If you’re a marketer and you like podcasts, then the first season of The Brandwagon Interviews might just be the perfect podcast for you. For 10 weeks, we invited 10 special guests from an array of industries onto the set of Brandwagon to talk about all things brand marketing with Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage. From Mailchimp to UM Worldwide and Harpoon Brewery to ProfitWell, we’ve learned a lot from the masterminds behind these amazing brands.
In this post, we’re highlighting the most valuable lessons learned from all the conversations that were featured on The Brandwagon Interviews podcast. Be sure to listen to each episode on your favorite streaming platform and read on for our key takeaways!
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When Dan Kenary, CEO of Harpoon Brewery, and Mark DiCristina, Head of Brand at Mailchimp, dropped by our studio, they both knew what it was like competing in saturated markets. Despite being in different industries, Kenary and DiCristina knew that the best way to stand out amongst the competition was to differentiate their brands.
Harpoon Brewery was one of the first craft breweries on the East Coast. However, it wasn’t long before competition exploded in the craft brewery and microbrewery space. So, how did they differentiate themselves? Kenary explained that the company focused on building a strong brand and connecting with their customers. Even without flashy advertising, this strategy helped the brand cut through the competition. To differentiate themselves further, Harpoon also created a sub-brand called UFO, which helped the business appeal to a new segment and grow in unexpected ways. And today, knowing their brand like the back of their hand, Harpoon manages a house of five distinct brands all under the Harpoon umbrella.
In the early days of Mailchimp, a marketing automation software platform, the company wasn’t the biggest or well-funded fish in the sea by a long shot. DiCristina described how Mailchimp understood they wouldn’t be successful by playing the same game as everyone else. Instead of outspending other companies and competing with them on a dollar for dollar basis, DiCristina said, “ … our approach, which is really a credit to Ben, our CEO and co-founder, was to be as different as we possibly could and use our weakness as a strength.” Ultimately, DiCristina said what ended up helping Mailchimp stand out was their appetite for being weird and playful, and their belief in creating real connections with their customers.
From the experiences of both Kenary and DiCristina, it’s clear that making your brand a key differentiator can help you stand out in markets where everyone is stuck in a similar mold. Let your brand communicate more about your values and trust that you’ll connect with the right folks.
The second lesson we learned was about consistency and why it’s a crucial part of the recipe for creating a strong brand. Veronica Parker-Hahn, SVP of Growth and Innovation at Effie Worldwide, and Dan Kenary of Harpoon had a few words to say about the importance of strategic rigor and remaining consistent.
Parker-Hahn began her career in the advertising industry, and over the past 15 years, she’s worked with major brands like DirecTV, State Farm Insurance, Reebok, and many more. Over the years, she’s learned that creativity is only a fraction of what builds a strong brand. Building a strong brand and creating an effective campaign starts with a deliberate, well-thought-out strategy. In addition to strategic rigor, you need to identify your values, and she emphasized, “ … what your brand stands for should permeate everything you do.”
Kenary also shared similar sentiments about remaining consistent with your brand. At Harpoon, they built the brand under the banner, “Love Beer. Love Life.,” and to this day, they ensure every interaction they have with consumers is consistent with what they’re trying to represent. In Kenary’s mind, if you’re not consistent, your brand loses meaning and people stop paying attention. Whether it’s communicating with someone in customer service or hosting a seasonal festival, every touchpoint with the consumer matters.
So, when thinking about building a stronger brand for your business, remember to always start with a solid strategy. Then, when it comes to executing on that strategy, make sure you understand the audience you want to reach and what makes them tick. Stay super consistent with the values you want to convey, both internally and externally, and you’ll be able to create a well-loved brand with a ton of loyal fans.
“Stay super consistent with the values you want to convey, both internally and externally, and you’ll be able to create a well-loved brand with a ton of loyal fans.”
Speaking of knowing the type of audience you want to reach, it really helps to know your niche inside and out when building your brand. Lauren Fleshman, Co-Founder and CMO of Picky Bars, and Patrick Campbell, CEO of ProfitWell, have discovered the many benefits of appealing to a niche audience.
As a former Nike-sponsored athlete, Lauren Fleshman grew to become an exceptional storyteller. In order to renew sponsorship deals, she recognized the importance of marketing her values, and when she started her own business, she marketed Picky Bars in the energy bar industry leading with the brand’s values. Lauren believes brands should lead with their values because it helps you find out why people like you in the first place. Then, you can lean into your niche and trust your brand will build from there.
One of the ways Lauren dove deep into Picky Bars’ niche was by starting a podcast with her husband called Work, Play, Love, where they chat transparently about all the mess-ups and struggles they’ve encountered running the company so far. Not only do they talk about the business, but they also open up about their relationship and balancing all the chaos of regular day-to-day life, giving their audience an opportunity to have a deeper connection with them and the Picky Bars brand.
At ProfitWell, a subscription software company, Patrick Campbell is appealing to a niche and building an engaged audience for the brand by creating binge-worthy video series. Along with their series Pricing Page Teardown, Subscription 60, The ProfitWell Report and Protect the Hustle, Campbell told Savage that ProfitWell has over 10 distinct shows in the works. Episodic video content has become one of ProfitWell’s primary marketing vehicles because traditional advertising campaigns and written content have become less effective for them over the past few years. Producing shows doesn’t guarantee more conversion, but they’re better at keeping their audience engaged with their brand, rather than aggravating them with intrusive ads.
Trying to reach a niche might sound counter-intuitive, but Campbell encourages people to get comfortable with marketing to niche audiences. You may not see the impact right off the bat, but there’s inherent value in developing an engaged audience over time.
For Picky Bars and ProfitWell, going all-in on their niche audiences has helped their business’ build better brand affinity than if they tried appealing to everyone. After all, the number of impressions you make with a campaign does not equal the number of people impressed.
The final lesson we took away from the first season of The Brandwagon Interviews, is just how important it is to create content for your audience that offers real value. Mark DiCristina of Mailchimp, Brendan Gaul of UM, and Patrick Campbell of ProfitWell, all have something in common — their teams create engaging video content that helps build better brand affinity.
Recently, Mailchimp has been releasing short-form video series, films, and podcasts out of their own new content studio, Mailchimp Presents. DiCristina said, “Mailchimp’s mission has always been about empowering small businesses and helping them succeed and grow. We’ve always done that with software, but over the last couple of years, we began to feel like there are other ways that we can do that.” With content that inspires, motivates, and makes people feel like they’re not alone, Mailchimp Presents has developed a valuable platform for an audience of entrepreneurs, while increasing the amount of time people spend with their overarching brand.
As we mentioned before, ProfitWell is also engaging niche audiences through multiple video series of their own. Not only is their content valuable for consumers, but they’ve also found value in repurposing clips for their marketing efforts. What ProfitWell is doing here is treating their video content like a product, which is advice we took to heart when promoting our own four-part docu-series, One, Ten, One Hundred (and spoiler alert, it worked!).
At the end of the day, consumers are able to sniff out content that’s solely based on trying to sell them more stuff, and people are keenly aware when brands are phony with their intentions. That’s why brands need to know when they have — or need to earn — permission to be a part of important conversations. For smaller companies, the need to create powerful content like the biggest brands can be overwhelming. But, approaching content humbly and understanding the value your company can genuinely offer to a niche audience will help you define your brand.
Now that you’ve heard from several masterminds behind amazing brands on The Brandwagon Interviews, get out there and put their wisdom to good use. From one marketer to another, establishing a strong brand in the modern marketing world is more important than ever. So, let these key takeaways guide you toward building a better brand and creating a more engaged audience who will stand by your business for a long time.
Start Identifying Your Brand Values by Answering These 6 Questions
“Salad is food, and a lion might be hungry,” writes Jay Acunzo, founder of Marketing Showrunners, in a blog post about collecting audience intel before launching a new show. “But you should never feed salad to a lion.” What’s Jay getting at here? Admittedly, without reading the whole article you may have no idea. To put it simply, he’s pointing out the fact that marketers need to create the right kind of content to succeed in the video series and podcast space — not just Any Old Show™️.
Deciding what kind of concept to run with can feel like an uphill battle, and without a crystal ball or omnipotent powers, it’s hard to know if your audience will enjoy watching or listening to the content you worked so hard to create. One strategy to consider when trying to land on the right concept is rooting the premise of your show in your brand values. Simon Sinek, an author, motivational speaker, and organizational consultant, once said people buy the “why” behind your organization, not the “how” or “what.” So, using your brand’s purpose to drive the creative direction of your show is one of the most effective ways to build a loyal, passionate audience.
But your audience also identifies with some of your brand values more than others. As a result, to create a show that resonates with your audience, you need to understand which of your brand values they care the most about. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of six, research-backed questions you can ask your customers, founders, and colleagues so you can truly understand which values resonate most.
Why did you choose us?
The overwhelming majority of your customers agreed to do business with you because they connected with you in a meaningful way. In fact, psychology has proven that emotions drive purchasing decisions while logic rationalizes them.
When you interview your customers, be sure to uncover the main reason why they resonated with your brand in the first place, and in turn, chose to do business with your brand. Their answers will reveal some of your most important brand values — the ones that ultimately convinced them that you were the right brand for them — so take note!
How would you describe our brand if it were a person?
In Jay Acunzo’s podcast with Drift, called Exceptions, he features an exceptionally creative B2B brand that’s relied on brand marketing to succeed in their industry. At the beginning of each episode, he asks one of the brand’s customers to describe the brand like a person in their life, which paints a vivid picture of what their customers truly admire about them.
For example, in an episode featuring ProfitWell, a subscription software service, the CEO of Tettra, Andy Cook, compares ProfitWell to his mother, who is the voice of truth in his life. When Andy started his first business, she steered his focus toward generating revenue instead of boosting secondary metrics. In other words, she helped him focus on the things that truly mattered while filtering out the fluff. As it turns out, this is exactly tied to ProfitWell’s mission: To help people find the truth using the power of data.
Humans evaluate brands based on the same personality traits they use to evaluate people, so asking your customers to describe your brand like a person in their life will clarify your brand’s attributes that resonate with them the most.
Why did you start this company?
There’s a compelling reason why your founders started the company you work at today, and more often than not, it definitely wasn’t just to make tons of money. Chances are there was a huge problem in your industry that ruffled their feathers, and your company’s founders set out to solve it. Sure, they saw a market opportunity, but their passion for solving the problem vastly outweighed their desire to cash-in on it.
Asking your founders why they started your company will reveal your company’s true purpose and, in turn, a brand value that will resonate with an audience. For instance, Yvon Chouinard started Patagonia to make environmentally friendly climbing tools that could replace pitons in the 1950s, which were metal spikes that mangled mountainsides. Ultimately, his unwavering passion for helping people explore the outdoors while preserving it is what prompted him to start the company. And it’s also a huge reason why Patagonia is a billion-dollar company today.
What do you value the most, personally?
Your founders’ own personal values tend to drive the direction of your company, but before you designate their personal values as your company’s brand values, get some feedback from your peers. It’s crucial that these personal values align with the business’ values as a whole, not just your founders.
Back when we first wrote (and rewrote) our company values at Wistia in 2015, we did an exercise to create values that reflected what our entire company stands for. Our new values pushed us to do something we never would’ve considered before: running a funny, creative mobile billboard during conference season in Boston.
Our billboard’s main purpose wasn’t to peddle our product — it was to take a creative risk that would connect with our customers, put a smile on their face, and teach us a lesson about marketing. This risky ad ended up being a hit with our customers, prompting them to tweet a ton of pictures of the billboard (featuring our office dog, Lenny, didn’t hurt either). Chances are, we wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking this risk had we not gotten super clear about our values and what risks we were and were not willing to take.
Why did you join our organization?
According to Jim Schleckser of the Inc. CEO Project, the majority of your employees joined your company because they believed in what you stand for, what you do, and the work they get to do. Like we mentioned before, your customers also likely do business with you because they support what you stand for and what you do, so tapping into what attracted your employees to your organization can uncover some brand values that will also resonate with customers.
For example, if most of your employees mention that they joined your company because of your commitment to creativity, then it’s worth figuring out if your founders and customers also agree with and resonate with this sentiment.
Why have you stayed here?
According to Harvard Business Review, the more aligned your employees’ and company’s values are, the more satisfied your employees will be, the more comfortable they’ll feel at work, the harder they’ll work, and, in turn, the longer they’ll stay. So, if you can uncover the genuine reasons why your most loyal employees still work at your organization, you could potentially uncover even more of your brand values that your customers will also passionately support.
For instance, if most of your employees praise your company’s dedication to a long-term strategy, then it could be one of your most important brand values, especially if your founders and customers also appreciate it.
After identifying the shared values that your customers, founders, and colleagues all say your company possesses, you can create a show concept that reflects them by creating a Show Positioning Statement. A Show Positioning Statement describes who you’re creating binge-worthy content for, what message you’re communicating, and why your audience should care.
Your Show Positioning Statement will have three elements: Audience, Insight, and Theme. Your audience is the niche audience you’re targeting, your insight is the problem your audience faces, and your theme, which is driven by your brand values, is the solution to that problem. Altogether, your Show Positioning Statement will look like this: “We connect with people who [audience] but [insight] by [theme].
These days, people buy more than your product — they buy what you stand for. And if you want to create binge-worthy content like video series and podcasts that will build a loyal audience, infusing the brand values that resonate most with your audience is the first step toward success.
Once you distill the values expressed from each group, you can paint a clearer picture of the brand values that should guide the direction your show ultimately takes. So, get out there, ask the tough questions, and get introspective on what makes your brand tick!
The Story Behind Cladwell’s Video Series Strategy
Cladwell is a personal styling app that makes getting dressed easy. What’s typically an expensive endeavor for clearing out overwhelming clutter and perfecting your wardrobe, Cladwell has made an affordable and accessible process for many. But the company’s values go far beyond only helping people enhance their personal style. For Cladwell, it’s also all about transforming the fashion industry into a force for good.
So, how are they showing people exactly what they stand for? Cladwell is creating binge-worthy content like The Making of Cladwell and using Wistia Channels to build their brand and grow their audience. Read on to learn more about their series and why they’re bought-in on producing episodic video content.
Cladwell’s Founder, Erin Flynn, comes from a content creation background, so she knows how powerful video can be for establishing a connection with potential customers. When she and her husband and co-owner, Colin, purchased the company this past year, she started carving out a video strategy to introduce Cladwell to the world and communicate their values.
To produce their video content, Erin and Colin worked with external contractors and their longtime collaborator and videographer-friend Levi Bethune of Le Video. With a self-proclaimed “scrappy” production strategy, Cladwell is a great example for many small businesses out there that you can get a lot done with some elbow grease, resourcefulness, and careful planning. It’s really inspiring to see it’s possible to create quality video content with very limited resources. Check it out!
From showing how Cladwell can help you simplify your lifestyle by creating a capsule wardrobe to explaining the major problems with fast fashion, each episode shares what they do and what they believe in. Although it looks like they produced each video as part of a series, these were one-off videos made entirely separately.
In order to keep people engaged and spend more time with their brand, Erin set out to find a way to group these videos together on Cladwell’s website, and that’s where we came in. With Wistia Channels, she was able to easily embed her videos right into a sleek-looking display that encouraged visitors to binge-watch each episode like they would a Netflix series. The final product is pretty neat if we do say so ourselves!
Here’s what the Channel looks like on their website:
The Making of Cladwell isn’t the only episodic series Erin is excited to feature on their site. Cladwell has also created four other additional series from repurposed content she’s produced over the past two years:
With all of these shows and more on the horizon, it’s clear that video is one of Cladwell’s primary marketing vehicles for building brand affinity with new and returning members of their audience. So, how do they come up with all of their ideas for the content they create? Well, Erin has a pulse on her niche audience’s interests because she is actually Cladwell’s ideal customer. Brainstorming creative ideas may seem like one of the biggest roadblocks to getting started with show creation, but if you’re like Erin, relating to and understanding what makes your customer tick is one of the best places to start.
Are you interested in creating episodic content just like Cladwell? After watching some of their videos, you may be inspired to pick up a camera and get going yourself (which is great!). But don’t forget, chances are you’ll still encounter some challenges along the way if you’re new to the world of video production. Erin wasn’t afraid to share with us that producing these videos without a game-plan would have been pretty tricky. She explained how it takes time, effort, and resources to create quality content you’re truly proud to share, so make the right investment up front and put your best foot forward.
And while the production process can be a taxing endeavor, that’s not where all of the hard work ends! Erin noted that once production is wrapped up, she still needs to think through how she wants to distribute all of that awesome content — which is just as important as creating it, and equally as challenging. In today’s marketing landscape, learning how to market your content like a media company is the key to social media success across multiple channels when the goal is audience acquisition for your brand with episodic content.
As a parting piece of advice for businesses ambivalent about getting started, Erin said you should believe in the story you have to tell and forget about producing your videos to perfection. For those of you who are thinking about embarking on a video series of your own or repurposing your content, look to Cladwell as an example. Despite having limited resources for production, their video strategy is super impressive and just goes to show how episodic content paired with the right creative strategy can really help your brand stand out.
Why Ads Alone Can’t Buy Your Brand Love
We like to believe in love at first sight, right? But real love takes time. If we think about the nature of ads, one impression might not be enough to grab someone’s attention — let alone make them fall in love with your brand in the blink of an eye. So, as marketers, we need a better way besides traditional advertising campaigns to get people to spend more time with our business and keep them coming back for more.
In this post, we’ll get real with you about the results of a $2M ad campaign we ran at Wistia and what we learned from our mistakes. To grow your audience and create true fans for your brand, here’s why your business should stop chasing after awareness and focus your marketing efforts on building affinity instead.
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Idioms aside, hopefully you’re starting to get the the picture. We went all-in on this one campagin and learned a ton along the way. At our live-streamed event, Change the Channel, our co-founders Chris Savage and Brendan Schwartz took a trip down memory lane and dug into just what happened after we saw the results from this blunder of an ad campaign (er, learning experience?).
A few years ago, we invested in a $2M ad campaign where we ran digital ads, plastered ourselves across highway billboards, produced NPR spots — the whole shebang. Here’s a look at one of the ads we made. We still stand by its cuteness, for the record:
Our goal was to create more brand awareness with this campaign. We originally thought that if we could just increase awareness, more people would care about us, which would move the needle and help grow the business.
“We originally thought that if we could just increase awareness, more people would care about us, which would move the needle and help grow the business.”
After analyzing the results, the campaign got 43 million impressions, which was a pretty impressive number by itself. However, traffic back to our site was actually lower than a reasonably successful blog post we distributed around the same time. When we asked ourselves, “Did more people really care about Wistia or find our products?” The answer was a humbling and resounding, no.
When it comes to ads, we all like to think we’ll be the exception to the rule. But the truth is that although advertising is great for building awareness — always has been, and always will be — it’s not great for building affinity. Awareness alone is not enough to grow your business, which is what we realized after that cool $2M went down the drain. Luckily, this loss wasn’t a major setback to our business, but we know that’s not the case for many other businesses out there. That’s why we want to help you learn from our mistakes.
What is brand affinity?
It’s the most enduring and valuable level of a relationship between a business and consumer based on the mutual belief that they share common values.
Making people aware of your business doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be motivated to care about you, sign up to learn more about your product, or tell other folks about you. Someone needs to have a connection to you. They need to know that they share your values, and they need to spend time with you to become a brand advocate. Brand love is built on affinity, and this is something great brands have already figured out. Now it’s time for small and medium-sized businesses to also re-focus their efforts on building brand affinity in today’s marketing landscape.
Looking back at those 43 million impressions from our ad campaign, we learned a tough lesson, which is that impressions don’t necessarily equal the number of people impressed. As we explain in our Brand Affinity Marketing Playbook, consumers have become adept at mentally ignoring things they don’t want to see across the web. It’s no longer the case that by exposing them to a compelling tagline or 10-second video upwards of seven times, customers will come to know and trust your company name.
Of course, there is the exception that proves the rule. Occasionally, a campaign will hugely impact a company’s reputation by going viral and achieving PR success, but these cost a fortune and are one in a million.
What small and medium-sized businesses should know is the vast majority of advertising campaigns have little genuine impact on the trust and affection people have for a brand. To mask this problem, distribution platforms measure success with metrics like impressions, clicks, and views, giving trivial passing interactions the same weight as meaningful engagements. So, although 43 million impressions sounded like we gained millions of new brand fans for Wistia, it simply wasn’t the case.
“What small and medium-sized businesses should know is the vast majority of advertising campaigns have little genuine impact on the trust and affection people have for a brand.”
How are we seeing some of the greatest brands doing Brand Affinity Marketing? They’re creating entertaining, binge-worthy content that aligns with their brand values without asking for anything in return. The result? More brand advocates for their businesses. With Brand Affinity Marketing, you can gain more loyal fans for your brand that can help drive your business forward. Now that you understand the mistakes we made trying to build our brand by focusing our efforts on gaining awareness, you can re-evaluate your strategy, and hopefully, start growing your brand affinity.
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