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Basecamp: Brand Positioning Case Study

May 27, 2023
Basecamp Brand Positioning

After working in marketing for years, the number one problem I’ve seen plague entrepreneurs is simple: they don’t know how to niche down and identify their target audience.

It can be scary. You’re basically saying NO to almost everyone while saying YES to a select group of people.

That’s why this week’s brand breakdown is a good one. We’re talking about Basecamp (a project management software Jeff Bezos invested in circa 2006) and how they’ve positioned themselves as THE project management tool for small businesses and agencies.

It takes guts to niche down a multi-million dollar software company, but it’s a bit less scary when it naturally comes from who you are and your origin story (you can learn about this in our Master Your Messaging course πŸ˜‰).

Let’s get into it…

πŸ’Ό The Brand: Basecamp

Basecamp got started over 20 years ago by Jason Fried, Carlos Segura, and Ernest Kim. They were originally a small design firm that was struggling to manage their projects. So they built a tool for it.

Originally, it was just for managing themselves. But as they used it with clients, their clients asked if they could purchase it. And that’s when the lightbulb went off and they sold out to building Basecamp.

Years later they’re a multi-million dollar company, but Jason Fried is still keeping it personal by handing out is email address on their website.

πŸ’› The Heart (Purpose & Values)

Basecamp exists to serve small businesses.

But what’s beatiful is how they go about it and how intimately it’s infused into their strategy & positioning (The Head) and their marketing tactics (The Hands).

Even their values shout the simplicity that small businesses desire: Be Straightforward. Be fair and do the right thing. Generosity. Independence.

This is the heart beat of their company and it tees up their positioning perfectly…

πŸ‘€ The Head (Strategy & Positioning)

Basecamp isn’t shy about their strategy.

They actually dedicated an entire webpage to We ❀️ small business

What’s interesting is how they lean into this position. They focus on being a “Refreshingly simple project management tool” but where they take it to the next level is leveraging their “Rebellious” brand personality type.

Here’s a quick excerpt showcasing this tone:

Most big software companies fight over the Fortune 500. The whales, the thousand-seat contracts, the enterprise deals.

They can have them.

Our favorite customers are the Fortune 5,000,000. The small and medium-sized businesses of the world, the individual freelancers, the creative shops that do the best work, not the most work.”

A little snarky? Yes. Effective. Abso-freaking-lutely.

Want to know if your brand personality is “Rebellious” or “Connected” or “Luxurious”? Take our 2-minute quiz here.

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βœ‹ The Hands (Tactics)

How does Basecamp pull off this positioning, practically? Here are 2 of our favorite examples:

Website Home Page - Within seconds you know that Basecamp is built for people who want a simple project management solution. AKA: Small business owners and agencies.

Just Let Me Do My Job Campaign - A campaign focused on Basecamp’s belief that people are adults and should be empowered to simply do their job. They plastered popular commuting routes in Boston and people loved the rebellious tone.

One of my favorite parts of this campaign was their “Chief Meetings Officer” video spot. Brilliant.

This campaign also targeted popular hang out spots used by their target audience, the popular file sharing website WeTransfer and stock photo site Unsplash. Both used often by small businesses and agenices.

How You Can Steal Their Strategy

What makes this brand strategy so brilliant? It’s authentic. It starts with their heart. Again, shameless plug for our course where we teach this.

If you want to steal their strategy. Go back to your origin story… If you don’t think you have one, dig a bit deeper and ask yourself, “Why did I get started with this? Where did I have discontent? What did I hope to do differently or in my own unique way?”

The reason why this is important is that knowing your niche is sometimes as simple as thinking about who you naturally attract. Typically this is a combination of your origin story and your brand personality.

For Basecamp, they’ve sold out to serving small businesses with a rebellious and snarky personality type. That’s not Asana’s lane. It’s definitely not Jira’s. And if you’re in a competitive market like they are… that’s a really good thing.

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