What if you were given the ability to learn from one of the leading brand experts in the country? Pull up a seat because we get to do just that in our episode with Marty Neumeier! Marty is a world-renowned author and leading experts on how to build your business & brand strategy. He has worked with big-name companies such as Apple, Netscape, Symantec, Kraft Foods, Adobe, Google, Microsoft, Riot Games, and Capital One to help advance their brands and cultures. Today he is sharing some of his tactics and wisdom with us in Episode 31 of Baby Got Backstory.
This is one of the most informative and inspiring stories you will ever hear.
What we’re talking about
- Marty Neumeier’s Story: From Grade School to College Graduate
- The Path from Young Career Man to Leading Branding Expert
- Teaching The Branding Theory
Marty Neumeier’s Story: From Grade School to College Graduate
At the tender age of 7, Marty announced to his 2nd grade class that he wanted to be a “commercial artist”. Marty’s mother had gone to art school, and taught him to draw at a young age. It was with this training that he became the school’s artist. This love and skill for art and design led to a college education at Art Center in Los Angeles, CA.
The Path from Young Career Man to Leading Branding Expert
Early in his career, Marty wisely realized that you couldn’t be a high end, successful graphic designer if you didn’t have control over the words you use in your layouts. He learned copywriting to add to his list of esteemed skills so his designs would blend seamlessly with the graphics. As his career progressed, he also discovered that some of his projects were more successful than others, which led to the “branding” design. After he put his theories, skills, and expertise to work, his work took off! At the age of 40, Marty catapulted himself into a leading expert.
Teaching The Branding Theory
Marty is so confident in how his branding strategy works that he said you’d probably be better off taking a CBO (chief branding officer) position than starting your own company. You’d probably make more money! Your reputation can have value beyond the product you’re producing. When you have a specialty that no one else has & its valuable to companies, and you can prove it, you have no competition really. This is the essence of building your branding strategy.
Are you ready to take your brand to the next level, and learn from the best of the best?
- 9:13 - 9:25 (12 sec MN) Why is it that sometimes my work...it was accidentally on strategy.
- 11:48 - 12:38 (50 sec MN) The more I started working in this area....in order to be successful together.
- 16:24 - 17:13 (49 sec MN) It’s hard to keep up with what’s happening...some really interesting ways of looking at their work.
- 32:03 - 32:33 (30 sec MN) Branding is more about strategy...It really rises to a higher level in a company or business.
- 35:00 - 35:39 (39 sec MN) The stuff that makes customers loyal...That area of work is called branding.
- Branding is a field that brings business people and creative people together. - MN
- A brand isn’t a logo or a tagline, or even your product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. - Marc Gutman
- Branding deserves a spot right next to the CEO. That level of leadership has to be all about brand. - MN
- We’re in a paradigm shift caused by the pandemic and collapse of the economy that’s going to shake everything up. It’s going to shake the snow globe & create a lot of opportunity for people that can embrace change and find a place in this new future whatever it looks like. It’s going to be the future we’ve been trying to make happen, but we got stuck because of tradition. - MN
- Long term strategy is helping customers become who they want to become. And if you can do that, you’ll be very valuable to your customers and they will stick with you beyond reason. - MN
- Most people don’t know that branding is more than logos. It’s much more than that. MN
- A company has to have a purpose beyond making money today if they want to succeed. - MN
Marty Neumeier 0:02 Who's gonna work for a company that just wants to, you know, increase shareholder demands? It's just boring. It makes you want to take a take a shower. After you come back from work, there's nothing there for anybody. No, we live in a world of human beings. So we want to think that what we're doing has value to people real value and that we're leaving the world a better place because of what we're doing.
Marc Gutman 0:30 podcasting, Boulder, Colorado. This is the baby got backstory podcast, we dive into the story behind the story of today's most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, Marc Gutman, and on today's episode of Baby got backstory. How one of the world's most famous branding experts didn't even Start that part of his career until the ripe young age of 40. Now, if you like and enjoy the show, please take a minute or two to rate and review us over at iTunes. iTunes uses these as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on the apple charts. And ratings help us to build an audience which then helps us continue to produce the show.
On today's episode, we are talking to one of my heroes, branding expert, Marty neumeier. Much of what I do every day, and aspire to do comes from the teachings of Marty. I have consumed his thoughts, his books, and his philosophies, and I consider him a living legend. Most people in marketing, not just branding on at least one of his distinctive white books with the big black type across the front. And for those of you who don't know Marty Neumeier. He's an author, designer and brand advisor whose mission is to bring the principles and processes of design to business. His series of Whiteboard books include zag, which was named one of the top hundred business books of all time in the design full company, a best selling guide to non stop innovation. His first book, the brand gap, and the one that I've come to love and many of my branding colleagues have come to love has been read by more than 23 million people since 2003. A sequel, the brand flip lays out a new process for building brands in the age of social media and customer dominance. And his latest book scramble is a business thriller about how to build a brand quickly with agile strategy.
In 1996, Marty founded critique magazine, the first journal about design thinking, think about that he was one of the first to be talking about design thinking. He has worked with innovative companies such as Apple, Netscape, Symantec, Kraft Foods, Adobe, Google, Microsoft, Riot Games, and Capital One to help advance their brands and cultures. Marty was gracious to drop in for a long interview on the baby gap backstory Podcast, where we discuss the importance of brand and branding, how branding ads and during value to a business and why those businesses that focus on brand will be successful on the other side of this pandemic. And those that don't are going to be in trouble.
Our conversation ranges from Marty's early days of branding, The Beatles, Leonardo da Vinci ageism in the creative field, and what the future might look like for all of us. Marty says that branding is a field that brings business people and creative people together, and I couldn't agree more. And here is Marty Neumeier. This episode brought to you by wild story. Wait, isn't that your company it is. And without the generous support of wild story, this show would not be possible. A brand isn't a logo or a tagline, or even your product. A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product service or company. It's what people say about you when you're not in the room.
Wild story helps progressive founders and savvy marketers build purpose driven brands that connect their business goals with the customers they want to serve, so that both the business and the customer needs are met. This results in crazy, happy, loyal customers that purchase again and again, and this is great for business. If that sounds like something you and your team might want to learn more about, reach out @ www.wildstory.com and we'd be happy to tell you more. Now back to our show.
Marty, you're an acclaimed author having written several books on the topic of branding books like the brand flip zag, and the brand gap, you are considered an expert on the topic of branding. And you're the director of CEO branding for liquid agency in Silicon Valley. And you also teach a five tier program on brand mastery through your own company level C. So we do have a sense and an idea of where the story is going. But what I really want to know is where did it start? Marty? Were you always into branding and branding? The idea of branding as a young kid?
Marty Neumeier 5:34 I was not I didn't know that word existed, you know, but I did get into communications pretty early, at least in my head. I was seven years old when I announced to my second grade class that I wanted to be a commercial artist. And everyone said, Well, you know what, and the only reason I even knew that job title existed is because my mother went to art school. She had taught me how to draw. And I took to it pretty well and became known for that. And by the second grade, I was the artist for the school.
So that has a huge effect. Huge pull for kids when they're, you know, they're told at a young age that they're special for something. And so, I think it was right then I said, You know what, that's what, that's what I am. And all I have to do is wait long enough to be one.
Marc Gutman 6:28 At that time, what was a commercial artist? What does that even mean?
Marty Neumeier 6:32 I think, you know, I thought it was like an illustrator. You know, someone who does illustrations for magazine covers and for anything signs, signage, trademarks, anything like that. I had no idea, you know, but I knew drawing was involved. And I could do that. So as soon as I was old enough, I got myself into art school at Art Center in Los Angeles. And that's that was my gonna be my track and somewhere Along the way, I just realized I think was probably 20 years old, maybe even a little younger, that you could not be a really successful high end graphic designer, if you didn't have control over the words that were that you used in your, you know, on your in your layouts and so forth. Because that you can't separate graphics and communication in the word part of communication. And I was having trouble finding copywriters to work with that I could work with as equal partners, you know, because the way copywriters worked in those days is they thought about the, the intent of the communication and they wrote some things and they handed it to you and you would kind of illustrate it or lay it out as an ad or article or you know, whatever it is, and that isn't really what I wanted to ask not the way I wanted to do it.
So I wanted to you know what Work with copy people from a team together. And I, you know, I tried to make that work. But eventually I figured it was easier to learn how to do the copywriting part myself, I could go a lot faster, and there'd be no gap between the words and the pictures, they would be they would each contribute, contributed equally. And so that led me to the writing side of communication. And I just kept doing that and, you know, built a studio, doing all that kind of graphic design and some advertising, and reports, corporate identity, all the kinds of things that could make money for designers. And it wasn't until I don't know probably I was 40 or something like that, that I realized that there was a gap between what I thought good work was and what a company thought good work was and the gap.
The reason for the gap is that they didn't know what I was trying to achieve or if it was any good at all. And I really didn't know what the business was trying to achieve. I just knew my little part of it. And sometimes I would, you know, get lucky and the company would prosper because of the work I did. And I always thought, Well, why, why is it that sometimes my work is really valuable to a company? And other times? It's not? Well, it happened that when it when it worked for the company, it was because it had it accidentally was on strategy. So I started just thinking about what is strategy and what is business? What's the difference between business strategy and design strategy? Can it can it all be one thing?
And so that led me to the world of branding and starting with positioning those great books by trout and Reese, starting in 1970. They opened up a whole world for me talking about the the strategic intent of communication of advertising and marketing and so forth, which I didn't know existed. So you know, because designers what, what do we do? We, we look at the work that other designers have done through the ages. And we want to fit into that continuum. So we try to do this great, exciting, inspirational work, but not really, with with regard to what companies are trying to achieve. Of course, we think we are, but unless you're really intimate with what a company or a CEO is trying to do, you're guessing a bit. So I needed to look into that. So that was a lot of reading a lot of experimentation. And, you know, nothing's easy. It takes years and years to be good at something. So but I would say I was probably 40 by the time I really saw the problem.
Marc Gutman 10:40 Right. So that's have so many questions. All right. Thank you for sharing that. I mean, I mean, just that one alone, like I think so often in our careers, you know, we think we either have to figure it all out really early or that by 40. We should have figured it all out. It's really interesting to me that it like what you're best known for at least how often Know you, and you've been a huge influence on my career didn't even really happen until you were 40. And beyond that, that just like blows my mind
Marty Neumeier 11:09 and mostly beyond. And I think we're really started to become clear to me is when I was I was probably 50. At this point, I decided I would publish a magazine about the thinking behind graphic design was really the first journal about design thinking, focused on graphic design thinking. It was called critique magazine. And so critique was filled with interviews and articles about famous graphic designers and advertising people and the thought processes behind their work. And the more I started working in this area, I realized the less we actually knew about what we were doing, we really didn't know what we were doing.
There's a lot of kind of mythology about What makes good design what makes good advertising, good marketing, but it wasn't there was no framework for it, there was no structure, you know, that would lead you to the solution that would really drive a business forward. And then I realized what what that framework is its branding. It's the kind of playing field that brings business people and creative people together, we can all agree that this is a game worth playing.
But we have to know our parts, we have to play our roles, we have to take our positions on the field and know what we're doing and where we're headed, in order to be successful together. And so when I figured that out, I ice pretty much changed my whole orientation to my work and stop trying to help graphic designers understand business, which is what I was doing with the magazine. It's like, you know, pay attention to business because this is where you this is where you're going. work takes flight, you know from you, you really have to understand what you're doing for companies to be successful in this. Most designers didn't want to hear that they really happy just doing the work the way they wanted to do.
But so I, I decided to turn the other way towards business people and say, Hey, business people, CEOs, marketing people, design can do tons of stuff for you have no idea how powerful it is, if you just knew how to harness it, so I created a business helping companies get their arms and heads around this whole idea of branding and design and creativity as a consultant, and that worked great and built a company on that and wrote the book, the brand gap to define the problem. The problem is the gap between design and business strategy. And so that became the really became a focus of my work ever since I kept writing books on the same subject because it, it's actually rich with opportunity. So that's what I've been doing. I've got eight books now all around this topic of, of the brand gap, and the role of creativity in business and the opportunity for business of utilizing design in a way that can, you know, really drive like off the charts results for the company.
Marc Gutman 14:29 Yeah, and I don't want to harp on this too much. But I'm still so fascinated about how, and I do want to talk to you about your books and get into those because I'm a big student of those. But I'm just so fascinated that these books came so late to you and that this kind of second career came later. And the reason I'm so fascinated is it's really personal for me. I mean, we see in our industry, you know this this idea of ageism is like rampant, you know, especially in the creative field and design and branding. It's all about younger creatives and younger people in it. What's the younger generation doing? And? And yet the the the wisdom and the perspective is all coming for you after 40. And I mean, do you ever run into that today? Do you find that? You know, how do you maintain relevance? How do you stay relevant as you get older in the creative space, and you have all these younger people pushing on you?
Marty Neumeier 15:20 Well, you know, I think what I've noticed is that whatever you ate, how will you know if you're already in business, if you're late, let's say solidly working in an industry. By the time you're 30, you're going to be equal in your ability to accomplish things as someone who's in their 70s I think he, you just bring something different to it. So if you're 30, you're going to bring an awareness of the latest stuff that's happening in culture, right? Because you're going to be like, that's what you're going to care about is that stuff that's all around you, everyday, all that stuff. You're going to be right there with it. And you can bring that knowledge to your work. Now. You may not have the wisdom of someone who's 60 or 70. But you've got that. And you've got energy and new ideas and very little baggage, right? So as you get older, you have to deal with, like what you are what you already know is your problem.
You know, what you think is true and right and correct, you have to keep reinventing that for yourself. And that gets difficult because it's hard to keep up with what's happening now in culture and also do the things you really need to do, which is to learn from the past. I mean, that's where the wisdom comes from. It's like looking at the whole sweep of history going way back. Like, it's great to, you know, think about what the latest advertising agencies doing but also like check in on Aristotle, you know, he had some really amazing insights that you could learn from.
Now, you know, someone who's 30 is probably not going to spend a lot of time thinking about Aristotle, but by the end of your career, be looking back at history. And trying to mind history for all its great wisdom and bringing that up today. And you also have a duty and an opportunity to teach younger people, some really interesting ways of looking at their work. And by the same token, younger people can bring that, that fresh world to you so that you're not totally out of touch with what's happening. But you get out of touch because you get ideas that have worked for you, and they keep working for you. So you don't want to have to work so hard to stay up with everything. But also you're spending time broadening your knowledge base, and that, you know, that just takes time away from staying in tune with what's on television or what's on what's on kwibi You know, this week, so everyone has advantages. That's why someone who's 30 can compete with someone who's 70 in vice versa, as you have different strengths.
Marc Gutman 17:58 I love that. Thank you. So you start every book that you have at least the ones I've had, and I've read. So I don't say every book release, the ones I've read with an intro to that book that you're holding that is essentially an anti book. Right? You always you make these mentions that, hey, this is the fewest words possible. You make it a point to tell the reader that you've bought a short yet dense and informative book. Like why are short books so important to you? Like, why why do you always enjoy your book that way?
Marty Neumeier 18:28 Well, if they are short, I do. It's for a reason. And the reason is, we're all very busy, you know, doing our jobs and it's hard to find the time to move into new new territory, a new area of understanding and keep working and you know, bring in the, in the money to pay the rent and all that. So, you know, why would I, like try to monopolize somebody's time I want them to get out and start using this immediately.
But at the same time, I don't want to offer them a shallow sense of anything, I want everything to be as deep as possible. So to do that, you have to really work on compressing your information down to the simplest possible way to say it. So that it a communicates clearly and B sticks in your head. So that's, that's actually the work of, you know, copywriters, that's what they do, they figure out say something in the least amount of space. So that that skill that I've developed has served me well. And it has an author's just gonna use copywriting skills, and also design skills. So designers can make things visual, that maybe aren't typically visual to help people understand it and help it stick in your head. So there's those two skills together, especially when you use them in tandem. One on one equals three. So that's, that's the nice thing that I can bring to it.
Other than that, it's just reading and learning and trying out things testing, doing research and all these things that I'm addicted to now at this time. Part of my life, I just love learning more and more about it. So I just take that information, and I use my design and writing skills to make a book that communicates clearly just goes right into your brain like a laser and, and sticks there because it's, you know, if I do it well enough, it's memorable. So but having said that, I've got a book that's not like that meta skills, which is 300 pages of much, it's deep material that stays deep, doesn't, it's not simplified, because it has to be that way. So I'll on that book that's about developing skills for the, for the century, especially after the pandemic, you know, we're going to have a lot of new opportunities, and it's going to require new skills.
So there are five skills that I write about meta skills, which are skills that that can help you create or learn new skills, there's sort of a skill of skilling yourself. That makes any sense. So that book is different. And then I also wrote one called scramble that is not visual. It's, it's a thriller. So it's a business thriller that I use to explain the idea of Agile strategy. So this is for strategy, business strategy and brand strategy together. How do you create it? How do you do it fast and do it well enough in our fast moving world of business today, so that it's been an interesting process is to learn how to communicate business material in through story. And I think it's working well. So I'll probably do some more of those too. But the whiteboard books, the ones you're referring to, like the brand gap, the brain flip, zag, those are the you know, the highly visual quirky fun, condensed brand books.
Marc Gutman 21:49 Yeah, thanks. Thanks for sharing that. How do you decide what what topics to write on? I mean, writing a book is no small feat. It's certainly a lot of dedication and time so has to be something that You know, is worth doing? How do you decide what you're going to write on? And what's worth your time?
Marty Neumeier 22:05 And not I think it's being honest. I think it's, I write about stuff that bugs me. You know, when I think like, you know, people should really think about something in this way or not the way they're thinking about it, or the world really needs to change to embrace x. And typically, in the beginning, I don't even see what it is that I'm going to write about very clearly, it takes a while to kind of go, yeah, that's the problem. It's, you know, none of us really see this problem, but it's a real problem. And I can fix this, you know, I can, I can unleash people's creativity. So we all can fix this. And so, I mean, the brand gap started just out of frustration that, you know, I couldn't seem to get designers to care enough about business to know what they were doing within a business. I couldn't get business people to care enough about design so that they can manage it. Well. That that is really A last opportunity of like two bodies of knowledge that are very sophisticated, that can't work together and need to work together.
So, you know, so the brand gap, and then and then when I was doing the brand gap, you know, talking about it and giving workshops people would say, yeah, these five disciplines that are in the brand gap, you know, differentiation, innovation, etc. That really makes sense. But the differentiation when where you have to be different than everybody else. That one is really counterintuitive to me. I'm not really sure I get that or I'm not on board for that. I just think you know, we need to do someone's making a lot of money in one area, you do what they do, and you will make money too. And that's not how it works.
So I decided I have to drill down on differentiation. So zigzag became a drill down book, just this idea of positioning in positioning for difference making your company different, making it The only in its category so that you don't have to compete head to head with anybody and you your profit margins can be higher. And that takes, you know, a definite effort to do that. I mean, it doesn't come naturally to people we don't, we're not different, but naturally know people. Some people can't help be different than maybe that's an advantage. But a lot of people just want to be the same. They just want to fit in, they just want to be professionals. And that's actually not a very good kind of impulse for, for becoming great in your industry and for standing out and having a brand that's really valuable. You have to purposefully do something different than your competitors. So that needed a book, right. And so that succeeded really well.
And then I started to realize, well, you know, even if you understand all this material, you as a company, you can't build a brand unless your company understands the whole concept of branding, they have to have all the processes in place to embrace and protect that brand. And that record that's going to require a culture change. You have to change the culture and to be to become innovative and to become brand focused and brand lead. So I wrote the design for company that introduced I think it was the first book about design thinking. So that's that's how I, I write these books. I have, like, a burr under my saddle. And I just have to, I get angry, angry enough to write a book.
Marc Gutman 25:38 So interesting. And you were, you're like, right on the forefront of design thinking. I didn't realize that your book was potentially the first book I had always kind of attributed design thinking to this thing that I do invented. Where did design thinking come from, if not from there?
Marty Neumeier 25:53 Well, God bless you. I mean, they have been so helpful to the design field by explaining All this stuff and paving the way for everybody else. at my office in Palo Alto, Palo Alto, when I started this, I was writing the brand gap. I was in a little like a warehouse, because I just shut down my other business. And it was full of all the junk from my last business. And I was there by myself, writing my book right across the street was at the IDEO headquarters. And so I got to know those guys and really become familiar with their, what they were doing. And they wrote a lot about this topic, too. So we're probably doing this at the same time.
But I think my book was the first one to use design to actually describe the process of design thinking in its simplest, simplest way. IDEO followed with some very specific books about design thinking, and so did a lot of other people. But even before that, my magazine critique was about design thinking. So, you know, I'm not claiming credit for inventing design thinking but I would say it was in the Air probably as early as 1990
Marc Gutman 27:01 Wow, that's quite a bit of history. I love that. I love that. And so, you know, one thing I love about your story is is what I'm gathering and please correct me if I'm putting words in your mouth or summing up incorrectly is that you've tried a lot of different things. Like you haven't just said, Hey, I'm just gonna try this, you know, magazine and design thinking, I'm just going to be a designer, like, you've really given yourself the ability to try different things, see if they work, you know, in success for you.
Also, it doesn't sound like it's a zero sum game. Like, I would suggest that critique magazine was a success. But at some point, you shut it down and then you know, you're doing something different. So, you know, can you talk a little bit about this like propensity to to try different things to sprout out, I mean, to sprout up to contract to kind of do it over and over again?
Marty Neumeier 27:50 Well, you know, what I like about being a designer is the ability, the freedom that you have to invent, to innovate to, to experiment a little bit. And even when I was just, you know, in my 20s doing design, I always wanted to try different ways of communicating, you know, different ways of using graphics, words and pictures and combination, all that kind of stuff. I mean, it was just endless fun. trying all these things. I think all I did was the take that same impulse to be inventive and move it up to a higher level of like, Can I be inventive? With the concept of the work? Can I be inventive with the strategy behind it? Can I be inventive with my own career? You know, kind of do I have to do this all the time?
Not that I didn't want to do it, but I just thought there's always something to explore. So maybe it's just a kind of curiosity and adventurousness that I developed early on. Then I was a big fan of The Beatles. This is back in when I was in high school, The Beatles came out. And up to that time, you know, music was great rock and roll was great. And I, you know, played a guitar and I listened very closely to music since I was probably 10 years old. And I loved all the newness, the novelty of, you know, the top 40 and all kinds of stuff. When the Beatles came out, it was something like at a much higher level of creativity to me, much more intellectual, but still fun and accessible. And what they would do is they would give you some music that you could accept, and then it'll start to really like, for its difference. And then just when you were comfortable with that, they'd come out with more music that was a little more different, like they were always exploring.
So every step they took, was pulling you further into some area that you weren't expecting. And I just love that I just thought that's what I want my career to be. I want to be exploring every opportunity in this like, breaking the mold every time I can and so, but at the same time being a serious person So who's, you know, is making a living with it and, and is in demand by industry and all that. So, you know, you can, you could do crazy stuff every day of the week, and never really amount to anything in your life. So you don't want to do that. So you have to kind of stick with something. But I always wanted to be like trying something new pushing the ball forward down the field. And that's the joy of it for me.
So I would say, kind of reinvented myself but every 10 years, like in a fairly serious way, but not in a way that would surprise anybody. It's just like, maybe just take a step to the left or to the right or the elite a little bit of a leap forward. Or it just means really, that you have to be willing to abandon what was working before to try something that might not work. But you know, that that's kind of a defining characteristic for me.
So it's, you know, I love doing it, and I still love doing it. So that's why I'm when I look back, I could never have predicted I'd be teaching branding right now, to professionals. I just, you know, I wouldn't even know what it was. I just wanted to be a commercial artist, you know? So don't don't hold yourself back and say no, I'm an accountant. And I can't be anything but an accountant. You'd surprise yourself just, you know, imagine something else you might enjoy and take a few steps towards and see if you like that. And eventually you'll jump and do that. And that will be great until it's not and then you'll be ready to jump again.
Marc Gutman 31:33 I mean, and so in that light, Do you consider yourself a brander? Or a marketer?
Marty Neumeier 31:37 Oh, brander Yeah. To me marketing. It's way more tactical than branding. So marketing is really about how do I sell stuff now? How do I create revenues this quarter? Like it's, it's an ongoing challenge. It's like you're in a live sports event. You're you're playing on the field, and you've got to like Score score score. Branding is more about the strategy. It's a long term, it's a long game. And so it's more like having a sports career than a sports game, you know, for the company, it's, it's really thinking about how do we make money now and 20 years from now, to make sure that we've grown in the last 20 years we've grown, we've become more important, more solid, less vulnerable to the shifting winds, or that kind of stuff. So it's, it's really rises to a higher level in a in a company or in a business. I would say, I'm starting.
This has taken me a long time to to believe this. But the more I study this and research it and test it, the more I think branding deserves a spot right next to the CEO at that level of leadership has to be all about brand. So think about someone who is variable successful at this Steve Jobs. CEO of Apple, you know was the world's maybe still is the world's most successful rich company out there. And he was his title was CEO, but he didn't really do the kinds of things that CEOs are known to do. He didn't really care that much about shareholders and taking care of them. He didn't look at spreadsheets and worry about finance. I mean, that was somebody else's job. His job was to make sure you had customers like rabid customers, rabidly loyal customers who would buy anything that he decided to put out, and he worked really hard at that was fanatical about it. And so that, you know, it's very rare for Steve Jobs to put out a product that just wasn't successful. He did it but you know, it happens.
But he was very careful about being successful every time out making sure that the product they were producing and selling was the right product at the moment. And so what does that take? Well, it takes some sense of what your customers want, you have to think like a customer, you have to understand your customers really well. You have to take responsibility for their delight, right? So he had to create the products that he thought they would need, if they only knew they existed. He had to make sure that the products were unique, somewhat unique Anyway, you know, they didn't have to be the first but they had to be the best that they had in hand, put an apple look and feel that they were designed beautifully that they worked beautifully.
Pet, they had the ethos of Apple, all that stuff. That's a lot of work. And it typically it takes one very strong willed person to make that happen. So that person needs to be pretty high up in a company, whether he's the CEO or she's the CEO, or this is what I would say is more practical is a CBO chief brand officer. There needs to be somebody response for that stuff, the stuff that makes customers loyal. That's that's the highest level work you can do in the company. The rest is mostly operations and bookkeeping. So you don't have a company without customers. Right? You can have customers without having a very good company, you don't last long. But you could do it, the customers are the main thing. And so we're to really designing is not your designing customers. And that is tricky work. And we're just now starting to understand how it's possible to make that happen. And that area of work is called branding.
Marc Gutman 35:40 And so why do you think that we're not seeing that more often today? Why are we not seeing more people having CEOs and people sitting right next to the CEO and thinking more like Steve Jobs and less like, what we kind of see as a traditional CEO, which is, you know, hey, I gotta take care of shareholders and financial spreadsheets and whatnot?
Marty Neumeier 36:00 I think it's that that tradition makes things, you know, keeps things from changing tradition. You know, we've been having, you know, businesses been going on for, for many centuries now really picked up in the 1500s. And that's really going well. And schools reflect the knowledge base that you need to be in business, and they are very slow to change. They should move slowly. And so it takes innovators to kind of break out of that. And until enough of them are successful, nobody's willing to follow. It's, it's just too important to to succeed.
I mean, success is so important that people don't take risks, they're risk averse. And the bigger the company is, the less risky they tend to be. But then you see, you know, people like Steve Jobs, you know, hugely successful people are going so how do we do that? I mean, where do you where what's To go to to learn how to do that, well, Steve Jobs didn't go to any school, he figured it out. And I think we're still at that figuring out stage. But it's, you know, it's the reason I started level C with my partner and the, and the star is to bring this little part, which I think is gonna be a much bigger part of the business called branding up to a level of professionalism so that it's a thing, like people know that this is the work that we're doing. In fact, it could be the central work of any company is creating, and just the normal CEO skills are not gonna do that for you. Right. So, so who's gonna do it?
Well, I think it's gonna, I think it's going to be a lot of business people getting into branding, but it's also going to be a lot of people who are creative, more creative, that really know how to communicate and do strategy to understand the social element of a business, getting in and taking A lot of responsibility. So that's what we're looking for. It's happening. It's not happening as fast as I thought it would considering how powerful it is. But um, you know, things take their they take as long as they take and but I think that's the direction we're going in, and there's no turning back.
Marc Gutman 38:15 Well, thank you for sharing that. I mean, the thing I find like, and I'm sure you run into this all the time as well, like anytime I talk to a client, anytime we start branding, and I'm like, Hey, tell me who you want to be like, they're like, I want to be like Steve Jobs. I want to be like apple, but they don't want to do the things that make them wait.
Marty Neumeier 38:35 Yeah, so yeah, they want the results without doing the work, sir. Yeah, but but that's, that's the job of consultants and writers, people like me, teachers to say, okay, there's actually a way to do this. You have to, this is what you need to know about it. A lot of things in your company or change to make this happen. You know, Apple is not that just wasn't one person. Apple is all bunch of people under one person's direction doing things in a way that no other company was doing.
And so there are lots of companies out there experimenting with that now to apples just happens to be that one of the earliest and the most beautiful of them, you know, the most perfect of them, but it's, it's happening everywhere. So I just think it's frustrating for people like you probably because you can see where things need to move to. And they're not moving fast enough. But just think about all the people that don't have that vision yet. They haven't seen it. It's going to take a lot of time. And eventually though, I think you'll, you'll go to the university and you'll get a branding degree, you know, and it'll be really robust. It'll be great. And maybe you'll even have to take some art classes or other you know, creative classes to go along with that. And I think that'll be great. I think the world gods.
This is my theory, okay. The world got split. up into two paths back in the Renaissance. In the exam, the renaissance of a really smart talented person was Leonardo da Vinci, because he would. He was artistic and creative, super creative. But it was also really scientific and logical at the same time he could do both of those things he made those two things work together as one. So it's a metaphor for having your left brain and right brain working together as one unit. And what I what I think happened was that that example his example, which we now know about, was unknown, because his notebooks never out. I mean, he meant to publish those notebooks but he was afraid to publishing because he didn't want to lose any. He didn't want to because his competitors are like up so he kept those notebooks very secret. Meaning to always meaning to publish them when he before he died and he never got around to it. And then he gave the the project to his assistant before he died. So you you get them published to him. And the assistant Francesco melty failed to do it. Also, he wasn't very good follow through either. And so those notebooks just got lost.
They filtered out into various houses in Europe, and they were, he was basically unknown for 200 years, nobody knew. Nobody had that example of how you can use art and science equally, to make something that nice by itself. So art went one way became like what we know now is just kind of art for people's homes and museums and everything. And then then we got, you know, science went into manufacturing and all kinds of stuff like that, and never the twain shall meet. So, business has had, you know, 100 years of being mostly about science and logic and dollars and cents and just being very narrowly defined. And now we need that example of Leonardo da Vinci we need we need the creativity, the logic, the magic and the logic, working together to create a company that last that's really important, and we don't have that anymore. So we're trying to get it back. That's what's happening.
So universities have the ability to, to post the art and the science programs back together so that they influence each other. And, and then that, in turn, will influence business management. And we'll see business that is businesses that are much more human focused, and that will be good for business that'll be good for capitalism. It's going to be good for society, good for everything. And at this point, it's up to the creative people to make that case. Because I don't think traditionally educated business people Know how to get that I think they want it, they want jobs, they don't know how to do it. If you know how to do it, then you should be in there pitching, you know, you've got to get in there and connect the dots for business people and and make all this possible. So that's what I did there. And I mean the fight, you know, to, to bring humanity back into the business, not just because I want it that way, but because it'll be successful that way. And I'm thinking, we're apparently we're in a paradigm shift right now, caused by the pandemic and the collapse of the economy.
That's gonna shake everything up. It's gonna shake the snow globe, and create a lot of opportunity for people who can embrace change, and find a place in this new future what it's like, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be the future we've been trying to make happen, but we got stuck because of tradition. So, tradition is getting broken up right now, at least temporarily. And that's that's a chance to to get And do some new things, I think what'll happen, businesses will become more brand focused. So they'll try to delight customers more, they'll try to protect customers instead of just milking them for their cash, you know, which is not a very good long term strategy. long term strategy is helping customers become who they want to become. And if you can do that, you'll be very valuable to your customers, and they will stick with you beyond reason, though, though, they'll stick with you, even when you're not doing a good job if they trust you, because you're human helping them.
It's very simple. But we just don't have the framework to understand that from a business standpoint. So, you know, I'm working on I got eight books on the subject, and I'm certainly finding a lot of CEOs that are interested in in adopting a more brand focused way of leadership. So I think it's going well, I just think you only have so many years in your career, and you could easily get frustrated that it's not moving fast enough, but it moves as fast as it moves.
Marc Gutman 45:10 And such is life. I mean, I love your vision of what the snow globe may look like, on the other side of this, but, you know, what's hard about branding? Like, what, what just what doesn't the normal person see or What don't we now, like what's hard about this as a discipline?
Marty Neumeier 45:27 Well, the first thing is that most people don't know that branding is more than logos. I mean, that's, that's, you know, the vast majority of the world thinks branding is about sticking logos on things or you know, colors and typefaces maybe, or maybe advertising or, you know, marketing. Branding is not it's much more than that. It's it's about giving customers something that makes them better people and in the largest sense, and, yes, that is that that demands To make products that they think are valuable, that are respectful of them and society and the environment, it means communicating the values of those products or services in a clear way that so they understand what it does for me, it requires that companies build themselves around their brand and have a purpose that's, that goes further than just wanting to make profit. I mean, you know, a company needs to have a purpose beyond making money.
Today, if they want to succeed, if their only purpose is to grow to be a 5 million $5 billion company and sell it off to somebody else. They'll probably succeed at that, but they won't create anything of lasting value. They'll just their company will be absorbed by somebody else. may or may not do anything good with it. So you can do that. But if you want to create businesses that last and create that are satisfying to everybody You need to think about purpose, what's the purpose of this company beyond making money? What What do we want to do for the world? And so, I'm pretty cheered up about that, that actually, that message got through to people.
There's very few instances anymore where you see that, you know, a statement on somebody's website that says the purpose of our company is to return or to, to increase shareholder returns, or something really bland. Having only to do with profitability, it's always got to be more than that, because who's gonna work for a company that just wants to, you know, increase shareholder dividends, it's just boring. It's, it's, it makes you want to take a take a shower. After you come back from work, it's like, you know, it's just, there's nothing there for anybody. No, we live in a world of human beings.
So we want to think that what we're doing has value to people real value and then leaving the world a better place because of what we're doing. It's not easy to do but that's the That's the that's the goal, really great companies. So an apple service certainly that way, if you want to go back to them, Apple wants to improve everybody's minds, you know, I mean, they want to push evolution forward. So it's pretty big. And you can go to work and be happy about doing that kind of work. Google, for example, I don't trust them as much as I used to, but they had the right idea when they started out, which was, let's catalog all the world's information and make it easily accessible to everybody. Well, that's pretty cool.
I mean, I certainly benefited from that. It's really helped me in writing my books and learning and all kinds of stuff is to get all this free information about the world. Oh, people are like getting in line to work for Google. I mean, in the stock valuation reacted appropriately to that, you know, it's super valuable. Amazon stock is doing really well. Amazon has a very narrow, missing permission. Which is to be the most customer centric company in the world. I think they've done that. They haven't been great, necessarily to their employees or to other businesses, they've kind of trampled. You know, the competitors. And I think they owe the world a lot after their success, and they need to pay back pay back for that. But you could see how having that lofty goal is what really drove them to such heights.
So you need that. And so be careful what you wish for to whatever you decide you want to do for the world, you may be very successful. So you have to start them thinking about well, have we done any damage? And we how do we get a net positive out of our contribution to the world? Oh,
Marc Gutman 49:49 I just want to think about that for a second. let that simmer, settle a little bit.
Marty Neumeier 49:54 Yeah, so I mean, I've been talking a lot about sort of like ideas of branding and everything but it also is important at And surface level of branding, like what you say how you say it, you know, what are the messages? Like? What kind of words are they using? What is their poetry? And is there? Are they powerful words? Or are the images sticky to you? You know? Are they beautiful? Are they memorable, all these kinds of things that we typically think of as being in the realm of branding, they are still important, right? So important at every level.
So I think for me, having come from advertising, marketing, design, and having been in the trenches, was really a good background for going into brand strategy and brand education because I know what it takes to do it. It's not easy. It's as hard as any kind of art form and takes as many brains and skills and all that kind of stuff and collaboration to do that as anything else. And I really think without that, you may have great strategy. You may have great intentions. But the rubber never meets the road because you don't do a very good job on the actual stuff that people see the, what we call the touch points. So all that the design of all those touch points, the places where customers come in contact with the brand, they have to be great. They have to be clear, beautiful, powerful, all those kinds of things. And you could spend your whole career just learning how to do some of those things. And that's fine. For me.
I just felt like I did a lot of those things. And I was getting frustrated that maybe my work wasn't landing the way it should, in a business way. The business sense what connecting or it wasn't being appreciated for it in some cases, or maybe as being too appreciated for it because it really wasn't working. That's not very, that's not very satisfying thing. So I just felt the, for me the place I could go to do the good was is intact. This whole idea of branding, how can it get everyone on the same page so we can all work together to do something good for customers and the company and society. It's all it's all there and branding. I mean, you definitely can do it. And it's gonna take every ounce of effort that you have to be good at it, which I really love. I just love it to be challenging.
Marc Gutman 52:23 Yeah, and you know, that that's a great segue into to this question for you in that we've spoken a lot about what companies can do around branding and benefit from branding. But what advice do you have for people like myself, brand strategist, agency owners, like what should we be looking to, in order to be you know that that next level, the leaders and branding and delivering the most value to our clients, which is obviously what we should be wanting to do,
Marty Neumeier 52:51 but you can deliver value at different levels. So one is, um, you can be the person that does the design or the message creation. Four touch points, essentially, which is where I started. The important thing there is understanding where you fit in, like, what's, what's this branding thing that I'm contributing to what is what's expected of me? How do I know when I've been successful? How can I sell what I'm doing? Because I can prove that it's successful in in the right context that makes sense to businessperson. So there's that. And then then you might move on to move into brand strategy. And then you have to be the connector between all these touch points, the creation of these touch points and some business results.
You have to be able to sell that and manage that. So how do you do that while you you read? So I do everything. I read about it. And then I try it out. You have to have a theory before you practice it. So practice is great. You can learn a lot from your own experience, but without a theory to test against. You really don't learn that much. So you need to have a theory. Like oh, maybe I try this and measure that result in See how it is I'll give you a concrete example because I'm getting a bit abstract here. So once upon a time, I will have a design firm and I was designing the retail packages for for business software. That's I decided that I could specialize in there and probably be the only one that knew enough about it to, to warrant being paid a lot of money for it, essentially. So if I could be the first one to really understand how to design the software package so that people in the store would pick it up and look at it and go, That's for me, I'm going to pay $200 for that, that product, just based on a package. So I thought if you could do that your work would be very valuable to a company.
So that that's that's what I did is I just learned how to do that really, really, really well. While I was doing that, I understood that I started to realize when I talked with my clients that they I would, I would have to ask them questions like, okay, for this package that we're designing, I need you to tell me the one reason that people are gonna want to buy this product instead of the one right next to it that does the same similar thing. Why would they want to buy this word processing program instead of the word processing program right next door on the shelf? And they would say, Well, I don't know. Maybe they wouldn't know. I don't know why we have no, wait a minute, we have these features. This feature this feature this feature that I could say, well, you know, this other product has this feature, this feature this feature also, how does yours differ? Well, we have this other feature that you missed, we have that. Is that important? Well, no, that's not really important. Okay. So we have a problem. Your product is not different than the other one. And they will say, Oh, yeah, you're right. And I've been I would say, if you had something that would really differentiate you from the competition, then we could play that up. And we can make a big deal out of that one thing that you have that that other product doesn't have.
So then they are saying, you want to come to the meeting where we're going to be talking about the next iteration of the software, because your views would be really interesting. And so I was learning strategy. And I started reading more about it, like, what is a business strategy? How does? How do you know when you're successful? How do you measure it, all those kinds of things. And soon I got to the point where the packages that we were designing, were selling the software so well, that could like increase sales, three to five times over the previous line just by changing the package. When companies found that out, then they realize they could they would pay a lot of money for that service. And I didn't need to be charging by the hour anymore.
I could charge by the packets and I could charge anything along that really because no one else knew how to do this. That was the Huge, you know, a Tiffany for me that the price you charge for something doesn't isn't based on the hours you put into it. It's based on what it does, you know, because all my life I've been charging by the hour. So I started charging quite a bit of money for these software packages. And then it got to the point where because we went to the store and we tested these are prototypes in a store with actual customers, we got to know the salespeople in the store and the store owners and so forth is because we're there all the time testing prototypes on the shelf to see which one would be the best selling selling package.
After a while when a software publisher would bring their product to a store like CompUSA which was a big deal at the time I guess there's been fries is another one who was maybe fries is still going I don't know. They go into the store with the product. say look, we have this new product and we Can you? Will you take it? Will you put it on the shelves? And I'll say, Well, you know, we don't bother demonstrating the product. We know it works. I mean, you guys know what you're doing. It's not our job to test your product. We'll assume that the product works. But your package is just not good enough. You know, it just it's not. Why do they have this opinion?
Because they've been talking to us for years. And seeing what we knew to be a good package and being in on this conversation, until they knew enough about it to say, No, that's never gonna sell you got everything in the wrong place in their package. You just like it's a mess. We can't take a package like that. So go back and redo it. And we'll, we'll talk about it. And the publisher would say, well, we pay out. We paid $50,000 for this. I don't know what else we can do. And they write out our name and my phone number and give it to them and say, Look, talk to these guys. they'll fix you up and come back.
So it wasn't, you know, long before we were charging $80,000 for a package for the same package, we would have charged $10,000 for years ago, but now we know more about it. And you know, we have a reputation for it, we have a brand, our brand is the people that do the software packages. And we got, you know, all the work came through us. So that, to me, was just eye opening, that, you know, that when your reputation could have a value, beyond the actual value of what you're producing. Just the reputation alone is worth money to your client or your customer.
So that's what I would say is anybody in consulting can do the same thing when you have a specialty that no one else has, and it's valuable to companies and you can prove it. You have no competition really. And when you charge more for that service, it doesn't hurt your chances of making money. It actually probably enhances your chances. Because they cost a lot. If they think you're the best at something, you better cost a lot. So this is a, you know, a situation in which charging more money actually makes you seem more valuable. And that's where you want to be. And that's what Brandon can do. So once you know that and you have a sense of how to get there, what's stopping you, I mean, figure out what you're going to do that's really different than anybody else that's very valuable, and preferably in an area growing, where you can grow with it. And just do that.
Just present yourself as a specialist in something and make sure that you are the best in that something on it, you can prove it. And you'll enjoy that because you'll get more you'll make more money, you'll have more options. You'll have more respectful clients, fewer competitors. And eventually if you get tired of doing that same thing over and over you reinvent your
Marc Gutman 1:01:02 That's a great share. Thank you, Marty. I so appreciate it. So you're always reinventing yourself. what's what's next for Marty neumeier?
Marty Neumeier 1:01:12 Well, I think what I'm doing what's next now it's pretty new this thing called level C. Level C is a boutique brand school that pops up anywhere in the world. It tends to be mostly popping up in Europe, in London, and also then in the US, several times a year. And professionals like you take classes that are just two day intensive workshops where you learn something specific about branding. So there's five levels, so you're learning five levels of branding, and it gives you enough material to probably keep you busy for a year or two, using all this stuff and making money from it, and so you're ready to go up to that next level. If you choose to do that. Some people won't just take the first master class and become a certified person. specialists and they'll just use that for five to 10 years you know, and do really well with it.
Some will say though, I love that and I'm doing well but I want to drill down into strategy more become a strategist, also the money's better than being a strategist. So that may be one of the reasons they want to do it. So they take this next masterclass and they learn that and from there they can go to become a brand architect, which is working on complex three dimensional brands where you've got multiple brands that you're juggling and, and creating the architecture for it's called brand architecture tell all the brands fit together inside a company, how the portfolio is assembled, which is really valuable work.
From there, we believe that a lot of people will want to become brand trainers. Because when you start to instruct people in your subject area, you learn a lot more than you learn. To get to that point, so you know, when you if you really want to learn something, teach it. That's the that's the saying. And I think that's very true for everybody I know so. So the fourth level of the level c brand program is being an instructor. And after you learn how to do that, and you've, you've taught some classes, semester classes, you're ready to teach that to a CEO or to a whole company, right? So we hope that people will go into the top of the brand master level, which will equip them along with their other skills that they've been learning the whole time to be CEOs to be grounded officer or somebody very high up in a company that has influence over the whole brand. So that's the top level and when they graduate from that they'll go have their hands full and go have a lot of work. We're starting to see lots of need for cheap, cheap brand. Are you talking about that before? Why is that Where there are a lot of Chief brand officer as well there are going to be in they're already starting to pop up these openings for for that position.
Part of it is it's new so you have to sell yourself is that you have to say look I do is I work at the top of an organization to manage all the stuff that makes customers loyal. And then you your salary figure and hope you get a job and the salaries for this kind of work that we're seeing already even in this earlier. Our will take your breath away. I mean, I had no idea that that kind of pay that much to get people of that caliber, but they will I'm not gonna throw around figures because I'm not.
I think that could be manipulative, but let's just say that they're there. They're breathtaking. You probably be better off taking one of these jobs than starting your own company. Let's put it that way. think you'd make more money. So that's exciting. And so you know, I've got I've got my hands full, we're creating these classes, one, one class per year, it's a lot of work to put together, a class takes about a year. So we've we're up to the second class now. Next year, we'll have level three, next year, level four, next year, low level five. And we're getting people that are taking all the just moving up through all the courses in the new people getting in all the time. So the result of this that I find really exciting and satisfying is that it's building a whole community of people that understand branding in a certain way, in a very clear, simple way.
But with all different kinds of talents, and backgrounds, so they're all bringing their themselves to this, but they're using the same framework as each other. And so they can all work together. And so there'll be thousands of people that could actually work on teams together at various levels. After we're done with this, we'll probably never be done with it. I just think It'll probably just keep growing. But I'm not looking for the next thing yet. Let's just put it that way.
Marc Gutman 1:06:06 And we'll make sure to link to level C in the show notes so that everyone has access to that and can look into that. I know I'm excited about some of the events you have coming later this year. So we'll make sure to link to that in the show notes. Marty, as we close out here, What do you think it your 20 year old self would say to you if you ran into him today?
Marty Neumeier 1:06:27 To me, because he would not be interested in me. My 20 year old self said, Why would I care anything about branding? All I care about is design. So but I would probably be mystified actually. In fact, most of my students are much older than 20. So they're, you know, anywhere from 30 to 74 have been in business they're successful already at some level. They just want to take it to the next level. So I don't have a lot of 20 year olds. But if I were but looking back if I were to talk to my 20 year old self, I might ask him advice. No, I would probably say, Don't limit yourself to what you thought you could be.
Let yourself imagine greater things.
Like, the main thing you have to do is find out what you admire about other people in the world, the work they're doing, and and share yourself as yourself that you could actually do work at that level. If you want to write like Hemingway, you could write like Hemingway, if you're 20 years old, there's nothing stopping you from learning how to do that. It's gonna take you a while it may take your whole life, but you can do it you don't have to say oh, I'm no genius. You know, Einstein, you might be an Einstein. in your own way, you're not gonna be Einstein, Einstein, you're gonna be you are inside. So I think I was just reassured myself that my younger That, don't think small, think big and give yourself time to take that journey.
Just go one step at a time. Don't kill yourself. Just keep focused. Keep pushing, keep stretching, you'll get there.
Marc Gutman 1:08:19 And that is Marty Neumeier. I just loved his idea of always reinventing himself and always exploring, just like the Beatles. I also firmly believe that branding does belong right next to the CEO, if we're not there already. Huge thank you again to Marty and level C. You can find out more about level C and the certification Marty teaches in the show notes. Well, that's the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstory.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS. See, you'll never miss an episode. big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers Katz denies