Have a clear purpose and stay true to your core principles. Clearly define them, communicate them to your team, and whatever you do next, ensure that you live up to those core principles. In busy environments, it’s very easy to lose focus or drift away, so make sure you always question yourself: “Why am I doing this?”
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Jolanta Balciene.
Jolanta Balciene is Head of Marketing at NordPass and NordLocker. She holds an MBA and has nearly fifteen years of experience in various marketing fields. Jolanta has built a versatile skill set, including marketing strategy, customer acquisition/retention, team leadership, and branding. In her free time, Jolanta loves learning new things (she recommends Audible to those who like to multitask) and discovering new places both locally and internationally.
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 think I was very lucky to have met a lecturer during my studies who got me so interested in marketing that I never looked back. Marketing is a mix of psychology, analytical thinking, and creativity — I think these are the main reasons I enjoy it so much.
I worked in the education sector for the majority of my career. My job was to advertise different study programs: from apprenticeships to university degrees and global audiences. Today, I work in the cybersecurity industry, which is all about educating wide audiences about the safer choices out there, ensuring that they can prevent unfortunate breaches or data loss. Cybersecurity changes so quickly that it keeps me on my toes and is never boring. There’s always something new to learn, and this makes my days interesting. So, I guess luck and the willingness to be in a fast-changing environment led me to where I’m now.
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?
While it’s not necessarily funny or a mistake, I learned something very important during the early stages of my career. If something sounds too good to be true, it’s most likely not real, whether it’s an offer from an agency or a marketing opportunity from an unknown partner. Every decision needs to be calculated and based on real, insightful, and meaningful data. Only then can we make an informed decision based on numbers rather than on empty promises.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Password management is not a new concept; some of our competitors have been in the market since the late 90s.
However, some things make NordPass stand out:
- User-centric approach. Whatever we do, our users are in the centre of it. From day one of NordPass’s launch, we opened many communication channels with our users, gathered feedback, and passed it to the product team. And we’re happy to see that users are noticing that.
- An amazing team. It’s motivated, professional, and full of passion for detail. We don’t take the easy way out and don’t like to cut corners. From customer communication to every single line of code, we deliver a simpler, nicer, faster, and safer NordPass password manager than it was yesterday.
- The ability to set our own ways without focusing on standards set by our competitors. We’ve already implemented innovative encryption algorithms and introduced new technologies such as OCR scanners. We build our apps on zero-knowledge architecture principles and subject them to independent security audits so our users wouldn’t have to just take our word for it.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Always! As a brand, we focus a lot on content which educates our audience. A few months ago, we launched our Top 200 worst passwords campaign to highlight the problem of weak and reused passwords. We hope that this campaign will encourage people to update their passwords and take their online security more seriously.
We’ve also recently launched our Mental Health campaign to highlight the importance of digital anxiety. This project is close to my heart, as the current situation forces many people to spend more time on devices and move their work online, so these problems are only getting more prominent. In addition to that, we’ve also learned that, according to research, many people are stressed about all things cybersecurity: passwords, the probability of experiencing a data theft, etc. Our campaign focuses on highlighting and, more importantly, helping solve these issues. I hope our audience will find our tips useful.
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?
That’s an excellent question. In general, branding is broader and has a long-term value, while advertising for a given product often has a shorter-term purpose. Advertising delivers the purpose of ‘what’ to the target audience, and the branding gives meaning and answers to the question ‘why’. Branding is also about creative communications and all the activities that help to create differentiation among competitors.
It’s essential to keep the right balance between branding and advertising for the best user experience with a product.
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?
I’m a huge fan and advocate for brand building simply because it provides a purpose; it brings meaning and creates a long-lasting value as well as two-way communication with users. In short, brand building creates a sustainable business with a like-minded user base.
Various research shows that, nowadays, consumers are looking to invest their buying power into something more meaningful than fulfilling their primary need. They are looking to be part of a community with the same values while getting the service or product they actually need.
From a company perspective, a brand helps communicate core values and stand out from competition. As I mentioned earlier, it also helps answer the question ‘why’.
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.
- Have a clear purpose and stay true to your core principles. Clearly define them, communicate them to your team, and whatever you do next, ensure that you live up to those core principles. In busy environments, it’s very easy to lose focus or drift away, so make sure you always question yourself: “Why am I doing this?”
- Listen to your users, get to know their problems, and work with your product or brand to solve them. Sometimes users can provide you with an easy answer to that problem; in other cases, you may need to do more extensive qualitative surveys to dig deeper into the problem’s roots. And, of course, don’t forget to pass those insights to your product team. In addition to that, listening to users and showing them that you listen to their feedback generates trust.
- Know your competition, but don’t copy! It’s wise to know your competition and use it for inspiration to create more incredible things. However, copying competitors is never the answer. There is no joy in stepping on the other brand’s toes. You always need to create your own purpose and meaning.
- Never stop learning. This applies to anything from personal development to knowing more about users and new technologies. Learning new things inspires more ideas and sparks creativity that can turn into campaigns or new features. Knowledge is everything.
- Never lose passion in whatever you do. As soon as you lose passion, the quality drops. Seek inspiration and ways to keep that passion going.
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?
The first company that comes to mind for building a believable and beloved brand is Headspace.
They do a great job at telling their story and finding their differences from rivals. There are many meditation apps out there, but Headspace is one of the only ones that commit to advancing the field of mindfulness meditation through clinically validated research. And they don’t just talk about it but live by it, partnering with universities and opening an in-house science department.
There is no need to replicate other brands. It’s essential to find your values and core principles and ensure that you live up to those core principles.
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?
There are many tools out there that measure brands and their success with various metrics. However, the brand’s “success” is a subjective term and heavily depends on the brand’s goals, which can change over time. It can vary from brand awareness or share of voice to sales coming from brand channels. It can also go deeper to the channel level, such as brand content engagement, for example.
Only clearly defined goals can dictate the right metric for measuring success, and there isn’t one metric that fits all.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
A massive one! It’s the easiest way to directly talk to your audience and gather feedback about your product firsthand. From the brand perspective, it is, most importantly, a way to create an opportunity for users to speak to brands openly. I think brands make a huge mistake if they don’t engage with their users from the early days on social media and treat it like a one-way communication channel. This channel brings so many useful insights for product development and gives an idea of how users feel about the brand. For example, one of the most requested features on social media was dark mode, and we’re happy to tell you that it will go live soon. So, dark mode fans, stay tuned.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
It’s crucial to understand that you can do anything as a leader, but you don’t necessarily need to do everything on your own. Every leader has great teams around to share ideas, tasks, and, of course, success with. It’s important to avoid working in silos and doing micromanagement. It might be easier said than done at the beginning, but, once you learn to work as a team and delegate, the workload becomes much more manageable.
As with everything you do, there must be a balance in your life. From my personal experience, I know it’s much harder in reality when you love what you do, but it’s crucial to keep life/work balance, take breaks, know your limits, and never push beyond them. At the end of the day, happiness and health are all that matters.
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. 🙂
The education industry stays important to me, as I’ve worked in it for quite some time. So, if I was to inspire a movement, I would start one where I gathered technology specialists and leaders who could share their experience and knowledge with children and young adults. I think it’s important for two reasons: 1) it would be a good opportunity for children to find out more about the tech industry and encourage them to explore it; as this exciting industry evolves, we will constantly need more workforce, so it would be a good place to inspire the youngsters; 2) it would allow young people to avoid cyberthreats, which will become even more prominent in the future.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Learning new things is a big part of my life, especially in marketing and cybersecurity, as they never stop evolving. Once I read the Chinese philosopher Laozi’s quote, and it stuck with me: “If you think you know everything, you know nothing”. It always reminds me that the learning process never stops. It’s very exciting and never boring.
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 dear, this one is tricky. I follow so many inspirational people from different backgrounds. However, if I needed to choose just one, it would be Michelle Obama.
She is close to my heart. She has always held a high level of respect for herself and others, and this can be seen in her speeches, where she uses notions like decency, integrity, dignity, and pride. Not only does she serve as a role model to young people but also reaches out to communities beyond.
I’ve always thought that she is excellent, and the messages she communicates to the world are great. After reading her biography, I became an even bigger fan.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Here is my Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jolantabalciene/
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.