As every college student can attest, the textbook market feels like a racket. When students are required to buy certain textbooks, they become a captive market for publishers to charge whatever they want. When a prominent textbook distributor decided to change this dynamic, they reached out to Cyclops to help them create a new brand, develop an outreach strategy, and design a mobile app that allows students to buy, rent and sell textbooks more fairly and affordably—to and from each other.


Using third-party demographic analyses, customer surveys and behavioral science research, Cyclops developed a visual and messaging identity, brand platform, outreach plan and advertising campaign to help our client connect directly with their target audience: cash-strapped college students.


We designed the brand and the mobile app with two fundamental principles in mind: the behavioral science concept of identification and the UX concept of simple path definition. To connect students with the brand, we painted with bold colors and sharp angles to support an irreverent and rebellious brand personality that taps into the iconoclastic spirit of youth. Next, we distilled the app’s user interface down to its simplest, most intuitive iteration to make sure the experience was quick and easily repeatable.


To determine the perfect combination of research and creative approach, we created four distinct messaging concepts and associated digital ads to test in the market. Each approach took a unique angle to help college students immediately identify with the presented problem and then take the desired action to solve it: download the Zümpf app and save money by buying, renting and selling textbooks directly to each other.


Beyond motivating initial action, our messaging strategy encouraged students to feel good about their decision, to feel part of a movement. We encouraged them to join something bigger than themselves by uniting with fellow students to combat unfair textbook prices. With Zümpf, they aren’t just downloading a new app and saving money, they’re joining a grassroots uprising.