Don’t get too focused on branding until you have an advertising approach that is working to scale your business. We jeopardized our business early on by over spending on branding before we knew how to scale our business
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Tod Barrett, CEO of OneBlade Inc.
Tod has taken an initial concept of creating a tool that would allow men to enjoy a ‘barbershop’ quality shave at home and brought it to reality. After 1 ½ years of R&D and with the extraordinary help of a few outside development firms, Tod has led OneBlade through five years in the marketplace achieving over 40% year over year growth in revenue and customer acquisition for the last three years.
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 have always been extremely curious about how things work. From a very young age, I was infamous for ‘fixing things.’
Towards the end of college, I started working in a startup business in California that specialized in manufacturing consumer goods, mostly via partnerships with factories in the far east. This partnership provided me a ‘crash course’ in product development, marketing and manufacturing management — — I was hooked! I was able to work directly with some of the best product development firms in California on everything from bike parts to CD storage cases to making anatomically correct working models of the knee
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?
It didn’t seem funny at the time, but in my second business, we developed and manufactured media storage products…. back when media storage meant boxes and bags that were designed to store and organize floppy discs and eventually CD’s. We had a design concept that we were selling for storing CDs, but we decided that it would be a good idea to apply that invention to storing 3.5” floppy discs, which were quickly being replaced by CD-ROMs. We spent a lot of money designing, tooling and manufacturing this product with the argument that customers just didn’t know yet that they would love and want to purchase this product = “We loved it, surely the marketplace will love it”. The cost of not listening/paying attention to where the market was headed cost us an extraordinary amount of money for a product that never sold more than 1000–2000 units = total failure.
A great product solution is not only something that is very functional and beautiful, it must be relevant.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At OneBlade, we have never compromised in our quest to develop the very best shaving experience for men — delivering a closer shave and healthier skin.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Our latest big development at OneBlade Shave that we are very excited about is our new Hot Lather Machine. Once again, we went to a proper barbershop setting to learn how we could help men have an even better experience shaving at home. It was easy to see that a huge component of enjoying a ‘barber shop’ shave was the iconic hot lather experience. The problem was, the hot lather machines in the barbershop are large/they take up a huge amount of space on the counter. They are very difficult to keep clean and sanitary and they run on 120 volts which makes them a safety concern in a bathroom sink area. We set out over a year ago to address each of these issues while also working hard to develop a natural, healthy shaving cream solution to go with it.
The resulting product outcome is everything we were hoping for and we can’t wait to begin delivering this new addition to the OneBlade shaving experience this holiday season
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?
Indirect vs. direct. Branding is all about helping the marketplace know what your business is about — the company’s personality.
Product marketing is telling the consumer what you can do for 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?
People like to buy a brand when they buy a product. Consumers want more than product benefits, they want brands that will help people understand what is important to them, their status, their values.
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.
Brand positioning is very tricky. It is critical to be consistent. The challenge is how do you deal with a very competitive and rapidly changing marketplace while remaining unchanged in terms of brand positioning.
#1 Don’t get too focused on branding until you have an advertising approach that is working to scale your business. We jeopardized our business early on by over spending on branding before we knew how to scale our business
#2 Social channels provide the most affordable opportunity to position your brand in the marketplace. Managing social well is critical. For OneBlade, this is an area that we are always working to improve. Content creation has to be taken seriously
#3 Don’t forget what you said your business was going to be about before you even started. At OneBlade, we committed from the start that we are all about ‘taking back premium shaving experiences for men.’ It is critical that everything we do, including critical things like education and instruction, are done exceptionally well — — even things like the shopping experience on our website. We invest significantly in our site every year to continually be improving the shopping experience
#4 Especially in your first three years in business, your customers are a huge resource in terms of building your brand. Make time to be engaged with them and don’t hesitate to ask them for help. Be specific with what you need.
In the earlier days of our business, ‘shaving blogs’ were an important source of reviews of our razors. We needed help ‘steering the discussion’ and were able to get help from a few customers who were active on the blogs
#5 Be humble and keep doing your best at the one thing that is most important to you = “show what you say.” At OneBlade, our customers expect an exceptional experience and outcome from everything we sell. We kept a cosmetic product in stock after having received a few complaints that it was separating in the container. It really upset our regular customers because they had an experience that was inconsistent with what we promised them.
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 brand that comes to mind is YETI Coolers, an incredibly premium brand with an extraordinarily loyal following. They did an incredible job of engaging with their core audience — the serious sportsman.
For OneBlade the main lesson is two-fold:
One = Be selective in terms of who we are targeting
Two = Stay focused on building our relationships with existing customers
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?
Very different and very difficult! Ultimately, the most objective measure of brand building success is your company’s growth curve. If your branding effort is working well, your growth will move from being linear to exponential.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
It’s VERY important — — probably the most cost-effective way to position and build your brand.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Be cautious about setting goals. Manage your budget carefully. Make sure you have the capital you need before you get started.
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. 🙂
Wow big question! The easy but politically incorrect answer is: Help people to know and follow Jesus (the simple gospel message of the bible)!
More politically correct answer: Inspire people to actually celebrate and appreciate the idea that they can actually like and enjoy other people who have different ideas and opinions than them — still gets you back to “Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The sun don’t shine on the same dogs ass all the time.” Being entrepreneurial is about being persistent, impatient and patient. Marketplace timing is really never in our control. We can pay attention, but we can’t control it.
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. 🙂
I am very curious about Winston Churchill. He seems to have been quite a character.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.