There is nothing artificial about branding when it is done right.
On the contrary, effective branding – which captures and communicates deep truths about a company – is as genuine a narrative as there is.
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Authenticity branding was my mission when I undertook a branding project for, ironically enough, an artificial intelligence company. BeyondMinds, is a new enterprise Artificial Intelligence (AI) company in a crowded field – one that is characterized by hype and overpromises – making the need for a strongly articulated and differentiated brand particularly critical.
Despite the breadth of sectors and personalities, the principles I apply are universal – although the details and nuances of them do vary.
There are also branding differences between b2b and b2c entities, but the reality is that the lines are blurring, as all companies want to sound young and fresh, and human. You’ve all seen that yourselves, as the biggest, multi-billion dollar behemoths seem to be seen as friendly and accessible. And now that I mention it – you’ll be even more alert to that trend.
So, let’s start with the key principles of branding that we applied to the BeyondMinds project:
Start inside before you go outside
Branding is storytelling; the truism that “Facts tell, stories sell” cannot be denied. So for BeyondMinds, I – along with my project partner, co-conspirator, and former head of marketing at Conduit, Yochai Levi, spent many hours with the company’s leadership and key stakeholders.
We also interviewed outsiders, including prospective clients. These were honest, transparent, and wide-ranging conversations that helped us thoroughly understand both the product from the AI-side, as well as the cultural and mission-driven side.
We came to understand and appreciate that this is a category that struggles with hyperbole and overpromise, which leads to an 87% failure rate when it comes to production. BeyondMinds overcomes that.
Finding the Reason Beyond the Reason
To elaborate on the mission point, today a company needs to be animated by a purpose that goes beyond developing innovative products or services, and that is inspired by the fundamental change and impact the company wants to make in the world. Simon Sinek writes about this in his “Why?” framework, but many consultants have reinforced the need for an internal company driver; I have written about it in HuffingtonPost and other places.
For BeyondMinds, the animating impulse was to build a bridge from theory to practice, so that companies could achieve their missions. When you think about it, we are a mission-enabler – and that’s a pretty wonderful role to play.
Embracing where you fit
Most start-ups who see the world through a completely fresh lens – the way BeyondMinds does – are called “challenger brands.” Technology doesn’t need to be gently advanced, but radically reinvented – because enterprise AI, as it is currently developed and deployed, is largely an abject failure.
As we developed the positioning and voice for BeyondMinds, we used the framework detailed below; I think you’ll be nodding in agreement as you read the fundamental distinctions between a hungry and smartly opinionated challenger brand, and a lazy and mushy “Goliath” or legacy brand.
Landing on who you are
With those principles in mind, we began the development of the BeyondMinds strategy and positioning. The first step was to create a business descriptor that served the dual mission of being a clear and compelling explanation of what the company does – and, simultaneously, expressing that in a differentiated fashion. Both are essential to successful branding. If you are descriptive but not unique, you will blend into the noise of a crowded category. If you lack clarity, it doesn’t matter how unique your storytelling is.
We landed on a strong, memorable, and instantly telegraphic phrase:
We are the AI Multiplier company.
We then detailed just some of the many ways that our technology multiples the enterprise-wide power of AI. A “multiplier” company is exponentially more valuable than a technology that is merely additive. We multiply everything below; at the same time, this phrase speaks, subliminally, to a stock price multiple:
- The inherent capabilities of enterprise AI – which have not even been additive, and have often been subtractive
- A challenger brand tells it like it is
- The speed to production timeline because we are MORE than a model – thus solving the 87% failure rate
- The ROI of AI
- The ease of maintenance
- The strengths of the internal client team, liberated from the struggle of building their own solution
- AI x BeyondMinds = Industry Standard
The next step was to go one level further and identify the core approach that separates our platform from everyone else:
We are the only enterprise AI company that is “universally applicable and easily adaptable.”
This message speaks to the modular nature of our Multiplier AND its flexibility:
- It is this proprietary combination that enables us to solve the problems that have plagued AI deployment.
- Simple, memorable statement of what separates us; acts as a filter for R&D. If new technologies and products don’t advance this framework, we don’t make the investment.
- Sets up case histories as our marketing will present them.
Building your own language
As part of the branding project, we then developed an enriched vocabulary which creates new messaging contexts for our “first name.” Part of successful branding is to build an ownable new language around the company name. While not all names lend themselves to that strategy, fortunately, BeyondMinds’ does:
- Beyond Theory
- Beyond Conventional Approaches
- Beyond Failures
- Beyond Internal Capabilities
- Beyond a Model
- Beyond the Competition
- Beyond Borders
From there, we baked all that work into a mission statement:
Our mission is to create AI partnerships that enable the world’s most sophisticated companies to benefit quickly and enduringly from AI’s benefits, while freeing themselves of the risks and burdens of its development and ongoing maintenance.
This single sentence covers a lot of ground. It speaks to the “partnership” relationship with our clients. We are the furthest thing from a vendor. We target “sophisticated” companies who have both complex needs and a deep understanding of what separates real from fake AI. “Quickly and enduringly” speaks to the speed of implementation and the long-term value of our solution. And the last section deals with the way that we liberate our clients from having to build their own systems.
Finally, we boiled all that down to a positioning we describe as “Inspired Pragmatism” and can be summed up in this simple but profound statement:
We Love Theory. We Practice Production.
It captures the bridging strategy that I described earlier in six memorable words that connect our love with the beauty and elegance of theory, and our relentless focus on the practical and pragmatic. Therein lies our magic – which defines not only the company’s go-to-market advantages, but the characteristics and attributes of those we want to recruit and attract as we grow.
This is a good example of how successful branding extends beyond marketing, into HR and the entire operational philosophy of a company.
From those six words, we created an expanded statement of the mission as a short manifesto:
There have been extraordinary advances made in AI – in academia and elsewhere – in the last few years. It’s been a quantum leap, a trajectory change. But it’s also led to disappointment, exaggerated claims, and failures.
BeyondMinds is the bridge from theory to practice, and to successful production.
We do that with the first enterprise AI solution that is universally applicable and easily adaptable. We’ve identified those foundational AI elements, the business, and human truths, that transcend individual industries, while similarly addressing burning customization needs.
We create partnerships with our clients by bringing them an AI Multiplier Effect, which frees them from the 87% failure rate of traditional AI deployments – a frustrating waste of time and money. The Multiplier Effect continues after deployment, from Day One through Day Forever, as we improve in real ways, in real-time.
In other words, we deliver AI without the PAIN.
You can see how tightly the principles and themes of the branding are woven together, in just a few sentences. One thing I want to call out is the idea of business truths and human truths being part of our AI development.
That’s part of our competitive differentiation. We understand how businesses operate, and how AI needs to integrate successfully with different industries; that’s the “easily adaptable” part of our story. At the same time, we understand human behaviors and how the brain operates – because the way to overcome the 87 percent rate is by successful partnering between people and technology.
So, there you have it. BeyondMinds used this message in its successful public-launch and its first announcement of a raise of $15M (see a story on the round in VentureBeat).
All branding, of course, is a work-in-progress – as marketplaces change dynamically, especially in AI. But the core truths remain, while the applications shift. So far, the internal and external feedback has been validating – because the genuine always wins.