Hitting The Mark
Conversations with founders and investors about the intersection of brand clarity and startup success with your host, brand strategist and author Fabian Geyrhalter.
EP061 – Matthew Barnett, Papa Bear, Bonjoro
In the last episode we were in Iceland, today we are in Australia, and finally, we have a B2B brand on the show again: A tech brand that is in the business of converting, retaining, and growing your customers with delightful personal video messages sent at just the right moment.
But Bonjoro is not your typical tech company – it has brand and culture at its heart. It is about creating customer love, and it is a weird brand, a fun brand, a brand that is not afraid to stand out, most probably more afraid to blend in.
Matt and I talk about the importance of branding for B2B companies, about brand copy, about creating funnels for a brand that has multiple audiences with multiple pain points, and of course, we talk about the importance of bears to Bonjoro hence Matt’s unusual title.
Welcome to the show, Matt.
Hi, Fabian, great to be here.
Absolutely. I’m so thrilled to have a B2B tech brand on the show at last, but Bonjoro is not the typical tech company. I mean, it has brand and culture at its heart, it is about creating customer love, and it’s a weird brand, it’s a fun brand, it’s a brand that is not afraid to stand out. It’s probably more afraid to blend in. You started as a designer, if I saw that correctly on your LinkedIn. How did you end up running Bonjoro? Take us on that journey. Take us on the journey of how the brand came about, the brand formation, how did you get into video and all that stuff?
Yeah, so I trained as an industrial designer back in the UK many years ago. Industrial design is a terrible word, it’s basically product design, but that obviously stretches from the engineering side all the way to the creative side. So I was always going to go into product. I think I had a personal affinity for … I don’t even know if I knew it was brand, just being a bit weird, I guess. I’ve always worn kilts my whole life, I always go on stage. I like going out and making a lasting impression personally. I used to work in agency a lot and pitching was part of my DNA, I thrived on that.
I moved to Australia many years ago and fell into the tech scene. I actually originally went on a date with a co-founder and we didn’t hit it off, but we did start a company. That was the first company, and then 10 years later Bonjoro is now the company that I’m in, and started, and I guess I found that space. I think that brand side, that brand attention has always been something I’m passionate about. Initially it was personal brand, I guess, if you look back and brand within other peoples products, and then I guess this was a great time to experiment and see how far I could take a brand myself. Initially it’s got a lot of me in it, I’ll be honest, and then it’s evolved from there.
That’s how it usually works, right? A founder has a personality and they use that personality to launch a brand, and to quote-unquote, sell people, on what they have to offer.
How did you get into … was it always video for Bonjoro? Did you start like that? How did you decide that there’s a painpoint out there, and you can solve it in a very unique way.
Yes, well I actually run an agency, so we had an agency here dealing with clients overseas. So Australia, great place to live, not a great place to be if you want to do global business because the time zones … in my time now it’s 6:00 AM, but you got to do these early calls.
I know, thank you, I appreciate it. 6:00 AM for you, we have to call it out, that’s a true trooper.
That’s pretty normal, and so when we had an agency here we’d have a lot of leads coming overseas. That agency had headquarters but an office in London as well. We would essentially have these leads coming over at night and one of the things we did in terms … so sales, but with a very big brand slant is that we tried to get our personalities across, and that creativity across, which is how we sold these agencies and we decided to use video to do that.
So obviously agencies do rely on the team and the individuals, they are a massive part of how you sell, we were very good at that, we were very creative, we were very out there and so we would collect any leads that came in over night from other countries, and rather than send them an email which we originally did, but again it just didn’t get us across and our brand across, we started doing individual videos for every single inquiry that we had.
I used to take a ferry to work here in Sydney, so I would go across the harbor and pass the Sydney Opera House, so I would wait until that moment and then I would plant my smart phone, do these views, and we’d see the account manager from Budweiser in London and Ogilvy would sign up, and I’d do a video talking about Budweiser and the projects that we’d worked on, while the wind was in my hair and there were seagulls flying around. We packaged this up and we sent it to them, and most of the time people would reply and they’d go, “I can’t really understand what you’re saying because it’s too windy, but this is hilarious, absolutely come in and see us.” So we ended up getting all these extra meetings just because we were being a bit more creative in our approach.
Obviously, this feeds the brand because as that agency, our very comms, our very first interaction we ever did with the company was a creative approach, and it was a very personalized approach as well, which is how our brand was in that company. Ultimately, long story short, one of those clients asked if they could use this video messaging system that we built. We let them use it, they started sending them, some of their clients came in, etc. etc. Then this just started to snowball and build its own company. So it was never an intention but we were trying to embody what we had as our original brand, in our way that we communicated, and then that ultimately became its own company, and its own product of the back of that.
You called it a matching system, how does that algorithm work, tell us a little bit about how the whole, quote-unquote, system works, if I’m a client and I sign up. What’s going to go down if I’m part of Bonjoro?
It’s all about personalization and scale. So we are a video tool, the reality is it’s not actually the video that is the key, the video is an amazing way to communicate, it’s actually about turning up and taking time with the customers. So what we do is the system will sit on top of any customer data source you use, so a HubSpot, a Salesforce, even a Shopify. Any tool at all. What happens is we basically suggest triggers as to when it makes sense to send a customer or a lead a personalized one-minute video. The most common use case, of course, is with leads. So when a lead comes in, and like we were doing in that first case, one of your team gets notified and then you’re going to record a 30 second, 1 minute video to welcome this lead on board and say, “Hey, this is Fabian here, awesome to have you sign up. If you have any questions let us know.” Etc. etc.
What we do specifically though, is we also pull in data about who that customer is. So we’ll tell you what their job title is, where they work, where in the world they are. We’ll even tell you what they’ve done in your software, or on your lead forms, or in your products, so we can show you … for instance, in our instance, if you were a software company we could show you that this lead in the last hour has done steps one to four of onboarding, but they haven’t done steps five to six. So when you do a video you not only use their name, their job and where they’re from, you can also say, “Hey, also I noticed you didn’t do these three steps, here’s a link to go and do them. They’re really important, and if you need help let me know.”
So you’re personalizing the content in terms of saying their name and the company, and that kind of thing, and then you’re also personalizing the direction that you’re driving each and every lead to obviously try and get them to a better success.
Very cool, and the reason why video is obvious right? It makes it personal, people actually know who you are and when we started our little interview here this morning you had your camera on, I had my camera because I always have my camera off because of bandwidth. I just want to make sure, especially with Australia, and you’re like, “No, let’s keep that on, let’s get to know each other a little bit.” That makes it more personable, right?
Obviously, there must be people in a company who are like, “Well, I don’t feel like I should be on camera.” Or, “I’m a little shy.” But you are specifically catering to people who should not be shy, or whose job title is to … either they’re an educator, or they’re in the sales force, but those are people who should be more outgoing and that’s why this is a great match for them.
It depends, I think everyone in your company should be happy to stand up and face customers. I mean if you go to any business that’s not online this was the normal. It’s the online and the not getting on video which is weird. Actually getting a person. You go back generations, you go into your grocer, he would know what it is you’re buying, he would have your produce ready for you. Your baker was the same, your butcher was the same, you had all these relationships with our suppliers on a daily basis and then we all went online, and got in a [hoey 00:08:42], and we started to lose those relationships. So really it’s just reigniting that.
So going into the whole video thing, the reason why I believe video is seen this way where some people are nervous to go on video is because for generations, over a long time, video was actually put on a pedestal because it was essentially the realm of film and TV only. So we now have this deep, ingrained, subconscious feeling that the video is the realm of TV and movie stars, and make up, and looking perfect, and film, whereas actually it is ultimately just a window. That’s all it is. Its no different to, again, meeting your coffee barista in the morning in person, versus remotely. It’s just a window and it just shows you who you are.
Humans are built to communicate visually more than they are to communicate in terms of audio, or words. 70% of communication is visual. So it’s actually just very natural, we just need to get over this little hump of where video came from, and that’s a psychological change to make. Which for the last 18 months, as terrible as it’s been, this is one thing it has helped, is it’s got people just to get over that and say, “Okay, well fine, video is just a window.”
I was wondering, I love the idea of video is a window, I think that’s really poetic even, but it tells the truth, that’s just how it is. Covid-19, it impacted everyone’s brand. Some brands it impacted positively, it’s hard to say that, it’s difficult to say that because obviously it’s been a horrifying situation for mankind. But there have been brands that just had the right product and the right time. How has this entire idea of video becoming the main means of communicating with clients even, how did that change the trajectory of what you’re doing over the last, I guess at this point, it’s 12 months.
It does, with hindsight looking back the challenge here is you could never tell what would have happened otherwise. I actually believe that the world was going in this way anyway. So, we were seeing a trajectory into video and more importantly, again I said at the beginning, it’s not all about video. It’s the main trajectory into personalizing the customer experience. I think this is the more important point for us as a company, brands were starting to find that customers were wanting connection again. Those that were taking the time, and front-loading customer service and support, were getting much better results. Video is a great enabler for this. Now the last year, what we’ve had is a lot of people train on Zoom. So we no longer have that challenge of getting over the fear. But again, obviously where we work and where we tend to be used, which tends to be a bit more front line. So customer success, sales, those individuals were already getting into video, it was already happening in quite a large way anyway.
So as a business we have accelerated this year, it’s a great place to be, I don’t think it’s been incredibly different because I think for us, and where we play, this was actually already happening. So we already saw that trajectory kicking off before the world changed. I think off the front lines, so where you have teams communicating and maybe the more introverted, and the back of house teams, that’s where Zoom has kicked off because now teams have to communicate. But frontline was already starting to get over this hump I feel anyway. That tidal wave was coming, it has just got bigger, obviously. Maybe it wouldn’t have got as big, as fast, I couldn’t tell you, but it’s not like the world changed on a dime for the video space, I don’t think.
Well, and now everyone has the perfect lighting, and everyone has the perfect mic, it’s definitely a beneficial thing. For you, and on the other hand, there is a company like Clubhouse coming around, where it’s like, “We’re so sick of video, let’s just listen to people, and let’s be passive.” It’s really interesting and yet with the whole Clubhouse thing I see so many startups that are saying, “Oh shoot, Clubhouse would be so cool with video. Let’s build Clubhouse with video.” So who knows where all of this is going to go. I think it’s just interesting because when people have too much of one thing they’re just going to get sick of it, and right now it’s the idea of everyone is over Zoom, and I just don’t want to be on camera all day anymore.
But in hindsight, we’re all ready for it and to send a client a quick … or a potential client a quick video message, it just feels natural now, and to your point, that’s what it should be because it’s just that’s how you say hi to the baker, or the butcher, you actually know their face, you know their personality.
I think with communication it’s an interesting one because you can’t unpack it more and more and what it really means to communicate. There are different ways to communicate for different scenarios. So with a Clubhouse ultimately if you want to you can choose to be more passive because it is a more passive form of communication. What I mean is, you don’t need to have 100% attention, whereas with video, you need to look in someones eyes, you need to be there, you need to be engaged and if you’re not people can tell. Audio you don’t have to have quite that level, which is great because it allows you to potentially multitask at the same time.
Obviously written communication is great because it can consumed on the recipients own time, how they like, they can jump out and jump back in again. There are different pieces of communication that work at different points for different reasons, so no one communication style is better than another, it’s about matching it to the situation. In situations where trust are important and connections are important, and I think getting your team and brand across, because for me team is brand as well, that’s obviously where video, or in person, tends to have the biggest impact.
On that note, you stated somewhere, I don’t know where I found this, but you said, “My love of building great product is only surpassed by that of building great culture.” I literally wrote the same thing to switch products with brands, where I believe that you simply cannot build a strong brand on a weak culture. What are some company culture tips … We’re going to talk a little bit more about company culture, but are some company culture tips from your experience running a company with what looks from the outside in as having a pretty admirable culture? What does it take?
I think a good start with this is to work out truly what the culture that you enjoy is. I say enjoy, because with all things in business if you’re not enjoying it then you’re doing something wrong. This is a large part of life. So I think with culture, when you first start, you don’t think about this, it happens, and you hire people who will help influence that culture in a big way. I think about it as a drop of dye in a glass of water, and when you’re a small team you put one small drop into a small glass and all the water goes blue instantly. As that team grows, and grows, and grows, that color has a danger of fading away because you’re only putting one drop in.
So at the beginning its easy, you all make the color, or the culture, as you get bigger you actually start to need some drivers. There comes a point, and you probably notice this, where you need to take a bit of a switch. The first step is to really be very honest with what it is that makes your culture. You hear people talk about writing down the key company values within this. There is no hard or fast rule, I wouldn’t worry too much about this. I think the key to getting this right is just to be honest, don’t use big words, just write it down, whatever makes sense to you and your team, run it past everyone and be like, “Is this us?”
Don’t think your values are something that you want to use to make sure that people come and get jobs, write them for what they are. If one of your values as a company is that you need to be quite ruthless to succeed, honestly, if that worked for your company and the environment you’re in, that’s okay, you need to be very honest and you need to understand that’s what happens because that’s how you’re going to hire. This is going to influence how you build the team. Whatever the value is, be honest about it, understand what it is that you know needs to make your business a success and then ultimately you go hire.
So have those values in mind, write them out, your early team will check them, yes or no. Then, as you start to grow that company this is going to be your blueprint for the first stop before you hire. This is why it’s really important to have this, because again, back to the first point with the glass of water, as your team expands and grows, the biggest issue you’re going to hit is that your culture has potential to dilute, and there’s a stage when you’re not too small, not too big, where making wrong hires culturally can actually disrupt the whole thing and throw off kilter.
It can disrupt your product even, right? Because if suddenly not all of your staff is aligned and has that same emotion, and conveys the same kind of feeling, then suddenly people think of the brand as a whole as a different kind of company than you thought it was.
To me, talking about culture, is a perfect segue to talk about bears. Bonjoro’s logo mark is a bear, a very friendly, happy, pretty bear. Your title is Papa Bear, which is awkward when I say it like this, but it is, and in context it’s really great. I think you have some explaining to talk, let’s talk about the bear. How did the bear become the logo, and it’s a really cool logo, it’s really amicable. How did everything become about bears when it comes to video, and CRM?
I think with this company there was some through on my behalf about what kind of brand we want to go and build. So it wasn’t so much that we kind of fell into it, I guess this was partly pre-meditated, we kind of knew where we wanted to go. I think playing around in video, and what we were doing. We would try and encourage people to get on video and to open up to customers. Ideally to have quite a lot of fun while doing it, because what we understood innately was that the more open you are, the more you’re having fun, the more you drop the barriers, actually the more trust you build with the customer. It’s more authentic, this tends to work.
So you look at that, and you go, as a brand and a company, and bear to mind we are B2B, so we’re in the business space-
Bear in mind, I see your hint, I bear in mind.
I don’t actually think it these days, it just happens.
I think what you have to do, I think the job of a brand, is to not just reflect your customers but actually to try and bring them on the journey with you. This is how I see brands. So where we’re having a company who have a product saying to them, “Look, you need to let go a little bit more, you need to relax a bit more, you need to open up a bit more.” We want our brand to go a little bit further that you’re going to go, so that you come on this journey with us.
So when we looked at it, we looked around brands, we looked at what was happening in the space. We kind of knew it had to have almost like a bit of a B2C slant, even though we’re in a B2B place. We didn’t want to go out corporate and serious. I think a great company who did this in the B2B space is someone like MailChimp, and they’ve changed and matured their brand over time, but they’ve actually held really well back to that core ethos and the stuff their doing now, it’s kind of perfect in my eyes.
We, I guess, took a similar approach. I thought characterization was a way to do this, I can’t remember how we came to the bear, I think it was maybe over a few beers. But the bear, I think at first it was a bee. I think animals as a characterization was an obviously direction for us, because it’s fun, it’s playful, you can take it a long way. The bear happened and then it just started to come more and more to life. This was partly driven by us. It was actually a lot driven by customers as well, I think especially in those early days you get your innovators coming on board, and there’s a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, and everyone’s like, “This is great, let’s go further.”
I remember one of the first things we ever did was we started sending bear suits to customers children when customers hit certain points on the funnel. I’m not going to lie, it was a stroke of genius, because basically we then had customers sending us back pictures of them and their kids in bear suits. I was like, “Look, they’re literally wearing our brand.” That’s when the penny dropped. People think this is actually pretty fun, and then it starts to go beyond just being a company.
I look into the value of any company that you build, and we talk about non-tangible assets, and the biggest one of these that you could possible build is the brand really, which does include the team. But I think in those old days by getting everyone into a brand, and getting everyone to talk about that brand, we got a lot more excitement, we got a lot more fun back. We generated case studies a lot easier. People who are that way inclined jumped on us because we were refreshing and different from the norm. I think the brand equity ended up become more valuable than probably the product, especially in those early days where the product’s catching up.
So that just compounded it and we took it as far as it had to go, the title naturally fell out. My title is Papa Bear. I don’t think I came up with that, again I think a customer came up with that and then it just stuck, so there we are. And now anyone who joins the company, we have a team of grannies in the North of England that build custom bear onesies for us. It’s great if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and you have winters, in Australia they’re a little bit too warm so we don’t get to wear them that much.
It’s the idea of being fun and playful, it helps for hiring and it really helps for culture. We want everyone to enjoy their job and have fun, if they’re not having that fun its kind of, for us, what’s the point of business? We also want customers to have fun, and it helps with everything. Frontline comes in more positive. If you have problems people talk to you, they don’t go and leave reviews, it just helps in every single way. But ultimately, it’s all for us. The core thing is it’s all about having a bunch of fun, while we’re doing what we love.
Look, it was such a fun story about there were so many pieces of brand nuggets in what you just said. It’s so important for everyone listening to really dive into that. This is about personality, this is about culture, but this is also about translating what your product does, where you should open up, and you should feel a certain way, into the brand.
So, one of the questions, when I’m in your shoes and I’m being interviewed in podcast, or interviews, or Q and A’s or whatever it is, one question that I’m being asked all the time, literally pretty much every single time I speak, and I’m going to let you answer it for this time, because I kind of think you already did. They all ask me, “Does branding for B2B companies even matter? You’re talking about all these B2C companies, and I get it, they’re consumers and they want something. It’s the Nike’s and the Apples, but B2B, really? Does it Matt?” I think you’ve got an answer.
I don’t know why anyone would ask this question, there’s a million examples out there in the world. Absolutely, of course it does. You’re selling something. People aspire to values and companies they want to work with in any market you’re in. Anyone at all, you will have competition. You might have a unique product that’s a world first, you’re going to get people coming after you, and if not, people always have alternatives. If you’re a coffee company people can drink tea. There’s always different things people can do. So when you’re in that space one of the most effective ways you can compete is brand, and this is your attitude and how you treat customers, and the decisions you make on products. It influences everything you do, it influences how you build the company, how you go to market, the kind of people you work with.
Very, very importantly, if you want the easiest bit to understand where brand makes sense in a business actually is probably around hiring. So why does somebody want to work for Google? Why does somebody want to work for Atlassian? Why does somebody want to work for X bank, or Y fund? They have choices they go to and they’re going to pick ones because they aspire to those values. The same will be for your customers. Having a brand strategy, and working certain ways, will get you opportunities, will get you different types of opportunities and give you different ways to compete.
It’s hard to say because for me it’s so black and white. Of course the brand matters.
Yeah, well it’s hilarious because you were shocked that I say that pretty much every time I speak people come up to me and ask me that question. To me, it’s like, why? You’re selling to people, and people are people and they want to have something that’s personable, right? It doesn’t matter if it’s a B2B sale that they’re making or if it’s an actual retail store that they’re going to, in the end it’s still the same thing. They want to have that connection.
It’s kind of great that you were so shocked that that is something people actually question. It comes across really, really nicely in what your brand does. I think not only from an empathetic point of view, which we talked a lot about, the strategic point of view, but the design, the language, the UX perspective that you take as a brand, it’s so important.
For you guys, you’re doing a really, really great job. That alone is a huge differentiator in a sea of sameness, because just to defend the ones that come up to me and ask me that question, there’s a boat load of tech companies, and apps, and services out there that are all pretty much doing the exact same thing. They use the same kind of web template. You know what I mean? It’s like, here are all our features, it’s like, feature, feature, feature, and then they go to Bonjoro and it’s like, brand, brand, brand, and by the way we’ve got features.
But it’s different, it’s a very different kind of mindset. Sadly a lot of B2B marketers don’t have it because they come from the IBM days of doing B2B marketing.
I wonder if the challenge is, to be honest, that people don’t understand what we mean when we talk about brand. Obviously if they’d just seen you speak, different group, but a lot of people think brand is a logo. They think that’s literally the all encompassing world of brand is the logo that you put on your site, and maybe the type font. That is not brand, that it is one of the smallest elements of your brand, it’s probably the least important element of your brand.
Your brand, it’s a culture, it’s a style, it’s a feeling, it’s what makes you, you. I mean, individually we all have brands. If you walk into a room and somebody can’t see your face do they still know it’s you because of the way you walk, because of the way you talk, because of what you’re wearing, that’s what it is. How recognizable are you in a sea of mundaneness? That does not come down to logos, it doesn’t necessarily come down to the whole visual piece, like copywriting is absolutely key to this. The way that you communicate with customers, it’s your operations. Do you decide to put customers first, or team first, how does that work? It’s about every element of your company, how you treat your employers, how you operationalize. Are you going to have centers in each country, or work remotely?
So many things come into this, and it’s not just a logo. If you ask me, it’s probably the element that touches every part of the business. There’s two things that do, your brand does, and then obviously money touches every part. Everything in the business is driven by money, I think everything is also driven by brand. It is absolutely all encompassing. It’s the glue that makes your company what it is. So when you say do B2B companies not have a brand, I don’t know if you’re just thinking about logo, maybe that’s the problem there, because it’s so much more than that.
Well the problem is I already educated them, so that’s post my education. I appreciate your benefit of a doubt. I just really believe that there’s a lot of start up founders, and I know that because they come to me, and they’re like, “Well, all the other founders in my incubator are whatever. They’re all doing consumer centric stuff, so of course brand is important, but I feel left out because I’m doing B2B.” So it’s kind of like this stamp of if you’re a founder in the B2B space, invest in feature, feature, feature, that’s all. That’s where you invest. You actually shouldn’t invest in branding and marketing, because that comes much later, and it’s much easier, it’s a different funnel.
Obviously, we know the golden path, and I’m glad that you shared that with my audience as well. And talking about golden paths, I’m talking about how branding touches everything. I love on your website the way that you funnel very different customer segments through your beautiful and smart online journey on your site, by saying, “Bonjoro for” in the nav, and then you can select what you would use it for. So it’s like, “Bonjoro for online education.” Or, “Bonjoro for customer success.”
This sounds like a simple and logical solution but I see many companies screw that up by creating sub products. It’s a different target audience, or creating this maze of an experience. You guys nailed it by saying, we do one thing, we’re all about this one thing, and we just happen to do it for many people. So if you’re this person this is right for you. Has this been an ongoing conversation, and big strategic brand decision, or was this just kind of like it fell into place? I assume it didn’t just fall into place.
I think this is part of the maturity for the company as well, I’ll to B2B and B2C. You basically have, and you’ll know this as you grow, you have ideal customer profiles. So you will have ISP’s. You will have certain customers that will utilize, and connect, and stay with your company. You see these in research projects, we do user profiles, Jenny is a greengrocer from wherever, that kind of thing. The more data you have, the deeper you start to understand who it is that’s using your product. You start to understand that there’s not just one bucket of people. There are different people with different motivations. If you can help tailor parts of product, or parts of your messaging, to different people because again, different people have different motivations.
If you’re a bank, it’s very different talking to a 20 year old starting an account versus a 70 year old retiree who’s saving for the grandkids. Very different market, very different messaging. How do you work out, because you can’t target everyone, who you target and it’s probably three or four types of people only. Maybe a little bit more, but small numbers. How do you then really bucket those up, and one thing here as well is to focus on the customers that are the best for your company. You might have a million Joe Bloggs but they don’t ever spend any money, whereas you have a thousand Susie’s who spend 10 grand a year, focus on those obviously. So how to you cater, and then how do you work out who these are? How do you change your messaging to really hit the core value that each of these different type of users are going for.
Again, to the bank idea, a 20 year old opening a savings account versus a retiree with a fund, they’re using the exact same bank and possibly the exact same products, but they’re using them for different ultimate goals and reasons. The better you can understand this, the better you can tailor your message to those individuals with the ultimate goal that the better you’re going to be at converting and convincing people to come and work with your company.
Totally, absolutely, I love that bank metaphor because it is, and most banks actually don’t do that, right? They’re like, “Hey, here are our services, here are our features.” Again, back to that conversation. Also aligning a company or a product around the big picture thought. So for Bonjoro, I assume it’s not about video, but it’s actually about connection, right? Creating this personal connection you and someone else, and video is the means to get there.
With that said, if you could distill your brand all the way down to one word, or two words, what would it be. I call it brand DNA, but you can call it anything. For Coca-Cola it used to be happiness, everyone thinks about that, or at least that’s what they made us believe. It’s a sugary drink and we don’t really think that anymore, but that was the idea, the messaging. With Zappos, which I’m sure must be close to you guys, because it’s all about the customer service, for them I think it now distilled into just simply, wow. So with Zappos, you think Zappos, you usually think, “Wow, that’s amazing customer service.”
What is a word that can describe your brand at its heart? Now we’re talking about everything, from culture, to product, to what is the brand in a word?
Delight, I think would be the word.
I like that, just like the bears, it all goes back to it. Taking it lighthearted and giving value at the same time, I really like that.
There’s one more question that I wanted to ask about your brand, and I just never got around to it, because we started chatting about so many other things. Don’t just say hello, say Bonjoro. Does that tagline pretty much encapsulate the story behind the name, was it from bonjoro, was that the idea?
Yeah, so when you’re coming up with a name, and I do think this is important, to my point anyway it’s not all about logo. I think my preferred way to start a company is to make up a word. I think that way you avoid other existing words out on the market so there’s no confusion. Also you can get a domain name, and you can obviously get better SEO of the back of that. So there are tactical reasons too. But what you want to do with this word, you want to have connotations, and you want to inspire a subconscious thought towards what it is your ultimately looking to do as a company.
So, Bonjoro obviously comes of influence from bonjour, or from buongiorno, which Italian and French for hello. Obviously the main reason we use with these videos is to turn up and say hello and welcome to customers. So, there’s this subconscious feeling behind it of this welcoming open feeling to the company. And like I said, there was a domain name available so it was a win-win.
In a past life you and I went to the same brand school. When we work on names for clients it’s the exact same philosophy. It makes so much sense. It’s a really smart move.
All right, slowly we’re coming to an end here. What it is a piece of brand advice, I know you already gave tons of advice, but what is a piece of brand advice that you might not have talked about that you think founders should just really keep at heart when they create their company, when their still young, they might have a couple of employees, maybe they’re just two co-founders out on a pizza night figuring out what’s our brand going to be. What is some advice from your end now that you’ve come through this multi times it sounds like?
I think a really good starting point is to find another company that aspires the value, that has the values, and the brand that you aspire to grow into. Very specifically do not just look in your industry. So with us, honestly, you mentioned Zappos and Zappos is one of the companies that we aspire to be. Zappos is not a tech company, they are a shoe and product company, but the way they approach customers, the way they put customers first, the whole delight and happiness, the whole leadership style, that to us is how a company should be built. We want to take some of that and it gives us a North star and a really good, I guess, baseline to check on and say are we getting there?
Do this, it makes it a lot easier because there are going to be great leaders that are doing things that you want to do. Again, be that Zappos, be that [inaudible 00:39:04] bank, whatever it is you want to get to, have that North start and it just makes it easier as you grow to keep checking in and saying, “Are we on the right direction?”
I love that and I also often advise founders to just stop looking at their industry, period. If you come in and you want change things, and you’ve got a mindset then everyone gets stuck with okay, let’s put in a browser window with our six companies, and guess what? Your website’s going to look the same like the other six people, because you are so focused at looking at your competitors. Oh, that’s how they’re structured, that’s how their flow is, that’s what they talk about themselves. And that’s why everything is a sea of sameness. So yeah, look at the flower shop that disrupts the marketplace. Look at something totally different where you say they lead with empathy, or their trying to do something different in a space that is old and needs to be disrupted. Whatever it is, like you said, for you it was all about the customer first and so you gravitated to how it is at Zappos because they’re really great in that space.
It’s unbelievable how many founders don’t do that, and they’re just so fixating on their industry, because it makes sense, right? Especially when they come from that industry, but I think that’s super important.
As I say, it’s definitely a wood for the trees situation. It’s hard, if you’re building something for the industry that you understand, you’ve been that for years, that’s actually a good way to build a successful business because you understand what you’re doing. The downsides are that you might have blinkers on when it comes to some strategy for sure.
Yeah, totally. I made it my thing, and that was pre-Covid obviously, hopefully it’s going to happen again soon. I only worked on our website copy, or strategic thoughts about it, I only used to work on it in airplanes, especially those gruesome trans-Atlantic, 12 hour, 9 hours flights where I did not pay for internet, and I was just basically there with a blank page. I worked on three sentences for like 8 hours. But that’s it, it was so personal, and it was so deep, and it was just as clear as possible. Those are the lines that really stand out, and they always make it for a long time. In my eyes, that’s how you create something when you already know what your brand DNA is, you know what your brand is all about. You just have to, I guess the idea of sitting on a rock, it’s the same thing.
What’s next? What’s next for the Bonjoro brand as we’re slowly to coming to a close here? What are you excited about in the next six months? I mean, I think mankind is excited about things in the next six months after the last six months, but for your brand specifically are you brewing up something that you’re excited about that you want to share?
I think this is the great thing about doing a start-up and taking that through growth is that your brand will change over time. It will hopefully refine and mature, is how I kind of think about it. So I think I see our brand doing this, I see us tailoring it down deeper and deeper to the kind of customers that we know are good for us, and that work with us, and the kind of people that we want to hire. We talked about the idea of personalization at scale.
We have an ethos here which I think dictates a lot of our brand which is automate processes but never relationships. As it’s interesting, when we look 12 months ahead about what we’re going to go and build as a product company we start with that ethos first and then we start and going, well let’s actually put together a mock up website and some mock up messaging and let’s design the company the messaging that we want to be, and let’s work back from that and build product afterwards. So we actually don’t go product first, we tend to go almost brand messaging positioning first and then we go, what’s it going to take to go and fulfill that dream?
So we’ve just come out of that process, I’m not saying it’s easy, but I think we’ve got a pretty cool North star for the end of the year, a lot to do in the next 12 months but it is going to be vision lead, and then products going to back fill in all the innovation that helps us get there.
That’s so awesome, I’m excited that you just went through this exercise, it’s so liberating afterward just to say, “Okay, now let’s open the floodgates, let’s make it happen.” I like the way that you guys work, it’s just really cool. The great news is, and you know that, it’s very easy for people to see it when they visit Bonjoro online that there is so much thought put into it, and it’s very, very brand focused. Brand lead.
With that being said, where can people find Bonjoro online? I guess everywhere because you own the word, right?
Yeah, if you type in B-O-N-J-O-R-O you will find something from us, so go have a play. If you want to test our video, try it out, it’s free. You’ll get a video from one of us somewhere in the world, so do say hello, reach out, we are human. If you want to chat to me in person, you can always go on LinkedIn, search of Papa Bear. That’s the other benefit about having a title. I think there’s three of us, and I’m the only guy in a bear suit. I don’t know why the other guys aren’t wearing bear suits, but there you go. So please do reach out.
This is a call to action for the other Papa Bear’s, this is competitive now.
This is awesome. Hey, Matt, you did not come across as a 6:00 AM kind of, I just woke up and have my coffee interview. I really appreciate it, this was awesome. So much good stuff. Stay in touch, appreciate your time, and thanks for being on the show.
Thanks for having me.