Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild Podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life, in-the-wild stories about business and marketing. 

Julia: Everybody, I’m excited to introduce you to my newest friend on the internet, Ericka. Ericka, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Ericka: Hi! Thank you for having me. Again, I’m super excited to be here. So I will start with a little story. In the design – and I’m talking about interior design, architecture, and construction industry, interior designers are brought in at the very last minute on a project, usually toward the end. They’re under-leveraged, they’re underappreciated, and I think that’s such a tremendous loss for everyone. There’s so much research and so much proof that interior design itself has the power to really transform people’s lives. So as a result, I am a former interior designer for many years turned marketer. I went to the dark side! I’m super passionate about making sure that interior designers get their stories straight so that they are heard, and hired, and brought in at the right time on a project to be really truly leveraged for this, for the value that they can bring to a project. So I want them to build really cool brands, I want them to have really, really strong and really meaningful messaging so that again, they’re working to the best of their capabilities and changing the world.

Julia: I love it! I love that you have come out of this field, because you know how to talk to these people, your friends, almost. So how and why did you come to the dark side?

Ericka: So the first half of my career for 10 years, I worked as an interior designer. I worked all around the world. It was amazing. But what I found over and over again was that designers, while really, really good at creating their own design concepts and their own ideas to each other in the design team, they’re actually really not good at crafting stories about themselves. And they’re really actually not good at presenting when it matters. Presenting and pitching to clients, and getting it all succinct and tight. And speaking a business language in a sense where you have to sell a design that’s more than just something beautiful or emotional, it has to speak to the client’s objective. So like I said, I set as an interior designer, and what I started to do was, because I was really fast at presentations, I was really fast at creating a synopsis of what the design team had done, the marketing team was like, “Hey, we need you on our side.”

And so I started transitioning into supporting marketing teams for pitching new business and really representing the designers. And over time, I worked with a lot of different types of marketers, I got to see all the different roles in marketing. I got to see performance marketing and growth marketing strategy and branding, and copywriting. And I really got to see all the magical parts and pieces that go into really helping designers of all kinds build and make and bring their projects to life. So I went back to school. I studied the foundation, the fundamentals of marketing to really understand and help me guide my career decision making a little bit better. And then I worked in multiple, different types of companies. I worked for home furnishings manufacturers, I worked for a really big tech company that’s focused on home. So I sat between the environment team and the marketing team. And then in 2020, I started my own business as many people did due that thing we all went through.

Julia: Yeah. That thing!

Ericka: And I haven’t looked back since! It’s been an incredible journey as an entrepreneur. And we can talk about that too. 

Julia: That’s awesome! I love it. So one of the things that you talk about is leveraging core emotions. So tell us a little bit about that. Why should businesses think about their customer’s core emotions and leverage those?

Ericka: I’m StoryBrand certified, and I know a lot of your audience is too, so I won’t go deep into preaching to the choir on that. But I will say that one of the key components of storytelling is that you talk with and you speak to your client. Stories aren’t about you, they’re about the client. And in order to really deeply understand who and what is motivating the client to make different decisions, purchase decisions, let’s say, because every business is a purchase, right? Whether it’s a service or a product, you are speaking to the story that person’s telling themself when they make that decision. And on a consumer product brand, that’s a really fast purchase decision. For toothpaste, or Barbies, or lipstick, or whatever, that journey’s super short because you can sit in front of a billion different options of toothpaste, and remember the commercial or the story that you most identify with to make that decision to do it really fast. There’s low risk. It’s super fast. It can go really fast.

However, when you’re looking at purchasing something that’s much more expensive, the stakes are higher. So like an interior design of your home, or an architectural project, or a building project, or anything, a luxury product that’s costing a lot, the stakes are much higher. You’re putting out a lot more money. In the case of interior design, you might be moving out of your house for a couple months, maybe a year, maybe longer. It depends on the size. You might be displacing your family, your kids might have to go through a big transition. So the stakes of that are really, really, really high. And that story, that marketing and that brand story has to be really powerful to be able to bring people into making the choice to purchase from you or work with you as a service provider.

So when I talk to interior designers and other home brands – I say other home brands because I’m also talking to people who manufacture sofas, and art, and furniture, and all the parts and pieces of the home, those sometimes can be really costly. So what I say is that you have to key into those core emotions. You have to tell stories that are certainly not about you. And a lot of designers start with, “I’m educated this way, or I specialize in this style, or I have this team or this accreditation.” And honestly, what clients really wanna know is how you can help them. And we all know that, right? 

Julia: Totally. 

Ericka: So that core emotion is how, as designers, I help them start to unpack what their clients might be feeling. And I’ve come up with five, within my experience as a designer for so many years and sitting on both, like we talked about, both sides of that story, that there are five core emotions that are driving interior design clients to seek out a service provider or seek out someone like a designer for their home. So I have created for them, it’s part of a larger framework, that framework has three parts. It’s called the E3 Storytelling Framework. Starts with an E all of them. Ericka, like me, so they remember. 

Julia: Love it!

Ericka: So the first one is Extraordinary, and we can talk about that later. That’s that differentiator, that’s that thing that makes you super unique. You have to start with that because a lot of times, designers, and any of us really, when we’re defining our brand story, you have to really highlight the uniqueness of your heritage, or your background, or your education, or whatever it is. Maybe you started a career in healthcare, or finance, or early childhood education, and you decided that you wanted to become an interior designer. Those are super relevant because you understand so much more. You have such a richer perspective. Not to compare, but you can take that experience into who you are and build a story around it. I get really deep with them on what that extraordinary piece is.

The second piece is Emotion. And that’s when we start to really look into that core emotional motivation. I certainly think this can work for many different industries, but I think looking at specifically if you’re in wellness or if you’re in something else, you’ll have to look and see what those might be. But for interior designers, the five are creating a sense of belonging. That home is certainly a place where families return to. A lot of times designers are working with clients who are in transition. They’re going through a marriage. They just got married, they wanna change their home. They’ve just gotten divorced, or they’re just having children, or their children are leaving the home. There’s something that’s happening, that external cause that’s causing them to want to change their home. But deeper, deeper down, it’s usually there might be a sense that they want people to come back or they want to create a space for a growing family. So that sense of belonging.

The second one is to be seen and heard. And this is really a good one for young professionals who are just starting a new life, they want to show their personality, they wanna show that they’re grown up and more mature. But they use their home and their space to perhaps entertain. Anyway, it’s super important that they’re recognized in their space. So interior designers can key into that with their messaging.

The third one is that your life has purpose and meaning. This is about usually legacy home building, people who are creating spaces that they wanna pass down from generation to generation. Certainly doing things because you can is really a factor there. I have a really good friend, she’s working with designing second and third homes. And a lot of the clients come to it and say, “We’re doing this because we can for our family.” And that’s really wonderful. And the messaging really resonates with them. And that may be a vacation home too, a second home.

I love the next one. It’s wander and wander. The idea that we wander through this world and we might see something greater than ourself, and that we wonder too about who we are. And so it’s a macro and a micro in the same emotion. And so certainly, these are not used directly as messages, we have to go really deep, and we combine them with that first E, that Extraordinary piece. But a really cool and unique story starts to evolve from that, that designers can then use, and any of us really, can start to use. And then the third E is Experiential. It’s much more tactical, this one. How do you map that to an experience journey where you can craft a marketing strategy around it? And that’s the E3 storytelling framework. So it gives you a strategy too. 

Julia: I love it though! And I feel even just you talking about those emotions even as someone who’s not into interior design, I’m like, oh, tell me more! There’s something in all of us that wants to belong. There’s something in all of us that wants to have purpose. There’s something in all of us that is wandering and wondering. There is something in all of us that does one of those things, or multiple. And I think that anybody could sell a couch. But if you’re telling this story where you’re belonging with your family on this couch, suddenly, you’ve just differentiated yourself from all the other couch sellers. And so I really, really love that. And that’s something that everybody can pull out.

Ericka: I send my clients out when I do a kickoff with them, and we go through these emotions. And I don’t say, okay, now pick one. But we say, okay, some of these might resonate with you based on your experience with clients in the past, but your homework between now and the next session where we start to really define this, and I think this is something that your audience could really benefit too, is take notice of what core emotions those stories that you really resonate with, what are those core emotions that are coming up for you? Because that can help make you a better storyteller, a better consumer, and more aware of the things that really matter to you. Because we’re all buying stuff. I don’t think consumerism is bad, I don’t think services are bad. I think we’re all in the business of doing this because we know what we offer makes people’s lives better. So how do we really get to them?

A lot of times, service, not just interior design, but a lot of service sites really talk about all the cool things that they do. And it’s like, so what? How am I gonna compare that to somebody else who’s saying that they do it better? Why does it matter? You really have to build stories in ways that people will lean into and pay attention to. And that’s, I think, the heart of the work that we get to do with clients, is help them sort that out.

Julia: So we’re recording this right after Barbie weekend. So one of the things that keeps on coming to mind and fascinates me with the marketing is how much it plays into nostalgia, which is like a form of belonging. Even when the newest Toy Story came out, I think it was number four. I lost track. We watched it as kids, all millennials who watched it as kids, then it came out when we were adults, and all having kids. And so suddenly, there was this nostalgia, even this belonging factor to it of like, oh, we belong with that era, or we belong with this community. 

Ericka: But even belonging as a human continuum. The issues we have, and our kids have, and our parents had, and their parents. We all are kind of dealing with the same stuff. And that actually gives you so much context about meaningfulness. It’s super cool!

Julia: And even before we got onto this recording, I was talking with our nanny and asked her if she watched the Barbie movie, and she said, “No, but I’m going to.” And guys, have I thought about Barbie in the last 10 years? No, I have not. 

Ericka: Not a single bit!

Julia: In fact, the only thing I’ve thought about is in detrimental ways, around how it created a culture that does not support body positivity. And so that’s the only conversations I’ve had about Barbie. But suddenly this movie comes out, and it’s this mecca for all of these millennial women to be like, “Yeah, I played with Barbies. There’s no way in heck! I’m not gonna miss that.” And so I think that it’s a larger example of how some things marketing has played at these core emotions for us.

Ericka: And true for marketing too. Can you imagine being a marketer on the Mattel marketing team? You just throw anything out, and they’re like, “Oh, yeah, let’s do it. We’ll figure out how to do that. That sounds amazing. Fantastic.

Julia: What a cool experience? For me, it’s cool to see some of these millennial things that have come back and circled around. What are some other examples that you’ve seen of people using core emotions well or poorly?

Ericka: I love to talk about Marie Kondo. She’s not an interior designer per se, but she’s certainly working in the home space. As you know, she’s super influential. She is known all around the world in every single way. Extraordinary for her. She grew up very close to her grandmother in Japan, who taught her by example that everything you have matters. Even when you live in a small space or you live in a multi-generational place, and there’s not a lot of personal space, every single thing you have is something that matters. And so in Japan, as I guess maybe now it’s more common here, but I think in Japan, as she was growing up, there are professional organizers, and that’s a career path you can take. And so she wanted to do that because she wanted to show people that their things could have meaning. But what she was finding was that everybody else in that space, all the other organizers were just telling people to just throw everything away, discard all your stuff. But she flipped the script and told people to keep only the things they loved, which is kind of cool.

So in keeping what you have, think about it, and we all know, now her tagline is if it doesn’t spark joy, it’s not worth really having. So she’s leveraging her background with her grandmother, the observational or behavioral thing that she grew up with, and using that to drive her career path. So I think that’s genius. But the emotional part of it is that I think it’s this search for meaning. How is it that our space and our home can really protect us and make us feel safe and make us feel happy when our stuff, there’s other messages that are thrown at us that are like, bye, bye, bye, you gotta consume, you’ve gotta have it look this or you’re nothing. That message, she’s completely countering to that. She’s like, the search for meaning in our life is about each thing we have giving us joy. And if it’s a thing that gives us joy, maybe people give us joy too, maybe our job can give us joy, maybe the things we eat or the things we do for others can also give us joy. So it’s amplified out as a behavior, as a core emotion. And I think it’s genius. It’s super genius. If you go to her website, even her email, the popup, the opt-in is like, sign up for emails that spark joy! That’s genius! 

Julia: Who says no to that? She’s brilliant. 

Ericka: Genius in every single way. And so she’s hit on it across, not just the emotional part, but the experience part. For several years, she’s been training people in her KonMari method, where she shows people how to become professional organizers and offer the same experience to other people. And now she’s got products with Muti maybe. I know she has a product line. She’s been able to scale that ideology of sparking joy in people’s lives using your stuff, your things. Whatever you purchase and whatever you have is meaningful. It’s just brilliant.

I think one of the things I talk to clients about too a lot, is brands are ideas. Brand, as you know, and I’m sure we could talk about this, it’s really hard to pin down, to describe to people outside of our industry. Brand is the vapor trail you leave behind because you want to build stories that create emotions and create memories just like a Barbie. Even though we put 10 women in a room who’ve each had Barbies and ask them what does Barbie mean to you, there’ll be some key similarity between all of them that that brand has been able to cultivate and streamline over all the years, even though Barbie might mean something different to everyone. And that’s the power of brand. And it takes time and it takes care and love. But Marie Kondo’s done it really, really, really well. And she does it with an emotional core to the brand for sure. But it gives her space to do many things.

Julia: And what I love about it is that she’s not saying don’t consume, she’s just saying consume with joy. She’s taking what everybody else is doing and just flipping it just slightly and just saying, you don’t have to do it totally different because there’s plenty of people. I didn’t know that story about the other organizers just telling people to throw stuff away.

Ericka: If you feel your apartment’s too full, just get rid of stuff. But Marie’s point of view was that organization is self-care. I love that!

Julia: Totally! And she has created a huge brand out of it where Marie Kondo is now a household name where we all know what it means. So I’m curious, on the flip side, are there any core emotions that you would tell people to avoid?

Ericka: Obviously ones that cause people to do bad behaviors. And I’m not the to say what’s a bad behavior. 

Julia: It’s a random question that I came up with. So there’s no wrong answers. What I think of is there is a core emotion, it’s not one of the ones that you talked about is anger. When anger is used for justice, it is a good way to use that core emotion. If you’re just gonna be angry at everything, then that’s gonna not create a joyful life. And so as a brand, you would wanna stay away.

Ericka: Well, you’re also gonna create energy of people. Anger can cause riots, anger can cause really bad destruction and bad behavior on behalf of people. And you don’t wanna be doing that. Don’t do that. Don’t be that brand! 

Julia: I guess my thought with that question was just more like, even for us to be intentional about saying we’re not gonna speak into that, I feel like a lot of core emotions have a very dark flip side. Like belonging could also become exclusionary. And so at what point do you need to say, okay, well, this is as far as we’re going. So I think it’s just being conscientious that core emotions are wonderful, but also you gotta be careful because you don’t wanna play with people and you don’t wanna manipulate them either.

Ericka: Yeah, you have to be super careful. And a lot of people look at marketing as manipulation and advertising, and it’s not. It can be that, it can go that way when it’s done incorrectly, but be on the good side. Go to the light. Don’t go to the dark.

Julia: For sure. No, I agree. I even think of, like if you’re delivering on your product, then it’s not manipulation. Did you ever watch the documentary about the Fyre Festival?

Ericka: Oh no! Tell me what you’re thinking.

Julia: So it was about this guy who created this Fyre Festival. And people can fact check me later, but he basically started selling these high class tickets to this festival on an island. But he didn’t actually have it. He didn’t actually create the infrastructure that was necessary. It was a miserable experience, but that’s a really good example of using core emotions poorly in my opinion, because he was attracting young people. 

Ericka: Playing on their hopes and their dreams.

Julia: Yeah. Hopes, dreams, belonging. People were spending $10,000 that they didn’t have, just so they could go to this. It was total manipulation, a good example of manipulation, where he used and toyed with their core emotions, but then didn’t deliver. So that just came to me.

Ericka: So be careful. Don’t do that.

Julia: Don’t do that either. Ericka, a few random questions. So we were just talking beforehand. So everybody, Ericka lives in France. So if somebody were to go to France, where would you tell them to visit? Well, it’s speed questions.

Ericka: Speed question, okay. I’m in the south of France. I’m in Marseille, which I think is a super cool city. It’s full of creatives, it’s a port. So there’s people from all over the place. It’s a melting pot, which I love. Paris is amazing. Of course, go to Paris. But if you want something different and off the beaten track, Marseille, it’s got this beautiful crystal blue ocean Mediterranean sea. It’s pretty mild most of the year, there’s beautiful mountains for hiking, and the food is fantastic. So Marseille.

Julia: Why did you decide to move to France instead of any other country?

Ericka: Well, I had worked in China for many years while I was a designer, and while I was there I met people from all over the world. And a couple of them ended up in Marseille for life and love, and they were like, “Come visit.” It was 2020, I new people here, and so I said, “Okay, I’ll try.” And I came, and it stuck.

Julia: That’s awesome! I love it! I was just telling somebody, there’s something about Europe that feels so dreamy to me living in the states. And so I love that you’re doing it and living there.

Ericka: Well, I think we all went through this time in the world where it showed us that we could run businesses from anywhere, even state to state. You didn’t have to go and show up in an office anymore. And so I took that to a little bit of an extreme.

Julia: As you should! That’s awesome! I love that. And I think that even circling back, I feel there’s even a, not that France was recruiting you or not that France had marketing, but we do make even life choices based on core emotions too. And so I think that even if it’s not a product or service, we’re all making choices based on those emotions. So as businesses, we should position ourselves. So that’s my wrap up for that. 

Ericka: I love it, I’ll say that. That was your homework. Look at how your core emotions are affecting all your decision-making. 

Julia: There you go! For sure. So Ericka, if people want to learn more about you, or if you have designers listening in, where should they find you?

Ericka: Well, they won’t find me on Threads because I was on Threads for a week, until I think they figured out I was in France, and then I have not been able to get on since. So that’s a bummer. That’s crazy. But no Instagram. And I have a website. My Instagram handle is @SauritCreative, (https://www.instagram.com/sauritcreative/?hl=en). And my website is Sauritcreative.com (https://sauritcreative.com/). I have tons of maybe interior design related content there, but marketing as well. And I have a freebie if you want to know how to look at your current brand message in the form of a one page brand audit, which is super fun to do. Check that out. Reach out. You can find me on either.

Julia: We’ll link everything for Ericka in the show notes. Otherwise everybody, thanks for joining us. Ericka, thanks for joining us. 

Ericka: Thank you so much for having me, Julia. This was really fun and super cool. And have a great day.

Julia: You too!

Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have. If you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and wanna give us a rating or a review, I promise, we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us. 

Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. 

Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week, and I hope you will be too.

Check out Ericka’s marketing course for creatives here: https://www.marketingschoolforcreatives.com/waitlist/