Immediate Differentiation: A lesson from being foreign

Look at my sales, let’s do the math, if I was black, I would’ve sold half,
I ain’t have to graduate from Lincoln high school to know that

-Eminem (White America)

One of the lessons I focused on during my recent trip in South America was differentiation. Most of us spend our entire lives trying to fit in and be accepted and yet those that differentiate are the most successful. While not new, it fascinated me that my foreignness drew curious people towards me and got me preferential treatment at bars and restaurants.

All it took was saying a few sentences in heavily accented Spanish and they’d be interested in a conversation. Where are you from? What are you doing in Argentina? The fact that I was different, made me interesting immediately, and they wanted to engage. I did nothing to hide my American accent, actually I did the opposite (much to the Chagrin of my embarrassed brother).

So the question I ask myself is how does Card Gnome create the same sense of differentiation. How can I get people to immediately feel that we’re special and take steps to engage with us. To me, it comes down to three areas:

Visual Branding: Use bold stylistic cues that are different than one would expect from your industry. House Wine, has done this well by taking a completely different take on wine labels. You may not like it, but you won’t miss their bottles when you stroll the aisles. Steve Lowtwait has done an excellent job giving our logo the same special treatment.

Informality: Companies have traditionally used buzz words and conservative language when communicating with customers. We decided a long time ago to talk with our customers as if they were our family and friends. Our informality helps them to feel comfortable having a conversation with us. We already see the fruits of this labor in an active artist community that is willing to give us candid feedback and refers to us by our first names. Consequently all company updates come from “Chad and Joel” never from an anonymous no-reply email address (thank you Holly Hamann for leading the way on that with the BlogFrog video updates)

Trust people: Don’t be overly-protective with your product. Let customers touch it, feel it and play with it. Have you ever felt welcome in a store that prominently displayed signs that said “you break, you buy” or that has metal detectors? No. Websites that force you to sign-up before a purchase or into onerous sign-up processes are the virtual versions of these unwelcoming environments.

What methods have you found for differentiating your product?

Immediate Differentiation: A lesson from being foreign

Naming & branding your new project

This past week we learned from a few masters of branding about how they come up with names and brand images for their new ventures.  We went through the process a month ago, so it was fun to see that we actually did a good job and reflect on what we did.  The basic process for picking a brand is to first research your competitors and pick themes and images that differentiate you from them.  Boil the image you want your new business to have to 3 adjectives, or just write a single sentence that describes the brand.  Now the hard part is to brainstorm all the words and thoughts you have on the image, we used something similar to a mind-graph to help us organize our thoughts.

Take all these great words and start to come up with potential names.  You’ll need to get creative, our trick was listening to awesome music on random shuffle while downing some excellent local brews each afternoon as the sun was setting on our porch.  It definitely helps to leave the brainstorming after a little while and come back to it another time.  Once you have some names down, use a tool like Fusename to check what .coms are available and narrow your list.  Be sure to check out Domainr to look at possible alternative extension combinations.  We decided a long time ago that we wouldn’t use a non .com name, it’s just not as strong for a consumer product that needs mass appeal.  If you are developing a tool for computer geeks, or are trying for the exclusive/mysterious image then one of the new website extensions can definitely enhance the brand.  The “.co” extension is now available and there are a ton of cool ones available.

Now that you have a couple good names, it’s time to get some outside opinions.  We asked 20 people we knew and a handful of stoned college kids hanging around Boulder during 4/20 for their thoughts.  We found that one one of our top names, “Pokems” had associations with Pokemon and with the Facebook poke feature which could skew our brand creation process.  Overwhelmingly, people liked Nudgems and we have have grown attached to it as well.  As with any name, register and redirect all the possible misspellings that you find (Nudgumz anyone?).

That’s it, if you do it right you should be pretty happy with your new name.  Now it’s time to make a website that enhances and defines your new brand!  Luckily, you guys are already following us, so you’ll be able to check out all our progress on our Nudgems and SplitOurTab projects.

Naming & branding your new project