Why Branding Matters More Than Ever

Jun 19, 2017

This year, the Innovation Lions festival invited dozens of startups in the media, content, IOT and programmatic disciplines to participate in Cannes festivities.

Busy building product and raising funds, many startup CEOs do not understand the value of brand. But Monday, they had a chance to hear David Sable present to a crowd of start-ups and to spend close to an hour asking questions and meeting with him. 

David started off by framing the challenge: “Why Branding Matters More Than Ever,” offering 6 reasons why startups cannot afford to leave branding for last. He made the case that brands:

  1. Help drive focus. Twitter has long suffered from an unclear brand purpose. But their recent out-of-home campaign helps people understand what Twitter is really meant to do and why it is relevant to them — a place to see what’s happening in the world.
  2. Turn Functional into Experiential— VENMO, a peer-to-peer payment app, was functional, but no one talked about them.  But their recent campaign focuses on changing that awkward moment of asking to be paid back into a lighthearted exchange with friends.
  3. Differentiate from Competitors — Uber is sliding downward as they shoot themselves in the head with some bad behavior. Lyft is pushing the pedal to the medal with a different model and a brand that celebrates happiness, not aggression, and is slowly catching up to Uber’s market share.
  4. From Early Adopters to Mass Adoption — early adopters love experimenting with new technology — but a powerful brand helps engage larger audiences. What’s made Airbnb scale up is creating a uniform experience that makes it a better one, and the marketing tells that story.
  5. Reframe Assumptions —  The Meditation app Headspace wanted to break the stereotypes about meditation and who meditates.  So their recent sports campaign helps to achieve that goal by transforming meditation from a passive to an active experience.
  6. Offer vision that’s actually follow-able — Warby Parker’s Co-Founder and CEO Neil Blumenthal said it best: “Leaders create the guardrails and define the destination…but it’s up to the team to drive the car...”

David offered the startups one warning:

There is a tendency for the market and investors to overuse and misuse the “Disruption” terminology. According to The Guardian, the word “has the aftertaste of a sucked battery. It doesn’t even mean anything anymore…”

David’s final thought to the group is one familiar to us:

“Creativity tells the story, Innovation drives it, Technology enables it.”

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