EPISODE 5 – Bill Gullan and Finch Brands
In this episode, branding expert Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, speaks with Smithwise Marketing Director Daniel Henrich about what branding is and why’s it’s critical in the world of medtech ventures.
Bill and Dan discuss:
- What branding is, and what it’s not
- How company identity and go-to-market strategy are reflected in a brand
- When is the right time to worry about branding?
- Developing market and buyer insights
- Naming your product and company
President, Finch Brands
Dan Henrich: Some of our listeners, Bill might be wondering why are we talking about branding for a MedTech audience.
Bill Gullan: Sure.
Dan: I’m sure you have this experience even just as a marketer. People tend to have, outside the world of marketing, a pretty narrow definition of what marketing and what branding is.
Dan: They think of Mad Men ad agencies as what marketing is, and branding is maybe logos and color pallets.
Dan: So, what do we mean when we talk about the world of branding?
Bill: Well, there’s a lot of similarities with Mad Men in terms of how I look and how I behave. No.
Bill: I’m glad you asked, thanks for having me.
Bill: Branding as a discipline is often misunderstood and in part that’s because the word is thrown around fairly loosely and liberally.
Bill: We define branding to be the sum total of how you think and what you do to assert difference and provide expectation of what an experience is gonna be like. So, that includes colors and names and logos, and packaging, and websites. Those are artifacts of a brand.
Bill: But, branding is an overall discipline, is a much larger concept than simply that which emerges from a branding process or are things that you can pick up or hold, or say, or read.
Dan: How does the process of coming up with those tangible aspects of your brand that people are gonna associate and think of as your brand. How do you go about tying those into your deeper sense of identity as an organization?
Bill: That’s a good question, and one of the premises of the question is a very important idea, which is that branding is again, not just a graphic designer set of choices for what might look pleasant.
Bill: It’s based on a deeper system of belief: a sense of purpose, a sense of direction, a sense of difference, a sense of value. That ultimately is expressed creatively.
Bill: And so, when we talk about branding, one of the things that’s really important and often where our processes start, though not exclusively. Is that definition of purpose.
Bill: And so, we spend a lot of our time working with leaders of companies on concepts like vision, mission, and values.
Bill: Those might not typically be associated with branding. Branding is just not the stuff that appears sort of above the waterline.
Bill: In fact, in many ways the hardest and most important element of branding, is what exists most deeply. But beneath the water, and so that often strategically and sort of emotionally comes from that core purpose in the sense of the why that everyone talks about.
Bill: And then, it shows itself through all the communications and touch points that are both internal and external. By the way, we like to say at Finch Brands that the best brands are built inside-out. So, we spend a lot of time on the inside piece. Whether its working with organizations that are going through some M&A activity or some transition, or launch, or whatever the case may be.
Bill: The ambassadors or the carriers of the brand, the deliverers of the brand’s story are gonna be the team.
Bill: Client-focused or not, product-focused or not. Those are gonna be those folks who really need to understand and buy into what it is that we’re doing here and what we stand for, and what makes us different.
Bill: If they get that, and have been in some maybe efficient, yet inclusive way, co-authors of that. There is both a muscle memory, but also a sort of concerted and deliberate impact on the work they do every day and consequently what the company puts out into the world.
Dan: So, it’s kind of a chicken and egg situation in terms of constructing a brand as an expression of your corporate identity and culture, and values. Are your employees that way because we’ve said this is how our organization is going to be. Or, do you attract and seek out people who are already part of that?
Bill: That’s a great question, and the answer is both.
Bill: In the early stages, and for those of your listeners who are sort of in an entrepreneurial situation, whether it’s an idea and a couple of people, or early stage companies. Often leadership and co-founders, and early leaders of building a product or whatever are true believers and are there for some common sense of opportunity, yes, but also purpose.
Bill: So there is a need to kind of define or memorialize that, document that often what’s in the hearts and soles are often a greatest service to an organization like that is to help sort of extract it and package it in a way that everyone can act on.
Bill: However, to the premise, again to the question. These core principles that underlie brands also, underlie culture. And thus, the best organizations are those that into the hiring and onboarding and training, and rewarding process of how teams are built as companies grow. Those core principles, be it values or other components of who the company is, have to insinuate themselves into these core processes that have to do with people and have to do with culture.
Bill: So, often for early stage organizations there is a process to develop and document those core beliefs. And then, to imbue everything that comes after in hiring and training, and a lot of that is important in what comes after with those core sets and precepts.
Bill: Another thing often where this is really put to the test, I mean here at Finch, we work a lot with companies and brands that are in transition and that often means, how do you integrate a company that you’ve acquired? How do you make choices and how do you educate new members of the team? Who maybe for a couple of years have been glaring across the trade show floor at you. And now all of a sudden they’re part of you. How do you, in a really quick short-hand pro-enrollment kind of way, engage these folks.
Bill: Often, by growing you earn the right for this to be challenging. And so, I think one of the topics we’re gonna get into is … and it may be surprises for someone in my position to urge restraint in part of entrepreneurs when it comes to time and investment associated with branding in the early stages of a business. But, when you reach a level of scale, where … one of the core elements of smart branding is consistency. There’s a reason why UPS trucks aren’t all different colors.
Bill: So, consistency means that these internal lessons are well taught, and well received. So often, when brands grow and when there’s another ring of employees outside of that core founder base, is when this becomes even more important culturally to document these things.
Dan: That’s all, I think all those thoughts are really important for those members of our audience who are early-on in their stages of developing their company, defining their identity.
Dan: Often I think, we’re dealing with MedTech startups who have maybe most commonly maybe two people, and those people have a very well defined but maybe not well articulated or a common understanding of who they are and where they wanna go.
Dan: But, as they start growing their team, that doesn’t always come to the forefront, or they’re not always putting that at the very beginning of their conversations to say, “Here’s who we are when you’re joining us, or here’s who we think we wanna be.”
Dan: So, I think, marketer to marketer, you and I can talk about that all day, but maybe let’s dive into some of these other questions that we outlined.
Bill: One thing I’ll say though just to put a really fine point on it and then underline it, and then bold it, and then italicize it.
Bill: All these [inaudible 00:11:44] are situational Dan, I mean depending on capitalization, depending on go-to market strategy, depending on all … so, with that caveat, generally speaking, it is not in the interest of early stage, in my opinion, early stage one or two person shops. Even if they’ve raised friends and family. Even if they raised series, whatever. To plow a ton of resources into branding.
Bill: What they could do, or should do is maybe have a trusted advisor in the form of a firm, or even just a mentor to the business help maybe mediate some of these conversation. Help maybe build some frameworks around “What’s our first vision mission? How do we do that?”
Bill: Certainly, you want your market facing website, you want your investor and client pitch deck to be really well integrated, to be consistent and to be reasonably sharp.
Bill: But, beyond that there are better uses of process. In my opinion, most often when it comes than plowing a ton of money into having the best branding without a minimally viable product or with a bunch of vapor, or with a lot of things still to be untangled, because that’s the things about that stage. There’s a lot when it comes to target markets, when it comes to how stakeholders are defined, when it comes to zigging and zagging. Everything changes.
Bill: And so, other than that kind of core sense of purpose and maybe the development of a look and feel in personality at the very sort of early stages. You just don’t wanna have to bother with that and tie up your resources. It’s all gonna change anyway.
Dan: I think you maybe have then just sort of answered what we had talked about as a next question in terms of when is the right time to start worrying about branding?
Dan: But, when’s the right time to start worrying about maybe those mission vision values underlying parts?
Dan: I think a lot of our listeners, you don’t have to sell them on the fact that it’s maybe too early to plow a lot of money into the process. But, what should they have done even at the very early stages of their company before they start growing their team from an organizational identity, underlying future branding standpoint?
Bill: I would not plow a ton of money into it, but I would certainly think about vision mission values from day one. I would certainly among even a very small self contained team of founders and sort of early stage team members. I would certainly think through, again, not be paralyzed by it, but think through and document a best guess on vision. Which is sort of that North star, what’s our purpose?
Dan: More the internal-
Bill: The power of what we do mission, which is sort of the high level answer to how we do it and values. Which these are the norms and behaviors that we wanna encourage within our culture among the many things that we can ask people to do. These are 3 or 4, or 5, that we think are essential to building that type of company that we want to. That’s important to get done.
Bill: It’s also important early on, to get an effective market facing website done. Now, the good thing is with SasS, web options like Squarespace and others, you don’t need a big dev team, and you really don’t need a big design team. These are fairly easy to do, so you’re able to control cost.
Bill: So, I think those are things that you really do wanna think about early. And, you really wanna engage those true believer inner ring types of folks into conversations like that.
Bill: You probably wanna do the best you can on naming, and I don’t mean the best you can on hiring some crazy naming firm to go through 37 rounds of ideas. But, you should name with an eye toward, not just your neighbor’s dog who you happen to like, but I mean a name with an eye toward conveying something about what you’re building.
Bill: But, when it comes to the larger stores, I think the moment when you really probably need to think about it, invest in that, is when you are going to market with scale. That doesn’t necessarily mean hundreds of thousands of people sorts of scale, but when the meetings that you’re taking are a little bit less about, “Hey, you can be a development partner. This is what we’re working on. What do you think?” And more about, “I want you to buy this. I want to transact with you.”
Bill: And, the more that those types of conversations are both dominating your investments in terms of hiring and sales and marketing, and also just how you’re gonna evaluate your own performance. That’s when you kinda need to start getting the stuff right, or right enough.
Dan: Yeah and that’s when not having it is going to start to clearly impact the results of those conversations?
Bill: Correct. Yes.
Dan: Okay. Give me a moment here just to look at this list because I think our conversation has been following this stream of thought all by itself.
Bill: I always jump the gun.
Dan: No problem, I think it’s better for it to come out in natural flow of thought.
Dan: So, let’s talk specifically about MedTech and healthcare. You’ve worked with a lot of healthcare related clients. And I’m sure you’ve encountered this as marketers we’re always told that we need to humanize our brands, especially if it’s a business to business brand. Or, especially if you’re doing something that’s not very sexy, right? You need to find a way to connect emotionally on some level to your stakeholders.
Dan: I think what often comes out of that in healthcare space is a broad claim that companies make that there are really patient-centric.
Dan: But, if everybody is just saying that, then your humanization maybe falls flat and it becomes very generic and you’re not really differentiating yourself at all.
Dan: So, how can MedTech players, how can folks in the startup realm define their brand in a way that’s both humanizing, but not overly broad?
Bill: Yeah, great question. And I have a blizzard of thoughts, so please help me keep them structured.
Bill: The first thought is an old adage that, again, marketer or marketer is probably something you’ve heard 100 times, and I’ve heard 100 times.
Bill: But, continues to have the most profound impact on me and acts as a check in terms of my own direction and the work we’re doing with clients, which is, and I forget who said it, Professor Levitt said it. Which is that, “People don’t wanna buy a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.”
Bill: What that is imploring us to do as marketers is to focus less on features and more on benefits. So, part of appealing to and remember to master the emotional and rational sides of our stakeholders, and they always … people are people. So, there’s always a rational and emotional piece to this. Is to remember to communicate through the lens of benefits, not product features. Because of the fact in MedTech, many of your most high potential founders are coming at this with product knowledge and as engineers, and are approaching this, and that’s their comfortable place. That’s where their soul resides, it is particularly important that people like that are remembering to talk about the hole, not the drill.
Bill: Now, you’re right. This whole, “Hey, I’m making this device that the patient will never know by name, or identify by name. Yet, I read somewhere that I need for this brand to be emotional, so I’m gonna talk about saving the world.”
Bill: No, you’re right. There’s a disconnect there that falls flat, it’s cringy, it’s trickily, it isn’t something that’s gonna connect.
Bill: But, by goodness, if you are selling through let’s just take a medical center, and you think about the need states and the frustrations of the chooser and user in this. Let’s say the nurse. Boy, what problems are you solving for her or him? What are the things that day in and day out are areas that really motivate and constrain him or her?
Bill: Some of those are emotional. I mean nurses who, and again I’m over-generalizing here, but let’s say if you’re dealing with head nurses and their team at an assistant living facility. When you think about it, you really go through and build a map of the journey that they deal with day in and day out, all the touch points with their patients, with their colleagues, administrators, all the challenges that are thrown on them day in and day out.
Bill: And, you talk to a couple of them and you understand what deeply frustrates them, and you really hopefully have hit on a problem that you’re solving for your product. There’s incredible terrain to make that emotional.
Bill: And so, emotional brands isn’t just going to this as far as you possibly can in terms of the actual end-user of this and saying that we’re gonna save their lives. That’s a recipe for not connecting.
Bill: But, when you look at your stakeholder, in some cases it’s a complex web of stakeholders. And you really think about the problem you’re solving and the impact you’re having on their day, and on their sense of themselves, and on their sense of their own performance and efficacy. You will find terrain there that is absolutely possible to sort of anchor into.
Bill: In the MedTech realm, even if you don’t touch the end-consumer, or you don’t wanna run the risk of saying, “Oh, we make the world a better place.” Or, what you’re dealing is sort of definitively un-sexy, you’re helping someone have a better day and get a better outcome. And, it’s important for you to get your finger on what that is.
Dan: Yeah. So, as a follow up to that, how can brands know how to strike the right balance between being really aspirational in what they claim in making somebody’s day better or saving their lives. Without kind of like overextending themselves and laying claim to something that they really haven’t earned. So, I think what comes to mind is, I think I was listening to it, an old episode of your podcast the other day.
Bill: I think … I’ll piggyback on what I said earlier, because this may not be satisfying, “How to” answer, but the best way not to do it, is not to do it in this case.
Bill: If you have a clear sense of how your stakeholders live and work and what they value and where they need allies, and the role that you’re playing in being that ally in a certain sphere in a certain sector. If you really, really know that well, and you’ve been able to sort of articulate again, rationally and emotionally the value that you create for them, or the problems that you solve for them. You will, and you should always resist temptation to claim to be a savior in areas where you’re not, but you should be able to calibrate that message pretty effectively if you have a pretty good sense of how they live and what they do.
Bill: I’ll give you an example, we’ve been working on a branding process for a company that’s mindblowingly amazing, that may be a hyperbole but we like them very much, we respect them very much called, Belmont Instrument, the rebranding is Belmont Medical Technologies. They’re sort of flagship product, which is known in the ER as “The Belmont”. Is this temperature regulation, the rapid infuser that helps regulate temperature when it comes to blood transfusions and get rid of the bubbles and other things. I mean this is literally lifesaving, but it is a tool for critical care providers to save lives, and there’s a temptation because the tool is lifesaving because you wanna sort of inspire the internal workforces and because you want the market to be aware of the impact that you have. There’s a temptation to say that this product alone saves lives and maybe it does, but it made more sense from our perspective and theirs to really nestle into the degree in which we support critical healthcare heroes in saving lives and enhancing outcomes.
Bill: To come to market with confidence and humility simultaneously was the right answer for them. And I think it generally is when it comes to MedTech.
Dan: So, kind of key there it seems like is making your … maybe not your ultimate customer, but your stakeholders the hero of the story, right?
Bill: In many cases, that’s right.
Dan: And your product is often a means of them accomplishing that feat, right?
Bill: And that is a high percentage of the time, a viable and smart, strategic direction.
Dan: Yes. Okay, so that’s kind of a good Segway into another question I have for you, which is, you alluded to, not alluded to, you talked about the importance of understanding the ins and outs of your users and your stakeholders, and the importance of research underlying your branding and your messaging, and your identity.
Dan: A lot of our listeners are very early on in their process, they might be thinking about what they want their brand ultimately to be or to mean, or how they’re gonna communicate their message, but they don’t have a product yet, let alone customers or these other stakeholder relationships that ultimately they hope will come later.
Dan: What advice can you offer to people in terms of doing that broad research when you don’t have those relationships in place. You can’t call up your customer and say, “Hey, can I come [crosstalk 00:27:28]
Bill: Thankfully, there are many, many different ways today to do or to begin the process of having those types of interactions with folks that in the olden days might’ve necessitated that you pay for it.
Bill: Use social media to network to nurses, for example, in your relationship base. Take people to coffee. I would imagine most of the founders who listen to this have some connection, somewhere in the [inaudible 00:28:00]. They don’t have a customer to survey, perhaps.
Bill: But, they have a concept, then they have a mentor and they have the ability to network their way to have just a couple of really deep conversations, that can be enough.
Bill: Market research so to speak were in this political season, the Midterms just happens everyone was looking at the polls, right? The reasons the polls are accurate sometimes down to a couple of percentage points is because they do them with a statistically significant respondent base. They do them with enough volume that they know.
Dan: But, good luck funding that.
Bill: Yeah, good luck. But I mean in this case, all you need is a directional sense. Plus, if we’re talking about these branding topics, we’re looking for depth and texture. We’re not looking for a margin of error level of statistical validation.
Bill: So, the best way to do this is to have a series of conversations with folks that you network to, take them to coffee, buy them a gift card, whatever, and benefit from the depth and texture of having a palms up, open conversation to understand what their world is like.
Bill: At the same time there are other ways to do this? Yes, social media. But, all of these places have trade organizations. All of these occupations do. They’re often, and depending on where you live, you may have a university nearby that’s offering undergrad or grad level degrees and XYZ. Talk to faculty, talk to grad students who are doing rotations. If you have a little bit of energy, certainly roll up your sleeves and at very minimal cost have conversations of this sort that will be helpful, not necessarily in validating within a two decimal place margin of error that something that you believe in is right or wrong.
Bill: But, in providing the texture and the depth with which to build these maps of experience and build brand content, that has power and meaning, and is directionally valid. So, you don’t need a paralysis by analysis research process that spins the entire angel around that you’ve raised, and exhaust you and now you’ve learned something, but you have nothing else.
Bill: You don’t need to do that anymore.
Dan: Right. And really hopefully, I’ve always sort of felt as a marketer in a lot of ways my job is easy if what I’m marketing has been developed correctly.
Dan: Right. If the team that has developed the product I’m selling, or put together the service package I’m selling has done that with market knowledge. Then, branding and messaging and all that sort of thing should be a natural extension of that, right?
Dan: So, I guess what I’m trying to get at is hopefully those conversations and those interactions are already happening at informing all of what comes prior to hanging your shingle, right?
Bill: Yeah. Totally.
Dan: Yeah so.
Bill: But that said, entrepreneurs have to make calls. Again, there’s zigging and zagging in that process, and there’s probably some choices that you make either at the product level or at the pitch level, or whatever it is.
Bill: That’s based on incomplete information and you do your best to get there and that those hypotheses get refined over time and it certainly makes sense to make this level of exposure to the marketplace a persistent and perpetual component of the growth of a concept and continue to bring ideas and concepts back to this base of folks who can react to them through the lens of their own professional experience and then the needs that they have day in and day out.
Bill: So, I agree with you that these companies are built brick by brick and ideally good choices now result in better outcomes later. But, one shouldn’t fret that every choice they’ve made doesn’t have to be perfect for the company being successful, except to do your best and then continually refine the approach.
Dan: Right. Yeah, I guess what I mean is hopefully you didn’t get to market with a product that you haven’t already really established the need for and the value of within your own process of developing it and funding the development thereof right?
Bill: It’s true, and I mean if you have investors, a lot of people are kicking the tires on this thing, and a lot of people are assessing in addition to their respect for you which is probably palpable and important to this. They’re assessing what the market opportunity is and whether it clicks or connects for them. And so, by virtue of building a company, even in the very early stage, there are people who have been put in a position to evaluate whether they think you’re on the right track. So, I guess there’s perhaps wisdom which each incremental opportunity that you have to put this in front of somebody who has good judgment and some level of experience. You know, the closer you come to know that you’re on to something.
Bill: Forgive the emergency vehicles in the background. It’s not for us.
Dan: It’s part of life in the big city, if you can hear the emergency vehicles in the background. We’re recording from Finch’s s today.
Bill: I hope everybody is okay.
Dan: And there’s some city noises.
Dan: Let’s talk briefly about the process of naming, both company naming and product naming.
Dan: That’s a really painful process in my experience.
Bill: Can be, yeah.
Dan: And the larger the group is that’s making this decision, the more painful the process may be though. I guess on the other hand the more input and reactions you get.
Dan: What’s the right way for a startup to go about the naming process. Say just naming their company, or maybe naming their product that is the name of their company or vice versa.
Bill: Right. Many are, yeah.
Dan: Is it the two founders sitting in a room alone? Or, when’s the right time to have that conversation? When should you reevaluate … when should you be willing to reevaluate your working title?
Bill: Yeah, I think the second question is a little easier than the first, but I’ll try to address them both.
Bill: Everybody works differently and has different rhythms and for example, even at Finch, and we do a lot of naming and my own personal naming history goes back to the late ’90s. My first real job out of college what at a firm that adjusted naming, and so I have a passion for it, it’s my favorite thing to do. It’s hard, to your point, and it’s always a mix of hope and fear. I mean the hope is that you come at something that really effectively encapsulates the energy and the positioning, and you can get it and go to market with it, and it helps.
Bill: The fear is legal availability and linguistic appropriateness, and just the overall challenge of a process like this. So, anyway, suffice it to say my scars are still fresh and have been for 20 years from naming.
Bill: But, everybody works differently even within Finch we have some folks who really thrive in group brainstorming sessions. I’m not like that, I personally am somebody who prefers to brainstorm independently and use the output from the group sessions and anyway, too much sausage making. Suffice it to say that there’s no right answer as to who should be in the room and how they should do it.
Bill: What there is a little bit of at least guidance on perhaps is, what makes a successful name? And, to your second question, when to be flexible and reevaluate it?
Bill: There are a couple of different types of names. It’s most simply and this may be overly simple. There are three types and they all have strengths and weaknesses.
Bill: Type one: we would call that neologism, it’s a newly created word. It’s your Verizon. It’s your Exxon. It’s your Texaco. These names may have an obvious derivation, but they are … I used all the petroleum companies, so let’s use Verizon as an example, which is the Latin prefix, the truth, and horizon. So true future, it was GTE and Bell Atlantic merged. There was no chance that either one of those, old wire line companies was gonna really be the right identity to carry forward into even then they knew was a mobile future in the mid to late ’90s.
Bill: So, a new name was developed, Verizon.
Bill: Now, the good thing about it is you can make it mean what you want it to mean. It was an undisturbed landscape and you had an opportunity, Verizon did, to define what they wanted it to be. Of course, day one, everyone said, “How do you pronounce this? Verizzon? Or, What does this even mean? I hate it. It sucks.” Whatever, and then, as is so often in the naming process, naming is not a thunderbolt from [inaudible 00:36:26] and oh, there it is, we got it. There’s one name and it could can only be one name, and it’s the greatest name ever. It’s never like that. What it is, is finding a name candidate that has enough absence of negatives and enough that you can build a brand around it.
Bill: When I was doing naming in the ’90s, clients would come and say, I want the next Amazon, I want the next Windows. So, we understood that. Of course, the response obviously was, you don’t want their names, you want their businesses, right?
Bill: So anyway, it’s important to not hold yourself to the standard of the thunderbolt is gonna come and the angels are gonna sing in holy, and holy crap I have my name. Because it doesn’t happen like that. It really doesn’t. The best names are those that have the best business and brands built around them.
Bill: But, back to the point neologisms. The detriment perhaps or the challenge of neologism is that it costs a lot of money to make it mean what you want it to mean.
Bill: In the absence of your ability to educate the marketplace, they’re gonna be forming their own conclusions or more likely confused by it. So, the neologism has strengths and weaknesses.
Bill: The second type that you see that is predominant is a metaphor. It may be a popular word that everybody knows what it means, but you use it out of context to … Amazon, which was the longest river in the world, it’s a conveyed selection. Finch as well, coming from Darwin and the research on finches in the Galapagos. These are metaphors. Jetta is a wind current for Volkswagen. There’s hundreds of examples. But, the benefit of that is you can still make it mean what you want it to mean and it won’t be, “Ugh, I’ve seen it 100 times-
Dan: And nobody asked how to pronounce it-
Bill: But, people know how to pronounce it. So metaphors are interesting. The challenge of them is that you still need to tether it to what you’re doing so that it makes some degree of sense and then the third name can be-
Dan: It may be a lot harder to be found as the first search result, right?
Bill: That true. [crosstalk 00:38:15] it’ll be used out of context or in different context in a bunch of different ways.
Bill: The third, we would say is more of a descriptive name candidate. The name that comes pretty darn close to saying exactly what the product does.
Bill: And then I would say the fourth is more of a proper name. It might be after a place or after a person. So, I guess I’ll amend that and say there’s four.
Bill: Anyway, straight to the weaknesses to each. The right name ultimately is based on situational factors in terms of the category and it needs to have some level of connection. Ideally, it says something and it does a little bit of the work of introducing the company. Ideally, it is easy to spell. Ideally, the domain name is available or a quick work around is available. Obviously, ideally the intellectual property is available and linguistically it needs to not mean something horrible in another language. We’ve all heard those stories.
Bill: And so, these are things that the name needs to do.
Bill: Now, the right name type, or the right specific name for a company is very situational based upon what the company is doing, what the nature of the category is. Are you a first mover with a new innovation? Are you leaning into something different in terms of what you’re providing?
Bill: Long answer to an easy question. The second part of your question of when to reassess is before you go to market and scale. There may be a time where you put a little bit of momentum in a closed community, like the entrepreneurial ecosystem, or among investors, or in an HR sense where you have built a little bit of equity in what it is that you’re trying to do. There may have been a story or two written about it. You may have raised a couple rounds, whatever.
Bill: But, before you really go to market and scale, that’s the time to think differently about it. I don’t like the necessarily, “Hey, my roommate and I had a pet dog and the dog name was Spot, so we’re gonna name our company Spot.” Who knows, you look at the successful companies out there. There’s a lot of random proper names that have stories associated with them that are really personal to the founders.
Bill: Again, for a guy at a firm that does a lot of naming, it maybe strange to say. But, there are certain things the name needs to do, but a lot of the success or failure is way beyond what the name does or doesn’t do.
Dan: You do post naming right?
Bill: Yeah totally. So, I think naming is important, but again, not something to get stuck on or be paralyzed by.
Bill: Another thing that we’ve seen pretty frequently, again, to your point is, often there are what we call brand architectures, which have to do with how different brand equity is within a company fit together.
Bill: Where there’s a corporate name that isn’t the product, the lead product name. Once you go to market, maybe you want the corporate name to exist in your corporation documents, maybe you want the corporate name to exist because there may be future directions that the company would day beyond its maiden product concept. So maybe you want a different corporate name from a different lead product.
Bill: Now, that makes sense in situations where the corporate name isn’t asked to do that much. If the corporate name is asked to do a lot when it comes to HR, when it comes to fundraising, when it comes … then it doesn’t make sense early on to have to build equity in two names simultaneously. That’s a diversion of resources and that’s a confusing waste of times and resources.
Bill: But, if the corporate name is a DBA that’s gonna exist and be held for later as a larger umbrella into which other concepts they fit or sit down the line, then it may make sense for an initial product that has a very specific utilization and it may be a very specific space to have the ability to narrowly tailor its value to the space and the stakeholder type that it exists to impact.
Bill: So those are meandering thoughts about naming. But yes, naming can be hard. Naming is emotional. Part of the reason I think it’s hard, my own hypothesis is that when it comes to the work that designers do, there’s a skill gap. Most people can’t do what they do.
Bill: When it comes to naming, we all know the language.
Bill: And we all have opinions about it and that’s good. So, within a process, we’re working with clients, it’s on us to harvest input, to lead but listen, and to understand that great ideas can come from all other the process. It doesn’t make sense for us to discourage. They’ve hired us and they want us to leave, but that doesn’t make sense for us to discourage either candidates that were developed internally or if people are having fun thinking about it, we appreciate those additions to the process and the right answer in a process, I don’t care where it comes from or where it comes from. I mean there’s no pride in authorship. And there shouldn’t be just because we want the best. We want the best outcome.
Bill: So, when founders are brainstorming and they feel really good about something, that in it of itself means something.
Dan: Yeah, great. Well I think you and I can geek out for a while about branding and naming and marketing topics, but one thing I wanted to make sure that we do cover before we wrap up here in a minute is the issue of stakeholders within the healthcare space.
Dan: Many of our listeners are working on products that are gonna have a whole host of stakeholders and ultimately they may even end up inside a patient for the rest of their lives. But, the patient may never even know that brand name, you may not know you have the Metronic hip or a J&J hip.
Dan: How do you decided who the most important stakeholder are? Are they the hospitals, are they the insurers, are they the surgeons or the nurses? And how do you tailor your brand messaging to multiple sets of stakeholders that have their own sets of concerns.
Bill: Right. Most medical devices do not reach the level, nor to they aspire to, nor should they aspire to be an, “I want my MTV” kind of end-user pull.
Bill: Because the budget is required to do that. As well as their very specific categories where a patient or a consumer may even care.
Dan: And may even [crosstalk 00:44:14]
Bill: System or something like that. And they even exercise their own, very few where they would do their own research or exercise their own level of discretion, I mean it has to do with pharmaceuticals yes. But, in the device side, not as much.
Bill: So, I would in most cases not even really worry about end-user adoption unless it’s gonna be there and they’re gonna be able to access it and it has to do with how they think about themselves and their recovery and you don’t wanna … you certainly don’t wanna name a product, cadaver. When you’re trying to have a patient trying to get better and working hard to get better. So you don’t wanna name a product, buzzard, you know that’s geared towards older folks.
Bill: So, those are obvious you don’t wanna step in it.
Bill: Stakeholders we talked about a little bit earlier. It helps initially, you build a map of that chooser and user journey. Who are you selling to? Who’s using it? What are the differences? And then who’s ultimately using it? What are their differences, and needs, and motivations, and pain points?
Bill: If you build a real brand journey map, and you see the world through the lenses of those distinctive stakeholder groups. We go through a process there at Finch called laddering, that is really important from a messaging perspective. You start with those needs.
Bill: And the stakeholders may be different. But, you diagram what their needs are. And then you continually ladder up and I won’t give you the whole thing until you have a sense of the core emotional terrain that you’re occupying.
Bill: So, assessing the stakeholder needs, but then understanding what an umbrella concept that spans them. That’s a mixed metaphor, but umbrella concepts that can encapsulate both of them, or all three of them, or all four of the stakeholder types is likely where you’re gonna find fertile branding territory.
Bill: In terms of finding which stakeholders are important. Again, it’s a situational answer, but the end-consumer, maybe as a “Huh.” Don’t want to offend them, but they’re not actively engaging in a choice. So, that’s something to think about. But, certainly if we’re talking about large hospitals, for example, you’re dealing with a procurement apparatus, you’re dealing with an operation chain of command that has to do with cost savings, and has to do with regulation, and has to do with outcomes. All the things that matter to them from a regulatory and a performance perspective.
Bill: Then, on the medical and clinical side, you’re dealing with doctors, nurses, and everybody in between, and how they treat certain situations. How the actual work gets done, in terms of who does what.
Bill: So, choosers, users, building a map of those stakeholders, diagramming, and documenting their unique needs, and finding terrain where there is both functionally and emotionally those connection points we have found is an effective way to kind of ladder up to a core brand message that’s sound and powerful. That balances the rational with the emotional. And that speaks in the right language simultaneously to the different stakeholders that matter all the way down that path.
Dan: Great. Thank you.
Dan: Well that’s probably as good a note to end on as any. But Bill, I wanna really thank you for your time, it’s been a great conversation, I hope our listeners are enjoying this conversation as much as I am.
Bill: I can go forever on one answer.
Dan: Thanks [crosstalk 00:47:22] you and I can do that separately, we’ll let our listeners off the hook.
Written by Daniel Henrich
Director of Marketing at Archimedic