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Annie Chang of Olea & Fig: “Make it consistent across everything you do”

What feelings do you want people to feel with your brand? Maybe it’s prestige, empowerment, comfort, intimacy… Make it consistent across everything you do. In our market, most business coaches and marketers have personal brands that focus on establishing authority and celebrity status. We knew that our community of #fempreneuers is looking for other women […]

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What feelings do you want people to feel with your brand? Maybe it’s prestige, empowerment, comfort, intimacy… Make it consistent across everything you do. In our market, most business coaches and marketers have personal brands that focus on establishing authority and celebrity status. We knew that our community of #fempreneuers is looking for other women like them, and they want a community that they feel belonged to. They want someone that empowers them and who cares. They are also tired of sales and sleazy marketing tactics. That’s why, instead of building authority, we instilled the concept of community, relatability, and a sense of intimacy and serenity across our brand, including our look, voice, our client experiences, and even our business model. Get clear on how you want people to feel about your brand and incorporate it across your business.


As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure of interviewing Annie Chang, co-founder of Olea & Fig. Annie went to Carnegie Mellon University for Chemical Engineering, then Duke University for Masters in Management Studies. She began her career working in tech in Silicon Valley. Before co-founding Olea & Fig with Terrie, she was in a leadership role and spearheaded business development and client experience. After realizing that she no longer wants to move forward with the corporate path that she thought would lead to “success” based on social expectations, Annie dedicated herself to making a life, not just making a living. Through Olea & Fig, a mission-driven brand, Annie and Terrie have helped thousands of #fempreneurs grow their businesses doing what they love, build client-attracting brands online, and achieve success on their own terms.


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?

Six years ago, I had very different priorities. I was on my path to “success,” or so I thought. I was a business manager at a tech company in Silicon Valley. I had my own amazing team, a decent salary, and was reporting directly to the CEO, I should be happy and living life, right? Except that I was chained to my emails and phone notifications 24/7. I was obsessed with making to-do lists and filling life with busy activities.

In the midst of our busy lives, my partner and I decided that we both needed some time off and some quality time together. So, we planned a vacation to Europe. I sent off my last email before we boarded. I got my much-needed rest on the plane and was ready and excited to take my mind off work.

As soon as I landed, I turned on my phone, more than 30 texts and voice messages came flooding in. There was a high-severity issue at work while I was in the air, and everyone at work had been trying to reach me. I didn’t remember much of how we got out of the airport or checked in at the hotel. I also don’t have much recollection of our entire dinner at this highly coveted restaurant, which I was excited to try and booked months in advance. The only thing I remember was that I was on my phone with my CEO for hours, and the immense guilt I felt the whole night while being on my phone. I felt horrible and kept apologizing to my partner while thinking that everyone at the restaurant was probably judging me. Instead of an amazing dinner and a wonderful time that I expected, it was a terrible night, and the worse way to start a long-overdue vacation.

Five hours later, as soon as I got off the phone, I realized that I wasn’t actually there at this dinner. I wasn’t present because I was on the phone the entire time. I broke down in tears as I realized that this wasn’t the path I wanted. I didn’t own my time. I wasn’t living.

I decided that I had to make a change. I needed to make a life, not just a living. So, after the vacation, I quit my job and was determined to make a life I wanted and help other women do the same. That was the turning point that changed everything for me and what led me to find our mission to support women to achieve success, on their own terms.

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?

We created and marketed a service package to help small businesses to create their brand photos. We wanted to add as much value as possible and create a “no-brainer” offer that is impossible to pass. Within 1 hour of the launch, it was completely sold out.

However, once we started to deliver the service, that’s when we realized that we weren’t making any profit. We were so focused on making the package accessible that we missed several crucial expenses and logistical issues. And on top of that, we were not able to produce our best work because of the low pricing we charged. And several clients turned not to be the best fit.

Instead of offering our services at the lowest price possible and marketing it to everyone, we learned to focus on only our target audience and provide the most value on the things they care about most. We also learned that instead of being the cheapest, it is crucial to charge what our work is worth to create quality and remarkable work and to align pricing with the type of brand we are building.

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?

It wasn’t until we started to focus on serving our audience, our tribe, that we experienced a huge change in our business. Instead of focusing on marketing tactics that are driven by reach and the size of the audience, we shifted our energy to building a brand that resonates with our tribe, which fulfills their inner desires and curating a brand experience that is personal to them. Unlike most businesses in the marketing and brand strategy space that typically brand themselves as agencies or personal celebrity-type brands, we focused on building a “we” brand, a brand for all the #fempreneurs we support. As a result, we see a dramatic increase in conversion, retention, and referral rate.

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

Now that we have a closely connected group of audience, besides marketing and brand how-to’s and resources, we are brainstorming ideas to support our community specifically on mindset, which is the biggest roadblock for entrepreneurs and business owners. We want to use storytelling to bring the community even closer together, help them feel supported as many entrepreneurs feel alone on their journeys, and help them overcome any mental hurdles that are holding them back from achieving success. We are still in the early research and strategy phase, and figuring out which tactic and platform would be the most suitable for our audience.

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

Focus ONLY on what matters. We live in a noisy world now, especially in the marketing space. There are always new shiny tools that scream for our attention, and marketers tend to jump on them hoping to gain the most reach while they are trending. Consumers demand loyalty and connection with brands they love working with now. Instead of working on gaining reach in a short period of time, cultivate a brand that lasts, one that will be missed by your specific group of audience if it’s gone one day. You don’t need to do all the things and everything, focus on what matters to your business, your audience, and your long-term success.

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?

We interpret these quite differently from how most marketers and businesses see them.

Branding is the process of crafting an experience people have with you, and it is tied to everything you do in your business. A brand is a promise to the people you serve, and it needs to be considered on just in your marketing, but at all levels in your business, including customer experience, post-customer service, logistics, pricing, business model, etc. Because every component in your business is connected and people feel the impact of all your decisions through their experience with your business. Building a brand is a long-term effort and its goal is to nurture connection, loyalty, and relationship with your audience.

Advertising, on the other hand, is one of the many marketing tactics to help build a brand, and it’s a one-way communication, sometimes through storytelling, sometimes through direct exposure of what the business is advertising. When done well, advertising can be effective, however, because technology now makes it very easy to run ads, we see a proliferation of ads that are creating noise and screaming for people’s attention instead of being utilized to cultivate the relationship and connection consumers now are aware of and actively search for.

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 is a long-term strategy for running a business that lasts. People don’t connect or feel loyal to a business, but they can feel connected with a brand. And because purchases are made with emotions, and we only justify our purchases with logic afterward, a brand, when done effectively can be extremely powerful.

Whereas general marketing and advertising efforts focus on broadcasting and getting attention, which is a more one-way communication and lack engagement. That being said, general marking and advertising effort can be very useful when coupled with an effective brand strategy, and is used to deliver a specific message to a specific group of audience instead of robbing attention and time from anyone and everyone.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

When you find that your business is not attracting your target audience, it is crucial that you take a step back and assess why your brand isn’t working, what isn’t resonating, and where the gap is. A rebrand might also be needed when you are in your growth phase and when you are expanding your audience and reaching a second or third group of audience. To capture a different audience besides your current target audience, your current brand may be no longer the most effective. That is when you “grow out of your brand” and when a rebrand is required.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

We see many businesses going through rebranding without a clear goal or reason. Rebranding is a relatively high investment and high opportunity cost as it typically requires a lot of time and effort. When you don’t have a good reason to rebrand or if you don’t have a clear picture of where your finance stands, it is likely to become a waste of investment and a burden on your business.

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.

Assuming that you are already using your existing brand colors everywhere and that you’ve already heard other brand strategists and marketers telling you that you need to be consistent with your colors and logo, I’m going to skip that one.

First, you have to know your WHY. You have to have a clear direction on the purpose and reason why you built this business. Through storytelling, share your passion and what drove you to build and grow your business. Infect people with your passion and enroll them in your journey. You can share your WHY and tell your brand story through several posts or videos on social media, on your website, and through your email newsletter. Our email that tells our brand story and shares our mission and purpose is the one email that gets the most replies on an ongoing basis. Our community responded positively and proactively to our story of being corporate escapees, our experience of hitting burnout, and our motivation to empower women and girls to achieve success on their own terms. Use your WHY and passion to attract your tribe and connect with people who share your values and motivations.

Content marketing is a great tactic to build relationships and enhance people’s experience with your brand, use it by committing to showing up to your audience consistently. We see our content marketing effort as a very personal way to connect with our community. Every post and email is like a personal note or handwritten letter we send directly to them. Once you commit to a frequent and schedule, you become part of people’s daily life. They look forward to hearing from you. There was one time when we had a glitch and our weekly email newsletter didn’t get sent out, and we received emails from people checking if everything was alright because they didn’t hear from us when they expected to. Nurture trust and loyalty through your commitment and frequency. Besides marketing and selling your offers, use content marketing to cultivate relationships, and strengthen people’s connection with your brand.

Find your sweet spot. Does your target audience know you are the go-to brand for what you do? If not, why not? Assess the 3 things your target audience cares most about. Are you the best at those 3 things? If not, why not? What’s stopping you from fulfilling their 3 most urgent demands and needs? Most businesses emulate their competitors and try to do all the things and everything everyone else is doing. Instead of striving to be excellent at certain things, businesses end up offering mediocre and good enough products and services. Find your target audience, give them what they truly want, and focus on standing out to them, not everyone.

What feelings do you want people to feel with your brand? Maybe it’s prestige, empowerment, comfort, intimacy… Make it consistent across everything you do. In our market, most business coaches and marketers have personal brands that focus on establishing authority and celebrity status. We knew that our community of #fempreneuers is looking for other women like them, and they want a community that they feel belonged to. They want someone that empowers them and who cares. They are also tired of sales and sleazy marketing tactics. That’s why, instead of building authority, we instilled the concept of community, relatability, and a sense of intimacy and serenity across our brand, including our look, voice, our client experiences, and even our business model. Get clear on how you want people to feel about your brand and incorporate it across your business.

Just like any relationship, connection, trust, and loyalty are built through experience, experience with a person or a brand. People’s brand experience isn’t just their customer experience with you; it doesn’t start only when they become customers, and it doesn’t stop after having purchased from you. Your brand experience starts as soon as anyone comes in contact with your brand, which may be anywhere online or offline, and it continues as you keep in contact and nurture relationships with past customers. Reevaluate your brand experience and identify any areas that you can improve on to enhance referrals and retention.

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?

McDonald’s is one of the famous examples. They successfully transformed from an unhealthy fast-food chain into a fast-food chain that has a seasonal menu and healthy options, more like a cafe. Especially in international markets, they are considered the quality cafes where students and professionals work and where families spend quality time. Besides changing their menus, their new look, messaging, interiors, and consistent services are all designed to reach a more health-conscious crowd. The McDonald’s in different countries usually also have special menus that are exclusive to that region, which reinvent people’s traditional perception of a fast-food chain. To do a “brand makeover” successfully like McDonald’s, get clear on your goal and your target audience, and align everything you do in your business with this new brand you are building.

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. 🙂

We grow by lifting girls and women. The world and society we live in now lack equity for women and girls to thrive, and that’s a huge pool of brilliance and talent that is slipping through. Imagine what the world would be like when opportunities for women are accounted for? We would be at a very different place when we encourage ideas and innovation from women and actually include the entire human race as we continue to innovate, create, and work towards making the world a better place. The movement is the movement we’re in — a movement to lift others, especially girls and women.

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

One of my favorite quotes is from Brené Brown — “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” In the modern world where there are so much noise and comparison, it’s easy to get lost in social expectation and judgment, and never feeling enough. And because we are afraid of the judgment of others, we let fear get in the way of how we show up in life and at work. I lived in constant fear of judgment and failure. I strived for perfection and never allowed myself to share my ideas or work until they are perfect. Once I shifted my focus from being perfect to simply showing up and doing my best, I’m able to be more creative and produce more meaningful work in ways I never imagined. “Show up whole-heartedly” is also a core value of Olea & Fig. I believe that when we are willing to show up for one another and ourselves, that’s when we can finally remove the fear and judgment that are holding us back from doing our best work, and it’s when magic, synergy, and creativity happen.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find us at oleaandfig.com and @oleaandfig on Instagram.

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.

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