My approach to branding young companies was always to err on the side of metaphorical than literal. You never know where your company will be in five years. I started by brainstorming all the core values that we’ll stick to (or at least not regret) for the long run. Armed with thesaurus.com and a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed outlook, I wrote a list of aspirational words. Of which, the following were chosen—which naturally paved the path to the diamond structure.
engagement: bringing two together
modular: coming together / stack infinitely to build any structure
truss: structure that together becomes stronger
When I sent these early comps to Jake Knapp, our friend and design advisor from Google Ventures, his words have completely changed the way I’ll ever approach branding an early-stage startup:
“The mark is generic—which is good for your long game, but may hurt you in the near term vs. 1Password. 1P gets a lot of positive mileage from being super literal.”
Not only did our name not reflect our core competencies, did I now shoot ourselves in the other foot with this super symbolic mark? I considered Zappos as a great example of branding optimized for short-term advantage. Their name is literally “shoes” paired with a shoe in their brandmark. With the short-term ease of searing the connection of shoes and Zappos into my brain, it’s also exponentially harder to change that perception. Now that Zappos has grown to sell clothing, amino face masks, and even individual pie dishes, overcoming the bias of Zappos as a shoes destination becomes another marketing challenge.
In the end, I enjoyed the freedom this mark has enabled me when we worked on experimental projects such as Mitro Access (below) and NotSecretApp. But with the ease of extrapolating this brand, I’m still unsure of how much lost traffic we suffered from the lack of brand/product recognition.
Have you also struggled with considering the long and short game when branding a young company?
I’d love to discuss: @menghe
Available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, this little extension lives in your browser and helps you save your account credentials on any site—and easily share (and revoke) access without sharing your password.
As a browser extension, we can do cool things like detect what page you’re on and show you information and actions just in time for when you need it.
The upper half of the window is site-specific: where am I? These are actions specific to the site currently loaded in your browser tab. If you’re logged in to the site with a credential saved to Mitro, see who else has access to this account with faces—then easily add or remove access.
The bottom half is user-specific: where can I go? The search field is focused by default so you can immediately start typing to filter all of your saved credentials. For power users, you never have to leave the keyboard—hit the down arrow to the right cred and hit enter to launch the webpage and be automatically logged in. If no credentials match your search, we show a button to add it.
Can we make sharing access faster than IMing your username and password? Yes, we can.
Want to guess who our biggest competitor was?
Here’s a hint: it’s not a password manager.
If you guessed Google Docs, you’re right. In trying to make sharing access faster and easier (and securely—though that’s assumed) than sharing a Google Doc, we tried another approach. What if sharing access was as easy as sending your buddy a link to click? They never have to install any software, find out what your password is, and their access is limited to a time or click limit you set. Going forward, we’d be able to set restrictions for areas of the site—such as only enabling selling on eBay, but not bidding.
We wanted to test if people would use it and how they would use it. Is the core of the problem we’re solving not sharing passwords at all, but rather, controlling access?
We picked four services our friends often wished were more easily shareable—Twitter, Amazon, Seamless (a NYC food ordering and delivery service), and OkCupid (our online dating app of choice—but we’re biased [inside joke]). Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a different Twitter account open in each browser tab? Or have that new employee who wants 70 different types of obscure desk accessories to just add it to your Amazon cart directly instead of sending an epic list? For Seamless, I’m personally tired of leaving my computer open so everyone can take turns adding their lunch to a single delivery order—only to find someone thinks it’s funny to PWN my dictionary to autocorrect my name to “Corgi”. Lastly, who hasn’t sent their OkCupid to a friend to look over matches?
From there, enter your username and password. This is scary. That’s why we provided a test account for each service that you can experiment with before entering your own creds—which for the record, we never see the unencrypted version. Now, set the time or click limit and we’ll generate a URL you can send to your friends.
Mitro Access is an experimental alter ego for our main password manager. Since experimental and security aren’t two words that should reasonably go together, the separate branding was an effort to silo the two products to give us the freedom to try new things. As both a product complement and a brand complement, the orange-purple swatches are opposites (complementary colors) of the blue-green color palette of Mitro’s main product.
To test our Mitro Access hypothesis, we launched an April Fool's experiment: what happens when you let anyone log in to your Twitter account for a day to tweet, follow, and retweet anonymously?
On April 1, 2014, we opened @notsecretapp to allow anyone to tweet confessions about anyone and anything. Your crush. Your 8th grade chem teacher. No judgments. Get it off your chest.
What happens when a bunch of people all share one twitter account? (@notsecretapp). Make your own confession here: https://t.co/K4HIqXpfj0— Mattan Griffel (@mattangriffel) April 1, 2014
...and the internet starts singing Bohemian Rhapsody. We made a BINGO board to track our predictions. Though no marriage proposals were made, we did get a prom proposal, stranger therapy sessions, and banter that entertained us all day.
Ultimately, @notesecretapp didn't translate directly into a marketing opportunity for our core app. We learned we shouldn't continue to be distracted by pop-up experiments to drive growth—instead, turning out focus to a learning agenda within real-world use cases with our core app.
peak concurrent users
average traffic to Mitro