MarTech Interview with David Brier, Founder and CEO of Rising Above The Noise

Discover expert tips for ensuring effective communication, differentiation, and market positioning in the realm of marketing technology.
MarTech Interview

David, please elaborate on the challenges that marketers often face when it comes to establishing and revitalizing brand identities, based on your experience in branding and marketing.
I often see businesses make the error of using “marketing” and “branding” interchangeably. They’re not. The job of branding is refusal (to be complacent) united by ingenuity, insight, observation, and clear differentiation whereas marketing’s role is to get the word out there based on clear branding.

Branding is the macro long game that defines who we are.
Marketing is made up of micro-campaigns that get the word out there with messages, offers, and promotions that deliver the branding to the eyes, minds, and hearts of customers and prospects.

How do you see rebranding serving as a strategic tool to keep brands relevant and engaging for target audiences without alienating their existing customer base?
This is a crucial point. The most successful brands in the world are built on VALUES. “Just do it” is based on the value of “stop making excuses” and get out there. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, they launched “Think Different” which united the legion of loyal Apple lovers worldwide.

I have rebranded companies and cities with MANY stakeholders and the publics, all with their own “criteria” and the breakthrough was finding that “strand of truth” that everyone could agree to.

NOT from a standpoint of compromise, but from this key insight: they all agree on some fundamental truths. The only disagreement they end up having is HOW we will get XYZ done.

Like the customers of Baskin-Robbins. They all agree on coming in and enjoying ice cream. The only thing they differ on is HOW. Will it be 2 scoops of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough? Or Made with SNICKERS bars? Or Non-dairy Mint Chocohunk? Or Peanut Butter Blossom?

It’s why they have 31 flavors. It’s why I can use my iPhone in various colors with different amounts of memory.

Build your brand on VALUES and let your customers choose “which variation” of your brand they love.

By nailing the VALUES, you will not alienate but empower your customers.

Salesmark Global

Considering your emphasis on the importance of a brand’s initial impression, how can companies ensure that their logo design resonates with the target audience and leaves a memorable mark?
Brands can be led astray if they “look in the mirror” too often while ignoring the outside world. The world out there is noisy. The goal of a brand, and particularly the logo, is to DIFFERENTIATE. So, it all must start with a study of the “ocean of logos” our audience is being pummeled with. Once we’ve assessed that, we can then start the design process.

Avoid the mistake of thinking design’s #1 role is “making something prettier.” Aesthetics have their place. Being the recipient of over 320 design awards, I know this well. But the most enduring logo designs are founded on differentiation, first and foremost.

Can you share examples or insights into collaborative efforts between marketing and internal teams that you find essential for ensuring a seamless integration of the new brand identity into all aspects of the business?
This comes back to, “What do we all need to be clear on?” which is like the values stated above. Firstly, we must be clear on whether we are conducting a branding function or a marketing function.

If we are branding, we must be clear on who the hero is and who the villain is. All teams along with management must agree or there’s no foundation upon which to build.

Marketing can slice and dice endless ways to breathe life into a brand.

This sequence will ensure the most seamless integration:

1. Establish what the brand is doing: disrupting a complacent category, uniting a community, innovating a tired segment, or dialing down to a hyper-focused niche.
2. Leadership must guide and steer. It is the job of leadership to be the greatest inspirers and storytellers who bring the brand to life. Most will embrace it. A few will hate it. Give them the freedom to find someplace else to land that they can embrace. Kindly part ways.
3. Then reinforce the brand’s mission in the world.
4. Then figure out “what flavor” will change the most minds and help bring about new conclusions that your brand seeks to bring about.
5. Don’t confuse “dysfunctional bickering” with “healthy debating.” They are NOT the same. Those who love to “only play the devil’s advocate” (if that is the only note they know how to play) aren’t encouraging growth but are masking destruction under the veil of “disputes.” Healthy debates free up one’s thinking. Unhealthy debates result in stagnancy, indecision, and erosion. Call that out fast as it will destroy you from within.

Could you provide specific instances where you’ve seen the disconnect between a brand’s messaging and its execution alienate industry professionals and consumers, and what lessons can be drawn from those experiences?
Some branding errors that alienate:
1. Taking a contrarian approach or disruptive stance that simply pointed out “how everyone else screwed up.” Such arrogance does nothing more than alienate professionals and consumers.
2. Simply trying to copy the true disruptors and not be authentic.
3. Trying to lessen their role in fulfilling their brand promise.

Two specific examples come to mind:

After Apple’s success with its retail stores defied all expectations and broke records for sales per square foot, Microsoft opened stores that completely copied Apple’s stores: their aesthetic, cleanliness, and overall personality.

I remember walking by one in the Mall of America and noticing the following “red flags.” They opened their store just a few stores away from Apple’s to get some of that traffic. Their staff did some superficial “clapping dance” to attract attention and appear cool.

Microsoft has since closed its retail stores. It betrayed any sense of authenticity, something that’s unsustainable.

During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, BP’s handling of the crisis betrayed its brand promise of environmental responsibility and safety. The company’s initial response was seen as slow, inadequate, and lacking transparency, leading to widespread environmental damage and harm to wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico.

Be true to your purpose. A brand’s promise and purpose are NOT some “PR spin”, but must be something woven into the culture, something worn as a badge in the minds and hearts of all employees.

In your opinion, what role does creativity play in the rebranding process, and how can marketers delicately balance innovation with the authenticity of the brand’s identity?
The most overlooked asset when it comes to rebranding is ingenuity.

With companies I am rebranding, there are 19 questions that I use to balance innovation with authenticity.

Below are the first 10 of these questions:

1. Why are we doing a rebrand?
2. What problem are we attempting to solve?
3. Has there been a change in the competitive landscape that is impacting our growth potential?
4. Has our customer profile changed?
5. Are we pigeonholed as something that we (and our customers) have outgrown?
6. Does our brand tell the wrong (or outdated) story?
7. What do we want to convey? To whom?
8. Why should anyone care about our brand?
9. Have we isolated exactly who should care about our brand?
10. Have their needs, or the way they define them, changed?

The full list is here:

Can you share a success story where effective rebranding significantly impacted a business, leading to increased revenue or improved market positioning?
I’ll give you three:

A city in the Midwest needed a rebrand. From a tourist viewpoint, they were indecipherable from other smaller Midwest cities. So, I rebranded them. It started with taking inventory of other similar cities and seeing how they all looked like shades of grey, hard to tell apart. I rebranded the city and came up with a new slogan “Right in the middle of everywhere” (since many commonly said, “You’re in the middle of nowhere”). Exporting a new message, new brand identity, and refreshed brand story, the city saw a 500% increase in tourism and walk-in guests in the next 12 months.

A cybersecurity company needed a rebrand in 14 weeks, which included not only renaming the company but a totally new rebrand and designing the booth for its Las Vegas show. At the show, unveiling the new brand and identity, the stats were astonishing: 828 contacts were made, over 200 demos were done (compared to nearby competitors that did a dozen or so) and over 110 new sales contracts were initiated over the 2-day trade show.

Lastly, a company in the dog food space needed a rebrand. Their previous name was Highmeadow Farm Naturals. The rebrand included changing the name to Napa Fresh with the slogan “Earth’s Most Civilized Food for Dogs.” Within 18 months, their sales increased by over 300%.

Considering your statement that “Branding is the art of differentiation,” how can businesses ensure they stand out in a crowded market, and what are the consequences of failing to differentiate effectively in branding?
The world is noisy. Some estimate we are bombarded with over 5,000 messages every day.

In this sea of noise, it’s really hard to tell one thing from another, especially since all are coming to the party claiming to be “the best, simplest, tastiest, safest, most robust, most cutting edge” etc.

A passionate “belief in what you’re doing” does NOT replace differentiation.

Fact: Many others are equally passionate.

So, differentiation becomes your sword to cut through the noise and confusion. Underestimating the power of differentiation leaves you using cliches. Cliches are the costly and deadly killers of once-amazing brands, brands like Kodak, Sears, JC Penney, Blockbuster, Xerox, and Toys R Us.

Ignore “the art of differentiation” and you ignore the power to rise above the noise.

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David Brier, Founder and CEO of Rising Above The Noise

Bestselling author of Brand Intervention and Google’s #1 ranked rebranding expert, David Brier’s rebrands have generated over $7 billion worldwide. One of Google’s top-ranked rebranding expert, David’s four decades of branding expertise are sought after by companies of all sizes and celebrated by the elite of brand building like Shark Tank’s Daymond John who calls him “brilliant with branding.” In addition to David’s work being featured in ADWEEK, Fast Company, Forbes, INC, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Thrive Global, the New York Times and numerous blogs and podcasts the world over, he is the recipient of over 320 international awards including the rare honor of being presented the Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship medallion and publishes a weekly newsletter, The Brand Liberation Journal. LinkedIn.
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