To keep pace with the ever-increasing speed of innovation, marketers must continually educate themselves on new ideas, approaches and technology. Recently, 50,000feet Principal Jim Misener spoke with Authority Magazine about the importance of building a brand, welcoming change and putting your trust in your team—and yourself. Read the full interview below.
1. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
From as early as I can remember, I have been really curious and excited about learning and thought that ideas can be expressed in beautiful ways. Throughout my childhood, I used to collect Braun clocks. Looking back on what a peculiar interest that must have seemed to everyone, I would like to think that somehow I must have seen—without knowing it—the brilliance of Dieter Rams.
Great ideas move you. Great design speaks to you. I guess that I was destined to work in a profession where every decision you make regarding the design of an experience can really have an impact and make a difference. Design determines how ideas live in the world so design is incredibly important.
2. Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m sure that there were too many to count. I can say that I feel like I have always learned from every project that I have taken on and have tried to tackle. I think that it’s the adrenaline rush from the challenge and the endorphin rush from the achievement that is the draw for most of us in a creative field. Creativity offers many rewards, and a wonderful sense of accomplishment—of creation—is among them.
Although an experience in terms of a single mistake doesn’t rise to the top, I think that most of my failures throughout my career might be tied to failing to learn how to harness a team early enough in the process of tackling certain challenges or to create an impact on a greater scale. Leadership and team building are so important in any walk of life—and especially if your goal is to create meaningful and lasting change of any kind. It’s a mistake not to employ and to learn from the talents of others. You get to better solutions faster than by going it alone.
3. Are you able to identify a tipping point in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?
I think that this question brings up an important discussion: how we should look at success. As the adage says, if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. For me, there is so much truth in that. I see success as a journey that continues throughout your life. There are points that we term failures and others that we call achievements, and both are important steps along the path. I believe success is about meaningful engagement in what you set out to do. Sometimes, that means curious and undirected exploration. Other times, that takes shape in decisive and swift action. To succeed is to land upon an idea of yourself in your life's work. It is also about coming to an understanding and acceptance of that decision which makes you happy.
For me personally, I have had the great opportunity to follow many of my professional interests and to learn from each of them. Early on, I worked for global management consultancies—an experience to which I think that I owe a certain amount of my success and which was likely a tipping point for me in my professional career. I learned the tremendous value of bringing organizations and teams together around a vision and purpose and how knowledge is the core of driving growth. I also gained an understanding of staying committed to life-long learning. To be successful, you need to stay committed to educating yourself on new ideas, new approaches and new skills. If you’re always learning, then you’re always challenged and growing. When you’re always growing, you tend to be happier and more engaged. Happiness can be the best motivation and rocket fuel to launch and sustain your career. It’s a philosophy that continues to shape my career.
4. Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At 50,000feet, I have the great fortune of working with an incredible team and incredible clients. We work with some of the world’s most respected brands and others who are rising in the ranks by disrupting their categories. Each day presents more challenges than I can solve and more opportunities than I can pursue. If I’m ever frustrated, it’s because I feel that I can’t do everything that I would like. I have come to embrace that feeling and not get overwhelmed by it.
Currently, our team is working closely with clients across a range of industries, all of whom are focused on the health of their employees and customers while also adapting their businesses to the realities of the pandemic. Our work with them has ranged from adapting messaging that is relevant and resonates with their audiences in a radically and rapidly-change world to working with some who are rethinking their entire business model. No matter the degree of change, it’s exciting to work with businesses who are open to undergoing transformation at every scale; and it’s incredibly rewarding to help lead those efforts.
In terms of making a difference, I think that our work helps our clients achieve their goals and to solve the problems that lie before them. As a member of an independent creative agency, I have found great purpose and meaning in helping to sustain a company that provides for our team. Our job is about more than providing a livelihood. It’s also about providing a healthy environment and creating the circumstances for each of us to grow both personally and professionally.
5. What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Listen to yourself. Our priorities and obligations within both our personal and our professional lives vary, and we need to remember to check in with where we’re at. It’s great to be ambitious, but we need to take time to rest, decompress and daydream. We should remember to hold the reins loose enough to be open to change and to grow and in ways which we may not have imagined.
6. Ok, let's now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
In a sentence, brand marketing focuses on delivering on the emotional needs of an audience while product marketing focuses on delivering on their functional requirements.
7. Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
As the sum of an organization’s relationship with its audience, brand is critical to providing the foundation for any initiative. For most companies, brand is the largest intangible asset and contributor to shareholder value, which is a typical measure of the value for public and most private companies. Simply put, brand is a critical component to not only your business but also to its overall worth.
8. Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?
As socioeconomic conditions and cultural perspectives evolve and change, brands need to keep in step to remain relevant. Rebranding offers a process by which marketers can evaluate, develop and implement brand programs in a systematic and measurable way. Rebranding provides an opportunity to make a brand more compelling and more respected for its employees, suppliers, business partners, customers, consumers and community.
9. Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?
Despite its many rewards, rebranding always poses the risk of forfeiting some degree of brand equity during the process. Whether measured in awareness, engagement or loyalty, rebranding efforts can disrupt what can be a fairly subtle, finely tuned balance between a brand and its various audiences. Rebranding should be considered and undertaken carefully. While the most respected brands will have the strongest foundations on which to build, they also have the most to lose. Conversely, the brands that have the most to gain may have the weakest foundational elements in place to support the effort required.
10. Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.
While every rebranding effort should be undertaken by first considering the specific objectives of an organization and the specific competitive position of the brand, the following five strategies, or principles, are good to keep in mind.
1): Be authentic. Every brand must speak in as authentic a voice as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean being confessional, an apologist or pleasing everyone. Rather, it means expressing your unique perspective in a way that resonates from your vision, is true to your heritage and supports your core underlying value proposition. Younger generations are demanding this behavior from brands; and therefore, so many well-established and fledgling brands are doing this really well today.
2): Move fast. A remarkably recent addition to brand management is speed. Customers and consumers around the world have come to expect immediate responsiveness from brands, and the speed at which they are able to respond and adapt has become a trait by which brands are measured. While most technology brands have borne the weight of this expectation from their beginning, nearly every brand today is subject to the same set of customer expectations, whether across B2B or B2C markets.
3): Be accessible. Brands need to be where their customers and consumers want them to be. Period. Brands need to be adept at expressing their point of view and delivering on customer expectations across channels, platforms and media. Having a strategy to embed your brand within a larger experience and to distribute it across a wider range of networks and platforms while still being able to maintain your brand positioning is becoming increasingly important as we begin to turn to more platform-based experiences. Being truly omni-channel requires brands to be able to be more flexible and adaptable than ever before.
4): Keep it simple. As customers and consumers are presented with an increasing number of choices, brands that are able to convey their value proposition and competitive advantage will win. Keeping it simple means creating brand experiences that make interactions easy, intuitive and even fun. The best brands anticipate the needs and desires of their customers and deliver on them before they are requested or require action. Reading the future for any brand starts by reading the minds of its customers.
5) Be invaluable. Perhaps the greatest truth and merit of all, brand development should begin by understanding and then delivering upon a brand’s unique promise. By answering what value—or invaluable—product, service or experience a brand promises, branding efforts can focus on making the brand experience more focused on delivering it. The brand promise should serve as a North Star for all branding efforts.
11. In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Uber has done a tremendous job of positioning a service of which many of us would never have dreamed and making it a simple, mainstay of everyday life. As one of the fastest growing brands in the world, Uber seems to conceive of rebranding as a continuous process, akin to its business and product development. An industry and brand pioneer, Uber has seamlessly evolved its brand experience to incorporate insight from its customers in order to offer a greater range of products and services. Its value proposition is clear and concise. It keeps a revolutionary technological innovation easy to understand and easy to use.
12. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Although I don’t consider myself a person of influence, I think that I would advocate for a movement of believing in yourself. Too many of us create barriers and make rules for ourselves that prevent us from living up to our greatest potential and perhaps being the happiest that we can be. Fear has its place in reminding and motivating us although it can also hinder us from being true to who we are and becoming all that we can be.
13. Can you please give us your favorite "Life Lesson Quote"? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have three, long-time favorite quotations that I seem to have come back to throughout my life. I still find power medicine in them.
“Eighty percent of life is showing up.” (Woody Allen); “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” (Samuel Goldwyn); and “You must do the thing you think that you cannot do.” (Eleanor Roosevelt).
For me, they somehow all work together—reminding us to believe in ourselves, in what we can achieve and in what good we can do. Chasing and making ideas, creating, disrupting and doing things differently all involve covering new ground and can be scary. To be great, you have to believe in possibility and opportunity—and yourself.
14. How can our readers follow you online?
I’m most prolific, engaged and reliable on LinkedIn. You can find me there.