Carla Williams Johnson: “Here are 5 strategies that a company can use to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”
Create a Culture. Know the feeling you want persons to have while doing business with you and live that. Remember what I said about the multibillion dollar brands? You can do the same by establishing and adhering to the guidelines you set for your business and ensuring you and your team live it every single day.
As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Carla Williams Johnson.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Carla Williams Johnson. Due to her unique understanding of media and her imaginative approach to marketing, she founded Carli Communications, which offers advertising and marketing advice to entrepreneurs and business owners who are interested in building a business in the ‘real world’. Her philosophy is to help you M.A.P out your business through (M)arketing, (A)dvertising and (P)romotion in order to A.M.P up your business through (A)ction, (M)otivation, (P)rogress. She has also conducted thousands of advertising campaigns and has secured publicity for hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs, thus allowing them to authentically connect with their customers in an ever-changing environment.
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?
Having worked in the field of marketing, advertising and communications for over fifteen years with some of the top advertising agencies, I made my entire life building the dreams of others. Here I am, working my fantastically fabulous ‘buns’ off while others built their dreams and made money on my strength.
My colleagues would always say I should open my own business because I was so talented with such great ideas. A voice inside me said I could do it but fear is such a powerful thing, especially fear of the unknown.
In 2016. I was working a traditional 8–4 and was extremely unhappy, physically sick and unappreciated. It was so bad that I was on an entire month’s sick leave. One morning, as I stepped into office, I was summoned by the Human Resources Manager who informed me that my job was now redundant. After sacrificing to stay in job I hated, here I was being told that I was no longer needed, curiously enough, I felt like I was finally free and I was extremely relieved. I felt like it was God saying that this was my time to shine, on my own.
It was then that I finally decided to believe in myself, trust my gut, and listen to that little still voice inside my head that said: ‘You could do it, don’t worry, you’ll be alright!’
After all these years of companies standing on me, it was time for me to stand on my own. I decided it was time to get paid for my knowledge and expertise.
So here I am, a young single mother, with no job, no plan of action, no money and no clue what to do. I was a bit scared, but a lot determined and decided that I needed to get focused.
Thankfully I had the support of my family and my health slowly improved. I just knew the universe had my back and I decided that God was in control of my destiny. I fell back on what I knew I was good at and I did to make money for other companies. I started to meet people, expand and make connections.
Sometimes I made no money at all and sometimes I barely made enough to cover my bills. There were days I cried long tears and almost lost it because I knew I was working hard but I persevered using the tools that were provided to me.
I went back to my marketing roots as that was all I had to keep going. I used my gifts, talents and abilities to help others grow their business and after months and months of being persistent and consistent with my efforts, the universe again answered my prayers in 2017. I landed my first major client, then like an avalanche of good luck, I was getting numerous calls for interviews and to be featured in local and international publications.
Could you imagine? In just a few months I went from not having a job to being recognized on a global scale. That, I believe, is the reward for using your God given gifts, talents and abilities. I used mine to help others and I didn’t let fear, self-doubt and less than stellar results my first year get in the way of me rising to my dreams, instead, I trusted in the universe and believed that God will give me what I need, when I needed it, once I continued to work hard and believe in myself.
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?
Funniest…..well at the time it wasn’t funny but now I laugh because I definitely learned my lesson. When I first started my business, I would meet with potential clients at their offices regularly. Not a fan of driving, most times I would take my significant other with me……(and I would tell persons he was my driver)
Anyways while at a meeting with a gentleman, we got into a discussion about what was best for him and how he should proceed. He had gotten some bad advice before and I really didn’t want him to keep wasting money on promotional packages that weren’t working.
Now, I’m not saying that he pushed back and argued with me because I was female but he gave off this ‘know it all’ vibe and literally challenged everything I was saying……..to which my boyfriend said “Listen, Carla knows her stuff and whatever she says to do, just do it! You won’t regret!” Eventually I did book the client, but unfortunately his misogyny started to show and just couldn’t work with him anymore.
I learned pretty quickly that just because someone can pay for my services doesn’t mean they’re my ideal client. Sometimes I have to say no for sanity sake. I saw the signs and I still pursued thinking that my knowledge and expertise would win him over, but all it did was encourage him to comment on how my legs looked every time I had to pick up the cheque.
From then on, I always understood that it’s a relationship I’m building with clients so I have to ensure that our values are aligned.
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?
Funny you should say “Tipping Point” as it’s actually one of my favorite books by Malcolm Gladwell, but I digress. I remember coming to the conclusion that my online look didn’t match the personality of my brand. My website, my social media were all over the place and really did not convey the message of who I was and what my brand was about. I decided to invest in a Brand Stylist and that was the best thing that I could have done. She really tied everything together, gave my brand credibility and, as such, helped me be more attractive to my ideal clients. Business began to soar and I started to get a lot more publicity in the form of request for interviews.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes indeed….do we entrepreneurs ever stop working? lol
Without giving too much away, I will be developing a program specifically for the introverted entrepreneur which will assist them in building and promoting their brand in the real world. I have found that more and more introverts are moving towards entrepreneurship; however they need a little help with focusing their energy into things that would help them grow and flourish without losing themselves in the process.
This program will definitely help them understand and execute the various components of marketing their business so they can get the results they want.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Schedule self-care like your life depended on it…because it does. There are times I get so focused and engrossed in what I’m doing that I forget to eat. It’s crazy!!!! I had to learn the hard way that being unkind to my body and not giving my brain time to recharge can have terrible consequences. Being a marketer means you have to always think of the best ways to connect with your customers and you cannot think creatively or strategically if you’re tired all the time, so do yourself and your business a favor and take a break every once in a while.
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?
Branding is the emotional connection that your business makes with your customers before they even do business with you. Many of the multibillion dollar brands that I have personally worked with such as Coca Cola and Burger King have made their brand identity very clear and, have done an excellent job of establishing the culture of company. More than just a fancy slogan, these brands have embodied the very essence of what they stand for and evoke a particular feeling whenever you see, hear or purchase from them.
Advertising is what brings the people in. It gets your messages out to the right people, at the right time, on the right medium and encourages them to purchase. Advertising is how people get to know about you, your brand and what you’re selling. This can be through the use of social media, traditional media publicity, sponsorship or direct marketing.
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?
Simple answer, marketing is the lifeblood of a business. Without marketing, no one will know who you are what you do and therefore will not be able to purchase. Building a brand that gets seen and heard is extremely crucial as the world is becoming so noisy with customers are being bombarded with so many messages. A marketing mix that incorporates both online and offline forms of advertising, that’s specific to your brand can work wonders, particularly if your branding is on point so it can be easily recognized by customers.
Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?
Building a brand isn’t just about what you do but how you are viewed by others. If your current design doesn’t quite capture the true essence of who you are it may actually be working against your marketing efforts.
Remember, your logo and other visual representations of your brand including fonts, images and colors should reflect your brand’s personality and what your customers can expect from you.
Other reasons companies should consider rebranding are:
Mergers & Acquisitions: as two companies are now coming together, a rebranding may be in order to be easily recognized by customer;
Technology/Innovation: If the company’s main product/service is technology based then as technology evolves, so too should their branding;
Repositioning or Growth: If the company has grown or now needs to be positioned to attract a new market segment, then a rebranding will be in order.
Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?
If you already have an established brand or one that’s easily recognized by your target then unless you fall into the categories above, rebranding will be a no-no. Don’t change just for changing sake, rebranding should be part of an overall strategy. Also, if the business is pretty young then rebranding may not be the best idea. Take the time to see how the brand is evolving before making a decision that can cost you in more ways than one.
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. Establish your Brand’s Personality
Just like you, your brand has a personality, and, like you, your brand will attract a certain type of individual. Think about the people you hang out with or that you consider friends. Why are they attracted to you? They are attracted to your values, how you speak and what you stand for and how you make them feel. Same way your business will too. There are simple ways to find your brand’s personality.
Get as descriptive as possible and imagine the attributes your brand will have if it were an actual person. What do they look like?
Level of education?
How does he/she speak or interact with others.
Casual or professional?
Funny and playful or serious?
Stylish and fashionable or plain and practical?
Outspoken or reserved?
Dynamic or stable?
Predictable or surprising?
2. Determine your Audience
Get crystal clear as to who you are talking to and who your target audience is. If you don’t you will waste both time and money chasing people who aren’t really sure if they want to work with you and this is the fastest way to get ‘burnt out”. Once you are clear on whom you serve, your audience will be naturally attracted to you!! Dig deep and create your client avatar, give them a name, description and write out the daily life of your ideal audience from the time they wake up, to the time they go to bed.
Look at their:
Demographics Age, gender, income, education level, geographical location. social grade, employment, living circumstances, culture, religion, family and social relationships
Psychographics Mindset, how they think, personality traits
Behavioral patterns Leisure/lifestyle activities (like to entertain, do any sports, spend time with friends, go to the movies, like to cook…)
3. Conduct Market Research
You need to know if your product or service is needed and by who. This can help with brand positioning. You need to get out there and ask questions and verify any assumptions. You also need to know who your competitors are and what is the going market value for what you offer. The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to make the necessary decisions that affect your business.
4. Deﬁne your Unique Selling Point
Understand what sets your product or service apart from the zillion and one other products just like you in the world. Do not think for one second that there aren’t others who are realizing that there’s need for a particular service and, just like yours, are working on providing just that. Plus the world is a much smaller place because of the internet and there is somebody, somewhere, selling the same thing as you and they’e just a click away. Figure out how you can stand out from the rest and focus on that.
5. Create a Culture
Know the feeling you want persons to have while doing business with you and live that. Remember what I said about the multibillion dollar brands? You can do the same by establishing and adhering to the guidelines you set for your business and ensuring you and your team live it every single day.
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?
One that stands out to me is Old Spice. For years it was seen as a brand for mature men and while that may have worked when they first launched, the brand started to become stale and outdated. I’m sure sales would have plummeted and, with new products on the market, the brand was not top of mind. The swagger campaign changed all of that. All of a sudden everyone was talking about these television ads and Old Spice was on everyone’s radar. Their online and social media expanded and soon they started to attract a younger audience and was once again back on top.
The marketer in me loved the creativity of the ads but deeper still, I loved how the brand was able to reposition themselves to not only become relevant to their existing target but was able to get a whole new demographic to purchase.
They were able to do a 360 degree rebrand campaign that resonated because they took the time to do their research. They looked at the target, their competition and understood what needed to be done, and they did it all by saying true to their brand’s personality and their brand’s message.
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. 😊
I honestly feel that men are ‘groomed’ (for lack of a better word) a particular way and therefore they are ‘expected’ to act and react in situations that can be really unhealthy for them and the people around them. Society still expects them to be a certain way which is counterproductive to how the world is progressing. If I could I would create a movement to address this because while women are becoming empowered, men are still being held to the same outdated stereotypes with their worth measured by an old-fashioned value system. I think helping these men unlearn some of the traits they were exposed to can truly help the world become a better, less violent place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My absolute quote is from Maya Angelou
“I did then what I knew how to do.
Now that I know better, I do better.”
I live my life by this because it reminds me to never stop learning, growing and improving
How can our readers follow you online?
I invite everyone to Make the Carlicomm Connection
by visiting me on my website www.carlimedia.com or via social media at