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Susan Meier is a brand strategist, a visual artist, and the owner of Susan Meier Studio. Her past clients include Unilever, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Mars, Samsung, and Novartis. She has extensive experience in the field of branding and she shares some of her wisdom with us in this podcast.
Currently, Susan is working mostly in the health and wellness space. As a staunch advocate for people taking the reins when it comes to their own health, she works with a lot of clients who deal with technologies that facilitate patient interactions with their healthcare providers. Her ultimate goal is to help people improve their healthcare experience.
A Customized Approach for Every Business
For most projects, Susan takes what she refers to as a portfolio approach. She helps larger corporations with their sales and marketing teams, generally looking at branding during a week-long project with a set scope and phases of work. For smaller, early stage companies — especially those with a smaller budget — her approach generally focuses more on innovation, usually in workshop format. In this way, she helps young businesses capture their culture once they know exactly what they stand for but before they grow so much that this sort of thing gets a little out of hand.
In her nine years of helping companies build their brand identity, Susan has always set aside a portion of her portfolio for these smaller projects despite them being less lucrative for her. The payoff? They inspire her and she learns a lot from them. She enjoys contributing to entrepreneurs who are just starting out. That aha moment when the small, independent professional who has come to her for help realizes what their true identity is, who their audience is, and how they empathetically connect with them is something Susan finds truly rewarding. She refers to these elements as the three pieces of branding.
What is Branding?
Ask ten different business owners what branding is and you’ll get ten different answers. For Susan, branding refers to who it is you want to be in the world. What do you stand for? What are your values? What do you bring to the party that’s different from what anyone else is bringing?
It starts with identity and really kind of authentically thinking about who you are and who you want to be.
Language is also key, stresses Susan. Finding the right terminology when establishing your brand will make all the difference.
It All Starts With Self-Reflection
Thinking about who you are and who you want to be is the first step in the branding process, according to Susan. She explains that it’s okay to experiment with ideas and find that they don’t work. However, she also stresses the importance of constantly questioning whether it is truly you. Ask yourself if this is truly who you want to be. Is it who you are? Is this brand idea leveraging my uniqueness? My creativity? She goes on to explain that as an entrepreneur, you will not be able to create that groundbreaking idea when you’re just not feeling it. There needs to be a purpose for everything.
It needs to be mindful; it needs to be intentional. It can’t just be pretty.
The Pitfalls of Social Media
Susan warns that there is a distinction between branding and building a presence on social media. While building an online presence is important, she cautions that it skips over the step of figuring out who you are before figuring out how to get as many followers as possible. She adds that newer entrepreneurs who haven’t been through a branding process assume that their brand is synonymous with their social media presence which it is not. While branding is the basis of who you are, your social media presence is more of an execution tactic.
Advice for Early Stage Entrepreneurs
When asked for some advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out, Susan recommended the first step to be one of self-reflection. Take a moment and think about who you personally are, what you are building and why, and what your motivations are. Make a list of your values. Secondly, think about where you would like to see yourself and your business or brand in ten years.
Another effective approach for early-stage entrepreneurs is to write a mission statement and then think about who you are serving, whether you have an audience, whether you have one customer or many, and then connect the dots between all those things. Take a good look at who you are serving, how you are serving, and what your promise is to them.
Lastly, Susan makes reference to the holy grail of branding: that you’ve thought through what you stand for and what you do before deciding how you will express your brand.
We also recommend:
- How to Find Ideas for Your Social Enterprise That You’ll Want to Pursue
- What Does it Take to Find Purpose and Build Your Personal Brand: Dov Baron
- 26 and One Half Ways to Become a Conscious Entrepreneur
Transcription of Interview (Transcribed by Otter.ai; there may be errors.)
Adam Force 0:11
Hey, what’s up and welcome back to the Change Creator podcast show. Hope you are all doing really well and your week is off to a great start. It is Tuesday the 28th here as we speak. And if you missed the last episode we spoke with Peter Montoya. He’s a really…has a really impressive background and we spoke about transformational leadership, which is so important in today’s digital marketing climate, and leading good teams, good cultures, and that’s a great conversation. So if you didn’t get to listen to it, swing back, check it out. I think you’ll get some good nuggets out of there.
This week, we will be talking to Susan Meier. Now Susan is a brand strategist and a visual artist and so she’s done — she has a lot of great experience in this space and she has her own company right now called Susan Meier Studio. And and historically she’s worked with brands on this stuff including people like Unilever, you know, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Mars, Samsung, you know, some big players in the health space like Genentech and Novartis, so a lot of great experience to share. And we’re going to talk a lot about branding and user experience and things like that, because, well, one, that’s an area that’s really important to your business for, you know, visual, you know, communication. But also, this is an area that I nerd out on. I love branding and user experience. So I’m excited to have this conversation, I think you’ll get a lot of good stuff out of it. So stay tuned, we’re going to dive into that in just a minute. If you haven’t been to changecreator.com in a while, swing through there and pick up your Three Skills That Every Entrepreneur Must Have to Grow and Impact Business.
So many good insights in there. We’ve had lots of great feedback and I think you’ll enjoy that blueprint, basically. It’s right there on the homepage when you get there. So check that out. And I think you guys will get a lot out of it. And if you are on our email list or in our Facebook group, the Profitable Digital Impact Entrepreneur, I want to let you know that we do have a challenge that our team — myself, Amy, Danielle and Solene — are putting on. And that is actually kicking off today the 28th. So if you haven’t got the email sign up for the challenge. It’s called the Story Powered Marketing Challenge. We really want to start helping people understand how to harness the power of storytelling in today’s digital marketing world and why it’s so important, and what it means to your business — all that good stuff. So we’re going to start setting you up with those steps, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. So that’s kicking off today. So if you’re in the group, you probably got the invite or if you’re on our email list. If not, you can jump in at the last minute here or maybe you can catch us on the next time around. Alright guys, that’s about it for today. We’re going to kick this off with Susan Meier and start talking about some brand strategy.
Okay, show me the heat!
Adam Force 2:51
Hey, Susan. Welcome to the Change Creator Podcast Show. How are you doing today?
Susan Meier 2:55
I’m great. Adam, how are you?
Adam Force 2:56
I’m doing amazing. The sun is shining. Actually, it’s pretty hot out here today. I’m in Miami. Remind me where you are.
Susan Meier 3:03
Lucky you. I’m in New York and it is freezing. The sun is shining, though.
Adam Force 3:06
I do love New York though, so cold or not. Yes. So listen, you know, I’m a big fan of branding and UX and all that fun stuff. So I think branding is such a important part of, you know, the personality of a company and who is behind it and all that kind of stuff. So tell me a little bit just about like what you have going on these days. I like to get the latest and greatest and then we’ll get a little bit on how you got there.
Susan Meier 3:35
Oh, sure. So, I have been for the last few years. fielding mostly work in the health and wellness space. And I find that really exciting because I’m a big advocate of helping people take more control over their own health journey. So I work a lot with clients who work in the technology space enabling, you know, sort of patient interaction with their healthcare or doctor interaction via new technologies. And I think we’re living in a time, in a world, where there’s so many new opportunities opening up through technology and through innovation that’s going to really improve our health — much needed — improve our healthcare experience. Yeah, so that’s been pretty exciting.
Adam Force 4:23
Okay, and so right now you’re doing a lot of consulting with companies. And I think you mentioned that you might be doing some, some new testing to work with individuals, yeah?
Susan Meier 4:33
Yeah, so my, in my business, I have a kind of a portfolio approach. So I work with larger companies, larger brands, corporations, helping their sales and marketing teams, generally, think about branding, and that usually looks like a, you know, sort of multiple week long project with set scope and phases of work, right like a traditional consulting model. Then I also run workshops, which is typically around innovation. But also I’ve done that for a very quick, quick brand positioning, sort of get my brand off the ground, put a stake in the ground around my brand. And that’s usually for earlier stage or smaller companies who don’t necessarily have the budget, but they do have the need, particularly when they’re early stage and are just about to grow, needing to sort of say, Let’s capture this great culture that we have now what our brand really stands for, before we grow and you know, the sort of things have the potential to get out of control.
So I’ve been doing this for nine years, and I’ve always saved a portion of my mental portfolio for those projects, even though they’re not as lucrative for me, right? But they’re very inspiring, and I really enjoy doing that work. And I learn a lot from it. And I like to think I contribute, you know, something as well there. So I enjoy that. And then what we were just chatting about is that in the last couple of years I’ve had individuals, so entrepreneurs, independent professionals like doctors, lawyers, consultants, people in those kinds of industries, where they’re an individual shingle. So it’s a professional brand, but it’s really the brand is them. And they’re sort of at a moment where they’re thinking about what their path forward is going to be, sort of how they want to show up in the world in a consistent way. And so I’ve been doing one-on-one work with a number of people using the same tools around, you know, what’s your identity? Who’s your audience? And how do you empathically connect with them? And how do you manage your messaging? Those are kind of the three pieces of branding, or at least they are for the way I approach it.
And, and so those are relevant for individual business owners and entrepreneurs as well. And this year going to be launching a brand new product, which I’m really excited about, which is a series of workshops where, which makes it a little bit more accessible and affordable for people who can’t necessarily pay the fee for a one-on-one, full-day session. where, you know, it’s a handful of people, maybe five or 10 people that come together in a room for that day-long session, do those same exercises, and share with each other inspiration, insights, as well as you know, my facilitating.
Adam Force 7:31
So sounds like you have a lot going on and some exciting stuff coming down the pipeline with the workshops. Can we just level set on how you’re defining branding?
Susan Meier 7:43
Adam Force 7:44
And then tell us a little bit about your process.
Susan Meier 7:48
That’s a great question. And I’m so glad you asked it. I feel like so many of the things that I do for a living and that I talk about — branding, strategy, creativity — are all words that are just a little squishy, and people use them to mean so many different things, right? And none of those definitions is wrong per se. But for me, branding is really about Who do you want to be in the world? You know, what do you stand for? What are your values? What do you bring to the party that’s different from what anyone else is bringing? And so that’s why when I think about branding, and the process that I take my clients through, it starts with identity, and really kind of authentically thinking about who you are and who you want to be. I usually do like a values…I always do a values exercise, and we often will do a mission statement coming out of that.
Because I think it’s really important to self reflect, right? Before you sort of go, Oh, well, I want to be who my customers want me to be, which is not unimportant. It’s important to understand your audience and think about how you can deliver on their needs, of course. But first, you have to be true to yourself. And so then the second part of the process is, you know, you are providing a service or product, so you need to obviously think about who is on the other end of that product. And so depending on…I’ve worked with clients who were really in touch with that, and I’ve also worked with clients who aren’t so in touch with that, not because they’re bad people, or they’re not empathetic, but because it’s typically in spheres where it’s like a new technology.
So, they’re either scientists who are developing, you know, a new drug, or engineers who are developing a new technology or developers who are developing a new technology that’s really exciting. And it’s kind of all about the science of what they’ve created. And it’s this new breakthrough thing that everybody knows is new and breakthrough and haven’t quite yet thought about how it’s going to be used or how it’s going to be understood by the audience or even who the audience might be. And so that’s not a wrong way to innovate. It’s just a way where they need a little more help kind of thinking about things from the outside in.
Adam Force 10:03
Yeah, I mean, we see this a lot, too. And it’s like, you know, people are great at what they do. But they’re not necessarily experts at how to position it, how to get the world to understand it, and how to express what they’re doing, because that’s just not their skill set. Right? So they lean into people like yourself to learn how to do that part of it. And I think, you know, strategically like you make some comments on your website and stuff about kind of joining forces of creativity and strategy. And I completely agree with that. And I think that it’s really important for people, they don’t need to become branding experts, but they have to understand the strategy about what…how to like, think about it, right?
Susan Meier 10:44
Absolutely. And we can’t all be experts, nor should we be experts in everything. I don’t know how to code. And I’m not going to learn and I’m so grateful to those who do. So, yeah. So I bring sort of my skill set, as you do and as we all do. But yeah, I think the combination of creativity and strategy is very core to my ideology. It’s kind of core to who I am. I am both a brand strategist and a visual artist. I do that not just as a hobby, but also professionally. I show and sell my work and that’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember — actually, longer than I’ve been…much longer than I’ve been a brand strategist. And so I bring that perspective to the strategy work I do and what I find, you know, in my own life, but I also hear this when I’m talking to people about their careers and their paths — that to the extent that they can bring whatever their creative spark is, whatever creativity looks like in their life, into their so-called real work or into the work that requires them to have their analytical logic brain on, the more electrified that work can be, right?
They’re going to be more innovative. They’re going to be more engaged. It’s gonna be more fun. So I think the combination of those two things. And the other thing I think is super interesting, as I’ve read a little bit about this, the neuroscience actually supports this, we talk a lot about in popular culture about left brain and right brain. And I think we’ve actually begun to believe that we have these two separate halves of our brains that govern different functions. And it’s actually just not true from a neuroscience perspective. The two sides of the brain work together on everything, you know, certainly Language Center might be located here versus there. But you can’t speak without using both sides of your brain. And so I think there’s a kind of a pretty poetry in that.
Adam Force 12:39
Yeah. I mean, I would imagine that we’re not just — that the whole brain is being used. And it’s not just these little compartments that they kind of make it out to be. It just doesn’t make much sense. And I think you know, there’s a misunderstanding. When you hear branding people are like, Oh, my logo and my colors.
Susan Meier 12:59
Yeah, I’m glad you raised that. So it’s not that that’s not branding. That’s an important component of branding. And in my experience that’s often referred to as brand identity. Although that can also be confusing, because I just use the word identity to mean something else. So language is tricky. By the way, that’s a big part of branding: finding the right language. But yes, so yeah, so your logo, your name, your tagline, your colors, your fonts, your website, your podcast, all of that is part of your brand. I think of that as the expression of your brand. So the company I actually worked for before I started my own company — I was the Director of Strategy, but my title was Director of Vision.
There was a Director of Design, but her title was Director of Expression. And I thought that was so genius. I was really inspired by that. By the way, it’s the best title I’ve ever had: Director of Vision. It was so much cooler than strategy because really, that’s what strategy — if you would ask me the question about what is strategy that’s a whole longer another long answer. But really, it’s vision, right? You’re looking forward into where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there. And similarly, you know, the design and expression is really a great word for those visual components, or those succinct verbal components of how you come out into the world. That’s how you express your brand.
Adam Force 14:33
Yeah, yeah, hundred percent. You know, and it’s funny because, you know, I’ve done my fair share with some of these things. And I would, you know, I always read this research because you hear people talk about, well, you got to be this color because of this psychological reason and that’s like [unintelligible] reason.
Susan Meier 14:49
Adam Force 14:50
And one of the things that we do teach in our own program when it comes to just like, you know, helping people understand the basics around their website and stuff like that is like, you know, You can get hung up on the psychology of color. And I’m bringing this up just curious to see how you feel about it. And I would always say, listen, there’s probably some truth to some of these things, no doubt with some of the data and the tests. You could find conflicting information all over the place. At the end of the day, I would say like, Okay, if I told you, you’re going to go to the Harley Davidson website, and you think about in your mind automatically from preconceived information, bikers, black leather coats, all that stuff, and you went to their website, and it was all pink with flowers, it would probably not make sense to you. So to me, great branding is when someone thinks about, like, where they’re going, and then they get there and it makes sense.
Susan Meier 15:42
Yes, you’ve got to have a reason for what you’re doing. Now, there’s in your, for example, in your example, if you had a motorcycle brand and you got to their website, and it was pink, and there was some compelling reason for that, that they were able to explain, that was part of their brand DNA and their brand story, that could also be genius, right? Because everybody else goes right and they go left. So you can’t rule anything out. But I think the point, that is exactly the point you’re making that it needs to be mindful, it needs to be intentional. It can’t just be pretty. It has to be in service of some. And that for me is the holy grail of branding. That’s why branding is important is that you’ve thought through what you stand for, and why you do what you do before you make those expression decisions.
Adam Force 16:34
Exactly. And I like that you use the word intentional. I mean, I think that’s just such a big part of just everything we do as entrepreneurs is to make sure we’re acting with intention. You know, and I spoke to Jay Shetty a while back and one of the things he mentioned was a story he was with his art teacher, and he would go through this process there: Alright you guys, I want you to draw x, y&z. And you can do the best drawing, the most beautiful drawing just like he said. A beautiful website. And he would say, Well, why is this here? Why did you do that? Why’d you use this color? And if you didn’t have good reason, you fail. But you could have the ugliest drawing in the world and as long as you had a really specific intention for why you did certain things, you would get an A.
Susan Meier 17:15
Yeah, that’s a that’s a good teacher. That’s a good crit, as they call it. You know that you have to defend your work.
Adam Force 17:21
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So let’s talk a little bit. Now we kind of touched on strategy, we touched on branding. And you know, you say that in a lot of ways people think that these are at odds. So let’s just talk about that and explain how they’re not at odds.
Susan Meier 17:39
Well, I think there’s a bunch of myths that we grow up with, and it’s not necessarily that they’re in the front of our mind, or that we actively believe them if we were asked, but they’re so prevalent that somewhere they’re lodged inside our brains, like the starving artist, for example, right? Or in the same way that you might say, the absent minded professor. So this idea that people who are highly creative are somehow not, then at the same time, efficient or productive or organized. And it’s just not true because those who are highly creative and are successful in executing their creativity are extraordinarily efficient and productive and organized.
Everyone has their own way of doing that. Maybe they surround themselves with a team, maybe they have different tools than you or I or somebody else uses. But that tension that I think we set up as a society, starting with this idea of left brain versus right brain is just a myth. And in fact, if you’ve heard the expression freedom within a framework, I think there’s actually a sort of a confluence of the two sides. Not only is there not attention, but you need that stability and order in order to be creative and free and innovative. right? You need those two sides together.
Adam Force 19:10
True. Yeah, very true. Yeah, I think that makes sense. And there are so many myths. I mean, I guess we all have so many years of just different kinds of conditioning and messages. And you know, I always say today, it’s like, you know, we have this internet thing now. And there’s so much information out there where accessibility to become an entrepreneur, to live the life you want, is there. However, it’s also saturated with so much, just, misinformation because there’s a lot of people out there that really, they are trying to be something that they’re not, which means they’re not acting with true authenticity and intention, because they’re hungry to seize an opportunity. And all of a sudden, you have just flawed information, right? And I think a lot of that plays a part of this, right?
Susan Meier 19:57
I think it always comes back to self reflection, or should always start with self reflection if possible, right? Like thinking about who you are, who you want to be.
Adam Force 20:08
Susan Meier 20:08
And that’s also not always that easy, especially, you know, let’s say you’re 18 years old. It takes a moment to figure out who you are and who you want to be. And it’s okay to experiment with stuff and find that it doesn’t work. But that process of constantly looking back in the mirror and saying, Is this me? Is this really who I want to be? Is this really who I am? Is this really leveraging my unique stuff, my special sauce, my creativity, I think is very important. And you’re not going to really be able to make that impact, to create that groundbreaking idea in a sphere where you’re just kind of not feeling it, where it’s not the right fit for you. And so it’s always kind of that, you know, I think in the beginning of your career, you’re bouncing back and forth. Well, let me try stuff because you got to try stuff. That’s fine, it’s fine to sort of try something and you know, either fail or just discovered that it’s not right for you. But you kind of have to keep coming back to that core, that mindful intention of like, Who am I was this right? Why wasn’t it? Okay, let’s try something else.
Adam Force 21:15
Hundred percent. Yeah, it’s true. And that is those are steps I think that people believe they already know in their head like, yeah, yeah, I know who I am. I know what I love and all that stuff, and I know what I’m about. And they take them lightly and it’s kind of like the analogy I usually use is it’s like the one of the three little pigs building their house out of straw. And then you’re gonna have to keep going back and at some point, you’re like, why aren’t I connecting with the audience? Like why am I not making sales? Like why can’t I get anyone to pay attention to me? And then you’re like, then I gotta go back and like re sharpen my saw rebuild my house out of bricks now.
Susan Meier 21:50
Yeah, absolutely. I’m still doing that all the time.
Adam Force 21:54
Exactly. And that’s why I was going to do the house and I was like, you know, I said, resharpened the saw because we all have to go back and look at that sometimes because it strengthens what we’re doing just to like, sharpen it up again.
Susan Meier 22:05
Yep.And I think if we can think of it as a process, that it can actually be fun. And I think that goes back to where, you know, if you think about things through a creative mindset, then this becomes not, Oh, I had a goal, and I failed. And now I have to retool, because that thing failed. That’s a terrible story to tell yourself. Why would you tell your story that way? I mean, it’s, you know, it’s so much cooler to think, Oh, I created something. And now I need to resharpen my saw, create something else. And look, I made a hat out of something that used to be a dog. That’s much cooler!
Adam Force 22:43
True. And you put your scientific hat on, right? So here you are, you’re building a brand and you’re trying to see what works and what doesn’t. And you have to look — can’t tie emotion to it. So things take time. You put some effort in and you look at it as Yeah, you have a million ways of doing something and if the first one kind of flops, you cross it off your list and you move on to the next one. And it’s exciting; the story should be: Great, now I know that one’s…that’s one less I have to test out. Let’s move on to the next thing, right? So, in my mind, I’m always excited. I mean, yes, there are points of stress when you spend $10,000 and you’re not getting the results that you want.
But, you know, one thing we’ve learned, and you know, not to go off of branding too much, but, you know, you have to be willing to put in the time or the money one way or the other to get the data.
Susan Meier 23:31
Adam Force 23:31
You know, you’ve got to get the data. And I think that’s a hard lesson for people and they say, I don’t have the time and money to waste. And that’s the wrong word: waste. You’re not wasting it.
Susan Meier 23:41
It’s invest. It’s invest. For sure.
Adam Force 23:42
Susan Meier 23:44
Yeah, I think back to in college, there was a guy who lived on my hall who was two years older, and he was going through corporate recruiting, you know, where the companies come to campus and they recruit the best and the brightest students. And you send in your resume and then they send you back an acceptance letter or a rejection letter. And so this guy put all of his rejection letters up on his door. So you would walk by his door every day. And there would be, you know, three letters, five letters. This guy got rejected by like, 30 companies, and he owned it like a badge of honor. And he told me, I feel like those rejection letters aren’t failures. They’re like, look at the work that I put in here. And I am one rejection letter closer to landing that job. And I remember that my whole adult life; I thought that was such a cool way of looking at it.
Adam Force 24:39
Yeah, I mean, that is a mindset that you want to have. I mean, that is, yeah, it’s great to see that kind of stuff. And it’s funny because everybody thinks differently and you know, you find out in business that a lot of times, it’s not that you’re not doing the work or putting in the time. Like that’s all…everybody can do that. It’s really, How are you thinking about things? And you know, we talked about the conditioning. So how do you look at branding that maybe you’re not taking the right steps because you don’t see it the right way. Your perspective is not right. And there’s a lot that contributes to that. So, you know, having someone like yourself, like, as a guide, and somebody that’s been down the road many times, you know, this is where, you know, it is helpful to invest. Because a lot of times, you know, you need help on how to think about these things.
Susan Meier 25:22
Yeah. And I think just on what you just said…you know, I sort of read about what people are writing about when I think about personal branding. And I think that this is a little bit one of the pitfalls of the prevalence of social media, because so much of what I read about personal branding goes straight in for: How do you build your presence on social media? which is not an unimportant thing. But I think it skips over that step of figuring out who you are, before figuring out how you, you know, get as many followers as possible. And I think that a lot of people think about, you know, if you haven’t been through a branding process, a lot of people think about their brand as almost synonymous with their social media presence. And it’s not, you know, it’s not…it’s the basis of who you are. And then your social media presence is kind of an execution tactic.
Adam Force 26:15
Yeah. But contextually or content wise, I think would be a reflection of your brand expression, yeah?
Susan Meier 26:23
Adam Force 26:25
Yeah. So I mean, there is a level of consistency. And, you know, we have to trademark this but we call it a digital conversation. Because, you know, you’re basically like…we teach storytelling for marketing and how to apply that to your digital, you know, business, right? And we’re not going door to door anymore. We’re not sitting down and having a one hour conversation where you can hear feedback and give a direct story or give insight that helps with the conversation. But we have all these bits and pieces around the internet that serve different purposes, and they tell different stories at different times, depending on who you’re talking to, right? So, you know, it’s that consistency. And people start doing different things in different places. And the whole narrative gets — which is basically part of the branding — gets messed up.
Susan Meier 27:08
Somebody told me the other day that in their company, they sort of forced themselves to come up with three messages and three messages only: What are our three messages? And then they put them up in the common area. And everybody had to be thinking about those three…and if what they were doing at that moment wasn’t in service of one of those three messages, they shouldn’t be doing it. I thought, wow, that’s tight. That’s great, you know.
Adam Force 27:33
Yeah, I mean, that’s true. That’s a great way to think about it. I mean, some people leverage the mission statement or whatever it might be, and there is a part of, I guess, leadership to keep the brand, you know, in line, I guess, and maybe I want to say, but just to keep everybody inspired and going in the right direction. Like, this is what we’re about. This is why you’re here. And so as you do anything, you need to be thinking about this because I’ll tell you, you know, after all my years, there’s many crossroads of like temptation to do things that might go off brand, because it might be more financially, you know, abundant for you, or whatever it might be. And it’s easy to go down those roads.
Susan Meier 28:14
It’s easy as an individual, and then think about how easy it is when you’re not thinking about a large organization. In fact, I have had a large number of clients who have gone through the branding process with them. And then they’ve asked me to stay on for six months to a year in what we call brand stewardship. You’re just sort of making sure that those branding principles were executed consistently by everyone. Everybody actually understood what we had done and why we had done it, and how it would appear in the world through those different channels of expression. That’s, that’s…it’s not easy.
Adam Force 28:52
No, it’s not. And it’s great that you’re working with individuals, smaller companies now because I think getting in on the ground floor like that to set up your culture and become a leader from the earlier days is a lot easier than trying to make a culture shift when you’re already 50 people deep. You know?
Susan Meier 29:10
Definitely. And the other thing is that, you know, most startups that I’ve seen, they have a delightful and unique culture that comes about from those three, four or five founders, right? And then they grow to like 10 or 15 people, and they still have this really true specific culture. And then all of a sudden, they grow or they’re about to grow to 30 people or 40 people, and that’s the moment when it’s easy to forget that culture. And to or to dilute that culture because those people weren’t there and it’s not their DNA. They need to be taught the DNA, you know, offered the DNA.
Adam Force 29:54
They need to be, I guess what is like a little training program.
Susan Meier 30:00
Adam Force 30:00
Onboarding, that’s the word I wanted. You know, I don’t know if you know TOMS, like TOMS shoes. So I interviewed, in one of my past conversations, Blake Mycoskie, and I asked him, if he went back and started TOMS again, is there anything that he might do differently? And at first he’s like, No, not really. And then he’s like, actually, you know what I would do differently. He goes, I would go back and I would…when we were hiring our executive team and upper management and stuff like that, he goes, I would be more careful about who we brought on, because they come with all their past experience and it could be baggage. Because now they come in, and they might be a great salesman, or whatever it might be, but they’re good at where they were and they have their own ways of doing things that now they’re going to bring to the company, which could be completely in the opposite direction of your culture.
Susan Meier 30:47
Yeah. Yeah. It’s so true. I think we’ve all worked with a person at some time or other who starts their job and every third word out of their mouth is, Well, at my old job we used to…
Adam Force 30:58
Susan Meier 31:00
It’s, I mean, it’s easy to do, right? Because you’re trying to leverage your experience.
Adam Force 31:04
Well, yeah, I guess our takeaway here for everybody listening is really, you know, getting set up with the right strategy, understanding yourself, kind of building out the brand to reflect this expression of all that consistently. But then figuring out as you scale the business, how do you maintain that and don’t lose touch with it, right? So you want to have that stuff thought out and make sure you’re paying attention to it. So we’re going to wrap up here in a minute. But let’s just recap…if there’s any recap, you want to give about just a couple key takeaways about the branding process for early stage entrepreneurs that you think might be helpful, let’s just recap that real quick now.
Susan Meier 31:40
Sure, I think my advice would be, first of all, self reflect. Take a moment, take a pause wherever you are in the process and think about who you personally are — what it is exactly that you’re building and why, what your personal motivations are, what your aspirations are for your company, what your aspirations are for yourself professionally. All of those kind of self assessment questions, just a snapshot. And then think about, you know, where you would like to see yourself, your business, your brand, in 10 years.
Make yourself a list of values that you stand, you know, we believe…I believe…I stand for…that kind of thing. Or write yourself a mission statement, something that puts a stake in the ground that you can then go look back at or share with other people. And then think through Who am I serving? You know, do I have one audience? Do you have one customer or consumer, or are there are many constituents to what it is that I’m doing? And then you connect the dots between those things, right? So, you know, who am I uniquely in the world and who do I want to be? Who am I serving? And so therefore, how am I serving like, what’s my promise to them?
Adam Force 32:55
Exactly. I love that perfect, perfect.
Susan Meier 32:59
So those are the Cliff Notes.
Adam Force 33:00
I like the Cliff Notes. Yeah, just a little recap. We touched on a bunch of stuff. So that’s helpful. And listen, if people want to learn more about what you’re doing, maybe connect with you, work with you, where do they go? Where can they find you?
Susan Meier 33:14
I think it’s easy to start at Twitter where I’m @susanhmeier, and then all my other information — website, etc. — is there. And also there you can read my thoughts on what I’m thinking about and what I’m following.
Adam Force 33:30
Okay, so that’s @susanhmeier. Everybody, Meier is M-E-I-E-R. Okay. Awesome, Susan. Really appreciate your time today. That was a fun conversation.
Susan Meier 33:42
Thanks so much, Adam.
Adam Force 33:43
Alright. We’ll talk again soon.
Susan Meier 33:44
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai