Teenage Waste-Brand: Surviving Brand Adolescence with Author Evelyn Starr

???? Episode 102 of Yes, and Marketing

Ever wondered why your brand suddenly seems to be having an identity crisis—with all the moodiness of a high school freshman just trying to fit in?

If you’ve ever had to manage a brand through its teenage years, you’ll enjoy this conversation with Evelyn Starr. Evelyn is an author, marketing consultant, and brand strategist who has guided global brands like Hasbro, Gillette, and Dunkin’. Her book Teenage Wastebrand tackles the awkward phase of brand adolescence and offers guidance for brands on how to navigate it successfully.

Listen to the full interview above or read on for our highlights from the conversation. You can also view excerpts from all our episodes on our show page.

???? Who is Evelyn Starr?

Name: Evelyn Starr

What she does: Brand expert and author of Teenage Wastebrand: How Your Brand Can Stop Struggling and Start Scaling.

Find Evelyn on the web: Teenage Wastebrand | LinkedIn | Twitter

Get smart: “Consumers create the brand—not the company, not the employees.”

???? Episode Highlights

Read verbatim excerpts from our interview with author Evelyn Starr.

You don’t create your brand

“The traditional view of a brand is it’s a name or a term or a logo or something that the company commissions or creates on its own to represent the company, when in fact the brand is in the mind of the consumers, and that’s where it gets created and evolves.”

What is brand adolescence?

“Brand adolescence is the first time a brand stalls after its initial success. It can plateau, it can stall, it can start to taper off. And what I mean by that is, when a founder starts the company, they get a shot to put their idea of what their brand is meant to be out into the world—they say, ‘This is what we are.’ After the brand is out in the world for a while, people collect multiple impressions in that folder in their brain of how the brand serves them, of where they’ve seen it, of what they’ve read about it. And over time, what the owner said it was can start to differ from what people think of it in their own minds.

…And if that distance grows large enough—if what the company is saying about the brand and what they started off saying now differs so much from what people think about it that it doesn’t resonate anymore, your marketing will stop working. A lot of things will stop working. And that’s what I call it brand adolescence.”

How to identify when your brand is in adolescence

“If you have trouble answering the question, ‘Why should I buy from you over your competitors?’ If every time you go to do a marketing campaign, you feel like you’re starting from scratch and reinventing the wheel, if you find people in your organization pointing fingers or arguing amongst each other about who should get things done or placing blame about what things didn’t get done, if things are falling through the cracks—those are all signs that you could be in brand adolescence.”

Make sure your brand is running with the right crowd

“’Running with the right crowd’ means that you have chosen the correct audience for your brand: the people that you’re going to be able to serve best, who you’ll be able to know best, and a crowd that’s large enough that your brand will be able to grow for several years.”

Don’t oversleep

“Oversleeping is when brands are not paying attention to the world around them and not keeping pace with developments in the marketplace. If you have a brand that’s a cash cow like Blockbuster, and their stores for a long time generating so much cash — you’re not going to pay attention to a little brand like Netflix who’s going to send DVDs through the mail. They didn’t consider that a big threat. 

And so a little bit of oversleeping and ignoring what’s going on won’t kill your brand, but you’ll have to play catch-up. But if you oversleep long enough, you’re gonna end up where Blockbuster is, which is not in existence anymore.

…I’m a big fan of a SWOT analysis, which identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and gets everybody thinking, “Okay, so what are we going to do in the next interim to keep ourselves relevant? Where do we need to go? Where should we allocate our resources? And that way you don’t fall behind and become irrelevant.”

Why niching down can help you grow up

“When you focus on a niche, you are able to concentrate your resources, your efforts, your time, and your budget in one area, so you can become an expert and you can serve that audience in a better fashion than anyone else. That’s why I advocate that a niche is among the best ways to grow, and it’s particularly important for brands who started with an initial product, added a bunch of things without any sort of guiding theme or purpose, and then find themselves spread too thin. Determining a niche and aligning things with a niche is a great way to correct that problem and get yourself past that brand adolescence.”

Invest the time to create your brand upfront

Your brand is the guide for your organization and the way you do business, and while it takes an investment in time and money to figure out your purpose, your attributes, your values—once you have those in place, your marketing becomes so much easier. You don’t have to recreate the wheel every time. You have guidelines of the arena that you play in, of the kinds of messages you want to convey and the best ways to do that in terms of your voice and your tone, and maybe where you should be doing that—it becomes a lot clearer once you invest the time in putting those guidelines in place.”

????️ Evelyn Starr Quotes

“A brand is an expectation of what you will get when you interact with an entity, based on your prior experiences and impressions of that entity.”  

“Consumers create the brand — not the company, not the employees.”

“Marketing is the process of delivering the customer experience.”

“A brand identity crisis is when the brand doesn’t have a consistent idea of who they are and how they want to be perceived.”

???? Learn More

Check out two marketers Evelyn is following: Ann Handley and Mathew Sweezey.


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