11 Jul Case Study: How We Empowered One Of Europe’s Most Exciting Startups Into An Audio-First Company
Company: Blinks Labs GmbH
Product: Blinkist App
Business Model: SaaS
Company Stage: Growth Stage
Founding Year: 2012
Customer Focus: B2C
Team Size: 101-250 Employees
Headquarters: Berlin, Germany
Challenge: As a SaaS product that started out almost entirely visually, one of Blinkist’s main challenges was the lack of a streamlined process to create an audio-first business and brand strategy.
Solution: Customized consulting solutions and workshops based on the Design Sprint method empowered Blinkist to overcome the challenges of becoming an audio-first company.
Result: Blinkist has confidently transformed into a premium audio-first product, leading to a significant increase in customer engagement and revenue. In 2021, our project was honored with the German Design Award. Two years later, in 2023, Blinkist was acquired by Go1 (valued at over $2 billion).
Tailored consulting and transformative workshops empowered Blinkist’s growth and success…
Change is not easy, but it is necessary for growth.
One of the most challenging moments in business is deciding to transform your business and product strategy for an already successful product to avoid falling behind.
Blinkist’s app is a prime example of successful growth. Initially, it was a text-only microlearning app, but it has since evolved into a premium audio-first product.
Our customized consulting solutions and workshops helped overcome the challenges of transitioning to an audio-first company.
Throughout the project, we provided comprehensive consultation and leadership, covering areas such as strategy creation, design process management, workshop facilitation, and creative direction during the production phase.
Transforming Blinkist’s business strategy and brand towards an audio-first approach has resulted in:
✅ enriching Blinkist products with advanced audiovisual elements
✅ bringing more personal experience to users
✅ significant increase in customer engagement
✅ remarkable increase in revenue
✅ uplifting the brand in the global marketplace
✅ empowering the brand and product for future challenges
Keep reading this case study to learn why Blinkist chose Martin Backes (founder of Design Sprints Studio & Aconica) as its strategy partner.
Blinkist by Blinks Labs GmbH is a book-summarizing subscription service based in Berlin, Germany, with 23 million downloads as of 2023.
Essentially, it is an educational made-for-mobile app that condenses the key insights of over 6,500 bestselling nonfiction books and popular podcasts into powerful 15-minute explainers that you can read or listen to.
The main idea behind this ingenious product is to offer an engaging learning experience to a growing community of over 23 million users.
Although Blinkist’s core offering of condensed book summaries had amassed a large user base, the app faced a pressing issue. Its text-only format had limited its ability to provide a dynamic and engaging learning experience.
This is where the problem is rooted …
❗️ Increased smartphone usage leads to more media consumption: The growing usage of smartphones and affordable data plans has led to an increase in media consumption, particularly in audio formats like music and spoken words.
❗️ AI and conversational interfaces transform user interactions: The widespread adoption of smart speakers, voice assistants, and chatbots has emerged as a significant trend, changing the way users engage with digital content.
❗️ Interactive audiovisual rise – new opportunities and challenges: Although the rise in audiovisual interactive consumption presents new opportunities, it also poses challenges for content creators and marketers to adapt their strategies effectively.
Blinkist had something more ambitious in their mind…
As audio formats gained popularity, Blinkist realized that their core offering which relied primarily on text needed to evolve. The consequences of not adapting to the changing landscape included the risk of losing relevance and declining user engagement.
At the time, the more common solution was to have a computer program reading off the text. The podcasting boom was in full swing at the time, too, so working with real people and voices felt really innovative. – Ben Schuman-Stoler, Director of Content at Blinkist
With such a huge demand for audio content from both Blinkist customers and the broader market, the company decided to shift to an audio-first mentality. This required a comprehensive review of the soundscape within the company’s products, including Blinks, podcasts, videos, and the now-discontinued Minute, to name a few.
But the road to this transition was not easy. Blinkist began the audio-strategy project in-house but those attempts did not yield the desired results, leading to uncertainty. Blinkist needed a robust process and direction to seamlessly integrate audio elements with their visual brand and ensure an outstanding user experience.
Then they found us…
In their quest to enhance their product and brand strategy, they explored various agencies and industry experts. Ultimately, they chose to partner with Martin Backes, the founder of Design Sprints Studio and Aconica.
The studio’s reputation for delivering exceptional results in strategic consulting, creative direction, and workshop facilitation caught Blinkist’s attention. Specifically, they were drawn to Martin Backes’s extensive experience and track record of helping businesses navigate transformative journeys successfully.
Our studio’s experience in consulting and leading similar projects, combined with our battle-tested workshop methods, accelerates the progress of such projects and drives them forward quickly.
The primary objective in collaborating was to develop an audio-first strategy and comprehensive audio branding process that would align seamlessly with their current visual branding and strategy.
As part of our role, we led the team through a series of structured steps including:
1. problem definition
3. strategy creation
4. creative direction
This iterative process required the entire team, including the external audio design studio, to revisit and refine ideas and prototypes multiple times before arriving at the final solution.
Our workshops, which were tailored to Blinkist’s specific needs, served as the foundation for everything we did:
👥 Collaborative work was crucial role in identifying key opportunities in the audio space
💡 Creative thinking contributed to formulating a robust strategy for embracing an audio-first approach
🎯 A structured approach facilitated the systematic development and implementation of the audiocentric strategy
📈 Successfully adopting the audio-first approach resolved challenges and unlocked new potential for the organization’s growth and engagement
This included creating a detailed brief for audio production and sound design, building a modular system for the content team, finalizing the audio brand, and establishing an overall roadmap for future growth.
All workshop sessions involved key stakeholders, including the Director of Brand and Marketing, Design Director, Head of Content, Head of Video, Head of Audio, and Co-founders. The interactive nature of these workshops fostered open dialogue and collaboration, ensuring that all participants had a voice in shaping the future of Blinkist’s audio strategy.
Our unique workshop and consultation approach to problem-solving, which utilizes Design Sprint, Design Thinking, and Design Doing methodologies, helped us overcome obstacles and achieve success as a team with ease. By leveraging our battle-tested processes, we developed a clear vision and efficiently moved forward together with Blinkist towards their goals. More about the process here.
Martin used some custom-made Sprints to effectively align the Blinkist stakeholder team on the company’s brand and supported us in the process of becoming an audio-first company. The workshops were highly engaging and super productive. I was impressed by the amount of output we generated as a group, what would have taken months, took days. – Niklas Jansen, Co-founder and former CEO Blinkist
Results and Benefits
During our creative leadership, Blinkist made remarkable advancements in its audio-first strategy and overall user experience.
The transformation of Blinkist from a simple text-based app to an immersive audiovisual platform have led to remarkable outcomes for Blinkist. What began as a simple app for delivering key ideas from the best nonfiction books has now grown into a truly comprehensive audiovisual experience.
Through collaborative workshops and a well-executed strategy, Blinkist has successfully uplifted its brand in the global marketplace and empowered its product to face future challenges.
An additional analyzed result showed a notable rise in customer loyalty following the transition to an audio-first product.
Users can now immerse themselves in a world of knowledge, with a wide range of content available at their fingertips. From biographies to scientific discoveries, the Blinkist library offers something for everyone, and the app’s seamless integration of audio and visual elements allows for a truly immersive experience.
The entire process took more than a year and all Blinkist stakeholders were extremely satisfied with the outcome.
Working with Martin Backes and his studio was great. We hired him to direct and consult us in our vision of becoming a worldwide-leading audio product. – Niklas Jansen, Co-founder and former CEO Blinkist
Our collaboration effort has not gone unnoticed in the industry, and we have received prestigious recognition for it. In 2020, we were awarded the Better Sound Award at the International Sound Awards, and in 2021, the well-known German Design Award.
The Sprints gave our project the right boost to then go ahead and execute, bringing it to market only a few months later! In the end, we were even awarded the German Design Award for this project. – Niklas Jansen, Co-founder and former CEO Blinkist
These rewards validate the excellence of our collaboration in creating an engaging and immersive audiovisual learning experience.
And it gets even better.
Major publications, such as LinkedIn, have since named it the best startup employer in Germany.
Apple has recognized it as “one of the best apps in the world.” Even Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, personally visited the Berlin-based startup.
Source: © Brooks Kraft/Apple
Moreover, Blinkist has received a stamp of approval from the United Nations as a Global Leader in Learning and Education.
In 2023, the world’s leading learning expert and double unicorn, Go1, acquired Blinkist with a combined valuation above $2 billion. The German startup Blinkist will continue to disrupt the microlearning segment with its innovative digital reading platform, and expand its offerings.
Design Sprints Studio was founded by Martin Backes with the motto Innovate Better. Faster. Together.
We see agencies everywhere, clearly struggling to adapt to the digital world and adjust their old methods for a world that is not willing to wait for them to catch up.
However, as the saying goes, the only way to survive is to innovate and continuously evolve into something new, while remaining true to your company’s identity.
Unlike conventional design or consultancy agencies, Design Sprints Studio is digital, lean and agile.
We believe that our way of working creates a higher level of focus and fosters better team collaboration, saving time and money for our clients.
Our rapid, agile approach to product strategy and design, which combines consultation and product sprint workshops, has proven to be the most effective way to utilize available resources, whether it’s time, budget, or team.
Businesses must make decisions quickly, ship products, learn from the market, and iterate continuously.
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