November 17, 2022

B2B Brands: Cut Those Cognitive Calories!

 “This is a critical thing about a powerful brand: It requires very few cognitive calories from their audience to remember it.”

The idea of “cognitive calories” resonated deeply with the CMOs attending the CMO Huddles Bonus Huddle (re: private Q&A) with Lindsay Pedersen, brand strategist and author of Forging an Ironclad Brand. In this episode, tune in to hear all of Lindsay’s illuminating insights into what it takes to create a truly sharp, memorable, and resonant B2B brand. It’s not to be missed. Tune in!

What You’ll Learn in This Episode 

  • What B2B brands can learn from B2C brands 
  • What makes a powerful B2B brand 
  • How to rebrand successfully  

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 319 on YouTube 

Resources Mentioned 

Time-Stamped Highlights 

  • [2:08] Branding lessons from 5½ years at Clorox
  • [4:17] Brand is…
  • [5:41] Aha moments in the laundry category
  • [8:15] Start with the idea, not the words
  • [10:05] B2B branding = competitive advantage
  • [11:36] What makes a good B2B brand?
  • [13:21] B2B brand saliency
  • [16:44] Don’t try to create a category—try to own an unmet need
  • [19:37] Rebranding? You NEED C-Suite buy-in
  • [24:49] What’s in it for employees?
  • [27:18] Critical questions before rebranding
  • [32:11] Time to get a rebrand right
  • [34:02] Lindsay’s branding strategy dos and don’ts

Highlighted Quotes 

“The principles of creating a sharp, memorable, resonant brand operate regardless of what category you're in.” —@lindsaycpederse Share on X “This is a critical thing about powerful brands: That it requires very few cognitive calories from their audience to remember it.” —@lindsaycpederse Share on X

“The most wholesome reason to do a rebrand is that you haven't really done it right to begin with.” —@lindsaycpederse Share on X

“People go so quickly to: Who are our direct competitors? If you do that too early, then you can be positioning against the wrong thing altogether.” —@lindsaycpederse Share on X

“Don't pick something too safe. Safe is ultimately expensive because it requires a lot of cognitive calories from your audience. Pick something sharp and bold, and your customer will remember it and it will be a much higher ROI.” —@lindsaycpederse Share on X  

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Lindsay Pedersen


Drew Neisser: Hello Renegade Marketers. Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, the top rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing obsessed individuals. Alrighty folks, you’re about to listen to a bonus huddle, a specially curated huddle that we run once a month with experts sharing their insights into the topics that are most important to our B2B CMO community. The expert at this particular huddle was Lindsay Pedersen, brand strategist and best selling author of Forging an Ironclad Brand—which I highly recommend and reference in my book, which is what we cover during the show. It’s illuminating and incredibly insightful for CMOs who are thinking about brand. Which is something they should be thinking about all the time, but gets occasionally hard to think about when the cries for demand are every day and relentless. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew Neisser: I am thrilled to introduce Lindsey Pedersen, the author of forging ironclad brands, a book I read with great care and reference multiple times in my own book, Lindsay also runs a boutique branding firm called ironclad brand strategy. So welcome, Lindsay. And thank you for joining us.

Lindsay Pedersen: Thanks for having me Drew. It’s good to be here.

Drew Neisser: How are you? And where are you?

Lindsay Pedersen: Thanks for asking that. I’m pretty good. I’m in Seattle, and we have had a lot of smoky skies for the last few weeks. And this morning, there was no smoke, and I got to go for a run. So I’m really happy right now.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s been a very weird weather year for your part of the country.

Lindsay Pedersen: Yeah it has. 

Drew Neisser: So I revisited your LinkedIn profile and was reminded that you spent 5 ½ years at Clorox, one of the top packaged goods orgs in the world. And I’m just curious, how foundational was that experience to your understanding of brand? 

Lindsay Pedersen: Working at Clorox—and I suppose this would be the case with any consumer packaged goods company—really made me respect brand. Because if you think about what we sell at Clorox, you know, whether it’s cat litter, or bleach, or Kingsford charcoal, the products themselves are not really differentiated from the rest of the market. In some cases, they’re actually literally the exact same product. Like Clorox bleach, for example, by federal law, the EPA regulates that it’s the same as private label bleach, 6%, sodium hypochlorite, 94% water. 

Lindsay Pedersen: So with products that themselves inherently are not different, the way that you command, a healthy margin by having pricing that isn’t commoditized is through brand. And so companies like Clorox, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever have become really good at—it actually is the core competency of the company to develop distinctive brand identities for these businesses. Because if they don’t, they don’t succeed, sort of a Darwinistic environment. So it’s totally foundational. But the funny thing is that the principles of creating a sharp, memorable, resonant brand, operate regardless of what category you’re in. It’s sort of the crucible in consumer packaged goods, you have to be good at it in consumer packaged goods. But it helps in any environment.

Drew Neisser: Right. Whereas in B2B, B2B brands can be really successful, sometimes, just by having really good sales forces, right? (for example) Whereas the product is the sales force in a sense, in packaged goods, I mean, it has to represent. And interestingly, in that scenario, brand equals margin, right? Because it’s just the margin that you get over generics. 

But before we go any further, we should probably define what you mean by brand.

Lindsay Pedersen: So brand is the meaning that a company owns inside the brain of their audience. It’s like the real estate. Like the literal, physical, neurological real estate that is occupied inside the head of their audience. What they mean to their audience. That’s what brand is, it’s what a company stands for to their audience. That meaning can span from highly functional rational benefits to highly emotional benefits. It’s whatever has been filled up by the company. All companies and all businesses have a brand, it’s just that some are more value creating than others.

Drew Neisser: So it’s perception and the stronger the perception, in theory, the stronger the value of that brand. It’s funny—and again, packaged goods was a formidable period of my marketing education. I worked on Listerine, and we competed with Procter & Gamble and Scope—but Procter & Gamble, the way I really got to understand positioning was through this one brand Gain Detergent. And their positioning was smell as proof of clean. And I just thought the genius of that moment was, you know, smell. Like that’s a weird thing that we smell our clothes. And that’s how we know they’re clean. Not looking at it, but smell. And so I’m just, I don’t know if that sparks any thoughts for your mind. But did you have an “aha” moment when you were at Clorox working on any of those brands?

Lindsay Pedersen: Oh, my gosh, it’s so funny the laundry category. I love talking about laundry, because it’s so—you know, most of us do laundry. There’s such mature categories, there’s pretty much 100% household penetration in North America, right? So there’s not a land grab yet, because there’s not new consumers. For the most part. What’s interesting to me, I mean, there’s so many cool things about that, that anecdote about Gain. The thing that strikes me the most is how simple it is. They don’t say, “We’re both efficacious, and we smell good.” They’re not we’re both good for the planet and we have a wonderful fragrance. They’re not, “We’re the cheapest.” It’s just one thing, and it’s scent. With a category that’s as mature as laundry detergent, most brands can draft from the category benefit. Most people kind of assume if it’s a laundry detergent, it’s going to clean your clothes. It’s pretty bold to step away from that, and not play that game. And just let the wins allow them to benefit from the category benefit of cleaning. And instead choose something simple and memorable. So simple, and so memorable. And this is a critical thing about powerful brands, that it requires very few cognitive calories from their audience to remember it, right? So the more simple it is, the easier to remember it is and the less effort the audience needs in order to retain it. And so it stays in your head more than a company that gives you 5 things to remember about it.

Drew Neisser: So simplicity, clarity—and I’m going to point out one other thing and this is sort of where your book and my book are different—and importantly different—you talk about positioning and getting there as the springboard for the creative and “Smell is proof of clean” is not an ad statement. It’s a guiding principle that you then when you create an ad or you create a program, it’s always about some way or another in a Gain ad you’ll see someone smelling the clothes, right? In my book, at least I get to sort of the purpose driven story statement and the 8 words that kind of clarify it. Clearly, the positioning and this notion of brand is a more powerful, universal and something that can have staying power for a long time, right? They’ve never wavered from that.

Lindsay Pedersen: That’s right. Done well, it doesn’t need to change unless there’s something meaningful that changes about their market. Yeah, that’s exactly right. I think you started to reference this with positioning and branding—I’m using them kind of synonymously here—What works in your favor is when you first figure out what it is just what’s the idea. Forget about the words, don’t try to be too cute or clever with the words, get really sharp with the idea during the creative process. Use cute words. But what often happens when those two things are conflated when you try to do strategy and creative or copy at the same time is you get enamored with a cute creative idea that actually isn’t differentiated or doesn’t matter to the customer. So I really encourage people from a process standpoint to sequence that. First do the strategy, and then later do the creative. By the way, the creative will evolve. You know, Volvo’s positioning of safety has been their positioning since the mid 1920s. But they have used hundreds if not 1000s, of sets of copy and creative to bring that to life to matter more with whatever is the zeitgeist when they’re launching that. But what accrues for the customer. The reason I bet everybody who’s joining us right now knows that Volvo = safety. The reason for that is they don’t change the positioning. They let the words change to fit whatever is happening at the time. And especially in the awareness journey of their audience. They don’t have to use the word safety explicitly now the way that maybe they did in the 1920s. But not changing, not switching all over the place because changing requires cognitive calories from your audience and the name of the game is to minimize cognitive calories from the audience.

Drew Neisser: Minimize cognitive calories. Okay, I want to come back to that notion. But we have an audience of B2B CMOs, many of whom are selling complex and costly solutions to a buying committee. Not an individual who is going to walk into a grocery store or go on to Amazon and buy it. Part of this exercise today is helping them bridge the gap from the just awesome clarity, simplicity of some of the packaged goods products that we’ve described, to their B2B positioning challenges.

Lindsay Pedersen: It’s one of the cool things about being a marketer for B2B is that simply by using these principles, even if you don’t go to the same extent, and I probably wouldn’t even recommend that you do go to the same extent as like Coke or Pepsi might go to with their branding. Even if you only use these principles a little bit, you’re probably already running circles around your competitors who think that brand is only for B2C companies. It already is your competitive advantage, if you’re using it at all. It’s, you know, kind of, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Using these principles is already going to make you stand out because so few B2B companies do this or do it well, or they relegate it to a marketing tactic versus an overarching positioning platform.

Drew Neisser: And so let’s get to these principles then. So we that we’re making sure what— mean, we’ve talked about simplicity and clarity. And we’ve talked about at least in the case of Gain there was some emotional headspace in smell. From a B2B—and again, is there a brand that can illustrate what we’re talking about here?

Lindsay Pedersen: You know, I consider the economic reason for brand is to command cognitive attention. So memory, the awareness. So in some ways, if you can think of a B2B brand than it probably is a valuable brand. They’ve probably done a good job, otherwise you wouldn’t remember it—to be fair, like stepping out of your space. Because of course, you are going to know the brands in your space. But if you can think of a B2B brand that you think is a good brand, it probably is a good brand, just because you’ve thought of it. Because that’s the most scarce resource that our audience has is attention. I can think of some great B2B brands right now like Slack, Salesforce, I’ve worked with a company called Avalara. Great brands, insofar as their audience has attention for them. My teenage kids have never heard of some of these B2B brands. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good brand, because they’re not their audience. They don’t need to capture the cognitive attention of everybody, just of the people who may become economic buyers. That’s how I think what is a good B2B brand, it’s the same thing that would make a good B2C brand. There is salience in the mind of the audience, so that they’re more likely to consider it and ultimately buy it. So the purpose of all of this is to make it easier for your customer to buy ultimately. And before they buy, they have to become aware of it, they have to know what the heck it is, in order to know what the heck it is you have to—well, they’re more likely to learn about you if you make it easy to learn about you. And that’s why it’s so useful to be simple and singular, and therefore memorable.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. A lot of thoughts going through my mind. One is the first step is awareness. If they’re not aware of you, you’re not going to get on the list. That’s pretty simple. But then you use the term salience, which is a term that really, you know very much it’s part of the packaged goods world. It’s like, what are you known for? It’s not just that they know, Listerine, but what do they know you for? And if you are lucky enough to be known for something or aware, then we get to this notion of salience. I think a lot of the brands that the companies here, many of them are in the we need more awareness space. And others are known for one thing, but want to be known for more. 

So that gets at the issue of this simplicity challenge that brands face. And you mentioned Salesforce. So Salesforce, everybody kind of knows as a CRM, like that’s a place to start. But Salesforce is everything in the marketing automation. Everything, right? Help us deal with this sort of challenge of keeping it simple on the highest level, but still sort of adding saliency as you add products and you add markets and you add geographies. And that was probably 10 questions. So pick one.

Lindsay Pedersen: Okay, so I think—remember, Salesforce has been around for 21 years, I want to say—22 years, they haven’t always been about all of these things. They started as, “We’re going to be the CRM that feels like Amazon, that’s as easy as Amazon.” They were that for years. Years before they extended their product lines. So to kind of focus on the simplicity of right now, they’re about ease. They’re about ease within CRM. And once you’ve established that, once you’ve won trust and credibility with one thing, as long as you’re creating things that are another expression of that one thing, ease, you have permission to do that. Or likely your customers will give you permission to do that. 

So Volvo is probably not going to launch a motorcycle product, because it would erode their promise of safety. But they might launch a minivan. So it becomes the filter through which they consider their innovation roadmap. In developing what you want to stand for, what you want that simple thing to be, you want it to be big enough, a big enough unmet need, that there is room to grow. Whether it’s through product extensions, or whether it’s through tapping markets that otherwise wouldn’t have considered purchasing this. So that’s part of the decision of choosing what it is you’re going to stand for. So with Salesforce, ease is just an enormous unmet need—or it certainly was when they got started. And then they can spread from there. I think that the mistake people make is in being really literal about ease in CRM. Say, you know, we own ease with CRM, well, we can’t go beyond CRM, because we’re only ease with CRM. If the customer gives you permission to expand beyond CRM, and doesn’t find that to be disingenuous or weird, then that’s something to at least consider. That was one of your questions, Drew, but you had more. And I’m not really remebering.

Drew Neisser: No but that is sparking a number of thoughts. Because a lot of CMO say, “Hey, we want to own a category.” Like and it’s not CRM, it’s the next thing, right? Whatever that is. We’re creating a new category and we want to be almost the Clorox of the bleach world, right? 

Lindsay Pedersen: Yeah!

Drew Neisser: I feel like there’s something different going on. And what you’re saying is, you’re not owning a category, like CRM, what you want to own is some space in the brain that triggers they’re easy, or, you know, something that is less specific, but still a genuine promise.

Lindsay Pedersen: Yeah, I love that. I haven’t thought of it like that until you just said that. The thing about owning a category—and that’s actually maybe the majority of the companies we work with—that actually is what they’re trying to do to kind of start and own a new category. That is a great goal. And it also is probably more something that you relate to more than that your customer relates to. The customer isn’t like, “God, what I really want is for somebody to start and own a new category.” So the way that I would sort of flip that—and I think that it’s just a reframing—is try to own an unmet need. Own a problem, as opposed to owning a category because that the customer does have a lot of motivation to see you win with, and it may—s`o that’s just another way of saying, “Oh, we’re gonna own the blank category.” 

So flipping it to be consumer meaningful—and by the way, they might not even know what you mean by category, right? Like, if you think of it as what we’re competing with isn’t so much other businesses in this category. What we’re competing with is the behavior that the customer is engaging with because they don’t have our offering. That’s your competitor. And sometimes that’s direct competitors. But usually, it’s not. If you’re starting a new category, it’s usually substitute behaviors,

Drew Neisser: Going back to what you just said earlier about making it easy to buy if you go out to try to create a new category, and I don’t even know that there is this category, you haven’t made it easier to buy. However, you could describe a problem that I’m having in real time, you’re not worried about the category, you’re just focused on the problem. I get it. If Brent Adamson were here with us, he would be echoing that on multiple levels, both in terms of making it easy to buy because customers have a buying problem. 

The other thing I just wanted to throw in there on category creation is the way I look at it is don’t think about creating a category think about creating a community. And you know, you’ve gotten there when people actually have a job description that involves your product. 

Lindsay Pedersen: Love it.

Drew Neisser: Like data visualization for Tableau is a great example of that. 

Lindsay Pedersen: Wonderful, I love that. 

Drew Neisser: The problem was, I don’t know how to share data in a way that people can understand it. That’s the unmet need. To get there you need a data visualizers they built a community next to you know, it’s a category.

Okay, a number of CMOs in the audience are in the process are about to embark on a rebranding journeys. And one of the things you and I have talked about is why it’s so important to have your CEO and you’re board buy in from the beginning. Can you talk about this and why it’s so important?a

Lindsay Pedersen: Yes, I find this so fundamental to articulating a brand. Whether it’s a rebrand or the first time you’re doing it, it goes back to brand is what you stand for to your audience. And the way that customers become aware of what it is you stand for include things that go way beyond marketing, right? So there’s the classic framework of the 4 P’s. (product, price, place and promotion) That’s the way that positioning comes to life and promotion is only one of those 4 things. So if a brand strategy is done under one of the sub topics of positioning, so promotion, or even the entire marketing organization, or even when marketing owns product, it still is not all encompassing. And so it reads as inauthentic to the customer. So think of like AT&T wireless, really cool, fun, marketing, great, expensive media. But if you’re an AT&T customer, you might know that it is really in Congress with their marketing. 

Drew Neisser: You mean their product experience? 

Lindsay Pedersen: I summarize this with, if your CEO isn’t on board, you’re just going to be putting a fresh coat of paint on an old dilapidated barn. And nothing’s really going to change, you’re gonna feel good about it. What we’re really talking about with brand, little b brand is changing the logo, putting a new website on there with a new words and language. That’s a little bit brand. Big B brand involves organizational change, because we’re now making essentially a new promise that we have to deliver on to the marketplace. Is that a fair summary?

I think the product expect. Yeah, the product experience. Maybe even the place P have the 4 P’s. Distribution, also not easy, not pleasant, not seamless, none of the things that’s promised in the promotion. Ultimately, if the CEO, if the promise that you’re putting out there doesn’t deliver across all aspects of the customer experience, from product to price to place to promotion, then it’s not a brand strategy. It just isn’t. It could be a really cool marketing campaign. But if the rest of the things that the customer experiences of the company aren’t conveying that in a consistent and aligned way, then at best, you’ve can confuse the audience. And at worse, you’re perceived as disingenuous like AT&T wireless. The buck has to stop with whoever owns the P&L for all of those things. And in some companies, that is the CMO. Some companies, it’s a general manager, depending on how the organization is set up. But the CEO usually is the one who provides air cover so that the CMO knows that his or her counterpart in product and the CFO are all rowing in the same direction with this brand idea. It’s just simply isn’t as powerful. It’s not nearly as powerful if the CEO doesn’t have the conviction and the buy in and the energy—and frankly, the leadership courage to make trade offs against this promise. Even when it means less revenue this quarter. Can you imagine how tempting it would be for Volvo to launch a scooter when it’s so hot right now. But when the CEO is like, “No, that would be a trade off against our most important asset. Our brand. Safety.” the CMO doesn’t have to go to bat and say, “Hey, you’re not allowed to do that, that would be breaking our promise.” So it’s sort of like making brand smaller than it really is, by not allowing it to be a complete business strategy, really, that the CMO simply is probably the most direct beneficiary of. But everybody’s a beneficiary of the brand strategy, not only marketing.

Yeah exactly. And remember back to the principle of minimize cognitive calories, a new name, a new logo, a new color, a new visual identity, even new words might cause cognitive calories from your audience. And they might be annoyed. So there should be some meat behind it. I mean, if it’s only to have a fresh coat of paint, know that there’s a cost to that, because you might have now confused your your audience. It’s actually really common for customers to be kind of irritated or they’re not even aware they just have sort of a funny like, “Ooh, I don’t know about this company, after all, because they…” Just like when a person like has a makeover and you’re like, “Oh, like so are they that are they that?” It breeds a little bit of doubt. 

So I don’t take that lightly. I actually think it’s a really good idea to do a lot of the time but just to make sure that you’re taking into consideration on the principle that the customer isn’t like dying for you to create a new logo in almost any scenario. So what is it that the customer gets out of this rebrand? And are you doing the hard work to make it easier for them to perceive you and to think about you, rather than harder?

Drew Neisser: It’s funny, and I love that question. It’s such a great question, what’s the customer gonna get out of it? What about employees? I mean, what’s the employee going to get out of a rebrand? 

Lindsay Pedersen: Yeah, well, it’s the same principle of trust. And actually, I even think maybe we should pause on what do we mean by rebrand because even that word is kind of all over the place. Sometimes it actually just means and probably usually, when I hear that it means a new visual identity. Sometimes it means a new name, if you mean a new positioning, you actually are going to position differently, I would call it that. But to me, kind of the most wholesome reason to do a quote unquote rebrand is that you haven’t really done it right to begin with. So if you ask 10 employees, “What does this company stand for?” And you get 10 different answers. That is, number one, a very expensive state of affairs. I mean, your employees should know exactly what you stand for, and should be saying the same thing. Number two, that’s demoralizing for employees not to have a singular Northstar. And number three, it’s disengaging for them. So the promise what tha distilled version of what it is your company stands for what you want to own inside the mind of your audience, that is going to galvanize employees as well as customers. And not doing it, you’re not having the guts to have a stake in the ground also erodes trust among employees who are just dying for you to tell them what it is this company is meant to do. That’s what we human beings are meaning seeking creatures, we want to know what is the meaning of being an employee in this company. And if you make us work really hard to figure out what that is, that is not going to win over our hearts and minds. So it’s the same human principles at work here, whether it’s employees, or whether it’s customers.

Drew Neisser: So we’ve covered you got to have the CEO, and ideally, the board of directors on board, you need to have a clear understanding of where employees what they think about the brand, you need to ask the question, and this is just before you get started, what’s in it for employees. If we think about other critical questions that you should ask before you even embark on a program, now we can get into, actually how do you do it? 

Lindsay Pedersen: Yeah, I mean, the first one—so brand strategy is business strategy. Brand strategy is business strategy. And so just like the way that you might approach business strategy with, what are we trying to do here? What is the growth that we’re seeking? Are we trying to grow? If so, are we trying to grow with new customers? Are we trying to grow by increasing cross sell within existing customers? Are we trying to go international? So go really big picture. Like, what’s the growth idea? What’s the hunger for growth? And what are our resources for achieving that growth? I would start with that. And then I’d go, “Okay, who is the archetype of customer who brings us the most value and that we bring the most value?” Who’s the customer that we want more of? That’s your sweet spot audience. And to get to know those people? And I don’t mean, in the very kind of literal—or I don’t mean only what do they think about our product. I would actually spend the vast majority of the time spent getting to know that audience. What is their job like? Why did they even go into this career? What do they do when they’re not working? What matters to them? What makes them tick? What keeps them up at night? So that’s like the most big picture macro and only then coming to, “Okay, tell me about this problem. Tell me about the nature of the pain you’re in. The pain that that we our company is trying to solve. Before you talk about our company, just tell me what it’s like to be trying to solve this problem? And what are the repercussions of not solving this problem? And then understand, okay, when you think about trying to solve this problem, what are the various options that you’re considering? Hopefully, they’re going to give you a really rich tableau of substitutes, work around behaviors. Sometimes it’s direct competitors, sometimes it’s indirect competitors, what is it that they have in their frame of reference. And now you know who your competitors are. And once you know who your competitors are, and you know who your customers are, you know, what you’re positioning against. Because brand positioning is about differentiation. Those are almost synonyms. But in order to be different, you need to know what you’re different from. 

With your Gain detergent example, Drew, if they were competing against people not doing laundry, then they would be competing against dirty laundry. But they’re not competing against that they’re competing against clean laundry that smells ho hum. So that’s what they position against is the rest of the laundry category. And they have to stand out in a way versus that. I find that step in this process to be the most underutilized step that people go so quickly to who are our direct competitors. If you do that to early, then you can be positioning against the wrong thing altogether. And it might actually be a lot easier than you’re making it. Especially if you’re creating a new category, it might be that your direct competitors are really not your competitors at all. You’re competing against other work around software products, you’re competing against an organizational habit. You know the, “Oh, we have 10 meetings, because we have that problem.” That might be what you’re competing against. And when you know that with clarity, you can show up with a much more genuine and distinctive way of shining for them and winning their hearts.

Drew Neisser: So many good thoughts. I’m going to put some pins on some of these. First of all, brand strategy is business strategy. One of the things we talk a lot about and CMO Huddles is when you’re having business conversations, you have everybody’s attention. When you have brand conversations, everybody’s rolling their eyes. So business strategy equals brand strategy. So we’re really talking about business strategy. And when we talk about business strategy, we’re talking about positioning against somebody, right? And the liberation of having an enemy is really helpful, because then you can focus and this one of the powers of being a challenger brand. But I’m reminded of a couple of things one, a statement that I share my book, which is an old packaged goods one, “To convince blank to use blank and instead of blank because of blank.” The instead of blank, you just put a lot of emphasis on. The frame of reference right there. And you don’t have—it can be a very interesting, I mean, it could be inaction, they could be doing nothing. But that’s where some interesting dynamics come in that you can find some sweet spots. 

So okay, we’re running at a time. There’s a couple of things that you and I’ve talked about. First of all, I’m gonna state this, which is I see a lot of times people try to do a brand positioning in 3 months. Can you talk about quickly about the length of time to do this right in your experience?

Lindsay Pedersen: Yeah. So if you’re starting from a point—so when my company does a brand strategy, it’s a 9 week process. We’re starting assuming that there are already insights that we can leverage about the customer doing original research can take a while. So there’s a large span of a brand strategy. Pepsi took 2 years to do there’s. I think that you could do a brand strategy in an afternoon and it would be better than the vast majority of your competitors brand strategies. Like kind of back to just do do it. D`on’t try to do it perfect, just do it. For me, what I have found is 2 months is a good amount of time for some incubation of ideas and to kind of let various ideas sit. I find that to be optimal, I really like that. Also not to indulge the idea that, “Okay, we got to do a ton of customer research here so that we were starting with something good.” Oftentimes, especially oh my gosh, with B2B, your salespeople are already experts on your customers, and you probably know your customers better than most B2C companies know about their consumers. So if you’re B2C, you oftentimes have to do consumer original research because you don’t talk to your consumers directly. Don’t get caught up in we got to do a lot of qualitative research because that’s when brand exercises become really lengthy is when there’s a lot of original research being done that really doesn’t have to be done. A little bit goes a long way I find. 

Drew Neisser: Okay, let’s wrap this up, Lindsay, with 2 do’s and a don’t for the CMOs who are embarking on a business strategy, revisiting their business strategy, journey.

Lindsay Pedersen: 2 do’s and a don’t, okay. Number one, position this to your CEO is a business strategy. And if you want you have my blessing, to not call it a brand strategy. If it means that the CEO will feel more engaged call it a positioning strategy, call it a business strategy, but if you want to get the most from it, make sure that it’s not a marketing campaign. It actually is an overarching business strategy. 

And number two, don’t pick something too safe. Safe is ultimately expensive because it requires a lot of cognitive calories from your audience. Pick something sharp and bold and your customer will remember it and it will be a much higher ROI unfolding. 

My don’t is—I’ve said this before—don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is something that can take 2 years to do. And it’s something that can take an afternoon to do. Do it. Don’t feel like you need to do something like the CPG companies do that take hours every day for years. Let it happen and really hold your feet to the fire that you’re doing it and certainly if you get more money later, you can come back and you can kind of sharpen it up. But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Drew Neisser: I love it. So many great tips. Lindsey Pedersen, thank you so much. How do people find you?

Lindsay Pedersen: Sure. This has been such a fun conversation Drew. Okay, so people can find me at my business’s website:

Drew Neisser: Awesome. All right. Well, thank you, Lindsay. And thank you huddlers for joining us. 

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Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me. Audio production is by Sam Beck. Show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius.

To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about my new book and Renegade visit I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.