Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.

Julia: So, welcome Kat! I am so excited to have you here. Kat is our amazing project manager, soon-to-be operations-all guru. I don’t even know what your title is yet, but Kat, tell us about you. Tell us where you’re at and tell us a little bit about why you love working with Stratos. 

Kat: I would love to! So like you said, my name is Kat and I am normally based in Chicago, Illinois, except this week, as we’re recording, I’m in Vermont in a tiny little town called Randolph, Vermont, visiting some friends. I, at Stratos, do our project management, so I make sure that everyone is on task and meeting deadlines. And I funnel a lot of information through a lot of different channels to make sure that everybody has what they need to do their job. 

A couple of the things that I love about working at Stratos is that I can do this job from Vermont this week and it really doesn’t affect anybody else’s workflow where I am in the world. So that’s really nice. And then I also just love our team because we have a lot of fun conversations on- and offline during work hours and not during work hours. I really like even our Instagram DMS. Like I have reels that I get from Ryann every week of just bears in the wild and Savannah and I talk about stuff that is happening in friends’ lives from college. And I just like all the connections. I think our team is the best part of the job, for sure. 

Julia: For sure. I agree. So for all of you guys listening, Kat is working in Vermont right now. And in October, she’s going to be in Egypt. So that is super exciting. And this is the second time you’ll be working from Egypt.

Kat: Yup, and I feel like I learned a lot the first time and it’s going to be even better this next time.

Julia: So Kat is our worldwide traveler. Also operations extraordinaire and if you ever need help with ClickUp, Kat is the person that we go to. 

Kat: I am!

Julia: So today we’re going to be talking about branding and marketing, kind of a branding versus marketing. But first,  tell everybody why this is something you’re passionate about and kind of your background. 

Kat: Yeah, so before coming to Stratos, I was working at a not-for-profit that deals with churches and I was the director of marketing there. It was a very small, I mean, a lot like Stratos, so it was a team of like eight people, but I was the only person in our marketing division. It’s kind of funny to be the director of marketing when you’re the only person in the marketing team. 

That’s kind of my marketing background. And then before that, I’ve worked with a lot of different churches and done a lot of freelance for graphic design especially, and then some website development and other just general marketing tasks.

So, I am super interested in branding and marketing and looking at branding from layman’s eyes as well as from professional eyes, and talking about what brands are doing, what we like about it and what we don’t like about it. And then my degree is in media communication and a minor in graphic design. So I have a little bit of media knowledge from my undergraduate as well.

Julia: Yeah. So if you’ve ever worked with us on anything that’s design or branding-related, Kat has laid eyes on it and given feedback about it. And between her and Savannah, we give people really, really good stuff. So I’m really proud of our team. 

In all of your work, I’m curious, is there a favorite brand that either you have helped design or one that you’ve noticed, maybe Marketing in the Wildish, that you’ve noticed that you love? 

Kat: Yeah. So I’ve been really interested in this brand currently called Baboon to the Moon.

Julia: Oh! I’ve never heard of this one.

Kat: Yeah, they’re cool. So they do bags and their whole philosophy is “get lost”. So they’re a travel brand, they’re selling bags. But I just love, like they have bright colors. They have really irreverent messaging. When they send an email, it’s never serious, it’s always fun. And then just this idea of like, “get lost” mentality, like no matter what you’re looking at from their marketing stuff, you can look at their emails or their Instagram feed or whatever it is, and they’re just all about this idea of like, “get lost.” Like you’re traveling, but there’s no set destination. You’re just in it for the journey. 

And I’m probably like butchering their messaging, but at the same time, like, that’s exactly what they’re about! Like, it’s all “get lost.” So anyway, I love this brand. I’ve been following them and I’m just so excited about everything they put out. It’s so fun. I get their emails, I get their text messages, I follow them on Instagram and Facebook. And then also the algorithm has been giving me every single one of their like paid ads in the world. So I see their stuff all the time.

Julia: Wow. Baboon to the Moon, you have a new influencer! So, I think that that’s really cool. And of course, as our resident, world traveler, I am not surprised that something travel-related is one of your favorite brands. So if you think about them, like I’m curious, we’ve talked about this offline, the difference between branding and marketing, and maybe we can use Baboon to the Moon as an example. Where or what other stuff would you consider branding and what other stuff would you consider marketing?

Kat: Yeah, we talk about this a lot, not just for our clients, but for things that we’re seeing. So when I think of branding, I think of the guidelines that you want to follow when you’re creating your content. When you’re creating your marketing content, even. Guidelines like what fonts you’re going to use, what colors you’re going to use, messaging.

So like for Baboon to the Moon, the idea that their messaging is irreverent and not serious — that falls under branding. It’s like all the stuff that makes your content unique and also cohesive. 

Julia: Like tones and values. It’s not just like design stuff, right? 

Kat: Exactly, and there’s definitely design stuff involved, but that’s not all what it is.

And then marketing is like, it’s your content. It’s what you’re actually putting out into the world. So your website is part of your marketing, your emails that you send, a billboard that you might rent — that’s all going to be marketing. It’s how you’re getting the word out about your business. 

Julia: For sure, and all of those things that are marketing have to be cohesive because of the branding. So that’s kind of how they work together. So, sweet. What are some other ways that they work together? 

Kat: So, really branding is going to inform your marketing. So branding is things like your logo, your fonts, your colors, image styles, even down to how you talk about your business or how you talk about your customers or how you hope that your customers are talking about your business. Branding is all of these guidelines all pulled together. And then marketing is how you’re actually reaching people. So it’s how you’re using those branding guidelines to actually put content in front of people.

Julia: For sure. And so even that could be like making sure that you have the same logo on all of the things, like making sure that if your colors are teal and yellow, like ours are, that you don’t have a hot pink going out there because that would not match! 

Kat: Exactly.

Julia: I think one of the ways that I like to talk about branding is it kind of helps your people understand what to expect and it gives that consistency so that you are fulfilling their expectations. But I think even those small things create trust because I think we’ve all gotten something where, all of a sudden, it’s totally different from what’s normal. And then we’re like, did somebody hack this or like what happened?

Kat: Well, even as an example of that, we were just talking the other day on our Slack channel about the Allegiant airlines email that came out that said like, “Packing light is overrated.” And Allegiant airlines, if you don’t know, it’s a budget airline. It’s all about like, you’re going to spend less to go on your trip. And so they charge for every additional thing, including bringing an extra suitcase! 

So to us, we’re seeing this messaging that says, “Packing light is overrated.” And every one of us who actually flies Allegiant is like, “I fly Allegiant and I’m going to save money because I’m packing light!”

So branding is like keeping everything cohesive so that you know what to expect from a brand so that you’re not getting messaging that’s like that. It’s like, well, that doesn’t really make sense based on what are I know of the company. 

Julia: Especially because by saying “Packing light is overrated,” they’re basically say, “Well, spend more money and don’t pack light.” Yeah, it definitely didn’t feel on brand. Like one of the things that somebody pointed out in our team was that it felt more like a message that could be coming from Southwest, where you don’t get nickel and dimed for everything and you can take suitcases with you.

And so that felt like more of a cohesive message, because if Southwest said “Packing light is overrated,” it’s kind of like, “So come with us because we’ll let you pack as heavy as you want.”

Kat: Right.

Julia: Yeah, that’s a really good example. So a few other questions that we wanted to talk about. How much time, how much energy should small businesses spend on branding? Like what are the vital pieces and then what are things that could possibly be put to the side because marketing is more important?

Kat: Yeah. So I have kind of a list of what I would consider, like branding items, like things that you absolutely need to have in your brand guideline. 

Julia: No matter how big or small your business is.

Kat: Exactly. So this is going to work for an Instagram influencer who doesn’t even have a company title, like it’s just an account that you’re running, all the way up to a major agency-sized business. These are the items that like everyone has, and then I’ll talk a little more in depth about each one saying like, you know, if you’re a small business, maybe you can leave out some of this or whatever it is.

So I’m just going to list them and then we’ll come back and talk about each one. So you need a company name and a tagline, a logo and logo variations, a color scheme or color palette, fonts or font styles, your values, your imagery style, and your voice guidelines. 

Julia: Awesome. That’s like a really comprehensive list, so walk us through them!

Kat: That’s everything. You don’t need more than that. You might need more detail in one of those categories, but you don’t need more than that. 

Julia: Totally. 

Kat: So first up is your company name and your tagline. So your name is going to be pretty obvious. You probably have that already, so you can just put a check mark next to that one. Like you did it, you started your brand guidelines today!

Julia: And it can even be like your personal name. If you’re like an influencer or a solopreneur, it doesn’t have to be a fancy name.

Kat: Absolutely. But picking a company name is just important for keeping your messaging cohesive. So if, for example, my name is Kat Combs, my married name is Mikael. If I, on some channels, am Kat Combs and on others am Kat Mikael, then people don’t know who I am. Then I’m losing that branding all of a sudden, because I’m not using the same name everywhere. 

Julia: Right. It’s almost like having that recognition, like branding helps people recognize who you are.

Kat: Exactly. And then picking a tagline. This is a little more, just difficult to do, because not every company has a really clear tagline. And if you think about big brands that you know, like Baboon to the Moon, I know that their tagline is “Get lost,” but like, Target, I don’t know that I could say their tagline!

Julia: Is it like “Expect more, pay less?” 

Kat: I think so?

Julia: I only know because I went there on Saturday.

Kat: Well there you go!

Julia: I don’t know, but it also could be something else. Like I just see that everywhere.

Kat: I think you’re right. I think that’s what it is. But anyway, the tagline, it’s just to help you, like streamline your messaging. It doesn’t need to be pithy and memorable. It’s to help you more than to help your customers.

Julia: For sure.

Kat: Next up is a logo and logo variations. So when we say variations, I mean like a different composition. So you might have a logo that’s like, a circle next to the word Stratos and then Creative Marketing in smaller text below it. But then you also might have a circle and then below the circle is Stratos and Creative Marketing below that.

So sometimes, you know, if you’re going to print your logo on a t-shirt, you might want one composition, whereas if you’re going to put it at the top of your website, you want a different one. Whatever designer you work with for a logo is going to know the variations that you need of your logo.

Julia: And they should be giving you different variations. If you have a designer who’s only giving you one logo, you need to find a different designer because, just today I was uploading a logo and it was only vertical but it should have been horizontal so that people could actually read the title. And so that’s why. And so that’s why you need to make sure that you have different variations.

Kat: Yeah. Well, and even if I’m looking at your website on my iPad versus on my phone, it’s going to look like it needs a different logo on it because it’s a different sized screen that I’m looking at. So even between a website, you need multiple variations of a logo. 

Julia: Absolutely. Agreed. 

Kat: So the next step is your color scheme or color palette. And here’s where if you’re a big brand, you might have more time and energy and resources to pour into choosing your color palette. Where if you’re a smaller brand like us, we have like four or five colors that we choose from and that’s it. We don’t go outside of that. We’re not trying to match our imagery style to the exact Lightroom preset that we need so that our photos match our colors. Like we’re not putting that much into it. We have colors that we use and we use them in our graphics and we just let it go from there

Julia: And we stay consistent! Like there’s no hot pink anywhere.

Kat: Exactly! So choosing a color scheme or a color palette just helps your graphics and your website and everything, it helps it all look cohesive and work together. 

Julia: Awesome.

Kat: As do fonts. So I said, you can choose fonts like specific fonts or font style. So you might be a small business and you’re doing all of your graphics on Canva and you can choose two or three fonts that are the only fonts you ever use on Canva. Or you can say, I really like fonts that look playful, or I like fonts that look professional and you can open it up to even more fonts at that point.

So for us, we have like two or three fonts that we cycle through for Stratos. For some of the brands that we do graphic design for, we might use more fonts based on what we’re trying to design or what we’re trying to showcase. But a lot of the time, we’re just sticking to those two or three fonts.

Julia: Yeah.

Kat: Next, in brand guidelines, is your values. So this is going to be the things that are important to you. And this is going to help you in writing social media captions, writing website content, and, if you launch a new product, in writing the description for that product. That’s all going to come from your values. This is like how you talk about your company.

Julia: Perfect. I think that one’s one of my favorite ones and the most important ones because that’s where we can get into…we have one client who does like irreverent messaging, but that would totally not work for a different client who would not value that. And it would be extremely unprofessional to have irreverent messaging. And so I think that’s where you can start differentiating yourself in a way that other brands can’t. 

Kat: Yeah, exactly. And I mean, when you sit down to write your values, I think there’s this idea of like, these are the things that our company does and these are the things that matter to us, like from an internal standpoint. But then when you really start looking at those, you can realize like, oh wait, this applies to our customers too. Like we talk a lot about, we’re kind of going through the process of, not revamping, but just like writing out our values more. 

Julia: Totally. 

Kat: And we talk about how we want to inspire and empower and co-create, and we’re thinking of those things as a team. Like we want to empower each other as a team and we want to inspire each other, but then we start thinking about it from a client-facing perspective and we’re like, wait, we want to empower our customers and our followers!

Julia: And we want clients who want to co-create with us! And so I think that’s like a really good point. And then that really speaks into your voice too, to be able to use those values in a way that really resonates with people.

Kat: Yeah, exactly. So, next up is voice guidelines. So this can be as broad as you know, we talk about our values in these terms, but then there’s also specifics, like when you write a social media caption, do you write it in I language or we language? Or are there key words that you use? Like for us, we really want to start using “co-create” as this keyword that we’re using all the time.

Do you have those keywords? So for example, if you’re an accountant, maybe you want to talk about the freedom that your clients experienced. So one of your keywords would be like “financial freedom.” Coming up with those things that you just want to throw into every social media caption. 

Julia: Yeah. We have a client who works in the archery space and one of the things that they really want to emphasize is like “adventure” and then “family-centered.” And so like, those are words that show up consistently, but then also that’s how we’re writing those posts. Like we want them to feel adventurous. We want them to feel family centered. So with that branding, it all is like this throughline. That makes sense and that stays connected.

Kat: Yeah.  And then voice guidelines is another area where if you’re a bigger company, you might have more strict guidelines. If you’re a smaller company, you might just not care and that’s totally fine. So some of the like stricter guidelines would be, you know, how do you write out dates and times? Like, is it always August 3rd or are you doing eight dash three? Just like the nitty gritty specifics of your voicing. Those things would fall under voice guidelines as well. 

Julia: For sure. Is that the end of the list? 

Kat: The last thing — there’s one more, I know it’s a really long list. The last one is imagery style. So, for photos, especially if you’re a small business and you’re choosing from a lot of stock photos versus having the liberty to take your own photos, it’s good to have a style of imagery.

So, we did a brand revamp for a dentist office. And the thing that makes this dentist office different from others in the area is that they’re female-led and then they are a lot friendlier and more personable. So for their imagery style, we were going with light and airy photos rather than like moody and dark and saturated. And we wanted clean looking environments because you don’t want to look at a messy picture and think of your dentist’s office. And then we were picking images that are just women out like being bad-asses doing awesome jobs. And that’s the imagery style that we’re going for.

So now that client can go and look at any stock image website and say, oh, I’m looking for light and airy and I’m looking for like women in the workplace and they have an imagery style. 

Julia: Right, and if they ever had a social media person working for them and then they found a picture or a stock photo with a male dentist, that would be totally off-brand. And so I think that’s like the important thing, is that it kind of helps you stay on brand, make sure things are consistent, et cetera.

Kat: And in your imagery style, you might talk about different textures or graphic elements. So for us, we like our Stratos logo, the circle, we put that on a lot of things.

We might make an icon that’s the circle with something inside of it. Other brands might have a texture that they like to overlay on images. Maybe like a color block, like you always have this color block at the bottom of your images, just other style aspects that you might include. 

Julia: Totally. One of the things that I love about this list that you put together, Kat, is that it doesn’t necessarily take a professional to do it. Like you talked about, if you are a solopreneur making Canva graphics, you can pick consistent fonts and consistent colors. Like yes, depending who’s listening, maybe you do need to hire a professional — shout out to us!

Kat: We would love to do it for you! 

Julia: But if you, if you don’t have the budget or if that’s not what you want to do, like you can still maintain brand guidelines on your own. You just have to be thoughtful and think through what you want before you start creating. I think that’s just like the most important part. 

Kat: You can also look back at all of the marketing that, you know, the content that you’ve already made and look at it and say, okay, when I’m talking about myself, what values are standing out to me from these posts that I’ve already made? And you can start pulling from past material. You don’t have to start this from scratch. 

Julia: And I think that it doesn’t have to stay the same either. Like you can change, like right now, our values are changing. But it’s only because the stated values are different than our active values. And so, like, it’s not like our values are actually changing. It’s just that we have to put new words to them, because things have changed over the past couple of years. 

Just like, if you want to re-introduce, if you want to introduce a new color, like you totally could. You just don’t want to flip everything on its head. One thing that I find is that sometimes people feel like they have a problem in their business and so then they’re like, well, I’m just going to rebrand. That’s not necessarily going to fix it. And you probably shouldn’t rebrand more than once a year. And even that’s like, kind of pushing it. Like, how often do you think people should rebrand?

Kat: Oh, I think only when your company has gone through a huge change. Yeah. I mean, if you have a new CEO maybe, or if you stopped, like completely stopped selling a product and have started selling a completely different product. But for the most part, I don’t think companies should rebrand. I think they should update their branding.

Julia: That’s a good point. Like you can, there’s a major, I wish I could remember, there’s a major brand that just recently updated their logo but they didn’t actually change their colors or their fonts or anything like that. And so it’s not really a rebrand per se. Like we rebranded when we started growing as an agency, because suddenly it wasn’t Julia Block Marketing, it was all-of-us marketing. And so like, that’s a good example of when to rebrand versus when not to. 

Kat: Yep. Exactly. 

Julia: Yeah. New colors won’t necessarily save your business.

Kat: In fact, new colors could kill your business because if you’re paying to update all of your signage and your print, and I mean, I worked at a church a while back that wanted to…they were changing their logo and we had to come up with a cost-benefit analysis of all the different places we would have to change the logo.

So all of our physical signage, all of our email signatures, all of our business cards, you have to change that everywhere. And that costs something!

Julia: And also at costs, like if people don’t recognize you, like if all of a sudden you have changed your brand so suddenly without letting people know, it can cost you business because people…yeah. That’s the whole point of branding, is recognition. So like if people don’t recognize you, you could lose some customers. So, sweet. That’s all I have. I know that’s like a weird way to end a podcast, but, Kat, do you have anything else, any other thoughts or tidbits that you’d want to tell people about branding versus marketing?

Kat: I mean, we’re going to post this list in the show notes and you can go through and look at, I mean, it’s a really good checklist for you to just say, “What do I already have and what do I not have?” in your own branding guidelines. And then also just, I mean, I think this is like a general encouragement for every episode of this that we do, but look at the marketing that you’re seeing in the wild and ask yourself, like, “Does this match what I know about the brand, what I would expect from this brand?” Like that Allegiant airlines email, we saw that and immediately we’re like that does that brand.

Look at the emails that you’re getting in your inbox and think like, “Does that really match the brand that I would expect of it?”

Julia: Yeah. It helps you. Those critiquing exercises, I think, help you start critiquing your own marketing in a way that is super helpful. And I agree. I think like if you walk through this checklist…we do get a lot of clients who already have logos, but they’ve never had a chance to sit down and think through colors or fonts. And so you may have part of it and not the rest of it. And that is okay. 

And if you need a second pair of eyes, like, we obviously could help, but even some other friends might be able to help and say, “Hey, like, yes, those colors, remind me of your business or of your services” or “No, those colors feel way off and really don’t represent who you are.”

Sweet. Awesome. Well, Kat, thanks for coming on and sharing about branding and marketing. 

Kat: Thanks for having me!

Julia: This will not be the last time people hear from you either. 

Kat: I know, I was looking at our list of episode ideas and thinking like, oh, I could do so many of these!

Julia: I know, I know. So Kat will be like the resident world traveler, resident branding expert, and resident podcast guest. 

Kat: We’ll play like podcast bingo or something. And you can listen to the episodes and mark it off on your big note card.

Julia: “Which episodes did Kat show up on ?” So. Sweet. Awesome! Well, everybody, come on, tune in, go to your show notes, check out the checklist that Kat has put together. And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. Bye guys.

In this episode…

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