Building a Better Brand with Gary J Nix

Posted by Greg Smith on August 20, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Building Your Brand

Building and creating a brand is a lot of work, involving a comprehensive team and often outside consultants as well. No matter what stage a brand is at, from startup to conglomerate, the process of maintaining a brand is never done. 

Recently, our CEO Stacy Jones sat down with a fellow expert in marketing and branding to discuss their mutual experience in the field. In this blog, Hollywood Branded examines the essential frameworks for businesses to build a better brand from the expertise of Brandarchist's Gary J. Nix.


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A Little More About Guest

Gary J. Nix is the founder of The Brandarchist, and he's an award-winning brand-forward strategist who earned his stripes as a disruptor, an innovator, and a predictor in the entertainment, magazine publishing and advertising industries. Known for merging traditional marketing principles with modern marketing techniques in order to create, build and evolve compelling brands, his distinct point of view in the space has positioned him as a frequently sought after source of AdWeek, The Drum and Entrepreneur. He is also an adjunct professor and guest lecturer as well as a subject matter expert on ethics, culture and community as a business necessity.

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Interview Transcript Highlights

Question: I would love to chat first and have you fill in our listeners on what got you to where you are today. What brought you here? How did you become the brandarchist?

Answer: Well it all started at a very young age when I just fell in love with the New York Yankees logo. That's part of the reason why I have the hat on right now. But I didn't quite know what any of that was, right? There were a lot of things that I found interesting in the branding and marketing arena as I grew older. Once again, even before I knew what it was. When I was in high school I started DJing and I soon figured out that that was just a form of promoting music, so once again I'm marketing and not even realizing it. I went to college thinking I was going to be a computer engineer. That did not happen. Once I realized that that was not going to happen, I started to wonder okay, is there something that I actually enjoy doing that I can now go to school for? That's when I learned what marketing was and what it was about.

That was my official foray into the marketing industry. My path was not a common one. It was not a traditional one. My first agency job probably was like four or five jobs in, because I started in music and promotion and retail. I did big box retail, magazine publishing, a bunch of things that were all marketing related but they weren't on the agency side of things. My first official agency job was actually in 2011 but before that I worked at places like Source Media and Conde Nast. I Worked there for two years, then went to R/GA in 2013. That was my first big agency experience where I worked with much larger brands at the time. Even though I had done some work with Nike before I got on the agency side of things. I worked with Nike, I worked with Conde Nast before I started working with MasterCard at R/GA.

Working with both small and large companies, I understood that the principles, or I soon learned that the principles are all the same. Some of the techniques are different. You can scale things in different ways because budgets allow you to scale quicker, at least in theory, but what we were doing is exactly the same every single place. As I started to realize that, that's when I started talking about that more and trying to get people to not so much focus on the big campaigns or big activations, which are nice to do, but it's not about that. It's about the principles and the groundwork and the foundation that allows you to go ahead and make those big activations or the impactful activations and campaigns mean more to the people who you're trying to reach.


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Question: Which do you think that you had enjoyed working for more or working with more, smaller brands or larger brands?

Answer: I've actually found interesting areas in both of them. With smaller brands, especially ones that don't even really exist yet, I have a lot of fun, or I find a lot of enjoyment in helping those brands grow into what they are actually going to be. A lot of times they'll have a product or a service but they don't truly have a brand yet, so I do enjoy that part.

With larger brands I actually enjoy finding new things to do with the brands and the businesses, or new ways to help the brand evolve or find new ways or better ways to tap into their customer community. The kind of person I am, I do have to find that motivation because I like the challenge. I'm a strategist, so I like to solve puzzles.


Question: How do you start when you're working with a new client?

Answer: I start at the very beginning. Marketing, the term itself, is one that's used interchangeably a lot. If you're not familiar with marketing but you hear it being used a bunch of different ways, it can become confusing. I even argue that the ways it's used just within the industry is so different that it becomes confusing. 

I read an article last week about companies who have been able to stop their marketing or pause their marketing because they're getting good word of mouth, but that's why I start at the beginning of what marketing is and I go to the old school principles of marketing being this group of activities  and it has four functions. Marketing is a function of marketing and marketing itself is trying to figure out who it is you're trying to connect with. Advertising is figuring out how to craft the messages and understanding where the messages should go so that you can best connect with the people that you're trying to connect with. Promotion is actually the action of connecting, doing the work. Then public relations is everything that happens afterwards, the conversations that you have with your customers and your potential customers. The conversations that you have with customer service, the conversations you have with the press. All the communication that comes out of all the work you've done is the public relations part.

Starting from there is where you're able to really start thinking about the things that you're doing, what you need to do, and how those four functions can help you reach that ultimate goal of sales all the time. I start there.

I think about what a brand actually is. Branding is another term that is thrown around a whole lot. Sometimes people are talking about the business itself, sometimes they're talking about the product. Sometimes they're talking about the logo. Sometimes they're talking about the tagline. There's a bunch of things, but they are a bunch of different parts that actually make up a brand, some of which are intellectual, which are the things we like to think that is the reasoning behind we buy the product or services that we buy. The quality of the service and the pricing and all that fun stuff. Which those elements do matter, but we as human beings, we are run by emotion. Our final decision making power for when we buy things is really emotional. How do we connect with them? What is their story? What are they doing to connect with us? How do they feel about certain things that are going on? Do the way they think about things, does that align with the way we think about things? We consider all these things before we make a purchase. It's part of the reason why word of mouth works so well, is because you get that cosign from someone that you know. You're like, "Okay wait, maybe I will try this."

I go into that. Then I start talking about how people actually go ahead and buy and they first have to know about the product and they have to do their own research and they start considering. Then at some point they decide to try it out. They try it out. They see if they actually like it. They find out some more. They find out who else likes it. Do the people who like this also are those kind of people that they kind of like? Getting into all these things that gets back to retention marketing, which is like okay, they bought you once. They're going to go back to you again automatically because of the brand that you've built.

You have those kind of frameworks like that, you start understanding the things that you really need to know for people to go ahead and buy you once and then buy you again because those are the things that you want as a business and those are the things that a lot of business people, especially those outside of marketing, focus on because they're important. However, a lot of people who are outside of marketing, they'll understand all of the work that goes into getting this one person to buy that product or service first. It's not just you put something out, you say it's good and people buy. That's not how things work.


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Question: Now when you're mentioning, you said marketing, you said advertising, you said promotions and you said PR. Where do you think it needs to start? Does it start at the marketing level and then move to advertising, move to promotion, move to PR? Or is it something that can move around where it's not following a set guideline of one to the other to the other to the next?

Answer: Well it has to be mostly linear. It's very difficult to sell to people if you don't know who it is that you're trying to sell because once again it's really about making the connection, right? It's hard to connect with someone who you don't understand, who you don't know. The shotgun approach, it can be effective but it's never optimal.

Or it's very rarely optimal. Maybe you'll catch a few people, cool. But what can you do to kind of become more focused on the people who actually want to hear from you, who want to connect with you, instead of wasting the money on all the people who really don't care.

Understanding who you're talking to first, very important. Understanding what you need to say, how you need to say it, and where you need to say it, the advertising part, also extremely important. Especially now in these days where content is everything.

The world is run by content. It's not even necessarily just now. I mean, we're seeing it now because everyone is pretty much at home so content is even more top of mind, but the way we communicate, we communicate through stories, we communicate through pictures, we communicate through words, we communicate through video. All these things are content, so these things are necessary and understanding how, what, why, where, another form of connection.

It's kind of hard to sell something if you don't try to sell it, right? Once you've figured out all the things you need to do then you go ahead and sell it, and then after that the conversations out there you might be able to push more towards PR or maybe more of your focus or more of your attention goes onto the public relations at that point, but you still want to make sure that you are understanding the people who you're trying to sell to. Who are the new people coming into your market? Who are the people who might be exiting your market? Why are they exiting your market? Are they just aging out? Is there something that you're not helping them fulfill? Why?

You're still doing all four functions, but the weight of which you're doing things can change over time. But you always got to start with who.


Check Out The Podcast!

Gary has SO MUCH great information from his experience in marketing and branding, check out the podcast below to learn more about the method to his marketing madness!

Every week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our other podcast blogs from earlier this year: 

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Topics: Business Advice, Podcast Interviews