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What Silicon Valley TV Series Teaches us about Company Branding?

By Sarah Green, January 14, 2016

In business, reputation often determines success. However, building it from scratch is never an easy task. So, if you are planning to attract more customers and generate revenue, you should definitely start with building a solid branding strategy.

One of the most genuine references to this trend is the 2014 HBO’s Silicon Valley. Revolving around Pied Piper, a young compression technology company, the show represents an uncanny portrayal of the startup life.

Similarly to real-life Silicon Valley, the show reminds us that having a good idea and an amazing product isn’t enough to succeed. This is just the beginning of the entrepreneurial journey, paved with the plethora of branding challenges. On their way to the top, the Pied Piper crew needs to learn how to maneuver through the world of competition in order to scale.

By setting its characters in a pretty realistic scenario, the show managed to address numerous critical problems startups face, as well as to unveil some important company branding moves you need to make in order to succeed.

If your initial idea fails, pivot fast in order to redefine your brand

Every entrepreneur dreams about making a big entrance in the world of startups. However, their first try rarely goes as planned. Namely, the studies show that approximately 15-20% of startups pivot from their original business plan at the very beginning.

This is exactly what Pied Piper taught us. Initially, the platform was designed to be a simple songwriting resource app that would make it easier for authors to determine if their work infringed on copyrights. Although this idea proved to be neither profitable nor scalable, the advanced compression technologies it employed were recognized as the best ones in the world.

So, the only logical thing here for the company was to change its course and focus on this prolific feature that gained significantly more attention than the original intent of the software. This is how they managed to create something that was later described as a multi-platform technology based on a proprietary universal compression algorithm.

Ben Horowitz, one of the founders of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, said:

Ideas are like lightning in a bottle, so if the company is small enough and didn’t seem to capture lightning on their first try, it makes sense to try again. The art of the pivot is to do it fast and early. The older and bigger the business, the harder it is to change directions.

Put simply, only by knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are will you be able to focus on critical points of your branding strategy and nudge your career in the right direction.

Double-check when choosing your brand name

One of the major mistakes startups make is diving into the creative process of naming their company, before building a solid branding strategy. This was beautifully explained in the series. Clearly unprepared for this aspect of building reputation, Richard forgot to take into consideration some vital points of this procedure that could make or break his company:

  • Make your company name clear, short and pleasing. We are all familiar with Pied Piper, a folk fairy tale in which the flutist takes away children from their parents and leaves them in the cave. So, when it comes to naming a company after this story, it seems that someone didn’t do their homework. Obviously, when selecting company name, you need to double-check whether it has negative references on Google, as well as make sure it appeals to your target demographic.
  • Always check if the name you chose is free. Once you choose the name, you should check whether it already exists on the market. Namely, when Richard finds out that there is another company using the Pied Piper name, he gets desperate and does everything to preserve his company’s name. Although, in a real life situation, a software platform would probably never be confused with a brick-and-mortar company, it still serves as a reminder that not checking your facts could cost you a lot.

Never try too hard to express your uniqueness

If you remember the scene when Erlich hired a Bay Area graffiti artist and paid him a considerable sum of money to create a unique and raw Pied Piper logo, then you know how disastrous this investment was. Namely, the artist illustrated his personal ideas and frustrations, completely ignoring the actual product.

As logo is the visual representation of everything your company stands for, creating one needs to be a highly strategic move. Just think about iconic brands such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola or Apple. Your first association with this would probably be the golden arches, white letters on the red background and the bitten apple.

Well, what you need to know is that, behind these seemingly simple forms, there is a lot of investment and research. Having in mind that visual means play an immensely important role when it comes to engaging new customers and evoking nostalgia, companies need to find the perfect balance of colors, fonts and backgrounds.

Similarly to Pied Piper, many startups try too hard in order to be unique. On the other hand, when done right, even the simplest lowercase logo can be enough for establishing your brand.

Choose an investor who would support your brand development

One of the most prominent lessons we learn from Silicon Valley is that choosing an investor properly may heavily influence your further branding strategies. Therefore, you need to choose the one you trust the most. For Richard and the crew, this was Peter Gregory. Apart from aligning his expectations with the startup’s interest, he also encouraged them to develop gradually.

Grow at a reasonable pace. Once Peter Gregory died, numerous companies raced to become the future investors in Pied Piper, tremendously raising their offers. Of course, Richard didn’t hesitate one second to accept the largest offer. This resulted in Monica’s disapproval, which could stand as modus operandi of any startup hoping to succeed. By accepting an offer that is way out of their league, they would raise their standards far beyond their capabilities. By disappointing both their customers and investors, it is very likely that they would lose their support and fail. Only by hitting realistic benchmarks can a startup hope to earn success.

The harsh truth is that even with the best idea out there, the fate of a startup is a fragile thing. What Silicon Valley points out is that, when it comes to company branding, having a solid strategy is the only way to success.


Sarah Green

Sarah Green explores the latest web trends and covers stories related to technology, startups and digital life in general. Writing professionally since 2012, she has developed a sixth sense for trending topics in these fields.

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