Brand can be a nebulous concept, especially when you’re trying to explain
its value to someone working in Finances.
Those conversations often result in marketers resorting to what Maggie Gross refers to as “brand-splaining”—emphasizing the vague characteristics of brand importance, implying that the concept is beyond measurement and therefore impossible for someone in Finances to understand.
That disconnect between brand and value is what made Maggie Gross develop BrandWorth: to offer a service that redefines brand investment in terms of its effect on the bottom line.
Gross, who is head of strategy at Deloitte Digital, joins us for a discussion that also covers bizarre reading habits, motorcycles, shared insanity, exactly what correlates with brand success, and what marketing measurements have in common with Heisenberg’s uncertainy principle.
Listen to the entire show now from the link above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode.
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Full Transcript: The Power and Value of Brand
Matt Snodgrass: Welcome to another episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast brought to you by MarketingProfs. I’m excited to talk with Maggie Gross, the head of strategy at Deloitte Digital and the creator of BrandWorth.
Maggie, how are you?
Maggie Gross: Hey, Matt. How are you? It’s nice to talk to you.
Matt: Nice to speak with you as well. Thanks so much for being on the show. I’m really excited to talk today.
Maggie: I’m honored that you asked me to join you. Thanks.
Matt: We only bring the smartest marketers on our show, so that’s why you’re here.
Maggie: Nice. The check is in the mail.
Matt: Perfect. This is really interesting because I just had a conversation not too long ago on the podcast about data visualization. I think that’s going to be a great jumping off point to what we’re going to talk about today. We talked about data visualization, why it’s important in building trust, and that sort of thing. I’m really excited to take this the next step down the path.
First, before we get there, I would like to know a little bit about Maggie. Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do at Deloitte.
Maggie: I am the head of strategy in our studios. What that means is Deloitte has a number of different groups, as you might imagine a massive consultancy would, and the word strategy means a lot of different things depending upon the group that you sit in. I happen to sit in essentially what is our agency division, so all of the thinkers, tinkerers, makers, designers.
Myself and my team of strategists are the ones that are probably most closely aligned to what you might think of as brand strategists, comm strategists, media strategists, content strategists, social strategists, etcetera, all those kind of folks that wander around agencies and typically, I would hope, help the creatives understand how to make their ideas more effective and the clients understand how to make the work that we all really want to see in market.
Matt: You are also the creator of BrandWorth. I’m curious if you could tell our listeners a little bit about what BrandWorth is all about.
Maggie: Yes. BrandWorth started with a pretty shocking question that one of my friends asked me. I was talking through what I really believe is the role of brand, and that fundamentally I believe that brand was a financial asset, not just a marketing asset, and that the greatest organizations in the world should be investing in their brand because it really makes a difference. He looked at me and said, “What happens when your client is a CFO and fundamentally doesn’t understand how brand delivers on the bottom line?” I was like, “You totally stumped me on that one. Let me go figure out a way to answer that question.”
That was the birth of BrandWorth. It was really all about taking the soft metrics of brand love, all of the things that we in marketing oftentimes measure and use, connecting that to the funnel, so likelihood of whether somebody really loved the brand for it to impact their awareness, their positive impression, their consideration, and really for the CFO in the room, their purchase, and then connect that to the revenue returns that organization was likely to see from that.
What it allows us to do is tell a client, “Right now, here is where your brand sits compared to your category. Here are the dynamics at play that brand tends to drive in your category. Based on that, if you invest in your brand today and you get a one percentage point increase in what your brand is worth, you’re likely to see call 1.25 billion dollars increase in your return based on revenue returns in the quarter that you launched this.”
I know that sounds very math-y and kind of complicated, but it essentially just says based on historical averages this is what you’re likely to do if you can make your brand stronger in the minds of your consumers.
Matt: This may be jumping the gun a little bit, but I feel like there needs to be some sort of Nobel Prize for this, because if you have actually cracked the code on figuring out how to connect that brand love and brand sentiment to actual dollar values of the funnel, that is enormous. That is fantastic. That cannot be overstated.
I definitely want to jump into this a lot more, but before we get there, I want to know a little bit more about Maggie. We have three questions that we start each episode with. The first one is very simple, what are you reading right now, or what are you listening to if you’re an audiophile like I am?
Maggie: I’m a reader, but I’m also sort of a serial reader where I will read two or three books at a time. A lot of times, at least one of those is a book I’ve read before. That’s kind of what I’m doing right now.
I just picked up this book at a local bookshop in my town called The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. I have no idea really what it’s about, other than it’s a novel, but it’s written by a German author and sort of tracing a past family that the author’s father knew in India, or I’m going to get the location wrong. It’s a novel, just so far it seems a little bit like A Thousand Splendid Suns, a story of love lost, finding an old family member and a family that you didn’t know existed.
The other two books that I’m reading are re-reads. I’m re-reading Thinking, Fast and Slow because I feel like I learn more about human behavior every time and it’s super fascinating. It’s also a bit challenging to get through in one pass, so I’m re-reading that. I’m re-reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which for anybody out there that hasn’t read it, it’s incredible, it will change your life. Primarily because I’m actually going to learn to ride motorcycles this weekend, so I’m preparing myself by reading a little light philosophy.
That’s what’s on my nightstand right now.
Matt: So, you are literally going to learn how to ride motorcycles in mere days?
Maggie: Yes. On Saturday and Sunday, I have all-day classes. I’ve already taken the online course. I grew up always wanting to ride a motorcycle, but maybe sort of like a lot of women my age thinking that wasn’t something girls did. I said this year, screw that, I’m going to do it.
Matt: We’re out of lockdown, I’m getting a motorcycle.
Maggie: Yes. I’m going to do it. That’s what I’m doing this weekend and I’m really excited about it.
Matt: Very cool. When you are reading multiple books, I have the same problem, and there’s actually a name for this disorder that we have but I don’t remember what it’s called. When you have these going, are they going in different rooms? I tend to have three books in three different rooms. Whatever room I’m in, I just reach for it and grab it, and somehow, I end up finishing them all at the same time. Do you have them scattered about the house, or do you have them all together?
Maggie: Only in that I’m an untidy person that they’re scattered. I don’t think there’s one room for one book. It’s more like I’ll pick it up and whatever one strikes my fancy that day I’ll keep reading, then I’ll put it down, and then the next day I’ll pick something else up, and I’ll probably carry it around with me and leave it in the wrong room. You sound much neater than I am.
Matt: No, I’m not. I often can’t find the one I was just reading, so I just grab the one that’s closest to me.
Maggie: That’s awesome.
Matt: This is what the audience likes, they like to hear about the inner workings of our guest’s minds.
Maggie: The insanity.
Matt: The insanity that we all share. That’s the nice thing is that when you tell a story like that or when they hear that I have five books in five different rooms, people say, “I can connect to that. That makes sense. I’m not the only one out there who is like that.”
How about in terms of drinks, what’s your drink du jour right now?
Maggie: I’ll tell you before 5:00 and after 5:00. Before 5:00, I’m a tea drinker. Mainly because I’ve worked on enough coffee brands and I realized when I work on coffee brands and I drink a lot of coffee, I struggle with tone, I can be a bit short. My husband has told me, “You’re not the nicest person when you drink too much coffee,” so I’ve scaled back to green tea. That’s typically, along with a bottle of water, what I’m drinking during the day.
I’m a big fan of sour beers, sometimes they’re called gose, as well as Negronis. Those are my evening drinks of choice.
Matt: Very nice.
Maggie: What about you?
Matt: I’m a very simple boring man. I drink beer and I will sometimes go as exotic as a rum and a coke, but that’s about it. I’m a very bad mixologist, I couldn’t tell you how to make mixed drinks. I’ve had guests come on and tell me these things that I’ve never heard of, and I just sort of nod and smile. Which begs the question why do I ask this question since I know so little about mixology.
Maggie: You’re a great party guest, you’re easy to please.
Matt: Exactly. Hand it to me and I’ll probably drink it. I’m very interested in this, you have actually noticed a change in your tone and how you write when you are under the influence of coffee, if you will.
Maggie: Yes. I’m a little shorter. It has the opposite effect of meditation. Which makes sense when I say it out loud. Of course, it’s caffeine, it is the opposite of meditation. For some reason, maybe once a week I can have a coffee. But if I really get into the habit of it, I don’t really like who it turns me into. At the request of my insightful family members, but I also like who I became once I stopped drinking it.
Matt: It’s all about keeping the peace and being your best you.
Maggie: Exactly. Totally.
Matt: Tell me from a business and marketing standpoint, what are you thinking about right now? What’s keeping you up at night?
Maggie: What’s keeping me up at night is how we connect everything. That’s a very broad way of saying the sort of insight of talking to clients about the value of their brand and the way that investing in brand can actually result in returns on their revenue is great, and we use that to brief in our creative teams and deliver more connected brand experiences, more effective brands themselves, but then a lot of times those go into markets and you turn it over a little bit to a media agency that is measuring clicks.
How we figure out a way to connect everything from the theoretical strategy of the role of brand all the way down to the clicks on the websites or the organic search, that I think is a really interesting challenge. You sort of joked, I don’t think that what I’ve made is anywhere near Nobel Prize worthy, I think that’s really funny that you said it. But it is something that has yet to be done. While I’ve sort of connected the role of brand at large with revenue, it would be really cool to connect the entire circle or ecosystem.
Matt: I don’t want to underplay this because it sounds at the surface, if we can really find a way to figure out what this idea of brand love means and put a dollar value to it. I like that shocking question that you were asked about, “What if this is the CFO that you’re talking to?” That’s critical because when we as marketers have to present, for whatever reason, results of a campaign or a request for additional budget, or any of these things, we have to be able to connect the dots. This is something that marketers have always struggled with is how can we take these softer sentiment-based metrics and turn them into something real.
Maggie: Yes. You know what’s really scary?
Matt: A lot of things. Goblins are scary. But I don’t think that’s what you were going to go with.
Maggie: No. What’s really scary about measurement, as much as I love measurement and numbers, is that sometimes the measuring of it actually impacts the way that people feel. What I mean is sometimes when we ask people why they bought something, it changes their purchase decision. There’s a really cool study that the University of Virginia did. I’m going to totally botch it, so anybody that actually knows the study, please let us know what it really is.
There was this group of, I think psychology PhD students that put up a bunch of posters in the room and they asked student participants to come in and pick what poster they would want. Half of the students that they let pick didn’t have to give any reason why they picked the poster they picked. They just said, “We’re going to call you a week later and ask if you still like the poster.” The other half had to give a rationale for why they selected the poster. That’s the set up. What they were asking people to pick between were these amazing pieces of incredible art, like impressionistic paintings, and then cheesy not incredibly high quality posters, like a cat that says Hang in There. Arguably, if you had to pick between one that really hangs in your house, you’re probably going to pick the famous art, or perhaps you should.
What they found is the students that didn’t have to explain why they picked, they picked the higher quality creative, they picked the impressionistic paintings. They called them a week later and asked them if they were happy with their choice, and they said yes. The students that they said, “We’re going to ask you why you picked it in the room, and then we’re going to call you a week later,” picked the lower quality creative, and when they were called a week later, they weren’t happy with their choice.
That’s the thing that really scares me with measuring and connecting, as a measuring and connecting fan, is that somehow in asking people about this thing that is an emotional decision we may actually get them to choose something that they love less.
Matt: I’m going to geek out here for a minute and point out that this is very similar to quantum mechanics, because you can’t actually measure a particle without impacting the movement of that particle, so you can never really know where something is.
Maggie: I was reading about that.
Matt: I believe that’s the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
Matt: I have never thought about how that applies to marketing, but it’s fascinating. We often say when we do surveys, polls, or try to gauge sentiment, there’s always this idea that people will say one thing but when it comes down to brass tax and when you are asking people to vote with their wallet, they’re not always going to do the thing that they say. Even our annual member surveys or our user intent surveys, things like that, we have to know and take these things with a certain grain of salt because there is an inherent bias in all of that information. It’s very interesting to hear that this is quantified and sociologically studied, and to some degree, validated.
Maggie: Yes. Not to turn it back to BrandWorth, but it is an element that I think is really great about BrandWorth, because it’s not set up as a survey that asks people, “Are you aware of this brand? Did you consider this brand? Did you buy it?” It’s a survey that actually is built on regression where we look back historically at what people have said they like in the brand and then what those sales have been in market.
You completely divorce peoples’ perspective on brand from how they say they will act, and you just measure how they really acted. I think that’s the coolest part is we’re not muddying the waters. We’re able to just say historically this is the role that brand has played, and this is why you need to invest in it.
Matt: That’s so interesting. I like your perspective that brand belongs to finance as much as it does to marketing. Right?
Maggie: Exactly. It belongs to all of us . Just like real estate is as much of a marketing asset as it is a human capital asset, brand is as much a marketing asset as it is a financial asset. It can bring the entirety of the C-suite together to do really amazing things when you make it feel like something that everybody has a role in shaping versus it being something that only marketing deals with and that can’t really be measured that’s just the fun fluffy stuff.
Matt: We all need the fun fluffy stuff. Right? We do need that.
Maggie: Yes. That’s why you ask about our favorite drinks in the beginning.
Matt: Right. Exactly. As a marketer, if I’m sort of stuck in a position because I know that I need to request more budget and I need to do this by showing effectiveness, showing value, and showing worth, how can marketers do better, how can they be more efficient in showing measurements to the C-suite?
Maggie: I think that’s kind of the intended purpose of BrandWorth. We have such a vast data set that sits at our fingertips today. Let’s say you were a brand leader at a consumer packaged goods company and you had to make an argument to your CFO.
You could call me and say, “Can you tell me what the dynamics of brand are in the deodorant category? Can you tell me what is likely to happen if my BrandWorth increases by one percentage point and I can suddenly surpass my competitor?” I can give you that today. I can help you have that conversation. Ultimately, I think you can use some of those findings to build a stronger brand and, hopefully, return on investment that you made with your ad agency or your brand agency.
Matt: I said it already, but it bears restating. Being able to put that into quantitative hard dollar value metrics is so critical. It’s just great, it’s huge.
Maggie: It’s really amazing and sort of fun as well when we can help clients with these answers. I guess I’m a little bashful about it. I think it’s really interesting because I made it, but I’m sensitive to not be the person that thinks their baby is the cutest baby in the room. It’s really cool when I can actually see it in practice helping our clients make smarter decisions. Then I’m like, wow, this thing isn’t just cool because it’s cool, it’s cool because it’s useful. I think that’s usually the best part of my week is when a client can actually use it to help them make smarter choices.
Matt: In one of the emails that we had in setting up this podcast the phrase brand-splaining came up, as marketers face an uphill battle in the conference room. I had never actually heard the term brand-splaining before. I know what mansplaining is, I’ve been chastised for that many a time, but I don’t know what brand-splaining is. Tell me a little bit about what that term is all about.
Maggie: It’s funny that you connected with that. I actually went back and forth on whether even to leave that word in there.
I think it’s similar to the concept of mansplaining, but brand-splaining is a brand person trying to tell a financial person that they don’t understand, that it can’t be measured, just don’t worry about it, but it’s this theoretical thing that they should just trust, and the financial person is sort of saying, “You don’t understand, this is my actual job to ask you these questions.” Let’s get out of the swirl of telling me that it’s not possible and let’s actually just build a way to make it possible. That was BrandWorth.
Matt: We do sort of suffer from that, “Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I can’t explain it, but you just have to believe that I know what’s going on here.” For us on the marketing side, it’s reasonable because we’ve been doing this for X number of years and we are intimately connected with our brand and our customers, customer loyalty and sentiment, and that sort of thing, but the financial side is often not. There is that disconnect there because that’s not the world they live in. Hearing, “Just trust me, I know what I’m doing,” can be a little bit scary.
Maggie: Yes. I think it’s also having a little empathy for our clients. I think it’s scary for them to say that, too, because a lot of times if they can’t deliver, they maybe don’t have that job long term.
Again, they know in their gut that brand does matter. What BrandWorth can do is help show it to the other C-suite sitting around the table. Equally important, it doesn’t just say it’s important, it says what elements of their brand they need to improve in order to get the greatest return on that investment. So, they’re not just saying, “Trust me, I’m going to work with my agency and we’re going to come up with something that we all like.”
It’s saying, “Trust me, here’s the role that brand plays in our category. Here’s the return that brands in similar situations to us have experienced by doing the same thing. Because of that, here is our roll out plan of the things that we’re going to do to improve our brand and the guardrails that we’re going to ask our creative teams to deliver on,” basically the brief, so that we make sure that not only what we put out is beautiful and wonderful and inspirational and people pay attention to it, but it actually makes people buy.
Matt: Tell me a little bit more. You mentioned that this will actually help folks figure out the elements of the brand that they need to change for the greatest impact. What are some of the things that we’re talking about here when we’re talking about various elements of the brand?
Maggie: There are four things that over about 24,000 brands I’ve seen are correlated with the most success. These four elements basically boil down to the metrics that we measure in BrandWorth.
The first is called values alignment, which is a brand that its customer feel like this is a brand that shares my values, they’re in it for the right reasons, the same reasons that I am, etcetera. The second is experience satisfaction, and it’s this is a brand that’s purchase experience and even ownership experience is really satisfying. It’s easy to do business with them whether I make the purchase or not.
The third is message memorability, which is what we typically would measure when we do brand tracking. Did I see the ad? Do I remember it? Did I like it? The fourth is what we call share of culture, which essentially people talking about the brand and its products positively with their friends and family, or hearing about it positively in media, like PR.
All four of those things are important, but they carry different weights depending on the category.
As an example, in the hospital category, one of those metrics has a vastly different return on investment than the others. We can show up to a meeting with a hospital client and say, “I know that all of your competitors are doing this thing, but if you can just solve this one aspect of your brand, you’re going to invest less because you’re not fighting an uphill battle against your competitors, you’re going to be the only one that’s doing it, and it actually carries a greater return on investment from people’s likelihood to select you and to choose you as their hospital.”
That’s a good example of where we go once we’ve helped the CMO have that conversation on the role of brand with the CFO to how do we make our brand better. That’s a really cool part of it, too.
Matt: I was all queued up to ask you which one of those four carries the most weight, and that’s a great explanation.
Maggie: It depends.
Matt: That’s a lot of what we do in marketing, it depends. I love the fact that you can actually say based on category A, B, C, or D carries the greatest weight, so here is where you can get the most bang for your buck. If you can move this up by a few percentage points, you’re going to get a lot more than if you move this one up by a few points.
Maggie: Exactly. Or let’s go back to our metaphor of if you are the brand lead of a deodorant brand. Let’s say you told me, “Maggie, I don’t really want to compete with deodorants, I actually want to compete with shaving cream,” or, “I’d like to be a lifestyle brand of just scents, so I want to compete with colognes, but let’s look at how men’s cologne and women’s cologne and perfume differ.” We can do all kinds of cuts like that and not only learn how brands in one category succeed, but how brands in an analogous category succeed. We learn more by other successes and mistakes, and then we make smarter decisions before we even go in market.
Matt: That’s the hope of all marketers, that we can learn from those mistakes and make better decisions, not make the same mistake again and again. What is that, the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Something like that.
Maggie: A really cool quote is really smart people learn from other’s mistakes, not their own. It’s not just mistakes. It’s identifying other strategies that have achieved that impact that this brand has a right to own, it would be differentiated, and will appeal to their audience.
Matt: Now it’s my turn to not remember. There’s a marketer out there who talks about doing things that will give you 10X return. Only do the things that give you ten times the return, don’t waste your time on one or two X things, but only these things that will give you big return, and spend the majority of your time doing those.
That is really what this brings to mind is that we’re trying to—I don’t want to say do the minimum work, but if we can do a little bit of work for great impact versus doing that same amount of work for a lesser impact, why wouldn’t we choose the one that gives us the greater impact? It makes no sense to go the other direction.
Maggie: It’s a great point. I think that impact is something that just has been misunderstood. I think the mentality has been, if you imagine Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, brand has always been at the top, “Once we’ve solved all these other problems and we have extra money, we’ll give this to brand, and they’ll make some pretty ads.”
But what we’ve discovered with BrandWorth is that your brand is actually a foundational element. It isn’t just something that you spend on later when you have extra money laying around. It’s something that when you invest in carries that massive return. For some categories, it’s 10. For some, it’s higher than that even. Being able to explain that in the upfront really makes it easier for organizations to build more powerful brands and, ultimately, better work in market.
Matt: I have to admit when you started talking about segment, I thought this was going to be a joke because you started that ‘when we have extra money,’ and I thought to myself in marketing when does that ever happen, this can’t be a real scenario, when we get extra money.
Maggie: It doesn’t, usually, which is why marketing budgets continue to get smaller and smaller, and brands continue to erode when they are a really powerful financial asset that is being forgotten about. That’s why I’m super passionate about it. It’s not just because, frankly, I love brands. I’m a brand strategist, that’s what I love to do. But I’m not just touting the benefit of brand because I want to do more of it. I’m touting the benefit of brand because it really is a powerful tool and an asset in our clients’ arsenal that can be used more effectively.
Matt: I agree one million percent. It’s clear how passionate you are about this topic and how knowledgeable you are. I want to say thank you so much for coming on the show. It was a great conversation.
Maggie: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. This was fun.
Friends, we want to say thanks to you for listening to this episode of Marketing Smarts. Before we leave, I have one favor to ask. If you found this episode valuable, if you found it helpful, if you found some insightful information you could take away from this, find one friend, find a colleague, find a cubicle mate, if we’re back to having cubicle mates, find someone who you think might derive some value from the Marketing Smarts Podcast and share it with them. Just one person. You will look like a superhero for providing them great information and they’ll have another good podcast to add to their arsenal.
All right, friends, that is the end of this episode. Thank you so much for being here.