Olivia Wu of Innergrated Media: “Aim for deeper and more personal connections with your customers”

Aim for deeper and more personal connections with your customers. Being transparent with your customers is a great way to form deeper bonds with them. Sharing aspiring business goals, heart-felt messages, or personal history allows your customers to feel like they are a part of your business and not just someone looking from the outside […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Aim for deeper and more personal connections with your customers. Being transparent with your customers is a great way to form deeper bonds with them. Sharing aspiring business goals, heart-felt messages, or personal history allows your customers to feel like they are a part of your business and not just someone looking from the outside in. When customers connect with you or your business philosophy on a personal level, they are more likely to fall in love with your products, too.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Olivia Wu, of Innergrated Media.

Olivia Wu is a writer, creative director, and founder of Innergrated Media, a conscious marketing communications agency. With over 20 years’ experience leading successful campaigns in ad agencies and corporations, Olivia has worked with companies across multiple industries such as Allergan, Amgen, Lennar Homes, Opera Pacific, and Yamaha Motors. She is known for her creative visions, market knowledge, and strategic thinking.

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 started out my career as a graphic designer after graduating college in visual communications. Coming from both an artistic and entrepreneurial family, accompanied by my own fascination with psychology, I quickly decided marketing and branding was the space I wanted to be in.

What led me to start my own agency goes way back and gradually built up to this point in my life. I had always wanted to do good in the world since I was a child but never really knew what that would look like as a career. As I see more and more organizations now, as well as individuals, realizing our society needs better awareness and to be uplifted, they are doing their part making noticeable changes, whether in the products they develop or how they treat employees. Myself included — I want to be an agent of positive change.

So after 20+ years of working for advertising agencies and corporations in multiple industries, I made a leap to start my own business to help other companies with similar values. It had occurred to me that even though I don’t have a tangible product of my own to sell to a consumer audience, I can still help those who do succeed by using all the marketing and branding experience I’ve accumulated over the years.

I believe we are living in an era of transformation right now, for the better. We’ve come to realize how destructive we have been to our planet; how important mental health is to our well-being and livelihood; how our lifestyle and diet affects our health; and the kind of influence media has in the way we perceive social issues. Launching new products and services now also carries a responsibility to address some of those issues. Consumers are more informed than ever and equally want to contribute to our collective well-being. Many businesses are in need of a marketing and branding service who understands that responsibility and can translate that to powerful storytelling and effectively represent them and communicate to their customers, with integrity.

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?

One funny (and embarrassing) story comes to mind. I was in my mid-twenties and working at the headquarters of a large fashion merchandising corporation. It was my first job fresh out of design school and an exciting opportunity. One of my first assignments was to design a digital birthday card for the president of the company, to be sent as an announcement company wide to over a thousand employees.

I was given a brief on what the card should be about and that it should include a photo of the president. The VP of Marketing whom I was working with emphasized that the president had a sense of humor and would appreciate something funny and wacky.

The assignment tickled the fun-loving and silly side of my 24-year-old self and I decided to perform some photo shop magic. The finished product was a very cute (and very pink) digi-card with the president dressed in a pink polka-dotted dress wearing a pink, you guessed it, polka-dotted birthday hat, blowing out candles on a pink birthday cake. The VP of Marketing walked over to my desk within what felt like a matter of seconds after I had emailed her my creation. She was stunned, but ever so politely said to me: ”Um, I don’t think we can send an image of our president in a little girl’s dress out to the entire company.”

I learned that day the importance of asking questions and communicating my ideas, especially when working on an unfamiliar subject with high exposure.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

On top of understanding responsible marketing and looking out for our clients’ best interests, I believe what makes us stand out is our holistic approach in marketing strategy and developing powerful messaging. We focus on getting to know not only the product we are helping to sell but also your business philosophy, mission, and how this product fits into your big picture — the heart of your business and why you started it. We don’t want to just tell a story, we want to tell YOUR story, and build a lasting relationship for you and your customers.

I often refer to it as putting emotional intelligence back into marketing and branding. While numbers and statistics play an important role in measuring performance and consumer behavior, forming a connection with new customers is often not seen at first but felt. In a world saturated with brand builders and social media content, earning consumer loyalty takes a genuine connection on a deeper level and a steady communications strategy over time. And customer retention for any business is based on authenticity and trust — exactly what this interview topic is about.

We recently did a campaign for Olokoi, a gourmet sauce company who produced Pacific Island-flavored sauces. Their goal is to become a household staple, like ketchup or soy sauce. In my process of getting to know the founder of the company I found out she has such a rich, multicultural family background that started on the island of Palau, where her sauce was born. I felt we really needed to bring that family history to the forefront and share with her customers, along with a campaign built around a scenario relatable to almost every family — having to put dinner on the table every night. It was an all-around beautiful and successful campaign in that it not only brought the brand to life, it also communicated the versatility of the sauce, formed a connection with anyone who cooks often, and provided a solution for making a quick and easy last-minute meal taste good.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am always grateful and excited about any new projects and collaborations. We are currently developing a self-improvement e-workbook that will help people get in the habit of positive mindsets in everyday life. We are also always working on new social media campaigns and creating content.

And to be perfectly honest, I find it exciting and am looking forward to building a solid brand for Innergrated Media. It is both a challenge and a dream project. I connected instantly with this interview topic as soon as I saw it, not only as a marketing and creative professional but as a business owner as well. It is always challenging for any business owner to brand their own company because it is so close to their hearts. Whether we are starting a brand new endeavor or are already established and looking to transition to the next growth phase, we are faced with many possible marketing angles and the pressure to make the right decisions.

For me, it became a manifesto of what I want my business to stand for, and what sets us apart from others — why I started this journey — to develop an authentic voice and create a powerful presence for our clients, so they can better reach new customers as well as retain current ones.

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?

A company’s brand is an overarching identity of the organization. It covers the company’s mission, its culture, its products, and the way it projects itself to the public — its image. It would be the equivalent of someone’s core personality, their purpose, their interests, what they look like, and the way they carry themselves. Brand marketing serves as a pillar and can support many different business goals for a company. Branding done right can disrupt an industry, make a noticeable impact, and generate new business leads rapidly; it can also work magic in customer retention for businesses with a preexisting market share.

While there are definitely some overlaps, product marketing, on the other hand, is more specific and has a narrower focus. It concentrates more on communicating information or benefits of specific products or services a company has to offer. The goals are typically more direct than brand marketing, which is to instigate a purchase from the audience, or in some cases, publicity.

However, branding and advertising go hand in hand and need to be in alignment with each other. Great advertising or product marketing can add to a company’s overall brand equity; conversely, great branding can support overall product sales and reinforce customer loyalty.

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?

Investing in branding is one of the most important things for a company. It can be a hard sell because the ROI is not as clear-cut and predictable. But more and more companies, even in less image-conscious industries, are seeing what a solid brand can do for the overall success of the business. It can create or change the course of an entire company.

If I were to illustrate an infographic of how branding can affect an organization, it would be in a pyramid shape cascading down from the very top: from reinforcing values, inspiring leaders, helping build a stable foundation for the company, boosting employee morale, increasing value in the public eye, generating sales leads, gaining customer loyalty, creating organic publicity, etc. A great brand will stick around for many years, and in time, sell itself without considerable advertising. That initial investment in branding efforts will return exponentially in the long run.

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.

  1. Don’t try to be all things to all people. I say this often, because it’s difficult for a business to not try to market to anyone who is a potential customer. But what that does is dilute your brand value and confuses customers as to who you are and what you stand for. That makes you forgettable as a result. Instead, develop a distinct brand personality and commit to it.
  2. Always live up to your brand promise. No matter how beautiful and effective your marketing and branding campaign is, you can only build trust and loyalty with your customers if you deliver what you promise. That includes truly living the image you project and delivering what you promise in every single one of your advertising campaigns.
  3. Aim for deeper and more personal connections with your customers. Being transparent with your customers is a great way to form deeper bonds with them. Sharing aspiring business goals, heart-felt messages, or personal history allows your customers to feel like they are a part of your business and not just someone looking from the outside in. When customers connect with you or your business philosophy on a personal level, they are more likely to fall in love with your products, too.
  4. Consistency. Make sure your business mission, campaign messaging, visuals, and communications are cohesive and consistent across the board. Sometimes when there are many different moving pieces to an advertising or branding campaign, details can slip through the cracks. If those pieces become disjointed from each other, it can come across as confusing for your customers and can take away from the impact of each campaign.
  5. Offer valuable content for your audience. These days, social media presence is a must for most businesses. But instead of being there just to be there, make sure the content you publish is of value to your audience. This is a great way to share news about your company, engage with your customers, and reinforce your overall brand personality.

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?

As a creative professional it’s hard not to mention Apple and their brilliance in branding and advertising. They have been committed to modern design, simplicity, and user friendliness since the conception of the company. Their comeback campaign, “Think Different,” along with their candy-colored new iMacs caused an immediate disruption to the otherwise dull and cold PC world. Since then, they’ve continued to disrupt the industry and commit to their modern and minimalistic designs. Year after year, Apple is still seen as the trusted and premium brand for high-tech electronic devices.

But I also want to take this opportunity to highlight the less sexy brands that are equally successful and have done a great job committing to their brand promises, such as Patagonia. They have risen recently to be one of the most reputable brands in the world because of their commitment to quality products, customer service, and their continued efforts in helping the environment. It is not an obvious brand that comes to mind when we think about marketing brilliance, but it is their steady effort in marketing, PR, and involvement in environmental contributions that make them a solid, trustworthy, and loveable brand to consumers.

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?

Measuring the success of a branding campaign can be a little tricky, and different from measuring sales. But oftentimes, a successful branding campaign can drive the number of sales up quickly, therefore seeing instant success. In general, results for a branding campaign seem to work a little slower and more in the background rather than the foreground but can create a ripple effect. Results from a successful branding campaign can be seen in a number of areas, such as increased sales, more publicity, increased customer engagement, new leads, returning customers, increasing number of inquiries, as well as increased general interest in an industry.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media can play an important and effective role in branding, but it is all relative. For example, the role social media plays for a personal brand will be very different from a consumer product or B2B relations. We assess and customize that role for each client and work to maximize its benefits. In some cases, social media marketing without cohesive and valuable content can even have an adverse effect on a company’s brand.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

That is always a good question! After many years in the ad agency world and having gone through my fair share of thriving and burning out, I am now adjusting to a new role as an entrepreneur and feeling a different kind of pressure. One thing I have learned over the years and on this new journey is to let go of perfection and accept that there are some things outside of my control and that is okay. It is also helpful to be honest about our own limitations and not take on work beyond our capacity. That is part of building a trusting relationship with clients and coworkers as well.

Other than that, I do have a consistent meditation routine every day. I am a big meditation advocate. It helps me tremendously in reducing daily stress and increasing mental clarity. It’s important to make time for mental and physical health, and it shows in the quality of work that we do and in client relationships. When we take care of ourselves, we indirectly take care of our clients.

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 hope I am somewhat inspiring that movement by launching my agency — for responsible marketing and media.

With easily accessible marketing tools available to just about anyone these days, there is also more clutter than ever out in the media world. It’s hard to tell the difference between what quality information is and what isn’t. The real and truly moving stories are often missed or hidden because they are either buried or not shared. I would like to help find a voice for those types of stories and inspire more quality interpersonal connections, the kind I feel are much needed in the world right now.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are many life lesson quotes I find brilliant and inspiring. One of which I often say and always try to live by is:

“Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” — Hunter S. Thompson.

I believe our intention drives our thoughts, ideas, and executions. You can always feel the difference between something that is quickly thrown together versus one that is well thought through and nurtured with attention.

To me, this quote resembles the way I want to do things, both professionally and personally. Whether it’s materializing a vision, customizing a strategy, or executing a design, the intention of doing it well commands the attention in return, as I’ve seen the difference in results over and over again in the past 20+ years.

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. 🙂

I don’t even know where to begin. I’d like to fill my lunch schedule with meeting every single prominent leader out there. LOL.

One person who comes to mind right now (since we’ve been talking so much about authenticity and bettering the world) is Brené Brown. To me, she is the embodiment of authenticity. She studies and teaches vulnerability, talks about daring greatly, lives what she teaches, and she built a great personal brand and organic following because of it. And she talked about all of it with a great sense of humor. She had turned a simple subject, a fleeting feeling for many, into something extraordinary. I would love to have lunch with her and get to know her in person, so fingers crossed she sees this and responds!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They are welcome to send me a message through our website https://innergrated.com/contact

Or connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/oliviamwu

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.