Go for a slow burn. It may seem desirable to start with a large war chest and scream your message from the mountaintops. Spend a little time and money building the foundation and start growing slowly and organically.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Avishai Greenstein.
Avishai Greenstein is the Brand Manager of Method Sourcing, managing a growing portfolio of sustainable home brands such as Bamboozle. Greenstein oversees product development, marketing, and sales across multiple industries.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I became interested in sustainability from a technological standpoint during my time studying business at RIT. At the time gas prices were skyrocketing and I was exposed to novel solutions by the engineers around me. We all felt as if this was our generation’s problem to solve. I continued my passion for sustainability as I retrained into the culinary field during the recession of 2008–2010 where other opportunities for a recent grad were limited.
I had worked in the field in various capacities until 2015 when my uncle asked if I would like to work with him on a new venture. I was apprehensive about working in manufacturing especially in the polluting plastics industry. As it turns out the project was a new sustainable materials housewares line, and it was my constant talking about sustainability that had prompted my uncle to reach out to me.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
About 2 days into our largest trade show a customer pointed out that the massive wall behind me had the world ‘sustainbable’ instead of ‘sustainable’. A detail that I had overlooked during planning multiple times and seemed to have missed it somehow. We had seen this wall so many times during planning, construction, and set up that somehow, we had just edited its content to what we wanted to see instead of what it was.
To me, this illustrated how important it is to have someone from outside of the daily process review your work. Its now our policy that someone from outside of the team reviews our work before a customer sees it. Having someone from logistics or customer service look at a piece of writing or graphic can bring a fresh perspective and catch obvious errors.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our mission to empower our customers as well as ourselves to make good sustainable choices both ecologically and economically. While we do make innovative product building a brand requires a constant two-way conversation with your longtime followers and those looking to engage for the first time. This is where employees, policies, and management matter. It’s not sexy but it’s where the soul of the brand resides.
Customers frequently call us concerned over the material composition. This is understandable as our materials are new and our customers are rightfully concerned about their impact on our environment. Our policy is to share testing documents and material data sheets with anyone. To most, this is counterintuitive; these are complex documents and rarely paint everything in a positive light. This is especially difficult in the sustainable industry where everyone is searching for a silver bullet that does not yet exist. However, to us it is an opportunity to discuss and explain the choices we make and the innovation we push for.
Its through these types of conversation that our material and product evolve with the trust of our most diehard supporters. Their comments motivate us to do better and our willingness to engage leaves them more empowered to make better choices every day.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Currently our focus is in marketing and developing our newest material Astrik, a plastic that is completely made from plants. It offers the core benefits of everyday plastics with a reduced carbon footprint and biodegradability. We are onboarding housewares brands interested in reducing their impact to develop new sustainable lines within their field of expertise.
We know the adoption of materials like these are incredibly important in moving towards sustainable mass market consumption. Sustainable materials are confusing to the consumer due to their technical nature and imperfect implementation. Our goal is to grow a material brand that offers peace of mind to the end-user through clear authentic communication, transparent testing, and continuous innovation.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
Advertising is a pushing action. You are actively engaged in pushing customers toward your product. Sales and returns can be measured but must be constantly maintained as the effects are temporary.
Branding on the other hand is about generating pull. Building attraction through product, content, and relationships. The positive feedback is not at all immediate and constructing something big enough to be seen can take time and resources. The benefit is that foundations laid tend to last much longer with each effort building on top of the last.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Advertising generates sales, branding generates value.
Without a branding effort you are always as good as your last sale. A day spend not selling is a day you fall farther behind, an exhausting proposition.
Nurturing a brand can be time consuming an expensive but slowly starts taking on a life of its own. This new entity no longer lives within the walls of your company but in the minds of any passerby regardless of their intent to purchase. When people engage with your content, return to purchase, or talk about it, the brand grows without your direct engagement.
Advertising and general marketing now have a long-term purpose. Exposing new customers as well as reminding others you still exist. Every exposure increases the odds of engagement with the brand.
Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each. In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
- Go for a slow burn. It may seem desirable to start with a large war chest and scream your message from the mountaintops. Spend a little time and money building the foundation and start growing slowly and organically.
- Experiment and make your mistakes early. Try many ideas and monitor their successes carefully while your audience is small. Once your story is established it will be far more difficult to change perceptions you have erroneously created.
- A brand is not just your story. It’s part of the public conversation and may become different from your original intent. That’s a good thing! Adapt the good experiences into your central narrative. Shift your efforts to meet the expectations of the negative reviews.
- Be honest, build trust. That is the recipe for authenticity. Even things that may be undesirable are better off on display. As long as they have a reason to exist, they will be accepted by the community you are building.
- Everyone is a partner. Consider your vendor, customer, and competitors’ perspective and always look for opportunities to collaborate openly. Equitable honest relationships open doors previously unknown and can last a lifetime.
Although not a brand in the strictest sense, I find SpaceX to be especially intriguing. They do not make consumer product and are not publicly traded yet they support a level of dialogue with the public that should inspire the entire branding community. It’s their readiness to share their successes, failures and visions so openly that is truly something to emulate.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
Brand success can be measured in engagement in the broadest sense. This can be a sale, public conversation, ‘like’, or article. Numbers can become meaningless in such a holistic approach, but sustained trends indicate overall success.
My personal favorite is finding a product in an unexpected place. A rental house, the background of a TV show, or unendorsed celebrity Instagram. These may not be a marketing event but reflect on the invisible reach the brand has. Immeasurable, but extremely motivating.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social media is an excellent place to experiment with messaging, preview product concepts, and learn who your audience really is. The immediate feedback and the sharing allowed us to cheaply and quickly find that our core demographic was different than what we originally expected or intended.
It is also a convenient public forum for us to store and display content. However due to pay to play models and relatively low ROI we have shied away from anything more than frequent posting and reacting.
As limited as it may be, our paid ad strategy revolves around remarketing to users who have experienced our online store. A reminder of our presence to those who may have been on the fence at some point.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Plan for the future but live in the present. Focus only on what you can change today. I have personally been trapped in a loop of worrying about the what-ifs and dreading the next day. I learned the hard way that those worries fill the unproductive moments between projects and major decisions. Preventing you from connecting with your team, innovating, and being grateful.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I truly believe that we can maintain our lifestyles while reversing the damage caused to the environment. I would call on governments, manufacturers, and retailers to consider sustainability and the carbon cost of everything they do. Large institutions need to build a path toward a shift in our materials and the sources of our energy through investment and incentivization. Most consumers will not, or cannot, change their lives completely. However, if given the opportunity to effortlessly do the right thing, they will.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It’s a definition that if it’s not renewable, it’s going to run out at some point.”– Elon Musk
In 2017, when I watched this 60-minutes interview, Bamboozle was undergoing serious growing pains of a startup. This caused me a lot of personal stress. This rather obvious statement reminded me why we chose this difficult path. It simply and perfectly reminds us all that it is imperative that we work to make the change we want to see.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Yuval Noah Harari’s book ‘Sapiens’ was formative in my understanding of branding. It’s a history book about the power of human storytelling and myth to create cooperation on a mass scale. Although on a much smaller scale this type of storytelling is exactly what branding is about. Taking complex and sometimes uninteresting concepts and building stories around them so they are more attractive to engage with and participate in.
While I doubt Mr. Harari specifically wanted his readers to get this insight from his work, I would love to discuss the relationship between the two at length.
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