Is your start-up fit to launch?

About the interviewee:

Cinnamon Pollard has been passionate about digital since 1995 when she landed the role of Unit Manager / Webmaster of the ABC Multimedia Unit.

Working with start-ups in particular has ignited Cinnamon’s passion for tech and all things digital design leading her to start her own consulting company specialising in the early phases of the business cycle where big decisions have to made fast!  

I had the pleasure of working with Cinnamon on the launch of Hijacked - a platform for students to share their voice across every campus in Australia.

What do you look for when assessing a brand's product-market fit?

There are four key ingredients I look for:

1. Does the product solve a tangible problem for a well-defined target user?

Entrepreneurs are usually very excited about their concept but don’t have a defined target market and value proposition for their users. 

2. Does the product disrupt the market or improve on an existing solution?

The only way to know the answer is to research, build, test and iterate!

3. Do I see a Product – Market Positioning?

I look for a message the brand can position in the mind of the user and a defined market-entry strategy to ensure you can hit the right people, at the right time with the right message.

4. Do they have the ‘A team’ in place to execute on the plan?

You can have the best product and marketing strategy in the world but if it’s not executed and optimised well by an experienced team it will most likely fail.

Product Market Fit

Can you explain the steps in your process? 

Every project is unique and I am engaged to work on projects at various stages in the product lifecycle.

As a result, I try to keep my process flexible to suit each project and compliment each entrepreneur’s skill set and requirements.

My consulting style is collaborative and whilst my approach is always user-centric, I like to keep a holistic view of each project - the team, culture, product, marketing, customer experience, data requirements, finance, legal and HR systems and the technology infrastructure that will support the business - all inform the process.

I firmly believe that you can never truly know whether your concept will work until you have tested it with actual users.

My advice is get a minimum viable product an ‘MVP’ or minimum loveable product into the market as quickly as possible so the real testing and learning can start before you have committed to a product roadmap.

I use a combination of Lean Startup principles and Agile project methodology. I am a real stickler to process.

The 10 steps in the product development process I undertake:

10 steps in the product development process

Can you explain why ‘Design thinking’ tools are such an important part of your process?

I draw on the Human-Centred Design Approach. It's a process that starts with the people you are designing for and ends with new solutions that they love because they are tailored to suit their needs.The result is innovative solutions that are grounded in market desirability and business viability.

Design thinking tools allow you to develop a clear picture of the particular audience for a product or service you are designing.

They help you capture a user’s motivations, frustrations and the “essence” of who they are.

They help you understand who will actually be using your service or product and can be used to make key design and functionality decisions during the UX process.

For example, personas are handy to pull out when you are trying to communicate what the user experience should be like to stakeholders, designers, developers and anyone else involved in a project. They are also really useful in helping you create realistic user journeys.

One of the personas Cinnamon & I developed for Hijacked

One of the personas Cinnamon & I developed for Hijacked

Market research can feel lengthy and expensive. When has it shaped or changed brand strategy?

Market research can be lengthy and expensive but it can also be quick and cheap if you are clever about how you go about it.

Research has informed, shaped and changed product and brand strategy in every project I have worked on over the past 20 years.

Just yesterday a client and I decided to change the target market and MVP of an online building and construction tool.

We originally set out to build a product that we thought was going to solve a problem for commercial and residential builders. After delving a little deeper with some in-depth interviews we discovered it’s actually the demolition contractor who we are solving the problem for - which of course changes everything!

On campus research with real students was essential when preparing to launch Hijacked

On campus research with real students was essential when preparing to launch Hijacked

What are the biggest mistakes brands make when transitioning from launch to a high-growth period?

Brands and businesses are like living things in that they transition through life-cycles. Brands go through four broad stages – new, growth, mature and revival.

Brands have unique marketing requirements at each life stage.

In the “new” stage the key challenge for the brand is building differentiated and targeted awareness - ‘What is it?’ and ‘how does it appeal to the highly targeted group of early adopters?’ are the two key questions a new brand must answer.

When a brand transitions from start-up to high-growth the biggest challenge is alienating their core user group as they move from early adopters to mass market.

Early adopters, by their very nature will drop your brand for the next big thing, but you need them to stay supportive long enough for it to penetrate a mainstream audience.

Always a challenge; crossing the chasm of the technology adoption cycle

Always a challenge; crossing the chasm of the technology adoption cycle

Two key reasons why early adopters will drop a brand like a hot potato in its growth life stage:

1. Not having strong, clear and consistent brand

This includes guidelines, messaging, personality, purpose and voice.

2. Failing to stay focused.

They begin to see the business growing successfully and start looking for expansion opportunities too early which can be fatal.

With limited resources businesses must stay focused on capitalising on the original market opportunity. 

Keeping focused and not stretching the brand too wide or too thin too soon is what separates a successful brand from a passing fad.

A huge thanks to Cinnamon Pollard for sharing her wisdom and experience.

Why your business should take note of the wellness boom


Wellness, or in simple terms living a healthy lifestyle is not cheap these days. From the ‘athleisure’ trend of wearing printed tights which are likely to set you back a cool $150, to the pressed juice which is around $13 a pop and a reformer Pilates class costing around $30 a session, this lifestyle racks up quite an expense. These purchases are symbols of the new luxury, consuming the middle class of society around the world through wellness.

So why are so many of us buying into it?

Scarcity rules the food chain

As humans it’s in our nature to want what is rare, and have ownership of it’s prized qualities. The wellness industry has reached new heights and is now worth almost 1.9 billion in Australia alone according to Ibis World. This is at least in part due to the invocation of the scarcity principle where hot demand has tipped supply by convincing the masses that ‘superfoods’ like chia and goji berries contain rich antioxidants not found elsewhere. While demand poses concerning ethical questions by shifting supply from under-developed nations such as Peru, it also sheds light on our inherent desire for things that are rare.

We want a quick fix, even though we know real work takes effort.

Being in on secret is a recipe for driving demand. Although the wellness industry has spruiked demand from fashion to superfoods, they are not the first to so. Apple is widely regarded as scarcity experts, managing to increase the price of each generation of iPhone by withholding supply and linking their technology to creativity and ideas of greater good.

While I’m no advocate of manipulation, it’s clear that scarcity motivates the products and services we purchase. Scarcity when used strategically, has power to shift the industries we engage with and the overall demand for your business as we all want what they’re having.

Affluence is all about experiences

Conspicuous consumption, as in buying and bragging about big ticket items ain’t cool. The new cool is all about leisure by showing off that you actually have time to take part in a yoga class and aren’t glued to your keyboard in an office block.

Fifty years ago it was a house, five years ago it was a Celine bag and now it’s a pressed juice.

The rise of social media in particular has shifted our notions of value. Instagram and Snapchat both offer in-the-moment updates of how we are spending our leisure time. Top ranking hashtags including #fitfam, #food and #yoga are testament to this, with millions of uploads featuring women (and men) hoping on the yoga mat or cooking up a chickpea and lentil feast to hungry, dewy-eyed Gen Y & X in pursuit of holistic health.

If we’re not richer then where is the money coming from?

Buying an apartment for most Australians is now so out of reach that most of us are only nearing a deposit in our mid to late thirties. This reality has shifted us from a culture of saving to a culture of spending on every-day luxuries. "It's definitely being used as a status symbol," confirms Professor Rohan Miller from University of Sydney Business School. "People are investing in themselves as a product. As well as having the flash outfit, they want to have the flash body that goes with it”. We want everyday wealth felt through experiences. Saving for decades is boring and doesn’t fulfil our need for instant gratification which has been amplified in a chaotic, competitive world of social media.  

To engage with the new affluent, the benefit of the experience had with your product or service must to be paramount and preferably promoted on social media. What’s on offer needs to be sharable and must tell a story of enhancement, in every sense.  

Minimalism is dead, essentialism is on the rise

We’re all operating in a state of overwhelm.

The internet is everywhere - it’s in our pockets and strapped to our wrists leaving us lost and confused. Design has responded to this state of mind by simplifying our choices through branding.

The wellness industry is showing us that we’re happy to pay a price for brands that will curate and clarify our choices and make us feel great in the process.

Simple is open, open is trustworthy.

This trend started with a return to minimalism where design was raw and stripped back. The wellness industry has taken this a step further by introducing essentialism which cultivates feelings of warmth and satiation. Across the board, packaging produced by wellness businesses is both high-end and vintage in look and feel.

Take Aesop, the beauty giant whose packaging is inspired by medicinal potions from the past. A smaller Australian brand, Pukka Teas is experiencing incredible growth by designing around keep-ability rather than disposability, so the pack of tea could proudly be left on the counter and shared online. This strategy works two-fold; it increases joy for the end-user and keeps it in-sight, resulting in more eye-balls on the product and more potential buyers.

At the heart of wellness is community

If there is one thing the wellness industry has absolutely nailed, it’s community.

Wellness gurus and their ‘tribes’ are almost reaching celebrity status, guiding their sticky customer base with daily doses of inspiration delivered via social media. Twenty-five-year-old Kayla Itsines and her 10 million strong community of ‘Bikini Body Girls’ across the globe is pretty impressive for a personal trainer from Adelaide.

Her success boils down to a feedback loop of inspiration, tracking and sharing of accomplishments which for the new affluent is totally OK to brag about.

Because improvement is commendable, it’s sharable.

Kayla’s relentless positivity and encouragement makes girls feel comfortable to share their progress and feel empowered to take part in her community. Getting the body, you want might be the end goal, but for some, membership alone might be enough. “Feeling like your part of an elite group—that’s a huge purchase motivator,” says Larry D. Compeau, professor of marketing and consumer psychology at Clarkson University. It’s the reason why American Express’ Black Card program has been such a success.

While millions of followers aren’t necessary for success, a tight-knit community powered by honesty, positivity and daily connection is. Find and promoting what’s scarce, by offering sharable experiences and using simple branding so your brand is the obvious choice.

Feeling good. That just might just be the ultimate luxury.

Why your parents are better at Airbnb than you

Australians love to travel and they love to host. 

It’s this open, travel mindset that has paved for Australia to become a jewel in airbnb’s digital crown with more than 40,000 listings on the platform. Surprised? So was I.

Attending the host conference at the Sydney Opera House I was fascinated to look around and see a room bursting with baby boomers. I assumed our laggard parents, in full swing of retirement would have been attending the opera, rather than furiously note-taking, using pen and paper of course. Their hunger for knowledge and resourcefulness opened my eyes to huge opportunities amongst the grey economy by using technology to create connection.

The secret ingredient? Trust.  

Trust isn't something sold through advertising. It has to be built through interaction and great design. This got me thinking; what has Airbnb done to capture the minds and hearts of Australian baby boomers? More importantly, what lessons could we apply to other businesses?

Interaction builds community

At the heart of Airbnb's success is undoubtedly how they fuel community. While their ads do a stellar job of making us believe we can ‘belong anywhere’, it’s their online experience, designed for building trust and connection that makes us actually believe them.

One of these cues is confirmation signals such as green tick or smiley face to indicate progression encouraging users to fill out their profile and get comfortable with injecting their personality into their listing.

Airbnb’s comforting language peppered throughout the site like ‘welcome home’ cements these feelings of trust. This shifts it from faceless digital brand to a new friend. This is likely to be a radically different experience for baby boomers than their previous interactions with tech companies.

By participating in something, we change behaviour.

As a marketer, the hardest yet most important task is to encourage participation. Although Gen Y’s may have an active ‘social’ network, personal recommendations are really important to boomers. Airbnb has tapped into their behaviour by giving an incentive of $135 for a successful host referral. While that sort of money sounds insane for acquiring users, Airbnb has instilled trust in it’s hosts and are ready to reward them for recruiting active users.  

How can you delight me? 

Often it’s not obvious, but generosity and subsequent feelings of delight fuels connection. It’s all the seemingly little things your brand can do to make someone feel known, important and that they are getting so much more from having your product in their life.

Airbnb does a fabulous job with design and copy but brings it home with surprising freebies making the brand feel real. One of these features is their offer of professional photography free for every host. This takes the stress out of baby boomer’s minds that they won’t successfully upload beautiful photos and won’t get booked. 

Replacing moments of stress with joy is key to building a thriving business.

Another way Airbnb delights its users is by randomly selecting and featuring them as heroes in their campaigns. In the busiest streets of Australia and around the world, billboards featuring everyday stories of how hosting has helped them achieve their dreams through this unexpected income stream. While this brings a genuine face to the brand, it also builds morale amongst baby boomers who can relate to the faces and stories displayed around the city. 

Dreams stimulate demand

Granted, not all businesses operate in a category as sexy as travel.

However, pretty much every business can stimulate demand by tapping into dreams. One way Airbnb does this is by inventing weird and wacky categories and promoting them on the market. One example is seasonal discounts on all treehouses and tepees used stimulate demand in typically flatter periods. 

These wacky concepts make people curious and get them to think outside their normal holiday. This tactic works particularly well for baby boomers who have more time on their hands, higher dispensable income and a growing appetite for experiences that are out of the norm. It also is SEO gold as bizarre keywords can grab attention and drive traffic to your website for often quite reasonable prices.


I don’t know about you but ‘20% of tree houses’ perks my interest.

Another way to play with dreams is by being inventive with competitions. Airbnb have done a fabulous job with this by taking unthinkable locations and turning them into a home for the night. My personal favourite was the transformation of Fenway stadium, home of the Boston Red Sox into a liveable space for the night. The couple who won have been married for sixty plus years and were over joyed to spend the night in a place that means the world to them. 

What I’ve learned is that Australian baby boomers are not technophobes. If anything, digital brands need to work a harder to be more human; to create experiences that signal success through simple interactions and create a personality we can trust.