The art of building legendary brands - Arielle Jackson (Lenny’s Podcast)

Created on

August 19 2022

Created by Medha Basu. This summary was largely done for my own note-taking, sharing it just in case it adds more value to other people. Any errors are mine :)


Arielle Jackson - Google, Square, Marketer in Residence at First Round Capital


Naming strategies

What makes a good name and how do you come up with one

  • Likes names with suggestive, provocative and emotional value. May not immediately make sense but when you hear what it does, it makes total sense. Examples:
    • SeeSaw (an edtech company): for elementary schools (going back and forth between teacher, parent and student) + has nostalgic value + playfulness.
    • Maven (platform for teaching cohort-based classes): Yiddish word that means ‘one who understands’. It’s short and easy to say.
  • Nonsense words like Yahoo or Google
    • They can be really memorable and provocative of emotion, but have to do a lot more marketing work to make it mean something.
  • Why is it important for name to connect to company and what they do
    • It doesn’t have to (eg, Apple).
    • If there’s a meaning, your name is doing a bit more marketing for you (Internet Explorer vs Firefox).
  • Spectrum for names: descriptive (internet explorer), suggestive (chrome), evocative (seesaw), empty vessel/fanciful (yahoo, apple).

What should teams do when trying to name something

  • Step 1 has to be product positioning. Should be the first thing that you do - dictates all of the marketing you do.
  • Step 2: write a naming brief - what are you naming, what do you want the name to communicate, what do you want to avoid, names of competitive or related products, other considerations.
    • 7 criteria for names: trademark, domain availability, distinctiveness/memorability, timeless (stay away from naming trends), is it reflective of your key messaging, ease of pronunciation (eg, Lattice could sound like Lettuce on the phone), appearance/visual design, length (2-3 syllable names can be more memorable).
    • Further reading: Positioning your startup is vital - Here's how to nail it
  • Step 3: Brainstorming. Come up with 100s of bad ideas and a couple of good ideas worth exploring.
    • First part is based on words in positioning statement and run synonyms, translations on that.
    • Second part is thematic brainstorm - based on things that are related to the themes. Free associations. Look at wikipedia, books etc.
  • Shortlist of 10-25 concepts worth looking at. Then come up with 3-5 top contenders to look at trademark, domain etc (don’t just do one because might not have trademark/domain etc).
  • Same process for product. Except when there’s lot of equity in the company name, you don’t want to be creative with the product name. There are some cases where you diverge from the parent brand.
  • A great name can help a good startup but a bad name won’t hurt it. Over time the name can come to seem something (Disney, Volvo). Name is just part of overall brand. You have to imagine what a name could be and grow them over time.
  • Common mistake: Often companies raise seed round on one name because of trademark conflicts. At the early stage, use codenames that are so ridiculous that you won’t want to launch under that name, so you can later think of a better name.
  • An agency charges $47k for coming up with a name.

Framework for developing brand (purpose, positioning, personality)

  • Brand is who people think you are. Logo etc is just the visual expression of that.
  • Start with 1) why do you do what you do (purpose); 2) how do you want people to understand your product and the role it plays in there lives (positioning); 3) how do you show up in the world - what are you like if your brand is a person (personality).
    • Use these to info visual design and tone of voice. Style guide can be more than logo, font, colours.
    • If you’re starting from nothing at the early stage, you can do this in 3 weeks. Saves a lot time down the road with things like website copy.
  • Purpose: it makes people want to root for you and plays a big role in people wanting to work for you and making employees feel like they’re part of something. We exist to ____
    • A good purpose explains the change you want to see in teh world irrespective of financial gain. This is the north star.
    • Google’s purpose is great. Stripe’s too (increase GDP of the internet) - if you’re an internet person, it makes you want to root for them. Nike’s is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world, and if you have a body, you’re an athlete.
    • It should tell people why you exist in a sentence, and it should be the header for your about page.
    • Logicloop (no code to automate operations): make operations data harder than operations people. Wolf: increase access to world class higher education and ensure it’s globally recognisable and transferrable. Alt: increase transparency and liquidity of alternative assets (sports cards in their case).
    • Process: list all the cultural tensions happening in the world relevant to your business (Alt - increase in interest in alternatives, people in their 30s are nostalgic about the 90s). Zeitgeists - things that the audience might be thinking of, things that are subconscious to them, the current events. Also list how you would describe your brand’s best self, and when your product really delivers, what does it deliver. Then do a brainstorm to define the purpose.
  • Positioning
    • The space you occupy in your target customer’s mind and everything you can do to influence that. If 10 people give 10 wildly diff answers to what the company does, then that’s a positioning problem. Or if you can’t tell me what you do in a sentence.
    • Start with the audience - think about the broadest set of users and narrow down to target audience - and the model user.
    • Target audience should be a category of people you can name (like “tech-savvy dads). Should get very focused and specific about this and the model user. You’ll get others using it too, but they are not the target you’re going after.
    • The worst thing you can do is be everything to everyone. The best thing you can do is find an audience that is big enough that if you get a significant market share in that audience, you’d be a giant business.
    • Start with who is it for and what is the problem that they have (they may not even be aware of it). How do they address it today. What do you make, how does it work and what would you want the user of your product to tell another (this could be the H1 on your website). → get to the positioning statement.
    • The language used to explain your differentiator should be something that a user would tell a friend at a bar while tell them about your product. Something that a person would normally say out loud.
  • Personality
    • Brands are like people. Brands show up where people show up (like on social media).
    • Are you Mountain Dew (rugged, edgy, cool) or are you Rolex (fancy, sophisticated, aspirational) or somewhere in between
    • All rbands can be segmented into 2 of 5 dimensions of personality: sincerity (down to earth and honest), excitment/spirited, competence (reliable, intelligent), sophistication, ruggedness (outdoors, tough).
      • Most tech companies fall under sincerity + competence
    • Next step is to define 5 attributes thinking about these dimensions: brands need tension to be interesting (helpful, nice, approachable, competence = boring). write them as statements: we are x but not y, where y is taking x too far.
      • Google is playful but not silly. Mountain Dew is daring but not stupid.
      • These 5 statements will define what your visual design would be like, but also what your illustration style, ad copy etc would be like.
  • This brand book should be part of on-boarding for employees, shared with partners. Revisit when you do new products.
  • Square was mainly used by small vendors, farmers’ markets etc (quick serve brick and mortar). Up against ugly, old POS systems - cash register. Differentiator: unified experience + you’ll be proud to have it on your counter.
    • Her first experience with Square was through her jewellery making side business (while working at Google). It helped her understand the small businesses Square was initially targeting.

Getting PR

  • Get your story straight. Describe it in a sentence.
  • Make sure your website is ready - since you’ll be driving traffic to it
  • Realistic expectations about outlets that will cover and the time it’ll take to get them.
  • Doesn’t work for founders to dictate the launch date and brief 5 outlets under embargo. Now usually launch as an exclusive with one outlet.
  • Getting funding in and of of itself is not that interesting to media anymore. There are more companies getting funded than ever.
  • Think about whether there are folks at the outlet who cover startups at your stage (NYT is unlikely to write about a seed stage startup).
  • Don’t do a funding announcement. Use the announcement as a news hook to tell a larger story.
  • Make what you do interesting and relevant to all the readers of the outlet you’re looking to target. It’s not just about you and the people who work at the company.
  • Don’t overlook local press.