Lessons on Branding from Creating a Marketing Video
Recently, we decided to create a brand video that could present our story to the outside world. We thought it would be as simple as shooting a video and out will come a magical, Hollywood-esque video. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
We spent the first few years just focused on the hustle. Along the way, we acquired strong clientele (including a public company!), a strong team who are leaders in their own right, and became a top developer in Orange County overall. Our marketing, let alone our brand, was an afterthought. Not to say that it wasn’t important to us, but rather it was a matter of allocation of resources. As any young startup could relate, when you have limited resources, you have to prioritize. What was more important to us was developing our team, partnering with reputable clients and learning skills along the way.
Fast forward to today, our company, team and our clients keeps getting bigger and bigger. The conversation then became — we have a kickass team, a work culture that’s hard to beat and impressive technical knowledge, how can we show that to everyone else? What began was a concentrated effort to align our marketing message. Admittedly, we are not marketers by trade — we are engineers, product designers and business people. Marketing wasn’t our forte but we knew that it was important.
Cue the company brand video. When we started our marketing video, Mark Howlett, our videographer, gave us a prompt:
“List down your three main messages as a company. Who are you as a company and what do you stand for?”
Imagine someone coming up to you and asking you who are you really and what do you stand for? You don’t just come up with that on the fly. What followed was a lot of back and forth, debates, discussions and what basically became an existential crisis of the sort for our young company.
A lot of companies often interchange branding and marketing. The common misconception is that mistake marketing is just as simple as having social media while having a good business card is good enough for your branding. It’s more than that.
But in simple terms, marketing is what you do — a brand is who you are.
If you think about it, the best brands in the world elicit feelings in you. When you think of Apple, you trust that they will build a good, well-designed product. Because that’s what Apple stands for: innovation, design and reliability. Their ethos as a company has influenced all their marketing channels, to paint to you, as a consumer, a complete picture of Apple. There are a lot of companies out there who start marketing themselves without a premise of who they are as a company, and it’s a mistake because then they do not control their messaging.
Your day-to-day marketing shouldn’t influence who are you as a company, it’s what you stand for that should influence your marketing efforts.
If you are a young and creative team, you wouldn’t post dry corporate stock photos on your website, instead you would post more people. On a more granular level, it even affects how a company writes their social media posts. Same goes for the other end of the spectrum, a law firm won’t show their team playing ping pong on a Thursday afternoon.
Which brings it back to us. While we know internally who we are, we often struggle communicating this message to the outside world. The brand video was difficult because it was hard to distill who we are in a few words. After much discussion, we have distilled our key messages to below:
1. CLIENT FOCUSED
The story of Novvum begins and ends with our clients. Novvum is the story of our customers and their journey. They are the hero of our story. We are merely guides that help them navigate the uncertainty of startups and business. We are in the weeds with them, often going out of our way to help them when they need it the most. Some agencies set their client relationships and leave them with their account managers. But we are not that kind at all, we put boots on the ground who are not afraid of getting their hands dirty. With one client, we visited several high schools to hand out our client’s physical products and onboarded students to the app. For another client, we visited their restaurant and conducted tests with their patrons. We believe strongly in the success of our customers, so much so that we would turn away profitable projects if it does not serve our client’s best interest. For us, customer focused is not just another mantra, it’s a way of life.
It’s hard to boil down a company’s culture to just a few words. After all, what is culture but the collective beliefs, values and norms of the people. Novvum’s identity is as diverse at the people that works in it. There is a beautiful analogy that our co-founders came up with when it comes to describing our company; Novvum is more akin to a jungle than a well pruned garden. From an outside perspective, a jungle seems chaotic. There is no rhyme or reason to where things grow or go. But each living organism in the jungle knows what roles they need to fulfill in the larger context of the ecosystem. This is in direct contrast to a well pruned garden where everything is managed and controlled by one person. Just like a jungle, our team are full of smart creatives that knows what goal they need to reach. This jungle analogy perfectly describes our office environment. Organized chaos comes to mind when you look at our office. For Novvum, where the motto is often “Work Hard, Play Hard”, there is a laid-back, fun culture that is apparent as soon as you walk through our office doors. A wall sized superhero post-it mural adorn our game room while game consoles, nerf guns and ping pong balls litter the floor. At any given time, you will find someone playing at our ping pong table that also doubles as our conference table.
3. TECHNICAL ABILITY AND PROCESS
It’s a pitch that our clients hear over and over; Novvum is a team of world class professionals who are absolutely the best at what they do. From Raj’s Snapchat pedigree to Will’s background in building businesses, each team member are accomplished in their own right. We’ve completed projects ranging from catalogue apps to a full backend and frontend rebuild of a recently IPO’ed company. There is no project that is too big or too daunting for us. But more than just being able to build products, we have a technical process that is deeply ingrained in our system. These processes are designed not only to help us develop, but also help our client manage their technical products. We are more than just builders, we partner with our clients to ensure that they have a stable, scalable product for their growing business.
We spent a lot of time talking with our team, pulling those words that relate to us. It was simply a matter of distilling those concepts into tangible words. In the end, we came up with a messaging that we were all happy with.
Figuring out who you are takes a lot of internalization. But here’s a tip, you already know it. This article wasn’t meant to tell you how to find your culture. There isn’t one foolproof way to do it but fear not you already have it in you! You just need to realize it.
Oh and if you’re curious how our video turned out, here it is!