Small Screens, Tall Tales: 4 Criteria for Crafting Your Consumer-Facing Message

As a new brand, it’s often difficult to distill all the bells and whistles of your new product into one concise statement that resonates with your target audience and differentiates you. But there’s a process you can go through to get to that tweet-worthy moniker, and it’s best to not do it alone. Call upon your colleagues, get them into a standing room, define your key criteria (see below), throw your ideas on a board (without judgement!) and get to the meat of what your product is all about. In the active brainstorm, everyone has ownership. It’s not a place for critique, it’s a space for constructive “yes, and” thinking. (This is a simple idea that we’ve all heard, but it’s an important one to remember.)

As we get closer and closer to our public launch here at Vervid, our communications strategies are shifting from investor-facing to 100% consumer-facing. When we started this project nearly a year ago, it was essential that potential investors, advisors and the general startup community *got* what we were doing from a strategy perspective. Donning the “YouTube of Vertical Videos” moniker was our way of staking claim on a space that has yet to be developed for: Immersive, user-generated Vertical Video worth keeping. And those who heard it understood our approach immediately.

But we’re growing up, and we need to start converting our investor-facing pitch to a consumer-facing story. We’re no longer the X for Y. We are Vervid, and that’s a unique thing that has never existed before — so how do we define it?

Vervid recently joined Coolhouse Labs, an accelerator designed to help turn ideas into companies, and provide a foundation for growth. The real reason we joined Coolhouse? Jordan Breighner, Founder of Coolhouse. He gets what we’re doing. He’s young and scrappy, and willing to take risks. His investors believe in him. And Jordan believes in Vervid.

Vervid Founders John and Daniel doing a knowledge share at Coolhouse Labs. It's all happening this summer on ‪#‎MitchellSt‬!‬ ‪#‎CoolhouseLabs‬ ‪#‎VerticalVideo‬

Vervid Founders John and Daniel doing a knowledge share at Coolhouse Labs. It’s all happening this summer on ‪#‎MitchellSt‬!‬ ‪#‎CoolhouseLabs‬ ‪#‎VerticalVideo‬

Beyond the impressive roster of mentors Coolhouse offers, Jordan’s in-house product team consists of designers and developers who are excited to get down and dirty building new startups. We called an interdisciplinary brainstorm yesterday focused purely on distilling our message down to a statement that would meet a few criteria:

  • Does it clearly describe the space we’re in?
  • Does it contain an element of mystery without sounding fluffy?
  • Differentiation: Does it pass the “could-other-brands-claim-the-same” test?
  • Most importantly, will it resonate with our end user? (i.e., does it speak their language?)

We started with a word-dump on a white board, slinging phrases and statements that colloquially evoke tall things, portrait framing, behavioral shifts around video, etc. At heart, Vervid is mobile video built for the way we naturally hold our phones. But what’s the catchier, more succinct way of saying that? First, we had to dissect our messaging strategy:

How could we describe the “mobile-first” category without sounding too clinical? What’s another way to say “Vertical Video” that allows us to still own it as a category? What’s the clearest way of depicting a YouTube-style user-generated platform without mentioning another brand?

Elise Lawley, a UX Designer from the University of Michigan, presented an interesting thought: The Vervid experience is really about small screens connecting us to real life events. Those moments are big, full of life, and meaningful.

“Small Screens, Big Moments.” That’s where we were. There was something to it, but it was still missing a punchy element. We needed to dust off the fluff.

Drew Koszulinski, a web and motion graphics designer from Grand Rapids, recommended we find another word for “big.” I shot out the word “tall,” and for good reason: Another common way to describe “Vertical Video” is “Tall Video.” If you Google either phrase, you get essentially the same thing — but “Tall” is less apt to be confused as a business term than “Vertical.” We were on to something here.

“Small Screens, Tall Moments.”

Blake Owens, Head of Product at Coolhouse, chimed in: “We need another word for Moments.” Everyone agreed. It was too generic. “How about Tales?”

“Small Screens, Tall Tales.”

We now have alliteration and a double-entendre. A Tall Tale, as we all know, is a story that’s loosely based on the truth, filled with embellishments and exaggerations, skewed to tug the ear of the listener. In other words, the story is edited. It’s at least partially fiction.

Thinking about the way I edit my Vervids, my visual “stories” are never entirely factual. I shift around scenes, and I delete others. If I wanted to be entirely truthful, I’d just upload everything I shot, but that’d be no fun to watch. Sharing is all about weaving stories. With Vervid, it’s all about telling stories visually — partially true, partially skewed. Essentially, every story we tell on social media is a “Tall Tale.”

We quickly cross-checked it with our initial criteria for a good moniker:

Does it describe the space we’re in? Check. “Small Screens” = “Mobile.”

Does it contain an element of mystery or intrigue that might pique the curiosity of a potential new user? Undoubtedly. The allusion toward tall tales evokes storytelling and entertainment as a passive viewer. It’s fun without sounding childish. And it has hidden meaning, since “Tall” also refers to the format itself.

Could another app claim the same? Not entirely. Instagram’s mission statement is, “To capture and share the world’s moments.” We could claim that. Facebook could claim that. Snapchat, Meerkat, Periscope, and virtually any other social media-based platform could claim that. Instagram is well established, so they no longer need to rely on a moniker to offer differentiation, so it’s okay that their mission statement is fluffy and generic.

As a new brand establishing ourselves in a noisy industry, we do not have that luxury. So could Instagram don our moniker? Nope. “Tall” is the operative word here. Could Facebook? They’re not mobile-first, so “Small Screens” doesn’t quite describe their product target, and their pool of media is all over the place. The only brand that potentially could claim the same is Snapchat, but the app is only partially a storytelling platform. Privately-messaged disappearing photos is really a peer-to-peer experience that ends when the photo disintegrates — and then the memory fades. It’d be more appropriate for Snapchat to don, “Small Screens, Fading Moments,” which doesn’t have quite the same punch.

So there you have it. We’re excited to run with our new moniker and test it with users. We’re pretty convinced our target user base doesn’t care to define what they’re doing as “Vertical Video.” Journalists care. Video purists and cinematographers care. But the consumer doesn’t care. What we call “Vertical Video,” they simply call “Video.” They’re doing what they’re doing, and we want them to continue doing it. What’s shot on mobile stays on mobile — they just happen to be holding their phones upright while documenting their lives through video.

But most of all, our user will come to Vervid to be entertained; to be told delightfully visual stories that offer a window into someone else’s (most likely embellished) lives.

Need help crafting your consumer-facing message? Reach out and let’s do a Google Hangout! We’d love to help you brainstorm. And if you haven’t already, be sure to add your name to our Private Beta List at so you can follow along on our (possibly embellished) journey at Coolhouse Labs!

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