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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

The Value of Brand (Podcast)

I don't go on to very many podcasts, for various reasons.

But when my friend, former Schulich MBA classmate, and financial wizard Jason Pereira asked if I'd be interested in joining him on his hugely popular "The Financial Planning For Canadian Business Owners Podcast" to discuss the importance of building a brand, I leapt at the opportunity. Because Jason is a great guy, and because I'll talk about the importance of brand all day, any day!

If you'd like to have a listen, you can do so here.

Or, if you prefer to read a transcript that was created from our conversation, I've shamelessly stolen it from Jason's blog page, lightly edited it for clarity (read: fixed all the mistakes the robot who transcribed it made and removed many of the "ums" and "likes" that can happen when two otherwise intelligent people are having a casual conversation), and posted it below for your benefit.

Either way, I hope you enjoy it.


Producer: Welcome to the Financial Planning for Canadian Business Owners Podcast. You will hear about industry insights with award-winning financial planner and entrepreneur, Jason Pereira. Through the interviews with different experts, with their stories and advice, you will learn how you can navigate the challenges of being an entrepreneur, plan for success and make the most of your business and life. And now, your host, Jason Pereira.

Jason Pereira: Hello, and welcome. Today in the podcast, I have a more general business topic for everyone who's listening. It is about the benefits of building a brand. And this is not to be confused with marketing. We're going to get into what that means. And I just so happen to have a good friend in this field, David Pullara, a marketing consultant and instructor in marketing, who has worked for various Fortune 500 companies, and specifically, in the area of brand building. And I brought him on the podcast to talk to everyone about the power of brand building and what that means and how to do it. And with that, here's my interview with David. Dave, how are you doing?

David Pullara: I'm doing great, Jason. Thanks for having me on the podcast. I'm really excited.

Jason Pereira: It's one of these things where we've talked about stuff like this in the past, and just like, "I should record this one day because this is useful."

David Pullara: I know we always talk about this stuff via text or going back and forth. And this is a topic that's near and dear to my heart. I love marketing. I've been in marketing for my entire career. And I love strong brands. I love great stories. And really, I've been on a tear lately just promoting the benefits of why small businesses should be thinking about marketing in the right way. So this is a great opportunity to do that and just have some fun.

Jason Pereira: Absolutely. So, let's start off by letting everybody know who you are. So, tell us who you are, what it is you do, and what basically makes you an expert in this field?

David Pullara: Well, I mean, those are your words, not mine! But I've spent 20 years working for various organizations of varying different sizes. I've worked for Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut, and Google. I've also, in the last five years, been consulting with a lot of small and medium-size enterprises, just really helping them define who they are, which is really the first step of marketing. I mean, in order to sell something, you need to figure out what it is you're actually trying to sell. And I think that's a step that a lot of people like to skip. I work with a number of different clients, and the first thing I do is I take them through, "What's your mission? What's your vision? What are your values?" And people who aren't familiar with marketing are like, "Oh my god, why do we have to do all this?"

Jason Pereira: "I just want to sell something." You get into business to do something. And honestly, it's usually driven, I'm not going to say it's ego-driven, but it's driven by your ability to deliver on something. Right? And it's not necessarily just like, "Let me do it here. I'm hanging a shingle." Well, that works in a world where you're the only person offering that service and there's no competition. In the real world, those things matter.

David Pullara: Absolutely. I mean, fundamentally, it's like, "why should I choose you?" If you're the only product or service of your kind available, then why you should choose you becomes more obvious. It's still not a given, but it becomes more obvious. You're in the desert and you need water, and you see a vendor selling water, that's a pretty easy decision to make... but you walk into a grocery store and there are a hundred different waters, what's so special about you? And that's really what marketing and branding does.

Jason Pereira: And that's a perfect example, because you've obviously, I mean, you clearly know about the studies done on the paradox of choice. You increase the number of choices or options for choice, and you still end up having the number one sales be for the thing that people recognize the most. You can have 20 different forms of ketchup on a marketing shelf, but Heinz regular ketchup is going to outsell them by everything else, by orders and magnitude, because you just created cognitive load for people.

David Pullara: You know the Freestyle machines? The Coca-Cola Freestyle machines that you see at movie theatres? Digital touch screen. You can pick like 150 different combinations in flavors...

Jason Pereira: Which I do.

David Pullara: You know the number one beverage out of those machines? Coca-Cola Classic.

Jason Pereira: You got to be kidding.

David Pullara: People choose the brand they know and love.

Jason Pereira: So, what you're saying is in my combination, Coke and root beer with vanilla, cherry and some other flavor is not the default? Okay. Good. So, fair enough. Number one. And I'm guessing it's by orders of magnitude, probably more than 50% of everything coming out of it is probably the default.

David Pullara: It's definitely the majority. So, it's crazy. People default to what they know and love. And that's the power of a brand. Think about the first time, like, the very first time you had to buy laundry detergent on your own. You grew up in your parents' house, and your Mom or your Dad did the laundry for you... and at one point in your life, you had to do it yourself. And at one point in your life, you had to actually go and buy this product that you've never purchased before. What did you pick?

Jason Pereira: Either what your parents used and you saw used, or something you're familiar with because of the commercial.

David Pullara: Right. And laundry detergent for the first time you've ever bought it, you're probably not really familiar with it. So, what you're going to default to is, "Well, what did my Mom use? What did my Dad use?" And so, that's a brand. Fundamentally, and maybe that's a good segue into talking about the difference between marketing and brand.

Jason Pereira: Well, that's the first question for you is, okay, so, explain the difference between marketing and brand? Because this gets confused to no end. I mean, people will stop at brand-building after they come up with a logo and a catchphrase. So, talk to me about the key differences between the two.

David Pullara: So, marketing is everything involved with the promotion, distribution, and sale of your product or service. That's a pretty technical definition. But in your very first marketing class, and you'll know this from your MBA, you'll learn about the four Ps of marketing.

Product, first P. So, that's what you're actually selling, but there's a lot involved in this P... what your product does, what problem it solves, how you're positioning your solution, how the logo looks like, how the packaging looks. But we can spend a full day just talking about this one P, product. It's a really important aspect of marketing. And it always makes me laugh when startups refer to "product marketing fit" like it's a new thing. It's not a new thing. It's an absolutely critical component of marketing. It's like the first step, and it always has been.

Jason Pereira: You just started calling it product-market fit later on. That's all it was. Let me just name something that existed since the beginning of all products.

David Pullara: Sure. You want to know what the huge mistake is? Having a product, building a product... and then trying to find a market for it. Instead, why don't you know your market and understand what problems they have, and then have your product solve for it, right? So, first thing, product, first P.

David Pullara: Second P, price. Price is simply how much you're going to charge for your product or service. It's easy to explain, but it's actually difficult to get right. Do you charge as much as the market will bear right out of the gate? Or do you charge lower amounts to gain customers, and then make up the revenue somewhere else?

David Pullara: Remember, Google started off by giving everything away for free... search, maps, email, storage... pretty much everything. And then when they had enough users, only then did they monetize them through advertising. So, for a good part of their existence, the price for most of their products was "free"... but that seemed to work out quite well for them. So, price is an important component, the second P.

David Pullara: The third is "Place", which is where you sell your products. And the internet has opened up that world dramatically. I mean, a hundred years ago, the place you sold your product was your local store, because your reach, both from a logistics and a communications perspective, was really limited. But today, you can be up and running with a website or a platform like Shopify in a few hours and sell anything you want to anyone, anywhere in the world. So that said, you probably wouldn't sell Tiffany diamond rings in a vending machine. So, it's not only is "make it available everywhere" not realistic but also in many cases, it's not strategic. So, the third P, place, where you're going to sell your product.

David Pullara: And then finally, promotion. Promotion is everything you do to tell people about what you sell. And funny enough, when non-marketers think about marketing, they tend to think about promotion or advertising, which is just a small subset of promotion. They tend to think of that as "marketing" when really they're missing the bigger picture about what's truly necessary to do marketing well.

David Pullara: So, you have the four Ps of marketing, product, price, place, promotion. And as a business, it's tough to be successful if you don't get these four things right. That's it, that's marketing as brief as I can describe it.

Jason Pereira: If you didn't do an MBA or go to business school, it was mentioned in at least one episode of Mad Men, but I digress.

David Pullara: Yeah. So, that's different from brand. Brand is the sum of all things that make you uniquely YOU. Your brand is way more than your logo or your packaging, or your website. It actually encompasses every interaction people have with your product or service, and everything they see, read, or hear about you. And while that's a big idea to grasp, there's a really great definition I heard several years ago that sums it up really well. The definition came from a gentleman named Muhtar Kent, who's the former Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. And he said, "A brand is a promise. A good brand is a promise kept."

David Pullara: Think about what that means. You, Jason, are a brand. You put yourself out there, you interact with people on social media. You create these podcasts. You put out all this great content. That is all part of your brand. Every customer you deal with is building your brand because those customers walk away and form an opinion of you. And that opinion gets shared. Good or bad, that opinion gets shared.

David Pullara: Every interaction you have, every touchpoint you have, it makes up part of your brand. So, it's this very big thing, and it's very difficult to get right, but you do it over time and with consistency.

Jason Pereira: Yep. I'd like to say, it's also, it's the personality of your business, right? And the promise kept thing is so true, because I mean, I envision a situation where people listen to every podcast on Financial Planning for Canadian Business Owners, and they come in expecting me to understand how to execute on any number of aspects of their business that I discussed on the podcast with other experts. And I completely fumble through that and have no idea what I'm doing. That is not the promise kept, right? And that makes a lot of sense. And that's going to deteriorate the value of the brand because if I can't deliver, just like if anyone can't deliver on a pricing promotion on gourmet, whatever the heck it is, and it tastes like crap, that's going to destroy that brand. So yeah, totally. If anything, I'd say, and you probably can correct me on this, if it's not quite on, it's the public personality of what it is you do to some degree.

David Pullara: It is to some degree. I think where I would expand upon that idea is it's not just the personality because I feel like when you say personality, that's like a perception. But it goes a little bit deeper than that; it's actually who you are. How people perceive that is something... Let's use a real-world example, right? Walmart... what's Walmart known for? What's their brand known for?

Jason Pereira: Everyday low prices.

David Pullara: Everyday low prices. Right? We know that. How did they get there? Think about how Walmart got there. Well, we might say, well, it's in all their advertising, "Save money, live better", "Great value". Like, all these things. Their private label brand, it's called "Great Value".

Jason Pereira: That is a compulsion internally. Those people, they won't let you give them a Coke, because they don't want the bias. They use folding chairs in their meeting rooms. It permeates every aspect of that company's culture.

David Pullara: And that's the brand, right? Because who they actually are, are, "Let's offer low prices and let's do everything we can even internally to make sure that we can offer low prices." So, not only do they communicate that externally, but you have to prove it every day. And if you were to walk into Walmart and consistently see prices that were higher than what you know you could get somewhere else, they wouldn't be living their promise. They'd be making a promise to you, and then breaking it. Great brands keep their promises. And their promise is everything they say to you, everything they tell you, everything they do.

Jason Pereira: Fair enough. So, yeah, it's more so, it's not just the public persona. It's also, again, the fulfillment of that promise, because if you don't have that, it destroys the brand very quickly. I guess, it's a reinforcing cycle, right? You need the reinforcement of the promise being lived up to in order to create the expectation or to understand that promise is true, and just keep on feeding back into itself.