The Customer Experience Podcast
The Customer Experience Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

8. Take Care of Your Brand and It Will Take Care of You w/ Kurt Bartolich

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

“Any brand that you frequent, or are fond of, or use, there's been a journey of some kind,” says Kurt Bartolich, the founder of GUTS Branding, and the author of You Can't Ride Two Horses With One Ass.

Whether your company offers an active (Build-A-Bear) or passive (Southwest Airlines) consumer experience, there are some basic branding truths that successful companies observe.

Unfortunately, a lot of businesses get customer experiences backward.

But if I'm going to boil areally down to what is a brand, I like to say it's the reasonthat someone would choose your business, your organization, your products, your servicesover any other option. And again, I think that's also fairly strongly.You're intrinsically linked to the experience that you create as well. That's all partof it. You're listening to the customer experience podcast, a podcast dedicated tohelping today's growing businesses restore a personal human touch throughout the customer life cycle.Get ready to hear how sales, marketing and customers success. Experts surprise anddelight and never lose sign of their customers humanity. Here's your host, EthanButte. Thank you so much for clicking play on this episode of the CustomerExperience Podcast. I am Ethan butwed and I am joined by a gentleman I'veknown for about fifteen years, awesome person and a branding expert, the founderof guts branding, the author of an excellent book that I'm sure we'll takesome themes out of. You can't ride two horses with one ass, KurtBartola's welcome to the customer experience podcast. Thank you, eathing, it's greatto be here. Yeah, you were one of my motivations to take thepodcast in this direction again. We've been we work together for a few years, much earlier in both of our careers, and if stayed in contact over theyear since. And as I was thinking about customer experiences, a themeyou know your expertise and what you shared with me that is really affected mycareer over the years around internal branding and making a promise to your customer thatyou live out every day and every seat of the organization. I think that'sso foundational to customer experience and so I wanted to make sure to have youon early, if not often. So I'll start with you, curt,with the question I always start with, which is when I say customer experience, what does that mean to you? What is, if you had todefine it or mention some characteristics of it, what does it mean to you?Sure that that's a very good question?...

I think you you and I bothknow that there's a lot of different ways you can define it, justlike there's a lot of different different definitions for what is a brand or whatis branding. I think about customer experience a little more through the lens ofwhat is the brand or what brand are we talking about? I think thereis active customer experience, where you're actively creating those experiences for your customers andperspective customers. I think there's passive customer experience type of brands. You know, maybe it's a convenience store or you know, maybe it's an airline rightwhere the experience isn't you're going to get a fly the airplane, but whatkind of experience can they create for you as a passenger, as someone who'sbuying a ticket in the airport itself, at the gates, at the ticketcounter, those sorts of things. So but I think today a lot ofbrands that are particularly more active ones, you know, there's more of anemphasis and again, I'm not a customer experience consultant per se, but ofcourse everything I do is intrinsically linked to that. So I think today yousuing a lot of brands moving more towards customer experience as involvement, customer involvement, customer co creation. You know, we hear a lot about journeys,customer journeys, and I think there's a place for that sort of emphasis.You know, I've always thought that any brand that is a brand that youfrequent or fond of or use, whatever the case, maybe it's always there'salways been a journey of some kind. And I think, though, inthe day and age that we live in, that's social media and digital experience.Obviously that's been amplified dramatically. But you know, I think about somestores today, when I think about co creation of some stores, but somedifferent brands out there. You know, think about the your neighborhood pottery store, right, I mean they've been around...

...forever and I can remember in theS as a kid getting drugged on with my mom and what did we doin that store? Well, we had a brand experience, right, wecreated pottery. You think about a brand like build a bear. Now that'sobviously a brand that's focused on children, but the parents are clearly an audienceand and that's about, you know, a very handson type of experience.So, you know, I think it today and moving forward, it's reallyabout maybe less about every single you know, creating some sort of amplified experience,every touch point, but really creating a real offinic experience, a realhandson co creation type of experience. That's great. I love active versus passiveco creation to generally is going to fall into the active area where you are, where you're interacting. You mentioned at the top to their multiple definitions forfor brandon branding. Can you go there? When someone says, you know,we're working on our brand, what does that mean to you? AndI have a feeling it's going to be a little bit different than what itmeans to the average marketer or salesperson. Sure, I know such a foundationaland it's such a fundamental question and I appreciate that question and I always respecteverybody's definition. In fact, you know the old saying perception is the reality, right, and so it's interesting that I will ask this question typically ifI'm in a prospecting meeting or I've got a new client and were I'm engagingwith their leadership team, I always ask them, you know, what's yourdefinition of a brand? And and it's interesting that I typically get this fairlyconsistent answer. It's it's what you're known for. It to your reputation,it's it's how people can distinguish you from other companies, organizations, products orservices in a given a vertical or a given market space. I also sortof side are find it ironics that so many companies are actually fairly consistent internallywhen I talk about this, but their...

...actions speak differently. Right. ButI have a sort of a different way that I like to talk about it, and I think it's all rooted in those ideas of reputation and it's ruddin the idea of, you know, unique value. To some extent,I think trust. Trust is such an important part of how a brand isdefined today, particularly with so much over saturation every category. But if I'mgoing to boil a really down to what is a brand, I like tosay it's the reason that someone would choose your business, your organization, yourproducts, your services over any other option. And again, I think that's alsofairly strongly. You're intrinsically linked to the experience that you create as well. That's all part of it. But really, what is that reason thatthey would choose you, your company, your services, your products over anyof their option out there, and I think if you can define that andclarify that, that's a pretty good definition of brand today. That's great andsomething else that you turned me on to a long time ago, not thatI've always had the resources to explore it properly. But let's talk about marketresearch in its role related to brand. You know, I think, Ithink a lot of folks, and I've been in this exercise before, I'vebeen in this room and participated in this way before. You know, Gosh, you know who, what people seem to like about us? What isunique about us? What are we doing really well? How are we known? How are we differentiated? What is our unique value? What do people, what a happy customers, say about us? Cool, that's our brandand we'll move forward, but done well. Obviously the brand isn't what we say, it's what the customer says. Can you just riff on that alittle bit? Sure, yeah, I think about you know, when reallygood brand research is well, there's there's actually, let me take a stepback. There's a couple ways to sort of look at research in general,and there's there's a lot of really good research out there. You know,we can look at some of the challenges out there in terms of sampling andpanels today and our validity of certain things,...

...but the end of the day they'restill really good research being done out there that helps you discern your pathforward. You know, I think. But really good brand research is rootedin the idea of what does the gap between who we as the company andorganization are or want to be, and what do our consumers need us tobe? And I use the consumers as a placeholder, right. We knowthat in certain verticals and industries they might call them there you know something else, but consumers, I'm using pretty much as a placeholder these days, whetheryou're, you know, in the business to business space or be Toc orwhatever the case may be. And I think far too often companies and organizationstoday still take a very insular look at themselves in terms of building a brand. And to your point, there's, you know, there's certain things thatthey if they do do research and if they do engage a third party,I just don't think sometimes the research goes deep enough to really suce out whatthe real position is. I think really great brand research today is about findingthose gaps. And want to talk about gaps, I don't talk about amarketplace. I talked about the gap in the mind, right. I meanat the end of the day, brand is all play, the psychology ofwords and positions and images that you that you think of. That that youcan, that you know, you sort of have stored in the hard drivein your head and brand research. Dontel helps find the gaps. But Ithink really great brand research today it isn't so much about logos and things likethat and and slogans. I mean, I'm not Antilogo, I'm an antislogan, but it's really about understanding what perceptive gap can you occupy? Andthere's always a gap, right. Let me give you some actual examples ofjust different clients I've worked with. I won't necessarily mention their names, butthe industry they're in. Yeah, that's great. Yeah, worked in biomedicalresearch in terms of doing grand position with two different clients there in the courseof the last five or six years, and one on the west coast.And you know what was interesting is the...

...organization viewed itself as a lot ofBiomedical Research Institute Institutes Do, and very much like a lot of nonprofit charities. They looked at themselves as hey, we're out to cure cancer, we'reout to cure heart, you know, heart disease and all these different things, which is which is a wonderful, wonderful vision and goal, but it'sreally not necessarily realistic, right. I mean, yes, we all wantto get there and I think someday we will get there. And all thesedifferent diseases. But this particular client I was working with they saw themselves verymuch in the same way and had build a position around tours. And Ipose this question to the CEO. I said when, what's the last diseasewe've actually cured domestically? And it was polio in the in the S.and so the reality was here's a brand that when we went out and talkto their consumers and did real market research, we did qualitative focus groups. Westarted there with their donors and then did a market light study in amajor metropolitan area, seven hundred respondents throughout their where they're located. General consumersjust want to find out if there was any awareness about them. But butalso more importantly than awareness about them is what are they really want or needor what for what reasons would they support a Biomedical Research Institute? And theyweren't. They weren't the Pollyanna things like hope and cures. They were theeveryday things that you bring to market that can make life better day by dayand cumatively over time. If you do enough of those, we're going toget to cures where right. So it's that kind of a disconnect that Isee far too often. I worked with a client and survey I'm sorry,and surveillance technology, many years ago. Is a really interesting client. Theyactually invented the or created the first wireless...

...body wire and so forth. Yeah, for undercover agents who are in the field and you know, they sawthemselves the company as a solutions company, but their consider customers or their consumersin their in their industry saw them as a technology company. That's a hugegap, a huge has in there. So I think really understanding one ofthose gaps. You know, how do you see yourself versus how they yourconsumers, are your customers and prospects see you, and building that bridge betweenthose two things, that's the sweet spot between trying to determ, trying todial in what your brand position is in research, is the key to identifyingthe gap and then you start building strategies and tactics to cover it. Absolutelyabsolutely. That's a two things there. First of all, there's no waythat any organization, no matter how strong they may have in term, howstrong they may be in terms of research and even a market research company shouldnever do their own research right. So that's a key right there, whatyou said. You've got a you do have to go third party, youdo have to have an objective snap snapshot so you detach from the emotion ofit, you eliminate that conference nation bias, all those human conditions that we allsuffer from. That's critical number one. And then you have to make surethat you look at it from both perspectives. Right. You need thatobjective, that independent research partner needs to look at it from your perspective versusthe external perspective and make those comparisons. But you said something else that's reallycritical, and basically what you're saying is, what do you do with it?and Far too many businesses out there or sort of swept up in thewhole agency model. And I'm not anti agency, actually a partner with alot of agencies and think there's a lot of very, very strong agencies,a lot of talented people, but the idea of externalizing that before you've internalizedwhat you've learned. It operationalized perhaps is...

...a better way to say it,which I think is what you were getting to. Ethan. Is really thekey, because you have to make sure that when you not only you know, once you discover what that that brand promise should be, that closes thatgap between who you are and who they need you to be, then youhave to make sure you can deliver on it everything that you do, andI think far too often companies and organizations skip that most critical step. Andlet me connect the DOT. I did a typically about once a year willjust do a my own research project about a topic, and the one thatwas really sort of at the forefront of me last summer's I just kept seeingall these different definitions of brand popping up on the linked in right everybody hada definition, and I'm not here to criticize those definitions, I'm not hereto say they were right or wrong, but I'm like, you know,instead of me just kind of throwing my own idea and let me just goout to consumers and find out how they define it. And what surprised meis the number one thing that they said when defining a brand was really essentially, and I'm paraphrasing, was a covenant of trust. And if you thinkabout how do you build trust, it's really through consistency and delivering upon thatexpectation. So if you have an operationalise what you've learned from research and againcrystallizing at in the form of what is our brand position and then first operationalizingit. So when you do put that promise outward, then you have torisk breaching that trust because you may not paid off in the way the customeror the consumer expects. That's great. I doing your own research on howcustomers define it. Is Great and you really emphasize trust probably seven minutes agoas well. So it's great that that came back up again and it's reallyagain making these promises, fulfilling the promises talk about. So when you wroteyou can't write two horses with one ass.

It's not a I just said thatagainst I just love the title. First, but before you answer thisquestion, if you would breathe by you know what that really means. Ithink it's clear to me. But just so, so any else is clear. You know why that title. But then you know it's not a bookabout brand building, it's a book about brand conservancy. So also cover thatfor folks. Sure, sure, I I'll try to keep this brief.On the title, it was, you know, anecdotally, was a titlethat I didn't come up with in it's an expression that I think is businessobviously been around for quite some time, so I can't claim ownership of it. But I was in a meeting with a client five or six years ago, and this is when I was in the early stages of developing my outlinefor the book and I kept a little diary with me for about six ofthe last well, I'd say probably five years leading up to that, whereI would just take notes about different experiences I have with clients, different thingsthey taught me about brand, because it is it is a two way street. As much as I pretend to be a brand expert, so much ofwhat I've acquired and learned in terms of knowledge just come from my customers andand from my clients. So I started keeping a log and I was ina meeting one day and there was I was talking about this this idea,this axiom of brand that's, you know, it's been around for many years.Perhaps outreest might be credited with with really emphasizing focus and really trying tobe about one thing, and so I had this client that was was tryingto be about more than one thing and I'm in a meeting with this leadershipteam and there was a woman in the room, and very intelligent woman,very thoughtful, a little reserved, and I was talking, I was givingsome real world examples about brands that, you know, tried to be abranded house, tried to fit everything that they could possibly do under who theywere and how that can run counter to what your consumers or your customers perceiveyou to be. And she just blurt...

...it out. So you mean youcan't write two horses with one ass and in that in yeah, and inthat moment I knew that was the title of my book because that very muchfits one of the many sort of axioms or pillars of brand that I thatI believe in. So, yes, it's not a book about how tobuild a brand by any means, though I do think that there's enough inthere that someone could but it's not really a brand startup book. But whenI talk about brand conservancy, and I think this is something that farts again, many companies and organizations overlook much like they either don't embrace research, takea very insert point of view or, if they do research, they doit themselves, which, again for all the reasons we've earlier, discussed isnever a great idea. It's kind of like a kind of like, youknow, doing your own financial planning or diagnosing your own illnesses right. Youknow you need those exports to do that work. But that being said,I think another thing that that businesses often overlook is the importance of just protectingtheir core right. Far too many brands expand too quickly. They don't haveanything in place, any guard rails in place that help protect that brand.And, as you said earlier, he than the very beginning of this.Ultimately the consumer owns the brand because they're going to find how they perceive rightand I think anybody who doesn't believe that's true is potentially setting themselves up forfor some failure down the road. Right. was a Sam Walton who once said, you know, then, one person that can fire me as mycustomers. And that's so true. And so I often think about yes,every brand needs to find a way to continue to stay relevant and to growand to engage, but at the same time we have to make sure thatwe're keeping our brands true to how our consumers are, customers perceive our brand. And so I think about, for...

...example, a brand like all ofgarden, who many, for many years, just kept expanding its menu. Idon't spend a lot of time needing get it all of garden, butI have a few times and I've just I noticed through the years how it'smen. You just got bigger and bigger and how it kept building and buildingand building, and all of garden lost its way. It really struggled andall the different ways that you measure success, particularly in sales. And when thenew CEO took over, I would say about three years ago, thefirst thing he did was say, let's get back to the basics. Trunktheir menu down to great sauce, Great Pasta Gray, great meat, andhe said let's just go back to the basics and immediately turned everything around.And so there was this idea that he was going back to. He wastaking a conservancy mindset to their brand. Again. Conservancy doesn't mean you're notmoving forward. In fact, in a world where we have so many brandsand so many categories today and new ones emerging every day, particularly in tactingup technological spaces, keeping it simple and staying focusing and going deeper with yourbrand, not wider. You know, there's a there's another aspect to brandconservancy. It's all about protecting it authenticity and I may have been speaking aboutthat now, but I wrote about it my book either, so I won'tgo into a ton of detail, but it's actually a as you know,one of the things that Kansas City is known for, and this is I'mbased in the Kansas City areas, is barbecue and they're for any barbecue connoisseursout there, you know, typically when you see these different lists that comeout of best barbecue places in the country, we have three or four that aretypically the top ten and sometimes in the top five, and Joe's,Kansas City, formerly Oklahoma Joe's, is often the very top of this listand it started out in a gas station here. It's still in a gasstation, by the way, one of their locations is at least. Anda few years ago I learned a lot...

...about that as a brand and apparentlyor what it was was it was two different people who owned it. Oneof him, one of a gentleman, had moved away and had started acouple of his okahoma Joe's barbecue places in Oklahoma. He was from Oklahoma originalbut anyway, and he wanted to expand nationwide well, the partner that thathad control of the location and can't see in the gas station. He didn'twant that. It wasn't because he didn't want to grow, but he lookedat from the standpoint of I'm going to lose control potentially of things right,and that's really critical to in terms of brand is over partnerships and and andreally take letting things get out of your control right. And when you dothose sorts of things there's a certain amount of risk that goes with that thatyou know partners have different ideas, things can go rogue, things happen,life happens. My Anti Partnership. I think if you really really careful whoyou choose to partner with. I've learned that personally myself by the life.But anyway, so he basically they that he and the other gentleman that therewere partners in the Barbecue restaurant. They came to an agreement. It wasvery amicable, but he he basically, and I read a story about himin the can't see star and he just said, look, I would Iwould lose control potentially over the menu. You know, we have a certainway of doing it here and we wanted to make sure that we stayed trueto that. So and he said, I don't have any plans to expand. So and again, not to get too far off on an upbeaten path, but I think that's sort of part and parcel with another thing that Imind with a lot of brands has they think that mass consumption equites the mathor mass availability quite the mass consumption, and that's not always true with brands. Sometimes, creating a little mystique about your brand to be depending on whatcategory you're in, is a very effective tool of building a successful brand.So I've gone down several rabbit holes for you there. I'll summarize it withwith just one take and then and then...

I'll go to my my standard clothesthat I'm excited to hear about from you. You know, I think with theOlive Garden Story and with the JOE's Barbecue Jose Kansas City, and evenwith that that last take there, you're kind of drawing that line that youdo really clearly in the book several times the difference between business thinking and brandthinking. So I'll just read a quick quote that I pulled. I justrefreshed on the book. Is One that I wrote about personally in my blogand have read a couple times already. And to your point, there aresome brand building tips in there as well as just understanding and seeing it justthrough this conversation, through the way you lay it out there. It's certainlyfor someone who is revisiting or building a brand. There's plenty there. Butbrand thinkers tend to spend their money on product development and employee and customer experience. I love the utie employee in there too, more than they spend onadvertising and by doing so they create stories that their customers willingly share with othersand probably that their employyees will share as well. So it's been a greatconversation here on the customer experience podcast and at bomb on. Relationships are reallya big deal to us. So I want to give you the opportunity tothink or mentioned someone who's had a really big impact on your on your lifeor on your career, and and to give a mention to a company thatyou think is doing brand or customer experience the right way. Boy, there'sbeen so many people in my life who have, you know, mentored meand guided me. I would probably say that Al Reese, even though we'venever necessarily had what you would consider a mentor Mente type of relationship, thoughwe've had some email exchanges in the past and he's some may think he's he'sa little old school, but I think that many of the the ways welook at brand today are rooted his original teachings, as original findings about aboutbrand positioning, and that's how I got my start and and for many yearsjust almost to the letter, followed his approach until I got my own voice, until I learned to expand upon those...

...in a way that I think aremeaningful. But he's somebody that you know, even though I think that there's somethings about that can be contemporized today, I think just sort of the justthe fundamentals in the basics are really, really still applicable today. Right.I mean still, you know, you still about how you win themind. Right, it's still about thinking about the minds versus the market.You know, it's still about, and this is some this is you know, that the whole notion you brought up about business thinking versus brand thinking.Right, you know, he talks about decisions made in board rooms. Ithink about it a much bigger level. I think maybe we're same, samething. But I think about the ethos of the organization. We talked alot today about cultural strategy and culture drives everything and I think actually culture isa tactic of the ethos of the leadership of the organization. But so he'ssomebody that I you know, from a distance from his teachings, but someonelater in live I had a chance to connect with on Linkedin and we've exchangedsome emails and and so I've I've you know, he's someone to this daythat I'm maybe not look up to as much as today, but as thankfulthat that he started this crazy journey for so many people, including myself.So He's somebody that I definitely think very fondly of. An again thing todaythat he's still relevant highly and I have seen him embraced and adapted. Youknow, I as reading this gentleman's work and I was like this is thetwenty two immutable laws of branding, like that's what this is like. Ican see it in his writing. So so he is super relevant today.Positioning with Jack Trout is a classic love that call. Can you name acompany that you really like a respect in terms of the way they deliver customerexperience or even live out their brand. Well, I mean there's always thego to southwest airlines, you know. I mean, I don't think there'sanybody that can argue that, or not...

...just a great grand I think,what if I can, if I can just share two different brands, andI'm a big fan of they're one of them. And I have to justquickly share a story that a colleague of mine had shared with me a coupleyears ago that he was on a flight on southwest airlines with his family andthere was a young lady on the flight who young girl, excuse me,maybe five years old, four years old. It was her birthday, and sothe flight attendant got on the PA and then said that we have ayoung, young girl celebrating her fourth or fifth birthday and unfortunately don't have areal cake on board, but if you could help us help her blow outcandles, that would be awesome. And so what she did is she hadeverybody turned on their overhead light, overhead light and they dimmed all the cabinlights and they brought her up to the front and they had her blow outthe candles and every person almost in concert, all the way from the front ofthe plane to the back of the plane turned off their overhead lights sowas completely dark for a second. So you know, it's things like that. You know, they're the hero airline. That's how I define their brand.They're the hero right. They don't nickel and dime you. They takethemselves seriously, but they poke fun at themselves at times. They they justcreate just a wonderful end to end experience. So and in terms of building itfrom the inside out, they have a wonderful if for those of youryour listeners who haven't had an opportunity to read on how they've created that experience, how they've operationalized that and done in a very authentic way, they're agreat case study. What I mean, what a wonderful story, what acool experience, obviously for the girl, but also for all the passengers aswell. And it's one of those things that you know you could let thatmoment go, but instead you take care to give employees and create an ethos, give them the space, give them the authority to create these moments forfor all the customers. Great example and...

...a really great success story too froma branding standpoint. How can if someone wants to follow up with you tolearn more about guts, to learn more about Al Res. Where would yousend people here at the conclusion the show? Well, they can email me atat k as in curtain. Then my last name be a RT oL. I see a chat guts brandingcom. They can go to guts grantingcom.But I'm in the process of having a new website launched and that shouldbe coming out inside the next thirty days. So there's a it's a dated sitebut it's getting ready to be brought into the the twenty nineteens. SoI'm excited about that. Might Linkedin. They they want to connect, tobe a linkedin you can search me on Linkedin. So and I encourage anybodyWHO's interested in reading my book to check it out. sovailable on Amazon onas well. So and I you know, one of the things you think thatyou know I you know everybody. Again, I think has can havea different point of view about what we've talked about today and I respect thosepoints of view. So if anybody you know, anytime someone doesn't agree withlife prospective point to do, I'm very open to having that dialog and havingthose exchanges as well. So that's great because this is all it's all influx. There is no one right answer. There there are things that we've seenbe effective, there are things that we aspire to, there are thingsthat customers respond to, and and that's what we're trying to explore here onthe podcast. Kurt, I really really appreciate your time today, so gladyou could come on and we'll have to do it again. Thank you,Ethan. As a pleasure you're listening to the customer experience podcast. No matteryour role in delivering value and serving customers, you're in trusting some of your mostimportant and valuable messages to faceless digital communication. You can do better.rehumanize the experience by getting face to face through simple personal videos. Learn moreand get started free at bomb bombcom.

You've been listening to the customer experiencepodcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the showin your favorite podcast player or visit bombombcom. Thank you so much for listening.Until next time,.

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