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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Brand Marketing with Natalie Zensius: Talketer Podcast EP 3

Talketer Podcast host Nick Andrews talks with Natalie Zensius. Natalie is a marketing communications executive in the financial services industry located in the San Francisco, CA Bay Area. She focuses on integrated B2B marketing, sales activation & enablement, brand Strategy and corporate communications. 

 MC 0:00

You're listening to the Talketer podcast. Our mission is simple to make you a better marketer. Follow us on social media for exclusive content behind the scenes photos, blooper reels, and more. Now let's get this episode of talking or started. here's your host, Nick Andrews.

Nick Andrews  0:22  
Thank you for that introduction and welcome to the Talketer podcast. I'm your host, Nick Andrews. And joining me today is Natalie zechus. Natalie is a marketing branding and communications consultant in the financial services industry. Natalie, thanks so much for joining.

Natalie Zensius  0:39  
Thank you, Nick. It's a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Nick Andrews  0:42  
So Natalie I'm really looking forward to our conversation today about branding. And when I think of branding, I think of like colors and logos but it has to be more than that, right? 

Natalie Zensius  0:55  
Yes, I mean, that's that's definitely part of it. Um, but I would say, and this is probably not the most academic way to say this, but I try to keep things simple is that your brand is the perception either positive or negative that people have in their minds about your company or your organization. And so, branding is kind of a discipline that attempts to influence that perception to the positive. And it kind of asks us to consider the idea that everything we do as an organization communicates and everything is connected, and everything matters.

And so when you have a system of behaviors and practices, and sort of ideas that are consistent and distinct and memorable, and they're all aligned to your overarching core values as as an organization, then you have then you have a brand strategy and when all of these things are in alignment, it's really really great because you get an authentic experience both for employees at your company you organization and for your clients and so you've got you know, you're building a great culture on the employee experience side and you're building a great, you know, experience for your customers on the on the brand new external side, all of that works together and drives growth, which is what we want. Right?

Nick Andrews  2:26  
So what about the individual employees of a company? I've never been told by any company that I've worked for, you know, Nick, you're a brand ambassador. Your behavior is a reflection of the brand. I mean, that's obvious when you when you read the news and you see someone who's misbehaving at a company that impacts the brand negatively.

So from from a branding perspective, how important is it that the all the employees are on board and at what point at what stage during their employee journey they need to be? I don't want to use the word indoctrinated, but educated on how they should be a brand ambassador.

Natalie Zensius  3:11  
brands are built from the inside out. So, you know, your employees are ambassadors for your brand. And if they're engaged, and they feel aligned, and they feel like they have everything they need, and they're having a really great experience being an employee at your organization, then they will turn that around, and they will create delightful experiences for your clients and your customers. So I think it really, really is important and it should be something that happens from the very, very beginning of their journey.

You know, if you go back to this idea that everything is connected, and then everything matters, then you know, somebody who's looking to come work at your organization. Hopefully the reason they want to do that is because because of your brand, right? They want to be part of that they want to be part of that story. They want to be helping to tell that story helping to build that story. And all the touch points that they have the experiences they have all through the recruiting process through to onboarding, and then through their journey as an employee should reinforce, you know, reinforce for them.

You know, what the brand is about. And so, you know, there's ways to operationalize a brand and to have it, use the culture and that's probably, you know, a deeper conversation that goes beyond, you know, what we're discussing today. But, you know, that's certainly a key part of it. And ideally, you know, even somebody who leaves the company is still potentially, you know, an ambassador for the company if they've had a great experience.

Nick Andrews  4:46  
So, and it's interesting, you have websites today like, and employees are sharing their experiences and those are impacting brands.

And you mentioned something really interesting that everything matters. With a brand, it's not just the logos, it's the colors, those things are important. But it's everything right? It's the employees of a company. And I'm thinking about consumer brands like brick and mortar retail. When I walk into a Walmart versus when I walk into, say, a high end luxury goods store, that experience is very different from the employees to the shoppers.

How much do the actual consumers inside of a brick and retail store impact the brand? You would think that this is something that's completely out of the company's control, But to your point, everything matters and everything rolls up and impacts the brand. So how does that psychology work? And how does the actual consumer shopping those brick and mortar retail stores impact a consumers experience and ultimately the brand?

Natalie Zensius  5:56  
Right and I just I just want to preface my answer by saying, you know, I spent most of my career doing b2b marketing, communications and branding. So this is a little bit armchair baseball thing for me. But so you know, but I'll just offer my my two cents on it. Um, I think that, you know, companies brands products are targeted to specific audiences, right?

You don't want to be all things to all people. Once you figure out, you know, what your brand stands for, what its purpose is what's unique and different about it, you know, what it is that you offer, you're going there's going to be a very specific buyer for that whole package, right. And so, you're not trying to be all things to all people. And by extension, you know, the people that do patronize your brand, do become sort of, you know, ambassadors for your brand, they do become an extension of your brand.

So, you know, there are certain You know, there are people who are in certain socio economic status who there are certain brands that they that they want to patronize and certain brands that they don't because it, you know, that's something about who they are and their, their station in life, and what they've been able to accomplish and all those things. Conversely, there are other folks who, you know, they're looking for, you know, value brands and brands that you know, offer them or level of service, and it's not so much about the sort of cachet of the brand.

You know, and, again, they're, you know, so there's, there's just different people that are looking for different things from brands. So I do think that, you know, the consumers are, um, you know, say something about that what that brand is and what it offers.

Nick Andrews  7:43  
So, as a consumer, one of the most important things for me is specific to the financial services industry is trust. Thinking about banks, for example, and about six months ago, I think it was Capital One got hacked. It was an inside job, it turns out, but nevertheless, when a bank gets hacked, that's a loss of trust. And as a consumer, when you're giving a bank your money, you want to make sure that your that it's safe that you feel like it's safe.

So from how does a company like Capital One recover? It just seems like people forget and they just move on. But in the short term, how does how does a situation like that impact a bank such as Capital One after they get hacked? And how do you recover from that from a brand strategy perspective?

Natalie Zensius  8:39  
Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, when you really distill it down, brands are about creating trust, right, so you know, everything we do. Our human brains are kind of looking for signifiers and connectors and we're trying to connect the dots. In our, in our mind and where I, you know, we're having a series of experiences, like I said at the top of this call, you know, with the brands that we interact with, and they're either validating or creating sort of a cognitive dissonance for us that this brand is what it says it is. And so, trust is is absolutely paramount.

And I think, you know, we were chatting about this the other day, when we were having another conversation about how we are in a little bit of a crisis of trust right now. And, you know, sort of developing that and keeping that trust is is definitely paramount. Once you lose it, it's kind of a it is kind of a challenge to get it back. And I think, you know, it's it's around sort of transparency, you know, owning up to you know, we made a mistake, here's what we did wrong. Here's how we're going to fix it. Here's what you can count on us. You know, moving forward and deliver, you know, do whatever it takes to kind of deliver on that promise. Think it, it isn't a lost cause, you can certainly gain back that trust and there is some fluidity in it. I mean, I think even you know, we know, if we think of, you know, an individual's reputation is to us as individuals water brand is to accompany.

We know that as individuals, you know, we sometimes have we do or say things that make people question us. And we, I think the Harvard Business Review, had a really interesting article about this not too long ago, and they said, you know, we all kind of wobble back and forth a little bit sometimes in terms of, you know, can we can we be trusted as individuals, like, do we say, do what we say we do? Are we able to do do our jobs, are we able, you know, whatever it is, and so we all have that wobble and I think brands have that wobble too. And once you do have that wobble, I think you can get it back. You just have to kind of, you know, you just have to take the steps to fix it. 

Nick Andrews  10:57  
Yeah, I think of you know, Chipotle, as a company that that suffered a really bad brand experience with with folks getting sick but they seem to have recovered.

We were talking a little bit about graphics and images and logos at the beginning of the call and one company that to me has very iconic coloring specifically is T Mobile. And that like pink magenta color is his insight instantly recognize that. And I think it was about a year or so ago, at&t came out with a new brand for a lower end consumer and they were using pink and T Mobile sued them because it was too close to the T Mobile pink and there was a lot of uproar on the internet.

How could you sue someone just for using the color pink? But I was I was siding with T Mobile on that I thought they were right into pursue that. So in terms of branding and color, specifically, it to me it feels like it would just cost a lot of money and take a lot of time to create that association between a company and a color. Like how does that happen?

Natalie Zensius  12:17  
Yes, it does take a lot of money and time and big brands like ups, something of ups Brown, for example, of course, the mobile is another one with the with that magenta will actually get patents for their colors. And so they will, you know, they really try to protect Well, actually the patent or trademark or maybe the same thing, but at any rate, they will try to put some legal constraints around their colors so that if anybody else is using it, you know, in their category, it's cutting too close to that to their sort of, you know, their area where they're playing in their sandbox, they're definitely going to take steps to try and protect it.

And that, you know, it goes back to this idea of the human brain is looking for ways to make connections. And we have lazy brains. I think I read Cornell University said that our brains make 35,000 decisions a day, like sort of, sort of well conscious and unconscious decisions, right. And so it's our brain is a computer and it's constantly looking to try and be more efficient. And so we're looking for patterns, we're looking for things that we can connect to looking for things that, you know, allow us to recall things a little bit more easily and that flip over into the sort of more unconscious way of making decisions. So if you know if we can remember something more easily, if it's if it if it sticks out in our brain more easily in our minds more easily.

Those are things that you know, are going to come up for us as something that you know, sticks in our mind. And so, brand strategists know that they know this basic human psychology and so they design. You know, a brand's identity around these basic principles, one of which is color. So you know, again, if I was to show you the UPS logo, even without the words ups on it, I can guarantee that you would be able to tell me that it was ups, one because of the color. And two, because that symbol that they have is very distinct. And very memorable. very recognizable. You see it every day on trucks, you know, driving by ups trucks, especially now, right?

They're bringing stuff to houses. Even more so during this health crisis that we're in so yeah, so it's it is something that is well worth investing in. And I know it's, it's something that a lot of people when they're thinking about branding, that's the first thing that they think about, oh, it's a logo, it's a color. You know, it's a tagline. And yeah, those are all definitely, definitely part of what we call the identity of your brand new to visual, and sort of Nate you know, name identity.

If you're brand. But it goes, you know, as we've been talking about, it goes much more beyond that, because brand can actually be a business management tool, a business management strategy, where you're not just, you know, trying to use it to, you know, to shape what your advertising looks like. You're not just using it to shape how you close sales, both of which are important. Don't get me wrong, but you're also using it to shape the experience for your employees. You're using to shape the experience for your partners, and you're using it to shape you know, the end of the day, you're using it to shape the experience for the people that are, you know, patronizing your product and service and hopefully helping you grow and thrive as an organization.

Nick Andrews  15:42  
Yeah, it's really interesting, what you said regarding all those decisions. 35,000 decisions I think that the human brain is making, we're always trying to make shortcuts it's this concept of unaided awareness, right when we see that color or hear that jingle, we instantly know this is that. Just like when I see an orange construction truck, I immediately think Home Depot because it's that orange creating the Association for me.

Right? It's just really intriguing and fascinating how colors can immediately elicit that connection making that easy brain decision for me, what about music? Right? I hear a lot of jingles from even financial services company. I'm thinking of a couple insurance companies, they have jingles and it seems to be such a huge part of their brand. How does music create a brand for like a financial services company? It seems like those two things don't don't match.

Natalie Zensius  16:47  
Well, I mean, it's back to the back to the piece of you know, memory as well you know, are some where some people are more visually oriented. Some people are more orally oriented, is that the right word? So, again, this is just a, you know, a determined, conscious thoughtful plan on the part of the brand marketers at these, you know, these larger organizations that have lots and lots of resources to devote to their brand marketing to hit it on all fronts, you know, the and, and, and I every decision every touchpoint every single piece has been thoughtfully thought through, but those mega mega brands that are out there in the world that have, you know, super high brand valuations and we talk about how do you how do you value a brand and if you want but for those that have, you know, really high valuations and people can recall them people know who they are, you know, even if they're not, even if they're not shopping and buying from them.

They still know who they are. They have put tons and tons of money in time and really, really smart people. You know, on task to think about all of these various things. And so whether it be the photography they're using, you know, music because that, again is just going to stick in people's mind though the colors they're using the words they use the words they choose how they put the words together, you know, so the tone, the tone of voice that they use and the kind of personality that they want to kind of exude and and exhibit is all been thought through. There's not there's not a stone left unturned in terms of, you know, thinking through all these things.

Nick Andrews  18:32  
So you mentioned thinking through all these things, and I agree with you, but what about when something comes up that that's impossible to have anticipated? I'm thinking our situation right now or Coronavirus, or COVID-19, or health crisis? How does a brand prepare for something like that? And since you can't really prepare for or maybe you can, like how do you react to it? How do you, change your brand almost overnight to accommodate a new world?

Natalie Zensius  19:04  
Well, I don't think brands are changing their brands overnight. They may be, you know, they may be changing some of their operations, they may be changing some of their infrastructure. They may even be changing some of their people. Um, but at the end of the day, the, the container for all of that is the brand, right?

So it's, it's, who they are, what they stand for, what they're about what their mission is, what their vision is, none of those things change, you know, those things are sort of, you know, are kind of the cornerstone of the whole enterprise. Right. And so I think what I've seen during this pandemic is that those organizations that have strong brands and they have a clearly articulated brand purpose, you know, they clearly understand what their values are, they It was very clear for them what they needed to do, you know, and so they knew how to take care of their employees, they knew, they knew how to take care of their customers and their clients, because they already they already, you know, they were being and they were able to do it in an authentic way.

That was the continue to be true to who they were. So those are our values, sorry to interrupt, these are our values as a brand. And although this is an unanticipated situation, we can apply our values and who we are to it. And then through that lens, here is our response. And that response will authentically be in line with our brand. Right? Yeah, it's, it's, you know, I think it is it's a strategic management tool that guides every aspect of the business. So it's not just again, it's not relegated to just the sort of niche, you know, marketing function.

It really is something that you know, the head of it to be thinking about brand, the head of HR needs to be thinking about brand. The legal team needs to be thinking about brand, I mean, obviously through the lens of compliance and all those other things. But, you know, the operations team, it's, again, everybody, everybody, if everybody's thinking about it, you know, what is on and this is kind of a, sort of a nerdy, wonky term, but, you know, if, if everybody's looking through the lens of is this decision we're about to make on brand is these you know, these people acting in a way that is on brand and alignment with our brand, then it becomes pretty clear, you know, whether or not you should move forward or not.

So, I think crises are going to come and go, um, you know, there's always going to be challenges the business environment, just by definition is you know, it's dynamic. It's ever changing and, you know, but but the brand can sort of be that that North Star, if you will, and help guide you through and hopefully, you know, to continue to grow and thrive.

Nick Andrews  22:06  
So in terms of a company who might reach out to you and say, Natalie, I need help building a brand I have nothing. What is the very first step to going from zero to start your brand journey?

Natalie Zensius  22:25  
Um, well, my response to that would be you don't have nothing. You You have something, oh, unless you're, you know, a startup in, you know, where you're doing family and friends funding stage. And you're really just getting started, you have something and so what most people typically start with, you know, they might sort of articulate in their own minds organically.

This is you know, who we are, what we're about what we offer, what's different about us all this sort of things, and then they'll start to think about well, we probably need, a logo and a name and some color, and a website and all those sort of things. So that's oftentimes when I work with companies and organizations, they have things in place. And sometimes it's about taking a step back and looking at those things and seeing, you know, your habit, you just haven't articulated it and sort of operationalized it effectively across your organization yet, so let's figure out how to do that.

More. It's, oh, we need to rejigger this because, you know, there's some gaps between how we are being perceived versus how we want to be perceived. Or it's, hey, you know, how we've been talking about ourselves isn't isn't needs to evolve because, you know, our offering has evolved and the audience's that we're trying to reach are shifting. So if every engagement is different, and it really depends on a lot on, you know, the life cycle of the organization. You know where they are at in that lifecycle, you know, what it is they're trying to accomplish. But if, you know, if you were to put the whole thing together, it's really on on you need as a foundation, you need to understand, you know, what is your brand about? What does your organization value? What are your core values? What is your purpose? What is your mission? What is your vision, and then on top of that, you can start to build, okay, how are we positioned relative to competitors and relative to other other you know, other folks in our space in our category, then you articulate your value proposition once you have those foundational pieces, then you can start to layer on top of that, okay, how do we want to message that, you know, what's the right way to message that? How do we, you know, again, what is our personality going to be, you know, are we going to be more laid back and casual, are we going to be a little bit more buttoned up, you know, figure all that out.

And then you start to layer on top of that, well, so how does that get expressed creatively out into the world, you know, through colors, and imagery, and different types of, you know, photography or media or what have you. And then once you have all of that, then you can start to figure out what channels do we need to put this out there.

And all of this is not getting created in a vacuum, you know, you're you know, you are creating it in conjunction with having a sort of a deep understanding of not just your category that you're that you're playing in, but also you know, that the person the clients that you're trying to target, so you want to you know, have a deep understanding of them deep understanding what they need, what they're looking for, what they're, you know, what a typical journey might look like for them, you know, what their psychographic information is right like so the graphics ethnographic information, all that all that kind of stuff.

Nick Andrews  26:01  
That's amazing. I feel like I just got a Master's class and branding. That's, that's really fascinating. It goes so much beyond colors and logos.

Natalie Zensius  26:11  
It's really interesting. Yeah, and it's a it's a meaty, meaty subject. I mean, there are, you know, there are people that they This is all that they do, right is they just, you know, develop brand strategy help organizations develop brand strategies for myself, you know, I tried to think about it in a really integrated way because I've been doing marketing and communications my whole career and so, I, but I got my sea legs and branding, um, you know, shout out to Steven Atus and Atus branding firm because that's where I kind of started to learn a lot of this stuff and be exposed to it.

Okay. For me, you know, brand has always informed everything it's not this thing happens off to the side it really you know, and as I've continued on in my career, and you know, started to, you know, gain more leadership roles, you start to see how it doesn't just inform, you know, the marketing piece of everything but informs all of it. You know, like I said, It informs the operations and informs, you know, it inform, and it really does inform culture.

And so it is definitely something that isn't built overnight. And it's something that should be protected and guarded. So that it, you know, hopefully doesn't get denigrated and doesn't get damaged. But if it does, then, you know, move in swiftly to fix things.

Nick Andrews  27:38  
Well, Natalie, thank you so much. I just want to thank you for coming on today. I really appreciate all of your thoughts and insights into the world of branding. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Natalie Zensius  27:48  
Thanks, Nick. It was a pleasure. Bye.

MC  27:50  
Thank you for listening to the Talketer podcast. Unfortunately, this is the end of today's episode. If you're interested in being a guest on Talketer, please reach out to us on social media @talketerpodcast. Thank you for listening and we'll see you next time, be well Talketer nation.

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