Build from the Bottom
He got his start in marketing right after graduating college, when he worked at an entrepreneurial publishing company. This was right around the time that direct mail marketing was still being used heavily, but digital marketing was beginning to pick up as well. He really values his time soaking up classic direct mail marketing practices because he believes they are “more alive and well inside digital, social, and content marketing than people think.”
Today, Nick’s company works with companies to build better brands online. All too often, Nick finds companies have a tendency to skip over some really important basics. He likens building a brand to fulfilling human needs based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: You have to start at the bottom.
“So often we’re quick to skip to some of the things that are higher up in the hierarchy as opposed to building that base and making sure you have a brand that stands for something that still has a story to tell. I say that the megaphone for how we market has changed, but we often forget to make sure there’s something behind that megaphone first.” (highlight to tweet)
A telltale sign that you’ve jumped ahead from the bottom of the pyramid is if you’re dealing with a consistent struggle to create content. “If you know your brand better and your audience and understand your brand promise, then that blank page of content you’re creating should look a lot less daunting.” However, if you’ve leapt ahead from answering who you are and what you stand for, it’s much more difficult to come up with original content that adds value to your audience.
Steer clear of creating “me too” content; figure out your reason for being and then amplify content around it. (highlight to tweet)
What IS a Brand?
Sometimes a company’s difficulty comes from a lack of understanding of what brand really means. To help us his clients, students, and readers understand, Nick usually defines a brand as “any noun (person, place, or thing) that needs something from someone else, some sort of action.” To market those brands, whatever they may be, you must “articulate a series of ideas and touchpoints that help us draw the audience close and inspire them to take action.” (highlight to tweet)
It’s easy to look at mega-brands as examples and think they are the only good brands out there. But there are also smaller brands that have a lot going for them as well. They can pivot and refine their brands faster than larger organizations because they don’t have as much infrastructure. Now, he’s not saying that organizations should rush past any kind of rebranding of course (it’s still a lot of work). But small brands tends to be much more nimble, which is an asset.
Plus, with a smaller company, the person who started the business is often close by. That usually makes it easier to get to the source, the spark that gets the organization going in the morning. It’s easier to ask those key questions to the person that started it all: What’s your reason for being? Why do you do what you do differently than others?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Nick wanted to be a lot of different things, but being some type of artist stuck with him. He likes to draw, and thought about theatre as well. He studied theatre arts and psychology at the University of Iowa, but then of course ended up doing neither in terms of marketing. But if you don’t have a business degree, you also do ok in marketing with the theatre/psychology combo, according to Nick.