Find and draw inspiration from things that inspire you from brands you admire that have NOTHING to do with what you do; don’t just look at your competition.
As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Alex Rollins.
Alex Rollins is the Creative Director of Media Bridge Advertising®. He started at the agency as an intern, primarily working in content creation and graphic design, which eventually led to launching the video production department and earning a seat on the leadership team. When he’s not at Media Bridge, he’s a songwriter and a musician, most prominently recognized as the frontman of the pop band Denny. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two rabbits.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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?
I’ve always felt like I don’t fit in anywhere, and it took me a long time to realize that was actually an asset, not a flaw. Since that revelation, I’ve never felt like I had a specific career path and don’t plan on ever having one. I love film, I love design, I like being myself and I like making good sh-t with good people.
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?
Not specifically a branding mistake, but a mistake nonetheless: I trusted autofocus. Six hours of interview footage all *slightly* out of focus (and by “slightly,” I mean focused-on-the-wall-twenty-feet-behind-the-subject-and-they-paid-upfront out of focus). And the edit was a quick turn that the client needed in about 72 hours. I stayed up for three days and hand-sharpened every second of that footage to salvage the project. The kicker? They decided their responses weren’t right and decided to reshoot. I learned quickly that no matter how aesthetically interesting or visually stunning your work is, if you’re not first and foremost focused on what you’re saying, you’re already losing.
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?
That 10,001st hour of creating things. I was on a production in Jackson, Wyoming in 2018, and had just had a marathon shoot day up in the Teton pass. We were out in the beautiful fields of eastern Idaho and near Lake Jenny, and there I was pinching myself that I get to be paid to capture the natural beauty of a place like the Tetons! We were at dinner with the crew and some locals, when I realized that I hadn’t been fretting over “Did I get the shot?” or “Did today’s interview fit into the brand story we’re trying to communicate?” I was truly confident in my capabilities, and that’s more of an indicator of success to me than any other possible metric.
Practice breeds confidence, and confidence makes you better at what you practice. The cycle works.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re working on a few projects right now where we’re creating new categories. The idea of inventing a new category from scratch is exciting, especially considering the breadth of people some of these organizations and companies will reach.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Turn your notifications off once in a while. Find people who challenge the way you think/operate and become friends with them. Read a lot, especially books that have nothing to do with marketing or your career.
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)?
Branding is identity. Advertising is how you communicate that identity.
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?
You need some sort of bedrock or objective truth to ground your vision in and build trust on. Building a brand creates a common language for you, your employees, consumers, etc., to speak within. Strong branding can increase a consumers ability to trust in what you’re saying and reduces the possibility for messaging chaos. I like to avoid chaos.
Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?
I’ve found that when the conversation around a rebrand starts, it usually opens a Pandora’s Box of other conversations. What you project outwardly is likely an image of what’s going on internally. A thorough, thoughtful rebrand not only refreshes external expression, but can also energize and bring clarity to an organization internally. A rebrand is also an opportunity to show the public that you’re willing to adapt, change and apply lessons you’ve learned about your brand over time. When a brand has a negative image, a rebrand is also the perfect opportunity to address that negativity head on, make necessary changes and be better moving forward.
Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?
Any company that’s not 100% bought into the rebrand shouldn’t. Confusion, miscommunication and chaos (which I don’t like) run rampant when an organization isn’t aligned. You have to be ready to jump ALL in.
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.
1) Find and draw inspiration from things that inspire you from brands you admire that have NOTHING to do with what you do; don’t just look at your competition. 2) Find what makes your company tick, do a deep dive into your mission and vision (like a really deep dive), consult with your team and give them carte blanche when it comes to feedback. 3) Fully embrace your new identity and voice. Don’t just swap a logo and move on, do the heavy lifting on social media, on your website, in meetings, and even the way you think about your organization. 4) Work with people who take the time to understand (or help you define) your goals, your mission and who you are.
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?
Warner Brothers. None of the iconic WB heritage was lost, but simplified, clarified and modernized. The new look pays homage to the past while not jumping head first into the flat, san serif trends of the ’10s. It was so on-point that when I first saw it, it just felt natural. I almost didn’t realize they’d totally rebranded. It doesn’t pander or try to be something it’s not.
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. :-)
Make Election Day a mandatory, paid holiday. If Congress won’t do it, the People should lead by example.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Someone I look up to and admire dearly once said, “The wisest person in the room usually says the least.”
Listening is the best way to learn new ideas and challenge your own thinking.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.