Branding a startup

or creating a brand new Self?

mimi — brand identity prototype

A new office demands an office warming party. At least that’s how things work around here. About two hundred people from around the world, a popcorn machine, some free drinks — beers — and a german band playing folk american music. Some lazy dancing. This whole show was put up by a few startups that share this super cool space in Berlin-Mitte. One of these young companies is called Mimi Hearing Technologies. And we were there, working with them.

Mimi was created about 2 years ago. To be short, one of the most important seed investors in Germany — with some degree of responsibility in projects like SoundCloud, EyeEm or Monoqui — developed a deep interest in the “hearing technologies” market, spotted an opportunity and hired a really smart guy to take on the challenge of going on with an idea. That same smart guy searched, met and gathered a few more incredible intelligent people — engineers, designers, doctors — with a certain level of skills and…pufff. There was Mimi — great name btw.

Well, they were all very smart but…all different. With an incredible complex product to develop, a company to build, a vision to be defined, a story to…well make it quick please cause we don’t have too much time. We all know that’s how it is in the startup world.

We had two versions of the new identity and two new taglines being projected and on the remaining walls we had the whole “brand self” process

Exhibiting the new “Brand Self” — prototype stage

One of the rooms on the lower floor was not for dancing but it was a good place for any brand designer to chitchat a copywriter while submitting some experts opinions. That room was actually a space where the Mimi’s new brand was being submitted to a stress test. We had two versions of the new identity and two new taglines being projected and on the remaining walls we had the whole “brand self” process for the observers to understand why and how we got to that beautiful piece of branding.

We took the first three weeks to do user research and to deeply understand motivations behind the usage of their product and understanding of the business

Journey Map — Trying to understand why do people take 5 to 8 years to take action

Ok. That’s really interesting. But I still don’t get why a brand is as important for startup as it can be for another type of company.

To get to the point quickly, it helped the fact that a few people from the client side knew our way of working — “with” actually means that we work “with” people and not for them. It also helped the fact that we took the first three weeks to do user research and to deeply understand motivations behind the usage of the product and understanding the business. Also crucial was the fact that Mimi acknowledged that there was something missing. There was a gap between what they were feeling and telling people about and what they were designing. There was missing a link on how they were being perceived. A connection. A “brand self”.

And why creating a strong “brand self” is so important for a Startup?

Maybe that “something’s missing” feeling is the first sign that something is not right. Maybe this is the trigger that make founders think on why it is important to brand a startup in the first place. And maybe what makes them decide to move or not — will also depend on how they perceive the importance, purpose and intention of branding.

Sometimes most of the people working at startups have recently met and don’t even know each other. This immersive process helps them discuss, discover and align their ideas and motivations

Discussions around Mimi’s Personality and Brand Voice

One of the main advantages of early branding for startups is that creating a “brand self” is the best way to set up a common understanding among partners and team. Sometimes most of the people working at startups have recently met and don’t even know each other.This immersive process helps them discuss, discover and align their ideas and motivations.

There’s many other benefits of thinking and integrating the brand in the whole startup process, starting for day one:

  • designing a “brand self” helps teams realize where they are at a precise moment, create and project themselves in the future and let go of anxiety
  • creating a “brand self” is a way of understanding how will the product of a startup affect others — team, users, partners, stakeholders, people — and the other way around. Like Douglas Hofstadter said: “We are a strange loop”
  • it’s a way of looking from a different POV and observe the relationships with what surrounds a business — market, conditions, competitors — in the process of discovering a unique “self”
  • it gives a sense of direction, even to the business itself
  • it’s a way to search and find an “object” of property, of identity. Something to hold. To keep. A path to proudness.
  • creating a “brand self” is like building a platform for unpredictability. Startups change — a lot, we know — so brands have to be thought off in ways that enable them to adapt quickly.

Letting other people to get to know about yourself — your new startup — is getting to know yourself. Mimi decided to create an exhibition for their new brand, but in the end they were not showing off a new logo, they were exposing themselves. The brand new self that was Mimi. The new and confident guiding principles. And what a hell of a show it was.

More about Mimi? Have a look on their latest video
Interested in how we worked this project, check the documentation blog

Originally published at medium.com on August 30, 2015 by one of our partners: Rui Quinta https://medim.com/@ruiquinta