A company would want to rebrand when they realize their values don’t align the values of their customers. When we’re talking about building a great brand, we’re really talking about creating an experience that fits with what your customers are looking for. That’s about values, and what those values are isn’t up to you. A brand would want to rebrand when they did their research, and from that, learned that who they are now isn’t who they need to be in order to attract the right customers. The indicators to look for is unrealized potential. Maybe that means your brand isn’t capturing the full market potential, or maybe it’s a slip in return customers. You’re looking for a misalignment in what your customers are looking for and what you’re delivering. When you find that, it’s time to examine the brand.
As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Matt Seltzer, the owner of S2 Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm located in Las Vegas. A life-long marketer, Matt’s overseen research and marketing projects at ad agencies and brands across industries like travel and tourism, hospitality, services, education and real estate. With S2 Research, Matt’s working with marketing teams as their outsourced market research team. Providing the services of an in-house market research department, Matt works as a fractional market researcher for marketing firms.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Matt! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Absolutely. I always wanted to work at an ad agency, and got my foot in the door with the market research team at an firm in Las Vegas. That experience showed me a whole side of marketing I didn’t know about, and I ended up falling in love with the market research part of the process.
Last year, I decided it was time for a new challenge, and started my company S2 Research. We facilitate market research for marketing teams, doing everything from the upfront legwork like gathering the right data, to delivering the outputs like creative briefs, summaries and content. It’s been a really great experience!
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of my first big brand research projects was laying the groundwork for a pitch my agency was putting together. I pulled together some great secondary research, and converted it into a 10-page document that covered everything from demographics to psychographics to ethnography and belief systems — you name it, it was in there.
My boss’s big takeaway from all of that research? It was way too long.
After that project, the account lead really helped me hone in as to what it is a marketing team is looking for in research. Usually, it’s something succinct that they can quickly wrap their heads around. When doing market research, there’s some very important to be said about brevity.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?
The tipping point for me was when I realized how much energy I got from doing freelance work. When it’s just you and client, it’s your brand and reputation on the line. For me, that makes me inclined to try out new ideas and be more creative.
The big change I made after that was starting S2 Research. This company really lets me take my love for marketing, branding and research and bring it all together in such a great way for my clients.
The lesson here is really to listen to what makes you feel the best. Even when you’re in the right career, if there’s a way to extract even more pleasure out of life, pursue that path. You and your work will be better off for it.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m excited to be speaking at a few marketing and communications conferences in the next few months. I really love the environment and energy at meetings and conventions — everyone’s always pumped to learn, grow and connect. Being able to speak in these high-energy environments is always a blast.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Audio books. I know working in this field, finding time to read can be a pain, but books about marketing can really keep you fired up. Switch to audio books through your local library and an app on your phone, and you can turn all of your driving and gym time into a chance to reignite the marketing fires.
A few books I’ll recommend to get started are Contagious by Jonah Berger, Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath, and Measure What Matters by John Doerr.
Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
Product marketing is about telling people what your product can do for them and why they should buy it. Brand marketing is about how you make those people feel, even when they’re not going to engage with your product.
Imagine you’re selling cheeseburgers. Your product marketing is going to describe what the cheeseburger offers the customer: the great taste, how well it satisfies hunger, the value for the price, and whether or not the burger includes bacon.
The brand marketing might not even mention cheeseburgers. Instead it’s about the entire experience, like the quality of the store and the interactions with staff, or the overall atmosphere of the interaction. It’s the takeaways from that experience that have very little to do with the product — the things that made you feel good, bad or indifferent — that are going to stick around with the customer. That’s the brand.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Continuing the cheeseburger example, your customers aren’t always going to want to purchase a cheeseburger. Sometimes they’ll want a chicken sandwich, or a salad, or they’re just not hungry. Because of this, the goal of the brand isn’t to sell cheeseburgers, but to make sure that when the customer does want a cheeseburger, yours is the one that comes to mind.
Marketers need to be developing top-of-mind awareness both when customers are in the market to buy your product and when they’re not. When they’re in the market is advertising, and when they’re not is branding. Both are important.
This is why we see so many brands engaging on social media with jokes, memes and giveaways. These outlets do not sell cheeseburgers directly, but they help their brands maintain positive awareness in the cheeseburger-want downtime.
Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?
A company would want to rebrand when they realize their values don’t align the values of their customers.
When we’re talking about building a great brand, we’re really talking about creating an experience that fits with what your customers are looking for. That’s about values, and what those values are isn’t up to you.
To answer your question, a brand would want to rebrand when they did their research, and from that, learned that who they are now isn’t who they need to be in order to attract the right customers.
The indicators to look for is unrealized potential. Maybe that means your brand isn’t capturing the full market potential, or maybe it’s a slip in return customers. You’re looking for a misalignment in what your customers are looking for and what you’re delivering. When you find that, it’s time to examine the brand.
Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?
Building a new brand is a lot of work, especially when you take internal culture into account. If a company is going to undergo a whole do-over on their brand, the juice really needs to be worth the squeeze.
Remember, what your brand is now might not be as far away as you think from what it needs to be. Rebranding is a lot of work, because you’re fundamentally changing who your business is. When you identify an indicator like I mentioned before, a few small changes might be all it takes to get a brand back on track.
The brands that need to take rebranding caution are the legacy brands — the ones that have stuck around a while in a community or industry. A lot of businesses try to completely reinvent themselves when markets shift. Remember, there’s emotion built into those kinds of situations, and brands should always consider building and capitalizing on that history before throwing it away.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.
- Research is step one. You need to have a pulse on your audience, and that comes from listening the right way. This could be a survey, or your marketing team sitting down with your audience. However it happens, your goal is to understand who your customer is and why they want to engage with your products or services.
- Number two, you need to do some inward research as well. Look at yourself, your company and your processes, and compare them to what you learned from your audience research. There will be a lot of gaps, but also some bright spots. The latter are the things you want to explore.
- Build on your ideas and experiment. If your customers are looking for an inviting space, play with design and colors. If they’re looking for content, then build out a content strategy. You’re not always going to get it right, but like all marketing you’ll see a few things work. Those are the data-points that signify you’re on the right path.
- Make sure you engage with your customers authentically. Participate in the events that they care about, and be present and involved in the spaces where they spend their time. If your audience listens to content, get your team involved in podcasts instead of going the advertising route. If your audience is on social, create social content that they really want to engage with and share. Really become invested in your audience’s lives and participate in a way that’s real.
- The most important strategy about rebranding is to live your new brand. Your entire organization is what brings a brand to life, and the only way it’s going to come together the right way is for your business to truly be what it says it is, inside and out. If your brand is about fun, then your culture needs to be fun. If you’re providing one-of-a-kind experiences, then your culture needs to be one-of-a-kind. Live the brand, because your customers can tell if it’s just a façade.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Domino’s did something really amazing when they told everyone their pizza sucked a few years ago. I remember in the 90s thinking the same thing.
In the 90s, Domino’s didn’t care about delivering great pizza — they cared about getting you dinner fast (30 minutes or it’s free, that was their brand). But by 2009, delivery was common, and people really cared about taste.
Domino’s rebrand was transparent, which really resonated with me. I agreed, the pizza was no good. Admitting that, they convinced me to try their new pizza recipe, which was a big step. On top of that, the new pizza was actually good, meaning they delivered on their brand promise.
More than ten years later and I’m completely on board the Domino’s train. They built a foodie brand, and my wife and I are foodies, so now we love Domino’s. This is a big deal coming from a guy who wouldn’t even touch a Domino’s pizza growing up.
The thing that brands can take away from this story is the transparency, and the fact that they actually delivered on the new brand promise. It really hit home with exactly where the audience — people like me — needed to be hit.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Come up with good marketing.
I’ve always struggled with the idea that marketing is this deceitful thing that convinces people to buy things they neither need nor want. But there’s some really great ideas, products and services out there, and they have real audiences that will love and appreciate them. Marketing is about bringing those buyers and sellers together.
The best way I know to go about it is to create marketing that really interests the people your product or service is right for. I don’t mean things that deviously persuade people into ‘clicking here’ or ‘buying this’. To do it right, brands need to research who their audience really is, and then build something that’s really great for them.
A world where every brand does nothing but tries to do good for their customers is a very cool world to live in.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve always loved ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’ I know that gets wrongly attributed to Ghandi a lot, but it’s stuck with me as something big and profound.
Being the change you wish to see isn’t about inciting a movement. Instead, it’s about acting as if the world were already perfect, and you’re just living in it.
I always think of shopping carts as an example. I’m frustrated when people leave shopping carts lying around, and sometimes I also get the itch to be lazy and not want to return my shopping cart. When that happens, I think of the world ‘as if’ everyone already put their carts away, and then it just feels natural to go with the flow and do the right thing. I’m not changing the world, but participating in the perfect world as I see it.
Whether you want to do something like build a whole market research company, or you just want to see more people put their carts away at the grocery store, it’s important to remember that anyone can embody change. Act on what you know to be right, and the rest will fall into place.
How can our readers follow you online?
Definitely check out my blog at S2Research.com, or feel free to reach out on LinkedIn or Twitter too!
Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.