[Podcast] How to Grow Real Brands with Dava Guthmiller

[Podcast] How to Grow Real Brands with Dava Guthmiller

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Discover what it takes to be a “real brand” – one that is bold, honest and centred around emotional connections. Dava Guthmiller, who spearheaded Uber’s branding, is founder and CCO at Noise 13, a branding & design agency in San Francisco.

You will learn how Dava used this philosophy to rapidly scale her agency, including a deep dive into her process of working with Uber and various other lifestyle brands. Dava shares her past failures, with key insights on why execution is just as important as strategy, plus strategies on how to measure branding. Tune in with Dava Guthmiller, Jacob Cass & Matt Davies and discover how to grow real brands with strategy & design.

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Transcript (Auto Generated)

Hello, and welcome to JUST Branding, the only podcast dedicated to helping designers and entrepreneurs grow brands.

Hello, and welcome to JUST Branding. We have Dava Guthmiller here today with us, who is the CCO at Noise 13, which is a wicked branding and design agency in San Francisco. We’re going to be talking about lifestyle, design and strategy, but we usually start off with definitions.

So welcome to the show. Dava?

So usually we start off with definitions. So how do you usually define brand?

How do we define brand? You know, I think for me, well, for us in general, brand is the entire experience of your company. So it’s that emotional connection that a consumer has after they’ve used your product or service.

It’s what they say about you when you’re not in the room, how they talk to their friends about you. It is the culmination of your identity, your product or service, your messaging, your visuals. It’s all of those things together.

So when one of those things is really out of place, just like a pair of bad shoes and a good outfit, that’s the one thing people remember. So the brand in my mind is the whole entire experience.

All right. That’s a great definition. I’m just looking at your website and it says that you should find your real.

What do you mean by that?

Finding your real. I think the big part of brand strategy and doing brand in general is authenticity. Everyone wants to be authentic.

And I just really did not want to use that word. I think for me, your brand positioning, the why, the who you are, is that realness before you walk out of the door in the morning. So you think about a brand as a person or an entity, and there’s this core of your values and what you believe and why you’re going to work, why you’re producing your product or service.

And that to me is that realness. And if you don’t know who you are before you walk out of the door, you can’t expect anyone else to know who you are either. So finding that real from the inside out I think is super important.

It’s like loving yourself before you allow or ask others to love you. So we say the same thing with visuals of your branding as well. I’m like, I’m not going to put lipstick on the pig.

I mean, there’s some cute pigs out there. But if the product or service isn’t really great, there’s only so much frosting that could cover it up. You have to decide what is true and authentic and real to you as a brand before you ask others to understand that.

I love all those analogies. I often use them like the car and the pig and the iceberg.

I think this is quite an interesting thing because I often do work sometimes alongside agencies. One of the things that I sometimes find is what happens if you’re starting a project and you get part way in, and then you realize that, oh man, this customer experience is horrific. It’s really terrible.

In effect, they are asking me to put lipstick on a pig. What do you do? How do you approach that?

Because as a consultant, I can duck and dive and say, look, we’re not going to move that forward anymore because this is really bad and we need to sort this problem out before we even go any further. That kind of works okay. But if you’re an agency, I think sometimes you’re a bit on the back foot with that because they’re hiring you to basically produce X, Y and Z.

How do you handle that, Dava? Have you come across that? What are your thoughts?

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I am usually not gentle about the fact that there’s crap on the table. So we have something called the Discovery and Audit, which most brands do it and call it DNA. It’s part of your makeup.

It’s who you are. What makes you you? And that Discovery and Audit really allows us to figure out who is our audience, what is the company about, what makes them better or different or special.

And in that process, you can really discover the good and bad about a company. And a lot of times we will do that piece of the puzzle, the Discovery and Audit, before we do anything else. Or we’ll even write a scope where we just do the DNA in order to write the rest of the scope of the project, especially when we’re a little uncertain about a client because it allows us an out, right?

It’s like dating before you get married sort of a thing. There’s a way for us to say no, but also I think it’s our job as designers and as, you know, I think of us as a business partner to really tell you the truth. And if the client doesn’t care and they don’t want to make those changes, we normally will sort of back out gently after we’ve finished the contract.

But most of our clients have been with us for a really long time. You know, we have some clients that have stayed with us on and off different companies for 20 years. Some clients where we have, you know, ongoing three, four year contracts, that discovery and audit piece will really help you find sort of the good and bad about a company and sort of decide how far you can push those levers as a consultant to support them in where they need to be going.

But then it also allows you an out if they’re not willing to go there.

Well, has it always been like that? At this stage, because you have a pressing list of clients, so like Uber, for example, and Facebook and Twitter and Planet, just to name a few. What was the tipping point and when were you so confident enough to be able to be in that position?

You know, I think on the strategy side and that kind of discovery and audit, I started in 2000 when graphic designers were just graphic designers. And I went to school for design. That’s my background.

I used to give away that strategy piece and that discovery piece for a very long time, because we worked with really small companies and really small brands. And in 2013, we started working with Uber and we had to grow really, really quickly. We went from six people to 14 in about a year and a half.

And just to kind of, you know, manage the ongoing, well, their growth. I mean, because it was basically that spot between 20 cities and 200 is where we were working with them. And during that time, we were also going through a rebrand for ourselves or a brand evolution.

I like to say you can’t really change who you are, but you can change how you talk about it. And that’s where we realized that this big piece of what I was giving away in meetings and sort of free consulting was something that needed to be more valued by the people that we were working with. So the minute that you put it as a deliverable on that proposal and you format it and you make a process around it, people are forced to take it more seriously rather than just your advice.

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And, you know, as we started working with larger companies and where the impact was more long term, we needed to formalize that process. So that sort of happened for us in 2013, 2014. But it was also the first time that we had formally gone through the brand positioning of ourselves as a company.

Because we were this small, tiny company and just kind of floating along for a really long time. And we sort of had to put your big girl pants on. And so we went through that process.

And I will say, as somebody who does this for a living, and we give strategy and brand positioning to others, it is very hard to turn that lens on yourself. I wrote the big check and I paid somebody else for that outside insight and that discovery and audit. Because it’s my company.

I was here for 13 years. It was very personal to me. And it was absolutely invaluable to have an outside view of where we were as a company.

I don’t think anything was miraculously new or different in that discovery. But the fact that it was an impartial third party that did the interviews, that did the questionnaires, that looked at the competitive audit, I don’t think that it would have been as valuable if we tried to do it ourselves.

Was there any eureka moment throughout that process?

I think the biggest one was it came up that how collaborative we were, which to me, some seemed like table stakes, right? No brainer. Obviously creatives are really collaborative.

But at the time, the people that we were really competing against, collaboration was lip service. It was something that people said a lot. But when it came down to it, it was like, here’s your options A or B.

And if you don’t like it, you can f***. So I think that there’s the act of truly listening and being a partner to our clients, really understanding their needs and not just executing on visual design, but really going in as a partner and really helping them out in that way was not something that all of our competitors were doing. So collaboration was something we never really talked about other than internally.

But we realized that that was the external perception from our clients and a differentiator for us, which I don’t know that I would have even thought about it because it just seems like, of course.

Can we go a little bit deeper on that? Could we walk through a project that comes to mind for you that was super collaborative and go through that process of working with that client?

Oh man. I mean, at a super high level, I think a lot of that collaboration comes from the fact that we empower everybody here to really think like a partner and not just execute on that one thing the client has asked you for. So in general terms, always be looking for new ways to support them or ways to connect and help them network at a very basic level.

But on a project level, I think two really good examples. One would be Uber. So we literally staffed up and grew in order to support their needs.

But also things were coming to us from a very small company. They had two designers. They were growing so fast.

There was very few systems in place on the design and marketing side or the brand and marketing side. And we could have just executed on things and let it happen. But we worked with their teams to create systems, to create a creative brief format.

And literally, like for every design request, their internal team had to fill out a form, which ended up being a piece of software that the internal Uber team built in order to manage these requests. And then there was a person’s job that then after three years was like filtering those incoming requests and said, great, are these people in our internal team could do it? And here’s templates based on things that the noise group has provided, or this is something brand new and we need to give that to noise.

We would sort of look at it. Is this a one-off? Is this something that five cities or 20 cities or 30 cities are going to want?

How do we templatize and then give that back to the internal teams? So there’s this business level of consulting that happens on top of how we do design that is part of that collaboration and partnership.

It sounds like you kind of like designed the process to support their growth, as well as design the assets to deliver against that process. Is that fair?

For Uber, for sure. And a couple of our other clients were doing that with Twilio right now and a few others where they’re in that massive growth space. And anytime that we can find efficiencies, we do.

Sure, we could just charge them all the money in the world and just do it the messy way because we could build more hours. But then you bring out your design team, you’re being wasteful of your talent and your time, you’re being wasteful of your clients’ money. So I think that there’s the business level aspects of collaboration that are really important to being a design company.

But then I also think that there’s this, the listening level, right, of if somebody comes to you and says, well, I need a new identity. It’s like, well, why? Is it really that your logo is a problem or is it your messaging?

Or is it that your product is actual crap? Or is it that people just have no way to find you? So not just being an executioner, but being a creator.

And the more that we listen and realize that our clients have, they know their product, they know their service. Our clients are valuable and knowledgeable. And the more we can work together, we will create something better, right?

Same thing with your internal staff. The more that we can bring more minds together to solve a problem, we’ll usually have a better solution than if we just let ego run rampant. And it’s all about one person’s taste.

That’s brilliant. I mean, a lot of the listeners will know these are the sorts of things that we, me and Jacob, preach a little bit about around how, you know, execution without any strategic thought is, you might as well, you’re wasting your time, it’s luck of the draw, but you’ve got to have those strategic thoughts. You’ve got to align your people internally.

And it sounds like, you know, you guys are doing that, an epic job of that.

I’m interested a little bit in the Uber project, because how soon, because I don’t know much about it, so help me here. So how soon, you said they were small teams, so obviously they’ve grown out of startup, et cetera. I assume they got investment, et cetera.

They’re going on this growth spurt. How different was the brand identity to what it is now? How different, did you have an opportunity to work with them on their sort of strategic angle, why we exist, who we exist to serve, why we’re different, or was it just such a rapid pace that you had to kind of just step into the breach?

How did it work?

Yeah, Uber was really different for us because we did not do the identity. We did not do the brand strategy and positioning. So when we started working with Uber, they had one full-time designer and one intern.

We were provided a list of things that they needed, a logo, three colors, Uber black, Uber white, and Uber blue, one font, and a pattern. And that was it. And we created thousands of individual deliverables over about a three-year period of time.

So it was literally, I have like a little chart because I’ve actually done a talk about this one, but it was literally at span between 20 cities and 200. So we first started working with the internal designer on everything from like, they had these little $20 coupons that they would give out to people for their first time ride. And they just wanted, they needed some new ones.

And one of the very first things we did, we walked into the office and somebody grabbed this little envelope, looked like a card, grabbed the envelope, they opened the envelope, they threw the envelope away, they opened a little thing that looked like a thank you card, they threw that away and they handed me this little plastic card on the inside that said, that was like a ride coupon code. And I’m like, wow, look at how much money they just threw in the trash. And then the thing that they gave me had no information on it.

So we redesigned that into a paper card, so it was less expensive. We did it. We put all the information on something with a sleeve that was the size of a card, so they wouldn’t throw all the bits away.

And then we did it in about probably like six different denominations. So kind of, yeah, we need more of these, but the waste factor and the use of them was really low because people would get them at events and then they’d throw all the bits away so that they could put it in their bag and then they would forget about it. So something as simple as relooking at the format allowed us to increase usage on those.

But so it started out with a lot of, we just need this stuff. We have a list of things we need. And then as we sort of got into it and as we sort of built these tools and systems around the requests, we realized that, you know, you do something for one city and then all the cities want it.

So really having more strategic meetings around, okay, if we do this, you can’t put it on the portal, otherwise 20 cities will want it and this is a special thing, or we’re going to do it and here it is for 50 cities. So really thinking strategically around how to execute for something that has to live in multiple places and in multiple uses. You know, you would do one thing for a marketing campaign and it has to be executed in multiple languages and in multiple cities.

And so I think that there was a huge learning curve both inside of Uber and on our side. It was a very fast learning curve, but it was very steep of working across the world and executing on a brand system. So what are the tools and the look and feel that you can build from these four things that you were given in the beginning?

How hard was that to do without much of that brand audit, that discovery and audit that you sort of talked about at the start? Was it tricky or did you have a good synergy or did they have that sort of stuff down and so you were able to use that as your new stars?

They had some of that down. So they had their internal values and brand platform work. Obviously, that’s changed many times over the years, but that was one of those projects where we definitely were like the outsourced design team.

So we kind of did everything for them for many years. And once they built up their brand and marketing team, we also did all of their photography for years. But then after that team was really built up, then the next team that needed support was their office builds.

So they were building offices all over the world, and we were supporting them on how does the brand live inside of the physical office space. So and then once that team kind of got built up, then we kind of and it was interesting. I mean, we worked ourselves out of a job by creating these systems and tools.

And at the time when we were at the end of our contracts, they were educating the C level team on what does brand really mean, and they were going through that whole rebrand. And that’s when not the brand that’s out now, not the identity that’s out now, but the identity prior, that one came out right after we stopped working with them. So again, they were in the middle of that sort of repositioning for themselves and really thinking about the brand as a whole.

So that was really interesting because it was a very much a partnership. And because we were part of the team when there was only two designers, we were really there as a strategic partner to help them build systems. But it was more of a brand system than it was a brand strategy.

I love how you went from just doing their task list and just proving your worth and growing and growing and eventually getting out of that job. Can we just take a little bit of a pivot here? Because we talked about the Uber side of things, which is all the tech services, but you do a lot of lifestyle brands as well, especially in the cannabis industry.

And I noticed that you even brought out your own brand. Did you want to talk about that whole lifestyle and cannabis and how that fits into your agency?

Yeah. I mean, when I first started Noise, I was doing a lot in the food and beverage space. I’m a huge food person.

I worked in restaurants a lot. I care a lot about where my food comes from. So for the first, I don’t know, 10 years or so of Noise, most of our clients were in food and beverage and small retail.

And once a couple of years, maybe it’s about a year before cannabis became legal in the US, or in California, we started working with Kiva, which is a chocolatier. And this was sort of right at that space when cannabis was in transition from becoming this under the counter brown bag thing, where, you know, there were just at home labels and everything was not really clear. And you really knew about cannabis in order to even find it and buy it, or you were getting it from your friend, to being something above the counter and on shelves and something that consumers could touch and feel and read about.

So we were sort of going from like under the counter to over the counter. And there was this transition of messaging and awareness that brands needed to have in order to attract that consumer. So a lot of our food and beverage experience, our beauty and wellness, all of that kind of lifestyle B2C product experience really helped us look at cannabis in a new way.

So instead of being the stoner culture, it was this lifestyle. And when there’s 40 options for something, you really do need to define where is that unique stake in the ground for the brand, even for cannabis, right? Because consumers could choose directly, which they really couldn’t before.

So I think for us, cannabis is a food, it is a beverage, it is wellness, it is health, it’s even becoming travel and experiences. And so all of that consumer lifestyle branding that we’ve done over the years was a perfect pivot for that industry.

When you say it like that, everything does sound aligned and it just fits so perfectly together. Can you talk through your brand? It’s Revlon Rouse, is that correct?

Revlon Rouse.

Rouse, sorry.

Rouse and Revel or Wake and Bake, however you want to think. Yeah, so one of the trends that we were noticing when we first started getting into cannabis was the amount of women who were really changing the narrative around the use of cannabis. They were really pushing quality.

They were also starting to be a trend in use on low dose and flavors and quality. So we really wanted to highlight those brands and those businesses who were doing a great job. So we started Revel and Rouse as almost a review site or a magazine.

And at one point we did have a retail component where you could buy from a delivery service. It’s been sort of sitting on the sidelines for a hot minute because I have about a three business limit and I’m at my three business limit right now. So Revel and Rouse has been there and we do work on the social side of it, but it has been just kind of sitting quietly until we have a team to kind of bring that back up.

But that process that we went through for that year of really talking to those brands, learning about the industry, highlighting people who are doing something great, allowed us to just understand what people were going through at a business level much more deeply, which helps us in that side of our business.

Yeah, I love how you saw the gap in the market and just created something for that gap for the women. It’s brilliant, really. Thank you.

So just thinking, I’m looking at your website again and just to get into your head, you talk about being bold and distinctiveness and real conversations. How do you bring that to life with your clients? Let’s choose a different industry that you work with.

Oh man, I think a lot of that is my personality and hopefully that rubs off on my managers here. But like I said, I am not shy about telling people when they’re doing something really good or really bad. I speak very, very directly and I think part of that is my ethos of like just tell the truth, just be real and authentic, empower those that are smarter than you, all of that stuff.

But I think it’s also when you think about a brand, you have to take risks, right? You can only A-B test something so much. You have to, you know, was it Ford once said, that’s like if you ask people what they wanted, they would say a faster horse.

You have to take a risk. You have to be bold. You have to be willing to stand for something, anything and be different for a little while.

You can’t just, if you just follow along with everyone else, then you might as well be a white label brand. So I think in order to really own your space in the market as a brand, you have to be bold. You have to, yeah, just put your stake in the ground, you know, and you’re going to upset some people and you can’t be everything for everybody all the time.

It just doesn’t work. So somebody is going to be unhappy and you have to be okay with that.


Yeah, I think one of the things I often come across is people get scared, don’t they, right? When they’re starting a business, they’re full of energy and they’re like, I know this thing is broken in the world and they start the business. And then 20 years later, you know, there’s got another team around them and everybody’s kind of safe.

And then they realize they’re commoditized and they’re fighting, you know, the sharks in the Red Ocean. And suddenly it’s like, well, we need to take the next jump. So how do you sort of advise people on that?

How do you help them get that confidence? It’s got to be more than just talking direct, right? Do you do research?

What do you build around that to help them make that confident decision?

Yeah, and I think that’s where strategy comes in. I think if you know how you are authentic within what you do and why you’re doing it, if you’re relevant to your audience in a way that others aren’t relevant yet, if you’re differentiated within the marketplace, all of those things provide sort of a reason and a strategy around where we need to go and how we need to get there. And without that, you know, you’re just throwing darts at the board.

So I think that there’s strategy is sort of like that support reasoning, right? But you still have to have it in you to kind of take that leap. A really good example of this, when you can have all of the strategy in the world and all of the reasoning and planning around a brand and really launch something, but if the client is not willing to take that leap and go there and just wants to kind of fall back into their old ways of doing something, no matter how much you care about it, it might not work.

And there’s a brand, Amber and Ash, that we worked on, where the client, you know, they’re in China, they were making cell phone cases, you know, just miscellaneous kind of cheap knockoff type stuff. And they came to us and said, we want to build a brand. We want a lifestyle company, you know, it has to start with cell phone cases, but we want to do a whole line of accessories, find the open space, stay under this price point, target women, figure it out.

It was like a dream, right? Starting a company with somebody else’s money, it was like so much fun. And so we did, you know, we did the research, we looked at the audience, we looked at the, you know, this very, very crowded marketplace of cell phone cases.

And we found this little space where we could, both at the product level and at the storytelling level, stand out and be really unique. So we looked at thinking about cell phone cases as a true accessory, rather than just you put it on and you forget it until it cracks, right? So we looked at seasonal fashion and seasonal colors.

And if you are asking people to take your cell phone case on and off and change it with your outfit, the damn thing cannot break. It has to be easy to take on and off, but it also has to protect your phone. So we worked with a product designer down in Long Beach, designed the case itself, came up with the brand name, came up with the line of products, named the products.

Even the packaging, I don’t have it. I normally have them here, but even the packaging is done as like a little drawer, so you could put them back and like line them up on your bookshelf or like little jewelry cases. And it was really great.

But in order to launch something like that, it takes influencers, it takes storytelling, it takes marketing around the uniqueness of the product, and they blew their entire launch budget on Amazon ads. The brief that we were given around creating a lifestyle brand needs to have follow through with execution of how people are going to perceive that brand. If they wanted to just build an Amazon line, that’s a very different storytelling mechanism.

That’s a very different sales platform. And so their sales didn’t succeed, right, with launch. They spent all this money on Amazon ads because that’s what they’re used to instead of where we had asked them to spend the money.

And so they instantly sort of just changed the brand and started doing stuff for guys and kids and knockoff stuff again. So I even offered to buy the brand back and I’m like, you guys can manufacture it and let me just manage the brand. And they went and sold it back to me.

So, you know, you win some, you lose some. As great as that could have been, the execution on how consumers were consuming that product and service didn’t match up with what we were asked to build. So, you know, your brand experience is not just the thing.

It’s also where and how people are consuming that.

I love that you’re so open with sharing the failure as well, because it’s such a true, it actually loops back to your find your real thing, the whole honesty side of things. And strategy is only as good as execution. And that’s what I was trying to get in before is that that’s exactly it.

So you have to see it through. You have to see the strategy through to the final thing to actually make it work. So based on that experience, how have you, I guess, improved your processes to help or to ensure that sort of thing doesn’t happen again?

We ask a lot more questions. You know, you can’t force a client to do what you’ve asked them to, you know, if it’s not your money, it’s not your company. You can’t really force them to, I mean, once you hand it off, it’s theirs and they own it and they can do whatever they want with it.

Right. But we do try to layer in a lot more education and training. We try to connect, you know, we don’t do people’s social marketing, but we will create templates and sort of guidelines around those kinds of things.

We might even help them hire a marketing or PR, like a social marketing person or a PR person. Right. So that we can help continue that story.

We’ve also trained some of our clients’ staff. We’ve done, you know, once you finish this beautiful brand book, if you don’t tell anybody why that’s important, it also doesn’t stick. So we’ve done partner training sessions where a good example is Spare the Air, which is a government group.

And they have many different partners that work on executing that, whether it’s in advertising or radio or the website. So bringing all those people together, telling them why it matters, letting them ask questions, making them feel like they’re part of it, rather than just being told what to do. Again, that goes to that collaboration side, right?

Of bringing people along for the ride, including them in the process, and then explaining to them why it’s really important. And I think as much as you can, making sure that that’s coming from the top down in a company. Again, they’re not my companies.

I can’t run them all. But you can encourage the C-level staff to do that. You can also make sure that you’re asking those questions in the DNA, and making, you know, that there is that ambassador in the company that is going to kind of, you know, carry along what it is that you’re providing after you’ve handed it off.

So if there’s nobody in the company that cares, then they shouldn’t be spending the money anyway.

Bye So the next step after that, I guess, is measuring the results. How do you actually go about doing that once you’ve given them the reins?

You know, brand is a hard thing to measure because it is sort of nebulous, right?

So that was a horrible question, Jacob. That was horrible.

It’s a tricky one.

It is, but I have one good…

What a vicious question.

I have one good example.

So it is, it’s a nightmare, isn’t it? Trying to actually measure ROI when you’re creating something so ingrained in a business. But it doesn’t just require your input.

It requires the other… Like you were saying, Dava, about partnership. It requires a partnership to follow through.

If you do brand properly, and my belief is it’s got to go through HR. It’s got to go through your operations. It’s got to go through all of that and your marketing for sure.

But it’s got to be sat right up there, like you were saying, in the boardroom, in someone, in the leadership team, who takes ownership and accountability for championing that going forward. So yeah, really, really tricky question. And I just saw you there going, oh, I’m not sure.

And I just wanted to say, I find it hard to measure as well. Like, you know, it’s a really tricky thing, isn’t it?

Yeah. I mean, there’s little things. I mean, again, if you’re not doing the ongoing marketing, you know, that’s another clicks.

You know, you can you can test based on that or engagement or those kinds of things. But like you’re saying, it’s like that has a lot to do with, you know, how much your marketing team is paying for those, that placement. One really good example that we did quite a few years ago was with a hotel group called Personality Hotels.

And they had six different hotels, all boutique, all very different style. You know, they’ve been around for a while and we were doing both a brand refresh for the corporate company, Personality Hotels, as well as some of the individual hotels themselves. And when we first did the audit, you know, I walked through those hotels like I was nobody, just kind of, oh, I’m looking for some corporate rooms and didn’t tell anybody who I was, talked to some people in the lounge and like, oh, like, do you know who owns this hotel?

You know, there’s hotel groups, right? And most people gave me a different hotel groups name when I asked who owned any of those hotels. There was also just like a lack of consistency in down to like the maps on the back of the brochures.

Every map was different. Every the way they use the company logo was different on every piece of material. So, yes, we standardize a lot of things.

We let the individual hotel brands like shine through. But the hotel had like a little survey in the rooms and it was this cute little like stick figure, like draw your personality brand experience. And so we redid that little survey form or feedback form and we added a couple of new questions.

One was like, how is it? What are the other hotel brands? What are the other hotels that personality brands has?

And there was another question, but basically awareness of the fact that do you even know that this company is one of many? Because they weren’t even asking those questions. So the awareness went way up as far as people understanding that personality hotels was the owner of many and also the fact that they would stay in another one of those hotels.

So, I mean, super tiny thing that we could do at the hotel level, because, you know, when people actually stayed at hotels and filled out forms. But I think that, you know, awareness is one of those ways and also you guys have talked about this a lot. It is what the consumers say about you.

It’s how the consumers feel about you. So doing a survey with consumers before you start is part of your audit and then doing another one a year later that kind of gets to some of those points and what is the perception of that brand. That’s one way that you could get that across.

But yeah, brand is or even identity, right? Identity on its own is just such a small piece of the puzzle, but it’s so hard to say, oh, this brand refresh increased sales by whatever. You can say that a campaign did something like that.

We have a campaign right now with the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation and a win was 300 new donors that they’ve never had before. But they also, to be fair, most of their donors are high net worth individuals and institutional giving. They don’t really do a lot of community giving.

So this was an opportunity for the community to actually get involved because of COVID. But 300 new donors is major because they have this small little group of donors that are just super loyal to them all the time. So it’s not always possible, but anytime that you can track awareness or perception of a company is a way to kind of evaluate how well you’ve done on the brand.

The other thing you can do is you mentioned consumer surveys. Something I’ve done a little bit of is internal surveys. You talked about culture earlier and around how people interact with the brand.

That’s something you can usually get access to people internally quite easily, like an internal type form questionnaire that you can get sent out through the internal comms team or whatever. Get some insight into why do we exist. Out of 10 questions, I find it quite fun.

How confident are you that you could explain the corporate purpose of our business or something? One being really bad.

Or even just how do you? How do you explain it? Yeah, because if it hasn’t trickled down, yeah.

And then you can do that at the start, do that at the end, and then you can see how we actually embedded our new sort of strategic brand thinking into the business or not. So yeah, let’s think about that. There you go, folks.

Have that one.

Another really good one, if you have a really large company, which should be part of your discovery and audit, is talking to the customer service reps because they’re the ones who hear all the complaints, they get all the crazy questions. So if you’re not dealing with that stuff in the product or service or in the brand experience and it’s coming down to this constant customer service question and time, that’s another really good one, a before and after, right? What are the questions that people are asking now and what are the questions that they’re asking six months or a year later?

Customer service people are like, oh, they’re the keeper of so many secrets. They really know the dirt, right? They know what people complain about.

They know the challenges people are having. Talk to your customer service people. They’re great.

They know more than you think.

Awesome. Great takeaway. Great takeaway.

I love that.

What about setting, are there any revenue goals in the beginning when you start talking with clients in the beginning, like they want to make X amount, for example, the Amber and Ash project, it sounded like a very fresh project and they would want to really reach a big market and they had some sales goals, but they spent it on Amazon. Is there any revenue or goals they had in the beginning that you could actually measure against or see if it worked or didn’t work because of that?

You know, it’s more rare than I would like. I think it would be really helpful to have more of those goals, right? But again, we work on the strategy, the brand positioning, the messaging, the identity and templates for marketing.

We normally don’t do the day to day execution and the placement of that marketing or the ad buys or those kinds of things. So we can only get you so far of that way because then there’s this executional aspect internally that is reliant to get those sales going, right? So with Amber and Ash, they did have sales goals and we put together a marketing plan complete with influencers and how much to spend, which they didn’t do.

So I can’t judge our brand positioning based on the execution because the execution wasn’t the right fit for the brand that we built.

One of the things we touched on, because we’re coming to the end of our time, but before we wind up, I was really interesting in this concept of a lifestyle brand. Can you talk a bit about that and how you see that? Why would it be a lifestyle brand over just a normal brand?

What’s the difference? How do you define that? How do you build that picture around that?

Yeah, I think years ago, I used to define a lifestyle brand as the things that people bought that they wanted, not that they needed. This is how I define myself, the look and feel of my space, my activities, the things that make me me, right? So food, beverage, health, wellness, travel, a lot of that fell into lifestyle.

But I think now I look at lifestyle brand as any brand that speaks to the way a consumer wants to be seen by others. So I think there’s an example we call the lifestyle lens. It’s on our website, which is part of our discovery and audit.

It’s what does the consumer need? What do they want? Because it used to be just the wants or that lifestyle.

But what do they need? What do they want? And then how do they want to be seen by others?

So if you think about, I used to use Uber and Lyft all the time, right? When they were first starting out. So Uber and Lyft, when they first started, were the same exact service, give or take a black car, right?

But the brands around those two things were very different. Perception of somebody who rode in an Uber versus rode in a Lyft, the pink mustache versus the black car, the high five upon entry sit in the front seat versus being driven around in the back seat. There was this perception of how I want to be seen by choosing those two different things, Coke and Pepsi, right?

And the more a company gets away from that, the more they just become one of many. And the more that they are saying, this is my piece of this puzzle of how the consumer wants to be seen, the more that makes them part of a lifestyle.

There’s actually one project on your site that caught my eye is the tile, the little chip, I think, because they’re just like a little electronic thing that you attach to your keys or anything, but you seem to have made them into a lifestyle brand. So how do you make a little consumer gadget into a lifestyle brand?

I think that there’s a couple of things that happened there. I mean, the way that that product was launched was at the Apple Store. I mean, it was a direct-to-consumer brand.

They started out on Kickstarter, and they called us when they had to go into retail, and their first retail was Apple. You know, you have a white product on a white package in a white room, and so the personality of that brand had to come through in the messaging and the tone of voice, and there’s also this aspect of the consumer who, which was really interesting for Tile, it’s usually not the person who loses their stuff that buys Tile. It’s the person who’s super organized, who wants to stay being super organized, that buys Tile, or they buy it as a gift for people.

So there is this perception with Tile of like, if I have this on my keys, I’m an organized person, I have my stuff together, I’m not wasting time, and so, or I want to be. And so even in the images that we chose, the tone of voice that we used, the items that we decided to buy to put the Tiles onto in our photography, all of that gave a sense of the type of person that I am. And then when they did a redesign of the physical product, they had their standard white one, but then they did sort of a darker one and a lighter one, which you could say was like the dude one and the chick one, which, you know, whatever, I like the black one.

And we didn’t want to go down that route. We didn’t want to put gender to it, and so we did it based on style. So the black one just inherently felt more rugged, more outdoors, more sort of adventure, where the white one felt a little bit more polished, more city, more professional.

So instead of attaching gender to those things, we attached activity and lifestyle and sort of that sort of spirit to it so that the gender was gone. So I think there’s little things that you can do to, again, get to how a consumer wants to feel, regardless of their age or their gender or those other things.

Yeah, the emotional connection with the product and their lifestyle. So I love that example. That was really, really great.

So thank you for sharing that. It’s kind of ironic that people, that organized people, have the tile attached to them. It’s just crazy how marketing works and how…

No, but I mean, it was really interesting when we did the consumer studies there that it wasn’t the super disorganized person. It was the organized person. She’s the mom buying it for everyone else in the house.

That’s a great note to end. Let’s end on love for the moms. That’s what I would say.

What a great way to end. I wanted to thank you for your time, Dava, today and for your knowledge and your wisdom and your inspiration that you’ve shared with us and our listeners. If people want to get in touch with you, where do they find you?

Oh, so easy to find. Noise 13, if you search for it, you’ll find it. You’ll even search for me if you just search my name, Dava Guthmiller.

There’s only one of me.

May I ask one more question? What is Noise 13?

So when I first started, we wanted a name that was kind of open-ended.

So at the time, a lot of companies had communication or design or agency in their name. When you’re designing for somebody, especially in the food and beverage space, which at the time we were, a lot of nightclubs, you kind of want to stand out. You want to be noticed.

And if you do a good job with your brand and your identity at the time, you’re not going to fit in and be the same as everyone else. So standing out, making noise, being noticed. And my first office was on the 13th floor.

So there you have it.

There you have it. There we go, folks. So Noise 13.

Thank you so much again for being on here. We appreciate it. And thank you everyone to our listeners as well for tuning in.

And we really appreciate it. So thank you again.


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