On the last day of Prague International Advertising Festival, we held a service design workshop with the objective to figure out what a start-up company could do to build credibility right from the beginning. 

The company in case was Fabike, a fresh bicycle brand founded by Fabio Putzolu, an Italian designer, inventor and art director. With its unique premium design featuring an innovative mechanism for flexible adjustment and replacement of wheels and the gearbox, Fabike appeals to the niche of self-aware commuters with a taste for stylish high-quality products and a relatively high income. Although an instant eye-catcher, like most start-ups Fabike faces the barrier of anonymity, which often translates as the perceived lack of credibility. And like most start-ups it has no budget for promotion. 

We tried to solve this issue using the experience map from the moment someone sees or hears about Fabike for the first time. Generally, if you are lucky enough to grab someone’s attention, the chances are they will look up for your name. It is crucial that what they find is more than just a product page and a few gimmicks. The idea is to substantiate the brand with content that will keep the potential customer engaged. Below is the summary of what we came up with during our 5 hour session.

 

1 Write down your identity myth

The identity myth is the core of the brand identity. It is the story about creation, the vision and the purpose of your brand. While many big brands had to re-invent the stories about themselves in order to connect with their customers’ values, start-ups enjoy the benefit of being authentic. Telling your story as it unfolds will help you define your DNA and differentiate and promote yourself in a long run.

 

2 Talk with your customers

As a start-up you probably won’t have too many customers at first, but you can already sow the seeds of an outstanding customer service that will encourage their loyalty. Supposing your product is not flawed, you can use the opportunity to get to know your customers intimately and have them on your side when it comes to proving your concept. 

 

3 Create the community

Once you have connected with your customers, you can use the identity myth to bring them closer together. Try to figure out what else they have in common apart from your product and relate the pattern to your brand values. Use social networks to get them to know each other and exchange content among the group. This will create the sense of community that can be additionally reinforced if initiation of newcomers takes a shape of something more than sending an invoice.

 

4 Look for a celebrity

In today’s connected world 6 degrees of separation are likely to drop to 5 and getting to know a celebrity may not be as hard as it seems on the first glance. After all, most people have shaken hands with someone famous at least once. Keep your eyes open and search for someone whose private persona corresponds with the values of your brand. Then use your network to get in touch with her or him.

 

5 Ask for endorsement and amplify

Present your product and ask for feedback. Having not just a brand story and the set of principles to stand behind but also a community of followers by your side will make your gift feel valuable and may touch the heart of the person it is presented to, especially if you share similar views. Endorsement may follow or not, but the least you can have is a picture of someone famous using your product. This can be easily turned into a strong argument the next time you present your product, at social networks or trade exhibitions.

 

Making these five steps takes some effort, but it requires practically no financial investment. Fabike is already pursuing this path and we hope there are other companies out there that can make use of these ideas, too. However, if you find this to be a mere common sense, remember that service design is primarily about getting the most out of common sense and let us know what would you do.