Develop a Brand Bible and Style Guide. This includes all your strategic copywriting/messaging (e.g., mission, positioning, brand architecture, etc.) as well as your visual identity (e.g., logo, fonts, color palette, etc.). Also don’t just create it, make sure it’s distributed and utilized. We’re continually developing brand bibles and style guides for our clients. We do this both for their IP as well as for companies as a whole. For a film property like Harry Potter, there are global marketing teams in nearly every single market that will be developing marketing, brand extensions and consumer products campaigns to promote the property. WB and the Harry Potter team does an incredible job at developing property guides and brand bibles, so everyone in the various silos globally are clear on what the brand stands for.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Marc Becker, CEO of The Tangent Agency. Marc served as an Executive at Universal Pictures in the Global Brand Marketing team for seven years. There he helped develop unique, synergistic campaigns integrating films across all NBCU/Comcast platforms, including TV networks, digital channels, Comcast and Universal Parks & Resorts. His expertise in cementing the success of entertainment properties and multiplatform brand extensions can be seen in the launch of the Despicable Me franchise and enhancement of the Fast & Furious saga. In 2014, while working full time at Universal, Marc earned his MBA at the USC Marshall School of Business. In 2015, Marc became CEO of The Tangent Agency. Tangent is now an industry-leading brand strategy and consumer products powerhouse working hand-in-hand with every major film studio, several television networks, and a multitude of blue-chip brands. Through insight-driven strategy, the Tangent team are storytellers that fortify properties with innovative content and captivating creative. Clients include Warner Bros, Fox, Netflix, NBCUniversal, Amazon Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, Pepsi and beyond.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Marc! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Whether I was selling ice cream on the beaches of Santa Monica at the age of 14 or running my own event production company, hosting events/concerts throughout high school and college, I was fascinated by entrepreneurship as well as the concept of promotion and marketing. I’ve always been a people person and storyteller, and this career path allows me to bring our partner’s stories to life and think strategically and creatively about how to engage people.
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?
When I was first starting as an assistant at Universal Pictures, I learned the importance of attention to detail and double-triple checking your work. When I was working on very high-level materials, there were a couple of examples where I accidentally switched a letter resulting in the copy line saying something inappropriate. Convincing my bosses at the time that it was unintentional was embarrassing, to say the least. Thankfully, I’m a quick learner and always proofread any deliverable.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We position ourselves as both a creative partner and a thought-partner. While many agencies need a lot of direction from their clients to deliver what’s required, we pride ourselves on taking a kernel of an idea and running with it. Many of our clients reach out to us and say “here’s a news article, you now know what we know, go!” We then do the research, strategy, copywriting, design, scripting, editing, whatever is needed for the project and get it back to them, so they have a solid version to build off of. This is something I wish more agencies did when I was at Universal, which is one of the main reasons we formed Tangent — to fill that white space.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m really excited about our Brand Development and Consumer Products division. Until now, we’ve done the brand building, strategy, creative and developed all materials for our client’s consumer products but now we’re able to fully execute the entire project end-to-end . We’re excited to help those who don’t have a full licensing department expand their brands, enrich fan engagement and realize new revenue streams. In a time of massive consolidation and big conglomerates, we’ll be able to offer the same quality that the big companies tap into, and provide infrastructure for celebrities, influencers, gaming companies and beyond who want to grow their business.
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?
Brand marketing (branding) is the foundation of your marketing. It isn’t just the visual identity and the words that are used to describe your brand; it’s the foundation for how your brand is perceived. It includes the intrinsic value that your brand represents and what people think about when they hear or see your brand. Branding is something that should be core to everything you do as a company, both internally and externally. Elements of branding include your visual identity (e.g., logo, color palette, font choice aka typography, etc.) as well as the strategy and copywriting (name, positioning, mission, pillars, guidelines, etc.). Product marketing (advertising) is when you run consumer-facing campaigns to promote a product with the hope of getting consumers to buy, subscribe, whatever the end goal is. Elements of product marketing include developing the strategic campaigns and ads, but also the platforms on which the ads are distributed (e.g., print, out of home, radio, tv, digital, etc.). Your brand marketing helps define your message and ensures that everything you do in marketing and advertising is consistent with your thoughtful strategy.
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?
Your brand is your foundation and building a strong brand will resonate and create a relationship with your customer. Building a brand allows them to understand what they will be getting when they purchase your product or engage with you in any way. In a competitive marketplace, it can be the reason customers come to you over the alternatives. The general marketing and advertising efforts are essential to communicate to them that your brand exists, but it’s critical to have a thoughtful foundation in place.
Can you share 5 strategies that a large company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
- Think About Brand Early. Many companies launch products and wait for them to be successful before they start thinking about developing a foundation for the brand. If you think about brand early in the process — whether your personal brand, launching a company, a new division, or a product — it will set you up for greater success. Everything from messaging to advertising to communication will all become easier because you’ll have a roadmap. Even more importantly, doing this initial setup at the beginning will lead to efficiencies down the road since everyone within the large organization will be on the same page, telling the same story and drinking from the same creative troth. There are many examples where we’ll work with one division at a company and then get hired by another division and the two groups will have completely different visions of what the product is. Although sometimes they have different objectives, both groups should be privy to the overarching foundation of the brand.
- If You Don’t Have One, Create a Brand Strategy Position or Group. At a large company, there are many groups within marketing, such as Research, Creative, Media, Digital, Publicity, Partnerships and beyond. They all serve critical roles in the marketing and promotion of your company and its products. While many companies have “Integrated Marketing” or “Brand Marketing” teams, several don’t. If you don’t, create one. Or you can hire a partner like The Tangent Agency. Either way, it’s essential to have a hub or a connective tissue between all these divisions — especially if you’re a global organization. Not only does it help internally, but it’ll also make sure you are working as a united front as you work externally with -arty partners and, most crucial, when you go out and communicate your message to consumers.
- Develop a Brand Bible and Style Guide. This includes all your strategic copywriting/messaging (e.g., mission, positioning, brand architecture, etc.) as well as your visual identity (e.g., logo, fonts, color palette, etc.). Also don’t just create it, make sure it’s distributed and utilized. We’re continually developing brand bibles and style guides for our clients. We do this both for their IP as well as for companies as a whole. For a film property like Harry Potter, there are global marketing teams in nearly every single market that will be developing marketing, brand extensions and consumer products campaigns to promote the property. WB and the Harry Potter team does an incredible job at developing property guides and brand bibles, so everyone in the various silos globally are clear on what the brand stands for.
- Even Though You’re a Large Company, Be Nimble. When building a strong brand, it’s essential to have consistency and be confident that if you follow your strategy, you will be successful but if one of your brand strategies isn’t working, don’t be afraid to pivot. Or if you’ve realized you’ve gotten something wrong or audiences aren’t liking something, regroup, be smart about it, but make a change quickly. We’re living in a digital age, and things move fast. It has never been easier to get real-time consumer/fan audience feedback. It’s important to determine if it’s a small but loud minority or if it is in fact the majority, but either way, you should be able to take all the information and make an insight-driven decision about updating your brand.
- Practice What You Preach — Both Internally and Externally. Your team must believe in what they’re doing to ensure your brand and marketing will be authentic and more impactful. You should not only consider the product branding for your marketing, but your companies’ brand as well. Many large companies will have internal email communications, posters in the breakroom, team lunches, holiday parties, town halls, etc. These are all opportunities to express your company’s brand, creatively tell your story and can lead to establishing a culture and perception. This can help with recruiting, employee retention and also morale. When someone says Google, people instantly have a picture in their mind of what the company stands for and the fact that it’s one of the greatest places in the world to work. Public relations is a great way to communicate this externally.
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?
Disney. When you look at most studios and networks in the space, they have a ton of strong IP, whether films, TV, gaming, etc. but most people don’t know which studio released Smurfs or which studio released Hunger Games. When Disney releases something, everyone knows it’s Disney. Not only because of the content but more importantly, because their logo represents something. Disney spent years developing stringent brand guidelines, pillars, values and beyond. Fans know what to expect when Disney puts their name on something, and every single person within the Disney organization is very clear on what these brand attributes are, and they infuse it into everything they do. To replicate this, businesses need to think about brand early, create a brand bible and make sure it’s clearly communicated to everyone within the organization. You need to be thinking about your brand in everything you do from an email to a massive global product launch.
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 branding and marketing have always been difficult. You can look at sales lift or metrics compared to the competition in the same space, but there has never been an exact science. For marketing a product, such as when you put a billboard on the side of a street, it’s challenging to measure precisely how many people purchased the product due to that billboard. The same goes for TV, Radio, Print and Out of Home. Digital has helped and is much more accurate, but even that isn’t perfect.
Beyond the tangible sales that can be tracked through marketing, branding also has an intrinsic value beyond the dollar value that can be even more meaningful when it comes to the perception of a customer, potential partner or investor. It’s vital to create a consistent brand and ensure that communication to various audience groups is being strategic and always staying true and authentic to that brand.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social media is a way to communicate your brand to consumers, audiences, fans, etc. It’s also a way to engage and LISTEN to them and make them part of the brand. Fandom can be a double-edged sword when not treated properly. They can be your biggest ambassadors, but they can tarnish your brand loudly if you don’t listen.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Businesses need to have a work-life balance. I used to say “work hard, play hard,” but I’ve changed the mantra to be “work hard, work smart and have fun.” Working a hundred-hour work week shouldn’t be a badge of honor. Just because you work more hours doesn’t mean you’ll be more productive — especially when you’re working in an area that requires creativity. Be smart about how you spend your time. As a leader, don’t be afraid to delegate. Hire people smarter than you and then trust them and listen to them. In addition to learning from the people you hire, employees and business leaders also should get a mentor and learn from those who have had more experience than you. Never stop learning.
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. 🙂
There are incredible people in the world with much more influence than I have, and they have started every type of movement there is. But the important thing for people to know is that even though their ideas may have already been done before, it’s all about execution. Don’t be afraid to launch a movement. Oh and spread love, not hate.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Nothing is impossible, Mario. Improbable, unlikely, but never impossible.” — this is from an extremely random source… it was said by Luigi, played by John Leguizamo in the not-so-successful Mario Bros. 90s film, but I love the quote.
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. 🙂
Zuckerberg. If he makes time in his schedule, I’d be happy to come to him. ☺
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Marc Becker on LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/marcbecker123/
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.