values. It’s great that you have an idea for a logo but to really get the most out of it, it needs to speak to the right people and ultimately convert from prospects to customers.

I won’t knock these websites. It’s so important to get your idea up there and testing assumptions on real people and so paying for a logo or website shouldn’t be at the top of your list, but when you start to make money and your idea becomes more refined and clear, it’s time you start to look at how you can target the right customer and speak to them in the right way.

It is possible for a freelancer to extract this information from you but that’s about it when it comes to a freelancer. It doesn’t end there for an agency. It’s really up to an agency to question your motives behind your design choices (if you have them) and actually create a strategy to execute that all falls in line with your business goals. We build your brand and define your strategy before we even touch design or development. We actually call this service Strategy. After the initial strategy session, we may then conduct a set of discovery workshops to further dig into your challenges and pain-points to develop our “why” when it comes to execution. You can read more about brand strategy in this blog.

When it finally comes to design or development – we’ve thought long and hard about what problems we are trying to solve – who your audience is and what appeals to them; how we speak to them; how do they typically engage with you; what they are looking to get out of you and the many ways they would look to do that. Only then is this likely to actually have a financial and beneficial impact on your business. We think. We measure twice and cut once, as the old saying goes.

I often ask what role is more important to the client – An amazing conductor (strategist) of mediocre creatives or a mediocre conductor and amazing creatives. Often they pick the former.

So if you’re ready for the next step, or you believe you’re just not speaking to the right people or you need to speak to a new set of people, then get in touch with us and lets do something awesome together.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash