Q&A with Eric Futoran of Embrace about Building a Brand to Lead the Mobile Revolution

Embrace is a company dedicated to unlocking the potential of mobile technology. As companies envision new ways that mobile can transform the ways people live, work, and play, they are asking their mobile teams to deliver mission-critical experiences that are increasingly bold and ambitious. Developers need help managing the growing complexity of what they build—so they can dream bigger about the role mobile plays in their future—which is what Embrace helps them do.

Emotive worked with Embrace Co-Founder and CEO Eric Futoran and his team to redefine their brand and align their organization on the next chapter in their growth story. As they prepared to launch the new Embrace brand, we had a chance to sit down with Eric to get his insights on how the process helped bring his team together to bring a new story to market.

Emotive Brand: You spent a few months going deep into the why, how, and what of Embrace, with a lot of healthy debate about how to tell the Embrace story. What are some things you learned along the way?

Eric: As a founder, I’m so used to thinking about the long-term vision for the company and how we can power the incredible promise of mobile. And in some ways, this visionary thinking is too far out for people to map to the work in front of them. A lightbulb went off after a conversation with Emotive about how to frame the role our brand needs to play over the next two years. It made the goals much more practical and a lot easier because it didn’t have to play out the brand vision in such detail. And to be honest, I think it made the result more exciting because we could see how it could impact the ways we go to market. While mobile disruption will take five or ten years to realize, not every company thinks that far out. The most significant personal learning was to shrink my timeframe and be okay with that.

Emotive Brand: Throughout our work together, you continually encouraged us to swing for the fences about where we could take the brand. What were your instincts telling you about creating a bold story?

Eric: My thinking was that we needed to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. For all sorts of good reasons, we are focused on the weeds of what’s in front of us. But you don’t build a brand for today. A brand needs to be aspirational by definition and build the bridges between today and the better future we’re all working to create. If we had stayed too much in our comfort zone, we would have created a brand that was good for us today but not tomorrow. By learning how to get comfortable operating outside our comfort zone, we recognized new possibilities for where we could take our brand.

Emotive Brand: Building a start-up brand in a newly forming category brings several challenges in building awareness, understanding, and advocacy with developers. How did you see emotion as part of the equation in bringing this all together?

Eric: When you connect with the brand, there’s an implicit connection that goes beyond the functional ways you will use the brand. For example, when you look at the Apple logo, it has nothing to do with what they do and everything to do with setting the emotional context for their offerings. When you’re talking to developers, I think it’s crucial to think of them as people with goals that inspire them and challenges that give them headaches. Developers are so used to seeing the same set of messages and color palettes and comparisons that they feel like they’re being sold to rather than a brand trying to build a genuine connection based on how well they understand their experience. Our goal is to make developers feel empowered by giving them technology that meets their needs and confident that they have a great partner in Embrace to help them achieve their goals. Emotion allows developers to recognize their aspirations and pain points in our brand, which creates a very human connection.

Emotive Brand: As someone who has successfully brought two start-ups into growth mode, when do you think it’s the right time to invest in brand?

Eric: I’ll preface this by saying I hate this answer—it depends. Everyone has a different product and a different strategy. For us, we’re trying to do something very different in our space and cut through a lot of noise that is out there. So brand is an important tactic to tell a unique story that keeps us from getting lumped in with companies we don’t compete against.

If you think about the other end of the spectrum, where 80% – 90% of SaaS products live, they drive differentiation based on doing something slightly better or cheaper than their competitors. These companies typically use brand to create a different emotion rather than paint a bolder vision. The majority of SaaS companies are highly iterative, which Embrace is not. We built our company to be a disruptor.

Emotive Brand: We started working together when there were signs of a weakening economy, but you invested in your brand when others were holding back. What were your reasons to keep pushing forward on the brand front?

Eric: A lot was the practical nature of where we are as a company. We have a best-in-class product with a well-defined product-market fit, but no one knows about us. Our best move in this situation is to lean into brand and marketing initiatives to fuel our growth. Until now, we’ve underinvested in brand because we never felt the pain because the economy was on fire and people were less cost-conscious. The rising tide lifts all boats. But now, as the tide is wavering, we need to make sure we’re positioned to compete in any market condition. We’re still growing, but our brand activities give us the ability to grow faster.

When VCs tell companies to lengthen their runways, I think that’s good advice for seed-stage companies where money is the greatest asset instead of time. For a growth company, time is of the essence because you’re now measured on what you achieve or don’t achieve over time. To reach our potential, we need to increase our awareness, and brand is a key component of that.

For a growth company, time is of the essence because you’re now measured on what you achieve or don’t achieve over time. To reach our potential, we need to increase our awareness, and brand is a key component of that.

Emotive Brand: As a CEO, you were deeply involved in this process. What were the pluses and minuses (if any) about a founder being so involved?

Eric: In many ways, it depends on the founder. We needed to make a bold pitch based on where Embrace is as a company. And for that to occur, we had to get out of our comfort zone. I think I implicitly had to be part of that initiative because it is really hard to ask a head of marketing or sales or product to put themselves out on a limb and take that risk without the founder being part of it. I’m not a marketer by any means, but I know the power of good storytelling. So from an ideal perspective, the founder and CEO should 100% be part of the process to ensure the brand’s story aligns with the bolder vision for where the company is heading. You’re not just telling the story of this moment in time—you’re telling the story of the people and the journey as part of that company. And so, if I hadn’t been as involved, we may have lost some of the potential of what the brand can do and the impact it can create.

Emotive Brand: As part of this work, we worked with you to develop a Growth Manifesto that tells the story of how you plan to grow over the next two years and beyond. How did this help your team connect the dots and align around the strategic pieces of your business, product, and GTM strategy?

Eric: It helped build a bridge between the near-term goals for driving awareness and our longer-term vision. When we started writing the Manifesto, the combination of the two came together. We were able to frame what we do in the five-to-ten-year vision of how mobile will transform the world and get people excited about this future, and then we made it real by focusing on the next two years and what will be required. The two horizons don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

But the team is still digesting the Growth Manifesto. When rolling out anything new, you need to create a drumbeat of communications and experiences. I have an -ism on this called the Rule of Three: give people the information in three ways and three different times. That’s what we’re doing with the manifesto so that it becomes part of our everyday thinking.

Emotive Brand: Because we’re Emotive, we need to ask you about feelings. Do you think feelings and emotions play an essential role in the B2B space?

Eric: 100%. Our customers are people. The people they serve are people. I think a lot of businesses forget that. We’re a very customer-first, customer-centric company because I truly believe it’s the right way to do business. Rather than B2B, we’re Human-to-Human. Retention is king for all SaaS companies. In addition to having a great product, you need to treat your customers right because they are making a bet on you. There will be bumps in the road, but they’re betting both on your vision and your ability to support them when the product isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, and they need you to take action. The only way you retain customers is by treating them like partners, like people whose success you genuinely care about. That’s the only way you’ll build a relationship that can weather the storms that arise. It’s not commonly expressed in the B2B space, but business is all about leading with emotion.

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