Rebranding the most unsavoury sector of all

Harry Copeman
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How do you sell a product that no one ever wants to think about?

Last December I left my job at Facebook to become head of design at a London-based startup that had launched just a month earlier. I joined a weird business: Farewill is trying to change how people deal with death.

The first thing we’ve built is a digital will-writer, which is designed to make wills a consumer product. We’re backed by the founders of Wonga and Zoopla, SAATCHiNVEST, and VC firm Kindred Capital, and we’ve already helped thousands of people across the UK write their wills.

But giving death a facelift isn’t at all easy. And that’s why today, just seven months in, we’re launching a complete rebrand. These are my tips for branding something that people don’t normally want to think about, let alone engage with.

Embrace the peculiar

If you’ve got a tricky product to sell, the most crucial thing is to humanise it – and a lot of that comes from your brand. No one uses a family solicitor these days, so the process of writing your will has become increasingly sterilised. We’ve built a product that makes it feel easy and encouraging, so we needed a brand to support that.

We ended up working with Koto, the studio known for rebranding Fanta, Airbnb, and Gumtree. Don’t be deterred from aiming for the best studios out there, in spite of previous big-name clients. We product designers love working with tricky topics (whether that’s death, illness or finances), and you’ll find that brand designers are up for the challenge too.

Don’t go too far

When you’re coming up with the substance of your new brand, think about the worst offenders in your industry: what’s the most terrible thing your potential customers will have seen? Spin that on its head. We ended up going with something that embodies the exact opposite of what comes to mind when you talk about death: a bold and bright – and yellow – brand.

Make sure you don’t go too far, though. In a bid to juxtapose the stolid, formal look of traditional will-writers, we toyed with a very loud, provocative brand idea. But it was too much – it shouted at potential customers. The way to avoid this is to keep returning to the route you create for customers. For us, that’s having a human both at the other end of a live chat as you write your will, and to check it once you’re done. Going for provocative branding just served to obscure that.

Consider recycling

With Koto we developed a series of “squiggles” (for want of a better word) that change shape depending on what bit of your will you’re working on. If it’s your house, it’s a key. If you’re leaving an individual item to someone, it turns into a label. So the branding itself supports you as you write your will.

The lesson here is that, if you’re a small company that doesn’t have a bottomless pot of cash to keep dipping into, you can build a recyclable brand – something that can be easily tweaked alongside customer experience, but that doesn’t require new spend on photographers and illustrators each time you need something new.

Of course, it remains to be seen if our rebrand does what we want it to do: encourage more people to want to write their will. But we’re confident that, if you feel like you’re building something tricky, just embrace it.

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