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May 22

What Does It Mean to Invest in Brand?

Last week I keynoted the Inbounder in Valencia, which was a remarkable experience all around. The venue, the level of dialog, and the community of passionate digital thought-leaders was impressive. The two-day event covered a broad sweep of provocative topics like what the future of digital marketing is and what role humans will play in it (if at all). Fascinating to say the least.

Btw – Valencia is freaking gorgeous. If you ever get the chance to go…please do. Teaser for you (and yes this is a real building…it’s crazypants beautiful):

I debuted a new deck around the Business of Building a Brand where I walked through pretty much every model or framework I’ve ever used in building and supporting brands. It took weeks to build and culminated into one of my favorite decks because it covered something so insanely critical for today’s brands – how to operationalize your teams, resources and budget to build a brand that truly impacts your revenue.

Enough with the “isn’t is fun to build a brand” type stuff and let’s instead turn to the truth – building a brand is mandatory if you want to remain relevant and capture the heart of customers in today’s customer empowered world. They choose if you get to participate in their lives, and “64% of those customers make that decision largely based on whether they have shared values with a company.”

64% people. Sixty-four freaking percent.

One thing I covered that I haven’t shared with you all before is the way I approach investing in a brand. While I’m not about to share my current brand budgets and itemized operating plan (sorry!) I wanted to share the general way I break up brand investment and perhaps more importantly for all of you – how that changes as your company grows over time.

There are really four categories I consider when investing in a brand: assets, vehicles, distribution, and management.

Let’s break these down so we can all be talking about them in the same way.

Assets: These are actual pieces of content that help share your values, mission, product UVP, etc. This could be something as tangible as your brand identity work (logo, slogan, wordmark, etc.) or it could be something more like a brand guide that is downloadable off a press room on your site. Any asset that you think should be made for customers, prospects, partners, or other stakeholders would be accounted for in this bucket of investment.

Vehicles: This would be the way you package all of those assets. So this could be a video, a website, a poster for an event. These are the vehicles that you productize your brand you can share them across platforms, on the web and offline.

Distribution: This would account for any investment you make into the amplification of those vehicles. So this could be boosting a post on Facebook, or any OOH buy on the side of a bus. If you pay to feature your story anywhere online or offline, this would get accounted for in your distribution bucket.

Management: This is the most traditional of buckets, it accounts for any hires, vendors, or tools you spend on that help you manage your brand. Often times this is invested in way too early, and it can be a huge sunk cost. Make sure your brand operations are in order before you go too deep here.

But how do you know how much to spend on each? The truth is it has a lot more to do with the stage of your company than it does much else. No matter if you have $500 to spend on brand or $5M, you’ll want to carefully think through the distribution of each investment.

For example, if you’re an early startup you will want to spend far more on distribution. You can make assets in house and manage across a small cross-functional team but you’ll want to make sure you’re applying budget against any campaigns you’ve got running. Whereas if you’re an enterprise, you might have matured enough in brand operations and tracking to invest more evenly.

For the sake of convenience, below is the general rule of thumb I use when comparing the distribution of brand investment for a (a) startup/early stage company, (2) mid-stage/growth, (3) enterprise, and (4) for a personal brand (think consultant, or independent).


Whether you agree with the exact allocations or not, is a little less relevant than all of us aligning on the fact that depending on what season your company is in you will and should be investing in brand differently. There is no one size fits all when it comes to investing in brand. Let’s be real – if you don’t have product market fit you should barely invest in brand at all, whereas if you are a Fortune 500 competing on an international stage, things change.

Hopefully this is a helpful primer for all of you digital marketers championing the investment of brand at your companies. I’m excited to hear how you model out your investments, leave your thoughts/feedback in the comments below.

Brand on friends, brand on.

Dec 09

What is Branding Due Diligence & Why Should You Care?

Branding. Brand marketing. Soft, squishy, conceptual, and so on and so forth. I beg to differ. It’s taken me a few years to really embrace the power of branding but here we are…sitting in the middle of the noisiest ecosystem of all time and perhaps our most powerful tool is, and continues to be, our ability to position ourselves beautifully.

This, my friends, is branding, and whether you want to own it or not – every marketer is now expected to be a brand marketer. We have to understand how to position our products, how to differentiate our experiences, how to get them in front of the right people and leave them with a lasting impression. We must do all of this through our content, our interfaces, our design and our communities. I for one…am freaking stoked. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

With that said, before you jump in, you need to set yourself up for success. I’ve noticed, through my experiences leading brand, that the most skipped step in brand marketing is doing your branding due diligence. Sadly, it is also the most important step. Without it, you could be setting yourself up for failure and a huge investment loss. Let’s not do that. No one likes losing money.

So what is branding due diligence? It’s a deep analysis of legal, industry, competitive, operational and product brand risks that will affect your ability to build a successful brand and set it up for advantageous differentiation.


Sounds complicated? Meh, not so much. All that really means is, you vet the potential of your brand concepts before you start to design them. Think of this as brand agile development – build a little, get some feedback (like talk to real people…WHAT?!), iterate, ship, repeat. It’s easy for marketers to see “branding” as a creative step, and therefore somehow it sits squarely in the creative camp (which traditionally is done with little diligence, as it’s considered an intrinsic skill/trade, i.e. you are either good at it or you aren’t).

That is dangerous, like performing on a balance beam after a night of margaritas dangerous…don’t do it. You’re gonna crash.

Branding due diligence sets you up to launch a brand your market will love. So how do we do that? Historically, there are five areas you’ll want to explore. They are well outlined in this pretty boring article, but the gist is below (and more fun to read if I do say so myself);

Area 1: Legal
Have you sat down with legal and talked through the legal risks, concerns, opportunities? This can include trademarks of slogans, imagery, verbiage, etc. Is everything registered that needs to be? Are you infringing on existing trademarks? Cover yourself on this. Nothing is worse then creating something beautiful, shipping it, seeing it succeed only to learn – yeah, someone else owns that. #sadsadsad

Area 2: Industry
Have you sat down with your product and business development teams to understand industry trends, concerns, opportunities? I can’t stress this enough. As a brand marketer, we are asked to build for the future. We are building a beacon that we are then going to ask our acquisition and development teams to build demand and direct that demand toward. This could include economic trends, technological trends, political trends, etc. Brand marketers hold a lot of responsibility here. We are building the lighthouse, that other teams (product, BD, growth) will use as a finish line. Know if you’re building in the right place.

Area 3: Competitive
Have you sat down and truly understood your competitor brands, do you understand what arena they have won, are playing in, are entering? Some of this may have been covered when you did that bi-annual competitive analysis (wink, wink…you did that right?). Companies over focus on what features their products are shipping and underestimate the power of their competitor brand teams. They say the best brands in the world end up owning a word. That’s one word. Volvo = safety. Apple = design. Zappos = service. If that is true, you better understand where your competitors are placing their bet, it should/will impact your ability to own yours.

Area 4: Operational
Have you sat down and mapped out how this brand will be managed, what internal risks, concerns, opportunities exist? Your brand is a thing. Like a real thing. That will need investment, budget, and support. Do you know who and how it will be supported? Inevitably, after you launch your brand you will need to manage brand risk and problems. It could be bad press or a product malfunction or a community mistake. Whatever the issue, so much of you brand success will depend on how (a) quickly and (b) authentically you respond. This includes legal, design, product, tech and often operations support. What is the operational process for shipping quick updates and responses? You and your teams should know this and be ready to react.

Area 5: Product
Have you sat down and documented the proprietary product and feature arenas you want to own? Understood the risks and opportunities that exist? This is what most marketers think of when they think about “building a brand.” This is what is largely known these days as your What, How & Why (Thanks Sinek!) and marketers obsess over this, which is great. It’s only one piece of the diligence process though. You should spend many cycles digging in here – what makes you great, how do you do it better than anyone else, why should people care? I think brand marketers have a huge opportunity to contribute to the culture with this analysis and it’s findings. In many ways, this should set the rally point for the entire company.

Okay. I know that was a lot, but it’s super important. The world is growing restless and noisy and shiny. Millennials and centennials are increasingly defined as the generation that is obsessed with self-identification, which means they want to find the brands that are them. Today’s brands need to know who they are and how to stand out, which requires more than a great idea for a brand. It requires diligence, process, and support.

Go forth and brand…I can’t wait to see what you build. #buildallthebeautifulthings


Dec 01

Attribution Isn’t a Marketing Problem

I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations with CEOs and VCs around the nation these past few weeks. I’ve, luckily, had the chance to get to know companies of all sizes and shapes. I’ve talked to leaders of companies that are B2B, B2C, e-commerce, SaaS, marketplace, so on and so forth. It’s been fascinating to hear what keeps them up at night and, most relevant for our conversations — what do they need from a marketing executive?

While you would imagine that the conversations would be quite unique, especially since I’ve talked to companies ranging from idea stage to post-IPO, but surprisingly a few things seem most important – no matter your stage, size, or product. One of them, perhaps not as surprisingly, is attribution. I must have been asked over two dozen times in the last 30 days – what’s my philosophy on attribution?

You can actually sense the frustration in their voice as they ask. It’s as though they’ve been burned – likely by a marketer who promised they were tracking everything well and spending accordingly. Or perhaps by an agency that created dependency through attribution models that were “just hard to explain.” Ugh. Shoot me.

Whatever happened – the situations, as I dig in, are eerily similar – they haven’t invested much into attribution infrastructure, they aren’t sure where to start, they are pretty sure they are misspending, and they need a marketing leader to come in and fix it.

But here is the real deal – it’s not a marketing problem. It’s a company problem.

I can sit down and audit everything from here to Tuesday. I could introduce the leadership team to our options from first touch, to last touch, to linear, to time decay, to U-shaped, to custom. I could hold brown bag learning sessions on our free options and bring in paid vendors to pitch us on their latest feature releases. I could do allll of that…and you might feel better.

But if the entire company doesn’t understand attribution, and if the top leadership isn’t invested in building touchpoints into every customer system – it still won’t work. We’ll still lose in market. We’ll still overspend. It’s still a hot mess, and no one is going to be better for it.

Almost all of my conversations this past month have quickly turned around to me asking the CTOs and VP of Engineering – how do you work with a marketing leader and the marketing team to set us up for success? Then I call in the CFO and VP of Finance – how do you guys work with the marketing leader and the marketing team to set us up for success? What are our cross-team rhythms? How are “we” (NOTE THE WORD WE!) going to build the best attribution infrastructure for our business?

Attribution isn’t just about models or the latest approaches to funnel mapping. Attribution is about to being able to assign the right value or credit to each marketing touchpoint. It’s no bigger than that. Let’s not get caught up fighting paper tigers on this one. Continue reading →

Oct 30

Moving on from Porch

First off I want to thank all of you crazy cats for your texts, messages, GIFs, and virtual love. It’s been quite the week. Hell, it’s been a crazy few months.

For those that haven’t heard, I’ve recently left Porch. This past week they announced a shift in strategy which, over the course of the past few months, made it clear it was time for me to move on. I have a great post brewing in my fingers around the “responsibility of putting yourself on the layoff list,” which I ultimately did,  but for now let me just say a few things as the dust settles on this crazy week…

Porch has been a fast and furious ride. I learned so much there, some of it was what not to do, but most of it was “on the front lines, get in the trenches, hard as hell, dig in your heels” type work, and I am thankful for it. I am proud of the marketing organization I lead and the marketing we did. I am proud of the team I built, and only wish I could have been there for them this week. This team, and the extended 80 or so Porchies that were laid off, poured their heart into a company with a lot to offer this world. I am excited to see where they all go next, and only hope I get to work alongside many of them in the future.

It has also been a hard ride. We don’t talk enough about the hard in startups. But it’s there. Building the right product, organizing the right way, leaning in at the right time, pausing in others. Startups are hard. And I don’t think there is an honest entrepreneur out there that would say otherwise. All we can do is make the best decision through a blend of instinct and data, be kind as we make them, and do better the next day.

I am excited to see what Porch does with their recent technology acquisition and the recent talent they’ve added to the team. There are so many great people at Porch. I wish them the best of luck as they roll into this next year.

Many of you have asked me what’s next. First and foremost, I’ll be taking a little while off. I am fortunate to have the chance to pause, reflect, and really choose the next adventure with intention. It’s been over 7 startups, 100+ speaking gigs, tens of thousands of miles traveled and 12+ years of marketing since I’ve done that. It’s well overdue. I am excited to talk to the movers and shakers out there, both in Seattle and outside of it, to see what everyone’s been up to this past year and a half. I’ll also be sneaking in some time back home to Vermont because I have two cute nephews that I am dying to spend some time with. Cody & Easton – see you soon!

In the meantime, if you want to grab coffee, do a mid-day yoga class (they actually have these! I’ve always wanted to go!) or just talk startup lessons and life – let’s do it.


Oct 19

The Only Way Out Is In

I read this quote earlier and it stuck with me – “The only way out is in.” We spend a lot of time pushing “out” these days. Publishing, blogging, tweeting, posting, preaching. I, myself, am a big fan of sharing. It has a way of making things real. I think it’s the reaction we’re craving. As a marketer I’ve always know the real thing we’re all after is a reaction, a true moment shared with someone else that is worth remembering. We want to show we have an impact, that it mattered…whatever it is.

Real talk moment though…we all know that sharing something doesn’t make it real. I mean we knowwww this.

I believe that turning inward is more likely the only way to make something real. Like deeply turning inward, where you sit in the discomfort. You scream something at yourself and bask in it. Thinking about it, considering it, letting it flow over you like a wave until you are literally surrounded in it and likely cold, and somewhat lonely, and kind of freaking out because you don’t know where you are or where you’re going.

I think about this a lot, as someone who lives life very fast. Between work and friends and health and learning and creating and all-the-other-things-ing, I almost never sit and truly process anything. Everything needs to be solved, or shared, or made better. Every word that comes at me is more often “troubleshooted” than heard these days. And if I’m being completely honest I’m often more of a facilitator than a participant in life these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is real value in embracing life so fully that it just engulfs you so deeply, that most of life is lived through you to others that need it. It makes for more connections and for more impact.

It also makes for less time to sit and process. I was thinking the other day about all that I’ve gone through in the last 6 startups I’ve worked at, and the last 12+ years of my career, and the last two heartbreaks, and the different cities I’ve lived in and the different deaths and sadness I faced. You know what I thought?

Holy shit. Seriously. No wonder I’m tired.

But a funny thing happened. I felt energized by remembering what I went through, by experiencing it, if only for a minute, deeply. The last few months have not been the easiest of my life, but they sure as hell haven’t been the hardest. There is strength in remembering what you’ve seen and what you’ve done.

Sometimes the only way out is in.


Jul 26

Are You a Culture Creator?

Last week my team launched a new About section on Porch.com. It’s beautiful. The imagery, the promises, the culture video – they combine to really get at the heart of what it means to be a Porchie. With the new About section came an updated Value exercise. For the past 6 months the team has been working through a variety of offsites, meetings, emails, and more to help us understand just what we stand for.

Culture. Cultureeeeee. C.u.l.t.u.r.e.

It’s one of my favorite things about startups. We get to define it, we get to build it, and if we’re really lucky we get to spend the majority of our time sharing it with the world. So much has been written about startup culture. What it is and isn’tHow you can’t compromise it. How it’s not really about the startup at all.  And one of my favorites – how important it is that you don’t f-it up.

We can all agree that getting clear on your company culture, hiring in for those that align with it and upholding it are important. You know what we don’t talk enough about? How we can live it, stretch it, shine it. The question I’d ask you is…are you a culture creator?

What’s that mean? It’s a triangulated commitment between you, your team, and the culture itself. a commitment that this is a living and breathing promise that deserves your very best.

You. Are you living it every day? Are you representing it in meetings? Are you questioning your own habits, your own strengths, your own practice on whether they align Continue reading →

Jul 21

Personalizing the System Issues: A Startup Lesson

I’m a fan of accountability. Always have been. It plays directly into my pillar around “fairness” and into my pulse line of meritocracy. I very much believe we can all do better…every second, of every day. Every failure is a moment for learning, and every misstep is an opportunity to stand up and truly stretch into a taller, stronger version of yourself.

With such a strong sense of accountability and yearning to make every day better than the last comes the shadows of that – the self-criticizing, the self-doubt, the internalizing of everything so deeply that you are constantly shaking yourself at the core. I believe this has made me a great fit for startups. This ecosystem is built on over-achievers and life long learners.

Today, over coffee with a friend, I had talked for about an hour on challenges that have been on my mind. I walked through team dynamics, miscommunications, and the outcomes that  have left me pretty confused. “What am I doing wrong?” … “How can I communicate better?”…”What’s going on with me?”…were all questions that came up.

I then quickly spoke to other, seemingly unrelated challenges I’m seeing around the office. I easily dismissed them with the appropriate startup dismissals – “people are stressed given how hard everyone is working” and “this is a critical season” and “everyone is feeling it.” She quickly pointed out to me that maybe this was all related…

Maybe “my” issues were also a result of “system” issues.

Whattttt. Synapse fires. Boom. Bam. Maybe they are?

I think in startups there is such a focus on being “all in” and that has huge implications on our bar setting. It directly correlates with a promise to always do your best, to always do better. The flip side of that is if things seem hard you quickly assume “you aren’t doing your best” or even worse “you are failing at everything” [enter dramatic music here.] Continue reading →

May 17

The Correlation Between Intellectual Honesty and Great Companies

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a great company. This is, of course, not an easy thing to answer. A lot goes into building a great company. There is product, culture, and community. In those there are promises, actions, and connections. In those there is integrity, authenticity, kindness, and the so on and so forth. Then there is a market, a need, real value. There are ripples that turn into waves that change lives.

Like I said, a lot goes into building a great company.

While I’m not yet at a conclusive answer, I can honestly say my year at Porch has brought me a lot closer to one. I feel so fortunate to be in the eye of this remarkable startup storm. We have so many great things in the works, and the team building all of this is just…so damn special. Sure we’ve got our challenges, but we’re better for it. We are dead set on trying to be a great company and I am learning as I go just what that means.

One thing that stands out to me lately is this concept of intellectual honesty. I read an article about how “great testing requires intellectual honesty” and it got me thinking – damn, that’s hard. Intellectual honesty means “you make arguments you think are true, as opposed to making the arguments you are “supposed” to make and/or avoiding making arguments that you think are true that you aren’t “supposed” to make.” Basically – it means you’re willing to rock the boat, shine the bright light, and say “that thing” that no one else wants to say.

This is…uncomfortable. Risky. Hard.

This is not…easy. Taught. Appreciated.

Well, maybe it is appreciated. I think great companies appreciate intellectual honesty. I’ve seen this at Porch. The past few weeks I’ve pushed on some big things and asked some hard questions. I’ve actually blown up a few email threads…not because I want to. Or even because I had to. But because I believed an argument needed to be made for the greater good. Greater good can be the customer, the team or even the bottom line. There are lots of “greater goods” that demand that sort of risk.

Lesser companies punish people for those risks. They shut you down. They ignore your concern. They silence it with sentences like “we’ll get to that later” or “good point, but we’re just too far along to rethink that.” Great companies stop. They pause. Acknowledge the point made Continue reading →

Jan 04

A Declaration of Interdependence

A New Year. I, for one, am ready.

Like many of you I have spent the last month putting things in motion, hoping that as Jan 1, 2015 came around I felt “ready.” Rested, healthier, excited, and ready…to live bolder and bigger than the previous 365 days. And I do.

I actually wrote down resolutions this year for the first time ever. Not ones to do with losing weight or getting promotions or to get more sleep but soul promises. Goals for myself that would make this next year worthy of the gift it is. My list is around seven themes and all of the resolutions are around things I can do for myself. Yes, many of them would benefit others…my team, my family, my relationship. But they are ultimately resolutions that I want to help me be better.

This got me thinking – something is missing.

I just started reading the book “Innovating Women” by Vivek Wadhwa and a sentence stuck out within the first few pages. He wrote, “This is not just a book; it’s a flag planted in the ground –a declaration of interdependence by the hundreds of women who contributed to this crowdcreated volume.”

I love this concept — “a declaration of interdependence.” That is what was missing.

This isn’t a new concept, in fact it’s been around in project management and organizational development for years, but for some reason it feels perfectly suited for this new year. As you kick off this year and make your promises to be better, to be kinder, to be healthier, why not also declare interdependence in these goals for “better” and “bolder” living?

As an entrepreneur, especially as a female executive in her early thirties, it can be easy to focus on investing in yourself. We are programmed to push ourselves, albeit for the better of the group. This year I resolve to invest in others and their goals more. I declare to intentionally intermingle my success with theirs. I promise to find out more of what you’re chasing, and what you need to wrestle it down and conquer it in 2015. I want more of me going to you.

It’s an interesting twist in new years resolutions – to resolve to help others accomplish theirs. A declaration of interdependence, who’s up for it?

#cheersto2015 #letsdothis

Dec 26

My 2014 Style Resolutions & How I Did

What a year it has been. Holy snap. If you all remember a year ago I made my 2014 style resolutions as a forcing function to be more bold and #wearwhatIlove. It only seems appropriate for me to look back and see how I’ve done. So here we go!

Resolution #1: Wear more dresses
Result: Success. 
Nailed it. I wore more dresses this past year than the previous five years combined. I have to admit I was often tempted to throw on jeans but remembered the resolution and went for it. Certainly made for some fun dates, some fancy events, and more. A few of my favorite dress moments (please note there was a great deal of twirling this year!)…

Resolution #2: Find the perfect pair of nude heels.
Result: Success. Done! This was one of the first resolutions to get completed. I’ve worn them a bunch since then as well. The rumor is true – they really do make you look taller. The boyfriend also loved them, so bonus points for that.

Resolution #3: Discover orchid accents.
Result: Loss. Meh. Confession: I bought a few things and honestly didn’t love them. They ended up sitting in my closet for most of the year. With that said I did wear a lot more bright colors this year and I am BEYOND excited for Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year – Marsala. Deep, wine red? Yes please.

Resolution #4: Finally figure out boyfriend jeans and heels.
Result: Loss. Booo. Not so good. I didn’t wear them one single time. Sad but true. You’ve alluded me yet again boyfriend jeans. Wait until spring comes around and let’s see what we can do. It’s not the end boyfriend jeans…just you wait. Continue reading →