The Startup
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The Startup

Building a Brand for Humans

In the previous parts of this 3-part series on startup success, we spoke about which startups will make it, and how the key to success is a special method for enhancing connectivity and generating positive energy. Now we’re going to get to the really interesting part, which is how what we write about the company, impacts everything else.

For the last two decades I’ve been writing for startups. What does that mean exactly? That as a copywriter, I’m usually the first person to actually put words down on a paper to get the branding process started. In a few cases that paper was actually a napkin in a coffee shop — and those were often the companies that were most successful. We were really excited and that came across in the branding.

Creating something from nothing, envisioning the whole story before anything exists yet, is the most challenging and gratifying part of what I do. It all begins with the first few sentences and what we pick up from the founders in those first critical meetings. First impressions are a really big deal because I can usually sense which founders are going to be the most successful, right when I walk into a company, Those are founders that love “the grind”, and are willing to “get dirty” (as Gary Vaynerchuk puts it so eloquently). The people who are going to spend many late nights pulling everything together and making sure their baby can crawl, walk, run, and eventually conquer the world when the time comes.

Why Companies are in Startup Mode Nowadays

So how do we define a startup anyhow? A startup is a company that moves very quickly to provide an innovative solution to an existing problem. These companies are very dynamic and infuse everyone with the rush of their “groundbreaking” solution that will change the world. They capture our attention because they are in constant movement, and constantly evolving to adapt to new circumstances. Anything it takes to reach the goal.

We are immersed in a startup culture here in Israel, that seems to have rubbed off on some companies who suddenly started acting like startups. A great example is SodaStream, which was just a soda company until it started solving a really big problem — how to get rid of all the plastic we use for the drinks we love. They hired the top agencies in the world and released a series of viral clips that made them a household name. SodaStream became one of Israel’s largest exits at the end of 2018, when it was sold to PepsiCo for a whopping $3.2B! When a company has such a charismatic leader as Daniel Birnbaum, you know it’s just a matter of time until they experience significant lift off.

Another startup that solved a really big problem is WIX. When I met the founder Avishai Avrahami (a former client from a previous startup), in their first office in Tel Aviv’s trendiest area, they showed me something completely different than what they do now. It was only when they solved the really big headache of creating a web site that they took off like crazy.

Building a Brand for Human Connection

I know Daniel and Avishai personally, and nothing either of these leaders would do would shock me. But I was shocked to discover this incredible leader all the way over in St. Louis, who is positively impacting the world in very meaningful way.

Barry-Wehmiller CEO and Chairman Bob Chapman, whose Linkedin banner reads: LEADERSHIP >> CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT, is all about generating meaningful human interaction. As he said in their latest clip: “… so we can begin to heal the world of brokenness, caused by people who simply have never been taught to care.” It doesn’t get more human than that. Here is a man at the helm of a very successful business who really understands that the world needs “fixing”, and that the best way to solve our problems is by caring more for others. The title of his bestseller is, Everybody Matters, and it’s featured prominently on the company’s homepage. What would I like to see this CEO do next? Feature this type of messaging right on the products his company packages. Imagine buying a carton of milk with a big EVERYONE MATTERS slogan on it, along with a brief explanation. We need to condition ourselves to be better to the people around us and we can do this by putting messages right on the things we come into contact with on a daily basis.

Another corporate leader who caught my attention was Unilever’s Mita Mallick with her very profound post: Hate starts at our kitchen tables. Unilever is a consumer goods giant that can also begin spreading positive messages right on products we come into contact with every day. Would it cost it cost them more money to do this? No. It’s just a matter of shifting our priorities and remembering what’s really important. The white supremacist who shot all those people in New Zealand probably didn’t read thought leadership articles, but he probably used or consumed dozens of Unilever brands over the years. Words have tremendous power to shift our mindset, so I hope companies will start using all the opportunities they have to shift humanity to a better place.

Unite the Company Around Your Branding

Many Israeli startups think their technology is the most valuable thing they have to offer the world, but it’s actually their human spirit that determines how well that technology will be received. We are at a great advantage here in Israel because understanding how we are all dependent on each other and collaboration are things that we learn in the army.

Some of the larger startups that have been around for over a decade are suffering from internal politics that are literally eating these companies from the inside. These successful startups have scaled like crazy, but have not invested enough in connecting diverse parts of the team together.

It’s important for companies of all sizes to take the time to unite everyone around the corporate values, and connect global teams that are in offices around the world. Gathering the whole team in a certain location is a wonderful thing, but there are opportunities for connecting the entire team on any normal business day. A brief Connection Workshop would help cultivate and strengthen cross-departmental, cross-cultural, and cross-regional ties. It’s a quick exercise and fun break from work that lifts up the entire team and reminds them how dependent they are on one another for achieving success. These mini events showing human connection at its best can be documented and incorporated into the brand.

This is not a corporate example and has nothing to do with branding, but it’s to help drive home the point of how enabling human connection shifts everything for the better. One of the main rules of the Connection Workshop is that everyone in the circle is equal. I’ve been in situations with an army squad of our elite soldiers in a circle with their commander. The workshop question is announced and everyone has to answer in their turn. Now remember, everyone in the circle is equal. It was so beautiful to go around the circle and watch our best and brightest have such a meaningful connection with their commander — something that would never happen under normal circumstances where everyone is in military mode. We usually do a Compliment Game at the end of the circle where you need to say nice things about the person to your right, even if they are a complete stranger. Watching the commander do this with his soldiers and seeing his heart melt during the process was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed.

The Shift That is Coming

All the talk about robots taking over our jobs and AI doing everything for us, has made people stop and think — so what is so special about us humans? What makes us different than machines?

Suddenly everyone is talking about the importance of “soft skills” (personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people), which are basically the skills that make us better humans.

As technology advances we are going to have to inject far more human spirit into our brands to stay relevant. People have hundreds of products to choose from, so what will be the guiding factor in your opinion? I think consumers and customers will choose products and services they have an EMOTIONAL CONNECTION with. That connection is not necessarily nurtured and developed on social media or their site, which many customers never come into contact with. In the near future the companies that get it will begin placing important messages right on products we come into contact with, or risk becoming irrelevant.

Why Now?

The human ego is growing and we can enjoy almost every comfort imaginable nowadays without interacting with another human being. Sounds pretty sad, and isolating right? No wonder millions of youngsters are suffering from depression.

We need to begin filling the world with positive and uplifting messages and we can create the greatest impact by putting these messages right on the products we come into contact with every day. Imagine sitting around the breakfast table reading out loud what’s on the cereal box. And what message is featured on the cereal box? A friendly reminder to be good to your neighbor, along with examples of locals who are living proof of that. Imagine what kind of world we will be living in when we start ranking people according to how good they are to others?

Please note:

Just want to clarify that I am not an HR professional — I am a human connection professional — this is a new sector that will take off like crazy soon. I’m also a copywriter and startup consultant.

Hope you enjoyed reading this and please leave a comment below to tell me what you think.

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