Branding for a startup

Case study, Kaizenera

Location independent work is hailed as the future of work, but we are still in the pioneering days as companies are learning to adapt to the challenges of this new remote era. So finding the voice for a startup that intends to transform how we teach remote work was to be an equally challenging task.

Peter Balog – 5 minute read

According to trends and studies location independent work has continued to gain traction in the last couple of years as more and more people are lured to the promise of financial freedom, a nomadic lifestyle, and more fulfilling projects. However, while these factors all make freelancing and remote work quite exciting, people are oftentimes afraid to make the switch and leave their traditional 9-to-5 in the rear view mirror.

Kaizenera is an educational platform that aims to help with this process. By the time the matter of branding came to question, the project had already surpassed its infancy, as the key marketing messages, qualitative and quantitative research, buyer personas and marketing planning were already in their late stages, or even completed. With dozens of research documents in hand the brief could include the key findings of numerous surveys and interviews, not to mention other detailed research materials. That being said, while we had a fairly good understanding of what the style and voice of the brand was meant to be, at this point it was time to bring in a freelance design professional to help create a sharp and definite voice for Kaizenera.

In a nutshell

The challenge
Kaizenera is an educational platform designed to make the switch to remote work and freelancing easier. The main challenge of the branding was to find a voice that represent the professionalism of remote work while also emphasising the potential freedom of it.

Work conducted:

  • Market research (qualitative and quantitative)
  • Creation of a brand identity with freelance contractor
  • Coordination of brand implementation across all platforms (website, print, social)

Step 1 – Ideation

With the initial research materials in hand the conversation between the designer and the Kaizenera team could begin. Since the decision was made early on to include as many freelancers as possible in the project (in fact, it is part of the business model of the startup), our freelance designer felt right at home when it came to finding the voice of a platform that is centered around the concept of remote work. Thus the initial ideation and incubation process was relatively brief, it included a short discussion of the research material, as well as the initial mood board.

One of the most important items of any business planning process is a thorough competition research. In Kaizenera’s case it revealed that most competing brands gravitate towards two major themes when it comes to their main messaging and brand identity. Either a company is aimed at a more serious audience of soon to be location independent professionals (i.e.: IT developers, graphic designers), or takes a more fun approach, and emphasises the freedom aspect of freelancing and remote work (i.e.: digital nomads, coaching professionals, influencers). The initial design sketches reflected these concepts.

Step 2 – Evolution

Based on all the input the design contractor got to work, and soon emerged with three possible avenues for Kaizenera. All three concepts resonated well with the initial messages and the customer pain points as observed in the initial research. It was time for the team to make a decision, but with all avenues being quite attractive, the contractor did not make it an easy choice. Needless to say, when it comes to branding, this is a good problem to have. Here’s a brief peak into these directions, all three is the work of Robert Olah.

Coffee Wifi Success: “Kaizenera is a tightly-knit, multicultural community of freelancers. Connect with cool people over a cup of coffee, collaborate, take control of your career, and change the world.”

The Educator: “With its innovative courses, Kaizenera helps you become a freelancer and achieve financial stability at the same time. Sign up to meet like-minded people and learn from the best.”

The Night Owl: “One advantage of being a freelancer is that you have full control over your working hours. Kaizenera helps you unlock your full potential to get the most out of the day. Or the night.”

The winning design – credits: Kaizenera / Robert Olah

After several discussions with key stakeholders a decision was made to go with a mix of two directions, with a heavy emphasis on the second one. We liked the professional nature of “The Educator”, the colors resonated well with our intent to create an atmosphere of useful, serious, learning. We also liked the nowadays quite popular character designs, so we asked the contractor about the possibility of transplanting this aspect of “Coffee Wifi Success” into the “Educator”. The resulting mesh of these two styles was an instant success, and after a brief discussion a commitment was made. After that the process quickly sped up, the final deliverables arrived shortly from Robert, and that meant handing it over to the in-house designers.

“…with all [three design] avenues being quite attractive, the contractor did not make it an easy choice. Needless to say, when it comes to branding, this is a good problem to have.”

The final brand in action: animation, goodie bag, T-shirt and ebook – credits: Kaizenera

Step 3 – Implementation

The freelance contractor did a wonderful job of creating a coherent brandbook, complete with real life use-cases and best practices. A number of ready to use assets, like Google Slide templates, branded objects (keychains etc…) and a few illustrations were also part of the final deliverable package. At this point came the next challenge, how well would the “inhouse” team of freelance illustrators adapt to this style?

Design professionals are amazing when it comes to creating beautiful illustrations, however, when they are presented with a fixed style, as any artist would, they oftentimes cannot wait to include their own interpretations. An illustrators own unique style always sips into the work. While some art directors would label even such minor changes as unwanted deviations, they are more often seen as an asset, an interpretation and an addition to the original idea.

The final step of the branding process was to see how well the design language would hold up to different scenarios, environments and use cases. In weeks Kaizenera launched its website, the social media templates were ready, the first logo animation was born, and the company had its first customers. All along this road, the brand received minor tweaks, and in the end, like a new house, it settled comfortably on its foundations.

The general feedback was favourable as audiences oftentimes highlighted the design as one of the major draws of Kaizenera.

Throughout the less than three month process a handful of different creative professionals were to work in collaboration on the brand, creating its unique tone, reinterpreting its messaging, and moulding it into something that would prove to be an attractive value proposition for prospecting customers of the Kaizenera services.

Disclaimer: The author of this article is the cofounder of Kaizenera.

Branding – Robert Olah
Agency creative – Peter Balog, Adam Tasnadi
Animation – Noemi Barkoczi


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