Rhode Island’s recent branding campaign has caused an uproar on social media and beyond. In this episode, Bill discusses brand strategy’s role in informing creative expression — and the perils of separating the two. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all, this is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premiere boutique branding agency. Thank you for joining this week’s One Big Idea. We’ve entitled it Cooler and Warmer this week because our One Big Idea topic is a controversy that has erupted around a new branding campaign for the state of Rhode Island, focused on attracting tourists and businesses to this state that uses the tagline ‘Cooler and Warmer,’ and it has a logo to match and everything else, as well as some pretty significant budgets for expressing it and amplifying it across the world.

This happened and there has been a great deal of discussion on social media and in the media punctuated by a story in today’s New York Times about the entire situation and some of the implications of it. First thing I want to say is that it is not our habit or practice here to critique the work of others in our industry. We have tremendous respect for our peers and colleagues in this world and we don’t exist in any of our touch points to just tear people down. Our focus here will not be critiquing the specific elements of the campaign. You can find a lot of that on social media, on blogs, and in association with the Times piece, but let’s talk a little bit about a point that this leans into in a very larger and more prolonged way and it has been a frequent topic for us here.

First of all, the situation. The idea was a simple one. Rhode Island was seeking a fresh new logo and slogan for tourism and business attraction. They went through the process, hired a partner. The designer of this is the same gentleman who designed the iconic ‘I love New York,’ but is an outsider, an out of towner I think, which has fueled the criticism to some degree. There were other missteps related to the launch of this, one of the overview video pieces (seen below) used stock footage of a skateboarder from Iceland rather than anywhere in Rhode Island, and then the designer has pushed the frustration back a little bit on the way that it was released as opposed to the work itself.

It’s gotten a little bit nasty. But the overall idea was a new brand presentation or expression for the state of Rhode Island. Where they settled is ‘Cooler and Warmer,’ which immediately set off this firestorm on social media and beyond, of people who didn’t get it, of people who mocked it. There’s a little bit of that all the time, but there’ve been other dominos to fall here. The CMO of the state resigned . The governor, apparently who’s in her first term, has had to answer for this and hasn’t been all that adept at doing so. Then some of the local agencies in Rhode Island on the PR and on the production side were called on the carpet publicly, and I think they’re going to have to refund some of the fees associated with this.

A lot of missteps here, a lot of unforced errors, certainly using stock video from Iceland, someone in Reykjavík probably, rather than something that was shot [in Rhode Island]. This was probably to save cost on the ground and in the marketplace in Rhode Island. Hiring an outsider for something that is focused on civic pride and tourism is always a little bit dangerous, particularly if it doesn’t go well and the net effect is casting about for reasons why or people to blame.

The bottom line and I think the biggest lesson of this in terms of topics that we’re generally dealing with here is the absolute criticality of strategy and creative expression meshing and working effectively together. It has been a frequent and recurring theme on this podcast that the word ‘strategy’ has been used so errantly and so irresponsibly as to lose its actual meaning. Many people use the word strategy to indicate, ‘Well, I thought about it before I did it.’ Strategy does not imply, and being a strategic thinker does not just mean, that you’re bright or that you’re introspective.

Strategy, particularly in this realm, brand strategy, is a disciplined process that is designed to, through research as well as intuition, identify the key elements of a brand proposition that can connect with the audience. In this case one of the concerns looking at the process again from the outside is that this seems to have been a creatively driven exercise.

Yes, there was market research, but you can read the quotes from the designer and others who just came up with a bunch of different ideas. They probably spent some time in Rhode Island, it’s a wonderful state, very diverse seaside, city, and small towns, a lot of things going on. There’s video content to surround the campaign that I think effectively underlines a lot of this. Then they tested the different ideas and everyone says, ‘Well, it tested well,’ etc., but there does not appear in evidence to have been a bona fide strategic process that was designed to really understand and underline the ways in which Rhode Island is distinctive and the ways in which these disparate assets roll up into a core concentrated brand idea.

In the absence of strategy creative expression is unmoored. Creative expression begins and is akin to fumbling for your keys in the dark. Throw some more clichés on here: if you don’t know where you’re going any road will lead you there. This is true when you get into the creative process.

Apparently the designer in this case developed 10 different kinds of slogan and logo combinations, then they tested them and they picked the one that was highest or nearly the highest. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but the challenge ultimately is that without the benefit of strategy for real and having this well-defined core idea to communicate creatively, how do you know when you’ve done it, and more importantly, how do you know when you have it.

One key lesson here is that creative expression, particularly of such a complicated, aggregated series of ideas as to represent an entire state, cannot be disintermediated from a true, honest, authentic expression and process of brand strategy. Often times people say, ‘Well, we’re strategic, you know, we thought about it.’ Well, they thought about it here, and I’m sure they’re smart accomplished people, but it does seem to be that the process that ought to precede and inform a creative process was missing or at the very least was light in this case.

Related to that, you need to value the input and the outputs in a campaign like this. The output obviously is this tagline and logo and it exists for all to critique. Listen, we’ve been on the other end of this where we’ve done some highly visible work. Folks feel a sense of ownership with that and want to critique it, and that’s their right. We really kind of enjoy that dialogue. But in this case the output is only as good as the quality of what the team was working with to develop it.

What the team ought to be working with is not just intermittent thunderbolts of inspiration and trying to find something that has a good acoustic. They ought to be communicating, from an input perspective, the core brand idea of the state of Rhode Island.

Yes, the designer makes an interesting point about the dichotomy of cool and warm, and there’s a lot of cool things going on, and folks in Rhode Island are warm people compared to that frosty perception of New England. I get it, I get where it’s going and actually personally like it, but the inputs into a process like that have to drive the outputs or else you’re going to wind up with something like this, or if you don’t it’s going to be a result of luck rather than the process the way that it ought to be managed.

Then lastly, and I think the designer has a point, again, I’m not sitting there in Providence or anywhere else in Rhode Island, I’m just following this through the media and through social, but the nature of a release of something like this and telling the story of why it ended up where it ended up is always better than expecting it to land with a bang and instead it lands with a thud.

We have learned, the easy way and the hard way, over the years that, particularly in a case like this, where you’re likely to engender strong opinions, whatever you sacrifice in terms of the wow factor of just releasing this, you sacrifice a little bit of that if you bring the public along, but I’m willing to make that small sacrifice in exchange for something that is thoroughly validated through various stakeholder groups. Including the folks who are going to be responsible for really getting behind this and helping. The marketing whiz kids are only part of how a brand is expressed.

Key business and academic and civic leaders in Rhode Island are going to need to put their arms around this and say, ‘Yeah, this represents us and I feel good shouting this from the rooftops.’ That obviously didn’t happen here. Thus when something comes out and the public unleashes slings and arrows at it, you don’t have that goodwill or that process with great integrity to fall back on justifying and explaining why you ended up where you did. You may sacrifice a little bit by being inclusive along the way, but it is far better than winding up in the situation where they are in.

I will leave it to others to debate the actual merit and approach. I’m a sucker for big brand ideas. I personally like the cadence here. I understand why some people in social media are comparing it to Dumb and Dumber. I understand why some people don’t get it. I personally like it, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what those in the design community think or feel about this. What matters is their ability to bring others along.

What seems to have occurred in Rhode Island is a prime example of a process breakdown and it is a prime example of creative being left out there to its own devices Yeah, a little bit of testing on the backend, but to its own devices and not using authentic brand strategy processes to validate the work every step of the way.

That is a battle we’ve been waging here at Finch, a banner I’ve been waving over and over on this podcast. So forgive the repeat, but I think this is something that bears underlining, and when a perfect example of it comes up as it did in the Times today it is far better than me blathering on about the philosophy of this. It’s great example of why it all matters and why any process of the sort that this one was designed to support and the artifacts that were designed to come from it, any process really needs to be enlightened particularly in terms of the role of strategy and the role of message development beyond simply the highly subjective hit or miss standalone creative process.

As we’ve built our business at Finch and built our engagements this is yet another cautionary tale of why it’s important to think through process in an inclusive way, to hold up strategy as in many ways the process of creating a map to the final destination, and then to hold everyone accountable with data as well as with irrepressible creativity in marching towards a result that effectively represents the state and galvanizes all the constituencies that are going to have to buy into this, love it, live it for this brand to take home.

That’s One Big Idea. Unseasonably cool today but we’re hardy folks so we’ll push through it. Have a wonderful, wonderful day, signing off from the Cradle of Liberty.

The post One Big Idea: Cooler and Warmer appeared first on Finch Brands.

‘What’s in a name?’ Naming a product or company is one of the most exciting and challenging processes. With many creative routes to take, it can be difficult to know where to start or how to evaluate candidates. In this week’s One Big Idea, Bill explores the naming process and provides guidance on effective ways to structure ideation and selection. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all, this is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency, and this is One Big Idea. This week’s topic, which we’re calling Naming in Practice, is about what is probably the most fun and I’d say simultaneously the most difficult type of project or engagement that we work on here at Finch Brands, and that is naming. Naming products and services, naming companies. Love it, it’s really fun, it’s very stimulating, but at the same time it is hard.

So I thought this week we’d talk about a couple of ideas for how to think about naming processes, how to do one yourself, some stories from the trenches of doing this, and things that maybe having stepped in it at some point my career, we can help you to avoid stepping in it. So three thoughts, one for before the brainstorming and creative process, the second for during, and the third for after.

The first is that while naming is an inherently subjective and often polarizing process, it is important to establish objective criteria for success before you start. In naming there is very rarely a thunderbolt of ‘Wow, that’s it, that’s amazing, that’s the name.’ That doesn’t happen much. There’s a couple reasons for that.

One, I think the dominant reason is that what you are evaluating when you are thinking about a naming process is really words on a page, where it’s pixels on a screen. The names that when we look at the market and we all say, ‘wow that’s a great name,’ or whatever it is they tend to be great because of the brand that’s been built around them. They also tend to be great because of the experiences that we’ve had with the company. So for a name or for a brand to really become three dimensional in that way requires more than just black type on a white screen.

So to hold up name candidates that are just possible ideas to that level of comparison, ultimately, leaves you wanting. This is not a way to set expectations or to make you ever think that you should feel forced to go forward with a name that you don’t like, but establishing objective criteria up front enables you to, in a fairly clear headed way, evaluate the names and the ideas that come forth and to have the right level of expectation about how you’re going to feel when you’re thinking through name ideas and naming processes.

It’s important in establishing those criteria that you use them to do a bit of pre-work before you brainstorm. For example, its always good to look up words, phrases, or images associated with a product or a concept. You can do Google image and text searches, you can look in the thesaurus or a dictionary type of environment, or whatever it is. It is best often, before you go to actual name ideas, to have a conceptual idea set forth.

It’s also good in a process like this to think about your category, think about related ideas having terminology, lingo different slang or colloquial terms. At the front of your thinking, this may help with a brainstorming process. Looking up other things whether it’s movie, book, and song titles, whether it’s cloud formations, whether it’s names of rocks, trees, or natural phenomena. Often some of the best and most effective names are metaphors that represent something about what you’re trying to convey but aren’t as direct as maybe one would want to be.

Again that’s about the potential of what you build around it. So when you think about the criteria that you want to establish front up, you need to think about your business strategy, you need to think about the way in which the name will be used and marketed, and you need to think about the relative elements of what you’re putting forth. Whether you’re focused on making someone feel something, whether you’re focused on underlining a particularly differentiable quality and what it is that you’re bringing to market etc.

So when you’re thinking through brainstorming, you could have three, four, or five criteria. One example might be if you’re dealing with a name of a company that might be extended into a product or a service family, the successful name would need to have the ability to get some extended mileage from it. So brand architecture and thinking through that might be something that lands on your list of criteria. It might be that, in your category, this is less important with mobile, but that the domain name needs to be available organically, which, by the way, is very hard these days for that to be the case. But if that is extra important in your category, you may want to set that criteria.

One other thing is, if your brand is striking that balance of rational and emotional, you would want the name to take a little bit of the burden of positioning, meaning defining difference. You want the name to at least be evocative or expressive of what key differences are from others. The more objective that you can make a process like this starting ahead of time, the better the outcome.

The second idea when you’re in the midst of a process like this, or when you’re evaluating the names that you’ve developed, or that others have developed with you or for you, there’s a couple of things in addition to assessing strategic and creative fit that you really need to keep in mind. First is obviously legal availability, and the second, a close cousin, is domain availability.

It does not make sense, ultimately, for you and your colleagues to waste time, falling in love with or discussing names that pretty obviously you’re not going to be able to have. I mean trademark law is a big gray area, so it ultimately has to do with interpretation, it has to do with levels of risk, but at the same time there are certain names that by virtue of being the names of a direct competitor or being potentially confusing to your marketplace ought not to be advanced in a naming process.

So at Finch Brands, for example, before we submit any name to a client, it will have already undergone a uspto.gov trademark search and will already have undergone domain availability search. This is our standard practice, and we’re not attorneys, so we’re not clearing or eliminating names based upon a final legal answer or opinion. It’s best for our clients counsel to do that, but it saves time. If you’re submitting names that you know at least have passed that course of evaluation, then it leads you to a place where the names that you’re evaluating are worth the time to think through.

So another thing that you may want to add, everybody’s a global business today because of the Internet removing geographic boundaries, but if you’re absolutely focused on global up likability, either through expansion or even within the diverse multicultural population in the U.S., being understanding of embracing the product you may want to screen for linguistic appropriateness as well certainly in the key languages. There’s obviously many funny examples of companies that didn’t do that. The famous obviously is the Chevy Nova which translated in Spanish is ‘no go.’ Certainly not the message that one would want for an automobile and there are many other examples if you just want to Google search, some are funny and a little bit off color.

The third thing to think about ultimately, is how you evaluate candidates. I mean we’ve talked about the objective criteria, those boxes that need to be checked for a name to ultimately be successful, but coming out the back end of the creative process, as you think of which candidates to put forth, as you think about which candidates to move into the finalist position, and ultimately be the name. We have enough experience doing this to know that, again no thunderbolts, and so what that means is that you’re often evaluating names for the absence of negatives.

There’s nothing about it that’s confusing, there’s nothing about it that’s negative, there’s nothing about it that’s offensive. Once you get rid of names that have those negative check marks by their name, when you’re thinking about the names that remain it shouldn’t be the binary ‘like it, hate it’ or it hits you right away or all of a sudden it’s the greatest thing you ever heard of. That doesn’t happen, but what does happen is certain candidates, by virtue of the absence of negatives and by virtue of the potential that they exist for brands to be built around them – are they expressive, can you see them translating easily into a visual or a verbal representation, can you see them aligning with the culture and personality of what your company does.

When you see the potential of names, that’s really when you’re entering a territory where you can make the right choices. If you’re going to be sitting there waiting for a name to score a five on a one of five scale with everyone you talk to or whatever it is, you’re going to be waiting a very long time, it’s just not how it works.

I remember when I started my career in naming, in the 90’s, everyone said we want a name as great as Amazon. What made the name Amazon great, and I guarantee you, weren’t just words on a page and an Internet bookseller saying, ‘Hey, should we name this Amazon?’ Everybody would say no. They wouldn’t connect it, they wouldn’t understand what made the name Amazon great. The company was great, and thus the name became a household representation of a company that we love, that’s disruptive, that’s changing the world in a positive way. Once Amazon expanded across all the different categories, the meaning of the name became clear, the longest river in the world, the fact that it has everything in it was designed to suggest incredible breath. So day one, if you or your creative team or whatever came back and said, ‘Hey I think we should name it Amazon,’ you’d probably be thinking about large and somewhat scary women from history, or whatever it is.

You wouldn’t necessarily get it, and so we’d have clients coming to us all the time and say, ‘I want the name as great as Windows.’ Well because Microsoft was in its heyday it isn’t that Windows was such a great name, but this was descriptive of what the product did, how it looked, and what made it great. It was the brand, the delivery of what Windows truly was, and how that changed personal computing.

So the bottom line is, again for the third time, not going to be thunderbolts here, most likely, but the name candidate with which you should move forward is going to be one that fits the criteria you set out ahead of time, one that clears the right screening – USPTO, domain names, linguistic evaluation – and then one that has the potential to be rendered and delivered in a way that enables the organization or the product to be well represented and for the overall experience to be very positive.

There’s a lot more about how we do naming, different brainstorming techniques, or different ways to consider what is or what isn’t good, but hopefully this gets you started a bit. Naming in Practice is this week’s One Big Idea and as we think about managing an engagement or a process that is designed to name something, again super fun, but challenging.

I think one of the reasons why it’s really challenging is that compared to something like graphic design where there’s a built in acknowledgement that most people don’t possess the skills to do that, we all know the language, more or less, and the reality is that great ideas can come from all over a process like this either from our clients, the daughter of the CEO, or our team who does this every day, whomever. So that should be an egalitarian process evaluating ideas that come from all over, but at the same time you really need to try to make it not only artistic but scientific and hopefully these couple of thoughts have helped you all think about it as you go forth and may have to tackle this on your own someday.

Thanks as always, this is been One Big Idea. We will be back next week with another interview with a business and brand builder that we hope will be compelling. As always three ways to help us on Real-World Branding. One, give us a subscription.Click that box on your app store of choice to make sure you do not miss an episode.

Secondly, if we’ve deserved it, we’d love to see your rating. We’re told that the more aggressively and frequently that shows are rated and podcasts are rated, that helps ensure that other people who may enjoy this will have greater access to it as it rises up the rankings within app stores. Then thirdly, let’s keep the dialogue going on Twitter or beyond. Twitter’s probably easiest and the best way to get to me is @BillGullan or @FinchBrands, Finch like the bird. Signing off from the Cradle of Liberty, have a wonderful week.

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For marketers, success hinges upon making a connection with the consumer. No matter what market, product, service, or story, we must understand and, above all, respect the consumer. In this episode, Bill examines how respect builds brand authenticity, shapes brand strategy, and delivers results in the real world. If you enjoy our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Welcome one and all! This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, your host, president of Finch Brands, which is a premier, boutique branding agency. Happy to be with you for One Big Idea. This week’s One Big Idea is ‘Respect the Consumer’.

Seems obvious for those who are seeking to transact with those consumer. But I think, in our industry, it isn’t always practiced as being obvious. We had Jordan Goldenberg, Finch Brands’ Creative Director Emeritus, with us last week. Having worked with Jordan for almost 15 years, one of the things that he said in last week’s interview but has modeled over that time is in being and understanding that the role of what agencies do (whether Finch or others) is to transact. And that in order to do that, to become cheerleaders for the client brand and by extension to respect and seek to communicate in a substantive way with their target markets, with their consumers, is essential to being successful as an agency. It may seem obvious but it isn’t.

We often find (I have found in my career) or observed agencies where folks were ‘too cool for school’ when it came to the product they were trying to sell – they didn’t like the product. We found in the research realm brand and market researchers who may not ultimately believe that the consumer they are speaking to, or seeking to collect data from, has anything all that interesting to say because of who they may be or where they may shop or what they may value.

We’ve seen clients, won’t mention any names, but clients who by being leaders, owners of companies or senior level executives have entered or embraced a different lifestyle, within their own lives, than that of the customer base they are seeking to attract. While that isn’t in and of itself a challenge when one is dismissive of the choices, the dignity, and the wisdom of one’s customer, any of these conditions or thought planes – whether its agencies that are just too cool, or researchers who are dismissive, or senior leaders/heads of companies who are dismissive of customers – the net effect is failure and really the lack of seizing the opportunities that exist, the lack of the ability to be strong and authentic and savvy communicators. If you treat people as rubes when you seek to sell, or market to them, or learn from them, or whatever it is, you will fail.

When we look back at the numbers of clients with whom we’ve worked from different categories and industries, a lot of the consumer work we’ve done, in the furniture realm for example, Jonathan Adler on one hand is not just furniture, but is a very smart, clever nod and wink type of brand that has quirks and personality. On the other end of the spectrum is Ashley Furniture, a brand that is really about value and quality. Their customers, desired customers, and most likely customers could not be more different. In order to be effective for those brands across that wide expanse of difference, those who seek to work on them (and when we sought to work with them) needed to respect them equally. Even if in our industry Jonathan Adler is much more in line with those personal sensibilities of most of the folks in the brand and agency world, more so than Ashely is. But when you go out to research with customers and consumers of Ashley, when you spend time in their home stores or in their wholesale accounts, there is immense dignity and importance to the way those folks live, the way their customers think, and make decisions. In order to be a good steward of the message for the company like that, one needs to have a healthy respect for their consumer.

Then, you look at brands that are really seeking to appeal to well-defined fandoms. ThinkGeek, for example, (which we’ve spoken about on this podcast before) is very much about a wide and deep targeting strategy in terms of the belief that everyone has a geek inside of them. But, of course, the core customer there is really of, by, and for the classically defined ‘geek’ universe. While the project team that we worked with may not see ourselves as that, we need to endeavor to understand. You always have to seek to understand before you can be understood. So if we have the responsibility and have earned the right to help a company, like ThinkGeek, communicate its essence and value, then showing respect to the eccentricities, rhythms, and quirks of their target is absolutely essential – not only to understand them well enough to do this work, but also so that the work that comes out of this is perceived and felt authentically. People can smell a fake no matter who they are. Consumers of all stripes, all types, all ages, and demographic groups can smell fakery and detect it seemingly from a mile away. So it’s on us as communicators and as marketers to ensure and take every step, not only in terms of the content but also in terms of the process that leads to the content, to be authentic.

Another example of a client, at least that I’ve worked with a lot, that has a defined fandom is World Wrestling Entertainment. WWE is a phenomenon. It is a brand, a business, an entertainment form and some would say, I certainly would, an art form that is uniquely American. It is, when one thinks of the spectrum of different artistic programming, sort of middlebrow or lowbrow in terms of the way ou might think through the sense of humor or the nature but it is a tremendously important brand to those who are fans.

Just speaking personally, I had been at the right age to be a part of the Hulkamania generation in pro wrestling, in the early 80s, where the form of entertainment was really about some pop culture connectivity with MTV and Cyndi Lauper, among other things. But many of the characters were cartoonish. These characters were written cartoonish. I, like many others, reached my teens and got interested in other things. When WWE had its second big era, which is called in the wrestling world the Attitude Era in the mid to late 90s, in many ways the brand had grown up with its fans. Guys who had been fans of Hulk Hogan and others in the early 80s had grown up from 85 to 97/98 so now they are late teens to early 20s. The Attitude Era was Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock, and everyone else, and was really the baddest thing on TV. WWE led this rush to the edge in terms of taste level, sexuality, violence, and attitude. That’s why it was called the Attitude Era and that really led to a major peak for the brand.

I personally had lost touch, and many of my friends in college or just after had gotten into Attitude Era WWE/WCW programing. I had lost touch and really hadn’t followed the WWE brand when we were brought in to help them with brand research in 2003. What it took, really, was a reentry into that world in order to do well for them. One cannot do that in a detached way, so our project team and I threw ourselves back into the world of WWE. Over the course of working with them 2003 to late 2012/early 2013 completing 15-20 different projects, I think our effectiveness was based largely upon the fact that we got it, we respected it.

So whether we were doing on the fly focus groups with the crowd that was in town for any WrestleMania, or whether in Phoenix or Atlanta, wherever (which we did for a few years), or whether it was a series of focus groups for apparel, or whether it was helping them think through the strategy in terms of how to interact with Madison Avenue or whatever it was, the many different business issues that we dealt with over that span – and because of the length of that span, I personally have probably conducted more research with wrestling fans than anyone other than maybe those who work for the company – got me back in to the WWE product. And here I am at 41, watching RAW every Monday night, being excited because this coming weekend after we record this is summer slam, reading the gossip sheets (called the dirt sheets), getting involved and appreciating this art form, listening to podcasts, being a fan. We’re not currently working with WWE but I’m a fan. I’m back. They got me. I think being that way has really helped us be effective [in working with them].

Longer story than perhaps one might find interesting, but it’s an interesting example of a client that I think those that are traditionally oriented to our industry may look down on. In fact, we saw when WWE was renewing their TV contract last year with USA Network and NBC Universal, there was a lot of media coverage. Given the ratings and the regularity of those ratings for RAW, it almost looked like the size of the TV deal was a lot lower than you would have thought for programming with that level of popularity. There was speculation that there is a tax on WWE because of the fact that their fans are not deeply coveted by advertisers. That may be true but in many ways, I think that point of view, if it does exist, (and I think it very likely does on traditionally defined Madison Avenue) is much more aesthetic than it is quantitative. WWE is a brand that when they entered films when they entered books, I remember speaking to an executive at one of the major publishers who said “We got an opportunity with wrestlers back in the 90s, early 2000s, right when WWE began to publish or publish in partnership, and I had no idea how this was going to work. I didn’t even know that these people could read.” Which made the point about how folks viewed the fan base. Of course a WWE book now, depending on the title, is almost an automatic bestseller.

There are many brands, companies, and product types that appeal to all different types of people. In order to do what we do well, you have to respect the consumer. Find dignity in their opinions. Believe that they are acting in a way that you can study and understand. And that has inherent need and worth in terms of respect at the end of the day. Client performance is the score card of an agency of any kind. Jordan Goldenberg talked a lot about growing up into feeling this way, enjoying, and finding value in how our clients perform as the ultimate measure of how effective we’ve been. If you don’t feel that way, find a different business. If you do feel that way, inherent in caring about how work ultimately is in making the brand an ever more powerful driver of business performance for clients, you must, at least respect the consumer. You create when you listen and learn, you must respect the consumer.

So that’s it for me. One Big Idea. As always, 3 ways to register your support in what we’re doing here at Real-World Branding is to give us a rating. Make sure you don’t miss a one of these by clicking that subscribe button. Also, leave us a rating if we’ve earned it – 4 stars, 5 stars (we hope). Finally, enter the dialogue with us via twitter, the best way to do it, @billgullan or @finchbrands with questions or comments. We’d love to hear from everyone. Signing off from the cradle of liberty.

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‘One Big Idea’ is a shorter episode of Real-World Branding, to be released in the week between our interviews. In this edition, host Bill Gullan seeks to set the world straight on what ‘branding’ and ‘strategy’ really mean! If you enjoy our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review!

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Bill Gullan: Welcome one and all, this is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands a premier boutique branding agency. Thank you for joining us, we’re going to do something a little bit different today. We’ve received feedback since we went to market with this podcast that our listeners would appreciate, and do appreciate, the current format of biweekly interviews with business and brand builders who have interesting stories and things to say about their companies, their categories, their careers and everything else. We’ve been really gratified by the reception that we’ve been getting and I think what we’ve heard listeners asking for is if we could find ways to deal with some of the fundamental elements or implications from some of the things we’ve heard in these interviews, or core concepts related to the art and science of what we do at Finch, and others of us who are practitioners in the world of brand development and management do.

So in the spirit of taking feedback and letting one’s audience shape the direction, what we decided to do is, in off weeks between the interviews that we conduct, to do a much shorter edition of Real-World Branding that is really focused on One Big Idea that is related to the world of branding in business building. These are often inspired by the interviews that we conduct and so we’re going to try that today and actually you get two for the price of one.

So the One Big Idea today is two words that have been used in so many ways by so many different people as to become completely unrecognizable. Those words are the word brand, or branding, and strategy. I’m going to speak for a minute or a two about each of them and hopefully redefine them, as well as issue a call to action for all of you out there who are using these words, to use them and to reassert the original definition so that they restore some level of meaning in terms of what they were intended to do.

The word brand, I’ll define it the way Seth Godin has defined it, a brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that when taken together account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. Brand is a concept that is far larger and far more nuanced in many ways than the way that it is commonly used. Many people say branding to mean a name, a logo, packaging, or an advertising campaign. Those are the components of branding and of building and growing brands, but they do not come close to defining what branding truly is and the power of well-constructed brands.

This isn’t a surprise that the ‘brand’ concept means what it does. When we think about where it came from, the first commercial manifestation of branding comes from back when the world was largely consisting of agrarian economies and a branding iron was used initially to draw distinctions between one’s cattle and the cattle of the guy or gal, probably mostly guy at that time, whose farm, fence, or field was right next door. Branding was purely and literally about differentiation my cow, your cow. As these brands went on hides and then that hide and that which lay within ultimately made it to market in town, the brands carried through and thus consumers of meat were able to make decisions based upon these symbols that they saw.

They might find that one brand or one family or farm’s yield was fresher or chewier, or more substantial, or whatever the basis on which they were making decisions of which to buy. The brand, it’s real way back roots in just purely differentiating one’s livestock from someone else’s came to mean something commercially. So over time, branding has become a discipline for which folks are paid a heck of a lot of money and in which executives place the great deal of trust.

The word branding, again it’s been used in a variety of different contexts, at its heart branding or a brand and then the practice of branding is about two things. It’s about promise and it’s about differentiation. It’s about promise from a perspective of expressing what one should expect from you. What your promise is to them of the experience that they will have when interacting with your company or your products or your services, so that’s promise. The other one is differentiation and again back to the classical definition mine versus yours. Branding in the art of branding is designed to create decision points and to convince the people who are in positions to make those decisions, why us versus someone else.

Ultimately a brand is about all of the content related to the image, personality, or attributes of a product and service. Then the art of branding is to affect the way the market perceives and acts on those attributes and images. So branding is not, as noted, marketing. Marketing is a tool to express brand differences, to create loyalty, and to create preference to create trial. A name, a logo, a symbol, a color scheme, packaging, all the touchpoints in the experience, are tools of skillful brand developers and managers, but taken individually, are not branding.

Developing a logo is a way to represent an image of a brand and a way to try to tilt the decisions in your direction, to give people something to hold on to, something that’s pleasant and motivating. But being great at developing logos or recognizing greatness in logos is not in itself brand expertise.

So that’s branding, the other topic and the other word or concept that I want to redefine, underline, italicize, and bold is strategy. We find that the word strategy, used very commonly today to mean ‘I thought about it before I did it.’ Strategy is a discipline; it is a process. It is not just simply about thinking and nor is it about drawing a distinction between something that was purposeful and something that was thoughtless.

Strategy is about setting major goals and initiatives that are taken by an organization, and using rigorous assessments of factors related to these strategies – for example the availability of financial and human resources of a company, the external factors that may be shaping the opportunity for that company in a particular product category or space, or with the way that consumers or customers are thinking these days.

The act of strategic development and teaching management is a very rigorous, disciplined process of assessment. There are tools used in that, for example many are familiar with the concept of a SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – which is a very simple graphic, but the process of doing a good one is a very in-depth process and there are many other structures, thought elements, and planning elements that go into strategy and strategic planning (a phrase for that discipline).

To give you an example of what strategy means in practice, and the difference between strategy and tactics, let’s think for a minute about a company, let’s make up a company that is selling sportswear to women. When the company goes through its strategic planning process, someone is thinking that there’s some velocity and opportunity around women’s athletics and women’s activewear. The process of assessing a strategy for this fictional company to enter or extend themselves into the category of women’s activewear involves a bunch of different parallel analysis.

One may and should think about what the resources required to be a credible contender in that category are, what would they be, and are they within reach for that company – we will call it Company X. Company X would also need to think about what the competitive set looks like in the category that they’re thinking about entering. Company X will also need to look at to what degree their internal and human expertise, and that of their partners, would enable them to be really good, plausible, powerful, and strong in that category that they might choose to enter.

Company X would need to look at the entire cost structure of how they manufacture and from where they source the materials to think through whether or not the supply chain would enable them to be successful in that category. They’ll need to look at what it would take to market and be successful there, what it would take to advertise. What are the unique trends that impact the consumer who shops in that category and whether those trends are intensifying, abating, or remaining static?

You look at women’s activewear, for example, one of the trends that has been driving the success of that category, in addition to the work of all the manufacturers and brands that are within it, is the fact that there’s been an explosion in women’s sports participation both formally as well as informally – gym membership, yoga, the emergence of other activities that women in America are highly interested in. The leaps and bounds growth of the number of people participating has given a lot of strength to companies that may want to enter that category and Company X really ought to evaluate, as part of a strategic planning process, whether or not those trends will continue.

So Company X may decide, ultimately having studied that deeply through their strategic planning process, that a strategy for them, a major goal or opportunity that they plan to organize their company to seize as a way of activating their full potential and accelerating profitable growth, they may decide that their launch of a women’s activewear line is an important business strategy for them.

Strategies must not just be about thinking, strategy is about the formulation and validation of major goals and objectives, and then the commitment to them. The operations element of a strategy is to bend organizational processes and partnerships in decision-making toward the achievement of those strategic objectives.

Tactics are fundamentally how do you do it? How should you advertise? What, once you decide to enter this category, are the strategies to enter women’s activewear? There are hundreds, in many cases, of tactics that Company X would need to employ to lead to the greatest potential from execution to expectation, and beyond of that strategy. It would be your product strategy, what category you should enter, what should your pricing be like, how does that affect the supply chain, certainty in the marketing realm, certainty in the distribution realm and on and on and on.

So at this point, having heard a lot of folks use the word, ‘hey we do strategy’ and meaning primarily that they’re reasonably smart and their process involves sitting back a little bit before they just start to do and do and do. That is not strategy. I’d say that’s probably strategy with a lower case s whereas strategy with a capital S is really about something much greater.

So there you have it One Big Idea for this week is the definition and the reaffirmation of the traditional definition of both brand and branding as a concept and strategy and strategic planning as a concept. We will be back with you next week with another interview with a really interesting business and brand builder.

Couple things you can do to help us out if you like what we’re doing at Real-World Branding. Please consider subscribing, so that this podcast just somehow magically appears in your app, through the store of your choice. Please also consider, if we’ve earned it, giving us a rating, hopefully five stars, we’ve learned helps others find us. We’d love to see comments in your app of choice reflecting how you think we’re doing and we would love to continue this open dialogue we’ve had with our listeners. Probably the best way to do that is through Twitter @billgullan or @FinchBrands, finch like the bird. That dialogue, we would love for it to continue to include not only feedback on what you’ve heard but guest ideas, people you’d love to hear in this format, as well as questions you’d love for us to ask future guests.

So hope to continue this dialogue we’ve been really grateful for the support of our listeners and their kind words as well as their really helpful actionable feedback and we look forward to continuing this for many weeks. Signing off from the Cradle of Liberty, have a terrific day.

The post One Big Idea: The True Meaning of ‘Branding’ and ‘Strategy’ appeared first on Finch Brands.

Summary:
When Keira Krausz became Chief Marketing Officer of Nutrisystem in 2013, the company was in a ’turnaround’ situation.  Fast forward to today—Keira and her marketing team have contributed to an incredible rebirth, including seven straight quarters of growth. In this episode of Real-World Branding, Keira walks us through the twists and turns of her career and the story behind Nutrisystem’s recent success and its future plans. If you enjoy our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review!

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Transcription

Bill Gullan: Greetings one and this is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premiere boutique brand agency. Thank you joining us. Today we will be spending some time with Chief Marketing Officer of Nutrisystem, Keira Krausz.

Keira and the CEO of Nutrisystem, Dawn Zier, have both been with the company for about two years and in that time they and the terrific team including both long-term team members and comparatively new arrivals, have authored a tremendous turnaround story. We conducted this interview prior to the most recent earnings release for Nutrisystem and embargoed it until after. Yet again, last Friday a tremendous quarterly performance. I believe its seven quarters of significant growth and beating estimates, the stock price certainly reflects that.

We get into a lot of different elements of Keira’s background, the unique rhythms of the business that Nutrisystem is in, some of the things they’ve done to be relevant to their consumer and expand their consumer base and bring their unique approach to weight loss and health into the world and in the marketplace.

Before we go to that, a couple things if you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe to Real-World Branding. Every two weeks or so it will just pop right into your app there and you will have another interview with a really interesting brand and business builder.

We love of course, if we’ve earned the right to receive a high rating in the store, whatever store you’re using and we would certainly very much love and appreciate feedback in what we’re doing here. Questions, suggestions for future guests, the two best ways to do that perhaps would be on Twitter, either @FinchBrands, or directly to me @BillGullan on Twitter. Whereas sometimes I vent my spleen a little bit about topics that might be on my mind, let’s let Keira’s words stand alone. It’s a terrific interview, I hope you enjoy and thanks again for joining us.

Bill: We’re here with Keira Krausz, CMO of Nutrisystem. Keira thank you for joining us on Real-World Branding.

Keira: You’re welcome, my pleasure.

Bill: All right, so to start could you take us through a bit of your background? The twists and turns that have led you here and some of the notable things from your career.

Keira: How I meandered to this point in time, okay.

Bill: It was more linear than that maybe but …

Keira: Or maybe not but that’s okay. I don’t recommend being totally linear, but there are some common themes I will say. The first is that most of my career I’ve been in direct marketing. I started my career way back when in continuity and subscription models for MacMillan. Then I have many great years, too many to name at Reader’s Digest, marketing everything from books and music, to financial services and membership clubs.

Even though I worked at a publishing company, per se, I was used to selling all numbers of categories. Then, what I found is the direct marketing fundamentals. Stuff like speaking directly, selling the benefits, offering something of special value, driving for immediate action and urgent action. Those are very highly transferable skills, so that’s a lucky thing that I had those skills from Readers Digest.

The second thing is that over the years, whether I liked it or not, I started getting asked, or sometimes told, to come into a business or a division to assess the situation. It was usually not as good as I would have liked and I had to fix it fast, to return that particular division or business to growth. I developed turnaround skills. It wasn’t really a plan, that’s the meandering part. That became sort of a necessity. That’s lucky as it has served me well. At the beginning of time at Nutrisystem. We’re not in turnaround at the moment, but when I first got here we were.

Third, after those businesses were healthy I had to pivot from a turnaround mentality and shift to a growth mentality and that’s like what we’re doing here [at Nutrisystem]. That all made sense, all those things made sense when I came to Nutrisystem. That’s how I sort of landed my way here.

Bill: Reader’s Digest, those who haven’t followed it at the corporate level, may think of it as something that they found at their grandparents’ house or whatever, but their were a lot of businesses that it was involved in.

Keira: Sure I mean Reader’s Digest, at one time at least, was basically one of the largest database marketing companies in the country and, in fact, the world. Very global business. Yes, the brand of the company is also the brand of it’s flagship magazine. For most of it’s history the business model was to attract as many people as we could with that magazine. It was at 20 million, I think, at one time. Then with that database of names, learn as much as we could about those customers by asking them questions and making different offers. Then actually launching different businesses to that list, so it was very profitable.

Now database marketing and using data, big data, these are all kind of buzzwords in the marketing industry. Way back when in the 60s, 1960s, Reader’s Digest was actually already doing that, so that’s cool.

Bill: Right, absolutely. You did undergrad at Cornell?

Keira: I did.

Bill: You’re second consecutive Big Red, are they the Big Red? I think they are.

Keira: I will confess they are Big Red, but I have to confess I would not be the one to ask because I’m not exactly a sports person.

Bill: Fair enough. Second consecutive guest from Cornell. Where ae you from?

Keira: I’m originally from Illinois. From the flat-lands of the Midwest. My dad’s family is Chicago born and bred so if you ask me a question about the Black Hawks or the sad Cubs I might be able to answer a few things but not too much about Big Red.

Bill: We’ll see how the Cubs improve.

Keira: I’m hoping.

Bill: Yeah, a lot of optimism there. You mentioned the turnaround condition. When you and CEO Dawn Zier came, I think, a little over 2 years ago at Nutrisystem, it was labeled appropriately as a turnaround. This is a company with incredible ups and downs. Somebody should write a book about Nutrisystem, all the ups and downs.

Keira: That could be you.

Bill: It could be me. I’m not sure anyone would read it but it would be fun to write.

Keira: I’ll read it.

Bill: Thank you Keira. So you and Dawn come here a little over 2 years ago and since then there has been a tremendous resurgence and obviously Wall Street, I think, is registering their pleasure with it. Given this upswing and these really strong results what do you attribute that to? In terms of what you’ve been doing?

Keira: First of all the question makes it sound like we rode in on white horses and in fact that could be the farthest from the truth. We did come in. We didn’t have white horses. It’s not a 2 man band. I think that’s the most important thing, we don’t necessarily believe in grandiose, charismatic, one person saves the day. We have a great team that’s probably the first and the foremost thing. It’s a team, it’s a combination of the people who were here. We have people who’ve been here for 25 plus years.

You mentioned that Nutrisystem has a fascinating and long history. Some of those people have lived that history and are really amazing at knowing the weight loss business in and out and forever – having a much longer term view than somebody who just walked in the door. We also brought in people who were functional specialists or really champions at some specific skill. Brought in a new creative director, a new CFO, etc. it’s a combination of people who were here and new ones. I have to say that of anywhere I’ve ever worked we really have trust in each other. We have passion. We definitely work hard and we’re nice, on most days.

Bill: So it’s fun for both of you?

Keira: It’s a team that has a diversity of skillsets and on any given day somebody … I mean you’ve spent time with us in our business.

Bill: Sure.

Keira: We have strong opinions. I guess we differ constructively, hopefully, mainly. There are some basics and the basics are essentially we exist to serve and help customers lose weight. They’re first, so as you know we try to understand what those customers need and want all the time. The second fundamental is that we try to be as fact based as possible. Dawn Zier, the CEO, has a saying. I don’t think she invented the saying but she always says, ‘I will always listen to facts, but if it’s a matter of opinion, I’ll just use my own, thanks.’ That kind of encourages us to use facts to make most of our decisions and to guide our constructive debates.

We execute with excellence. It’s not that hard to come up with a strategy. Many failed companies, and successful companies, have come up with strategies and decks to say where they’re going. You need a strategy, but the thing is, you have to actually execute on that strategy. I think one thing that we’re good at is that we focus and then we do what we say we’re going to do and then we do more later.

We’re not all over the place. Just that focus and we really try to just get the basics right. Then, we definitely are direct marketers. I know we’re going to talk a little bit about that. We definitely focus on the direct marketing fundamentals.

Then we do have a great brand. A brand that proved to be much stronger than we thought. That could travel to new channels and really carry. Just the brand alone communicates benefits to customers which is a very helpful thing.

Bill: Right, indeed. In this sort of upswing, there certainly has been, and it is palpable, a focus on execution and delivering the fundamentals of the branding business anew. With new energy or asserted energy. There’s also then, as you mentioned, some channel expansion. There’s been some product and concept expansion.

To the degree that you are able, or want to, to say a word about some of the things that have come to market in the past couple years. The retail business for example. That’s been augmented, it seems, considerably. Some a la carte products and services have been offered. Is it a combination of back to basic and highly energetic execution-focused leadership, plus some of these new strategies that you all put together?

Keira: Definitely, definitely. I mean, the first year was more about fixing things. Fixing things fast, true turnaround stuff and returning back to basics. At that time we planted the seeds for retail. Retail is now a sizable and significant part of the business, and growing quickly. It’s really helped us bring the brand and products to retailers. Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, and meet people that we were not going to meet otherwise.

We are able to vary the products and the pricing of those products so that we have a way of introducing ourselves to customers that we just weren’t meeting. I think that’s really valuable. Some of them come to our direct business, most of them will not. It’s a different relationship, but we’re happy with that expansion. So yes, now we’re growing retail and we’re focused on digital expansion, social marketing expansion. It’s a lot of channel expansion for the businesses that we’re in, and then as you look too, we’re also trying to expand by moving into new businesses or new business segments within weight loss.

Bill: Right. We talked about retail but as we know, as you said earlier, the core of this business is the direct business. A lot in your background, as you noted, has been about direct response and creating direct relationships with consumers. With a traditional marketing model that has been heavy on this PR approach, what would you say the role is? You mentioned the strength of the brand. PR is about tactics and transactions but also relationships and continuity. How would those two things live together to help really strengthen the company?

Keira: A lot of people will say, ‘are you a brand marketer or a direct marketer,’ as if they’re two sides of a spectrum and they have nothing to do with each other. That’s really not how we see it. Definitely brand and direct marketing are friends, not total strangers.

The brand helps people chose us rather than another option. It keeps us top of mind. We have attribution models that measure how many of our orders we can attribute to each dollar that we spend in each channel. We know that there’s some that we can’t attribute. That is because that’s from the brand. That’s the equity that we have in the brand.

It also helps us set our voice and have some consistency across all of our communications with our customers. Which then leads to, hopefully, building a relationship with customers so that we are not all burn and churn and try to get another batch of new customers in next year, but we have an ongoing relationship. I mean weight loss is a thing that hopefully when you succeed with us and you won’t need to be on a full program forever. As anybody who’s ever lost weight knows you are going to gain a few pounds back come Christmas time. Or Halloween, or what have you. We hope that our customers now will remember that they had a positive experience with us in all ways. Then when it comes time that they might just need a tune up that they come back to us. That’s what we’re going for. I think the brand helps do that.

Bill: Right well the retail business, in particular, to jump start it, is a great place for someone that has reached the point that they really want to do some things. p>

Keira: That’s right and when they see the brand, you know, when they’re walking down the isle and they see Nutrisystem versus the other brands on the shelf I think one reason that we’re able to grow quickly was because they knew and trusted that brand. We didn’t have to explain a lot on a little box. They were willing to stop and pick up that box and take a chance with us and for that we’re grateful.

Bill: As the brand increases at retail and as the distribution model becomes increasingly diverse how, if at all, does that empower you and the marketing team to think a little bit differently about what the success factors are? For example, at retail versus at the direct business, you mentioned there is continuity in terms of how we execute and so the cultural touch stone is this continuity in terms of what the brand stands for, visual style, brand personality, everything else. You know, vast differences across channels verses some of the …

Keira: Right, the business model is completely different.

Bill: For a brand named Nutrisystem to be successful at retail in addition to relying on the things that it’s created over the many, many years, are there a couple of things that make this brand successful? Especially to stand out within a channel that it may not be traditionally focused on.

Keira: Well, you know, we spend many, many millions of dollars on the direct business on TV and while we’re trying to get you to call, or to more likely go online or your mobile phone and check us out. Even having all that advertising does support the retail business, basically telling our story millions and millions of times every day. That in itself does support the retail business. We are different from a traditional retail only brand in that they invest money in many channels that don’t inspire people to respond right there but drive to retail. Some of the things that we do have to be more mindful, we have to have great partnerships and relationships. We have to please those big retailers. It’s really all about understanding their world, innovating for their customers so we’ve done a lot of product innovation for the retail channel.

That we would not have done for the direct channel. It’s about understanding how their marketing requirements and promotional requirements work so it’s just really understanding that world and how it differs from ours. The other thing that we have to do, because we have a direct business, is we don’t want to just trade one for the other. We have to watch very carefully the product variety, product piecing, and product pricing makes sense across the channels. It doesn’t always happen.

We’re pragmatic before anything else, but we spent a lot of time thinking through how things relate across the channels and that they make sense. We try to remember that we might think of things as direct marketing and retail but customers don’t do that. Customers live in the world and so it’s got to make sense. If a product is priced much higher someplace else, it just doesn’t make sense to them and they’re going to go and find the best price for them.

We equally have to remember that we don’t live in a bubble. We’re not just competing with weight loss companies but we live in the world and they see all sorts of marketing messages and customer service standards and delivery standards from everywhere else. We have to keep in mind what’s going on in the consumers world not just in our world.

Bill: Right, and you mentioned gathering strength in areas like creative. Obviously for the retail business, presumably your packaging right?

Keira: Correct.

Bill: You’ve got to get some of the different cadence of how consumers make choices. The brand is progressing in a really positive way in those realms as well. You mentioned consumer needs and they live their one life, and that’s absolutely true. We know, just from looking around that there is a lot of talk, there’s always been, but there’s seemingly a progressive amount of talk amongst consumers in what’s considered about nutritional elements, about freshness and whatever that means.

Keira: That’s definitely true and with the growth of Whole Foods, we don’t necessarily see ourselves as taste setters. We are definitely oriented around what consumers want. We’re not trying to tell them what they want and we’re not trying to change their minds. That definitely is hard to do especially in direct marketing so we go with the flow.

Definitely, you know and I know, that we’re all changing. We look at labels much more. we expect clear labeling. If there’s a weird ingredient in there that we don’t understand because we’re not chemists, we would like to know what it’s doing there. People are looking to see how much sugar is in their food, what percentage of the food is whole grains, how healthy is it? On the other hand, there is a portion of the market that is very health conscious and very nutrition conscious and is willing to give up dessert because they are watching their sugar.

There’s a larger portion of the population right now who wants both. They want health and they want their usual traditional, if you will, American foods. We have to do a good job at doing both and that’s probably challenging. We serve people who like to eat.

We have to be careful not to be too cutting edge and yet very on trend. That’s basically what we seek to do. We have a food development team that everyday is trying to improve the taste, improve the variety, improve the health, improve the labeling, improve the packaging. They’re constantly busy. That’s what makes my job possible. If they don’t do that then I don’t really have anything to sell. We spend a lot of time on that.

Bill: Sure, as someone who’s been on the program before I can attest that it works and the food’s pretty good.

Keira: I paid him everybody.

Bill: Right. There now that I’ve said it. I think, I may be the consumer who loses 30 pounds every year and then gains it back.

Keira: We kind of like you.

Bill: Yeah, I may be good for continuity.

Keira: As long as you don’t go anywhere else.

Bill: Yeah, no. First of all, thank you, this has been terrific and as we wrap anything you can disclose about major priorities, future plans?

Keira: No, I could tell you but then I’ll have to kill you.

Bill: Some people would applaud that.

Keira: They’d hate me. No seriously though we have a number of things. I spoke about how we were in a really ‘fix it fast’ mode and now we’re in a growth mode so we have a number of initiatives to keep that going. Basically they’re centered around reaching new customers for our core offerings, our core business. That centers around channel expansion as particularly in SEO, content marketing, and social. Those are probably our three big focus areas. That doesn’t mean we neglect everything else and shrink that, I mean, it’s an ‘and’.

Then we really want to focus on improving the customer experience and getting to know the customer even better so that we are not a burn and churn business. That’s terrible. We want to make people happy so they’re motivated to stay with us a long time. Then, finally, we’re watching a bunch of new businesses to try to move us into other segments. You spoke about the move towards fresh food so now we have Simply Fresh, which we started in California and will be most likely expanding shortly. That’s a pure fresh business. Now, delivering fresh food is expensive and so that won’t be for everybody, though we wish it were. The economics won’t work for everybody so we’re also really focused on getting products for all sorts of occasions and needs. If you want more flexibility, don’t want to be on five meal occasions a day. You’d like to do your own thing for dinner or you want to do your own thing for weekends we can vary our offerings. To make them more or less flexible depending on what people need.

What we want to do is that which will allow us to offer things at different price points again so that we can attract more customers. Really figure out what different segments need and want and then go for it. That’s basically, I think, sumarizes it.

Bill: This is a company and a brand on the move.

Keira: Thank you, its been fun.

Bill: Keira I think you’ve obviously been one of the primary authors of a really amazing couple of years.

Keira: Thank you.

Bill: We can’t wait to continue to watch and see what happens.

Keira: Check back with us, knock on wood.

Bill: We will. Knock on wood. Formica, or whatever it is. Keira Krausz, Nutrisystem CMO thank you so much for being with us.

Keira: Thanks for listening.

Bill: So there you have it. Thanks to Keira Krausz for being a terrific guest. Nutrisystem is a fascinating business and in it’s several decades of history. Someone should write a book about this company. The twists and turns, peaks and valleys, changes in model, and it would be a book that would be a fascinating series of case studies about how businesses grow and prosper and why they decline. Now, we’re in a prosperous moment certainly with a really bright future for a terrific brand and management team. Thank you again to Keira for your insight and certainly for your time.

One thing that struck me was everyone’s talking about omni-channel, or multi-channel, brands today. Nutrisystem for at least the last little while has really been a direct response driven, telephone or internet brand, with historically one way to be a customer. Since Keira and Dawn have helmed the Nutrisystem brand and business, the explosion of the brand into retail, the many, many different touchpoints and opportunities have reinforced the traditional mold of how these types of products are bought and sold. They have also paved new ground because the consumer always wants things to be convenient and to be compelling, to be served up in the way that he or she finds most interesting and most in step with the way they live. Nutrisystem has been, to their credit, very responsive to the marketplace.

One other thing that was particularly interesting, I think, from my perspective was Keira’s response to how brand and direct response live together. The fact that they really are partners. We couldn’t agree more. It’s wonderful to hear that from a practitioner as Keira is of direct business’.

Terrific, thank you again Keira for your insight and input. As we sign off, again, a couple ways to support what we’re doing here at Real-World Branding. Please subscribe if you are so compelled to receive these types of interviews with brand and business builders at regular intervals. We would obviously love a rating if we’ve earned it of 5 starts, or 4 stars. Whatever you think is appropriate. Then for feedback, for questions, for suggested guests reach out to us on twitter. Either @billgullan, reach out to me or @FinchBrands. Signing off from the Cradle of Liberty have a great day and week.

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