Branding can be hard for a startup, especially in 2018 when it’s hard to distinguish your business from the next in an industry. Nat Bockmann of BRAND LABS understands this struggle entrepreneurs often face, and was inspired to use his expertise to solve it. By teaming up with Matt Watson of Watson Creative, BRAND LABS helps startups find their personality and voice without sacrificing their hard-earned cash.
Read more from Nat below:
The spark that inspired the birth of your concept: BRAND LABS is the brainchild of Matt Watson, Founder and Creative Director at Watson Creative. In the natural course of business, Matt comes across many emerging business owners that want to hire him, but do not have the budget to hire a premier design agency. Matt knows that the brand strategy system that he developed out of his experiences working at Nike and the Lippincott Brand Design Agency in New York City has proven highly effective for his clients and would be just as powerful for businesses with smaller budgets. But how could he make that happen? We knew that if we could figure out a way to reduce the major cost factors involved in developing a brand strategy, which is mainly professional services, but still be able to deliver the same results for our clients, we would have something powerful. And thus the BRAND LABS idea was born.
The problem it solves: Hiring a branding agency to develop a brand strategy is not cheap. Many entrepreneurs, startups, small businesses, and even mid-sized corporations don’t have the budget to hire a full-time agency like Watson Creative, our parent company, to do the work for them. BRAND LABS offers an affordable brand strategy development system for smaller budgets but with powerful, large budget results.
How you came up with the name: “BRAND” because the work that is done focuses primarily on branding. That part was easy. What to combine it with was a bit more difficult. We came up with “LABS” because as a client goes through the process, they are using a series of tools to experiment with what they are as a company. They aren’t sure what the end result is going to be. It is a very hands-on process that involves a lot of testing and trials before they come up with something that really resonates with them and, more importantly, their clients.
How you are different than your competition: There are other “branding kits” out there. And a quick Google search will yield a plethora of articles on “how to brand a business”. But both of these approaches are missing two important ingredients when it comes to creating a brand strategy: A Proven Process and Professional Guidance. BRAND LABS follows the same process Watson Creative uses when developing their clients’ brand strategies. Furthermore, a crucial part of BRAND LABS is the one-on-one consultations with the design professionals at Watson Creative who analyze the work and develop recommendations and reports for moving forward. You can be given the tools to use, but if you aren’t knowledgeable about how to analyze the results of using those tools, you aren’t going to gain much benefit. And if you get stuck on something, who are you going to call? With BRAND LABS, our consultants are available throughout the process to answer questions. In addition, clients have access to a vast set of online resources including an interactive portal, video tutorials, case studies, and in-depth instruction manuals.
How you make money: We currently sell 3 different LABS: a Personal Branding Lab, an Offsite Branding Lab, and our flagship Brand Strategy Lab, and offer group workshops to corporations, small businesses, individuals, and organizations. We also offer a number of smaller digital products including: a Consumer Research Guide on how to conduct Quantitative Consumer Research; a Consumer Research Toolkit that compliments the Research Guide with tools used to conduct and analyze research; Brandmark Study – An historical study of brand marks, how they are composed and how they have evolved over time; and Blindside – a guidebook written by Matt Watson on identifying and following trends and how they influence a business plan and customer communications.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur: The knowledge that what I am doing and what I am creating is all on me. Having the freedom to set my own schedule and not be accountable to anyone but my clients.
The biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date: How long it takes to get the business running and off the ground.
Your biggest success: Still waiting for it. We are a pretty young company.
Do you have a failure story to share? Not with this business, but with other projects I have been involved in. I am not going to go into the story, but I learned that timing is very important in business. Not watching market trends can be very detrimental to a business. Not being aware of changes in an industry can lead to a company being blindsided (see the reference to “Blindside” by Matt Watson above) and out of business in a heartbeat.
What keeps you up at night as an entrepreneur? Refinement. Always thinking that there is something that can be refined or worked on in some way to make it better or more effective. It doesn’t necessarily keep me up at night, it just makes burning the midnight oil happen more often than not.
The best entrepreneurial advice you have received: To just keep going. Do some kind of work on your business every day and don’t give up. This didn’t come from anyone in particular. It is just something that I have heard over and over again from various sources. Most businesses fail simply because the owner just gives up. They usually give up due to a roadblock or a set back of some kind. The businesses that succeed are the ones that don’t give up and keep going no matter what comes their way.
Your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur: Pick your partner(s) well. Nothing is worse than putting a lot of time and effort into a project only to find that the person you are working with is not the right match. Gut instinct goes a long way here. If something just doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Listen to your heart. It will almost always lead you in the right direction.
The #1 book you would recommend for a budding entrepreneur: The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber
What song best describes your entrepreneurial journey? What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been – The Grateful Dead
What wild success looks like: Brand Strategy workshops held multiple times a week, numerous corporations working through the Brand Strategy process, nationwide events teaching brand strategy to small businesses. We will have a small team of employees that organize events and handle customer relations and a hand full or two of professional brand consultants running events and analyzing clients work. The business would expand to other educational endeavors to help different business sectors achieve their goals.
Your favorite local business: Being from the Portland area, we are privileged to be surrounded by so many excellent local businesses. From restaurants and food carts to specialty ice cream shops. We have local businesses of all sizes from small toy shops all the way up to Powell’s City of Books. And of course, there are all of our local breweries and distilleries creating amazing beers and spirits. It is really hard to choose just one, but since I have to, I would say Powell’s. I think Powell’s symbolizes a connection to the days before the internet and has been able to maintain and grow their business even when faced with heavy competitions from online juggernauts like Amazon. They have been and will continue to be an iconic Portland attraction that has maintained its character even as the city around them has changed dramatically over the past few decades.
What you wanted to be when you grew up: I never really thought much about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was more caught in the moments of my childhood and enjoying what was around me in the present. This may have been a factor in me going into business for myself as I never really established a career path with the goal of “becoming something”.
Is Oregon is a good place to start a business? I have found that it is pretty easy to start a business since a lot of information can be found online through the Oregon Secretary of State Department. Also, there is a tremendous amount of supporting resources around the area for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Any else you’d like to share? We have had the pleasure of working with some OEN members over the past few months. The feedback we have received and the excitement we have witnessed from those members have been extremely rewarding. Watching people bring forth something about themselves or their company that they never realized before is a lot of fun. Knowing that it is going to lead them to something meaningful and empowering is what make all the hard work we have put into BRAND LABS worthwhile.
BRAND LABS: https://www.brandlabs.us/