Partnerships: Recognize the ones in your industry that are making a significant impact and reach out. Work with them, offer their services, or simply sponsor an event together. Focusing on consumers over competition is an excellent way to reassert yourself in your market. Nike has been working athletes for decades but more recently they have shifted their focus, rarely highlighting their own products but highlighting the athletes themselves, the diversity seen in the game and the power of the audience.
As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Adjani Jensen a Freelance Digital Marketing Specialist. She works with entrepreneurs, small businesses, and corporations to establish and publicize cohesive and compelling brand identities. As a former SEO specialist and current Social Media Strategist, Adjani believes in the power of a strong online message. By building a community around the brands with which she works, Adjani has helped several companies establish themselves as authoritative thought-leaders in their industry.
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?
Ienjoyed working with startups and have seen first hand the importance of cohesive branding and marketing. There is a lot of excitement in a startup and a lot of ideas. It is an especially daunting challenge trying to distill that into a brand with a singular message and focus. Even more daunting is the task of putting that message out in the public, conveying your excitement and simultaneously displaying why this should mean something to them. I have also worked with large corporations who HAD to rebrand because of missteps and a lack of viability and I thought I can use their mistakes as a cautionary tale for smaller business. It’s imperative to always have your branding very clearly in mind so small but necessary adjustments can be made regularly without something catastrophic happening.
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?
At the first startup I worked for I relied too heavily on large events and overestimated my presentation skills. We had a great product but no message. So I learned that simply showing a product, as good as it may be, to a group of people outside of our immediate circle, will never work. I saw very quickly how much marketing is like a journey and branding is what convinces you to take that first step. I quickly learned the importance of strategy, dedicated marketing materials, and follow-up.
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’s still a work in progress but I know the point at which I felt comfortable “pushing back” against traditional and (occasionally) outdated ideas of branding and marketing. I worked with a non-profit startup who had a great idea and had found a truly rewarding niche but they just couldn’t gain traction. I came in to help with their website and quickly saw the problem. Too many ideas and not enough plans. Learning the value of strategy was where I really started to see success. Building a plan and not being rigidly consumed with the plan is key. Harnessing creativity is never easy but it is necessary and once I learned that I was able to build some really strong messaging for those I worked with.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’ve been working a lot with the fashion industry, specifically sustainable fashion. I’m working on some branding guidelines for stylists and models, looking to promote themselves on their own terms and join this really exciting new space. Sustainability needs to be more than a buzzword and my hope is to guide people beyond the fad. There are also countless issues being addressed by the broad term of sustainability. I think now that we have identified it as the next necessary thing we need to break it down and find a focus within the concept in order to really have an impact.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
As a freelancer, I hate saying no to projects. Clients equal relationships and that’s really how you build business. But again (broken record time) you may need to refocus. Take a break, not from all work because we all need to make a living but choose times throughout the year to be more selective. Whether it’s sticking to one industry, or sticking to one product or mission, that consistency is what will save your sanity. For example, for me, February and September equals fashion months. I work on all fashion all the time. They are extremely hectic times but that focus can actually be refreshing.
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?
Branding vs. Advertising
Branding is a presentation of your company to your audience. Your brand draws from your mission, your vision, your actions and products, and your interaction with your consumers. Advertising is presenting the need for a product and service and a solution (you) to that need. If your brand is in alliance with your consumer’s ideals there is a greater likelihood that when a need arises they will choose your product. Brand marketing is more about building relational connections over time while product marketing is filling a specific need at a specific 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?
From a sociological point of view, our natural inclinations revolve around trust and trustworthiness. We are wired to trust so when trust is taken advantage of or broken it is a momentous and considerable loss. Conversely, building trust, while certainly being an investment of time and resources, will help you to see returns that are exponential. Building a brand is like building a relationship so while general marketing and advertising may sell a product, branding is going to build a following, a relationship with consumers, old and new, and this is what allows for viability and longevity.
Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?
There is necessary rebranding and opportunity rebranding. Necessary is when there has been some misstep on the part of the company and a new narrative is needed to not only address the problem but signify growth.
Then there’s the case of a company who is foreseeing stagnation of some sort and feels the best way to remain relevant is to rebrand. This kind of rebrand may highlight new leadership, opportunities, or products.
The key takeaway is both signal growth, whether it’s physical or intellectual. Showing the public that you can learn and apply what you have learned is a necessary step in any business.
Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a brand makeover? Why?
There is a company that I worked with that had been in business for upwards of 30 years. They were able to maintain a place in their industry by being aware of changing trends and revamping their product offerings as needed. However when it came to their branding, each time they would address their branding it was always with reluctance. For example, anytime they would “rebrand” it involved a website update, but they never committed fully to a new design. They would always maintain the old sites and include a link to the previous versions. I don’t recommend this. First and foremost it is a lot of unnecessary effort that can be put to better use. It’s also showing your customers that you can’t decide what your future is going to be. Any type of rebranding will be a leap of faith. And educated leap of faith. But a leap of faith nonetheless.
Your brand is who you are, what you stand for, and your goals for the future. If you can’t commit whole-heartedly to a new vision, skip it.
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.From service to expert by utilizing social media- At this point everyone has seen the necessity for social media but knowing you need it and using it well are two very different things. When reestablishing your social media presence it’s important to stand tall and position yourself as an authority in your industry. I’m not just a carpet cleaner anymore, I am an expert that you know and can trust and this is what I have learned from my years of experience. Here are tips, how to videos, articles from other industry experts, etc.
2. Show your growth- Be transparent about past faults and present specific and targeted ways to fix it. Gucci- black face sweater. A huge number of people are involved from design to production to presentation and NO ONE raised a red flag. Not acceptable. This wasn’t just a bad idea, it was a failing on the part of the entire workforce, one who’s knowledge did not and could not represent what they don’t know. Solution: Inclusivity. As more than a buzzword. New policy, and new division and committed aly whose concern is outside of the good of the company, looking for the good of community and society. (Dapper Dan)
3. Education Connection- Do more than troll college campuses for interns to run errands and do grunt work. Parsons X Teen Vogue Fashion Essentials Certification- Teen Vogue went from monthly print, to print and digital, to social media guru and continues to find ways to stay, not just relevant, but at the center of conversation. Teen Vogue is not just for the teen subset, it is now defining what is need-to-know or essential for the industry as a whole.
4. Focus on what’s working- Older example, but Dunkin Donuts turned into essentially a coffee house because that was where the growth opportunity was. Convenience stores have now turned to fancy gas stations. Retail fashion market is changing its narrative away from rampant consumerism by embracing fashion rental services.
5. Partnerships- Recognize the ones in your industry that are making a significant impact and reach out. Work with them, offer their services, or simply sponsor an event together. Focusing on consumers over competition is an excellent way to reassert yourself in your market. Nike has been working athletes for decades but more recently they have shifted their focus, rarely highlighting their own products but highlighting the athletes themselves, the diversity seen in the game and the power of the audience.
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 Netflix has taught some really strong lessons and succeed exponentially where others have failed. At the inception Netflix was providing a convenient solution to movie rentals and sales. It expanded to add streaming and then again to add media production. The company shifted with industry demand in a (seemingly) seamless way that kept customers happy and invested. And these were not small tasks they were taking on. The streaming video model itself is a behemoth especially when trying to produce a platform that is cohesive worldwide and that works on such a huge variety of technologies. I’m sure they had hiccups but as a consumer since early on I did not see them. I also noticed as they went through different phases of their development but, again, I didn’t notice it’s effect on quality. It was simply like they were growing up. I think this shows the importance of balance between perfecting your niche and moving on to what’s next. I think a company should always have one entity focused on the future, whether that’s simply research or actual development of new ideas.
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 love the new shared workspaces that have taken hold recently. I would love to see an enhancement in that model. Provide additional financial support and resources for soloprenuers, small businesses, and those who have retired but still have this incredible body of knowledge to give and the willingness( and occasionally the need) to work past retirement.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Maya Angelou has been my inspiration most of my life. Her poems “Phenomenal Woman” and “Still I Rise” are so powerful and really have spoken to me throughout my career. Specifically there’s a line that sticks with me:
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like life, I’ll rise. (Original is air; in a live reading Maya updated it to life which I absolutely love)
Life is hard and unexpected things often cause some form of discomfort. It’s important to expect a certain amount of distress but not the point of pessimism. It’s a fact of life but life as a whole is good. So when these trials inevitably come along we can make it through and come through the other side stronger.
How can our readers follow you online?
I can be found on Social Media : FB- Adjani Jensen Web Design IG- @every_day_armour
Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.