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How to Brand Your Company in the Age of Covid-19

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Mark Fidelman  00:00

 Hello, everyone. Welcome to the digital brand building podcast. today. I’m very excited to learn about something new, something I don’t know. And that is implementing what they’re calling humanistic marketing practices. And joining me today is Justin Foster and Emily Sikorsky. And today, I have never done this before. But we’re going to talk to two people. And we’re going to try and keep it moving. And we’re going to try and keep it light and, and fun. And as always, I promise you, you’re going to learn something. So with that, Justin, will you go first and introduce your self and give us your background, please?

Justin Foster  05:31

Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having us on. So my name is Justin Foster, as you said, and I am the co founder of Bruton River. My background is actually if I go back to the beginning as in sales, I’m one of the few branding guys that I know that came out of corporate sales. And at times, back in the day when I was starting a couple of agencies and whatnot made me feel insecure and now I’m proud of it. That’s a good place to come from and have been self employed since 2003. And like I said, I’ve owned a couple of agencies then was the co founder of tech startup that went to acquisition and then met Emily six and a half years ago and found a lot of simpatico with life philosophy. The way branding should work. This word term we say being human, in just life and in business, and in 2015 launched route and River.

Mark Fidelman  06:34

Okay, Emily. Yeah,

Emily  06:37

right. So I grew up in the southwest. And I began my career as a journalist, and it’s been eight and a half years as a journalist and publisher here and so really diving into language storytelling, and how other people shape their own narratives. And I’ve always been been an avid reader and obviously a writer. So I was really intrigued by that, and then made a move into PR and worked in PR for a couple of years and learned a little bit more about business strategy. And as well as sort of brought the agency that I worked for up to date with social media, spent a lot of time early on working in blogging and building communities. And then I went out on my own began my own company and started doing social strategy, some ghost writing a little bit of everything. I had quite a toolbox by that point of abilities and and then finally began doing brand strategy for human behavioral research company, global company, and eventually became the the vice president of the brand, brand and marketing there. And that’s where Justin and I, that’s when Justin and I paths crossed. And yeah, as Justin mentioned, when we we met six and a half years ago, there was this split between us is alchemy of understanding how people work, and how they express themselves. And this great injustice and so many businesses that these entrepreneurs are leaders have all this passion, they sacrificed so much for their businesses and for their brands. But they are missing in many cases, the ability to articulate the soul of their brand, what drives them their motivation. And in the process of trying to do that they make it so complicated, just not being maybe well versed at language or not well versed at taking that deep and intrinsic dive inside of themselves to figure out what it really is that drives them. And we felt that that was our gift to be able to bring that simplicity, clarity and articulation to clients. And so remember has been sort of an adventure ever since. We’ve worked with over 200 clients and we’re really passionate about inspiring leaders to go inward to uncover and articulate the soul of the world.

Mark Fidelman  09:00

I know how important it is. But I also know how difficult that is, it’s almost like you’re doing a deep dive, when I liken it to is you’re doing a deep dive on yourself. And it’s really hard to do that without the help of an expert. And I think that’s where you come in. But I’m sure people are still wondering what it is that you’re talking about. So when we talk about humanistic marketing practices, and going deep within to figure out you know, what your brand is and what it represents, what do you mean by that?

Emily  09:31

Great question. Yeah, so it can be It sounds very esoteric, but it’s where this blend of being spiritual and very practical. So what this means is doing that deep dive work to understand what are your core beliefs, what are the deepest things inside of what we term your soil of soul. So those are the things again, that drive you your passions, your disappointments, your hurt, your pain, your dreams, your hopes, we dig into that soil and we help our clients articulate or our clients who go through our course. We help them uncover what those core beliefs are. From there, they also work on their mission. And we don’t mean mission statements, we hate them. We think they’re boring. In most cases, they’re long run on sentences that don’t tell people anything. We define mission as the thing you’re here to do that only you can do. And when you have that mission clear in your mind, it usually has a direct line of sight into the business you’re already working in. But it connects something inside of people so that they have this clarity and their confidence is built. Then we move on and we get into message and messages really not what other people want to hear, which is commonly been how it’s perceived. It’s like finding the right thing to say so everyone loves me. In our practice, it’s about saying what your heart wants to say to the world. And we do this with the way that we encourage people to find it is to sort of remove yourself from that approval mechanism that we all have built in As humans, and think about and get real with what really needs to be said, and this is more important today than ever, to have a message that stands out, you’ve really got to come from within be be human to yourself, and then that authenticity, that genuine feeling conveys to the audience and that’s what breaks through all the noise that exists.

Mark Fidelman  11:25

Okay, and, Justin, do you have anything to add to that?

Justin Foster  11:28

Yeah, just from, you know, the term humanistic marketing is for us was born out of the fact that, well, if you have an intrinsic brand, if you do all the things that Emily just mentioned, to get to this place, well, then how does that change how you show up in the world? So well kinda like to look at inhumane marketing practices first. So one of those is the use of Fudd or fear, uncertainty and doubt, manipulating people’s fears. You know, most most of the most Marketing, persuasive marketing tactics that have been used over the last, you know, five or six decades were created by Sigmund Freud’s nephew, who was able to say, hey, if you do these things, you’re going to trigger a psychological response. We view that to be manipulative. Another inhumane thing is to pretend to be something that you’re not. And then certainly there’s the in him, you know, being inhumane to your your culture to your people, to your, your community, your clients. So the idea of humanistic marketing is that it’s it just starts with humans connecting with humans. So we often say this, and this goes back to my sales background is that companies don’t buy anything people do. And certainly, that companies have people that represent the interests of the company, but it ultimately boils down to a human that you’re in relationship with, in in a way that produces the desired behavior. Or the elements that we’re talking about. And this dives into our, our mutual background, Emily more than me, but a mutual background in human human behavior. And then just the other two or three, just so that you know what they are, Mark is, is this idea that transparency is a behavior, it’s an action. It’s not the last thing you do. It’s the first thing you do, which changes the rules of PR and significantly, mastering storytelling. Being a master storyteller as a brand is humanistic marketing. Because we are wired for story. It’s one of the oldest parts of being a human is the wiring for story. And then finally, just being the courage to own your uniqueness. Our one of our mantras is show the world who you truly are. And that truth is still the best brand strategy. If you can go Be who you truly are, and you’re not. You’re not overly performative. You’re not a construct something magical happens around trust and the spirit and science of branding.

Mark Fidelman  14:07

So what let me ask you something, though that has been kind of on the forefront, especially now, given that we’re in a coven situation and obviously, you know, racism is at the top of the agenda for most politicians and a lot of corporations. What do you recommend companies do in terms of messaging or branding or taking a political stand in this environment in future environments?

Emily  14:38

Yeah, great question. And we recommend that they look to their their beliefs, their standards, first. And what we suggest is that they take those values, beliefs, however, they’ve turned them which in most cases, businesses sort of set them to the side and then operate, but you take them out, you look at them, you look at the way that you’re operating. Already, and then you layer on the current realities, racial injustice of a global pandemic. And you see where your beliefs are being lived out very well very clearly. And then tell stories around that speak to that. Share about that. Again, just to mention that transparency is an action. And so the market wants to hear your audience wants to hear where you stand. So if you are not taking if you’re not telling them then they are wondering, and they’re losing confidence in you as a brand, quite To be blunt. But you don’t want to make a statement that is not based in reality. So that’s what we would suggest.

Mark Fidelman  15:41

Aren’t you aren’t companies worried? That if they do take a stand that they might be canceled?

Justin Foster  15:48

Well, there’s that element but I think there’s a couple of things to it is one is if there’s there’s a lot to be said for sincerity. So Nike is you know, it’s a great example of the sincerity of intention. Like this is something that they’ve talked about for years. So it’s not, it’s not, it’s not new. The second thing is, is if you are, if your, your your brand, your reputation as a brand is around doing the right thing of integrity of doing things that are in the public interest, then you’re good. What what, to your point what will get you is virtue signaling, if it’s a little bit like and this is hyperbole here but a little bit like turning Memorial Day, which is supposed to honor the people that have died for the country, into a mattress sale or a truck sale, that disingenuousness or that, again, that performative nature of that that’s what will get you. It that’s what will get you. The other element of cancel is you can’t really be canceled. For taking a stand around something that is a, let’s call it a universal truth. You’re not going to get canceled for taking a stand against racism, for example, you’re going to have people like Dick’s Sporting Goods did which when they pulled guns out of their stores, you’re going to you’re going to have a bunch of clients, or a bunch of customers that don’t shop with you anymore. But that’s different. And my final thought related to this particular topic, which is one of the favorite things right now that we love to talk about is social pressure is market pressure. Those didn’t used to be the same thing. But now they are and if there’s social pressure in a particular area brand, it behooves a brand to listen to that because the marketplace is telling them what they what they they’re telling them what is important to them.

Mark Fidelman  17:49

So you can have social pressure from a very left wing or right wing group that represents point oh 1% of the population. How do you know as a person And to distinguish the signal through the noise.

Emily  18:05

I think it goes back to, you know, you obviously have to evaluate where that social pressure is coming from. But you also have to evaluate what you truly stand for. I wouldn’t advocate you know, making a statement just to make a statement that’s insincere. And we’ll be critics criticized harshly. But you don’t have to respond to pressure that is not in alignment with who you are as a company.

Mark Fidelman  18:30

Well, let’s, let’s take a specific example. Right, so Uncle Ben’s rice and Aunt Jemima syrup. They both now removed that character, and these were based on positive characters. And so was that the result of social pressure? Is that a result of their beliefs or was that a big big mistake?

Emily  18:55

No, I think that was a update along probably a long overdue update. With the with the progress of the world,

Mark Fidelman  19:06

my mother was a very successful the first black female millionaire, very successful entrepreneur. Right? It was not meant as anything but a compliment to her.

Justin Foster  19:15

Yeah, right. So my take on this mark is leadership leaders are going to make mistakes, because we’ve never been here before, just like a bunch of mistakes have been made with COVID. And the COVID response. It’s making the mistake is part of how you learn. And so you know, if we were advising angioma, we would have said, you know, tell your story, we wouldn’t have said swap it out. So I would say that there’s an element and again, this goes back to your, your root, you kind of your root belief, and then your behavior as a leader is if you are reactive, you’re going to be chasing and you know, social pressure you’re going to be you’re going to constantly be reacting to it. As opposed to doing like Marc Benioff and Salesforce has done where he just comes out and says, This is what we believe in, or Dan price with gravity payments, who has become an advocate for, you know, an advocate for dealing with income disparity between, you know, executives and employees, it was those guys, they are, they are not responding to something and then trying to figure out a way to placate an audience, they are just living what they believe. If you’re a leader that hasn’t done that work, you’re going to make some mistakes, you’re gonna make you’re gonna make some mistakes. And I think that’s all part of the process. The other example here is what’s happening with the Washington NFL team. Yeah, you know that. Yeah. And and that’s a that’s a another situation where market pressure in social pressure is the same thing because FedEx and Nike basically told us not You need to take care of this. Now that is not out of character for Nike or FedEx to take stands like that they have done that their entire brand existence. It’s just more obvious now when it’s something that is extra sensitive.

Mark Fidelman  21:18

But I I’m not gonna belabor this because I think you guys know a very good job of of answering this because I know this is on everyone’s mind cuz I hear it all the time. But is it current market pressure? Is it because of a very heightened sense of racism at this point, because of, you know, what’s transpired? Or do you think it’s a long term decision? That is the right one?

Justin Foster  21:45

Which one

Mark Fidelman  21:46

spot just the Redskins changing URL?

Justin Foster  21:48

Yeah, I think it’s, I mean, it goes back to something that Doug Williams said years ago about it, you know, Super Bowl winning quarterback that played for them. He said, it’s, it’s a matter of decency.

Emily  21:58

And, yeah, this isn’t a new issue this is

Justin Foster  22:00

Yeah, this has been going on for a long time, there just wasn’t enough pressure because there wasn’t enough. The social pressure was not enough to get Snyder to do anything about it. When FedEx his partner has caught, you know, one of the majority or minority owners, Fred Smith in the Washington team, you know, they when they started talking about like, Hey, we’re not gonna we’re not gonna be behind this anymore. And I think I’m gonna just gonna play off Mark something that Emily said a minute ago. We have to leave room for evolution. No one, for example, you go back 30 years ago, how many companies had a had a benefits available to same sex relationships? Didn’t it just wasn’t a thing or how many you know, you go back and so there has to be room. And this was what we talked about. In between the two. The two extremes that you mentioned is that there is that if you’re living your brand, according to your values, there is no left wing or right wing. There’s just The right thing to do based off of what you believe in. And so what we teach our clients to do is most of the time just transcend the ideological discussions, because most of them are sort of binary and temporary and kind of useless. You have to know who you are and what you believe in. And then you can advance from there. That’s the starting point.

Mark Fidelman  23:21

It just seems like chick fil a right. They had those values for the longest time and and now they seem to be transforming themselves based on social and market pressure. And yeah, it’s interesting to see how that that all works out. I mean, they’re going against their values in original values to placate the marketplace. I don’t even know if it’s a market. Yeah, I think it’s more social, because they were very successful. They would not sound like their business dipped, but it appears to me that they’re bowing to social pressure. I’m just wondering if that’s the way it’s

Justin Foster  23:55

fair. I mean, I don’t know those guys, but I think they’re evolving too. Current realities. There’s, you know, there’s certain realities that it’s similar to NASCAR getting rid of the Confederate battle flag. I mean, that’s a It’s a race. That’s a reality that, that that is a symbol, very symbol of hatred to a large portion of the American population. I think I think too, and this is a, you know, fascinating thing about this, this nuance here, like, where do we go? And I think it starts with what we would ask any leader, especially if you’re like the CEO, or you’re the face of the brand. That is the second question is, how is our company going to respond? The first question is, what do you believe? Do you believe in if you get that part mark, the rest of it is mostly courage and execution? Yep.

Mark Fidelman  24:50

Okay, um, I think we belabor this enough, but I can tell you, it’s on everyone’s mind if you’re

Justin Foster  24:54

Yeah, that’s fine. Thank you for bringing it up.

Mark Fidelman  24:57

All right, so let’s move to you’ve defined Well actually, no, let’s start with how do you define your values? What kind of exercise do people go through in order to figure that out, and I know we can’t lay it all out here, or else you wouldn’t be in business out of people start to think about this.

Emily  25:14

So one of the ways that we suggest that people begin to tackle this is, first of all, just in a very practical sense, this isn’t something that’s done in the seams. So setting aside time dedicated time to dig into it is fantastic. Having somebody help you with that process is even better because as you mentioned at the top mark, it’s incredibly difficult to do on your own. But without all that the or with you know, definitely setting aside time maybe not having a facilitator what you want to do is sit down and do a little bit of an inventory around the idea of what have I always known to be true to me, but was not taught to me, right? So we want to go back to the inherent you the person who existed in the world before the world kind of imposed itself upon you. And sort of digging into some of the the ideals and values that you have held. And I, we recommend that you don’t really try to think of them first as values against story. And the stories that we tell ourselves are really a great place to start. So going back in your memory to maybe childhood or maybe young adulthood, what were the things that you railed against as a teenager? Or what were the things that as a child, maybe in grade school that you got in trouble for a lot of times what we believe can it once it is challenged, that becomes a formative memory. And by looking at and talking through journaling through on your own some of those early stands that you took, there cannot be uncovered some of these core beliefs. So that’s one exercise that we would we would suggest and we walk some of our clients through through that beliefs like defiance, which is one of our core beliefs as a company, love may be revealed, whatever it is, For you, but the idea is to get into the story first and let it tell you what you believe.

Justin Foster  27:06

There’s an interesting mark, there’s an interesting thing that happens when we do this work with a team, like an executive team. So when we work with a company that’s, you know, got more than, you know, like, it’s not a small business, a midsize company, we work we do that we do the branding work as far as this type of stuff with the entire executive team, because everyone’s in branding. And one of the things that we do is we have them do that exercise with a few others that Emily mentioned, and what happens as the commonalities start to pop up. So we don’t know there’s that classic sort of facilitator thing, which is, everybody makes a list of all the values they believe in and then they circle the one that’s most important to them. We go the other way, which is go inward first. And find out what you believe and then express it and we’ve done I don’t know, probably close to 100 hundred and 25 like groups. Root sessions, as we call them, and we all add to things always come out of this one is, is that there’s this tug of release of the light, like, Oh, I didn’t know you believe that, or Wow, look at that everyone on the executive team believes in, believes in respect or, or something like that. The other thing that happens is, in some organizations, this has happened all the time. But in some organizations, when we do that work, somebody resigns. There’s a value misalignment or a belief misalignment that they’re like, I can’t I don’t, you know, there’s something off and that’s why that that leader felt like they couldn’t be there. What that does is it strengthens the culture, where you don’t have like mindedness because that’s, you know, groupthink, but you have these things that we call, we call standards, which is just the way we treat each other inside of the organization. So it’s all fascinating to watch it unfold for a group

Mark Fidelman  28:57

Hmm, okay, and At the end of this exercise, how do they begin to implement these changes?

Emily  29:07

Well, that’s where the standards come in. So at the end of the exercise, we have five core beliefs typically. And then we begin to examine the culture and what already exists, and determine these standards, which are usually manifest as short sentences, maybe three to five words, almost mantras, Mark, that really articulate the culture of the company and the way essentially, they’re living out their beliefs. So, for an exam, as an example, one of our core values is defiance. And the standard for us that we hold ourselves to and we expect of our team is to find the flow and forget the formula. We’re not formulaic, we always want to differentiate ourselves, and we always want to find a new way of doing things. So that is how What we hold ourselves to. So an organization will then come away with this set of five standards. And sometimes there are their sayings that are already being used quite a bit within the culture. And again, it’s more of an archeological dig to really uncover what’s already there, the brand that’s already there, and then just match it up with a bit more intentionality. So that they then those standards can be used both internally and externally to the audience to describe the culture and storytelling and recognition for employees or for for customers. So a lot of times these standards also apply to what a company is looking for in its in its partners and when its clients.

Justin Foster  30:38

And I think that the other thing too, just a little quick win here to point out related to this, like application that you asked about it, Mark is that

30:48

when you

Justin Foster  30:51

are it goes back to our definition of a brand. Our definition of a brand is how other people experience what you believe, and that you could be you personally Your personal brand as a leader or you collectively in the organization, it’s how other people experience what you believe. So when you and we know this, that behaviors are always connected to beliefs, there’s that’s, that’s, you know, science that, that those behaviors that you have as a leader and as the collective behaviors of an organization, they come from somewhere, they don’t just come out of the, you know, atmosphere. And so when you understand these things, then you can really get into how you show up in the world. And that’s for messaging. In particular, though, and when we say messaging, we’re really talking about the language of the brand, or the ontological expression of the brand.

Mark Fidelman  31:41

Okay, and, you know, I kind of liken these things to personal relationships or dating, when somebody has their core values and their beliefs, right. A lot of times it’s not expressed properly or a lot of times, you’ve got to dig it out of people with the brand doesn’t Have that that luxury. So how does the brand then express those values and and what they represent what they believe in to the outside world? Or at least to their customers? So I think that’s what they’re primarily concerned with, or they should be.

Emily  32:13

Definitely, that’s, that’s where storytelling comes in. Well, first of all, I think there’s a, there’s a big kind of Gimme that a lot of brands Miss is just sharing what your values are, you know, take take a month’s worth of content and look at how you can create high value content, whether it’s blog posts, video posts, it’s speaking engagements that really focus on the company’s values and how those beliefs are played out in behaviors. I mean, do that externally with your clients share that in collateral materials. That’s, that’s number one. And then number two would be tell stories around how you lived up to this value. I think a great example of this is Southwest Airlines. They one of their core values. uses love. They of course, they carry that into their external messaging. But they also show that in one of their great examples of this is on their social media feed. During the height of Cova, they they posted a picture of a whole empty airplane except one little tiny head in the back. And the post was about you know, we’re still here to serve, serve you. Even if our plans are mostly empty. In this case, we are taking a healthcare worker to New York to help with the outbreak there. And so they’re demonstrating their love for their customers and how their customers are also giving that love to the world. So there’s so many ways to express this but definitely don’t want to kind of hold those back you want to be forward with your audience on on what your beliefs are.

Justin Foster  33:48

Okay and other is this on social channels is through the press is it across the board? Are things what are the channels, all of them now, each channels gonna have their own application of how that goes through. But we build brand language around conversations because conversations are the crucible that make a brand live or die. You can have a really expensive shiny ad campaign and that the language is off, it doesn’t matter. Or you can have a grassroots campaign with a great language and it works really well. So so when we, when we our starting point is, it kind of depends if they’re b2c or b2b, but let’s take a b2b company. The first people, the first group that we work with on understanding how to use this language is the sales team or the or the or the channel management or whoever is market facing, because they’re the ones that are on the phones on the zooms, you know, someday maybe back in the conference rooms. having those conversations, then there’s certainly a level of integration into websites. So for example, one of the foundational language elements that we have is what’s called a root belief. And that’s the first thing that’s out of your mouth. It’s the first thing that’s on the hero image of your website. It’s in your BIOS on social media. The root belief goes everywhere. And then the second element is then around category and category ownership is a it’s a brand essential in our in our work. Because a category allows you to create a space in consciousness that didn’t exist before, which is an extraordinarily powerful place to be example, Elvis Presley. long dead is still the King of Rock, still the king rock and roll. Well, you ask any musician, anybody who’s the King of Rock, they say Elvis Presley. That’s an example of owning your category. And then the third one, the third thing that starts to get infused is your your differentiators. The the things that you’re that you’re speaking to that to the your audience that are things that make you two truly different. So when you combine, when you look at all the scenarios, we’re okay, we got to get our root belief out there, we got to get our category name out there, and we got to get our differentiators out there, then you get into the sort of omni channel view of what’s the best way to say those things with using the foundational language. And that’s depends on, you know, company to company to company, a lot of it depends on brand voice and the personality of the brand that they that they are.

Mark Fidelman  36:26

Okay, and I guess when you are a company looking at this and looking back at what what you’ve just said, it seems like it’s pretty complicated. Is it extremely hard to go through this process? Or is it easy? Where does it lie in the difficulty spectrum? Because I know a lot of companies don’t do it.

Emily  36:47

Yeah, that’s a good point. A lot of companies don’t I think the perception is it’s very difficult. I think the most difficult thing is deciding to do it and opening up enough to let it be fruitful. But once you’re once you’re involved in it. And then once you can get through some of the deeper dives, it begins to materialize very quickly and become way more solid and tangible and easier. Our our clients, regardless of their size, huge companies, small clients, they tell us afterwards now it’s so much easier to market to know, I always know what to say I have greater confidence, I’m talking about what I do about business about the brand. Once you’ve done that deep work, which tends to be a little bit more challenging, it becomes a lot more viscous to have those conversations when you know the language that you’re using. Is is true, it’s conveying a truth that you hold dear. And it is also differentiated. And that’s what we work towards in these sessions so difficult in the beginning and much easier on the long tail.

Mark Fidelman  37:52

Because like, I could see how individuals that are in the company that are responsible for marketing or social media or even sales if they had a great code of ethics, so to speak, or a code of branding, then they would know how to speak to people and what language to use and the messaging and the storytelling. So instead of inventing it on the fly as to what they heard from their manager, so a very strong point there, and I know Justin, you had something to say, right?

Justin Foster  38:19

Yeah, I was just gonna, I’m just gonna say My apologies for interrupting the, the, the key to this too is the leadership. So what you know, there, it’s going to be hard. It’s heavy lifting, it’s chop wood carry water. It’s a boot camp, it’s already hard. And to quote, Jordan Peterson, life is suffering don’t make it worse. So intrinsic branding is hard. Don’t make it worse. It’s hard work. Here’s what makes it worse. lack of courage is a big one. If If your leadership team is passive, if they are unwilling to be different, unwilling to try new things, it’s, I mean, it’s just, it’s gonna be a struggle, it’s gonna be a struggle to brand this way because you have yet to overcome the insecurity that you’re okay exactly as you are. The second thing that makes it harder for people to for brands to implement is when the entire leadership team has not bought in. So that’s why we don’t just work with the CMO, we work with the entire leadership team to get the brand language, the beliefs, the standards, all the elements of the brand in place first, and everyone has a seat at that table. And if you’ve got this very compartmentalize like, Well, okay, this is a brand thing. So I’m the CFO or the CTO, whatever, I don’t need to be involved. That is going to cause pretty significant friction in the implementation because now it just becomes new language for an ad campaign or something and that’s, that’s unsustainable.

Mark Fidelman  39:53

Yeah, great point. Okay, so we you worked with a lot of companies going through this exercise and making them more human and they’re relating their values to the outside world. What is the payoff?

Emily  40:10

I think the first payoff is that confidence and that consistency that you gain as a brand when everyone is singing from the same song sheet. What happens then is that your brand is consistently differentiated in the market using the same language which then gets them it gets involved in the language of your audience. And so now your brand is taking it. Everyone who touches your brand is beginning to to share that brand in a way that’s super spreadable and ultimately raises the visibility of the brand. So and then on a micro level to having been in the shoes of a CMO or VP of Marketing, when you have to sit down every time for every project and sort of re engineer the messaging or or come up with messaging, it takes a tremendous toll on you. It’s incredibly difficult to execute. And so execution becomes easier, projects flow more smoothly. And ultimately you get differentiation and you get a larger brand position and presence

Justin Foster  41:19

to more to that mark. One is a significantly lower cost per customer acquisition. And a lot of people they think word of mouth is sort of an accident. We think that word of mouth is evidence of a healthy brand. And so if you have to spend money, so the mantra we have for this is pay for retention, not attention. And so CPC or cost per customer per acquisition is a big one. And another one is just and this is come sometimes comes as a surprise as a lower overall marketing budget sometimes, because you think about in a larger company, the marketing budget, how much of that is experimentation. And let’s see what, let’s see what happens or, or your sort of focus, grouping your way to some sort of message. If you know who you are, and you know what to say you got the language, right, and you got the systems in place. It drives a lot of that experience, experimental cost out of marketing. And all of that net then goes back to the bottom line, and also in. And this is true, pretty much every client of ours, in some form has been an increase in leads and sales, which as a former sales guy, that’s the whole point of marketing is leads and sales.

Emily  42:35

And I take one other point here, Mark, two, four times. I think the other benefit that you get if you do this work, particularly now that we’re moving into a very volatile time, things are going to be unpredictable for a while we’re going to be dealing with crisis for quite a while. And so what you get out of it as well is this this solid foundation from which to respond to the changes to the evolutionary Talking about earlier, it gives you the stable base from which to look to and then take action in alignment with the brand so that you don’t have brand fractures down the road when you’re when you’re meeting those challenges.

Mark Fidelman  43:13

Okay, all very good points. It’s been my experience as well. It also infuses the company with this sense of purpose and mission, which I like, you know, because they’re all on the same page. They all know what they represent. And, you know, most people within the organization are bought in or if they’re not, they soon exit. You don’t want people that aren’t bought in anyway. So to wrap things up, I have two final questions. And I ask everybody these questions. The first one is the hottest digital marketing technology that you would recommend people take a look at. And I

Justin Foster  43:50

might, Yeah, mine is sprinkler. I have been impressed with them for a long time as a social media management platform and The things that they’re that they’re doing had some experience with them back in the day in the work they’re doing with like Verizon and how they end up how Verizon was one of the first big big you know, consumer brands to have a like live response to social media posts and sprinkler was instrumental in making that happen.

Mark Fidelman  44:27

Okay, and you know for sprinklers got a lot of social tools to kind of measure brand perceptions that right.

Justin Foster  44:36

Yeah, you have you have the there’s sort of a, you know, the big data aspect of what sprinkler is doing. And I think they’ve evolved over the years to where social media management isn’t really there. Like that’s a commodity like that’s table stakes now, and so they’re they’re shifting seems to be in recent years is around analysis of or curation of data and relationships, like essentially, who is paying attention and what are they responding to? That is deeper than just, you know, eyeballs or clicks.

Mark Fidelman  45:11

Okay, love it. My last question is Who is the most influential person in marketing today and one of you would said Christopher Lochhead. And I don’t know of Christopher Can, can you kind of give us a little bit of a background on him?

Justin Foster  45:26

Yeah, that was my nomination. And you might have your might have your own. Of course, Chris is never met the man but I feel like I know him, Chris, is that one of the co authors have played bigger. And I would compare if Seth Godin is sort of the king of innovation in marketing, then Chris is the king of category design. And his book played bigger and his podcasts have been very, very influential on how we look at branding through from from the lens of essentially that next evolution of positioning, which is category design. And so he’s in my catalog. He’s a rock star. And he’s also very direct. You’re talking about a guy, mark that, if you want, you can tell where he stands. He is unapologetically who he is, as a leader, and that’s another thing I admire about him too, is it he? We like people that, that don’t really pay attention to the line between social and business, just be who you are. And that’s another thing I like about him.

Mark Fidelman  46:29

Okay, Emily, anything to add?

Emily  46:32

Um, I would say, you know, right now, I’m geeking out on Simon Sinek latest book, and I the infinite game, and I think what he’s talking about there is just, I mean, it was published before COVID. But it is it’s going to be the thinking that a lot of brands adopt as they move forward to continue to be relevant in the times that we’re facing. And Simon’s been a huge inspiration for us and for me, personally. So I think between he and Seth, those Seth Godin, I think those two are really still producing daily thought provoking and relevant information that helps all of us as marketers, and branders.

Mark Fidelman  47:11

Wonderful. Okay, so we’re gonna wrap things up. First of all, if you like what you heard today, they have a book coming out called rooting up and working, they get that book.

Emily  47:22

You can get it on Amazon. Okay, and yeah.

Mark Fidelman  47:26

Okay. And then you also have a course. And if you want some private brand coaching, where can they reach you?

Emily  47:33

route and river.com is our website, you’ll be able to check out the course there and also our upcoming events and learn a little bit more about how we work.

Mark Fidelman  47:41

Excellent. That’s also going to be in the show notes, everyone. So if you didn’t catch that, then look in the show notes. But with that, Emily and Justin, really appreciate this conversation. Really appreciate you guys being real with some of the more difficult questions that I was asking about today’s environment. So Yeah, we look forward to catching up with you in six months or a year when all this is over and there’s kind of a new playing field.

Emily  48:08

Yeah, good mark. Yeah, we really enjoyed it.

Justin Foster  48:10

It was fun. Yeah, you are there with sincerity that You’re the way that you ask questions is, it’s It was a fun conversation. So thank you for that.

Mark Fidelman  48:21

My pleasure.


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