The Other Important Thing Startups Forget

“My parents always taught me that my day job would never make me rich; it’d be my homework.” Daymond John

It’s the detail that makes investors cringe (when it’s missing).

And what makes consumers run the opposite direction when it’s absent.

It’s that thing we do when we stop, step back and take an honest look at the world.

It’s tough.

Botanical Bakery in Napa Valley ran into this (yet when they fixed it, they saw a 900% increase in sales). So did this INC 5000 company. Even seasoned branding veterans run into it. And it happens to more mature brands (this 25-year-old dance institution or this coffee company) that are so entrenched into their world and everyday affairs, they forget to do one vital thing: step back and assess the reality of our ever-changing world and the endlessly evolving shift in needs versus desires and priorities versus luxuries.

Did you catch that?

Needs versus desires. Wow.

And priorities versus luxuries. Whoa.

And it’s something called H-O-M-E-W-O-R-K- that makes all the difference.

Every successfully entrepreneur knows it. Every investor knows it.

Husbands and Wives Offer Some Practical Insight

One person’s priorities is another person’s luxuries.

Just ask any husband and wife.

The largest super HD flatscreen TV? To the husband, it can be a necessity.

Another pair of shoes? To the woman, it can be a necessity as vital as air.

As brands, we must be dialed into those subtle distinctions, knowing which are triggers to loyalty and brand relevance. Otherwise, a brand becomes trivial at best and forgotten at worst.

Helping a Startup Become Irresistible

So when Soulfully Sweet came to me with a premium brand of delicious organic, gluten-free, non-GMO cookies, I had a certain expectation of what the brand should feel like in terms of the look and personality, what it should convey to resonate with that audience.

When I saw it, I had an instant impression; it didn’t look premium.

FACT: Foodies will gladly pay if they feel they are getting the premium product (and this applies to EVERY consumer if you truly know their values).

The owner and I had numerous conversations over look, design, language and color.

Besides design, I developed some language to convey the handcrafted aspect of the brand such as the slogan “A wholesome dose of decadence” to help establish a personality for the brand.

That was just the start.

In short, we assessed (did our homework) and remedied the following:

  • PERSONALITY: Redefined the tone and personality of how the brand talked (like “small batches, large flavor”)
  • LOOK: Rebranded the brand identity and logo
  • COLOR: Developed a whole new color palette since previous package made no distinction except for the name which was 30 pt type (which meant, unless you walked up and read this, you had no clue there were different flavors)
  • PACKAGING: Changed the package from a cellophane wrap to a stunning new box that looked more premium and felt “bigger” and
  • TACTILE APPEARANCE: introduced a graphic treatment that made the package look like letterpress which spoke to the handcrafted and artisanal quality.

So, we went on a journey to give this a look that would look great online as well as standing out on store shelves.

Below is the journey and the outcome.

The Logo Design

Art Direction

Then it came down to capturing the incredible “art” of the product itself (so if you ever though “art direction was easy” — well, now you can feel my “pain”… 😉 )

(WARNING: If you can handle it, click on each image to see it fill your screen. Viewer discretion is advised.)

The Package Design

As you see, the packaging was entirely overhauled to convey a higher value on the shelf with every detail, from the custom-designed box to the “letterpress” feel on the box itself, and every flavor had its own color to easily distinguish the flavor and the brand’s range of choices.

The Components of the Rebrand

All of this comes down to one vital detail: Has your brand done its homework?

Originally published at on July 3, 2015.

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