The Brand Imperative That Can Determine Success or Failure

Ever heard of the brand, Wesabe? How about Webvan? No? You’ve likely never heard of them because they were promising businesses that died in their infancy. You have heard of and Amazon Prime Now. These massive operations are what could have been for Wesabe and Webvan, respectively.

Wesabe was a personal finance website that opened in 2006 and closed a short time later in 2010. It was meant to be a site that would help consumers budget their money and make better spending decisions. At the height of its success, the company received ample venture capital financing and signed up 150,000 members. But a short time after Wesabe launched, a competitor, popped up on the radar with a better design and user experience, and, well, a better name. Within months, Mint was purchased by Intuit and became a household name in personal financial management.

In the late 90’s, Webvan was a pioneer in selling groceries online with an aggressive delivery time of just 30 minutes. The company’s CEO thought that 35 percent of consumers would be buying groceries online by 2003, so he prepared accordingly by opening warehouses, purchasing fleets of trucks, and buying numerous computers for taking orders. But the customers never came, and Webvan went under in less than two years.

So what could these emerging companies have done to succeed? They were ahead of their time in their product concepts, but something went wrong. In the case of Webvan, the CEO didn’t align the needs and interests of his brand with the needs and interests of the customer. He just believed there was a market and assumed the customers would come, but clearly there was a disconnect between his company’s passions and beliefs and the true desires of the customer.

In the rush to market, these emerging companies didn’t stop to first understand the role and relationship their companies had with their customers and marketplace. They didn’t uncover the commonalities, unexpected associations, and unintended gaps. Understanding these associations is what makes businesses flourish, but failing to do so puts a business at risk of falling short.

Take the insurance industry, for example. Individuals and businesses purchase insurance policies to protect themselves from loss. Look at any insurance website and you will find endless products that insurers offer to guard against misfortune. It’s been the same purchase cycle for decades: you research policies and prices, select and purchase a policy to the best of your knowledge, file claims if/when necessary, and renew your policy for the upcoming year. But this does not deliver on what individuals and businesses really need. We want to know what we need to do to protect ourselves now and in the future. The industry is begging for change and our client, CAI Insurance, is ready to lead the charge. We recently had the opportunity to work with this independent insurance agency to help them flip the existing model on its head. CAI understands the unique goals and dreams of the individuals and businesses they serve because CAI has the same dreams as their clients—to fully understand their risks so they can be in control and prepare for their future. As such, they believe their job is deeply personal—because they have their clients’ futures to protect.

We partnered with CAI to rebrand the company and reframe their approach in a way that matches the values of their clients. Through our branding process, we created a messaging and visual strategy that provides their clients with useful, intuitive tools to prepare them for all of life’s moments in a way that puts the customer back in control. We worked closely with CAI to define their offerings, using a cohesive and applicable approach across all of their market segments. Our approach focused on how CAI approaches insurance to match client and market needs via three clear steps: recognizing risk, understanding risk, and controlling risk. So what does this mean for the client? By providing context, educating on potential risk, and giving clients access to data, CAI provides context and therefore their clients become more educated and more comfortable with the information than ever before, putting the control to make informed decisions in their hands.

CAI was able to recognize and act on a key principle in successful branding. When there is strong alignment between the needs and interests of the brand and the needs and interests of the customer, businesses flourish. If Wesabe and Webvan had focused more on understanding themselves to find out what they had in common with their customers, we may have had some different household names in the market today.