An IT-focused entrepreneur had an idea for a new way of selling IT gear and services to companies and consumers alike. He had the team to handle the operations but needed someone to create the brand from scratch while also solving the complex issues a robust e-commerce site always entails.
An entrepreneur (and his partners) who worked with lofgren on another project knew we had the ability to help create his next challenge – launching a full-service e-commerce company. And by “launch” we really mean “create everything except the operations side from the ground up. At scale. On a less-than-overflowing budget.” No worries.
Ahhh, naming. So important. So strangely personal to founders everywhere. These founders were no different. After an initial round or two of name generation on our end, two frontrunners emerged. From our side, Fireracker. From one faction of the client, Big Bad Hardware. As you may now guess, this new venture sold computer hardware, generally of the uber-nerdy, rack-mounted, IT professionals type (although we would also be selling to the general public). After a branding workshop with all involved, it was agreed that this new entity should have a personality that was “credible, friendly, witty, irreverent, and smart.” Which, to us, pointed toward Fireracker. But the struggle continued. Leading us to…
Logo, brand & identity
Since the naming debate raged on as we entered the logo design phase, we decided to create marks for both Big Bad Hardware and Fireracker, hoping that doing so would help the co-founders make a decision on a name (as well as a logo). After the final two options for the logo and the name were presented, they landed on their winner: Fireracker. And there was much rejoicing.
Here is a peek into the logo creation process, if you’re interested in things like that:
And here is the finally-selected logo:
We chose colors that were in the “fire” palette, so to speak. Orange and yellow were natural choices, but we also included two darker, complimentary colors that kept things from being too monochromatic. Or dichromatic, as the case may be.
We created two different taglines to be used for our two different audiences. “For the Masses, Not the Massive” for small- to medium-sized businesses, and “Deals You Can’t Diffuse” for consumers. For business clients, the tagline promised great deals without the need of being a great big company. And for consumers, well, it’s a play on firecrackers and “The Godfather.” Enough said.
If something is worth making, it’s worth making interesting. The cards were uniquely shaped with one curved corner, and they were made out of hard plastic. We believe every positive touch point that a brand has can make a brand stronger and, over time, can increase revenue. And these business cards did just that. From pitch meetings or at trade shows, the sales team had people collecting cards to see if they could get the whole gamut of colors. And if people take that much interest in your business card, they tend to listen a little more intently when you’re selling to them.
The paperless world is a myth. There’s just something special about the tactility of a real book or, in our case, a real brochure. So, for Fireracker, we compiled all their most important company information into one piece so that it was easier for prospects to see their services in one place. Kind of like a website. But the analog version.
Click on the brochure images to magnify it.
Perhaps even more important than brochures, in the hardware reseller world at least, is the line card – a list of strategic partners, major sales categories, and brands carried within those categories. It’s a quick reference guide that shows potential customers all the cool stuff Fireracker sells and installs. Is this the sexiest piece of communication ever? No. Is it the sexiest line card ever? Maybe.
We also created a series of advertisements for various media placements. This particular ad ran in the Frisco RoughRiders minor league baseball team’s game program. Odd? Au contraire. Fireracker was based in Frisco, a hub for tech and medical startups. So it made perfect sense to advertise at the stadium.
Other Branding Projects
The visual identity extended, as it should, to every client- and consumer-facing aspect of the company. Here we see a lovely shipping box and a Fireracker service van.
Fireracker’s website was the most important and complex piece of the puzzle. It needed to speak to businesses and consumers; include hardware, software, and peripherals; and make it so enticing that customers (especially corporate clients) would prefer buying from a site instead of through the traditional (as in, expensive to Fireracker) rep sales channel. Part of doing just that was by offering prepackaged services (installation, assembly, consulting, etc.) that both businesses and consumers could order along with their equipment or – get this – a la carte (which was Fireracker’s biggest differentiator). Yes, Fireracker would service or install gear you didn’t buy from them. Hey, money is money and winning new business is winning new business.
Beyond the design and tone of voice (a little bit like Woot.com but for IT gearheads), the site itself was technically complex. The front end had to automatically add all the SKUs Fireracker could deliver, so we hooked into the APIs provided by the major distributors (e.g., Ingram Micro, Avnet, Tech Data, Synnex, etc.). To the end user, this looked like Fireracker’s inventory. But distributors didn’t always provide all of the data we wanted to display in our storefront. So, we used a subscription service called Etilize for product content, which allowed us to match the product SKUs in the distributors’ databases of on-hand inventory and then import the product details using Etilize. In other words, each product automatically had full details without requiring manual input. Which is kind of important when you sell hundreds of thousands of products. Even better was that the Etilize service allowed us to suggest purchases based on each person’s prior purchases, current shopping cart, or even while they were looking at a product page of any kind. Etilize was instrumental to increasing the average shopping cart amount and for getting more intelligence about users and their preferences. This was critical to Fireracker’s business.
Once we had the product inventory and the product details coming into the site, we hooked into the back end of Fireracker’s ERP and CRM systems for the warehouse’s inventory, for both fulfillment and for marketing purposes.
Next, we dealt with the issue of varying weights, shipping rates, sales taxes and rules that were different for every state — which, surprisingly, ended up being the most complex challenge for the website. We soon realized that we also needed a resource with experience building a digital procurement platform that allowed orders to be processed quickly and seamlessly from Fireracker.com through the distribution partner, while incorporating Fireracker’s services. To solve both of these challenges at the same time, we recruited and hired a person from the nearest competitor in the space. Because why just hope for the best when you can hire the best?
The website copy was witty, friendly and funny, and we felt that this was mostly responsible for the general feeling of legitimacy and “coolness” that Fireracker’s customers came to know and love. Fireracker consistently received major compliments on the tone of their website.
Click on either screenshot for a better view.
The Fireracker project was a success on every level. Even down in the creepy basement where old hard drives go to die. That’s a joke. For lofgren, it proved to ourselves and to potential clients that we could take on what was characterized as a “brand launch” and not only handle the core components of branding, but the technical challenges of online sales, CRM, etc., as well. Oh, and hey — the site was never hacked, which is always nice.