Cassia Marina: “Brand Experiences”

In a nutshell my advice is prioritize, plan and delegate. Prioritize your service offerings, focus on the offerings that bring your clients the most impact, and zone in, zone in zone in. Create a plan and batch where you can and everything else that you don’t need to be doing to make a budget to […]

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In a nutshell my advice is prioritize, plan and delegate. Prioritize your service offerings, focus on the offerings that bring your clients the most impact, and zone in, zone in zone in. Create a plan and batch where you can and everything else that you don’t need to be doing to make a budget to start small with delegating tasks. You will not regret it.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Cassia Marina.

Cassia grew up in the Caribbean twin- island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. She has a rich Caribbean background but not to be mistaken she has a great deal of North American influence in her upbringing as she also spent a significant part of her life living in the USA and Canada with her mom and other relatives.

As a child she remembers having a love for technology as back home in Trinidad computers were available but not apart of the day to day life as it was in the USA and Canada and every opportunity she had during her time in Canada at her cousin’s she spent a lot of time teaching herself how to type and all the other things that were not a focus on a Caribbean school system at a primary school (middle-school) level.

Cassia always had a knack for being creative and was always very creative. Her highschool art teacher discovered that about her very early on and it was because of the influence of this teacher she entered the field of graphic design, where she was able to pair her artistic skills with the love of using computers.

Cassia always had big dreams to attend the School of Visual Arts in New York but due to not having the financial support it was really a challenge leaving her grandmother in Trinidad behind to pursue her dream of attending. Instead due her hobby of modeling she one day ended up at an advertising agency where she eventually landed employment. Here she had the opportunity to gain real world graphic design and advertising experience with corporate advertising campaigns.

Eventually with becoming a mother her career working in advertising agencies came to an end as she decided to make the jump into flying solo with founding her own company. Like every other creative she started off freelancing but now she runs her own company as a Brand Strategist + Coach.

She quickly evolved from graphic designer to brand & web designer and then from working in the niche to help businesses get online, she again evolved quickly to being a Brand Strategist + Coach. All of her decade long years experience in the field allowed her to quickly increase the value she provides and outgrew her former roles to the Brand Strategist she is today. To learn more about Cassia you can find her via her website

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Oh wow it’s so funny that this is the first question because the same day I heard back from you guys to be interviewed I posted about this same thing, of how I got into this career path, on social media. I had a full circle moment that day with my old high school teacher.

So where it began was with starting my career as a graphic designer. I would not have started out here if it wasn’t for my highschool teacher who basically told me to do Art as one of my subjects for CXC. It’s a Caribbean wide exam that you complete at the end of your schooling, it’s kind of like the Caribbean equivalent of the SAT’s.

And coming to the end of my schooling I asked her well “what am I going to be doing with this, Art?” I had no idea there was a future to do anything with art besides holding art exhibitions. At least that’s the perception I had. Anyway fast forward I first heard about it from her, researched like crazy what it was and the rest was history and I have been in the advertising and marketing field ever since.

It took me a while to find my niche as a Brand Designer which quickly evolved to me becoming a Brand Strategist with so many years in the field, working in Advertising Agencies and alongside Business Owners to create an intentional brand online.

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?

Ah haha, well the typical build it and they will come! That’s my funniest marketing mistake, thinking that I could make sales without putting myself out there and promoting what I have to offer.

I mean I joke about this when it comes to website design all the time, where people have this notion that if you build it and launch that website, that a website is an instant remedy to making money online and that is simply not true.

But before I launched my first website, heck my first business, selling jewelry online via Facebook Pages, I was afraid to put myself out there and market myself. My biggest mistake was essentially not marketing myself because it felt weird.

But when you decide to get into business you gotta get comfortable doing things you aren’t comfortable doing and selling your products and services is one. I don’t know where we get the idea that hopes and prayers make sales but let’s just get something straight first.

When you get into business be prepared to market yourself or don’t bother getting into business at all.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

See when you live in a world where the majority of people really only care about themselves. Of course, we’re supposed to care about ourselves first and it’s our duty to honor ourselves first. However many people in business are not genuine. It gets all so transactional really quickly in the marketing and online business world.

People ACT like they care and that they listened to what your concerns and pain points are but it’s just another number for many people and the genuine people who are truly invested in your success and take a heart-centered approach to business are few and far between and I have learned that that is what makes me stand out. I and my company by extension, it is my core value to care and I am invested in your success.

When I first got into online business it was a way for a woman and a mother to make money from home. This is my personal business credo and I am super passionate about helping other women find independence, success and freedom through their unique skills, interests and talents and turning that into a business they enjoy.

When you run a business from something that you love, you get to share your love for that thing with others, solving problems in that space and all while building and growing a sustainable business and brand. This is my way of making an impact in the world through helping women build their businesses online doing what they love and make money doing so.

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

Oh I’m always cooking up an exciting new project. But of course we have to pace ourselves. What I am currently working on I cannot give too many details just yet as it’s a top secret project but what I can say is this.

Due to Covid-19 the world is craving connection and this project is near and dear to my heart in terms of bringing a community of women together to not feel so alone in building their businesses. An opportunity to connect for a moment leaving the traditional demands of life behind so you can step into your CEO role.

Other than that, my day to day projects for my business is relaunching my Basic to Branded workbook and making it a little more VIP and exclusive. My philosophy in business that works for me is a high level and high ticket because it forces you to take yourself and your dreams seriously, it challenges you to call yourself out on your crap.

And I don’t believe everyone has to have the same business philosophy, different things appeal and work for different people and I tried the opposite approach before and that just doesn’t work for me and connect me with my people.

The opposite I will say works for other people and that cool too and I believe it important to have that self awareness. That’s how you will find your thing.

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?

Ok so the way I would break down the difference between branding and advertising is like this and first we need to understand the meaning of both and once you understand it, it becomes easier to understand the difference.

Branding is the development of a brand and it’s products. Brand development is discovering the name of the brand, the voice and messaging of the brand, the visuals of the brand, the way you clothe it, package it and identify it. A process of discovery happens and then it’s built out. It’s the act of creating a character.

Whereas advertising is the distribution of the awareness that the brand exists. Advertising is coming up with the way you are going to get this brand’s product or service to be bought, to end up in the homes of the end user. Eg. radio, tv, social media ads, billboard, flyers, etc. Those things are advertising the brand but it’s not branding. It’s also the act of distributing the brand’s message through consistent messaging across all the chosen advertising channels.

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?

It’s important to invest resources and energy into building a brand because it establishes you as the go-to business or person for a specific thing. Having a trustworthy brand increases your influence and impact 10 fold in my opinion.

While yes, it’s a lot of work and it takes time, years actually, when you brand your business it’s a lot less work to gain the trust of a new customer and keep repeat business. When you have an established brand, people remember you, advocate for you and opportunities come your way. It’s pretty obvious to be honest.

When you look at items on a shelf, which item do you gravitate to first? The no name unpackaged product or the brand that you are familiar with even if you never used it before. Branding is a big aspect of establishing trust and credibility even if you never heard of a brand before. When it’s packaged well, from the visuals, the logo, the feel of the packaging, it’s positioned for being a company you can trust and take a chance on with your hard earned dollars.

It says a lot about the way the company does business. Branding positions you quickly in that sense and you are also able to compete easily rather than just relying on price as the determining factor as it’s proven that people will pay more for quality and service over saving a few dollars.

Even if they choose to save money today they will leave wanting to come back and buy good quality later on when they can. You become goals.

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.

To be honest I have a full 5 step framework to building your brand online but if I had to list all with a story that is would be a whole other article. But what I can do is outline the framework. To learn more about it just connect with me and I can share the guide for free.

My 5-Step framework includes:

  1. Brand Discovery: you first need clarity in order to move forward on any journey.
  2. Brand Visuals: you need to clothe the persona in visuals that resonate with the positioning you want to achieve
  3. Brand Experiences: This part is customer service, creating delightful and memorable experiences that keep customers wanting more
  4. Your Money: the point of business is to make money, so you need to create the right packages and pricing that suit both your business and customer
  5. Your Website: my niche is branding for online, especially in the digital world we live in today and you will need a website to launch online but a strategically build website

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?

As a coffee lover I would have to choose Starbucks. The Starbucks brand hands down continues to thrive even when there has been no so great publicity. But aside from that they do a create job of making their ideal customer, creatives, business people, nomads, there is just a specific type of person who identifies with Starbucks over something as simple as coffee.

That psychology of brandings ignites a feeling in you time and time again, something no other cup of coffee does in my opinion, each touch point from the architecture of it’s retail outlets, the packaging design and feel of the cups, the way they package up their menu items and signature coffees and drinks each detail has been carefully curated in a way that is artful. I love it. This is my aim for each and every small and medium business owner.

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?

It’s definitely different, but it can be similar, because the bottom line is always sales but it doesn’t have to be. If you have an increase in sales that’s also a KPI that’s valuable. But to keep it solely focused on a brand building, the main goal of a brand building campaign is visibility and distributing your messaging to position your desired brand perception.

In the digital world it is much easier to measure the success of a brand building campaign through pulling your analytics. You can track your social media analytics, website analytics, form enquiries, etc. In the offline aspect it can be more challenging to track things like how well that billboard or flyer contributed to your brand building efforts but what you can do is conduct surveys in the field to pull data or in your new enquiry form you can place as a question how did you find out about us.

Eg. For surveys, if 100 people are surveyed after a campaign how many people know of the brand and can answer more in depth questions of the brand and if 50 of these people know of the brand how many people did not know of the brand prior to the campaign for example.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media plays a huge role in my brand’s efforts, specifically through content marketing. I rely more on content marketing than running ads at this time. But content marketing also happens off of my social media, there is my podcast, blog, newsletter, youtube, etc but again social media is a sizable aspect for awareness and distribution of the content and then there is SEO which helps my business be found by strangers on the internet.

Additionally and truthfully I don’t know where I would be without content marketing through social media. I got my big start with going LIVE on FB and that is where I truly built my tribe and it’s grown from those humble beginnings.

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

Love this question as it’s a content theme of mine for my brand. As creative entrepreneurs it’s so easy to love your business so much because you enjoy it and even over commit to things that you put too much on your plate that you can chew. I actually cover this on my podcast Tea Time | The Podcast with Cassia Marina, feel free to look it up.

But in a nutshell my advice is prioritize, plan and delegate. Prioritize your service offerings, focus on the offerings that bring your clients the most impact, and zone in, zone in zone in. Create a plan and batch where you can and everything else that you don’t need to be doing to make a budget to start small with delegating tasks. You will not regret it.

Oh and lastly create boundaries, create space for your mental and physical health. Your health is truly your wealth. When you are rejuvenated you are able to give your business the best of you and that is the only way to thrive.

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 it would be to Amplify Caribbean voices in the online business space. We have loads of talent in the Caribbean and contrary to popular belief I know there are many challenges to hear our voices on international stages when it comes to marketing.

We are actually pretty brilliant and at least very on par with digital marketing trends and I know we can give our international peeps a run for our money. But there are various forces that seem to keep our voices soft in the distance. I cannot even say why. But a brief example many things aren’t available in our region when it comes to Instagram or FB Ad reach and that stifles growth and gives other regions unfair advantage.

We are not just a region to come to vacation, you can come here and do business, physically and virtually. Some islands are easier than others but that’s another story. lol

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

If I had to choose one of my favorite life lesson quotes are “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”. This quote is so fitting because personally for a very long time I tried to be understood and tried to fit in when it comes to my own personal brand. Not that I wasn’t being authentic but I tried to water down the very essence of what makes me, me. I have lost myself many times but always comes back to being my true authentic self.

I finally realized one day that those who get me, get me and those who don’t don’t and I don’t need to explain each facet of my personality as long as I know I am living in my true authentic expression. So often we are worried about being judged and the very premise of building a personal brand even is to be authentic so there is no quote that is more relevant than this.

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. 🙂

Oh wow, put on the spot. Okayyyy. If I had to have lunch or breakfast with a very prominent leader in business it would definitely be Rhianna. Love her and her music but especially because she is truly business savvy as well as Caribbean. I’d love to learn from her as well as work with her. And all that aside Rhianna is pure vibes.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

While I can be found on Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. My main playground is Instagram and I can be found at @_cassiamarina, that is the best social media channel to connect with me.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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