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Episode 3: “The Brandwagon Interviews” Podcast with Dan Kenary of Harpoon Brewery

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From tactics to taglines, Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage, chats marketing with the brains behind successful brands on our new video series, Brandwagon. Last week, Chris sat down with Nancy Dussault Smith, CMO at Hydrow, to learn more about taking a stand on your brand, and today, we’re excited to share our extended interview with this week’s guest, Dan Kenary, Co-Founder and CEO of Harpoon Brewery.

Check out the episode to hear all about the challenges and opportunities Dan’s faced differentiating Harpoon’s brand from the thousands of craft breweries and microbreweries that exist today.

Or listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

Watch the actual Brandwagon episode here!

In 1986, Dan Kenary and two of his friends were dissatisfied with the lack of choices in the US beer market, despite the US having the most sophisticated consumer market in the world. Wherever you went, all you could find were light yellow lagers … and they were sick of it. After traveling to Western Europe, they realized the US didn’t have to be the desert of bland options that it was.

Once they returned home, Dan and his friends founded Harpoon Brewery, one of the East Coast’s first craft breweries. During the early days, there wasn’t much competition, but as craft breweries and microbreweries boomed across the country, Dan knew they had to keep innovating and taking risks to keep their brand alive and relevant. In this episode, we hear all about how risk-taking and being consistent with communicating your brand value plays an integral role in differentiating Harpoon from the competition.

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“There was an awakening … All of a sudden, people started saying, ‘Wait a second, there’s no choice, there’s no diversity, and we’re willing to pay more for a product that we like that has a story behind it.’” On this episode of The Brandwagon Interviews, Dan highlights the importance of innovating, risk-taking, and remaining consistent with your company’s mission and values to build a strong brand that stands out in a crowded industry.

Here are some of the lessons learned throughout the episode:

  • Diversifying your product offerings can help you reach new audiences
  • Consistency is super important for building a strong brand
  • Innovating and taking risks in an industry that’s constantly changing will help you stay relevant

Short on time? Check out some of our favorite moments during this interview between Chris and Dan.

1:03 – A lack of lager diversity inspires a new business

Dan tells the story of founding Harpoon with a couple of friends from college. Travels abroad in Western Europe introduced Dan and his friends to the rich beer culture overseas, which only highlighted the “absolute desert when it (came) to choice for beer” in the US. Determined to create a community-based beer hall that would bring people together just as they’d seen in Europe, Dan and his partners took sledgehammers to brick walls and began building a brewery in downtown Boston. They named their new venture Harpoon Brewery and built the brand under the banner “Love Beer. Love Life.”

7:32 – Structuring the company to line up with brand values

Chris asks Dan about his decision to restructure Harpoon to be employee-owned. Dan talks about what led to the decision, including why he ultimately walked away from selling to private equity, putting the company into the hands of their employees. The two discuss the pros and cons of taking private equity, bringing on managing partners, and straight-up selling your business. You’ll also hear why “Employee Owned” made it onto every bottle of Harpoon beer.

14:40 – “Every interaction with your consumer has to be consistent with ‘Love Beer. Love Life.’ or the brand doesn’t mean anything.”

What does Dan think about building a strong brand? Dan explains why consistency is key and how every touchpoint with consumers matters. Hear a story about how some of Harpoon’s most important fans have come from their customer service (“complaints”) line.

19:24 – Why brand matters when competition explodes

In Harpoon’s early days, they offered the first IPA on the East Coast. Now, there are over 30,000 IPAs to compete with. Dan talks about how building a brand and focusing on their connection with customers helped the brewery cut through the competition (even without flashy advertising!). How else did they differentiate themselves? Harpoon created a sub-brand called UFO, which helped the business grow in unexpected ways.

26:36 – Managing “A house of brands”

What started as a single brand has grown to five distinct brands with their own product lines today. Dan gives a walkthrough of each of Mass Bay Brewing Company’s brands and answers Chris’s burning question — “Why isn’t it just one brand?”

30:13 – Building brands is risky business

Chris observes that taking big brand risks has become “the normal” for Dan. Kenary details how he got comfortable taking brand risks in the first place and why risk is a necessity when it comes to building a brand. He shares the story behind the acquisition of Clown Shoes, how the risk profiles between the Clown Shoes team and Harpoon’s own leadership have been surprising and offers some key advice: trust yourself! You’ve made it this far in your career making relatively good decisions — you can trust yourself to take calculated risks.

38:17 – Advice for brand builders

Building an important team of people you trust is essential to growing your business. Kenary knows all about the virtues of failing fast and explains how failures have informed his decision-making. Lastly, Dan recommends not trying to be everything to everyone. Curate your offerings to overcome consumer fatigue and become a brand your audience can trust.

41:11 – How do you know if your brand is doing well?

Dan talks about how revenue growth, word-of-mouth, and your own brand instincts are important metrics for knowing how your brand is doing. Ultimately, Kenary says your product is the most important statement of your brand, and if your product is selling, that’s a great sign for the strength of your brand.

44:04 – Harpoon’s first big brand risk

Kenary tells the story of the first batch of Harpoon Winter Warmer. There once was a time early on when Harpoon was in danger of going out of business! They decided to have a “going away” party which became the first Harpoon Octoberfest. The event propelled them to new heights and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Start Identifying Your Brand Values by Answering These 6 Questions

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“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].

Want to learn more about nailing the concept for your next binge-worthy series? Be sure to check out our Brand Affinity Marketing Playbook for more examples and exercises.

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!



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Video Marketing

The Story Behind Cladwell’s Video Series Strategy

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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.

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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:cladwell

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.

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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.

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Video Marketing

Why Ads Alone Can’t Buy Your Brand Love

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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.

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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.

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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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