Creating a Brand from Concept to Commerce

Strategy, Branding, eCommerce, Direct-to-Consumer, Shopify, Paid & Earned Media, Email Marketing, Social Media, Big Box Retail, Pop-ups
Coral Robots
CEO, Co-Founder
May 2017 - Present
How do you create a differentiated brand in a legacy industry?
Launching a new brand requires you to rethink everything. When we set out to design the Coral brand, we started with basic questions for understanding our core values. We took our values and extended them into a fully integrated Direct-to-Consumer eCommerce stack, media strategy,  and retail plan.

I worked with a my co-founder, 6 different agencies, and our entire team to bring this brand to life. After launching, we were featured in a number of publications, retail channels, and even won a CES Innovation Award.

In the World...
The Best Robot at CES 2019 via Business Insider
All the Gadgets WIRED Editors Loved This Month (November 2018) via WIRED
This New Robot Vacuum Transforms into a Handheld Vacuum via Android Headlines
How two brothers launched first 2-in-1 robot vacuum in months via Campaign Creative
Using visual design to tell a new Brand Story

Breaking Through the Noise

Everyone else has blue & green lasers.
Upon our initial design research, we started looking at similar brands within our industry and there was one clear pattern. Everyone focused on the technical aspects of the products. We felt that everyone was trying to shove a bunch of features and specs down your throat to eventually confuse you to buy their product.

And we didn’t want that. We knew that we had to take a big, bold step in order to break through the noise.
Most Tech products focus solely on the technical features

What if Robots worked  with   People?

We had to ask a totally different question.
As we talked to thought leaders, consumers, and other industry experts, we noticed that people were always asking:

“What does the future look like if robots replace our jobs?”

That question was the main catalyst for focusing on the features over the benefits - which is what everyone else does. Instead, we flipped the question in one of our brand exercise and asked:

"What if we robots complemented humans, instead of replacing them?"

And then we found our secret sauce.
Brand Tone & Voice Workshop

Brand Activations that Extend beyond Web + Digital

When we set out to design out the Coral Brand, we were always focused on created a Brand Platform. By creating a “platform”, we had to imagine how the brand could extend into the real world, beyond just a set of values and written word. In order to make the Brand tangible, we explored concepts for not only the digital world but also print, physical goods, and even out-of-home billboards.

Tailored for the Retail Season

Our website was the first touchpoint for customers, so we knew that we needed to tailor it based on the right context and seasonality. We used Shopify as our basic eCommerce Platform, and I created various integration that ended up being our full D2C eCommerce stack.

I coded multiple custom Shopify Sites in Shopify’s own templating language, Liquid JS. Each variation was focused on each of our goals and KPIs during the retail season: driving awareness, conversions, or acting as a customer support touchpoint.

A Dope Website Isn't Enough

We soon learned that having a cool website just wasn’t enough. After interviewing a number of users, we saw that people found our website to be incredibly informational.
But that means they weren’t engaging. They were just being passive readers.

In order to drive higher engagement, I developed some new performance-driven interactions. I built new behavior-triggered countdown timers, pop-ups, and sign-up forms. The design principle was to encourage - not force - customers to learn more about Coral.

After deploying these interactions, the site saw increased 10.7% in signup rate.

Just the Tipping Point

After setting up the site, we had to build the rest of the eCommerce stack. This included integrating with a 3PL (3rd Party Logistics provider), creating automated email rules tailored to our business model, and linking our customer support pages.

I set the rules that would trigger each point of our D2C logistics chain so that we could set it and forget it.

Email Templates that Get Clicks

As we set up our eCommerce stack, email still proved to be one of our highest engagement channels. Instagram was a great discovery tool, but it wasn’t as effective at encouraging direct actions. I designed, coded, and sent out emails that had measurable statistics. Part of our email design language was to be clean-cut and focused to drive one main goal, and complement it with a minor, secondary goal.

One of the most interesting insights we learned that was that we wanted to force some of our subscriber base to unsubscribe from our mailing lists. You might think that that’s counter-intuitive, but it sometimes helps qualify the audience that is truly engaged with your brand.

Strategic Press Coverage

Publications tell stories about people and companies, so it's important to understand what kinds of stories publications want to tell. We created a strategy focused on the various types of coverage to target, and flew around the world to pitch publications for coverage.

We also traveled to a number of trade shows to capture press opportunities.

Coral's products and brand were featured in launch stories, reviews, and holiday gift guides. Publications included both digital and print publications including Wired, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, Campaign, and more.

Creating an Influencer Strategy

Another thing we tested was partnering with influencers. Over a number of strategic sessions, we got in contact with some pet influencers, mom influencers, and interior design influencers. We felt that they represented audiences that we could quickly engage with and gauge reactions. I worked with influencers to plan out content strategy, negotiate management contracts, as well as establish connections to larger collaborations with local restaurants and retail spaces.

Getting Products into People's Hands

A big part of your go-to market strategy is how you get products into people's hands. At Coral, we decided to include Big Box Retail as part of our strategy. During this process, I would travel on sales calls, pitch buyers, and run promotions during holiday seasons.

When approaching Big Box Retail it's really important to understand business models, how their logistics work, and scoping out timelines. Part of the work was to find ways to integrate into their dropshipping systems in a super seamless way.

We ended launching the Coral One on Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Amazon, Kohl's, Hammacher Schlemmer, QVC, Bed Bath Beyond, and more.

Launching Pop-Ups for Immediate Market Feedback

In order to get on-the-ground and grassroots feedback, we decided to do some focused pop-ups in areas of our target market. In November of 2018, we launched a pop-up with the New Stand at Brookfield Place. On that day, we met a bunch of local New Yorkers, sold some product, and got some great feedback about our designs.

In early 2019, we also launched our product in a b8ta store in San Francisco. At that event, we hosted Boba Guys, demo-ed our product, and let people give it a go!