Obsessed with start-ups, coffee, and online marketing.

That about sums me up.
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Jan 06

The Difference Between Brand Consistency and Brand Coherence

Designing a brand’s identity is one of my favorite things. I’ve grown to love it.

Every brand has a vibe, a form, an experience that is just waiting to come out and be shared with the world. The problem is most marketers aren’t sure where to start when it comes to brand marketing. It combines a number of skills, some of which are less familiar to a traditional digital marketer – things like – storytelling, visual theory, event management, offline experience, and consumer psychology.

One of the biggest mistakes I see marketers make is obsession over “brand consistency.” I bet, you hear this all the time in meetings  - “but there needs to be a consistent brand experience.” It’s an effective way to shut down a number of conversations. Some of those conversations, by the way, are likely to be the most innovative, disruptive ones on the table.

The irony of it is those are the ideas that are at the heart of brand marketing. Those are the ones that keep a brand evolving and growing with it’s consumers.

Instead of aiming for brand consistency, todays’ marketers should be aiming for brand coherence. They might sound similar, but the difference is critical. Brand consistency is when the elements of a brand go unchanged over time. Brand coherence is when all the elements of a brand feel familiar and are effective. Coherence is when all the pieces come together and are intuitive to those experiencing them.

Brand coherence and brand consistency

Brands that center their conversations around “consistency” are committing to a stagnant strategy. I’ve seen this approach used as a weapon to stunt big conversations, big gambles, big ideas.

“We can’t launch that new campaign it’s not consistent with our brand.”
“We can’t explore that design as our social account cover, it’s not consistent with our brand.”
“We can’t test that new mailer voice, it’s not consistent with our brand.”

Oy. The goal is not consistency. It’s coherence.

Continue reading →

Dec 25

My 2014 Style Resolutions

Dear 2013, you were one hell of a year. Full of emerald greens, leather accents, and personal mountains…I must say…just wow.

I am quite excited about the year ahead. Choosing to take the reins more, go after what really makes me happy, care less what others think, and put my time just where I want it to go. Call it my early thirties, being single for the first time in three years, or just good ole fashioned New Year mojo – but I’m ready for you 2014.

I thought I’d throw together a fresh list of my style resolutions. Rather than commit to more work/life balance (meh, no thanks), or to cook more (I’m way ahead of you 2014!) or finally get back to dancing (which I really do want to do) – I decided to come up with resolutions at they relate to fashion, style, makeup, and more.

Last year I challenged myself to learn more about the fashion industry, committed to blogging more, got up my ISITaYES site/blog, and finished up my fashion app (ready to launch soon). So what is the next chapter for me in this stylish ride? I’m not entirely sure, but I think these style resolutions are a good place to start.

1. Wear more dresses. I’ve been drawn to them lately. Maybe because I miss being feminine, or maybe because I feel more free flowing than previous years. But this year I vow to wear more dresses. Long ones, short ones, cinched at the waist, and layered. I went on a date not to long ago and the man picked me up and twirled me and I kept thinking – man I wish I had on a beautiful maxi dress right now, so the wind could catch and this moment could last longer. [Yes I think those things. That's totally normal, right? right?]

Goal: Twirl more.

2. Find the perfect pair of nude heels. I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t own nude pumps. Yup. I said it. I know they are the staple, the thing to own. But damn they are hard to find. If I have to dedicate multiple weekends to this adventure, I will [cough] [cough] [willingly] put in the time. Suggestions welcome, as are shopping buddies. I must find them to help me tackle #6, and to also figure out that whole “make your legs look so damn long” thing. With all the dresses I’ll be wearing, it’s a must.

Goal: Find the confidence to show off more leg.

3. Discover orchid accents. Pantone…I adore you. Last year it was emerald and this year orchid. I appreciate you keeping us on our toes. Purple is such a rich, and soulful color. It reminds me of being young and carefree. I’d wear head to toe purple, and bounce around. So this year I will embrace this feminine accent in fun new ways – maybe menswear, maybe jewelry, maybe a pair of kicks if I can find them.

Goal: Lace into my life the softer side of bold.

4. Finally figure out boyfriend jeans and pumps. You might be thinking this trend is “over.” Oh that’s right…I don’t care. I am 5 foot nothing, and I dig boyfriend jeans. High heels and jeans. I’ve been trying to understand the boyfriend jeans and pumps phenomenon for the last two years but with little success. This is the year. I must figure out the right length, drape of the jean, height of the heel, so on and so forth.

Goal: Show up at a happy hour in said outfit, order martini, look fabulous. Repeat.

5. Explore hairstyles & find a signature. Confession: I have absolutely no idea what to do with my hair. I’ve been a blond, a brunette. I’ve cut it short, grown it out, permed it, straightened it. I’ve done bangs, no bangs, back to bangs, back to no bangs. Hell I’ve tried it all. Alas…I am no closer to really understanding how to do my hair. Most days it’s a high bun, or a low ponytail. There has to be more. Tis the time to figure this out.

Goal: Stop pretending a messy bun looks great [caveat: everyday for every occasion].

6. 31 year old professional me…figure that out. I’m 31. I’m 31. Holy snap. I’m 31. I want to start dressing like what 31-year-old Joanna should dress like. What is that you ask? Don’t panic - I have a pinterest board for just this occasion…uhmmm and a Wanelo collection. [Don't judge me!] Clean lines, polished, sexy, bold colors, and layers. Leather, chic, with the occasional “favorite piece.” Oh…and once a while there is a casual -  ripped jeans, meets soft t-shirt, with bulky sweater and chunky necklace look. Anyway. I’ve got a magnet pulling me this direction, so it’s time to get after it already.

Goal: Stop throwing on jeans and a black sweater. For the love of all the others things in my closet – start taking chances. Continue reading →

Oct 15

Know Thy Work Self

I had one of those great catch up sessions with an old boss tonight. You know the ones…where you catch up over old stories and new stories and you laugh because it all makes so much more sense now. It was great and I couldn’t be more thankful for the advice I learned both from my two years working for him but also for the candid responses to my questions tonight. My main takeaway?

Know thy work self.

We spend a lot of time on ourselves. Or we should. The truth is we spend a hell of a lot of time figuring out how we fit into everything else. We obsess over our relationships, our place in a company, our place in an industry, our role in a friendship. And maybe – just maybe – if we aren’t completely exhausted we get to the end of the day and we have a moment where we reflect on whether we are living it all the way we really want to be living it.

Call it grounded. Meditation. Self-awareness. Authenticity. Truth. Boldness. So many words all meaning the same thing — are you doing you?

Tough thing to do these days. I blame Facebook (read “blame” as “thank”) because we have never been more connected to ghosts of yesteryear, and promises of tomorrow. Every day we are faced with choices we could have made, and things we did wrong. Want to wonder what it would have been like if I chose love at age 24 over that second startup? I don’t need to wonder I have a feed full of beautiful families to remind me. Wonder if you made the wrong choice quitting that last gig?  No need to question it, just look at that old team you miss so much. It’s easy to get caught up in. I think the reality of it all is we spend a great deal of time knowing each other. A great deal of time not trusting ourselves that we actually did the right thing.

I know I do. I spend a lot of time “watching others” — man that sounded creepy.

But what about me? Know thy self. It’s a real thing. But even outside the personal reasons for focusing on you – what about work. How well do you know thy work self? Do you know what really drives you? Do you know what that ideal work situation looks like? Those ideal colleagues? That ideal office? That ideal commute? What about that company philosophy? Do you know what the mecca of companies is for you? It doesn’t mean you’ll get it, but you need to know it…to get closer to it.

I bet you spend 1/100th of your time figuring out that, compared to the time you spent on what boots you should by for this fall. Or maybe that was just me. La la la.

Tonight’s chat with an old boss (mentor, great guy, friend) reminded me how far I’ve come in knowing my true work self. I know I love solving business problems that have an impact. I know I get frustrated working for and with people that are anything but passionate and dedicated to the problem we are solving. I know I love beautiful things – websites, campaigns, content, logos, products. I like to build them and be around people that appreciate beautiful things. I want to work for a company that has a real reason for being around. I also like to try my hand at new things and “figure it out” even if that means failing 49% of the time. I like to help my colleagues find out what part of their jobs they love and help them do more of that. I like to empower them to get after bold things…sometimes at the detriment of an immediate ROI. (Yup I just said that).

That’s my work self, and it’s not at every company. Hell, it’s not at most companies. Continue reading →

Sep 18

Marketers as Creatives

I scored better on the math part of the SAT than I did on my verbal. I love analytics. The first third of my career in marketing was spent only in paid search, conversion rate testing and Excel. I am a counter. A calculator. I have been in charge of the budget for most of my career, magnetically pulled to the numbers that make or break companies. On paper (or on LinkedIn, because who really uses paper anymore) I am a numbers woman.

But I’m not. I’m a creative. And, much to my own surprise, the past few years I have found myself identifying more and more with this role of creative. 

There are probably a million reasons for this. The web has steadily become more visual. It’s now a marketplace of ideas, an ecosystem of creative conversation, and an eruption of bold promises in beautiful colors. Or at least that is what it feels like to me. There are classes now to help us marketers learn design, and branding, and typography. Our teams are now heavily dependent on the bar to which we hold our design standards. Brands are built on beautiful foundations, and marketers’ campaigns are expected to deliver more than leads…they are expected to deliver experiences.

If you asked me 8 years ago what an ideal marketing team looked like, I may not have included a top-notch designer. I believed then the design team could live independent of marketing. But no more. Today, when I grab coffees with startup founders they ask who they should hire first on their teams and I say one of two roles – an amazing web designer, or a brand marketer that appreciates design theory. Every single marketing channel now requires a level of creativity that historically was not required for success.

It’s the new norm…marketers as creatives.

I know the school of thought out there around technical marketing. I adhere to it on many levels. I’ve taken Team Treehouse classes, MarketingMotive courses, and learned SQL just so I could hang with the technical cats around me. There is no denying that technical marketers are valuable. But I hope we don’t forget how hard it is to find a true creative. I also hope we don’t shut off our creative sides in hopes of fine tuning our technical skills. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but given how much there is to learn, it often ends up being the case.

Tomorrow’s marketing will be driven by creativity. We will all be playing in new mediums to a new generation on new devices with new expectations hoping for new outcomes. We will literally all be flailing in a sea of creative marketing campaigns, and the ones that stand out will have put in the time to understand design theory, conversation marketing, psychological theory, and the power of persuasion.

Continue reading →

Sep 11

Embrace Your 8 Mile Moment

I’m a big fan of the movie 8 Mile. For those that know me well…this may surprise you. I’m not exactly a rapper. Okay FINE, I am in no way a rapper. My friend Ruth Burr is, in fact, a rapper or at least she is when we end up at karaoke, but I digress.

I love the movie. I love Eminem in the movie, I love the struggles, and I love the story. For those of you that have seen it you might understand what I mean when I say “have your 8 Mile moment” but for those that haven’t lets run through the gist of it – a guy starts on the streets, has a horrible life, makes himself into something, is fighting to reach his dreams. He finds himself in the final “battle” (aka when two rappers…rap off) and the goal of these is to blast each other in super witty ways, with rhymes, and mortify the person so much they can’t come back with a rebuttal.

Rapping is hard, right?

Anyway, they get to the final battle (beware there is some uhmmm bad language in there). Eminem gets up there and rather than blast his competitor…he blasts himself. He calls out his own faults. He covers his own mistakes and failures. He does it so beautifully, so well orchestrated…there is nothing left for the competitor to do. It’s a “drop the mic and wait” sort of moment. I’ve watched the movie a dozen times…tearing up at that part…every time.

There is a power in being vulnerable. We forget it sometimes. Opening up about where you came from, what you failed at, your weaknesses not only robs your competition of ammunition (which can be very powerful, particularly in big brand building) but it’s also a kickoff to a 1-to-1 moment between you and someone else. Being vulnerable breeds authenticity. Authenticity breeds trust. Trust is at the heart of everything.

Whether you are a company or a person, you should have your 8 Mile moment. If you are a company you should stop ignoring where your product falls short and get in a room, face it, and learn how to spin it. Not “spin in” like as in “fake, manipulative, marketing.” Spin it like as in “honest, transparent, campaign marketing.” How can you share where you are falling short and ask your customers for feedback and help to improve? If you messed up your communications as a company and offended someone – don’t do press and say you’re sorry – build a campaign that makes a promise to do better. Opening up about being human is just that — being human. The last time I checked, every consumer in the world was human. So there is that. And it is powerful.

If you are a founder, or entrepreneur there is a good chance you appreciate – hustling. You are doing it. You are getting it done. You are also likely faking 50% of what you “know.” I get the fake it until you make it mentality. I’ve done it in the past. I’ve also traded it in for this 8 Mile moment philosophy. I’d rather be open about where I fall short, staff in people to support me, ask for help when needed, and double down on what I know. I find my startups have moved faster for it. Continue reading →

Aug 12

Busy Moments

I wandered Pinterest tonight for a quote to get up that speaks to how I’m feeling lately…because I am too busy to write a whole post. I then wandered Pinterest, unsuccessfully, for over an hour. What the hell?! That one didn’t quite work out as planned.

Nothing jumped out. Or rather all of them did. Everything seems to resonate these days. Quotes about leadership and resilience and priorities. Quotes about forgiveness and love and being scared.

Quotes about being bold. I’m not sure if it’s because I feel bold these days, or because I’m so inspired by bold friends — ones that chose to leave jobs and wander the U.S. and write, ones that uprooted their lives to start a new adventure in a new state, ones that handed in the easy gig for the opportunity to be challenged. It’s been a hell of a summer that’s for sure.

It’s amazing what a season can bring. One season that is full of busy moments. Moments that push us to our limits…ones that push us into wandering images hoping one speaks loudly enough to sum us up. To make sense of the noise. I did come across this one…

…and I couldn’t help but think…my days are so packed full of busy, challenging, amazing moments. I’m kind of in love with it.

Sure…I bitch about how tired I am. My to-do list is out of control. I haven’t been at inbox zero in four days. My apartment is a mess. I miss yoga. And running. And sleep. And crossing things off my freaking list.

But my cup runneth over. With moments. Great ones. I’m thankful for that.

I’m also thankful for Pinterest which gave me a chance to get lost among the words. One of my favorite things. Hope your Monday was a lovely one.


Jul 29

We All Skipped Steps, No Really We Have

Today was a good day. I mentored at the NWEN here in town (which is an amazing program we should all support if we can), I pushed through quite a few to-dos, I remembered to actually eat dinner (yay!) and perhaps my favorite thing today — I kicked off my executive coaching again.

Now I’ve done executive coaching in the past in a number of forms – calls, coffees, weekend retreats, etc. Not much stuck to be honest. It’s a hard thing to get right. You have to find the right person, you have to be in a place where you can really absorb it, you need time to invest in it…you need to not be jaded about personal growth.

I don’t say that last one lightly. There are times I’ve been jaded about personal growth. Jaded because I’m not sure “investing in myself is even working” or jaded because “I can barely keep up with my daily responsibilities to others” and so on and so forth.

Executive coaching only works if you can enter an hour long session with an open and clear mind and be [gulp] vulnerable.

Lucky enough for me I found an amazing coach here in Seattle – Stacey Sargent from Connect G & D. I’ve known Stacey for years through organizational trainings she has done, empowerment seminars she led, and more. I’ve sipped cocktails with her, and coffee (many times). She is a gem of a woman, and also the executive coach that finally pointed out to me…in the most perfect way…I need some freaking help.

That’s always fun to hear. But I do. We all do. I would ramble on about all these big goals I have, and all the challenges that are freaking me out, and I’d talk about these amazing people that inspire me, and so on and so forth. Stacey would always bring it back to – but what do I want? How am I going to get there? What tools do I have to overcome the inevitable obstacles.

Big stuff for sure.

So anyway, she’s great, we kicked off our official training again today and I am stoked. I’m hoping to blog after every session about at least one or two lines that came up. The ones that stopped me in my tracks. The ones I wrote done and underlined…okay maybe a few times.

So today’s standout: we’ve all skipped steps. 

Some context: Imposter syndrome is a real thing – for men and women (maybe more prominently in women, but let’s not make this blog post a gender discussion). Particularly in startups we spend a lot of our time kicking ourselves for what we haven’t done. I have never coded a wordpress blog – there I said it – I have only hired people and paid people to. I’ve never taken a design class. I’ve only hired in, worked alongside, absorbed theory and managed great designers.

We get pissed that we haven’t done X and Y, and we start to think – shit I wish I hadn’t skipped that step. But you know what?

Continue reading →

Jul 02

Sometimes You Have to Ask Twice…or Six Times

I’m three weeks into the new gig as CMO, and whoa…what a whirlwind it’s been. There’s a lot to learn when you start a new job. Admittedly, I underestimated how much there is to absorb and process. A new product. A new industry. A new team. A new set of processes. A new philosophy. So freaking much. While it’s been fun to completely envelop myself in newness, one thing has stood out as harder than the rest…

Asking for help. Yup. I said it. I have had to ask a lot of questions. And perhaps even more annoying to me…I’ve had to ask the same question twice, or three times…fine maybe even six (some of this is really hard!).

I like asking questions. Or I thought I did. I’m realizing I like to ask questions in tandem with people. I like asking questions for exploration sake. Like, “what are our options for the new homepage story” and then we banter. You first. Then me. Then you. Then me. It’s my favorite thing. That dance of creativity.

You know what I [apparently] don’t like? Asking for help, and then asking for it again. It disarms me. I hate interrupting someone else’s flow for my own reasons. I hate not being able to wrap my head around something when a smart person explains it well. But you know what I realized in the last few weeks? 

That’s so ass backwards.

Asking someone smarter than you to explain something (once, or twice, or in 100 bullets if need be…which I have in fact done this past week) is exactly what we should be doing, particularly in startup land – where time, and momentum are critical. Me slowing down to “go to the Googles” (as we have all done a thousand times) is detrimental for a number of reasons. One big one being — context in startup learning is everything. I think we like to generalize the path to success at a startup, and I think its dangerous. Continue reading →

Jun 18

In a Startup Messaging Spiral? Return to Your Values

I’ve spent the last week in meetings. The good kind of meetings. The “coffee fueled, big brained, lots of ideas, and so many questions” type of meetings. I’ve been running through a SWOT analysis, marketing positioning exercise and whole product analysis with my new team and its reminded me of something really important  - your values are more than just a cultural compass. They are more than the code on your wall, or the acronym you send around to new hires — your values are at the heart of your message, your product, and your promise. 

The values your team exudes are the exact words that you should want to share with the world. They should be laced in your headers, your bylines, and your positioning pyramid. I think too often startups think of their “values” as internal beacons, and then they go spend months trying to come up with a “sellable” story. Yuck. Not only is that poor marketing, thats just a waste of time.

Wondering how you should sell your product? Look around at your teams and ask them what they love about your product. Why do they work there? What are they willing to stand behind…no matter how f*cked up it is at times. I guarantee their answers are the ones that should fall in your “stength” column, they are your UVPs, and all that other marketing jazz.

Who you are and what you offer should not be fabricated. It shouldn’t be composed by marketing gurus, and pulled together like some mad scientist experiment. It shouldn’t be “just outside of reach,” or “sort-of-kind-of” the truth.

You are your values. Return to them and there is your messaging. That’s what you lead with. Continue reading →