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Creative marketing veteran Stanley Hainsworth speaks at Hardware Day in Seattle.

It’s probably a good idea for entrepreneurs to take brand-building advice from Stanley Hainsworth. After all, the marketing guru has helped companies like Nike, Lego and Starbucks tell their stories and attract millions of fans from all around the world.

brandmarketing1Hainsworth, founder of Seattle-based advertising agency Tether, shared some marketing wisdom at the Hardware Workshop in Seattle this weekend. Created by local entrepreneur Marc Barros, the two-day event features a series of talks designed to help founders learn more about succeeding in the hardware space.

Hainsworth spoke about his days leading the creative teams at Nike, Lego and most recently Starbucks, where he was the Vice President of Global Creative. One of the lessons he drove home to founders this weekend was the importance of first and foremost figuring out who your company is and treating it like a person.

“You should think about the attributes of that person: What they say, what their values are, how that person acts, what it sounds like, what language it uses,” Hainsworth said.

Starbucks has a brand that is more than just about a cup of coffee.
Starbucks has built a brand that is more than just about a cup of coffee.

He noted that startups — especially those selling a physical product — can define themselves and their goods by answering certain questions.

“If you have an idea to make something, figure out who it is for and how you want the customer to feel when they pick it up or use it,” Hainsworth said. “What do you promise the customer?”

At Starbucks, Hainsworth said that the brand promise all about daily inspiration.

“The promise wasn’t that we’ll give you a cup of coffee everyday — it was that we’re going to inspire you daily,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to change the world or change your life. We’re just going to make that moment a little bit better. If you think of it that way, you can translate that to a product and translate that to the experience.”

Whenever a new marketing idea was pitched at Starbucks, Hainsworth said that the company would use a five-point checklist that included the following:

  • Handcrafted
  • Artistic
  • Sophisticated
  • Human
  • Enduring

Everything that the company put out had to fit into each of those five descriptions, or else it wouldn’t make it to the public.

“Those five words were the most helpful thing that we used at Starbucks,” Hainsworth said. “It helped calibrate what we were doing and made sure that we stayed true to what our initial vision was. It affected all the stuff we created.”

Hainsworth explained that companies must also learn how to help customers develop an emotional connection to a product, even to the point where it becomes an important part of people’s lives.

“It’s more than just a thing you make — it’s how you act and what you do,” he said.

You can learn more about Tether, an 80-person company spread between offices in Seattle and Portland, at its website.

Related: Advice for hardware startup founders: Scope how big your idea is before raising money

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