Métier Creative: Nicole Birman, Michelle Varkonyl, Natalie Mathers and Jasmine Motala: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Stay true to who you are and what you believe in, and stand for it at every opportunity.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to Interview Nicole Birman, Michelle Varkonyl, Natalie Mathers and Jasmine Motala.

Nicole Birman, Managing Director at Métier Creative, Michelle Varkonyi Director, Client Services at Métier Creative, Natalie Mathers, Head Of Art at Métier Creative and Jasmine Motala, Associate Director, Strategy.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

NB: Interestingly, Métier is made up of women that come from different corners of the industry. Our CEO, Erin, is a serial entrepreneur and her experience building Coveteur — telling brands’ stories through the publication’s lens, led her to start Métier — so we could help brands tell stories through their lenses. My background is rooted in fashion and luxury advertising having started my career at a top NY-based fashion agency going on to cut my teeth in-house at Ralph Lauren. Members of Métier bring with them experience from the event & production world, e-comm and digital advertising, architecture and industrial design as well as more traditional advertising agency work.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

NB: There are so many agencies out there and we actually spend quite a bit of time in self-reflection and strategy-mode — especially as we near the end of the year — thinking, planning and plotting for the one to come. When we talk about what makes us different a few key themes come to mind: First and foremost, we are the consumer. We work with brands and take on projects that are relevant and interesting to us; we are the target audience… who better to answer a consumer problem than the people you’re trying to target? Second, we lead with gut and intuition. It can almost feel taboo to say that, amidst the pressure to become more data-centric, but it’s something we take a lot of pride in. Taste isn’t something that can be measured and that ‘skill’ — if you can even call it that — is inherent to how we build our team. Last but certainly not least, we take a ‘Four Seasons’ approach when it comes to our client relationships. We view each relationship as a marriage — with that comes open & candid communication, trust and honesty, and some late night FaceTimes every now and again!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

MV: Earlier this quarter, we wrapped a project with Maybelline titled Brave Together. It’s their global mental health platform that brings attention and awareness to people’s daily struggle with anxiety and depression. Métier worked with Maybelline’s Global Content team to not only create social-first assets for their platforms to educate people on what to do when faced with anxiety and depression, and specific resources but also to connect with creators all over the world to help them share their stories and experiences in a meaningful way.

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?

JM: Branding is long-term thinking that focuses on building your brand’s world (identity and reputation). Advertising is shorter-term creative that focuses on getting your products/services noticed through culturally relevant stories.

NM: To me, branding is the true, overarching story and identity of the brand. Whereas advertising is all the iterations of that story. If branding is the north star then advertising is all the little stars that surround it.

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?

JM: A brand’s value lives in the perception and power of its consumers. The most successful brands will claim their message in the minds of its audience, and those that resonate will choose you over the rest. You can then bridge perception and reputation to profit and loyalty, which is why investing in brand building is so important for overall, long-term success.

NM: Consumers are (rightfully) full of skepticism. They’ve been bamboozled by flash in the pan advertising before and now they know better. So they question everything. When you invest time into building a rock solid, clear minded brand story you make your brand more believable. The longer and more consistently you live your brand’s truths, the less doubt consumers will have about you.

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.


  1. Solve real problems and needs of your target audience.
  2. Build against goals promises you can actually deliver on.
  3. Be as clear and concise as possible.
  4. Stay true to who you are and what you believe in, and stand for it at every opportunity.
  5. Create a strong identity that can become instantly recognizable.

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?

JM: I’m impressed by brands like Nike, Hermès and Goop because they never stop pushing the boundaries and surprising. They know who they are, what they stand for and what their superpower is — and they consistently prove that every chance they get. Never fearful of upsetting someone and just doing what feels right.

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?

JM: Brand building campaigns are usually measured on community sentiment. I.e. your hero brand message getting across/adopted clearly, shifting mindsets/behaviors, positive word of mouth, social media shares & buzz, or resonating with diverse communities beyond a singular group.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

JM: Humanizing your brand and socializing your positioning into stories that resonate with the masses. Social media is one of the best ways to build, understand and get closer with your community and customers on a more personal level.

NM: Social opens up the floor for your brand’s community to speak back to you. It fosters the type of two way conversation that only social can. These conversations can go on to inform how future content and campaigns come to life, grounding them in what the brand’s community really wants from or thinks about them.

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. 🙂

NB: Mentorship has always been a central fixture for us. It’s something that Erin has always instilled — we joke that her office is basically a revolving door of youngins who are eager to embark on their own career journeys. We decided that we want to make this ‘open door policy’ — public. We’ll be launching Maison Mentors in early 2023 — a new program unlocking the wide-world of brand building within the spaces of fashion, beauty and lifestyle. As a united house, uplifting new and diverse voices has long been a part of our DNA. Now, we’re bringing together some of the industry’s best to create opportunities for participants to discover their path, build relationships and have impactful conversations that lead to new ways of thinking, dreaming and doing. Stay tuned for launch 👀👀👀

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

NB: “Harmony is the pleasing arrangement of different tones, voices or instruments, not the combination of identical sounds. Creative tension makes beautiful music.” — Adam Grant. Adam is a brilliant organizational psychologist and I follow him for daily nuggets like this one. It’s so highly relevant to what we do at Métier, both internally within our teams and externally with our clients. Some of our best work stems from healthy debate and productive disagreements. When the team or the brand is pushed to reach outside of what’s comfortable, that’s where the magic lies!

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. 🙂


How can our readers follow you on social media?

@metiercreative on Instagram

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Métier Creative: Nicole Birman, Michelle Varkonyl, Natalie Mathers and Jasmine Motala: Five Things… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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