They quoted us £75,000, so we did it ourselves: the Cuckoo brand story

Tommy Toner

Tommy Toner

Head of Brand & UX

Cuckoo logo with yellow background

After being told by top London agencies it would cost upwards of £75,000 to develop our brand; we decided to embrace the challenge and keep it in-house.

This is the story of Cuckoo and the creation of our brand. Nice to meet you.

Introducing Cuckoo; an internet company founded on the principle of transparency.

Broadband is broken. Complex deals. High prices. Bad service.

The broadband ‘loyalty tax’ now stands at £1.8 billion every year. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Simple deals can work. Cheaper offers are possible. Smoother service is needed.

So here we are. Cuckoo offers transparent pricing and outstanding service. One simple deal. A rolling contract. And easy to deal with. The internet is magical. We’ll return it to what it was meant to be.

Cuckoo Starting Team [Mar 2020] Alex had to borrow one of my shirts #cantbuystyle

You Can Go Your Own Way

From the Burger King car park where Alex and I first chatted about Cuckoo, through to the evolution you see today. This is the story of how it all came to be.

Before building Cuckoo, I was the Global Design Director & UX manager in the Customer Experience Team at Nissan. Over the last 12 years, I’ve had the privilege of influencing products loved and used by millions. Brands such as Sky, Jaguar Land Rover, Formula 1, The National Trust, and J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore. Building up a company’s identity was not new to me, however, doing it ourselves, without a team of creative warriors alongside me was daunting. Often a project like this would span 3–5 months and involve up to a dozen specialists; art directors, strategists, copywriters, and designers. This was a daunting task for a small group, but much more fun than we could have ever imagined.

You can go your own way. You can call it. Another lonely day. You can go your own way

Fleetwood Mac

I still remember the cold November evening in 2018. Friends from a previous life, our CEO Alex and I were sat in a van eating cheeseburgers and he flirted the idea of a broadband company based on good morals. I turned to him and said ‘the name Cuckoo’s got legs!’. I spent 6 weekends and 15 late evenings cobbling together our original brand playbook; CuckooAlpha. We won over many people with that deck. Perception is everything.

Make the internet more magical
Cuckoo logo v1
Cuckoo logo on the side of a bus

On 3 February 2020, Dan (our Head of Tech) and I quit our jobs and joined Alex full time. Today, just over 8 weeks later we are proud to reveal what’s been going on behind the scenes whilst we build Cuckoo; a broadband company that even your mum would be proud of.

Design session at the pub
Founders having lols

Enter Sheddy

One of the perks of starting your own business is you can bring in the best people to help you and move very fast. As long as they share your “hell yeah!” attitude about good broadband to the masses. And that’s how we were lucky enough to bring on my school friend Ed Newton aka Sheddy; the super talented designer of household favourites; House of Fraser and Sainsbury’s.

Quotes from twitter. Who is the internet equivalent of Bulb or Monzo.

Understanding what’s right (and wrong)

So we spent time trying to understand what was wrong, really wrong. In order to really immerse ourselves in what we were up against, we went radical with our research. Obviously we conducted the usual primary and secondary, quantitative and qualitative research. However, we also gatecrashed a competitor’s AGM. Emailed the executive leadership teams of the big guns. We even helped customers of our competitors with their connectivity problems. Is it weird to help your competitors' customers? Maybe. But that’s our style.

OFCOM report into customer satisfaction across utility sectors

The telecoms landscape is full of industry jargon and confusing language. We are in a sector where every provider claims to havefast,super,unlimited, essential, ultrasuperfast,superultrafast, unlimited essential ultra superduper plusproducts which cause confusion, doubt, and mistrust. You still with me?

An ASA report from 2017 found fibre was one of the “many buzzwords to describe modern, fast broadband”

Our key takeaway? Be transparent and truthful.

An audience-led approach to design

From day one we’ve strived to incorporate customer insights into the decisions we make. We partnered with a polling company to get the opinions of over 4,000 people.

And we kept asking: What do you want from broadband? What do you think of your current provider? What makes you stick around? What makes you leave?

At the start of 2020, our waiting list rocketed to over 1,000 people. We’ve been using these wise folk to bounce ideas off, validate our assumptions and help shape our product strategy. We love getting emails from people around the country asking when can they switch, for good.

“We didn’t build the Mac for anyone else. We built it for ourselves”

Steve Jobs

By listening to our customers, we realised that people often refer to broadband with words like “untrustworthy, rip-off, corporate.” That’s some pretty negative vocab to blanket an entire industry, right?

Cuckoo Logo in white

Our solution: a shift toward something simple

A radical one for the sector — contemporary, engaging, fun and audience-led. Cuckoo is an independent team, taking on the big guys and speaking to our customers in one voice across all platforms and channels.

Cuckoo logo yellow background

The Cuckoo logo; the tale of chicken and the egg.

The brief we set ourselves for the logo was that it had to be bold, iconic and contemporary. We wanted to create a brand that felt alive and echo’ed connectivity. A digital-first identity — one you’d expect from an internet company.

What came first the chicken or the egg?

The first concept was the obvious road of exploration; a bird metaphor. The problem is, the Cuckoo bird is a rather unfortunate looking bird. All of God’s creatures are beautiful, other than the Cuckoo bird it would seem. Challenge accepted we continued to explore a number of cliche bird metaphors. Over 131 different bird variations were discarded; to be exact.

Chicken or egg
Starlings feeding
Cuckoo logo v2

When designing a logo you often want to reduce the detail to the absolute minimum, whilst ensuring it’s still recognisable. We soon learned that to make a distinctly identifiable bird you need to show at least 3 of their 5 key characteristics; the beak, wings, tail, eyes, and body. Otherwise, you quickly end up with a seal, worm or bumblebee. It’s that or, it ends up like the Twitter logo. Every. Single. Time. We soon wrote off a bird and moved on.

Cuckoo logo work in progress
Designing over a drink
Iterating on the cuckoo logo

Enter the egg

Conceptually Ed and I knew we wanted to portray the feeling of connection. After all — the internet is at its core, all about connecting people. Every route we explored to date was either too complex in nature or just plainly didn’t feel right.

If an egg is broken by outside force, life ends. If broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside.

AnonPinterest

The second concept, we wanted to represent being connected by integrating pulse lines commonly associated with WiFi. We then combined it with something simple and pure; an egg. We diligently explored every type of egg style and shape (46 to be exact) until we settled on something simple and memorable. A brand mark that feels unique and ownable, having meaning at its core.

Cuckoo logo on white background with text
Cuckoo logo on black background with text
Cuckoo logo on white background
Cuckoo logo on black background
Mobile designs for the Cuckoo logo

Color

The telecoms industry is crowded with shades of utility purple, dashes of corporate blue and a sprinkle of blood red. In a saturated market (pun intended), the new kid on the block needs to stand out.

Internet service provider comparison
Yellow the colour of the sunshine

We’re competing with the big guys via pixels on your screen. We want those pixels to shine bright.

Primary palette for Cuckoo colors
Secondary palette for Cuckoo colors
Cuckoo logo in pink
Cuckoo egg in purple
Cuckoo logo in blue

Typography

We have used Palanquin — a Google font developed by Pria Ravichandran, a type designer from India.

Palanquin is a Unicode-compliant Latin and Devanagari text type family designed for the digital age. The Devanagari is monolinear and was designed alongside the sans serif Latin.

The Palanquin font family is versatile and strikes a balance between typographic conventions and that bit of sparkle.Perfect for Cuckoo. The typeface renders beautifully at all sizes, especially on screen. As a brand, we want to ensure we’re taking responsible steps to reduce our carbon footprint so it is less important how it prints; we won’t be big paper wasters. Paperless billing will mean that almost all of our customer's interaction with us will be online. A font designed for the screen was a natural choice.

Palaquin typography demo
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Cuckoo logo with yellow background
Cuckoo UI landing page
Cuckoo UI my account

How we sound

What are the words that you associate with talking to your broadband company? Corporateuntrustworthystale, boredom, waiting are just some of the words we heard when we spoke to people about the broadband industry. So much of our business is founded on how our customers feel about being on our network.

This is how we talk. This is how our Eggcellent Experts will sound whether you are chatting to us on WhatsApp, text, email or over the phone. And we promise not to actually say that.

Words that describe Cuckoo. Optimistic, Fun, Passionate.

Switch broadband, for good.