Thinking and planning brand marketing

As the best branding agency in Delhi, we know for any business how vital branding is. All the creative design, advertising, and contacting customers won’t mean a lot if you can’t effectively help the brand of your business. You are understanding what branding means and how you can expand its potential means improving the primary concern of your business and making it more flexible.

What is Branding?

For quite a long time, this was the utilization of the business name, trademark, symbol, and logo that gave moment acknowledgment to the client. Effective branding implied that an individual could perceive a business by its logo, symbol, or even the design because it had been effectively advertised. The best branding agency Delhi gave identity and isolated it from the challenge.

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Today, the business brand has changed relatively on account of the web. This means with the changing conduct of customers, so too should creatively design be utilized to adjust the brand, so it creates a positive mental picture for the individuals who are keen on your items or administrations.

How do Brands work?

The most important part of the brand is to isolate you from the challenge. To make your business recognizable to the public. However, there is a whole other world to effective branding than simply telling everybody about your business.

  • Creates Credibility
  • Connects to Customers
  • Conveys an Effective Message
  • Improves Sales Conversion
  • Saturates Loyalty to the Customer

These angles are a piece of an effective business brand. However, to make it work, you should realize how to connect your brand to your intended interest group and communicate as the need should arise.

Why is Branding So Important?

The better and more recognizable your brand, the happier your organization will be in the everyday battle of arriving at new customers. It speaks to the foundation of your promoting endeavors and one that reaches across all advertising campaigns to strengthen your believability and expert in the industry. Because consumers regard an effective brand, it works for all of you.

Creating steadfast customers is the way to remaining in business. This is because they will purchase your items or administrations over and over. Your brand will likewise make faithful representatives who will see the incentive in the organization and work harder to guarantee that everybody succeeds. A decent brand offers more than only a recognizable logo or symbol, but a reason for creating long-term benefits that your organization will appreciate.

The uplifting news about effective branding is that once it is set up, it stays with paying advantages to your all through different promoting campaigns and evolving times. It can likewise fill in as motivation in producing new advertising campaigns that help your business develop.

It takes a creative design to think of an appropriate brand, beginning with being basic, yet different, so it is recognizable to customers. It helps if your branding endeavors are connected straightforwardly to the industry you serve, so there is no perplexity. By isolating your organization from the rest, the brand creates a moment identity that will work well for your business.

Underneath we’ve delineated fundamental components of branding design that will assist you with bettering understand what you should search for from your branding. Along these lines, regardless of who is doing your organization’s branding design, you’ll have a specialist sentiment to give criticism to your designer.

1. Start with Competitor Research

About setting a brand up for progress, unadulterated innovativeness is just a solitary bit of the riddle.

Setting a baseline with competitor research before you begin is one of the most important things you can do to build up a strong branding design foundation.

Start by making a rundown of your leading ten competitors. A straightforward Google search will give you a review of your competitors. You’ll have to utilize specific hunt inquiries to help refine this rundown, but you should have the option to do that effectively, seeing as how this is your organization we’re discussing.

You most likely can list 10 of your top competitors without the assistance of a web crawler. What’s important is focusing on what the market’s top competitors are doing well.

At the point when you recognize what, as of now, exists in the market, you’ll have the option to enable your designer to make something that is outstanding (as in “stands out”). The fact isn’t to imitate what has just been done, but rather to understand what works and what doesn’t work.

This process likewise enables the creative brainstorming to process.

Your research will assist you with getting a vibe for the tone of the industry and see what has functioned admirably for different brands. Still, simultaneously, you’ll have the option to design something new and special.

Competitor research is an extraordinary method to get thoughts in how brands are utilized all through each medium and how these active brands recount their stories all through different internet based life stages, in advertisement creative, on their site, and inside their organization.

Get motivated by the cohesiveness of incredible brands and become mindful of the shortcomings of the “not exactly extraordinary” brands.

2. Construct a Brand That Works in Multiple Mediums

In the advanced age, we are designing for more mediums than at any other time. The print has consistently accompanied its arrangement of requirements, but now we have to ensure our designs take a shot at site pages, online advertisements, and that’s just the beginning.

Because of this multi-medium requirements, be sure that your branding utilizes text styles and designs that mean every one of them. This means designing a versatile brand, a brand with choices.

How would you do this?

Think about every one of the spots your brand will be utilized and start there. Don’t merely make your brand with one design. Design different formats, stand-mark, stand-alone typography.

For example, if you are going to utilize your branding for Facebook promotion campaigns, you

should remember the content size impediments that Facebook employments. For this situation, a longer style logo or stand-alone imprint would work superior to suppose a stacked logo. The design takes into consideration better utilization of promotion space.

It is presently more important than any time in recent memory to adjust your brand to fit the mediums you are working with.

3. Toning it down would be best

A lot of designers will, in general, lose it when taking a shot at branding design. Including more design components doesn’t generally make for better outcomes. As a rule, branding that is exaggerated can bring down the message you’re attempting to get across.

That is the reason your branding should attempt to pass on, however much as could reasonably be expected in basic design.

Branding doesn’t have to yell about the industry or the organization. Branding design is regularly more effective when these things are quietly suggested.

Over and over, we have worked with customers that have to expound thoughts of what they need their logo and branding to resemble. More regularly than not, those thoughts would prompt some truly preposterous (and not precisely effective) branding design.

If you start by thinking of some ludicrous thoughts, that is O.K.

The arrangement in these situations is to take that underlying thought, simplify the idea, revise it dependent on your creative aptitude, at that point, you’ll likely work to deduct considerably more until you have made a straightforward, significant brand.

The brand doesn’t have to state all that you need in merely the logo; it very well may be passed on all through the utilization of your branding and recount to a story all in all and all through different campaigns and uses.

Keep in mind; your branding will evolve with your organization.

Probably the best brands on the planet have extremely basic denotes that speak to them. Take Starbucks, McDonald’s, Target, Android, FedEx, and Nike as instances of oversimplified, effective branding design.

You can almost certainly picture what at each these brands resemble without requiring any visual reference. This is because they are intelligible, simple to review, and have been worked to incite enthusiastic responses that trigger your memory.

While these models are of large corporations (and you may not expect to set up your brand on such a vast scale), the guideline of straightforwardness should be at the front line of your new branding design.

Occupied Logos Confuse People

Ensure you have an unmistakable message in your logo and branding. You don’t have to state it all in your imprint or logo; your story can be told and evolve through your showcasing endeavors.

Ensure the brand is anything but difficult to review. This means it should be a little measure of data for the buyer’s cerebrum to process, store, and need to reuse.

Featured image source: Freepik


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is rebranding. And, as Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tweeted, it is looking to you, citizen of the world, for input.

There are three logos to choose from, which will represent the country for the next 50 years. Emirates in Calligraphy depicts the “authenticity and originality” of the UAE through Arabic calligraphy; the Palm depicts a gold palm frond that’s meant to symbolize the “willpower of the leaders and people of UAE,” and 7 Lines is an abstracted map of the UAE depicted in the colors of its flag, meant to indicate the united and “future-focused leaders of the seven emirates.”

We are launching a new brand for the UAE to share the story of our nation with the rest of the world. We invite everyone to be part of choosing the logo that will represent our country for the next 50 years on For every vote, we will plant a tree.

— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) December 17, 2019

Anyone in the world can cast a vote and “have a say by selecting the best logo leading the UAE,” says the promo video for the initiative. As a bonus, the UAE has promised to plant a tree for every vote cast: “the seed of a better world. Not only for the UAE, but for the whole humankind.” The sizzle reel’s soundtrack gives the impression that “the logo” is soon to be the newest hero on the cast of Marvel’s Avengers.

[Image: UAE Nation Brand]

Though all in all, the process seems ironically democratic and altruistic for a nation that the nonprofit Freedom House designated as “not free” in its 2019 evaluation (though yes, the UAE does have some democratic institutions, such as a constitution and some limited elections).

The UAE isn’t the first country to attempt to crowdsource a national brand. Earlier this year, Montenegro held a contest to design its new logo (spec work, anyone?), which closed on November 25. New Zealand held a contest to redesign its flag and then decided against it. And let’s not forget what happened when a British government agency asked the internet to name a British research ship. The crowdsourcing result was “Boaty McBoatface.” The internet was overruled.

So why exactly are crowdsourced national brands, such as the UAE contest, becoming a thing? What these countries and regions are doing has an element of civic pride: In theory, citizens get to decide how they want to be represented. So are these honest attempts to make a national brand user-centered? An attempt to avoid backlash against a logo constituents might dislike? To make the process seem more democratic? Or to build a sense of community?

A cynic would say the reason for these types of participatory rebrand campaigns is marketing: To create the sheen of modernity and transparency and to subtly counter those who would say otherwise—without having to address the policy issues that actually matter. In the UAE in particular, one could argue that a contest focused on a national brand could help distract from issues that are really at stake, such as free and fair elections, an independent press, and women’s rights. At a time when democracy itself is under attack in much of the world, it’s a sickly fitting trend: giving citizens the illusion of having a say, without having to hand over any real power.


Brand identity is one of the essential elements of a successful business. Whether you are running a local one-person law firm or you are building a huge empire on the digital expanses, it is your face that speaks volumes.

Every representative office should proudly bear elements of brand identity, and the website is no exception. As a rule, when it comes to online branches, the logo fulfils the role of a company’s uniqueness that visually separates it from the others in consumers’ minds.

Brand colors and mottos quite often underlie the website’s aesthetics as well. However, sometimes that is not enough to create the image of the company and bring home the proper message. Sometimes you need to go the extra mile. And interweaving your brand into the hero area is a way to do it.

Let us consider some characteristic examples.

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The simplest way to interweave your brand with the hero area is to feature the element of visual identity right in the heart of the welcome section. Take a look at Fyresite.

Although the solution is incredibly simple, it works like a charm here. All the team did was incorporate a bigger version of the logo into the hero area, completely duplicating it. In this way, they managed to make a statement and show the vibrant, dynamic nature of the agency.

One thing to note, even though the big version of logotype does have a considerable visual weight, the introduction still catches an eye. Well played. Whatever you do, always remember the balance between brand identity and content. Do not to sacrifice the latter.

Example from FyresiteOlympp

A similar approach is realized on Olympp, though the team has taken it to the next level.

Here, the logo stands behind the entire beauty of the welcome section. It dictates the rules for aesthetics and sets the general tone. You can see how the Greek theme runs through the whole hero area, forcing it mirror the emblem.

The idea is simple. Yet, it not only works, but also impresses.

Example from OlymppDavis Malm Attorneys

The official website of Davis Malm Attorneys is an absolute classic of brand interweaving. Much like in the previous case, here, the image background takes after the logotype.

However, this time we can see a real image of the mascot. What’s more, the arrangement of the introductory words follow the same path as the nameplate of the firm in the logo. The hero area looks like a logical continuation that contributes to the overall visual identity.

Example from Davis Malm Attorneys Keyformat

In essence, this is the same approach that we saw with Davis Malm Attorneys. The background features the real image of the main mascot, a goat. However, the hero area has an entirely different aura and certainly a more playful look.

The reason for that lies in the details. You can see the neon color that is quite trendy, and line style typography – another modern trait. They give the design a frisky and zestful look and at the same time favorably dish up the brand piece.

Example from KeyformatAuthenticff

But it’s not only animals that are appropriate for such solutions, anything can do the trick. Even an abstract logo can be coordinated with the hero area. Consider Authenticff as a case in point.

Here, the logo is a simple triangle with several short lines inside. Unlike the first example in our collection, you won’t see an exact replica. Instead, the team has used an alternative version with a distinctive 3D feeling. They have skillfully abstracted from the style yet still saved the nature and charisma of the emblem.

Example from AuthenticffPurple Bunny

Okay, let us make things a little bit interesting by taking the traditional approach to the next level. We’ll use some creative thinking, a pinch of modern solutions and high-end techniques. Consider Purple Bunny.

The team behind Purple Bunny has gone for the dynamic approach. Their hero area includes not only a full-sized bunny featured in the logo but also a small animation that reveals the playful nature of the mascot.

It occupies the bottom right corner and does not distract the attention from the tagline. It enriches the hero area, contributes to the visual identity and simply lightens up the mood.

Example from Purple BunnyDigital Design Days

If the cartoonish animation is not your thing, and you are up to a serious, businesslike atmosphere, you can always adapt one of the digitally reproduced techy animations that are increasingly popular these days.

The team behind Digital Design Days shows it in practice. Their logotype can be seen not only in the top left corner but also in the hero area, where it occupies the lion’s share of space. Here, the abstract 3D shape is presented in all its glory, giving users an opportunity to play. What’s more, the nameplate takes up the same position as in the logo. Therefore, you can feel a compositional harmony in every detail.

DDD proves to us that whatever logotype you have; you can quickly build a hero area around it. And, you can end up with an outstanding outcome that will not only contribute to the general aesthetics but also enhance a corporate vision of your company.

Example from Digital Design DaysThe Village Films / Athem

These examples are for those who have an eye to detail and adore subtlety and sophistication. In both cases, you can see a delicate integration of brand identity.

For instance, on the official website of Village Films, the logotype is used as a transparent mask located right at the heart of the scene. It is barely visible, yet it is here, and it adds to the overall user experience.

Example from The Village Films


But what about other design disciplines? How do they fit into the CX design equation? More specifically, what impact does brand design have on the customer experience? At the very least, it seems like brand designers ought to be aware of all the ways in which their clients interact with customers.

But, a brand promise can be restrictive—especially when a brand designer doesn’t appreciate the full scope of a company’s touchpoints (aka any interaction that has the potential to change a customer’s feelings toward a business). For example, a design team lands a contract with a grocery chain and goes all-in on a strategy that makes digital interactions top priority. They define a compelling brand promise and outline a companywide mindset that emphasizes high-quality digital tools and content. Unfortunately, the team doesn’t give the same level of care to the grocer’s brick-and-mortar experience, and they fail to develop a plan to infuse in-store interactions with the updated brand sentiments. A crucial aspect of CX design and customer engagement has been ignored. With time, customers grow frustrated because the glossy rebrand they encounter online doesn’t translate to the real world. In-person interactions with the grocery chain didn’t become markedly worse, but they feel slow and dated in contrast to the lofty expectations set by the rebrand.

CX apathy causes irrelevant brand collateral

Visual identity design builds on brand design. A brand promise is the foundation, brand values are the frame, and the elements within a visual identity are the fixtures and finishing touches. They embody the most important aspects of the brand in visual form and serve as aesthetic benchmarks for a host of promotional collateral.

Chobani’s visual identity was designed so that the brand, despite being a household name, would be perceived as a small, humble craft company (like its early days). [Image: courtesy Toptal]

To create an effective visual identity, it’s crucial that a brand designer have big-picture knowledge of a company’s customer journey—all the ways customers interact with the company and perform tasks over time. Why is this so important? Designing promotional collateral for brand channels isn’t like creating a responsive interface for different screen sizes. It’s not enough to recycle and resize the same design elements over and over. Every channel has unique constraints and content demands. Time, scale, distance, environmental distractions, and user expectations are just a few factors that come into play. It’s not necessarily the brand designer’s job to create promotional collateral, but it is their job to design a visual identity that is adaptable to multiple scenarios. Let’s expand on our example from earlier—the brand team that goes all-in on digital.While building out the grocery chain’s visual identity, the brand team decides to outline a set of photography guidelines that will give the grocer a more intimate and human feel. The intentions of the team are good: They want to cultivate a more relatable web and social presence by showing happy people enjoying the grocer’s goods.But the human-centric photos don’t account for the chain’s past success promoting products out of home—where ads must be interpreted in the blink of an eye. When a new set of billboards, bus wraps, and kiosks are designed following the brand team’s guidelines, they are visually attractive, but the photos of smiling people don’t fully communicate the deals the grocer is offering. The ads fail to grab the attention of motorists and pedestrians, and the campaign fizzles.

Brand designer keys to omni-channel awareness

Brand channels are unique and evolving

Every channel that a company uses to communicate with customers has its own idiosyncrasies. What works on one channel isn’t guaranteed to work on another.

Some channels are structured for highly personalized interactions—others less so. One channel may be geared toward in-depth videos while another is known for short audio clips.

Channels aren’t static either. Features, popularity, and demographics are always in flux. Just when everyone thinks they have a handle on “where users are spending their time,” a new channel emerges and disrupts everything.

The paradigm can’t be controlled. Flexibility is paramount.

There’s no way to dominate every channel. Fit is crucial.

Consistency is the lifeblood of engagement

Engagement measures a customer’s feeling of relationship with a product or company. Feelings and relationships may be fickle, but they thrive on consistency.

The takeaway for brand designers? Consistency encompasses more than visual design decisions like logo placement and color use. Every touchpoint makes an impression. Every interaction impacts perception. No part of the customer’s journey is inconsequential or dismissible.

[Image: courtesy Toptal]

The customer experience is interconnected

Customer experience design is a web of interconnected interactions. Touchpoints don’t exist independently of one another. They’re all part of the same story, all linked to a brand’s core promise.

A purchasing experience on mobile doesn’t end. It extends into unboxing, setup, and regular use. It continues through ad campaigns and customer support. It endures on social media. Finally, it breathes new life with the choice to make, or not make, another purchase.

Click here for a larger version. [Image: courtesy Toptal]

CX strengthens brand relevance

Branding is dead? Hardly. It’s stronger than ever, but that doesn’t change the fact that a crummy interaction completely undermines even the most inspiring brand promise. Can brand designers control what happens at every touchpoint? No, but they can design brands that are disconnected from reality—brands that make big promises but don’t deliver when it counts. When such a disconnect exists, customers tend to look elsewhere.

Branding isn’t dead, but the days of crafting brands without incorporating a CX design mindset are drawing to a close.

Micah Bowers is a senior designer at Toptal. Follow him on LinkedIn and Dribbble. This article was originally published on the Toptal Design Blog. Read more from Toptal: 


Known as a biohacker and lifestyle guru, Dave Asprey has gained a notable reputation within the health and wellness space. With a bold claim of aiming to live until 180 years old and having published five books on his diet and lifestyle approaches, it was no surprise that Dave decided to launch his own line of nutrition products.

Under the brand Bulletproof, consumers can include coffee, proteins, and supplements that Dave personally uses into their routines. Despite Dave’s reputation, building a notable brand within the consumer packaged goods space takes a village and scaling it is no easy feat. 

In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll hear from Karen Huh, the VP of Product Management and Strategy at Bulletproof. Karen left Starbucks for Bulletproof and grew her team of one direct report into three teams of five. Karen looks after everything from research and development to creatives and marketing.

If your brand is a celebrity, who would you pick?

Key lessons shared by Karen of Bulletproof:

  • It’s important to expand outside of the founder’s interests to appeal to a wider audience. Howard Schultz of Starbucks only drank black coffee but the company needed to expand to include drinks with syrups and seasonal flavors to relate to a wider audience.   
  • Balance is essential between your commitment to your investors, brand, and customers. Karen uses the analogy of having triplets and making sure each “child” gets the same amount of care and attention and catering to each unique needs. 
  • Staying consistent across each customer interaction from the web to retail is key to having loyal customers. Having what Karen describes as surround sound branding where customers can easily know that they are getting the same expected product regardless of where they purchase from.  

Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to Shopify Masters.


Show Notes


Felix: Today, I’m joined by Karen Huh, Vice President for Brand and Product Strategy from Bulletproof. Bulletproof is a leading food, beverage, and content company widely known for the popular Bulletproof Coffee, Collagen Protein product line and more. It was started in 2012, and based out of Seattle, Washington. Welcome, Karen.

Karen: Hi.

Felix: We mentioned that you’re the Vice President for, Brand and Product Strategy. When did you join Bulletproof?

Karen: I joined Bulletproof in November of 2015.

Felix: What was your reasoning for joining? What did you see about the company that made you want to hop on?

Karen: It was really serendipitous, actually. I actually had a former colleague that was at Bulletproof already who I had some overlap with at my previous employer at Starbucks Coffee Company. Really what attracted me to the company was its place in the health and wellness space, and how provocative it was and continues to be in thinking about how to approach one’s health in ways that at that time not many people were thinking about. From a personal perspective, I dabble in CrossFit, have tried to be Paleo, and so a lot of the concepts around Bulletproof weren’t foreign to me.

Karen: In fact, the first time I heard about Bulletproof Coffee, which I have a very distinct memory of thinking it was insane, all I had heard was it was butter and coffee, was at my CrossFit box. When I was contacted about the opportunity, it just seemed perfect. I would hesitate… I should also say that it was also perfect because relative to my professional expertise, I was really excited to get involved in the product strategy side of things.

Felix: Got it. You own the product strategy. What’s involved here? What is your role as the owner of the product strategy?

Karen: Really, my role is to take a look at the entire portfolio of the business, and then take a look at the future potential portfolio of the business relative to our consumer target. Really think about what makes sense for us to continue to care and feed, if you will, in terms of the existing business and then what ancillary or adjacencies that we want to go after. That role really entails… it’s like a sausage-making machine. It’s really everything from thinking about what that product could be, figuring out how we’d make it, commercializing it, and then marketing it and getting it on the shelf, whether it’s a virtual shelf or on a grocery shelf. It’s really an end-to-end strategy role, figuring out both commercialization aspects and go-to-market aspects.

Felix: Right. Bulletproof I would consider a much more established company than I think a lot of listeners out there that might be starting a business of their own, or just getting started for the first time. I think one thing that you have tons of experience with is this almost moving target of, again, aligning what exists today with the product line that you have, and where you want to go. Even before then, where does it start? If someone’s sitting down and trying to think about what is their brand, what should their brand be, who is their target audience, where do you recommend they start?

Karen: I would really start with, it really depends on the entrepreneur. It really starts with what their passion is, and what is the problem they’re looking to solve. Entrepreneurs fundamentally have an idea in their mind that they’re really excited about and what to share the world about. Where they have to take that next is understanding why they want to pursue that idea, and how to get the consumer to understand it. That’s a really big leap because one thing I’ve noticed a lot of entrepreneurs tend to do is think about a problem in a vacuum.

Karen: Or maybe not a problem, but an opportunity in a vacuum where they want to come up with a consumer product, or a piece of technology, and they’re solving for a certain paint point or a need. That’s something that they feel very palpably, but the leap they have to make is figuring out what other consumers feel, and understanding is this really a market opportunity. I think it’s bridging that gap between their passion, where the idea starts, with a true market opportunity, is where brands get built.

Felix: Right. I think that there is this kind of mantra about, do what you’re passionate about, and focus on that. I think that is only, like you’re saying, one half of it. The other half is, if you do want to build a business, there needs to be some kind of market out there, and you need to be responsible for bridging that gap. I think a lot of it begins with validating that there is this gap that you can bridge. What’s your recommendation here on how does an entrepreneur look at their passion and determine if there’s a market that is sustainable for a business that they might want to build?

Karen: Sure. One place I would start is understanding what that entrepreneur’s personal goals are. There are entrepreneurs of all types. There are entrepreneurs that want to open a mom and pop shop around the corner. There are entrepreneurs who want to figure out what the next Facebook is going to be. Those are very different aspirations. There are certain fundamentals that no matter what business you’re pursuing is absolutely the same, but figuring that out first and early helps. Granted, that could also change with an unexpected opportunity, but understanding what kind of investment you want to make is an important piece of the puzzle.

Karen: That then drives whether you want to raise outside money, or if you want to just raise friends and family, or if you want to bootstrap this and grow it organically. There’s actually no wrong answer in that regard, but it’s certainly a step in understanding really what the growth trajectory of the business would be, and what the goals are. Really it comes down to… I think entrepreneurship is a lot like the wild west, where a lot of things are not codified. Many things are probably not documented. I’m making gross generalizations, so I’m not trying to offend anyone, but it’s fly by the seat of your pants.

Karen: Ultimately, entrepreneurs do have to decide implicitly or explicitly what does going from point A to point B look like. To me, that is a big step. The reason why I think that’s particularly important is because, as we build brands or as entrepreneurs build brands, building a brand that has wide market appeal… The example I’d like to use, because I have some Starbucks heritage, if you will, is the lore when I started at Starbucks was that Howard Schultz, who I believe most people probably know on this podcast, was a black coffee drinker. He drank Americanos. He drank espressos, but he could not possibly fathom someone adulterating coffee with dairy, with flavored syrups.

Karen: How could we ever possibly offer the pumpkin spice latte, or the Frappuccino for that matter? What he also recognized along the way is that in order to capture a certain market opportunity and grow the business, not offering those things that frankly he’s probably not passionate about would be a mistake if his ultimate goal was to grow the business. I know that’s a much bigger, Starbucks is obviously a much bigger enterprise than what a lot of entrepreneurs are dealing with, but I think the principles are more or less the same.

Felix: Yeah, maybe just to add some context, because of your experience at Starbucks and at Bulletproof, to build a business like Bulletproof how would you describe that kind of profile of an entrepreneur? I guess how would you describe Dave Asprey in terms of the goals that you would need to set as an entrepreneur to reach a level like Bulletproof?

Karen: To clarify, it’s a question about like-

Felix: Yeah, I’ll ask the question again in a different way. I think to make sure people understand the advice that you’re giving, you mentioned that it depends on the entrepreneur, their goals. You would be trying to build a billion-dollar business, a billion-dollar brand, or maybe you’re just trying to build a lifestyle business. In terms of Bulletproof, what kind of entrepreneur would enter the game to try to build a brand like Bulletproof? Are they someone that’s coming in to try to build a billion-dollar brand, a lifestyle business, somewhere in the middle?

Karen: The question is really about what type of entrepreneur would succeed?

Felix: Yeah, what kind of entrepreneur would want to build a business like Bulletproof? I think what you’re getting at is that you have to look at your goals. Depending on your goal, you might not like to own a business like Bulletproof. Depending on your goals, a business like Bulletproof is exactly what you’d need. I guess it’s just based on that context of someone that would run a business like Bulletproof. What kind of goals would they have?

Karen: To run a business like Bulletproof, we have outside money. We have two primary investors. Really, the goal is to grow the business and capture, continue to grow it while being true to the brand, but increase the market opportunity of the business. By increase the market opportunity, I mean I think the market opportunity in health and wellness and CPG in general is massive. But it’s about what is the story, what resonates with the consumer, how can we capture more of those consumers who are interested in the products that we have to offer? We know that there’s a huge market, and we also know that by entering adjacent categories we can grow that market opportunity. It is an aggressive plan.

Karen: When you have outside investors, the reality is there are demands to grow the business to head theoretically to an attractive liquidity event. That is really when one steps back and thinks about the fundamentals… I feel like this might be stating the obvious for some people, but I often think in the course of day-to-day business, it’s forgotten. When you take outside investment, particularly venture capital or private equity dollars, their interest is for you to succeed and be worth a lot of money to them. They have an interest in paying out their investors’ high returns.

Karen: Really, when you’re in the Bulletproof game or in the game of growing a business to a scale that could qualify for a liquidity event, you are signing up for aggressive growth plans, board meetings, board conversations. Having a lot of outside input, building teams, big teams to align with those plans and to push those plans forward, and a growth trajectory which frankly would make a lot of people’s head spin. I think from the outside perspective, it could seem really attractive, or not. I may have made it less attractive in what I’ve just said. It is certainly not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

Felix: Yeah. Speaking about the growth trajectory, I think most people listening are looking to grow. Some people might want to just maintain the size of their business, but I would assume most people are looking to grow their business. If you are taking outside money, you’re talking about again a growth trajectory that might not be even believable for a lot of people to get into this. If you do have this growth trajectory that is required because you took outside investors, what kind of opportunities do you need to pursue that maybe you don’t need to necessarily consider if you are bootstrapping?

Karen: If you’re bootstrapping, you’re really constrained by your cash flow, and you’re constrained by how much you can invest in your team. When you have outside money, you could take some what I would call short-term losses to invest in the brand for longer-term gains. I’m not sure if that answers your question. I think you have more license to be more aggressive about where you want to go to grow the business and take some risks. Now, when you take outside money, you are spending someone else’s money effectively, but they are doing it with the understanding that you’re taking risks and making decisions that drive opportunities.

Karen: When you’re bootstrapping, your risk profile radically goes down because you just don’t want to run out of money. It’s just fundamentally harder to invest. There are other benefits to bootstrapping, in that even though your growth trajectory might be slower, even though your marketing plans might be less aggressive, you have fundamentally more… And I’m not talking about financial control, although that’s true too. You have more control over your business because you have fewer outside parties involved in the day-to-day.

Felix: Yeah, let’s talk about that. I think you mentioned that continuing to grow the business while being true to the brand earlier. I think you’re hinting at the fact that there’s a lot of stakeholders that are now involved in a lot of definitely big decisions, but maybe also day-to-day ones, like you were mentioning just now. How do you balance between the stakeholders of the investors, the internal brand that you guys want to push, and then also what the customers want?

Karen: Very carefully, and it’s a little bit… The analogy I would like to use for that question is it’s a lot like, not that I have triplets, but I would imagine it’s a lot like parenting triplets. Triplets that have, that are obviously all the same age, and have different needs, don’t want to dress the same, don’t want to eat the same things, have different hobbies and interests. It’s a lot like that in the sense that every party has different interests. It’s really about finding where that common ground is in the Venn diagram, and also finding where that compromise is.

Felix: You mentioned that finding common ground is the approach. Could you also take an approach where sometimes someone has to make a sacrifice? If you’re parenting triplets, if you’re trying to make everyone happy, and then no one is happy. Is that a potential pitfall of constantly trying to find I guess consensus?

Karen: Yes, absolutely. That’s where I think compromise has to come in. Or a party may to say, “Listen, this is how we have to do business. What you’re asking me is compromising a certain aspect of that business.” But yeah, I think that’s absolutely true in the sense that, you beat me to it, but there are decisions I could see being made every single day that compromise the brand. In very small ways, and some big ways. It’s really all about chasing the opportunity. It’s so easy in the context of any business, whether you’re publicly traded, whether you’re just one person, to chase where the dollars are. In doing so, one can often forget what the heritage of your brand is all about.

Karen: Chasing dollars to no end could come at the cost of the integrity of your brand. A lot of these conversations with investors, and customers, and with the enterprise itself really often comes down to what does really make sense for the brand. What is driving certain decisions to make certain considerations mandatory? I think most people would agree, maybe customers it might be a slightly position, but most investors would agree that a short-term gain for a long-term hit is a bad idea. You have to really find yourself at a unique juncture to make those kinds of decisions.

Felix: Are there events or opportunities for you or the organization, that the team over at Bulletproof took a step and evaluate, have the compromises gone too far one way or the other? How do you make sure you take the time to pull back and evaluate whether we need to rebalance and reshuffle things?

Karen: That’s a great question. At Bulletproof, it happens in two different ways. We have leadership team meetings and sub-meetings with our marketing teams to discuss the division of labor around certain initiatives where it becomes very easy to see where things are evolving, or certain initiatives where the focus is evolving. I think those meetings become force functions when you’re doing things like OKRs, objectives and key results, or any kind of goal setting, metric driving measurement type meeting, where you’re going over where we’re going next, the next quarter or the next year. A lot of those issues get aired. I would also say those conversations happen organically and frequently.

Karen: Bulletproof is moving so fast, it really is, like a bullet train. It doesn’t take long for us to organically understand, “Wow, what are we doing? Does this really make sense? Hold up, time out. Let’s talk about this.” What I would say is that no one is more vocal about that than Dave Asprey himself. He, as the person who founded the brand, and continues to be very passionate not only about Bulletproof but what the brand stands for in the place of people’s health and wellness and wanting to help as many people as possible. He is particularly passionate of never departing from the core of the brand, and always finding that right balance. It doesn’t take a lot to observe and see, “Wait a second, are we departing from who we really are?”

Felix: In your role, the decisions that you make on a day-to-day basis, ideally how far ahead do you want those decisions to play out? Are you thinking a quarter ahead, a year ahead? How far out do you prefer to think out?

Karen: Well, my answer is different between my preference and reality.

Felix: Let’s hear both. I’d love to hear both.

Karen: My preference would be to be a year out, largely because I’m responsible for the product development process and the R&D that goes behind it. A lot of that process really requires at least a year. To make a widget from the idea from someone’s head and to have it arrive on shelf someplace in the United States, takes at least a year in many cases. I prefer to plan out a year. Also from the marketing perspective, it helps. More lead time is helpful. In reality, we are planning things sometimes a month ahead, two weeks ahead, six months ahead. It’s highly variable. The reason why it’s so variable is that our sales channels, we touch every sales channel. We are on Amazon, we have direct-to-consumer, we have expanded in Food/Drug/Mass.

Karen: Every channel has a different timeline associated with it. When it comes to digital channels, we have the luxury of moving relatively fast and quickly, and getting things up online very quickly. When you’re talking about traditional CPG channels, that’s a whole different game. There’s not a lot of us controlling that timeline. In fact, we have zero control. It’s really at the whim of the retailers’ selling windows and their shelf-set windows where we can get on shelves. There are the timelines that we can control internally, but there are also the timelines that are externally handled by other parties.

Felix: Let’s talk about the reality I guess answer then. The shorter-term decisions that you have to make, I think are the nature of the fast-growing business that you’re in. How do you try to actively shield yourself from these kinds of shorter-term decisions that you have to make so that you have the headspace to think a year out?

Karen: Asking a lot of questions. Really it’s about understanding why we’d make a short-term decision. For me in particular, I’m not sure how other VPs would answer this question, but for me, my north star is really all about the brand. What we stand for, and what our goals are that ladder up to staying true to that brand. When we make a short-term decision that feels not in alignment with those goals or the brand principles, it’s an immediate flag for me. There’s zero reaction time, really. I don’t know that there’s true insulation in the sense that my role is to argue that, actually. I think my role is more to insulate that from my team, and all those conversations, because I think they can be very distracting from the day-to-day objectives of the team.

Karen: My role is also to have those discussions and take them head-on so that we can understand really what the strategy of the business is. It’s really not unlike when you’re briefing in a new ad campaign. Actually, a better analogy is if you’re doing a renovation on a house. You’re just trying to redo your kitchen, and then you say, “Oh, well there’s a bathroom right there. Can you redo that too? But I want you to do it under the same timeline, and I want you to make it great.” There are all these curve balls that, when they’re short-term and short-sighted, and decisions made at the last minute, they’re often not made with the full understanding of how that’s going to impact timelines in other, what the ripple effect is in the business.

Felix: Does that mean that you would push back on time constraints on making decisions? Like, we have to make a decision today? Is that ever truly make or break for a business to be rushed to a decision?

Karen: I don’t think so. I think the feeling of it being make or break is confused for being make or break. I would say I’m pretty guilty of this. There are so many decisions being made every day that I am very aware is along the critical path of making progress the next day. In that regard, it feels make or break. I do think the perspective on really what the end goal is, and taking a step back when these short-term decisions or opportunities occur, and there is debate and discussion around what to do, taking a step back and really understanding the goals of the business is really the best filter. Now, if a company is in financial distress, I think that’s a whole nother matter, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just talking about the daily distractions of opportunity that often come to businesses organically when they are becoming successful.

Felix: Yeah, I think that’s important. At first, nobody wants to talk to you, but then once you start getting success, everyone, you have a new problem which is that there all these new opportunities presented to you. What is the way that you have taught yourself or your team to filter out the noise of new opportunities?

Karen: It really comes down to… I would take a step back and say, it’s amazing the amount of cold calls, cold emails, LinkedIn requests that I’ve gotten over the three and a half plus years I’ve been at Bulletproof. It literally has gone from zero to sometimes almost 50 inquiries in a day. Not every day, but it has gotten that high before. I’m not the only one that experiences this. Many people experience this. I can’t even imagine what Dave Asprey experiences. In terms of helping my team understand how to filter, I always tell them to use their best judgment, number one. They have to learn. I can’t filter their email boxes for them or their phone calls.

Karen: There’s I think a learning curve from a development standpoint to figure out how to filter in terms of taking some of these phone calls or emails and seeing where they net out. Really, at the end of the day, it’s understanding how these opportunities line up with what their goals, and where the business is headed. If they have a good understanding of the key strategies of the business, and their own strategies of their sub-segments of the business, I have confidence that they can navigate the things that really matter from the things that don’t. If they can’t, they just can ask.

Karen: I will say that 90% of the time, it’s not a good use of time to pursue these opportunities. Really the best filter is someone filtered it already for you. For example, if someone from the board of Bulletproof says, “Hey, I had this really interesting conversation with this media partner.” I’m making it up. “Would you talk to them, hear they out? Maybe you can have them in your Rolodex when the opportunity strikes.” A qualified lead is a very different game than a cold lead.

Felix: Right. I think what you’re getting at is you might be able to just filter by the source of the opportunity to some degree.

Karen: Sure.

Felix: Where you’re not just taking anything and everything from LinkedIn. You’re looking for, like you were saying, a qualified source giving you this. I want to put a pin on talking about onboarding new employees. I think that you might have a lot to say about it here. Before we get there, I think a lot of entrepreneurs, they start just by reacting, reacting, reacting. Then they can get some breathing space to think about a day out, a week out, a month out. I think this is a vital skill for any entrepreneur that wants to mature their business. How did you get better at extending I guess the timeline of your decisions?

Karen: I got better at it by, well I actually had to improve by joining Bulletproof is shortening my timeline actually. I got good at lengthening my timeline, or having a long timeline, by learning a certain set of fundamentals at Starbucks. How we launch products, how we think through marketing, how we want the brand to show up no matter where it shows up. At Bulletproof, I had to do the inverse, which is how I can do those same things, but in a fraction of that time? I think there’s obviously more infrastructure at a place like Starbucks. So I had both the luxury of having a longer timeline, but also a fair amount of guardrails around that were imposed from way above my pay grade as far as how late I could be, how early I could be.

Karen: Does it really matter in this fiscal year or that fiscal year? How does this drop to the bottom line? At Bulletproof, it’s so fast and immediate, and because we have a direct-to-consumer business, it’s always go, go, go. I had to orient myself around, well, what does it take and what do I have to believe to go as fast as possible? Why would I try to achieve this in six months or three months, or what is the rationale for doing it and pushing the team to go warp speed? To evolve the thinking for other entrepreneurs, it goes back to really goal setting and understanding the implications of, if I want to launch a product, it’s July now, by December, what does it take to get there?

Karen: If I miss it, what does that mean for me? Can I still have a business? Does this change my marketing plans? Does it change my relationship with my partners or my employees? Those I think are the considerations. I think entrepreneurs are driven by, and depending on what channel of business they’re in, a different timeline which is sometimes survival when they’re getting out of the gate. Sometimes, other external factors such as meeting shelf-set windows, or selling windows. Or trying to prove something to an investor, or trying to build a certain rigor around what the brand is about and the products that line up against it. Unfortunately, that’s not a super concrete answer, but it’s so specific to the actual business itself. But those are the fundamentals I would operate on.

Felix: That’s an interesting point about how, once you join a much faster-growing business, moving from Starbucks to more of a startup at that time with Bulletproof, you have to focus more on increasing your speed. Which means accomplishing more in a tighter timeframe than you might have been used to. You mentioned that the key here is to ask yourself, what do I need to believe to actually increase my speed? Where do you go to look to establish these beliefs so that you are able to commit to tighter timeframes to speed things up?

Karen: I look to my network, truly. It really comes down to finding the right experts who know the product categories that you’re operating in and looking in your network to understand what’s really possible and what’s not. The reality of my role is, and I think it’s very healthy chemistry, is that Dave Asprey and I are constantly debating the timelines and how long it takes to produce something. What it takes to get there, and how much rigor it requires. There are some things that we will never concede on, such as the clean ingredient profile or making sure our products are of the utmost quality. But understanding we will continue to have debates around how fast we can go.

Karen: For me to figure out how fast I can go, I ask myself based on what I know if I want to produce this XYZ thing in six months, I have to believe all these steps that I know to be true in my work experience has to go a lot faster. If I were to proportionally take an average timeline and shrink them down, I’d have to believe all these things are true. The next step from there is to figure out and find out those people in your network or my network and my team to say, “Can we do this? Is this actually possible?” There are just some aspects of the timeline that can’t be made shorter. There are aspects that can be made longer. I mean, the opposite. There are aspects that can’t be controlled, and there are aspects that can be controlled. The question is, are the controllable ones truly ones that move the needle on the timeline.

Felix: I got you. You look to determine what you need to believe, and then you look to your network to look for someone that’s walked that path, or that’s done it before. You consult them to see, “Hey, is this a realistic timeline?”

Karen: Right. That’s exactly right.

Felix: I want to talk about your role in building a team. How large is the team that you have today?

Karen: My brand management team is six people today. We have an R&D team that’s five people today. I’m also responsible for the creative team, which is another five people. When I joined Bulletproof, I inherited one person.

Felix: Got you. So lots of experience here hiring for this team. I guess what’s important for you to… Actually before we get there, what do you look around to determine what roles you need to fill on a team? How do you decide? Someone out there is starting to build a team of their own, what should they look to see, okay, I need someone in this spot.

Karen: Just to clarify, is your question like literally where they should look in terms of recruiters, or what qualities-

Felix: No, no, I mean like what kind of questions should they be asking themselves to determine what role they should hire for next?

Karen: When I step back and think about the way I thought about hiring for Bulletproof back in November of 2015, I thought about really where I was spending most of my time, and where I couldn’t keep up. I married that thinking with what I knew were the near-term, I’m saying maybe a year out, goals of the business were. At the time, I knew that we had certain aspirations to launch our ready-to-drink product. The team that we had in place certainly wasn’t going to be sufficient to do that. I set out to base my hiring plans around figuring out what subject matter expertise did I need. Where was I failing, because I certainly just didn’t have the bandwidth? Then have that line up with the goals around the business and a reasonable timeframe so that I knew that these roles could have longevity.

Felix: Got it, okay. I want to talk about your experience at Starbucks. Bulletproof already is one of the larger brands we’ve had on the show, but Starbucks is a behemoth a lot of people might not even think about comparing their business to. What are some of the biggest lessons that entrepreneurs can take from a big brand like Starbucks and apply to their maybe single employee, maybe small team business?

Karen: Yeah. I strongly believe that entrepreneurs should think about brands like people. Think about it as, when you go to a party, you’re going with some friends, your spouse or significant other. You meet a bunch of people, and you’re having a great time hopefully. You’re back in the car, and you’re driving home, and you’re talking about your experiences and your impressions of people. I think that’s probably a very relatable activity that most people experience. That conversation that happens in the car is how entrepreneurs should think about brands. Brands are personalities, and they’re personalities that are described when a person walks out of a room. It goes deeper than a personality.

Karen: It’s also the value set, what they look like. There are superficial things, and there are some deeper things. They really represent an external personality and a value set of that personality. That is the way brands should be considered, in my mind. I think they are often thought of as very static and 2D, and it’s a color, a logo, a message. It is those things, but really those things should be amplifying the value set or the personality of the brand, not the other way around. If a brand is getting off the ground, even if it’s super rudimentary it really comes down to… And I think it helps codify the goals or the strategy of the business.

Karen: It really comes down to why is your brand who it is, and who do you want it to be? How do you want your brand to be described if it were a person? Another way to do it is to say if your brand is a celebrity, who would you pick? That’s something I think that’s easier. Everyone has a relatable celebrity that they might like or not like, or someplace in the middle. Starting there can help drive the foundation of how that brand shows up in life. That’s I think the more, I think that’s a very image-oriented answer. If you don’t mind, I’ll keep going. I think the other part-

Felix: Real quick question about that. I think what you’re getting at too is that the entrepreneur has to really know their brand first. I feel like it’s almost an uncovering process where you’re digging to get more and more clarity around it. For you, what kind of recurring activities do you find helps you get the most clarity about the brand, about who you want the celebrity to be to represent your brand?

Karen: Really rigorous writing of briefs, which I know is painful. I have tortured people with this belief. Whenever someone is writing a document about, let’s say you’re working on package design and you’re getting a freelancer to help you with it. Or you’re working on your first ad campaign and you’re working with an agency or a consultant to help you think through that. Getting on paper who your consumer is, what your brand is about, how you want your brand to be perceived. Every single time you elicit support or start from the outside, or even on the inside kick off a project, is a meaningful process, even though it’s rigorous and sometimes painful.

Karen: It’s hard to get words on paper. But that’s why it’s hard, because it is a reminder of, oh, what is our brand about? I think if it were easy, it wouldn’t be a difficult problem to solve. That is my method to the madness of reminding people and creating that forcing function around what the brand personality is. At a certain point, you’re working on something that’s going to evoke that. To get people on the same page, and expect people to have an output that’s on the same page as you, that has to be put down in words.

Felix: Is this something that you can uncover as you go along and as you’re building your business, or do you recommend that people wait and establish this before they ever launch?

Karen: I think it’s both. There is no right answer, honestly. I would say if someone is unearthing or embarking on a journey that’s a brand new business, these are concepts that are great to have in the back of your mind. There are probably millions of case studies of brands reorienting their brand story over time. It’s not a zero-sum game where if you don’t nail it on day one, you’re screwed for the rest of the trajectory of your business. That’s most certainly not true.

Karen: I don’t want to give anyone that impression. But understanding that there is a certain rigor around what you want your brand to be and that in the very early stages in ways that are hard to predict and you can’t see, that those early stages are setting foundational concepts and precedents around how your brand shows up over time. I think awareness is step one. Step two is, as the brand grows, then getting it really on paper how it is that you want to show up.

Felix: Right. This idea of knowing who your celebrity is, I really love this. I think that it’s very visual. Once you have established this, you realize who would play your brand in a movie, where do you want your team to spend their time to have the biggest impact at making sure that the consumers also see and identify the same celebrity as you?

Karen: Marrying the consumer target with the messaging. This is where voice and messaging becomes truly important. I’m trying to think of a good example. If your brand’s mission is to be mainstream… I’m just making it up, this has nothing to do with Bulletproof. To be mainstream, speak to consumers and all the major retailers such as Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, you name it. But your voice is, you need an IQ of 200 to understand what someone is saying, or be studying for the SAT or something like that. That’s not going to work.

Karen: I’m using a kind of an extreme tongue in cheek example, but it really comes down to if you’re trying to evoke a person and your only tools are the words on a page or on a package, logo, design. The objective really is to how do you make all those pieces work as hard as possible to evoke that person while speaking to your consumer at the same time? In theory, the celebrity, if we’re going down that track, should also have some resonance, should line up with who your consumer target is. It wouldn’t make any sense to have a truly esoteric celebrity be the celebrity you’re using to describe who you want to be, and then be super mainstream.

Felix: Makes sense. I think you mentioned in our interview about your exposure to surround sound marketing at Starbucks. Is this in line with that? What is surround sound marketing?

Karen: When I was at Starbucks, surround sound marketing was all about showing up with consistency in all places. I’m dating myself, but back in 2010 we had this, Starbucks would re-invigorate some of the principles around how we think through marketing. This whole idea of surround sound marketing was reincarnated, if you will, in the sense that we wanted to remind all the partners, which is what we call the employees at Starbucks, that Starbucks shows up in a multitude of places.

Karen: We show up in the grocery store, we show up in convenience stores, we show up at the cafes, we show up in airports, and we show up online. Understanding that that surround sound marketing has to be consistent. If we’re marketing and doing it well, and executing and leveraging all the surround sound, all the channels that Starbucks has to offer, we have absolute consistency in all those channels. There’s nothing that creatively looks different. The messaging doesn’t look different. The brand is what it is, and consumers can expect that they will get the same thing every time.

Felix: Yeah, I think you noted too to us about the importance of simplifying the core brand message. I think that that can only help with surround sound marketing if you simplify it. Are there other benefits here by simplifying the core brand message? I think that this is the part where a lot of entrepreneurs can kind of narrow of their focus by simplifying. What other benefits do you see coming out of a simpler brand message?

Karen: The primary benefit really is just having consumers understand who you are. I can’t tell you, and granted I’m maybe more critical than others given the field of work I’m in, but how often I go to the grocery store, I’m shopping for my family, I’m buying let’s say crackers and I’m looking at the box. There are a million different messages on the box. I don’t know if I’m supposed to take away, this is low sugar, this is gluten-free, is this healthy, is this fun, are my kids going to love it, is this is going to taste awful but it’s really good for me?

Karen: Simplifying the core message really creates laser focus on ultimately what do you want to tell the consumer that matters to you the most? If you could only say one thing, and this is shorter than an elevator pitch. If you have five seconds or less to tell consumers one thing, you want them to walk away, “Oh, Karen is X.” What is that X? That is what the role of the core message is. The core message should evoke what matters to you and would should matter to them.

Felix: Got it. You also mentioned here that one of the key focuses that you have is to make sure that you have a business that puts the consumer first. I think a lot of companies out there that might be listening or not also have this in mind that they want to focus on the consumer first. In your opinion, what is key to making sure that you are putting consumers first?

Karen: It goes back to understanding why an entrepreneur is pursuing a certain idea. What is the thing that made them come up with a concept? It’s not only about the concept of self but the journey that got them there. That journey basically encompasses why a consumer would care. Maybe if I took a different route, what I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs do is, and I think this is so natural, they have a passion, they start a business around it. That passion is completely centered around they experienced, whether it’s a physical good or not. Then they realize, oh, there are some consumers that have the same pain point or passion about the topic, and they care. That’s great.

Karen: Really the next question then becomes, well you’ve got a certain subset of consumers or a certain set of consumers that care about what you care about. What happens from here? Do you just go after those consumers and continue to make them happy and keep them interested, or do you go out and get more consumers? That I think is really the challenge for entrepreneurs, because I think that can feel like a compromise from where they started. I think it can be both very exciting and fraught with fear, because now you’re saying, “Okay, I want to go after more.”

Karen: What does that do to my original idea? To stay true to your consumer, it really goes back to, I’m pursuing this other idea, how does this idea appeal to my original consumer? If not, why would I pursue it? Does the trade-off of getting new consumers, is it worthwhile and would it alienate the old consumers? It’s very theoretical, that example I’m describing, but it really comes down to understanding the passion and the journey of the original idea, and the goals around how far you want to take that idea.

Felix: Makes sense. as a website, I leave this last question, what has been the biggest lesson you learned last year that you want to make sure you apply this year?

Karen: That new information may change your plans. If I’ve learned anything over my time at Bulletproof, is that I was brought to the company with a certain type of subject matter expertise. I have been pushed, and it’s actually been my favorite part of the job to learn so much more than I ever anticipated that I would. In doing so, what I learned is that with new information and a wider set of information, while sitting on the leadership team, means that what I thought to be true based on my expertise can actually be false.

Karen: What I am personally working on as my own personal development goal is to apply that humility to understand that what I thought to be true and things that I have been forthright about, I may have to take a step back and say, “Is that really true?” “How do we evolve, and what does that mean for the business?” I think in the context of day-to-day, it’s easy to want to be right. I am not immune. I like to be right a lot. What is better than being right is being successful. I think to be successful does take an ounce of humility to understand that being right doesn’t actually get you there.

Felix: Makes sense, a great lesson for all. Again, thank you so much for your time, Karen.

Karen: Thank you.

Learn how 2 solve the Rubiks Cube with the layer method, learning only six algorithms.

Voters Pick the Best and Worst Campaign Logos of 2020

If you aren’t familiar with the 2020 presidential candidates’ logos and slogans yet, don’t worry: You will be soon enough. The two dozen hopefuls looking to replace President Trump have been raising money and hiring strategists to help them stand out in the crowded race. A good chunk of that money is set aside for branding and marketing.

The field is still in a state of flux, with a few pragmatic Democrats already ending doomed bids while a handful of coy Republicans and independents continue to drop hints about entering the race. However, the most likely contenders all have released logos and slogans that reflect the ideals of their campaigns.

As the clock ticks toward primary election season, these logos will begin springing up on bumper stickers and roadside signs like mushrooms after a spring rain. Social media feeds will swell with sponsored ads in the candidates’ carefully chosen color palettes and fonts. Every election-related news story will feature aspiring nominees speaking at branded podiums to crowds waving branded placards.

Political branding is nothing new. But there are a few features that stand out in this election cycle:

  • The field is one of the most crowded and most diverse ever, putting more pressure on candidates to differentiate themselves through branding.
  • More candidates are abandoning familiar patriotic color schemes and flag-inspired imagery.
  • Digital communication is more important than ever. Candidates are reaching out to voters via an enormous array of platforms and devices.
  • Nearly half the hopefuls have put themselves on a first-name basis with the American public.
  • The costs are staggering. This election will likely shatter spending records.

To find out how the Class of 2020’s branding resonates with the public, we partnered with an independent research firm to survey 1,258 registered voters across the country and score the campaign materials. In every question and set of instructions, respondents were urged to focus on the graphic design or slogan, not the candidate.

Read on to see what we learned.

Slideshow: Funniest Voters’ Comments on the 2020 Candidate Logos

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Campaign Logo Hits, Misses, and Outright Messes

Good marketing doesn’t necessarily win elections, but it can definitely help. Voters were asked to score each logo on a scale of 1 to 10, setting aside their personal feelings about the candidates and judging solely on the effectiveness of their logos. The voters weren’t universally wowed by any of the designs — none achieved an average score of 8 or higher. But there were logos that generally appealed to both Democrats and Republicans, plus some that clearly missed the mark all around.

Best-Dressed Campaigns

This year’s election cycle is seeing greater diversity just about everywhere, from the candidates’ resumés and personal backgrounds to the styles and approaches of their branding. Voters are responding favorably to some of this distinctiveness, but not all. Democratic front runners Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden lead the pack in logo favorability — although the other Dem favorite, Elizabeth Warren, has the hands-down least popular wordmark.

Sanders’ clever “glasses logo” topped the list of voter favorites, and his more conservative “swoosh” logo landed in third place. Biden’s logos traded off the other top spots at second and fourth place. They shared the top five with a surprise showing from Tulsi Gabbard’s unusual “sunrise gradient” logo, which beat out the Donald Trump solo logo, in sixth place.


One burgeoning trend is first-name-only branding, which the campaign trail is seeing more of this year than ever before. Among the 27 included in this survey, 11 candidates used only their first names in their logos, compared to 12 who used only their last names, and 5 who used both names. Reactions to first-name logos from voters ran the gamut from “friendly” and “accessible” to “overly familiar” and “arrogant.” Voters felt last-name logos were mostly “confident” and “polished” (although the word “boring” also placed high among the descriptions). In general:

  • Republicans are more likely to prefer last names; Democrats prefer first names.
  • While younger people are more accepting of first-name-only candidate logos, only voters in their 30s actually prefer first-name over last-name logos.
  • Many women are turned off by candidates getting too familiar, too fast. Women have a slight preference for last-name logos over first-name ones; men have the opposite preference.


Many survey takers found the growing use of non-traditional colors refreshing (5.05 on a scale of 1-10), but most voters still seem to favor the traditional patriotic palette (5.40). Except Gabbard’s, all the logos in the top five spots — and 14 among the top 20 — flew the red-white-and-blue, although not all in a traditional way.

Still, 12 of the 27 candidates took the risk of living in color, distancing themselves from party affiliations while distinguishing their individual identities. Kamala Harris’ gold-red-and-purple logo was inspired by Shirley Chisholm’s campaign in 1972, and John Hickenlooper’s pays homage to the purple mountains’ majesty of his home state, Colorado. In a surprising result, the survey found that male voters tend to be slightly more receptive (4.92 out of 10) to logos with non-traditional colors than females (4.97).

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The Best and Worst Campaign Slogans of 2020

American presidential campaigns have yielded some truly iconic political slogans. Some inspired hope, like Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s promise in 1932 that “Happy Days Are Here Again” or Barack Obama’s offer in 2008 of “Change We Can Believe In.”  Others were simple and catchy, like Dwight Eisenhower’s “We Like Ike” in 1952 or Lyndon Johnson’s “All the Way With LBJ” in 1964.

Slogans summarize the essence of a campaign in a single phrase. The best ones are usually memorable, concise, and connect to voter concerns. The current election cycle has yielded more than two dozen campaign slogans, but based on voter reviews, none are likely to land in the history books. The highest scorer came in at 6.6 out of 10.

Here’s how the 2020 presidential hopefuls’ slogans fared in our survey.

Best-Dressed Campaigns

Based on the feedback of 1,258 registered voters, the future is a winning theme in the coming election cycle — but bravery is not. Three of the top six slogans specifically use the word “future,” in direct contrast to President Trump’s vision of preserving America’s past greatness. Donald Trump’s secondary slogan “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” did much better with survey takers than his primary message: “Keep America Great.”


The highest-scoring slogan was Bernie Sanders’ “A Future to Believe In.” Survey respondents called it “simple” and fairly “cliché” but also “hopeful,” “optimistic,” and “inspiring.” Tim Ryan’s and John Delaney’s catchphrases elicited similar feedback.

In second place, Elizabeth Warren got praise for her message: “Dream Big. Fight Hard.” Survey respondents said it was a “feel-good message” that also brought to mind the plight of young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, known as “dreamers.” Longshot candidate Michael Bennet nabbed the third-highest score with his slogan “Building Opportunity Together” — another hopeful and forward-looking theme.

Frontrunner Joe Biden was not as successful in his attempt to paint a rosy picture of the future. Voters said his 16th-place slogan “Our Best Days Still Lie Ahead” managed to be both optimistic and somehow “gloomy” and “a little depressing” at the same time.

Also struggling to make the theme work, Pete Buttigieg landed in 20th place with “A Fresh Start for America.” Although the idea had some appeal, many survey respondents weren’t buying it. “Seems naive. The next president will inherit a huge mess, not a clean slate. This candidate doesn’t seem prepared for that,” remarked a 51-year-old Democratic man from Oregon. “America doesn’t need a fresh start; we need to deal with the problems brought on by the current administration and turn the ship around,” said a 44-year-old female Independent voter from Georgia.


At the bottom of the pack, the two slogans that used the word “brave” were panned by survey respondents. Joe Walsh’s “Be Brave” message was likened to Melania Trump’s less-than-well-received “Be Best” campaign. Voters asked, “Am I joining the army, or voting?” and “Why do I need to be brave? Is something bad going to happen if I vote for you?”

Respondents were also baffled by now-withdrawn Kirsten Gillibrand’s “Brave Wins” message. “What does that even mean? The Atlanta Braves won? This makes no sense as a political slogan,” remarked a 46-year-old male Independent voter from New Mexico.


In ninth and 14th places respectively, Bill de Blasio and Andrew Yang both included the word “first” in their slogans, and the survey takers weren’t impressed. The New York mayor’s “Working People First” slogan offended several voters, like a 31-year-old Democratic woman from New York who asked: “Isn’t that marginalizing anyone who can’t work?” and “What about the young, the elderly, and the disabled? Don’t they count?” Another critic, a 48-year-old Independent woman from Indiana, said, “All people need to feel that they are represented by a candidate, not just those with employment.”

Regarding Yang’s “Humanity First” slogan, voters responded with a resounding, “As opposed to what?” A 37-year-old Republican woman from Nevada asked, “What does that really mean? Humanity First sounds like a response to ‘America First,’ but it’s really vague.”


Several candidates focused on unity and inclusiveness in their slogans. Billionaire outsider Tom Steyer earned a respectable seventh place with his lengthy slogan: “There is nothing more powerful than the unified voice of the American people.” Voters called it “wordy” and “way too long,” and said, “That’s not a slogan, it’s more like an essay!” Nonetheless, the message also was described as “compelling,” “sincere,” and “positive.”

Also generally well-received, Kamala Harris ranked eighth with her courtroom-inspired “For the People” tagline. Bernie Sanders’ alternate slogan just cracked the top 10 with his other slogan “Not Me. Us.” Both messages elicited approval for the candidates’ putting others before themselves.

But other messages with this theme didn’t fare as well. Beto O’Rourke was mocked by many survey takers for his “We’re All in This Together” slogan, which anyone younger than 30 (and most of their parents) will recognize as the title of a song from a Disney movie. “High School Musical called, they want their slogan back,” wrote a 26-year-old Republican man from California.

Cory Booker was also dinged for his “We Rise” slogan, which confused many survey respondents. “Most of us who are still alive rise at some point during the day,” noted a 64-year-old Democratic man from Texas. “Huh? We rise? Who rises? When do we rise? Sunrise? This is too simple and open-ended,” said a 30-year-old Democratic woman from Louisiana.


Several candidates drew criticism for particular words they used. A few voters questioned whether Joe Biden’s use of the word “lie” was wise. “In the current political landscape,  I wouldn’t put the word ‘lie’ in a political slogan,” cautioned a 39-year-old Democratic woman from Virginia.

Steve Bullock might have been channeling the popular musical “Hamilton” and not wanting to throw away his chances with the slogan “A Fair Shot for Everyone.” But the word “shot” didn’t go over well. “Probably not the right climate in America to have gun references in your slogan,” wrote a 59-year-old Democratic woman from Arizona.

Joe Sestak was onto something with his vision of bringing honor and integrity back to public office, but his slogan “Accountability to America” was a turnoff for many voters. “Nice idea, but ‘accountability’ reminds me of an accountant and money. It’s a pretty dry, unexciting slogan,” wrote a 44-year-old Republican woman from Washington.

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The First-Name Game

Joe, Bernie, Pete, Beto, Amy, Cory, Tulsi, Marianne, Tom, Wayne, and another Joe. It’s not the cast of a new sitcom; it’s a list of the political candidates who have chosen to use only their first names in campaign materials. A whopping 11 presidential hopefuls have gambled on the informal, first-name approach. To find out how that’s going over with voters, we crunched the data.

Voters Weigh In on First Names on Political Signs

In an effort to stand out from this year’s crowded field, a greater share of candidates than ever beforeabout 39% are using only their first names on their logos. Some analysts say this influx was fueled by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign logo, which conveyed an informal, friendly message of accessibility. A slightly larger percentage (42%) of candidates stuck with the traditional last-name-only logo, and five of them (19%) used both their first and last names.

11 candidates used their first name only:

  • Amy (Klobuchar)
  • Bernie (Sanders)
  • Beto (O’Rourke)
  • Cory (Booker)
  • Joe (Biden) – 2nd logo
  • Joe (Sestak)
  • Marianne (Williamson)
  • Pete (Buttigieg)
  • Tom (Steyer)
  • Tulsi (Gabbard)
  • Wayne (Messam)

12 candidates used their last name only:

  • (Michael) Bennet
  • (Joe) Biden – 1st logo
  • (Steve) Bullock
  • (Bill) de Blasio
  • (John) Delaney
  • (Kirsten) Gillibrand
  • (John) Hickenlooper
  • (Jay) Inslee
  • (Donald) Trump
  • (Elizabeth) Warren
  • (Bill) Weld
  • (Andrew) Yang

5 candidates used both their first and last names:

  • Julián Castro
  • Kamala Harris

The Pros and Cons of Familiarity

For candidates with first-name recognition, like Beto and Tulsi, the first-name-only approach could work, but it may be less useful for, say, Pete or Amy. With surnames like Buttigieg and Klobuchar, they could be forgiven for taking the first-name gamble — but it’s one that largely did not pay off with survey takers. 

Although voters rated the first-name logos overall as mostly “memorable,” “modern,” and “friendly,” they also ranked them high in the “ugly,” “boring” and “amateur” categories. Last-name logos were deemed largely “confident,” “powerful,” and “polished,” but also “boring” and “cliché.”

Naming conventions broke down among party lines. The first-name gambit seems to be paying off among Democratic voters, who gave logos featuring only first names higher scores than those using just surnames, 5.42 to 5.24. Republicans preferred the more traditional last-name approach 5.74 to 5.40.

Women were more likely to be turned off by excessive familiarity than men. Although the margins were narrow, women scored logos featuring last names more highly at 5.47 than the chummy, first-name versions at 5.41. Men scored the first-name logos a tad higher at 5.42 than those highlighting candidates’ last names at 5.39.

Generally, younger voters are more open to first-name candidate logos than their senior counterparts, but the only group that actually preferred first names to last names were people in their 30s.

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Racing Around the Color Wheel

Liberty green, muted gold, hot pink, majestic purple, a sky’s worth of blues, and even a gradient here and there: No, it’s not your daughter’s dorm room. It’s a campaign palette containing a wider spectrum of logo colors than any previous presidential race has seen. According to some experts, this year’s trend moves away from the traditional red or blue that signals a party affiliation, expanding instead into a rainbow of colors to help each candidate define their distinct identity. We asked survey respondents how the color choices sat with them.

Political Palettes

Of the 27 candidates, 15 used some variation of the traditional red-white-and-blue color scheme (although even those boundaries were pushed, with some blues veering from greenish to grayish and some reds straying into orange territory). The remaining 12 candidate logos essentially covered the spectrum, implementing non-traditional color combos that reached from blue/green through purple/red/gold all the way to black/white, evoking a range of ideas and connotations — as well as skepticism.

Pros and Cons of Non-Traditional Political Palettes

The response to this colorful trend was clear: Survey takers did not taste the rainbow. They overwhelmingly described logos with non-traditional colors as “not political.” And although they followed up with “modern,” there were also descriptions of “ugly,” “weak,” and “amateur.”

Democrats are more receptive to non-traditional colors than Republicans, giving them an average score of 5.11 vs. GOP voters’ 4.91. But both groups preferred red, white, and blue. Dems gave logos in traditional hues an average of 5.45 while Republicans gave them an average of 5.93.

Candidates hoping to appeal to women with pinks and pastels might be missing the mark. Men were more open to creative color palettes than women (by 4.97 to 4.92). However, both genders preferred red, white, and blue. Men gave patriotic-colored logos an average score of 5.44, while women rated them 5.64.

Using purples and greens isn’t necessarily a fast track to the youth vote, either. Although younger people were slightly more open to alternative palettes, every age group scored patriotic-colored logos higher. Voters in their teens and twenties gave logos with non-traditional colors the highest average score (5.14), but they still preferred red, white, and blue (5.57). Voters in their 60s and 70s gave non-traditional logos an average of 4.68, while they gave flag-colored logos an average score of 5.58.

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You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

If you dig out your high school yearbook, chances are you’ll find a “Senior Superlatives” section recognizing noteworthy students — from Most Likely to Succeed and Best Smile to Most Likely to Change the World. Along those lines, we asked voters to rank the political Class of 2020’s logos using a list of words with meanings both good and bad. Voters ticked off the qualities they felt each logo exhibited. And they had definite opinions about who the standouts were, and why.

Best Voter Ranked 2020 Political Candidate Logos

The best-received logo overall made creative use of Bernie Sanders’ uncool attributes — a silhouette of his unkempt hair, and glasses adorned by the stars and stripes. Survey takers voted Bernie’s logo Most Likely to Succeed with an overall score of 7.16 out of 10. It also ranked first for qualities like “memorable,” “dynamic,” and “clever.” Sanders and Biden shared the top five spots with Tulsi Gabbard, who ranked high in “modern” and “dynamic” categories and finished just above Trump’s solo logo. (The president did not win for Best Hair, alas.)

The top rankings for positive qualities were dominated by logos for front-runners Biden, Sanders, and Trump, exhibiting “memorable,” “polished,” “confident,” and “powerful” qualities (also highly associated with the traditional red-white-and-blue color palette they all used). But a few wild cards sneaked into top spots for other categories, such as Yang, who ranked high for “dynamic,” “clever,” and “sporty” qualities, and Castro, whose logo was in the top 3 for “polished” and “modern” qualities. Williamson’s pink logo ranked among the most “friendly,” and O’Rourke’s stark black-and-white logo placed third in the “powerful” category.

Worst Voter Ranked 2020 Political Candidate Logos

Among the rankings for negative qualities, Booker’s comic book-esque logo won the “ugly” category, Warren’s navy blue logo won for “boring,” and O’Rourke’s branding was deemed most “gloomy.” Sestak, Steyer and Yang’s logos wrapped up the top spots in the “confusing” and “hard to read” categories. Williamson, Sestak, and Buttigieg took the top three spots for logos that seem “not political (more like a product or business).”

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  • Democratic Candidates
  • Candidate: Michael Bennet
  • Title: U.S. Senator from Colorado since 2009
  • Declared Candidacy: May 2, 2019

Bennet Logo

Bennet’s safe and simple logo, using Source Sans font, ranked in the middle of the pack with a score of 5.04 out of 10. Survey respondents used words like “basic,” “boring,” and “cliché” to describe it. Several found the “for America” superfluous, responding, “Who isn’t for America?” Many also said it reminded them of the old IHOP logo.


Other comments:

“It looks like a food label.”

“It looks like a logo for beans.”

“This looks like a restaurant logo.”

“It’s like we’re going to the GAP.”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Joe Biden
  • Title: Former Vice President, 2009-2017, and U.S. Senator from Delaware, 1973-2009
  • Declared Candidacy: April 25, 2019

Biden Logo

Rather than commit to using just his last name or just his first name, front-runner Joe Biden released separate logos featuring one of each. The logos, using the font Brother 1816, were the work of Blue State Digital.

The horizontal version featuring his last name was the voters’ second-favorite logo, scoring 6.91 out of 10. Survey respondents said it looked “American,” “patriotic,” “presidential,” “bold,” and “modern-looking.” However, some felt the omission of the word “for” smacked of entitlement and overconfidence. “I’m not sure why ‘for’ is omitted from the logo. I think it can rub people the wrong way because Biden is not yet a president.”

Other comments:

“Nifty use of the ‘E’ in Biden being those three red lines.”

“It looks like a logo for beans.”

“I like the idea that it sort of states that Biden is a ‘bid’ for office. Clever.”

“This one is professional, like he’s been in it for a while.”

Joe Logo

The round “Joe 2020” version ranked a bit lower, coming in at fourth place with a score of 6.11 out of 10. Survey respondents said it was “eye-catching,” “clever,” “polished,” and gave a “sense of motion.” However, some felt that with so many candidates in the race (including Joe Sestak and Joe Walsh), it was too common a name to stand alone. Several noted the similarity to President Obama’s iconic ‘O’ logo. A couple also said it reminded them of ESPN’s trademark.


Other comments:

“I like the play on the flag.”

“The ‘OE’ looks more like the Ohio flag than the US flag.”

“Wait, who is this for? Joe Biden?”

“Is the candidate ‘Jo’ or ‘Joe’?”

“Not sure if I would have gone with the striped ‘E’ on this. I have an ex named Jo. I should get her a pin.”

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  • Candidate: Cory Booker
  • Title: U.S. Senator from New Jersey since 2013
  • Declared Candidacy: February 1, 2019

Cory Booker Logo

Cory Booker jumped on the first-name train with this simple, blocky, colorful design that ranked in the pack’s bottom third with an overall score of 4.76 out of 10. Many respondents were confused by the color choices, which elicited descriptions of “weird” and “jarring.” The Conductor font, which several described as “cartoonish” or “comic book-ish,” more than once drew comparisons to Marvel Comics’ logo.

Marvel Logo

Other comments:

“The blue is a strange shade — not at all like ‘American’ blue.”

“I’m seeing comic book themes in this one.”

“Pow! Cory 2020! I like the balance — 4 characters on each side. The opposing colors imply that Booker’s got it covered for everyone (black/white, red/blue).”

“Looks a bit like the NPR logo.”

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  • Candidate: Steve Bullock
  • Title: Governor of Montana since 2012
  • Declared Candidacy: May 14, 2019

Marvel Logo

Steve Bullock’s classic logo, using the font FF Kievit Slab, rounded out the top third of the pack with a score of 5.72 out of 10. Responses — whether positive or negative — largely seemed to land in a safe middle range of descriptors: “decent,” “clean,” “familiar,” “serviceable,” “basic,” “standard,” and “entirely average.” It also drew comparison with Frank Underwood’s campaign logo from the TV show House of Cards.

House of Cards Presidential Logo

Other comments:

“Sandra Bullock is running for president?”

“This logo is a bit cliché and uninspired.”

“I like how this image screams ‘America.”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Pete Buttigieg
  • Title: Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, since 2011
  • Declared Candidacy: January 23, 2019

Pete Buttigieg Logo

Mayor Pete’s blue-and-gold logo landed in the middle of the pack with a 4.98 out of 10 score for its Aktiv Grotesk font and design by Brooklyn design firm HyperAkt. Several respondents said it reminded them of high school or college sports team apparel. “It’s actually kinda good. It feels like a high school basketball logo: ‘The fighting Petes are going all the way to the finals!’ ” remarked a 44-year-old male Democrat from Michigan. The collegiate feel drew mixed reviews, with some questioning whether it was a wise move for the youngest candidate in the race (who graduated in 2007). Still others referenced blue jeans logos like Wranglers or Levi’s.

Levis Logo

Other comments:

“Looks like it belongs on a beer bottle.”

“This one is confusing because you don’t know if is political, sports, or a product.”

“It feels like it’s a logo of a classy restaurant.”

“Was Pete Rose #20?”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Julián Castro
  • Title: U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, 2014-2017
  • Declared Candidacy: January 12, 2019

Julian Castro Logo

The logo for Julián Castro uses the Mallory Black font and earned an overall score of 5.80 out of 10, ranking it just inside the Top 10. Several survey respondents remarked on the accent over the ‘A,’ which they imagined was to help emphasize his Latino heritage. Many others had opinions on the colors; some called them “attractive” and “memorable” while others disliked the shade of blue or felt the design lacked the requisite red for a presidential campaign logo.

Other comments:

“The blue is the wrong shade for this country.”

“Looks nice but still wouldn’t stick in my head.”

“The accent mark makes it seem like it’s Juli An!”

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  • Candidate: John Delaney
  • Title: Former U.S. Representative from Maryland, 2012-2016
  • Declared Candidacy: July 28, 2017

John Delaney Logo

The first Democrat to announce a 2020 campaign, Delaney is running with a logo that uses the Avant Garde font of Rally Campaigns. The design earned him a middling spot with an overall score of 5.68 out of 10. Largely lukewarm responses included “good,” “clean,” “generic,” “professional,” “average” and “cookie-cutter.” Some compared it to an airline logo. Many focused on the red and blue stripes in the ‘D,’ some interpreting them as forming a road, and others remarking on their similarity to the iconic ‘O’ in Obama’s logo.

Obama Logomark

Other comments:

“This looks like a class president ad for a high school to me.”

“I like the ‘inference’ of a highway (or road) for all people to travel.”

“The red and blue of the first letter is reminiscent of a highway indicating moving forward. It specifies what the race is for, but still has too much blank space.”

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  • Candidate: Tulsi Gabbard
  • Title: U.S. Representative from Hawaii since 2012
  • Declared Candidacy: January 11, 2019

Tulsi Gabbard Logo

The Harmonia Sans font and color gradient in Tulsi Gabbard’s logo were the subject of many comments from survey respondents. While the consensus was that the design distinguishes it and makes it memorable, opinions diverged on whether the overall effect was good, bad, or just confusing. “The letter color fusing seems to say, ‘I don’t know who I am,’ ” remarked a 49-year-old female Independent voter from Georgia. Several also said the logo reminded them of a travel poster. Regardless, the logo ranked at #5 with an overall score of 6.1 out of 10.

Other comments:

“It’s kind of mysterious and makes me want to learn more.”

“I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a sunset or sunrise; those have very different connotations.”

“Something really irritating about the color gradation here, but I’m wondering if it’s supposed to be referencing a sun, like dawn of a new day? Is this actually a play on visuals? That’s kind of neat, now that I’m thinking on it. Just bumped it up from 4 to 7.”

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  • Candidate: Kamala Harris
  • Title: U.S. Senator from California since 2016
  • Declared Candidacy: January 21, 2019

Kamala Harris Logo on Yellow Background

Kamala Harris Logo

Harris presented two logos using the Bureau Grot font styled by Wide Eye Creative: one version with a yellow background, one on white. Both ranked consecutively near the bottom with scores of 4.72 and 4.7 out of 10, and each version generated more than 70 comments, many of them reflecting confusion. “Interesting, non-standard look. If I didn’t already know her, though, I might think that was the title of a stand-up special or something,” said a 35-year-old male Independent voter from North Carolina. Many respondents said the logos look like branding for a TV show, Broadway play, or book cover. 

unbreakable kimmy schmidt logo

 joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat logo

Other comments:

“I don’t like the color palette for this one and it looks cluttered.”

“It’s bold and it has a cool 1970’s action movie poster vibe going on with the message and the font. I like how her name and ‘people’ are the same size.”

“It’s vaguely reminiscent of Soviet-era Russia… I have no idea why.”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Amy Klobuchar
  • Title: U.S. Senator from Minnesota since 2006
  • Declared Candidacy: February 10, 2019

Amy Klobuchar Logo

Designed by GPS Impact, the green Mackay font of Klobuchar’s first-name logo did not sit well with respondents, especially when mixed with two other colors and fonts. Her logo ranked near the bottom with a 4.52 score out of 10. Many commenters felt that it looks amateurish, while others said that first-name campaigns are for those with name recognition. Though a few found the greens and blues refreshing, most others found them inappropriate for a U.S. political campaign — and some compared the logo to a cookbook cover or plant nursery logo.

Plant It Forward Farms Logo

Other comments:

“Shouldn’t all the candidates be for America?”

“Three different fonts, three different colors … and green, when she’s not the Green Party candidate? Nope.”

“I like the colors and how it is simple yet memorable.”

“It looks more a sign for a teenager running for student council.”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Wayne Messam
  • Title: Mayor of Miramar, Florida since 2015
  • Declared Candidacy: March 13, 2019

Wayne Messam Logo

Messam’s logo drew descriptions of “straightforward,” “bold,” and “classic” — as well as “meh,” “safe,” and “OK” — landing it in the middle with a score of 4.91 out of 10. Some respondents had a problem with the disparate size of Messam’s name looming over “America.” The largest contingent of commenters noted that the colors and familiar Montserrat font bear a strong resemblance to the former logo of a certain corporate giant: “Reminds me of Walmart — so it’s Americana.”

Walmart Logo

Other comments:

“Makes me think of Batman, for some reason.”

“Doesn’t make me want to learn more about him.”

“I thought John Wayne was dead? And isn’t everyone from America?”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Beto O’Rourke
  • Title: Former U.S. Representative from Texas, 2013-2019
  • Declared Candidacy: March 14, 2019

Beto O'Rourke Logo

Using the Prohibition font designed by Stanton Street, O’Rourke’s logo placed in the middle of the rankings with 5.42 out of 10, and drew opinions as starkly opposed as its color scheme. One camp characterized the black-and-white as “harsh,” “ominous,” “militaristic,” and “dystopian,” with references to George Orwell’s 1984, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and World War II. Another camp called it “strong,” “modern,” “bold,” and “impactful.” There were also several spot-on design comparisons, including a military logo, the parental advisory sticker — and, perhaps most endearingly, a spicy ketchup packet from fast-food restaurant Whataburger (beloved in O’Rourke’s home state of Texas).

Other comments:

“It really stands out. Almost like it punches you in the face.”

“The black makes it seem like it would be a logo for a rock band but not a political candidate.”

“Looks kind of evil.”

“I can’t help but feel this is something I would see in a store like Hot Topic.”

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  • Candidate: Tim Ryan
  • Title: U.S. Rep. for Ohio since 2002
  • Declared Candidacy: April 4, 2019

Tim Ryan Logo

Survey respondents had a range of opinions about the classic color scheme of Tim Ryan’s logo — too unbalanced, derivative, off-putting; the blue is too light, the red too dark. A 24-year-old female independent voter from New Mexico said, “I love how smooth this logo is, and it also just screams America,” while a 64-year-old male Democrat from Texas responded with a virtual eye roll, “How novel. A name in red, white, and blue.” The majority sided with the latter, giving the logo and its Open Sans font an overall score of 4.37 out of 10 to land it in third-to-last place. Also, several commenters agreed that it looks like a news logo.

Walmart Logo

Other comments:

“It looks like a newscaster’s name.”

“Can’t tell if they are R or D, can’t even tell it’s for a political position.”

“Ugly makes it memorable — it’s hard on the eyes.”

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  • Candidate: Bernie Sanders
  • Title: U.S. Senator for Vermont since 2006
  • Declared Candidacy: February 19, 2019

Bernie Sanders Logo

Sanders’ “swoosh” logo, which rated an overall score of 6.84 out of 10, ranks third behind only Biden and Sanders’ own “glasses” logo. The font used for both is Jubilat, styled by Revolution Messaging. Respondents gave descriptions from “crisp,” “clean,” and “sharp” to “average,” “generic,” and “traditional,” the consensus being that it has everything a classic campaign logo needs. The swoosh and the star were the most noted features, each with fans and detractors. And like a lot of things about the quirky politician, Sanders’ campaign logos have elicited lots of jokes — like a well-documented comparison to this classic toothpaste logo:

Aquafresh Logo

Other comments:

“It remains adequately pleasant.”

“Elegant and somehow conveys the sympathetic nature of his policies.”

“The best political logo I’ve seen in several years.”

“I see the name ‘Bernie’ and think of the movie ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’.”

“Color, movement, simplicity. And stars. There should always be stars.”

Bernie Sanders Logo with Silhouette

This irreverent logo, which plays on Sanders’ distinctly uncool silhouette, tops the list at an overall score of 7.16 out of 10. Many respondents cited its creative humor, visual novelty, and youthful appeal as reasons for ranking it highly, although some others rated it too “juvenile,” “immature” or “unprofessional” for someone aspiring to the highest office in the land. A 33-year-old male Libertarian from Pennsylvania summed it up by saying, “People who love him will love it. People who hate him will hate it. As a design element, it is clever and hits on his brand well.”

Other comments:

“What am I looking at?”

“Absolutely captures the spirit of Bernie. This is awesome!”

“It just looks weird. Sorry, Bernie.”

“Love the design. It is powerful, dynamic and memorable.”

“He’s too old to have cool glasses.”

“Why does it depict a headshot of Elton John?”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Joe Sestak
  • Title: Former U.S. Navy admiral, 1974-2006, and U.S. Rep for Pennsylvania, 2006-2011
  • Declared Candidacy: June 22, 2019

Joe Sestak  Logo

While some applauded its strong Overpass font and classic colors, Sestak’s logo also generated more than 90 comments and a lot of confusion. Not everyone was familiar with the abbreviation for “Admiral.” A 31-year-old Democratic woman from Pennsylvania asked, “Who on earth is this? Is Adm Joe an abbreviation? A name?” There were reservations about the image of the globe, the un-catchiness of the slogan, and — most pronounced — the unnerving impression of an eye. The logo ranked near the bottom with a 4.39 score out of 10.

Big Brother is Watching You Logo

Other comments:

“Looks like big brother is watching you!”

“Looks like an old NASA T-shirt design.”

“Looks like the candidate is trying to take over the world.”

“Looks like a bad small business logo.”

“Looks like it was made 25 years ago on Microsoft paint.”

“Looks like the logo for an evil multinational conglomerate in an 80s dystopian film.”

“Looks like they want to clean my carpet.”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Tom Steyer
  • Title: Billionaire hedge fund manager
  • Declared Candidacy: July 9, 2019

Joe Sestak  Logo

The use of a first name only in Steyer’s logo was the biggest point of contention among survey respondents, especially for a candidate with extremely low name recognition. “I follow politics pretty closely, and I don’t know who this is. I can’t imagine a typical low-information voter would find this useful,” noted a 38-year-old male Democrat from Kentucky. Other issues included color, font, and balance. The logo ranked among the bottom with a score of 4.4 out of 10.

Other comments:

“I personally love this color blue.”

“This looks like a campaign sticker from the 60s. His ideas are probably outdated, too.”

“It’s just an eyesore.”

“I don’t know the last name and even though it is in big text, I don’t think it would push me to go find out more information about the candidate.”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Elizabeth Warren
  • Title: U.S. Senator for Massachusetts since 2012
  • Declared Candidacy: February 9, 2019

Elizabeth Warren Logo

For both of Warren’s logos, designed by Bully Pulpit Interactive, the colors and Ringside font were the subject of much comment by survey respondents. The darker logo ranked in the lower half with an overall score of 4.75 out of 10. Many were confused by its single-word simplicity and unusual color choice, like the commenter who expressed the general consensus: “The green looks like the color of the Statue of Liberty, which is nice. That’s a different kind of patriotic color. But the design is a snoozefest. The font is really harsh,” commented a 47-year-old female independent voter from Florida. More than one compared it to an automobile logo.

Elizabeth Warren Logo

Other comments:

“It feels like GM introduced a new car brand and called it the ‘Warren.’”

“This just looks threatening. She has a hard type of last name, I never noticed until seeing it huge and emblazoned in this way. WAR … scary.”

Elizabeth Warren Logo on light green background

The light-green logo for Warren ranked ten spots lower than its counterpart, in dead-last place with a score of 3.89 over 10. The “Liberty green” color was one source of controversy, with its share of both allies and detractors. It was the font and oversimplified design, though, that seemed to elicit the most confusion and criticism, like “This logo is exceedingly dull and overly minimalistic,” said a 28-year-old Democratic man from Pennsylvania. “The green is not appealing when running to be the president of U.S.,” said a 31-year-old Republican woman from Texas.

Other comments:

“A little too minimalistic for someone as dynamic as Warren”

“No year? No ‘merica propaganda? I do dig that it’s one with a last name instead of first; it seems more serious than presumptuous.”

“What is this even about?”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Marianne Williamson
  • Title: Author and lecturer
  • Declared Candidacy: January 28, 2019

Marianne Williamson Logo

Williamson’s logo employs an uncommon color and a font (named FattiPatti) that generated a lot of opinions among survey takers — and ranked it second-to-last on the list with a score of 4.34 out of 10. While some commenters liked the pink, some compared it to Pepto-Bismol, Dunkin Donuts, and Disney princesses, while others decried the color’s implied connection with a female candidate. Many declared the color unpresidential. “It doesn’t look like the logo of someone who is running to become President of the US, more like something for a brand of dolls. Barbie, maybe?” remarked a 58-year-old Democratic woman from New York.

Barbie Logo

Other comments:

“Disney princess for president?”

“Pink = NO = esp if your name is Marianne. Might as well make it gingham with pigtails.”

“Looks like it belongs on a Barbie Dream House or a Reese Witherspoon movie”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Andrew Yang
  • Title: Billionaire businessman
  • Declared Candidacy: November 6, 2017

Andrew Yang Logo

Although the majority of commenters expressed confusion about the spelling of Yang’s name because of the stylized Halyard Display font designed by Hannah Liz White, his logo still ranked among the Top 10 with an overall score of 5.81 out of 10. Descriptions included “eye-catching,” “appealing,” “stylish,” and “engaging.” More than one called attention to the fact that the stylized “swoosh” resembles a church logo.

Methodist Church Logo

Presbyterian Church Logo

Other comments:

“A one-name sign shouldn’t be hard to read.”

“I like that they did at least something with the design to make it stand out.”

“Too loud and I can’t even make out the name… it is Lang, Tang, Yang?”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Republican Candidates
  • Candidate: Donald Trump
  • Title: 45th President of the United States
  • Declared Candidacy: January 20, 2017

Donald Trump Logo

Trump’s solo logo, using the familiar Montserrat font, ranked 6th overall with a score of 6.01 out of 10. Responses ranged from “classic,” “strong” and “memorable” to “rigid,” “egocentric,” and “cliché.” Although respondents were asked to rate the logo, not the candidate, this was likely the most difficult instance for them to achieve that. Several echoed the 33-year-old Democratic man from New York who said, “Although I may not like the candidate, the design is memorable and it focuses on the most important aspects, the candidate and his slogan.” Many commenters enjoyed the border and the stars.

Other comments:

“Has the basic appearance of a license plate. It’s an effective logo.”

“It looks like one of those plastic vanity license plates little kids put on their tricycles. Probably because of the box around it. The colors are patriotic, but it’s hard to take seriously.”

“This is one of the most impressive banners I have ever seen. It captures patriotism, brilliance, success, and love.”

Trump and Pence Logo

Trump’s joint logo with Pence keeps essentially the same elements but ranked slightly lower in 10th place with an overall 5.73 score out of 10. The comments largely mirrored those for the other logo; Trump supporters loved it, many detractors grudgingly acknowledged its validity — and many applauded the border and the stars.

Other comments:

“Sorry, no way to separate evil regime from a PTSD-inducing logo.”

“Like the balance, almost like an upside-down pyramid.”

“Perfection! It screams simplicity, familiarity and America!”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Mark Sanford
  • Title: Former Governor and U.S. Representative from South Carolina
  • Declared Candidacy: September 8, 2019

Mark Sanford Logo

Sanford entered the race too late for his logo to be included in the survey. However, with the stars and lines, there are inescapable similarities to the logo of the man he hopes to unseat.

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Joe Walsh
  • Title: Former U.S. Representative from Illinois, 2011-2013
  • Declared Candidacy: August 25, 2019

Joe Walsh Logo

Walsh entered the race at the same time survey was launched. His slogan was included in the study, but his logo was not.

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Bill Weld
  • Title: Former Governor of Massachusetts, 1991-1997
  • Declared Candidacy: April 15, 2019

Bill Weld Logo

Weld’s logo landed at the halfway mark in the rankings with an overall score of 5.04 out of 10 and garnered comments of “bold,” “simple,” “standard,” “plain,” and “typical.” A 35-year-old Democratic man from New Mexico said, “The most cliché a political logo could be.” Another said it bears a strong resemblance to the Fox News logo.

Fox News Logo

Other comments:

“It looks like a food label.”

“It looks like a logo for beans.”

“This looks like a restaurant logo.”

“It’s like we’re going to the GAP.”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Withdrawn Candidates
  • Candidate: Bill de Blasio
  • Title: Mayor of New York City since 2013
  • Declared Candidacy: May 16, 2019
  • Ended Campaign: September 20, 2019

Bill de Blasio Logo

The varied Acier font and especially the uncommon color choice for de Blasio’s logo drew the majority of comments and placed it in the bottom third with an overall score of 4.74 out of 10. While some of those surveyed applauded the novelty of the green, most decried the shade and compared it to logos for health-care companies, small banks, or furniture stores.

Other comments:

“Why green?”

“I’m torn on this one. I sort of like it but I sort of hate it.”

“This looks like an ad for a bank that will just keep sending me emails I don’t want.”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Title: U.S. Senator for New York
  • Declared Candidacy: March 17, 2019
  • Ended Campaign: March 17, 2019

Kirsten Gillibrand Logo

The overlapping of the Navigo Bold font and the bold color combination for Gillibrand’s logo caused a commotion, ranking it near the bottom with a 4.47 score out of 10. It garnered more than 80 responses, but a few summed up the consensus: “Doesn’t seem presidential at all. The color scheme is an instant turn-off.” Others were “not a fan of the overlapping text.” Several thought it looked like a logo for a range of endeavors, including a podcast, horror movie, makeup company, workout gym for women only, a Comedy Central special, and the Powerpuff Girls.

Makeup Artist Logo

Only Womens Fitness Logo

Other comments:

“Feels like a Girl-Boss logo.”

“I’m a lady candidate, so it’s pink!”

“Ultra low effort. ‘I need a logo.’ ‘Okay, put your name underneath 2020.’ ‘That’s inspired.’ ”

“Weird flex, but NO!!!”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: John Hickenlooper
  • Title: former Governor of Colorado
  • Declared Candidacy: March 4, 2019
  • Ended Campaign: August 15, 2019

John Hickenlooper Logo

Hickenlooper’s logo, using Proxima Nova, takes greater chances with design than most, employing unusual colors to evoke both the U.S. flag’s stars and stripes and his home state of Colorado. This worked well for many respondents, earning the logo a 7th-place rank with a score of 5.83 out of 10. Many had reservations about using regional imagery for a national campaign (“… I don’t know that the whole country cares about purple mountains’ majesty…”), while several others noted a resemblance to the logos of adventure sportswear companies.

Kelty Logo

REI Logo

Other comments:

“Nothing can help this name, not even the star or Egypt’s three pyramids.”

“This is beautiful, love the motif and color. Very modern and confident.”

“There has to be a country with a flag like the background but it’s not mine, probably good for an anarchist’s platform.”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Jay Inslee
  • Title: Governor of Washington since 2016
  • Declared Candidacy: March 1, 2019
  • Ended Campaign: August 21, 2019

Jay Inslee Logo

Inslee’s logo drew more fire than its serene design would suggest. The Montserrat font, half-globe, and muted colors placed it in the middle of the pack with a score of 4.88 out of 10. Several respondents commented that it resembles a business or TED talk logo. “Why does the earth look like a CD-ROM? It looks like the free software AOL sent out everywhere the 1990s,” noted a 46-year-old independent woman from Colorado.

TED Talks Logo


Other comments:

“Gradients are sooo 2007.”

“Not very presidential/political. It looks like a product brand.”

“No patriotic colors used. Additionally, comes across too business-like.”

“Is that supposed to be the earth? Are they running for president of the earth?”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Seth Moulton
  • Title: U.S. Rep. for Massachusetts since 2014
  • Declared Candidacy: April 22, 2019
  • Ended Campaign: August 23, 2019

Seth Moulton Logo

“I don’t understand what’s going on with the star. It looks like a mouse pointer or a paper airplane,” remarked a 40-year-old Democratic woman from Florida about Moulton’s logo, which fell in the middle of the rankings with its overall 5.43 score out of 10. The star was the sticking point for many survey-takers, whether they loved it or hated it. The League Gothic font and the varied colors also divided commenters; some applauded its clean design and approachability, and others had plenty of ideas for changing the shades.

Other comments:

“Love that star design — makes you keep looking, not just glance at it.”

“I hate the red with that blue. I’m also confused what’s going on with the star/arrow thing.”

“I don’t even know what they were trying to achieve with the star. The top portion looks like the logo for a daytime talk show.”

“Dear Seth, if you have to explain the meaning of the star, you lost the race. And you lost me.”

– Back to Candidate List –

  • Candidate: Eric Swalwell
  • Title: U.S. Rep. for California since 2012
  • Declared Candidacy: April 8, 2019
  • Ended Campaign: July 8, 2019

Eric Swalwell Logo

Using the font Industry Inc., Swalwell’s logo ranked just above the middle spot with an overall score of 5.31 out of 10. Not surprisingly, it also reminded many respondents of the American flag. While some enjoyed this fact (“This one is pretty cool how it turns into the flag”), others felt it was a “little too patriotic.”

Other comments:

“It’s direct but probably too direct.”

“I’m not sure what I do or don’t like about this. It feels like my dislike and like are fighting each other to make it neutral.”

“It’s meh. It’s too retro. It feels like Top Gun for some reason.”

“AMERICA. Let’s just make our logo the flag! That will get them!”

– Back to Candidate List –

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From “It’s Morning Again in America” to “Yes, We Can” and beyond, branding is an important part of any political campaign. This is especially true in an election cycle like this one, which began with such a crowded and varied field of challengers. Candidates are taking all the measures they can to stand out from the crowd and establish themselves positively in the minds of voters — which has resulted in several trends and a new look for this year’s campaign trail.

A more diverse group of candidates is represented by more adventurous design approaches. In fashioning their logos, nearly half the hopefuls ventured outside the traditional patriotic U.S. political palette, although survey results show that many voters aren’t ready to give up the red-white-and-blue just yet.

Findings were similar for the names candidates chose to use on their logos. Although first-name-only logos are clearly on the rise — with the friendly, informal impressions they give — a slightly larger contingent of voters still seems to prefer the confidence and polish emitted by logos featuring surnames.

Overall, voters agree that — well, they want it all. A political logo and slogan should be clear, concise, and memorable, making the candidate seem confident and powerful, yet also friendly and accessible. Favorite logos are clever, even funny, but the candidates they represent should also be serious and down-to-earth. Modern and forward-thinking but also classic and traditional. Solid yet dynamic. Personable yet presidential. The good news is, with a campaign trail this crowded, the chances of getting what we want are better than ever.

At Crestline, we’ve been leaders in the promotional products industry for more than 50 years, providing world-class customer service and an exceptional line of products. We are experts in brand promotion and offer more than 100,000 different items that can be customized to help your brand project just the right image and stand out as unique and memorable.

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We commissioned an independent research firm to survey 1,258 U.S. residents who are registered voters. The survey was conducted online. Respondents were asked to evaluate 32 logos for 27 candidates. (Five prominent candidates had substantially different versions of their logos, so we had the respondents evaluate both images. Those candidates were Sanders, Biden, Trump, Harris, and Warren).

We also had respondents evaluate 28 slogans for 24 candidates. (Three candidates had more than one slogan. They were Sanders, Warren, and Trump.)

In every question and set of instructions, respondents were urged to focus on the design or slogan, not the candidate.

The respondents were 53% male, 47% female. They ranged in age from 18 to 73. They came from 48 states and the District of Columbia. (There were no responses from South Dakota or Wyoming.)

Nearly two-thirds (63.2%) of the respondents were college graduates. In terms of educational attainment, they reported:

  • Less than high school: .3%
  • High school: 9.7%
  • Some college: 26.8%
  • Graduated college: 43.4%
  • Some graduate school: 4.8%
  • Completed graduate degree: 15%

In terms of political affiliation, the respondents were:

  • Registered Democrats: 45.9%
  • Registered Republicans: 27.6%
  • Independent, no affiliation: 23.1%
  • Other party: 3.4%

The respondents described their political leanings as follows:

  • Conservative: 16%
  • Lean conservative: 14%
  • Moderate/Independent: 20.5%
  • Lean liberal: 25.3%
  • Liberal: 24.2%

When asked about the 2016 election:

  • Voted for Donald Trump: 30%
  • Voted for Hillary Clinton 45%
  • Voted for third-party candidate: 9.4%
  • Did not vote: 12.9%
  • Rather not say: 2.7%

If you’re a blogger or journalist interested in covering this project, feel free to share or reproduce any of the images above. All we ask is that you please credit Crestline Custom Promotional Products and link to this page so your audience can find out more about the study and its methodology.


One of the hardest things about design is keeping track of the terminology. There are many words to learn, and definitions frequently overlap. But don’t think for a moment that any two terms mean the exact same thing. Distinctions abound. Abbreviations matter.

So it is with user experience and customer experience design, or UX vs. CX. The two disciplines are so closely related, their differences so murky, that they are sometimes used interchangeably.

Originally, the UX umbrella was meant to cover every facet of an individual’s interplay with a company, but our distinctly digital age complicated things. UX is now associated with the quality of interactions between a user and a digital product, and CX design has come to encompass all the other encounters that a person has with a business.

All other encounters—the scope is enormous.

CX design

Today, UX designers typically focus on a series of goal-driven tasks and the overall quality of interactions; for instance, “How can we improve mobile navigation so people can find things more easily?”

To create cohesive experiences, UX designers must also be aware of the ways in which their work impacts existing features. “Does changing our navigation improve discoverability and speed up our purchasing process (or increase our conversion rates)?”

Zoom in with UX. Zoom out with CX. It’s a natural pairing.

But what about other design disciplines? How do they fit into the CX design equation? More specifically, what impact does brand design have on the customer experience? At the very least, it seems like brand designers ought to be aware of all the ways in which their clients interact with customers.

Rather than two distinct fields, CX and UX are interrelated.

Avoid a Myopic Brand

Brand designers have an uncanny ability to pinpoint the attributes that make companies special.

  • What do they do best?
  • How are they different than the competition?
  • Why should anyone care?

With these insights in hand, brand designers unify the most essential truths into a promise between company and customer.

This promise, the brand promise, has few words but permeates every aspect of a company’s activities. It names a common goal and inspires everyone involved to move with a shared sense of mission.

Branding is dead.
Brand, branding, and brand design each have distinct definitions.

But, a brand promise can be restrictive—especially when a brand designer doesn’t appreciate the full scope of a company’s touchpoints (a.k.a. any interaction that has the potential to change a customer’s feelings towards a business).

For example, a design team lands a contract with a grocery chain and goes all-in on a strategy that makes digital interactions top priority. They define a compelling brand promise and outline a company-wide mindset that emphasizes high-quality digital tools and content.

Unfortunately, the team doesn’t give the same level of care to the grocer’s brick-and-mortar experience, and they fail to develop a plan to infuse in-store interactions with the updated brand sentiments. A crucial aspect of CX design and customer engagement has been ignored.

With time, customers grow frustrated because the glossy rebrand they encounter online doesn’t doesn’t translate to the real world. In-person interactions with the grocery didn’t become markedly worse, but they feel slow and dated in contrast to the lofty expectations set by the rebrand.

CX Apathy Causes Irrelevant Brand Collateral

Visual identity design builds on brand design. A brand promise is the foundation, brand values are the frame, and the elements within a visual identity are the fixtures and finishing touches. They embody the most important aspects of the brand in visual form and serve as aesthetic benchmarks for a host of promotional collateral.

Brand building strategies
Chobani’s visual identity was designed so that the brand, despite being a household name, would be perceived as a small, humble, craft company (like its early days).

To create an effective visual identity, it’s crucial that a brand designer have big-picture knowledge of a company’s customer journey—all the ways customers interact with the company and perform tasks over time. Why is this so important?

Designing promotional collateral for brand channels isn’t like creating a responsive interface for different screen sizes. It’s not enough to recycle and resize the same design elements over and over. Every channel has unique constraints and content demands.

Time, scale, distance, environmental distractions, and user expectations are just a few factors that come into play. It’s not necessarily the brand designer’s job to create promotional collateral, but it is their job to design a visual identity that is adaptable to multiple scenarios.

Let’s expand on our example from earlier—the brand team that goes all-in on digital.

While building out the grocery chain’s visual identity, the brand team decides to outline a set of photography guidelines that will give the grocer a more intimate and human feel. The intentions of the team are good: They want to cultivate a more relatable web and social presence by showing happy people enjoying the grocer’s goods.

But the human-centric photos don’t account for the chain’s past success promoting products out of home—where ads must be interpreted in the blink of an eye. When a new set of billboards, bus wraps, and kiosks are designed following the brand team’s guidelines, they are visually attractive, but the photos of smiling people don’t fully communicate the deals the grocer is offering. The ads fail to grab the attention of motorists and pedestrians, and the campaign fizzles.

Branding and UX
Engaging customers moving at high speeds is a different challenge than communicating with them through a handheld device.

Brand Designer Keys to Omni-channel Awareness

Brand Channels Are Unique and Evolving

Every channel that a company uses to communicate with customers has its own idiosyncrasies. What works on one channel isn’t guaranteed to work on another.

Some channels are structured for highly personalized interactions—others less so. One channel may be geared toward in-depth videos while another is known for short audio clips.

Channels aren’t static either. Features, popularity, and demographics are always in flux. Just when everyone thinks they have a handle on “where users are spending their time,” a new channel emerges and disrupts everything.

The paradigm can’t be controlled. Flexibility is paramount.

There’s no way to dominate every channel. Fit is crucial.

Consistency Is the Lifeblood of Engagement

Engagement measures a customer’s feeling of relationship with a product or company. Feelings and relationships may be fickle, but they thrive on consistency.

The takeaway for brand designers? Consistency encompasses more than visual design decisions like logo placement and color use. Every touchpoint makes an impression. Every interaction impacts perception. No part of the customer’s journey is inconsequential or dismissable.

Customer-centric culture

The Customer Experience Is Interconnected

Customer experience design is a web of interconnected interactions. Touchpoints don’t exist independently of one another. They’re all part of the same story, all linked to a brand’s core promise.

A purchasing experience on mobile doesn’t end. It extends into unboxing, setup, and regular use. It continues through ad campaigns and customer support. It endures on social media. Finally, it breathes new life with the choice to make, or not make, another purchase.

Customer journey maps tell the story of how a customer interacts with a business over the course of time.

CX Strengthens Brand Relevance

Branding is dead? Hardly. It’s stronger than ever, but that doesn’t change the fact that a crummy interaction completely undermines even the most inspiring brand promise. Can brand designers control what happens at every touchpoint? No, but they can design brands that are disconnected from reality—brands that make big promises but don’t deliver when it counts. When such a disconnect exists, customers tend to look elsewhere.

Branding isn’t dead, but the days of crafting brands without incorporating a CX design mindset are drawing to a close.

• • •

Further reading on the Toptal Design Blog:

Understanding the basics

What is the difference between UX and CX?

Originally, UX design was meant to encompass every interaction that an individual might have with a company. Over time, UX became associated with single interactions between a user and an interface, and CX design took on UX’s original meaning (all encounters a person has with a business).

How do CX and UX work together?

For many design professionals, the lines between CX and UX are blurred. It’s an oversimplification to say that UX designers only focus on single interactions when in reality they must consider the ripple effect of their design decisions. Zoom in with UX. Zoom out with CX.

What is the difference between UX and other design disciplines?

All design disciplines should make the user experience a priority. After all, design is meant to benefit humans, but some disciplines naturally lean toward other outcomes. UX design is focused on the user above all else, especially when it comes to the interaction between user and interface.

What is CX design?

Customer experience design is focused on a customer’s interaction with a business at every touchpoint. Touchpoints are any interaction that has the potential to change a customer’s feelings towards a company. CX design emphasizes making each touchpoint as beneficial to the customer as it possibly can be.

How can I improve my CX?

A method that companies use to improve their CX is a journey map. Journey maps tell the story of how a customer interacts with a business over time. By understanding the customer’s journey, companies can create seamless transitions between touchpoints and ensure consistent, on-brand experiences.

series focused on the ways social platforms and ad strategies are evolving.

Instagram advertisers and businesses on WhatsApp, for the most part, are well aware the platforms are owned by Facebook, but whether or not users know this detail is up for debate. This is likely to change with the recent report by The Information that Facebook plans to rename both apps to include Facebook’s branding.

Soon, Instagram will be listed as “Instagram from Facebook” and WhatsApp as “WhatsApp from Facebook” in Apple’s app store and Google Play, according to the report. The changes are not all that much of a surprise considering Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement earlier this year that the company is integrating its family of apps, building a unified architecture to streamline messaging across the platforms.

But what impact will the rebranding of the two app acquisitions have on marketers? Instagram’s advertising business has been growing rapidly. After a tumultuous year of user privacy debacles and credibility issues, could Facebook’s name hurt its connected apps? Or will the move to add the Facebook name to Instagram and WhatsApp strengthen the company’s brand among its advertisers?

We asked marketers if they believed this was a step in the right direction for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. While most said it makes sense from a business angle for Facebook, the reviews were mixed in terms of how it might impact advertisers.

Creating a seamless platform for advertisers

Michael Ashley, vice president and managing creative director for SCOUT Ad Agency said it was the right move from in terms of Facebook’s own interest.

“Considering that WhatsApp and Instagram represent Facebook’s biggest growth potential, it makes perfect business and marketing sense to bring all three platforms together under one unified brand umbrella,” said Ashley, “Everything becomes a lot more seamless for marketers.”

Aaron Goldman, the CMO for 4C, an ad management platform and Facebook marketing partner, points out that Facebook has been positioning Instagram and WhatsApp as part of the “Facebook Family of Apps” for some time now.

“Savvy advertisers have been taking a portfolio approach to budget allocation and creative optimization across the platforms,” said Goldman, “Changing the names of Instagram and WhatsApp will help strengthen the association with Facebook in the minds of the consumers and further compel brands to optimize their program holistically.”

Will it have an impact on consumers?

Ashley questions whether or not strengthening the association between Facebook and its Instagram and WhatsApp platforms is a good thing in terms of consumer perception.

“From a consumer standpoint, Facebook brings a massive amount of credibility and privacy baggage, not to mention a fundamentally more monetized, less community-led approach to engagement,” said Ashley, “I think these factors have the potential to turn a lot of core users of Instagram and WhatsApp off, especially in the near term.”

Turning off core users could result in less engagement for brands on the platforms, reducing campaign performance and returns on ad spend. But, Josh Thompson, senior social media strategist at Portent Digital Agency, doesn’t believe changing the name of Instagram or WhatsApp — or tightening their connections to Faceobook — will even register for most users.

“I do not feel the rebranding will hurt marketers or advertisers. I suspect the shift in branding will be subtle and few people will notice in the beginning, eventually being an afterthought,” said Thompson. He thinks it will help tie together Facebook’s network of apps for people, and ultimately improve the overall user experience.

“Two years ago there was a lot of press and noise about the new Instagram logo, which lasted for a week,” said Thompson, “Instagram has since grown at an incredible speed.”

Do users care who owns Instagram or WhatsApp?

The notion that Instagram and WhatsApp users are all that invested in the platforms’ ownership is anyone’s guess. Nick Smith, Digital Content Specialist for the City of Gaithersburg, Maryland, isn’t convinced that it matters.

“I don’t think people are that aware that WhatsApp is part of the Facebook ecosystem. I do think there’s a higher proportion of people who know Facebook owns Instagram because the app is more popular and more interconnected — both in design and functionality — with the Facebook platform,” said Smith, “I think there’s a larger number of people who feel, as long as the platform does what they need it to do, it doesn’t matter to them who’s pulling the strings.”

Smith does see it as a positive move for consumers in general, “It’s a good step to make people think about what they’re doing with their information and data.”

The bigger picture for Facebook

The real motive for Facebook could very well go beyond user perceptions and brand awareness. Forrester Analyst Brandon Verblow believes the move falls in line with Facebook’s long term business plans.

“As Facebook seeks to monetize WhatsApp, and with its foray into payments with Calibra, Facebook wants to make its messaging platform more business friendly. Unifying its messaging products is one way to do that,” said Verblow, “It’s also possible that Facebook sees antitrust clouds gathering on the horizon and wants to bind its products more tightly together to make it more difficult for the government to break them up.”

Verblow does see a potential downside for marketers, “If Facebook damages the Instagram and WhatsApp brands, such that usage declines and marketers have less opportunity to reach potential customers.”

But even during the aftermath of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal — and continued reports of stalled user growth on the platform — the company’s ad revenue has not suffered. The idea that adding Facebook’s name to the apps it owns could hurt the company’s advertising business would seem unfounded.

Verblow’s argument that Facebook is gearing up to combine all facets of its company into one unified front could very well result in Facebook strengthening its ad business, becoming an even more dominant ad platform.

About The Author


The Subway Startups Survey is C42D’s review of the brands we see plastered on the walls in NYC subway cars and stations on our daily commute. Sort of an art-school critique on the latest startups, micro-brands, and disruptive tech firms that beg for our attention every morning. 

In other words, It’s a great way to see what’s on-trend in the largest market in America, and where the startup world is headed, design-wise.

So, without any further delay, here’s the third (and greatest-yet)  installment of our Subway Startups Survey!

No. 1: Roman 

Vertical: Pharma

Tagline: Let’s take care of it

Total Funding: N/A (Privately Held)

Target: Millennial men with embarrassing health issues

Pain Point Solved: Not having to actually tell another human about the above

The Concept:

Erectile dysfunction. Hair loss. Premature ejaculation. You get the point. What guy in his right mind would admit these messy, personal problems to another human being? How to take care of it?  

Enter roman to the rescue, delivering the answer via chariot to your door in a discreet unmarked package. Your secret is safe. Package received. Problem solved.  

Why we Dig This Brand:

Roman has a good point. I’m a man in his 40’s and I am uncomfortable imagining what my co-workers are thinking as I write this article with the roman site on my second monitor. No really – just writing an article here! I don’t actually need this stuff! So yeah, I would say they have their buyer personas nailed to a T.

At a time and in a city with so much information overload and competition for our eyeballs, roman does a good job of simplifying their brand and messaging down to what matters. Color palette: black, red, green. Excessive marketing copy? Nope. Logo? one word, one color.

The strategy of de-stigmatizing embarrassing, Scarlet-Letter-ish personal issues is in line with what other health-tech brands are doing. It’s all about normalizing the formerly abnormal. Hey bro, it’s ok. We all have problems. Come, enter our colosseum. Wrap yourself in this sheet over here. Everything will be just fine, bro. Mr. Happy will come back. 

ED you say? What ED? 

In summary, less is more and in this case, it works (minus the cliché photo above). And now, I can finally get this website off my screen before someone thinks I’m losing my hair…

No. 2: Sir Kensington’s

Vertical: Food & Beverage

Tagline: Abandon All Bland™

Total Funding: 8.5M

Target: Millennials lacking in Special Sauce

Pain Point Solved: Friends ripping on your lame-o Heinz Ketchup at the back-yard BBQ

The Concept:

Our second, slightly quirky Subway Startup takes us to a new category for this series: Condiments. This brand is clearly in the “problems we never knew we had until you pointed it out” category. Who knew ketchup needed to be disrupted? (and apparently, it’s working).

But, when you think about it, it makes total sense. You can’t drink off-off-label microbrews, munch on Himalayan-salted-organic-sweet potato chips, and then have boring, mom-and dad-ish condiments (think French’s Mustard) when the veggie dogs and impossible burgers are served. 

S.K.: disrupting ketchup since 2008.

Why we Dig This Brand:

Sir Kensington, in addition to having an awesome name, has a really cool mission as well: “To reimagine ordinary and overlooked food with fearless integrity and charm.” This means, of course, non-GMO everything, Certified Humane, Free Range Eggs, and less sugar than the Leading Brand. The concept is long overdue and meshes nicely with millennial’s need to one-up each other on the hot sauce scene. And can you say KETO certified? You know it! 

The logo manages to pull off the double duty of feeling classic and modern at the same time through the use of color, illustration and an über-cool typeface. “Abandon all bland” is a great tagline that also sounds great when spoken and meets the three-words-or-less tagline goal we have here at C42D. Triple win!

The illustrations are cool, a little quirky, and the package design feels hip, being anchored around an evergreen color you don’t typically see in the mustard section. The copywriting picks up on the off-beat tone and feels on-brand. And, keeping in line with current trends, there is an “SK Lab” on their website. I can only imagine what awesome condiments the Lab is cooking up. 

No. 3: Policy Genius

Vertical: Consumer Insurance

Tagline: Our insurance website compares theirs

Total Funding: 51.1M

Target: Millennials who just got kicked off Mom’s plan

Pain Point Solved: Getting a bunch of insurance quotes with minimal effort

The Concept:

There is nothing fun or cool about finding insurance. Like the Department of Motor Vehicles, it is a necessary evil we all must endure at some point – ideally as little as possible. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a Kayak-like site that could do all the work for us and come back with a bunch of quotes? And then, we could just, like, push a button and be done with it? 

That’s the genius of PolicyGenius, simply learn, compare, and apply. Free of hassle, and free of charge.

Why we Dig This Brand:

At C42D we’ve worked with a few insurance brands recently, and PolicyGenius is hitting the right chords, namely: 

  • Keeping the marketing language and tone clear and “in plain English”
  • Focusing on being advisory and not pushy/ sales-y
  • Giving quotes without asking for a zillion bits of personal info. 

The logo is a nice mashup of trendy serif and sans-serif fonts, and it works well.  If you didn’t think all-black logos were cool before, you will now. And, everyone knows that if you add “genius” to the end of your startup’s name, you get an instantly cool-sounding moniker. Hence, RapGenius, SocialGenius, ThreadGenius, DoctorGenius, and yes, CBD Vape Genius.

The illustrations in the subway campaign are cool because they are 3D and orange. Seriously, who knew if you hooked your smartphone up to a winch and some pulleys it could compare all those quotes? I was clueless about how Policygenius worked it’s magic until this illustration broke it all down for me. 

Errr… do you have a logo? a website? 

Genius naming strategy and weird-3D-Illustration issues aside, Policygenius does a great job on messaging and overall brand strategy, and crushes user experience on their website.  I just wish they could, you know, put their logo or URL on the subway ad.  It helps conversion rates, I’ve heard…

The Round-up

Well, another Subway Startups is in the can, a genius-session spanning everything from GMO-safe relish to keeping Mr. Happy in shape without anyone knowing your dark secret. As always, it was a photo finish, but we have to give this round to Sir Kensington. Their classic-yet-chic design, super cool mission (healthier, safer food), and bizarre focus on condiments is just too much to resist.  Well done, Sir! 

Well, that’s it, we hope you enjoyed another of our forays into the land of mass-transit advertising.  Let us know your thoughts: do you have a suggestion or a brand we should check out?  Did this edition cut the mustard? Drop us a line in the comments section. Actually, we don’t have a comments section but feel free to reach out to us here for any feedback, we’d love to hear from you!

(most) Photography by David Card. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Funding amounts as of 08.05.19 provided by CrunchBase.

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