– [Announcer] Brand X, brand Y, brand Z. Not one sticks. Watch it again in slow motion.
– Welcome to the “Sticky Branding Podcast.” In this show, we are unpacking how companies grow sticky brands. My name is Jeremy Miller. I am the founder of Sticky Branding and host of the show. Today is our very first episode. This is the start of a journey, and I am so delighted to have you here, because we’re really gonna be setting out in this podcast to discover, discuss, and learn what does it take to grow your business and brand? Now in this first episode, I wanna dive right into the deep end because the origin of this podcast really came out of the pandemic and the work that we were doing. We have all gone through a transformative event and we will look back at 2020 as very much having this clear dividing line of BC versus AC or before coronavirus versus after coronavirus. And we can all distinctly remember that normal that it was to what we’ve gone through and where we are coming out today. But that experience that we just went through I think changed all of us. For me, especially, it was so instrumental in the work that we do at Sticky Branding and just our approach to thinking and services. Before coronavirus, we really looked at our work as aspirational. How do you grow a sticky brand? How do you grow a business to the next level? And when we talked with other entrepreneurs and business owners, the stories inevitably focused on the exciting things on the horizon. But in COVID, the stakes rose dramatically. And just listen here to a short clip from Gillian Stein, CEO of Henry’s Camera.
– Walked into the office on the morning of March 17th and looked at my COO and we both just looked at each other and said, “We gotta shut this down.” And we had within 24 hours across the country, we were closed.
– Henry’s is one of Canada’s largest consumer electronics and photography retailers. They are primarily a brick and mortar business and they were forced to close all their operations. Sales fell by 90%. When the stakes were risen, people really started to level up and think not about themselves, but about their people. Derin Hildebrandt who is the CEO of ProjectLine spoke of the desire to protect his team.
– How are we gonna protect our team? Could we protect our entire team? When the federal government came across, you know, come along some of their subsidy programs, did we wanna participate in that because we’re not a handout company. And so, you know, we had to kind of balance that. In the end, we did take advantage of some of that, but the bigger thing that happened is we were forced to look at what do you really need.
– I love this. This is really what makes such a difference because it’s not simply about sales and revenue. When you are building a strategy, when you are executing on it, the brand and the business is about people. I truly believe that all great brands are built by people, smart, ambitious, creative people, people like you and I, that care deeply about our work. Now, when the pandemic struck, I distinctly remember it from a very personal perspective. I grew up in a family business that was in the recruiting sector and our business would go up and down with the economy. Every time there was a recession and the unemployment rate spiked, our business suffered. And I can tell you in vivid detail what each and every recession has been like starting with the market crash of 1989. Now at the time, I was in high school as a teenager, but I remember the pain that my parents went through. They had to lay off staff, they closed offices, and they made sacrifices at work, but they also made sacrifices at home. One of the things that I remember from that moment in time, and it’s really surreal and weird to talk about now, was in Grade 8, I had to miss a class trip to Chicago because it wasn’t in my parent’s budget. They were making the cuts and they wanted to have, they made the sacrifices that they had to make. And I look now to what we’re going through in this pandemic and it’s very similar. Children have missed out on a year of school. We have had the lockdowns and issues that have been rolled out and they haven’t been rolled out equally around the world, but we’ve all gone through this very much a shared experience, and in that, we’ve all been forced to change. And how you do that was really what separated the great brands from everybody else. And what I saw out of this moment in time and what you will see in this podcast and the interviews to come is just the leadership that comes forward. Chris White is the CEO of Fruitland Manufacturing. They are one of the global leaders in mobile vacuum pumps. And his advice is so on point.
– The best thing, and I would still maintain this in any crisis, is communicate. So what do you know? Don’t keep it a secret. Communicate as best you can.
– Communication is really everything. But imagine this from his perspective. What you’ll hear in Chris White’s interview is that he bought the business with his partner on January 1st of 2020, and less than 90 days into that purchase, COVID struck and they were hit with this pandemic dilemma, and they’ve been navigating this roller coaster ever since. But to focus on the people, to focus on the communication, to focus on the team is really what starts to separate the good from the great. And it was this type of moment that really allowed people to rise. Now throughout the pandemic, it wasn’t all negative. It wasn’t all a problem. We saw a spectrum from leading to bleeding. Some companies boomed throughout the pandemic. In one episode, you will hear from Aaron Hardy, CEO of Foresight Sports Canada, a long time Sticky Branding client. And they more than doubled in revenue through 2020. They went from 5 million to 12 and a half million because they had the perfect product for the pandemic. They sold golf simulators. And with everybody nesting and building up their homes, this was a business ideally positioned for the market. On the other extreme, we have companies like Henry’s that had to really regroup because they were in the retail sector and they had their whole business shut down. But for most of us, we were somewhere in the middle of this leading to bleeding spectrum. Most of the strategies and plans that we were thinking about or planning were simply accelerated through the pandemic. And it created this opportunity for companies to take the shackles off and do things they had been thinking about or talking about for years. One of the, again, a dramatic story comes from Alex Cibiri, the CEO of Element Fitness, one of Canada’s largest CrossFit gyms. Now with the pandemic, their business was forced to close entirely, and they were closed in terms of physical operations for over 400 of 460 days. That’s how long the lockdowns were going on in Toronto, Canada, where I’m based and where Element’s based. But Alex, through all of this, was able to not only keep all of his staff, he did no layoffs, they actually maintained their revenue, maintained a 90% member retention rate and a 9.8 Net Promoter Score. Here’s what Alex said.
– The playing field’s been leveled. This is no longer a huge monolith of 150,000 square foot, we call them like Globo gyms, like traditional gyms. There’s none of that around. Everyone’s stuck at home so how do we best serve our clients at home?
– This was the moment that I think really starts to separate everything. At the very start of this crisis, I believe around March 11th or 12th, when the lockdowns all started last year, I remember calling Alex up and I said, “What’s going on with your business? Where is your head at? How are you feeling?” And he said to me, “This is a moment that will separate the wantrepreneurs from the entrepreneurs.” And he was right. It was this moment that you had a choice. You could rise and thrive and innovate, or you could turtle and hopefully just get through it, but many companies didn’t. But it was the rise and thrive that excites me so much because this is what truly brand building is all about. It’s in the moments of crises. It’s in the moment when the stakes are high. Whether you are dealing with COVID, launching a new product, entering a new market, building your brand is an exciting journey and it is something that you are able to really think about and push in a way that should be inspiring, and that’s what we hope to capture within these podcasts. Gillian Stein, again, from Henry says it best.
– Everybody has their own story and their own path. So I think that’s actually, there’s something in that and owning it, right? I don’t have a retail background, but I’m running a retail business and that’s a source of strength.
– Gillian’s approach to this really does inspire me because it’s that broad right-minded thinking. How do we learn from our peers? And so what we’re doing in this podcast is we will interview and share the stories of other business owners, your peers, because I think you hear and learn from your peers differently. And instead of simply hearing the theory, hear the stories of what other people are doing. And then from there, we will build on this with more context, more conversations. Again, let me just share with you a clip from Alex Cibiri of Element Fitness.
– It’s kinda like you’re going back to university right now. You’re in a place where you’re spending more money than you’re making no matter what you do. You have all these new things that you really don’t understand and you’re figuring it out, so I was like, “How do I come out of this on the other, how does a business come out of this on the other side?” And it’s like it went through university, and now all of a sudden we’re like, “Great, we have these new capabilities.”
– This is a learner mindset. Being able to think about going back to university and working on your business is part of what we are striving for here today. And I’m hoping that you are able to use all of the ideas that you gather here to learn from them, to grow them, to have a conversation with us. All of these episodes are available on YouTube. We also are being distributed wherever podcasts are available, so be sure to subscribe, like, and share and carry on this conversation with us because we’re in it together to learn with you, to grow, to create a conversation of what does it take to grow a sticky brand. And so as a final thought, let me just simply define what is sticky branding because branding is something that I think has a bit of an identity crisis. When we look at branding, we talk about logos and taglines and colors and websites and consistency and brand stories and all this stuff. But Jeff Bezos described a brand as “What a person says about you when you’re not in the room.” So that’s the experience. And to be branding a strategy, it’s about defining what you will be. So what is sticky branding? Well, if you think of any remarkable brand, Apple, Nike, Starbucks, or maybe it’s your favorite restaurant that you visit on a regular basis, they all have that one thing in common: their customers choose them first. But it’s bigger than that. They think of them first, they refer to them first, and they come back again and again. And they do that not because they have the best product or the best price. They do that because they know the brand, they like it, and they trust it. And when your customers know you, like you and trust you, they will choose you first. And that’s what it means to have a sticky brand is that first choice advantage. But creating a first choice advantage is not simply marketing. It’s leadership. It is about creating products and services people want. It’s about innovation. And these are the stories that you’re gonna gain from this podcast. You will discover all the ideas that other people are having, including our own, of how you can take the practices, the principles, the idea to grow your business from the inside out to engage your customers, to innovate, and ultimately grow a sticky brand. I’m excited to continue this journey with you. Be sure to like and subscribe, and we will see you on our next episode.