Invest in content creators. These are your graphic designers, web developers, content writers, photographers, videographers, musicians and producers, anyone with the ability to breathe life into a vision. We cannot drop the ball on this. Content creation conveys visual communication. Investing in a creative team means you have tools that paint a picture of building trust. No matter if your company admits how great they are at what they do, you have to showcase it. What better way to do so than visuals. At Tag It Brand It, we can assist in that department. We know that there is power in what we see. First impressions are lasting impressions, so let’s get it right the first time.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Tre’elle Tolbert.
Tre’elle is the founder of Tag It Brand It, a digital marketing and branding company. She is also a United States Navy Veteran, who has served seven years as an Interior Communications Electrician Second Class. After serving, she went on to college to receive her Bachelors in Science in Psychology, from Regent University and her Masters of Science in Digital Audience Strategies from Arizona State University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me. Wow, where do I begin? I was always a person who loved all things creative. I was the kid that grew up as an introvert. I would lock myself in my room to write in my journal lyrics or poetry. I’d play my instruments, and draw from time to time. It was a hobby of mine that turned into a passion. I remember enrolling in my final course to complete my bachelors degree, when I reached out to a mentor of mine to help me with my next endeavor. Originally, I wanted to become a clinical counselor with the idea that I’d help teenage children. When I spoke with my mentor, she highlighted that I expressed more love about music and graphics than I did following my counseling career path. My mentor suggested other majors and colleges for me to consider. I found one that offered everything I’d need to make my hobby come to life. That was my lightbulb moment. That was the fire I needed to connect the dots to becoming Tag It Brand It.
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 funniest marketing mistakes I’ve made was ordering my first set of business cards. I was focused on designing something that was pleasing to the eye and represented my brand well. Well, I bought a lot of premium business cards. You know the ones that shine and have a bit of texture, on trifecta paper. It was nice and thick. I received them and began dishing them out. Well, I started receiving DMs on Instagram of potential leads who we’re giving me a call but were unable to get in touch with me. It’s because I printed the wrong phone number on my card. I was off by one digit. Needless to say, I had to reorder them.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes my company stand out is that we are a one-stop shop to branding with the grace to extract vision from thought to reality. Marketing is the cherry on top. When I present my clients with their products, their responses mean the world to me. Just recently, I was working directly with the founder and CEO of an organization for branding and marketing services. The CEO and I really hit it off well during our consultation. It was filled with great ideas that reached for the stars and ambitious. He was very abstract and didn’t want anything normal but he’d rather have art that becomes a conversation piece.
When I presented the logo, He was blown away! He said he didn’t think I could top that because it was perfect. This is music to my ears. He was in tears and so was I. When I presented the video promo, he told me that he watched it over and over for hours. I’m two for two. When I revealed to him his organization website, I never felt an emotion like that before. He was extremely pleased and excited. It was so good, the CEOs wife reached out to me and told me her husband’s response to it all. That’s what makes Tag It Brand It stand out. We are invested to make our clients succeed. If they win, so do we. We care. We care about the product, where it’s going, who’s going to see it, because it all matters. We get the opportunity to be a part of someone else’s narrative.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently working on a project for a non-profit organization “DSMD INC”. Don’t Shoot My Dad (DSMD) is on a mission to break the stigma that all black and brown men are immediately viewed as a threat to life in most confrontations, altercations, and interactions with law enforcement and the general public. They provide a forum for the black community to spread awareness of the importance of black dads in America, and why they shouldn’t be continuously devalued. This project will help raise awareness to a powerful movement that gives back to the community by supporting and educating minority entrepreneurs and can help change lives.
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?
One of the biggest differences I find between brand marketing and product marketing is that brand marketing markets the brand story, while the product is simply a tool that helps tell the story. The brand story can be found in the brand’s mission that explains its very existence. In that story, everything matters, colors, typography, packaging, tone, but most importantly, the users perspective of it all. When we focus on branding, I consider a well known company like Nike.
Nike mission is “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Their entire brand marketing is simple with a check and a slogan, “Just Do It.” When Nike markets their brand, they do it by telling a story. You will find purpose in articles that will inspire the everyday human to get out and get active. Oh yeah, they happen to sell products such as shoes, athletic apparel, and equipment.
When we see a Nike product, we associate it with their story. When we make a purchase with Nike, we are saying yes to the story, we are saying yes, that we believe in the product, we believe in the brand, and we can associate ourselves with that story.
We don’t buy products, we buy stories and emotions. That’s what a product does. When marketing a product, we market the story, and the product is the main character. This is why you will find products for Nike on athletes of different ages, shapes, color, sex, and nationality, which showcase their diversity in sports.
Think about it. When you purchase food from your favorite restaurant, you are purchasing the product but also the experience it releases when you eat. You are purchasing the satisfaction that caters to your taste buds. When you are purchasing a product, you are purchasing a page in the story of the brand’s vision.
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
I say this all the time, you can have a great product but a terrible user experience. The product is only half the work, but the presentation is equally as important. I’ve been in business for a couple of years now, and over time, I learned that many great visionaries do not have a branding plan. I’ve seen products without a plan or a plan without a certain concept. My job now takes on the responsibility to take what is given and create a story.
Once again, branding is storytelling. It is the Christmas spirit vs the gift that one receives. Think about it, the gift is the cherry on top of a successful Christmas story. However, Christmas carols gives us all an audible connection to the season. Decorations such as trees and ornaments cater to our sight. Eggnog and desserts cater to our taste. The colors of red, white, and green are the color pallets for Christmas, and the list goes on. This is all the key to branding. I expressed in that example brand colors and emotions, which are experienced through our senses.
Investing resources and energy into building a brand is what will separate you from any other in your arena. There are many people who offer the same exact services, the difference is the branding experience. In my very first webinar, I express to my viewers that your users define the brand. So, you are investing to cater to the clients and customers you are hoping to receive.
Now, we step into marketing. Marketing allows us to get the right product, in front of the right audience, at the right time. I learned that in a Google Ad course. Branding is a great investment, but once you have something that is beautiful and ready for the world to see, we have to ask ourselves, who would want to see it? This is when we dive into your target market. This is when we play on our demographics and psychographics. This is when we go back to our story and asks who would be touched and moved by it. This is when you think about how your product is priced and ask who can afford it. This is what marketing does. It helps us ask the right questions, so that we can deliver the right message (product) in front of the right user.
Marketing is the spreading or the expanding of your brand message. My motto for Tag It Brand It is to “Plant, Create, and Expand.” That mottos sums planning, branding, and marketing. We plant the ideas of our clients, we hear their stories and passions. We then create an image and experience through content creations such as logos, flyers, websites, ect. Once we have this beautiful product and the appropriate channels, we then take marketing using ads, SEOs, keywords, and other strategies to deliver the right gift to the right chimney.
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.
5 strategies a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand is to first, remember the why. Why does this brand exist? You have to ask yourself these questions, or make sure your team knows the why. The why is the fire needed to keep the fire hot. Want to translate that energy to a source like our brand so that it can be felt. We want to establish a brand that answers some questions or be the solution for what users need or are searching for, and that fire will be the light and guide to capture leads.
2. Share your knowledge and expertise with your audience. This can be done through content such as infographics, free courses, webinars, training, how-tos, guides, blogs, events etc. You want to let the people know that your brand knows what it is talking about. If your brand has a product, then it can showcase how the product works. I think of those infomercials I watched growing up as a kid. I remember one brand in particular, “Oxy-clean” and the spokesman Billy Mays. I remember there would be spills of red wine on a sample carpet, and that one squeeze from a bottle would clean up the stain right away. It made me believe that it was a trusted brand.
Give the people an inside scoop. You don’t have to tell everything. Just enough to get some type of call to action. That could be a subscription, subscriber, follower, customer, or an advocate.
3. Listen to your audience. Remember that people are just that, people who have feelings and emotions. We are not robots, so I believe that brands should engage with their users/audience if they can. Ask questions, read comments, do surveys, get creative. You would want to make sure that your users are happy and satisfied because they’re the ones who define your brand.
4. As a brand you should also research. Trends change all the time and market research will help gather information about consumers needs and preferences, and will allow your company to do strategic planning to present a new product or service. This is listening beyond your audience but listening to potential customers in the world.
5. Invest in content creators. These are your graphic designers, web developers, content writers, photographers, videographers, musicians and producers, anyone with the ability to breathe life into a vision. We cannot drop the ball on this. Content creation conveys visual communication. Investing in a creative team means you have tools that paint a picture of building trust. No matter if your company admits how great they are at what they do, you have to showcase it. What better way to do so than visuals. At Tag It Brand It, we can assist in that department. We know that there is power in what we see. First impressions are lasting impressions, so let’s get it right the first time.
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?
A company that impresses me when it comes to a believable and beloved brand is Hippeas Snacks. It’s an organic chickpea snack and apparently they’re totally delicious. I say apparently because I’ve never had them but I believe they’re delicious because of what I see on Instagram. I began following Hippeas in grad school when I was looking for a brand to analyze. Hippeas was one brand that has a beautiful Instagram account that pops. It’s clean, bright, their content is above and beyond. It tells a story. Hippeas places their logo and brand color, on everything. Even if it has nothing to do with a snack, their logo, brand colors, or the positive vibes are felt.
Right now they have about 78k followers, but when I scroll through, I see the magic of Hippeas playing on models who are hippy”ish”. That’s a play on words. You’ll see this puff Cheetos looking snack, next to organic food which shows that they can compete with the same nutrients as plants and such. But you’ll get a random photo of nail polish that has the same brand colors of their snack bags and it works somehow.
This is a brand that makes me happy when I view it. It makes me want to buy it if I ever see it on the shelf of a grocery store. Oh, and did I mention that their logo has a smile on it. It’s brilliant!
One can replicate that by marketing outside the box. It’s risky but it is a risk that pays off when you properly tell a brand story. Hippeas maintains brand consistency. Their colors, font, images, lighting, captions, all read Hippeas. Other companies should take note, you can stick your logo on anything, but like Hippeas snacks does, we must tell the story, even if it causes tension to trends.
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?
A sale is the conversions that companies want and can be measured at the completion of checkout in store and online. However, when you are building a brand, there are measurements that you can take that measure everything else in between the conversion. These measurements can be in the form of likes, loves, reposts, comments, on a particular post, video, or content. This is especially true for social media marketing, and why it is important to understand your audience’s insights. We can measure the reach, engagement, calculate the engagement rate, and observe how long videos were viewed. We can analyze website page visits and the list goes on. When you think about measuring a campaign, this gives us the steps your audience are taking to get to call to action.
If you are measuring your brand success on a website, you have tools such as Google Analytics that will help you break down your audience’s behavior. It will tell you the who, what, when, where of a user, without giving you personal information, just behaviors. If I view that many people land on my website, make it to my shop page, but my bounce rate is high, it will allow me to go back to see why that is. You may find that there is no checkout button, or there is a related item that pops up that makes people leave and so on.
You could measure your campaigns by using a campaign tracking tool for custom URLs that will measure your campaign’s source, medium, name, term, and content.
A successful brand building campaign can lead to a successful conversion in sales.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social media is literally another ecosystem to engage with your audience and find new opportunities to gain new followers, friends, and even clients. I use social media to create a great first impression of what my clients will see when they visit my website. I use Instagram as a portfolio and a place where I can insert tips to be seen as a trusted brand. On Facebook, I highlight my clients and what moves they are making. This gives me different content to post on different outlets. Once again, first impressions are lasting impressions. If you make a great impression on social media, you may get that click to get to the next stage of the funnel.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
I would tell marketers and other business leaders to prioritize rest. Rest is so important to recalibrate and regroup and I know this is easier said than done. Rest allows you to have a clear mind to make clear decisions. I also believe that you need to have a creative way to express your frustrations. I tend to workout, play musical instruments, or surround myself around people who I love dearly, like my family. If you are fortunate enough to have a team, mentors, or a group that you are a part of, use them and don’t be afraid to ask for help. My company is just me for now, I’m still developing and growing, and can say that I’ve experienced burnout. I’d want to give up many times because I was unable to find the balance between work and school. I was tired and couldn’t do everything. So, I had to find other ways to unplug and recharge. Lastly, ask for help.
Having a community of creatives and fellow marketers and mentors allow me to be surrounded by wise counsel that will hold me accountable. Be honest with yourself, listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to rest or ask for help.
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. 🙂
I could literally spend the rest of my life expressing to others why it is important to capture your vision and find your purpose in the world. I would host events, conferences, classes, and bring a team of other professionals to help me reach my target to spark a fire in children, especially in high school who are thinking about going into business for him or herself. I believe we need more small business owners, entrepreneurs, and innovators and a team of high school students can really change the trajectory of the way we see our future leaders of America. So, I would start a movement that gets people to look deep within themselves by asking the right questions. Questions like what is something that you find yourself going back to over and over again.
I think of myself. All that I offer on Tag It Brand It, is literally all that I am. I wanted to ignore it as a child because my influencers such as school teachers would tell me that being an artist isn’t the best way to go when you are smart. Others saw in me their vision, and I had my own. I left high school to join the military because I had too many people who saw what was best for me and my future. Yet everything in my path led me right back to what I have always loved. Music, art, and serving people. If you can help a child find their voice and passion, and teach them the opportunities they can have when they take a chance on themselves, man oh man! We’ll really see a shift in the way we do things.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Mind your business, Mind your brand.” I came up with this quote when I was struggling with my company. I knew I had something special to offer but I wasn’t sure how it could be packaged. It was hard to find where I would fit in in this market. I didn’t know how to make a pricelist and determine my worth. I was told to look at my competitors to get an understanding but that made me feel unqualified. I realized that confidence comes from within and I needed it to be activated. Therefore, I remained true to who I am and what I am as a person and a brand.
Mind your business means we should attend to our own affairs. My business is my affair that I needed to cultivate and steward properly. Focusing on myself as the brand, I needed to be certain about who I am and leave being a perfectionist out the window.
I began changing my image from what I’ve seen from my competitors and show more of myself. I didn’t want to hide behind my brand. So, I had to crawl out from under the rock I was in. I wanted to be front and center without using a photo but in my designs, attention to detail, forms, and user experiences. If you attend your business, you won’t worry about what others are doing.. Everything you are reflects a piece of you.
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 lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Hands down, I’d choose Tyler Perry. I think we’d really hit it off. I’m sure there is so much more to him than what we see on TV and Social Media. It’ll be dope to see the humane side of him in that type of setting. I’m sure we’d laugh a ton. I ultimately would want the opportunity to soak in any wisdom and knowledge that he’d be willing to share.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Tre’elle Tolbert of Tag It Brand It: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.