*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.
Arek Dvornechuck: Hey, what's up branding experts, Arek here at Ebaqdesign and welcome to On Branding Podcast. And my guest today is Amy Hanlon. And Amy is the President of Blue Meta Design, which is an agency that helps startups tell their stories through graphics. So they can receive funding and make an impact in the marketplace. Amy Hanlon leads her agency to create and implement branding for their clients who collectively were able to raise 9 billion in 2021 and 5 billion in 2022. So of course they were able to do that through their branding work done by Blue Meta Design, right?—Hello, Amy. Thanks for joining us today.
Amy Hanlon: Thank you so much for having me.
Arek Dvornechuck: Okay, so on this podcast, we are gonna talk about why startups should focus on branding, right? In order to get funded, because I think this is a big problem. And you have a lot of experience with working with startups, right? And so you know, the problems they face, you know, startup founders, what kind of problems they often face when it comes to raising money. So you can give us perhaps some perspective about VCs and what they're looking for in those startups, right? So I was just thinking for our listeners who are either business owners. You can just get more clarity about these problems that you know, what VC's are looking for and why branding is important. It's gonna give you some better understanding and about the whole process of raising funds. And if you are a creative like myself, this is gonna help you understand the problems that your customers face, right? So you can have a more informed conversation with them and better understand your clients when it comes to designing brand identity or developing a brand strategy, right?
1. Why startup branding is important?
Arek Dvornechuck: So I wanted you to start with something simple. Why startups need branding, why it is so important?
Amy Hanlon: Yeah. I think regardless of what industry you're in, but I think especially with startups, it's so important to narrow down, what your mission statement is, who your target audience is, and really implement that into your full brand strategy. So that's both written and visual. We really focus more on the visual aspect of the branding, but we definitely assist our startups and kind of it, you know, looking into and narrowing down really who they are. So you can have a clear message in the marketplace. Startups, you know, are there's millions of them, they're all over the place. So truly defining your branding and your strategy and what your messaging sounds like and what your visual assets look like for your branding is going to set you apart. It can, you know, we've seen time and time again, where you have extremely strong branding. It makes you seem bigger than what you even probably could be. So you're going to attract even more like clients or audience. And it's just going to make you appear more professional and put together. And it's just gonna give confidence to your end user as well.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. So in general, just to sum up for our listeners, why branding is crucial, why not, you know, going for some cheap branding services since you are starting out, right? Why not going for something like, you know doing a basic brand identity and then redesigning that later? Well, because, you know, I think the main problem with that is that many startups fail, right? And I believe that they fail and we can see that, for example, by just watching Shark Tank, for example, right? I'm a big fan of the show. And we can see that, I noticed that, you know, if those startups have some clarity about their brand strategy, they have a good visual identity, right? They can explain what their product does for their customers. What kind of benefits it offers. They have a clear vision. They have some purpose behind the brand. That really, I think helps them, you know, ultimately win and raise money, you know. So I believe that, you know, even if you are just a startup, you should invest as much as you can in your branding to know to start strong, right? What do you think about it?
Amy Hanlon: Absolutely. Your branding touches everything within your company, externally, internally, everything. Your brand represents your company. So visual identity is extremely important to add into that mix. It's going to, you know, showcase and highlights the best parts of your branding. So, investing in something like this is just as important as investing in your idea, investing in the actual product, whether it's software or physical, like in a consumer setting. It's equally as important because it's going to feed in everything, whether it's your website or your UX in, your UI in the back end of a software. It's gonna affect your packaging. Everything that your company has, your branding is going to be reflected in that. So if you start out strong, you have all of the tools and all of the assets to continually succeed versus going back to the drawing board and trying to figure out, oh, we forgot to do this. Well, we need this part. And to our branding now, or this, this branding doesn't reflect who we are and we're getting mixed messages to our target audience. Doing that from the get go is just going to set startups up for success.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, I totally agree with that. So basically just branding is important because it helps us communicate, you know, what the business is all about, right? It helps us better communicate how we are different from our competitors. And as you said at the beginning, it also positions your brands, your startup and you can present yourself as a bigger company that you really are right? So that's what actually, that's the main benefit of having a strong brand identity. It kind of, you know, makes you look bigger than you really are. So, then you can just, you know, live out to that expectation right? So instead of, you know, creating this whole big mess where you look inconsistent, you cannot really raise money because investors don't see your brand winning. They don't understand the idea or things like that.
2. How branding helps raise money?
Arek Dvornechuck: Another question I have for you is how it helps you raise money if you are a business owners who wants to raise money and knowing that most startups fail. So how investing in branding can really help you convince your investors, or help them understand the idea. What do you think?
Amy Hanlon: Absolutely. We do a lot of fundraising and pitch decks. We have kind of had a little bit of carved out, a little bit of a niche there. We actually work with a lot of venture capitalists. We work with our internal teams, so we really kind of get it an inside look of really what they're looking for which obviously we apply that into the startups that we work with as well is making sure that all of the information that VCs are looking for is in that pitch deck. And we make sure that it is visually compelling. VCs, GPS, LPs, they see hundreds of pitch decks a week. There are countless startups that are looking for funding to expand and grow their business. So making sure that your brand is utilized in the right way in a pitch deck is so important. We work with our clients in a full capacity with pitch decks. We typically work with them on the actual pitch. We like to hear them tell the story. We make sure the visuals are working alongside the storytelling. So whatever the individual, the founder that is doing the pitch. If they're highlighting certain aspects of the company or certain numbers or a differentiator, we want to make sure that the visual elements of the pitch deck are highlighting those as he or she is talking through their pitch. So branding is so important because if it's not consistent and it's not cohesive and it doesn't show your brand in the right lights and investors, probably not gonna take the time to fully look through your pitch deck. They have too many to look through. So you have to make sure the information is clear and it's eye-catching and it's beautiful quite honestly.
3. What do VC’s are looking for?
Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah. That's a good point. So pitch deck is basically extremely important, that what gets you through the door, right? So, they see many pitch decks and you need to make sure that yours looks good and presents your brand in the right way. So what are some of the like specific things? Can we just go into details a bit? Maybe you could just give us like an overview of what are sections or pages or things that we need to highlight in a pitch deck when it comes to a structure or the messaging. Or can you give us some tips here, what makes a pitch deck really good?
Amy Hanlon: Yeah. So the big answer is it really depends on the series of funding that you're looking for. A seed, even a little bit of an A series A ,that information is going to be drastically different than a B and drastically different than a series C. So if you're more of at that beginning phase, you know, like a Pre-C, maybe some angel investing. If it's a seed or even if you're in series A, investors are really looking for very specific items, even with the B and C there's specific items that they're looking for. So a few of those examples is, you know, they wanna know who you are. They wanna know who the company is, what your mission is. They wanna know what problem are you solving? They wanna know why you're the right choice. They wanna know what the theme is. They wanna know how big this problem is. If you're thinking too small, they're probably not gonna invest in you. That's a, that's a good little tip there. They're looking for a big impact because they're investing in you. They're looking on a return on investment. This is a business transaction so they're looking for those numbers. They wanna know exactly what your solution or your product is solving and how it's different than your competitors. Those are definitely some of the key items that they're looking for. Also highlighting who's on your team, how big your team is. If you have any other investors, do you have a board? Do you have mentors? Do you have any press that you can, you know, highlight that you're doing some marketing efforts. Depending on exactly what industry you're in. It's gonna vary a little bit. If you're a consumer and you have a product, they're gonna look for numbers associated with that. If it's more software, there's gonna be different user metrics that they're looking for. So it really kind of varies some of those numbers that they're looking for based on what specific industry you're in.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. But we have some overview at least of what should be there. So some of the elements of your brand strategy, right? Like your mission, your purpose, your vision, maybe some values, brand personality. So, you know, explaining on the brand, but then also about the product or service, about your team, why your team, who is on your team and things like that. And also, some of the elements of positioning, right? How you are different from your competitors and things like that. So maybe you can just walk us. Can you just talk about a bit about your process of how you work with startups, right? So there is a startup who needs brand identity, right? And they need your help with, let's say, preparing a pitch deck and designing a logo and brand identity for them. So they can raise the money. They can explain the idea to investors and that looks good, that looks convincing and they can win.
Amy Hanlon: Yeah. So, regarding pitch decks, typically the process that we work through is we will have a kickoff call with the founder or any other stakeholders that need to be involved in any decision making. We will have the founder show us what they currently are utilizing and actually walk through the deck with us. In that process, we get a lot of insight. We can ask questions, we can ask clarifying questions. We can call out things that we're seeing that could possibly enhance the storytelling. And once we go through that, the next step is we really work on fine tuning or editing the story arc of the pitch deck. So making sure you're highlighting all of the information that the investor is looking for in your specific series and making sure it's in a very good flow of storytelling within the pitch deck, because it very much is you're telling the story and a very condensed timeline. So making sure you're hitting all the points, making sure all the information that the investors is looking for for your particular series. We have a checkbox. We work through that. Once we agree kind of on the story arc and the information that we're gonna be presenting will go into the design phase. So for us, we always start with a templatized system that way our clients have a template deck that they can work on even past a pitch deck they can use for other needs. Yeah. Whether it's internal use, whether it's now a sales deck for the company, they can use it past just the pitch deck. And then we really work into designing the presentation. Our designs are highly designed. These are not your normal, like. Microsoft PowerPoints that you probably typically think of. They are extremely highly designed. You know, we utilize a full suite of design services to make sure that we're presenting the brand in the absolute best light and we're making it look professional and high ends that investors are actually looking for. And we just work through kind of an iterative design process. You know, we'll do the first phase and we'll present it to the client. We'll talk through, what's working. What's not working if they really feel like we need to add something back in. It's very collaborative and we just work through typically about three or four rounds of that until it's perfected and they're ready to utilize that for actual pitching. Pretty much all of our projects kind of work in iterative phases. We're very agile. So this industry is so fast and we know that we've worked in this industry for a very long time. So we know things need to turn quickly much meetings talking through problems.
Arek Dvornechuck: Sorry, how long would you say it takes to create from start to finish, to create a pitch deck and design a brand identity for a client for a startup.
Amy Hanlon: So for pitch decks, we like to have three weeks. Preferably four, we can do it shorter. We don't recommend it or prefer to do it that way, but typically it's about three to four weeks from absolute start to finish. For a branding process, it does take a little bit longer than that. We can do it in shorter timelines. We have done it in shorter timelines, but to get a full brand experience, we really like to spend two to three months with the client, kind of defining who they are and what are the elements that make them different and hone in on that messaging and also the visuals and creating a full suite. So once we're done working with them, they can utilize the brands on their own. A lot of times we have clients, you know, we've got great working relationships that they continue to use us for marketing or additional collateral items based on the branding that we develop for.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. Okay. So just to sum up for our listeners, so what do VCs are looking for? So they're looking for certain things in your pitch deck that they wanna see, right? What's your value proposition, how you are different from your competitors. So basically you need to have a compelling message and this is how you start your process, basically, right? You start with the messaging, you clarify their brand story, their storytelling as you call it. And then you go to the visuals and that's an iterative process, right? So going from story to visuals and then bringing this together. Maybe going through some revisions until, you know, we have this pitch deck. And in the meantime, you also work on brand identity, right? You develop business templates that they can use later on for other purposes, you know, like other presentations, not only to pitch to investors. So I think that pretty much summarizes the process. I think, you know, this is very similar to how I work with clients. So just to sum up for our listeners, in general, good branding will help startups, appear more serious, appear bigger. So, you know, they can challenge those competitors in the marketplace, right? And in general, you know, it allows you when it comes to investors, it allows you to better explain your idea because it's not only about having a good business plan. It's also about explaining your brand, first defining your brand and then be able to, you know, Or sell your brand or explain your brand to investors so they can buy into your idea right?
Arek Dvornechuck: So as we are approaching the end of our episode, I just wanted to ask you how to connect with you. So I'm gonna link to your website, which is bluemetadesign.com. I think it's in construction now, right?
Amy Hanlon: Yes. We're so close to launching it. So hopefully in the next couple weeks, we'll be live.
Arek Dvornechuck: Sure. So that's great. Any, another way you want people to reach out to you maybe on LinkedIn?
Amy Hanlon: Yeah. We have a company LinkedIn page, and we also have an Instagram page, where we kind of highlight some of the projects that we're working on or have finalized. It's kind of an extension of our portfolio that will be on our website as well.
Arek Dvornechuck: Sure. So I'm gonna link to your social media as well. Thanks again. Thanks Amy. For coming on the show.
Amy Hanlon: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Arek Dvornechuck is a strategist and designer who helps brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
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