‘Great companies don’t exist merely to deliver returns to shareholders.  Indeed, in a truly great company, profits and cash flow become like blood and water to a healthy body: they are absolutely essential for life, but they are not the point of life.’ – Jim Collins

We recently launched our new brand ‘Hey You’.  We developed the concept over several months and braced ourselves when we announced it.  How would people react?

Brand is a company’s most valuable asset.  The little Apple picture on the front of my laptop means something.  In Web 1.0, companies like GeoCities and Friendster thrived because there was little competition, but today’s online brands have to be smarter.  To grow and stave off inevitable competition, we need to create loyalty and affinity with our products.

Every section of the market has an airbnb or Uber coming.  The threat these goliaths pose isn’t just access to cash.  It’s that their products are cool.  People want to be a part of them.  Leaders will switch first, and soon the masses leave second-rate brands as ghettos like MySpace or RSVP.

Late last year we brought together Posse, Beat the Q and E-Coffee Card with the aim of creating a killer product for cafes, bars, restaurants, and their customers.  Our new app would help people find great places, make reservations, order, pay, give feedback to store owners, get loyalty and more.  None of our existing brands fitted the vision – we had to create something new.

First, I sought to understand what makes a great brand.  I read books and met with experts.  I asked Naomi Simson at Red Balloon why her company flew past so many competitors to dominate the market.  Her response: ‘Consistent delivery of brand promise’.

Everyone I spoke to had different ideas about what defines a winning brand.  But three principles stood out: higher purpose, visual identity, and inclusiveness.  We ran several workshops, spent months interviewing customers and merchants and appointed an agency ‘The Hallway’ to assist us.

We created the brand ‘Hey You’; here’s why:

Higher purpose.  All strong modern brands have a powerful higher purpose.  airbnb helps people ‘belong anywhere’.  Zappos brand purpose is to ‘deliver happiness.’  A higher purpose inspires everyone who touches the company – customers, partners, employees, and shareholders.

I read a story of a pillow manufacturer with 40% annual staff turnover.  The company rebranded with the higher purpose of ‘Helping Australia sleep better’ and within a year, staff turnover had halved.  People didn’t see the point in stuffing pillows all day, but everyone supported the mission of helping Australia sleep better.

Our product helps people to order and pay in a convenient way and merchants to run more efficient businesses.  But our purpose goes beyond that.

Café owners told us that their number one priority is to acquire a larger number of regular customers.  The 20% of people that visit a coffee shop every day deliver 80% of their business.  We asked if they could identify the point at which transient customers become regular.  ‘Yes: when we know their names.’

Unknown to us, it turned out that merchants on both Beat the Q and Posse loved the products for the same reason: they helped them get to know customers’ names.

We spoke to the users of our apps – people who visit the same coffee or food outlets daily.  Many of them shared the same story.  ‘I’ve been going to X café every morning for three years.  The barista knows my name but I don’t know his.  I feel too embarrassed to ask because I’ve been going there for such a long time.’

City folks shared a sense of disconnection from the people who served them food and drink every day.  One said, ‘This guy makes me toast and coffee every morning like my Dad used to and I don’t know anything about him.’

Airbnb and Uber both use their platform to connect people.  On Uber, I can see the name and photo of the person who’s coming to pick me up and I can call her if I need to.  On airbnb I get to read about the apartment owner – how they live and why they love their place.

We decided that we could create the same connection between servers at cafes, bars, and restaurants and their regular customers.  Our higher purpose would be to ‘make city life human, creating intimacy in a busy world.’

Visual identity.  After we’d worked out our higher purpose and company values, we set about choosing a name.  Working with ‘The Hallway’, we broke into groups and brainstormed.  Each group came back with ten ideas but there was one clear winner.

‘Hey Vanessa’, ‘Hey John’, ‘Hey Steve’ – the app personalizes, adopting the name of the user.  If you use our app, you’ll notice that the home screen is ‘Hey <<your name>>’ and in the coming weeks, we’ll be launching additional features to create an even more personalized experience.  ‘Hey You’ is the umbrella name we give to the app in the app store but its brand name is yours.

The look and feel of our brand represents independent shops.  The logo is a sign that might hang in the window of a boutique café.  We wanted to capture the eclectic creativity and passion of small business owners in our visual identity.

Inclusiveness:  Great brands make their customers feel like part of a group.  Seth Godin defined a brand in his book ‘Tribes’ as ‘People like us who do stuff like this’.  For example – people like me ride Uber; people like me buy Ray Ban sunglasses.  By illogical extension, people unlike me don’t do these things.  He argues that a brand will never appeal to everyone, but as long as the group to which you appeal is big enough, you’ll have a successful company.

We interviewed our users and found they already felt smarter and more special by using our product.  One said, ‘There’s nothing like walking past a bunch of my colleagues waiting for coffee in the morning, knowing mine is already waiting because I ordered ahead.’

The idea of our name is to extend being ‘in the know’ even further.  If you update the app today and check out any store page, you’ll see the café owner’s name, photo, and story.  Read about why they started their café, and their passions, so you can strike up a conversation next time you’re there.  Now, when you walk into any café you can say ‘Hey Pete, Hey Lauren,’ or whatever, and greet the owner by name.  They’ll see your name and face on their screen as you order, so can greet you back personally.  Your friends will think everyone knows you wherever you go.  That’s why we chose the tagline ‘The World is Your Local’.

Our business has grown by 35% since we launched the new brand two months ago.  It’s still a work in progress and, if you use the app regularly, you’ll notice updates every few weeks as we get closer towards our vision for the product and brand.

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