Whenever we pitch a new client, we inevitably get asked the question: “What experience do you have in our industry?” While industry experience is important, we don’t think that’s the right question to ask. The problem with too much industry experience is messaging gets recycled and creative gets stale.
We think the right question is: “What successful brands have you built?”
Here are two stories about brands we created and helped manage.
A few years ago, we were approached by two ex-Bell telephone sales reps that had just started a phone conferencing company. They were going to be disruptive in the market by offering customers substantially lower conferencing costs. At the time the incumbents were Bell and AT&T. They charged outrageous fees for conference calls. Enunciate was going to offer prices at 50-70% less. We developed their brand and their marketing material. The brand was all about empowerment and freedom. It was fun and full of energy. We used imagery of young, happy, active people who were enjoying life. We also convinced the owners to hang up posters and ads we created all over the office walls. This communicated to employees that the brand was real, it was valuable, and the owners were proud to show it off. We also helped develop branded internal sales tools the sales reps used every day. The company did very well. Within 3 years, they had revenues of over three million dollars. By their eighth year they were closing in on 12 million in sales. Then they were approached by a US-based conferencing company and were purchased for $35,000,000 – 3 X their revenue. And while it was not a line item on the balance sheet, the equity and maturity of their brand played a role in getting such a high multiple. The buyers saw the company as having a solid brand that was reflected in all their sales tools.
When we first met the husband and wife team behind Traxtal Technologies, we could not figure out what they did. After our first meeting we had no idea what they were talking about. It would take 2 more presentations in our board room before we could grasp what they had invented and what they were selling. The husband, Neil, was a PhD and had invented surgical software that used multimode image fusion to facilitate pre-operative and intra-operative instrument tracking that compensated for patient motion and respiration. If you know what that means, consider yourself very smart. Our biggest challenge with this client was to simplify. We had to tell their story like we were talking to a 6th grader. Their customers were large hospitals and surgeons, and we knew if we kept it simple, people would remember Traxtal more than all the other medical equipment products they saw every day. So we developed tag lines such as “GPS Navigation for the Human Body” and “Precision Soft Tissue Navigation.” We explained how the Traxtal system helped guide needles and probes used in surgery. The benefits were amazing: minimally invasive, 3D views of the inside of the patient and real time tracking of instruments. It was ground breaking stuff. We developed their master brand and several line extensions. We created their trade show booth, promotional videos and all their sales and marketing material. Three years later they were acquired by Royal Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG). The day after the deal closed, Neil showed up at our office in a new Porsche. He told us Philips had commented they were impressed how sophisticated the Traxtal brand was and how all their products looked so professional. Well designed and properly managed brands add value.