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Elevating Brands 005: Brand Archetypes

Len Sullivan:
Hey, Pieter, have you ever heard of the telephone conversation?


Pieter Bickford:
Is that the game you'd play in camp where you start out with one thing and by the end it's all a different message?

 

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Len Sullivan:
Yes.


Peter Bickford:
Ahh


Len Sullivan:
So-


Peter Bickford:
It's been a while, it's been a while.


Len Sullivan:
Right, right, I mean, but, a lot of people know this, it's a common thing that a lot of, I mean, the general public, sort of knows. So obviously you're aware that these types of things happen in... oh, for those that aren't familiar with what it is, it's basically that, in a telephone conversation where one person says something, and then that person gives it to someone else, and then that person calls somebody else. By the time you reach a fourth or fifth party, the message has changed so drastically that it's really not the same message. And this happens all the time in marketing. So let me ask you another question Pieter. How often do you think, in a mid... let's just say mid-sized company, how often do you think, the CEO and the marketing director are on the same page?


Pieter Bickford:
Oh, wow, that's kind of a loaded question, we’ve been on the same page more often than not, but I suspect, having some experience with this, that a lot of time there's different expectations from marketing than can’t be delivered. So I would way, 50-50, if not less.


Len Sullivan:
Okay, I mean, that was a very diplomatic answer Pieter, I'm very proud of you.


Peter Bickford:
(laughs)


Len Sullivan:
I mean, there's no right answer obviously, because it comes down to who you're talking about and when it actually happens, but I think we can say it happens often enough, often enough to be a problem. Where the CEO of a company has a different idea of what the goal of the company is, even though he's kind of, done the crafting of it, the marketing director is often out just to get results, and sometimes that conflicts with the branding. It gets worse if that said company has branches and the manager of that office is doing something completely different, or franchises where the local representative within that is doing something that is completely off base. So, most mid-sized companies deal with communication issues like this.


Len Sullivan:
So, I think that's what we're really talking about today when we're talking about branding, it’s that branding can really help with a lot of miscommunications that goes on in companies and get everyone on the same page. So, with that in mind, we've actually asked our internal head of content and strategy, Shanna Mueller, to come on today because this has been a very big thing that's been happening, a lot of people are doing this, whether they're large or small companies, just to all get on the same page with what they’re doing with marketing and social media and having a consistent message that everyone in the company unilaterally and understand. So welcome to the latest episode of Elevating Brands. I'm Len Sullivan.


Pieter Bickford:
And I'm Pieter Bickford.


Shanna Mueller:
And Shanna Mueller


Len Sullivan:
Shanna Mueller is joining us today, so we're very happy to have you, Shanna. So tell us a little bit about what a branding persona is, for people that don't know what we're talking about today.


Shanna Muller:
Well, I think really it's come into popular conversation in and around marketing and business and entrepreneurs because social media requires conversations that are ongoing. So, then you have to decide what type of personally are you going to be, what person are you. So, you get into branding, branding is essentially who you are as a company, more so than the marketing tactics of what you're going to do, and how you're going to do it. It's kind of like how you make people feel and how you represent yourself as an entity, a brand. So, we use this strategy, or I use this strategy quite often where I’m pulling in brand archetypes, tapping into characters that we know and relate to in storytelling. I mean, branding is storytelling.


Shanna Muller:
We use a popular brand archetype framework that was created by Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, and they believed that human beings are pretty simple, they have 12 desires. Basic fundamental desires, and with those desires, you can align a brand archetype or archetype in your story. So, that's how we started out with a brand strategy.


Len Sullivan:
So, really, I think what you're kind of saying here, because sometimes we talk very high level. What we're really saying is that your company – that your message – is a character. So give us an example of a typical, for those, again, don't know what we're really talking about, give us one of those archetypes and explain how that persona as a character relates to the idea of what this one character is and then kind of talk about how that character talks to their audience.


Shanna Mueller:
So, I could use a good character, I think a brand that's easy to relate to is Jeep. And they tie themselves to the explorer brand, which is also HighRock's brand, but it's the desire for freedom, kind of, making your own way, the open road, lots of visuals tying into the color palette even for that. But when you think about a consumer's desire with a Jeep, it's to go on some type of adventure or go down a road they've never been. So, you tap into peoples' unconventional desires. So, when we look at, for instance, with HighRock, our ideal client, we think of someone who'd be willing to try something new, explore new ideas, and have the freedom to try those ideas. So, Jeep offers that perspective as well, a lot times we use the example of a character; if you get really great with your branding people can start to visualize some type of character in a story. So we like to think of Indiana Jones, you know, taking you on that adventure, freedom, exploring new places and ideas. That helps.


Len Sullivan:
Absolutely, and I know I've been in many of these conversations with Shanna talking to companies, and it's amazing. Once they figure out that archetype that most aligns with their company and their mission, it really brings clarity to their messaging, don't you find?


Shanna Mueller:
Yeah, definitely, even just choosing different wording, and the way that you speak, from different ways you can say hello and greet people creates a different personality. If you imagine you're at a party and there's 12 different types of people there, they're all going to have unique ways of speaking, their own style, how do they stand out, what you’re going to remember about them. So really what this kind of strategy, and it's just one type of strategy to help you with your brand personality, but really what it does is, it helps differentiate yourself in the market, right. So if there's 20 types of airlines for you to choose from, for example, and you're the type of person, that kind of enjoys humor and taking risks or whatever, you might have found yourself aligned with Virgin Airlines, for example, which can be an outlaw type brand, rebellious, breaking the rules, and the ideas of how things used to be in the airline industry, and going back.


Shanna Mueller:
So, I think you start to recognize yourself in brands, because if you're really great at it, building a brand persona is really about your customer, and not so much about you, right? So that's the part that they like to call, a paradigm shift which is – you are making people think about themselves inside your brand. So, you may not color green, but your ideal client probably favors that or it makes them feel a special way, like they're outdoorsy, go on an adventure, trying something new, so it really becomes not so much about you, but more about your customer, and being able to connect with them.


Len Sullivan:
And I think that is really probably the key takeaway. A lot of people that listen to this series are marketing directors, they're in charge of marketing, sometimes they're a sole proprietorship, sometimes they're a, you know, marketing director in a mid-sized company, and I think that gets struggled with is that idea of getting on the same page, and it's not really about who likes something or who doesn't like something, and what it does is it takes accountability out of the situation. So, a marketing director can go, there is no CEO saying, I don't like that logo, because it doesn't matter at that point. It's does your customer like that logo? And it takes the accountability out because you're going for the brand, does it fit the brand, is it right for the brand, does it represent who we want to target as an audience?


Len Sullivan:
So, saying things like, I don't like the color green, or I don't, you know, particularly like the shape of that letter is all opinionated at the point. So it's really not about opinion, it takes accountability out, and it allows the marketing director to have an intelligent conversation with the CEO without feeling like they're just saying that I prefer this, it's more about sticking to the framework that you've developed.


Shanna Mueller:
Yeah, and even just in your efforts and what you do. How you advertise and what type of promotions you're going to offer. All of those types of things will go back to the personality. Is this the brand, what the brand would really do, was this the thing, the person...? If you imagine Indiana Jones walking around, is he going to try to do something that's a little more outrageous or daring with his marketing, or is he going to be like the friendly, hey, here's a coupon type person, or make a joke? Is he going to be the funniest guy in the...how do you grab those people's attention and kind of, find yourself hanging out with the same people that you want, right?


Shanna Mueller:
So, as you speak to these people, they then go out to promote you because they feel a connection to your brand. I'm sure we all have brands that we like and feel connected to. Apple calls themselves, you know, the creator, they're a creative brand. And Steve Jobs was brilliant in marketing first. His product is nice and great and innovative, but it makes me believe that I am more creative when I sit down with an Apple product, and is that true? Probably not, but you believe, and so then you go out and evangelize about how great Apple is because it feels part of your identity.


Shanna Mueller:
I think as branding and social media and all these things, and digital media start to become one, when people find themselves identifying with the brands that they wear. When I wear TOMS shoes, I feel like I'm doing good. And that's part of their brand identity, and their mission, so it starts to become a little bit of who you are. Especially in a capitalist society as well, right? The brands that you support, the things you buy, where you shop, all starts to reflect a little bit about who you are as a person, even to the type of car you drive. So, when brands can really tap into that, they can make that connection with consumers, and you're going to definitely have consumers for a lifetime.


Pieter Bickford:
Yeah, and I think one of things I find really helpful about these conversations at the point when we bring Shanna into the conversation – a lot of times, your company has grown to a point where you need some clarity, you need some strategy, and I find that having these conversations, you see these AHA moments of, yeah, that's, that's who we are, that's why it works, and that's why we feel so comfortable with our customers, and our customers feel comfortable with us.


Len Sullivan:
And I think you're right there, Pieter, because a lot of the companies that are really smart about it launch with a brand in mind, and they dictate how the progress goes by building around that brand. But there are companies that launch without – and I say companies, this can be any, anyone really – that launches a business, can really kind of get to some place where they kind of hit a plateau and I think one of the main reasons why they hit that plateau is really not knowing where to take it. Now, the question that often comes up when we deal with these companies that are plateauing is; well, Shanna mentioned the Jeep and the explorer brand. If I'm the explorer and I'm targeting explorers that precludes me from having any other customers, that these are the only customers that I'm targeting. So can you talk a little bit about that Shanna? Because I believe that that's a huge misconception about the brand persona.


Shanna Mueller:
Well, I think part of it is a lot of times when you start with a company, you already kind of have a basic vision and you start recognizing people who are following you and start repeating back. So, by the time you sometimes go through a process like this, it's not hugely a huge shift, but when you go through this process sometimes and you tap into human desires, everyone has these desires. Maybe you're a person that's a little uptight and you don't even realize you're looking for some fun and adventure, and you see this Jeep and you're like, you know what, maybe I should get a Jeep. Let me change things up a little bit. So, it's not necessarily that person is always that person. Sometimes it's saying hey, let's have some fun together, or I want to make you laugh.


Shanna Mueller:
So, you can connect with not just a specific person that is that way, sometimes you can connect with people that have that desire that didn't even realize they had that desire. Or maybe you're getting to a point where you can buy a luxury vehicle and so you're going to turn to more of a powerful brand that represents people have things, all these desires inside of them. It's just, are you catching them at the right time and moment? You see these GEICO commercials and they're making people laugh. Well, part of it is that buying insurance is a boring and overwhelming thing, so the more that you can make it an everyday funny situation, people are looking for something different and you'll remember them for that reason.


Len Sullivan:
Yeah, one of the things I think about is – I might be dating myself here but – Outback had the no rules just right. I don't know if they still have it at this point. But it’s sort of a rebellious brand persona. Their food is on the sort of seasoned side I guess, but it's not the case that you're only looking for those customers that are rebellious, it's, it's, it's that choice for the night, of oh want to be a little bad, you know, I want go out and have a real spicy, kind of, outbacky burger. Or I want to feel Australian for the next two hours, I'm going to go say g'day to people at Outback. There's a bit of wish fulfillment, just kind of satisfying an urge. But they kept ramming home that message. You kind of build it your way, and you know.


Pieter Bickford:
And how successful that was. I remember Outback before we had this whole group of chains sort of come into areas. You'd have lines out the door and you couldn't get a reservation. So, I do remember that, so you're not really dating...maybe I'm dating myself too, Len, but I remember when Outback arrived in a town and it would – even though it's basically meat and potatoes – it's basically a good American meal, it still tapped into that, I'm going on an adventure this evening. I'm doing something exotic, you're absolutely right.


Len Sullivan:
And in terms of retail, it's a completely different market, because what you'll notice about something like that, and I believe that’s absolutely correct Pieter, in that a strong brand, especially for something like real estate, whether going into a development creates an anchor store that draws crowds to other things. So, people naturally want to gravitate that to a strong brand to basically capitalize on their business. You know, Outback is going to bring people for dinner, so I think I should put my Hallmark store next to it so they'll buy their birthday cards. And I'm just making a correlation saying that a strong brand, a strong anchor store, can for a business park, really bring home that idea of we can fill this up with a lot of good businesses. And it's all comes back to the fact that they have a good brand.


Shanna Mueller:
Yeah, and I think too, once you decide, if it helps you make a lot of decisions, right, you always go back to it. But one of the biggest impacts I've seen is that it bleeds into your company culture. So, when your staff is out there working in retail, they can take on this personality, they have this personality because it's coming from the top down. And even in any engagement that a customer has with you, whether it's online or in person, or a sign somewhere…


Shanna Mueller:
So, money can sometimes make people feel powerful but it's the idea of catching them at every point, whatever effort you're doing, and having that consistent message and feel, by the color palettes, the photography, the message, the words. I think helps tremendously and it solves problems. And then same thing, if you go into a Mercedes Benz dealership, the staff is looking dressed up, people are spending money, they're going to speak a message that makes you feel like, okay, this is a premium, luxury.


Pieter Bickford:
Going back to what you said at the beginning, Len, you need to have a meeting of the minds between the CEO and the marketing division, and one thing that I find that this helps when we have these brand identities, it's amazing how powerful it is as a tool, because once the CEO and once the top, the C-level, the C-suite staff have bought into it, it makes those conversations about marketing that much easier.


Len Sullivan:
Yeah, I feel like sometimes we get a little too much into the large companies and have yeah, large companies have their stuff together, but the mid-sized companies are the ones that this really benefits in terms of, let's get on the same page, let's all be rowing in the same direction. How many times has a content manager gotten on social media and go, what am I going to post today? And in some ways, this really takes that pressure off, because you should have a very defined audience.


Len Sullivan:
So, with that in mind, let's talk about the last thing that we really should cover, because the one thing we know as a marketing team is that marketing is about data now. And understanding that data, and understanding that audience can really help you target who you want to go after and how you want to go after them. So, that brings us to the main point, or the final point, which would be data. Because as a marketing team, we know that data is important, so when you're going about your social media –  Google AdWords, SEO content – how would you use your brand persona to help you identify the key words, the key demographics, the target audiences, and kind of setting up your ongoing plan?


Shanna Mueller:
I think part of it is looking at the data of how people are using your product, how they're expressing themselves with your product. And what types of initiatives that you've done that been successful. Is it something that you can take on? Is it something that is manageable? There may be things that you've done that are funny, but can you manage having a jester personality long term? That's tricky. So, yes and no, but when I look at data, there's many ways to analyze data, depending on the questions you want to get out. I mean, Pieter knows that we've pulled surveys and then they've gotten answers, and I go, well, have you looked at it in this way? And then they're like, oh no, because data can be skewed by the questions and the way that you ask questions from people. Or, who's analyzing the data to answer the problem?


Shanna Mueller:
So, I think part of it is that you can also build audiences that are the wrong audiences, and then have to pivot. What you really want to do is think up...what I always suggest first out the gate is, imagine your favorite customer, and then tell me five reasons they're your favorite customer. And then once you've done that, do it three or four more times. Get those profiles built and then start targeting that person. Because everybody wants their favorite customer, we don't want the headache people, or the half ins and half outs, right. Because then you're investing your time speaking to people you want to hang out with.


Len Sullivan:
So, with that in mind, I think that's a great place to end it. Shanna has given everyone homework to go and identify their favorite customer and five things that you can do with that customer. So, with that in mind, thanks for joining us for this latest episode of Elevating Brands. We'll see you next time.


Shanna Mueller:
Thank you, bye.

 

Nikoletta Gjoni

by Nikoletta Gjoni, Project Manager

As a graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) with a degree in English Literature and Journalism, Niki's passion has always been storytelling and all the forms it can take. As such, her professional experience has ranged from working in cable news to holding communications and marketing director roles in the nonprofit sector. She enjoys connecting with audiences through strategic branding and marketing approaches and believes a good story will almost always win someone over for a new product or experience.

Outside of work, Niki is an award-nominated fiction and creative nonfiction writer, as well as a manuscript editor and creative writing coach for new and young writers. She enjoys traveling, eating good food, supporting indie bookstores, and combatting writer's block, among other things.

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