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Transcript For This Episode:
Stacy Jones (00:01):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of influencer marketing and branded content agency, Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for topics for us to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well-versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy or money, whether you are doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.
Stacy Jones (00:36):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, and I’m so happy to be here with you all today. I want to give a very warm welcome to Gary J. Nix. Gary is the founder of The Brandarchist, and he’s an award-winning brand-forward strategist who earned his stripes as a disruptor, an innovator, and a predictor in the entertainment, magazine publishing and advertising industries. Known for merging traditional marketing principles with modern marketing techniques in order to create, build and evolve compelling brands, his distinct point of view in the space has positioned him as a frequently sought after source of AdWeek, The Drum and Entrepreneur. He is also an adjunct professor and guest lecturer as well as a subject matter expert on ethics, culture and community as a business necessity.
Today we’re going to talk about the essential frameworks needed to build a better brand for today’s consumer. We’ll learn what’s worked from Gary’s perspective, what should be avoided, and how some just missed the mark. Gary, welcome.
Gary J. Nix (01:34):
Thank you so much, Stacy. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Stacy Jones (01:37):
Happy to have you. I would love to chat first and have you fill in our listeners on what got you to where you are today. What brought you here? How did you become the brandarchist?
Gary J. Nix (01:50):
Sure. Well it all started at a very young age when I just fell in love with the New York Yankees logo. That’s part of the reason why I have the hat on right now.
Stacy Jones (01:59):
Gary J. Nix (02:00):
Yes. But I didn’t quite know what any of that was, right? There were a lot of things that I found interesting in the branding and marketing arena as I grew older. Once again, even before I knew what it was. When I was in high school I started DJ’ing and I soon figured out that that was just a form of promoting music, so once again I’m marketing and not even realizing it. I went to college thinking I was going to be a computer engineer. That did not happen. Once I realized that that was not going to happen, I started to wonder okay, is there something that I actually enjoy doing that I can now go to school for? That’s when I learned what marketing was and what it was about.
That was my official foray into the marketing industry. My path was not a common one. It was not a traditional one. My first agency job probably was like four or five jobs in, because I started in music and promotion and retail. Did big box retail, did magazine publishing, did a bunch of things that were all marketing related but they weren’t on the agency side of things. My first agency side, my first official agency job was actually in 2013 but before that I worked at places like Source Media and Conde Nast. Those departments that I worked in, the marketing departments, were run as in-house agencies so I had a good understanding of how agency life would be, but my first agency job was 2013. Sorry, was 2011 at Blue Fountain Media. Worked there for two years, then went to R/GA in 2013. That was my first big agency experience where I worked with much larger brands at the time. Even though I had done some work with Nike before I got on the agency side of things. I worked with Nike, I worked with Conde Nast before I started working with MasterCard at R/GA.
Working with both small and large companies, I understood that the principles, or I soon learned that the principles are all the same. Some of the techniques are different. You can scale things in different ways because budgets allow you to scale quicker, at least in theory, but what we were doing is exactly the same every single place. As I started to realize that, that’s when I started talking about that more and trying to get people to not so much focus on the big campaigns or big activations, which are nice to do, but it’s not about that. It’s about the principles and the groundwork and the foundation that allows you to go ahead and make those big activations or the impactful activations and campaigns mean more to the people who you’re trying to reach.
Stacy Jones (04:55):
Before we jump into framework, because I know that’s what we’re going to talk about, which is super exciting, which do you think that you had enjoyed working for more or working with more, smaller brands or larger brands? I know having done so myself, there’s a whole world of benefits in both of them, but what do you find is more interesting?
Gary J. Nix (05:15):
I’ve actually found interesting areas in both of them. With smaller brands, especially ones that don’t even really exist yet, I have a lot of fun, or I find a lot of enjoyment in helping those brands grow into what they are actually going to be. A lot of times they’ll have a product or a service but they don’t truly have a brand yet. They have a product or service, they have a business, but no brand, so I do enjoy that part.
With larger brands I actually enjoy finding new things to do with the brands and the businesses, or new ways to help the brand evolve or find new ways or better ways to tap into their customer community. The kind of person I am, I do have to find that motivation because I like the challenge. I’m a strategist, so I like to solve puzzles.
Stacy Jones (05:15):
You like problems. You actually like problems.
Gary J. Nix (06:15):
I like solving them. I don’t know if I like problems so much but I do enjoy solving them.
Stacy Jones (06:19):
Gary J. Nix (06:19):
Being able to find that, that’s something that’s exciting. It’s usually easier with a smaller brand because they just don’t have much, if anything, yet.
Stacy Jones (06:28):
Gary J. Nix (06:29):
But it’s a good challenge to find the problem, or at least the root of the problem, with a larger brand or one that’s established, to help them solve some of the things that they feel like they’re missing.
Stacy Jones (06:42):
That makes sense. Going into the framework, this magic thing of framework that obviously we can’t build buildings without a framework but we often times build brands and strategies and plans without necessarily putting together that foundation to build off of. How do you start when you’re working with a new client?
Gary J. Nix (07:05):
I start at the very beginning. Marketing, the term itself, is one that’s used interchangeably a lot. If you’re not familiar with marketing but you hear it being used a bunch of different ways, it can become confusing. I even argue that the ways it’s used just within the industry is in so many different ways that it becomes confusing. Okay, what do you actually mean?
I read an article last week about companies who have been able to stop their marketing or pause their marketing because they’re getting good word of mouth, but that’s why I start at the beginning of what marketing is and I go to the old school principles of marketing being this group of activities [inaudible 00:07:56] and it has four functions. Marketing is a function of marketing and marketing itself is trying to figure out who it is you’re trying to connect with. Advertising is figuring out how to craft the messages and understanding where the messages should go so that you can best connect with the people that you’re trying to connect with. Promotion is actually the action of connecting, doing the work. Then public relations is everything that happens afterwards, the conversations that you have with your customers and your potential customers. The conversations that you have with customer service, the conversations you have with the press. All the communication that comes out of all the work you’ve done is the public relations part.
Starting from there is where you’re able to really start thinking about the things that you’re doing, what you need to do, and how those four functions can help you reach that ultimate goal of sales all the time. I start there.
I think about what a brand actually is. Branding is another term that is thrown around a whole lot. Sometimes people are talking about the business itself, sometimes they’re talking about the product. Sometimes they’re talking about the logo. Sometimes they’re talking about the tagline. There’s a bunch of things, but they are a bunch of different parts that actually make up a brand, some of which are intellectual, which are the things we like to think that is the reasoning behind we buy the product or services that we buy. The quality of the service and the pricing and all that fun stuff. Which those elements do matter, but we as human beings, we are run by emotion. Our final decision making power for when we buy things is really emotional. How do we connect with them? What is their story? What are they doing to connect with us? How do they feel about certain things that are going on? Do the way they think about things, does that align with the way we think about things? We consider all these things before we make a purchase. It’s part of the reason why word of mouth works so well, is because you get that cosign from someone that you know. You’re like, “Okay wait, maybe I will try this.”
I go into that. Then I start talking about how people actually go ahead and buy and they first have to know about the product and they have to do their own research and they start considering. Then at some point they decide to try it out. They try it out. They see if they actually like it. They find out some more. They find out who else likes it. Do the people who like this also are those kind of people that they kind of like? Getting into all these things that gets back to retention marketing, which is like okay, they bought you once. They’re going to go back to you again automatically because of the brand that you’ve built.
You have those kind of frameworks like that, you start understanding the things that you really need to know for people to go ahead and buy you once and then buy you again because those are the things that you want as a business and those are the things that a lot of business people, especially those outside of marketing, focus on because they’re important. However, a lot of people who are outside of marketing, they’ll understand all of the work that goes into getting this one person to buy that product or service first. It’s not just you put something out, you say it’s good and people buy. That’s not how things work.
Stacy Jones (11:29):
Gary J. Nix (11:29):
It never has been.
Stacy Jones (11:30):
You can’t just post something up there and people flock over and purchase and done deal?
Gary J. Nix (11:37):
Not in the beginning. If you build up a brand that’s good enough yes you can, but not everyone can be Air Jordan.
Stacy Jones (11:48):
Yeah. Air Jordan couldn’t be Air Jordan either until he actually made a few net goals there, so it established his brand.
Gary J. Nix (11:54):
Stacy Jones (11:55):
That makes sense.
Gary J. Nix (11:55):
Stacy Jones (11:57):
I want you to know, for all of our listeners, if you’re not watching this on video, so Gary not only is a Yankees fan and he has his hat on, he even came prepared as a brandarchist with a shirt that says his brand. This is a man who breathes brands.
Gary J. Nix (12:17):
Yes. Yes, this is one of my favorite [inaudible 00:12:23] versus the industry t-shirts because part of the reason why the company’s called The Brandarchist, and I have to thank someone who actually came up with the term brandarchy, well at least the first place I heard it, her name is [inaudible 00:12:40]. Started the Twitter chat called Brand Chat. The moderator wasn’t there that day because it was like a fifth Wednesday. The moderator, Maria Elena Duron is incredible. Her schedule is amazing but she scheduled Brand Chats for four Wednesdays in a month and every once in awhile there’s that fifth Wednesday but she doesn’t [inaudible 00:13:02] for that.
We were all there, a bunch of us who are normally in the chat-
Stacy Jones (13:07):
Gary J. Nix (13:07):
We were ready. We’re like, “Where’s Maria? What do we do now? We don’t know.” Priscilla was like, “Oh, it looks like brandarchy.” I was like, “Okay wait a minute. Can I have that? I like that.” She’s like, “It’s yours.” It’s all about the idea of going against the status quo. It’s all about the idea of figuring out more effective ways to do things. Better ways to connect with your customers because when you connect with them it’s easier to sell to them. Not where you just yell at them all day. Talk to them because when there’s actually a connection there it makes it a whole lot easier, so put in the work to make a connection. That makes the sales a lot easier.
Stacy Jones (13:46):
Now when you’re mentioning, you said marketing, you said advertising, you said promotions and you said PR. Where do you think it needs to start? Does it start at the marketing level and then move to advertising, move to promotion, move to PR? Or is it something that can move around where it’s not following a set guideline of one to the other to the other to the next?
Gary J. Nix (14:09):
Right. Well it has to be mostly linear. It’s very difficult to sell to people if you don’t know who it is that you’re trying to sell because once again it’s really about making the connection, right? It’s hard to connect with someone who you don’t understand, who you don’t know. The shotgun approach, it can be effective but it’s never optimal.
Stacy Jones (14:35):
Gary J. Nix (14:35):
Or it’s very rarely optimal. Maybe you’ll catch a few people, cool. But what can you do to kind of become more focused on the people who actually want to hear from you, who want to connect with you, instead of wasting the money on all the people who really don’t care.
Stacy Jones (14:49):
Gary J. Nix (14:50):
Understanding who you’re talking to first, very important. Understanding what you need to say, how you need to say it, and where you need to say it, the advertising part, also extremely important. Especially now in these days where content is everything.
Stacy Jones (15:10):
Gary J. Nix (15:13):
The world is run [inaudible 00:15:14] content or by content. It’s not even necessarily just now. I mean, we’re seeing it now because everyone is pretty much at home so content is even more top of mind, but the way we communicate, we communicate through stories, we communicate through pictures, we communicate through words, we communicate through video. All these things are content, so these things are necessary and understanding how, what, why, where, another form of connection.
Stacy Jones (15:46):
Gary J. Nix (15:47):
What [inaudible 00:15:47]. It’s kind of hard to sell something if you don’t try to sell it, right?
Stacy Jones (15:52):
That is true.
Gary J. Nix (15:53):
Once you’ve figured out all the things you need to do then you go ahead and sell it, and then after that the conversations out there you might be able to push more towards PR or maybe more of your focus or more of your attention goes onto the public relations at that point, but you still want to make sure that you are understanding the people who you’re trying to sell to. Who are the new people coming into your market? Who are the people who might be exiting your market? Why are they exiting your market? Are they just aging out? Is there something that you’re not helping them fulfill? Why?
You’re still doing all four functions, but the weight of which you’re doing things can change over time. But you always got to start with who.
Stacy Jones (16:38):
Makes sense. What is the next step when you’re working with a client? You’ve figured out the marketing, the advertising, the promotion, PR. It’s done. Which we all know it’s not done ever. It’s always being recrafted and recrafted and recrafted.
Gary J. Nix (16:53):
Right. Right, version one is done.
Stacy Jones (16:54):
Yeah version one, and by the time you get to version 1,001 you might be on the right track.
Gary J. Nix (16:58):
Stacy Jones (16:59):
Yeah, but what is the next step? How do you work with your clients to help them along this pathway?
Gary J. Nix (17:05):
Okay, so once we’ve figured out what the brand is, then we’re going to start testing it, right, because the creation of a brand is a collaborative process, right? I’m not one person who says that the company decides what the brand is. I’m not even the person who says that the customer decides what the brand is. Especially if we’re talking about making a connection, both sides need to agree.
Stacy Jones (17:36):
Gary J. Nix (17:38):
The company, they initiate communications about what the brand is. The customers then in turn say, “Okay, well we think it’s this,” or maybe “We like this, this, and this but we don’t like that.” Then you start having these conversations and figuring out. You start molding what this brand is actually going to be, which is also why that’s also a process that doesn’t stop. That continues to evolve. That continues to change.
That’s the next thing, because once you start understanding what your brand is, you’re starting to making the connections, it’s easier to refine your messaging. It’s easier to refine your target audience. It’s easier to start to refine what it is and it’s easier to start thinking about the things that your customers will actually like so you can put that into your stories, you can put that into the way you communicate. You can put all that into your product or service.
Now we’re starting to build what it is. We have one product but what does this product mean? How does this product make people feel? What is it that’s resonant about the product? Then what resonates about the company around the product? What resonates with the people who work inside the company? What resonates to the people who are outside of our company? What makes people actually [inaudible 00:18:54] work for the company? What makes people want to tell their friends and family about this company? Now we’re starting to build stories. We’re starting to not necessarily make the product the hero, which is kind of another old school idea. The product is the hero, the product is the thing that you’re trying to sell that you’re hoping you’re going to convince people to buy. The customer’s always the hero because the customer has the thing that you are looking for as a business. They have the money.
Stacy Jones (19:22):
Your product is really there to be the solution. The plus up, the experience that you are gifting and giving the opportunity for your customer to be able to have.
Gary J. Nix (19:39):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). You are now in the service industry. You are supposed to be serving your promise to your customer. Right? Are you doing that well? If you are, then your customers are going to be happy. They tell other people about it.
Stacy Jones (19:52):
Gary J. Nix (19:54):
If you’re not doing your job, the customer’s not happy.
Stacy Jones (19:56):
Gary J. Nix (19:57):
They may still buy until they find something that serves their needs better, but they will definitely stop telling people about it and if you’re really bad, they’ll start telling people to not buy from you. Right?
My next step is really to help people create the stories that make the most sense that start building the best connective tissue so that people will want to buy and tell other people to buy as well.
Stacy Jones (20:27):
Then when you get there, what’s that next step?
Gary J. Nix (20:30):
That’s when I bring in friends how know how to do wonderful artwork and video work and copywriting, because I’m a strategy person. I can do those other things. I’ve done them before. I’ve done them historically pretty well, but I also know people who do it way better.
Stacy Jones (20:50):
Gary J. Nix (20:52):
Yeah. Yeah, so I’d rather bring them in because if I’m part of the process I always want the best people around and I don’t have the type of ego that says, “Oh, well I do this one thing so I need to do everything else.”
Stacy Jones (21:06):
Gary J. Nix (21:07):
My purpose is to help you plan, come up with the best plan possible, and then either get the people that you have, because you might also have the best people to do all the artistic, all the outward communications, the stuff that everyone sees and everyone can touch. You might have those people in house. If so, great. If you need help with that stuff, I know people who can help. My job is to pass this off and say, “Okay, here’s what we know. Here’s what people want. Here’s also what people say they want. Here are the things that people care about. Now make this stuff look nice.”
Stacy Jones (21:50):
Yep. They can shine it up but you’re putting the foundation together that you talked about as well as the pillars that are going to support everything else.
Gary J. Nix (22:01):
Yep, I do that work and then I’m saying, “Oh okay, yep. The house should be this big. It should have this many floors. You tell me what’s the best materials to build the house in.” Once we have the house built or we have the plans for that being built we start bringing in interior decorators to come in, how it’s going to look as nice as possible. We all do that. I’ll watch the supervisors, make sure that nothing is going too far to the left, but otherwise you guys do it.
Stacy Jones (22:39):
Fair enough. How can our listeners learn more about you, learn more about Brandarchist, find you online? Where should they go?
Gary J. Nix (22:47):
Sure. Well the first place is my website, which is simply TheBrandarchist.com. That’s B-R-A-N-D-A-R-C-H-I-S-T.com. You can find me on Twitter. M-R underscore McFly, for Mr. McFly. And they can find me on LinkedIn. Just my name, Gary J. Nix. It should come up in search pretty easily.
Stacy Jones (23:15):
It does. I found you that way.
Gary J. Nix (23:22):
Good. On LinkedIn, also on my website, I do a lot of posts about things that I’m seeing happening in the industry, ways that I think the industry can improve, also ways to think certain parts or certain things that are happening [inaudible 00:23:38] why they’re bad and how that can help other people.
Stacy Jones (23:42):
Okay. Awesome. Any last parting words of advice to our listeners of what they should be keeping in mind when they are working on their own planning for marketing and advertising and promotions and PR?
Gary J. Nix (23:56):
Yes. The biggest thing to remember is it’s about the people. Right?
Stacy Jones (24:01):
Gary J. Nix (24:02):
One of the things that really got me into thinking about brandarchy as a thing was about six, seven, maybe eight years ago there was a conversation about brand loyalty and people not being loyal to brands anymore. It felt like it was being couched in the old school brand loyalty on how customers were loyal to brands for a very long time when the [inaudible 00:24:34] of communication was different. When the scale of the conversation was heavily skewed towards the advertisers because they had the money to put these widespread messages out. When social media became a thing those tables evened very quickly and then people were apparently no longer loyal to their brand, to brands.
When the way things are supposed to be looked at is because you’re supposed to be serving people. Any brand loyalty starts from the brand’s standpoint first. Are you fulfilling the promises that you’re putting out there? That’s the first part of loyalty. Showing loyalty yourself.
Stacy Jones (25:22):
Gary J. Nix (25:24):
If you do a good job, the loyalty will come back to you. Remembering everything, this is about the people. The people have the money that you’re looking for. You’re supposed to be serving the people through your product or service. Make sure that you’re doing that and understanding where you fit in that consumer journey. If people don’t know about you like that, don’t expect huge spikes of sales. People have to get to know you. They have to become more comfortable with you before they start giving you their money. I can’t think off the top of my head of any product or service that doesn’t exist already. No matter how good your product or service may be, or you may think it is, you have competition. It’s not only about what differentiates your product or service from your competition, it’s what differentiates you from the way you treat the people who either are or will be your customers, as opposed to your competition.
You need both. Focus on the people and making better connections because when you make the best connections possible you’ll have people do the work for you. An example, Peloton. And that was the subject of the article that I read, where they paused or stopped marketing. They didn’t pause or stop marketing. They paused some of their ad spend because they didn’t need it.
Stacy Jones (27:09):
Gary J. Nix (27:10):
Right? You had a certain situation where advertising may not be as effective, at least in the way that it once was, and you also have people who are just like, “Okay, I need to do something in my house. I need to exercise. Let me buy this product.” So you don’t have to advertise as much because the work that they put in before had their brand top of mind already.
Stacy Jones (27:31):
Gary J. Nix (27:33):
They’ve been able to fulfill a promise. They have people talking good about them already. They didn’t stop their marketing. They paused the media spend and put their concentration on other parts of marketing.
Stacy Jones (27:51):
Gary J. Nix (27:53):
They put more concentration on public relations. They put more, at least I hope in theory, they’re putting more concentration on getting a better understanding of the people who have already bought their product, the new people who are buying their product, how they can help fulfill their needs even better.
Stacy Jones (28:09):
Yeah. Right now’s a really good time to be a Peloton, a Bowflex, any of those, because they’re sold out. We have clients within the space that we work with, like Bowflex, and they ran out of inventory because the demand was so incredibly high. You’re right, they pulled back advertising, they looked at other ways that they could leverage and be smart to [inaudible 00:28:35] their marketing efforts and keep awareness high, but that’s a great position to be able to be in.
Gary J. Nix (28:40):
Right. Once you’re able to do that, you make sure you do it. But you don’t stop.
Stacy Jones (28:45):
Gary J. Nix (28:45):
You continue to do the things because once again, the more you learn about other people, the better you’re able to serve them. Continue to do that all the time. Make it about the people. Always make it about the people, you’ll be in a great position.
Stacy Jones (29:00):
Well and then to add to that, if you stop, someone else is going to be there to start taking your market share.
Gary J. Nix (29:06):
Absolutely. Don’t open the door for your competition. [inaudible 00:29:09].
Stacy Jones (29:09):
Yeah. There’s really interesting studies and articles that show that, obviously COVID right now, it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened. We’ve never experienced anything like this, but we have had times of economic downturn so if you’re looking at the 2007-2008 time period. If you’re going back further into World War II. If you’re looking at the Depression. Whatever you want to look at, if you look at brands that actually doubled down and continued advertising during those times and marketing, they came out stronger and the brands who, even if they were big at that time, when they stopped their littler guys came up right there and they took over. It’s a really interesting fact that is based on fact.
Gary J. Nix (29:56):
Yeah, so once again it’s about connecting, right?
Stacy Jones (29:56):
Gary J. Nix (29:58):
If you’re not communicating, if you’re not touching base, if you’re not staying in contact with people, someone else will and you lose the connection.
Stacy Jones (30:06):
Gary J. Nix (30:07):
You got to keep the connection going. Now you have to understand where you fit. You don’t just run around necessarily saying, “Oh, buy my $2,000 bike,” because that could be like, “Wait, what?”
Stacy Jones (30:21):
Gary J. Nix (30:22):
But if you’re there saying, “This is what the experience is,” and if you’re able to do so, like you just put it out there like, “Look, we’re here for you. This is what we have. We’re figuring out new ways to help everyone.” Being able to do that, keeping that connection is an imperative. It’s a constant because once you lose the connection it becomes even harder than the first time to reconnect.
Stacy Jones (30:51):
Well Gary, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it and I’m sure our listeners gained a lot of insights and knowledge from your advice and your experience.
Gary J. Nix (31:02):
Thank you so much, Stacy. It was really wonderful being here with you and yes, people, feel free to just reach out to me and continue the conversation.
Stacy Jones (31:14):
Perfect. Well to our listeners, thank you for tuning in to another episode of Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I look forward to chatting with you on our next podcast.
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