Posts Tagged ‘Branding’

While we’ve been talking about the deep ocean of business plans that investors struggle to filter through, entrepreneurs rarely do themselves any favors with their pitch materials. It’s sometimes difficult for an entrepreneur to sell bleeding technologies or culturally noteworthy ideas to traditional investors. Why? Well, while many of these investors were once successful entrepreneurs, technology has made the principles of creating businesses and the pace of the economy much, much faster.

Instead of wasting time trying to teach the old dogs new tricks, let’s just be clearer when explaining your concept to them. Some investors may be older than you, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid and out of touch. If you can’t explain your business concept in one sentence, how do you seriously expect an investor (or a consumer) to spend money or time with you? Let’s take this point a few steps further, if your presentation materials are confusing, lack clarity, compelling content, and look like they were pulled together on a Commodore 64, why should an investor think that your company will offer up anything but a clunky and confusing product? commodore64

Don’t pitch your business as the next “Apple” and then hand over documents that look like you’ve never opened up an Apple box in your lifetime. The investor’s belief in your ability to brand and market a product starts with the first time they look at your materials. Entrepreneurs could do themselves a world of good by investing real time (and capital) into their presentation materials. Yes, Apple has the benefit of teams of graphic designers who work on everything they bring to market. While these resources aren’t cheap, they also aren’t too hard to mimic. There are countless resources available on everything from concise presentation structure to graphic design. Take the time to do some research into what a successful pitch deck looks like and maybe investors will believe you are the right person to play the leading role.

Entrepreneurs may also want to take heed from Hollywood. In the late 80s, the Bruce Willis blockbuster Die Hard became the industry standard for describing the plot of many of the screenplays and films that came in its wake. For example, 1994’s Speed was called Die Hard on a bus, and 1996’s The Rock was dubbed Die Hard on an island. If an investor is going to have a hard time understanding your new school idea, find a successful, well-known venture to compare it to. You may be proud of and wildly impressed by the technical details of your product or service, but instead of explaining it and risk losing the attention of your audience, instead focus on the single sentence of your business that will connect with the audience in a simple and effective way.diehardposter

Remember, investors (like Hollywood studio executives) see and hear of thousands of deals a year and have very little time to spend on them. If your idea doesn’t fit into their “box of knowledge”, it’s going to be quite difficult to break through and earn a second meeting. If you can’t narrow down your business to a sticky single sentence, you’re probably not ready to get in front of an investor anyway. Bonus Tip; You may want to check out the book Made to Stick, Why Some Ideas Survive While Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath.

Funny exercise, but play along; look at the top start-up company names and logos funded after 2000 versus those started before 1980. While the color palettes have changed and billion dollar companies can now be started out of garages, the principles of what makes a sound business have not. When meeting with investors, don’t lose them by talking about how cool and complex your venture is, break it down, simplify, and wow them with “how” and “why” you’re going to make fistfuls of money. They like that.

Excerpt taken from Breaking Through The Broken: The Transparent Guide To Overcoming The Inefficiencies In Early Stage Venture Capital.


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Pepsi, you just got Punk’d. Arnell Group, you just took the fizz out of branding.

Please excuse me while I go off on a rant. Last year, Pepsi hired Peter Arnell and his disciples to handle the redesign of their iconic red, white, and blue logo. The rumor is that Pepsi spent over $1 million on this assignment.

Umm, let’s just be happy that WE didn’t pay for it (fortunately for us, our government didn’t have to bail out the recession proof soft drink makers). Just think, they could have run a worldwide contest with every design school out there and gotten huge positive PR out of it. But instead, they turned to Arnell and his stable of “brand psychics.”

Turns out a freelancer posted the actual logo presentation deck on the Internet for us all to witness. The deck spins that the revamped logo draws on thousands of years of design principles, the Earth’s gravitational pull and the greatest works of art to persuade people to buy the sugary drink. The document called “Breathtaking Design Strategy” is littered with historical, philosophical, scientific, and mathematical ideas dating back to 3000 B.C.


At one point, the presentation compares “Planet Pepsi” to the Earth’s magnetic pull, with diagrams showing Pepsi as the gravitational force between the end of the aisle and the checkout stand. I kid you not. Check out some of these visuals. Straight up W.T.F.!?!?!


It’s unfortunate, as consumers already have an elevated “bullshit radar” for brand marketing. Companies that still believe that they are in charge are dead wrong. The consumer runs the show. Respect their intelligence. Involve them. Be authentic with your words “internally” and “externally”. Arnell must have had the the Pepsi marketing brass under some sort of spell (or waterboarded them with a truck full of 2 liter bottles of Pepsi One).

It’s important to remember that brand marketing done right can be extremely valuable for any new or established venture. Smart branding can make the difference between attracting outside investment and not. It can make cash registers ring or flat out turn consumers off. It can make your brand a champ with the people or a chump in the press. Brand innovation can generate strong brand awareness, inspire action, and result in a loyal following.


Just look at how beverage start up Jones Soda broke through using user-generated content on their labels. Pepsi shelling out $1M+ for a logo is not innovative, it represents old school Madison Avenue principles that have very little relevance today. Want value back? Then don’t hire a giant agency that has a ton of overhead, giant salaries, and talent that is past their prime & out of touch. In this economy, you need to collaborate with big thinkers than know how to do more with less.

EXTRA TIP: Before pulling the trigger on an outside vendor, make sure you thoroughly vet them beforehand (or at least google them with the word scam after their name. Psst…this isn’t Arnell’s first violation.

This is the second time Pepsi’s logo has drawn some unfavorable press. When it debuted just before the inauguration, consumers thought it looked eerily similar to President Barack Obama’s “O” campaign logo.*


*Sidenote: there’s a great blog called SemiObama which looks closely at the visual representations of Obama and unpacks the various cultural, religious, national, and political icons and symbols surrounding him that are used to evoke meaning and emotional reaction.

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