Keane and Shaun Veran of OURA: “Give behind-the-scenes access”

Give behind-the-scenes access. People want to buy from a brand that is authentic and real. They want to support actual faces not giant corporations. The best way to do this is by giving them a peek into how you operate (manufacturing products, work environments, exclusive news on product releases, etc.). When you give customers access […]

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Give behind-the-scenes access. People want to buy from a brand that is authentic and real. They want to support actual faces not giant corporations. The best way to do this is by giving them a peek into how you operate (manufacturing products, work environments, exclusive news on product releases, etc.). When you give customers access to content that would otherwise be unavailable to the public, it helps to build trust and excitement, in addition to tapping into the notion of exclusivity.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Keane & Shaun Veran. The two brothers are co-founders of OURA, the rapidly growing social enterprise that fuses advanced technologies into their products while giving back to charities like Make-a-Wish and Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times.

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

Keane: Of course! We are so excited to have this discussion. Our story starts with my cancer diagnosis at the age of ten. As I started undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy, all my support came from my community. Family, friends, the hospital staff and countless charities fueled me with hope, strength and the determination to overcome my battle with leukemia.

Once I became a cancer survivor in 2017, Shaun and I launched OURA with the intent to give back. One problem we faced when I was undergoing treatment was the lack of protection against bacteria, as any bacterial infection could have deadly effects on someone who is immunosuppressed. Like many cancer patients, I lost my hair and wore hats to cover up, but I realized how easily hats accumulated bacteria after constant use. This realization led to the creation of OURA’s first product — a multifunctional, self-sterilizing hat that would stay clean. As a brand that focuses on healthier living, antimicrobial properties became a fundamental requirement in all our products.

As we continued to grow our brand, we had the opportunity to expand our line of products from hats to aprons, face masks and much more, all while providing support to various philanthropies.

Shaun: Our family’s experience with cancer was the catalyst for all of this. It may have started with the diagnosis, but our experience with these amazing charitable organizations really motivated us to continue giving back to these communities.

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?

Keane: I think we have made plenty of mistakes along the way. We started OURA while I was still in college with no knowledge of how to run a business whatsoever. Honestly, those early days were all about just getting our products out and hoping for the best.

Shaun: Haha! Those days were challenging since we thought you could just put up a website, make a Facebook page, and people would line up to get products. We quickly realized that creating a brand was a lot more involved than that.

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

Keane: I believe there are multiple areas that make our company stand out. When referencing the creation of OURA, our story is closely intertwined with my own personal experience with cancer as well as our dedication to giving back to charities like Make-A-Wish and Camp Ronald McDonald. Our goal as a brand is to help sick kids feel supported and inspired the way I did during my personal experience with childhood cancer organizations.

There is a Japanese legend, if a thousand origami cranes are folded, a wish can be granted. In honor of this belief, we launched Ouragami (or OURA for short) to continue spreading the magic of wish granting. Since our launch date, we have been fortunate enough to grant several wishes to kids that have allowed them to experience hope, strength and joy through their own manner.

When talking about our products, we approach functionality from a scientific and technical perspective. We do this to ensure we are introducing the most protective and efficient products to our customers. We dive deep and source for the best components like medical grade fabrics and combine them with the best technologies, which are then validated through additional rigorous testing.

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

Keane: We are constantly looking to innovate and create products that allow people to live cleaner, safer and healthier lives. Right now, we are working on some exciting new collaborations and projects including some new pieces for the wardrobe.

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?

Shaun: I would define brand marketing as creating an identity for your business. It mixes your story, mission, values and vision into one personality, identity and voice. If your brand were a person, what would it look like? How would it sound when speaking? Where would it shop? The more specific the answers to these questions, the easier all the other marketing will become. Once you have this nailed down, it should become ubiquitous throughout every piece of content that is created from your emails and website to social media.

In comparison, product marketing is much more straightforward. You have a product that you can push with its benefits, features, story or simply just price. The messaging here is all focused on what the customer gets rather than the identity of the brand.

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?

Shaun: Well, branding should come before you even begin marketing and advertising. Everyone on the team needs to be solid on key questions — Who are we helping? What do we do? Why do we do it? What do we stand for?

Once these questions can be answered with clarity, then you can build all of the marketing and advertising pieces around it to execute successful campaigns. When you focus on branding first, all of your marketing materials slowly build up awareness together helping you avoid disjointed and divided advertising efforts. Then, once customers experience your products or services it solidifies that brand message.

Keane: I totally agree. One of the most compelling reasons for me is that building a brand allows you to foster greater trust with your customers. You can build a relationship with them as you consistently deliver products that meet (or hopefully exceed) their expectations.

By creating a strong brand identity, you have the luxury of being able to convert customers to try new products or create a wider base of support since they are already familiar with the standards that you have previously set.

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.

Keane: I believe that the main goal is to really push for authenticity and transparency in everything that you do. These qualities can be difficult to convey but they are so important when looking to build and reinforce trust in customers. While strategies will differ for each company, these are key strategies we have relied on:

Give behind-the-scenes access. People want to buy from a brand that is authentic and real. They want to support actual faces not giant corporations. The best way to do this is by giving them a peek into how you operate (manufacturing products, work environments, exclusive news on product releases, etc.). When you give customers access to content that would otherwise be unavailable to the public, it helps to build trust and excitement, in addition to tapping into the notion of exclusivity.

Show off your team. When customers see the faces of your staff, it allows them to associate a face with the brand and sets up authority figures in your space. A video from the CEO, a manager or associate will add to the authenticity of your brand and the voice you have as a company. A great example is Anson Belts. They host a weekly giveaway that is hosted by their co-founder, bolstering feelings of familiarity and trust with their customers.

Focus on storytelling. No one likes being sold to 24/7. Your messaging and content shouldn’t be that way either. Give people complete stories with a beginning, middle and an end. You can do this by sharing stories about how your products have helped customers, the process of your products being made or how their purchases help to create good in the world. No matter what you do, the goal should always be to tell a story that connects consumers to your brand.

Be technical but concise. If you have a great product, be specific and talk about why it’s unique and what differentiates it from other brands. You want to have a balance that proves your product is superior. Use language that allows the customer to understand the features and specifications, without giving them an overly complicated explanation, to ensure clarity about your product’s unique differentiators. Apple excels at selling its products with concise, sophisticated language in specific presentations that inform and educate customers about how their products work.

Don’t be afraid of tough questions. They will come up. The best way to address them is to be honest and share the “why” behind your actions. Doing this can quickly turn a skeptical customer into a loyal brand ambassador.

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?

Shaun: For me, the company that immediately comes to mind is Tesla. They tackled a problem viewed as insurmountable and are now a household name around the world. I think that Elon Musk had a lot to do with that. He shows how much authority a strong leader can truly give a brand.

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?

Shaun: It is much more difficult to determine the success of a branding campaign. These answers will not come immediately like they do for metrics like clickthrough or conversion rates. Instead, we utilize measurements like the lifetime value of the customer or the return visits to our website or social media channels. These metrics can provide more insight into how your customers view your products and your brand as a whole. Earned media sentiment is another strong indicator of success.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Keane: Social media is a necessity. As a brand, you need to go wherever the people are and today, they are on social media. For some companies, it may be a small part of their overall marketing strategy, while for others it will be their primary channel. No matter what, it is important to foster a community on these platforms so that people can utilize these channels to not only get in touch with your team, but to openly share their brand experiences with their own followers — helping your brand reach new potential leads.

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

Keane: Discuss your ideas with others. I think it is so crucial to brainstorm with others if things are not performing at the level you want. For me, talking with colleagues energizes my thought process, especially when I have new ideas I’d like to run by them. I live for those magical moments where everyone is excitedly talking over one another and sharing their ideas until you end up finding solutions to problems that were once thought unsolvable.

Shaun: I totally agree that collaboration is incredibly important. However, sometimes you just need to get away from it all and take a break. Taking time for yourself can reset your mind so you come back with new perspectives to the problems that you are facing.

I think that everyone is a little different, so what works for one may not for another. What is important is that you recognize that burnout is happening so that you can take steps to prevent it.

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. 🙂

Keane: While we are hyper-focused on creating an impact for children who are fighting cancer, I would love nothing more than to inspire people to find ways to give back to causes that are dear to them as well.

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

Shaun: As a growing startup, I think for us that would be “Fail fast. Fail often.” Failure is one of the best teachers in life. It pushes you to challenge yourself over and over again, cultivating a tenacious character.

The best way to test your ideas is to just go out and do it. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work. What matters is that you learn from your mistakes, adjust your strategy and try again until you get it right.

Don’t be afraid of failure, be afraid of complacency.

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. 🙂

Shaun: I would love the opportunity to chat with Melinda Gates. She has been a powerful advocate giving back to underserved communities and it would be amazing to learn more about how she has been able to impact so many lives around the globe with the programs that she instituted.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Your readers can find us on

Instagram @ouragami

Twitter @ouragami_

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