Brand Book Bites from Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Lean Brand

the book:  Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Lean Brand: How Brand Innovation Builds Passion, Transforms Organizations and Creates Value is a guidebook for startupslean brand book

the brains:  Jeremiah Gardner and Brant Cooper help startups get started.  This is Jeremiah’s first book and Brant was the co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Lean Entrepreneur.   They share from their experiences as speakers, writers, and business advisors.

the best bits:  The book starts out by defining “brand” as “the relationship between an organization and an audience…A brand is a relationship because it’s how we, as humans, intuitively relate to products, organizations, and ideas.”

The writers then introduce the Lean Brand Framework, “a tool for brand innovation.”  The Framework covers:

  • Assumptions — fundamental beliefs about your audience and the emotional value created in the relationships your customers form with you
  • Hypothesis Gap – which you cross by testing your ideas with an initial audience and getting feedback
  • Minimum Viable Brand – the most critical elements of your brand – story, artifact, and invitation
  • Validation Gap – which is crossed by empirically proving the value of your intentional brand development efforts through validated learning
  • P/M/B (Product-Market-Brand) Fit – the synthesis between who you are, what need your product is promising to address, and how your customers emotionally relate to you
  • Growth Gap – tests of how to create external demand to grow the depth and scope of relationships with your audience without adversely affecting existing value

Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Lean Brand is chockfull of quotes, from the inspiring:

Truly great organizations—with valuable relationships with their audiences—don’t outsource their brand development and expect radiant results.

Brand development takes hard, intentional, and intelligent work. Even if there were a branding lottery, the cost of entry would be paid in blood, sweat, and tears.

Successful brands are a mix of intention, iteration, time, and environment. No brand finds success overnight and no brand finds success without putting in the hard work it takes. Leaving your brand to simple chance is a sure way to lose a grip on the value you have to contribute in the world and whether your audience agrees with you or shares it with you.

…to the informative:

A brand only begins to have meaning with connection. That connection happens at the junction of who you (as the organization) are and who your audience (customers, employees, evangelists) aspires to be.

A Lean Brand is a brand wherein an organization and audience have achieved a symbiotic relationship around common value without any extraneous activities.

Brand is a part of every activity you are involved in as an organization and exists in every facet of your organization.

the brand story:  Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Lean Brand includes several case studies on start-ups in the form of interviews with the entrepreneurs behind them.  My favorite is Zesty.io, a cloud-based content platform.  Co-founders Randy Apuzzo and Andy Fleming relate their story of discovering the emotional value of their brand:

“We really struggled to switch from that feature-first mindset that poisoned our brains in the beginning and to start talking about where people connected with us, how we created emotional-value, and to get to the heart of our story.

We learned that the story around Zesty is really about collaboration…We had to really reevaluate our startup by asking ourselves, “Which features really communicate collaboration? What could we say or do to get someone to light up about collaboration? What aligns with that story?”… We had to focus on creating real value with both our product and our brand to really break that feature bubble and connect in a powerful way with our customers

It has been a lot more successful than just saying we have this feature or that feature even if we are talking about the same exact functionality. When you can put it in the context of how it impacts your customer’s life or how it helps them accomplish their goals, or WHY you built it, it’s a hundred times more successful than just talking about the feature itself.”

the bottom line:  If you’re looking for a quick and easy fill-in-the-blanks brand development manual, this book isn’t for you.  If, however, you’re willing to work through a methodical, multi-step journey of brand formation, you’ll find The Lean Brand Framework and this book illuminating.

Listen to my conversation with co-author Brant Cooper to learn:

  • how lean branding is as much about learning as it is about executing
  • how to combine creativity with the rigor of science to discover if your brand idea generates result you seek
  • how to create value outside of product silos


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