Minimal Viable Brand: An Interview with Andrea Linehan

We've all heard of an MVP (minimal viable product), right? If not, essentially that is the most pared down version of a product that can be launched with sufficient enough features that will satisfy early adopters. This concept is largely centered on releasing something with the highest value, for the least amount of effort, getting paid and iterating on that initial product.

So, what the heck is a minimal viable brandToday, D&Co founder Jessica interviews GRID Finance's Commercial Director, Andrea Linehan about exactly what a minimal viable brand is and how you can apply this to your small business.  

D&Co:  I'm going to fire off a few questions to get this going, you ready!?

AL:  Yes, very excited! Let's go!


D&Co:  Okay, here we go. Last meal?

AL:   Brunch at a very cool little cafe called Two Pups in Dublin, eggs and the trimmings!


D&Co:  Tea or coffee?

AL:  Coffee before 2pm, herbal teas after 2pm.


Early bird or night owl?

Absolute night owl!


Would you let us blast your latest Spotify playlist over the office speakers - yes or no?

Yes! I usual listen to Discover Weekly so I am never quite sure what might come on next. There seems to be lot of German and French pop on the playlist at the moment.


Ha! Okay, that was great. Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me and share your insights with my readers! Of course, I know all about you! For our readers out there, Andrea and I met while I was living in Dublin. We were in the same MBA programme although a year apart and became close friends.  Andrea, can you share a little bit about your professional background for our readers?

Thanks, Jess. My background is in commercial and marketing, I’m currently the Commercial Director at GRID Finance where I oversee all of our branding, marketing and sales activities. Prior to that, I spent about a decade in the Middle East developing commercial and leisure brands for the Omani Government.


So, you have a LOT of experience working with a variety of brands all over the world. Do you ever find some commonalities between these different companies, products or services as it relates to launching their branding?

Absolutely. While the DNA of every brand is quite unique, there are several consistent elements that build the foundation for a successful brand. The concept of a minimal viable brand (MVB) covers off on these core -- and very necessary elements.


Okay I’ve heard of minimal viable PRODUCT, but what is a minimal viable brand?

A minimal viable product (MVP) is frequently used in tech startups, where a product is launched to test hypotheses with minimal resources. A minimal viable brand (MVB) identifies the absolute most necessary elements that create the DNA of a brand, which later inform everyday decisions from the culture of a company to who we hire to the customer experience and so much more. The MVB approach ensures that your hypotheses with the MVP are grounded in strategic intent and market insights.


Why is the MVB approach important?

Brands -- particularly young ones -- need to become more iterative in order to remain relevant to the product and the user experience. The MVB approach gives you the agility and flexibility to respond to new market insights while remaining true and consistent to core values of your brand.


How do you actually apply the MVB?

There’s a simple three-step process to get this up and running. I’ve also included a worksheet for the D&Co readers to download that will help them populate the information they need to get started with a minimal viable brand.

The first step is to build your brand pillars. Your brand pillars include your brand promise, brand experience, brand personality, values and vision.

Once you’ve established the brand, you’ll use those core values and vision as a foundation to create your brand mark. This can be a logo, icon or avatar and either way, this will visually represent all of the brand elements.

The last step helps your brand maintain consistency throughout all channels and communications outlets. You’d generate a one-page short-form set of brand guidelines that describe the brand: typeface, colour, tone of voice for copywriting, position statement and values. Distribute this document to all of your internal staff and all vendors who help with your marketing, content development, communications, PR design, and web development.


Wow! That is incredible. It’s so succinct, clear and easy to follow. How do you continue to iterate on these foundations of a brand?   

Once you’ve established your brand pillars, stick to them and consistently deliver on your brand promise. Your customers or company stakeholders should never have an experience that isn’t aligned with your brand values. If they do, there is something wrong.

Be brand-led and market-informed. You may learn more information from your customers. They can and should inform your product development, but keep in mind that they should never inform your company’s brand.


Thank you again for taking the time to meet with us AND for giving our readers such a useful tool to start applying the MVB concept. Do you have any final advice to share with our readers?

Your talent acquisition strategy should be crafted with your brand at the core. The people in your company form the tapestry of your brand and will have the most significant influence on the integrity and sustainability of your core values. Qualify shared values and cultural fit first, technical ability and experience are secondary.

Download Andrea's Minimal Viable Brand Worksheet here: 

Andrea Linehan.png

Andrea is a commercial and marketing professional with over 15 years of international experience in sales, marketing and commercial development across a range of products and services. She grew up in Limerick after which she spent 10 years in the Middle East developing commercial and leisure brands for the Omani Government. There she was founder of the Irish Business Network and co-founder of Oman GAA and the Omani Irish Friendship Society. She returned to Ireland in 2013 to complete the full time MBA at Trinity College Dublin and is now Commercial Director at GRID Finance. Learn more → 

For those who are just starting out, do you think the MVB concept will help you launch your brand? Comment below and let us know what you think!