David Nothacker, our co-founder and CEO, was a guest on The Project A Podcast, a project of the European venture capital investor Project A. The Project A Podcast provides expert advice and actionable tips for entrepreneurs and founders who want to take their startup to the next level. Visit the Project A Podcast website here to learn more.
In the podcast, David explains to Simon, Project A’s Chief Brand Officer, how brand can drive hypergrowth and how branding needs to evolve when a company is scaling fast, like sennder has. You can listen to the full episode by clicking above or going directly to the episode page here. We’ve put together a brief recap below.
On what brand really means and represents for founders
A brand is more than a brand. It's a way of working, a way of living, a way of cooperating. If the brand is just a logo or a visual identity, then of course it’s not as high on a founder’s priority list. But when a founder understands that the brand is the company’s operating system and therefore an essential part of the business model, it makes more sense to emphasize it and be brand conscious from the beginning.
On how the sennder brand evolved over these last few years of successful growth
Two key brand values that have been important drivers of sennder’s success are operational excellence and an entrepreneurial spirit. It has been important to hire the right people who embrace this, because it’s baked into the foundation of the brand.
The sennder brand was in its teenage years before the acquisition of Uber Freight's European business. Now it’s in its young adult phase. This means that the brand has to evolve further. The brand has to make sense for shippers, carriers, and employees. The value proposition is getting sharper as the company grows.
When sennder started off, the four words the co-founders used to describe the brand were "faster, smarter, cheaper, greener." But today, the focus is on quality, as well as on green logistics. There is more awareness of green logistics now. A few years ago that awareness was only at the top management level. Now the buyers of logistics services have a mandate, have a budget, have targets to become greener.
On differences in the shipper-facing and carrier-facing aspects of the brand
Each side appreciates different aspects of the brand. The quality and green aspects are more important to the shipper. On the carrier side there is actually a third dimension, which is technology. Technology in this context means operating in a different way, not only in the interaction with sennder but also in the way the carrier operates their entire business. All their trucks that aren't running sennder loads can also be managed in a more efficient way via the sennder platform.
On how the sennder brand also helped to drive growth internally
There are three different dimensions when it comes to the internal brand: the hiring process, the onboarding process, and the employee’s growth during their time at sennder. The brand has to reflect different aspects across these three different steps. In the first phase, the company needs to attract people and show that sennder is an exciting work environment with interesting and challenging problems to solve. During the onboarding, which takes the form of the sennder academy, new employees are introduced to the company’s defining values. After that, it’s all about perspective. If someone works for sennder, it can open doors down the road.
On how the sennder brand does and does not differ across the various European offices
It’s one brand across all the offices. Last year sennder did two acquisitions and one big joint venture. The motto for the PMI was always “one company.” That means one platform, one team, one brand. sennder is building the European road freight champion. The only way to do that is to have the same value proposition and the same strengths in every market. Of course every team has their own flair. But the core values, the foundation of the brand is exactly the same.
On why B2B companies have to care about branding
B2B branding and B2C branding are two different animals. When it comes to B2B marketing, there is a difference between transactional marketing, acquiring new business customers, and marketing that addresses long term relationships, more contractual. sennder focuses on the contractual side. That means sennder tells the brand story over a longer period of time. It takes more time for a company to explain what they stand for and for their target audience to understand and to trust. This is especially true in an industry like logistics where there are a lot of companies that don't always deliver on their promises.
The correlation between marketing investment and output is not as immediate for B2B marketing as it is in some forms of B2C marketing. sennder signs contracts for 1-3 years, so sometimes it really takes 1, 2, 3 years to see if the brand and story have been positioned and sold in the best possible way.
On the evolution of sennder’s brand in the next five years
The logistics industry will be very exciting over the next 5-10 years. It's a huge, fragmented, inefficient industry, and it will have to fundamentally change how it operates. New things like autonomous trucks are coming, and with that transition, a lot of players in this industry will have to reinvent their business model. This represents a unique opportunity to position sennder as an innovator.
sennder is building two things: the operating system to orchestrate the operational side, to combine loads in trucks, both autonomous and non-autonomous, and the customer and carrier relationship to bring everything together. Knowing that this transformation is coming means that the sennder brand can be positioned as even more of a tech and digital player than it is today.