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10 min read

How to win with brand

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Paul Campilo gave this talk at the B2B Marketing Festival


As the title suggests, I’m here to tell you how to win with brand. But first, a little about me.

I’m the VP of Brand at Twism. It’s a startup that's currently in stealth mode, which is why you probably haven't heard of it. Gartner hasn't heard of it. Nobody's heard of it. We're a social commerce platform and we help you get more organic word of mouth.

I was formerly the Director of Brand at Typeform. I'm also the creator and host of Meaningful. On the show I talk to conductors, I talk to founders, and I talk to influencers in general about how we can build a meaningful brand. We won a Telly award. I'm also a former social worker and counselor; I did this for 13 years.

About Paul

But today, we're going to talk about brand, and what I share will apply to for-profits, nonprofits, and individual brands. If you want to get more people to buy more stuff from you at a higher price, you're in the right room. Brand is hard, but it's okay; I’m going to try to simplify it and help you learn some things today.

We're not going to talk about best practices because, as Jay Akunzo said, “You can't ‘best practice’ your way to something extraordinary,” and this is the essence of brand – it's about being extraordinary.

We are, however, going to talk about best principles. When I say best principles, I’m just reminding you of what you already know. You know a lot of the things that I'm going to tell you today, and to me, that's good. Maybe the knowledge is just not organized in a way you can implement yet. I'm here to remind you of what's important.

My goal is always simple. It’s the goal of one. Whether I’m working in counseling, a scale-up, or a startup, my goal is to just reach one person. I'm hoping that one person will take one idea and implement it. I'm hoping that that's your goal, too.

What is brand?

Jeff Bezos says, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room.” Marty Neumeier, who's written a few books on brand says, “A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” Seth Godin says it's “a promise.”

But the idea that always sticks with me is the one from the poet Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And that's the point.

Maya Angelou quote

How are you making people feel right now?

What do you want people to feel next?

These are the important questions that you always need to come back to.

The act of branding is positioning

When we talk about branding something, we're really talking about positioning because that's the part you can control. And what are you positioning? You're always positioning your differentiation. I think of differentiation as the sum of two words: different and difference.

Differentiation

When we talk about different we're talking about look and feel, voice and tone, values, personality, behaviors, and how you activate or express yourself. We're basically talking about your identity.

As for difference, it's about how you make people better, how you create better users or customers, how you evolve with your product, how you help your customers to evolve with your product, and how you help them become better people for a better community and a better world. That's your purpose.

So we have our identity and purpose, which we bring together to form a brand.

The benefits of a meaningful brand

There are so many benefits that can come from your activities. You just need to make sure that you're doing these things deliberately. Your product or service should bring functional benefits, of course, but there are also emotional benefits.

There are social benefits that come when you help somebody achieve a certain status. There are self-expressive benefits from helping people stay on brand or express their unique identity. There are societal or collective benefits. There are economic benefits as well, which come from helping people save time and money.

A study on meaningful brands was done in Europe. What they found is that meaningful brands generate significantly higher KPIs, and they outperform the rest of the stock market by 134%.

But really, what makes a meaningful brand are three things: functional, personal, and collective benefits, and these are what the study was based on. What was surprising is that the importance people placed on functional benefits was trending down. Meanwhile, people were becoming more concerned with seeing more personal and collective benefits from these brands.

What makes brands meaningful?

When I spoke to Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, he had this to say:

“I remember there was a conversation we had where somebody said, ‘How can we be the best in the world?’ And one of the women said, ‘How about how can we be the best for the world?’ Now that is a transformational shift. From that moment on, the whole conversation changed. Making a difference – that is important.”

What difference are you making, beyond earning money? This is going to come up over and over again because people care about your brand's purpose.

Your brand lives in other people’s minds. Whatever they think of your company, that’s your brand. Your goal is to get your company, your employees, and the public at large sharing the same story because brands are built from the inside out.

ROI: Return on identity

In branding, the real return on investment comes from your identity. You still want to get more people to buy more stuff or more years at a higher price, which is what a good brand strategist will bring to your organization, but it starts with you.

ROI: Return on identity

Who are you? Do you know? Does everyone share the same idea of who you are?

Why do you exist?

Who do you serve?

What problems do you care about?

What promise are you making?

What are your values?

How do you behave?

What's your unique point of view?

When you can bring the answers to all these questions together, you create a really strong identity. You just have to make sure that you're just being truthful, genuine, and believable. When all those things combine, you’ll generate so much value for your company, it’ll make your head spin.

You have to communicate these things over and over and over again. You might know your brand, but if you're not talking about it with your stakeholders, employees, vendors, and customers, how will they know?

Competition

Let's talk about competition real quick. Competition begins with clutter, which is a huge problem today. There's category clutter, there’s product clutter, there’s feature clutter, there’s media clutter, there’s messaging clutter.

If you look at the evolution of the martech map, in 2011, there were only 150 companies, and now there are nearly 10,000. If you’re in the martech space, this is what you’re up against. You have to make sure that your signal shines through the noise.

Martech through the years

I spoke to David Aaker, the author of 18 books on brand, and he explained how:

“The problem today is that there's too much clutter out there. There's too many media vehicles, and there's information overload. The coping strategy of most people is simply to ignore it. Or, if it does penetrate through their barriers, they counterargue. They're skeptical. So how do you break through that? What breaks through all that clutter and information overload?

“Stories. People will attend to stories.”

Overcoming category clutter

The next problem is category clutter. It’s tricky to find your own space to play in when everyone's copying each other’s design features. Maybe instead of trying to play in the same space as them, you create your own subcategory and focus on playing there.

One way to do that is to figure out your category and then pick a market. For example, you could create a CRM for accountants, a ride-sharing app for the elderly, or forms for goth queens. Just make sure you check your total addressable market before you make any important decisions like that because maybe goth queens aren't the most profitable market.

Pick a market

The second way is to come up with a qualifier and a category. This is what Typeform did with conversational forms and surveys – we put the qualifier in there and created a subcategory. Luxury electric vehicles are another one – Tesla has cornered that subcategory. Keurig did the same thing with its one-cup-at-a-time coffee maker; who needs a whole pot anyway, right?

Qualifier + category

Get out of the way of your own success

The final competitor you have to deal with is yourself. My definition of competition is anything that gets in the way of your success. We have met the enemy, and he is us. I want you to accept who you are, with all your virtues and vices, and lean into your strengths.

Competition

Don't worry about impostor syndrome. Get rid of that and embrace your ignorance because the truth is, you are ignorant, and so am I. Knowing this has served me well because I don't have to pretend I know everything; I can just ask the questions I need to and get the answers.

Ultimately, you should never forget where you came from. When we're hiring, we sometimes forget that. We should make sure that we're affording people the same opportunities that we were given.

The power of word of mouth

There are all kinds of channels out there, but the one channel that brand is concerned about is word of mouth. Word of mouth is the goat (greatest of all time) of all channels because it's free, organic, lasting, and effective, and it spreads. I know it's hard to measure, but that’s okay.

Robert Stephens quote

As Robert Stephens, founder of the Geek Squad said, “advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable,” and you do not want to be unremarkable; you want to be remarkable. So how do you get more word of mouth?

Pop quiz time!

Which of these feelings inspires more word of mouth?

A. “This product is awesome!”

B. “This company is awesome!”

C. “This brand is awesome!”

None of the above. You want to make people think “I am awesome!” When people feel awesome, this is good for your brand. When someone says, “This product is amazing; you should see what it does,” what they really mean is “I'm amazing! You should see what I can do with this.”

Cultivating a transformational mindset

Remember when I was talking about creating better users and helping them evolve with your product? That’s what we’re aiming for here. You have to move out of this transactional mindset of “How much money are we gonna make? How much growth are we going to get?” to a transformational mindset.

I want you to start thinking about customer design. Instead of asking “who's our customer?” ask “who do we want our customers to become?” In addition to creating a vision of the company or the product, you want to create a vision of your customer. In addition to positioning the brand, especially in B2B, you want to position your customers as well.

The transformational part is about what tools you have and helping people evolve with those tools. If you have digital cameras and photo editing tools, remember that what your customers care about is photography. Your job is to help people become the best photographers they can be. Let’s go one step further – you want to help them become artists.

Transformational

So you have your products, and you have all the complementary products that go with them. The key part is creating a compelling context and the highest aspiration for your customers. Can you get your customers featured in your gallery? Can you create a magazine to showcase their art?

Creating meaningful content

Remember that study on meaningful brands I mentioned earlier? It found that 48% of the content provided by brands is not meaningful to consumers. What consumers want from your content is help. If you’re not providing that, your content is not going to be meaningful to them.

Meaningful content

Here's a final word from Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, on how you can make your marketing and content mean something to consumers.

“There's a clear pattern across hundreds of companies that I've interacted with – transactional marketing is not working nearly as well as it did in 2008. It's very clear that people have a different way to buy things, and I think that they care more about a brand, especially in a more considered purchase.

“At the same time, I see most sales leaders, as marketing continues to change, not taking the time to understand the changes. Marketers are doing marketing that they know would never work on themselves. You see that all the time.

“I’ve never bought a product from a trade show. I've never clicked on a banner ad and bought something. I've never downloaded a piece of content on Gartner's website and then got pushed into your CRM and bought something from you.

“Marketers are not leaning into the qualitative data enough. They’re not close enough to the market to feel where it's moving, to feel when things have shifted, to feel the insights, to feel how people at a large scale feel.”

Final thoughts

😇Be genuine.

🤑Stand for something bigger than money.

🧑‍🎨Design better customers.

👂Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen.

🙋Be yourself (everyone else is already taken).

Remember my goal of one? I hope you all got one idea that you can take and help to shape your brand.


Written by:

Paul Campilo

Paul Campilo

VP of Brand, Twism

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How to win with brand