Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Story Engine Podcast. My name is Kyle Gray, and today on the show we have Re Perez. Re is the founder of Branding For the People, a really unique and extremely successful branding agency. Today he’s going to share a lot of his secret sauce for what has made that branding agency so incredible and so influential. We also get to hear some actual boots-on-the-ground stories of people that he’s worked with and how he has transformed their images.
[3:27] The differences in branding for Fortune 500 companies vs. entrepreneurs or small business owners
[7:26] The foundation of a brand
[10:10] How to translate your message into a subliminal visual perception
[15:53] Real world example of creating a new brand
[21:22] Re’s 5 principles of building an elevated brand
Re Perez Information
Transcript of Podcast
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Story Engine Podcast. My name is Kyle Gray, and today on the show we have Re Perez. If you think branding is just signing up and getting a logo on 99designs, this is the episode for you. We are going to dive in deep into what a brand really is, and I think you’re going to get a lot of value here. Let’s take it over to Re.
Re Perez, it is so exciting to have you on the show today. Thank you so much for joining us.
It’s my honor, Kyle. It’s my honor. Thanks for inviting me.
Re, I’ve been following you for maybe about a year now and seeing some of the work you’ve done with some really brilliant people. But for those who don’t know you, give us a high-level overview of what you do and why you do it.
Cool. I am the CEO and founder of a branding agency called Branding For the People. This is our eighth year in the running since I started the agency. My background is, prior to starting the company, I’ve worked with a lot of Fortune 500 companies. I worked at some of the top global branding firms in New York and briefly in Dubai.
About eight years ago, I went through some life-changing personal events which had me take about six months off to just figure out life and what my purpose would be, and how do I want to spend my time? That led me to still doing branding, but rather than working with Fortune 500 companies, I wanted to shift my focus and helping entrepreneurs and small businesses, particularly those that were making some sort of economic and social impact in people’s lives. Hence the formation of the concept of Branding For the People. That was January 2010, and it’s been nonstop ever since.
That is so cool. I love you started with these really high-level, really very well known brands, and then you’re applying a lot of these principles to entrepreneurs. I want to get into specifics of people you worked with soon, but my first question would be, what are some of the similarities between working with a giant brand and then working with an entrepreneur, and what are some of the big differences between how you work with those larger brands and entrepreneurs?
Whether you’re working with a Fortune 500 company, an Inc. 5000 company, a solo entrepreneur, or small business, the principles of creating a perception in the marketplace is common. The point here is that you can have a business model, a business strategy, or even a product or a service, but ultimately, why people buy products and services from companies is based on the perception of the value that they bring to your life, to our lives.
That is definitely common regardless of the size, is branding is really about applying the principles of creating a perception in the marketplace that communicates the value that you bring to your target audiences and also creates value for your target audiences. Some of the differences are, when it comes to an entrepreneur or a small business owner rather than a Fortune 500 company that might have a billion-dollar marketing budget, branding also needs to be translated in a way that’s very practical, conversion-oriented, and more direct hitting, if you will, because at the end of the day an entrepreneur needs to eat and needs to pay for the lights and be able to make money to put back into the business.
Some of these differences really take this high-level, lofty brand of thinking and adapting it to some of the great principles that work with entrepreneurs and small businesses, such as direct response marketing or affiliate marketing or all these tactics and tools that many great marketers have been using and applying. The reason I say all of that is because, when I came into this space eight years ago, there was a lot of great businesses and entrepreneurs and marketers that have been able to make a lot of money, have been able to create large followings in communities without a brand.
The difference here is that, since I started the company and started the working and applying this Fortune 500 level of thinking to entrepreneurs and small businesses, they’ve been able to achieve unprecedented results with the combined power of branding and marketing. That’s really the magic here, is because we need all of it. In building a business today, you need great branding, which informs your marketing and amplifies your marketing, and you need great marketing. You can’t just have one or the other, nor should you strive to just have one or the other, because one hand feeds the other if you will.
So that’s a big difference at a very high level. I’m sure there are some very tactical things in terms of going through the branding process that … For example, just to give context, and whether or not this is most relevant or not, but for a big company, they might spend three to six months doing market research and talking to customers and clients, whereas an entrepreneur or small business might not have the budget or the appetite or the time to be able to do three to six months of market research. That doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get market intel; you just have to come at it a different way.
The reason I bring that one small example, and this is one of several examples, is that the brand-building process needs to be modified and adapted to be more amenable to the budget of an entrepreneur or small-business owner.
Yeah. One of the things that I’ve heard from … Many people have very different approaches to branding and what a brand is. Now, I would love to know just kind of the high-level, distilled-down, what is the foundation of a brand for you, and where do people start?
Yeah, great question. Yeah, great question. I normally start off with the answer to this question myself, too, because it sets the context for the rest of the conversation. But in the interview that I do, I usually start this off because, if you’re listening in, you might have your own perspective of what a brand and what a brand isn’t. No matter where you’re at, my invitation is to sort of consider this as the definition so you can hear the rest of this conversation.
But how I define brand is really a … It’s about creating a desired perception. If brand is a desired perception, branding is a process and the discipline of creating, shaping, and influencing that desired perception in people’s minds. If that were the case, then technically you don’t own your brand. It resides in the minds of the people that you’re communicating to. All we can do is to influence that perception.
Now, I say this a lot too, but just for those of you who are new to hearing me speak or teach, is how this is different from marketing is that marketing is one of several ways to create a desired perception. Branding comes first. Marketing is one of several tools that come after you define the brand. Before you shout to the outside world about your product, services, or company, why don’t you take a step back and first define, how do you need to be perceived by your target audiences to get their attention, to gain their trust, and ultimately to enable them to buy, follow, or opt-in, or whatever the call to action is that you want from them when you’re marketing to them?
I think that’s really brilliant. And, yeah, it’s something that, as entrepreneurs, I feel like a lot of people just kind of jump the gun, start trying to sell things, start trying to create things, and never really put a lot of thought into this.
One of the things that I love about your work, in particular, I think you have a really great taste for communicating the message in a visual way. I think you’re good at distilling down what is the real message we want to communicate, and then influencing that perception, creating that perception through visuals, not just colors but the images that people put on their websites and how it influences the design.
I would love to hear just a couple of points on how you translate that solid message into a subliminal visual perception.
I’ll answer that, and I’ll also expand the conversation because, broadly speaking, when I’m talking about creating a desired perception, I’m really looking at three broad ways that you can do that. There’s a visual component, which is comprised of things like your logo, your colors, your photography style, the type of fonts that you use, the design sense, the graphic elements, and patterns.
There’s a lot of different tools that you can use from a visual perspective to subliminally create a perception in people’s minds. That’s one bucket. The second bucket of things is the verbal component, what oftentimes we refer to as the verbal identity. So the first one is your visual identity. The second one is your verbal identity. That really relates to, what is the voice, what are the types of messages that you use, how do you name your company, your products, and your services so that they all sort of coexist within the same ecosystem? When you think about voice and personality, it’s kind of really the tone in which you’re communicating. Someone might say, for example, on a very tactical level on their newsletter. It might be, “Heya,” or it might be, “Hello there.” Or, “Dear community.” They’re all saying some sort of salutation for example, but they have a different tone. When you get into the voice, to the archetype, and the personality of the company, it really sort of dictates the type of tone that you’re using in a verbal component.
Another way that verbal language, the words that we use can be applied is just think about Starbucks, right? Rather than small, medium, large. They relate to their sizes as tall, venti, grande. Tall, grande, venti actually, in that order. These are subtle tonalities that influence people’s perception from a branding perspective.
Then the third broad bucket, we talked about visual, we talked about verbal, and the third broad bucket is really the experiential or the behavioral component. Which, we all know the phrase that, “No one really remembers what you do for them, but they remember how you make them feel.” A brand really, when you look at it from an experiential or behavioral perspective, is how does a brand make its target audiences feel? That’s usually elicited through many different ways, but there is a way to do that through behavior.
It’s the equivalent of, if you’ve ever shopped at Nordstrom’s, a lot of companies do this now too. But, after you make a purchase, Nordstrom’s behaviorally takes your purchase, walks around the counter, and hands you your purchase. You may not think about it subconsciously, or maybe it’s in your subconscious. But, that is a behavior that is on brand for Nordstrom, who is constantly known for their customer service. Depending on the audience, and where they’re from. But, there’s a hotel chain called the Andaz Hotel. The Andaz, by the way, is sort of Hyatt’s response to W Hotels. It is a little bit more trendy, or hip if you will. But, their brand idea is breaking down boundaries. That concept really comes down to not having a wall between me and you from the receptionist, or the check-in, or the registration counter, and you as a guest.
You could see how just even if you have a brand, a perception, an idea like breaking down boundaries. That can also be implemented and executed from a behavioral perspective. Not just visual, not just verbal, and not just behavioral. But, they all work consistently and cohesively.
Part of the challenge, just to sort of wrap that up into one big bow, is that you want to be looking at all three of those areas, and making sure that they work cohesively. You can’t have a visual look and feel, just to be crass about it. You can’t have a visual look and feel that looks edgy and badass. But then, the language that you’re using is very soft and nurturing. And, the way that you behave is very obnoxious, right?
They all need to work hand in hand.
I think that that’s really powerful, and really good examples. I think that yeah, what you said about Nordstrom is really interesting, and it’s a lot about very subtle things that add up to the entire experience that I think really does set you apart as someone. I would like to if you’re willing to share a little bit about it, explore some of the work you did with Malorie Tadimi, who’s a mutual friend of ours. I actually remember watching her site change as she was doing the rebrand with you. I was just blown away at the incredible message that she’s created, and broadcasted across. She’s actually done some content collaboration with me on Story Engine, and describing her process for creating great results for people. It’s very, very impressive. I’d love to know how you kind of applied those three buckets. The visual, verbal, and experiential to her work, and what she’s doing.
Yeah, so I’ll point upon a couple things, because usually barring sort of getting permission from our clients about revealing some of the behind scene’s sort of work in our process, but it really started taking a look at … Now, this was a new brand that was in the marketplace. Malorie would probably be really appreciative of the fact that we’re talking about her on this interview. Malorie’s background is in Fortune 500 consulting, similar to mine. Although, she was more of a Management Business Consultant, rather than a Brand Consultant.
She has helped her clients generate over 800 billion in revenue all by the age of 31, or 32, something very impressive along those lines, right? She decided that she too wanted to be able to work with entrepreneurs, and small businesses, and helping them to grow, scale, build their businesses, and really sort of leverage the Fortune 500 business thinking to help them. The reason I bring that up is that prior to working with us, she … If you meet her in person, behaviorally she’s very interactive. She’s very dynamic. She has a very, I don’t want to use the word bubbly, but she has a very infectious personality that you kind of just are drawn to. She’s not obnoxious, she’s not loud by any means, but she’s recognizable. She stands out, she’s different.
Then, when she showed me her photography, her images on social media. She’s like, “Well, I think I need to work on my brand.” I said, “Well let’s take a look at what you’re currently doing.” When I looked at the images, and I know that we’re not showing visuals here, but if you were to look at the before picture, she looked like a Republican housewife. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Republican, or a housewife, and I’m not intending to have any derogatory sense of that. But, the point here is it had … It was a complete disconnect from the vibe that she gives in person.
We wanted to make sure that we did a whole visual translation that had her look badass, and bold, professional, classy, sophisticated, high end. Because that’s who she is. When we talk … That’s the visual thing. We transomed her photos, she actually hired a stylist, she worked with one of our photographers and really transformed her look and feel. Of course, we applied that to a logo, and a color palette, and a system that goes together.
Then we brought in headlines, and taglines, and messaging from a verbal component that said, “Our clients generate 800 billion in revenue. If that scares you, you’re in the wrong place.” That sort of tonality is a little bit of a, it could be offensive for some people, or it can be really inspiring to the right people. Really, it was a matter of matching how she behaves, with how she looks, and how she speaks online, and in social media, and on her website, and in her marketing.
I think that’s so powerful. It’s such great to have a very specific example that people can go check out. Hopefully, anyone that was inspired by that message should definitely go see what she’s up to, because yeah, it’s very, very powerful. I’d like to kind of turn the focus back onto you for a little bit and see, over these eight years your agency has experienced incredible growth, and you’ve been able to position yourself as a really big authority in a marketplace, and a skillset that can be highly commoditized and is very difficult to recognize the value sometimes.
We were talking about this a little bit on the call, that you don’t so much pay attention to what other people are doing. But, nevertheless, I feel like you differentiate yourself and your message in a unique way. You’ve been able to capture what you do for in your own brand, that you bring to other people. I think that that’s also a super big challenge to be able to eat your own dog food and teach your own lessons to yourself.
I think very few people are able to successfully do that. I’d love to hear about how you’ve done that, and how you’ve separated yourself, and elevated yourself to this very high level, very powerful branding agency.
Yeah, so a few principles come up. It’s not like I consciously … Well, that may or may not be true. I think I had an intent, I’ve always been a strategist. If you’ve ever done things like Strengths Finder, one of my top strengths is a strategic thinker. A couple of ways and I really want to translate that, and while you sort of put the floor back on me and telling my story, I really want to communicate this in a way for the people listening in. That, they can start to think and apply for their own business.
I’ll rattle off a few things, maybe four or five things. But, the first one is having a clear positioning, and finding the white space in your market. For me, I knew that entrepreneurs and small businesses, when I came into this space, that they didn’t have access to Fortune 500 branding. Okay, fine. That’s not the white space. But, I also knew that there were things like 99 Designs, and Crowd Spring, and Fiverr. I knew that these resources were some aspect of building a brand, but not the entire spectrum. Not the holistic and strategic approach. I really carved out a position that was really bringing high-level strategy and a holistic …
… that was really bringing high-level strategy and a holistic approach to building a brand adapted for entrepreneurs and small businesses, so that’s a big part of our positioning without going into great detail about how we’ve positioned our own agent. My own agency is really making sure that it was a very holistic and strategic approach to branding but geared towards entrepreneurs and small businesses. So the point here around positioning, if you’re listening in, is find the white space. Look at your competitive set and look at how you can differentiate yourselves from your competitors and find the white space so that you can be a category of one.
The second thing is, and this is something that really never ends, but it’s the idea of being creative and innovative. Now, that’s really hard to live up to every single day unless you’re in technology, and there are very few tech companies that can probably own being creative or innovative all the time. 3M is one of them. Apple’s one of them. So it’s really hard, but when I say be creative and innovative, what I really want to communicate as you really want to look outside of your industry oftentimes for inspiration, meaning sometimes when you’re so involved in an industry it’s easy to sort of model after and look at the people who have come before you or are several steps above you, to kind of look for them and model after them. There’s a balance between doing that, modeling after someone what works for them, and doing something that goes against the grain and looking outside of the industry for inspiration. So that’s number two.
[bctt tweet=”To fuel your creativity and innovation, look outside of your industry for inspiration. -Re Perez ” username=”kylethegray”]
Number three, I think a big part, and I’ve hustled a lot over the past eight years and, you know, we met an event, you probably can tell that I travel a lot and I go to lots of different events. I speak at a lot of events. It definitely takes something to be that kind of entrepreneur.
But the point here is to be everywhere because a lot of times if people see you once they may or may not remember you. They might remember you, but they might not trust you yet. They might remember you, they might trust you, but they’re not sure yet if you can create value for them for them to be willing to buy from you. And so when I say be everywhere, it really is about having multiple touchpoint strategies in front of your target audience. So if someone sees you here or your product, let’s say you’re not a personality figure, but if someone sees you or your product on, let’s just for two people, depending on who’s listening in, but if you’re in a service-based business, if they see you at an event and then they see you speaking an event and they see you sponsoring an event and then they see you networking at another event, or if they see you in a mastermind or if they see you, whatever, locally or if they see your Facebook ads. You have a multiple touchpoint strategy.
If you have a product-based business, perhaps you’re selling on Amazon and then you’re probably selling direct to consumer through Facebook ads or you’re probably also selling in the stores and then you also might be promoting at your event, but the point here to take away, because everyone’s different, is that having a multiple touchpoint strategies by being everywhere.
The fourth thing is, and this might sound like it’s a complete contradiction to what I just said, and that is to not be everywhere. Meaning sometimes when you’re very clear and actually all the time when you’re clear on your brand, what your brand is, what your brand is not, what it stands for, what it doesn’t stand for. That helps you to make decisions for what is on brand versus off-brand for you. And that might mean that you might need to say no to certain events. That might mean you need to say no to certain marketing activities. That might mean you need to say no to certain partners that you partner with and so it’s being judicious and having your brand dictate what is going to be best for your brand and your business and dictate where you should be and what you should not be.
And then the fifth thing, and I would say that this is probably true and this is why, if you’re in the conversation of building a brand, this is really something that is important because this can really help you accelerate your business growth and your own brand positioning. And it’s the idea of aligning yourself with brands that elevate your own brand. So if you think about it, if you are not an entrepreneur or just let me use an example for people who are not entrepreneurs, but people who, let’s say they work in the professional environment. You’re just out of college. Even the college you go to kind of elevates your own personal brand. You might work at a company, you might not get paid a lot of money, but you might work at a company because it elevates your profile. Oh, you worked at Google or Oh, you worked at MTV or whatever that is, right?
So in the entrepreneurial world, it’s what brands are you aligned with that elevate your own brand? For some people it’s aligning yourself with certain people, aligning with certain businesses, certain mastermind groups, certain membership organizations. And so I think a big part, and this, some of it was natural and some of it was intentional, was just making sure that, you know, we weren’t always the smartest people in the room, that we surrounded ourselves with other influencers, experts, leaders, that elevated our own brand but that were also consistent and aligned with the Branding for the People brand.
[bctt tweet=”Surround yourself with other influencers, experts and leaders to elevate your brand. -Re Perez ” username=”kylethegray”]
So anyway, I just rambled on for a long time. Hopefully, that was helpful and useful for the people listening in.
Oh, I think that’s so powerful because again, kind of bringing it back to the start, when a lot of people think branding and you mentioned like 99 designs, they’re like, okay, I’ve got to get a logo and then they get their logo. Okay, branding is done. Let’s, I don’t know, go make a bunch of money now and retire. I don’t know what happens in that train of thought, but bringing that to the very essence of even how you behave and the choices that you make and using your brand, not just as a way to influence how people perceive you, but it’s almost a decision-making framework at the same time. It guides how you grow your business-
… and how you move about and how you choose to behave. And I think that that’s really powerful and that’s really subtle and again, with kind of knowing your own story and your own reason why will kind of influence, okay, well, I’m working for these kinds of people, I have this big goal, and knowing those things can be really, really powerful and brings the clarity that I think a lot of entrepreneurs really crave and are really kind of looking for when they seek branding help, when they seek storytelling help. So, that was phenomenal and, Re, thank you so much for joining us.
I think there were so many good actionable takeaways. I would love to know, if you’re speaking in the next year or so, maybe a couple of places that people can check you out. Do you have anything else exciting coming up and where we can learn more about you?
Yeah. Well, that’s kind of a loaded question, but I think to simplify it for everyone, you know, clearly there’s a lot of free resources that we have for people who are new to the branding conversation or they might be not new to it, they might be immersed in it. But our website is a great resource for that and it’s just BrandingForThePeople.com and it’s branding for F-O-R, not the number four, BrandingForThePeople.com. But more specifically, if you put a forward slash resources behind that, so BrandingForThePeople.com\resources, there’s a lot of complementary resources that we have on there from how to name your company or products, to the branding blueprint that we use with our clients, to how to build a perfect sales page, to, you know, the brand builder’s toolkit, you know, the tools that we use to help build brands. So there’s a lot of free resources there. You can check it out, get on our newsletter, it does announce all the different events that we attend throughout the year, but that probably would be the simplest and most streamlined way to sort of stay up to date.
Awesome, Re. Thank you so much for your time today. I’m really grateful for knowing you and for having this conversation and hopefully, I’ll see you again at another event soon.
Yeah, likewise, thank you. Thanks, Kyle.
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