Brand Archaeology

by Patrick Woods on


I’m jealous of writers. Fiction, history, biography, short stories—I envy the good writers across genre. Writers tell stories, they convey information, they move their audiences from one point to another, leaving them changed in the process.

That’s why I love reading about how writers write. When they write, the process they follow for arriving at a narrative, even the tools they use and the desks where they sit.

On of my favorite accounts of a writer’s process is Stephen King’s class On Writing. King starts with the story of his childhood, college, and early marriage. After providing this humorous, sometimes moving, look into his autobiography, King moves on to the details of how we works. Where he sits, when he writes, how often he writes.

In one section, he unpacks what amounts to his view of Story. Where do stories come from? How do you know a good one?

In King’s view, stories are fossils. In other words, the stories exist already, much like Michelangelo would say the sculpture is there, waiting, inside the block of marble. The ideas have been there since the beginning of time. Someone just needs to uncover them. In this sense, authors are archeologists.

Stories aren’t souvenir tee-shirts or GameBoys. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. (163)

In a similar sense, part of our role in building startup brands at archer>malmo is brand archeology. Our role is not so much about manufacturing a story or creating a logo that’s designed well and in keeping with current trends. The real power is when we startups fully articulate existing realities.

What’s true about your brand already? What truths can we leverage? What does everyone already believe that we can communicate better, more clearly?

We don’t believe in creating brands. Doing so is tempting to startups, who are usually creating something from nothing. The thing is, creating a brand from thin air is possible. But it often takes a lot of money to make it work (pharmaceutical brands are great examples).

Manufacturing a brand also runs the risk of coming off as hollow and contrived. There was a time when a made-up brand was totally fine. But then the internet and social and mobile came along, giving personal cynicism global reach.

During the 2014 Academy Awards show, host Ellen Degeneres snapped a selfie with herself and a half-dozen other celebs. She did so with a giant Samsung phablet, which was totally cool. Except for one thing: she had been taking pics all night backstage on her iPhone. You know, the phone she actually uses.

Within minutes, the internet was abuzz with rumors and questions and theories. Was it accidental? Was it product placement? How did this become the world’s most retweeted tweet?

The consumer’s BS detector is finer tuned than ever, and your startup’s brand is not immune.

For startups, brands pulled from thin air will do little to differentiate from the competition and create interest among the target audience. At worst, such an approach will be harmful, in that potential customers will recognize it as disingenuous.

That’s why it’s critically important that you put in the challenging work of uncovering your brand’s truth. You’ll be surprised at how many bones from your brand you’ll find with a bit of focused effort.

Still need help? I’m offering free 30-minute Google Hangout office hour sessions to take questions about startup branding and messaging. No strings attached. Complete this form if that interests you.

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