Revisit your messaging — Take that same feedback and measure it against your key marketing messages. Are they in sync? If not, consider tweaking your messaging to include the value propositions and adjectives that your customers are using to describe your product and service. While you’re at it, make sure your messaging still addresses your customer’s problem. If your messaging is all about YOUR company, rather than the customer problem, you’ve got a brand issue.
As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Vitaly Pecherskiy.
Vitaly Pecherskiy is a co-founder and chief operating officer at StackAdapt, one of North America’s fastest-growing advertising technology companies. Vitaly also has the distinction of having been named to Marketing Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list.
The StackAdapt Creative Studio helps agency marketers and ad buyers deliver value to their customers through digital branding that revitalizes, revamps, refreshes, recharges, upgrades and re-energizes customer brand.
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?
Mystart in the ad tech industry was unexpected — and maybe a bit unconventional. I studied Finance in university and moved to Toronto to pursue a career in investment banking soon after graduation. My job-hunting strategy was pretty bold — I would walk into business towers and get into the elevator with respectable-looking folks and literally give them an elevator pitch and my resume, explaining why I would be a good addition to any team. Three weeks after moving to Toronto I had a job, but not in finance. After walking into a small company and asking to speak to the CEO, I landed a role at an ad tech startup that specialized in Facebook advertising. The company was in the right place at the right time, before Facebook’s Ad APIs were easily accessible, making them one of only a handful of Facebook partners at the time. After the company’s rapid growth and acquisition, I joined a trading desk at an agency where I met one of my two co-founders. Seeing the poor state of ad tech, we knew there was an opportunity to create better software to help brands and agencies drive business outcomes through programmatic advertising. In 2014 StackAdapt was launched with Ildar Shar, CEO, and Yang Han, CTO. We’ve been rapidly growing since and crossed the 170 employee mark last month.
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?
When we started StackAdapt we had no resources to create marketing materials, so I took on a graphic designer role. Looking back at those old marketing materials makes me cringe. The worst part is that I thought I was pretty good. Maybe that’s why it took us longer to hire a designer than we should have. I don’t design anything now and it’s probably for the better.
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?
I think the tipping point of my career success was tied to the success of StackAdapt. That success actually came as the opposite of listening to other people’s advice. It came from being more like StackAdapt and less like any other company, and from doing more of what made StackAdapt successful. Doubling down on what works is our motto.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
A big focus for us at StackAdapt is scaling our Connected TV offering. According to eMarketer, people in the US already watch more digital and internet-connected TV than traditional, linear TV; however, Connected TV only accounts for 1/10 of ad spend. That means that the advertisers are not where consumers’ attention is. Using programmatic advertising technology to deliver hyper-relevant TV advertising and measuring exact impact on things like store visits or purchases on the website, is gaining more and more traction with advertisers using video, and we expect the adoption to continue going up over the next several years. It is inevitable that Connected TV will surpass traditional TV in turns of ad spend. It’s only a matter of time.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Marketing is one of those functions that varies between different companies. While it may be tempting to be on the next hottest channel to reach new users, set a percentage of budget or, more importantly, time, to experiment, but continue doubling down on what works. Focus on 20 percent of activities that drive 80 percent of results. Marketers frequently underestimate how scalable some channels actually are and go chasing the next shiny object.
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?
To me, the difference between brand marketing and product marketing are the metrics that you try to impact. Brand marketing builds awareness, product marketing builds purchase intent.
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?
In the age where consumers have a virtually unlimited assortment of products to choose from, it takes more effort for brands to generate sales. Take Search Engine Optimization (SEO), for example. As a new brand, it is virtually impossible to rank high on its main keywords without putting in, potentially, years of pursuing a “long-tail” content strategy. Most brands do not have the luxury of taking that time to generate sales organically. They instead elect to invest in paid marketing initiatives to generate brand awareness that would then lift their brand searches in a search engine.
It is hard to expect people to buy the product after a single click without having any previous exposure to the brand. The consumer buyer journey today reflects the stiff competition in virtually every product category. Before buying, consumers look at the brand’s reviews, visit them on Instagram and read users comments, judge the credibility by a brand’s activities on their blog, and media coverage. All of these play a role in building assurance that the product they buy will deliver on its promise and justify the money spent. Investing in paid media is important to create an ongoing communication with each potential customer that is going through the above validation process to select their product.
Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?
Generally, I would consider a rebrand only if things are trending downwards because rebrand is somewhat counter to our motto of doing more of what works. That said, some companies outgrow their brand and should consider a redesign to better reflect their current reality. However, given how many failures of brand relaunches there are, I think it’s better to go with “brand optimization”, so to speak, rather than a full-blown rebrand.
A full-scale re-brand is exhaustive — it’s a budget and time drain on companies. When a company hits growing pains, lagging sales or customer attrition usually brand gets blamed first because the perception is that brand is easy to ‘fix’. It’s only after companies go through the work of re-messaging and re-branding that they realize that brand wasn’t the problem in the first place.
Brand optimization is a more iterative process that makes sense with scaling businesses, especially in crowded or high-growth markets. It’s a process that allows a company to take its brand framework, and break it down into bite-sized chunks that can be tweaked, tested and measured over time. Brand optimization is a more modern approach that continues to build brand, rather than tear it down and start from scratch. The latter means a company is willing to sacrifice the digital cache they’ve built, which isn’t often the best choice.
Recently we refreshed our brand to graduate StackAdapt from “start-up” to “grown-up” and better reflect the level of clients we partner with. We started by doing a visual audit of our brand to determine what works, what doesn’t and why not. Then by leveraging some of the best practices extended to our own clients and their creative assets and campaigns, we started to map out a blueprint for the StackAdapt brand refresh. The lowest hanging fruit was the visual design elements that could help our brand be readily identifiable — colour palette and font family — redefining our brand guidelines and then ensuring and reinforcing consistency in their use. This was the least intrusive, but most impactful exercise that enabled us to implement a phased approach to our brand refresh.
As a technology company, we often see brands struggle in making their creatives fresh and engaging. Sometimes it can just take an injection of some data-driven and creative best practices to supercharge a brand through creative assets and ingenuity.
It is also important to determine the degree that your brand needs a refresh — identify and build on your strengths, reinforce the brand elements that your following is familiar with and loves, and apply some creativity to it. In fact, you don’t necessarily need to change your branding itself, rather upgrade the messaging and how you present your brand’s image.
Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?
If your brand is successful and growing, a rebrand can make it more difficult for more people similar to your existing customers to understand the value you deliver. I would advise against a rebrand if things are trending upwards.
It comes back to companies pinning down why they think they need to rebrand. The issue has to be diagnosed before the right remedy can be prescribed.
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.
Any efforts to upgrade a brand should start with a deep understanding of why customers buy your company’s product. Great strategies to re-energize the brand are the ones that directly speak to the target customer, the ones that spotlight successful uses of the product, the ones that celebrate the customer and the values of the company that built the product in the first place.
Here are some tips at a broader brand level:
- Do a market litmus test — audit what your customers are saying about your company and its products or services to understand why they’re your customer. Look at customer surveys, online review sites and talk to your customer-facing teams. Correlate that feedback and measure it against your brand promise — does it align?
- Revisit your messaging — Take that same feedback and measure it against your key marketing messages. Are they in sync? If not, consider tweaking your messaging to include the value propositions and adjectives that your customers are using to describe your product and service. While you’re at it, make sure your messaging still addresses your customer’s problem. If your messaging is all about YOUR company, rather than the customer problem, you’ve got a brand issue.
- Audit your creative — collect as much data on creative performance as possible and benchmark it against conversion data and the customer feedback you’ve already gathered. Again, make sure the creative makes sense for your customer’s challenge, your product and service and its market.
- Audit your marketing strategies — this goes back to time and budget investment in areas that make sense for your company’s brand growth. Make sure you’re focusing 20 percent of activities that are driving 80 percent of results. And make sure those activities align with steps 1–3.
- Create a brand guide (if you don’t already have it) and a brand scorecard — the scorecard will become the basis of your iterative brand optimization efforts. Brand scoring isn’t one size fits all — as a company you need to determine the metrics that matter to your brand’s growth and own them as success measures. Either way, the scorecard should track, measure and regularly report on earned media growth (PR and reach), customer satisfaction, and paid brand initiatives like digital marketing and programmatic — all on a quarterly basis. The brand guide is important to help document your brand elements and messaging and why they’re important — and help everyone in the company stick by them. The guide is also a great starting point to assess when you’re thinking about a brand refresh.
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?
A brand that comes to mind is Audi. Audi boldly advocates for a more sustainable future with their new line of all-electric vehicles. You may have seen them in Avengers movies — they look fantastic. What I admire is that they launched these cars at a time when Tesla, arguably the market leader, was struggling on public markets and the future for electric cars seem murky. Perhaps, the way to replicate that success is to look at the fundamental market trends and take more risks!
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. 🙂
One topic that I am interested in is education. I believe more resources need to be allocated to fund schools to provide better education, raise children as critical thinkers, and make them better prepared for the rapidly-evolving world. I would love to see the world in which even the most successful individuals see a way to derive value and make money by educating the youth.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t have a famous quote that comes to mind that I live by. I am focused on developing my own philosophy of life. That is not to say that I don’t look up to other people for inspiration — I try to look for the best in people and adopt it as my modus operandi. I am a big fan of Jack Ma (Ma Yun), co-founder of Alibaba. His story of being the only one of 24 people that got rejected from getting a job at KFC, then getting rejected ten times from Harvard, and eventually becoming one of the world’s wealthiest men is inspiring. What I know now is that one should build up an incredible tolerance for failure should they wish to succeed.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.
Thank you, kindly!