On Lean Branding:  Q&A with Brant Cooper

By Christopher Kammer and Maritza Lie, with Brant Cooper

We all know that innovation takes time and resources — and this may especially ring true for startups who often find themselves scouring for creative ways to leverage limited resources available to them effectively. So, for those who want to take their brand to the next level quickly and under a limited budget —  Brant’s upcoming book, The Lean Brand, gives an entirely new approach to brand development that is rooted in experimentation, validated learning, and iteration.  We recently asked Brant to share a few highlights about his upcoming book in advance of his visit to Chicago — brought to you by Heartland Mobile Council’s Brands+Startups™ in partnership with the Chicago Lean Startup Circle, the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, and Coalition: Impact. Read on and join us on Friday, 24 October 2014, to hear more.

HMF: You’ve written several books on Lean Branding. What about this book is different from your previous books? How can it help a startup get their brand off the ground?

The Lean Brand by Jeremiah Gardner and Brant Cooper

BC: I’ve written several books on Lean Startup. This is my first book about branding.  Lean Startup got its start on the technical side of the house. Eric Ries, who first coined “Lean Startup” was the CTO and many early adopters saw it as an extension of Agile development methodologies. I came to Lean Startup primarily from the business side of the house and was instantly drawn toward implementing lean principles to that side of the equation. In other words, can you eliminate waste in Sales? Marketing? Operations? Can you do this while maintaining the idea of creating new value in the market? This is some of what we tackle in The Lean Brand. How can we combine creative inspiration with rigorous experimentation.

Our goal is to turn the concept of branding on its head. Leading companies already recognize that the game is changed. Communicating our brand and telling our story—these are no longer broadcasted from organization to audience. In fact, they’re shared. They’re even co-created. So rather than creating a brand from the ivory tower, we create brand outside the building, with our customers.  For startups first getting off the ground, the most important lesson is to not try and automate early customer adoption. The true value of the startup is going to be discovered by the first relationships it establishes. This means go to your customer. Work with them to understand their needs deeply. Design thinking practitioners have done this for a long time, but it’s more important than ever for entrepreneurs to integrate these practices, and user experience design and customer development. This is the first step of startup branding.

Register to hear more insights from Brant Cooper on Friday, 24 October:  Lean Startup 2.0: The Lean Brand with Brant Cooper, NY Times Bestselling Author

HMF: Some of our audience is comprised of startups. Can you give us an example with details of how a startup can benefit from Lean Branding?

BC: How startups apply Lean Branding methods depends on where they fall on the innovation spectrum, which we introduced in The Lean Entrepreneur. If you are working in an established market, there’s much about it that is well-understood and so your branding efforts will reflect that. For startups that tend toward the “breakthrough” innovation end of the continuum, your product will lead the way in establishing your brand. So again, interacting with your customer to design the user experience and to ensure you’re actually solving a problem your market segment cares about, is way more important than how you project your relationship. In other words, your logo doesn’t matter.

So point one: your logo doesn’t matter. The name of your company is not very important. All those blog posts on naming your company are B.S. Nobody cares what your website’s color palette is.  If someone asks you what breed of dog your company would be if it were a dog, run away.

The other big idea is that even if you’re on the more disruptive side of the innovation spectrum and your product “leads the way” in your branding, that won’t be enough. For most businesses, the product fulfills a utility value. In our framework, if your product fulfills the promise—we will solve such and such problem—the result is customer satisfaction. You’ve simply done what you said you would do. But large successful companies did not become successful because customers were merely satisfied. Scalable growth comes from customer passion. Customer passion comes from the emotional impact your organization has had on them. Passionate customers become advocates, they share your content, they become references. You know you’re ready to scale, when you see organic growth. So how are you going to create passion?

Most likely, it’s going to come from something outside the product. It could be your marketing, distribution, customer service, it could be the combination of all these things that result in passion. But you have to figure that out. And since you don’t know yet the answer, the best way to find it is with purposeful experimentation, in other words, Lean Startup principles.

Register to hear more insights from Brant Cooper on Friday, 24 October:  Lean Startup 2.0: The Lean Brand with Brant Cooper, NY Times Bestselling Author

HMF: Even large brands can benefit from the Lean Brand Framework. How would your advice differ for a startup versus a large brand name, such as Microsoft?

BC: Large companies must act to protect their successful brand. If a large brand is trying to innovate, than we teach them to incubate internal teams as lean startups. These teams should act just as their external brethren and use made up or new brands. Alternatively, they can use a corporate “labs” brand, so that anyone who interacts with that brand knows that it’s encountering experimental ideas. If a large brand is seeking to completely re-brand themselves, it gets trickier. We believe they should still use the Lean Brand Framework, but it’s important to start small and grow iteratively. They need to learn new techniques, so they’re not steered in the wrong direction by using 20th Century ‘best practices.’ We still see re-branding efforts that cause more harm than good, others that fall flat on their face. This represents an incredible amount of waste.

The trick is to start small and use hypothesis-driven experimentation, “If we do x, we expect y  people to behave in way z.”  What we want to do is measure what people will do, rather than what they say they’ll do.

HMF:  How does mobile marketing fit into the Lean Brand Framework?

Brant Cooper: NYT Bestselling author of The Lean Entrepreneur. New book, Entrepreneur's Guide to The Lean Brand: leanbrandbook.com

BC: Mobile marketing first and foremost is emblematic of the transformation our society is undergoing. It reflects the incredible amount of knowledge consumers have at their fingertips. It demonstrates the amount of choices people have, as well as how quickly changes can be made from one brand to another. It represents how quickly opinions, both positive and negative, are shared and spread. Brands need to understand that even if you’re an “offline” company, much of your organization is digital and digital companies must move at the speed of startups.

Mobile marketing is especially tough because of the size of the device and the length of time you have to capture interest. The key is understanding that to win, first, you have to create value in the marketing itself. Second, the user experience on mobile is changing fast; you must keep up with what’s working. Third, run experiments outside the local maximum to discover changes that have big impacts.

HMF: What type of mobile devices to do you have, own, and wear?

BC: I’m an iPhone person, but only recently. To me, the iPhone is one of the few products that creates passion in and of itself. It is, quite simply, elegant. The user experience is above and beyond anyone else’s smartphone.

As more people use more devices, the ways people are marketed to will continue to change as well. To keep on top of or ahead of the curve, come listen to more insights from Brant Cooper this Friday October 24, 2014.

Register to hear more insights from Brant Cooper on Friday, 24 October:  Lean Startup 2.0: The Lean Brand with Brant Cooper, NY Times Bestselling Author

Go to http://leanbrandbook.com/ for more information about Brant’s upcoming book, and follow Brant on Twitter @brantcooper.


About Brant Cooper

Brant Cooper helps organizations big and small innovate. He is the co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Lean Entrepreneur, and is a sought after speaker, advisor and mentor. He has over 16 years experience helping companies bring innovative products to market. His startup career includes Tumbleweed, Timestamp, WildPackets, inCode, and many others.  He has experienced IPO, acquisition, rapid growth and crushing failure. Brant previously authored The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development, the first purpose-written book to discuss Lean Startup and Customer Development concepts, earning a distribution of over 50K.  He has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs across the globe. Brant is the Co-Founder of Moves the Needle Group, which has advised the innovation practices of leading companies such as: Qualcomm, Intuit, Capital One, Pitney Bowes, and Hewlett-Packard. Learn more about Brant and his new book at http://leanbrandbook.com/, and follow Brant on Twitter @brantcooper.

About Lean Startup Circle

Founded in 2009, Lean Startup Circle is for Peer-to-Peer lean startup know-how.  It is a decentralized grassroots organization of Lean Startup practitioners all over the world. We come together to share tips, tricks, and stories about our successes and failures building companies.  We are dedicated to applying lean startup thinking and building lean startup leadership. Go to http://www.leanstartupcircle.com/ for more information.

About Kimberly-Clark Corporation

Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB) and its well-known global brands are an indispensable part of life for people in more than 175 countries. Every day, nearly a quarter of the world’s population trust K-C’s brands and the solutions they provide to enhance their health, hygiene and well-being. With brands such as Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex and Depend, Kimberly-Clark holds No. 1 or No. 2 share positions in more than 80 countries. To keep up with the latest K-C news and to learn more about the Company’s 142-year history of innovation, visit http://www.kimberly-clark.com/ or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

About Coalition: Impact

Coalition: Impact seeks to create a vibrant gathering place for purpose-driven people to connect and build solutions that will impact communities and shape a better world. We serve as a central location for community leaders, non-profit and for-profit innovators, entrepreneurs and other innovators to come together and make real and sustainable change: a place to work, share knowledge, leverage resources, replicate good ideas, and collaborate across neighborhoods and communities.  A portion of all proceeds from Coalition: Impact will be invested right back into our mission-driven events and community to educate and inspire the Chicagoland community. Programming is designed to stimulate new ideas, conversations, and collaborations. Our events strive to be the nexus point for diverse engagement between social innovators – a ‘collision space’ for unlikely allies and their wide spectrum of interests, values, and approaches.  Go to http://www.CoalitionImpact.com/ for more information.

About The Heartland Mobile Foundation™

The Heartland Mobile Foundation™ is a Chicago-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to foster economic development in the Heartland of America to build the future mobile marketers. Through its partnership with brands in its main initiatives–Mobile University™ Week, the Brands+Startups™ Challenge, Heartland Mobile Certification, HMAction–Heartland Mobile serves to grow and guide the industry. Visit http://heartlandmobile.org/ to learn more.


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April 30, 2014
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Photography by R. Paul Skeehan

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Join us for Round 4, the Finale, 9/18! REGISTER HERE

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Event:  MobiU2013: Mobile Path to Purchase (click for full event info)
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Mobile’s significant role in the path to purchase is undeniable.  People are looking at their phones to find more product information, check prices, review customer ratings/comments and check competitor’s products. But what happens when the product is a “considered purchase” – one that happens once every 10-20 years?  Cars, appliances and mattresses are a few [...]

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Over 100 years ago, in 1898, E. St. Elmo Lewis, an American sales and advertising pioneer, developed a practical sales tool using the latest Scientific Management insights. He created his AIDA funnel model based on customer studies in the US life insurance market and it soon became the predominant marketing model. “AIDA” [...]

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Less than five years ago the “Path to Purchase” and “Purchase Funnel” were fairly simple.  Awareness, Consideration, Preference, Purchase and Loyalty.  There are variations based on industry but nothing that changed it dramatically.  Then Web2.0 came along and social media changed the purchase funnel by extending each stage and adding “Advocacy” at the end after [...]

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Q&A Video: Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois on Building Mobile Capabilities

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We sat down with Patrick Feeney and Corey Bieber of Blue Cross Blue Shield of in their courtyard behind their building. Transformers4 was being filmed just the week before.  No evidence of Optimus Prime was left but the high tech vibe was still in the air. As one of the council’s key partners, [...]

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Q&A with PepsiCo Marketers on Mobile, Driving Store Traffic and Millennials

September 19, 2013
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PepsiCo is a house of brands.  Pepsi, Gatorade, Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, Quaker, Tropicana, Mountain Dew, Propel and many more.  But unlike other consumer product holding companies like Procter & Gamble, Kraft and Unilever, they have a sales culture mixed into their marketing.  That makes sense given most of their products are impulse purchases.
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Q&A with Whirlpool: Giving Moms Control Through Mobile

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When was the last time you bought a washing machine?  Probably about the same time you bought a car.  Similar to the auto industry, washers/dryers have a 7-8 year consideration cycle.  That’s a lot of time for you to forget about them.  In fact, you probably don’t know what brand you currently have – do [...]

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Mobile Delivers the Promise of Marketing, by Larry Light, Opening Keynote for #MobiU2013 Summit, 9/26

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Think about the top marketing minds in the world. Not academics creating marketing theory. Not the people who leverage academic marketing principles to manage the day-to-day of a brand. Think about the ones who take the potential of marketing and turn it into reality. For instance, they take a fast food business [...]

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Q&A with MasterCard: Mobile Payments & Your Reality

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Today when you leave home you check for keys, wallet and phone (check out our Mobile 101 rap if you forgot).  But the phone is well on it’s way to replacing the other two items – particularly the wallet.  Two years ago, at the #MobiU2011 Summit, we were the first marketing conference in Chicago to [...]

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Q&A with Nielsen on the State of the Mobile Industry

September 4, 2013
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The HMC was founded in April of 2009, just 4.5 years ago. Back then it there was just 10 of us: Phonevalley, Ansible, TWC and a few mobile companies like 4INFO. No brands were interested in the Heartland. Fast forward to today and the HMC is 40+ strong and every brand is [...]

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Eight years ago in 2005, I was an ABM (Assistant Brand Manager) for Procter & Gamble working on Gillette Venus. I was a year out of business school and learning the ropes of brand management. We had just gotten approval for a $3+ million Spring Break campaign – yeah, someone had to do it [...]

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Putting Brands First – the Mobile University Difference

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A year ago we posted our manifesto for 2012, The Mobile University Difference.  It was a month-and-a-half before our summit last year and it was our heartfelt outreach to the marketing community to let them know there was a mobile organization with their best interests in mind.  What surprised us is that it has the [...]

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Q&A with University of Michigan Professor on Mobile Location Behaviors

August 13, 2013
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The University of Michigan is known for many things.  Great Medical, Engineering, Public Policy and Business schools.  Great college sports.  The Consumer Satisfaction Index.  A good protest or two.  Mobile Marketing is not on the list, though.  But it should be.
Quietly over the past seven years, Sy Banerjee, Asst Professor, Mobile Interactive Marketing, University of [...]

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Brands+Startups™ Finale at Techweek – Recap

July 8, 2013
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On June 27th, in front of a sold-out crowd, the HMC and Chicago AMA in partnership with 1871 and Techweek presented the final round of the Brands+Startups™ Marketing Pitch Competition on June 27th.  The exciting finale event was held as part of the 2013 Techweek Chicago on June 27th.  A [...]

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Recap of Mobile Hispanics Seminar, June 13, 2013

June 20, 2013
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If you missed our Mobile Hispanics Seminar, 6/13/13, you missed a great evening of education! As usually, there were insightful moments during the focus group of Hispanics, the Nielsen overview of Mobile Hispanics, the brand panel with Kimberly-Clark, BCBSIL, Domino’s Pizza, and the Experience Hall. But don’t worry, we have a full video, [...]

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Digital increases the Acculturation Rate for Hispanics

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As an acculturated Hispanic marketing professional (I understand the difference between using the phrase Hispanic versus Latino, for the sake of consistency I will use Hispanic in this post), I am fascinated by the question of how the interaction of technology, personal values, education and culture in the mobile digital world will affect someone. Making [...]

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