In this episode Josh talks with Jeremy Miller from Sticky Branding.

Jeremy Miller is a brand strategist and bestselling author.

Jeremy’s path into branding wasn’t traditional. He fell into it out of necessity. After watching his family’s business nearly hit rock bottom, he was forced to take a hard look at the way the company was run and at their industry as a whole. Jeremy realized it wasn’t his sales people or marketing processes that were failing, it was the brand: their customers couldn’t distinguish them from anyone else. This insight caused him to rethink, reposition, and rebrand the business.

The strategy worked, and within a year the company turned the corner and rocketed into growth mode. And in 2013 Jeremy sold his family’s business to focus exclusively on what he does today: build brands.

In today’s episode you will learn:

  • Branding blue-collar business
  • Using I vs. WE when representing your business
  • The process of creating an unforgettable brand name
  • Using your name or different name in your company’s naming
  • Responsibility for creating and keeping business values

Transcript

Narrator:          Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                  Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick and you’re at The Sustainable Business. Today, we’re with Jeremy Miller. Jeremy has four things he wants me to say before we bring him on the show. First, he’s a brand strategist. Second he’s a keynote speaker. That’s a hard thing to do.

He’s the author of the best-selling book Sticky Branding. He’s the founder of Sticky Branding. He tells me he has a brand new book coming out in October. We’re recording this on August 1. Hopefully you’ll be hearing this by the right time the book comes out. Let’s bring Jeremy on.

Hey, Jeremy, how are you today?

Jeremy:             I’m fantastic. Thanks for having me here, Josh.

Josh:                  My pleasure. One of the things you said, which kind of got my attention, and I’m at least curious about this. We’ll see if you’ll agree is you say that blue collar businesses which is where I like to hang out need to build a personal brand and have to be very careful about branding. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Jeremy:             For sure. I think every business has a brand regardless of whether you have a store it or not. You have a brand. It’s your reputation. The challenge we face today is customers are finding us across lots of different places from your sales people to your website to trade shows and other places. So every customer touchpoint is technically your brand. In a world of competitive competition, how you are known is going to be defining how well you are going to grow and how successful you can be. You can get away with just selling a product on price and relationship. If you want to grow, then you need a brand.

Josh:                  Are you saying that reputation and brand are about the same thing?

Jeremy:             Very close, yeah. I think of it in two sides of this. Your brand is based on what you do which is your reputation. It’s a lagging indicator. Branding is driven by what you will do. That’s your strategy. Your strategy can be moving very rapidly. Your brand becomes a bit of a lagging indicator. Your reputation, your brand are very connected.

Josh:                  We’re really into a semantic thing because I would agree on 100% that your reputation is everything in any business you’re in especially a blue collar business because blue collar businesses tend to be local.

Jeremy:             Yes.

Josh:                  I have this sort of theory about a local business that if you have a local business and you’ve been around for a really long period of time, it’s really hard to have a blue collar business or a local business be successful 30 years after its launches because there’s so much bad baggage. It gets built slowly over time. Most business owners in my experience to a really bad job of managing bad baggage.

Jeremy:             Yeah.

Josh:                  Do you have any recommendations for how you can overcome that?

Jeremy:             Well, the bad baggage thing is try to avoid it in the first place. Yeah, we all go through growing pains, but it’s how you deal with them in real time is going to be one of your key drivers of this. But if you are that local businesses that’s growing 30 years that legacy is worth something. I think it’s how do you start that. How do you manage or what are those elements that you want to emphasize?

Usually when I talk to a blue collar business, they are often family businesses and when they have the most branding on the brain is when they’re going through succession. The next generation is trying to deal with that baggage that mom and dad or the previous generation had left for them. The way you deal with it I think is very transparent. It’s dealing with your issues straight on, being clear and authentic about it and solving them because a customer will reward you if you can fix a problem and get better that reinforces their loyalty. They will forgive you for past indiscretions.

Josh:                  That’s true, but you have to tell the truth. You get that?

Jeremy:             Yes. If you want to ask what causes a brand to collapse or have a problem, it’s actually a values issue. If you think of every major brand crisis the most recent that comes to my mind is when Volkswagen put a deception switch on their diesel vehicles. They destroyed the diesel brand. We can’t North America buy a diesel jet anymore. Why? Because they ignored their values and crashed their brand. We see examples where companies face a significant crisis.

Tylenol went through that major issue 34 years ago with people putting cyanide into the containers. Canada where I am, may believe food had a listeriosis crisis, how the organization deals with conflict is actually a brand building opportunity. It’s when they lie. It’s when they break their values is actually when it’s a branding crisis.

Josh:                  Yeah, I remember that. I used to be in the food service investing business and be unfortunately had a seminar breakout. All my friends called me up and asked me how I was managing. Forgot what the term was, but I thought the term was horrible. It was basically essentially, what are you doing to control the risk? I just kept saying, “I’m more concerned about the people who got sick.” I am about everything else and everything else will take care of itself after that. In my experience, we all have bad things happen in our business.

Jeremy:             Yes.

Josh:                  If we’re not being proactive about how we handle that, then over time our brand goes away, our reputation goes away, and so does our business. It really comes down to this is something I’m kind of curious about your thought about this is that I find that too many businesses think and talk about their business from their point of view and not from their customers point of view.

Jeremy:             Hundred percent. I have a joke inside of my talks often. You can tell what an organization is like, “We are the oldest. We are the greatest. We have the best customer service.” We, we we, but nobody likes to be we’d all over so please, stop that. Great marketing is actually when you get someone to say that’s interesting. Tell me more. When you can create a conversation– when there’s a back and forth dialogue, when you can share opinions. That’s actually what a local business does brilliantly. You take the internet and everything else that’s come out of mass marketing out of the equation.

If you go back to what it’s like to sell inside of a small town with a local business, it’s about relationships. It’s about knowing each other. It’s about conversation. That to me the heart of great marketing is when you can get someone to know you like you and trust you. They’re going to choose you first. It’s simple.

Josh:                  One of the things I like to do is actually one of my pet peeves right now is when I look at a website. I like to count how many times you use I in we versus you and yours.

Jeremy:             Yes.

Josh:                  In most websites I look at the I’s and We’s outnumber the using yours by somewhere around three to four to five to one. I keep telling people when you’re running your website and you’re putting the copy in your website, use the word “you” and talk about the customer way more. The only place you talk about yourself on a website is on the About Me page, in my opinion. That’s just my opinion. Tell me a little bit about your book.

Jeremy:             Which one?

Josh:                  The new one.

Jeremy:             The new one, Brand New Name. The new book is called Brand New Name and it’s a graphically designed branding book on how to name or rename anything. I’ll tell you why this came about. In both cases and writing my first book, Sticky Branding and writing this book, Brand New Name, they both came out of my own need. My origin story into this world of branding was actually I joined my family business going back in 2004. It was a staffing agency.

We didn’t know it at the time, but we were being disrupted by technology. We had the advent of Facebook and Google and LinkedIn coming online. It changed our market. We actually thought at the time, it was just coming out of recession things should get better. We actually had to reinvent ourselves. I remember the time when my dad said to me, “Okay, we’ve got too many Miller’s on the door. It’s time to change our name and build something for a younger millennial Gen X audience.”— For young professionals at that time. That was my first advent into naming but it was actually my first advent at branding.

My first book Sticky Branding was based on that origin story of being a sales guy who lost his competitive advantage and how do you go about building a remarkable brand when you have a marketing budget just on a vast one. What Brand New Name is, is it really comes out of that challenge that we all face in naming and how do you name a company, a product, a service without spending a ton of money on creative agency services, but also realizing it’s really freaking hard.

The issue isn’t coming up with a good name anymore. The issue is finding one that’s available. All the .coms, all the.net, all the trademarks, they’re taken. We’re in this experience right now where we’re experiencing an actual naming [inaudible 00:09:35]. In the United States alone, there’s over 543,000 new small businesses that started every single month. They all need names.

Josh:                  How many of those businesses will be here three to five years afterwards?

Jeremy:             1% or 2%. They all took a name along the way. They all register their.com. They all took up space. When it comes down to the makes this naming process so frustrating for us as entrepreneurs is when we go off and look at why we got this great idea and you go to the.com and some jerk is trying to sell it to $400,000. Like, seriously and it had to happen yesterday. Some guy hit me on LinkedIn and said, I’ve got brandname.com. Do you want to buy it? And I looked at the minimum offer was $99,000. No, no, thank you.

So the book itself, it talks about the strategy, the persuasive power of words, and gives you the science and background of why names are so important and what we’re facing. Then part two of it actually gives you a proven step by step process on how to do it. It’s a three week naming sprint where you build a strategy, generate lots of ideas, and then the tools and process to test and select the right name, whether you’re naming your company, a product, a service, or even a campaign or an idea.

Josh:                  I don’t know if it’s an argument but there’s a tendency in the world. In fact, my first business was named after my family name. Generally, I recommend to people is if you want to build a business to sell, don’t name it after yourself. Do you have any thoughts about whether you use your name or different name in your company’s naming?

Jeremy:             I think using your own name works. There’s lots of examples and it goes from really large organizations like Ford and John Deere and things like that. So using a family name isn’t bad. The challenges it could be abstract. It doesn’t really have any meaning to what you’re selling. As you said, if you are building for sale then having in my case, Miller. Miller and Associates on the doors isn’t a very sellable asset. So when we rebranded the company became Leap Job and I was actually able to sell our family business in 2013 for good multiple that a lot of my parents to retire. I think it would have been a lot harder to sell it as Miller and Associates.

Josh:                  Probably. I would think of that. The other issue is, is should your brand describe what you do or should it be designed to have people ask a question? I have two businesses. One is called The Sustainable Business which is a descriptive name. Then I have another business called Stage Two Planning Partners which is designed to say what stage one, what stage three, what do you mean by stage two? It generates a question, which way do you like to go or it depends?

Jeremy:             It depends. You have articulated the challenge of naming. I take the position that there’s no such thing as a bad name. There’s only bad strategies that if you are a Retirement Living Center and you call yourself purple tacos then you got to question why that happened. But if you look at the two names you described in terms of The Sustainable Business and Stage Two, one is as you said a descriptive name Sustainable Business, one is a suggestive name that gives you an indication of what you’re going to get. In the book, I talk around the four categories of names.

You can have a descriptive name explains what you are. Netflix is an example of that. You could have a suggestive name, something that gives you an indication of what’s it like. You could have an abstract name of horizon, a Hulu, those kind of– they mean nothing. We could have an acronym and I think acronyms get a bad rap, but they can be quality functional type names. You have things like scuba, or Aflac which are phonetically sounded. The question comes down to your strategy, what do you naming?

What kind of customer experience are you trying to create? How do you need to differentiate yourself from the market? How do you need to be known? If you think of it, your name is a label on a file folder in your customers mind. If you get it right, it’ll be really easy to pull back and think of later. So when you know your strategy, you can choose what kind of naming options and created that you’re going to use to get to that.

Josh:                  Now, back in 2013, you wrote a really good blog post which I just read is called 10 principles of a Sticky Brand. Do you remember that blog post? You’re way better than I would never remember a blog post. I wrote six years ago.

Jeremy:             I hope you don’t ask me the list of 10 out of the top of my head, but I do recall it.

Josh:                  Okay. So one of the things you said is a sticky brand has energy. Sticky brands have an energy and vibrancy about them. Employees are excited to work for the company and customers appreciate talk about the products. There’s an inspirational quality to the brand.

Jeremy:             Yes.

Josh:                  That’s a great principle. How do you do it?

Jeremy:             I am becoming more and more interested in the measurement of brand energy. This concept is something that is being studied by academics like David Aaker who is one of the gurus of branding. He’s a bunch of his books sitting behind me, but what brand energy is, is that in a commoditize market, what we look at is who is creating that connection. That vibrancy.

So if you’re taking a blue collar businesses for a moment, just look at insurance brokers or financial service advisors. They’re all pretty much the same. They’re working in a regulated industry doing the same thing. Some people just seem to have that buzz about it. They’re on the news more. They seem to be getting more deals, more customers. That’s that energy quotient and the way you juice that is a few things.

One is through your marketing. The more vibrant and outgoing and visible you are the more perceived energy you have. When I look at social media and if someone is saying I want to get noticed more, the first question you ask is, are you turning up the volume in your marketing? Are you more visible in people’s feeds? Are you posting every single day? What you posted last week’s already forgotten? How are you turning up the volume there?

The other way you create energy is through innovation, creating new products, services and advancements that people take notice of value. So product releases on a regular basis is a great way to juice your energy.

The third is in your culture, happy employees, engaged employees drives energy, big time. When you call up customer service and you like talking to the person, that’s energy.

Josh:                  Absolutely. It’s something that goes along with that which is something I think we spend way too little time on is how well you treat your employees is only how well they’re going to treat your customers.

Jeremy:             Hundred percent. I love that. I am spending the majority of my leadership time working on the topics of employee empowerment and employee co-creation and how do you get the full potential out of people to contribute to the brand. I’m becoming more and more bigger, bigger belief at least on my side that the secret sauce to growing a remarkable brand that people take notice of is how well you engage your staff.

Josh:                  How do you engage yourself well and what do you need to do to do that?

Jeremy:             So where Brand New Name my book comes on is an idea of employee co-creation which is rather than going to an advertising agency or someone else we look inside and the entire process used is your employees, your staff to build the plan, generate ideas, test and select. That can be done for anything. Rather than management owning every strategy, why not create a project such as positioning, where do we play? How do we win?

Create a mixed discipline team from customer service, logistics, management and sales and share the responsibility to look at the data, look at the numbers, test things and get into the market. What I find is that simple attitude and the belief that my employees are smart and have something to contribute beyond their job is a powerful way just to engage people to get the most out of them.

Josh:                  I agree 100% with you there. I do have a question though because I actually have a strong belief around this.  Do you co-create your company values with your employees also or does the owner create the values have his employees buy in and then encourage them to co-create in what actually happens within the business around the values?

Jeremy:             That’s a fascinating question. When I think of values, I think of it largely as something that is baked into the operational organizational DNA. They’re static. They start with the founder. They move forward on that. Where the co-creation element happens is as a business grows, the social contract changes. I think you’re operating moral compass is coming from the entrepreneur, the founder or the family, but staff have an opportunity to participate in the development and refinement and evolution of the social contract on how those core values are live, breathe and deliver to customers.

Josh:                  That’s a fantastic answer, by the way.

Jeremy:             Thank you.

Josh:                  That’s a really good answer. I’ve asked this question at fair amount of people that call these my chicken or egg questions.

Jeremy:             Yeah.

Josh:                  Whose responsibility is it for creating values? In my experience, it has to be the founder, the owner of the business because it’s their businesses are the ones– they’re the only people that are going to be leaving. Everyone else can come and go but the owner is kind of stuck there. So if the owner allows accidental values get creep into the business which are not core values to them it will end up being burned out and being unhappy and the business suffers.

Jeremy:             Very smart.

Josh:                  Once the business gets established and those values are really core in solid. There’s a lot of room to move within their which allows employees to show their brilliance as long as they buy into the values. That’s been my thing on there and you’re a great guest. I really appreciate you having you on, but unfortunately we are out of time.

Jeremy:             It happens.

Josh:                  It does. How are people going to find you or if they want to find you, how would they go about doing that? When your book comes out, is it going to be available at all the usual places or do you have a book website? And most importantly, do you have a launch club that you’re putting together to help you launch your book.

Jeremy:             I have all that. The best way to find me is if you google Sticky Branding, you will find https://stickybranding.com/ and I’m on all the social networks at Sticky Branding. I’d love to connect with you there. There’s information about the new book at https://stickybranding.com/, but it’s available wherever books are sold. So if you search Brand New Name that’s the name of the new book. We do have a launch team. It actually started to roll out, but I would love for anyone to be interested to visit https://stickybranding.com/ or message me and we will get you set up.

Josh:                  Cool. I also have an offer for you. Surprise, surprise, surprise. I have been obsessed for years about creating excess cash in a business and the reason I’m obsessed about this is because I’ve had several times in my business career where I didn’t have any. I discovered over along the way that there are specific stages you go through to create cash flow freedom from a business. One of those things that’s really important is to know is, are you going to be financially free from your business? Are you on the road to get there?

So I developed this little tool I call The Four Boxes of Financial Independence. I did it on a legal pad. I finally made it into a little application. It’s easy to go to. It’s a 10 minute quiz. It’ll tell you whether you’re on the road or not the financial freedom. The way to go is just go to the https://thecashflowcode.com/. That’s https://thecashflowcode.com/ one word. You’ll get a chance to spend 10 minutes going through the quiz. You’ll find whether you’re on the road to cash flow freedom or not. This is Josh Patrick. You’re with Jeremy Miller. We’re at The Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.

Narrator:          You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at jpatrick@askjoshpatrick.com.

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.

Topics: branding, sustainable business podcast, Sustainable Business, Business Values, jeremy miller, creating brand and reputation, brand name

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