Remain true to your brand. When you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one. Figure out who it is that your brand attracts and lean into them rather than trying to walk a fine line with others. You don’t necessarily need to narrow your audience too much too soon, but when the market talks, listen and pivot as you learn more.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Jacques Spitzer, founder of creative and performance marketing agency, Raindrop. Jacques is an Emmy award-winning storyteller and published author who entertains, inspires growth and gives a fresh spin on universal truths to allow others to own their future. He is a successful entrepreneur and impactful relationship architect who is laser-focused on taking people and brands to their next level.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I had a great college experience studying Communications at UCSD. After graduating, I got a job as a writer at San Diego’s local NBC news station. About a year into the role, I began to feel like my future wasn’t in news. At that time, I was being mentored by an NBC News anchor Susan Taylor, having conversations with my high school history teacher Casey Tanaka and trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. Susan, along with Jackie Bradford, then-president of the local NBC station, told me I would be great in marketing. I had no formal marketing degree or marketing background, but they saw that I was always putting forward my ideas and the ideas of others.
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?
One of the first large companies to hire Raindrop was GNP Frame. We were just about a year into our business, and they engaged us to help grow their audience through email marketing campaigns and organic social media.
About 6 to 8 weeks into the engagement, we created a “sweetheart” deal as a Valentine’s Day promotion — except we ended up sending out an email blast for a “sweatheart” deal. I had worked Nathan Goodson, the director of GNP, previously at a different company, and, fortunately, he was very kind and understanding about the whole thing. But still, he was one of the first people to give us a shot, so it was unfortunate. While that campaign was a mistake I’ll never forget, we later helped Nathan launch Sam’s Club Custom Framing, using aspects of the GNP business. So that was a thrilling part of our journey.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In August 2020, we were excited to learn we had the top-performing ad of the year on YouTube (for Dr. Squatch). This has been a historic year for ecommerce, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of fear, pain and uncertainty, we had this great thing happen — essentially, creating one of the top-performing digital ads in human history. We’ve seen a lot of success with clients by creating ads that people don’t want to skip; rather, they enjoy them enough to want to buy the product being advertised.
We’re able to achieve these results because we have the kindest, hardest working, most humble team members who collaborate generously to get to the best idea. Design, media, social, content — they’re firing on all cylinders and aren’t afraid to get creative in order to get the best possible outcome. When people come to us from other agencies, we often hear how unique we are, and it makes us stand out.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have so many exciting things going on for so many different clients that it’s hard to talk about just one. Here are a few that come to mind:
- We’re launching a cool new set of tools for WORX, which will transform the way people create and make things.
- We’re working with Caveman Foods to bring their healthy, nutritional and all-natural snack products to a larger audience like we did with Dr. Squatch. As a team, we are always excited to be a part of bringing better products into the world with really fun and engaging ads that make people smile, share and buy.
- In early 2020, we started working with Honeybug, a baby and toddler brand, which I had previously personally used with my friends, family and clients. Since working with Honeybug, we’ve seen their business quintuple. Honeybug will definitely be a brand to watch in 2021.
- We have brands like Omigo, Dr. Squatch, Kore Essentials and Crossrope coming off a record shattering year and some fun newer clients like Finchberry, WeShipFloors, Pit Liquor and Park Scents Candles (candles that smell exactly like theme park rides!). We’re also excited to see and support clients coming back from the pandemic, such as restaurants and the San Diego Symphony.
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?
Great question. Generally, brands fall into one of two categories. The first category is that of already having market penetration and awareness, in which case the goal is not necessarily to explain the benefits of the product or service, but rather to remain top of mind. For these brands, recognition can be the difference between a purchase and losing out to a competitor. Branding makes people feel something.
The second category belongs to brands that need advertising more than branding in order to be specific about their approach. The goal here is to make sure that, by the time someone is done with an ad, they’re thinking, “I need or want that.” The purpose of the ad isn’t just entertainment; it’s to get a direct response and have them take action. Our work with Dr. Squatch, for example, started with creating a brand that would reach a broader audience and not just a niche group. Our goal was to bring natural soap to the masses through advertising, and that’s what we’ve been able to build and grow.
Branding and advertising are in our name for a reason — they go hand in hand.
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?
When we do our brand identity sessions — which our writing team does a wonderful job running — we extract main brand talking points that we’re always coming back to in our marketing communications. Without consistency, messaging becomes diluted. Independent or one-off efforts may be effective in getting someone to make a purchase, but we want them to connect and build a relationship with the brand. Clients sometimes come to us selling on Amazon, which means they’re selling a product, not a brand. They haven’t built a connection with their audience to make them more likely to buy or rebuy. Fostering relationships and consistently delivering tailored messaging creates the difference between branding and flat-out advertising.
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.
- Establish a brand identity. During the 1990s and early 2000s, companies focused heavily on things like their mission statement and core values. The problem with that is that it’s about you, not about how other people feel about you. Successful brands make people feel something. For example, a soap company isn’t selling soap; they’re selling confidence and a fresh feeling. If we’re selling sparkling wine, we want people to feel like winners celebrating an accomplishment even before that wine bottle has been popped. It all starts with the brand identity.
- Stay consistent. You have to be consistent with your marketing, messaging, and the customer experience.
- Understand and address pain points. This means being empathetic to what the consumer is experiencing and offering a solution to a problem, whether the problem is known or unknown. A video we produced for WeShipFloors is an example of this. WeShipFloors carries 100% waterproof and durable flooring. To put this into context for the consumer, we pointed out how carpet traps dirt and bacteria. So, not only are we showcasing the pinnacle of quality for the price point, but we’re also opening people’s eyes to the fact that, if they have pets, dirt and hair are likely still lingering, even after vacuuming, etc.
- Figure out what the self-expressive benefits of your brand are. That is a fancy way of saying: What am I saying about myself as a consumer by wearing your logo on my shirt, or buying your product? What do I stand for? As a brand, you need to be able to answer those questions and put those answers in front of people so that they can opt-in to your brand.
- Remain true to your brand. When you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one. Figure out who it is that your brand attracts and lean into them rather than trying to walk a fine line with others. You don’t necessarily need to narrow your audience too much too soon, but when the market talks, listen and pivot as you learn more.
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?
I have to go with Dr. Squatch. Whether you’re interacting with one of their ads, browsing their website, receiving an email or checking out their social accounts, everything is engaging, entertaining and providing value — they’re giving information about men’s hygiene in a cool and relatable (think cool older brother) way. When you read YouTube and Facebook comments, they’re 98% positive, which is rare on the internet. People genuinely look forward to and enjoy the ads as they come out. With 250 million views and over 20x sales growth in three years, Dr. Squatch exemplifies the power of what brands can do using the five strategies outlined above.
Another example of an inspiring brand is Disney. They lead with magic, imagination and a sense of safety, which is evident in the immersive experiences they create. I also appreciate how big of a stance they now take on diversity and inclusion. Disney is always dreaming about how to build the future.
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?
Brand-building campaigns are return on relationship (ROR) rather than just return on investment (ROI). They’re about how much of an impact you can make, how much value you can bring to someone’s day and, ultimately, how you can become a positive part of their life. It’s a hard thing to measure. Good brands know how to measure their success; great brands understand the art form of sustaining a brand. Not everything is transactional; it’s something much bigger and less defined. It’s the magic of falling in love with a brand and going out of your way to purchase from one company over another, even if it means paying a little more. You can find ways to measure this, but at the end of the day, it’s about taking a leap of faith and trusting that, by doing things with intention and consistency, you’ll move the needle over time. Of course, it can’t be all about branding; you have to sell as well.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social media is an enormous part of branding. It’s where conversations happen, and so brands need to be there. Social is word of mouth marketing on steroids. For example, having your close acquaintance post about a restaurant or brand is much more meaningful than seeing an influencer post about it. There is a lot of power in someone close to you promoting and valuing a brand. Social media is also invaluable in expanding your market while also targeting your efforts to drive conversions.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
When I first started the business, it was just me. There are lots of things I am good at and lots of things I am not good at — and that is where other people have been such a big part of my journey to stay positive even in the most difficult of times. I was able to bring on incredible business partners and team members. I’m so fortunate to have had Josh Cartmell and Yena Lee as the first people I interacted with on this journey, and now I am surrounded by people every day that inspire me and spark joy. People like Adam Wagner (my business partner), and our department leads and supervisors like Carrie Jones, Tom O’Hara, Marco Pelloni, Priya Iyer, Heather Pimentel, Nick Geddis, Lauren Eschborn, Michelle Adams, Andrea Pundeff, Andrew Ruiz, Andrew Catania, Kelsey Buller and Dr. Danny Kim (our Director of People and Culture). We have scoured the world to find these special 50+ team members!
A lot of people tend to hit burnout when they stop doing things they love and instead do things they think they should be doing. It’s not about hours worked, especially if those hours are spent doing something that is important to you.
In my late twenties, I experienced genetic depression for the first time, which threw me for a loop because things couldn’t have been going better. But at the same time, I was extremely anxious and worried about things going wrong. Being able to identify that and learning how to navigate and battle those feelings, while working on my overall mental wellness, has allowed me to get to a place of being optimistic, even during the pandemic. Depression, at times, threatened my ability to thrive, but I am now grateful to understand what I’m experiencing and be able to speak to it and empathize with others.
I have immense joy and gratitude and have never been more energized. I love my team — we may not all be together in the office currently do to COVID (I do miss that), but I still love what we get to do and who we get to do it with.
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’m passionate about a lot of things. In terms of mental wellness, we have a long way to go to normalize the fact that what we’re battling is emotional, genetic and even spiritual in nature. There are a lot of forces at play, and, so often, people don’t utilize a therapist or mentor. In life, there are so few things you’d try to do alone — you wouldn’t fly a plane without taking lessons, for example. But so many of us try to pilot our lives without being equipped with the tools we need to do so.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ll share three. The first is from my seventh-grade teacher, Mr. Thangaraj, who said, “Early is on time, on time is late, late is unacceptable.” I’ve lived on that quote ever since.
The second is from my father, who always said that “Positive activity breeds activity”. Not all of our efforts will lead to output, but positive inputs will lead to positive results.
The third is from Jeff Campbell, the former CEO of Burger King and a close mentor of mine. He says, “You’re just a rock in their play.” We often overemphasize the role we think we play in other people’s lives, putting the burden on ourselves. Letting some of that burden go saves a lot of time and energy.
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 man, I can’t choose just one!
- Breakfast: Will Smith. Not only is he one of the greatest entertainers of our time, but he has found a way to maintain professional relevancy as a storyteller. Check out his TikTok.
- Brunch: Lori Greiner. Seeing the way her mind works when it comes to products — being able to immediately identify what’s a hero — makes her an incredibly impressive businessperson with a ton of savvy.
- Lunch: Marcus Lemonis. Another inspiring businessperson. He reminds me SO MUCH of my business partner.
- Dinner: Jesus. I am so curious what he thinks about everything going on in the world right now.
- Dessert: Oprah Winfrey. She has met everyone important in this world over the last 25+ years. The stories she could tell.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.