Building a Forever Brand with Brand Affinity Marketing

Chris Savage, CEO & Co-Founder @ Wistia
Main Stage
Ascent Conference 2020

[00:00:04] Hello, Ascent conference, how are you today? Hope you’re doing well, I hope you are ascending. I hope you’re rising up to the top.

[00:00:13] You know, these are bad jokes and in person, I would know if they’re hitting, but now I have no idea. So I’m Chris Savage. I’m the co-founder and CEO of a company called Wistia. Very excited to be here with you today. We are a video platform for marketers. And I’m going to be talking to you today about building a forever brand. What that means, how do you build a forever brand? How do you build a brand that is lasting and how you can do that with brand affinity marketing? The first thing I would say as that building Forever Brands really means building a connection with your audience, an audience that understands our values. They know your values, they align with your values, and they get to make decisions based on their values which can drive your business right. So if you have a lot of brand advocates, people who understand your brand, they’re excited about your brand, those people, they’re going to be more likely to sign up for your products. They’re going to be probably the people who give you the best word of mouth. They’re going to be the people that stick with you in tough times. And building a brand that is strong is more important than it’s ever been. And so we’re going to talk today very quickly about how to do that and how to think about that. So the first thing I want to talk about is what is a forever brand? A forever brand is something that is lasting. It’s something that can withstand change. It can withstand having different products. And it is something that people can go back to. I think it seems pretty obvious if you have a brand like that, you’re probably in good shape people that this talk will not be for. If you are the only only product in your category and brand doesn’t matter, you have a lock on it. This stock won’t be very relevant. If you are somebody who has a product or service and there are many competitors in your category or you think there are going to be more, that is where Brand can matter. We want to do business with companies that we care about and with people that we care about. And I want to give you a quick example of a company that I think about a lot, want to think about forever, which is Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola. They’ve been around for one hundred years and they have a variety of different products. Fundamentally, what they are selling is they’re selling sugar water and have a little bit of caffeine on it, depending on which type of coke you like. But when you drink a Coke or you think about a Coke, I think we normally think of things like this. We think of joy. We think of happiness. We think that Coke is going to actually change our mood. And that is because Coke has spent a century advertising to us, putting messages out there and having us have very, very strong brand associations with their products so that when we see that Coke, that delicious looking coke, we take a sip. We are excited to feel happier because of that strong brand work that’s been done. And this is so true for Coke that they literally one of the one of the taglines they have used at one point is Coca-Cola.

[00:03:25] Taste the feeling.

[00:03:28] Taste the feeling that’s a hell of a lot of brand work to get you to taste a feeling, but one of the things I think is really unique about Coke is that you are not Coke. I am not Coke. And the way that Coke’s brand was built is not how we get to build brands today. Coke’s brand was built over a very, very long time through predominantly interruption, advertising and sponsorship and a few endorsements thrown in. And the ability for us to build brands of last hundred years is really it was the same know there was a small number of newspapers that everybody read. There’s a small number of television channels that we all had. If you put an ad on one of those channels, you could get a quarter of the US and one go. Doesn’t work like that anymore. We have a huge amount of competition at every moment for our time. But what all of this this ease of getting to people and brand advertising did is it let Coke build relationships and building a brand is really about building a relationship with an audience. And relationships take time. And if you have a lot of advertising that you can do to get in front of folks, great, you can spend a bunch of money and you can try to do that and you could try to relationship.

[00:04:40] But things have changed. Things have changed in our world.

[00:04:46] And there’s a few big things that are making it much harder to build the relationships that we want to build.

[00:04:56] The first one is that trust is eroding, we are losing trust in our government, I think, as evidenced by the debate last night, we are losing trust in social media. Am I seeing the same thing that everybody else is seeing now? I’m seeing a perfectly choreographed set of content that comes to me based on the previous things that I’ve looked at and watched and touched. So everybody’s worldview is getting more different. We’re going to be more polarized and it’s harder to have. It’s because of this, it is becoming harder to build trust. And it also means that it’s becoming harder to build trust with brands. So the things that connect it, to build their brand, they’re not going to work the same way that they did before. One of the other reasons they’re not going to work is that ads don’t carry the same weight that they used to. So if you could get a huge amount of the population over and over, is your message fantastic? But if you’re a new business or you have a lot of competition or you’re trying to get a new product to market, it is incredibly hard to build relationships today with people through advertising. Just think about it. You’re sitting there scrolling through your phone on Instagram. Something’s got to be quite compelling to actually get you to stop and look at it and to actually care about the brand that is showing you an ad. You have to go way deeper. The ad can no longer do that. You can’t buy enough ads to build the relationships that we need to build if we want to build strong brands. And so it’s getting much harder to build these relationships with people. And that means it’s getting harder to build really strong brands. But at the same time, we’re seeing people that are figuring that out. We’re seeing people that are doing things differently and all of us as human beings, we want to have a connection to our friends. We want to have a social group of people who maybe they have many the most of the same values, maybe different ideas. We could discuss things. We want to work with companies where we are aligned with that brand. That’s the ideal state. And so to kind of marry these things together, we have to rethink what brand marketing is. And brand marketing is no longer about advertising, but it is still very much about building relationships. It’s never been more important to build those relationships because, well, because trust is eroding. If you actually can build trust with a consumer or build trust with a business that can have an enormous impact, an enormous lift on your business. So I want to show you a company that I think is doing really interesting stuff here and we’ll learn from them. And that company is called profit. Well, you don’t know profit. Well, they are a business allows you to track your subscription, your subscription company. So you plug in Stripe or McCurley, whatever your payment processor is or whatever, and they give you metrics on how your business is performing. Here’s your Ammara, here’s your churn, here’s your expansion. And then they have tools to help you reduce churn, do things like that. So this is a product that’s for product managers, it’s for founders, it’s for people running small businesses. But it really fundamentally is for people who care about their business model and pricing and profit well has decided to take a totally different approach to how they have been building a very strong brand and they’re making a huge amount of content. And that content looks a lot like this. They’re making a huge amount of shows. So this is a still from one of their shows, pricing page tear. It’s got the two founders in it. And what they do in these episodes that they put out is they spend three to five minutes looking at the pricing for a company. So let’s say pricing for Survey Monkey, they go to a bunch of research on how survey monkey is priced. They decide if survey monkey has priced properly or improperly or what have you, and then they release an episode with the two people talking about the pricing.

[00:08:43] Now, if you’re sitting there, you might be thinking, wow, that doesn’t sound entertaining.

[00:08:48] That sounds quite boring. Well, it is boring if you’re going to compare it to the second last season of Game of Thrones. But if you are actually thinking about changing your price, if you’re a founder running your business and you’re trying to get the right business model, you don’t think that you do or you’re someone who’s trying to reduce, reduce, churn and think about how you could do that pricing page. Tear down this like three to five minute show goes from something that sounds like not super interesting to actually. Wow, that sounds incredibly important. Like that’s going to help me in my job. That’s going to help me stand up. That’s can help my business succeed. And it turns out that by focusing on something very specific, helping people understand how to use better business models, helping people understand how to grow subscription businesses, better profit well has been able to build an incredibly strong brand doing this to the degree that they now think of all of their marketing as really being a media network. And they’re.

[00:09:46] Media network.

[00:09:48] But if you’re trying to scale your subscription business and all that’s happening is very simple, this is a switch from trying to interrupt your audience and letting instead letting your audience opt in. So you want to let your audience opt into your content. And if you can do that, they’ll spend a lot of time with you, that they spent time with you and they understand your values. They can build a really strong connection. And if they do that, they can become a brand advocate. You can be have a stronger brand and you can totally change the trajectory of your business. Now, profit, well, it’s a pretty small company. There about 80 people in Massachusetts and now Utah, I think. But this is a trend that is happening everywhere. So we see this happening across size of business, across industry that people are taking what was brand advertising budget to build their brands. They’re actually instead putting it into content. They’re making podcasts, they’re making original series. They’re making films. They’re making documentaries. And their goal is to have a much stronger connection with somebody on their own terms. They want to let people Opt-In. And if they often they want them to love it and they want them to understand the values of the business, but also actually like be entertained and be educated. And if you can figure out how to do that, the power of the brand building is really incredible.

[00:11:05] So to show you another example, I want to talk about MailChimp. So MailChimp, we all know MailChimp helping small, medium sized businesses market better really started all around email. And a few years ago, MailChimp put out some advertising that was on the podcast Serial. And if you listen, Serial Great podcast is kind of the podcast that made podcasts, podcasts and cereal was really interesting because it was not related whatsoever to marketing. It was about someone who is potentially wrongfully was going to wrongfully go to jail or not. That was like the premise of this whole thing. And they put an ad on it for their marketing software. But the ad was really compelling. It ended up with a bunch of people trying to say the name MailChimp ad saying it improperly. And there was someone at the end who said, it’s like and thank you, MailChimp, Melchett, MailChimp. And then someone said, MailChimp.

[00:12:05] And at that moment, the MailChimp thing Serial took off as a podcast. The MailChimp thing took off and it became a cultural phenomenon. It was featured on The Tonight Show, is featured on SNL, is featuring all these different places, this like joke around the mailchimp, like MailChimp was really was willing to have people mispronounce her name in an ad that sounds like pretty good brand advertising. Right. To have a cultural moment that’s driven out of a brand ad. Well, that’s what was happening a few years ago. And just last year, MailChimp switched their strategy dramatically. So now what they’re doing is they’re taking one hundred percent of the brand advertising budget and putting it into making and producing original series. They have podcasts, they have documentaries, they’re licensing all films, all this kind of stuff. And what all this content shares is that it’s all about empowering entrepreneurs and telling stories of a one person overcoming something which is very similar to the serial story. And instead of instead of being an ad on that content, they are they are creating the content itself. Instead of renting an audience, they’re letting audiences opt in and they are growing their own audience. And Mark DiChristina, the head of brand there, has said this exact thing. So instead of trying to be the ad, they want to be the podcast itself, which is now lasting. So if you turn an ad off, you don’t get the benefit if you build an organic audience around your content. They’re still there. They’re looking for more content and what’s really happening here is that we’re seeing a shift and the shift is that we’re focusing on affinity. So great brands have always been built on affinity and not just awareness. It just used to be the case that in advertising, because you can have such a large share voice, you could actually build a connection, you could build the affinity to people through the ad. And that is basically impossible now. So if you want to build affinity to to people, if you want to build a strong, strong brand, you have to figure out how do I get people to spend time with my brand and with my company? And if I can do that and they can understand my values, then I can I can build a much stronger brand. And that’s really what brand affinity marketing is about. It’s a simple idea that awareness is not enough anymore. And back to the beginning, like if you’re the only if you’re only the only company in your category, fantastic. No, you just need awareness. But for most of us, we have competition. And that is why in a place where you have a lot of competition, the brand affinity can win out and people can pick the brand that they’re more aligned with. If you have a strong brand, you’ll differentiate. So how do you do this? There’s two basic things are going to walk through that I want you to be able to take away from this. The first thing is that you want to make Benge where the content content that’s so targeted and so and because of that, it’s so interesting and entertaining and educational that people actually want to watch or listen. And then you need to change how we’re marketing or content. We need to market like media companies.

[00:14:54] So with Ben-Dror, the content, the first thing you want to think about is you want to make the content a product.

[00:15:02] You want to think of the content you’re making as a product, you want to research it like it’s a product, you want to market it like it’s a product, you want to present it like it’s a product. You want to talk to people who are actually watching and listening and reading, and you want to understand what connects with you and what doesn’t. Just like how you do interviews around how people use your products, do interviews around how people are consuming your content. This will help you get product market fit on your content and that allows you to then build an audience. Second thing I want to talk about is how you’re going to make this. It can seem intimidating. How are you to make a podcast? How are going to make a show? Well, if you have some on your team, who could do it, fantastic. But what we are seeing is a major trend of people bringing producers in-house to help them do this. So your content marketing team, which might be your designer, your writer or videographer, is really evolving to a studio and it’s doing that with the producer. These producers live and breathe in media. They understand how production schedules work. They’re going to know formats for shows. They’re going to have ideas for content. They’re going to be able to help you pull it together. And they are the leverage, the secret sauce to really making that happen with profit. Well, how do they do it? They figured out that over time they could actually shoot 10 episodes in one day. They just need to do enough preproduction. Patrick was the producer. He helped figure that out. They booked the people to come in and shoot and record and they literally got their price down to the point where they can shoot an entire season of pricing page Terrytown down for less than it costs them to produce an ebook externally.

[00:16:34] That’s crazy, but that is what a good producer can do.

[00:16:39] The other thing about this model and shows in particular is you want people to come in and spend time with your show, get to know you. But if you have a specific format, you can iterate by talking to the people who interact with your content and you can figure how to make it better over time. And it’s this magical thing. We did a show last summer called Bandwagon Wagon, took us five hours to to shoot the first episode, which was 30 minutes. It took us an hour to shoot the last episode, which was 30 minutes. The reason went from five hours. One hours we had the same types of segments, the same types of intros, the same types of interviews. And we figured out the production for how to make it better. But this is also true for audience development. So Casey Neistat, if you don’t know Casey Neistat, please go look them up. I mean, he’s basically the most famous YouTube ever. But what he’s talked about is that this is also true for audience development, for building an audience of people who want to come back and engage their content. And at actually the beginning part is the hardest. So going from zero to ten thousand subscribers is very hard because you have to find people who are aligned with the message that you’re putting out. You have to tweak the format of how things are going to go. You want to figure out the production. You want to talk to those people who are actually starting to build a relationship through your content. And then as you figure that out, it becomes much easier. When you go from ten thousand subscribers to one hundred thousand, you repeat what you figured out on your way to ten. You do the same thing for one hundred thousand to a million and so on. So by having something that is a repeatable format, it becomes much easier to make it better over time.

[00:18:06] We’re talking about how to make this content, which is long form, has your values in it and lets people build a relationship, and by doing that, you can build brand affinity.

[00:18:21] But you also want to get the content out there and you need to figure out how will people see it, how will I stand out, how will I build that initial trust? Can I get an ad that people don’t swipe through? And one of the other things that we can do here is we can just learn from what media does because media has this problem and they have figured out how to make it work. So to break this down, let’s look at the good place. Good place for my favorite show is finished last season. Let’s go through what they do for one episode. So before the episode comes out, they have a trailer to make a trailer for the episode, episodes for two minutes, trailers 30 seconds. They put it out there. They put some money behind it, they put it on social, they let people see it, then they cross it and all these other assets that they have. So if you have a podcast or promoting one episode promoted on the other podcast, you have as well, then they get PR involved. So in this case, Kristen, Kristen Bell is on the show. She does interviews about the episodes. They take the best clips they publish on social. They do that with other actors from the series. Ted Danson gets going, he’s doing interviews, and then the episode comes out. And so what they’ve done is they’ve atomize the content. They’ve made all these little sections. They spread those out hoping that people can find them and connect with them. The episode is released now. They do the exact same thing with clips from the show. They put all the clips on social. In their case, they have a podcast. All of this is around one episode. So every episode ends up being all these bits of content out into the world that are like fishing lines, hoping that someone will connect with something that they see. And if they do, they’ll and they align with those values in that two minutes or that 30 seconds, they’ll find their way back and hopefully watch that first episode. And if they do, and they become a good fit, a good place fan. Fantastic. That is amazing. Now, how do we do in B2B?

[00:20:13] We take a blog post. But on social. Maybe email it out.

[00:20:20] Night and day difference in terms of the approach here and difference in terms of where we get in terms of the results, and so marketing like a media company is going to be these about sending these little moments out there that you hope can bring people back so that they can actually connect with their longer form content. And if you do that, you have longer form content that really expresses your values really clearly think again instead of trying to be the ad in the podcast that you think is like marginally line to be the podcast itself that, you know, is one hundred percent aligned. And if you can go targeted enough, people can connect with that and they can get excited. The other piece of the puzzle that we can learn from media that is super important here is that you want to build an owned audience. All that means is that you have a direct connection. You want to drive people back to a place that you own idea on your website where people can sign up with an email address. They can the superfans can get more and they can not just hear about the one thing they signed up for, but they can hear about all the other content that you have come out as well. And they can get that behind the scenes. They can see what’s happening with your new products. And the super fans want that. When you have a super strong connection with the brand, you want to know everything that’s coming out. There’s a reason why people are watching every single apple live stream and every Tesla livestream because those people have built enormous connections with those brands and they want to be aware of everything. So let them be aware, give them more, give them away to to come back and give them a way to impact the business. And the other piece of the puzzle that’s exciting here is when the stuff is on your site, you can actually track it. So back to the Millichap example. They’ve got all this stuff on their site. What they’ve seen is if people engage with this content on their website.

[00:22:07] They end up paying MailChimp more quickly. And when they pass, this is a quote from our team, Christina, and when they pay us, they pay us more money, which is just completely mind blowing.

[00:22:19] So what Mark is saying is that when people build a strong brand connection by watching content that has nothing to do with the MailChimp product or listening to content has nothing to do with the filter product, but has everything to do with their values, that it changes their decision making and it shows up in the data. So we see more people buying, more people signing up at every stage in the funnel, even less people turning when someone has a strong connection. So this is a lot this is a lot to fit into. Twenty five minutes. So thank you. Thank you for coming. I also just want to say we have a brand affinity marketing playbook. If you want to learn more about this, it goes into great depth on many topics, interviews, people who are doing this very successfully, all the steps. How are you going to figure out which problem you’re solving? What’s the best solution you want to put out to the world? How do you pick your audience? How do you make the content itself, how you market like a media company and then also be measuring this approach? You if you want to find the playbook, it’s available at Wisse Bam playbook. And that is it for me. Really appreciate being here with all of you and descending to glory. That’s what this conference is about. It’s about rising up. It’s about being at the apex. About being at the top. And if you have any questions for me, I’m at sea. Savage on Twitter, please reach out. DM’s are open if I can be helpful and you can find all that content and more than we’re just talking about at Wister Dotcom. So thank you so much and have a great day.

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