Communicate the true essence, that's the way to represent a business - Talk Marketing Tuesday 007 - Bobby Adlington
Communicate the true essence, that’s the way to represent a business – Talk Marketing Tuesday 007 – Bobby Adlington
Martin: Good afternoon Mr Adlington.
Good afternoon Mr Henley.
Martin: How are you doing man, you’re looking well.
Bobby: Very good thank you.
Martin: Excellent. Thank you so much for agreeing to spend some time with me this afternoon. What it is, as you know I’m on this mission, I’m producing a lot of content, because it frazzles my mind that people don’t want to do marketing. It seems to me that marketing the thing that will make them successful, but nobody wants to do it and I’m kind of interested to understand that. So I’m talking to people and I’m getting different perspectives. I’m expecting your perspective will be different again because you are a brand and identity specialist. Am I allowed to call you a brand an identity specialist?
Bobby: Yes please, you have permission.
Martin: Okay, excellent. So you are a brand and identity specialist, so you’re not concerned, like the other people that I’ve spoken to about getting things happening, getting SEO happening, or getting Social Media happening, or telephone calls happening, or any of those things; generating leads and supporting sales and being concerned about the business. You are much more concerned about the brand and identity of your customers. So I’m expecting your perspective to be different again.
The way this works is we’re interested to know how you are qualified to talk to us about brand and identity? What your experience is, we’re interested to know how you feel about marketing, what it is that you deliver for your customers and how you deliver success for your customers and then, of course, because we’re in this ridiculous, awful situation now with the pandemic, I’m interested to know what your recommendation is for businesses right now.
Shall we start at the beginning? Can you tell us how are you qualified to talk to us about your part of marketing which is brand and identity.
Bobby: Yes. Thank you very much. My main current qualification is I’m the founder and creative director of Autotelic Arts, you can check our website out autotelic.art. What we do is high vibrational branding, the main focus of that is finding the most pure and powerful parts of my customers identities and then using those to build a brand that positions them as the pioneers of positive impact and change in their area of work.
I’ve had the company almost two years now and in this capacity I am specifically looking for positive impact businesses who, to get some guidance on that, could could be working in any one of the sustainability goals, there’s, I think, there’s 12 or 17 of those. Any number of those and really, as someone who’s an artist at heart, my intention is to use my creativity to help them make a bigger impact and to reach more people in a more effective way. Previously to that I’ve had a long career working in the digital industries in London. I’ve worked with tech startups leading the creative side for them and coming up with creative concepts. I’ve worked for multi-platform production agencies doing a lot of digital deliverables and I’ve worked for a lot of ad agencies during the boom period of flash, doing a lot of interactive rich media content. The general trajectory of my career has been coming from a creative heart but branching out to to work amongst the wonderful array of elaborate digital spheres that came up over the last 15 to 20 years.
Nowadays I’ve really come back to what’s close to my heart which is the creative side and working very closely with people to realise a high vibrational identity and brand for them.
Martin: Okay, so that’s interesting. So you’ve done traditional businesses like tech startups who are your clients typically now? Who are you working with currently?
Bobby: Typically my clients will be in the personal development or spiritual development worlds. They will be highly empathic and very talented, compassionate professionals who use their skills to help others grow and transcend their life context; either heal trauma or grow and develop greater capacity to go about their own lives. To give you a quick example that might be yoga. For instance, one of my clients is called The Baptiste Foundation and they take the the healing and the personal development capabilities of yoga into underprivileged communities like inner city kids. They’re very active in the states, primarily based there. Another client is a psychologist and clinical sexologist who is also a Wimhof trainer and instructor. He created this wonderful program that focuses on a three-day retreat where he uses the the power of Wimhof and the physical embodied capacity of that to create a shift to help people move and anchor psychological developments.
So yeah, I really love working with clients who who have a lot of context and richness in the way they interact and relate and help people to develop because I’m personally interested in that as well and it tends to be an area that we can really find a lot of richness from.
Martin: Okay cool, so that’s a very specific niche and it’s a very brand reliant niche. I mean it’s a niche where there’s a lot of people doing that and they definitely need to differentiate themselves and also I would say there’s a lot of trust required. They need their brand to engender that trust if people are going to engage with them and go forward. So that’s interesting.
This is probably the wrong way to think about it and this is the wrong word to use entirely but how, it’s really the wrong word, I can’t think of a better word, the word I’m going to use is lucrative, how easy is it to … Because I’m not particularly spiritually or personally developed so I kind of see these people as, I don’t know, I expect them to smell of mushrooms, that’s what I expect, and I expect them to be driving really bad cars. How easy is it to actually eke out a living if you are offering these kinds of services and these kinds of opportunities?
Bobby: You mean for me or for my clients?
Martin: For them, for them.
Bobby: Well those industries are extremely impactful and the the work that people do and the transformations that people go through with my target niche is phenomenal, you know it’s literally life changing. Whilst, I guess there is a perception of these things potentially having a low cost, or worth, there could be a perception of that there isn’t worth there that’s far from the case. If you look at … let’s take it to another extreme; someone who might fit in in my niche would be a life coach for example. They directly work with people on a daily basis to help them understand, they work with their clients to help them understand psychological patterns and ways that they can enrich and change their lives. It’s not uncommon for people to be paying a three or six figure sum for a six-month engagement with life coaches. Obviously there is a a scale and when you’re looking at like one-off courses or say say retreats they would probably be down a lower level but then also people can have hourly consultations. I think the the trend that I’m I’m spotting is that more and more people are really becoming open to the fact that as as humans we don’t stop developing when we’re adults. It’s not like we hit 18, we leave school, we go through uni, develop a bit more and that’s it, we stop developing.
There’s so much capacity and potential in us to develop and my clients really help people either regain that, to restore where they were, or grow even further, to maximise their capacity so that they can do whatever they love doing or whatever they do professionally to a higher level. I can maybe empathise with where the perception comes from but in recent years it has really, really blown my mind how successful they are. I guess you should look at Mind Valley for instance, are you familiar with Mind Valley?
Bobby: Okay. Mind Valley is one of the leading online platforms for personal development and personal growth. They they feature people like, I saw an advert, I’m thinking of him today, a guy called Ken Wilbur. A really interesting author and philosopher who’s written a lot about integral theory, that he developed. I’m trying to think, of there’s a couple of spiritual leaders that are very high profile. Who’s the most high profile or famous yoga teacher that you can think of or meditation teacher?
Bobby: Mooji yeah. Mooji was offering a course, an online course the other day which I think was about a hundred dollars for a weekend long seminar that you could just watch via Zoom or that was streamed over the weekend. He must have, how many followers do you think he’s got? And how many people do you think are going to be turning up to that for him? If he’s charging 100 bucks a go he’s probably going to be bringing in at least 30 grand over the weekend or something like that, I would have thought. Probably get around 3 000 people at least won’t he so I guess that gives you an idea. For instance Deepak Chopra, have you heard of him?
Martin: I’ve heard of him yes.
Bobby: Yeah, he’s super high profile, has a massive following and is in massive demand for personal appearances, personal talks, and stuff like that. So you know. I guess also there’s a there’s a sliding scale of the the level that the individual practitioners are at as well. You know Wimhof, you know that’s another one, he would he would fit perfectly into my niche; he must be doing okay with his courses and his programs that he puts out as well.
Martin: Yes. I think what’s what’s clouding my judgment. I have every respect for this stuff, certainly personal development, spiritual development I would struggle with a little bit more. I absolutely love and plug into Mooji most days, he tells me I’m good enough and I’ve got an eye mask and ….
Bobby: You probably know a bit more about spiritual development than you are letting on.
Martin: Certainly more than I’m letting on, let’s not spoil the illusion. I value this stuff and I just suppose there’s a pyramid. At the top you’ve got your Tony Robbins’ and your Deepak Chopras and somewhere in between there and everyone else you’ve got your Moojis’. But I would imagine there’s a really wide base of people who would love to be doing this. When I started my business 20 years ago and I was out networking there were 15 life coaches at every event and you know the realisation was that they weren’t particularly in control of their lives, because they didn’t have any customers, they didn’t have any clients, they didn’t have any business. But that was 20 years ago so clearly things have changed since then.
I’m just interested, I was just interested to know if there is an industry here and you’ve made it very very obvious that there is. We know right at the top is Tony what’s his name making tens of millions of dollars.
Bobby: Yeah, so okay, so that’s insane, insane membership amounts for individuals to just be part of his inner circle, we’re talking, yeah crazy amounts.
Martin: Yes, quite, jet level, highly aspirational.
Yeah, hugely aspirational, hugely, hugely rich. This is interesting, this is probably the most interesting area to talk about brand because it’s all brand. It’s all the story, it’s all the experience. I’ve met people, I know people, who go and see Tony Robbins and they’re saving up for two years to go and do that, they’re stupidly excited for three months before and they’re stupidly excited for three months afterwards. But from my, I’m not even cynical, but from a marketing perspective, the way I think about brand, that’s all brand. These are the components of brands, like your story, your services, all of this, it’s all brand. So I think this is probably the most interesting place to to talk about brands, probably the most impactful area of brand.
Martin: Okay, possibly yeah.
What sort of stuff is it that you do?
I’m interested in this vibrational thing. I’ve written down the vibrational thing because that is obviously language particular to your niche.
Bobby: Definitely, but also, I must temper that, it also comes from me as well. Which is an important important thing in in the way that I work, which i’ll expand on.
Martin: The thing is, it resonates with me as well. I would never have used that that term but it resonates with me because I think the real the real key to brand is to get to the real, true essence of the thing or the person. Do you know what I mean?; of the business.
Bobby: Yes definitely. This idea, that it’s vibrational, if you can communicate something that is the essence of the thing, the true essence of the thing, then that’s probably the most authentic way to actually represent a business.
That’s interesting, that definitely resonates with me, that vibrates with me, wonderful, give me some of that.
So tell us how it works with you and your clients; what kind of stuff is it that you’re doing for them?
Bobby: Yeah, thanks. I’m really pleased that you touched on the importance of finding that essence, what’s at the heart.
I would say the most valuable part of my service offering is what I call the identity foundation stage. I have three stages of work that I do; identity foundation, the brand concept and then the visual design, which can also include other types of design, sound, or anything. Generally it’s just visual.
Just a quick summary of the identity foundation. Its going inwards, into the client or the client team and creating an objectively understood identity on paper that the client is happy with and everyone understands in the team. It represents an alignment of the team but also, crucially, I can get it as well. It’s takes what’s in here, put it on paper so it’s very clear.
Martin: It sounds great.
Bobby: The concept phase is extending that pot of soil that we’ve created in the first phase into how does that interact with the the marketplace, what’s the market landscape. How is the brand positioned and what tools can we use to define the brand positioning in a useful way such that we can start to think about ideas for representing the company you. It’s much more than what what the team want and are internally aligned about; it’s how does that then, how do we then create something that meets the expectations of the market, that is positioned against their competitors, or aligns with their potential partnerships. This is still written, I like to work very much written up to this point because you can just talk about stuff, you can explain it, you can write it down very quickly, change and shift between ideas. Once you’ve got a compelling concept then then I take that into the visual design stage and that’s when it’s more a case of the conceptual creative work. Then it’s a case of visually crafting something that’s beautiful and works in line with what’s expected.
Martin: Okay, okay. That makes perfect sense and it’s not very different from what I do what I do is; no, it is quite different. Here’s the difficulty I’ve always had with brand, whenever I’ve engaged or I’ve been working with a customer and we’ve had to address their brand and I’ve engaged with a designer; it’s always been a doubly subjective thing. The client absolutely categorically wants something, the designer categorically wants something that’s going to complement their portfolio and neither of them are particularly interested in what the market actually wants or needs. The effective marketing that we do is all about understanding the market, and what it is the market wants, and being the thing that the market wants. I understand you have to temper that because at the end of the day your client has to sign off and it has to be what they want, do you know what I mean? That’s interesting, that you cover those two aspects.
It’s interesting that you’ve got that market examination component to what you do. In terms of understanding what it is that the market would take. Should we, before we carry on, define what brand is because I don’t think people know what brand is.
Bobby: Yeah, definitely, let’s do that.
Martin: Cool, you go first.
Okay, so yeah, for me brand is like you say it’s the feeling, the essence. Actually the official the official definition of what a brand is the perception in someone else’s head of what your company is and does. So officially you can’t really tell someone what the brand is. Whatever you do with your designs, whatever you do with your content, whatever you do with your experience, whatever you do with your colours, whatever you do with the way you speak to people, which are all components that we use to create the brand you can’t actually tell some someone what it is. It’s what they will either say back to you, if you do customer surveys with them or it’s what they tell others about the brand and the way they engage with the brand and the way they act with the brand. The way they feel, I would put it more specifically; it’s kind of a feeling that you create for them, it’s an experience that you create for them when they see your logo, which is is the primary visual asset for your brand. It might make them feel a certain way, it might also make someone else feel a different way.
Bobby: The key differences here, especially in terms of the market context, is that my aim is to know the person who I want to feel a certain way when they see the logo. I design it in their context, their background, tastes, history, community – so that when they see it they will have the reaction, or the feeling, the desired feeling, that’s the essence of the of the brand. It’s like the identity foundation that I described, it’s discovering what that essential feeling is inside the client so that then we can create creative logos, use colour palettes, typography and extend that to however else you want to design the experience. When the right person comes along they get the same feeling, ultimately, and then communicate that to marketing, so someone can pick up the marketing, pick up the feeling of the brand and do the marketing.
For me the brand is very much this, it’s this collection of qualities, logo, colour palette, typography, music, they all come together in a certain way. The marketing is actions or it’s deliverables, what I like to call deliverables. So you decide that you need to go and put this message in a particular place to get the attention of someone, they aren’t coming to you, it’s outwardly going to them, it’s letting people know about things and that has very direct, measurable returns. If I buy like 50 posters then I can hopefully get 10 000 people to see my offer if I put it in the right place. Marketings got those qualitative actions …
Bobby: Sorry, yeah quantitative actions. Responses and things associated with it whereas a brand would, I would say, would be more on the qualitative side of things.
Martin: Okay, I’m going to disagree with you. I’m going to agree with your definition so it’s not going to get ugly, don’t worry, I’m close to where you are. I agree with your definition. For a long time I used to tell people that your brand was the clothes that you dress your business in, which it kind of is, and I did believe that for a long time. What I came to believe, quite quickly, when I started my business, The Effective Marketing Company, was that actually the brand is what exists in the people, what of your business exists in other people’s minds. It absolutely is that and effective brand is that it does exist in people’s minds, do you know what I mean?
I do this whole shtick when I’m doing my digital marketing training. We talk about brand and we talk about brand marketing, display advertising, those kinds of things. I’ve got this whole shtick about how; I’m going to give you the whole shtick, the whole shtick is like …. I play a lot of tennis and one time I was getting ready to go and play tennis; I put on my Adidas tennis shorts, my Adidas tennis t-shirt, and I put on my adidas tennis socks and my Adidas tennis shoes, my Adidas tennis cap picked up my Adidas tennis bag and caught a reflection of myself out as I was leaving the house and the realisation hit me that Adidas have really done a job on me. When I started telling this story, I don’t know in 2012, what happened that night is I was abroad delivering this course and you there’s always one thing you haven’t packed, this time it was aftershave so I went to the little local shop and I needed some aftershave and the aftershave I bought was of course Adidas aftershave.
So brand is that front of mind thing that … you know, I don’t go into a store looking for Adidas things but when I leave it’s Adidas that’s in my bag. So that’s where brand hits marketing and the two things come together.
The other thing, I guess, it’s like you’re drawn to it like you said it’s in your head and so then you’re more likely to see it and respond positively to it. I guess the brand doesn’t necessarily need to do any actions other than being present there. They don’t necessarily need to say hey, we’ve got a 50% deal on the Adidas aftershave you would just like it, be drawn to it.
Exactly and it is this kind of subliminal thing that goes on. The follow on is I talk about our brand relationships because we all have brand relationships. For example if I were in the UK and I were buying some pants I’d be going to Marks and Spencer’s, if I were buying shirts I might go to Next; I if I were to drive a car it would be an Alfa Romeo, that is my brand of car; I typically own a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, I buy a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses every two or three years; I take photos, my brand now is Sony but for the longest time it was Nikon and I despised Canon with a passion, for no good reason, I’ve got no experience of them. Even when Nikon screwed up when I was taking pictures of Mount Cook and I had perfect bluebird skies, but they weren’t perfect because there were oil spots all over them, I was still married to Nikon.
The brand, this is maybe an extension of what you’re talking about, which is the way it looks, and the colour palette, and all those things, and the sounds but there have also been actions. All of the actions that Adidas have made over the course of my life. From when I was eight and the german students turned up and told me that Adidas stands for all day I dream about sex; or when they sponsored this tennis player or that football player, all of those actions have happened to put them right at the front of my mind so when I’m faced with a selection I’m drawn to their offering and I buy their offering.
This is the huge huge value of brand marketing and this is why the brands invest so much in brand marketing. In practical marketing, digital marketing terms, you can actually start to measure the effect of your brand because you can start looking for branded search. Instead of searching for tennis shoes, I’m now searching for Adidas tennis shoes.
So I think that’s where the two things come together and you’re right about marketing. I define marketing as finding, winning and keeping customers profitably and the way you do that effectively is by landing the right message, at the right time, on the right person. That’s where brand has its power, especially in the way you’re describing, it which I’ve never had it described to me before; getting to this vibrational understanding, where you can reliably expect a reaction because you’ve designed that reaction in. Which where I’m interested to get to because I’m sure you’ve done business with like NLP coaches and those kinds of people. So how mystical are you getting in terms of suggestion, if you’re working in this space that must be expected?
Bobby: Man, no. What I really tend to focus on is a degree of authenticity with regards to that. The process that I described is complex enough without having to have some very nuanced play on words or what would be mind control.
I would almost even see that kind of thing, I would see that more as a marketing tactic. With the brand, unless it is cheekily, tongue-in-cheek, playing a joke on itself. If anything’s too complex then it that becomes the identity, then you lose the support actually.
The brand, although it’s it changes over time, you want it to be your constant. Another thing that I’d like to touch and where I think this is really relevant is within the internal company. Operating in relationships, these facets of the identity in the brand can be super powerful there as well. In that respect you want to have something reliable and concrete that is set for a a reasonable period of time. Whereas, I guess, the marketing, like a marketing campaign or an outward campaign could then play with that in a different way and say okay, well you think we’re this, but actually, now, we’re going to present it like this. It’s those more frequent intervals, where you can actually play around with what the basic element of the brand is if you like.
Martin: Yes. I did a presentation that will be going up on my website soon, I don’t know when it was, like 10 years ago. I used to do these presentations for a local Chamber of Commerce, the county chamber of commerce and it was stupid. I was coming out with presentations every 20 minutes. They were like Martin do you want to talk about this? Do you want to talk about that? Do you want to talk about anything? I was talking about things I shouldn’t have been talking about but this talk was about brand. I came up with a presentation and I called it Does my Business look big in this, which I was really pleased with. It was about the enormous power of brand and how it’s about consistency and trust and all of those things. I was saying that if you have brands you can charge more, you’ll have better relationships, you’ll have more repeat customers. The internal thing that you’re talking about is really important because look at the way people feel about working for Apple or Facebook, those people don’t run ads they’ve got a queue of people who want to work there all day every day and when they work there they’re hugely committed. Certainly it works internally and I think that was one of my points, people will want to work for you if you’ve got brand.
The other thing that’s interesting is this trust and this consistency thing because like you say you’re not in control of the way people perceive your business the best you can do is influence that. You influence that by investing in the way your brand looks and the way your brand sounds and the experiences that you deliver for people. Get it wrong and that also goes to the subliminal; I don’t use them because I had, or my Aunt Greta, had this experience in 1982 where something went wrong, do you know what I mean?
It’s a really interesting space. The point about where this fits with marketing is that delivering the right message what we’re suggesting, which I know is true ,is that 50% of that message at least, is that subliminal; I already know these people; I already trust this. Do you know what I mean? This evokes that feeling in me already. So when the marketing, that the more stark marketing messages, laid over the top – we’ve got a retreat now, then half of that message at least has landed in a positive. Do you see what I’m saying?
Bobby: Yeah, oh most certainly yeah. I’d love to dig into a little bit of that internal reliability stuff but I guess that’s taking the discussion further away from the marketing. It’s really interesting though looking at it through your lens of marketing. Putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time so that they will, what’s the last bit of it, they will make a purchase, is that it?
Martin: I never said that, that’s you and your cynical brand identity head.
Bobby: I thought that’s what you said, you said you used to tell people that what was your definition of marketing.
Martin: No my definition of marketing is finding, winning and keeping customers profitably.
Oh, finding, winning and keeping customers profitably.
Martin: And the way you do that is by landing the right message, on the right person, at the right time.
Bobby: Yeah. So I guess the right message is actually what you could could call the brand. Like you said 50% of that message is the brand and and then the other thing then is we’re doing a retreat. It’s really interesting, looking at the two, which is the daddy here? How do they fit around each other? I’m fascinated by that thought.
Martin: Okay, but it’s not a hierarchy, it can’t be a hierarchy because you could give me the most beautiful message in the world, the most beautiful brand and identity, and all the colours and the fonts, and the everything’s right and everyone feels great, if my marketing message is fuck you, it ain’t gonna work.
So it has to be what the person wants to hear, maybe for some of your your sex consultant type customers it might be what they want to hear. I know some of these people, I think I know the person you’re talking about. What did I want to say, the two have to go hand in hand.
Bobby: I wasn’t talking about anyone in particular.
No you said one of my clients you were talking about somebody, yeah you were talking about somebody. Anyway, that’s cool, we don’t have to bring that person up now.
What did I want to say; the two things have to work together. But I would say the foundation has to be brand, there’s a chronology to it, you should invest in your brand before you start landing messages, you should build that trust and I don’t think that’s particularly difficult. Even if you’ve got no money, I don’t think it is difficult. I kind of enjoy this stuff so I don’t mind doing it. The key is, if you’ve got no money and you’re starting a business, the key is just to be consistent. Pick a font, you’ve seen this where you get an invoice, you get a proposal from a business and it’s in one font, you get an invoice it’s in another font, and you get a third invoice and it’s in another font again or different colours. Do you know what I mean?
It just needs to be consistent throughout. Business people can start doing this themselves, even maybe before they’ve got the money to engage a brand and identity specialist like yourself they can start thinking about brand.
Bobby: You’ve hit the nail on the head there for me. Ultimately the foundational step of creating your brand is thinking .It’s pointing that lens at yourself. Quick side track; the reason I started doing these two, the identity foundation and the concept creation, is because I was so fed up, coming from a much more visual design focused place, so fed up of trying to work with people who hadn’t thought about what they wanted or how it would impact them or their relationships. The reason that thinking piece, or reflecting piece, is so difficult is because people are busy, they start a business and then they’re like holy shit, I’ve got overheads, I’ve got to get customers coming in, I’ve got loads of work to do, I’m busy. So then they just don’t necessarily have the chance to like go no actually I’m going to take a an hour today to just think about my identity. It’s just like one of those things that they don’t have the time for. The other blockage that you quite often see is its very difficult to think about your own identity and your own business because it’s just it’s just hard to be self-referential about stuff. On the one hand if they did just sit down, even if even if it’s just five minutes, what am I gonna write down that can be my identity. There’s loads of templates out there that you can look at, just sticking to that would be a great step in the first place because then they would have that consistency. Quite often you don’t see people doing that. I don’t know what your experience of trying to find out what people actually want is but I would hazard a guess to say it’s similar to that
Martin: My experience is people don’t have a clue what it is that they want and if they do, they don’t want to tell you.
Martin: So this comes to where my interest is, why people don’t do marketing and the part of marketing. I think it’s partly because people have a shitty attitude towards marketing, especially where we come from in the UK. People hate sales people, you’re not supposed to be seen to be hungry to be successful, you’re certainly not supposed to be seen to be trying to be successful, if you are successful it has to be an accident or else people don’t like you for it. There’s all this stuff going on, coupled with the fact that marketers are complete dicks, especially my part of marketing; they lie, they spout jargon, they can’t keep a customer. There’s a stat where the average digital marketing customer lasts three months only in London. So they don’t keep a customer. Marketers like me are complete bullshitters. On the two hands; customers don’t like marketing and they don’t want to do it and then when they come to do it they’re completely bullshitted.
It’s no wonder it’s the unholy mess that it is. If I think about your part of marketing specifically and there being an issue with it it is that customers don’t I understand the true value of brand and identity. They don’t understand how it works. They think that their business should look exactly the way they want it to look whereas. In the whole of marketing it’s got fuck all to do with them. It’s really about what the market wants as far as I’m concerned. The other thing is if they’ve got any clue whatsoever what they want they can’t convey the way they want it to look, they expect somebody just to produce hundreds of things and then just to be able to pick and choose what it is that they want from that. So that’s the customer part of brand that makes it difficult.
The designer part is that designers are quite knobby, present company excluded. The number of times, because I’m sitting in between the two, because I’m not a graphic designer so if we have to engage with the brand, if we have to fix the brand we have to engage a designer. I’ve done this before, I kind of understand the process, but 70 percent of the time I’ve got to the point where the customer’s saying it’s not what I want and the designer’s saying fuck them, they don’t know what they’re talking about, this is the best thing they’re ever going to get and it becomes really difficult. So, like in the whole of marketing its kind of difficult from both sides. It’s not always the case, sometimes you get a dream customer and they know what they want and you get a dream design and they’re able to deliver that. Often two kind of … it’s that conflict that’s really, I think, difficult and it sounds to me like that …..
Bobby: Yeah ,sorry, go ahead.
Martin: Well it sounds to me like you’ve countered that by having this discovery process. I think your clients are at a level, when somebody in personal or spiritual development is investing in their brand they are experiencing some success, they are delivering success for their customers and they are appreciating the value of this. I think you’re in a better niche for that and I think you’ve countered it by having this discovery process where they understand; this is what’s going on, does that make sense?
Bobby: Yeah most certainly. I mean really, really both processes, the the identity foundation and the concept creation really are so useful. I would be really happy to work with a client do those two phases and then let them go off and work with another designer to do the visual identity because I’d be so happy that they would really, fully understand what it was and it is articulated so well that anyone can pick it up and pretty much understand what they need and have a large range of scope to work from it. So yeah, a lot of it’s about really digging in and maintaining that brief and that awareness of your your task and your intention all the way through. That’s where the high vibrations come in. It’s sort of identifying them at the beginning so that we can make sure, every step of the way, when we describe the brand concept it is hitting those high vibrations for them. And is it clear how it’s hitting them. That’s really, really where the value is, in those parts of the work.
Not to mention the internal productivity alignment and the attraction of people that you can get by having a fully aligned team around this identity. I’ve got a story, a case study I can share from one of my clients around how powerful that can be if you’d like to hear it.
Martin: I’d like to hear it, yeah.
Bobby: The Baptiste Foundation I worked with him, just to do the identity foundation stage, and they were in an organisational misalignment. They had a a big team of eight leaders, they called them the faculty leaders all around the the states who were all working together but they were all coming at it from their own place. The program that I did with them really gave them all the chance to share, understand where they were all coming from and we collaboratively created this definition of their identity which really, ultimately it was like a mission vision, purpose, beliefs and values statements, with some other stuff around it. That was really the deliverable that came out of it. The thing being, the reason being, that it had been collaborated on, shared and understood by everyone. It was phenomenal because they went off in the next quarter. They primarily get their income in from fundraising and there was a global yoga event over three days that they went off to fundraise for. The impact was phenomenal, because the team was galvanised they understood each other but more importantly they were all saying exactly the same thing. We didn’t take this any further, didn’t do any more brand concepts or any more visual design work. At the Baptiste Global Summit for the Baptiste Yoga Institute, which is their foundational sister company their target was to raise 30 grand over three days and they raised 300 grand.
Martin: Good. Now I’m going to give you some marketing advice. You have produced that, you have produced that case study? You have landed that case study on everyone you work with?
Bobby: Yes, it’s on my website and I shared it when I when I first wrote it, but it’s well worth a re-share.
Martin: Yeah, yeah, of course. That for me is the right message. To come back to my how you achieve effective marketing – we’re doing this and people are happy about us doing it, that’s the right message. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. That kind of case study is really valuable.
Because I’ve known we were going to having this conversation I’ve been thinking about brand. I think brand is becoming much more measurable, or the value of brand is becoming much more measurable. Brand is becoming so much more important because of the way we engage with the world online. Looking like a quality, trustworthy brand and maybe especially in your industry, I’m sure there are charlatans out there who are just fleecing people and your, or the market of your market is known to be kind of, a vulnerable, susceptible kind of market. That ability to look trustworthy and worthy of investment I think is really important in your market. I just think across everything. We land on a website and before we’re even looking we know if this is right. If something’s wrong or out of place we won’t acknowledge it but subliminally it will be okay, I don’t fancy this one. Do you know what I mean?
I think brand is more important, I think it’s more measurable than it has been historically. In the old days you’d have to go in the streets and ask people can you think of a train company beginning with S yes southern, brand marketing’s working. I think it’s much more valued because we can see branded search and, like you say, we can see the value of it. In that instance they were expecting to earn 30 they made 300. It doesn’t surprise me, it doesn’t surprise me. I’m going to say that brand is at least 50% percent of the marketing.
Bobby: Okay, that’s good.
Martin: I’ve got no basis to say that, I’m going to say it’s more than 50% of the marketing. It’s interesting what you’re saying, this authenticity is really, is really important because that’s where the trust comes from. If it is authentic, it’s real, you don’t have to think about – I have to do this thing, or say this thing, or look this way, because that’s the way you want to look and say and and be so I think that’s also really important.
Bobby: Even for a solo entrepreneur or someone that’s running their own business say. A typical client of mine who is a practitioner, they have their own practice, they deal with their clients and they speak to their clients face to face, just the ability for them to be authentic. If we’re talking identity foundation, these same premises extend all the way through into the actual visual design and whatever else you’re designing and creating. Just by purely sitting down and doing that thinking, and going okay, this is me, this is what I say about me, and this is how the stories that influence me and have led to me deciding on this.
Just by saying, okay, this is what I’m going to say every time I speak to someone. They don’t need to think about it or think what do I have to say. They’ve just got it, it’s just there and then it’s not like they say a different thing to different people because then it’s a it’s a drag on their energy. It’s something they don’t need to think about and so then they can put that energy into being, just doing their job better as well.
Bobby: Then that, just that simple premise, for an individual, just snowballs. When you start to look at organisations, or effectively communicating to your designer what you want then they get it and they can buy into the power of your vision. I guess.
Martin: Yes. It’s like a business where they employ lots of young people and then they make them wear suits and ties. Every single one of those young people wakes up every morning, I have to put a suit and a tie on again and go out. All day they’re they’re walking around like that.
Bobby: Yeah they’re feeling uncomfortable, they don’t feel like they’re really being themselves and then, by this this element of energy that you’re holding back, it’s that’s stopping you from doing as good a job as you can in whatever you’re doing.
Yes, okay, yeah.
Bobby: If you look at it that way yeah, the thing is, I think, that the natural, the authentic thing, is the least energy thing.
Martin: I think that’s what we’re saying, if this is authentic then I don’t have to think about doing it, there is no charade, there is no …. I don’t have to learn anything, this is exactly the way that I want to engage.
Okay, good, yeah, it’s interesting. Now I am imagining, because you are in the personal and spiritual development kind of industry and because some people have quite a lot of time on their hands at the moment I would imagine imagine that your industry is actually doing quite well right now.
Bobby: Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I think also, well this is just pure guesswork but maybe people see this kind of work as as a luxury. If people have got their bottom line impacted then they might re-prioritise, I wouldn’t say that’s the case. I would would say it’s funny. I think you could take the same approach to spiritual and personal growth and development as you can to marketing; if you put the effort and the time into it then you will get bigger rewards than you could imagine but it does take a conscious effort and investment in a number of ways to do them.
Martin: Yes. This is what I used to say to people when I was running the business properly. I used to say marketing is like gym membership, when you first meet somebody they’re really excited, they’re fully committed, everything’s going to happen and then three weeks later they’d rather sit at home and eat cake. I can imagine that there is a very definite parallel. I was thinking that, because obviously we’re in a health situation, a bad health situation I would think that people would be looking to invest in their well-being and so that might be why this particular industry might be doing well, that that was my rationale.
Bobby: To be honest I don’t really know, on one hand the travel bans have really screwed up a lot of retreats and a lot of this work is primarily focused around retreats, so that’s a big, a big issue. Undoubtedly people in my niche are needing to do much more online, which they don’t necessarily always do, that’s really a challenge for digital marketing right there. That’s the kind of thing that they would really need to invest into and even people that I’m talking to who are transitioning their identity, their role and their profession now, into this realm, that really is the primary focus for them. If they’re going to launch a business finding clients online is the primary route now. In terms of the the uptake and like you say, how how popular it is, I’m not sure. I couldn’t really answer that one.
Martin: Okay, it’s kind of interesting. It seems to me the big complaint that business owners and business people have is that they never have any time and the gift of this situation is definitely time. Tim was the last person I spoke to in this series and he was saying that his business is so much more effective because of instead of the leadership all running around trying to make things happen, and meeting people, and doing what business leaders typically do, they’re all in it and engaged in it again. Certainly, when I was running my business that was my issue. I was never there to make sure anything happened. I was never there, so it seems to me that there’s that opportunity now.
I suppose the question is there are industries where this is existential, they will be lucky to exist after this is finished. I suppose the the question people have to ask is how invested in in their business are they, are they going to be prepared to stand and fight now to make sure it continues. If you’re a pub, good luck with that, you can’t let anyone in and then are they going to be prepared to wait until it’s over and see what’s left of their business and then start again. It seems to me, if you’re being paid to sit at home and watch Piers Morgan shout out politicians, you might as well invest this time in your brand and your marketing.
I suppose in my clumsy, roundabout kind of a way what I’m interested to know is if you have a recommendation for people who are running businesses or thinking of investing in their brand, what is your recommendation right now, in this stupid situation, that we find ourselves in?
Bobby: Yeah. My recommendation is to take some time to distance yourself from your day-to-day activities in your business, zoom out and just ask yourself some questions about why did you start it; what was it that made you feel passionate about it in the first place to to begin it; what is it that that enables you to do a really good job for people? Then you maybe start to tease out and really find the nuggets of gold that are underneath your identity and then just see where that can take you. It’s highly likely that a lot of people are going to be needing to reposition the way they work now ,whether that be to focus on moving online. then how can these things that you’ve thought about and spent time reflecting on how can you use those which excite you, in fact, even which ones motivate you, to then go forward and pivot in a way you want or even double down on what you’re doing super well and are super excited about.
If you have the time now just take a little bit of stock and then make an intentional plan for where you’re going to move to next because it’s either going to be essential to reignite your spark of your business and and pivot to find a more fruitful area of working or customers or to double down if things are going well.
Martin: I think it’s just think incredible what’s happening here, I can’t believe what’s happening. If there is a gift in this, and it’s interesting because I spoke to Tim last, he is probably the most spiritual of all the proper marketing people that I know. He was on the same message. I transcribed his thing today and there was a quote that he put in there which was essentially if you love your business, and you’re having fun in your business, and your business is a representation of you, then you’re going to attract the customers that you need and want. It’s going to be as simple as that. What he was saying is that he typically asks people on the first meeting, are you happy in your business and the answer is people aren’t happy in their business because they’re so far removed from the passion that got them investing it in the first place.
To bring this all the way around, I’m not gonna go as far as spiritual but I’m gonna say this is like, this is personal development. If you love your business, if your business looks great, if your business is an accurate representation of you, if you deliver value for your customers and your customers like you, that’s a really happy life to have. That’s where you need to get to before you start thinking about how do I want people to perceive my business, how am I going to go to market, and who am I going to sell to, and all those things. For those people who are still trading, that’s great. I think everyone’s having to adapt, that’s also probably healthy, some businesses are going to go away, that’s also probably healthy. For people who are invested in their business this time is golden, this is the time you’ve been crying about not having, the whole, entire time .The entire time that you’ve been running your business, now you’ve got what you said you wanted all of all the way through and you need to make use of that time, that’s kind of what I think.
Martin: So is there anything …..
Bobby: Yeah, oh yeah. I was just going to add on my website I have an online course called an idea workshop which is, the short 15-minute version is available for free. If anyone is thinking that this would be good, they’re interested, actually, I have the time to reflect or feel like it would be fruitful then they can go to my site and do the idea workshop and it will just be the first few steps in that process.
Bobby: It’s 15-minutes. You answer it with video responses or audio recordings and the magic is in that reflection. That’s a framework where they can start that reflection from right there.
Martin: Fantastic. I was saying to you earlier, I’m excited about this. I’ve not been excited about this for six years. It is like, it is like going to the gym. I started six weeks ago, trying to sort all of this stuff out and now I’m at the point where I’m getting out of bed and I’m thinking I get to do some work today. For the first month at least, I was thinking shit – I’ve got to do that stuff today.
So here’s my question for you. If they want to get access to that, or they want to get access to you, the three people who might end up seeing this video, how will they find you? We’ll have to do this again because I want to talk about the whole autotelic thing, is it autotelic or autotelic, I want to talk about that. I might want to talk to you about that for my photography website because I want to do some more creative stuff on there.
Bobby: The granddaddy of Flow writing or writing about flow because obviously like flow’s been integral part of our human experience even animals get into flow you know so like yes so I definitely want to talk to you about that. If they want to get in touch with you?
It’s autotelic.art, dot, art, a-r-t.
Martin: So they can find you there.
Bobby: No just, a-r-t.
Martin: Okay, cool. They can find you there. If they’re looking for you on facebook they will find you as Bobby Oblongting. So this is the question I have for you, because you’re a graphic designer, what’s the difference then between an oblong and a rectangle?
Bobby: Oh fantastic question. There is no real difference, an oblong is a rectangle, basically. It’s just that oblongting is like Adlington.
Martin: So that’s how you arrived at that.
Bobby: Yeah ultimately like I don’t particularly pronounce or I don’t speak very clearly and I can’t necessarily say things clearly. My given name is Robert, which I struggle to say. Since I’ve been living in Asia Bobby is much easier for other people to get and and to know and then Adlington was just my whole life. So I just thought oblongting, everyone gets that first time.
Martin: Okay and you never even considered a rectangleting.
Martin: Okay, cool man. I have thoroughly enjoyed this is there anything else that you particularly wanted to say that you haven’t said yet?
Bobby: Not really. People can find me on Facebook or Autotelic Art, my page there as well.
That’s really it. I mean it’s just, for me, the brand starts at finding that kind of that essence, that inspiration, and then it just goes from there out into everything you do.
Martin: Yes, so that’s really evolution. This is the last thing I wanted to say about brand, which is that brand evolves so, in a practical marketing way. Here’s a story from my business. I was on a personal development course would you believe it in 2005, and I hated it, and I fought with the guy all the way through and yeah, I hated it. My mate came and collected me at 10 o’clock on that and we’ve done 16 hour days; he came and collected me at 11 o’clock on the Sunday night and and I fought with him all the way back from London to Brighton about how shit it was and why did he set me up for that. I woke up the next morning, started my business and I called it The Effective Marketing Company because there’d been somebody on the course who was running The Hemp Trading Company so that’s kind of where it came from. This is the very foundation of my brand so what I did throughout was I always ….
Martin: Yeah, you see, I’m invested in personal development.
What I did throughout was I always took videos. Starting in 2005, you can imagine the state of these videos, I was shooting them on phones and yeah it’s just terrible, but always like. If anyone was saying nice things about me I would I’d get a testimonial, I’d stand the camera in front of them and say okay I had some like rote questions.
One way that this evolved is one day I got a call from a friend of mine who was running an exhibition and they said look Martin we’ve got a stand if you want it tomorrow, it’s not going to cost you anything, take it if you want it. I’m like okay, well I’m busy tomorrow everyone’s busy tomorrow, we’ve got no one to go there. What we did is we rocked up at seven o’clock in the morning and we just put all of these testimonials on loop for the whole day, just running on a monitor on the stand. We put an empty vase next to it and just said yeah, write on the back of your business card how effective people think The Effective Marketing Company is; how many times people use the word effective when they’re talking about The Effective Marketing Company. I went back at seven o’clock when the whole thing was over and all the exhibitors were like “you’ve had a queue of people at your stand all day today” and the vase was overflowing, and there were business cards all over the table. Then of course what we had to do is we had to go through the videos and count how many times people had used the word effective. It’s like okay, whilst we’re doing that we might as well chop it up so we produced a little video which was How effective is The Effective Marketing Company and there was a dinger going up every time somebody said the word effective.
So that’s what I think about brand, it evolves you start with something and it grows into something that is useful and interesting in dozens, and dozens, and dozens of ways. That’s really what I think brand is. If you think about the Apples and the Facebooks it becomes about the mythology of that brand, do you know I mean?
Bobby: Yeah, the idea, the logical.
Martin: I’m not saying that we were myth-worthy, but the idea evolves into something which is much more and different. Which is why I would encourage people to think about brand in a meaningful way, the way you’re describing it now, because there is opportunity in that, and there is ideas in that, and there is legend in there, and that’s where brands become really something that people can get married to. I really believe in that, that’s what I think.
Bobby: Yeah and worst case scenario, if it just gives you, the business owner a better perspective or a better idea for what you want to spend your time and energy on then it’s been worth it.
Martin: Yeah and like Tim was saying; what is there in your business to be proud of do you know I mean if you this this is your opportunity to actually project something that really goes straight to the motivation. I launched myself for nine years for The Effective Marketing Company because I was in love with the idea of The Effective Marketing Company. You’re right, that’s the feeling you want your staff to have, that’s the feeling that you want your market to have, that’s the feeling that you want your customers to have.
Man, I’m thinking about downloading your thing and doing your 15-minute test.
Bobby: Oh please do. If you’re lucky I might send you the hour-long one. I’ve got the 15-minute one, it’s cool but I’ve got an hour-long one, so if you want that, let me know. If anyone else is watching this just contact me by the contact form on the website and say can I have the hour long one please and then i’ll send it to you as well.
Martin: Okay, cool. There’s a chance here for some legend. They need to contact you and then say a very specific thing, like brand is life, or brand is vibration is brand, if they come back to you and they say vibration is brand in the email and they get it for free. The question I have for you then is am I lucky, can I have it?
Bobby: Yeah you can, you’ve been a good boy.
Martin: Excellent. This has been so cool man, I knew it would be cool. You were worried that I was going to grill you about marketing but actually I was really interested in the brand and identity thing. Man, thanks again for spending this time with me, I’ve really enjoyed it.
Bobby: Yeah, I just didn’t know where, how, or what angle you’d be coming from. It’s been really great to have the discussion about all the different facets of brand and identity, thank you.
Martin: I’m gonna, I’m gonna downgrade my designers are knobby, the word I’ve always used is precious and I just I don’t know why I decided on knobby today. Designers are a bit precious, I’m going to take that back.
Bobby: Well it’s just a lack of communication on that front and and also that’s what makes it difficult. Lack of communication in a creative process is a nightmare because someone commits to something, and they put it out there, and that’s them being quite vulnerable. It’s so easy to miss the the communication point there you know.
Martin: I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s even as complicated as that. I think that the issue is that business owners are egotists and designers are egotists and if somebody like me gets in the middle that’s the person that’s going to get fucked.
That’s just my experience. The customer doesn’t really know what they want but they know that they want to absolutely love it and the designer doesn’t really know what the customer wants and they think they should absolutely love whatever they do. That’s where it becomes difficult. I think you’ve countered the issue, I think your process sounds really useful. If I was investing in brand I would definitely come to you to help me do that. Let’s see what happens after I complete this this hour long questionnaire.
Bobby: Yeah well, 40 minutes I mean it’s up to you like you you there are 16 questions in it and you can respond for as long as you like for each question. In your response, I would encourage you to do a nice long three or four minute response for each one, if you do a minute for each one then it will be like 20 minutes.
Martin: Okay cool. The trouble is I’m too competitive so now i’ll be either looking to be the longest ever or the shortest ever that’s where i’ll be because I’m also an eager test man.
I’m going to let you go. I have thoroughly enjoyed this, I definitely want to do the autotelic thing and maybe it will work here on the Effective Marketing site and it might work also on my my photography site but I definitely want to do that.
Bobby: So you mean breaking down what autotelic means and how it relates to stuff.
Martin: Yes, because it’s not a million miles away from what we’re talking about now I think the reason people don’t like their business is because they’re not in flow with it anymore and this authenticity, it’s no wonder you called your business Autotelic Ar it’s of course hugely relevant but we don’t have time to do this now but we will do that at some point in the future man. I’ve thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this, thank you so much.
Bobby: Yeah. Thank you Martin, it’s been great to chat.
Martin’s original content is based on his very current experience of running effective marketing initiatives for his customers and the feedback from Effective Marketing’s successful and popular marketing workshops.
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