Occupy Central's lessons for public interest startups

07 Jan 2015
Author: Robert Precht

Joshua Steimle, a Hong Kong-based author and speaker about startups, has published a very wise article in Forbes that takes a look at the Occupy Central movement and extracts lessons for business entrepreneurs. I have changed the title of the article slightly for purposes of this post because I want to emphasize that Occupy Central was and is a public interest startup. It was not a for-profit enterprise. The organizers had clear objectives (even if they did not achieve them all) and they came up with a brilliant branding strategy. One of Steimle's lessons: 

Create a brand. After photos and video were posted to the Internet showing police attacking protesters with pepper spray and tear gas while the protesters defended themselves with open umbrellas, the movement became known as the Umbrella Revolution. The protesters and their supporters embraced this label, using the hashtag #UmbrellaRevolution on Twitter and designing logos and artwork incorporating umbrellas. The images became news in their own right, bringing more attention to the movement and helping foster a sense of community and common cause amongst democracy supporters.

Your brand is the story people think of when they consider your company or product. Logos, names and imagery are important elements that will help you create an effective brand. Another aspect of Occupy’s brand? Being the politest protest movement ever. The activists were notorious for cleaning up after themselves, recycling trash and when I visited a protest spot on a hot, muggy, Hong Kong day, they offered me a bottle of water. That’s what I call great customer service. Starbucks, Southwest Airlines and Rackspace have all made customer service part of their brand. You should, too.