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Ep.34 –  Building A Lasting Brand With Kathy Cunningham

Ep.34 – Building a Lasting Brand with Kathy Cunningham

•Special Episode Kathy’s Keynote Speaker Presentation for WIA on Building a Lasting Brand•

Here is a special solo-cast edition of the Show Runner Marketing Podcast featuring Kathy Cunningham’s live keynote speech at the Women in Automotive Convention. Kathy reveals the secrets to our recipe for building a lasting brand.

If you’re an owner, a manager, a leader, a product representative, or a member of a team that could use some direction on how to strengthen your entire marketing and sales efforts, this presentation will give you the simple tools you need to bring a fresh perspective to your organization and its brand position.

Learn our three-step process for defining your meaningful points of difference and releasing the power of a strong brand positioning statement onto all of your marketing and sales efforts.

Kathy Cunningham, Founder & President of Advanced Marketing Strategies

In this Show Runner Marketing Podcast you will learn:

  • Why 56% of millennials say, they’d rather clean their homes than do this…
  • How to avoid spending your precious resources on the wrong tactics and the wrong messages
  • How manufacturers, dealers, vendors, and suppliers can differentiate their products and services to stand out in the new retail
  • Why your brand is like a cow
  • Which brands set themselves apart and own an entire category and even an emotion
  • How to take your company essence and strategize it down to the core concepts
  • How to articulate your brand promise and get your whole team on the same page
  • The difference between an attribute and a benefit and why it matters
  • Finding your marketing sweet spot
  • How to focus your efforts on the people and the products that yield the most ROI
  • Why using stories can elicit powerful empathetic responses and increase loyalty and sales

>> Hi, everybody. It’s Kathy, and today’s podcast is a recording of a keynote speech I recently gave at the Women in Automotive Convention. [BLANK_AUDIO] I thought you’d like to hear our recipe for building a lasting brand. If you’re an owner, a manager, a leader, a product representative, or a member of a team that could use some direction on how to strengthen your entire marketing and sales efforts, this presentation will give you the simple tools you need to bring a fresh perspective to your organization and its brand position. I present a three step process for defining your meaningful points of difference and releasing the power of strong brand positioning statement onto all of you marketing and sales effort. I hope you enjoy this podcast.

>> [UNKNOWN] I am so energized to be here with you guys. I learned so much from everybody this week, so thank you very much for sharing everything. I’m honored to be able to share some of my experience about branding. And I want you to leave here with a three step process to take back to your teams and lead branding discussions. But first, I’d like to start with some stats. 56% of millenials say they’d rather clean their homes than negotiate with a car dealer. Gen Xers, well, 24% of them, they’d rather have a root canal than get into car negotiations. 87% of Americans dislike something about car shopping at dealerships. 61% they feel like they’ve been taken advantage while they’re there. So I know but this is pretty scary, I think for the women and men here at this conference, that we’re so proud of this automotive industry. [BLANK_AUDIO] So I’d like to see a show of hands. How many people here work for an OEM or manufacturer or vendor or dealers? Okay, great, how many people work for a dealership? Excellent. Okay, and let’s see how many people are general managers or leaders or managers of a team. So almost everybody here in this room. As we raise our hand we begin to feel a little affected by these statistics, because this is our rant and this is our biggest marketing challenge too because branding is all of the opinions and experiences are the conversations that people are having become in contact with your company. And more so than ever the customer experience is our brand. So let’s talk about how to build lasting brands. Let’s talk about changing this. First, let’s acknowledge that there are a lot of distractions. There are a lot of nuts wanting to be put in our basket. Like the latest digital marketing innovation, the next big social media platform, connected TV, streaming audio, radio, there is a plethora of marketing tactics, and it can be a little overwhelming. But if we don’t have a solid brand strategy, and we can spend a lot of our precious resources on the wrong tactics, the wrong message and then we wonder why isn’t this working. With the tectonic change going on right now in the marketplace. Branding is becoming more important for everyone in this room, from the manufacturers, to the dealers to the vendors and the suppliers. We all need to differentiate our products and services to stand out in retail. We need to do things differently. Let’s talk about what branding is. Literally branding is think of it as a cow. You know how you brand a cow? You’re trying to separate your cow from your neighbor’s cow. But what do you think about it? Do you really want any old farmer’s milk or do you want real California milk from happy cows? What is this woman using? Shout out. You know what she’s using? Kleenex, Kleenex that’s actually a brand name for tissue. How about this? What’s this?

>> Jell-o.

>> Gelatin and it is brand new. This is a brand of gelatin, Jell-o. And how about this?

>> Band-Aid.

>> Okay, this is a bandage or an adhesive bandage. Band-Aid is a brand name. So branding at its best means that you own a certain category or really an emotion. Okay, so here’s one more question for you. Which automotive brand owns the word love?

>> Subaru.

>> [LAUGH] Everybody knows it’s Subaru. And that’s because, now, do you think that Subaru is the only brand that build love into their cars?

>> [LAUGH]

>> I don’t think so, but it’s branding. And that’s why they’re hugely successful. Here’s another example of branding. When someone gets down on their knees to propose, what are you expecting?

>> A ring.

>> A diamond ring, maybe the most effective branding of all times. De Beers, a diamond is forever. They created an emotional need for a rock, for a diamond, and they further connected how much you love your partner by the size of the diamond. Isn’t that outrageous? [LAUGH] So marketing an idea rather than a product, they built a $72 billion a year diamond industry. So how did they do this strategic branding? So let’s break it down a little bit here. Strategic branding shown simply here. You take your company essence and you strategize it down to the core concepts. Down to the ground, and then you put that into everything in your business. So those things down the bottom advertising, your brand should be clear in your content voice. It should be clear in your showroom floor, how you answer your phones, how you hire your employees, how you train them and everything in between. So you can see there’s a lot of strategic work going on at the top. And if you’re spending a lot of your time on the bottom of this funnel without doing the work at the top, then your brand has to come to the flavor of the month marketing. Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced a sale of the month strategy? What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do? [LAUGH] So either you make a conscious decision about your branding or it will be made for you by everyone in your company or anyone that comes in contact with it. Today I’d like to walk you through a 3D process, discovery, definition and deployment. Those are our three Ds. And I hope this will help bring a fresh perspective to your organization and help you articulate a brand promise and get your whole team on the same page. We’ve taken countless companies through this process from regional grocery chains, resorts, credit unions, a national moving company and even a famous Swedish furniture retailer, dealerships and auto groups as well. And they all say what are you going through this process? Kathy? Can you just tell us what to do? But really, the journey to a lasting brand is a team effort. We can learn together how to position the brand and that’s to increase traffic and sales and revenue in a way that none of us would have thought of, or even believe if we didn’t go through this process. So let’s walk through my three D process. We start with discovery. And so the first thing we do, we’ve heard some talk this weekend, of course, what’s going on in the industry, what’s the current situation? So a couple of things happening in automotive in 2020, number one, customer-centric strategies. Number one, number two, even right up here today and they just mentioned transparent pricing and processes. Another trend for the automotive is companies giving back. And that’s all companies. So the trends, they make a difference on how we start to articulate our brands. Think about those first. Discovery also interviewing employees, management and supporters. And they’re gonna help us describe who we are what we’re best at. We’re gonna build consensus because a brand shouldn’t come from the three people in marketing. A brand is everybody. And so we start to ask questions and everyone that’s involved. Choose a simple one. What does your company stand for? What’s the unique point of difference versus your competition? That sounds simple, but try to articulate what your brand stands for. And furthermore, asking this very interesting one to find out. It’s like a rowing team, meaningful conversations with colleagues and stakeholders. Get everybody in the company thinking and participating and pushing in the same direction. As we gather input, we begin to build our store. And together we build our assets. We need to discover the competition too. So gather list of the competition that everybody agrees upon. Look at their website. Look at their marketing position, their social media, and more. And do an attribute analysis, what do they have, what do we have? And what you’re looking for is your position in the marketplace. You wanna identify your sweet spot, a meaningful value that you bring to the customer. We’ll get to know your customer too during discovery. Do some customer surveys, ask them some questions. We did this with Shane Homes, a builder in San Diego. And when we started to ask the executives in the marketing department, they were very interested in the fact that they helped to build the Hoover Dam and the San Francisco bridge. And we were very excited about this strong really history. But we kept asking questions and we also found out that Shea homes construction was superior to other home builders. They use two inch nails instead of one inch nails and they reinforced their windows for stronger, longer wear and protection. So when we surveyed the buyers and the shoppers, we asked them which one of these things really means something to you when you’re buying a home? Lo and behold, we found out that two inch nails and the double covered roofs were more important to them than the albeit sexier story of the Hoover Dam. So discovery helps us determine our key strengths and our activities as it pertains to our customers. There’s things that we don’t know we don’t know until we go through this process. The fun part of it to the second step to find integrate on your strongest brand attributes. Now I’ve asked a lot of dealerships what sets you apart, they almost always say, well, we have the largest inventory account or yeah the lowest price or where the number one dealership and account. But these statements are all about them. So we have to remember that the customer is queen. You’re not the hero of your brand story. That’s the words. When we start to articulate our points of difference, and we go through this exercise that may help you and your team’s focus on the customer benefit, rather than company attribute. So here’s a little test that we do. If I start out with an attribute like this, let’s say you have online tools that help the customer do paperwork. Okay, so that’s the attribute. What’s the benefit? The benefit to the consumer is they can go at their own pace, less pressure. Here’s another one, how about a drive through trade-in appraisal line, that’s a great attribute. What’s the benefit to the consumer? Same time less hassle. Last one. How about a modern facility? This facility is different from anything you’ve ever seen a dealership, but what’s the benefit to the consumer and relaxed experience? So now we’ve defined our key message points and how they impact the customer. The whole exercise like this will help you when you start doing your questioning. After you agree on your strongest points of difference, next agree upon your best customers. Your client database is a great place to start. Of course you’ve got all the age and income and gender and products and services and so on. Now, we did this with Henry’s Marketplace, a local health food grocery store and we looked at the customers that came in the most and then spent the most. And then we looked at them further. He said, what’s in their basket? So we were able to determine those people that came to the most spent the most, what they had in their basket and that’s what we focused our message on. Imagine if you can focus your efforts on the people and the products that yields the most ROI. So defining our best customers means our most profitable or most sought after customers. We further use this information that we gathered about their best customers and we define their stories. And we found out that there was a group of a large demographic of the shoppers were older and they were eager to eat well guess why? Because they wanted to live longer and actually expand their lives. We also found a big demographic and that was the heads of household and they trusted Henry’s Marketplace to deliver the freshest and most healthy foods for their family. From that we grew tagline, trust Henry’s Marketplace for life. And that brings us to number three. Good morning. You can begin to see how this rational information that we gathered in discovery and definition helps us build a narrative for everything that we do. This process helps us build a unique brand story. So to define and agree on your brand story. Some companies will say Kathy, let’s just look at our competitor. They’re doing really good over there. Let’s just do what they’re doing. They’re making money. But remember that’s not ready because what we learned about branding is it separates your company from your competitors. Your cow from your neighbor’s cow. So it reminds me of a story of when I first learned how to break out of the box thinking out of the box. I used to color at home when I was a little girl. And I would ask my mom questions while I was coloring and I’d say things like mom, what color should my house be? She said, Kathy, your house can be any color you want it to be. So she taught me to start with a little message he was giving me but that’s what appointment is all about. That third phase is all about thinking out the box. So, when you do this, don’t worry about what color your neighbor’s house is or try to be just like your competition. Build a story around your best customers. Be careful not to focus on outliers though, because in the business don’t focus on the writers don’t focus on the unicorns. But focus on your best customers. These customers create volume [INAUDIBLE] profit. Your best customer is here. Focus on your hero’s journey and place them in the center of your brand story. It’s not about what you make, is about what may happen? So here’s an example we created an aspirational story for a casino resort. And we base it on their best target customer. And we wrap their story around them and what they like to do because it also allows us to highlight different target demographics, different attributes and different benefits. Studies have shown that stories can elicit powerful empathetic responses by triggering the release of brain chemicals. Of all things trust hormones. These hormones can help us build trust in your brand or your product, and in doing so can actually increase loyalty and sales. Truthful, authentic stories. Here’s an example of an auto group humanizing their brand, with real stories that we uncovered during this process, about how a service employee, actually helped the mom get to her child’s birthday on time. And then here’s another one about how they invest in community programs and drum training. That how do you see our bands like this before, differentiate yourself, do something different you might be doing. But the point is, and everybody knows, is you look different from everybody else. And we’re building trust with the stories. This used car dealer, their best target was millennials. Millennials want a fast, and easy casual way to buy a car. [INAUDIBLE] shopping experience. And be different and be bold. Don’t be boring because when’s the last time you were bored into buying anything? Turning the car industry upside down. How about changing minds of those shoppers we first started with that would rather clean their house. We’re moving now by offering a customer-centric and transparent experience that puts them in control of the buying process. How about a customer empowerment campaign? So the moral of the story is be real. Authentic is the new black. Create content that’s fun and interesting. And then clear focus all your brand points for maximum synergy. And once you have a clear brand position, shouting from the rooftops constantly review and reward, very important word for brand promise delivery. Because the Gallup poll says that any companies that define their brand and they only deliver it half the time you have to stay on In closing, branding is not just an advertising tagline, but a reflection of everything that happens inside your company. Everything from HR to finance service and parts to how we answer the phone and deal with problems. [BLANK_AUDIO] You know what’s great about this conference is? I’m so excited about it is that is comprised of the full gamut of people that make up this industry. So all of us that raised our hands, if we were committed to playing a role in rebranding the industry from the inside out, think about the power that we have. If we were all part of this process, imagine the strength that we could build in our organizations, and the lasting brands that we could help develop. So just ask yourself, are you gonna be in this industry next year? Would you feel more positive about building a career with the company you’re with if they had an initiative to build a lasting brand? My challenge to you, go back and start asking some questions that we talked about, what does your brand stand for? How are you different? And how do you deliver the customer-centric experience? So, I hope three D process of discovery, define and deploy can help your teams build lasting brands together. And that can differentiate you from the competition and wants you forward and the way that reminds me of last night. [LAUGH] And one last thing from my VP creative director Michelle Marlowe who put all those great, [BLANK_AUDIO] Visuals together. When in doubt, use dots. [LAUGH]


>> Kathy Cunningham.

>> Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this brand presentation. Please hit me up if you have any questions about branding anytime by going to, and ask Kathy.

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