Have a clear & distinct brand voice: A trusted brand has clear brand positioning and tone of voice that is consistent and relevant in everything it does.
Know their consumer: A brand needs to know their consumers, what drives them, motivates them, and in which tone they should communicate.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Allison Varone, Vice President of Belvedere Vodka for Moët Hennessy USA. As a highly experienced brand strategist with a strong background of working on lifestyle and luxury brands in the US, she is responsible for driving business and marketing strategy as well as implementing strategic plans to maximize brand growth. Allison is a mom of two and a native to Brooklyn, where she currently resides with her family. Allison holds a bachelor’s degree in International Business and an MBA from Fordham University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My interest in marketing started during my undergraduate studies — with a specific professor who helped me realize the impact that brands can have on individuals, and in fact how they impacted me personally as a consumer. I enjoyed the psychology behind marketing as well as the business savviness that it takes to build a brand.
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?
I can’t think of anything specific, but I’m sure I have made them many times throughout my career.
What do you think makes Belvedere stand out? Can you share a story?
To me, Belvedere stands out because of its natural philosophy, which is why we just launched our new platform — Made With Nature. This natural philosophy is something a lot of people don’t know about; that our products are made with 100% Polska Rye and purified water, distilled by fire and nothing else.
I see you just launched a new brand platform, Made With Nature? How is the consumer reaction thus far?
It’s been very positive so far as it appeals to today’s consumer sentiment in making lifestyle choices and opting for high-quality products. Our new Made with Nature platform shows consumers why Belvedere is naturally the best choice when it comes to vodka.
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?
The biggest difference to me is that branding is much broader than simply promoting a specific product. A brand is something that affirms a position in the market or stands for something within a category or amongst a particular consumer group. A brand often connects with a consumer at a different level, with an emotional connection, that can have lasting effects on their choices in their lives.
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?
Building a brand takes time, effort, consistency, and repetition to make an impact on a consumer. The key is ensuring all efforts that are invested, as in a marketing program or advertising effort, are cohesive with the rest of brand activities to ensure there is consistency in the eyes of the consumer.
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.
- Insist on authenticity: Ensure that the brand is authentic in what it stands for, what it’s made of, and how it tells its story.
- Remain consistent: A brand needs to stay true to its authentic story in everything it does, and not change its position or purpose.
- Have a clear & distinct brand voice: A trusted brand has clear brand positioning and tone of voice that is consistent and relevant in everything it does.
- Know their consumer: A brand needs to know their consumers, what drives them, motivates them, and in which tone they should communicate.
- Listen to consumers: Brand needs to invest and take the time to listen to consumers to understand how they interact with their brand, and what drives their decisions.
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?
One of the most obvious loved brands in the world — Apple. They have a distinct brand voice and remain consistent in everything they do — from packaging to product utility, communication, innovation, and retail presence. Other companies can learn from Apple to remain true & consistent year over year.
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 brand building takes more time than simple advertising metrics, and often is conducted by studies that measure brand affinity or brand love over time. The research could be conducted by speaking with consumers, gaining insights online, social media listening, etc.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social media is now an imperative part of the marketing mix for any brand — not only from a communications perspective but also to drive e-commerce strategy and a key way to measure consumer sentiment.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
My first piece of advice is to ensure you are passionate about your business and /or brand, as this will fundamentally drive your success and integrity of your work. It is also critically important to have strong team members to lean on, trust, and support you along the way.
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 do believe that bringing more empathy into your work life can only bring good to others, as well as more career success. Each day I try to check in with someone I work with and simply ask “how are you doing?”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My father always told me a career is a marathon, not a sprint. This has served me as a constant reminder to approach all opportunities with an open mind and focus my efforts on gaining new experiences, rather than money or titles.
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. 🙂
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.