Startups make products, fans make brands
Although viral growth is usually built into tech business models, in reality it’s quite rare to achieve. A brand that provokes conversation by investing early in a product advantage keeps marketing and sales costs under control and has a much greater shot at viral growth.
Here’s a 6-point checklist to see if your brand is effectively managing your relationships.
Your brand strategy is based on your business objectives
Rather than overthinking vision and mission statements the product is clear how it helps users. A good brand should play off that. When Uber dropped its premium positioning and let the product lead the way, it used the halo around the brand to create fomo at massive scale. Rather than let exclusivity get in the way of growth, the brand is now much more about solving urban transportation challenges across the world than being everyone’s personal driver. And everyone’s invited to be a part of that conversation.
The founders create the personality/vibe
I'm big on vibe. In the cacophony of voices on the internet, if you want a place in the public square you have to make yourself a brand. Otherwise, you risk being ignored and your product loses the chance of owning social conversation. It doesn’t mean being noisy. It means having a point of view that can drive conversation around category disruption. It gives your brand personality and authenticity. The domination of social networks means silence is not an option.
Emotion changes the quality of your relationships that unconsciously habituates people towards a new behavior. Rasmus Andersson, Partner at Designer Fund, a venture capital firm backing design-led startups, said recently in a tweet: "There’s no right or wrong in design, just a spectrum from useful to useless." Brands that see things differently, passionately imagine a better way and have the skills and sensibilities to make it happen ultimately reduce their marketing and customer acquisition costs while dramatically escalating the chances at converting a user on a great experience.
Data is the glue between product, design and marketing. Product brands have the potential to create deep relationships especially with their most valuable customers using predictive recommendation engines. Built on contextual user preferences, personalization keeps users in the know and ahead of every one else. Meta data engines allow you to give power users extra perks.
Two-way and real-time
Communication doesn’t have to be advertising. When it feels like you aren’t talking down to consumers but bringing people together around your brand, you take the customer acquisition cost around your product and turn it from a cost to a value that differentiates you. Multiple notifications a day pushing product doesn’t turn people on. Personalized offers do.
The experience is the message
Inventive gestures add multiple dimensions to brands. When you surprise people and give them something beyond what they expect, you find you’ve brought them what they really wanted from you. Provocative conversation, edgy music, interesting art and a few people in-the-know and you have yourself the opportunity to be culturally relevant and give meaning to the brand. Make your brand the curator of newness and change.
Creativity involves a certain amount of rebellion. Make people think. Create conversations. Iconic brands tend to leapfrog category conventions by championing new ideologies that are meaningful to customers.