First, you must understand what a brand is. It isn’t your logo, your website, or your design assets combined. Your brand isn’t something you can see at all; your brand is a feeling — an emotional connection, gut reaction. That connection is what breeds brand loyalty and creates lifelong customers.
As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Sarah Moore.
Sarah Moore is a problem solver, entrepreneur, and teacher with twenty years of marketing and brand management experience assisting up and coming clients gain their foothold and establish their brands amongst their competition. She has a reputation for communicating brands cleanly and precisely specializing in providing her clients with out-of-the box solutions. As a working mother, Sarah attended the Art Institute of Atlanta earning her degree in graphic design and later went on to secure her Master’s degree in media design.
Sarah is Founder and CEO of HotHouse Intimates (http://www.hothoustintimates.com), an online retail brand, and works full time as a marketing and brand consultant, and graphic design adjunct instructor. She teaches graphic design principals, color theory, digital imaging, and desktop publishing.
Sarah’s day-to-day responsibilities to her clients include oversight of the development and delivery of a fully integrated marketing strategy including brand strategy, marketing initiatives for new and existing products; including advertising campaigns, social media, events, digital marketing, and public relations.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Like many women, I was a young mother, working an entry level, job. One day my boss handed me a box and said, “we need a website, learn how to do this”. The box was Microsoft Front Page, software came in a box in those days! I was fresh out of high school and didn’t know anything about creating a website, branding, marketing, or graphic design. In fact, I had only recently gotten my first email address.
After several weeks of figuring it out, the company had a website, and my love for marketing was born. At that time, I had no college education and had to rely on what I could learn on my own to understand what marketing was and how to do it. I would eventually go to college several years later formalizing and expanding my knowledge base.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was first starting my career, one of the first lessons I had to learn was it was okay to tell a client I didn’t know the answer. After a few stumbles of blurting out the wrong answer and having to back track later, I learned it was okay to say I didn’t know but would have an answer shortly.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?
The tipping point in my career happened when I removed my ego from the process. Creative people are by nature, emotionally connected to their work. We create a pretty baby and we want everyone to think our baby is the prettiest baby they’ve ever seen. When clients want to own the baby, change the color of its eyes or give it a new name, we take it very personally because our baby is perfect.
Once I was realized my client’s perspective was more important than my ego, I was able to connect with my customer on a different level and I was happier in the process because I wasn’t holding onto my baby for dear life.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I started HotHouse Intimates in 2017 with the primary goal of creating a space for women to purchase adult products in a space designed for women. The primary goal of the brand, in the beginning, was to take the brand mainstream, offering a clean and tasteful space for women to purchase products typically seen as “dirty”. The brand promise was imperative. I was committed to never showing “nasty” images or writing brand voice that would make women uncomfortable or would not be allowed in a mainstream environment.
After the first year I realized I was committed to working with women, in the intimate arena, but decided to shift my focus to more spa-like products. I decided to close my open accounts and re-evaluate. I took a year off so I could make sure the next launch was exactly what it needed to be. After the Hemp Farming bill in 2019 was passed, I re-opened HotHouse Intimates as a CBD personal care and self-love brand; still committed to providing women with a space that encourages physical, sexual, and mental wellness.
I want to give women a place that encourages them to put their needs first and provide products that promote a modern-day, self-care, holistic lifestyle. We help woman feel good about themselves without guilt or judgement.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
- Accept failure. Not every campaign is going to resonate, not every customer is going to convert. As long as you learn from failure, your effort isn’t wasted.
- Perfection is the enemy to progress.
- Manage your time.
- Change your environment. Work outside, by a window, or in a coffee shop. You’ll draw off the energy around you.
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?
First, you must understand what a brand is. It isn’t your logo, your website, or your design assets combined. Your brand isn’t something you can see at all; your brand is a feeling — an emotional connection, gut reaction. That connection is what breeds brand loyalty and creates lifelong customers. Your brand is evident in all your marketing and advertising, both visually and contextually. It also becomes your online personality as seen in social media. The tone and the kind of message you deliver to audiences has never before been as dynamic as it is on the Internet today.
Brand Marketing is a strategic pull at the emotional connection you share with your target demographic. I pay $24 for a bottle of shampoo when I can get something similar for $6. Why? Because I am connected on an emotional level to the brand. They don’t test on animals — I love animals. They support clean water in other countries — me too! Who they are at their core is consistent with who I want to be at my core. The advertising, product or otherwise, must work together with the marketing/advertising to reinforce who they are. For example, if you don’t test on animals, you wouldn’t then create an advertisement that made fun or negatively depicted an animal.
Product marketing is a tactical push. This product is great, it solves problems in your life, look at it, touch it, buy it. In this case, you are using the physical product to generate interest.
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 Promise (that gut feeling mentioned before) builds consistency, consistency builds trust, and trust breeds brand loyalty. At the end of the day that is the ultimate goal: a customer for life. You want your customer to become your new BFF and they can’t do that if you don’t develop a brand personality. Human beings are social creatures by design, we want to engage and belong to something. If you don’t give them something to belong to, your competitor will.
Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?
There are a few reasons to undergo a rebrand, such as: your customer needs have changed; modernization — simply put, your brand is old and needs a refresh; your brand personality has evolved beyond current brand; you’ve added products to your portfolio and they are significant enough to change who you are at your core; you are no longer differentiating from your competitors; and/or company mergers and acquisitions.
Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?
The biggest downside to a rebrand is backlash from your customers. A few years ago, Pepsi, Kraft, and Gap are a few that underwent a rebrand and the public hated it. You have two options when this happens, change or keep moving. If you change amid backlash you risk your brand being perceived as weak or inconsistent. Pepsi stayed the course and people forgot and moved on. Kraft relented after 6 months.
If a company has a business case to rebrand i.e. fitting into one of the categorized as “reasons”, I would encourage a rebrand. If they are doing it simply because they want to, I would recommend against it. Your brand should never be so flexible that it would qualify because, “I want to”.
The proper way to rebrand is to cover all your bases i.e. website, corporate collateral, all advertising. It should be 100% coverage at once; and should be launched internally first. Your employees must fully understand every aspect of the rebrand, how to represent the changes, how to talk about it with customers, until finally launching to the public.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.
- Refresh your logo. Simplify. Resist the urge to over design your logo and you will have a logo that is easily rendered across all mediums and will be memorable and timeless. This includes clean typography that is easily read and color that is free from gradients.
- Define your brand voice/message. Describe your brand in three words. Examples: fun, quirky, intelligent. Then, decide how these three words will come through in your communication and connect back to your target demographic.
- Social Media. Social media is not a place to sell your product. Brands must change their way of thinking when it comes to their social media accounts. This is where you engage with your audience; tell them your story, ask them what their story is, and ask them how you can make their lives better. If you are just trying to sell a product, you are simply a commercial, your message will fall flat, and your customers won’t engage in the conversation.
- Update your website and make sure it is responsive/mobile ready. Smart phones have become so ingrained in our lives; your website should reflect the needs of those using it — that means being mobile ready. The user experience must be seamless; if you ask the user to think too much or to make too many decisions, they will simply leave your site. Make it easy to use, easy to understand, and relevant to your target market.
- Employee Training. Your employees are on the front lines of your brand. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into your brand and marketing if your employees can’t reinforce the same message. Share your vision and your marketing plan with everyone, down to the receptionist. Make sure they know they have a part in your business — everyone involved is a brand ambassador.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
A company who has rebranded really well is Mastercard. In 2016 Mastercard launched their new, simple logo with the two intersecting circles and the words Mastercard below, instead of being inside the circles as they had previously. Their logo is not a total departure from previous versions, but it was enough of a change to give them a fresh new look. In early, 2019 they went even further and dropped the word Mastercard, opting to go with the circles alone. Mastercard explained, over 80% of people knew who the logo belonged to without seeing the text.
I am impressed with their ability to change. A company that has been around as long as Mastercard has deep roots. They embraced the idea they could be better than they already were, and they took a risk, especially in removing the text from the logo. That is what I would replicate; taking the risk.
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. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most good to people, it would be a campaign to get people to put down their devices and spend more time outdoors. I truly believe our personal “life rhythm” is connected to the rhythm of nature. We are overworked, spend hours on computers and cell phones, creating false narratives for ourselves on social media because our digital personality reinforces our self-esteem. Too many people are looking outside themselves for personal fulfillment instead of looking within. I’d love to see people reconnect with nature, feel sunlight, listen to running water, and enjoy the lack of noise both, auditory and visual.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Perfection is the enemy to progress.” I am a mother, wife, daughter, entrepreneur, and brand and marketing consultant. My life is very busy. I am not capable of giving everything 100%; I want to, but I am only one person. Sometimes, good enough IS good enough. Sometimes it’s okay to eat chicken nuggets for dinner, my daughter’s socks may never match, and instead of brushing my hair today, I went with a messy bun. That is okay — because that is my best, today. Tomorrow will be another day.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.