How to build a brand

We use provocative questions to invite startups to step outside the motions of their day-to-day tasks, and take time to think defiantly and imaginatively about building your brand.

The truth about brand marketing

Founders have poured their hearts and souls into creating their brands.

The crushing reality is: no-one is waiting around for your brand to enter the world. In reality, people are overworked, overstimulated and overstretched. In particular, millennials and Gen Zers have been bombarded by marketing since birth, and have an inbuilt aversion to it.

As a result, successful marketing requires mastering the art of inertia-busting. Though you may have different objectives, like building awareness, educating consumers or converting sales; the most important thing is that you force consumers to stop and take notice.  

Brands that market well are on a mission to get famous. They leverage trends to gain relevance, they stand for something greater than their product/service and they do unexpected things, in unexpected places. After all, fame is the most effective way to overcome inertia.

One may think this rationale only applies to consumer facing brands. Wrong! The rules still well and truly hold if you’re a B2B brand. In fact, it can be easier to stand out in these categories, as marketing departments tend to get deprioritised; making it less competitive. Before we get onto some provocative questions, let’s get inspired…

Inspiration Interlude

The following brands have made fame the goal of their marketing initiatives. In some instances, they had constraints (limited budgets, or fierce competition from deep—pocketed competitors) and in other instances, they were the market leader. What unites these examples is a commitment to create marketing that is arresting, entertaining and inertia-popping:

  1. KFC releasing a romance novel featuring Colonel Sanders as a Romeo
Would a wicked wing by any other name taste as sweet?
  1. Casper launching an Insomnobot-3000 to offer insomniacs someone to chat to in the middle of the night
  1. Atlasssian handing out branded beer at a Sales/Tech trade show, as they couldn’t afford a booth
  2. Diesel setting up a pop-up shop selling counterfeit-yet-real products from ‘DEISEL’
  1. PaddyPower sending a mariachi band to meet Donald Trump off the plane when he landed in Glasgow during his presidency.
  2. Oatly Oat Milk picking a fight with the big food companies, asking them to publish their ‘food footprint’ for a glass of milk
  3. Airbnb setting up a ‘hire an airbnb’er’ website to help the people they had to let go during the pandemic find new jobs.
  4. Dominos creating a registry where newlyweds can get pizza for many moons to come
Half-and-half pizzas - the key to every blissful marriage?
  1. Uber launching by giving free lifts to the tech-evangelist millennial crowd at South by Southwest in 2009.
  2. Drift who has made their employees the centre of all marketing efforts (homepage, social, podcasts and more) to give their B2B tech platform a much-needed human touch

Intelligent Interrogation

Now you’re feeling inspired, turn your attention back to your own brand. Have fun with the questions below and challenge yourself to be so provocative it feels uncomfortable.

In fact, think of a brand or entrepreneur you admire, who routinely does bold, memorable things. Imagine they are answering the questions on your behalf, in the most inflammatory way possible.

What would you do if you had no marketing budget at all?

What if you made your objective FAME?

If your business depended on making the front cover of the AFR, how would you make it happen?

What does your brand find really, really funny? How can you share that?

Imagine your brand were a real person/character. What would they do?

If your brand played an April Fools prank, what would it be?

What if you thought of yourself as an entertainment brand?

Who can you pick a very public fight with, on behalf of your fans?

Where can you show up that none of your competitors would even consider?

What is the most extreme way to use your product/service? How can you talk about that?

What pop culture trends can you jump on and leverage unashamedly?

How can you take one of the things you already do/make, and turn it into a real marketing asset that people can't help but share?

What if you turned the spotlight on your staff and made them the focus of all your marketing efforts?

Imagine your brand started a protest, what would it be about? What are the crowds yelling?

What if you only went after one type of consumer, and made them the centre of your universe?

Start Planning

Some of these may have been easy and inspirational, others may have made you uncomfortable. In any case, you should now have a list of ideas that have taken your brand to the extreme. Review the list and mine for nuggets that have the power to make your brand famous.

There’s never been an easier and cheaper climate to try new things and take risks, so buckle up and go for it. Remember, it’s not just your end consumers who you should aim to captivate with ideas: your team, investors, partners and suppliers should all be privy to the power of your brand. Engage them, and the rest will follow.