This past Thursday I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ryan Killackey, Head of Community, at
Cloudspot, a cloud software service that enables photographers to download and share their photos seamlessly. What I love most about this company is their committment to their community. In my opinion, community is their brand.
As Ryan and I were talking about Burgundy Fox, he nudged me to move past the visual communication–the logo design, colors, fonts, things that designers are experts at (I’m not a designer)–and talk about what the brand means, aside from all that. You can watch a full replay of the webinar by signing up
He hit the nail on the head. Brand is what your market understands and feels about you, when your logo is covered up. What is the Burgundy Fox brand? Our mission to celebrate all bodies and empower women to love themselves, is our brand. You must intimately understand your ‘who’ and ‘why’ before building a brand. When your logo, colors and fonts are covered up, what else is left?
That’s when something struck me. As a small business owner and startup entrepreneur, brand at it’s core is the intersection of your mission and your market’s passion.
It’s your vision, meets their aspiration. It’s the glue that will make them stick to your product or service, all basics being met (timely delivery, quality of product, responsiveness) << even these can be brand attributes.
There are a lot of steps you can take when building a brand. Here are the 5 main stages I went through when building the Burgundy Fox brand.
Step 1: Who is this for?
Burgundy Fox was born from a problem I experienced myself. I felt intimidated and awkward every time I shopped for lingerie. I even felt embarrassed of my imperfect body. “Where was this coming from?” I thought. Then I realized it was born decades ago, when I was a 13 year old flipping through Victoria’s Secret and Delia’s catalogues of teeny, tiny, women with no chub or dimples to be seen. I’m a 32 year old woman, I considered who else was shopping for lingerie and experiencing the same feelings I did. I thought about the woman who would wear Burgundy Fox. When Burgundy Fox was just an idea, I would walk past strangers on my way to work, and ask myself if I could envision her being a Burgundy Fox customer or not (it’s really not as creepy as it sounds!). I thought about the other brands ‘she’ would buy. Now, I didn’t have a market research budget per say, so I researched (Googled) demographic information on the target market of the brands I thought she’d buy. I came up with a target demographic of women, ages 25-40, $80,000 median income, plus a few qualitative traits, like career aspirational, mission driven and community-minded. Within that demographic, I came up with a few key personas. I then looked at the other brands in the lingerie and sleepwear market. This is really important because you need to distinguish yourself from the noise. E-commerce is an incredibly noisy space, just as many industries are. You need to consider what will stand out to your market
and also feel authentic to you and your brand.
Step 2: Why am I doing this?
This is the next piece and the most critical. Why are you doing this? This should be something that you’re truly passionate about and something that you can imagine being passionate about for years, at least 7-10. I boiled this into a mission statement. It was one of the first things I created when putting together a pitch deck. Your mission could be what your customers ultimately care about and what they will
feel and remember, when your logo is covered up. For Burgundy Fox’s mission to celebrate all bodies and empower women to love themselves. It’s what speaks to me and to the soul of our customer. Our mission is our brand and it guides everything we do, from our content to our brand ambassadors to who we hire. It is the second most common reason customers list for why they became members. The most common reason is a need/want for the product. They could have bought lingerie from another online retailer, but our mission led them to choose us.
Step 3: What do you other people think?
If you’re the only person who correctly interprets your brand the way you envisioned it, you likely need to go back to the drawing board. When I started Burgundy Fox, I had different names and logos. I shopped them around to friends and asked what they thought. Ask open-ended, un-bias questions, like “What comes to mind when you see this logo?”, “What do you think about this mission statement?” It is really important to ask ‘why’ several times throughout this process.
I always think back to that quote by Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” At the heart of it, is Ford saying ‘don’t ask your customers’ or is he saying ‘don’t solve problems the way your customers tell you to’? I can agree with the latter, but definitely not the former. I don’t wholeheartedly agree with either to be honest. You should listen to your customer and do these 3 things:
- Determine the root cause: keep asking why. To keep with the Ford example, people eventually would have shared they didn’t want more or faster horses, they wanted to go somewhere faster.
- Factor in statistical significance: Pull from a wide sample size. The larger the sample, the more significant the learning. A resounding ‘no’ from 10 people versus 1,000 people is very different and serves as a more valid signal to pay attention to.
- Prioritize action over thought: Once you’ve formed a solid hypothesis and are ready to test your product or theory in the real world, you’ll need to do just that, put your product out to market. If you’re in business, dollars are the final word. Customers might say they will purchase something, but you won’t know if they really will until they can. One way you can test an idea is sharing it with an online forum built around your industry. Share your idea and see who is willing to pay for it. Or you can go the route of a crowd fund, which is another way to validate through action/dollars.
Step 4: Launch
This highlights my last point about validating a product or service in the real market, by just launching it. There are several ways to support validation prior to launch, but eventually you just need to do it-perfect or not.
This is one of my favorite quotes by the co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman.
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
Step 5: Question everything
Launch quickly and revise as often as needed. Always be curious. Ask your customers and your non-customers questions. I e-mail our customers once a month and ask what they thought about their experience plus how we can make it better. Additionally, check-in often on your own feelings about your product or service. Are you inspired by your own brand, product/service, team and mission? Your customers and the market will feel and see your passion if it’s there and you’re talking to your customers/making improvements often. Have you ever been to a restaurant when you ask a waiter about the food, and they reply with a lackluster ‘it’s okay’ (shoulder shrug)? That is exactly how you don’t want to feel about your brand. The same goes for your employees and customers. You, your employees and customers should light up when talking about your brand. If this isn’t happening, you know you’ve got some work to do.
I hope this article has given you insight into starting or revising your brand. I’ve learned from many friends and educators along the way that have been tremendously helpful in launching Burgundy Fox. I’m constantly learning and listening, here are a few resources that continue to help me: