Brand versus marketing

Pre-P.S. It’s Alyssa stepping in for Brent this week. 

Why do people buy from your company?

The simple answer is trust. People buy from you because they trust you (or your product) to solve a problem they have. Similarly, people work for you because they trust that you’ll provide an environment that allows them to put their skills to work in a meaningful way and get paid to do so.

Therefore, the primary goal of your organization is to ensure that people know, like, and trust you.

Defining Trust
At the core, trust is a perception. People choose whether or not to trust your organization based on their perception of their interactions with you.

Defining Brand 
Many people hear the words “brand” or “branding” and they instantly snap to thinking about the company’s logo, colors, and allowed fonts. But those things are just the surface. They’re the tip of the brand iceberg and only encompass a small fraction of what makes a brand.

A simple and encompassing definition of brand is this, your brand is what people perceive about your company.

Organizations that are intentional about their brand, meaning they cultivate it strategically rather than letting it be a byproduct of daily business, have a steady pulse on how the organization is perceived--both internally and externally.

When branding is done properly, it transforms the company from a commodity to an experience. 

Remember this if nothing else from today’s post:

Your brand strategy and marketing strategy are individual and distinct pieces of your business strategy. You need both to drive successful growth.

The Brand Iceberg

Brand iceberg metaphor

Your brand encompasses elements above and below the surface. Your visual identity, (your logo, fonts, colors) make up the top of the iceberg--the part that you can see above the water. The other pieces of your brand strategy--your core values, your mission, your ideal customers, your vision--make up the foundation hiding underneath the water.

What about marketing strategy?
Marketing is how people find you, it’s the flag on top of the iceberg that draws people to you.

You need both sets of activities to maximize your reach and revenue.

Here’s Why…
Brand building and marketing initiatives serve very distinct goals.

Brand building:

  • Creates brand equity
  • Influences future sales
  • Has broad messaging and reach
  • Takes a long-term approach
  • Focuses on emotional priming

Whereas sales activation:

  • Exploits brand equity
  • Generates present sales
  • Is tightly targeted
  • Takes a short-term approach
  • Focuses on targeted and persuasive messages

When translated to the impact on your bottom line, here’s what happens…

media in focus image brand versus marketing ROI
From Media in Focus: Marketing Effectiveness in the Digital Era

When you focus on sales activation alone, you end up with routine sales upticks caused by each marketing campaign, launch of a new product, or another trigger event that spikes urgency. There’s no guarantee that you have a rising baseline, and success is tied to the effectiveness of the campaign and the cost to acquire customers.

When you incorporate brand building you steadily increase the baseline for long-term sales growth.

Are you valuing both? 

According to Peter Field and Les Binet in The Long and the Short of It, “On average, effectiveness seems to be optimized when around 60% of the communications budget is devoted to brand building, and around 40% to activation.”

Marketing is a short-term sprint each time you’re launching or doing a major push to generate leads, increase your pipeline, and close deals in the near future.

Your brand-building activities are a cumulative endeavor that pays dividends over time--in how you keep your top-performers around, attract the right type of customers, develop loyalty, and prime people to be ready to buy.

But what if I’m not in the marketing department? 
Internal brand-building efforts are just as important as external brand-building efforts. How your employees perceive the brand greatly influences how they’ll represent the company to clients and to people outside of work. Your culture is a big piece of the brand puzzle, so ensuring there’s internal alignment around core values, strategic initiatives, the company mission, and vision is crucial.

Questions to ask yourself about brand based on your role:

If you’re an executive: 

  • Are you supporting your marketing department’s ability to pursue brand building activities outside of key launch campaigns?
  • Are you routinely communicating your vision and values to your people?
  • Are you making brand development a strategic priority?

If you’re a part of the leadership team:

  • You help build the brand on a daily basis by how you interact with your teams. Do you take the time to help people see how their contributions are impacting the greater mission of the organization?

If you’re a team member:

  • How do you represent the brand to potential clients, customers, or at networking events? How about to your family?
  • Do you feel you have a strong grasp of your company’s point of view? What questions do you need to ask to feel more confident in the mission of the company?

If you’re in marketing: 

  • Are you budgeting for both brand-building activities and sales activation?
  • Are you developing a content strategy that routinely focuses on adding value?
  • Do you prioritize thought leadership and help communicate the company’s values?

In order for organizations to leave a lasting legacy, they have to least a lasting impact. Understanding the difference between your brand-building efforts and your marketing efforts allows you to create lasting impact while also focusing on present sales.

How do you think about brand within your organization? I'd love to start a conversation in the comments.

Encouraging This One Thing Can Help You Innovate

Organizations continually strive to be innovative. They set the expectation and desire to innovate, but then neglect the process that leads to innovation–creativity.

By definition, innovation is the implementation of something new. It’s about the application of new ideas and solutions. It’s not the actual process of getting to those new ideas. That’s creativity, and that’s what so many companies let fall by the wayside.

Creativity is the seed of innovation.

Creativity is defined as “the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality.” The problem arises when people feel they don’t have the autonomy or aren’t challenged to come up with new ideas. Or when creativity is only associated with marketing, product, or design teams.

Creativity is about giving your people the agency to think of new and interesting ideas. Unfortunately, this is often at odds with traditional growth goals of companies. When reliable scalability becomes the goal, it’s natural to seek out process for continued reliability. However, process is often the antithesis to creativity.

Except when creativity is the process.

Innovation stems from the ability to think creatively about a problem and solution. It’s the result of creativity. And it’s virtually impossible to be innovative if you aren’t also encouraged to be creative.

When you combine creativity and empathy around an identified problem that’s when you get true innovation.

When most companies toss around the word innovation, they’re focusing solely on the end result. But how often does focusing solely on the result actually yield the desired outcome? The greatest return happens when the process is valued as much as the result.

At its core, creativity is a process. It involves both thinking and producing. As Thomas Disch said, “Creativity is the ability to see relationships where none exist.” It’s not about starting from scratch, it’s about combining pieces of information in new ways to create something of value.

We are all naturally creative. Think about your last interaction with a kid under the age of 12–their whole word is a creative process because they don’t have a way to understand all of our social constructions yet. The older we get, the more we learn to be uncreative.

Creativity is a practice. Anyone can tap into their creative energy by engaging in the process routinely. As leaders, it’s your job to set the precedent that creativity is encouraged throughout your company culture.

Three foundational factors are needed to foster creativity at work:

  1. The expectation to be creative at work.
  2. Having time to be creative (remember, creativity is a process).
  3. Freedom to take the risks necessary to be creative. (Creativity isn’t about getting it right the first time. Often our first ideas aren’t our best).

In a recent analysis of a Gallup study of more than 16,500 employees, it was found that the presence of these three factors within companies is all too rare. Are they present within your culture?

Creating a culture of creativity is critical to being able to remain an innovative company.

What would happen if you started thinking about all of your people as creators? Not just the departments where creativity is in the job title like marketing, design, and product.


We often challenge you to consider “Are your people living up to their potential?” in Thoughtwave. Today, I want you to ask yourself, “Are my people living up to their creative potential?” Begin challenging them to explore their potential through their creative process.

Other resources on creativity

Make it a creative day,

P.S. If you’re thinking that some people simply don’t think of themselves as creative. I challenge you to consider this: Everyone has the capacity to be creative. The people who are most uncomfortable with creativity struggle because they think that the end result of creativity has to be art in the traditional sense, but a painting isn’t the only output of creative thought. Investing in creativity will go a long way in releasing the new ideas necessary for innovation.

The Brand & Culture Connection

It's Alyssa here, stepping in for Brent this week where I get to write to you about one of my favorite topics: brand.

Business is about people. Your employees and your customers. They’re what makes the business world go round and your profits go up.

It’s for this reason that culture is top of mind for high-performing companies. But so far, everything I’ve said you already know. You definitely know it intellectually, and you likely know it intrinsically.

So let me ask you a different question:

When you think about culture, do you think about your brand?

Raise your hand if you think all things related to your company brand lie within the marketing department.

You wouldn’t be alone, many people do. But your brand is so much bigger than your marketing department.

When we hear the term brand, it can be easy to constrain it to branding--you’re logo, color palette, tagline, and any other identifiable symbols. Those components definitely reside in marketing and design, but while these are incredibly important, they aren’t your brand. They’re reflections of it.

There are many definitions of brand, but they can be summed up like this: Your brand is the perception you put forth about your products, services, experience, or organization.

It’s how you represent your company and your values to others. So is your culture.

But brand is external, right? And culture is the internal part?

It’s easy to assume that you only need to focus on your brand externally, but that’s not true either. A brand should be cohesive throughout the entire experience with your company—for customers and for employees. If it’s not cohesive, you’re leaving room for confusion.

Most of the time, when we refer to brand we’re talking about our external presence—how a specific audience that we sell to or a certain type of client we want to attract is going to experience the company. However, how you develop your brand internally is just as important as externally.

Your employees need to understand how to communicate about the company—not just their job title and what they do on a daily basis. Each employee is a representation of your brand when they’re out in the world.

2 Peas in a Pod

Your brand and your culture should be complimentary. When you have a cohesive brand embedded into your culture it minimizes chaos. Suddenly, departments that typically work in silos are connected in a common purpose that is easily understood. When an angry customer writes into your support department, your support specialist will know how to respond in a tone and manner that is appropriate for your overall brand image. Or, when your product department is evaluating a new feature request, they can make a strategic decision based on the brand vision that’s been set for the year.

If focus is a goal for you, your team, and/or your company in 2019, you need to be thinking about your brand as a component to your culture. When your people are in alignment about the brand of the company they can make more strategic decisions in their daily activities.

The Brand & Culture Connection

Clearly communicating about your brand creates a community between employees, your company, and your customers. Brand becomes something that the entire company is responsible for, not just the marketing department, and that drives a company culture forward because people know what they’re working towards and how it influences the common goal.


Here are two of my favorite reads on this topic from HBR.

Why Your Company Culture Should Match Your Brand

Brand is Culture and Culture is Brand

^^This one highlights a company that decided to be purposefully unconventional and roll HR and Marketing up to the same executive because of the importance of internal brand in their culture.

Make it a great week,

How does your company promote the brand internally? Let me know in the comments.

My Dad Travels A Lot and That's Okay: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication Channels

It’s Alyssa this week, continuing the theme of things that are okay.

Growing up, when my friends would ask me what my dad did for a living I had a prepared response. I would say something along the lines of, “He’s a business advisor. He travels four or five days a week, but he’s always home on the weekend.” I usually had to answer some other questions about what it was like with him being gone so much, but I never minded. To me, it was normal.

In fact, it’s always been my normal. My dad travels a lot and that’s okay—especially now that I’m able to understand why.

Communication Takes Work

Effective communication is really a series of decisions. Deciding what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, and how you’ll deliver it. The delivery is just as important as the message as it dictates opportunities for feedback, influences how the message is received and determines how long information sharing will take.

In a world where there are more communication methods available than ever, decisions around communication become more complex. It’s for this reason so much of Thoughtwave is about awareness--of yourself and others. When we’re aware of how we naturally communicate, we’re better able to converse with others. However, we must also be aware of the limitations of each delivery method we use to communicate.

The endless communication channels available to you and your employees impact your business productivity and performance greatly.

Common communication channels:

  • Phone
  • Video conferencing
  • Text message
  • Slack/chat
  • Company intranet
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Face-to-face

How much of your time is spent attending to your inbox? Should all of the topics covered in the emails you’ve already opened this morning have been sent over email? I’d be willing to bet the answer is no.

More than talking to someone, communication is about feedback. So when it comes to choosing the proper communication method, assessing the required or anticipated feedback becomes more important.

One of the easiest ways to break down the differences in communication options in terms of feedback is by categorizing the channels as synchronous and asynchronous.

Synchronous methods allow for instantaneous feedback and require a response on the spot. Channels like phone, video conferencing, and face-to-face where feedback is rapidly given and received are great examples of synchronous communication. With these methods, all of the communication is happening in real-time.

When you opt for an asynchronous channel, feedback isn’t guaranteed right away. Email and text messages are great examples of asynchronous communication methods. The communication or information sharing doesn’t have to be concluded in one sitting and it gives people time to formulate a response.

Think about it: How often do you check your email? We’d never get any work done if we sat around responding to emails the exact minute they came in. Alternatively, how often do you forget to text someone back right away? Just ask my dad, he knows if he texts me on the weekend, I’m out on my bike enjoying Austin and likely won’t respond until Monday.

Advancements in asynchronous technologies with the development of email and now Slack (company chat), have certainly increased productivity and added value. However, when the incorrect channel is used, digital conflict is much harder to resolve.

If we’re being honest, no matter how hard we try to convey the proper tone in an email, it’s not always easy. We can’t predict with certainty that how someone reads our writing will have the desired effect. If you find yourself in a situation where what you’re saying could easily be misconstrued or require follow-up questions, choosing one of the synchronous channels is likely the better option.


One of the best ways to avoid conflict and miscommunication due to delivery is to outline a process for what channels to use when.

It’s not uncommon for us to use these charts in customer support or even in sales and marketing, but we often forget to develop them for our internal operations. When an angry customer reaches out, does your support team instantly respond to the email? Or do you have a process in place to consider the nature of the complaint and choose the best solution?

Alternatively, many times the beginning of a sales cycle can be handled asynchronously, to generate demand, gain interest, and bring in leads. However, at some point, the conversation needs to elevate and so the communication method changes from email to phone to face-to-face.

You’d be surprised how many times a simple grid can help prevent the firing off of a reactionary email. When you’ve built choosing the right channel into your company culture, you demonstrate the value you place on effective communication and set expectations for purposeful communication.

Here’s a great snapshot from Gartner of what this could look like for your team.

My dad travels a lot and that’s okay—choosing the right channel for clients is imperative to success. As a business advisor, traveling frequently ensures he and his clients are transferring knowledge in the most productive way.

Make it a great week,

P.S. I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

5 Reasons My Best Customer Stories Will Never Be Repeated

There isn’t a day that goes by where the word awareness isn’t referenced in our office and/or with our clients. Awareness is the source of the insight we all need to evolve and advance our perspective, understanding and results.

What we do with our awareness is a choice. One of the most important points of awareness for me in working with the people that make-up family business is the intimacy of understanding their heart for the business along with their thoughts, perspectives, needs, wants, goals and fears.

My commitment to each of them, many of whom make-up our Thoughtwave Community, is that I will never treat what they tell me casually and will not reveal or sensationalize their inputs.

If they are going to entrust me with their thoughts, then it’s my accountability to value their trust and develop their reliance around the consistency and character with which I process and handle everything they tell me.

There are two things that are intolerable for me when it comes to a personal or professional relationship in which someone trusts you and allows you access to their mindshare:

  1. Exploiting that mindshare for personal gain.
  2. Sensationalizing thoughts in a way that distorts the context and intent with which they were shared.

Why? Because it compromises the person and the role of the confidant. Regardless of how “good” the story is, a confidant is someone who embodies absolute trust and recognizes the story isn’t theirs to tell.

To be clear, the stories being referenced are different than the challenges, successes, and outcomes confronted and achieved with our clients based on our work with them.

To that end, here are five reasons that my best customer stories will never be repeated.

  1. The core value of absolute trust.
  2. An unwillingness to trade professionalism for sensationalism.
  3. Complete context matters and in family business that can rarely be communicated.
  4. The heart and legacy of family business shouldn’t be viewed transactionally.
  5. A challenge can only be addressed completely when it is understood completely. In order to be understood, it must be completely revealed.


Quotable quotes from me to you to this week to get you thinking beyond boundaries.

  • The person that’s prone to run off at the mouth, is likely to let their mouth run off with their brains.
  • The professional that is casual and shares details that shouldn’t be shared really isn’t a professional.
  • The person that lives to tell the sensational story, should be fully prepared to have a sensational story told about them.
  • Authenticity and transparency increase when contradictions are identified for what they are… contradictions.
  • Impact is defined by outcomes not by stories.


Until next week,


Professional People Watching

*Highlighting different perspectives makes every business stronger. Alyssa is chiming in with a guest post this week.

My boyfriend and I go to the same Mexican restaurant almost every Saturday. You can expect it to be filled with tourists, locals, lifers, and us. Not only is the Mexican food some of the best in town, the restaurant is set up perfectly for people watching.

If there’s one thing that our weekly dive into a basket of chips and salsa has reinforced for me, it’s that people are strange. We’re complicated beings that express ourselves in intricate ways that are difficult to decipher. This fact is inevitable because the reality of interaction is that everything comes down to our own perception.

It’s for this reason the best leaders are excellent people watchers—they become masters of observation and thus navigate situations with greater awareness. They collect the normally untouchable data points to paint a more accurate perception.

Harnessing the Power of Observation

Watch without judgment.
This is hard because it can be fun to guess what people are thinking and feeling as you watch without the proper context. When you observe while purposefully limiting your own bias though, your observations are more actionable. It’s the difference between placing your own value on an action and purely observing an interaction.

For example, it’s not uncommon for us to see people flailing their arms in the air, passionately telling a story while sitting at Matt’s. And in those instances, it’s easy to think, “That woman must be upset, she’s being so forceful in her motions,” versus thinking, “That woman uses hand gestures frequently.” The latter carries less bias.

The same goes for work, if you see a co-worker drawing in a notebook during a meeting do you instantly think they’re distracted, or do you observe further to see if maybe they’re taking a visual note?

What perceptions do you normally place on common observations? How might that be hindering your perception of reality?

Use your observations to ask the right questions.
Even better than observing without judgment, is observing with the intention to ask the right questions. It’s like the saying goes, “when you assume you make an ass out of you and me.” Observing shouldn’t be about making assumptions, it’s about gathering available information to be able to show up to conversations with greater awareness and insight.

Observe intentionally.
We have a tendency to react based on one situation/response we observed. If scientists did this, studies would be wildly insignificant. Instead, they keep detailed field notes to track observations over time. Rather than casually observing, be intentional. When you casually observe, you’re only picking up on details that trigger a response or reaction in you. When you’re intentionally observing you are looking to test a theory and then reflect and analyze your observations. At its finest observation is a cycle of analysis.

Observation is power.

The more observant you are, the more awareness you have when navigating situations. As a result, you can apply your insight and adapt your behavior to meet the needs of the person you’re interacting with.


  1. Do you people watch as closely at work as you do outside of work?
  2. Are you using observation to your advantage or passively moving about your environment?
  3. Are you asking questions after making observations or merely making assumptions?
  4. Pick a person to observe this week. Think about what you learned. How can you adapt your behavior based on what you learned? How did your observations change your point of view?

Want to share your thoughts? Have a great story about observation? Or maybe just a great story about Mexican food? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Make it a great week,

Marketing Value

marketing value

I brought my daughter, Alyssa, onto the team about a year ago. She specializes in brand strategy + client engagement, and she's been a huge help in the launch of these weekly emails. A few weeks ago, she sent me a snippet on marketing she had written earlier that morning. She was planning on sharing it at her own business' website, but I asked her to share it here instead because I find her insight on the experience of marketing tactics and metrics to be a good thought starter. -Brent

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