The Customer Experience Podcast
The Customer Experience Podcast

Episode · 3 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 a really down to what is a brand, I like to say it's the reason that someone would choose your business, your organization, your products, your services over 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 part of it. You're listening to the customer experience podcast, a podcast dedicated to helping 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 and delight and never lose sign of their customers humanity. Here's your host, Ethan Butte. Thank you so much for clicking play on this episode of the Customer Experience Podcast. I am Ethan butwed and I am joined by a gentleman I've known for about fifteen years, awesome person and a branding expert, the founder of guts branding, the author of an excellent book that I'm sure we'll take some themes out of. You can't ride two horses with one ass, Kurt Bartola's welcome to the customer experience podcast. Thank you, eathing, it's great to be here. Yeah, you were one of my motivations to take the podcast 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 the year since. And as I was thinking about customer experiences, a theme you know your expertise and what you shared with me that is really affected my career over the years around internal branding and making a promise to your customer that you live out every day and every seat of the organization. I think that's so foundational to customer experience and so I wanted to make sure to have you on 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 to define 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 both know that there's a lot of different ways you can define it, just like there's a lot of different different definitions for what is a brand or what is branding. I think about customer experience a little more through the lens of what is the brand or what brand are we talking about? I think there is active customer experience, where you're actively creating those experiences for your customers and perspective 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 right where the experience isn't you're going to get a fly the airplane, but what kind of experience can they create for you as a passenger, as someone who's buying a ticket in the airport itself, at the gates, at the ticket counter, those sorts of things. So but I think today a lot of brands that are particularly more active ones, you know, there's more of an emphasis and again, I'm not a customer experience consultant per se, but of course everything I do is intrinsically linked to that. So I think today you suing 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 you frequent or fond of or use, whatever the case, maybe it's always there's always been a journey of some kind. And I think, though, in the 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 some stores today, when I think about co creation of some stores, but some different 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 the S as a kid getting drugged on with my mom and what did we do in that store? Well, we had a brand experience, right, we created pottery. You think about a brand like build a bear. Now that's obviously a brand that's focused on children, but the parents are clearly an audience and and that's about, you know, a very handson type of experience. So, you know, I think it today and moving forward, it's really about maybe less about every single you know, creating some sort of amplified experience, every touch point, but really creating a real offinic experience, a real handson co creation type of experience. That's great. I love active versus passive co 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 for for brandon branding. Can you go there? When someone says, you know, we're working on our brand, what does that mean to you? And I have a feeling it's going to be a little bit different than what it means to the average marketer or salesperson. Sure, I know such a foundational and it's such a fundamental question and I appreciate that question and I always respect everybody'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 if I'm in a prospecting meeting or I've got a new client and were I'm engaging with their leadership team, I always ask them, you know, what's your definition of a brand? And and it's interesting that I typically get this fairly consistent 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 or services in a given a vertical or a given market space. I also sort of side are find it ironics that so many companies are actually fairly consistent internally when I talk about this, but their...

...actions speak differently. Right. But I 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 rudd in the idea of, you know, unique value. To some extent, I think trust. Trust is such an important part of how a brand is defined today, particularly with so much over saturation every category. But if I'm going to boil a really down to what is a brand, I like to say it's the reason that someone would choose your business, your organization, your products, your services over 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 part of it. But really, what is that reason that they would choose you, your company, your services, your products over any of their option out there, and I think if you can define that and clarify that, that's a pretty good definition of brand today. That's great and something else that you turned me on to a long time ago, not that I've always had the resources to explore it properly. But let's talk about market research in its role related to brand. You know, I think, I think a lot of folks, and I've been in this exercise before, I've been in this room and participated in this way before. You know, Gosh, you know who, what people seem to like about us? What is unique 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 brand and 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 a little bit? Sure, yeah, I think about you know, when really good brand research is well, there's there's actually, let me take a step back. 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 and panels today and our validity of certain things,...

...but the end of the day they're still really good research being done out there that helps you discern your path forward. You know, I think. But really good brand research is rooted in the idea of what does the gap between who we as the company and organization are or want to be, and what do our consumers need us to be? And I use the consumers as a placeholder, right. We know that 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, whether you're, you know, in the business to business space or be Toc or whatever the case may be. And I think far too often companies and organizations today 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 that they 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 what the real position is. I think really great brand research today is about finding those gaps. And want to talk about gaps, I don't talk about a marketplace. I talked about the gap in the mind, right. I mean at the end of the day, brand is all play, the psychology of words and positions and images that you that you think of. That that you can, that you know, you sort of have stored in the hard drive in your head and brand research. Dontel helps find the gaps. But I think really great brand research today it isn't so much about logos and things like that and and slogans. I mean, I'm not Antilogo, I'm an anti slogan, but it's really about understanding what perceptive gap can you occupy? And there's always a gap, right. Let me give you some actual examples of just different clients I've worked with. I won't necessarily mention their names, but the industry they're in. Yeah, that's great. Yeah, worked in biomedical research in terms of doing grand position with two different clients there in the course of 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 of Biomedical 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're out to cure heart, you know, heart disease and all these different things, which is which is a wonderful, wonderful vision and goal, but it's really not necessarily realistic, right. I mean, yes, we all want to get there and I think someday we will get there. And all these different diseases. But this particular client I was working with they saw themselves very much in the same way and had build a position around tours. And I pose this question to the CEO. I said when, what's the last disease we'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 talk to their consumers and did real market research, we did qualitative focus groups. We started there with their donors and then did a market light study in a major metropolitan area, seven hundred respondents throughout their where they're located. General consumers just want to find out if there was any awareness about them. But but also more importantly than awareness about them is what are they really want or need or what for what reasons would they support a Biomedical Research Institute? And they weren't. They weren't the Pollyanna things like hope and cures. They were the everyday things that you bring to market that can make life better day by day and cumatively over time. If you do enough of those, we're going to get to cures where right. So it's that kind of a disconnect that I see far too often. I worked with a client and survey I'm sorry, and surveillance technology, many years ago. Is a really interesting client. They actually 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 saw themselves the company as a solutions company, but their consider customers or their consumers in their in their industry saw them as a technology company. That's a huge gap, a huge has in there. So I think really understanding one of those gaps. You know, how do you see yourself versus how they your consumers, are your customers and prospects see you, and building that bridge between those two things, that's the sweet spot between trying to determ, trying to dial in what your brand position is in research, is the key to identifying the gap and then you start building strategies and tactics to cover it. Absolutely absolutely. That's a two things there. First of all, there's no way that any organization, no matter how strong they may have in term, how strong they may be in terms of research and even a market research company should never do their own research right. So that's a key right there, what you said. You've got a you do have to go third party, you do have to have an objective snap snapshot so you detach from the emotion of it, you eliminate that conference nation bias, all those human conditions that we all suffer from. That's critical number one. And then you have to make sure that you look at it from both perspectives. Right. You need that objective, that independent research partner needs to look at it from your perspective versus the external perspective and make those comparisons. But you said something else that's really critical, 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 the whole agency model. And I'm not anti agency, actually a partner with a lot 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 internalized what 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 the key, 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 that gap between who you are and who they need you to be, then you have to make sure you can deliver on it everything that you do, and I think far too often companies and organizations skip that most critical step. And let me connect the DOT. I did a typically about once a year will just do a my own research project about a topic, and the one that was really sort of at the forefront of me last summer's I just kept seeing all these different definitions of brand popping up on the linked in right everybody had a definition, and I'm not here to criticize those definitions, I'm not here to 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 go out to consumers and find out how they define it. And what surprised me is 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 think about how do you build trust, it's really through consistency and delivering upon that expectation. So if you have an operationalise what you've learned from research and again crystallizing at in the form of what is our brand position and then first operationalizing it. So when you do put that promise outward, then you have to risk breaching that trust because you may not paid off in the way the customer or the consumer expects. That's great. I doing your own research on how customers define it. Is Great and you really emphasize trust probably seven minutes ago as well. So it's great that that came back up again and it's really again making these promises, fulfilling the promises talk about. So when you wrote you can't write two horses with one ass.

It's not a I just said that against I just love the title. First, but before you answer this question, if you would breathe by you know what that really means. I think 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 book about brand building, it's a book about brand conservancy. So also cover that for folks. Sure, sure, I I'll try to keep this brief. On the title, it was, you know, anecdotally, was a title that I didn't come up with in it's an expression that I think is business obviously 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 outline for the book and I kept a little diary with me for about six of the last well, I'd say probably five years leading up to that, where I would just take notes about different experiences I have with clients, different things they 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 of what I've acquired and learned in terms of knowledge just come from my customers and and from my clients. So I started keeping a log and I was in a 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 to be about one thing, and so I had this client that was was trying to be about more than one thing and I'm in a meeting with this leadership team and there was a woman in the room, and very intelligent woman, very thoughtful, a little reserved, and I was talking, I was giving some real world examples about brands that, you know, tried to be a branded house, tried to fit everything that they could possibly do under who they were and how that can run counter to what your consumers or your customers perceive you to be. And she just blurt...

...it out. So you mean you can't write two horses with one ass and in that in yeah, and in that moment I knew that was the title of my book because that very much fits one of the many sort of axioms or pillars of brand that I that I believe in. So, yes, it's not a book about how to build a brand by any means, though I do think that there's enough in there that someone could but it's not really a brand startup book. But when I 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, take a very insert point of view or, if they do research, they do it themselves, which, again for all the reasons we've earlier, discussed is never a great idea. It's kind of like a kind of like, you know, doing your own financial planning or diagnosing your own illnesses right. You know 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 protecting their core right. Far too many brands expand too quickly. They don't have anything 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 right and I think anybody who doesn't believe that's true is potentially setting themselves up for for some failure down the road. Right. was a Sam Walton who once said, you know, then, one person that can fire me as my customers. 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 grow and to engage, but at the same time we have to make sure that we'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 of garden, who many, for many years, just kept expanding its menu. I don't spend a lot of time needing get it all of garden, but I have a few times and I've just I noticed through the years how it's men. You just got bigger and bigger and how it kept building and building and building, and all of garden lost its way. It really struggled and all the different ways that you measure success, particularly in sales. And when the new CEO took over, I would say about three years ago, the first thing he did was say, let's get back to the basics. Trunk their menu down to great sauce, Great Pasta Gray, great meat, and he 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 was taking a conservancy mindset to their brand. Again. Conservancy doesn't mean you're not moving forward. In fact, in a world where we have so many brands and so many categories today and new ones emerging every day, particularly in tacting up technological spaces, keeping it simple and staying focusing and going deeper with your brand, not wider. You know, there's a there's another aspect to brand conservancy. It's all about protecting it authenticity and I may have been speaking about that now, but I wrote about it my book either, so I won't go 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'm based in the Kansas City areas, is barbecue and they're for any barbecue connoisseurs out there, you know, typically when you see these different lists that come out of best barbecue places in the country, we have three or four that are typically 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 list and it started out in a gas station here. It's still in a gas station, by the way, one of their locations is at least. And a few years ago I learned a lot...

...about that as a brand and apparently or what it was was it was two different people who owned it. One of him, one of a gentleman, had moved away and had started a couple of his okahoma Joe's barbecue places in Oklahoma. He was from Oklahoma original but anyway, and he wanted to expand nationwide well, the partner that that had control of the location and can't see in the gas station. He didn't want that. It wasn't because he didn't want to grow, but he looked at 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 and really take letting things get out of your control right. And when you do those sorts of things there's a certain amount of risk that goes with that that you know partners have different ideas, things can go rogue, things happen, life happens. My Anti Partnership. I think if you really really careful who you 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 there were partners in the Barbecue restaurant. They came to an agreement. It was very amicable, but he he basically, and I read a story about him in the can't see star and he just said, look, I would I would lose control potentially over the menu. You know, we have a certain way of doing it here and we wanted to make sure that we stayed true to 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 I mind with a lot of brands has they think that mass consumption equites the math or 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 what category 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 with with just one take and then and then...

I'll go to my my standard clothes that I'm excited to hear about from you. You know, I think with the Olive Garden Story and with the JOE's Barbecue Jose Kansas City, and even with that that last take there, you're kind of drawing that line that you do really clearly in the book several times the difference between business thinking and brand thinking. So I'll just read a quick quote that I pulled. I just refreshed on the book. Is One that I wrote about personally in my blog and have read a couple times already. And to your point, there are some brand building tips in there as well as just understanding and seeing it just through this conversation, through the way you lay it out there. It's certainly for someone who is revisiting or building a brand. There's plenty there. But brand 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 on advertising and by doing so they create stories that their customers willingly share with others and probably that their employyees will share as well. So it's been a great conversation here on the customer experience podcast and at bomb on. Relationships are really a big deal to us. So I want to give you the opportunity to think or mentioned someone who's had a really big impact on your on your life or on your career, and and to give a mention to a company that you think is doing brand or customer experience the right way. Boy, there's been so many people in my life who have, you know, mentored me and guided me. I would probably say that Al Reese, even though we've never necessarily had what you would consider a mentor Mente type of relationship, though we've had some email exchanges in the past and he's some may think he's he's a little old school, but I think that many of the the ways we look at brand today are rooted his original teachings, as original findings about about brand positioning, and that's how I got my start and and for many years just 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 are meaningful. But he's somebody that you know, even though I think that there's some things about that can be contemporized today, I think just sort of the just the fundamentals in the basics are really, really still applicable today. Right. I mean still, you know, you still about how you win the mind. 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. I think about it a much bigger level. I think maybe we're same, same thing. But I think about the ethos of the organization. We talked a lot today about cultural strategy and culture drives everything and I think actually culture is a tactic of the ethos of the leadership of the organization. But so he's somebody that I you know, from a distance from his teachings, but someone later in live I had a chance to connect with on Linkedin and we've exchanged some emails and and so I've I've you know, he's someone to this day that I'm maybe not look up to as much as today, but as thankful that 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 today that he's still relevant highly and I have seen him embraced and adapted. You know, I as reading this gentleman's work and I was like this is the twenty two immutable laws of branding, like that's what this is like. I can 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 a company that you really like a respect in terms of the way they deliver customer experience or even live out their brand. Well, I mean there's always the go to southwest airlines, you know. I mean, I don't think there's anybody that can argue that, or not...

...just a great grand I think, what if I can, if I can just share two different brands, and I'm a big fan of they're one of them. And I have to just quickly share a story that a colleague of mine had shared with me a couple years ago that he was on a flight on southwest airlines with his family and there was a young lady on the flight who young girl, excuse me, maybe five years old, four years old. It was her birthday, and so the flight attendant got on the PA and then said that we have a young, young girl celebrating her fourth or fifth birthday and unfortunately don't have a real cake on board, but if you could help us help her blow out candles, that would be awesome. And so what she did is she had everybody turned on their overhead light, overhead light and they dimmed all the cabin lights and they brought her up to the front and they had her blow out the candles and every person almost in concert, all the way from the front of the plane to the back of the plane turned off their overhead lights so was 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 take themselves seriously, but they poke fun at themselves at times. They they just create just a wonderful end to end experience. So and in terms of building it from the inside out, they have a wonderful if for those of your your 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 a great case study. What I mean, what a wonderful story, what a cool experience, obviously for the girl, but also for all the passengers as well. And it's one of those things that you know you could let that moment 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 for for all the customers. Great example and...

...a really great success story too from a branding standpoint. How can if someone wants to follow up with you to learn more about guts, to learn more about Al Res. Where would you send people here at the conclusion the show? Well, they can email me at at k as in curtain. Then my last name be a RT o L. 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 should be coming out inside the next thirty days. So there's a it's a dated site but it's getting ready to be brought into the the twenty nineteens. So I'm excited about that. Might Linkedin. They they want to connect, to be a linkedin you can search me on Linkedin. So and I encourage anybody WHO's interested in reading my book to check it out. sovailable on Amazon on as well. So and I you know, one of the things you think that you know I you know everybody. Again, I think has can have a different point of view about what we've talked about today and I respect those points of view. So if anybody you know, anytime someone doesn't agree with life prospective point to do, I'm very open to having that dialog and having those exchanges as well. So that's great because this is all it's all in flux. There is no one right answer. There there are things that we've seen be effective, there are things that we aspire to, there are things that customers respond to, and and that's what we're trying to explore here on the podcast. Kurt, I really really appreciate your time today, so glad you 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 matter your role in delivering value and serving customers, you're in trusting some of your most important and valuable messages to faceless digital communication. You can do better. rehumanize the experience by getting face to face through simple personal videos. Learn more and get started free at bomb bombcom.

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

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (223)