Learning About Wildstory and Brand Strategy

This video is the original, full-length version of a previously posted interview series featuring Marc Gutman and Keith Roberts.

Keith Roberts interviews Wildstory founder Marc Gutman to touch on a broad series of topics including identifying who Wildstory is, what the intricacies of branding are, and tips you can apply to your own company.

Podcast Transcript

Keith Roberts 0:04

I’m really excited to be speaking to mark up and my good friend, serial entrepreneur, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing you for years, you’ve had some amazing experiences together. I’m really excited to learn about Wildstory. So can you tell us a little bit about who Wildstory is?

Marc Gutman 0:20

Absolutely, I mean, pleasure to be talking with you as well, Keith, love our conversations, always, we’ve done a lot of awesome things together. But Wildstory is the marketing agency for the arts, recreation and entertainment companies. And we’re dedicated to helping companies who provide refreshments, strength, and spirit after our workday, build powerful customer experiences that delight and create differentiation. And we are really I mean, I am on a mission to help the world our prey. And what that means to me is apres is obviously the French word for after, a lot of times here in Colorado, we associated with operate skiing, but really what it means to me, it’s like after that workday, and you know, we work hard, we all have careers, but in my outlet, in my perspective, we really do it so that we can enjoy those moments that matter that typically happen after our work day.

So whether that’s having a meal with family and friends, whether that is getting out on the slopes, whether that is going to a climbing gym, whether that’s going out in an RV, the list is endless. But for me, really, we’re all about the apres. And we’re so just excited to be working with companies that also believe in that mission as well. So most of the clients that we work with, have that same outlook. They’re focused on purpose, lifestyle, and their own mission, and just helping us all make a better world. I mean, I, one of my favorite quotes came from a gentleman, we both know, the co founder of Priceline, Jeff Hoffman, and he likes to say that entrepreneurship isn’t the purpose, it’s the tool. And I really believe that. So using what we’re doing here to build brands to as tools to change the world and, and make people’s lives better after the work day. That’s what we’re all about.

Keith Roberts 2:06

Amazing man. Can you tell me? How do you define brand, branding, brand strategy, and brand storytelling?

Marc Gutman 2:14

It’s a great question. And it’s a super confusing kind of discipline, and, you know, brand and branding. It’s a relatively young discipline, and, and it’s really hot right now. And I’ll talk about why it’s really hot, but it’s evolving. And so there’s a lot of confusion around these words. And for me, you know, the definition of a brand is not your logo, it’s not your corporate identity, it’s not your product, it’s not even a promise, a lot of people say a brand is a promise. And it’s certainly not all the impressions that you make across your company, or brand.

But really the definition that I like to go by is that it’s a gut feeling that someone has about your products or services. And it’s a gut feeling because we are crazy, emotional, intuitive creatures as humans, right? Like, we are not logical, we like to think that we’re logical, but we’re not we’re emotional. And it becomes a gut feeling. Because also, as business owners, we have this misconception that we control the brand. And we don’t, our customers control the brand, it’s created by the customers. And so it’s created and owned by the customers, not the company, not our brand teams, not agency, not an agency. Like that’s a crazy concept to me to think about. Even when I like I sit in this every day. And I think about, like what is a brand, the idea that we work on brands that we don’t really control it, we do our best to create a brand we do our best to influence what a brand is, but we don’t actually control or own it. And in the truest sense, and why brands even exist is because people use brands to simplify buying choices, you know, like we’re living in this crazy world. And I’ll talk about that a little later, where we just have infinite choice. And so we don’t know how to categorize all that information. And brands really exist to help us simplify buying choices.

And kind of back to the idea of like a brand isn’t what you say it is, but what the outward outside world say it is like one of my favorite quotes of all time is from Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world. So, I take him as an authority on this topic. And he’s super customer-centric. He’s all about customers. He, you know, I really value his outlook on things and he says that a brand is simply it’s what people say about you, and you’re not in the room. And if you think about that for a second, that’s a super, super easy definition, whether that’s a personal brand, right? What are people saying about you and I, Keith, when we’re not in the room, or what are they saying about our company? And that’s, and that’s really when people are speaking their truth, you know, you know, people will tell you that they love your company or love what you’re doing or that they need you. But really, it’s about like when you’re not around and what they’re saying about you. That’s the true testament of your brand.

So branding is an extension of that. And branding is simply a process that is designed to create a business strategy that outmaneuvers your competition. Say that again. But branding to me is a process that is designed to create a business strategy that outmaneuvers your competition. And then brand storytelling, you know, you ladder up to that, that becomes the ongoing telling of your brand. That’s most often the telling of the story of your customer. So you know, and when we tell that story of our customer that should be told with them as the hero of the story, like sticking in one of you know, we have 10 Wildstory brand principles, how to become a Wildstory brand, but one of them makes them your customer, the hero of the story.

And so when we think about how do we make the customer the hero of their own life story, when using our products and services? So like, how do I make Keith the hero? You know, like, how do I like in the story of his own life when he’s out there telling his friends? You know, if you’re my target customer, that’s what I’m really thinking about. And then brand storytelling just becomes this communication tool and methodology of how do we continue to tell that story over and over again, with consistency? But variety? So that’s an interesting concept, right? Like, how are we consistent, but have variety, both internally, to our employees? So so we can build a strong culture? How do we tell that story to our stakeholders and our investors so that they believe in our mission and help us getting to where we want to go to achieve our vision, and then obviously, externally to our existing customers, and enroll, right?

Because I really believe the purpose of what we’re trying to do with all this with brand, branding, brand storytelling, it’s not so much to sell people. I mean, at the end day, yes, we want people to buy our products. That’s, that’s what we need them to do. But the effective way to do that for the long term, and to have people buying from us again and again, is to enroll them in our brand and enroll them in our community. And that’s how you can do that through brand storytelling.

Keith Roberts 7:05

Very cool, man. I’ve never looked at branding like chess before, but the way that you explained it is outmaneuvering your competition and sort of looking seven moves ahead. It’s a really interesting analogy. I like that a lot. With that in mind, why does brand matter?

Marc Gutman 7:19

Yeah, another great question. Like I touched on this just a little bit, but our purchasing choices have multiplied dramatically, you know, like, back in the day, there was one TV, two types of computers like, like you when you wanted lettuce, you went and got lettuce, you know, like, like, and I just thought of that right now. Like when you buy lettuce, you can buy like from Costco, you can buy organic, you can buy it delivery, I mean, even lettuce has a million choices.

I mean, think about when you go to buy toothpaste, or soap, like how do you know, deodorant? You know, those are just some consumer packaging products. But like, it’s limitless, right? water bottles, right? Like, how do we pick the water bottle that we want to use, you know, like, and so we have too many choices. And we are time starved, like I don’t know about you, but the one thing I don’t have enough of is time, you know, and so I have too many choices, too little time, everything kind of looks the same. You know, right now, like I’m shopping for a new car, like I don’t know, like, I’ll get to this in a second.

But like, what I’m going to choose on is brand not features, not engine size, you know, it’s gonna be like what I think makes me feel coolest, what fits into my own personal vision of who I am as a person here in Colorado. And so everything just kind of feels the same. I mean, even look at Samsung and Apple, their phones do the exact same thing. So really what we’re buying is a brand based on our own how it you know, makes us see, you know, ourselves within that product, we’re enrolling, as I mentioned before, ourselves, in their, their culture, their vision, there, why. And so, we also tend to buy our buying decisions based on trust. And we know that the data shows that people tend to judge companies 10% by what they say, so I can tell you, I’m awesome. I can tell you, I’m great, but they judge a company 60% of how they appear.

Marc Gutman 9:15

I just want you to take a moment and think about like, you know, I’m looking around my office right now I’m looking at things I’ve purchased. I mean, I think that is 100% true you know like I buy things based on how they appear again back to that car analogy that’s probably 90% of my decision as I’m shopping for a new car right now. And so, in absence of like all the data and the info and how to slice and dice and really figure out what is right for us. Customers consumers asked we take cues from like symbolic attributes, logos, tribal allegiances, how does that product make me feel Who will I be? If I join this brand? Will I be an athlete Why be an outdoorsman? Will I be a fashionista Will I be like a super cool like style guy right like IB, you know, all these different things.

So I both show that I have good tastes, which show that I’m a good chef, all these different things. And so we’re not so much buying a brand, as I mentioned, or joining a tribe or joining a community, a movement, we’re enrolling in a brand. And so they form a gut feeling about what a brand will deliver, and, and what that experience that they’re expected is gonna is going to have. And so what does this all mean? Look, we’re time-starved. We rely heavily on trust. You know, if you don’t believe me, I mean, we everything our whole economy is based on trust, right in the stock market, the trust and the gold-backed monetary system trust trusting crypto, I mean, we are like, it’s just a big story that we’re all trusting in buying into. And so our customers, they have expectations for things that they buy. And that’s a form of trust.

And really, the formula for trust when it comes to brand and is quite easy. It’s simple. Trust equals reliability, plus delight. Trust equals, do what you say you’re going to do, deliver what you say you’re going to deliver, right, you have to do that. But then you need to delight customers, you need to stand out you need to do more for customers. And I think about experiences you might have had where a simple email, delighted you were a brand came and said, Hey, we’re either gonna refund you, we’re going to send you a new product, we’re going to just own that we made mistake, like anytime that you’re, you know, you get that little bit of delight, or that you’re unexpected anytime a brand makes you feel like the best version of you.

That’s delight. So that’s trust, we just, you know, now that’s very easy to lay out there. That’s a very easy formula for brand. not always easy to achieve. And so that’s, that’s, that’s the standard that we’re, we’re moving towards. And when you have trust, a quickens the buying decision. And as we all know, trust is very hard to earn, but easy to lose. So that’s what we’re trying to do with a brand.

Interesting, man, that is, it’s so much deeper than that. I’ve thought of a brand. I mean, I’ve definitely heard the brand is not a logo, but this is really getting to, I think the root of what a brand is, how does brand strategy integrate with this? Why? Why is grand strategy so essential? Yeah, and I think, you know, just kind of to address what you just were talking about, you know, I grew up thinking of a brand was a logo, I grew up thinking it was your colors, and an insignia.

But you know, I’m not a designer. And so I had, you know, I came at this from my own perspective, like, I am in love with words, and I’m in love with feelings, and emotion and empathy. And so that’s just kind of how I came to it and came to, through the research, and through my own discovery, realizing this is what brand was, but I think it’s very common for people to think that it’s a logo. And, and you know, and by the way, you know, I’m going to talk about brand strategy, but great strategy doesn’t really work if you don’t have great design, and vice versa, right.

So a great brand strategy without great design is going to kind of fall flat, great design without great strategy will do the same. And so it’s taken me a really long time to learn. And that’s why I mentioned that I come from words, because I want you know, we all kind of put forth in the world that which we want to believe or that which we are good at. I’m good at words. I’m like, it’s all strategy, strategy strategy. But you know, I want to point out that you do need great design to support that strategy. Because, you know, visually, that’s often a lot of times what we see first in the brand, but really simply put to me brand strategy, as you mentioned, and we talked about in the beginning, it is this idea that brand strategy is simply the process of outmaneuvering your competition. And who doesn’t want to do that? Right? When you do it right. And you get into it. It’s really your business strategy. And I think this is where, you know, brand is such this purely discipline, it’s still evolving, you can’t really go to school for branding. It’s kind of the subdivision of marketing.

There’s very few places where you can get brand certified through education. But you know, it really is your business strategy. And so the great thing about this, it’s hard work, and I don’t want to act like it’s not hard work. And we can talk about the process a little bit later. But when you are fortunate to land on your strategy, it’s really not about big changes, but only small corrections. And I have this and I need to remind myself of that all the time.

I have this great little photo on my wall here from a client. We’ve worked at Airstream and the founder Wally Byam is this super famous iconic guy. And obviously the, you know, Airstream is about to turn 100 years old, and they have that iconic camper show. And so I take, you know, he’s had a brand that endures, I think he’s pretty much an expert on this topic. But his I’m looking at it right now, his quote says, Let’s not make changes, only improvements. So his his thought was that once you have a great design or strategy, and by the way, strategy is just design, I think, a lot of times we get caught up in this idea that design is art, that it’s a logo, but but you can design products, you can design businesses, you know, design thinking is such a malleable kind of methodology that you can use it to design messaging like it, doesn’t it? When I use the word design, it’s interchangeable with, with words with business with strategy, and of course, the creative the visual, but anyways, I think Wally, let’s not make changes only improvements while I buy him from Airstream that applies perfectly. When you nail your brand strategy

Keith Roberts 16:07

Amazing. Well, I wanna work with you. I’m sold. like, how— I need brand help with you know, I mean, even going back 23 years, I wish I’d had this exit man, you know, our everything’s evolved so much. But, you know, oh, you know, my new company would be amazing how if I wanted to work with you, you know, what do I get? What’s the value to take? What is deliverables? Outcome? What is what’s the process of working with Wildstory?

Marc Gutman 16:32

Yeah, the process is weird. I am very big on co-creation. And so there’s some agencies that just you know, you get an intake form, they go away, they come back, and they say, here’s your brand. And that’s not really how I work. You know, it’s really about co-creation, we have multi-day work sessions, where we’re working with leadership teams to really suss out the essence of the brand.

But the outcome, in a weird way is the thinking like, because that’s the really hard stuff, you know, and the deliverable becomes this articulation of your brand, which is typically found in answering eight really simple questions. So this is like where it’s like a little bit deceiving, because I’m gonna, I’m gonna go through these questions. And they’re not hard questions, but they’re hard to answer sometimes. And so, in no particular order, you know, the eight questions number one is, who are we here for? So like, who do you serve? Who’s your customer? Really getting clear on that? Why are we here? You know, what is your purpose? What are you here to do beyond making $1? What do we do? which is usually typically easy.

Hey, we are a branding firm. We sell alarm clocks, we sell water bottles, and how do we do it? What is our process? So, you know, you with the OAK Journal, like, you know, like, how do you how is your journal different than, than another journal? Because you have a different process? You know, what’s our backstory, I find out so much, and so much about a company, when they share their backstory, often, there’s three reasons why a company has been founded. It’s either inspiration, desperation, or frustration. And why was this business started? What’s our vision? So people buy today with a shared vision of the future? Tomorrow, right? Or that people buy today? A positive shared vision? And so what, what’s the vision? You know, what’s the vision of the business? What makes us different? Okay, got to be unique. It’s got to be something different. Why do I buy OAK Journal versus another journal?

What do we value the most these, this becomes about core values, your beliefs, what do you stand for? And then what’s our personality? So what’s the personality of the brand? Because brands are like people, they have personalities, they need to live and oh, my gosh, and today’s you know, content-driven brand landscape, if you don’t have a personality, you’re really, really in trouble. People expect that no longer do people want like, IBM, right? You know, let me back off that statement. Some people do want IBM, but a business doesn’t have to be super corporate all the time, it should have a personality, especially in my space, you know, where I’m working with brands that connect.

And I think that’s something really to understand like, and that comes back to, you know, number one, who’s our customer, what do they expect? Do they want corporate? A lot of times in your bank you do. But you know, there’s a lot of new banks like SoFi comes to mind and some other ones that are trying to you know, attract a younger, hipper demographic, and so they’re much different or like progressive and flow is like the cool insurance company, Prudential’s the rock and they’re the serious company, they still do the same thing. And it’s really about branding. And so these are the inputs. These are the eight questions, pretty easy questions, you’d think, right? But they take time. They’re deceptively simple. And so when we take this, we’re able to take these inputs, and then ladder them up, you know, use them as the lens for you know, creating the story about the brand ongoing messaging.

This becomes the foundational strategy. And you can see why it’s strategy. It’s like, who are customers? That’s a big strategic decision. That’s a business decision. That’s not a color decision. You know, why are we here? Big, big stuff? You know? What’s our vision for the future? Where are we going with this brand? You know, what makes us different? These are all like big strategic business questions. These are not logo questions.

Keith Roberts 20:24

Well, I mean, you laid it out, like it was simple, but I have a feeling there’s something tricky about all this. I mean, all of these individual concepts make sense. But it doesn’t sound simple.

Marc Gutman 20:37

Yeah, in some ways, it is. You know, in some ways, it’s not. I mean, we’re complex people. And what I can say is, when I work with every brand, it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of excavating a lot of unearthing of all this information, to get down to something really clear and concrete. What am I, you know, I, I love quotes, you know, one of my other favorite quote is attributed Mark Twain, although I’ve recently done some research, and it may not be Mark Twain, but and it’s famous, where he says, If I had had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. And so the idea that it’s really hard to be succinct, and simple. And so what’s tricky about this is less is more.

So how do we take everything about a brand? How do we take everything about a company? All those eight questions that I just outlined? And how do we succinctly communicate that because less is truly more, and I will argue, it’s way easier to create a 60-page brand book just takes time, right? Like it’s just labor than it is to create a concise one-page brief. that communicates everything you need to know about a brand. And, you know, marketing teams, they have time for a 60-page brand book, but everyone else in the organization, who, by the way, branding is the responsibility of everybody. Right?

The CEO should own it, in my opinion, or a chief brand officer, like is it his business strategy, but the actual telling of the story, the actual goals, because this is business strategy, is the responsibility of everybody in the organization. And everybody on the leadership team has ownership of a component of the brand, and on how that brand affects the business. And so they need, like a one sheet, a two sheet, three sheet kind of thing, right? Like, that’s all they have the aptitude for. And that is not easy. That is that is that is hard. And so what’s tricky is that this is sort of like the fuzzy stuff. This is the stuff that is sometimes hard to quantify, this is the stuff that is like, you know, takes time to unearth This is the the blocks we have this is a little bit of the psychiatry in the cultural anthropology and so excavating that unearthing that, just like anything we do in our business, is a little tricky.

And it usually just helps to have a professional, someone who’s done it a lot a facilitator who can also keep you moving, right, like half my job, when I facilitate work sessions, it’s just keeping people moving. Because we could get stuck on one of those questions for days, weeks, months, we’d like to talk about it. It’s big stuff, we feel passionate about it. And we got to we got to keep it moving. And it’s a lot of times my job to recognize where the nuggets are coming from what’s relevant and what’s not.

Keith Roberts 23:19

Yeah, I could definitely see how that would happen where you get in a room of type A’s, and they could just go on one core value and tweeting that for a 12-hour session. I think another thing that would definitely be I know is amazing. Having done some work with you is, you know, your background in scriptwriting, you know, the work that you do in words, I think makes it just what you distill down. Really valuable. But you mentioned something earlier about I think it was like the 10 principles that made up a Wildstory brand and mentioned one of them. But could you—what are the 10 principles that make up a Wildstory?

Marc Gutman 23:54

Yeah, I mean, I’ve done a ton of research we’ve worked with, you know, hundreds of companies, and over time have really distilled for us what is a Wildstory brand and a Wildstory brand is one that is, you know, going to stand out above all the rest. It’s one that’s going to have loyal fans, it’s one that’s going to be a leader in their industry. And it’s one that’s going to be around for the long haul. So think about like brands like Airstream and things like that. I mean, my goal is that every brand that we work with has 100 year run rate. And you know, and we’ll get to actually the last principle and that’s not easy, you know? So I want you to hold that like Principle number 10 and how you get to 100 years. But yeah, so we have 10 principles.

The first one we’ve kind of talked a little bit about this today is, it must start with strategy, right? We have to start with strategy. So if someone comes to me and says I just need a “…” by the way we that’s our first red flag, we don’t work with anyone that says I just need a dot dot dot or believes that they just need a logo, or they just need a video, or they just need some color. Now, that’s the way they might come to us and we’ll slow it down and say what’s the real problem you have? you know, you think you want a logo, but what they tell us is that they need to communicate better that they’re misunderstood that people they want to be seen as a premium brand. And right now they’re not okay, well, that’s a different conversation.

So we kind of start, you know, hey with this logo conversation, but has to come back to strategy, we start with strategy because while story brands understand that brand is their business strategy, the second principle is you have to find your purpose or your why and and this is becoming less of an issue. I mean, right now, if you go to, you know, five years ago, like people were like, I don’t want to spend time on my purpose or my why or how does that connect to my my business, but if you go to like Pepsi’s latest annual report, they open all about with purpose, not about selling soda, if you go to SoftBank, you know, the largest, one of the largest investment companies in the world who used to be just about money, all about purpose, and what they’re trying to do beyond making $1. So your purpose is this amazing thing that forces people to choose part of your story, right, and they either choose you or they don’t choose you. But it’s this amazing, kind of, let’s put our cards on the table right away, and either choose me or you don’t choose me, that’s great. We want to know, we want to know who’s with us. And we want to know, who’s not with us.

So while story brands force people choose, the third principle is culture equals brand, while sorry, brands know that their culture equals their brand, and that, that you can’t have a great external brand, without a really strong culture. And so that they know that that inspiration comes from the inside out that our people are representative of our brand that we’re you know, if you’re solo person, that you’re the representative that that culture equals brand. The fourth Wildstory principle is our apres we talked about this, the Wildstory brands believe in the power of apres.

It’s our mission to help those brands that focus on the refreshment of strength and spirit after the work day so that, you know, what are we doing after work to really, to really make moments that matter. And so a Wildstory brand typically believes in the importance of this as well. Principle number five manifestos a Wildstory brand has a manifesto and a manifesto is simply put, it’s just a declaration of what you believe, you know, and it’s putting it out there. And it’s, you know, Wildstory brands declare what they stand for to the world. You can go read ours all about this idea behind opera and what it means to us and, and what we what we’re going to fight for and what we’re going to fight against, which is so important.

I did a webinar on this, we can link to it later in the video, you can you know, spend an hour learning all about how to build a manifesto. But in that webinar, I there’s there’s a quote from Luke Sullivan, who wrote a really famous book called Hey Whipple, Squeeze This is a famous advertising book with a great title, by the way. And his quote on a manifesto is a manifesto is your brand’s Magna Carta, your Rosetta Stone, a declaration of independence all rolled into one. It’s the halftime lockerroom speech given by the CEO. The words the founder heard on the mountaintop before bringing down the stone tables, reading a great brand manifesto should make you want to run out and try the product, you should feel the brand fire in your bones. Right. So that’s what we’re trying to do with the manifesto. Once you’re able to get clear and laser focus on a manifesto you’re well on your way to be in a Wildstory brand. Number six. Number six, make the customer the hero. So Wildstory brands make the customer the hero of their own story when using your product or service.

And when you do this, right, you get this amazing effect where a customer says I am a fill in the name, fill in the blank with your name your brand person, right? So I am a Jeep person. I am a Harley Davidson person. I am a Whole Foods person. You know, I am an OAK Journal person. So like that’s what we’re trying to do but make the customer the hero of the story. When using your product or service. That’s number six. Number seven. I’m really bad at fingers. Number seven here, ask what if you need to take chances. When we go through the process, you need to be open to the unknown you need to be open to going to other kinds of places that maybe you hadn’t seen before we started the branding process where there might be an opportunity where there we might unearth or uncover something, some real true essence that maybe you didn’t know existed.

Dare to be different great brands stand out and in a great idea. You know, you know how you know an idea is like a really great idea. A lot of times it scares the hell out of you, you know, and so, venture into the unknown, you know, set a crazy goal set a crazy BHAG, use that OAK Journal to get there. But you know, like venture into the unknown and also realize that the journey from not knowing to knowing that’s the work. That’s the magic. That’s what’s really exciting. The journey from not knowing to knowing is the work.

Number eight, be extraordinary.

We don’t need another copycat brand. We don’t need another dot, dot dot, you know, don’t need another Apple. We don’t don’t we don’t need another Warby Parker, we don’t need another just kind of looking around my office for inspiration here. We don’t we don’t need another Tesla, like what we need to be is extraordinary. Tesla is Tesla. They’re extraordinary. Right? Don’t be them. You know, don’t be a copycat brand that’s boring and lame. Be be extraordinary be be your own brand content.

So kind of you know in that hierarchy of we’ve earned brand, branding, brand storytelling. Once you’ve got your brand strategy, your creative assets, the real work begins. And that’s brand storytelling. And there’s something really magical about sharing your story in the story of your customer that builds that trust we talked about that builds communities, which is a secret to a long term, thriving business. No, Airstream, yes, they have an iconic design, a lot of people are out there saying I am an Airstream person, you know, and I’m in the airstream community. And Wildstory brands know that by telling customers who we are, It tells them who they are. When you think about that for a second, when Nike tells the world, we’re all about athletes, when I enroll in Nikes brand, it tells me I’m an athlete. When Apple tells the world, we think different and we’re the crazy ones, when I enroll in their brand, I’m thinking different. I’m a crazy one. And so that’s really cool, right? Like we have this really cool opportunity to do that.

And number 10. We’re almost at the end here. And number 10 principle of being a Wildstory brand. Never stop branding, right brands are like people we’re always growing, we’re always evolving, we’re always entering a new phase of life, whether it’s startup, whether we need to refresh, like Airstream has gone through multiple, multiple, multiple, multiple iterations of their brand story, they have to, you have to adjust to the world around you. Now, that doesn’t mean that you change your core beliefs, that doesn’t maybe mean that you change like the vision you have for the world. But what it does mean is that you adapt that you evolve, just like as we do as people like what I wanted, when I was 16 certainly isn’t what I want today. And that doesn’t make either version less wrong. Same thing with a brand.

So you know, that’s why this is an ongoing process. This is not a set it and forget it, you don’t go out, do the brand work, get a logo, set it, forget it, you’re always branding, you’re always building the value of your brand.

Keith Roberts 32:31

Wow, that’s cool. There are some brands maybe like a blockbuster that could use some of this insight, put some strategy that’s been central times, which, you know, being such a huge company. How do you quantify that? How do you measure the value of the brand? I mean, a blockbuster is an interesting example of blockbuster and Netflix. I mean, it was just overnight one became the other. But if I’m not one of these giant brands, I don’t have a disruptor like Netflix or Uber or Airbnb changing my industry? How do I measure the value of my brand?

Marc Gutman 33:04

Yeah, that’s a great, great question. And we get asked all the time. And, you know, as I mentioned, it’s kind of like this fuzzy thing that that’s a different, you know, and there are some, you know, there’s, there’s there are brand valuation lists out there, I think Interbrand is one of the ones that is the most popular, you can go download for free and see, like the world’s most 100 valuable brands, they have a whole way of doing it. But I think, you know, you know, for companies that are maybe a little smaller, not going to be on the Interbrand list or something like that. There’s basically five ways that you can measure the value. And I think the first and most important is, is a price premium. Right? Like, how do we get the highest price possible for our products or services, you know, like, only one competitor in any given market can be the cheapest?

For all the rest, there’s branding, you know, like, only one person can play the price game, you know, you can who doesn’t want to command a higher price, who doesn’t want to get more for their products and services? So that’s number one. Customer preference, right? Like so. I you preferred X amount of percentage over the competitor, like, you know, are you the leader in the category? Typically, that’s branding, you know, Coca Cola, they have a customer preference model, where most people prefer coke isn’t better than Pepsi, you can argue that, you know, but it’s their competitors. And there you go. Tesla right there. The customer preference for cars for electric vehicles. I’m sorry, replacement cost.

I love this one. Because I you know, you and I are always kind of thinking about different businesses were spinning up different businesses. So how much would it cost the brand to build again from scratch? You know, like to get to where you are today. You know, and so if you think about any established like, I mean, could you build an Airstream from scratch today? People are trying every day. There’s competitors every day. I don’t know any cost, but I’m thinking it’s billions, you know. So, when you’re thinking about buying or selling a brand, this can also really be applicable for bigger companies stock price. So as I mentioned, I mean we are you know,

Most of the stock market especially what we’re seeing today is all based on a shared vision of what we think the brand is going to do in the future, not what the actual value is. I mean, it’s crazy, you know, like, you look at like, the market cap of so many different brands, and then future earnings, this becomes real with valuation, if you have a company, value your business, like what kind of multiple Are you getting based on what they think your brand, the fat brand value is of your company.

So those are five ways that you can easily measure brand value. And that is a direct reflection of your brand, there’s a lot of other studies to where they, for bigger companies like Coca Cola, for like a Tesla, they actually would say, what the market cap would be without the brand influencing impact, and what it is with the brand, and you can you know, we can, you know, link to those, you can look for those on the internet. But those are pretty interesting, too. But again, I’m not a Tesla owner, in terms of like, I don’t own the company. So it doesn’t, you know, that doesn’t affect me as much as some of these others.

Keith Roberts 35:57

Interesting. I really, I mean, the replacement cost I love having this different lens than just looking at a multiplier, right, based on your industry. So super, super interesting, man, what, what is your process look like? What is the Wildstory process?

Marc Gutman 36:13

Yeah, it’s, you know, really based on three pillars of culture, brand, and content. And, you know, what we’ve identified is that those three things are really the lifecycle of a brand, they really impact the overall business and the business strategy. As I mentioned, we co-create, we prefer to co-create, and so we go into work sessions, I don’t call them meetings, they are definitely work sessions, where we are co-creating with a small group of leaders within a business typically starts off with either a discovery or a strategy session, depending on where you are in your lifecycle, as a business, and then we get into through those work sessions, we get into developing the brand answering the eight questions.

Who are we here for, who do you serve? Why are we here? What do we do? And how do we do it? What’s our backstory? What’s our vision? What makes us different? What do we value the most, and what’s our personality? And then we go ahead, and we just start to use that to develop core and targeted messaging concepts, which then we go and we take what we’ve learned from there. And we’ll typically make what we call style escapes, which are three kind of mood boards of digital direction, so that we can really work with a client on that, we’d like to do a, a mild-medium, and a spicy version, so that we can kind of you know, “Hey, this is like, this is kind of by the book, this is where we think maybe you should be.” And then spicy is “Hey, like this is if we take a chance, this is what it might look like. And this is like we’re really pushing what the visual will look like.” And we move into taking everything we’ve learned. And the reason we do that, that messaging and stuff, because then we can get into the visual design phase, and starting to create and start to test that, you know, and start to see how does that play out visually, does that work with it, the logo concepts that were working in there, kind of like working like this, you know, so like, if we start to get into something visually, that maybe isn’t supporting what we came up with verbally, we can kind of go back and tweak it a little bit so that it all works, because you know, we want it to, to ultimately, you know, work really nicely together.

And so, as I mentioned, we get into that design, because without great design, great strategy falls flat. So we want to make sure that those complement each other. Once we get all the assets, you know, we usually deliver logo typography, color palettes, photography guidelines, iconography, signage, bandage badges, email templates, like your decks, your newsletters, your social. And you know, and that can come in a variety of different deliverables for smaller clients that just might be, “Hey, here’s your digital files,” for a little bit larger clients that need a toolkit and need to have everyone on the same page, I can go into style guides, brand books, brand, brand briefs, other other assets. And once we have that toolkit, and by the way that, you know, we can have a one page style guide and logos, which works for a lot of people.

That’s how, you know, we started our company, we you know, we did logos and a one page style sheet. We didn’t need to spend a ton of money, you know, but then over time, we start to build a brand book with kind of outlining, articulating the brand story Who are we some history, brand guidelines, especially if you’re like a company that’s really into a lot of content creation, a lot of times as brand toolkits will have guidelines for now emails and you know, video and all sorts of stuff, right? So just depending on how big your organization is, you need more and will deliver, you know, that story and the voice tone, look and feel the brand. You know, like I said could be a six page brand book, on page style guide or brand beef. Brand beef!

A brand brief, social media Bible. A lot of times if you’re big on that, like how do we sound? What do we talk like sample posts, it’s really hard kind of organizing all that stuff to make sure that it’s consistent. We have people out there communicating and as we’ve all seen, things can get sideways very, very quickly if someone communicates in the wrong way or the wrong tone. So we we do you know we go out of our way to make sure that never happens. And then the real work begins. We move into the doing and telling that brand storytelling phase, that content phase. And one of the biggest outcomes of our entire process, besides everything I mentioned, is this, this roadmap for what a business should do next, with regards to their content. Everyone has different customers showing up. Everyone has different customers and showing up where they are and how they want to be talked to is really, really important.

So there’s this kind of weird message out there that you got to be everywhere, you got to do all these things got to have a podcast, a video channel, you to be on Insta be on LinkedIn, well, that’s just not true. You know, like you need to be where your customers are. And in my opinion, you need to be really good at one or two things. So be like, really, you know, if you think your customers are on a podcast, be awesome at that, you think your customers are really going to be on Instagram, great, be awesome at that. And we can help you out with that. And what that looks like, once you get really really awesome at that maybe after six months a year, then you can start adding other things to your content. And by the way, once you get really awesome at that you start using that content in different ways.

But if you’re, you know, I give ourselves as an example, like I’m the primary content creator, her Wildstory, really good at writing. And I’ve dabbled in YouTube like and you know, this is I wouldn’t consider necessarily this YouTube like doing more kind of curated YouTube videos, I’ve dabbled in all sorts of different things. And like, what I found is like, I’m just not really that good at YouTube, because got to edit it, you got to produce it. I love the format, but like it’s draining on our business. And so the areas that we really focus on are writing on our blog, thought leadership, and then we take that, and we can cobble that and start like so for example, I just wrote a thought leadership piece called start with who, and it was all about putting your customers first, you know, and so that that started as a blog post. And then turned to that some of the gems that I thought were gems that I had written in that blog post into a 10, slide carousel, post that Instagram, that that then that visual, I just export those 10 slides into one big JPEG right telling that whole story that becomes a LinkedIn post, I’m not really on LinkedIn, I just kind of show up there.

But that’s not my focus. But why I do that is hey, I’ve got this content anyways, people on LinkedIn, haven’t seen it. But I’m not designing this content for LinkedIn, per se, maybe the message that I post will be like a little more business oriented, but I’m just making it work for me. But really, where I’m focused is writing Instagram carousels. And then as you know, our Baby Got Backstory podcast, because those are the things that I’m good at, that I get energy from and then that are easy, and that’s where my customer shows up. So that’s like, you got to be real, you know, you got to be there. And you got to be, you know, really thoughtful about a, what can you accomplish, and be where your customers and, and then thinking about how your customer is going to interact with us at every step of our customer journey, right? So customers, you know, come in from awareness stage and interested a purchase stage a repeat purchase.

And then finally, hopefully, they become like a recommender or raving fan. And how they interact with us is very different in terms of content. And we need to map that out, we need to be very intentional about that. And and in thinking about how we need to adjust our conversation, obviously, someone who loves your brand, you’re not going to talk to them the same way that someone that knows nothing about you, much like a you know, a person in your life, you know, you have different intimate conversations with those people that love you, in our in our in your life versus someone who uses meet at cocktail party and just trying to get to know you and you know, they’re open to it, but like, you know, how do you talk to them?

And so, from there, you know, how can we adjust our conversation, our verbal and visual conversation to meet and exceed customer expectations? And then how do we just build a content plan built based on all that with articles video interactive content, as I mentioned, how do we build that content plan so that we take your strong your thing your strongest that and then make additional content from that ongoing, and then you get to do what you love to do, which is you know, build your business and further your own mission as a business.

Keith Roberts 43:54

Man, this was incredibly insightful. My growing an agency for 23 years, and I feel like they just went to the like advanced 401 class on brand. so incredibly helpful. Thank you so much for your time, Marc. Really appreciate it.

Marc Gutman 44:07

Thanks, Keith. Thanks for the awesome questions. And as you know, I love to nerd out about this anytime. So anytime you want to talk about any of this, I would love to do so.

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Meet Marc Gutman | Brand Strategist and Entrepreneur

A version of this article was originally published on Shoutout Colorado. We had the good fortune of connecting with Marc Gutman and we’ve shared our conversation below.

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