When To Update Your Branding & Messaging

Lillian Marsh

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*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.

Arek Dvornechuck: Hey, what's up, Branding Experts? Arek here at Ebaqdesign and welcome to On Branding Podcast. And today my guest is Lillian Marsh. And Lilian is the head of Brand Strategy at Tiny Wins, which is a creative agency that helps brands win with clarity and delight. So she's got over a decade of experience in branding, marketing, and design. Working with clients such as Samsung, Equinox, Blaze Pizza, Robot Heart, just to name a few.

Hello, Lillian, thanks for joining us today.

Lillian Marsh: Thank you, Arek. Thank you for having me. I've been a long fan of the show. I've started listening to you during the pandemic and it's just an honor to be here.

Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you so much. I know that you like to leverage archetypes and behavioral science in branding and brand building. Maybe we can talk about that. But first, I just wanted to ask what you think? When is the time when and why? Should we think about rebranding, updating our brand identity, updating our messaging. Can you elaborate on that?

Lillian Marsh: Sure. Yeah, I think there's probably four main reasons and to know when the time is right for a rebrand or a refresh. Number one, pretty simple, is that your current stuff isn't working. So whether it's falling flat or you're missing the emotional connection. I find that people are really comfortable talking about the tangibles of their product and service, like whether that's the quality, the price, the speeds, the feeds, but if you aren't connecting on an emotional level, you're probably not seeing the results that you want to be seeing. And so I think that one of the best times to do a rebrand is to do some emotional work. Number two you have a new story to tell. Listen, companies are evolving all the time and so should their story. So if you have, whether it's like a compelling new narrative, if you're going back in time to share your past, updating your brand and messaging becomes imperative at that point. I think of it as a vehicle to communicate a story effectively and being able to revamp a brand identity should really lean into that new story. I think we've seen that recently in the news, quite frankly, with Burger King recently, right? Burger King is going through a new rebrand and they're going back in time to say, Hey, you can see the nostalgia coming out of their brand.

Number three, you probably didn't do it right the first time and that's okay. Recognizing and admitting it we all make mistakes and sometimes the company's initial branding and messaging misses the mark. So the result can sometimes be a disconnected, disjointed brand experience that fails to resonate. So being able to recognize that misstep and then taking action to rectify it is a great time to rebrand.

And lastly, I'd say it's about change, right? You want to signal change. It's inevitable in a business and whether it's a shift in the market or a shift in leadership it's probably a great time to do so it also signals to the market. that something big is coming, or you're rectifying something that needed to be rectified. So if you can communicate to your audience that you're moving forward, embracing new opportunities or adapting to new technologies, it's a great time to rebrand.

Arek Dvornechuck: I totally agree. These are four major reasons just to sum up for our listeners. I have some notes here. So if your current brand is not working simply you're not connecting emotionally or you're not getting the results you would like to get. Another reason could be that you have a new story and you realize that your brand identity doesn't match the new story or the new messaging and vice versa.

Obviously it needs to be aligned and then also another reason could be that. The initial branding is simply, it's not good. It's not good enough either we need to catch up to our competitors, create n that is differentiated or the fourth reason is to signal the change. Simply change in the leadership. Maybe there is a merger, maybe the market changes and so on. Yeah, these are all great reasons to update branding and messaging. And now, can you talk to us a bit about your process, how do you conduct the audit? How do you audit the brand? How do you convince or explain the value of rebrand to the team, to the brand, to the stakeholders, and so on. 

Lillian Marsh: It's an interesting space to be in because, when you're dealing with business people. They're focused on business results, and we know in our world that branding is sometimes very hard to measure. And I try to always understand my audience. And especially if the CFO is in the room, we have to get a little Financially focused, but one of the main things that I like to do is help them understand the importance of not doing it. And so sometimes, you know what you need by knowing what you don't need. There's a lot of ways that we do this. One of the things that I make sure that our clients know is doing this is not hard. It's not hard for us. This is our expertise. This is what we live for. And once you do it, you don't have to redo it. In fact, it's a lot harder not to do it. And if you don't identify the core character role that you're playing in the story of your industry, then you're just doing a lot of guesswork. And that to me is spending a lot more resources than necessary. I wouldn't personally spend a dollar on marketing until I have a really strong brand foundation.

Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, totally agree. Yeah, that's a great point you're making. And I basically tell the same to my clients that marketing doesn't really make sense. Driving traffic, spending money on driving this traffic. If your brand is not really good, your brand identity is not on point. Your messaging is not on point. It's hard to convert, right? Okay, so that's great. So just to sum up you are rather trying to focus because branding is hard to measure, right? Marketing is much easier to measure advertising specifically, but since branding is hard to measure, you would rather talk about what happens if you don't do it, right? What is the opportunity cost? If you don't do it and so that we can clearly see the value of a rebrand. So, now can we talk about archetypes? Because I know, as I mentioned at the beginning, you like to use archetypes and behavioral science, and I've gone through some of the case studies, which I really like, for example, Supergut. So maybe you can give us some examples. Unreal Estate is another one. Yeah. So how do you identify the right archetype? And then how do you use that archetypal mix? To create the brand identity and the visuals and the verbal identity. 

Lillian Marsh: Yeah, no, I'm so glad you asked. I love archetypes. I think they're the solution, quite frankly, for everything in brand. How we do it. I have a lot of expertise. It's taken a lot of practice. I've honed it down to a science and. It always starts with the first question: how do you want to make people feel? And it's so interesting, Arek, because most of the time, especially in a corporate environment or especially in the startup mode where everybody's racing around to get things done, nobody wants to talk about feelings. And if you think about it, that is what the human race is. We're a big bag of emotions and we're told not to talk about it at work and to just bring logic.

The reality is, emotions drive all of our decision making. 95% of purchase decisions are made in the subconscious. It came out of a Harvard business school study. And so if you are not talking to the whole person, both the head and the heart, you're missing the mark. 

So I have a formula to do it. I call it known, used and valued. And so we do this as part of our discovery session. And so when you think about what you want to be known for, it's very aspirational. It's not where you are today. I want to know. in your wildest, biggest dreams, what you want this thing to be, right? It's about your reputation and about what people are thinking and saying about you if all your dreams came true. Used, that's the very pragmatic stuff. That's the stuff that people are really comfortable talking about, right? I want this product to be used to help people move faster or think faster or get better health results, right? Like those are the things that people are really good about talking about and it's why they probably got into business in the first place, but it really helps us think about the very pragmatic things that a brand needs to have.

And then lastly is the value. What do you want to be valued for in a marketplace where things are super competitive and you're not the only. Why would people come back to you time and time again? And while we are doing this discovery workshop, what I am doing is listening to specific verbs and specific nouns so that I can pinpoint the archetype, right? And the way I explain archetypes, and I've been doing this so long that I had to figure out a way to make it less woo woo, because again, people are scared to talk about feelings. So the way I just now describe it, that really resonates is there are seven stories ever told from the beginning of time. Seven stories, whether it's the Bible or you just watched Succession on Max, not HBO Max, but Max. It's rags to riches, it's the quest, it's the voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, overcoming the monster, rebirth. Those are the same seven stories in everything that we've ever read or seen. Inside those seven stories are the same twelve characters. You've got the hero, the outlaw, the magician, right? We know these archetypes, those 12 stories or those 12 characters in the stories. When you apply those to brands, it becomes so obvious. It is how we have such a crowded marketplace of beers and you can think differently about a Bud Light and a Coors Light and a Miller Light and a Corona Light. If I tell you Corona Light, Arek, what's the commercial that you're seeing in your mind?

Arek Dvornechuck: Okay. Corona light.

Lillian Marsh: Yeah.

Arek Dvornechuck: I guess it's a Mexican beer, right?

Lillian Marsh: Yes.

Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, I don't know. Some rodeos, some horses, some Mexican culture and stuff like that.

Lillian Marsh: Usually on a Corona light commercial, what you see or an advertisement is that you see somebody by themselves on the beach relaxing. They've made it to their happy place. They're safe there, right? Away from the noise of the world, whereas a Bud Light, you're probably getting funnier by the moment and you're having fun in a bar. And so like, it's still light beer. They're making you feel different things about it, right? It's also the same reason you and I can tell the difference between German automobiles.

Yeah. So we can tell the difference between a Mercedes, a BMW and an Audi, right? They're all German engineered. They all get you from point A to point B. They're all about the same price point, but we're all very different consumers when we think about them. BMW is coming to you from a very machismo hero loud noise. So loud that they, I think you have to take the muffler off in California. Mercedes is coming to you as a ruler to the point where they're giving you stability and structure. They're even using open sourcing and with their technology to help other automobile makers move more efficiently. And then Audi is coming from a sage. It's very understated. It's very like a guidance thing. You could see where I see them at BNP Paribas at the tennis tournament in the desert. So we feel very differently about those three things and it's all because of the archetype. They have figured out the character role that they are playing in the story of their industry. And if you can stay in that character, like Coca Cola does, like Snickers does, IBM does, you're going to have a brand that's recognizable and beloved.

Arek Dvornechuck: No, that's great. I think, yeah, I can definitely relate more to car brands than car makers, but yeah, that's a great example. These are famous brands and we can all understand the concept. And I totally agree. I really like the work on your website, especially, the most recent projects like Supergut. So I would like to invite you guys who are listening because they're great visuals that are on the website, but also these are case studies, right? So you can actually understand what was the challenge, what is the archetypal mix, right? I have some notes here, for example, for Supergut. You explained why you changed the name from Muniq to Supergut, right? So some description when it comes to naming and then selecting the archetype, which is Everyman and Wizard. And how it all conveys in the new visuals and a verbal identity. I think we've covered a lot and what do you think about the current state of branding? Are there any trends or innovations or perhaps you want to give us some tips or what do you think, like, what does the future of branding looks like considering that we have this revolution in AI right now? What do you think about all of this happening?

Lillian Marsh: I actually think the future of branding is more human than ever. And leaning on emotion is more important than ever. I'm not saying stay away from AI. In fact, I think it's a great collaborator. It's a great tool. And I encourage my entire team to lean in. But more than ever, it showed me that our creativity as humans is incredibly valuable and quite frankly, irreplaceable. In terms of trends that I'm seeing in the marketplace. I have to tell you there is probably, you probably haven't heard this one before. Are you familiar with Wilson Sporting Goods?

Arek Dvornechuck: Wilson, the brand that produces tennis balls and stuff.

Lillian Marsh: Yes. Yes. So Wilson, if you played a sport as a kid, you probably touched something from Wilson, whether it's a tennis ball, a baseball, a football, a basketball, right? It has been part of our lives. And, part of the fabric of probably how every kid has grown up and all of a sudden I'm watching them awaken to their stories. They have so many stories to tell. We've seen Nike, we've seen Adidas, we've seen all these sporting companies make us feel something from an emotional standpoint of championing us to do our best and and always better our best. Wilson, I just walked into a store in Santa Monica the other day. They're actually leaning into retail all of a sudden and the stories they have to tell from the history of the company, I just think it's fascinating that they're being bold. They're telling big stories. And I think that is the key to being successful in the environment that we're in. It's a risk that they're taking. And I think being bold is going to be very rewarding for them.

Arek Dvornechuck: No, that's great. I think Fila is coming back, right? There are some other brands that are coming back. I have to look into that. That's a great example. Okay. So as we are approaching the end of our episode how can we get in touch with you? Are you active on LinkedIn?

Lillian Marsh: Very active on LinkedIn under Lillian Marsh. I'm on Instagram @tinywins and early on in the Tik Tok era when it first started I happened upon a little Tik Tok fame by accident. And so you can find me on Tik Tok as well.

Arek Dvornechuck: Okay, so we're going to link to your social media and the website for you guys just to check it out is just tinywins.com. That's easy. We're going to link to the website too. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Lillian Marsh: Thank you, Arek. Thank you for having me.

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