Summit Podcast - Brand building with Mike Hallaron

Build a remarkable brand

Building an exceptional brand is easy. All you have to do is…
Be remarkable. What does it take to be remarkable? Is it a mathematical formula, or a artistic style? For many it’s a blend of both, but Do It Yourself branding should be approached with caution. Mike Hallaron, of Hallaron Advertising Agency, shares the process and insights into what makes a company truly remarkable. He’s been helping companies build brands for more than 20 years and while he firmly believes there is an appropriate process, he’ll be the first to tell you branding isn’t what company needs to be successful.
Check out this lively conversation between Kyle and Mike on branding.



Kyle Hamer: (00:00)
Hello, welcome to the summit podcast where we bring your knowledge and insights from industry leaders and professionals. No fluff, no double digit overnight growth schemes. Just having real conversations with real pros who have been there, done that. And most of the time bought the tee shirt. My name is Kyle Haimer. I’m your host and today’s guest is Mike Halloran of Howden advertising agency. Is that right Mike?

Mike Hallaron: (00:29)
Yes. Set it perfectly. Thanks Kyle.

Kyle Hamer: (00:31)
Awesome. We’re here to talk about branding, uh, as Mike has some, some pretty strong shops and strong expertise in this particular area. But before we get into that topic, Mike, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Mike Hallaron: (00:43)
Sure, yeah. And thanks for having me on today, Kyle. So, um, we’ve been around 16 years. We started event originally as a web design shop. Um, I come from a pretty wide, uh, experience base, uh, in marketing and in sales and advertising and a little bit of PR here, so forth. So we started in 2003 as a web design shop and it’s shifted over the years as we started adding more and more services, um, particularly advertising, PR, social media, and doing a lot of video work. So we’ve grown over the years and, and become more diverse and we’re essentially a, a full service agency now. Um, we have a certain niche of clients that we work with and, and really fit well with and we really have some core beliefs that I think, um, help define us better for a prospective client. And, um, we stick to our guns and it works well with, with certain clientele. Um, like, like most agencies and ad agencies can be mean a lot of things today, but we tend to focus mainly on branding and advertising, um, for the most part. And we’ve added PR, um, over the last year or so. So we’re doing some PR as well.

Kyle Hamer: (02:02)
You know, one of the things that it gets interesting in, in the reason that I wanted to, to talk with you about branding was, you know, in our very first conversation we met each other. You, you’ve talked about there’s a, there’s a specific methodology and a specific practice, a way in which we think about how a company needs to brand itself. And, and before we necessarily get into that, the how you do it or your, your process, I’d really like to talk about what is branding and what does it mean today. Every everybody says, Hey, B, a brand B. Um, build your brand is what is branding like at the core? What is it?

Mike Hallaron: (02:38)
Well, I’ll tell you, um, and, and the listeners will pick up on this pretty quickly. I’m fairly opinionated about these things. It doesn’t mean I’m always right, but um, I’ve come to the conclusion, you know, you see these people on Linkedin who are trying to tell you about your personal brand. You’re right, you’re a brand. Everything’s a brand. I honestly, I don’t believe that. I think we’ve over done it up yet in a lot of areas. Everyone assumes they have to put themselves through this, this process and, and through these filters to, to fit into some sort of a one size fits all mold. And that’s just not the case at the end of the day. Branding, uh, to me is a process about authenticity and finding out what’s real with your company. If you’re a one person company, if you’re a fortune 500 company or something in between, um, you already have a brand. Okay. The branding to me is how people interpret who you are and what you are and what you’re about. It’s their opinions and thoughts and feelings towards the services and products you, you, you offer. So, um, when we engage in branding, we start from, uh, the viewpoint that what you are is what you are good or bad. And we try to start, uh, learning and understanding what you are and where you’ve been and then matching that with goals for where you want to go in the future, um, to reach, to reach those goals.

Kyle Hamer: (04:08)
You know, it’s really, it’s really interesting to hear you talk about authenticity because I think that’s one of the things that at a core, most brands fundamentally miss out on. In in, I want to say it was like 2014, 2015 I wrote a short little blog posts and it was like, oh, how much is that Doggie in the window? Wait, you sell insurance? And it was, it was directly targeting the social media posts by a small organizations or different organizations using kittens and puppies and babies to try and propel and move their product. And it just, it, it didn’t feel like it fit. And so when, when you think about organizations who may be, you know, okay, Hey, I, I’m just a service or I’m just,

Mike Hallaron: (04:53)

Kyle Hamer: (04:53)
I’m not really, I’m a company, we’re not necessarily a brand. I’m not necessarily our household name. What, what are the things that an organization needs to identify as well, yeah, I should be a brand, or hey, I need to take this to the next level versus just, hey, I need to do right by my customers and be authentic with what I do and how I do it.

Mike Hallaron: (05:12)
Yeah. I think for a company that’s looking at their brand and a lot of times we’re talking about someone who’s growing and realizes they need to put on a new face or a better face or more, a more consistent face for customers so they understand who they are. I think the first thing they have to do is a deep dive. Um, sometimes very raw emotional look into what their company is doing and what they’re all about. And um, I’ve found over the years that that can be a very uncomfortable prospect for a small company or a large one. A lot of times, um, companies have, you know, their own political, um, a players within the company who have different agendas and, and the larger the company, the, the larger those agendas yet. Um, so going through a brand exercise or a rebrand sometimes can be really, really, um, eye-opening because it kind of lays it all Bayer.

Mike Hallaron: (06:17)
It puts it on the table and if people are open and honest and truthful, um, then they are starting from the right place. If, if they have hidden agendas and they have their own, the protecting their own little fiefdoms and so forth, that becomes clear really, really quickly. I’ve sat the table before with clients where not so much political agendas, but, um, you know, you and I may work for a company and you have one view and one, um, one, um, goal in mind for the company over the next year or five years. Well, the CFO might have a different one. The COO might have yet a third. So branding very often will bubble up all that, all that conflict and all those, those different ideas. And that’s a good thing because then it gives you a chance to say, well, let’s get on the same page here before we figure out what we are and who we are. Let’s talk about what we want out of this thing and what we’re looking to accomplish together. Um, so that we can, we can correct. Some of these may be misunderstandings that have developed over time.

Kyle Hamer: (07:22)
Well, we, and we, and when you look at that, I mean, obviously every company’s gonna have its own ecosystem and, and things that they’re trying to get done, but, but ultimately a, a brand has to have a purpose. And there’s a lot of, uh, opposing views. I mean, you touched on it briefly today, early when you said, hey, I don’t know that I necessarily buy into this whole personal branding thing. Um, but, but even further, it’s like, well, what’s the purpose of a brand as a brand to, to create culture and to create community for your, your employees? Or is your brand the face? Is it, is it just arts and crafts? What is brand and what’s its purpose as we look at, uh, organizations doing it well and organizations that are still struggling?

Mike Hallaron: (08:04)
Yeah, I think I’m just being brutally honest in our system. Any company that tells you that their purpose is not to be profitable is yanking your chain or they’re pulling your leg. Uh, I mean, you know, that is the purpose is to make money for, uh, for the owners and to, um, people that own the company. And sharing that. And that’s not the only purpose though, uh, to achieve that purpose and to be healthy and to grow in most cases, you’re gonna have to be good to your employees. You’re going to have to be good to your customers. You’re going to have to create products that are among the best in the industry. You’re going to have to create services and in effect, those services that people want to buy. So, um, now there is brand purpose beyond that. And I think maybe that’s what you’re hinting at.

Mike Hallaron: (08:51)
Um, whether it’s culturally driven, politically driven or what have you, and there’s all different flavors out there. Um, and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. Uh, again, in my original point, as long as that brand purpose is real, uh, you and I can spend 10 minutes looking at all kinds of companies on online and see all kinds of fluff floating out there that are, get on Twitter for Pete’s sakes. You know, you’ll see these, these things, uh, companies are putting out there through their social channels and, you know, darn well they’re just pandering and trying to get customers to, uh, to, uh, to buy into it. You know, David o will be one of the Godfathers of advertising in the 20th century. He, he said something to the effect of though that said, you know, the customer is your wife. Uh, of course in his day and age we’re talking about consumers running households buying those types of products.

Mike Hallaron: (09:44)
But he said, you know, the customers, your wife, treat her that, treat the customer that way. She’s not stupid. You know, she knows what she’s doing. Don’t try to fool her with stupid tricks and, and uh, and gimmicks. They’re gonna see right through that. So, um, if your company has a true brand purpose, and I think what may be one of the best definitions of, of determining whether you really believe in your brand purpose or not, that you claim is, are you investing in that? Are you putting money into it? You know, you can claim that you’re all about your employees and so forth and employee culture really well. What are you doing to, to, to grow that or, um, to enhance it, uh, other, you know, what is different about you? So it’s really one of those things in advertising. We always say prove it. You know, whether you’re talking about an advertising claim or a branding claim, uh, and certainly purpose with fit in there. Prove it, you know, show me, don’t tell me about it. Show me where you’re doing these things and how you’re doing these things. And generally speaking, if you’re putting money into it, then it’s important to you. If you’re not, then it’s just so much hot air.

Kyle Hamer: (10:51)
Well, you know, it’s, it’s really interesting, especially as it relates to branding because I think, uh, when it comes to a purpose, oftentimes organizations look at branding as the, what I’ll call the arts and craft side of marketing. It’s the, is my logo pretty? Does my, um, does my tagline, is it, does it have alliteration? Does it, is it, is it memorable or is it a big idea? And the thing that’s interesting, at least from my observation, and I’d be interested to get your comment on this, is, is a lot of a lot of organizations out there. They are the flavor of the month. Oh, well this month. Um, Hillary is, you know, she’s, she’s got 33,000 emails that had been hacked and we’re coming up on political season again. So, so, you know, roll back for years, Hey, talk about Internet security and how not to be a Democratic Party leader or conversely, you know, getting on the, the NRA and the, the Republican side of, uh, what’s going on with guns and gun violence.

Kyle Hamer: (11:50)
And it’s almost as if some of these look at the logo. They look at their identity, but they don’t really understand who they are at the core. And are they right? Are they left? Are they right down the middle into your point of being? Um, I don’t want to say treating your customers though they’re stupid, but to the point of, you know, kind of being condescending and pandering to the market, have we reached critical mass to desensitization of, you know, uh, the, the stuff I’m doing for my brand is, or isn’t relevant to what’s happening across the pop culture?

Mike Hallaron: (12:28)
Yeah. I think you hit it right there. My point is, why does it matter? Why would your customer, who’s going to hire you to do whatever it is you do? You know, do you really think you’re that important as a company or as an individual that they really care? Because I can almost assure you they don’t in most cases. Um, I have my own personal political beliefs. I’ve always been, uh, you know, um, in the right context and with, you know, personal friends and so forth. They know very well where I stand on things, but that’s not appropriate when I’m trying to work for a client. And the reason why is because it’s about the client at that point. My personal beliefs and purpose and values as far as politics or cultural issues or, um, Zeit geist in, in, in, you know, what’s in the news at this moment.

Mike Hallaron: (13:20)
That’s just not that important. What is important is how am I going to service them? How am I going to help them find a creative answer to their problem? Um, and you can apply that to any kind of business in whatever kind of work you’re in. So I would suggest to a client that we’re working with on branding is let’s spend more time on what you do for the client, how you solve their problems than focusing so much, uh, you know, on the brand and what the brand is about and what it stands for. Um, the brand is important, um, in the sense that you need to have a strategy in place first. And, and you’ve seen it on our website too, and I’ve talked about it in the past. W We came to a crossroads years ago where it was like, are we going to be the kind of agency that client comes in and tells us, you know, hey, we need a new logo and these are our colors and we want it to be about this. And they start dictating what we’re going to do and how we’re gonna do it. Um, what we’ve always called the order takers or are we going to be about providing value to them and insights and benefits of our experience and helping them create something new. So we chose the latter, so long winded approach here, but strategy first and then creative afterwards. So, um, you know, I’ll probably off the track from what you asked.

Kyle Hamer: (14:44)
Yeah, no. Well, in login and just kind of circle back it all, it all relates, I mean in one place on the other, what I’m curious is, is are there examples, if we think about the, the brand purpose and where does it fit? Are there examples where you’re like, you know, this company for what they do and where they’re at, they’re nailing it. And, and, and conversely, are there examples of companies that you look at, we see in the mainstream and they’re there, they’re just missing the boat fundamentally altogether. They’re collectively missing the brand boat.

Mike Hallaron: (15:16)
Yeah. Um, I’m kind of reticent to put somebody out there who’s just missing it and you never know who you might talk to tomorrow. Um, and maybe we can help them with that problem, but I will say once who were doing it right. Um, we had talked previously, I’d mentioned been in Jerry’s, you know, um, I’m not saying I agree with their politics. Don’t misunderstand me. That’s, that’s where they stand. But those guys really believe and they live, eat and sleep their worldview and in their business, and it’s not just fluff and it’s not just, um, you know, doublespeak same thing with a Patagonia, you know, the, the clothing brand, they’re all about the environment and it’s staying very close to social issues and putting money into it. And, um, you know, putting, putting their reputation on the line for what they see as important.

Mike Hallaron: (16:11)
Those are two brands that are really, really engaged in that level of brand purpose. Um, and I’m sure we can think of others as well. There are, um, some that actually there’s many, many more in my opinion that don’t understand brand purpose, but they feel like they see it on linkedin or they see it on Twitter and other, uh, articles and they read it in newsletters and they jump on the bandwagon, you know, so now we all have to have a brand purpose, um, and they’ll adopt whatever you know, is popular at the moment or they think will benefit them with the kind of customers and clients they want to, they want to sign.

Kyle Hamer: (16:49)
You know, I’ll comment on that. Uh, it just provide a little bit of commentary cause I’m not afraid to say go lock horns with some people that are much, much bigger than we are. But I would, I would, I would venture out to say that all man, was it five years ago, Google with, with all of the different ventures they were getting into was really struggling with what their core brand promise and core identity was. And it wasn’t until they split off and had alphabet become the parent company of Google that that stuff started actually settle and come into focus cause it, you know, it was almost there for awhile. It was like Google is this giant company of experiments and it’s really not what they were. Right? They got away from their core offering and their core identity. But as they split those two apart, it really started to crystallize.

Kyle Hamer: (17:37)
And another large tech company that I think we see going through some of the same growth pains right now is Facebook. I mean Facebook is not only getting skewered in the media, but they’re struggling too to find ways to engage their, their ideal clients or their ideal customers and build this ecosystem around what their initial promise, which was, was to connect people, right? And, and connect people in a unique and meaningful way. And I think, you know, you look at these big tech giants and they have what you would think is pretty and they have critical mass. But there are times when even the big boys struggle with what is my brand and, and what is its purpose and how do I use that to monetize and deliver with on authenticity.

Mike Hallaron: (18:23)
Yeah, absolutely. And, and to your two points are the, the, the two uh, anecdotes you used, the problem with Google before they went to alphabet was that everyone associated with Google, with the search engine, you know, what they were, they were best known for. So there was a, a really a brand architecture problem there, which they’ve apparently worked through. And people now understand that hey, alphabet does all kinds of things unrelated to the search engine or to g mail or to their, they’re better known base offerings and so forth. Google ads and other things. Um, and the other example you gave for Facebook is, you know, does anyone in this day and age really believed that their purpose was to connect people and some sort of fit in, know their, their purpose was to become a marketing tool by, um, really, or at least maybe it wasn’t their stated purpose, but they certainly have abused, uh, the privacy of their, their customers in stepped and tramped all over it and laughed about it, you know, so, um, don’t really have much good to say about Facebook in this day and age.

Mike Hallaron: (19:27)
I still use it, um, you know, keep up with friends and all that. But some days it’s just, I will say another example I can think of that really shot themselves in the foot as far as they’re a really stellar brand reputation built over 50 years as Volkswagen. Volkswagen, you know, got caught in this scandal a few years ago where they were going out of their way to cheat about emissions and they got caught in all of the goodwill in, you know, you watch these commercials and they have, well many brilliant commercials. I mean campaign after, you know, decade after decade and you know, a lot of that was squandered. When you do something really sleazy and it goes back to brand and what you’re about. So you know, you have to, it’s not enough to again, to, to talk the talk. You have to actually walk the walk.

Kyle Hamer: (20:16)
You know that. And that’s a really interesting set up as we talked about companies that are doing it right and companies that are struggled because what a lot of companies don’t understand is they look at a rebrand or a branding effort as what the market sees, right? It’s, again, I go back to the arts and crafts. It’s the ads or it’s the campaigns, but there really is more underbelly to why a brand is important. There’s really more underbelly in and lining if will to this vehicle called the brand. Why does, why does branding really matter to companies? Like why should they care?

Mike Hallaron: (20:54)
One of the most in, in, in the process we use, again, it’s the same as a lot of agencies. I think we do it the right way. Branding agencies or ad agencies, marketing firms, et Cetera, brand consultants, they seek to understand what your brand is all about before they get into what you call the arts and crafts. And the reason that’s important, probably the most important piece is positioning. Um, uh, Al Reese and Jack Trout wrote a book. It’s over here in my office somewhere. Um, and actually if I’m not mistaken, pioneer the term positioning and strategic marketing positioning. And that was the idea of, and we use it in every, every brand exercise we do. It’s a short statement that says, in, in a brevity of words, what we do best and who we do it for and what value we offer, um, in the marketplace.

Mike Hallaron: (21:47)
It’s not meant to be outwardly shared or anything else. It’s more of an internal tool to understand, here’s how we’re positioning ourselves in a sea of competitors, perhaps. Um, to let them know that this is what we’re different. This is what makes us different. Um, what we used to call the unique selling proposition. Uh, it still applies today. Uh, you know, depending on what kind of business you’re in, you’re, you’re either competing with a few or many, but at any rate, uh, if you’re not the market leader, you have to be about something special and unique and communicate that to the people you went to buy from you. So positioning is really, really critical. Um, that’s why once we understand positioning and we understand features and benefits and all the strategic elements that go into it, that helps convey meaning to the creatives when they start putting together a rebrand or a refresh for the brand where they talk about your arts and crafts.

Mike Hallaron: (22:45)
Okay. Because colors and color theory, this is nothing new. We’ve known this stuff for a hundred years. We know colors convey things to, to human beings. Same thing with fonts and type faces. You know, whether it’s a Sarah for a sand Saraf and what does that font communicate and in the type of font you use on your website and then your, your sales collateral, et Cetera, et cetera. So that’s why we believe strategy is so important. We have to ask all those questions and we have to get to know a client. And I don’t mean just us, but anyone who’s doing a brand, a brand process or if you’re doing it yourself, you really have to ask all those questions and understand those things. And it is a time consuming process. It takes time. It takes money and it does it. Frankly, it does take expertise too. You can do your own, but um, you know, generally most of the people we’re dealing with are talking to us or someone else about leading that process for them.

Kyle Hamer: (23:42)
You know, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting I wanted to touch on that and I’m glad you brought it up because one of the things that’s really interesting and I think that the, you know, the world of social media and the world of the Internet as it is today, is anybody with a video camera, anybody with a microphone and anybody who will, uh, I dunno who’s done madlibs in their life could sit down and say, hey, I’m a branding expert. We do this by this, for this person in this amount of time. There’s a unique selling props proposition, but there’s, there’s a lot more that goes into being built inside of that brand and how it’s being considered and stitched together. Is there, is there a difference in what we see from your experience and how a business to business company does their branding for say a business to consumer?

Mike Hallaron: (24:30)
Well, the biggest difference I would probably throw out there, the first one that comes to mind at least is the size and scale of the target audience in most cases. And this is just experience with us. We, we’ve dealt with clients very highly industrial clients and fiberglass or filtration or mining, et cetera. And they’re dealing with a, a limited route, maybe 2,500 to 5,000 people globally who are interested in the engineering of what they do and in the performance of what they do and how it would benefit their next job. Let’s say. Compare that with a pizza chain in the Houston area that has 10 stores, that has, you know, potentially a four to 5 million customers, you know, so, uh, the, the size and the scale and the scope of the target audiences is usually one of the biggest differences, uh, for us. So when we’re going through the brand process, yeah, there, there are different, one of the things we do are stakeholder interviews.

Mike Hallaron: (25:35)
So we, we ask individuals questions before we get the group together and ask them questions and we kind of pick their brains and, you know, we try to understand what, what is the ideal customer for you? And it is different for a B2B customer in many cases than it is for B to c. Um, you know, it’s not, it’s not like the old days when everything was just demographics, male or female and an age range and household income. Uh, those things are still important. But because we live in the age of big data now, you know, there’s so much more you can learn and collect, whether it’s, uh, behavioral science about how these people think and what motivate them. Um, and I don’t mean current things, I mean ingrained human behaviors, um, from behavioral economics and behavioral science and, um, what kind of patterns we would see, what kind of cars do they buy?

Mike Hallaron: (26:28)
Um, you know, what, what food, what restaurants do they eat in? And now we’re seeing this with companies like Comcast when, when we’re doing TV commercials, they’re able to pull all that data in there and use that in a way that before it was just traditional demographics, high level, uh, now they’re combining all that together. So that plays into whether we’re doing B to B or B to c, we have to consider behavioral, we have to consider, um, not just demographics, um, but also any other patterns of how these people act and live where they consume information. Um, and of course that varies for, for age and educational, those traditional factors as well.

Kyle Hamer: (27:09)
You know, it’s, it’s, it’s really interesting to hear you talk about behavioral and, and, uh, two degree persona building, ideal target audience. You know, I think, I think the big change, and this is, this is one of my personal biases and I’m, I’m completely unapologetically, uh, open about this. I don’t think that businesses by I think humans by, and so the person making decision for marketers today because of the freedom of information because of the, you know, the ubiquity of how things move and the decisions the way they’re all made. Yes, you do have to apply some influence to and what I organization, but the same techniques and methodologies used to help influence customers to make money or, uh, consumers to make buyer buying decisions now can be applied to companies because you’re not selling to an organization. You’re selling to a human and that human to human understanding their behavior, understanding their challenges, it’s no different. Uh, I think one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read is scientific advertising. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that one, but, um, may he talks about the, um, the film. Yeah. Claude Hopkins and he talks about, say as a pepper dent, pep pepped up Pepperdine. Pepperdine, I can’t remember. There was a, there was a giant tooth, uh, toothpaste, um,

Mike Hallaron: (28:34)
peppermint or no, I don’t, I don’t remember one of the old brand to,

Kyle Hamer: (28:38)
yeah, it was like, it was like pepper die or pep pep did, I can’t remember the name of the company, but it was an old toothpaste brand. It was before dental hygiene was really a big thing. And he came in to help them sell. And what he did is he, he wrote an ad that talked about the behavior of filling the film on your, on your teeth and you, and I think the ad just said something as simple as when you, you know, right after you, um, after you eat Russ, your tongue across your teeth, if you fill a film, it’s time to brush brush with Pepperdine or something like that. And, and in that habit, right, that habit, the behavioral science of knowing that people would run, they would start, they would read that and they would run, like they would read it and then they would, it would trigger and they would, they would run their, their tongue across their teeth.

Kyle Hamer: (29:24)
It became an intimate understanding for that brand of how to move product based on behaviors. And that’s, that’s one of the things I think at least as I see B2B companies come out and they’re like, does your company’s struggle with this? Well, quit making it about my company, make it about me because I’m struggling with this. And that level of intimacy from a bull rand standpoint, ha, I think has exponential positive impact in my loyalty, my advocacy, my understanding and my appreciation for you as the company, understanding what my plight is, whether it’s, you know, geologies and moving minerals for, for oil and gas and that ecosystem, or if it’s selling software and here’s what you need to make your project management life a whole lot better. I mean, the parallels to me are still human to human, not, you know, company to company.

Mike Hallaron: (30:19)
Yeah, I absolutely agree. 110% on, and I’ll give you a quick example. Um, probably five years ago we were heavily engaged with a large, um, hydraulics client that served, um, gosh, mining and steel mills, uh, steel production companies. Uh, and then they went into oil and gas and so forth. Um, and we learned that, you know exactly what you’re saying. When we’re, you know, working with this client, it’s all about one person. So what is going to motivate that one person, um, that, that is making a buying decision to hire this hydraulics company? You know, um, well in some cases it’s probably even more true for B2B company than a B to c. In other words, you know, they’re going to go out and purchase something for their company that might be $800,000. Well, that’s a fairly large ticket item, right? So Joe Purchasing agent, uh, or Jane Person Purchasing agent making that buy, they might have a bonus tied to that.

Mike Hallaron: (31:25)
They might, uh, you know, totally screw that up and buy the wrong thing and wind up getting fired. You know, talk about emotional that that’s, that’s pretty big time. Um, someone getting that motivated or that emotional when they’re going to buy a $4 and 50 cent, two potato toothpaste at the grocery store. Probably not. Um, but in this, in this anecdote, we were working from the premise that emotion only worked in B to C and we quickly found out that’s not the case. We can use emotional appeals in branding and, and advertising for B to c clients as well because they want to ultimately in B to c, you’re asking about differences in the Bita business to business world. They want to know about price. They want to know when you can get it to them. Um, you know, it’s pretty straight forward. It’s not as soft and mushy as B to c, but there are certainly emotional and behavioral drivers that that Di that play into the decision making.

Mike Hallaron: (32:29)
In fact, I’ll, I’ll refer one quick book to you if I haven’t mentioned it before. A British guy. Um, I’ve grown to kind of have, uh, you know, business chat with from time to time on Twitter and we talk on Linkedin once in awhile. Richard Shotton in Richard’s book is called the Choice Factory, 25 behavioral biases that influenced the way we buy. It talks about things like nudge and the herd mentality. Um, pratfall bias. See, he lists all of these things. And Man, we almost use that book like a Bible of whether we’re doing branding or advertising because these are ingrained behaviors and how human beings over hundreds of thousands of years have honed their skills, uh, for decision making. And a lot of that is ingrained in us today. It’s not something that we can change or, or just dispense with by choice. Um, so yeah, anything we can do at the end of the day, advertising, branding, communications in general is all about understanding humans and the psychology of how people act, what they need and how to provide them with solutions to problems.

Kyle Hamer: (33:39)
Well, and you look, and I think like one of the things that a lot of organizations as they’re going through this process, you know, they, they get stuck in what is our message and how do we fit in these other pieces. But one of the most important things to building a brand is creating trust and confidence in the market with consistency. And, you know, I think to the stuff you’re talking about, somebody doesn’t invest $800,000 as easily with a startup. There’s a lot further ground that a startup has to cover for their brand than say somebody who’s been around for, you know, a number of years, whether that’s 15 or 20 or, or a hundred. That consistency and, uh, confidence that the, the, the humans on the other end have gotten used to cause cause with business to business goods, right. Uh, I’m not throwing them away. If I don’t like my toothpaste, if I don’t like my deodorant, if I don’t like my car, I can make a change. Usually when I make a business decision, uh, at, at a scale that you were talking about earlier, like $800,000, the change that happens in the business is it’s me. Yes. And so there’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, um, it’s really important I think that we don’t lose sight of, Hey, yeah, you might have a good story to tell. You’re going to tell it to the right demographic, but you gotta be consistent and,

Mike Hallaron: (35:06)
yeah. I’m sorry. Yeah, absolutely. In consistency in, um, in your decision making consistency in your strategy. And back to what you were saying even earlier what you were calling arts and crafts is consistency in the very basic things like the looks, the colors, the art direction, all those, the messaging, all of that should be determined in, in a good brand refresh or a good brand exercise. Um, we always tell our people that, you know, advertising at the end of the day is always about trust and people trust things that they are familiar with. Um, and the key to familiarity is consistency. So it all works together in a nice little thread there. Um, that means things like when they go to your, your, uh, website and they see your website and they order something from you. Well, it should be branded identically or very closely, right? Uh, if you buy something from Google or from any big brand, let’s say, buy furniture from pier one or something at Walmart, you know, we are accustomed to seeing everything is similar so that the packaging matches the sales collateral and the brochures which matches the website. That consistency alone is huge. And that’s something for a lot of the type of clients we deal with, which are mid size companies. Uh, for the most part that’s something they haven’t achieved. They realize it’s important and they want that look and feel. They want to look like, like a, you know, shell or Walmart or Amazon or something. They’re not there yet. But yeah, consistency is important. And generally when we’re sitting down and talking, Brandon was someone that light bulb has gone off for them.

Kyle Hamer: (36:45)
Wait, when the, when the light bulb goes off, what’s, what’s usually happening? I mean it’s, you know, I’ve heard you touch on this briefly before, but it’s usually, uh, you know, if, if it matters, you invest in it. But there’s also this kind of this garbage in garbage out, right? And using your terms is stuff we’ve talked about in the past. The garbage in can just be, hey, we’ve been behaving and I would say inappropriately, but we’ve been behaving inconsistently across all of our communications or gets across all our channels. And that leads to leads to what, I mean, what, what is your experience set of? Garbage in, garbage out. And, and how that has an impact negatively on brands?

Mike Hallaron: (37:26)
Well, I think it leads to fear. So let’s say your sales person goes out and meets with a new perspective client and it’s that kind of sale. It’s not something there they’re picking up off the retail rack and buying, but let’s say there it’s a personal sale, a personal relationship. They’re going there and maybe they’re doing a little powerpoints song and dance or they’re leaving a nice lead behind, you know, with the, with the prospect. Um, it’s, it’s knowing that when they follow up with that information, they go to the website, they’re gonna find what they expect and that the tone of voice and the type of writing and the messages delivered are similar. They’re the same from one platform to the next. That kind of consistency. So if in one stance, garbage in, um, means that if you’re, if you are, um, your marketing effort is mismatched and, or inappropriate or incongruous, then, um, you’re going to convey uncertainty to that potential buyer.

Mike Hallaron: (38:28)
You’re going to confuse them to a certain degree. And people are less prone to buy from someone they don’t trust that they feel that way about. So you want to make everything as seamless as possible. Um, and again, here we’re talking arts and crafts, but on the other side it’s, if you say you’re going to do something, you better do it. Um, one that we addressed every day, I was talking with somebody about this earlier in the week, is when a new business lead comes in, how long do you wait? What, what does that trail like? You know, does someone follow up on this at all? Do they follow up on it within a week or a day? I’m an old sales person. I sold stocks and so forth back in the early nineties, and then I went on to other industries, always involved in sales in one way or another. It was drummed into me, man, when you get a a sales lead, that is a precious thing and the clock is ticking and you’re quickly going to differentiate yourself, differentiate yourself from the competition by answering it quickly and getting back to that person while they’re interested. So you know, acting consistently is important. Just as important as looking consistent cow.

Kyle Hamer: (39:37)
Well, you know, and I think it goes back to your original point, right? Being authentic and garbage in, garbage out. If you’re not consistent in what you’re doing, how can you be perceived as authentic? Cause we don’t know which one of you is your true self.

Mike Hallaron: (39:49)
Yes. Yeah, yeah. Very, very confusing.

Kyle Hamer: (39:52)
Now, you’ve touched on this a few times, Mike [inaudible], we’re, you know, we’re coming to close here, but I did want to, I did want you to give me an idea, give our listeners an idea of this, this a night ignite program and this ignite process. You’ve talked a little bit about, it all starts with strategy, but, but what is it that Halleran does to help take these midsize organizations through this self actualization to finding their authentic?

Mike Hallaron: (40:15)
Yeah. Okay. Well I would love to tell you that this is something unique that I dreamt up one night and so forth. That’s not the case. Most big agencies and certainly branding agencies use a similar process. I’ll also be more forthright with, with listeners and tell you factually, the whole idea is developed for me from a gentleman. Um, with T v TBW A, it’s one of the biggest agencies in the world based in Paris. They are the ones back in the 90s, one of their key founders and creative directors, uh, Jeanmarie, drew Frenchman, obviously he wrote a book about disruption. And today we use the term disruption everyday, everywhere and, and, and it’s apropos, uh, it’s talking about changing the conventions or norms of something that existed before. Uh, Uber for example, disrupted, um, the taxi business, you know, uh, and it’s changed things forever. Uh, Starbucks chain, you know, disrupted what we knew about coffee and how we consumed coffee before it.

Mike Hallaron: (41:18)
So everyone gets the idea. But that actually came from the advertising industry. So after reading several of his books and following TBW for awhile, I became a believer that the right way to, to, um, to plan and to execute good marketing, good advertising, good branding is to be the doctor too, to diagnostically assess where this company is, what they want to do and ended in the first stage to gather all of the insights we can and all of the data and all of the, we do online surveys, uh, in our process we do, we can do focus groups. Uh, so we do a workshop which they, which they’ve made into a worldwide, uh, very well known process with, with disruption and Twa. So I liked what they did and I basically customized parts of it for, for what I came to believe. And that’s what ignite is today.

Mike Hallaron: (42:20)
It’s not, um, a finite, um, to the letter process for every client. Uh, it’s more of a philosophy or a methodology and it’s based on our beliefs of what is important for them to understand. At the end of the day, we, I always felt like our value, um, to a potential client is not the fact that we have x number of graphic designers and art directors and copywriters sitting around ready to go to work on your stuff. Um, the value is that we can generate ideas and a lot of times to reignite, we help clients shift the way they’re doing some of their business, which has nothing to do with advertising. And it helps that I have a background in sales. I’m not involved in every one of these ignite, uh, uh, campaigns or, or, uh, projects. But I’m involved in a lot of them and I always go straight to what I know is, you know, tell me how you sell, what kind of sales team do you have?

Mike Hallaron: (43:21)
Those people will tell you what’s going on with the company cause they’re on the front line. Um, so ignite again basically three stages. It can be small, it can be large. It’s very adaptable to the challenge at hand, whether it’s forming a new ad campaign or helping a small growing company rebrand to present something that is uh, that is impressive and honest and authentic, uh, for the next stage of their, their growth. Um, yeah, strategy first. So we gather the insights, we formed the strategy, then we go onto creative and we give them, you know, not only written strategy, we give them brand guidelines so that they have that blueprint in place for all other marketing, not just for us, but if they’re working with other vendors, you know, they have the color codes and they have the uh, the logo usage rules and, and type phases and all those things they need. That’s how the big companies do it and a lot of the mid size and the smaller companies, even some of the mom and pops want to try to do it that way as well. I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. Branding as a whole

Kyle Hamer: (44:32)
is a huge topic. But I think the key takeaways today, and correct me if I’m wrong here, but be authentic and be smart, don’t, don’t try and get cute or, or clever with your customers, just be you, but do yourself in a consistent and a real manner and uh, and reach down to the human emotion level. And if you can, if you can do that and work with somebody either like yourself or another branding expert to find the, the voice and the, you know, the colors, the tonality across your entire organization, branding will, will be easy even if you’re not trying to brand yourself as a large company.

Mike Hallaron: (45:11)
Right? Right. Not always comfortable, but a, what’s the old saying? You know, I’m, as long as you stay comfortable, you’re not going to change. You know, to really arrive at something new and create something new. You have to get into that uncomfortable place to ask those tough questions. And, uh, that’s what a good branding exercise will do for you.

Kyle Hamer: (45:29)
That’s awesome. Well, thanks Mike for being a part of the show today and thanks to everybody who listened. It has been our pleasure to have Mike Halloran from Heller, an advertising agency in the woodlands, Texas as our special guest. And tune in next week as we take on another meaty topic. Uh, stay tuned for what that is. Make sure to follow us on Linkedin, Twitter, or check us out on Facebook. Um, Mike, if somebody wants to get in contact with you before I completely close this out here, what’s the best way for them to get ahold of you?

Mike Hallaron: (46:01)
Go to Google and type in a Halloran h, a l, l a r o n. Um, agency or Halloran advertising. You’ll find us instantly. Uh, a website is

Speaker 4: (46:14)
and, uh, reach out. We bought the top and thanks Kyle. Really, uh, today was wonderful talk. We’ll talk more, I’m sure I look forward to it. Mike, have a great day. And, uh, everybody who’s been listening, tune in next week.

Mike Hallaron: (46:40)[inaudible].

Mike Hallaron
Mike HallaronPrinciple
Mike and his agency service regional, national, and global B2B and B2C clients, providing marketing strategy, coordinating media planning and buying, and creating award-winning ad campaigns that help clients sell more.

Interests include Behavioral Economics, Texas A&M football, Scotch, jazz and 1960s Bossa Nova, travel, cigars, moon landing hoax theories, classic film, and Napoleonic history.

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