- Brand is the perception of your organization by the individuals outside of your organization.
- Brand discovery is the first of six actionable components of Iterative Marketing.
- Without human touchpoints, brands become the face of an organization we identify with and hold accountable.
- Two aspects of brand definition include what your company holds to be true (values) and the perception of your brand by customers.
- Interviews, surveys, market research and brand vectors aid in brand definition.
Charity of the Week:
Six Actionable Components are the actions we take as marketers to implement Iterative Marketing. They don’t have to be implemented all at once. They are:
- Brand Discovery: Uncover how your buying audience feels about your product or service and how they rationalize the decision to buy.
- Persona Discovery: Document the individuals involved in the buying process in a way that allows us to empathize with them in a consistent way.
- Journey Mapping: Plot the stages and paths of the persona lifecycle, documenting each persona’s unique state of mind, needs and concerns at each stage.
- Channel and Content Alignment: Align every piece of content and marketing channel/activity to a primary persona and primary marketing stage, identifying new channels and content needs where opportunities exist.
- Experimentation and Optimization: Conduct thoughtful experiments designed to produce statistically significant business insights and apply the results to optimize performance.
- Reporting and Feedback: Report and review data and insights to drive decisions in content and strategy, as well as information to be used by the organization as a whole.
We hope you want to join us on our journey. Find us on IterativeMarketing.net, the hub for the methodology and community. Email us at [email protected], follow us on twitter at @iter8ive or join The Iterative Marketing Community LinkedIn group.
The Iterative Marketing Podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste.
Producer: Heather Ohlman
Transcription: Emily Bechtel
Music: SeaStock Audio
Onward and upward
Welcome to the Iterative Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Robinson, and with me, as always, is Elizabeth Earin. So what’s keeping you busy these days, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Earin: Just balancing work and family, the usual story. What about you?
Steve Robinson: A lot of the same on our end. So today, we are talking about brand. I think it probably makes sense, before we dive into defining your brand, that we probably should talk about what brand mean. Because I know that among the marketing circles that I am in, not everybody uses this word exactly the same. So why don’t you kind of give us your idea what brand means to you.
Elizabeth Earin: That’s a great question, and for me, I think it’s something that’s kind of evolved over time and as my role has evolved in working on the corporate side versus the client side. But kind of where I’ve settled lately is that brand is the perception of your organization by the individuals who are outside of your organization. And you know, I think that’s a little bit of a scary definition, because when you think about it that way, you realize you’ve lost some of your control.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. I always try to talk to clients about, it’s not so much control as it is influence. You have some influence over your brand and surprisingly it’s not in the ways that we traditionally think about the influence on our brand, like our color palette and our logo and what do our ads inspire. It’s just as much on the front line of your business and the individuals that are interacting with your customers or your clients. I think Costco has a kind of an ugly logo. I’ve never seen a Costco ad. They’re not a beautiful place when you walk into them, but I’ll tell you, they have some of the best fans in the world, myself included, and I love Costco. Very, very strong brand, but it’s not because of their logo and their slick advertising.
Elizabeth Earin: I think that’s a really great point and I like the example that you used because I think it really helps to put it into context. I think a lot of people do define brand, when you talk about brand, they specifically are seeing their logo and their type face and the colors that they’re using and exactly where the logo is positioned on the page. Those are the elements of their brand that they think defines their brand, but in reality, that’s just the visual representation of it. It’s so much more than that, and you honed in on that and it’s the emotion that those visual representations evoke in each of us.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. And I think that’s exactly the point. It’s that the visual evokes that emotion. So the visual is what we remember, it’s the trigger, it’s the association. Because if you think back to caveman days, we were walking around and we needed to quickly assess whether or not the other human that we ran into was a friend or a foe. Did we need to get ready to fight or run away, or were we about to go hunting together or whatever, whatever cavemen buddies did. I’m not sure exactly. But that fight or flight or stick around response is part of our brains that didn’t go away as we evolved. It just got other stuff layered onto it. And our natural association is to associate something that we see with some way that we’re supposed to feel. So if you think about your brand and the visual components of it, we need to create a face for these companies that, you know, our organizations or our client’s organizations, that they’re going to recognize, that’s going to trigger that recognition as much as a face would trigger recognition for another human. Because to some extent, a brand is a proxy for a human being.
Elizabeth Earin: I think that’s a great point. In the absence of these human touch points, which we sometimes have when we’re interacting with brands, because we may only be seeing the logo or we may only be shopping online. In the absence of that human touch, the brand becomes the person that we identify with, and that’s — the brand is who we end up holding accountable.
Steve Robinson: It seems like every week, there’s a new study about how decision-makers, buyers on the B2B side and consumers on the consumer side dread picking up the phone and talking to someone or visiting a store. And they just want to take care of things on their own, self service, online, and not have to deal with a human being. Well, that human being is what we would end up associating all those warm fuzzy feelings towards. So now, I think you nailed it. In the absence of that human being, we have to create something else: Visual, experiential, through colors, typography, fonts, logos, other images, that we can latch on to and then figure out how to associate the feelings and trust and appreciation that would come on the other side of a human interaction.
Elizabeth Earin: So let me ask you this: What happens when a brand falls short of that? What happens when you don’t deliver that consistent experience that the customer has come to expect?
Steve Robinson: I think it’s all about that consistency there, right? There have been some interesting research along those lines about what happens when we hit a hiccup in the consistency and the experience that we’re getting. And the phrase that gets used is called “cognitive dissonance.” So if you think about it, I’m a rat and I go up to the bar, I hit the bar, I get a pellet. I’m a rat, I go up to the bar, I get the pellet. And I do this over and over again. Then I go up to the bar and I don’t get a pellet. Well, that one experience is going to stick out like a sore thumb compared to all of those other experiences where I went up to the bar and got a pellet, because it’s in contrast, it’s in dissonance of the previous experiences. That doesn’t have to be that overt. It can be in very, very subtle ways. Where I’m used to seeing the right colors and the right topography along with this particular logo. And the moment I don’t, then all the sudden, I start to question. “Wait, is this the same place? Is this the right place? Is this authentic? Is it real?” And I do that in a very subconscious way. But the same thing is true on the experience end of it, where if I’m used to walking into Costco and approaching a Costco customer service person, they approach me with a smile and a warm friendly hello and that’s what I’m used to. When I walk up to the counter and I get somebody who has had a really bad day, that’s going to stick out like a sore thumb and that’s going to really taint my impression of that brand.
Elizabeth Earin: And I think it’s something that you know we can sit here and talk about the logo looks different, then you’ve got this breakdown, and we can talk about if the customer service that you’ve come to expect isn’t there. We’ve got this breakdown. But I think there’s another side of it to that this occurs, and that’s something that I’ve seen happen. I have experienced it myself in the past with past companies. There’s this new marketing thing that everyone else is doing, and companies feel like they have to be on the cutting edge. So you know what, everyone’s talking about Snapchat. Let’s pop on Snapchat and let’s start doing that. If that is not in line with who your brand is, then all you’re creating this experience that, again, is that break down from what they expect to what you’re trying to deliver. And what does that do for the brand? I mean, fand
Steve Robinson: Yeah, that’s a great point. I think it comes up in other places, too. A lot of brands, when they first start doing content marketing, they realize, “Wait, this is a lot of work to go and create all this content. Can’t we just outsource this?” Answer is yes, but if you want it done in a way that’s authentic with your brand, it’s going to cost a fair amount of money. You can’t just hire somebody to throw up 500-word blog posts on your behalf and expect them to resonate with your brand and not introduce some of that cognitive dissonance. “Wait, they’re talking in a very pompous way in this blog post. This isn’t the brand that I have come to know!” Or, “These guys sound like idiots.” You have to be very careful when you introduce a new medium that you’re doing it in a way that is in line with your brand. I think that’s a good point.
So how do you understand what is and isn’t in line? What’s the first step there?
Elizabeth Earin: You have to identify what your brand is. And to do that, there’s two aspects you have to look at. I think you have got to look at what your company, what you hold to be true, what your values are, what you want your brand to be. But you have to take a step back and you have to look at, at what the perception of your brand is from your customers and what does that brand gap look like. Because until you understand where you are now and where your customers are, it’s hard to start moving forward and being able to either address that and stay down the right path or to address it and try and close that gap between those different perceptions.
Steve Robinson: So it’s a research component right?
Elizabeth Earin: Definitely, yes.
Steve Robinson: And I think that over the years, I know we’ve kind of developed some methods for those research, a lot of folks do it a little bit differently. Before we get into our process and how we go about researching it, though, I think we should take a quick break and we should figure out how to make the world a better place. How does that sound?
Elizabeth Earin: Sounds great. Before we continue, I’d like to take a quick moment to ask you iterative marketers a small but meaningful favor. We don’t have sponsors for this podcast. Instead of asking you to get a free digital scale or enter some code for 10% off your website, we ask that you give a few dollars to a charity that’s important to one of our own. This week’s charitable cause was sent in by Hector Sunol of Cyzerg in Miami, Florida. Hector asks that you make a contribution to FIRST, an organization dedicated to inspiring young people to be science and technology leaders. Your donation will go towards engaging kids in kindergarten through high school in exciting mentor-based research and robotics programs that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership. Learn more at firstinspires.org or visit the link in the show notes.
Steve Robinson: Welcome back! Okay, so before the break, we talked about what a brand means, what it is, why it’s important, then we started to get into, “Well, okay, how do you figure it out?” And I know here at Brilliant Metrics, we’ve developed a process that’s a bit unique to us, but there’s lots of ways you can go about this. You can hire a market research firm, you can do surveys informal, you can interview your customers, your clients. The important thing is to do the research and reach out and talk to others to find out what they think of your brand from the outside. Our process is what we call a brand vector. And the basics of a brand vector is it’s a survey that gets sent out to your customers. And ideally, you send it out to those people who aren’t customers, those near-misses, those folks that came in through sales process and never came out as a client or customer. Because those are the people that haven’t had a chance to be brainwashed by your customer service and the work that you are doing. All they can see is what they knew before they came into the sales process and their experience interacting with sales, which is really the place where you’re pushing and projecting the most at the front of the organization. So we get those folks in, we send the survey, we ask them to rate where do they see the organization sitting on a spectrum of two extremes. The extremes are going to be different depending on your industry and where you stand, but they are either attributes of the service or product that you’re offering or they are feelings that you might evoke in that individual. So, “Are we buttoned up and stodgy or are we totally loose and freestyle and wearing shorts to work,” right? “Do we feel like we are authoritative or like we are all learning together?” You set up these different believable extremes and spectrums and ask people to rate your brand on that line. Where do you sit? Which extreme are you closer to? How close are you to it? And then you run that same survey that you ran with your clients and your near misses, you run it internally with your employees because they’re the ones that need to be living this in the front line. And then separately you run it with your leadership team, because you’d be surprised how often a leadership team will put a dot way off to the right and then the employees, the clients and the prospects are all kind of in the middle.
Elizabeth Earin: I really like how you are talking about — you’re talking specifically to your leadership team, you’re talking to your employees, and then you’re talking to those outside the organization. And I think that’s key because I’ve experienced in my own brand audits that I’ve done in the past that there is — very rarely have I ever seen it all align perfectly. There is some sort of break down there in what’s being communicated and what someone feels is true to the brand. And so I really like that the brand vector survey addresses all of those.
The other thing that I really love about the brand vector survey, and I haven’t — I’ve seen bits and pieces of this in other versions of brand research. But I really like that we use those two sides of the spectrum, because it’s easy to sit here and say that we want to be one specific way. We want to be fun but where are we on that fun spectrum? Fun can go a lot of different ways. So by giving the two different extremes you can kind of see how that balances out so that you’re not all off on one corner. It helps to put it in perspective. I had done a brand discovery with a previous company that I had worked for and they used a really cool format too, where it was almost like a red light, green light, yellow light. It was like, if we are in the green section, we are good. If we are in the yellow section, it’s getting a little iffy if we’re here. And then if we were in the red section, you are totally off brand. And again, it kind of put that into terms, so each person could internalize that and take that and it helped to give them kind of that scope of what was acceptable to be on brand or to be off brand.
Steve Robinson: Yeah, and I think the key is it’s just to document it. It’s to research and get it documented and then take that information and then use it to produce a clear and uniform understanding of your brand internally and externally so that you can level that across the organization. That kind of brings us to the next step here. And that is, once you’ve done the research, now how do you communicate this out? Because if your brand document sits in a drawer, it doesn’t do anybody any good. So how do you package it and then how do you get it out to the team?
Elizabeth Earin: And I think those are two separate things that we want to look at. So let’s look at packaging first.
Steve Robinson: Okay.
Elizabeth Earin: Because like we spoke to earlier, a lot of people consider their brand to be their logo, their typeface, the colors that they’re using, the position of their logo on specific ad creative. And that’s great, but that’s just one component of your brand. And so you’ve got kind of your style guide, and that’s really important to have, but we have to add in that that emotional portion of it. And we use, on our side, something called a brand manifesto. And really, it’s a document that just kind of defines and outlines the emotional components of the brand. So we’re combining identity – so the look of our brand, the visual elements, and the guidelines for using those across the platforms, with the personality of our brand, which is how our brand makes someone feel. And a lot of times, this is through voice and through tone. And that’s probably its own podcast on itself. But in addition to that, there’s this third component to adding to your style guide And your brand manifesto of identity and personality, and that’s authenticity. And it’s making sure that what it is that your brand stands for is consistent across the board and that it’s permeating every touch point that your customer is coming in touch — coming in contact with along every level of the organization. And the only way that you can make that happen, the only way that you can ensure that every single customer, no matter if they’ve stopped to talk to the janitor who’s picking up trash or they run into the CEO in the hallway, the only way to make sure that that they’re getting that consistent brand feeling is to communicate that brand out to your organization. And unfortunately, I think this is where a lot of companies fall short.
Steve Robinson: So, let me make sure that I got this straight. So you have two components to any good brand guide, and the first part is the visual component. This is the basics that everybody probably has somewhere, probably in a drawer somewhere, of this is how we use our logo, these are our corporate colors, this is our font stack, this is maybe some vocabulary that we use, maybe some tone to our writing. And then those are the cues, the visuals, the experience that, then, we associate with the brand promise or what we fulfill. And then the other component of that is the fulfillment part. How do we fulfill on the brand? And that’s the values, that’s the tone and actions and the way that we act that fulfills on the brand promise that we try to set up with the visual cues. Is that right?
Elizabeth Earin: That is correct.
Steve Robinson: Okay. And then the next trick is to get that out to the organization. And I know that, on projects that I’ve worked with, we’ve gone as far as to create posters out of that. We create little cards that you carry in your wallet and then distribute those to the team. Big events to kind of unroll the brand and make sure that everybody is rara with it. But I think the most important component is really getting leadership behind it and getting them acting out this brand when they’re communicating with everybody else within the organization. And to do that, you have to get buy-in from the entire organization at the beginning of the process as well as, then, communicate it back out at the end of the process. At least that’s been my experience.
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah. And if I didn’t know better, I would say we worked at the same company, because I’ve been to those rara brand kickoffs, I have carried the little piece of paper in my pocket. And we actually had floor clings as you walk down the employee hallway, to the floor, that also reinforced our brand standards. And those are all great, and those are great at getting it out there. Where I think it — for that — let me back up a second. For that to happen, you have to document your brand and share it with organization, and that’s a great. So I think that’s hurdle number one: Document your brand and share it with the organization. But I think it needs to go a step further. And again, where I think a lot of companies fall down is they have the big rara. “Here’s our new brand! You guys are going to reinforce it in every moment of truth you have with the customer, and go out there and have a great day!” But then a month later, no one’s talking about it anymore. And for it to really permeate the culture, it’s got to be something that’s consistent from, again, the top, the highest position in the company, the CEO, down to someone who’s may be working part-time two days a week and barely has any contact with a customer or a client at all. Every single person needs to understand that, and the only way that that can happen and feel authentic is if it’s something that permeates the entire brand or the entire company and is reinforced consistently.
Steve Robinson: Yeah, and that consistency is key. So it’s got to come inside. It’s also has to be the same because it is pushed out, because if you are producing collateral or media commercials, social media, whatever, that’s going out that isn’t in line with the same brand that you’re trying to reinforce internally, then you create that cognitive dissonance within your own ranks which really can mess things up within a company.
I think we’ve done a pretty good job of talking about this and covered a lot of ground today. I’m sure we’re going to cover a lot more ground in future podcasts on brand, but I think now is probably a good time to call this a wrap. What are we talking about next week?
Elizabeth Earin: I believe that next week is the Discovery of Your Personas.
Steve Robinson: Oh! I look forward to that. So, until next week, everyone have a great time and enjoy applying some Iterative Marketing at your organization.
Elizabeth Earin: Talk to you soon.
Steve Robinson: All right, bye!
The Iterative Marketing Podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste. Our producer is Heather Ohlman with transcription assistance from Emily Bechtel. Our music is by SeaStock Audio, Music Production and Sound Design. You can check them out at seastockaudio.com. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on YouTube and/or your favorite podcast directory. Visit iterativemarketing.net for more Iterative Marketing goodness. We will see you next week. Until then onward and upward!