Sasha Strauss, an experienced brand strategist, professor and keynote speaker, was a recent guest on EO Wonder, a podcast by Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO). Strauss's ability to translate brand truth is the reason NPR, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal seek his perspective as a brand authority on topics related to market dynamics, culture and innovation. We asked fellow brand strategist and author Winnie Hart, CEO of TwinEngine and Brand in the Box, to review the episode and provide her takeaways. Here's what she had to say:
I learn something new every time I encounter ideas from Sasha Strauss. He's incredibly inspiring, and his energy is contagious!
This Wonder podcast episode with Strauss took me back 10 years to when I first heard him speak; his unique, proven perspective on how brands should be built and communicated impacts how I think about the power of brands―even as a brand consultant myself.
Strauss starts his conversation with host Kalika Yap with a jarring reality: By the time we as consumers are reading a newspaper, it's old news. And this is thanks to our fairly recent technological capability to broadcast information instantly. This new communication paradigm has changed our world, and there's no going back.
Today's online, real-time, right-now environment means your company's message can easily get lost in the sheer volume of information overload. Your brand has mere seconds to communicate and make an impact about how you and your business are truly unique.
As an identical twin, I have first-hand knowledge about the frustration caused by a lack of clarity when things look the same. Until our late teens, my sister and I were known as a single entity, "Winnie-Lorrie." It taught us a simple truth, which Strauss also emphasizes: To stand out, help your audience understand by simplifying what you're offering and what you stand for.
For this "new normal," Strauss presents seven rules to steer entrepreneurs toward success:
- Assume nothing. Give yourself permission to not know all the answers and therefore, explore with curiosity. We don't need to guess anymore; we have access to data and insights to help us make informed decisions.
- Empathize. Your audience is key to your success. Show concern and truly care for others. Think about them as people rather than transactions.
- Advocate. Be the supporter, believer and enforcer in helping others succeed. Don't make it about you. Make it all about them. Stand by them and with them.
- Build relationships. We buy from people and organizations we trust. Invest in building indelible connections.
- Curate. Our world is overwhelmed with choices. Make it easier for your audience to understand your offering by simplifying. Focus on what's most relevant to their lives and businesses.
- Teach, don't sell. Provide knowledge consistent with your audience's needs in lieu of shoving a product in their face. This is my favorite of Strauss' ideas―so simple, so powerful. We all hate to be sold to, but we love to be empowered!
- Care. Prove that you care through your actions, which must be authentic. We, as leaders, have the emotional responsibility to help employees believe in us and our brands and to help our customers understand that we truly care. Strauss sums it up: "We want to wake up every morning and realize we are not capitalist pigs."
When asked to identify a brand that cares, Strauss spotlighted TOMS shoes. When TOMS launched, the market didn't need just another shoe company. But as you may know, when you buy a pair they give one away. TOMS customers wear their shoes proudly because it involves them in something bigger―the brand promise of improving lives and caring.
From my perspective, the term "brand" once meant a logo, slogan, particular design or color combination, or an advertisement. But in our modern business environment, a brand has evolved into a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, influence a consumer's choice of one product or service over another. It's an intangible asset for any company, and possibly the most valuable asset a company owns.
Ultimately, this episode reinforced the reality that customers recognize and value honesty, simplicity and integrity. They are attracted to it and will generally pay more to have it. When you're not authentic, people can tell.
If you ask me, there's big success in following Strauss' rules and approaching transactions differently. Why not give it a try?