Is a brand born or does it naturally emerge?
On the back of the recent trend for ‘authenticity’ that seemed to accompany every new coffee shop or clothing brand over the last few years, it was easy to assume that brands were born, full-fledged. Mature and defined. Their stories were written by quill onto Mark Zuckerberg’s face-parchment. Their photos all sepia-tinted and Perpetua-filtered on Insta(Tele)gram.
You couldn’t move in the hipster-havens of cities without bumping into an “& Sons” store … staffed by people who still filled that role themselves. But a tattoo and some sculpted facial hair away from parental support.
There has always been a temptation for brands to echo times past or foreign lands. Is there nothing more English than ‘Crabtree & Evelyn’? Well, of course there is …. chicken tikka for one, since Crabtree & Evelyn is actually an American brand from the late 20th Century. Shinola? That reaches as far back as 2013 … well, actually it was born in 1907, but it was a shoe polish company. And was revived in 2012 to sell watches … because history is apparently transferable. Or timeless?
So, is older better? For some whimsical font and a few watercolour prints, you too could fake your birth date. And for a teenager in Vegas, it might seem like the promised land just needs you to be a little more advanced in years. Then customers will come easily. Buoyed by your longevity and legacy. Blinded by your archives and ateliers.
But most of the tech has hitherto escaped this ‘designer dust’. Being intrinsically new and of the now (or the future) meant that such history or nostalgia held little value (except perhaps for Warby Parker … but even this played to their update of an outdated industry. Well, that and are they tech?).
So, instead we went through permutations of lower case, mixed case, missing noun, upper case, sounds like- and common word startups (yes, HOMYZE is already last-generation!). And these brand names carried through into other brand assets with bright colours, monochrome, skeuomorphism, flat design, material principles.
All in the pursuit of developing ‘the brand’.
So where are we [going]?
The rate of change (and adoption of this change) seems to have moved technology companies — as a proxy for startups — away from the periphery and toward the core. With the advent of disruption; the decreasing costs of startups and the need for big returns, all industries have become fair game. Oscar in health insurance … TransferWise in foreign currency transfers …Casper in beds. Beds!
With the advent of disruption; the decreasing costs of startups and the need for big returns, all industries have become fair game.
But in entering existing industries (rather than creating new ones), you typically need to play by the legacy rules at first. And whilst you want to shift the battle lines in the direction of your competitive advantage, you first need to battle for customers that utilise known alternatives. And have developed their own mental framework for decision-making. And one of these things might be to appreciate the benefit of history. Of learning.
This is where HOMYZE finds itself. Sure, we want to change the entire process of how someone books a tradesperson. We are intent on moving this from a needs-based decision to a discretionary purchase. But we have to start somewhere.
So, how do startups birth brands today? I think there is going to be a move away from the scrolling landing page … hero image? Mission Statement? About Us? Testimonials/Press Coverage? Infographic on ease-of-use? Social Buttons? Check. You will see in the near future just such a change from HOMYZE. And it is not just because we are BECOMING a business. It is because more and more we will be competing with businesses. Indeed, some businesses that have history. For some of these businesses, their history is an advantage … for some of them, it is, unfortunately, a reflection that they were ahead of their time.
Uber’s rebrand seems partly to speak of this change. The company has gone back to the future, with textures and motifs that would be at home in the transportation triumph of the Art Deco period. The original Age of Speed!
And it is easy to understand why. One of today’s currencies in tech companies is engagement. And one doesn’t need to search far to bump into an article on cognitive biases that reiterates that people tend to seek out the company of people … like them. So what brand doesn’t want to invite their users or customers across the threshold into their own home … to offer the digital equivalent of their comfy chair or crash pad. It’s chicken soup for the soul.
One of today’s currencies in tech companies is engagement. And one doesn’t need to search far to bump into an article on cognitive biases that reiterates that people tend to seek out the company of people … like them.
So, this brings us back to our original question: How do we build a brand that resonates with our target customers? Well, that depends on who our customers turn out to be. HOMYZE has been doing a lot to narrow down our customer personas. We began with ‘perceived personas’, and have moved to ‘probable personas’.
It’s a small step, but we felt we needed to at least adopt a position rather than throw up an amorphous mass for customers to shape (steve blank — please forgive me for I have sinned), and we are still extrapolating from small data sets.
We are in the process of A/B testing branding at the moment. It’s an interesting process … trying to hypothesise and OKR a user profile, but this is the exciting part of building a business today. We have the tools to test things and the ability to get instant feedback. The art is setting up the experiment and getting it done most acutely (isolating the key indicator) and at the lowest cost.
And we have made some new friends on this journey … Ads Manager; focus groups, Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Segment, Intercom, and yes, even Old Mother Microsoft and her Excel knitting. At the moment, we still have 5 personas. We are not yet sure how many we will end up with but we are happy that we are heading in the right direction. Thankfully, it doesn’t affect our mission … we are determined to bring quality, customer service and ease of use to the frustrating experience of finding tradespeople and getting work done to your home.
We just want to find out who wants to make this journey with us and say Welcome Aboard.
We are doing this for the future of the business … because one day, we would like to see a HOMYZE & Sons (& Daughters.)