Promotion is key, and that is my second strategy. Brands that promote themselves daily are seen more and are top-of-mind over others, it’s that simple. I see many brands and influencers do this so well and I applaud the work. It does take time, commitment, and creativity, but “brand hustle, builds muscle” and the more you get used to posting or going live, the easier and more fun it becomes.
As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Patti Reilly, Brand Strategist, Author, & founder of Built for Connection Brand Building Academy.
Over the past2 decades Patti has made a name for herself as a trusted shopping authority through her 11-year tenure as program host on the wildly popular home shopping network, QVC, as well as her guest appearances on QVCUK, HSN and The Shopping Channel in Canada. Patti’s career involved selling hundreds of products weekly on live tv alongside business owners, inventors, and celebrity guests that include Suze Orman, Jessica Simpson, Kim Kardashian, and Sara Blakely. Her natural ability to help each guest pitch their product to millions of viewers across the country resulted in the overnight success of hundreds of brands. Today, it is her passion to help brands discover their unique Brand DNA so that they can target their message and connect with their ideal customers. Patti currently offers one-on-one coaching and online courses sharing her secrets to selling success. Plus, she recently released her first book, Built for Connection: Brand Strategy Guidebook, that she sums up as “your brand building course in a book”.
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?
I have always loved coaching and have been interested in becoming a motivational speaker since my college days. As a Program Host on QVC, I realized early on that bothcoaching and motivatingwasa natural part of the on-air selling process. For example, prior to airing, we meet with our Guests to establish “rules of the road” for the live tv presentation. Most of the Guests are product inventors or entrepreneurs who have had little to no tv experience, so while they’re excited about the idea of their product being seen in over 100 million homes across the country, the reality of “live tv” hits them pretty hard. Most product airings average of 8 minutes of airtime. To an inventor who has spent years and years fine-tuning their product, 8 minutes is extremely limiting…and scary. Their instinct is to launch into their story of labor, time, sacrifice, and cost, but that’s not how to connect with a consumer in 8 minutes. It was my job as a host to build a relationship of trust with the guest, by letting them know that I would ask guiding questions that would allow them to naturally highlight the product benefits while weaving their company history throughout the sale. It was a delicate process because at best, I had 15 minutes with a guest before we went live. Gaining trust, respect, and confidence from a virtual stranger in just 15 minutes can be done when you speak from the heart and come from a place of confidence and authority. It was my job as a Host to make every guest and every product shine. And it was my responsibility to the viewer to tap into the benefits and help them quickly see how that product could change their lives. Tapping into each unique product offering and the benefit to the customer was what I trained myself to do. My coaching business allows me to do what I love — connect with people and help them gain clarity and confidence in who they are and what story they want to share with the world. I believe that everyone has a story to tell, and for every story shared, there is an audience. Many businesses make the mistake of casting the net too wide, wasting marketing spend on crickets. Getting clear on your brand identity helps you define your target audience and create content that connects specifically with them. It is very satisfying at the end of the business day to know that what you put out in the world connected and mattered to someone and that your product or service made an impact.
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?
Sure! And only because I can laugh at it now. Back in January, I decided to advertise myself outside of my coaching business as a “Host for Hire”. I missed being on tv and am a natural at sales, so I thought it would be fun. The idea was to recreate the home shopping tv format by creating an entertaining & conversational vibe via our respective locations utilizing split-screen video. I structured the offer specifically to business owners looking to up-level their business exposure with a marketing promo that they could reuse on any of their platforms. The popularity of video promotion is huge with shoppers yet underutilized by most businesses. I thought that my background and expertise alone would be a great incentive and that the idea of creating a micro-infomercial was genius! Lol. But in my defense, having hosted infomercials and being privy to direct response tv margins, I truly felt that I could break new ground at a fraction of the cost. So, I ran advertisements and posted videos on all my social channels, fully expecting a flood of inquiries, and not one single person contacted me. Crickets. Oh, my! Wow. Huge marketing and branding mistakes. Where do I begin? I would say the biggest mistake was assuming it would be a hit without researching to see if there was a need or desire for this type of service. I’ve learned that no response, is a response, and that is something I can and will share with my clients. And maybe we can all share a laugh, too!
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?
My tipping point was about 10 years ago when I was a Program Host on QVC. I was scheduled to host a fashion show with a designer, Jeanne Bice, who sold a collection of novelty sweaters under the label Quacker Factory. To say Jeanne’s clothing was a hit is an understatement. For years, Quacker Factory ranked in the top 3 fashion lines sold on Q. Millions of women loved her whimsical sweaters and t-shirts, but it was definitely Jeanne’s fun-loving attitude and authenticity that created magic every time she was on the air. I met with Jeanne before the show to prep for our upcoming items, which is standard practice, and because I knew Jeanne personally, I stuck around for a few minutes to catch up. We spent a few minutes chit-chatting and just as I stood up to leave the green room, she handed me a bulky navy-blue sweater. Before I could open it up and take a look, she said “Now Patti, I know this isn’t your style, but would you please wear this sweater for our show?”. Okay…now what? I opened the sweater up and heard a noise. A jingle to be exact. It was a navy-blue, acrylic-blend, boxy-cut sweater with cats and bells sewn all over it. And by cats, I mean felt cut-outs of tabby cats, black cats, orange cats and calico cats sewn all over in random cat poses, with actual 3-d balls of yarn and actual bells! Are you seeing this through my eyes yet?? Oh, and it gets better. I couldn’t help but notice the heft to the sweater, and I guess Jeanne noticed me noticing the heft, and that’s when she added “By the way, it lights up! Isn’t it awesome?”. And sure enough, sewn on the inside seam of the sweater was a small pouch that had a battery pack. I flipped the switch. The entire sweater lit up with tiny little bulbs I hadn’t even noticed at first because there was already so much to take in! I nodded yes to Jeanne, confirming that I would indeed wear the sweater, and bolted out of the room directly to the Host Lounge to cry. The tipping point was this- as I sat staring at my reflection in the glamour bulb-framed mirror, hair & makeup tv-ready, threatened to be ruined by the tears brimming in my eyes, I had a realization. It’s not about me. It’s not about whether or not I like the sweater. It’s about the person who would like it and who would enjoy wearing it. I had to see it from her perspective. And that’s when I realized that if I didn’t cover every intricate and loving detail that went into the making of that sweater, that not only would I be just another salesperson, I would be doing her an injustice. And it was actually in that moment and it was that thought that gave me major pause. That’s when everything shifted for me and I was truly able to see every product through the eyes of the customer and sell it from the place of telling their story. Maybe she ran a daycare from her house, and a sweater like this would bring a smile to a child’s face who just one moment before was reluctant to let go of Mom’s hand. Maybe she volunteered at a pet shelter or worked at an elderly care facility. Or, maybe she was just a spunky, fun, and confident woman who got great joy in bringing a smile, or a chuckle, to the people around her. I could wrap my mind and my heart around that. I wore that sweater and we sold it out.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am! I just released a Brand Strategy Guidebook called Built for Connection. It’s basically a business plan and brand strategy course in a book. I read a lot and I sometimes take notes, but I don’t often action the notes because they’re typically scattered and not easily accessible. My goal was to create an organized place where businesses and brand owners could log their mission & vision statements, create Buyer Profiles, build out their short- & long-term business goals, and be guided and prompted along the way to think like the customer the entire process. I’ve never come across something like this before and I’ve found it so helpful for my own business, that I wanted to share it. I also reveal my secret formula for selling success in the book. It’s been very well received and I’m excited to supplement the material with online courses that I’m hosting. I believe that offering learning options for people is important. Some people will prefer the book and working through the various exercises, and others will learn more through a one-on-one coaching session or a webinar. I plan on having all options available to help brands & businesses maximize their impact on the world.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Self-promotion for me has been exhausting. I can easily sell for other people and have done so for years, but when it comes to my own services and product promotion, this is where I struggle. I’ve learned that setting and abiding by normal workday time frames is important. Meaning, if I put in 6–8 hours, that’s enough for anyone. I no longer take my laptop to bed! There is so much benefit in literally walking away from something you’ve stared at for hours- whether it means going outside for a walk, doing a few yoga poses, or running out to meet someone for a coffee, when you come back to your project, suddenly you see it with fresh eyes and ideas. It’s awesome! The saying “A person outside of your business sees it differently than you” is so true. Even turning to someone you trust and respect to take a look at what you’re working on can help tremendously. I love hearing other people’s thoughts about my projects. I actually want to see what they see. My advice is to ask for feedback from a trusted source or better yet, from your customers. Being open to feedback can have a huge impact on your marketing strategy, while also saving you tons of time, energy & money.
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?
In the simplest terms, marketing is promotion, while branding is connection and you truly cannot have one without the other if you want to be successful. The branding piece is extremely customer-centric. Your brand is the perception consumers have of your company across all touchpoints. It’s your promise to them of what they can expect from your product or services. It’s your message to the world on how you can improve their lives. Marketing is the process used to deliver your brand message to the marketplace by identifying your target market and the best channels to reach them.
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?
Building recognition around your brand is perhaps the single-most-important thing for any business to focus on. If businesses focus solely on the marketing piece, they risk shifting the power to the consumer to define their brand for them, which is never a good idea. Branding includes brand identity, which is a collection of tangible brand elements. It’s the personality of your business and how you communicate what you offer to the world. It’s everything a customer can see, touch, hold, hear and feel. It’s the overall experience your brand provides. Investing in branding essentially means investing in the emotional engine driving the relationship your brand has with your ideal customer. It is inclusive of your brand voice & supporting visuals, (the marketing piece) but most importantly, it’s the feeling your brand elicits when your customers interact with you..
Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?
To differentiate yourself from the competition is a huge reason to consider a rebrand. Being in a crowded marketplace myself, I felt that advertising as a Brand Strategist alone wouldn’t cut it. I mean, who cares, right? I saw the advantage in highlighting my experience as an internationally recognized tv shopping host. Given that it’s such a niche industry, few business coaches can compete with the exposure and experience I’ve had working with thousands of products and people. I also think a rebrand should be considered as your business evolves and grows. It’s always a good idea to take a look at your existing logo, colors, and online presence and update to reflect the evolution of your brand, keeping it current.
Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?
The downside of a rebrand is changing things to the extent that you’re no longer recognizable to your audience. Starting from a “clean slate” so to speak, isn’t a typical option, and I would advise that brands take existing brand assets into account. Subtle changes, introduced over time, are digested more easily by mainstream audiences. I’ve worked with companies on QVC that were hot one minute, then not the next. A couple of them went into hibernation for a year or more and reemerged stronger and better than ever, still thriving today. I can’t imagine what financial toll that took, but I doubt many brands can afford to do that. I would advise against it if you aren’t clear on your strategy. Consumers like consistency. If your presence comes across as incohesive or inconsistent, it leads to consumer confusion and mistrust.
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.
I look at this as being both an external and internal initiative. The very first strategy that I would encourage is to invest time and resources in the Power of Personalization. What can your company do to create a unique and personalized experience for tour customers? The best example I have for this involves a designer dress that I searched high and low for in a specific. I ordered it from a company I’ve done business with before in a size larger than I normally wear, simply because I wanted it and was willing to risk the bigger size. I received it and loved it, but it was too big, so I sent it back. I ended up finding my size on a website I’d never heard of before but took a chance because I knew the quality of the dress was what I expected. When I received the second dress, it came wrapped in two layers of tissue with a branded satin ribbon and a handwritten “thank you” note. I was so impressed I spent more time admiring the thoughtful packaging instead of the dress! First impressions and personalization definitely matter.
Promotion is key, and that is my second strategy. Brands that promote themselves daily are seen more and are top-of-mind over others, it’s that simple. I see many brands and influencers do this so well and I applaud the work. It does take time, commitment, and creativity, but “brand hustle, builds muscle” and the more you get used to posting or going live, the easier and more fun it becomes. I work with my clients on outlining fun topics that they can post about to engage their audience. I also have them practice smiling while they talk and it’s actually one of the toughest exercises anyone can do. (Give it a try!). The practice involves smiling whether they’re home alone talking to themselves, socializing with family, or talking on the phone, or even writing an email. Most people don’t smile while they talk, yet smiles are approachable and obviously more visually appealing on tv or video. It changes how you engage with people and even how you write and respond to texts or emails. I learned to do this from a young age when I first saw Mary Hart on Entertainment Tonight. I was fascinated with the beautiful woman on tv smiling while talking for several minutes at a time, lol! I was used to news and somber faces. Mary Hart is one of the reasons I made a lot of friends growing up and was dubbed “Smiley Reilly” and “Chatti Patti”. Thanks, Mary!
Sharing stories is another strategy that connects people and is still underutilized, even though brand storytelling is a mainstream concept. While I do believe that brands should share their story or brand history, I think it’s more important to tell the customer’s story. That’s a strategy I learned as a Host. We live in an instant-gratification society, and if you make someone work hard to give you money or to figure out what you do, they’re going to move on. Tell the story of how their lives will be improved, focus on the things that matter most, and paint the “after” picture for them. We all want to be part of an experience. By “thinking like the customer you are” you understand that we don’t buy logic, we buy hopes and dreams.
The fourth strategy I encourage all brands do immediately is to shop your own brand! It amazes me that most clients I work with have never shopped their own brand. They don’t know what the user experience is like, they’ve never been on the receiving end of a package to their home, from their warehouse. That’s scary. As a business owner, you should know what it’s like to see your brand through the customer lens so that you’re aware of any pain-points or obstacles they may encounter. I understand that many of those areas are staffed by people that are qualified, but it’s still no excuse as a business owner to not check in on the path to purchase. This also opens up an opportunity to see how your business might stand out and do things differently. What can you offer your customers that will make a positive impression after they’ve purchased from you? Most businesses forget about the relationship after the product has shipped. I see so many opportunities to upgrade and differentiate here.
Finally, I would have to say consider bringing in new talent. I recently did that for my business and have been blown away by the ideas that have resulted in explosive engagement from my community that I just wasn’t getting before. My team has pushed me to think differently and to be more visible. I used to predominantly post quotes or quizzes that were business-oriented, but I get more engagement when I post pictures of myself or when I hop on a Facebook Live. People buy from people. And people like people who are like themselves. Don’t be afraid to push yourself or your team to get out there and be the face of the brand! “Live your brand” is a bonus strategy and one I highly recommend.
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?
One of my all-time favorites is Instagram. Remember when they first launched and had the vintage camera logo? Lol. While the new “look” caused a polarizing response from the community, I read that the head of design and others within the company said that the colorful logo and look were inspired by the community. I thought they did a great job modernizing the look and evolution of the app giving it broader appeal with an energetic and fun vibe, totally inline for such a social platform.
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. 🙂
It saddens me to see so much disconnect in the world. As human beings, we’re all built for connection, so to inspire people to connect with each other more, my movement would simply be “Smile More”. I realize it sounds small, and I’m sure if I thought about it long and hard I could come up with something more impactful, but to spur a movement that we all have access to and is easy, one that has the potential to turn someone’s day or life around, it would be to smile more. People don’t naturally smile enough, and it creates social separation and can trigger feelings of unworthiness because we feel “unseen”. I have a hard time when I smile at someone and get nothing but a blank stare in response. A smile can lead to connection, and I’m all about connection. Plus, smiles are harmless and free!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m not quite sure if this is a quote or not, but years ago I read a book called “Law of Attraction” by Esther and Jerry Hicks. I read the phrase “thoughts become things” and it changed the trajectory of my life. I went from being a terrible student who barely graduated high school and wasn’t expected to amount to much, to a young woman confident enough to audition to be a QVC Program Host just by changing the record I played in my mind. I’ve read dozens of books on the topic and I firmly believe that mindset is everything. I use an exercise with my clients that I’ve used in my personal life for years, and that is: list three words that describe you best. My words are bold, fearless, and confident. And I am living my brand daily!
How can our readers follow you online?
Readers can connect with me via my website: thepattireilly.com or social channels: @thepattireilly
Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.