Will you Fizz or Fizzle Out?


In 2010, we were approached by a startup in Boulder, Colorado that had invented the world's first miniature nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer. Their product was revolutionary. Existing NMR Spectrometers were often as big as a refrigerator. Theirs was the size of a shoe box. And, their price was 1/4th the price of existing NMR spectrometers. And, to the client's credit, they asked for a brand identity that was as revolutionary as their product. This was bold because their target audience is professors, scientists, and chemists - groups often assumed to want no-frills marketing.

What we ended up putting together was a rather unique brand for this industry. The name of the company was picoSpin. It's a fun name (no really, say it out loud a few times) but more importantly its name was evoking the core science of an NMR in a way that their target audience would immediately recognize ("Pico" means very small and "Spin" refers to the magnetic field that is generated by a spinning charge.) Next, the company chose colors that were very atypical for the scientific device industry, brown and orange. I challenge you to find a company in this space with the same colors. Finally, the elements they chose for the logo specifically reinforced this idea of the "spin" and excitement.

For the website, we incorporated the output of a spectrometer - a spectrograph - as an underlying element. Again, the goal was to use bold branding with purpose that would signal to their target audience the sound science of their innovations. Finally, we made this revolutionary device the "hero" of the home page. Nothing would stand out more than this groundbreaking, shoe-box size device.

That was almost three years ago. How did the brand play out? Our first indication that we had done something right was picoSpin's first tradeshow. The colors of their booth looked like nothing else on the show floor. They stood out. They had long lines at their booth. Their customers proactively told them how much they loved their "branding". Yes, the scientific crowd actually said this. Sales quickly grew over the ensuing couple of years and just last month, picoSpin was purchased by one of the largest players in their industry, Thermo Fisher Scientific. While we are nervous we won't get the chance to work with the great team and picoSpin anymore, we are really excited for their success. Obviously a startup succeeds for a multitude of reasons. Too often though, the principals of startups miss the opportunity to clearly and powerfully communicate the magic of what they've worked so hard to create.  Don't make people figure it out. Don't make them read between the lines. Say it explicitly, cleanly and consistently. It may make the difference between fizzing and fizzling

Mark Mitton
written by MARK MITTON

Mark Mitton is the president of Carbon8, bringing his passion for creative, strategic branding and deep experience in digital marketing to Carbon8 clients (and employees!). Mark founded Carbon8 with the knowledge that, in today’s digital age, beautiful creative and smart strategy must be supported by a strong programming team.

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