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Leaving a startup to help other startups

The former marketing guys of Jolla started out helping other startups with their marketing and ended up leaving Jolla to go all in on a new venture.

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About six months ago, two marketing guys of Jolla started to have quite a few side projects after getting a good reputation while putting together high engagement marketing campaigns with affordable budgets. Now the duo is strengthening the marketing department of other startups who want to build their brand.

Tim McDonald (former Head of Marketing of Jolla) and Antti Mäkelä (former Creative Director of Jolla) are proud of the company they’ve outgrown from. Jolla was the place where these guys were basically the only marketing personnel when their first products were launched. McDonald joined the team when he was headhunted from Nokia and Mäkelä started in the customer service.

“We didn’t have an advertising budget, so we figured out how to cut through the noisy market with bold messaging and strong positioning. We had to focus on telling the Jolla story,” says McDonald. And their successful moves made other companies interested as well, which lead to the idea of starting their own business.

“We figured there’s plenty of others striving to do the remarkable in other industries too, and our learnings were relevant,” McDonald continues.

To gain a head start with their own business, McDonald and Mäkelä partnered with Monami Agency on the go. McDonald says partnering with a start-up digital creative agency helps them to bring in their thinking with a talented team of media producers and designers.

Disrupting traditional marketing?

Putting together marketing, in a noisy and competitive market of mobile devices, has been a great challenge, but McDonald says they found their way to operate with the limited resources. In the David and Goliath situation a small company couldn’t compete with features alone.

While cutting costs, they made great discoveries while you had to go after people who are really interested about the brand. Instead they concentrated on why they should care about what Jolla is doing, says McDonald: “You should start by understanding why your product inspires people. There’s a market out there of people looking to replace everyday commodities with meaningful alternatives. That’s why our focus was on being a non-mainstream alternative in an industry dominated by corporations.”

“The trick is to shift focus from ads to substance. That way you actually end up with something worth talking about and promoting it isn’t so hard. Don’t go for advertising, go for community building – and that’s something we want to help startups take advantage of,” McDonald continues and says their biggest takeout with Jolla was sharing values with the community.

Becoming an integral part of startups

As McDonald and Mäkelä are now starting their own business, rather than being an ad agency they want to become an integral part of their customers’ team. As jumping into different teams, the duo wants to be able to stand behind these companies’ values.

“The ideas and stories we create have to be true, because it’s all about being authentic. It’s not about B2B or B2C – it’s about human to human relationships and we’re making a real effort to treat our customers as friends,” Mäkelä emphasizes.

“Typically early stage startups don’t have the luxury of their own marketing team,” McDonald adds. At Jolla for instance, they had been working for a couple years on the product without marketing people.

“If your idea of hiring a marketing team is just to launch the product, and not about customer insights and feedback, you risk ending up with a product that the market doesn’t want. If you’re smart enough to design it – you should be smart enough to let others test it.”

Now these two guys want to go beyond brands with international and Finnish startups.

“Brands we want to work with have remarkable vision – they’re the ones breaking out from mediocrity. We’re even willing to share the risks with them,” states McDonald.

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