Jerome Clark Of Vantage Branding & Communications: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Leverage third parties in building brand trust — No matter how well a brand advertises its products, brand advertising alone will not cut it in today’s multi-channel media landscape. Let’s face it, who wants hear about how great a product or service is, only from the brands perspective. Consumers want to hear from influencers, independent experts and customer reviews in order to get a holistic perspective on the brand. The more diverse and engaging a brand’s content is, the greater the success a brand will have in attracting consumers.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Jerome Clark.
Jerome Clark is a marketing executive and consultant who has spent nearly two decades building brands for some of the most notable companies in the US and abroad including L’Oreal, Elizabeth Arder/Revlon and Groupe SEB. Currently, Clark serves as the principal consultant for Vantage Branding & Communications in New York City, which advises emerging and startup brands in the strategic areas of branding, integrated marketing communications, e-Commerce, and new product development. Jerome obtained his undergraduate degree from Clark Atlanta University and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Indiana University. In his down time, he enjoys volunteering to serve his local community, working out and exploring his personal passions for art, music and travel.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My path to marketing consulting began with my last corporate role, where I was the continental lead for strategic brand marketing and integrated marketing communications. A big component of my role was also leading digital acceleration initiatives and the development of regional best practices for digital marketing across the US, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. At the beginning of the pandemic, I made the shift from corporate to an independent marketing consultant, as it has allowed much more flexibility and the opportunity to work with various businesses across multiple industries in the US.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the biggest lessons I learned when starting my career at L’Oreal, was how important it is for your product offer to be authentically aligned with your brand. I had just launched a new brand that was all about embracing your natural beauty, both inside and out, through its line of natural haircare and styling remedies. However, my first line of products was geared towards treating chemically treated hair, which was the biggest styling category at the time. This initial line of products performed okay, but it wasn’t until I launched the second line extension of products designed for natural hair that the brand found its true niche. The lesson for me was that a brand must always stay authentic in reflecting it’s positioning and values through its products, especially when launching a new brand.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes Vantage Branding & Communications stand out, is that our marketing strategies are informed by the brand first, to ensure that what we implement in the short-term can also contribute to long-term brand equity. Our approach combines branding with integrated, digital-first marketing strategy that prioritizes data driven decision making at the core.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am working on a very exciting project, that is confidential at the moment. It’s a new personal care line of products with a unique, social responsibility mission of giving back to underserved communities of color. Through the daily use of their self-care products, consumers are able to indirectly benefit the brands black and minority-owned partnerships along the product value chain and give back a portion of proceeds to non-profit organizations that are driving social-economic change within these communities. What’s most exciting and challenging about the project, is balancing the positioning of the brand so that it has broad, universal appeal despite the fact that its social impact mission is geared towards a specific target group. I expect a brand like this to do very well, given how our cultural views as a country have shifted in the last two years.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
Branding is the personification of a product or service offering that distinguishes it from other alternatives whereas, product marketing is based on tangible features and benefits, relative to price.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Building a brand is important for creating long-term value that transcends price and product features. It also fosters consumer loyalty, especially when consumers feel like they align with a brands values, beyond the functional aspects of the product itself. While general marketing or advertising efforts may lead to short-term, transactional sales, brand loyal consumers become repeat buyers and ambassadors that can be more influential than any general marketing and advertising efforts that come from the brand.
Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
- Confirm trademark, domains and social handles at the ideation phase of the branding process — This is an essential step in establishing a new brand in today’s competitive landscape. While it seems like a no-brainer, this step can be quite challenging, as you may have come up with the perfect brand name, only to find that someone has already applied or registered the name or that the domain or social handle is already owned by someone else. Having a registered or pending trademark is core requirement for protecting your brand and it’s even become a requirement for selling your products on popular platforms like Amazon.com.
- Stay consistent with the brand expression across all of your consumer touch points — Developing brand guidelines helps to ensure a consistent look and feel whether experiencing the products in a store, on-line or through social media. They also help when aligning different teams and agencies that are executing various marketing campaigns on behalf of the brand. When brands are consistent in their execution over time, they build value through the form of brand equity. That’s where brands like Nike, McDonalds or Starbucks have accumulated so much equity that they are even recognizable through their iconography and color codes, which have become subconsciously synonymous with the brand and the product. experience.
- Leverage third parties in building brand trust — No matter how well a brand advertises its products, brand advertising alone will not cut it in today’s multi-channel media landscape. Let’s face it, who wants hear about how great a product or service is, only from the brands perspective. Consumers want to hear from influencers, independent experts and customer reviews in order to get a holistic perspective on the brand. The more diverse and engaging a brand’s content is, the greater the success a brand will have in attracting consumers.
- Remain human, even in a today’s digital landscape — It’s easy to become enamored with the many digital platforms that automate, customize and track our consumers every move as they experience a brand along the consumer journey. However, as brand custodians, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we all appreciate the human touch element, which can make all the difference between a one-time purchase and a loyal, repeat consumer. Brands like American Express have mastered customer service as a core element of the branding experience with 24/7 customer service, simplified processes for transaction disputes and abundance of customer perks for members to choose from. Even the big technology companies like Google are starting to catch on, and are offering one-on-one coaching sessions by phone, to help start-up brands build their first ad campaigns. This is a practice that is not so common for the tech companies which are quick to invite you to search for an article or a video to help you resolve your own concerns.
- Stand for something bigger — What used to be a point of difference for start-up and challenger brands is now a requirement, even for legacy brands. Brands like Warby Parker, Bombas and Lemonade were designed and launched with social impact as a core tenet of their brand proposition, which is very appealing to millennials. However, given a heighted awareness to issues related to the environment and social and racial inequity, consumers are assessing a brands stance in these areas as a key factor in their purchase decision. Gone are the days of marketing to consumers based on product benefits alone, you have to appeal to their hearts, minds and values to gain their trust and brand loyalty.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
Brand building campaigns should typically be measured on a longer-time horizon and against key performance indicators like growth in branded search terms or direct (non-paid) traffic to your site. Engagement is another key metric for assessing brand campaigns to determine product market fit with a brands target consumer, which can be assessed through engagement rates for social media post likes, shares, saves video views and comments, which can shed invaluable insights on your messaging and visual appeal.
The goal of a brand building campaign should be more focused on getting in front of as many relevant eye-balls as possible, for the lowest possible costs, to ultimately acquire a first-party data point on the consumer, that can then be used to re-target that consumer with additional messages that lead to sales. Each brand’s product offering will dictate the average time it takes to go from general brand awareness to conversion, so brand building campaigns have to be strategically orchestrated in such a way that leads, like acquired e-mails, can be measured for sales conversion as a secondary step in the consumer journey.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social media has become one of the dominate platforms for brand communications and engagement, and every brand should have an organic and paid strategy for achieving their business goals. On the organic side, this could involve having a strategy for influencers, communities and community management. From a paid perspective, a strategy might include driving various marketing objectives along the consumer journey from brand awareness to customer leads, video views or site traffic along with an understanding of what you are willing to pay for achieving these objectives based on a customers average lifetime value. From my experience, Facebook has traditionally been the most sophisticated platform for paid social, but other platforms like TikTok have proven to reach consumers at up to half the cost of Facebook, albeit with less bells and whistles for planning and measuring campaign performance.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Plan for personal time, the same way you would plan for an important meeting or business project. This involves blocking out time on your calendar to do something as a simple as taking full lunch hour away from your desk, getting in a workout or even taking time to learn a new skill or hobby. What I’ve learned is that if your personal goals are not scheduled, they likely won’t get accomplished and someone else will end up taking the time for you.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Greet someone new every day with a kind word and a smile. Even a small gesture like this can make someone’s day and inspire them to do the same for someone else.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Embrace the journey and not just the final destination.” This is what helps me to appreciate even the tough experiences as opportunities for growth. The more challenging the journey, the more rewarding the end destination or goal.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
If I had to pick, I would say Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z or Nas would come to mind first.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
It’s best to reach me on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/jerome-m-clark
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Jerome Clark Of Vantage Branding & Communications: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.