In today’s unfathomably competitive marketplace, entrepreneurs not only face the challenges of raising capital, attracting talent and getting their business off the ground, but they’re also up against a staggering statistical fail rate, making the challenge of starting and running a successful brand seem next to impossible. Here, I share some wisdom around building a desirable offering, plus the 7 principles that I always refer back to when creating my own work; principles that I’ve found form a framework that can make the difference between business success and failure for brands across all categories.
Keep it simple
While it’s tempting to want to be everything to everyone, in today’s market, one of the most impactful things you can do to cut through the clutter is keep it simple. In our overly saturated lives, there’s something serious to be said for not complicating your consumers already cluttered lives. Vrai & Oro are doing what they can to keep it simple.
A jewellery line that shucks the categorical norm of expensive, seasonal jewellery, Vrai & Oro instead focuses on a transparent practice producing a limited line of pieces that stand the test of time. No gimmicks, no show. Their web design and ordering process is a seamless extension of their business concept and their logo is a translation from Spanish and Italian, meaning Truth & Gold. And that’s exactly what consumers get – an offering that is pure, unadulterated and that stands out from the crowd as a result of its simplicity. Magpies rejoice!
A new behaviour that breaks away from categorical norms can force an entire category to reappraise their behaviour and alter the status quo. Having grown up in a family of pharmacists, TJ Parker was frustrated by the complexity of medication – from pickup to administration – and saw an opportunity to change the way we think about medication all together. The resulting business, PillPack, is the first online pharmacy designed to help people take the right medication at the right time. The service simplifies medication management by pre-packing prescriptions and OTCs and automatically delivering them to do your door in convenient time stamped packets, ensuring that you don’t miss a pill, forget to pick up prescription or have gaps in your care. By fusing the expertise of a traditional pharmacy with the convenience of an online service and the efficiency of robotics technology, PillPack is taking the pharma category by storm and beautifully so. Their design, inside and out – from their medication scheduling system to their identity, pack and web – is simple, intuitive and human, putting the painful, confusing and alien design language of traditional pharmaceutical to shame. (Watch our Challengers & Icons interview with TJ Parker, here).
Casper, what has been harkened as the Warby Parker of mattresses, has achieved similar and parallel success. By reducing the confusing world of mattress shopping to a streamlined online service with personality and warmth, the brand is garnering some serious brand loyalty from the get-go.
These two brands just go to show that disruption is an extremely powerful component to success; don’t just improve on what your competitors are doing, reinvent a category all together. And while you’re at, remember these two examples, both of which didn’t sacrifice personality in the process. In fact, they used disruption to infuse humanity back into services that had lost touch with it.
A bold statement or expression that is out of the ordinary can define a new narrative, showcasing an entirely original attitude and behaviour. Tina Roth Eisenberg, also known as SwissMiss, is the Founder of Tattly, a temporary tattoo company that Eisenberg started when her daughter came home from a birthday party with a ugly temporary tattoo. As a designer, the offending clip art on her child’s skin upset her more than most, but from this anguish, Eisenberg deciphered an opportunity to address an overlooked niche. Tattly is now a profitable business of “designy temporary tattoos” with a cult following. With over 500 designer generated tattoos and retail partnerships with the likes of Forever21, MOMA, Urban Outfitters and J.Crew, Tattly is making a big impact in a bold way, changing the way we thinking about temporary tattoos forever.
The big idea
A groundbreaking idea that evokes emotion and creates new meaning has the ability to generate brand loyalty in unexpected and lasting ways. Johnnie Walker recently launched FUTURE Gallery, a gallery of artwork not yet created. At the gallery opening, 10 new artists displayed blank canvases, promising to make something incredible upon them, and challenged buyers to purchase each pieces in advance. The auction was a huge success and exceeded expectations of both the artists and the buyers. While Johnnie Walker is not a brand that typically sells art or makes art, FUTURE was a physical manifestation of the brand’s personality, showcasing “Johnnie Walker’s belief in people’s potential, transforming the way art collectors buy pieces of art and changing how new artists start their career.” By stepping out of their comfort zone with a big idea, Johnnie Walker were able to humanise their brand while supporting and inspiring a section of their core demographic.
Powerful symbolism triggers deep emotions and transcends words and boundaries, creating a meaningful and memorable impression. In the case of Lego, its business is, literally and metaphorically, built on child’s play, and yet it has managed to capture the world, regardless of age. Small coloured bricks may seem elemental, but the brand’s iconic blocks symbolise possibility and imagination. In addition to stoking the fires of children’s imaginations, Lego uses it’s adaptability to create symbolic expressions that can also resonate with adults – from Nathan Sawaya’s Lego sculptures to The Lego Movie, whose humour spanned generations, striking a chord with viewers young and old. Coloured blocks don’t seem like much of a foundation for an empire of play, but Lego has built a brand that symbolises so much more than its product; by creating a world of possibility for their consumers, they’ve ensured a lasting future, ripe with potential in any direction they choose.
There’s a lot to be said for trying. When you commit to making a genuine connection with your audience you better your chances of evoking an emotional response, bonding you with your consumer. From the start, Warby Parker has been very deliberate about their brand and the way it communicates. They had done their research on the eyewear category and knew that they could raise the stakes significantly, providing consumers with a brand that was not just stylish and economic, but also mission driven. The first two elements could also categorise as “disruptive” considering the stagnant category the brand was challenging, but the third tenant was something few brands were considering. For every pair of glasses that Warby Parker sells, they make a donation that enables training for men and women in developing countries to give eye exams and sell glasses of their own, empowering communities and enabling entrepreneurs in developing countries to increase the quality of life for those around them.
By rooting their brand in something that was inherently meaningful to millions of people worldwide, Warby Parker passes on that meaning to its audiences, making every consumer feel empowered by a purchase that looks amazing without breaking the bank and also contributes to the greater good.
Layers of meaning and purity of purpose add warmth and emotion to brands, and airbnb has recently solidified their standing as a iconic brand, and one that has depth to boot. When they announced their new logo last year, it wasn’t to the greatest of fanfare. And while the new identity itself may have fallen flat, what the brand did around the redesign process was incredibly powerful. In a live webcast reveal, airbnb captured the attention of thousands of journalists and brand enthusiasts around the world. In this webcast, the new identity was just a portion of the fanfare; the brand also used the opportunity to walk watchers through the strategy for the redesign, allowing them to outline the many facets of the brand, identifying and naming their core values and objectives as well as their dedication to ensuring that the airbnb experience is earnest, honest and special for all users. And while the intention of the webcast was to reveal a new logo, those 45 minutes became about something else all together; belonging, community, home, culture and place.
Less than a year later, airbnb has succeeded in living up to these tenants by building out their brand experience in a deep and emotive way, communicating constantly with its users, updating hosts and guests on security complications with full transparency, and enriching the airbnb user experience through curated offerings and multi faceted communications.
So before you launch your next startup or head into a pitch meeting with your investors, make sure you’ve covered your bases. Ultimately, being successful isn’t about the size of your company or how hard you’ve worked, it’s about being able to harness the truth of what you hope to do and making this truth desirable to your audience. These 7 principles are tenants of some of the most powerful businesses and brands out there – I use them as a framework when creating and designing brands every day and offer them to you to help push and grow your own offering, enabling you to create something sturdy and plentiful that your audience can fall in love with and that will stand the test of time.
Shortened version published by Entrepreneur