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Author Allen Adamson on Creating an Impactful Brand Story - The ROI Online Podcast Ep. 49

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What kind of story does your branding tell? Does your story connect with customers and persuade them to buy, or is it just noise in an already noisy world?

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On this episode of the ROI Online Podcast, author Allen Adamson shares the key ingredients to a powerful brand story—and to tell it right so you get better results.

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Allen Adamson is an author of four books, as well as the co-founder and managing partner of Metaforce. He wanted to be a filmmaker, but after he didn’t have luck in Hollywood, he went into advertising so he could put his storytelling talents to good use. What he liked about the advertising business was most of the problems are nonlinear. They don’t have any obvious or easy solutions. You have to combine creativity with problem solving and reasoning to find the best options.

One thing Allen wants business owners to realize is that there's a slight difference between brand and branding. Your brand is what your story is. Your branding is how you get that idea in people's heads. Branding contains anything from your logo and colors to your ads and social media posts. But if your story isn’t good, it doesn’t matter how flashy your branding is. Customers won’t give it a second thought.

During the chat, Allen and Steve also discussed:

  • The biggest lesson Allen learned when he tried to make it in Hollywood
  • Brand stories that miss the mark (and why they’re ineffective)
  • How to simplify your brand story so customers can digest it
  • Allen’s strategy for getting clients to break their mindset and buy in
  • The secret to being successful in marketing


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Also available wherever else you get your podcasts.

You can learn more about Allen here:

www.metaforce.com
Follow Allen on LinkedIn

Read Allen’s books:

BrandSimple: How the Best Brands Keep It Simple & Succeed
BrandDigital: Simple Ways Top Brands Succeed in the Digital World
The Edge: 50 Tips from Brands That Lead
Shift Ahead: How the Best Brands Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World

Read the books referenced in this podcast:

Hit Makers  by Derek Thompson
Good to Great  by Jim Collins


Enroll in the QuickStart Academy today to learn how to develop and implement a proven growth strategy that grows your ROI, your business, and your confidence. Learn more HERE.

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Topics: Marketing, Podcasts

Allen Adamson: 

I tend to one of the things I like to push my clients to do is that there are two things. One is to, to put every thing about your product or company individually on a little index card. Don't put for one idea per card, you know, we, we've got the best tasting coffee, we're made with Colombian beans. We know we're sold at Safeway, and, you know, and then you take your 10 cards with and try to stack them in a pyramid to get to the what's the one idea you'd put on top of the others? And even that simple thing is hard to do. because everything's important. Yeah. What do you mean, I can't tell him about the brewing and the drip brewing.

Steve Brown: 

Hi, everybody. Welcome to the ROI online podcast where we believe you, the courageous entrepreneurs of our day, are the invisible heroes of our economy. You not only improve our world with your ideas, your grit and your passion, but you make our world better. I'm Steve Brown. And this is the place where we have great conversations with winners just like you. While we laugh and learn together. Alan Adamson, welcome to the ROI online podcast. Thanks, Steve.

Allen Adamson: 

It's pleasure to be here.

Steve Brown: 

So Alan, I'm really looking forward to this conversation. You're an author as I am, you have four books, brand simple, brand, digital, the edge 50 tips from brands that lead and shift ahead. And then your latest book, shift ahead. Not only that you're a co Founder and Managing Partner metaphors. And there's probably a whole litany of other things that you're known for.

Allen Adamson: 

Taking care of the family dog taking out the garbage being at home. 24. Seven, although things yeah,

Steve Brown: 

yeah. Although the real life things, yeah, that you've fit around all these things that you do. So tell me, let's kind of learn a little bit about your backstory. And where did this, this passion for branding, come into play?

Allen Adamson: 

No one ever grows up and says, I want to go into branding. If you do, they'll try to medicate you early on. But you know, I was going to be a filmmaker and realize that I thought it was pretty good. But you have to be great. And you have to be lucky. And so when I decided that I wasn't going to get hired in Hollywood to to make films, I went back to school, and studied stuff. I didn't know anything about business school. And coming out, I went into advertising, where I could make small films, 32nd films, 62nd films. I wasn't on the creative side. But it was a nice mix between creativity, storytelling, and and how do you tell that story. And I learned a lot in those early couple years before I went over to what they call the dark side became a client and, you know, hired at agencies, but it was a great entree into business. Because what I liked about the advertising business was most of the problems which I still like today are non linear problems. You can't just add up four numbers and say two plus two plus two is six. Here's the answer. Typically, you're looking at a problem that doesn't have any obvious or easy solution. Or if it does, you're not sure which way to go. Because you can add up the numbers to find the right answer.

Steve Brown: 

That's challenging that the people that you serve and that you work with. If you haven't established your authority, and expertise and branding, which seems like this nebulous, you know, this cloudy thing that anyone can kind of contribute to that authority really comes into play, but there's, um, they need to kind of see it and feel it too. And I'm sure a lot of them push back with being that the leaders are drivers that they are they push back on things because they don't understand. How do you manage that?

Allen Adamson: 

Well, you know, to some extent, everyone, you don't have to everyone sort of knows branding, if you grew up in this world, and in this country, since an early childhood, you've been bombarded with ads and you know, you it's Steve Jobs didn't read a lot of books of how to build a brand. He sort of knew it. And so that's sort of the the headline is that the theory is pretty easy. It's the execution That's hard. And you know, one of the ways I like to start off is to just level set and say, just remember, there's a slight difference between brand and branding. Your brand is what your story is, but you want people to think when they pass your store and say what's what's Bob store about you And getting that story, right Bob store is a fun place to get stuff or a bob store has everything. And branding is is how you get that idea in people's head. It could be advertising, it could be your logo, it could be your social media, you know, there are lots of ways to get your story in people's head. But you have to sort of separate, making sure your story is a good one. And then figuring out once you got a good story, you got the best dry cleaner on the block. Then you got to figure out how do I tell people about that? How do I get to which people might be interested in how do I get in their head? When they're really busy? And don't pay attention?

Steve Brown: 

What's the biggest thing you learned when you were trying to get into movies or be an actor? What was the thing, that real epiphany that you encountered about learning about story? Or where did you resonated? It's a good,

Allen Adamson: 

there's two stories that actually come to mind that were tied to that. So when I first started, I was assigned to the ad agency to work on a coffee product. And I went to meet the client and the client told me all about the coffee and what the beans were and how they brewed it and and then I got all excited. And I wrote up a two page note of everything about this coffee from you know, was a price. And I got all excited. And I went into the creative director's office and I said, Susan, you know, I've done the research. And here's what you need to communicate. And I handed Susan, two pages of nicely written information, I felt very proud of myself. And then Susan looked at me read through it. and her team was there. And then she ripped off the corner of the top and said, Alan, if you can get everything you want to say about this coffee in this little scrap of paper, come back, if you want me to tell your customer, our customers everything on these two pages, forget about it. So that sort of lesson resonated with me for years that if you can't figure out how to start the story of what's most important, you could have your business could have a lot of great attributes. But you're not going to get somebody you know, back, you're not going to get somebody in your in front of you to listen to you for three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, as you ramble everything off. Oh, and that's even true. As you know, in resumes, when people hand your resume, look at everything I've done. And they listed, you know, everything from their, you know, English class grades to their volunteer work, and it's all great. But it's just a summary of everything, and no one remembers a summary.

Steve Brown: 

So true, you know,

Allen Adamson: 

story sort of led to the importance of keeping it simple, or getting to the most important point.

Steve Brown: 

So when you think about the the books that you've written, when it became time to land on a title, and to think about the content that you're going to put on the outside of the book, then on the backside of the book, it's a very similar process that you just described,

Allen Adamson: 

right? Because you've got to figure out Yeah, there's a lot of great content in this book. But, you know, to get you to get somebody to get in the book, you got to get them engaged and telling them everything in the book really fast. Like the like NyQuil, commercial nighttime stuffing, stuffy nose fever, yeah, just rattling it off, is not the best way. And it's really hard to do. And that's why a lot of businesses struggle, they have great business ideas. But they, you know, they have I, one of the other things I do, which I love is I work at NYU is Business School, it's a volunteer with entrepreneurial students and coaching them. And anytime somebody has a new brand or new product idea, getting them to be able to tell you that story in 15, or 20 seconds, and get you engaged is where lots of them struggle.

Steve Brown: 

You know, in story, we meet a hero, we kind of learn a little bit about them, we kind of start to like them, then we realize that we kind of get sucked in and we're relating with that hero. But the hero generally in the story realizes that the status quo of the family life or the peaceful thing that was going on, suddenly has been disrupted. And all this changes thrown at them. And then we get to go through the experience of how they handled that. You know, you think about a brand that's or company that's wanting to help someone immediately. The default thing is, oh, I can help you with this change management, you're, you know, you've got a move location. So we've got a great moving service. But deep down the whole story. The whole reason we get sucked in and relate is because we're relating with the insecurities that the hero is dealing with. That's the real problem. not obvious problem. But the real problem is they feel like a loser because last time they encountered it, they failed. And here they're running across us again. And oh my gosh, what if I fail again?

Allen Adamson: 

it being a great listener, and a great observer is the step one in our businesses, you know, which is just because they're saying I have a problem, I need a new blank, or my business is bad. Of course, telling them that's no problem, it's easy, I've got the solution doesn't build a lot of confidence, because they are struggling with it. And if it can't be that easy, but being a good listener, and observer, and being able to look at it from a different perspective is usually where you can build that initial, Oh, stop trying to sell something instantly to your client, and just be a better listener, an observer of what is.

Steve Brown: 

So tell me about one of your most embarrassing branding fails that you just like, you're really learned. The big lesson on?

Allen Adamson: 

Oh, there's so many, it's hard to pick one. You know, one is that, um, how fast things change. And that even if you were right, three months ago, if the world has changed, it doesn't matter. At this, I'm not sure this is a great example, I was working with a large This was many years ago, and working with a large telecommunications company, and they had an idea they were going to launch lots of satellites, so that it no matter where you were, this seems incredibly obvious now. But back then, when you were on a cell phone, you could only call locally, you know, you couldn't pick up your cell phone and call somebody in Paris or in Tokyo. And so they were going to offer a global calling, by launching a bunch of satellites. And we had the brand figured out and we had building satellites and launching, but by the time they launched the final satellite, the phone companies had figured out how to transfer calls technology. And so all of a sudden, people say, why would I carry a big phone with an antenna to get to a satellite? So you know, part of it is realizing that, and especially Oh, and what we're going through today, I'm doing what you did yesterday, maybe right? But don't assume it's right. Because the one thing that's made our jobs and marketing harder is that the speed of change. what's what's cool today is history tomorrow, and in many categories. everything's changing so fast that just because it was successful for you last year, which is a big challenge, as you know, in business, people get comfortable in doing what they've done. They get into routines, we're all creatures of habits. We all like the familiar, we go into our office, we have this routine, we open up email we do, you know, and you get into a bubble and many of us there was this old TV show called Frasier and Frazier's dad had this old chair that he would keep in the apartment. And most of us need to realize that we're like freight, Frazier is dead. We, you know, we're just comfortable with the familiar and to be good in marketing. You have to sort of get out of your rabbit hole and look around a little bit.

Steve Brown: 

Yeah, I was thinking about that yesterday. People. I think branding is like building a brand. Doing your branding is very, very difficult to do it. Right. And I was trying to think of what's like the one sentence that succinctly really communicates the essence of successful branding. Do you have that sentence?

Allen Adamson: 

I wish I did. But it usually is more about to where you were going initially. Branding works when you say something to a customer client that they're thinking but haven't told you?

Steve Brown: 

Oh, yeah.

Allen Adamson: 

That's That's right. It's tied to this marketing buzzword, getting at a customer insight that people sort of believe but haven't really crystallized yet. And if you understand something about why they behave in a certain way. Many years ago, I was working with Procter and Gamble, and we were doing work on a dishwashing liquid. And everyone had the same approach. It's good for your hand to clean the dishes. And we went into some research and one of the creative people said, well take this into the research and they they handed the moderator, a plastic food container that had had to make tomato sauce and spaghetti meatballs, and then it was turned red. And they said talk about this. And also everyone at home said oh, you know, that's the real problem when you get greasy stuff on plastic. You can't get rid of it. Somebody should do something well, no, but so but if you ask them, you know, what's the worst problem in Washington? They say, oh, stuck on stuff. They, they would just replay what everyone else was talking about. But in their head, they go, Yeah, that's it and getting to that, oh, yeah, you know, that's what my problem is, is, as I said earlier, really easy in theory. But really, if you don't get it, right, it's a game of inches, you know, when one of my favorite competitive podcasts is a thing of called how I built this, and they interview a lot of entrepreneurs, and you realize that all these big successes, whether it's, you know, peloton, or JetBlue, you know, they were all inches away from failing, until they got that last 10%, right. Until they, you know, just, you know, just because you have an idea doesn't mean you're successful, it's about getting everything, sort of like snapping into place when you do a puzzle, and get that last piece. And if you don't get that last piece in the puzzle, you can have all the other pieces. But if you're missing the end, it doesn't fit. That's where most businesses get stuck is that they have 90% of it, right. But most businesses that succeed get 96% 97, and they keep at it.

Steve Brown: 

So I love that. You have to pay the dues, you have to have gone to all these experiments in your business until one day, you realize you've been looking over here, but then all of a sudden it reveals itself over there. Right? But you wouldn't have found it over there until you did that in it. It takes you on was getting inches away from bailing. That's it. I was back to this branding thing. Great brands. When you encounter them, you feel it's a little bit familiar. You feel you they get Yeah, yeah. You say to yourself, oh, they get me. Right. I feel safe here. Yeah. And I think there's an there's an essence and a great brand that communicates that in a feeling. Not really just saying the word you want to year. But they didn't get to that feeling until they really got inches away, or they went through this experience that may have taken them inches away from failing until they revealed the essence of what their brand is about, and how they really can understand you and help you accomplish what it is you're wanting to do in this particular situation.

Allen Adamson: 

Yep. And it just takes you know, it's not easy, not fun. And but you've got to, you know, one of the things we were doing the research for the last book of shift ahead, we found that lots of people in looking and trying to think of what they need to do look at the competitor right in front of their nose. You know, and we saw this in big companies at Pepsi does this coke does this. Gillette does this shit. And, you know, often you don't have to be to know much about marketing to know that most change happens on the app on peripherally or behind you. So if you're starting an ice cream shop, and you're only looking at the other ice cream shop down the other side of the block and say, well, we do the same thing, but I'm going to, you know, offer you different cones, yes, you can beat that otherwise, but the bigger success is to zoom out and look at not only the ice cream shop, but what's a hardware store doing what you know, and try to, you know, not get myopic, and and and try to see the bigger picture. As you as you tackle problems.

Steve Brown: 

Yeah, I love that I was just thinking about that, too, is how some folks come to us, they go, Hey, I think we need to, you know, upgrade our website, we need to redo that. And, and so you might ask them for some examples. And they always go to someone that's just like them, right? And they see something they kind of love to console. What does that do that, that brings out all these look alike? Right? myopic versions, and when if they would have gone, you know, we're a law firm, and but I was looking at the sports medicine thing. And I really, I really like that experience on there. I want to, I want to kind of do this. There takes a certain amount of I think you're looking at the project less as, Hey, I got a task I need to tick off and get on to the real business of what I do. And let's just get this cute little marking thing handled and move on. But when they back out and really invest like you're saying,

Allen Adamson: 

yeah, it makes a big difference that and that's the other big challenge. You know, one is that everyone looks at you do exactly what the other law firm did. And, and there's some comfort in that saying, Well, if they're doing it, they must know. And of course you realize that Yeah, one on one and marketing is if you're not somewhat different. Oh, you're a commodity. So if you're just copying or your competitor There's the only thing for sure is you'll you'll be relevant people say, well, that's what a law firm looks like. But you won't be any different. And you'll be in trouble. The the Yeah, so that notion, but the other notion that we see going on a lot, and you just mentioned it, is there is a increasingly a check the box mentality, we only need a website, we'll do that, you know, we'll do it today is that as you know, everyone knows, if you do four things, averagely average is over. No one, you know, no one talks, some said, Gee, I had an average meal. at the restaurant, it was pretty good. They didn't spill anything. You know, you either you know the waiter either back in the day, when you could go to restaurants, you know, the waiter either spill something on you, you got food poisoning, or was extraordinary. No one says, Oh, yeah. Okay, no, you could, because every word of mouth is more important. So if you take the attitude, I'm just gonna do a website and just do the basic stuff. And it you know, design was a piece of logic that if you're just going to do a cookie cutter, you know, same as everyone else, it almost doesn't matter. Unless you want to try to do something different.

Steve Brown: 

There was a great book by Derek Thompson, it's called hit makers. And it's the study of what makes a hit. And there needs to be a little from familiarity. And then surprise, hmm. So if you think about, I always hear these remixes of songs. And so I'm just you're not paying attention, you just kind of just doing whatever you're doing. And then the song comes on, and you're going, is that that old song? And then you lean in and listen to it for a bit. And that's a remix. And then then they come in with something different. Your brain really loves that. There's this familiar stuff. Okay, I'm safe. I'm familiar then also, oh, that's. So they, our brains want the same, but they want different. And, as well. And to get that nice mix is what makes it hit?

Allen Adamson: 

Yeah, again, that's one of those great marketing things. It's true, you have to both balance something comfortable and something different. And that theory is easy, but figuring out what are those two things like, and getting people somewhere saying, Oh, that's doing the right things? They seem like a real good company. But this is a little different. And, and finding that balance again? Yeah, as you were saying earlier, you have to try it a couple ways. Because often the first time you do it, you'll either be too familiar, and I'll just see Same old, same old, or two different people go, Oh, I can't deal with that, you know, they these guys are crazy. So and so even a simple, you know, equation like that little scale is really hard. And what we find, and I'm sure you find the same is that you can't do it. Theoretically, you have to try it, and or prototype it, or experimented and show a few people and say, What do you think of this? If it's as easy as tastes great, less filling? You know, he and but that was hard to do. Yeah, but it was easy as 5050 you know, you wouldn't you know, everyone be a marketing genius.

Steve Brown: 

So one of the hardest things I found is to really be good with your own stuff, like you are with your clients, there's, there's a different thing because we're too close to the subject. Talk to us about your experience with your brand.

Allen Adamson: 

I think that's true of lots of marketing services. Many of the firm's I know, they do two things. One is when you're when you're trying to market, a professional service, it's really hard because you can take the car around the block and drive it and see how it accelerates. You know, you're trying to you're selling advice in a solution that you can't show them until you start working to some extent. And so it's in general hard. And so people then gravitate to, oh, we've got the best people, we've got a great process. And you look around the marketing world, and everyone tells the same story, it's really hard to differentiate, and combined with the fact that most people in these firms are more focused on focusing on their clients and don't really pay attention to their own marketing. And then they wonder why the phone doesn't ring. So it's, it's a, it's a tough business to differentiate in. Oh, and it's also tough to stay focus on it because, as you just said, often if you You're so close to it, you can see what your strengths and weaknesses are. And part of what I think a good marketing person, as you mentioned, does is, is listen and look and, and help you see maybe how other people see you. And if you're running any business, you've been at your desk at your computer so long, you've been so close to it. You You may not know what your customers are thinking and you know, just because you've been been busy building something and so it's a really tough challenge, I

Steve Brown: 

want to pause here just for a moment and talk to you about a program that we have just released called the ROI quickstart Academy for authors every day, I talk to business owners just like you who struggle with quickly getting their fundamentals in place. We want to create a great foundation, and we want to grow our business. But the things that are in our way, our lack of knowledge about the specifics, we should put in place, what kind of technology what kind of messaging and what kind of campaigns, and that problem exists for authors as well. And we just chill so good with authors because, well, I'm an author, and I understand everything that you struggle with, you have a great idea, you have a great book, but what do you want to do, you want to get your book in front of more people, you want to make it easy for them to find you learn how they can schedule a time to talk with you hire you for a conference, or maybe sign up for the services that your book promotes. So what is the Quickstart Academy for authors? Imagine working with a small group of like minded authors, and the experts from the ROI quickstart team, it's a great way to get your messaging clear to be confident with the technology in your marketing automation, and how to run a strategic campaign to get you more of what you want from the investment of your book. To learn more about the Quickstart Academy for authors, you can visit ROI online.com or click in the link in the show notes below. And now, back to this episode. So, you know, I'm thinking about your books, and the folks that listen to this podcast, their business owners, entrepreneurs, their marketing directors, their story brand, guys, and so they have generally last 20 or less employees, and they're having to wear multiple hats, if not all the hats and running a business. And one day, it becomes very clear, we're going to have to get serious about this marketing branding process, we now have an expectation that we need to show up and, and compete with the big boys and have our act together. of of your books, which book would be the best one for that audience.

Allen Adamson: 

I think actually my first one, which is called brand simple, which is important of no matter how good your idea if you can't get it simple. You can't get it out. You know, if you think about, I don't go back to advertising all the time. But something great ads often don't tell you the whole story that one of my favorite campaigns is the Geico campaign. And you know, each of them is different. And the reason they can be so fresh and creative is because what they're trying to communicate is, you know, 15 minutes and 15% savings. So if the idea is that simple, then you can do a good job of engaging your customer. If the idea is gonna take you 29 seconds to explain, you know, then you're gonna have a boring ad. So I think, again, it's one of those things like you were talking about familiar, familiar and different. Keeping a simple is really hard. Um, because when you're in the middle of the woods, you get complicated. But if you could try to get your core, what you guys offer, as a company or as a service, or as a product, really simple. That's doesn't mean it's everything about your product or your company. But start really simple, you'll have a better job of doing what I talked about the beginning, getting that story out through branding, because the best branding happens as my creative director at the at the old adage, and he said, when you can get everything into the corner of a page, not when you write a 14 page, PowerPoint deck.

Steve Brown: 

So give us like one exercise or process that helps us start to navigate towards the simple.

Allen Adamson: 

I tend to one of the things I like to push my clients to do is that there are two things one is to, to put every thing about your product or company individually on a little index card. Don't put for one idea per card, you know, we've we've got the best tasting coffee, we're made with Colombian beans. We know we're sold at Safeway, and, you know, and then get take your 10 cards with and try to stack them in a pyramid to get to the what's the one idea you'd put on top of the others. And even that simple thing is hard to do. because everything's important. Yeah. What do you mean I can't tell them about the brewing and the drip brewing. So that's one the other sort of tied to that is that look If you were going to, if I gave you the opportunity to do bus shelter advertising, like the little poster, where you could only have one picture, a short phrase, and you couldn't do it, you know, the problem with websites is you can put everything on a website, you can scroll forever, you can, you can put, you know, the, your birthday on the website. But if you had a little bus shelter, and you said, and do three of them, and then show some friends, you could talk about your ice cream shop This way, this way. Tell me about it. What, tell me what you get from the and not that they don't go to try to be clever, do it just do it headline, it's not about the cleverness of the copy. It's about what's the one picture, the one idea, and maybe the one reason to believe you would start with and get them to play with that and not just try to do it perfectly. Because that tendency, two things happen. One is you jam too much information. Or if you're in a little big organization, your partner gets three words, you get two words, you know, your kid looks at it and says, Dad, you should put this word. I don't know committees don't lead to great marketing.

Steve Brown: 

No. So is there a brand that we would recognize where you really helped them nail it? On this example? it you know,

Allen Adamson: 

I've done a lot of work for consumer goods. And yeah, I would say the one brand that I worked on a little bit early on many, many years ago, is, is FedEx because they got their idea. They did many things, right. They could talk about how their plans often go to Memphis and but they their core idea of absolute certainty, that when you touch FedEx, you needed to be certain. It was expressed in some great advertising many years ago, but but wherever you touch that organization, if you you know, call them up or talk to a driver, you know, they everyone there gets it, there is no, did you read the brand strategy, everyone knows that FedEx is about, you need to know where that pack, you know, that envelope is that, you know, packages, now, you don't care that they're investigating it. And so if you have an idea, as simple as absolute certainty, and of course, the magic of FedEx is, that's a great idea. But if the if they couldn't do it, right, it doesn't matter. So getting, you know, and that simple idea of absolute certainty led to some brilliant advertising 20 years ago of the package absolutely, positively has to be there. And today, it leads to all sorts of tracking devices online, so you get a text. I think it doesn't have to be expressed, I just recently is we are living at home a lot. Notice lots of companies are getting better and branding through creating new touch points. So Amazon delivers a package in my house, which happens more frequently than then than most people realize. But often, rather than go outside and open a door and see the package. on my phone, I got a text of a picture of my front door. But with the package there, so Amazon was texting texting me that my pack, in other words, so. So that's sort of a FedEx ID. So it doesn't mean they need an ad, all of a sudden, they're using a different way. Oh, that's strange. I actually see a picture of my front door in the packages there. Oh, and so people wouldn't necessarily think of that as a branding thing. But I look at that, as important as branding is, as anything else you do is can you create an experience or a new touch point that tells your customer something that you're doing better than your competition? See, there's

Steve Brown: 

the brilliance in that is that your house is familiar, that's you, there's an emotional example your front door, and there's a box, sitting with an Amazon logo with an arrow and going from a pointing to z. So everything from A to Z, right there and you're from Orange, and you get it out of the blue and you always check your messages. You're always check your text. And there's a picture right there. They just really took the familiar, your emotion and said, Hey, we're at your house, were a part of your life.

Allen Adamson: 

Right? And they also made it easier. Usually when you track a package with ups or you got to put in a tracking number. You have to find out this. They tell you it's in route somewhere between Cleveland and Milwaukee. Yeah, all sorts of interesting information. But a picture's worth 1000 words. You see that box on your front door, you know,

Steve Brown: 

it's there. Think about the conversations and leadership about that. About that little thing right there. What some day one days. We have Invest in all this technology so that it'll, it'll ping you or fly a drone over and say your packages in in Rhode Island today. And then someone said, why don't we just text him a picture?

Allen Adamson: 

I have our drivers take a smartphone, snap it and we'll figure it out.

Steve Brown: 

And they go, Oh, that's, that's too, I guess. Well, then we wouldn't need all this other. Exactly.

Allen Adamson: 

But But part of it is zooming out and saying not so not doing what every other package delivery company was doing. But looking at, yeah, what would be a good way to solve that problem? If I had to start over again? Yeah, the drivers are now carrying computers in their hands with better cameras and most television stations, right, let's do something with it.

Steve Brown: 

That's, that's a great idea. I'm just thinking like, other delivery services, services can be doing the same thing just feels good, right.

Allen Adamson: 

And often the simplest ideas the best. But again, these ideas always look obvious and easy in the rearview mirror. The trick is to try and you have to try a lot of them that don't work. Because if you're searching for the Amazon picture on the front door, you know, it could be a long journey, you need to make that part of how you work every day, not like, oh, we're gonna have a futures meeting on Thursday to talk about what we're going to do different next month. Because that meeting never happens. We know, you know, the best business people, you know, wake up a little bit. There was a former CEO of Intel, who said this phrase, only the Paranoid survive. And I think if you're in business, and you've you're not worried about your lunch, being in every day, you're you're probably going to have your lunch eat.

Steve Brown: 

Let's talk about courage. Courage, is like this thing that you do whether you're prepared or not, okay, you do the right thing, even though maybe you didn't wake up this morning to be prepared to do it. But you just stepped into that. And being creative. I believe takes a real certain amount of courage plus and competence. Because all these ideas that you come up with and present to your clients, they're, they're ruthless. How do you balance, being too sensitive, and listening to their input, but then also like going, I feel really confident about why I'm presenting this. And here's why, where, where does that come from? And how do you do it?

Allen Adamson: 

Yeah, it's one of the everyday challenges because as you said, people are comfortable, they're familiar. And so if you sell them something else, it will look this law firms aren't doing that. And why should Why would I, you know, advertise a law firm, like, like a health center. So, and but your job as a marketing advisor is to get people to try to look at to create difference, because the best brands have a really simple, you know, they're different in a way that matters. And that's constantly changing. And the minute you do something, everyone else copies all of a sudden, you know, you were different, but you're not. So, I, I, my favorite way of doing it is not to say, well, we did some research and 62% of people said they preferred a law firm that felt more like a fitness center. Because oftentimes, when people are nervous and or they have their mind made up, and they they're very set in their ways. They get into the don't confuse me with the facts, conversation. Oh, who are these people? They're not people I know. Yeah. 16 up here, the research question was phrased badly. So often, what I do is, we try to, you know, videotape, real customers reacting to it, because three or four people saying, hey, I'd love to have a picture of the package delivered from a door, that's sort of cool, would be more, it's more persuasive than 36% of customers said they would be open to seeing a picture of their front door. So I try to, you know, go out and get, but ultimately, you know, that's the difference between some you know, some clients or, in general, the more successful you are, and the bigger you are, the more risk averse you are. Because you're more about I built this business over 20 years. The last thing I'm going to do is that Allen and so yeah, and those are the brands with big companies struggle to innovate because they get so invested in protecting their nest egg and what's worked for them over 20 years that the younger startup is going to eat their lunch, because they can look at things with fresh eyes.

Steve Brown: 

So I'm curious, you know, I think that companies or businesses, they don't really get Get their branding act together until they buy, really feel good about their services, their products, their employees, their customers, you know, they're, they're going along as they go, Hey, we got a, we got a growing concern, here we can, we're gonna be around for a while we made it out of the woods. And then they kind of look up and go, Oh, we need to get our act together now. And it's, it's later on in their lifecycle of their business. Is that? Do you? Have you recognize that as well? When do you see business,

Allen Adamson: 

when they're first starting there, it's really hard to do anything. Because you're juggling lots of things, and you're just trying to survive. And oftentimes, a good idea was enough to propel you from the first start, but typically what happens in our world we know the sooner you have a good idea this, the sooner you will get really good competitors, because people will see it. So that that's sort of one of the pivot point happens after you've been out for a bit. And you're no longer the the only one on the block saying buy one ice cream, get one free. That's when it comes time to do it. Typically, I think the best branding and other thing is, starts inside out. You got to know what the cut you got to look inside the company. How do your people talk about it? And and what can you do because if you promise something that your company can't do, that's the other thing. Companies, owners try to do marketing that they're just not going to be good at. You're better off doing less, and being really good at it. Then being too ambitious, we're going to do a TV commercial and having it be awful. You know, I I'm always counseling my clients, do a few things and doing really well. And do things you're naturally good at if you're best at door to door sales. Don't change that game just get better at that. Don't try to pivot and do social media influencer marketing, if you've never done it before, but you like looking at Instagram. So you figured you'd give it a try

Steve Brown: 

to think what's the common theme in the successful brands? Do you see? Do you think they really communicate the essence of their culture and what they believe in, in their brand as well, somehow?

Allen Adamson: 

Yeah, I mean, that's it. That's the it used to be you could just say I have a better tasting chocolate milk, and here it is. But younger consumers are Yeah, I'll try your chocolate milk. But tell me a little bit about your company? How do you treat your cows? You know, where do you? Where do you get your and I think that's important because people want to do business with people they know, they want to have a relationship with and they trust. And, um, that often gets into making sure your communications is not about what you do something and how But who are you? And why are you in business. And so a lot of businesses are doing much better, because they're starting with the why and who we are. And we're nice. We you know, we do the right thing. We take care of our employees, people like working here. And that story is getting more important. Oh, in this country, where people want to do business with people that, you know, are good people, not because they invented the best mousetrap in their basement necessarily.

Steve Brown: 

Think that should be the title of your next book. How do you treat your cows?

Allen Adamson: 

As you see how many products on the market talking about that? Yeah, it's how do you and ultimately, your employees become your best spokespeople? Because everyone's out there. And if your employees love what they do, let them help you market don't just leave it to the marketing director to worry about

Steve Brown: 

getting some little rundown on metaphors.

Allen Adamson: 

It came out of a simple idea that when you have two things, one relates to something you talked about earlier, when you're looking at a client problem. And somebody says, am I not selling enough help me, or our sales are not growing fast enough? If everyone you bring to that table has the same background as you or your you know, you're going to see one problem. And so to solve good problems, you need a couple different people who have completely different views of the world and different expertise. And so, metaphors is sort of a team of special forces that look at a problem without we don't have, we don't try to sell web advertising or social media, you know, it's not about what we have. It's about looking at the problem as we say without blinders on. And once you say the most important thing for you to do is unlock word of mouth. Then we pivot and save and we have got a great word of mouth team, not somebody you know. So it's not the same team, so to speak. Special Forces and marketing and, and when you have a problem, you don't want somebody who's done a little of everything. You know, you if you're, if your plumbing breaks, you don't want somebody, your gardener coming in and saying, Well, I can fix that pipe, you you want the plumber who's been fixing plumbing for 20 years before they before you move a pipe in your attic. So I think the same is true in marketing. Now if you want to work in marketing, you know, if you decide you need something you want somebody who's done this before and not just, you know, watched a YouTube video on how to do.

Steve Brown: 

Yeah, that's, we've all experienced that, haven't we?

Allen Adamson: 

Are the answer whether you get Oh, we do that, too. Yeah, we do that too. Hey, you need some sampling on the corner, we you know, we we have a team that goes out and give away the candy bars there. So everyone wants to do everything? Oh, but the trick is to find a few people to do certain things well and figure out how to use them.

Steve Brown: 

swell what's what's one question that you don't get to answer one question you wish people would ask you so that you you can talk about it?

Allen Adamson: 

Um, yeah, I think that to be successful in marketing, I think you need to like it. You know, you need to, you need to like talking to different people and solving problems, you need to, you need to be thinking about your client's problem. When you're biking or jogging, not when you're sitting in front of the computer with a white screen trying to figure out what four words to type in. And so the the thing that I've enjoyed my whole career is always working with interesting clients that have interesting problems that keep me up at night that I find, geez, that's a tough one are you gonna solve? And so most people talk about, you know, what have you done? Well, but I like, I like problem solving. And, you know, part of success, I think, is doing something you like, even if you are not making money doing it.

Steve Brown: 

So why did you write your first book? Where did that come from? What convinced you to do it?

Allen Adamson: 

Well, in a consulting business, everyone has the same Oh, we do this. And to some extent, you need some way to capture your difference. And part of it was most enjoyable part of writing. Books for me is not sitting in front of the keyboard and trying to do a sentence but talking to people. So for each of these books, I've got them that you know, if I called you up and said, Gee, I want to talk to you about your marketing. And can we talk about? He said, Look, I'm okay on that. Alan, thank you very much. And, but if I say, you know, Steve, can you tell me how you started, you know, ROI and your story. So I got a chance when writing these books to talk to a whole bunch of people that ordinarily would have said, Look, I'm fine. My marketing is fine, Alan, thank you very much. And so just it to me, it was like going back to school a couple times, because it took six, seven months to, and you would speak to a whole bunch of people that you ordinarily wouldn't speak to got me out of my bubble each time, it was like a little sabbatical, even though I did it well, trying to keep working.

Steve Brown: 

Well, good. I encourage folks to check out at least let's start with brand simple, before we start working on the other ones. And then so Alan, what's a great way? What's like the perfect customer that you You are a perfect fit for it in how should they connect with you?

Allen Adamson: 

I think you know, it's individual entrepreneurs are probably not right for us because it's, it's, it's just not a good fit. But if you get a medium sized business 1520 people you know, doing well, and you've you've got a product or services working and and you're ready to start growing. Um, those are good clients for us. And as well as you got a very successful business and all of a sudden, what you did last year is not working as well this year. Those are also good clients.

Steve Brown: 

Awesome, so they can reach you and metaphors calm they can connect with you on LinkedIn as well. Yeah, exactly. And then what's Who's your mentor? Who's the branding person that's written a book that you really learned a lot from?

Allen Adamson: 

Oh, there, there's so many because I like more of the Good to Great those books that talk about how businesses really broke out rather than because I think all of them have good lessons in it. And I try to look at different books from different categories. I think if you've read two or three marketing books, you're probably at the top and then pick a couple books about business biographies of famous entrepreneurs started or, you know, read Steve Jobs story You know, try not to read three stories about people in the law firm business to try to figure out how to market a law firm.

Steve Brown: 

Awesome. Alan, you've been a great guest that really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you for being on the ROI online podcast.

Allen Adamson: 

It's pleasure, Ben being here and have a nice, nice day.

Steve Brown: 

All right, and that's a wrap. So that work. Thanks for listening to another fun episode of the ROI online podcast. For more, be sure to check out the show notes of this episode. And feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn where we can chat, and I can help direct you to the resources you're searching for. To learn more about how you can grow your business better. Be sure to pick up your copy of my book, The Golden toilet at surprise, that golden toilet.com I'm Steve Brown, and we'll see you next week on another fun episode of the ROI online podcast.