[Radio Interview] Is Branding Still a Thing?

I was recently on Business RadioX to talk about branding. I know, imagine that!? 

We spoke about:

  • Why I spell my name "Skot" (this is by far the most important thing we covered! Ha!)
  • Branding misconceptions by small businesses
  • What role does design play in branding?
  • Branding a company vs. branding an individual
  • Why I'm working with small businesses

Check it out! Fun times with Lee Kantor and Stone Payton from the Business Radio X Atlanta station.

And, make sure you stick around for Carole Wilcock, the Founder and CEO of a cool startup bringing quality, elegant events to the singles community. Her company is A Lasting Glance. She has an amazing story! 

Intro:                Broadcasting live from the BusinessRadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It's time for Atlanta Business Radio. Spotlighting the city's best businesses and the people who lead them.

Lee:                  Lee Kantor here with Stone Payton in another episode of Atlanta Business Radio and this is a very special one, Stone.

Stone:              Hey. This is going to be a lot of fun. First up on Atlanta Business Radio this morning, please join me in welcoming to the managing partner and creative director with Multiple Atlanta. Mr. Skot Waldron. Good morning sir.

Skot:                Good morning to you guys. Happy Labor Day.

Lee:                  Happy Labor Day, Skot. Now, if your name is Skot, spelled S-K-O-T, is that like you had to be in the creative field?

Skot:                Yeah.

Lee:                  Destiny, right?

Skot:                I totally rebranded myself in sixth grade. I got tired of putting my last name on all the papers. There was a Scott Woodruff and Scott Wilson in my class. I'd had to put Skot Waldron on every paper and said no more.

Lee:                  So you just carved your own path, huh.

Skot:                I did it. I didn't even have to go to college, but I ended up doing that anyway.

Lee:                  So now tell us about Multiple Atlanta. How are you serving folks?

Skot:                Multiple is a branding and design agency. I run our Atlanta office as you said earlier. I'm the managing partner here. We really help and specialize in helping companies and individuals position and building their brand, the who, the why, the what. Really take that, we help develop their messaging, clarify that message, make it a little bit more pertinent to their audience, and really build a lot of structure and planning around their branding and marketing programs. A lot of companies these days either 1) hate marketing, it's a thorn in their side. They don't want anything to do with it, so they just don't. Or, 2) they love marketing, but they just don't know what they don't know.

Skot:                We help build a lot of structure and strategy around their branding and marketing programs.

Lee:                  So branding is still a thing?

Skot:                Branding is a thing. What's interesting about it is branding, we all feel it and we all understand that it's there, but we don't really know how to define it very well.

Lee:                  But don't you think that even if you're not trying, you're still branding?

Skot:                Yeah. Oh, you definitely are and that's the problem, right?

Lee:                  It's still happening.

Skot:                ... it's happening man.

Lee:                  So you try to control as much of it as you can?

Skot:                That's the idea behind strategy. It's to go in there with a goal in mind.

Lee:                  So now, how do you combat all the googlization of the world, where everything pay-per-click, pay-per this. Everything is doing by any means necessary to get your attention somewhere.

Skot:                Yeah, I think there's a lot of noise in the world.

Lee:                  But it's hard to brand a pay-per-click ad, right?

Skot:                Yeah, it could be an email, it could be that pay per click ad. A social media post is a reflection of your brand. It communicates something about your brand and if it's good or it's bad, we'll reflect on if people have a good impression or a bad impression of your brand. So are you putting out noise that people don't want to listen to or are you putting out, what I call, music where it's thoughtfully put out there? It's making sense of the noise.

Lee:                  Now, walk me through the beginnings of a relationship with a client. Have they done some more direct marketing oriented advertising and then gotten poor results and they say it's time to try something new? What's usually the path to you?

Skot:                The path is frustration. As business owners, we are solving problems. We go in business because our heart hurts, because we experience something, or we want to solve a problem. Something makes us mad. So what we do is we say this person keeps coming to me with the same problem. How can I solve that problem? How can I use my expertise? And so it really evolves from a small business owner saying I got this idea, I've got to get it out into the world or a big agency, a big company that comes to us and says we got this problem, we need some help. We need some outside expertise and we really want to bring you guys to help our marketing department fulfill what they need to get across.

Lee:                  So, they have an existing marketing department. They're doing stuff and then you come in with fresh eyes to help them. Maybe, they don't see themselves as the public sees them sometimes or they think they're this and then you tell them maybe you're not this?

Skot:                Well, that's some of the most fun stuff that we do. The most fun stuff we do is we go out and we do research. It does take time. So what we do is we go out and we prove or we disprove what you think you are as a brand.

Lee:                  So what's been the most disparate, where the company thought they were A and then they ended up being Z.

Skot:                Well, where that happens the most is with the small businesses. I think the small businesses go in there with a frame of mind with a pie in the sky idea of what they're trying to solve and who they're trying to market to. And we come and say, "Hey, who's your target audience," or, "What is your brand about?" And they say oh it's this, this, this, and this. And I say, "You know what? I heard that from 300 other companies. You sound like everybody else."

Lee:                  So if your mission statement can be cut and paste into five other companies, maybe you're not unique enough?

Skot:                Yeah. If you use the word "innovation" in your mission statement, you-

Lee:                  You're not innovative?

Skot:                ... Clear sign that you're not innovative, so let's stay away from those buzzwords.

Lee:                  So now, where does design play into branding?

Skot:                So at the core at Multiple, we are all designers. We went to design schools, we teach at design schools, we mentor design students, we love great design. Design really is an outward expression of a brand. The way that we communicate visually to solve a problem will either reflect good or bad on that brand, so what we do as top level brand strategist people is we step back first before we even start the design process. Like a lot of businesses I hope would do is really find out that core problem. What do we do to understand who you're targeting? What we're trying to solve? How we're going to make their life better? All those different things in order to then create a design solution around that.

Skot:                And having the expertise in design and being educated in that in that way, we hope that we create great design with great results. That's the idea. One or the other isn't good enough. Great results without great design. I don't know how you achieve that. Great design without great results is just expensive artwork. So we try to do both.

Lee:                  Now does it work better in a B2C environment or can it work in a B2B? Can my accounting firm have good branding and good design?

Skot:                100%. We specialized in the B2B market for years and years and years. And just recently, I know here in the Atlanta office, we've been doing a little bit more B2C and it's really interesting to see how they both have the same issues and the same problems, just from different standpoints and different point of view. So I think it's really important to get in the flow of what we're trying to solve here and what we're trying to do.

Lee:                  So do you help them build a persona for the firm, visually?

Skot:                Yeah. I think that when you deal with somebody like a financial advisor or you deal with someone like an attorney ... So we've been doing some work for some attorneys here in the Atlanta area lately, and there's the law firm brand, but some of their clients don't even know the law firm. They know that specific attorney.

Lee:                  They'll want the individual. Right.

Skot:                So when we talk about a personal brand, that's a pretty big buzzword coming out these days. Your personal brand is a big reflection on you and your company and what you do. Whether you're an accountant, whether you're a real estate agent, whether you're a baker, you have a brand and we need to really learn how to develop those things and understand what they are. And so going in and defining that is so key to how we're going to go forward and get exposure and build trust in what we do.

Lee:                  So now, personal branding, you mentioned that. Should it go arm and arm? Should every individual out there, doesn't matter if they work for a big company, little company, self-employed or just a cog in the machine, they should spend some energy in personal branding?

Skot:                Oh, for sure. Lee and Stone, right? You guys have been working together for a long time. You've built a relationship over time. If you didn't like Stone's brand, there would be a problem here. I think, we as individuals, we fall in love with a spouse or somebody else because we fell in love with their brand. It's kind of romantic, isn't it.

Lee:                  Yeah, that feels ... [crosstalk 00:09:10].

Stone:              I can't wait to [crosstalk 00:09:12].

Lee:                  That's a romance novel!.

Skot:                My wife is like, "You love my brand?" I said, "I totally love you brand!"

Lee:                  I do, right?

Skot:                Yeah, that's it. That's it.

Lee:                  That part of the vows.

Skot:                But really, when we get into that idea of understanding that that's what we fall in love with, that's loyalty and we develop our personal brand to the point where people fall in love with us or our product or whatever it is, then we've created that loyalty and that's what we want.

Lee:                  Now, you spent some time at one of the creative schools doing teaching, right?

Skot:                Yeah, the Portfolio Center?

Lee:                  Portfolio Center.

Stone:              That's his farm system. Is that where you're getting all your talent?

Skot:                That is where I get all-

Lee:                  Shh. Don't tell anybody.

Skot:                ... Hold on a second. No, that's not where I get my [crosstalk 00:09:52].

Lee:                  So, do you work with the students there to help them understand the importance like, "Hey, when you're on social media and you're behaving a certain way, that's part of your personal branding, right?

Skot:                Pretty sure. Yeah.

Lee:                  It trickles down to that, right?

Skot:                Interesting, so when I first started, I taught an emotional branding class that's all about tapping into ... because emotions are what actually drive us to act. We don't do anything unless we feel like we want to do it.

Lee:                  And then we intellectualize it later.

Skot:                And then we intellectualize it later. We justify it or we regret it. But emotion drives us to do some crazy things. So I taught that to the students. And the last quarter ... We just ended a quarter here. I'm teaching more of the portfolio ready students to go out there and really understand what's your message to the world. If I have three resumes on the table and you all produce amazing work, why am I hiring you?

Lee:                  Because you smelled nice?

Skot:                Yeah. Exactly.

Lee:                  Is that why?

Skot:                Yeah. Totally.

Lee:                  Yours came in a FedEx.

Skot:                No, you made a little draft origami thing that was really fun and creative. Yeah. No, I think that it's really about them developing, so they're LinkedIn profiles, understanding how they speak on their website. Does your website look like everybody else's.

Lee:                  But these are the same activities that translate to the biggest brands, right? It's the same ...

Skot:                Oh, I took the reverse.

Lee:                  [crosstalk 00:11:06].

Skot:                I started with the biggest brands. Working with Manpower and Sesame Workshop and understanding what those brands needed and saying how can I apply this to students and then that branched off recently, the past year and a half or year or so, into how can I do this for small businesses. Small businesses feel they can't afford strategy. They can't afford agencies.

Lee:                  Well, it's hard to translate changing my font to red instead of blue. How is that going to pay the rent?

Skot:                What's the ROI on that?

Lee:                  Well, yeah.

Skot:                Yeah. No, that's a tough thing and we've talked about that as partners for years. How do we measure the ROI of changing and updating that logo. And so when you think about those things, that is not your brand. Logos, colors, fonts, all those things are outward expressions of a brand that help us remember if we love or hate our brand. We can have the best logo in the world. It can win all the design awards in the world. But if I had a horrible experience with that brand, I don't care. I'm not going back to that place. That's what we really need to understand, is that the ROI comes in, how do we reinforce what we're about as a brand with the designs, whether it'd be a logo, typeface, websites, whatever we do, brochure.

Lee:                  But is there a way to accelerate the absorption of the brand to your target market? It's one thing like Google and that's a word Google. And they run a gazillion ads and Google's everywhere and you're like I know what Google is or I know that swoosh is Nike because they run a gazillion ads. But no matter how beautiful your art or whatever describing your brand is, if you don't have the way to make it ubiquitous, it's difficult or is there a way around it?

Skot:                Hence, the problem of every business that's starting up. You either go out and find people with money to help you get that exposure and build that brand.

Lee:                  Is there a way to do it just organically?

Skot:                Oh, sure. This radio show is a great way to do it. I think there are PR opportunities out there for businesses. Social media, here's a love/hate-

Lee:                  So how did you attack this as a brand? You're in branding so you know you're coming on the air, so part of what you're doing is branding yourself as an expert in this field. So how'd you prep for this?

Skot:                So in prepping for this, I really looked at the idea of what problems do I see in the market and I've been really focused, hyper focused, on just even Gwinnett County and Fulton County and understanding what's the value I can provide that other people can't. I have something unique to bring to the world. Each of us have something unique to bring to the world, so what is that? I don't want to come up to you and say, "Hey. I can design a great brochure for you." That's not my gig. We can design a great brochure for you, but I don't want to come around and just do one great brochure for you.

Skot:                Our value comes in where can we position you and say we aren't just going to drive leads, leads, leads, leads, leads because a lot of those leads can be total crap. We don't know. The idea here is how do we communicate with the right people at the right time with the right information that they want and do it in a beautiful way that respects who you are as a company.

Lee:                  So it's congruent and authentic?

Skot:                True. Authenticity, we all see it. Right?

Lee:                  And then it creates, in the mind of my best prospects, that I'm the go to person to solve their problem. So you can make that happen?

Skot:                Oh.

Lee:                  Every day.

Skot:                Right here. Let's do it.

Lee:                  Let's go.

Skot:                Let's do it. Yeah, I think that there's a great opportunity out there and I see so many people, dreamers I call them, the small fish with big dreams, that are out there leaving their corporate gigs. They're all leaving something to-

Lee:                  Right. They're going all in. They're putting all the chips on the table.

Skot:                ... build something. Yeah. They're saying, "Honey. I'm doing this." And she's like, "Okay. Well, let's hope we can eat next month." And those are the people where I was like, "Why aren't we doing more for these people doing great things," whether it's a nonprofit, a small business, an attorney going out on a limb. So how can I bring 18 years of experience in the branding marketing space that bigger companies and bridge that gap to those smaller guys that are doing [crosstalk 00:15:18].

Lee:                  So you created an offering for the small to midsize guy?

Skot:                So, yeah. I have different things we're working on. I'm starting to talk more with Gwinnett County. I'm talking more with the chamber, Gwinnett chamber. Doing more with them. Different cities around. City of Sugar Hill. Different entities to see how we can bring more value to that small business community and the medium business community. They really build up what we're doing. Areas around here are exploding, so there's so much opportunity. And how can I fill a niche that I feel there's a big need?

Lee:                  The offering to the mega enterprise companies and the small guy. It's maybe similar activities, but the offering has to be different.

Skot:                Yeah. We are not a social media company. We're not an SEO company, but the strategy ... Those are tactics. Those are your boots on the ground. We stay high level strategy air support. What's ahead, what's below, what's behind us, where can we go so we win the war at the end of the day. You may lose the day to day battle, your SEO, your email marketing may suck the week before, but let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Let's really keep it going.

Lee:                  So you got to have a longer term perspective though.

Skot:                So what we try to do is build that in. And whether you're a big company, the same strategies we use for the big companies, I can use for those small businesses. There's maybe a little different way we're going to go about it through the coaching or mentoring or whatever that is, but they can have the same thing the big boys have. They just need to understand that they deserve that too.

Lee:                  But then at the bottom line though, they'll have to do more of the implementation of some of the tactics.

Skot:                Some of it, but the advantage of having me or Multiple behind them is you've got the knowledge of an agency behind you to help coach you through this process. And if we don't do that specific thing, we have a network and we have people we trust. You don't have to go out on a limb and go to Thumbtack or go to something else and say I need an SEO guy because my cousin told me I did and then I go to hire-

Lee:                  I read a book.

Skot:                ... Yeah. I read something. Somebody said this SEO thing and I don't know what it is. So let us help use our experience to protect you, to advise you, to guide you through that process.

Lee:                  And when you're doing marketing, branding should be a foundational.

Skot:                Always.

Lee:                  Everything should grow from the brand. It shouldn't grow from your SEO guy outward, right?

Skot:                Right. Right. And that's the problem. A lot of small businesses come up to me or medium businesses or even big businesses, and say I need a logo and a website and then I'm good. Oh, I need to be on Facebook too, by the way. And then I'm good.

Lee:                  While you're there.

Skot:                And it's like whoa. Wait a second. Step back for a second, and then they go, "Whoa. Step back? No. No. No. I need this yesterday."

Lee:                  I got to go. I got to go.

Skot:                And that's the problem. A lot of businesses are in survival mode.

Lee:                  Everything is urgent [crosstalk 00:18:16].

Skot:                Day to day survival mode and we say instead of three years down the road, having to redo everything or rethink everything or the chance of damaging that brand, why don't we just wait a second, walk you though that process, build a solid brand foundation in which we can launch everything we do off of that.

Lee:                  It sounds like you work with trusted advisors. Like you're the quarterback of the brand and then you have trusted advisors that help implement some of the tactics?

Skot:                Yes, although when I through the ball, my arm hurts a lot. I play sports on my feet, not my hands.

Stone:              Okay. So you're whatever the soccer guy.

Skot:                Yeah, that guy.

Lee:                  So now, you help the person all the way through getting leads to the look and feel and the spirit of the company's persona brand. And at the end of the day, what brings the most joy?

Skot:                In my mid career crisis, is what I call it, this is where it was. When as a young designer, we come out of school and we love when we see the big brands doing really cool stuff and we're like that looks amazing. I love that commercial or I love that advertiser or I love that packaging or I love that poster design and we want to create that. So we create that and then we get an award in the design annual. We get something and it makes us feel good. We're like we did it, we've made it, we've arrived.

Skot:                And then I became a business owner. And then all of a sudden, it became more about them. So at first, it was about me. It was about my self gratification.

Lee:                  Right. Because you worked for a larger entity.

Skot:                Right. Well, I work for the company that I'm a managing partner of.

Lee:                  Okay.

Skot:                So the idea was that when I brought something to somebody and to me, it's a solid foundation of something. It's a solid website or solid logo. An execution of something we've done earlier. But when I see them and I hear them say you nailed it. This is me 100%. You guys got me. That's what makes me happy.

Lee:                  That's a deeper connection.

Skot:                Yeah. Award annual or not, the idea is that I nailed it for that person that feels like I understand them and we all want to be understood.

Lee:                  And then that's going to impact their business, so it was bigger than you. The award was you holding the trophy, but when you're helping them grow, it's their success.

Skot:                All about them.

Lee:                  Right.

Skot:                And that's what we try to do; is we say we are not the hero of your story. I am not Luke Skywalker if you think about any old story.

Lee:                  The client's a hero.

Skot:                Client's a hero.

Lee:                  You're Yoda.

Skot:                You said the quarterback? I'm Yoda. I'm the Obi-Wan Kenobi. We're the ones guiding you. The idea here is that on the football analogy, I'm the coach. I'm on the sidelines.

Lee:                  So you're not the quarterback. So you're the coach.

Skot:                I am not the quarterback. The client is the quarterback calling the shots, but I am there to help direct you and guide you and meet that whole process.

Lee:                  And then branding and storytelling. They're the same thing? They compliment each other?

Skot:                I think it's however you want to define it and I think everybody's like I'm all about stories, I'm all about stories. I tell stories and we have to tell stories. As a brand, telling a story is how we engage.

Lee:                  So, that's a tactic?

Skot:                It's a tactic. It's a way of communication and we've been doing it since cavemen. We've been telling stories forever. It's the way we engage. It's the way if you talk from Christianity or any kind of religious text, those religious leaders told stories to help show things and reinforce principals and people remember those stories because they touch them in some way. They're emotive. And so we need to tell stories, as brands, that are emotive. I don't really care about what your product is. I want to know how it's going to make my life better and solve my emotional problem.

Lee:                  So now, if somebody wanted to learn more and have more substantive conversation, even though I think this is a pretty substantive conversation-

Skot:                Yeah, I'm done. Yeah. I'm done. That's it.

Stone:              [crosstalk 00:22:21].

Stone:              Well, it was so well facilitated, I think.

Skot:                You be quiet. It was. It was. Those were some of the best versions-

Lee:                  I'm on a ceiling. That's part of my brand. That's part of my brand.

Skot:                You nailed it, man. You nailed it. That was fantastic. So you can go to our company website, multipleinc.com. I also have a personal blog that is more about my thoughts about branding and marketing and it's called www.ThoughtsofaBrandStrategist.com and I have a special offer for your RadioX listeners at www.thoughtsofabrandstrategist.com/X. Imagine that, right?

Stone:              Nice.

Skot:                It's a free 20 minute consult that I'll talk you through where you are, where your problems are, and what I think you could do. What's your biggest problem, so I want to talk to people about that.

Lee:                  Why do you keep looking at me and saying that?

Lee:                  [crosstalk 00:23:10].

Skot:                You look like they got a lot of problems, Lee. I just want to make sure you're taken care of man.

Lee:                  Thank you.

Skot:                So that'll make me feel good.

Lee:                  It's all about you.

Skot:                No. No.

Lee:                  It's all about me.

Skot:                It's all about you. It's all about you. But thanks a lot.

Stone:              All right, Skot Waldron with Multiple Atlanta. Thanks so much for coming and hanging out with us and a couple of things that come to mind for me and Lee. One, I think it would be fun to get he and his compadres connected with some of the folks down at ATDC.

Skot:                Sure.

Stone:              We're getting that studio off the ground. You're familiar with ATDC. I'm sure you've heard of them.

Skot:                Yeah. Yeah. Sure.

Stone:              Because there's some really neat companies getting going out of that camp and so we got to maybe do that. Another thing, if you're up for it at some point, maybe have you come back in the studio with, if you have a local client, someone you've been partnering with and maybe talk about that relationship and how you guys work together. I don't know.

Skot:                That would be fantastic.

Stone:              Seems like it be a fun segment.

Skot:                I love that. I know there's some clients here in Atlanta that would be all game.

Stone:              Yeah. All right. Sounds good.

Skot:                That sounds awesome. It's a date.


In addition to the clients we have served for many years, and continue to serve, I've started consulting (mentoring) small businesses in need of some direction. I own a small business. I get it. I want to empower the "little fish with big dreams" to define their brands, clarify their message, and bring more structure to their brand and marketing programs. 


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