By Billy Jennings on 1/18/2022
Referencing If You Market Podcast Episode #153: Why Brand Doesn’t Matter, with Paul Cowan
This week with Sky Cassidy, sits down with Paul Cowan, Chief Marketing Officer of Fresh Books and tackled why brand or branding is not everything and his experiences in the marketing field. As a nerd for ads and the psychology behind them myself- it was really interesting to see these two pull back the curtain on this.
Many businesses focus on their brands; I mean, that is the first thing we consumers look at, right? Big brands like Nike and Apple, for sure, could catch one’s attention easily by just the mere mention of their names because of the marketing strategies they use and their quality of service. It’s what makes the brand remembered by your consumers, or redundant as it may sound, it gets branded in their minds. Paul Cowan, CMO of Fresh Books, has a take on this: “Brand is simply the way customers feel about you at the end of it all.”
When I hear the word “branding,” the first thing that comes into my mind is color coordination; next is consistency in the content of the business’ advertisements, which Paul referred to in the podcast as obsolete. This is actually something we should take note of! It’s somewhere along being in control and letting the creativity run free. I know it sounds tricky now, but you’ll get it too as we go on.
Paul also talked about how some brands, despite service discrepancies, are still patronized. He referred to this as when they “act a little evil.” Even after their issues with their employees and behaving poorly, Uber is still one of the top 50 apps on the AppStore. Agreeably, similar to athletes as he compared, even if they have these present issues, they are still allowed to participate in the particular sport as long as they are doing their job. The same goes with businesses: a company having a problem and how they solved it or not because they’re just a super commodity.
I’d like to think of marketing as a process with multiple branches (which it does have). Like, there would be a separate marketing team for this, for that, etc. Yet, it’s all just marketing and its different purposes, as Paul said. It’s all about managing your marketing team or how your marketing team utilizes its resources.
Ever wonder when you were just thinking of buying something, for example, a specific brand of an air fryer, and then suddenly you’ll see an advertisement of it while randomly surfing the web? Or when you googled a mobile phone brand, and suddenly it’s all the ads you can see? Well, that is target marketing, as Paul said in the podcast. “Brand used to be extremely necessary when the targeting capabilities were extremely limited.” We love to look at brands mainly because of their quality and our past experiences, especially before! I remember when I only bought a specific brand of gadgets and electronics because it does the job, and well, there were no other options back then. But now that there is a wide selection on the market, brand marketing is certainly upping their games.
Like how a business should be, Paul also believes that marketing would want to behave in a certain way as a company would and build things that the customers will love. He also mentioned how appealing to everybody around the world is foolish because, let’s be honest here, we do not entertain every advertisement that we see. As a business owner or a part of the business’s marketing team, would you want to waste your money on that? It is just a matter of convenience: ABM or account-based marketing. “The more you can directly target an audience, the less you have to vomit brand out and hope it sticks to some people.” as Sky said. Marketing works better if the product genuinely appeals to or is needed by the viewer — we can all attest to that. I’m also adding “vomit brand” into my vocabulary for obvious reasons- ha!
Having experience working in the food space gave Paul the mindset that convenience and taste are the two main things to put first. As a consumer, developing trust with a brand is a lot of work mainly in the said space in which Paul said something we have unanimously in mind: “They [on consumers] just want to know that they want to trust that you’re making the right choices.” Providing your customers quality service is what ticks all of the boxes on the list. Notably, “In small companies brands are not as important, but once you get bigger, your brand is this umbrella that hangs over the whole company.” And that, of course, will kickstart the popularity of a brand: the old but gold quality.
Sky and Paul also talked about what FreshBooks does. They offer an accounting platform and services to other businesses. They aim to help owners run their businesses and do their books so they can focus on what they’re good at while understanding and maintaining the good financial health of the business. Many much larger companies are offering the same services, Sky referred to this as “going head-to-head with larger players in the field.” But what makes Fresh Books unique is that they center on understanding the different types of owners and catering to the needs of the business, as Paul also said.
Another notable line is when Paul said, “The hard part about doing marketing right is that good marketing is hard to do.” Like any other task or job, marketing requires extensive research and loads of trial and error. As the saying goes, first impressions last, so better make that one shot remarkable!
And again, our speakers emphasize how target marketing, personalization, and segmented experiences work better than just spewing out lots and lots everywhere. Paul also reminded us how we should not limit marketing into a single rulebook: “Do lots of things and see what works: the boots on the ground — actual work marketing.”
To end, I would like to leave you with another line from Paul I think we should keep in mind: “ In changing times, marketers need to focus less on the output of the brand or trying to construct brand as an input and focus more on the customer and the experience, and then the brand will come along.”