Co-founder and Managing Partner
Just as ”Big Beer” (and Spirits) struggled with the rise of smaller, agile craft beer players, established brands in many categories, from financial services to CPG and many points in between, find it harder to connect with their audiences in the midst of a proliferation of challenger businesses with fresh approaches and a mastery of digital native story-telling and engagement.
Too many established brands with traditional business models in their categories still come across as faceless and impersonal, and still rely on marketing playbooks written in the 20th century predicated on one-to-many messaging from manufacturer to the masses.
They turn off younger, connected customers while challengers establish intimate and authentic service-mentality relationships built on new product features, fresh story-telling, a more conversational/human voice, new engagement and commerce channels and a customer experience mindset. (Think Dollar Shave Club, Casper, Warby Parker, Venmo, Allbirds, Lemonade, et al.) The brands we think of as “Big Beer”, “Big Banks”, “Big CPG”, or “Big Anything” rose to prominence at a time when bigger equaled better and cool equaled conformity — this is not what people are looking for in brands today, as consumers are more likely to embrace newness and reject the status quo.
Metaforce recently completed an exciting project with Woody Creek Distillery, an Aspen-based, craft whiskey business which sought a complete marketing reboot to accelerate growth and take on bigger players who had significantly more brand and distribution muscle.
We were asked to serve as their fractional CMO team to build a new brand strategy, GTM plan and corresponding brand campaign. In a category of countless competitors big and small where brand is everything, Woody Creek had a great, award-winning product but a brand story that failed to break through the noise. We brought in William Macy, of Shameless fame, to help position Woody Creek as a “badass brand” for people who live life fully and without apology — here is a link to our work. From the brand positioning to the campaign we built to promote it, the work shouts authentic attitude while hinting at product attributes, with a tagline that captures both: “Age Like a Badass.”
Attitude, Not Attributes
One thing that Woody Creek got right that big brands in any category should seek to emulate is understanding that the essential truth of any brand is best transmitted — and received — when communicating with authenticity. Authenticity is not a product or service attribute that can be created “after the fact” for a campaign. It is an innate part of a brand’s DNA and its truth can be seen and felt in everything the brand does – not just the what and how of what you make and sell, but the way you do it, and why you do it. For Woody Creek, being a badass brand wasn’t just a campaign – it focused attention on a fundamental truth of the brand that comes to life not only in their advertising but also in their culture, their purpose and their whole way of being.
Established brands can stand to learn how to “age like a badass” as they get older, dispensing with their uber-calculated, research-tested, risk-averse product attribute driven, one-to-many, monologue-like marketing, and talk to their customers about who they truly are, what drives them, and why it matters.
Emotion matters. It’s what is memorable and motivating, and sticks once your brand story is told. Not the crafty manufacturing of emotion that many ad agencies are famous for — but authentic emotion that comes straight from the source: the culture of your organization and what drives you to do what you do. As your brand grows up, make sure it doesn’t grow old by learning to age like a badass.
What WeWork and SoulCycle Missed: The case for brand-driven innovation
by Fiona Atzler