Growth hacking is the application of the mindsets and tools of a computer hacker to the challenge of growing a company. Basically, growth hacking is what happens when software developers try to do marketing. The essence of the growth hacking mindset is the scientific method and an iterative rapid prototyping approach to marketing. This type of marketing can be faster, cheaper and more effective than traditional marketing so growth hacking is becoming popular in many industries.
New Zealand has normally been pretty slow to adopt global trends in sales, marketing and design. As far as I can tell, there are still only a small number of New Zealand companies such as Vend, TradeMe and 90 Seconds TV that are applying growth hacking techniques to rapidly expand their businesses. I’m hoping to find more people doing growth hacking in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand to swap stories and share lessons learned. Continue reading Growth Hacking in New Zealand
A value proposition is the place where your company’s product intersects with your customer’s desires. It’s the magic fit between what you make and why people buy it. Your value proposition is the crunch point between business strategy and brand strategy.
When you’re starting a new project, or a new company, you need practical tools to help you focus on executing things faster and better. Good strategy tools exist only to help you focus on getting the right things done. The value proposition canvas is a fairly simple tool that quickly gets you to the ‘minimum viable clarity’ required to start building and testing a product or service.
According to Wolff Olins, a brand exists in the overlap between commerce, culture and technology. The purpose of a minimum viable brand is to engage people without overcomplicating things. This morning we had a chance to hear from Ije Nwokorie and Melissa Andrada of Wolff Olins at the Google Startup Campus, in a talk organised by General Assembly. Ije and Melissa work with some of the biggest brands in the world so it was a little weird to hear them adopting the tools and mindset of a small startup. But the fit was perfect and the lessons were really practical.
To me, lean branding is an ongoing process that dovetails well with the Growth Hacking trend in Silicon Valley (identified by Patrick Vlaskovits and friends). The ‘Lean Startup’ movement has already influenced how small companies do their marketing, but it’s now starting to influence how bigger companies think about branding. The manifesto of lean is speed, agility, experimentation and iterative improvements. All of which are useful when rethinking any company’s brand (big or small).
Customer personas and archetypes are usually vapid and prosaic lists of generic attributes. “What car does your ideal customer drive?” is a hackneyed favourite of marketing consultants everywhere. I prefer to work with a “customer narrative” that forces me (and the client) to really think from the customer’s perspective. We can’t have meaningful empathy for an anonymous customer persona. But we can feel the pain of the lead character in a well-told customer story.
An end-user narrative is a semi-fictional story of an idealised customer. The point of the story is to create a shared understanding across the design team of the audience’s emotions, behaviours and motivations. As in any good story, the moments of tension and friction are the most interesting.
After several rounds of review, we’ve completed the design system for the Innovation Warehouse. The new design is based on the insight that starting a business is one of the most intense things that any person can do. An entrepreneur is looking for both the freedom to do their own thing and the support of having a peer group.
We’ve created a design system that reflects the brand values, product architecture and company aspirations of the Innovation Warehouse. It’s also focused on the end-user journey and prioritised according to the business model. One of the main project goals was to help launch the new angel investing and startup accelerator offerings.
Creating a new brand identity can be a chaotic experience. Having a robust design process makes it easier to keep moving when the going gets tough.
Some clients are easy to create a brand for because they already know who they want to target and what they want to say. But most clients have a surprisingly high degree of uncertainty about their strategy, messaging and design. We use lean branding to iterate and improve the brand as we go, but we still need a critical path design process to help us stay focused.
Brand personality is the link between the internal brand architecture and the external brand expression. The main step in creating a coherent brand personality is to identify the team’s shared sayings and catch-phrases. These statements of conviction aren’t taglines and aren’t necessarily things that you would communicate externally.
Some of the sayings will provide visual cues for the graphic design process. Some of the sayings will inform the key messages for PR and web copywriting. As a whole, the saying capture a multi-faceted personality, mood and voice for the brand. Later on in the project, some of these sayings might be part of the brand manifesto. But for now, they are just a tool to help translate the internal brand values into customer-centered language.
The secret to building a great brand is to find a deep human truth about the end user. A brand architecture provides a structured way to uncover these insights together with the client. If we can find it, the singular customer insight behind the Innovation Warehouse will inform every aspect of the strategy, messaging and design.
Building a brand architecture isn’t a substitute for the hard work of empathy and creativity. Instead, it’s a rigorous process that helps triangulate the problem space. First, we build a set of brand attributes, then distill the brand values, then we converge on a brand essence. It feels like a process of deduction or corporate archeology. I believe that the best brands are already latent in the existing organisation, they just needs to be coaxed out.
The Innovation Warehouse doesn’t compete directly with other co-working spaces or accelerators. The team believes strongly in making the pie bigger. But the market for startup support is becoming more competitive. Understanding the competitive playing field will make make it easier to differentiate the Innovation Warehouse from the competition.
Patrick Vlaskovits, arguably the sharpest modern thinker on Lean, visited us at the Innovation Warehouse last week. Patrick has recently published his new book, The Lean Entrepreneur. He spoke to us about growth hacking, which is a new way of thinking about marketing (within a startup or innovative company environment). Growth hacking is the application of the mindset of a hacker to the challenge of growing the demand for a product.
Patrick has reverse engineered what causes rapid growth in some disruptive products but not others. He’s pulled together thinking from advertising, marketing, lean and even black-hat affiliate marketing. The key (to Patrick) is that the Medium is the Message (a quote from Marshall McLuhan). Disruptive ideas need disruptive marketing channels. To get an innovative idea to spread quickly, it needs an innovative communications medium.