People: KUMU Founder and Creative Director Clare Ros Talks Best Branding Practices for Start-ups

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Coming up with a dedicated social media app for Pinoys such as is definitely no walk in the park, more so when it comes to presenting it in a creative, appealing, and relatable fashion. For KUMU Founder and Creative Director Clare Ros, the task of developing the brand becomes an adventure that perfectly captures and celebrates the spunk of every Filipino.

When Clare met Karlito

“We created Karlito (a tarsier) as our mascot because they’re native to the Philippines,” Clare shares. “Karlito’s personality is kind and inviting while also embracing a quirky, playful and inquisitive side,” she adds.

The blue tarsier (who also serves as KUMU’s mobile app icon and can be found participating in a number of activities throughout the app) in a way represents how KUMU envisions a vibrant online community and the brand’s genuine mission to spread Pinoy positivity all over the world.

“Kumu’s branding formed organically as we worked with team members around the world. We wanted to incorporate bright, uplifting colors that express energy, optimism, and open doors to creative possibilities,” says Clare. “Our vibrant brand palette symbolizes the passion and explosive growth of Filipino communities around the world, while Karlito channels our brand’s tone of voice which is honest, real, and hopeful about the future,” she concludes.

Your brand is your story

With Clare’s extensive résumé and many creative hats (she has worked with numerous startups, on an archaeological dig, in product design, marketing, and communications among others), no other pro can best steer KUMU’s branding into the mainstream. Users can appreciate the stories the brand conveys through Karlito and how the brand name’s origin (KUMUSTA) immediately communicates a welcome and exciting proposition for users.

When asked about how she approaches branding in the new age, Clare shares how she regards visuals, voice, and messaging as the most important facets. “Branding is not about a pre-conceived or specific aesthetic such as a clean, minimalist look, (though I do love minimalism). Great branding can also embrace the messy and unexpected. It can be whimsical or regimented. As long as a cohesive identity system is in place, an effective brand will feel natural and distinct regardless of its aesthetic style,” she points out.

Today, KUMU effectively communicates its core values to its users. Clare was able to give it a personality that says a lot about the brand, its services, and the company in general. ”It’s most impactful when a brand’s visuals and messaging work together to reinforce a singular tone of voice and strategic point of view,” she says.

The Clare approach

Asked what she can share to young aspiring designers and creative professionals when it comes to eye-catching design, Clare generously points out clarity, authenticity, and experimentation as the main points to ponder on.

In Clare’s words, here are some useful tips today’s creative professionals can use in their own design adventures:

  1. Establish a clear hierarchy. No matter what you’re designing, make sure the hierarchy of information is clearly defined. Organize all design elements to reflect this. Clarity in design helps the viewer quickly understand what you’re trying to express.
  2. Be authentic, contextually-aware, and unafraid to reach your audience on an emotional level. This could mean employing a bold design, or utilizing a quieter approach. Pay attention to context and communicate in a way that it resonates within that setting.
  3. Don’t be afraid to experiment! It’s rare you’ll make your best work on the first attempt. Push yourself to work outside of your comfort zone even if it means you’re making work that doesn’t sit right with you at first. This is the space where you’ll typically grow. The design process can involve numerous iterations of testing and refining concepts, evolving designs, and forming new solutions. If you fall back on proven routines from the beginning, it’s unlikely you’ll innovate your designs or thinking. So be sure to push yourself and try new things!

As KUMU continues to be the fastest-growing mobile up for Pinoys all over the world with now over 1 million users in a little over a year since its launch, the mobile app is poised to tell more stories that empower Filipinos and give them this unique avenue of positivity that opens up a wider reach. With Clare’s great job at branding the mobile app, it won’t be surprising at all when KUMU settles in a million more people’s recall anytime soon.

Clare Ros is a Filipina-American co-founder of KUMU. She is passionate about building brand identities, designing products, and shaping experiences that are authentically unique, inspiring and empowering. She has worked with venture-backed Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) and tech startups in fashion, social media, home goods, and finance. She began her career at branding consultancy Red Antler. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her dog Pippa.

Know more about KUMU by downloading the mobile app for free at the App Store and Google Play.

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