To grow the core, less is more: We Transfer

In a recent grow the core workshop, I used We Transfer as a great example of how to grow the core. Co-founder and President Damian Bradfield explained in a recent Times article (1)  how he and his team built a successful brand by focusing on being brilliant at ONE thing. The file-transfer service company now has 44 million users sending 1 billion files a month. And unlike many other tech firms that have eye-popping valuations and non-existent profits, it actually makes money.

Below I look at some of the success factors that have helped We Transfer grow the core. If you then want to explore grow the core further, you might want to check out the short, on-demand course on our brandgym Academy platform here.

1. To grow the core, less can be more 

How refreshing to have a brand being content to do one thing, and do it bloody well.“It just runs and does exactly what it says on the tin,” comments Damian in the article. 

We Transfer is a great example of how less can be more for a brand.

The homescreen is one large image — either a beautiful ad or piece of art — with a small box where you enter the details of your file transfer.

No sign-up is needed to use the service, you just enter the email address of your recipient, add your file (up to a generous 2GB), hit the button and you’re done.

Beautiful simplicity. That’s how I would describe using We Transfer.

2. Connect with your core positioning target

Like most great brands, We Transfer has a vivid picture of its ‘core positioning target’: the people who the brand has in mind when designing the service and marketing mix.

This core target is made of creative people such as artists, musicians, directors and writers. They need to share big files in a reliable way on a regular basis. They also appreciate the beauty of the We Transfer interface. And given the vital importance of the files they are transferring, many of them pay for the We Transfer Plus version with extra features (e.g. Send unlimited files in one go, store up to 500GB of file, password-protected transfers). Subscriptions have grown to now account for 60% of turnover.

By meeting the needs of this core target, We Transfer has created a distinctive brand that appeals to a much broader ‘consumption target’. People (like me) who also want a reliable, beautifully designed, easy to use file transfer service.

3. A distinctiveness user experience that makes money too

WeTransfer have crafted a distinctive user experience through the use of ‘wallpapers’: beautiful full-screen backgrounds. Most of these are actually adverts, but not the annoying, intrusive commercials you normally see online. Instead, we have visually attractive ads that wouldn’t be out of place in a glossy magazine (see below).

This approach has a double benefit to grow the core. First, it enhances the user experience by giving you something nice to look at while your file in transferring! Second, it creates an impactful new media channel that advertisers want to invest in, creating revenue for We Transfer.

Another feature that sets the brand apart, and may be come an increasingly effective point of distinctiveness given the misdemeanours of Google and Facebook, is the fact it does not capture and seek to monetise user data.

4. Bake your social cause into the brand

Another bit of genius about We Transfer is the way it has baked a social cause, supporting new artists, into the brand experience. 30% of the site’s page impressions showcase creative talent from around the world. Over a year, that’s five billion pages dedicated to promoting art, design and music.

This further builds a bond with brand users. But more importantly, it helps drive penetration. An artist whose work has been promoted for free to millions of people on We Transfer will tell plenty of artist friends about the brand, increasing awareness and encouraging further trial.

The company has also funded the creation of the ‘University of the Underground’ that is funding 15 students to pursue masters degrees in the ‘Design of Experience’. This is a worthy social cause, but also further promotes the brand to future users of the brand, and maybe even highlights potential future employees.

In conclusion, We Transfer show how a focusing on creating a beautifully simple and highly relevant core product can help you achieve business success.

You find out more about projects to help brands grow the core with distinctive marketing here.

Practical tools to start growing your core

To get some practical help to grow your core business, you can download our Core Growth Driver toolkit by using the form below. This walks you through the 8 core growth drivers we’ve used on consulting projects and in training for leading companies including Mars, Unilever, Mondelez and AB InBev.

We also offer a short, on-demand course on our brandgym Academy platform here. The course is only £95+VAT and is fully refunded if you go on to take the full Mastering Brand Growth program.

Below are some other posts on the topic of how to grow the core:

How to get retail customer support to grow the core?

A Genie helps the AA stretching into new markets

Growing the core: Pukka Pies

Heinz: smart sizing to grow the core

M&M’s pots: packaging to grow the core