Edition 36: Brand(less)

Do short term goals lead to short term strategy?

Welcome to Edition 36. This is a small newsletter I started to share observations & occasionally things I learn. If you are new, thanks for joining me. If you’ve been around awhile, thank you for reading it.


Yes, I borrowed the subject line from the DTC Brandless which closed shop recently.

Is brand & demand complementary or in conflict with each other?

This past week, there’s been a fair share of ‘brand vs demand vs sales’ type conversations happening in my limited internet circles. The gist of it was mostly one vs the other, where-as the truth lies somewhere in b/w.

I believe you can’t start/lead with the brand right out the gate. You have to capture demand to start the revenue engine going. No one knows you & no one cares. There is no brand in place to build on top off. There’s little at risk except for runway & cashflow.

Should the brand absolutely be ignored? No. Maybe its a 70/30 split b/w the two. The brand ultimately creates demand but its a longer play & can’t be quantified which creates a bias towards the more measurable demand stuff. But just like mining, if you keep extracting without growing the brand you’ll run short.

Secondly, companies have quarterly results tied to revenue & the board is seeking a QoQ revenue growth - creating incentives for short term demand strategies & starving the longer-term plays.

Brand & Demand co-exist. You cannot do direct response/demand gen / etc without brand creating leaning your market towards your solution.

It’s hard to find the right balance because we’re driven by short term incentives as opposed to longer-term goals but ultimately in the process of capturing demand, building a company, writing & doing marketing - you are also building a brand.


At the core of any business, especially a service shop is happy customers. Dev (hey Dev) runs Powered by Search and without going into fluffy meaningless stuff. He really nails what it takes to build a successful business:


I enjoy experiments & framework. Savannah Sanchez always openly shares her learnings, frameworks & such. This one was interesting because once you saturated/reach a lot of your core ‘best audience’ your costs are bound to go up as you reach a more ‘diluted’ audience. For example, my core audience (for 42/Agency) is VP/CMO/CRO folks - realistically I won’t saturate them anytime soon but say I spend $1M/mo on paid social, it’s likely all of them have seen my ad a few times & as frequency goes up my CPM goes up. In an effort to find more groups closely resembling them I use LAL or adjacent audiences but since these are not the best fit, naturally my CPMs/costs will go up.

Savannah shared an interesting framework - making the case to also test different messaging angles as well as creatives as you hit broader audiences to see what best resonates with them:

Granted this more geared towards e-comm folks but you could see how this translates into B2B - test the 'make your own life better by having extra support’ or something to someone who’s outside your ICP but could still be a buyer/advocate for you in the buying cycle.


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I don't advocate for sketchy stuff but sometimes you can learn from everyone. Going back to my pop-up example: if you happen to land on Neil Patel ‘s website, you are hit with a mind-boggling number of popups (not anymore seem like) but suppose to take something annoying (pop-up) and trigger it on a time delay/page scroll and sometimes it works. Or some blackhat SEO (no not keyword stuffing or spammy link building) like domain redirects?


One of the reasons I don’t think ROAS is a good metric to measure.


No I am not running TV ads but some great comments here.

One worth highlighting in case you don’t click through:


Facebook has had its fuck ups, but I still think they’re incredible product thinkers & Marc does see 5 steps ahead of everyone else.

Need a little background into Facebook - here’s two books I read recently:

The Facebook Effect: A much more optimistic view of the social networking giant & it finished off before shit hit the fan. It goes deeper into the earlier years of Facebook & team with the FaceMash/ Harvard networks & how it grows from there including the building of the newsfeed & Open Registration (where they opened FB up to everyone, not just colleges).

Facebook: The Inside Story: Picks up in a lot of ways where Facebook Effect left off - the elections/data privacy & Occulus/Instagram/Whatsapp acquisitions.


Couch Potato:

I’ve been trading notes on my shows with a friend recently so I thought I’d pop them here for a quick note - the following look promising. I do

Amazon Prime:

Netflix:

FX:

Quibi: (Yes that Quibi)

Assorted Reads:

The Rise of a Hindu Vigilante in the Age of WhatsApp and Modi | WIRED

Probing Facebook’s Misinformation Machine - The Markup.

As Amazon Rises, So Does the Opposition - The New York Times - Buying from Amazon is becoming morally complicated especially during these times.

How Facebook Works for Trump - The Atlantic. Good read on how Trump & Co used Facebook & Internet Advertising.

Scrolling Through the Rise, and Takeover, of Instagram - Currently reading Unfiltered.

With much of the world at home, Masterclass seizes its moment - I honestly have not seen a single ad from them.

Bird: the electric scooter startup with big workplace problems - The Verge - Blackmirror(ish)

Softbank-Backed Hotel Unicorn Oyo Faces Regulatory Smackdown In Multiple U.S. States - WeWork backers in the news again.

Why so many brands on Instagram look the same


I’ll leave with this:

In the digital age, how much is creating a new brand science, and how much is it art? To what extent is a brand dependent on establishing an emotional connection with consumers, and to what extent is it enough to rely largely on data to decipher and then satisfy consumers’ unspoken desires? Is selling a lot of products (as Mohawk is doing with hOmeLabs, Vremi, Xtava, and countless other brands still in its future) the same as creating an enduring brand? In the end, does it matter if a brand is recognizable if you can create an endless series of products that sell well? -Billion Dollar Brand Club: How Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, and Other Disruptors Are Remaking What We Buy by Lawrence Ingrassia

The soundtrack for this edition was my kid screaming & jumping on me.

Thanks for reading.

Kamil