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“Be Transparent.” with Fotis Georgiadis & Paige Arnof-Fenn

Consider whether the importance of purpose driven brands is relevant to your rebrand. Consumers, especially women, do not just buy brands they like to join them. Finding ways to connect with your customers on a deeper level in a way that transcends the product or service you are selling is the goal. Purpose gives buyers the reason […]

Consider whether the importance of purpose driven brands is relevant to your rebrand. Consumers, especially women, do not just buy brands they like to join them. Finding ways to connect with your customers on a deeper level in a way that transcends the product or service you are selling is the goal. Purpose gives buyers the reason why they should buy you versus the competition. Purpose creates loyalty with your customers and attracts great talent too, people love being associated with a great mission and it drives organizations to find new forms of value which accelerates growth. With more loyal customers and less turnover in staff, the organization becomes more profitable too. Consumers become advocates and champions for the brand which keeps marketing costs lower too. Coke’s mission of refreshing the world in mind, body and spirit and inspiring moments of optimism and happiness came through in their Super Bowl ads under the theme of “Different is beautiful, together is beautiful too“ as groups of people shared their love of Coke. Brands like Always and Dove have done an excellent job too of connecting with women and girls on a deeper level and empowering them to achieve greatness and feel beautiful.


As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Paige Arnof-Fenn. Paige is the founder & CEO of global marketing and branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. She is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Paige! 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?

I did not plan on starting a company. I always wanted to go work for a large multi-national business and be a Fortune 500 CEO. When I was a student I looked at leaders like Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as my role models. I started my career on Wall Street in the 80s and had a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and worked at 3 different startups as the head of marketing. I took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. Being an entrepreneur provides me a platform to do work I truly enjoy with and for people I respect. I get to set my priorities, I have time to travel and hang out with my inner circle, and work out every day. It has been a journey to get here but I am lucky to have found it. I love the autonomy, flexibility and the fact that I know every day the impact that I have on my business. When I worked at big companies I always felt the ball would roll with or without me, that if I got hit by a bus someone new would be in my office right away. Now my DNA is in everything we do and I can trace every decision and sale to something I did or a decision I made and that is incredibly gratifying and fulfilling. Like most entrepreneurs, I am working harder and longer than ever and I have never been happier. Working for yourself and building a business you started in incredibly rewarding and gratifying. It has been a lot of fun, I joke that I am the accidental entrepreneur. I knew I had made it as an entrepreneur when Harvard wrote 2 case studies on my business a few years after I started it, we were very early to pioneer sharing resources on the marketing front (before my company it was really only done with HR, legal and accounting/finance).

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?

It can be hard to laugh at mistakes but looking back I remember one week early on when I had 3 or 4 talks lined up over a couple of day period so I went from one evening event to a breakfast the next morning to a lunch and evening talk the following day. I enjoy public speaking and get a lot of referrals and business that way. The morning after my final speech I showed up at a meeting with a prospective client along with a ew of my colleagues and I realized I was completely out of business cards. I was so embarrassed and my team laughed at me since I always remind them it is important to be professional and prepared all the time. I ended up sending a hand written thank you note to the prospect with my card enclosed and we won the business so I turned my mistake into a good outcome plus I have never run out of business cards again! It is a great lesson in the power of humility, resilience, persistence, manners and having a sense of humor.

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?

In the first few years of my business I had pitched a CEO about a month before I ran into her at a networking event where she was the keynote speaker and her topic was about being a woman leader in a traditionally male-dominated business. I had followed up after sending my proposal several times via e-mail and voice mail but the CEO never returned any of my messages or even acknowledged receipt of the proposal requested. You can imagine my shock when she announced at this event as part of her speech that she believes it is important to put your money where your mouth is and for women CEOs to support other respected & well-run women’s businesses and that is why she has hired my firm to handle all her company’s marketing & PR! Everyone congratulated me after, it was a better endorsement than the New York Times because she was very well known and had the reputation of being very tough with high standards so I got a LOT of business from people in the room that night because they thought if I was able to impress her I must be very good 😉 I am so glad I showed up at that event! She continued to refer business and talk about how great our services were until she sold her company years later. Wowing her was a huge multiplier for my business in the early days and helped us build a great reputation from the start.

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

Current projects include market research for a B2B tech company, new websites for several B2B and B2C companies, creative development for a nonprofit, public relations and marketing communications for several tech start ups. We do anything a marketing department, ad agency, market research shop or PR agency does on an outsourced basis. We have resources in 14 cities in the US and major metro areas overseas. Everyone in the group comes out of industry so our heads and hearts are much more aligned with our clients than a typical agency or consulting firm. We are not professional PowerPoint makers, we have actually done the job as marketing and communication leaders so our recommendations come from having been in our clients’ seats before. We are an extension of their team and spend their money the way they do, not as a vendor so I think that is a compelling angle when they hire us. We do not see marketing as a necessary evil, we believe in the power of great brands and think all organizations regardless of size or budget deserve great marketing advice. Our passion comes through in our tag line and everything we do.

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

It might sound counterintuitive but my favorite hack is to disconnect from technology and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships. Meeting for coffee or lunch not only allows you to refuel and recharge but it also can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams. I have found that building relationships is what drives my business and technology supports them once they are solidified. Technology helps advance the conversation but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time.

I also try to find creative ways to multi task that incorporates work and exercise. When I worked at large companies they had gyms at the office or groups who walked at lunch but when you are an entrepreneur you have to get creative to find balance. Instead of meeting up with your local colleagues at a coffee shop, over a meal or chatting with them on the phone, meet them for a walk so you can catch up while you are getting some exercise too. You’ll feel great after, the time will fly & it will be a fun activity to share. It works with customers too, I have clients who play golf so sometimes we meet at a driving range instead of the office to discuss things especially when you are trying to think outside the box. A change in venue is always nice and you feel so much better when you are moving and not trapped behind your desk. The other tips I like to incorporate are taking public transportation when possible, parking at the far end of the lot and walking as well as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, it adds up to a lot of extra steps and movement if you do it every day. I think that respecting my time on the calendar and taking myself as seriously as I take my most important clients is the least I can do because if I am not at my peak performance I am not going to be useful to anyone else either.

Give yourself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), getting a massage, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself. Like most small business owners and entrepreneurs there are never enough hours in the day to fit everything in so when something has to give it is usually time I have allocated for myself to exercise or just relax. What I have come to appreciate and realize in my 50s is that “me time” is not a luxury or pampering like it was in my youth, now it is maintenance!

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?

I have spent much of my marketing career working for world-class brands including Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola. A brand is a promise in the hearts & minds of your customer of a consistent experience. You know when you walk into a Starbucks or McDonald’s and you order a Frappachino or Big Mac exactly what you are getting whether you are in Omaha, Santa Fe, London or Boston. It will be the same everywhere and that is comforting and reassuring. Brands deliver promises, they will be there as promised. We have come to expect that and it makes us happy. It is important for a company to own specific real estate in their customers’ brains so that when they need that specific product or service they know exactly where to go to find it. Brands help you stand out from your competition. Without a brand you are a commodity so have to compete on price. A brand is what makes you visible and considered by customers. Your brand is how other people feel about your company, not how you feel about it. What great brands understand is that their brand is not the hero. The brand is the guide, and the hero is always the customer.

Branding is the systematic process to develop the strategy and Advertising is a piece of the marketing pie, one of the tools in the marketing toolkit to reach your target audience and help persuade them to purchase your product or service. Ads change regularly with new messages and content but the brand values remain consistent over time.

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?

My business school professor used ot say “marketing is everything and everything is marketing” but it is the brand that helps you become visible in an increasingly invisible world. If you do not have a brand then you are a commodity and have to compete solely on price. Brands create value and personality which allows you to charge a premium and stand out vs your competition. Brands also help you build relationships with your customers.

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

We do a lot of rebranding work for our clients and it is time to review your brand when the market changes with new products or services, new competition comes in, new tools like social media enter the scene, consolidation starts to occur, etc. Market conditions dictate the need and timing of a rebrand across all industries, none are immune. In my experience, there really are no tricks or short cuts to success, the classic branding principles still apply: figure out who your target audience is & what is important to them, pick out no more than 2 or 3 key messages you want to communicate and reinforce those key messages in everything you do. Whether you use print, online media, direct mail, social media, etc. these rules still apply. Brand marketing plans are not about whether you send a postcard or e-mail blast, it is about understanding who buys your product or service and what info they need to make a decision. It is more about benefits than features. What is in it for THEM not you? What works in 2020 is being authentic and doing your homework. Listen to your customers. Understand what real estate you own in their minds vs. your competition. Be consistent so that every touchpoint reinforces those key messages you want to communicate. If you do that you are on your way to building a great brand. It worked for me in my corporate career at P&G, Coke, the 3 startups where I ran marketing and now in my own company and it will work for you too!

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

The key to a successful rebrand is Being true to your company’s identity and making it all about the customers you want to serve. Customers can tell if you’re rebranding just for the sake of change or because you want to tell the story of who you have become. Rebranding isn’t just about changing graphic designs, it’s about making inner transformation outwardly tangible so companies should only embark on a rebranding effort when there is a new story to tell. it must be authentic to be successful.

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.

  1. It all starts with Market Research to evaluate your current brand assets and how your brand resonates (or not) with your customers, prospects, employees, and key stakeholders vs, your competitors. Make sure you question your assumptions and examine them against your research findings and data not just what you think.
  2. Build a team you cannot rebrand in a vacuum. Involve key stakeholders from the beginning and throughout the entire rebranding process, through to post-launch. Collaboration, participation, and communication are all part of rebranding best practices. Change for change sake can backfire so make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and have the right team in place to activate it and roll it out after.
  3. Keep it simple. Companies seeking to refresh their identities are opting to make their visuals clean and uncluttered. Brand simplification and minimalist designs look best on digital media, particularly on mobile devices, and are characterized by the use of white or negative space and clean fonts. I like Mastercard’s streamlined logo dropping its name idss a great example of it done well since the colors and brand are so recognizable.
  4. Consider whether the importance of purpose driven brands is relevant to your rebrand. Consumers, especially women, do not just buy brands they like to join them. Finding ways to connect with your customers on a deeper level in a way that transcends the product or service you are selling is the goal. Purpose gives buyers the reason why they should buy you versus the competition. Purpose creates loyalty with your customers and attracts great talent too, people love being associated with a great mission and it drives organizations to find new forms of value which accelerates growth. With more loyal customers and less turnover in staff, the organization becomes more profitable too. Consumers become advocates and champions for the brand which keeps marketing costs lower too. Coke’s mission of refreshing the world in mind, body and spirit and inspiring moments of optimism and happiness came through in their Super Bowl ads under the theme of “Different is beautiful, together is beautiful too“ as groups of people shared their love of Coke. Brands like Always and Dove have done an excellent job too of connecting with women and girls on a deeper level and empowering them to achieve greatness and feel beautiful.
  5. Be Transparent. Whether a company is making a play for a new market, introducing a new product, or simply looking to shake things up, transparency is key to a successful redesign. I think PBS did a great job recently bringing their “flip-phone brand” into an “iPhone world,” It was not a radical departure but they brought their audience along with them in a smooth transition recognizing the broad demographic they reach without jeopardizing the high level of trust of their brand equity.

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?

I think the rebrand of Federal Express into FedEx in the 90s is a great example of a successful rebrand. The new name and visual identity perfectly encapsulate the company’s value proposition: speed. And the new logo even has a hidden arrow in between the E and the X which is brilliant and very clever. The new branding catapulted FedEx into the next century and still remains relevant and powerful today.

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’d try to start a kindness movement to counterbalance what we see in Washington and all over the media today. I grew up in the South and people were generally nice, respectful, kind, and friendly. I do not believe life or business is a zero sum game. We do not have to divide up the pie we can work together to bake more pies so there is enough to go around. I think the people around the world in the center want peace and we need find ways to bring the extremists back into the fold but it is going to take people from all walks of life to band together to make it happen. There really is more in common across cultures when you realize everyone wants the best for their family and community so we should all be putting our energy into building stronger foundations and ecosystems that will help us all.

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

This quote really resonates with me:

I am strong because I have been weak

I am fearless because I have been scared

I am wise because I have been foolish

It is an important reminder that stumbling is part of the journey to success. As an entrepreneur you just have to keep going and pick yourself up and be smarter every time you get up and try again. It was true for Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Sara Blakely and it is true for me too!

Another one I really like is “you have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t.” Again, making mistakes is just part of the process. Brilliant.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/paigearnoffenn

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

Thank you!

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