On today’s show we talk with Jake Dold from Stratus Dental Group on the importance of maintaining brand consistency everywhere your customers can find you, both online and offline.
Read the transcript:
Jake, how are you doing today?
I’m doing great. Excited to be here with you today.
Cool, thanks. So we are planning to talk about what we’ve decided. We were looking at calling it just brand consistency. Now I guess we’re going to call it cross channel brand consistency, which sounds pretty technical and cool, I think.
But there’s a lot of different ways we could tackle this, right? We’re going to be talking about the different mediums in which you represent your brand, how your brand might vary or should vary or should not vary across those different mediums. But let’s just start with step one, and talk about why– if you had to give it to sentence speech on– that’s not much of a speech, but you had to tell me in two sentences why brand consistency is important, how would you kind of sum up why that’s something even worth talking about?
Brand consistency is important because you want to make sure that your customers know what to expect every time they interact with your business and you. And so, a lot of times, what we find is that there’s this inconsistency, meaning in one medium you have different colors or maybe a different tone of voice that you’re using. And in another medium, say the website, it’s not the same.
And when your customers come to you, they don’t know what, necessarily, that experience is going to be like, especially when there’s differing points on those different platforms. Ultimately, that experience they have with you in your business, interacting with you or your team members, that’s really the embodiment of your brand. And if your other branding practices, or your other branding efforts, don’t exemplify that, then you’re creating this inconsistency, and it really just lacks professionalism.
I really like to talk about experience as a facet of that, because when I say the word brand, I think, like a lot of people, the first thing that pops into my mind in a series of things is always like the visual representation. But as you pointed out, the experience is– I mean the visual representation is a kind of experience. And then the experience also extends into inside of your brick and mortar location, if you have one. For instance, how you’re treated by staff, and so forth like that.
Yeah, absolutely. I think step number one with branding is identifying your logo and your colors your taglines, but that’s just the very base. That’s the foundation. Once you’ve done that, there’s so much more that goes into what a brand is, going all the way down into the culture of your business. So how your employees are interacting in front of and when they’re behind closed doors. That all impacts your brand.
So we’re going to spend most of today’s podcast talking about the reasons and the ways that you can and should keep your brand consistent, but let’s ask a one-off question real quick. Are there any times when you might want to deviate from your brand? Or can we just write that off entirely?
Yeah, I would definitely write that off entirely. One of the things that I think is important for you to understand is that there are times for you to change slightly the way that your brand is presented, but it’s never OK to switch completely who you are. So I want us to think about our brand as being a person. You can even pick yourself just for this example to make it easier.
When I go to present myself in different situations, I’m going to, often, present myself in different ways, but I’m still the same person. And your brand should be the same. If I go in to apply for a job, I’m going to be a bit more professional than I would be at home while I’m entertaining friends or family, but still on that same person. And so it’s OK for you to change the way that you’re communicating, as long as the roots of who you are or what your brand is is still being presented.
That does make perfect sense. I noticed, since you told me to think about myself, I was trying to think about the way as I am different, as you point, out at work, or at home, or if I get pulled over by an officer, I’m suddenly much more polite, or something like that. Whatever it could be, but yeah there’s something that is innate to me, or to my brand you could say, that doesn’t change. But you’re also talking about these times when there are shades of the same brand. So maybe we can use that as our segue into the way that these similar things can be applied slightly differently.
So for instance, let’s say you’re a company and you decided to run a campaign. You’re going to advertise anything at all for this example, but you’ve decided that you’re going to run it in the news print, social media, and then it’s going to have a presence on your website. Could you just talk a little bit about the way that those three elements might look the same, and how they might be shaded differently but still be consistent?
So to answer the question, I want to give an example here. We’ll actually use a shaved ice company. Let’s say they have several shaved ice shacks that they just put up for the summertime all around the city, and they want to promote this. And so we have the newspaper, we have the website, and we have social media.
So for the newspaper, we’re going to really want to make sure that we’re promoting in a way that is applicable for, or appropriate for, this medium. In this case, that’s oftentimes a coupon. And think back to the example I gave about your person being a– you are a brand, and you may present yourself differently in different situations. Well in a newspaper, it’s a little bit more of a formal setting than in social media, for example. And so you might have a little bit more body copy, some more text in the print ad, you’re going to have those coupons, and it’s not going to be as playful.
On the other hand, you go to social media, and instead of putting all this copy in it, you’re going to use a lot more imagery. You’re going to be taking pictures of people enjoying their shaved ice near the shack or near the lake that the shack’s close to, things like that. And so it’ll be a little bit more playful and fun and engaging. And then the website, in this case, would probably be a little bit of a combination of both, where you’re able to see both situations, a little bit playful and you have some ability to read into what is offered there at the shack and things like that.
That makes sense, and I can see that these things working together is going to be able to give a more– a broader but consistent experience. But there’s going to be something visual elements that are going to be the same too. Like you were talking earlier about the logo, and your brand’s style, and colors and all those things that come to represent you visually. They’re going to be present in all of these in the same way, right?
Absolutely. Earlier I said that the logo, and the colors, the tagline, those are all the foundational elements, and there’s a reason for that. They should be found in everything that you do. Now there are some situations where that’s not going to be the case, but those are exceptions to the rule.
For example, you may have an ad in the newspaper that’s so small that you might not be able to include some of those elements, or it might be black and white. But in that case, you’re finding ways to still tie-in elements of your brand so that when someone sees that ad, and then they go on to social media, they’re going to be able to draw that line, draw that connection, immediately and know right off the bat this is the same shack. There should be no chance for confusion between your ice shack and the competitor’s ice shack.
So one of the things you’re talking about is the variances and the limitations of the particular mediums. Something that comes to mind is, I was working on a digital ad recently where the campaign was consistent with the ad and vice versa, but the problem was that the dimensions of this particular digital ad were such that it cut off most of the picture. So you were showing people that were familiar to the campaign, but their heads were all cut off. And I was thinking, well this not only kind of skews the message a little bit, but it also delivers a different experience. So it’s the right idea, but it’s maybe not– it’s not going to perform as well on there, so maybe you want to borrow from other aspects of the same brand figure.
Yes, so an example of this is Jiffy Lube. They have what they call the Jiffy Lube wave, and that’s at the bottom of almost all of their marketing. And you can actually pull in that element. And it’s amazing that, there may be instances where you’re not able to use your logo or something to that effect. And all you have to do is pull in that wave, and all the sudden, there’s instant brand recognition an association.
And so you’re able to leave out certain pieces of what you would typically have in all of your advertising. Another example would be a tagline. Ideally you’d love to have that tagline in all of your advertising, but ultimately, sometimes it’s going to be too small– your space that you have to work with is going to be too small to have that tagline on there, and so you need make sure that you’re able to pull in enough elements from your branding, that foundation, that it’s still recognizable as your brand.
You know, another thing that comes to mind with that too that falls in the same line, is I’m thinking back to say was 2008 or 2009 or so. You remember that iPad, or iPod commercial, that was just like a solid, I think, white background, and they had the silhouettes of people dancing, listening to their iPods. And everything looked the same no matter where you were. Like if it was selling Apple, you had that kind of imagery. And you didn’t even have to– you just had to see that format, that visual format.
That silhouette with headphones coming down from the ears of the people dancing.
Yeah, it wasn’t even a logo, but it was part and parcel of their style, because it was minimal, and there were other elements too that I probably wouldn’t have to think about, honestly, but they were ingrained in me.
Yeah, absolutely. One thing, though, I would caution as we have people listening to this that may be small business owners, Apple was able to do that because they have such a strong brand. So just be careful. If you think that you’re at a place where you can be pulling in those elements and ignoring some of the other pieces that are foundational, you have to be careful.
Those big corporations have a lot of money to be able to support that. Apple ran a lot of TV spots and internet spots and everything to make that image resonate with you and to stick in your mind so that even now, we remember. A lot of times these smaller businesses, they simply don’t have the budget to be able to get to that same point. And so it’s more important for small business owners to remember to pull in as much of their brand foundational elements as possible.
That’s a really good point, too. And if the brand isn’t established with– or if they are established with those foundational aspects, it might almost look more like they’re rebranding dependent on– excuse me, depending on the size of the brand at that time. So that could really run afoul.
One of the things that we had talked about prior to recording that I think is a good counterpoint to this, though, is we were talking about McDonald’s. And this is a– I mean, McDonald’s is always one of those brands that people are talking about. They can do pretty much anything successfully, it seams.
You talked about an example where they kind of misinterpreted their brand, and you had an example of a specific campaign that they ran. Maybe we can talk about that as an example to see just how this problem can affect anyone, and they’re taking a chance with any sort of branding consistency. Do you remember their campaign I’m talking–
Yeah, absolutely. So it was a couple years ago. I was driving to work, and I came across this big billboard that McDonald’s had just put up, and it said, “foodies welcome”. And it had a picture of a hamburger that you knew would never look like that when you bought it from McDonald’s.
And we live in the Portland area, and food is a really big deal around here. And if you call yourself a foodie, which I don’t classify myself as a foodie, but those people that I know the classify themselves as foodies, it’s definitely a very unique subset of people who are very particular about the food they eat. And they would never go to McDonald’s to eat a hamburger thinking that it was a great experience. And so “foodies welcome” really is just missing the mark, in that case. Now if McDonald’s was trying to do it with some sense of sarcasm– I’m not really sure, but I think it wasn’t well received, in that case.
OK so let’s really whittle this down a little bit, because I think we can reverse engineer the issue and have it apply to other people too. So I saw a picture of one of these billboards, I don’t quite remember it from my own experience. But it looked, in the picture at least, consistent with a lot of their other stuff. It’s an enormous hamburger, as you said. I think I remember I was just on a level plane, just facing the side. You’ve got big juicy patties, and I won’t get into describing the hamburger too much, but it looked consistent–
Make me a little bit hungry.
Yeah, it is almost lunch time. But you had this focus on the hamburger, and then it’s just a very simple large block text, and then maybe like a smaller golden arches or something like that. I mean that sounds a lot like the McDonald’s brand, so are you saying that just those two words and the concept that was attached to that was enough to completely deviate from their brand consistency?
Yeah, absolutely. They missed the mark on who their audience was. And you can go online and find tons of examples of businesses who have missed the mark with their brand. And they’ve done it in so many different ways. In this case, it was audience.
One of my big calls to action for businesses is that honesty is the best way. And so sometimes things happen in businesses where they’re ashamed of some action that happened, maybe it’s by an employee or some choice they’ve made, and they’ve missed the mark. And sometimes they’re tempted to go ahead and post something online or something that’s more of an excuse, but not addressing the situation head on with complete honesty. And that’s one big way that someone can definitely miss brand themselves.
And even though they have the colors, and the logo, and everything involved in there, they’re really missing the mark, because they haven’t hit the honesty. Or in the case of McDonald’s, they didn’t do– they didn’t target the right audience. And so it’s important to make sure that you have all the elements of your brand in mind when you put together an advertising piece.
So are these kinds of elements of your brand experience, are they things that can be taught to your staff and employees, or do you have to hire them in?
I’m really glad you asked that question, because what it does is it allows us to talk about a point that I really was hoping to get into, which is culture. Culture is a really important part of your brand. And a lot of times, business owners end up trying to separate the two.
Because for example, they’re very factory driven. They want to make things happen as quickly as possible and as effectively and efficiently as possible at their team level, and so it’s all about, let’s just go, go, go, go, go. And then on the other hand, they have their audience, their patient or patient base– I’m refer back to dentistry, which I’m in all the time– but their customer base, they want to have a little bit more of a lighter mood or approach.
Maybe in the case of the shaved ice shack, they’re trying to be a little bit more playful. But if you’re trying to make sure that your workers and your team are all about being efficient and getting things done as quickly as possible, there’s a misalignment there. And it’s going to be really difficult for your team to represent your brand effectively if they don’t feel that brand in their own lives working with you.
So then, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do you build your brand around the people that you started the company with, or do you try and continue to hire in that same way? Or can it work the opposite way?
Ultimately, it comes down to leadership. You should be the embodiment of your brand as a business leader. So that business owner should come in and say, look this is my brand. I’m going to run the business the same way that I would like to have my brand represented. And then I’m going to hire people in, and train them with that brand. And ideally, there should be a match.
You can’t take someone who’s a complete opposite of your brand and hope to train them to function in the same way that you want your brand represented. But on the other hand, you may have a brand that’s so unique that you can’t find people to work that same way. And so it’s important to find people that have that middle ground, and that are teachable. So I don’t think there is a chicken or egg situation here, it’s a combination. It’s pushing the egg and the chicken together into one.
That’s quite an omelette you’ve got there.
So as the leader of a small business, or any business for that matter, you’ve decided on your leadership style and how that’s going to reflect in your brand. But let’s say that you haven’t really thought too much about your brand in the past, or maybe you’re ready for a rebrand of some sort, or whatever it is, and you just don’t have those pieces laid out just yet. What’s some advice that you could give on how to actually turn those concepts and ideals and practices that you want to represent you into something that might become an advertisement, or campaign, or a repeatable brand element?
So if you’ve been in business for a long time, something that I want you to understand is that it’s OK for you to make the change now. If you’ve found that your branding just isn’t what you want to be, don’t worry. I deal with this all the time as I work with dentists every day. And oftentimes we get a new practice on board with us, and their brand just isn’t working for them.
They’re finding that the number of patients that they’re seeing on a regular basis is pretty low. They’re having a hard time with their reputation. People sometimes don’t even understand that they’re a dental practice. And so we take and we’ll redo their branding.
We may change their name, change their logo, colors, all of that. And we’ve seen an amazing results right off the bat where people, now they’re able to instantly understand that that’s a dental practice and not some just other place of business. They start seeing immediate new patients coming in. And so it’s OK to make the change now, as long as you’re willing to do.
Now stepping away from that and answering your question a little bit more directly is, one of the biggest mistakes that I see people do it is that they pick their brand, how they want that represented, some of those foundational elements, based off of their own personal preferences. If I’m a very wealthy elegant person, I might like my brand to reflect kind of that Rolex style or Jaguar, but maybe the customers that I’m looking to work with, they’re not in that same pay range. And in that case– and by the way, I’m not in that Rolex pay range, if anyone was wondering. But they may be in a much lower pay– a much lower economic environment, and so you will have to adjust to what they need.
And one of the best way is that I’ve found to do that is to actually identify, again, one person. Pick who your audience is by one person. You even give them a name, so let’s get going for example here. You can say my ideal customer, her name’s Morgan, and she’s 32 years old. She’s married. She has two small kids.
She values convenience over the experience that she could have at whatever, maybe it’s the going out for ice cream, she values the convenience of it rather than having that amazing experience. Her own health and the health of her family are one of the most important things to her. She has a household income of $75,000. And you go on and on and on, and really identify exactly who that customer is for you.
Then once you’ve identified that person, you stop and you say, now what would appeal to that person? What would resonate? What branding elements would resonate with Morgan? And all the sudden, you find that you’re in this new place.
All the sudden, you’re looking at it from a completely different set of eyes. Rather than looking for that flashy, or that the class look from Rolex, and you start looking at things that are a little bit more colorful, and vibrant, and fresh, and clean. And so you need to make sure that you’re identifying who that perfect customer is, and what messaging and imagery would resonate most with them, not what appeals to you.
I have to agree with you twice on this. One is that I’ve also– well, more than twice, but two I want to hit on specifically. I’ve also had to deal with sometimes people are– they have a hard time divorcing what they think looks great from what actually works.
And so sometimes their concept of what, for instance, a good looking website is. Really speaks more to them as a customer than the customers that they’re trying to advertise to. And so they make that mistake of advertising to themselves rather than advertising to the people who will actually be potential clients or customers in that way.
So the reason why I brought up that Rolex example several times is because I just recently had an experience with one of our practice owners who, he– we just presented three different directions that we could go, three different creative direction, and one of those had that Rolex appeal to it. And he saw that he said, I love that. I want that.
And then he himself stopped and said, wait a second, that’s me talking. That’s not my audience talking. That’s not my patient base talking. And so we showed on the other two examples, and he found that a third one, which we all agreed was the right direction to go, but ultimately that third one was the one that would really appeal to his audience rather than to him himself.
Well kudos to over that was, because that is exactly what we hope to run into. That’s a great observation to have. One other point I want to agree with you on is that, when you’re talking about mood boards or your target audience, Morgan or whatever you decide to name them, they have their own proclivities, as we’ve already pointed out. So you can find what works well with that demographic, and then make that part of your brand also. That could be part of your visual element, for instance.
So we’re talking about the Rolex appeal, for instance. If we know that’s not going to work, then we can look at, how does that factor into other things? It might be more than just not putting flashy watches on your advertising, for instance.
It could have something to do with the way that your font selections work, and how can you implement that into your logo? Does a color that you use frequently, does that represent excessive wealth, or does it exist express something that’s a little bit closer to Morgan’s taste and living style? And I think that’s exactly the right way to go with this.
I focus, in my role here at Audigy, on what we call conversion rate optimization. And that’s pretty much the same thing. We basically analyze what can or does work, and then we make sure that we use that where it can work. So it makes a lot of sense–
No, you’re completely right on there, right on point with– everything that you have in your branding, to your font, the way that that is presented plays into the messaging, that subliminal messaging, that you’re sending. And that example that I was just saying, the fonts were very important, because there was definitely the Rolex type, very classy fonts, that we’re looking at on the first style that we presented. But on the third one, it was much more of a southern charm feel. And that is what he was really looking for. Think of that fancy lemonade type field of your fonts, and that was what was calling attention to his audience. And we ultimately ended up going that direction.
That’s interesting, because those are two very, very different brand types. And actually, I wouldn’t have guessed so that was the alternative that was presented, so it’s interesting to hear that. So one more thing I want to touch base on, here. Can we talk a little bit about the company’s life cycle and where in that life cycle you’re supposed to be, or you could find the most benefit from really evaluating your brand or fine tuning it?
We see this all the time where, when there’s dire need for new customers, and this typically happens early on in the business’s life, that there’s a much more need for direct response, where you need to get that customer in the doors or calling the business or ordering online immediately. And so your messaging changes a little bit. When you’re a more established business, you’re able to, or you have the luxury, of marketing in a little bit different way.
We can actually use some examples of some of those bigger brands. We used Apple earlier. You can think of Microsoft. There’s so many brands, and what are their calls to action? Can you even think of them? There’s nothing immediately off the top of my mind that I can’t think of that Apple is saying, hey we have this great deal for you, or anything like that.
They’re about branding, about creating this position for their brand in your mind, in the consumer’s mind. And because they’re so, so developed, they don’t have to be focused on bringing in that new customers through direct calls to action. But when you contrast that against a brand new business who has no brand and no customers, the most important thing to them at that point is getting those customers to follow through on the business cycle, getting them to make the purchases or to subscribe to the services or whatever it is that business does. Whatever widget that business creates, they need those customers immediately.
And so your marketing tactics change quite dramatically. Instead, you’re focusing on these direct response– these campaigns that we call direct response. For example, direct mail, so sending out postcards and having offers on there with this call to action, saying come do this, call us now. Those are elements that oftentimes people consider to be universal, that you need to on every marketing piece. But again, going back to those examples of those big brands, oftentimes their calls to action are much more subtle than that, and it’s because of the maturity of that business.
OK, Jake, well, again, this is an episode that we could spent hours working on, but I’m going to let you go soon. Before we do though, I’d like you to help me by wrapping this up into three bullet points that really encapsulate all the things that we talked about today.
Sure, I think number one is understanding what the foundational elements are. So you have your logo, you have your font, you have your colors. Make sure that you’re pulling that consistently to everything that you’re doing.
Number two is your culture, make sure you understand the tie between your culture and your business, your brand. Those are two very important things to be tied together, rather than having them two distinct parts. And number three is think of your audience. Remember who they are. Remember the activity that we went through of Morgan, picking up that one person that embodies your target audience completely, and make your brand appeal or resonate with that person. If you do those three things, I think you’re off to a great start.
Jake, that is some great advice. I’m going to go and do my homework right now too so I can start my brand. Thank you so much for being on Reach. We really appreciate having your expertise
It was great. Thank you.