6 Brand Marketing Takeaways From Expert Kelly Byrd
Marketing leader Kelly Byrd shares how businesses can better prepare and thrive by reevaluating their brand marketing strategies.
Speaker, advisor, yoga teacher, and Adweek Executive Mentee. Those are just a few things that make up marketing expert Kelly Byrd’s biography. The current director of product marketing at Onclusive has also spent time telling brand stories for Fortune 100 companies including Airbnb, Lyft, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce.
We at UpCity had the opportunity to chat with Byrd and get her perspective on what it means to work in brand marketing today. As a woman of color who’s lived in five countries and four cities on three continents, she knows and preaches the importance of telling brand stories from diverse, global perspectives well. Here are some takeaways from our conversation.
Understand what brand marketing is
The truth is, creativity is subjective, which is a large part of brand marketing. How one business interprets brand marketing can differ from how another does. It’s important to understand, however, that brand marketing is a way to promote your products or services with your aesthetic.
“I don’t know if this is the full industry standard, but to me, brand marketing is: ‘How is your company perceived by the public,’” says Byrd. “That can be physical design, such as your logo, website, and everything else that people physically see, and what they associate you with.”
Think of your logo, color palette, font, and overall design. How does your brand and company aesthetic correlate with your business’ mission, identity, and values? What message do these things combined say about your business? How does this help amplify the message you’re trying to send to your customers and broader audience?
Byrd compares this to thinking of a blank red octagon. You still associate that with a stop sign even if it doesn’t say “STOP.” Think of what else the color red is used for. To mark incorrect answers on a test. To help fire trucks and fire hydrants stand out. That’s why this color scheme, bold all caps font, and shape are so successful for the stop sign’s “brand”—it stands out. We see it right away, know what to do, and why it’s important to do so.
This logic also applies to certain types of messaging in terms and phrases. Think of slogans or lines you’ve heard in advertisements about a product or service that have nothing to do with the product or service itself. If you were to simply see that slogan on a billboard or social media, you would still know what or with whom to associate it. You start to perceive that what you’re seeing isn’t just a product or a service; it is something that helps you embrace a certain lifestyle.
Understand why brand marketing is important
“2020 is a perfect case study, no matter the type of business,” says Byrd.
Meaning, what else can a company provide if its staff doesn’t have the capabilities? Many businesses experienced setbacks to some degree due to the events of 2020. Maybe that was budget cuts or something else that affected your original plan.
In times of crisis, what else do we have to rely on if we need to be silent or take time to redirect our strategy?
“The brand is the who, the why, and most importantly, the what,” Byrd emphasizes. “Who are we trying to support, and why do we exist?”
Because the concept of “brand” is more abstract, it doesn’t go away—even if your business is advertising less or going quiet on social media for the time being. Think of how your business can continue to rely on its brand to get its message out. Remember the “why,” go back to the founding of your company and how that idea came about. The personal and emotional connection is the brand—use that to remind your audience of why you exist and why you are here.
The ROI of brand marketing
It’s true that some things can be more difficult to measure than others. For example, how do you track whether people saw your logo or not? Or whether seeing the logo made a difference on who engaged with your website?
“It’s harder to make those connections, but I don’t think it’s nearly as impossible as it’s often perceived,” Byrd says.
She explains by reminding us that everyone has a different interpretation of brand marketing and how it works in conjunction with other areas of marketing. For example, consider public relations or social media. Some may put these activities into the brand marketing category, while others may classify these efforts as product marketing or something else.
However you segment those initiatives, Byrd suggests, remember to differentiate what all of their goals are and think of how these different actions go hand-in-hand. She points out that the PESO Model can be a helpful method and resource for tracking and measuring how all your various marketing activities work together.
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Plan ahead for struggles
If there is anything we have learned from last year, it’s the value of being prepared. Byrd highlighted a few challenges to brace ourselves for, and she offered some tremendously helpful advice.
Keeping your budget and headcount
This is one of the biggest challenges businesses face. But communication with your leadership team will help them understand the value of the help you’re advocating for.
In-house vs. hiring an agency partner
This goes back to the budget. A CFO may question, “Do we really need this?”
But when you’re so embedded in a project internally, it can feel like being in a silo. Creativity is about looking at things from a different perspective, so there’s value in hiring an external agency because they can help dramatically shift the perspective to align with your brand goals.
When to listen? When to speak up? If so, how do we say it?
This past year we witnessed a global recession, pandemic, and numerous civil rights issues. We also saw a lot of brands flop by trying to make a statement to express what side their business is on. Some spoke up too soon or said something inappropriately by not having enough information on the topic.
But this goes back to understanding your brand. Take the time to understand who you are and what you want your company to be before speaking up.
Social media—What should we do next?
While analyzing the impressions and reach of posts can be helpful, Byrd says they can be inflated. People may want to see these metrics because they are familiar, she says, but advises to take them with a grain of salt. Understand that they are not the best way to measure what you should do next.
Instead, Byrd is a proponent of competitor analyses. “What else is going on in the market with those who are similar to you?” These can be great sources of inspiration—whether it’s ideas on what to do or what not to do.
Embracing sentiment is another point Byrd drives home. “Are people talking about you regularly or are you perceiving this?” Look for those correlations, she says. Ask yourself if people are coming to your page because of a post, or if they are looking for the careers page because they are interested in a job. Use that knowledge to call out certain sentiments that make your business unique. Is it female-owned, black-owned, or both? What makes your story unique? Call it out.
Engage with your community
“The whole concept of social media is open communication in a public forum—especially as it relates to brands. Just to have a conversation directly,” Byrd advises.
That said, don’t get caught up in the trends and numbers. Try to have conversations with your audience. Utilize the different platforms to show what you wouldn’t normally show through other media. The behind-the-scenes, emotional connection, leadership, and more are important to share with your audience.
“Keep that perspective in mind,” Byrd says. “Don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal and the ultimate benefit.”