Building a brand set for scale.
Clustermarket are on a mission to create the world’s leading operating system for life sciences laboratories - and they’re well on their way with over 70,000 researchers from more than 7,000 laboratories across 6 continents now using their platform to manage their work more efficiently and effectively.
The company made a bold move away from an original equipment and resource sharing marketplace to focusing on the development of a cloud-based saas platform for laboratory management. This successful pivot meant that the company quickly moved from industry challenger to an authoritative voice trusted by tens of thousands of researchers across the world.
The team approached the Forward studio to support them to build a brand ready for scale, suited to their new position as a respected and recognised solution for the sector.
2021 has been the start of an exciting new partnership for us, following an investment into the team behind Clustermarket. With a view to creating the fastest route to driving acquisition for the new lab management software the team had created a Clustermarket sub-brand, ‘Bookkit’, keeping the original marketplace platform under the Clustermarket brand. As Bookkit became increasingly well-known the team began to discover challenges created by this brand architecture that could become unsustainable long term - a large amount of marketing work for the team with duplicate activity across separate brand marketing channels, as well as complexity in messaging causing confusion for new users.
A strong brand acts as an enabler of scale for fast-growth startups. Once a startup has validated a value proposition and product market fit, activity becomes more focused, more consistent - aiming to scale acquisition as well as to build relationships that last.
Your brand at this stage should act as a guiding and aligning force for your team, and should make it easy to forge strong, long-lasting relationships with customers. The principles are simple, but require a conscious evolution for the majority of startups.
We focus on three key guiding principles. Brands set for scale should be:
Empathetic. Empathy communicates that your brand understands your customers’ - their problems, needs and expectations.
Clear. Clarity empowers your brand to communicate quickly exactly what you can do for customers and why it matters.
Consistent. Consistency communicates reliability and integrity, ultimately building trust.
From hustling challenger to industry authority.
The pre-existing Clustermarket brand was formal, scientific, a little ‘arms-length’ - with complex messaging creating barriers to fast, clear communication. This isn’t uncommon for early-stage startups. In the early days, no startup wishes to be truly transparent as a brand. Because, generally speaking, you’d like potential customers to buy into your future (rather than current) scale. Overly-complex messaging often comes from early stage value proposition and acquisition experiments, developed to quickly understand how to capture the interest of various different audience segments. It’s essentially the result of broad-scale hustling, which of course is an important part of learning and developing how to communicate what a company does and why it’s important.
Once a company has found product-market fit and turned its focus to scale, the brand needs to fulfil a different role. To support fast and sustainable growth it must not only communicate a competitive value proposition, but also build brand affinity and loyalty by communicating more openly and authentically, ensuring clarity and consistency as well as evidencing value with proof.
Clustermarket is made up of a tenacious and refreshingly authentic team of scientific minds who have a deep understanding of the problems they are trying to solve and the people they’re trying to solve them for.
Our job as an agency team has been to help the team to showcase all of this through a clearly-defined vision for the future and a refreshed identity that consolidates the Clustermarket and Bookkit brands. Rather than having to communicate two separate products (a sharing marketplace and a lab management tool), Clustermarket will engage their audience going forward with one confident and authoritative voice - offering a saas-enabled marketplace that will become the world’s leading operating system for life-sciences laboratories.
Defining shared goals and values.
We centred an exploration of visual identity and voice around an exercise to define a shared mission, vision and core values. As a brand, Clustermarket must build relationships with lab managers and researchers but also increasingly with large organisations and equipment manufacturers. So it needs to strike a delicate balance, between coming across as professional, strong and secure, whilst being approachable and empathetic.
The ‘carbonic C’ logo.
The new Clustermarket ‘C’ icon references original branding, evolving the visual idea to showcase strength, confidence and the progressive nature of the company. The new icon represents carbon, a fundamental building block of all living organic things - it’s shape is based on carbocyclic compounds, chemical compounds made up of carbon atoms. The forward-pointing arrow illustrates progress and Clustermarket’s commitment to innovation.
With a long brand name, a full logotype would not scale to devices such as mobile which was a major consideration for the future of the product. It was important to create something that could scale down to app icons, favicons and sidebars. We opted for a logo mark as a visual device to accompany the full logotype. We wanted to base this around a ‘C’ to help jolt the name of the company (not all logos have to make references to a name but for a relatively young company it helps with recognition). We created the design with animation in mind and consideration of how shapes, angles and motifs within the negative space could be utilised as visual devices across marketing assets.
Considering colour and typography.
With a strong logo illustrating scientific prowess and progress, colour and typography were utilised to strike a balance. There are few colours that convey trust and calm as well as blue. We also wanted to be conscious not to move too far from Clustermarket’s original branding, to reduce the leap for existing customers. Relying on blue as a primary colour would also allow us to create a colour-blind-friendly palette for the brand and product interface ensuring maximum accessibility for scientists across the globe.
Typographically we wanted to contrast with the sharp lines within the logo and to find a font that would work well for marketing and within product UI. We selected an open-source font - and highly recommend going in this direction for any startup branding. It makes your team’s lives easier - licensing fonts not only creates complexity, but becomes expensive as a company grows.
Crafting a more human voice.
A refreshed Clustmarket brand voice empowers the team to become an authoritative voice within the industry, whilst connecting with customers in an authentic way that builds trust and loyalty. Our goal with the new tone of voice was to bring it in line with the way the team actually presents themselves - making it both more authentic and more approachable.
Bringing together bookkit.org and clustermarket.com.
To ensure Clustermarket could hit the ground running, we applied our thinking quickly to one confident and clear marketing site that brought Bookkit and Clustermarket together.
Re-building clustermarket.com also offered the team a perfect opportunity to re-consider whether the site was fit for scale. We used the opportunity to shift the site from Squarespace to Webflow. We love Squarespace as a tool for early stage businesses - it allows fast testing and iteration that help to validate value propositions and explore product-market fit. However, as a company moves into a phase of fast growth we’ve found it can be restrictive. Webflow offers greater control, flexibility and the ability to communicate a more unique presence.
“Working together with the Forward team gave us the confidence to be brave and get on with merging Bookkit and Clustermarket. We may have continued as we were for another year or so. Now we feel we can be bolder and think bigger. We have aligned the team around a clear shared vision and set of goals - and we know we’re ready for what’s coming next.”