For Jeremy, branding is deeply personal. After watching his family’s business nearly hit rock bottom, he was forced to take a long hard look at the way their company was run.
What Jeremy realized is that it wasn’t his company’s sales people or marketing processes that were failing, it was their branding. This caused him to regroup, revamp, and rebrand the business. And within a year the company turned the corner and rocketed into a successful brand.
I invited Jeremy to be a guest on my show to learn what makes a brand “sticky” and why it’s important to know the difference between branding and marketing. I wanted to learn about digital saturation and how it impacts branding. And finally, I was curious to hear what he thinks the future of branding looks like in a post-covid world.
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Hi, I'm Joelly, your Branding Badass, and welcome to my new podcast, branding matters.Today I'm sitting down with Jeremy Miller, a globally recognized branding expert and number one Globe and Mail best selling author of the books, sticky branding and brand new name for Jeremy branding is deeply personal, because after watching his family's business nearly hit rock bottom, he and his family were forced to take a long hard look at the way their company was run. And what Jeremy realize is that it wasn't his company sales people or marketing processes that were failing. It was their branding. Well, this caused Jeremy to regroup, revamp and rebrand the family business. And within one short year, I'm happy to say the back company turned the corner and rocketed into a super successful brand. I invited Jeremy to be guest on my show to learn what makes a brand sticky, and why it's so important to know the difference between branding and marketing. And I also wanted to learn about digital saturation and how that impacts branding. And finally, I wanted to get his point of view on what he thinks the future of branding looks like in a post COVID world. Jeremy, welcome to branding matters.Jeremy Miller:
Such a pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.Joelly Goodson Lang:
Oh, I'm so excited to have you here. You have a quite an interesting story. And I love hearing people's stories.Jeremy Miller:
My origin story started probably in high school. And I remember I asked my mum at one point when I grew up, I'm going to take over the family business. And I think she was like, Oh, that's nice, but like panicked and freaked out a little. And what I discovered many years later was they did actually kind of have this little app kind of moment. And they talk to their friends and other family business owners. And they asked for advice. He said, Okay, our kids are starting to talk with the company, what do we do, and the advice they received was, well, you don't want your kids to come across as the lucky sperm, you got to set some rules. And so my brother and I were given a set of rules. If we want to join the family business, we had to have a university education. We had to work in the real world for at least four years. And we had to have relevant experience and apply for a job at the time we wanted to come on. And if there was a job available, then great. If not, then youJoelly Goodson Lang:
actually had to apply for your your parents business. Do you have an interview,Unknown:
I think a job interview interview but I had expressed interest. And we had to talk about what I would do and where I'd fit and how I would come in and not upset the existing so interesting business, all that kind of stuff. That's great to know. But basically, for years to the day, I joined the family business and joined it a period of disruption was in the recruiting sector. And we were coming off of the recession of the early 2000s. And thought we had time to but things just didn't recover. First year on the job was simply horrible. I remember it got so bad in terms of sales that we implemented pit time, where me and my sales reps would actually spend six hours a week on outbound cold calling, smiling and dialing. It was frickin horrendous. And at the end of the first year, I sat down my parents after the Christmas party and said, This is what it's like to be in a family business. I can't do it. This is awful. This is when I got the best advice of my career. My dad said to me, you know, it's not about the business you've built. It's about the business we're building, what are we going to build next. And that gave me permission to actually look at the company from a different lens, I took a step back and we studied our customers, we studied our market. And what we realize is we didn't have a sales problem. Like we thought we had a branding problem. And in that that triggered everything. So we rebranded and reposition the company, we turned it around, we got into digital marketing very early. We're doing SEO and content marketing, inbound marketing before was even called any of that in 2005. And that triggered what has been a lifelong passion now for branding and strategy. But it all started with being a sales guy who'd lost his competitive advantage and having to figure it out. And so he wrote sticky branding after I sold my family's business. He was the condition of that to write the first book and been going ever sinceJoelly Goodson Lang:
How did you bridge that gap between sales and branding and where you realized that it was really the brand? That was the issue?Unknown:
My first job out of school was in CRM software sales, so we would sell technology to enable sales forces. The recruiting business was a sales and marketing recruiting agency with a Salesforce design component of it. So how to use people to drive sales along the way just kept leveling up organically towards the most effective way to affect sales performance is through brand and strategy.Joelly Goodson Lang:
What was your inspiration to write this book?Unknown:
I always wanted to write a book. I basically took a step back and said what is the book I wish I had when I was going through that process because at the time I read everything I could get my hands on. I read everything book every marketing thing I could find. And they were all the big companies like Apple and Nike and Starbucks, but I was a small business, I had a marketing budget, just not a vast one. And so I was trying to translate all of this book and marketing material I was getting my hands on for what does this mean in the small and mid sized businesses. The other extreme was, there's a ton of content written for solopreneurs and freelancers and marketing coaches. I wasn't that either. I wanted to write a branding playbook that would satisfy my needs going through that experience. And then I so I took my story. And then I profiled and I interviewed over 150 companies and business owners from around the world. And they were all small and mid sized companies between roughly 2 million to 200 million to understand how did they challenge the giants of their industry, and how did they grow remarkable brands. And that became the catalyst for all the content and principles of sticky branding.Joelly Goodson Lang:
What's a sticky brand,Unknown:
it's a few things. It's what's a business with sticky branding, the company is the company, but it's also a mindset. And I truly believe that any business of any size can grow a sticky brand. And what it means is to create a first choice advantage, if you think of it the best brands, the companies that you love, and they could be big companies like Apple or Amazon, or maybe it's your favorite restaurant that you visit on a regular basis, they all have that one thing in common their customers choose them first, but it's bigger than that they think of them first, they refer them first they come back again and again. And they do that not because they have the best product or the best price. They do that because they know the brand, they like it and they trust it. And when your customers know you like you and trust you, they will choose you first. And that relationship is something that we can all build, even if you're a one man herd to a multi billion dollar business. This is truly what great branding does. But it's a complex thing. At the same time. It's multifaceted, it requires strategy. Because first and foremost, you have to have a great business that delivers exceptional value to your customers. If it's all just marketing, and it's lipstick on a pig, people aren't going to have a strong relationship with you is also going to be authentic in that. It's the way you make people feel it's the way you serve them. So things like customer service, and reliability and stability, they all affect that. And then it comes back down to the sales and marketing, which is if you don't blow your own horn, nobody will. And so you look at this question of how do I get my customers to choose me first? is it's an evolving question based on where your business is at what you're trying to achieve, what the competitive forces are, what's going on market like with COVID and asking this always a how do we build those relationships so people know us like us and trust us. And in that today, we add in this idea of relevance like people might know you like and trust you. But unless you can help them solve a need in a relevant way might love you, they're just not going to act, he can't be just waiting on the sidelines.Joelly Goodson Lang:
It's one thing to have a customer come back. But having that relationship where they come back again and again, again is the key right is keeping your customers was that what makes a brand sticky is having that customer stay?Unknown:
Well, that's what's driving the majority of sales right now, in this situation. We have recessionary behavior right now. And the way we market and brand is probably more challenging than before. And the way I've often been telling people is, today's marketing looks a lot more like 2005 and 2019, that we need to think in pre social media terms today. And there's a few reasons for that. And it speaks to what you're talking about in relationships. So we make our money by serving our existing customers and trying to go deeper and wider within them. But the problem is, those existing customers are also difficult because they are making smaller purchases last minute. So we have lumpier sales funnels we have and we see it we have revenue declines of anywhere 15 to 50%, on average, does your value proposition provoke and engage someone who doesn't have a lot of time? Do you have a path and process to reach them? Because I bet they're too busy to be googling for a service or spending time on social media? So how do you market yourself to a new audience that where the stakes are that much higher. And so the challenges today of branding and marketing have never been more important. We did a research study in 2019. And we studied perennial marketing programs. So Martin continuous marketing programs that have been operating for over five years. And what we discovered was these programs continued to work. But we're taking 10 times the effort either in content creation or budget in order to generate a similar result. So what we were seeing is say you were generating one sales lead a week, it was taking 10 times the effort to generate the same ROI or the same output. So it was becoming a dramatic negative shift in return on investment. So we started looking at this and what we discovered was digital saturation was the primary He's in for this precipitous decline in marketing effective. And so there's this premise that was created by Mark Schaefer, who's this is a brilliant social media strategist and author. And what Mark talks about is content shock. And he said, the world's digital content is doubling every six months, roughly. And you look at it, we now produce more digital content in a 24 hour cycle than there are human hours to consume it all. So if you took everybody in the world, everyone from Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, you name it, and ask them to consume what was created yesterday, we couldn't do it. And so this has had profound effects in terms of our behaviors. And we used to subscribe and light content because we didn't want to miss out now, we are protecting our inboxes. And so we are defending our inboxes. We are bingeing so we take what we want when we wanted, but we're also breaking apart many marketing paradigms. For example, Moz did a study last year or the year before. And they looked at over a million articles. And they found that over 50% of articles being published, have no likes, views or clicks. So half of people's content marketing isn't even being seen, Google is also reducing, and D listing old content, because there's so much of it. And so what's happening is people are consuming what is inside their feed, but the feeds are being juiced. So not everything gets seen. So you need to have a lot of followers or likes or influence. And so there's been two schools of thought the first comes from Gary Vaynerchuk, which is produce more, his strategy is brilliant, but it's not necessarily gonna work for everyone. I've got the other side of it being a Canadian, there's this old adage from Wayne Gretzky, I skate to where the puck is going to be. And the way I look at Gary Vaynerchuk, suppose and others, it looks a lot like peewee hockey, where there's a bunch of little kids skating around the ice, they're all falling on each other, no one takes a shot on net. The same for us, when every marketing campaign is treated the same when every customer is treated the same, you end up not generating anything. So we need to be very specific. So I asked two key questions. The first one is who knows about a customer need before you do that? Is the group I want to market to? So if you know that there's a group that refers you work? Or is the the people that are the recommenders, or whoever it is, they're actually the most important marketing group. The second one is being really targeted and specific in who are the customers that will drive growth. So the question is, who and where are the customers that will drive our next stage of growth? And when you can get really specific on those two questions, then you can choose the marketing tactics that will make the most sense. You don't need to do everything. You don't need to produce everything, you're going to get lost in the content shock if you do so how can you be hyper relevant and hyper present for the people that matter? So how do you do that, say you are selling a service of some kind, and you sell it to other businesses, if the managers and procurement who you used to sell to don't have the relationships anymore, now you have to sell to the business owner, the business owner is probably someone who is 50 to 65 years old, incredibly busy running a lot of things in meetings all day, and may or may not be on social media. When I look at most business owners that I work with, they have people that look at social media, and they only look at their own stuff, they don't actually spend time on it. So they're not shopping there. The other is, they are also not sitting there looking for solutions. But what we have seen is that executive access has increased by 40% since March of 2020. So since COVID, business owners and executives are more receptive than ever to ideas. So if you can be very provocative in your messaging, and focus on their need, I'm willing to bet you'll get a meeting and that can be delivered by an email that could be done through a LinkedIn inmail that could be done through a cold call. But if you have a really clear message with a really clear solution for the people that you know you can serve the don't wait for social media marketing pick up the phone like Millennials are learning how to sell for the very first time we've had inbound marketing, serving as deals for the last 10 years. And guess what the way that you and I grew up in sales is the way to sell in 2021.Joelly Goodson Lang:
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it, wasn't it? For sure. So we were known as Miller and Associates, and we were basically branded in the 80s. To look like a law firm. One of the issues was recruiting has always had this negative industry reputation. People call them headhunters. It's always had a reputation as a slimy industry. And I think it gets better. And it has an depends on the sector. But when we started out, when my parents started out, they really wanted to present themselves as a professional firm. They thought of themselves like a law firm or an accounting firm. And so it was a relationship driven business. It was driven by partner model. And so they called it Miller and Associates. Yeah, sounds like, and it looked like wow, wow. Now, when we go went into 2005, and started studying our customers, what we realized is the positioning we had looked like a law firm, but we also look like every other recruiter on the street. So when somebody was going online and looking at they couldn't tell the difference between us and anyone else. And so we took a step back, and we said, okay, what do we want to be, and we decided, we wanted to position ourselves as a sales and marketing recruiting agency. But our primary audience that we want to engage was young, up and coming professionals. And we wanted to create a brand that was young, energetic, relevant, and so it wasn't going to be Miller and Associates. And so we went through what I talked about a brand new name, our naming process, and we created a leap job. And the idea was we anchor to this on a journey metaphor, when you think of your career, it's always in motion, I'm stuck. I'm trying to take a leap forward, I'm trying to get to a destination like retirement. And so we wanted to leapfrog your forward type of idea the name was play on leapfrog leap job. And from there, we build this really energetic brand with a mascot and bright colors and really smart content. And it did incredibly well. The way I think of is your brand name is probably your most important brand asset, because it's the thing that people know you buy. And so what we had was Miller and Associates. So we had all these relationships and meaning they had a vessel in that and creating a new name. The first challenge was how do we pour all the contents of the old vessel into the new vessel so we can retain that. And so there was a process, we can talk about the communication side of how to rebrand. But once we had it there, what leap job gave us was a meme, a name that was highly memorable. So people sometimes will get confused. Oh, you're leapfrog. And if we correct them, they know it's leaps up, they wouldn't forget, it would stick in our minds, what a high stickiness factor, we could own it. So we could have the.com, we could have all the core marketing and trademarks on it. And it was completely different from everyone else in our industry. In our industry, there was firms named after individuals. So you'd have Miller associates or last name versus something you have made up names like eagle and pro calm. But largely they were bilingual recruiters it were like they were really descriptive, boring name. And so we had brand positioning that immediately distinguished us, which made us more memorable. But also it created energy. So we could charge on average 15 to 20% above market rates and never negotiate because we were perceived as better.Joelly Goodson Lang:
So let's talk about rebranding. What is the value of rebranding? Why do you think it's important? And when do you think it's good? And why do you think is notUnknown:
good? I think companies rebrand too often, and often goes this way. They hire a new VP of marketing to hire a CMO. They hire a marketing person, and they go, I hate what you're doing. You need a new logo, you need this, you need this or the names terrible, you need to do this. It becomes this art project. So every time a new exec comes in, it gets changed. And the problem is you have to ask, why are you rebranding? And I think there's only one reason that you're going to rebrand is that the brand is no longer serving the company and the business model. So if your name is creating dissonance, for example, ISIS pharmaceuticals they changed your name because of ISIS. The terrorist organization Awan anyone named after the Yellow Page is no longer relevant, it's hurting you. So those become issues the other might be you reposition you go into a new industry, a new market, those come the times when it makes sense brand is hurting your sales that's a good indication if rebranding is an art project or it's this aspirational thing of what we're going to be there's probably better things for you to spend your time onJoelly Goodson Lang:
let's talk about your book and i do want to talk about crisis marketing because that's a big thing that's happening based on what's going on in the world today so you talk about the 12.5 principles of all those which is your favorite and which you think is the mostUnknown:
important the one that has been consistently the most important is simple clarity the ability to describe who you are what you do and what makes you unique simply succinctly in in the language of your customers ideally in 10 words or less getting your brand messaging right and clear so anyone understands it is the hardest thing in the world but it's the foundation of your entire brand and nothing works until you have it 99% of marketing messages so we are the oldest we are the greatest we have the best customer service we we we it comes across as we we talk please don't we are your customers oh wait yeah exactly if you use innovation innovation that excites me that kind of stuff it doesn't have any meaning what great marketing and great simple clarity has is concrete words you can picture them in your mind and you get it it doesn't tell you a colorful value proposition you just get it take patriot software they're a us software firm they've advertised constantly in cable news in the us but they always say in every ad we are accounting and payroll software for companies between one to 100 employees that's exactly what they are no doubt on it or it's actually in the brand name big ass fans three words you know exactly what they are they make us brilliant or there's there's countless examples it's in the specificity it's the first thing that goes on your website it's the first thing you do when you introduce yourself and if you don't have that then all of your other marketing is actually floating because people are trying to understand it but if they're busy or not paying attention they have no reason to anchor it so you take the patriot example they always in their ads they tell these entrepreneurial stories they're usually anchored in the founder ceo telling about his journey and the struggles he's had as a business owner and as an entrepreneur they always re anchor the message of this is how we help and this is who we help so accounting and payroll software for companies to one to 100 employees and that way if you're in that mix you'll pay attention if you're not you may hear it but it won't resonate or connect because you're not in that mix but without that anchor without simple clarity the ability to convert marketing into leads is highly limited the brand experience is what actually closes the deal and creates the relationship yeah but if you can't anchor your brand if you can't give that simple clarity statement all your marketing will floatJoelly Goodson Lang:
i think a lot of people get confused between what a brand is what branding is and what marketing is and what salesUnknown:
why don't we hit that because i do believe branding has an identity crisis that there is no clear depth andJoelly Goodson Lang:
let's talk about this identity i will talk about where we're going to crisis tell me about your thinking on that soUnknown:
i think there's the two distinct things so the best definition i love is jeff bezos of amazon he said yeah a brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room and that's a lagging indicator of the relationships the work you've done your reputation so your brand is your reputation branding is strategy branding is what you are going to do what you are striving to achieve so when you're branding you're forward thinking you're trying to create something and be clear about how you're creating and you're doing that to influence an outcome your brand though is always going to be a past it's a lagging indicator of what you have doneJoelly Goodson Lang:
we talked earlier about being relevant how does a company now become relevant in today's market soUnknown:
i think every value proposition got blown out of the water and the start of this pandemic and it's continuing to evolve and shift and whether you've acted on it now or you're still figuring it out is is every once in a different place but the recognition is that customer expectations have all shifted in the pandemic we're scared we're dealing with budget issues and uncertainty we don't know how things are going to navigate going into 2022 and so the problem is when somebody is afraid or uncertain is they will delay making purchase decisions or delayed just doing things and so what we all need as businesses is revenue and cash flow and so when your customers not buying when they're not engaging with you when they're afraid this is actually the most important moment that you can have because you can be helpful they actually have really important names right now the pandemic has affected them just as it affected you so the question i always ask is who needs your company and its expertise the most right now and then use that to look for what are those really key burning needs that your customers or your market is experiencing so then you can act on it what are the products and services that you could deliver to solve that need and then how do you promote a market that in a way that is authentic and real and transparent and generous to serve it and what we're really doing is being incredibly empathetic what is the situation going on with the people that we know and want to work with and then how can we help them and i'm confident that if you are focusing on being generous and helpful and proactive then you will find more opportunities right now than ever beforeJoelly Goodson Lang:
i love that because i couldn't agree with you more and i think a big part of that jeremy is mindset because i think when all this happened and people are struggling everywhere a lot of sales people and a lot of businesses feel well i can't i can't market and i can't sell myself because look at people are struggling and if you change your mindset i want to help these people like i can help you like i know you're struggling and here's how we can help you and let's work together and but there's so many people that i've talked to i mean people are scared to they don't want to advertise they don't want to market because they're think they're gonna look bad you know and so trying to change that mindset to we're here to help you and this is how we can do it andUnknown:
to do that though you have to be proactive yeah so you have to lead with the question i call it think of it as a hypothesis are you experiencing this problem or challenge if so have you considered these options and this is how we can help and it's in in asking the question and being provocative is how you will never be icky because if you're just going to the solution then you are making the assumption you have this problem then i'm going to sell it to you versus do you have this problem if yes i've got an answer if no cool i'm out yeah absolutely in a crisis there are opportunities for change customers have new needs our competitors are weakened and the playing field has been leveled but more importantly today your customers want you to succeed so the companies who act fast and adapt faster are the ones that are creating a competitive advantage and are likely the ones that will come out of this crisis to be the market leaders i think we will go into 2022 and the category leaders and the people who were ruling the roost before this pandemic will likely will see seismic changes in a lot of industriesJoelly Goodson Lang:
well this has been amazing and i could sit here and talk to you there's so much information thank you so much for all your insight and your knowledge and it's great to talk to you if people want to learn more about you and about your sticky branding what's the best way to get ahold of youUnknown:
easiest way to find me is just google sticky branding you'll find that website sticky branding com i'm on all the social networks at sticky branding and then the books are on amazon sticky branding or brand new name if anyone has any questions or wants to follow on just reach out to me anytimeJoelly Goodson Lang:
okay awesome yeah and i can vouch for that i reached out to him he didn't know who i was and he was amazing so thank you so much jeremy i really appreciate it and i look forward to continue to follow you're gonna come up with another bookUnknown:
obviously yeah we got one coming in but no i and i appreciate everything you're doing thank you for doing this podcast was so much funJoelly Goodson Lang:
okay awesome i will talk to you again soon bye and there you have it i really hope you enjoy the conversation and maybe learned a few things to help you with your branding but most of all i really hope you had some fun this show is a work in progress so please make sure to rate and review on whatever platform you listen to and if you want to learn more about the branding badass that's me you can find me on social media under you know it branding badness thanks again and until next time here's to all you badasses out there