Building a Brand from the Inside Out with FocusedBrands Founder Rachael Shayne

Episode 51 of The Verblio Show

If you care about branding, Rachael Shayne is someone you should know. 

Rachael combines a career in marketing—including working with giants like L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, and REI—with a relentlessly curious, ‘mesh network’ brain for a perspective that captures both the big picture and the nitty-gritty details of what it takes to build a brand. 

She currently brings that expertise to clients as the founder and CMO of FocusedBrands, and in this conversation with Steve she shares:

  • How radical honesty helps your team, your brand, and your bottom line
  • What big brands do better than small ones—and what they don’t
  • Why a ‘growth business’ is a mindset, not a size
  • The challenges of being a fractional CMO
  • Her biggest piece of advice for the next generation of marketers
  • The Instagram trend that went to the dogs


???? Name: Rachael Shayne

???? What she does: Founder and CMO of FocusedBrands

????️ Find Rachael on the web: FocusedBrands | LinkedIn | Instagram

???? Get smart: “Your external brand and your culture are one and the same.”

Top Takeaway

Brand starts on the inside ????

“Your external brand and your culture are one and the same,” Rachael says. Big brands, in particular, often forget to make sure their internal values are aligned before pushing their message into the world.

Rachael pushes her clients toward radical honesty around who they are and what it takes to succeed on their team. “When you’re honest and interesting about that—the way you communicate with everybody, the way you pay them, the way you talk to everybody, the way you talk to your board, the way you invite them or don’t into any of that process around funding—those are huge artifacts of your belief system and your culture,” she explains. “And they will always find your way out externally to affect your sales.”

Honesty and consistency around your values also help you attract the right people to your team, which has implications for your bottom line. Rachael says, “It helps you sell yourself to people who will believe in that system and will be—if you wanna take it down to dollars and cents—a better investment. You’re investing in that employee and, frankly, that employee is investing in you. And so it should be an honest value exchange.”

Episode Highlights

The advantage of big brands? Consistency

“I think that what [big brands] do really well is consistency, and consistency equals trust. Sometimes if you’ve got a more nascent brand or marketing team or leader, it’s a little all over the place. If you think about the creative—social media creative is disposable. We used to create durable creative, right? And now we create a lot of disposable creative, and you can break your brand very fast when you’ve got, for example, your sister’s daughter running your LinkedIn profile as an up-and-coming business.”

Employee happiness >= customer happiness

“A lot of big companies miss the opportunity to lean in to the internal branding and to really capture the hearts and minds internally first, before they go out in the world. I don’t remember who said it—it might’ve been Butterfield—but there’s that idea that your customers will never be happier than your employees.”

Social impact matters

“The financial markets and government are paying more attention now to ESG reporting. So, what is your impact on environment? How do you treat your workers? What is your diversity and inclusion plan? Because essentially, the financial world is recognizing that those things create really healthy cultures, really healthy brands, and quite frankly, healthy returns.”

Jargon can be good

“Tribal language is very culture positive. Having that, ‘Oh, we do it this way,’—that is awesome as long as everyone’s invited into that wink-wink understanding. …That language creates the feeling of the culture.”

Defining brand artifacts

“Artifacts: I think of it as all the parts. For example, I have this Glossier makeup and it’s the way that I order it, it’s the package… It is the fun, pink bubble wrap that it comes in. It’s end-to-end branding, as well as when you go on their social and how they show everything—it’s always fun, it’s easy, transparent ingredients. It’s driving that all the way through. 

And by the way, the same is extremely true for B2B. This isn’t a B2C proposition. It is an understanding to make things fit with who you think or need your brand to be.”

How one client embraced radical honesty

“[The CEO] and the rest of his team gave me very real examples and we shaped their cultural language and the artifacts for all of the projects they’re doing around that. So everything’s got some unapologetic swagger, everything’s got a little bit of, ‘Yeah, we have a cowboy family, we’ve got each other’s backs, and sometimes we cuss and swear and tell it like it is, and we might go out and have a drink.’ And I said, ‘Great. Be honest. What does it take?’

Be honest. It doesn’t mean to be exclusive. It means to create the rules that people can understand. …[This client] got really clear about who they are and what they value in such a way that people can figure out if they can be additive to that culture and to that brand.”

Top Quotes

????️ Rachael:

“Your external brand and your culture are one and the same.”

“I can tell you a million things, but whatever you feel is what you’re actually gonna say about me when I’m not in the room, whether I’m a package or a person.”

“You have to say no in order to grow.”

“Your customers will never be happier than your employees.”

“You want to sell to the right kind of people to grow this business, and you wanna repel the wrong kind of people. And you wanna repel them unapologetically.”

“You don’t have to be one thing for all people. You need to be consistent.”

“If you’re using all the same marketing words internally and externally as everyone else, you’re very forgettable.”

Learn More

Check out the Insta account Rachael is into right now: makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes.


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