“The great brand is the one which is honest.” Om Malik
Om Malik is someone who I have always looked to in order to make sense the impact that technology has on the world. He has an uncanny ability to bring a very human perspective to some of to the technology that so often seems to be cold and inanimate.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Om on the Branded Podcast recently. Heres what I learned:
Storytelling as a tech skill: Stories are a way to fire up our imagination. Behind every piece of technology, every piece of data is a human being and human beings all have a story to tell. We would be better served by always asking ourselves “What can technology do for the human being?” when we think about communicating new tech in a story.
Humanism a feature: We need to start thinking about how the technology will actually be used in peoples lives, instead of assuming that everyone is just going to start using it most effectively. We have had a very simplistic notion in society as technology as a tool, we have to become more open to society influencing technology itself.
The evolutionary process of thought: Writing as a means of thinking out loud. Words on paper can actually help you undertand what's going on in your head.
The difference in writing as a job and writing as a way of life is writing with an end objective in mind vs writing as “method of sharing my mind with you” a way to expand your thinking. Not just how many times your were right, but how many times have you changed and have you evolved your thinking.
The investor imagines the evolution of the problems in the world: Every product exists to solve a problem, but problems like people are not static, they evolve over time.
The story supersedes the service: The longer the story the better the brand, it is about the consistency and longevity of the narrative. In that sense, the product becomes a representation of the brand's story. Which is not in the tactics of blog posts, or copywriting, it's about when someone sees your product, can they understand what your brand is all about, your unique point of view? For example, Madison Reed — you don’t even have to be their customer to know their brand story.
Emmergent communities as a brand's true power: Word of mouth as the basic unit of trust and brand power and the ability for a product to inspire a meaningful personal narrative. Real branding is just that, when people have a positive emotional memory attached to a product or service. That is when you have these emergent communities arise, like with Peleton Bike
Luxury comes from rarity: Your time is very rare, your family is rare, your experiences are rare. One of one. Let's not conflate cost and money with luxury, the rarity makes things luxurious in its true sense, not the price.
“History does not repeat, but it rhymes” Mark Twain
The notion of money and value are things that most people do not question.
Like the air we breathe, it is just there.
But what happens when we begin to question the origin of money? when we begin to question the nature of value? and perhaps most importantly when we begin to think more deeply and question the necessary properties of money in an increasingly digitized world.
Fundamentally, I believe that money is one of the most interesting design problems because it is, at its core, a solution to human trust and cooperation at a large scale.
Although, as the world evolves, as new technological progress is made, the properties of money must change, and thus our design solutions must evolve as well.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Andrea (Andy) Morales about designing value from a human-centered lens, here's what I learned:
The Design of money and value: Money has always been redefined throughout history. How do we learn from those periods? because this has been done before.
Foundational Money Design: Humans are not just incentivized by greed, what can we learn from sociology, anthropology, community organizing about the economic irrationality of emotions and our primal motives as human when designing for money?
Tokens as a medium of expression: Spending as a way of telling the world what you believe… similar to why we buy certain brands, what will the tokens we buy or the community networks we choose say about us?
Learning from game design: Levels, Loops, and Flow. What happens when we think of users as players in a game?
Designing For Fairness (or consequence): How do we show the potential impact of non-whales from a design perspective? When you let people vote according to the weight of their token, networks tend to die. The idea of levels and the grind of harvesting tokens/influence is a potential solution. “With great power come great responsibility” giving people a clear path to power, but we should also make the consequences of power clear.
Participatory design: Bringing in users and other stakeholders make your design better because it is not just about ideas, it is about partners. Targeting the right people and bringing them into your process is essential. We must have humilty - we don't know everything… it is a way of realizing that there are unknown unknowns, and other people can point them out for you.
Overcoming dApp hurdles: We need to convince users that dApps are more valuable to them than anything else, how do we do that? Some examples are helping them understand core terms, dApps that have different levels of fidelity for new and expert users…
Growing users: Keeping users engaged by offering them a path from new user to expert user.
New kinds of metrics: Defining metrics that are more tethered to the actual use of the system, for example, community health over daily active users.
Common questions for decentralized design:
Does this need to be decentralized or not?
Who are we designing for?
Are we just designing for the people who are already in crypto? Who are they, what do they look like? Beyond demographics.
What sort of systemic change am I proposing with this product?
What lever am I pulling in the system, how is my design changing the entire system?
How and should you account for gender and racial bias in your products?
For much more detail about the topics mentioned above, you can listen to the full episode below.
Blockchain projects and dapps are in their nascent stages right now. Thus, getting to ground truth on anything is simply not possible, we have questions, but we certainly do not have definitive answers. Central to the mode of thinking, this way designing, is to ‘not take yourself so seriously’ which really means, not believing all of your assumptions. Sarah Baker Mills of ConsenSys is someone who embodies these ideals and I had the pleasure of speaking with her, here what I learned. (For the full conversation, you can listen below)
- We should consider this era’s idea of “fluid identity” when designing for something as nuanced and intimate as identity.
- Design systems put forward a viewpoint on how a interaction should work — The intention is to make it an open source and community tool, to have input from all perspectives for design systems.
- The Design Thinking practice is non linear, this informs how the organization is structured, making sure everyone is involved in the design process.
- We can use prototyping as a collaborative tool as early as possible, especially for high stake processes like voting, getting clarity as early as possible.
- The Power of Words — The importance of understanding the users context and experience through research and only using words…. mitigation of design debt.
- Sherlock holmes and the detective work of mapping out expereineces, mapping all product facets to the overarching user experience.
- Design research and the importance of getting the truth of the situation.
- The Low Hanging Fruit of Blockchain Design — Context has left out of a lot of dapps, it is a consistent problem for users. We should focus on the little big details.
- Blockchain Design Principles — Too early for principles because we do not have enough data yet! We are still learning.
- Show Not Tell — We have to focus on surfacing the why, on surfacing the value of dapps, mapping the core value proposition of blockchains to real experiences that people want.
- What really motivates dapp use and experimenting in safe ways — Getting to users real motivations for using dapps. Mapped out motivations, and the insight that people aren’t always motivated by money.
- Designing for Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and the connivence factor- Creating a sense of community and belonging in blockchains, safety (controlling their own wealth), no matter, these hierarchies of needs will always have to be easier and better.
- Thinking of your product as a person, what would a considerate person do if they were your product?
For the full conversation with Sarah, and a deeper dive into all of the topics discussed above, you can check out the full episode here.
Alex Van de Sande
Designing for Identity
Core to our digital lives is the idea of identity.
We use our or identity to use our favorite messaging apps, book an airbnb, or connect with an uber driver. The question then becomes, who really owns this sense of identity on the web? is it you?
Unfortunately , there is a an incestuous relationship between your sense of online identity and the business models that the companies employ in order to sustain operations, this their defensible market position, with your data.
These facts have got me thinking about the role of design in identity and blockchains, they were greatly inspired by the conversation I was lucky enough to have with Alex Van de Sande, heres what I learned. (For the full podcast conversation, listen below)
- What is the type of problem that we are trying to solve? The Facebook problem— what does that mean? The idea of identity on the internet, and the idea that the internet should work based on identity, and the biggest provider of identity on the internet is facebook. This means that our is Freedom tied to some server, somewhere “in the cloud”. This means that you are trusting one person or entity for the freedom of expression on the internet. How does that relate to design? It means that we must keep in mind the idea of designing for openness and non attachment in dapps. Users are now in the know, they now have freedom and this must be top of mind.
- Designing new online communities. How does design inform digital governance? The tools of voice vs. exit, in building communities we must give users voice and the ability to exit. We do not have this in our current social networks. Eg. in twitter you could vote, but you don’t have much power, no one will listen to you. You could exit Facebook, but there is really no alternative.
- The private key paradox: We are telling users two opposing things, and it is an open problem to be solved. First we say, be incredibly safe with your private key — do not tell it anyone. Then, on the other hand, we are saying make any copies of it, when the easiest way to make backups is from screen shots, etc .. which ends up in some server and then is easy to be lost.
- Designing for identity: “In the blockchain, no one knows you are a fridge”
- Blockchain Design process: A designer needs to understand what happens under the hood, they need to know how the tech works and what its capabilities are. If you don’t understand how it works — you are not designing, you are doing fiction. In blockchain design, you need to understand the limitation and capabilities of the technology and why.
What can I create as a designer that I can abstract the notion of all the technicalities? do my users need to care about this thing? is there a way that I can remove the complexity and just focus on helping them get where they want to go? And in order to adequately answer these questions we must answer What does my app really do? Why does it really exist? Where is helping my user get to in their life?
- Action Movies & The The Purpose Of Design: In a movie the audience is always aware of what is happening, the audience is always aware of what is urgent and not urgent. If we could imagine a movie interface, the key question would then become what is it that you need to show? what is it that the audience must understand in this scene? We must always give context.
- Blockchain Transparency: If movies are context, what is transparencies role? On blockchains dapps you can provide so much info, when can I show that info? To, from, value, and data (Basic info) — but not easy for the user to understand. The key question is: How can we turn blockchain data into actionable knowledge and understanding for users of varying skills?
The above list does not in anyway do justice to the depth of knowledge that Alex Van de Sande provides in the audio recording, to listen in full simply click here.
For the past six months I have pondered one fundamental question, what is the role of design in blockchain technology? Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with beltran the author of Web3 Design Principles and contributor to web3 projects such the Ethereum Name Service.
Here’s what I learned about the role of design in blockchain technology: (for the full conversation you can listen to the full episode below.
The Meta Meaning of Design: Design is a way of thinking, a mindset that you apply to anything “from the spoon to the city.” As designers, we pro — ject forward. We do this by asking questions ahead of time.
Questions as a mode of projection and empathy: Whatever you are imagining into the future, you need to imagine someone will use it. A designer has to do this ahead of time , imagining questions, and then validating those same questions with real people. Simply, designers must anticipate future needs.
Two layers of natively designing web3's core value proposition.
- Designing For Doubt: Everyone starts with doubt so we always have to start by explaining why dapps are different that regular apps. Dapps have a very different value proposition, so we must always be thinking of ways of surfacing and answering the question what do all of these things mean?. Dapps need to show the properties and values that are unique to the blockchain , designers need to bring those properties to the front.
- We need an easy way for devs to plug and play components that are unique to web3, such that the questions that users have are consistently answered with the relevant design patterns.
Should dapps look different? We should take the delightful parts of web2 like responsiveness and aesthetics. But we should also be thinking deeply and designing for the fundamentally new value proposition that web3 offers.
The Brand of decentralization & Web3 Design Stack dapps should communicate all the fundamental values, such that new users should be immediately informed that the backend is in-fact much different than a regular app. For example, this user has this amount of votes, this amount of rights etc. This means that there sort of has to be a master brand of decentralization, one that surfaces the core tenets of dapps in an easy and understandable way. We must create these tools, shorthands and symbols that explain the emotional and functional benefits of fundamental blockchain principals , and core tenets of dapps.
- It starts with educating new users. Step one is Language, (bonding, staking etc) we cannot assume that people know what an order book is. Then, as described previously, we must create a brand around blockchain values. Then we must create a connection with users around dapp specific lingo, this is how the project explains the complexities of the system and easily help users understand how things work.
- Then we must anchor meaning for users and find new metaphors, because we are creating new actions that need new metaphors.
- Lastly, we have an oppurtiny to create new mental models, how do we create new mental models ? by capturing old behaviors, creating an error state and guiding users to the new way.
Blockchain patterns in anticipatory design: First, Imagine you are showing your project for the first time to a small child. Explain it like I’m 5.
Then begin to log the common questions that come up with users, like What the hell is a blockchain?, Where does the data come from? Where will it be stored? and Am I making a mistake ?.
Open Source Design Principles: To make progress in design as it relates to blockchain technology, we need to focus on three layers as design community.
- Open ended and unsolved questions that we have discovered through research.
- Create guidelines that surface the core Web3 principles that answer questions that users consistently have.
- Create components from the community, for the community. A set o plug and play lego blocks for trustless and transparent front end dapps.
For a much deeper dive into the topics discussed above, please listen to the full episode here.
Also — if you are a #BUIDLing please reach out at email@example.com
Brand Building Through Consistency & Caring
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Zach Iscol, Founder of Grid North — which is comprised of Hirepurpose, Task & Purpose, & Millitary One Click.
Zach, a combat decorated Marine Officer served as the first officer in charge of Recruiting, Screening, Assessment, and Selection (RSAS) for the US Marine Corps Forces — Special Operations Command. With this in mind, I was especially keen to learn how his military experiences have influenced how he thinks about and acts upon the
For the full episode below:
Here’s what I learned:
- Who are you with? When we share experiences that transcend everyday mundane activities or have a shared sense of service, it connects and bonds you and the community that you are trying to build.
- Consistency Creates Community: In the military, you are asked to take a bullet for someone else, this is an immense amount of responsibility. Core to that responsibility is the ability to show up day in and day out. In today's social media landscape, brands can reach you anywhere you are, but in order to create a real community, it takes consistency, day in and day out.
- A brand is a promise that you make and a promise that you keep
- Purpose to Product Through Line: In the military, you are given a task and a reason for that task. Similarly, in business, the through-line between a tactic, feature or a product should be directly apparent.
- False divisions: The power of diverse conversation, when you listen, an amazing thing happens — common motivations emerge, even though folks might have differing labels.
- Brands don’t have to be polarizing: The middle ground be better, listening and facilitating conversation is better than creating divisiveness.
- Consistency and Caring: You have to care and you have to back up the promises you are making.
- Networks & Non-Zero Sum Games: The win win win, evolving from the mind that wants to compete for resources, partnering that creates more value for customers and clients.
Simply, Grove just like having a personal trainer for your money. Although, like most great products, it came out of a novel insight from the life of the founder. When Chris became aware that financial advisors had “No obligation to look out for your best interest”, even though they had the title “financial advisor” he knew it was time to start a company and solve the problem.
Luckily, Chris took the time to speak with me. Here’s what I learned … (for the full podcast episode click here, to learn what Chris would ask Steve Jobs)
Product as personal trainer.
Even though the tagline of Grove is “A personal trainer for your money”, I feel that this type of thinking should really apply to all products. Different people have different goals and all products should ask and answer the question Where are you (the user) today? and the product should work do guide you to your goals over time.
On Product Decisions
Most companies, especially those in archaic industries such as banking, start with the question, what can grow our business? and then they think about the customer. Naturally, this is also how they think about the product. Grove is a refreshing exception, similar to Amazon, the key is a simple equation when making product decisions is What is best for your users + what makes us (the company) more efficient = Good Product Decisions.
Especially in tech, we have the luxury of shipping product really fast and testing as we go. Although, some things should not be tested, but rather mediated on before writing any code or designing any interfaces. These are the product prerequisites, they are the answer to the question what is that we (this product) will not compromise on? and the trick to this is not to be generic, these must be unique to you and the problem you are solving.
Human Touch and Algorithmic Intuition
Great products, especially those that involve highly valued items or situations should bridge the gap between human touch — Tech products should serve as an aid to the nuance of decision making and situations. Answering the question What makes sense, for a specific user, customer or client?
First Principles Beautiful Product Experience
You just have to care about your users, caring about your user's results in an immense amount of loyalty. This is especially true in the enterprise, where the thought of human can really lose its way.
Transparency In Finance
Transparency goes hand in hand with building trust. When thinking about building any feature in finance, we should assume the user is always asking her self where is the money going? where is it coming from? whats going on with my data?.
Anti Engagement For Finance
The ability to trust the product so much that they do not have to think about, that decision making and hands off value. Great finance products mean thinking about it less and less, knowing and trusting that everything is taken care of, and in the case of an emergency, the user will know.
For the full podcast episode you can find it here, where all the above topics are spoke about in depth.
Recently, I had a conversation with Red Gaskell.
Often I speak to people who operate from a place that, in large part is disconnected from the day to day act of creating in its truest sense. I suppose this is because I, myself, am often more interested in the strategic moves and observational insights than the recognition of instinct that turns into natural expression and creation. This is precisely why talking to Red was a pleasure, he certainly made me see in things in a different light. Here what I learned.
You Find the Answers in the Work: You get better the more work you make … “If you were to look at my camera roll, it would look like I took the same photo a thousand times, because I am looking for things that are so subtle that make it just right…when you are a beginner you don’t know what those tiny things are” …. seeing the unseen.
The Role of Emotion: How is it that some have the ability to bring awe, wonder, and beauty … to the mundane? a t shirt folded just right in the case of Everlane, or what seems like a big blob in the case of a Rothko painting. The answer is, it starts with emotion. What is the brand? who is this for? and what do we want them to feel? Those are some questions to get started with.
Authenticity and true expression: You must understand your point of view and what your values are, just likehttps://www.supermoonbakehouse.com/
The role of social: What kind of business is right for social media? Thats the real first question. If and only if you are the right kind of business for social. Then you might want to develop community, in the community you want to be creating content, and then you want to find the right people who are leaders and advocates of your brand. This will ignite an organic fire of engagement.
Letting Others Tell Your Story Through Customer Cues: Think about the journey of the customer, and then design from a social perspective. Think about all the instagramable moments from brands like Glossier
The Drake Brand vs. The Kanye Brand: Riding waves vs creating waves… for this you just have to listen to the episode linked below.
Creating a capable team for every meaningful mission
Every brand that you love, every company that you have interacted with, is made up of people. Thus, the people inside of the best and most relevant brands and companies do things differently. They operate in a way that sets them apart.
I was fortunate to have the pleasure to speak with Mike Arauz of August, a company that aims to helps organizations optimize for uncertainty by emphasizing agility and experimentation.
For the whole interview, you can listen to it here.
Here’s what I learned:
Organizations tend to get in their own way and create unnecessary resistance: There are patterns that can be learned from and strategies that can be implemented, to make working together more effective and more impactful.
The purpose of purpose: The word purpose gets thrown around a lot but — what does it mean? how does it come to life? Its a magnet that helps pull people together, helps you point your compass in the right direction. It is the balance between specificity (helps people know what to say no to), and adaptivity (inspire people experiment and explore).
Organized to learn vs Organized to execute: Industrial age = organized to execute, competitive advantage was built through executing better. Now, execution is easier, thus you have to allow for other ways to create and capture value — this is through invention and innovation, wholly new approaches to things which requires a new mindset and approach or learning.
Speed & Quality: Is about getting over the anxiety of making lots of low quality things out in the wild, in order to learn so that we can create long term high quality — building to think.
External Transparency vs Internal Transparency: Like people on the individual level, orgs feel fulfillment from the inside out. Thus, transparency on the inside is just as valuable, if not more valuable than transparency on the outside of an org. This made me think a lot about Ray Dalio and his idea meritocracy.
Brands as identity currency: Brands play a key role in expressing who we are.
Giving everyone a voice: Great organizations, just like great cities are built by giving everyone a voice- no matter their background, color or creed. This is just the start and the future must be a place of inclusion and meritocracy.
The answers are never right in a changing world …we must create tools to adapt vs tools to execute.
We live in a world rife with noise. Brands are in large part responsible for a lot of that noise…buy this, use that, read this, post that.
Although, very rarely do we come across a signal in that noise. But, when those rare signals emerge, we are naturally pulled towards that expression of pure truth. Sometimes these truths manifest as brands. Apple & Nike are some that come to mind for me, I am sure that there are others that come to mind for you.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Kapil Gupta, a human being who can only be described as a student of ultimate truth, a student of nature who then relays what he has learned to some of the most elite Billionaire CEOs and professional athletes whose names you surely know.
Here’s what I learned.
Although, much of what Kapil spoke about is beyond what words on a page can describe. You can check out the full episode here.
Better and best is not as inspiring as being The Only.
Echoing Peter Thiel, Competition is for losers. Implicit in the engagement of competition is the question of how can I better another? why limit yourself to the upper bounds of the others?
When we transcend competition we start from a place of deep self-examination and The Only One’s begin to emerge. Does Apple compete? Does Nike compete? Does Amazon compete? Does Tesla compete?
Competition simply gets us to a limited point in a local maximum. Truth and a genuine vision, on the other hand, produce something that is in a class by itself. Competition is for losers.
Who do you really want to be? Who is that I want to be? That is the question. But, we live in a world where it is about who you should be.
This is a simple question that every brand and person who will create a league of their own asks.
As soon as you ask for prescriptions you will begin to follow prescriptions
Everyone begins in the wrong place, it is not how to do x y or z, it is not about the advice, the right place to start is with where do you want to go?
Brand is the DNA of the individual that builds the brand
A human who does not compromise in whatever the vision of his world may be is probably going to create the ultimate brand. What is it that your brand refuses to comprise on?
When you ask the how, what happens — what is the effect? you will go down the road of fragility and dependence.
Group anything is dead before it begins
The transformation of one individual is the transformation of the world. Steve Jobs knew this in how he structured Apple.
The truth is always real and the truth is always permanent
The hedonic treadmill of highs and lows, the only thing that is real is the thing that is permanent. If I have to keep replenishing, then it is false.
Does your brand create emotional permanence or does it have to be replenished with notifications and unwanted ads?
Where do you start — To build a great brand?
Who it is that you want to be? because that destination will create the avenue.
Listen to the full episode below...
Transcending the “I know what i’m looking for" store experience w/ Ali Kriegsman & Alana Branston, Co - Founders of Bulletin
What is the new role of retail?
If you are like me, you have consistently asked yourself “what is the role of retail, now that most everything is available with a click of a button?”
There needs to be a novel take on retail. One centered around the new ways that customers discover, engage with, and ultimately fall in love with digital brands.
Bulletin is that novel take. Founders, Ali Kriegsman and Alana Branston are democratizing retail and completely reimagining the context in which customers engage with, and discover digitally native brands in the physical world.
I was lucky enough to speak with them on the Branded Podcast, here’s what I learned from our conversation.
Adapt & evolve the expression of your vision
Bulletin started as a magazine where you could find the coolest online-only brands, a place you could shop and discover through a narrative. While that is not the core of their business today, the original vision remains the same.
Talk to you users (or customers)
Ali & Alana asked their customers a simple question — what can we help you do, to help you grow your business?From that simple question emerged a new avenue to their original vision.
To this day, Ali & Alana talk to users as it informs the customer experience over time.
Fuse together elements that create a connection
What elements create a true connection? Ali & Alana looked to Soul cycle, The Wing and others to find the elements that make shared space feel more like something more than just shared space…
Having a strong point of view at every interaction
From in-store messaging, product selection, to planned parenthood dip jars it is incredibly important to have a unique point of view at every touchpoint the in customers journey.
Become The Master Curator
Similar to an art gallery or collector, the role of retail in the physical world and the online persona in the digital world is to become a master curator.
The physical world is the best way to make a visceral connection
Like an intimate relationship, the magic doesn't happen on the internet. Physical space and the retail experience is the best way to make an impactful, long-lasting customer experience. Tactically, this connection is largely created by the purpose and meaning that the objects and people placed in the store carry.
Consistent experience across all channels: Transcending the “I know what i’m looking for experience”
“Digital as the brand identity … and the physical as the brand experience”
Given the current purchasing and discovery experience of a customer, the way that brands design and think about retail has to change to a cross-channel connected narrative that is consistent whilst also enabling discovery.
For much more a deeper dive into Ali, Alana and Bulletin — Check out the full episode below.
Why did you choose the educational path you took? Was it by design or was it by accident? Is that good or bad?
While there are no right or wrong answers to the questions posed above, they are certainly worth exploring. The way that we have approached education up until now is worthy of an alternative perspective.
This week on The Branded Podcast, I was fortunate to get that alternative perspective, on how we should approach the education of our young people.
Here’s what I learned:
1. What if we could teach our youth to focus on their character before skills? how would that change how they approached learning and the paths that might be most fulfilling for them?
2. Building a brand or the self-image of a child is about collecting stories that identify and reinforce character strengths. They are like an anchor in an image centered world, they are the signal in all of the noise.
3. Stories are leading the way and brands are following, instead of the other way around. What types of stories are resonating with young people Well, they are drawn to influencers or individuals more than brands themselves .. because real people revolve around real places and real stories so brands should be thinking “how can I associate and participate in a real way”
4. How can we build to think? Empathy + Prototyping = Reflection + Experimentation
5. Technology is a tool that enables almost anyone to be an educator and can be used by everyone in almost any domain or business, not just the classroom or core subjects. Learning never stops.
6. If you are building the product you must be an advocate for the users, you have to fight for what they are struggling with in their lives
7. The best brand will be (Open)Brands. Brands that learn in the wild, that express strengths and weaknesses because just like a person, this kind of vulnerability is incredibly attractive and liberating to others.
For the in-depth conversation, check it out below, where Minnie and I go deep into the topics mentioned above and the details of The Purpose Project .
Brands used to symbols of trust.
We used to look at brands to guide our decision making and to help us express our beliefs through there symbols and logos.
But trust has been eroding. From governments and large institutions to garments and ice cream. Culturally, there continues to be a pervasive undercurrent of skepticism of those who are large, rigid and in-charge.
Now, while we still look for people to guide or decision making and symbols to express our beliefs, it is has become less about the brand name and more about the community and the values that are imbued in the products and services that we choose to engage with.
“If people knew what things cost versus how much they are paying for them, they would be rioting in the streets” Ido Leffler, Co — Founder, Brandless
Brandless is approaching the idea of brand from a people first perspective, focusing on the individual ideals and personal values of customers, at scale.
It is a fresh and culturally relevant approach to shopping and the customer experience.
I sought to find out why and how they are creating a new kind of brand and customer experience.
Here’s what I learned from my conversation with CEO & Co — Founder Tina Sharkey
- True community means you’re getting out of the way — facilitating and enabling community — putting people first, fusing value and values together.
2. ‘Walk Your Walk’ — You, your customers and your brand experience are uniquely you. How does walking your walk show up in your product, your community and your mission?
3. Eliminate The Brand Tax — A metaphor for all the inefficiencies that go into the development the product. What are the industries that are laden with brand tax?
4. Todays Brands Are Art Enabled By Science — Technology can be a factor and multiplier of the artistry that is truly seeing, understand and expressing compassion for the human experience.
5. Personalize Relationships With Individuals, At Scale — Allow customers to know that you see them as an individual, with their own unique quirks and nuances. Help them walk their walk.
6. Lets Not Sell You, Lets Show You. — Retail isn’t going anywhere but should be more about an opportunity to engage as a learning experience, social experience (amplified into your own space), an opportunity for taste & trial, an opportunity to meet up with like-minded people. It should be just as much a brand experience and word of mouth marketing channel as a sales channel.
For the full depth and detail of the conversation, you can listen to it here. Tina goes deep into the process, principles, and purpose behind the creation of Brandless.
Check out the episode below:
Inside The Mind Of Michael Bierut
Why brands are the sum of accumulated customer experience
It is likely that a brand you encountered today or in the past days has been touched in some way by Pentagram.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Michael Bierut, a Partner at the firm.
The episode covers a range of topics from the true value of a brand to how to know you are solving the correct brand problem.
Although, I am having a hard time pairing it down to one thing that I learned, because there were many.
So here is a list of things I learned, and of course you can check out the full episode on the branded podcast as the episode is not live.
- A brand is the collection of good will that you create over time, the propagation of that goodwill is how you grow the brand.
2. It is important not to conflate the importance of the company founding vision and its success with the brand building process. Largely, the founding vision is more important to the future success than additive branding.
3. To really understand a clients problems or any user problem it does not have to be too complicated. The process starts with asking questions and listening carefully to the answers
4. Typically their are 4 brand “Jobs-to-be-Done” that come through the door, my thought is it would be smart to familiarize yourself with these kinds of brand challenges.
one — We’re brand new we want to be famous (i.e. Casper)
two — We’re old — people are tired of us and we want to recapture their attention (i.e. Facebook Research)
three — We’ve been around for ever and people hate us and we want to turn around into something people will like (i.e. Citigroup Inc. )
four — We’ve been around for a while and we do something completely new now, or we still do that old thing, but we do a bunch over other things too now. ( i.e. Everlane)
5. Experience and expertise do not always equal trust, sometimes it comes down to effort and commitment.
6. The harmony of humans and the fascinating exploration of the ability for a group of diverse humans to be effective in the achievement of a common goal.
To hear what Michael had to say about all of these things, you can check out the full episode here.
Some might say that the US dollar is the most successful product in history.
Think about it, it is the product in which all other products are predicated. Money, is something that people think about incessantly. But, ironically, do not think about at all.
This realization lead me to start thinking about money as a brand... what is its purpose? How can we create a greater, or different connection to it? and what is the sense of meaning in it?
Enter Dan Ariely.
Dan is a behavioral economist and well known for documenting our blind relationship with irrationality. Serendipitously, Dan has a new book out called Dollars and Sense which explores how we think about money. Who better to talk to!
From talking to Dan I learned three main things.
How we think about worth and value
Why are most people willing to pay $4 for one kind of coffee and only $1 for another? Even if we can show empirically that there is no difference in taste? Why will buy a chocolate bar for $9.
Branding saving over spending
Most, if not all of the status derived from our purchases are a visual representation of how much we spent, implying it is cool to spend. But, we often do not think about branding the parts of our financial lives that are more opaque, and arguably more important.
3. Designing products around the “Pain of paying”
Anecdotally, I like taking Ubers because I don’t have to look at the meter of a taxi cab (just being real). This is a slick use of alleviating the “pain of paying”, that feeling of unease when we realize that equivalent, less than or greater value must be exchanged in order for the economy to run properly. Where can this be leveraged for building new products and brands?
Listen to the episode below
How understanding your motivations can help you create something that impacts the world.
“Small things done well can have impact”
Eric Hoekendorf, Co-Founder of Foyyay
Foyyay is a Product Studio relentlessly committed to making meaningful experiences for people, through a deep understanding of how they do life.
In a conversation with founder Eric I had two major takeaways.
- When it comes to creating meaning, it's about people over process.
- Memorialize your values from day one.
When I think of the relationships that I have with products or brands that are most meaningful to me, it is not that much about the product itself. It is more about the people behind the product.
In the full interview on Branded, Eric and I go much deeper into how to create meaning.
Specifically, Eric beautifully articulates how creating meaning is …
- Intuition informed by data.
- It's about people over a rigid process.
- How making meaning is often about saying NO more than yes.
Values that creating lasting value
Why do you behave the way that you do? Why do you take certain actions or lack thereof? As human beings, there are often HUGE assumptions that underly our decisions and our beliefs, both consciously and unconsciously.
Similarly, brands and products often have underlying assumptions about why they are doing or doing or creating what they are creating. This fatal error of not understanding the motivations that have informed their values often leads to the systemic erosion of value… can you say KODAK.
Specifically, Eric beautifully articulates how understanding your motivations, even to the point of granularity, is extremely important from day one. We speak about how in the act of creation it is important to …
- Remember that design is a rendering of intent.
- The more you are aligned with your core reasons for being, the more you will resonate.
- Understand your motivations so that you can create a clear promise to your end customers — a promise you both believe in.
- It is not just to know your intentions, you must communicate them.
Listen to the full episode below:
What does it take to build a product people love?
A conversation with Ryan Singer of Basecamp.
Often, I think about products from a ‘cloudy’ perspective. I tend to look at companies or products and think about them in terms of their ‘true north’. Then, I try and figure out a way to reverse engineer features that might fit that ‘true north’, that ‘vision’, or that ‘purpose’. Embedded in that approach are a lot of assumptions.
What I learned from a conversation with Ryan Singer of Basecamp, was that when trying to create new things (not derivatives of existing things) we must solve for specific situations in peoples lives. Specifically, before getting lost in clouds of generating supply we have to get out in the field, into the jungle of the demand that is being created by real people, in real situations.
Simply, I learned that we have to remember to ask two fundamental questions when building products
Whats going wrong that we are fixing for them (real people)?
How can we fix it?
Only after these questions are thoughtfully asked, sufficiently answered, and continuously posited can we begin to think about the brand at large and the vision of the future that we hope to create in the world through our resources, processes and values as a company or organization.
Enjoy the episode. You will learn a lot.
“The real difference between us and chimpanzees is the mysterious glue that enables millions of humans to cooperate effectively.
This mysterious glue is made of stories, not genes. We cooperate effectively with strangers because we believe in things like gods, nations, money and human rights. Yet none of these things exist outside the stories that people invent and tell one another.” Yuval Hurari
Powerful. Influential. Desirable. These words describe the people, products, and companies that we so deeply revere or vilify.
Agnostic of the cause or the underlying belief I often ask myself, "why?” or more accurately “how?” how do certain brands, products, and people have the ability to cast the net of narrative and in return capture the imagination of anyone within its reach? The answer that I always seem to come back to is their uncanny ability to tell a story that is compelling, or dare I say, alters the image of the future that the audience sees for themselves, or who they care about.
But! But! A story without truth in these transparent times is simply a house of cards waiting to get blown down. So, it is with great pleasure that I present this weeks episode on the branded podcast. Denise Burrell - Stinson takes us on a journey of perhaps the two most powerful forces we have as humans… truth and story.
I was first introduced to charity:water when I was walking down 5th Ave. and saw a yellow jerry can in a shop window. I thought to myself “hmm thats odd” and then looked at the signage and realized that this major retailer was partnering with a charity in a campaign that was actually cool. It was at that point that it occurred to me that charity: water was more than just a charity, it was a relevant brand.
That is why I am delighted to publish this episode on the branded podcast, today's guest is Tyler Riewer, Brand Content Lead at charity: water.
A big small request.
This show itself is a labor of love so you can rest assured that any request is heart felt and sincere. With that, I would implore you to check out all the funding options that charity: water has. I have linked them below.
The Spring Monthly Donation Program
Lastly, if the podcast did not allow you to connect with the work that charity:water does at a deep enough level, check out someone like you.
Thank you for listening and enjoy the show.