UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#30 Define, Align and Activate a Killer Brand Strategy with Katie Mleziva

Independent Brand Strategist, Katie Mleziva left the corporate world after working with brands like American Girl and Kraft Foods to pursue her own entrepreneurial journey as an independent Brand Strategist working with smaller more natural food businesses and farms. She joins UMAI Social Circle podcast to chat about why brand strategy is paramount and dives into detail on her three-pronged strategy for brand success. Let’s get into it!

 

Let Us Break It Down For You…

[3:48]  Introduction
[3:49 – 7:03] Katie explains what a brand strategist is.
[7:24 – 9:12] Zoom out to redefine your overall brand strategy
[9:43 – 11:11] How to become the brand owner
[11:22 – 13:33] Traits of being a really good brand manager
[14:11 – 19:10 ] Katie’s three-pronged strategy
[20:11 – 23:11]  Use this strategy to continue building your brand!
[25:07 – 27:25] The second stage of brand strategy, align.
[27:52 – 31:08] Discovering how to activate the strategy you’ve created.
[32:30 – 34:44] Inspirational brands that stand out
[35:03 – 38:37] Closing thoughts and how you can contact Katie!

 

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#30 Define, Align and Activate a Killer Brand Strategy with Katie Mleziva


Alison Smith:[0:45]
Welcome to the Umai Social Circle, where we talk consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Allison and Karin, co-founders of Umai Marketing. And we are being joined here today with Katie Mleziva. Did I say that right?

Katie Mleziva:[1:03]
You got it.

Alison Smith:[1:04]
Okay, good, of Real Food brands. Hi, Katie. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Katie Mleziva:[1:12]
Oh, I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Alison Smith:[1:14]
We’re excited, too. So first of all, how has your week been?

Katie Mleziva:[1:19]
Good. The weather has been pretty good here in Wisconsin in the summer. We really rely on these summer months for some nice warm weather. So yeah, it’s been good, thanks.

Alison Smith:[1:30]
Oh my gosh. We are opposite end of this spectrum. Right. We, we cannot go outside right now unless you’re going straight to water. We’ve actually been having rolling blackouts to-

Katie Mleziva:[1:44]
Oh, wow.

Alison Smith:[1:45]
… preserve energy. So, yeah, a little jealous of the Wisconsin summer right now.

Katie Mleziva:[1:52]
We’ll talk in winter and then yeah.

Alison Smith:[1:54]
Right. Maybe we could like split our time between Wisconsin and Texas.

Katie Mleziva:[1:58]
There you go.

Alison Smith:[2;01]
And that would be perfect.

Alison Smith:[2:04]
Oh, man. That’s awesome. Well, first of all, we’d love to just get your background, hear from you how you got started, and where you are now.

Katie Mleziva:[2:14]
Yeah. Yeah, good. Well, I started my career at large companies, so American Girl, the doll and book and magazine company, and then Kraft Foods. And then I did a short, well, it was six years, so I guess not that short, in health insurance. And so, the interesting thing was that I saw kind of the front end of the food at the big food companies, and then sort of in some ways, the back end, what happens through the health insurance company when people aren’t taking good care of themselves.

Katie Mleziva:[2:46]
And so, all of these things along with starting to have my own family and my own health just really led me to think, “I really want to use these skills that I have to work with natural food companies.” And I specifically like smaller, more emerging natural food companies that are, I like to say, shaking up shopping carts. They are looking to do things differently.

Katie Mleziva:[3:09]
And so, I left the corporate world and went out on my own to be a Brand Strategist, Independent Brand Strategist. And so, I have a network of people such as yourselves that I collaborate with, but I’m a solopreneur, and I love working with smaller food brands and farms to really define their brand strategy, which I know that we will talk about a little bit more. But to me, it’s just a lot more than selling food. It’s about the sustainability side and the health side and the small business side, so there’s lots of reasons why I feel lucky to do what I do every day.

Karin Samelson:[3:49]
So Katie, brand strategy, you’re a Brand Strategist. That’s a term that a lot of people use, we hear so much, but it’s kind of not clear to a lot of people and sometimes to us, what exactly that means. So could you explain what brand strategy is for the regular old person who’s never heard of it?

Katie Mleziva:[4:11]
Absolutely. And I’ll start by saying that this is not just a food term. This really goes across all industries. So before I focused on food, I worked with all different kinds of businesses. And then I really said, “You know what? This is where my passion is. So I’m going to focus here.”

Katie Mleziva:[4:27]
So when we talk brand strategy, there’s a common confusion between brand strategy and a visual brand. So your visual brand is your logo and your fonts and your colors and things that are very, very important. And when a lot of designers specifically are talking about brand strategy, they’re talking more about visual brands. Some designers actually do both. They do the backend strategy work to inform the design. Some designers prefer to have you share the strategy piece, and then they do the visual brand.

Katie Mleziva:[4:59]
So there’s these two pieces to it. The visual brand is a piece of brand strategy. It’s an outcome. So then you say, “Well, okay, so what is the bigger brand strategy, as the way that I view it anyway?” It’s really almost more like your business strategy. It’s not necessarily all the details that go into the business strategy, but it’s more at that level of strategy in your business. It is the North Star that ties together everything that you do.

Katie Mleziva:[5:27]
So I like to explain it by sort of a three-step process. So we define or refine your brand strategy, and I’ll share what that includes in just a second, and then align your entire team around that or all the different areas of your business, and then activate. So a lot of people like to go right to activate, but it’s hard to activate if you don’t have these strategic inputs.

Katie Mleziva:[5:53]
So some examples of those inputs are things like, I like to just reference back to the three Cs, so your consumers, your competitors, and your company and your competitive advantages within your company and what really sets you apart. So we take those pieces and we say, “How are we going to position your brand to meet the needs of your consumers in a way that your competitors either can’t or won’t.”

Katie Mleziva:[6:21]
And in doing that, there’s a lot of work that goes into kind of doing that simple thing of positioning your brand. But in doing that, that sets the stage for aligning both the front and the back end of your business towards where you’re going, like I mentioned, a North Star, that thing that you’re working towards to continually deliver on that positioning that you’ve selected.

Katie Mleziva:[6:44]
So I know we’ll break this apart a little bit throughout the conversation, but at the highest level, that’s what it is. It’s the thing that unifies everything that you do on the front and the back end of your business, both yourself and your team, to be working towards owning that position and serving your consumers needs.

Alison Smith:[7:02]
Yeah. I love how you said that this is what you do before you get into action. So just to really define that, for people listening, this is what needs to happen before you go out and market your brand, or before you engage with a PR agency. Or maybe if you are already doing that, it’s time to step back and redefine the overall brand strategy. Is that right?

Katie Mleziva:[7:31]
Yeah, absolutely. So, a lot of partners can get this information out of you, but I kind of say, “Why not come to the table with the basic information, at least, and then the partners can ask questions and help you dig in further and refine it.” And then, I guess the point is, let them do the work and focus their energy and the time and your budget on the things that they do best, and come to the table with some of these foundational pieces, so that then they can help bring it to life versus trying to slog through it with you drawing it out of you when you haven’t set aside the time to think about it prior to engaging with someone like yourselves or web designers or packaging designers or any of the partners.

Katie Mleziva:[8:15]
And I’ve heard multiple times people say, “I know I really need to work on my brand strategy as my brand grows, but I’m going to do it after my website redesign.” And I get it. As much as I understand my ideal world is not always the world, you have to know who you’re talking to and how your brand is differentiated, and the high level messaging as well as the support points. What kind of photography are you going to be using?

Katie Mleziva:[8:45]
So again, that visual brand does play into it, but even things at the bigger picture, when you’re developing your product formula, what are those guide rails that you’re going to follow from the beginning or reformulate a product recipe? So it really does guide everything. Whether you’re doing this and wearing all the hats or you’ve got a cross-functional team, it really guides everything that everyone does.

Alison Smith:[9:13]
Yeah. I’ll just say, Katie and I had a chance to talk before this call and, Karin and I, being in the service industry, we see this all the time with clients or our course members, where they outsource all these different endeavors, and all these outsourced teams are a little bit confused. They have a different idea of what they need to be doing or how they need to be doing it. And it’s really you, the brand owner, that has to have that solidified and unify all your teams. Otherwise, you’re not going to get what you want and you might end up wasting time or spending money, things like that.

Katie Mleziva:[9:58]
Absolutely.

Alison Smith:[9:59]
Yeah.

Katie Mleziva:[10:00]
Yeah, absolutely. I like to think of it as a hub and a spoke. So typically, with the size brands that I work with, they don’t have a specific brand manager, sometimes, but not always. So often then, the owner of the business is still serving as that central point, that is working with all the different team members. And so, one of the hats that they need to wear is that brand manager hat, thinking about everything working together and the filter of when you have a documented brand strategy that everyone is briefed on and then working against, and then you can use that filter when you’re reviewing creative or recipes or partners or anything. It just really helps everyone get on the same page.

Katie Mleziva:[10:46]
And there’s obviously a lot of emotion when you’re reviewing, let’s say marketing execution, but this helps keep people in their logical brain as well, or at least have the conversation, “I hear you on this. Also, this is where we said we wanted to take it. So this is why we went this route.” And at least it helps you tee up the conversation if somebody is kind of taking a different route than everyone had agreed on.

Karin Samelson:[11:11]
Yeah. So you just mentioned that if you don’t have a brand manager on your staff, you kind of have to be that brand manager, as the owner of your business. So what are some personality traits, what are some traits that make a really, really good brand manager, so that our founders can listen and be like, “Okay. I don’t have any of those. I might need to outsource this.”

Katie Mleziva:[11:34]
That’s a really, really good question. So brand managers really, they are the Jack or Jill of all trades, where in larger companies, you own the P&L and you’re working with financial folks. You’re working with the packaging designers. You’re working with the operations team. Literally all the areas of the business, the buck stops with you. So being able to multitask, being able to rely on experts, other people who are giving you information. And you need to be able to process that and ask good questions, even though you know that you are not the expert in all those areas. So I guess selecting people and then trusting them to be your guides, that’s a piece.

Katie Mleziva:[12:23]
There is that mix of art and science, where there’s the quantitative side, so you have to be really great with the numbers, but then you also have to be able to think about the market research results and how that would, for example, play into creative design and marketing plans and things like that. So it really takes a lot of different sides of your brain. And at larger companies, that’s often how it works, ownership of the P&L and running cross-functional teams.

Katie Mleziva:[12:54]
For smaller companies, sometimes the brand manager is more the one that is specifically keeping all of the marketing pieces on track to be cohesive and consistent. So I’ve seen it both ways. So in that case, it’s more of someone who is a good project manager, somebody who has big picture thinking, but can also really get into the details and proofread copy and make sure that you’re using this word over here and you want to use it consistently, and are you using it consistently throughout everything you do? So somebody who can bridge that big picture and really detail-level thinking. Does that help?

Karin Samelson:[13:31]
That’s awesome.

Katie Mleziva:[13:32]
Okay.

Karin Samelson:[13:33]
Yeah. That’s super helpful. Because I always think when one of our brands is hiring a brand manager, in past lives with other companies, I’m like, “What all is that person doing?” So that really is very helpful.

Katie Mleziva:[13:46]
Good. I loved that role, because you kind of have your hands in a lot of stuff. So I would say curiosity, too, always wanting to learn and be interested in what’s going on is a good trait too, because you guys know, there’s always a lot going on in businesses.

Karin Samelson:[14:04]
Yeah, for sure. Sounds like a fun job. Sounds like real exciting, never boring. So you do talk about, so you have your define and refine, align, and activate. That’s your three-pronged strategy, right?

Katie Mleziva:[14:24]
Yes. Yeah.

Karin Samelson:[14:25]
So, what are some of the benefits of that define and refine, of really documenting that brand strategy?

Katie Mleziva:[14:32]
Yeah. Okay, good. So, I mentioned some of the inputs that we look at, consumers and competitors and your own company’s advantages. There’s a little bit more that goes into it obviously, but those are what I see as the inputs. And then, the outputs of that process are things like your brand pillars. I’ll come back to each of these, but brand pillars and personality and positioning and your brand essence. So by pillars, what I mean is that as you’re going through all of this, one of the first things that we’re doing, so most of this is internal strategy at this point. Sometimes it will spark ideas that teams will take and run with. But we’re really, I like to say write first for internal, because if you’re writing right away for external, the pressure is just so high to try to wordsmith. So right now we’re just trying to get all the ideas down.

Katie Mleziva:[15:25]
So we’ve got our inputs: consumer, competitor, and company. Then we look at the pillars. So we say, “Okay. What are the three main legs that this brand stands on? So if I just had a couple minutes to tell you about a brand, what would I say are the three most important things?” Part of the brand strategy process is a benefit ladder, where we tease apart the most functional attributes of a brand, and ladder that up to the more emotional benefits.

Katie Mleziva:[15:52]
And so, often that is one of the key pieces that feeds into the pillars. The pillars often have something about the product attributes that’s really core to the brand. But then we don’t want to just stop at product attributes. We want to make sure that we’re also having something be central to the brand that is a more emotional connection with people.

Katie Mleziva:[16:12]
So the brand pillars are really something that’s sort of an internal guide, but it also then once you say, “Okay, these are the three things that my brand is all about,” then it helps you with messaging to say, “Okay, and here’s the 20 other things that I would say about each of those.” And it sparks ideas for people like yourselves, where you then know how to create strategies around bringing that to life. But the brand can bring to the table, “I know my brand and here’s the things that we stand for.” So that’s the pillars.

Katie Mleziva:[16:44]
Then there’s the personality. So I like to say, if your brand was a person at a cocktail party, how would you introduce them? And so, we use characteristics that can help again, creative teams, especially bring that brand to life visually and in copywriting.

Katie Mleziva:[17:01]
And then, the positioning is a statement that you get really succinct. So I like to think of this as kind of a funnel. You’ve got all your inputs at the top, and then we whittle down and we really are wordsmithing until we can be really concise in terms of that positioning statement, that puts into words that idea that I was saying, of how are you going to meet your consumer’s needs in the way that your competitors can’t or won’t?

Katie Mleziva:[17:27]
And then, one of the last two things is the essence. So if you just had a word or maybe two, to boil everything down to that was the core of your brand that you wanted to permeate throughout everything that you do, what would that be? And that really helps people. We put this all on a one-pager and they keep it on their desk. And sometimes, they refer to the whole 30+ pages if they want the more detail, but this one-pager really helps people have a reference point to go back to. But that essence is something that really sticks with them. It elicits a feeling as you think about that word, and that’s what you want to make sure is that thread that runs throughout everything that you do.

Katie Mleziva:[18:10]
And then the last piece is the brand story of the definition phase. So I am not a copywriter, but as part of my process, whether it’s the online program or working-one on-one, we do have a story statement. So that is the kind of thing where it’s a paragraph. It’s high level, but it gives a partner that’s going to work on the activation a sense of, “Here’s where we’re going with this story of the brand.”

Katie Mleziva:[18:37]
So, just one more quick thing there. I like to say that the brand story is… There’s a difference between history and a brand story. Brand history is a good place to start, but it’s the past, and a brand story is where you’re going and inviting people into. So that’s sort of that jumping off point where I end the formal define, refine phase of the work. And then we start to say, “Okay. Well now how can we make this show up in everything that you do within the business and across all of the different players?”

Alison Smith:[19:10]
I really love, I think, it was a part of the pillars, where you moved from functional to emotional. Is that right?

Katie Mleziva:[19:18]
Yeah. It was as a lead in to the pillars is the benefit ladder.

Alison Smith:[19:23]
The benefit ladder.

Katie Mleziva:[19:23]
Yeah.

Alison Smith:[19:24]
So love the benefit ladder, moving from functional to emotional. I feel like that’s a step that a lot of brands may miss, and just talk about the functional aspects of their business. But to really attract and create a community and followers and people who love your brand, there has to be an emotional reason for them to want to purchase from you, to put it quite plainly. So I just think that’s such an important step, that if you haven’t thought of that as a business owner or a brand marketer, then absolutely, get to writing on paper wherever you take your notes and start thinking in that way. So you just mentioned all the work that needs to be done before the action. So tell us more about how food business owners use all of this strategy on an ongoing basis to continue to build their brands.

Katie Mleziva:[20:29]
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mentioned that once you have this documented, the benefit is that it takes a lot of things that are in your head or like Karin, I think it was you that mentioned that different team members may be thinking different things. But it puts it in a documented place where everyone can reference it. So, as I mentioned, a lot of people will put up this one-pager in a desk or in a little plastic sleeve, or somewhere where it’s really readily available, so that literally, as you’re making any decisions throughout the day, at some point it becomes secondhand, but they reference it to say, “Okay, how did we say that? Or how did we want to say this? Or does this new opportunity align with what we said was our main focus?”

Katie Mleziva:[21:15]
So they use it as sort of a litmus test. And I’ll get a little bit more specific, but that’s at a really high level. It serves as this foundation of something that helps make decisions, because as you guys know, there’s no end of opportunities when you’re thinking about marketing plans or partners. There’s so many ways that brands could go, but this helps you make sure that you’re talking to the right people at the right time and partnering with the right, whether it’s brands or vendors, they can help you get there. And so, that’s one of the biggest ways that people use this literally every day as a decision-making tool and kind of test to bump things up against.

Katie Mleziva:[21:57]
The other piece though, is at a more specific level, thinking about making sure that the creative, just as one example, is consistent and cohesive and all telling the same story and moving people through the purchase process. So that’s where your expertise comes in as well, to make sure that that’s happening. And once you know the brand strategy, to help your partners deliver on it. But without having a partner like you necessarily, people are sort of left to their own devices sometimes, or having multiple team members working on it. And so, this allows people to make sure that they have consistency.

Katie Mleziva:[22:39]
And I know that sometimes people say consistent is boring, but consistent does not have to be boring. It’s just making sure that… You can switch it up and surprise and delight people. It’s making sure though, that you are on strategy and on message, and it looks and feels and sounds like the same brand every time, so that you become recognizable and give people the words to be able to tell their friends and get excited about it. So you’re actually doing people a disservice when you’re trying to change things up too much. And so, this serves as sort of the guardrails to be able to do that.

Karin Samelson:[23:14]
That’s so important. We can think of so many brands that we have worked with, where it’s just like, we’re doing that here and this there, and how does that match this? It’s pretty wild how that can happen so quickly too, because it’s an on and off switch. It’s just like you think that everything’s going one way, and it turns out that all these things looked really jumbled and just pieced together, and they don’t really fit in this perfect puzzle anymore.

Katie Mleziva:[23:49]
Yeah. Yeah. And I like to say that, “One plus one equals three.” So when people are allowing you to do your thing and have it be cohesive and all work together, it’s going to be so much stronger than trying to just piece it together. Now, I know that sometimes things change over time, but you make a decision and say, “Okay, we’re going to change something” and sometimes it takes a little while to roll things out. But that’s different. That’s intentional. What you’re talking about is, it’s not that someone’s not a smart person, it’s just that sometimes with brands, people get an idea or someone else on the team gets an idea, and unless you’ve got this processor or again, kind of test to bump it up against, you’re right. It happens quickly. People make decisions just to get it out the door, and then it’s not all working together as well as it could be for the brand.

Karin Samelson:[24:42]
Yeah, totally. And on the note of happening quickly, growth happens quickly sometimes. And so, when you start hiring people and you start hiring agencies to help or internal employees to help, if it’s not aligned, then you’ll be moving backwards, so love that.

Katie Mleziva:[24:58]
So true.

Karin Samelson:[25:00]
Okay. So we talked about define and refine, and we’ve talked a little bit about the align, but how does the second stage of aligning, using your North Star that you mentioned, how does this impact the business externally?

Katie Mleziva:[25:20]
Yes. Okay. So that’s a really good point. So there’s the internal impact of the team being aligned, but then the external impact is sort of like we were mentioning, that the consumer is seeing a consistent brand. They know what to expect. You can still surprise and delight them with fun, creative, or fun, new flavors, or showing up in places, distribution channels that they wouldn’t expect, but it’s still always strategic and on brand. So the consumer starts to really get to know what to expect from you and what to trust, that your products and your brand delivers. So that is one of the biggest things, is that internally you’re aligned, but then externally people know what to expect and how to talk about the brand.

Katie Mleziva:[26:04]
So I was mentioning word-of-mouth. If we are consistent, and people know how to talk about the brand and what those highlights are, you get sick of talking about the same things over and over as a brand leader, but people need to hear it so many times because we all get hit with so many messages in a day. So when you’re consistent, then people start playing those messages back to you, maybe in comments, but then you know that, “Okay, this is good. They’re using my words. And then they know how to go describe it to somebody else as well.” So we’re listening to use their words, because we want to talk in their language, but then it’s really cool also when we hear them playing back what we’re trying to get across too, of what the benefits of the brand are, because it feels like they’re really starting to get it and excited to share with other people then.

Alison Smith:[26:54]
I love that you hit on that again, because that really resonated with me when you said you’re giving people the words to talk about your brand. That is so cool and such a goal of any brand, to have that word-of-mouth marketing and to hit it really hard, that people know exactly how to talk and share your brand in a delightful way and the way you want them to share it. So that’s really powerful.

Katie Mleziva:[27:26]
Yes. It is.

Alison Smith:[27:27]
Okay. So we talked define, refine. We talked align. We talked a bit about activate, so using all the work you’ve done on a daily basis until it’s ingrained in your head, and also sharing with any of your marketing partners during that onboarding process, and making sure that they know that they need to follow these guidelines. So anything else with activate, in terms of using all this work that you’ve just done?

Katie Mleziva:[28:01]
Yes. I’m glad you asked. There is one thing I want to mention, is that it is a little daunting sometimes to do this work, whether you’re just starting up and setting a strong foundation, or you’re looking to scale and realizing that you need a little refinement before you can really take off. And so, once you get through the defining or refining, that seems like the hard part. And it is a lot of work, but as you can see, the efficiency and cohesiveness, it really pays out.

Katie Mleziva:[28:30]
But the thing that can feel overwhelming then is that where do you start? You’ve got everything then that you want to go and change. And we know that it’s impossible to change everything all at once. So what I like to suggest is to list out all the different areas of your business that this would impact. So this starts to happen in the align phase, where you listed out at like a 10,000 level of all the people who need to be educated or have this shared with them. So you’re not starting totally from scratch.

Katie Mleziva:[28:57]
But you look at that list, and then you kind of break it down further and say, “Okay. Website, social media, posts, emails, a lot of the things that you work on, but also then thinking about ingredient labels or packaging designer.” You start to really think about all the different tactical things in the business and say… I like to have a chart, just because I love frameworks. I think it helps streamline complex topics. And so, if you labeled the chart high impact and low impact, and then high effort and low effort, and you plot out these tactical things, you can see which ones are high impact, high effort, and which ones are high impact, low effort.

Katie Mleziva:[29:44]
So starting with the high impact, low effort are the things that are usually the best place to start. So maybe it’s a website where you can’t… It’s a lot of effort to redo the entire website, but maybe you can start to sprinkle in photos and copy that support the new brand. Or maybe it’s even just changing a couple of headlines or the about us page. There’s some things that you can do that are sort of quick and easy that can help align faster. Or maybe you can start to influence the social media posts or emails, so all the things that you all are working on. And just thinking about, “How can we do those first?”

Katie Mleziva:[30:18]
Now, maybe a whole new website redesign, or a complete product reformulation or a new product that you want to launch, those kind of things might be further down the road, so you plot those in a different box. But we really want to focus on those low effort, high impact opportunities.

Katie Mleziva:[30:38]
But then it’s nice because you’ve got them all listed out. You can kind of let go of the ones that you see are high impact and low effort, because you’re like, “You know what? I may get to that, I may not. But it’s a lot of effort and it’s not going to be a really big impact on my brand. So I have other places to focus.” And it’s really nice, because it kind of releases the pressure of having to do everything, because at least you’ve got it captured there and you can work your way around the box. So hopefully that’s helpful in case anyone starts to feel overwhelmed once they do their brand strategy work.

Alison Smith:[31:09]
That is in incredibly helpful.

Katie Mleziva:[31:12]
Good.

Alison Smith:[31:14]
We are big on really trying to defeat overwhelm, just like you said, because this food and beverage business, there’s so many elements to it. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed thinking about your brand strategy, especially if you’ve been around for a bit and you haven’t done this work yet, I can see how that can be extremely overwhelming. So I really like how you laid that out and just work smarter instead of just trying to overhaul everything.

Katie Mleziva:[31:50]
Totally. Well, a lot of times I think founders… Well, what I was going to say is I think sometimes they just kind of think that the team has the same vision in their head, and it’s not intentional. They’re brilliant, but not everyone can just know all those brilliant thoughts. So that’s one reason why documenting and getting it out and yeah, having everyone on the same page, it can be such a relief for both the founder who is taking those thoughts out of their head and synthesizing them, but then also the team who doesn’t have to guess and try to draw it out.

Karin Samelson:[32:22]
So one last question for me, and this comes from us always using other brands as inspiration. We love looking at brands that are doing it right, to kind of help us, give us ideas and help us navigate some things. And something that you said earlier really resonated, where you said you want to give, and we’ve said it many times after, we want to give our audience words to describe our brand. And so, the first brand that comes to my mind is Omsom. They say the same words over. They’re a proud and loud Asian ingredient, product that wants to have bold flavors. I’m literally saying the words that they say all of the time. So what are other brands that you see that just kill their brand positioning?

Katie Mleziva:[33:19]
Yeah. One that comes to mind, and I don’t work with them, but I just have loved it, is Recess, the drink Recess, because I can rattle off several things. The positioning is so clear in terms of kind of taking a break or having a recess. And I think it’s an antidote to modern times, is one of the things that they say on the website and on the can. And then the other one, oh, I think on the website, it is, that we all have too many tabs open in our brain. So they set up so perfectly the idea that we are busy and we need to just… It’s not that we necessarily deserve it or should do it, it’s like, we need this. You need to take a step back and just let yourself breathe and reconnect, reboot maybe, they should say, if they’re talking about the technology stuff.

Katie Mleziva:[34:15]
So their visual brand also is very different. When you see the website, it’s not a traditional look. And at first I wasn’t sure what to think, but then I was like, “You know what? They own it, and they’re consistent across everything that they do.” And so, I think that’s one where the product and the packaging and the website and the social, to me, everything really aligns very well. Omsom is a great example too, though.

Karin Samelson:[34:43]
Yeah. Love that. Recess is fun. And I love… You can get exciting with all that technology, like, “Have you tried unplugging and plugging yourself back in?”

Katie Mleziva:[34:52]
Yeah.

Karin Samelson:[34:54]
Yeah. There’s just so many things you could do with that, which is really fun.

Katie Mleziva:[34:56]
They need you. Yeah.

Karin Samelson:[34:57]
I like that. Yeah. You can hire us, Recess. Don’t worry. Awesome, Katie.

Katie Mleziva:[35:04]
Yeah. This has been fun.

Alison Smith: [35:08]
Yeah, absolutely. Well, we just want to sum it up with, we’ve kind of talked about the benefits of getting your brand strategy down pat. Can you just tell us, everyone probably wants to know in just a concise way, what actually does a well thought-out brand strategy do to the bottom line? How does it increase your overall ROI? Why is it so important?

Katie Mleziva:[35:37]
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think the easiest way to say it is that there are no guarantees. We’re always testing and learning and optimizing, but if you have an hour to spend or a dollar to spend, and you know who you’re going to talk to and what messages resonate with them because you’ve tested and learned over time, and you know how to engage with them and what messages to tell them. So basically, you’ve worked your way into knowing what works. And so, you might not have known the day one, but you went in with an assumption versus just a guess and throwing things at the wall. You went in with a hypothesis and it’s testing and learning. And so, it makes that dollar and that hour so much more efficient because you are focused and you can optimize from there. So there’s not a specific salary amount or percentage or something that I can give, but it is all about focus and consistency and having everyone on the same page.

Katie Mleziva:[35:35]
So just quickly, I guess, the one other thing that’s hard to quantify is the team morale. Having people know what they’re rallying behind and getting really excited about being a part of something, that’s really hard to quantify, too. But the productivity and sort of advocacy that they’ll provide for the brand too, because they know where they’re going and what role they play, that is something that is… I think it does in impact the bottom line, but it’s really hard to say exactly how.

Karin Samelson:[37:05]
Oh man, that’s such a good one. That’s the last thing I thought you were going to say, but right when you said it was just like, “Oh my gosh, that’s so unbelievably true.”

Katie Mleziva:[37:16]
Yeah.

Karin Samelson:[37:18]
Wow. Yeah. I can remember past lives, a company that did that and we knew what the mission was and we knew what we were doing there, and the passion that you had for it was so palpable. And the exact opposite with a different brand that was kind of just a little lackluster on “What are we doing here?” So team rally, that’s a good note.

Katie Mleziva:[37:39]
That’s good.

Karin Samelson: [37:39]
Well, Katie, thank you so much for joining us. You have dropped a million nuggets of wisdom. If somebody wants to keep learning from you or get in contact with you, how can they reach you?

Katie Mleziva:[37:50]
Yeah. Well, I think you mentioned linking to my website, so realfoodbrands.com is the place where you can connect to me through social media, get podcast episodes, and I’ll just call it that you can get a free Brand Checkup Scorecard there. So there’s 25 questions where people can give themselves an honest assessment of one, two, or three. And nobody needs to see it. You can share it with me if you want to. But it’s really just a way to help you go through some of the subsections of the things we’ve talked about today to say, “How am I doing? And where am I doing great and where can I improve?”

Karin Samelson:[38:23]
Thanks. And we will link to all of your social, your email, your website. And Katie also has a podcast and we can link to that as well.

Katie Mleziva:[38:32]
Yeah. Perfect. Thank you so much.

Karin Samelson:[38:35]
Awesome. Thanks, Katie.

Alison Smith:[38:35]
Thank you, Katie.

Katie Mleziva:[38:36]
Good. Thank you.

UMAI Social Circle is a CPG, agency-driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind-the-scene insights, chats with industry leaders, and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram @umaimarketing, or check out our website, umaimarketing.com. Catch you back here soon

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