5 Key Takeaways from Season One of "The Brandwagon Interviews" Podcast

Lisa Marinelli

Creative


If you’re a marketer and you like podcasts, then the first season of The Brandwagon Interviews might just be the perfect podcast for you. For 10 weeks, we invited 10 special guests from an array of industries onto the set of Brandwagon to talk about all things brand marketing with Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage. From Mailchimp to UM Worldwide and Harpoon Brewery to ProfitWell, we’ve learned a lot from the masterminds behind these amazing brands.

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In this post, we’re highlighting the most valuable lessons learned from all the conversations that were featured on The Brandwagon Interviews podcast. Be sure to listen to each episode on your favorite streaming platform and read on for our key takeaways!

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

1. Make your brand a key differentiator in the market

When Dan Kenary, CEO of Harpoon Brewery, and Mark DiCristina, Head of Brand at Mailchimp, dropped by our studio, they both knew what it was like competing in saturated markets. Despite being in different industries, Kenary and DiCristina knew that the best way to stand out amongst the competition was to differentiate their brands.

Harpoon Brewery was one of the first craft breweries on the East Coast. However, it wasn’t long before competition exploded in the craft brewery and microbrewery space. So, how did they differentiate themselves? Kenary explained that the company focused on building a strong brand and connecting with their customers. Even without flashy advertising, this strategy helped the brand cut through the competition. To differentiate themselves further, Harpoon also created a sub-brand called UFO, which helped the business appeal to a new segment and grow in unexpected ways. And today, knowing their brand like the back of their hand, Harpoon manages a house of five distinct brands all under the Harpoon umbrella.

In the early days of Mailchimp, a marketing automation software platform, the company wasn’t the biggest or well-funded fish in the sea by a long shot. DiCristina described how Mailchimp understood they wouldn’t be successful by playing the same game as everyone else. Instead of outspending other companies and competing with them on a dollar for dollar basis, DiCristina said, “ … our approach, which is really a credit to Ben, our CEO and co-founder, was to be as different as we possibly could and use our weakness as a strength.” Ultimately, DiCristina said what ended up helping Mailchimp stand out was their appetite for being weird and playful, and their belief in creating real connections with their customers.

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From the experiences of both Kenary and DiCristina, it’s clear that making your brand a key differentiator can help you stand out in markets where everyone is stuck in a similar mold. Let your brand communicate more about your values and trust that you’ll connect with the right folks.

2. Be consistent and strategic with how you brand your business

The second lesson we learned was about consistency and why it’s a crucial part of the recipe for creating a strong brand. Veronica Parker-Hahn, SVP of Growth and Innovation at Effie Worldwide, and Dan Kenary of Harpoon had a few words to say about the importance of strategic rigor and remaining consistent.

Parker-Hahn began her career in the advertising industry, and over the past 15 years, she’s worked with major brands like DirecTV, State Farm Insurance, Reebok, and many more. Over the years, she’s learned that creativity is only a fraction of what builds a strong brand. Building a strong brand and creating an effective campaign starts with a deliberate, well-thought-out strategy. In addition to strategic rigor, you need to identify your values, and she emphasized, “ … what your brand stands for should permeate everything you do.”

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Kenary also shared similar sentiments about remaining consistent with your brand. At Harpoon, they built the brand under the banner, “Love Beer. Love Life.,” and to this day, they ensure every interaction they have with consumers is consistent with what they’re trying to represent. In Kenary’s mind, if you’re not consistent, your brand loses meaning and people stop paying attention. Whether it’s communicating with someone in customer service or hosting a seasonal festival, every touchpoint with the consumer matters.

So, when thinking about building a stronger brand for your business, remember to always start with a solid strategy. Then, when it comes to executing on that strategy, make sure you understand the audience you want to reach and what makes them tick. Stay super consistent with the values you want to convey, both internally and externally, and you’ll be able to create a well-loved brand with a ton of loyal fans.

“Stay super consistent with the values you want to convey, both internally and externally, and you’ll be able to create a well-loved brand with a ton of loyal fans.”

3. Take the time to deep-dive on your niche audience

Speaking of knowing the type of audience you want to reach, it really helps to know your niche inside and out when building your brand. Lauren Fleshman, Co-Founder and CMO of Picky Bars, and Patrick Campbell, CEO of ProfitWell, have discovered the many benefits of appealing to a niche audience.

As a former Nike-sponsored athlete, Lauren Fleshman grew to become an exceptional storyteller. In order to renew sponsorship deals, she recognized the importance of marketing her values, and when she started her own business, she marketed Picky Bars in the energy bar industry leading with the brand’s values. Lauren believes brands should lead with their values because it helps you find out why people like you in the first place. Then, you can lean into your niche and trust your brand will build from there.

One of the ways Lauren dove deep into Picky Bars' niche was by starting a podcast with her husband called Work, Play, Love, where they chat transparently about all the mess-ups and struggles they’ve encountered running the company so far. Not only do they talk about the business, but they also open up about their relationship and balancing all the chaos of regular day-to-day life, giving their audience an opportunity to have a deeper connection with them and the Picky Bars brand.

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At ProfitWell, a subscription software company, Patrick Campbell is appealing to a niche and building an engaged audience for the brand by creating binge-worthy video series. Along with their series Pricing Page Teardown, Subscription 60, The ProfitWell Report and Protect the Hustle, Campbell told Savage that ProfitWell has over 10 distinct shows in the works. Episodic video content has become one of ProfitWell’s primary marketing vehicles because traditional advertising campaigns and written content have become less effective for them over the past few years. Producing shows doesn’t guarantee more conversion, but they’re better at keeping their audience engaged with their brand, rather than aggravating them with intrusive ads.

Trying to reach a niche might sound counter-intuitive, but Campbell encourages people to get comfortable with marketing to niche audiences. You may not see the impact right off the bat, but there’s inherent value in developing an engaged audience over time.

For Picky Bars and ProfitWell, going all-in on their niche audiences has helped their business’ build better brand affinity than if they tried appealing to everyone. After all, the number of impressions you make with a campaign does not equal the number of people impressed.

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4. Don’t be afraid to take risks and share the results

Throughout The Brandwagon Interviews, we also noticed that many of our guests were strong believers in taking risks and experimenting with new and innovative marketing tactics. When it comes to building a stronger brand and surviving (and thriving!) in any industry, risk-taking often seemed to be a necessary part of achieving success.

As the CMO of Hydrow, an in-home rowing machine company offering a live outdoor reality experience, Nancy Dussault Smith discussed why it’s important to make space for experimenting with different types of brand marketing tactics. Having worked with innovative products like Hydrow and Roomba in her career, Dussault Smith says she always dedicates a portion of her budget to testing things out, and that’s where she’s seen many wins come in. By using small victories from experimentation as proof, she’s convinced C-suite executives to take bigger swings with their investments when it comes to building a brand.

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Rand Fishkin, CEO and Co-Founder of SparkToro, is no stranger to taking risks, either. After all, he ended up building an iconic brand around his “Whiteboard Fridays” video series at Moz simply because he was tired of writing blog posts week after week. In order to convince people at your company to get on board with investing more in brand-building activities, he recommends you show value early on and highlight the fact that your competition is already doing it. To urge higher-ups to invest even more in brand, he recommends putting together research and presenting it along with suggestions for next steps that’ll level the playing field. Similar to Nancy’s approach, Fishkin also said that making one small investment can be used as a proof-point to justify another small investment.

“In order to convince people at your company to get on board with investing more in brand-building activities, he recommends you show value early on and highlight the fact that your competition is already doing it.”

Over at UM Worldwide, a full-service media agency, Brendan Gaul, Global Chief Content Officer and Head of UM Studios, is exercising innovative thinking on a large scale and with a bigger budget. He pointed out that brands need to think of interesting new ways to connect with people because consumers are moving to ad-free platforms. For example, when Johnson & Johnson wanted to elevate the image of nurses around the world from doctor sidekicks to the heroes of healthcare, Gaul pitched a rather out-of-the-box idea for a documentary film called 5B. While this was certainly a risky investment for the brand, the documentary went on to win the Grand Prix for Entertainment at the 2019 Cannes Lions Festival for Creativity. This big win validated the notion that brand-funded content can be accepted by audiences and that creative risk-taking can pay off for brands.

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“He pointed out that brands need to think of interesting new ways to connect with people because consumers are moving to ad-free platforms.”

No matter what industry you’re in, getting comfortable with risk-taking and knowing how to convince others to get comfortable with it, too, is key. After all, in order to compete in a constantly changing marketing landscape, you have to innovate and take risks to stay relevant and stand out amongst the competition.

5. Create content that is truly valuable

The final lesson we took away from the first season of The Brandwagon Interviews, is just how important it is to create content for your audience that offers real value. Mark DiCristina of Mailchimp, Brendan Gaul of UM, and Patrick Campbell of ProfitWell, all have something in common — their teams create engaging video content that helps build better brand affinity.

Recently, Mailchimp has been releasing short-form video series, films, and podcasts out of their own new content studio, Mailchimp Presents. DiCristina said, “Mailchimp’s mission has always been about empowering small businesses and helping them succeed and grow. We’ve always done that with software, but over the last couple of years, we began to feel like there are other ways that we can do that.” With content that inspires, motivates, and makes people feel like they’re not alone, Mailchimp Presents has developed a valuable platform for an audience of entrepreneurs, while increasing the amount of time people spend with their overarching brand.

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As we mentioned before, ProfitWell is also engaging niche audiences through multiple video series of their own. Not only is their content valuable for consumers, but they’ve also found value in repurposing clips for their marketing efforts. What ProfitWell is doing here is treating their video content like a product, which is advice we took to heart when promoting our own four-part docu-series, One, Ten, One Hundred (and spoiler alert, it worked!).

At the end of the day, consumers are able to sniff out content that’s solely based on trying to sell them more stuff, and people are keenly aware when brands are phony with their intentions. That’s why brands need to know when they have — or need to earn — permission to be a part of important conversations. For smaller companies, the need to create powerful content like the biggest brands can be overwhelming. But, approaching content humbly and understanding the value your company can genuinely offer to a niche audience will help you define your brand.

Don’t let this wisdom go to waste

Now that you’ve heard from several masterminds behind amazing brands on The Brandwagon Interviews, get out there and put their wisdom to good use. From one marketer to another, establishing a strong brand in the modern marketing world is more important than ever. So, let these key takeaways guide you toward building a better brand and creating a more engaged audience who will stand by your business for a long time.

Lisa Marinelli

Creative

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