We expect better: why startups need to ban the words ‘simple, fast, and easy.’

“Nobody is allowed to say ‘easy,’ ‘fast,’ or ‘simple.’”

My marketing manager Katie brandished a purple marker, indicating that I was to shut up. We were having an all-team meeting about brand direction, and she hamstrung us where we sat, 5 minutes into the meeting. If we weren’t allowed to be easy, fast, or simple, what kind of expense management software were we?

Expense management is a crowded space. And that’s why we entered it. Usually when a technology space is crowded it’s because no one has found a great solution. There are lot of options that solve 70% of the problem, but nothing that serves everyone: no overarching, obvious choice.

I want Trippeo to be the obvious choice. Which is, of course, why my marketing manager took those obvious adjectives away from us. Other businesses had already swiped that low-hanging fruit and ridden it into lifestyle limbo. An expense app being easy/fast/simple is the lowest barrier to use. The absolute baseline. And we want Trippeo to be more than that.

Being a small team, our process is based around conversation. Usually our best ideas start as a joke. By the time we’ve distilled that concept into a working element, we’d edited out the humor that had attracted us to the idea in the first place. A lot of this came down to us not trusting ourselves in this stuffy arena. We’re a team of smart-alec-y goofs in a suit-world. But maybe, we thought, that could work to our advantage. The closest any of our competition has come to being playful is Expensify using “suck” in their tagline. Expenses are already pretty boring. While we can’t change the task, we can try to reinvent the experience.

Having collected that evidence, and spent some serious time thinking of how we could make our app more uniquely enjoyable, we came up with a few things that we’re going to focus on as we go on our journey of brand-discovery.

Design is going to be our calling card.

Enterprise design is SO BORING. Why?! It’s as though a company hits a certain number of users and RUNS to the Enterprise-Internet salon for a makeover, emerging resplendent in muted tones of grey and dark blue. It’s like watching what was once an interesting, edgy candidate go through presidential bootcamp.

We love design here at Trippeo. And the thing about design and art is that it needs room to experiment in order to be really great. And, this really great design has an opportunity to change the experience of a product or story so drastically: it can redefine the product without a single change being made to the application itself.

There’s been a lot of talk about A/B testing designs, and touting the inherent conversion rates. A/B testing is a great tool, but in the same breath, we take it with a pinch of salt. We want our design to communicate how much we care about our work: to give a face to an otherwise intangible concept. As a result, we’re going to try a lot of weird stuff, likely never do anything in grey and blue (at least, not exclusively those colors), and we’re going to trust our guts first, and the test results second.

We want you to be surprised.

Great products evoke an emotional response. We turn to products because they solve a problem, yes, but also because they bring us a modicum of joy. Like I said earlier: ease and speed are basics. The bottom of Maslow’s pretend-pyramid of expense management needs. So we need to create other reasons to use us.

“Whimsy” was one of the keywords we came up with during our session. We like it because it grants us permission to try stuff out, make silly jokes, and occasionally make you double-take. Just as design gets muted, tone of voice gets super pandering. Gone are their playful tones and cheeky tweets: instead, their copy is cool and indulgent, and promises to “be in touch.” It’s a narrative equivalent of soylent. Nutritious, but bland: without heart… without playfulness.

We want you to count on us.

We turned into a bunch of future-ists during our chat about branding. We didn’t just focus on who we want to be, we talked about how we want to grow up. When we consider the future of expense management, we see it becoming an extremely automated experience. Apps will need to inspire their users beyond their applied use. Apple’s popularity is a good example: while hard-out technology buffs typically prefer Android machines for their speed and power, Apple has created an experience synonymous with beauty and detail. Apple’s experience is an emotional one rather than a logical one. Call me crazy, but as technology advances and it’s incredible-ness becomes more commonplace, I think businesses are going to rely very heavily on the emotional, personal experience that delights users with it’s tone and familiarity. The baseline is rising: what else are we going to bring to the plate?

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