Brand Building 101 with Farryn Weiner, Founder of Farrynheight
We all have our favorite brands: Nike, Glossier, In-N-Out, Apple, etc. They all have cult-like followings, pride themselves on a distinct look and feel, and stand for something much larger than themselves. How do great brands stay great for decades? What are the tactical steps to enhancing a brand strategy? What’s the secret to brand building?
To answer these questions, we sat down with Farryn Weiner, the founder of Farrynheight, a new-age brand strategy and marketing team, who has worked with brands such as Parsley Health, Bandier, Aurate, Planta, Coterie, and more.
Weiner is a brand mastermind. Before founding Farrynheight, she was the VP of marketing and brand strategy at Sweetgreen and the senior director of global creative and digital communications at Michael Kors.
From how to operationalize brand to why brand matters now more than ever before, Weiner shared her brand-building secrets with the Tydo team. Let’s dive in.
Singularity: Knowing Who You Are and Sticking with It
The most successful brands are the ones that know who they are and stick with it. From her time at Michael Kors, Weiner learned the value of singularity.
“When you have a clearly defined brand story and vision, you have more freedom than you think,” explains Weiner. At Michael Kors, she learned how to translate a singular idea of a brand into all kinds of messaging and communication.
“I used to say that I could throw 20 images on a table and tell you which one was Michael Kors,” adds Weiner.
Ironically, singularity provides incredible freedom for founders and their teams. Most founders don’t want to feel limited, but it’s a clear focus that leads to increased creativity.
“We’re attracted to brands that know who they are because we’re drawn to people who are confident in their sense of self. When you’re trying to be everything to everyone, your brand loses meaning,” states Weiner.
Singularity starts internally. Everything, including decision making, marketing tactics, and campaigns, all ladder up to that singular vision.
“The more singular and clear you are in who you are and what you stand for, the more fun you can have.”
Prioritizing Brand from Day One
Founders almost always question brand marketing efforts. That’s because they’re not clearly measurable, unlike performance marketing. There’s no way to see real-time results. “Brand is the first thing to get blamed and the last thing to get credit,” notes Weiner.
Weiner reminds all founders: “Brand is a marathon. Marketing is a sprint.”
Brand is often overlooked. “When someone says brand isn’t important, I say, ‘That, in and of itself, is a choice,’” notes Weiner.
In some ways, brand-building is about hedging bets. Every brand has its initial community. To serve those initial customers, every brand needs to invest time in making sure the community believes in the brand and believes in the mission.
“At Farrynheight, we step in and set up that community and brand for long-term success and growth. We pair that with our understanding of the DTC landscape and what it means to be an early-stage brand,” notes Weiner.
“Brand is a living, breathing thing that flows. Sometimes, it’s mission-critical, and sometimes it’s not.”
How to Operationalize Brand
Weiner’s main takeaway from her time at Sweetgreen: “Brand is only as good as how you operate it.”
There’s no better school for learning how to operationalize brand than a restaurant company.
“Brand translates into every element of your business, all the way down to the way you write emails,” says Weiner.
Brand is also at the center of culture and values. One of the most valuable lessons she learned while at Sweetgreen was how to use a company’s values to adopt and create behaviors that represent brand. “There was not a meeting you walked into where someone didn’t reference a Sweetgreen value in their decision-making process,” adds Weiner.
All brands should know their answers to the following questions:
- Who do we want to be in the world?
- How do we want to behave?
- What are we trying to accomplish?
Brand goes beyond a look and feel or brand marketing. It’s a service. It’s a story. And, it’s infused into every aspect of the business.
“How you operate your brand is as important as brand itself.”
Brand is a Marathon. Marketing is a sprint.
On the marketing funnel, brand serves two purposes:
- It creates awareness.
- It builds loyalty.
“Your triggered email flows, social media posts, hiring process, and company culture all matter. In some ways, they matter even more early on in your brand journey because those early adopters (customers) are the ones who build your brand and refer you to friends,” says Weiner.
What’s the best way to measure brand? Look at it as a whole. At the end of the year, ask:
- Did we create community?
- Did we drive engagement?
- Did we grow our audience and customer base?
With this in mind, Weiner notes that the most successful brands are the ones extraordinary at one or two things, not everything.
“Become good at one thing and then create a flywheel around that part of your brand. When you try to do too much, your money goes nowhere.”
Why Brand Matters Now More Than Ever Before
“Brand is the center of excellence within an organization,” says Weiner.
Because of what’s happening with digital marketing (i.e. iOS updates), brand building is critical, especially within the DTC landscape. Today, brands have to leverage the opportunity that each channel provides.
What does that mean? It means maximizing every customer touchpoint. “Each touchpoint is an opportunity to show who you are and why you’re different,” explains Weiner.
The brands that stand out today are less concerned with following trends. They care about creating consistency. “A brand is like a person. You have to think about how they speak, how they live, what they wear, what they eat, and what kind of music they like,” notes Weiner.
Paid performance and brand can work together. The brand part is understanding what pieces of the story can work on each unique channel.
At the end of the day, everything can be brand-woven, which connects back to Weiner’s point about operationalizing brand.
At Farrynheight, Weiner talks about the company’s values ad nauseam. She spends about an hour every week discussing Farrynheight’s values, why they’re all there, what the company believes in, and what they’re trying to accomplish.
“I used to say that being Head of Brand is like being on a roadshow.”
Exciting Brand Opportunities
In the early days of DTC, there was a commoditized look, feel, and approach to engaging with the consumer. Now, all bets are off.
“You can be completely raw and real,” says Weiner.
There are now alternative ways to connect with consumers and create community. Weiner is most interested in Discord and the ways brands are harnessing the platform as a marketing and community-building channel.
She also sees TikTok as a major opportunity for organic growth. “TikTok is a channel where you can do great storytelling and get a lot of eyeballs on your business without having to spend a ton,” notes Weiner.
“Today’s channels reward individuality. Brands shouldn’t be afraid to show that.”
Advice for Founders
For early-stage brands that can’t afford an agency like Farrynheight, Weiner recommends creating a one-pager ASAP. She says, “Lock yourself in a room with your cofounder or partner and don’t leave until you have a one-pager on your brand.”
Saying no is incredibly important. Weiner adds, “Don’t be afraid to cut things out. If nothing else, give your team a North Star and know that it will evolve and change as the world changes around you.”
Another piece of advice from Weiner: Don’t change course.
So many founders test one channel and use that as their barometer of success, even if it doesn’t work out. “You’re not going to hit it out of the park the first time,” explains Weiner.
The key: stick with the original game plan and then refine and optimize it. Then, “After you’ve given it your all, see if it’s worth your time and if it moves the needle,” acknowledges Weiner.
“You don’t have to be everything to everyone. Figure out what’s most important to you and then figure out the one channel you’re good at,” she adds.
For some brands, that might be their influencer strategy. For other brands, that might be performance PR. Regardless, choose one path, and stick with it.
“It’s the full picture that matters. Don’t take everything so seriously. Allow your team and audience into the process and let them help define who you are.”
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