MakeSpace needed to find a new way to distinguish its brand in a crowded market to get both customers and a new round of funding. A new strategic position and rebrand moved MakeSpace further up the emotional ladder to recognize the real reasons people use storage—in times of disaster, dislocation, death or divorce. In this way, while competitors sold square feet, MakeSpace stood for helping people make space in their lives, not just stuff.

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Making Storage More Than Sq Ft

Understanding Storage

Traditional storage options function as a self-service endeavor for the individual customer, from acquiring supplies and packing to transporting and unloading a substantial amount of possessions to an often remote or industrial area. Given that 10% of Americans pay for storage, MakeSpace innovated an entirely new full-service solution wherein the company takes care of supplies, pickup, transport and retrieval, leaving the customer with the sole task of packing up their things. While the company was positioned as a new and exciting leader in the category at its inception, as it was gearing up for growth, the full-service model had already started to become highly commoditized by a slew of nascent competitors.

There are 300,000 items in the average American home.
Los Angeles Times

Identifying Core Drivers

The time had come to move beyond functional benefits. Armed with a robust set of data, MakeSpace hired Combo to conceive a fresh strategic approach to differentiate the company within a quickly crowding category that had little to no diversity in product. Conducting immersive ethnographic research and highly detailed analysis of data (down to consumer behavior at the zip code level, for example) pointed to the core drivers of the category—death, divorce, disaster and dislocation ©.

© Storage is driven by life events. These “D's of storage” combine to be the most stable and reliable customer markets for self-storage businesses. While an important driver of new business, these four factors are stressful and often painful experiences in a person's life.

Establishing a Position of Empathy

From this, Combo strategists arrived at a key insight: when people use storage spaces, it’s to make space in their lives not just for the physical but also the emotional—healing, creating, reevaluating and intention-setting. The goal, then, was to be a company that stands for making space for people and their lives.

Instilling Unique Behaviors

Implementing this key insight called for a set of brand behaviors based in empathy. One such behavior that was key in refreshing company culture through this lens was stitching the brand manifesto into the uniforms of MakeSpace movers, reminding them that when they step into someone’s home, that person might not be in the most positive headspace.

Before every job, I take a deep breath and remember that I’m about to step into an intense moment in someone’s life.
Makespace Mover

A Visual System that Feels at Ease

Along with the brand behaviors, Combo designers were tasked with creating a visual system that provided both an advanced and calming presence. Inspired by Bauhaus painter Josef Albers and AI, they assembled a world of simple dimensions and organic technology, creating a library of original assets designed to prioritize empathy alongside the functional values of the product.

On-demand storage startup MakeSpace picks up another $55M.

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