Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep's brand storytelling framework

Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep's brand storytelling framework

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Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep, co-founders of Bonfire, share their brand storytelling framework.

What makes one 25-cent coin more valuable than another 25-cent coin?

It’s the story! If you can prove a story about Abraham Lincoln owning one of the coins, it’d sure be worth a lot more than the other!

The same is true with marketing. Story matters. The companies that tell the most compelling stories win, whether in a B2C context or B2B. And our job as marketers is to bring those stories to life.

Enter Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep, who both have worked crafting the story of fast-growing companies like Oyster and Rattle. They’re the co-founders of Bonfire,  where they help organizations ignite their brands with the power of storytelling.

In this marketing powerups episode, you’ll learn:

  1. The 3 steps to their brand storytelling framework
  2. How to craft your brand purpose.
  3. The importance of brand voice and archetypes.
  4. A career powerup that accelerated Kevan and Shannon’s careers

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcast and Spotify now, or watch it on YouTube.

I want to thank the sponsor of this episode, 42/Agency.

When you're in scale-up mode, and you have KPIs to hit, the pressure is on to deliver demos and signups.

And it's a lot to handle: demand gen, email sequences, revenue ops, and more! That’s where 42/Agency, founded by my friend Kamil Rextin, can help you.

They’re a strategic partner that’s helped B2B SaaS companies like ProfitWell, Teamwork, Sprout Social and Hubdoc build a predictable revenue engine.

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⭐️ The brand storytelling framework

The companies that tell the most compelling stories are the ones that customers gravitate towards, whether in a B2C context or B2B. And it’s marketing’s job to help bring those stories to life. To do that, Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep (co-founders of Bonfire) use a 3-step process:

Step 1: Know your brand purpose. 🏆

"Brand purpose is the intersection between a tension out in the culture and the best version of your brand self. Essentially brand purpose is like the why you exist in a way." — Kevan Lee

Define a clear belief that connects your company mission to a cultural problem you aim to solve. This becomes the "why" your brand exists, which should help you fill in the blanks in the following statement:

[Your company] believes the world would be a better place if _____________.

For example …

  • Buffer believes the world would be a better place if social media was rewarding, uplifting, and impactful.
  • Wistia believes the world would be a better place if marketers could do creative, empowering work.

Step 2: Craft your stories. 🦄

"At Oyster, we wanted to be deliberate about which stories we are choosing to have a point of view on and to create conversation around within the market. So, as an example, we had a category story, where we had a storyline of how our software was solving a problem that used to be done in a manual way." — Shannon Deep

Choose three to five specific brand narratives based on your purpose and business priorities, such as a category story, persona story, and social impact story. At Oyster, they also had a founder story, which shares how Oyster's founders identified a gap in the market and created a software solution for it.

Kevan explains that once you have your brand purpose and story structures, you'll have a setup like below:

Source: Kevan Lee's newsletter

Some example stories Kevan used at Buffer include:

  • Paid social is fleeting. Lasting brands are built organically.
  • Engagement matters more than ever before.
  • Social media marketers have more influence than you know.

Step 3: Build your structures. 🏗️

"One you have three to five of those stories, then the actual structures is like, how do you get those stories out to market? And that becomes touch points, it becomes channels and it becomes people." - Kevan Lee

Decide key marketing channels, touchpoints, and spokespeople to focus on each story. This brings your framework to life across the customer journey.

Kevan maps all three steps in a matrix to assess which stories make sense to tell in which places, at which times, and to which audiences.

Source: Kevan Lee's newsletter

At Oyster, Kevan and Shannon were building structures that aligned with their various ambassadors so that certain ambassadors would tell certain stories. And they thought about Story Structures for their different types of media (e.g., podcasts, videos, co-marketing, press, etc.).

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    🎉 About Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep

    Kevan Deep: Kevan’s built the world’s kindest marketing teams at some of the world’s coolest tech companies. From working at big, renowned brands like Vox to taking (now big, now renowned) brands like Buffer and Oyster from zero to one, Kevan shines in the distinctly creative and generative processes involved in nurturing early- and expansion-stage companies into their cranky teenage years—while helping them figure out who they were always meant to be. He’s the boss you’ve always wanted and the creative enabler you deserve.

    Shannon Deep: Not only is Shannon a world-class brand-builder for billion-dollar tech companies, she’s also an artist, writer, and all-around creator who enjoys stretching across virtually any medium. She’s built brand marketing teams. She’s helped make Super Bowl commercials. She co-hosted a songwriting podcast for seven years. And she recently finished her first book (#amquerying). Those who have worked with her at places like Siegel+Gale, Dashlane, and Oyster would do so again in an instant.

    🕰️ Timestamps and transcript

    • [00:00:00] The Power of Brand Storytelling with Kevin Lee and Shannon Deep
    • [00:01:16] The Brand Storytelling Framework on Marketing Powerups
    • [00:01:39] Discussion on Brand Marketing
    • [00:05:27] The Power of Storytelling in Marketing and Brand Amplification
    • [00:09:04] The Power of Branding in Tech Marketing
    • [00:11:41] Discussion on Retention Strategy through Emotional Branding
    • [00:13:12] Understanding the Brand Purpose in Storytelling Framework with Oyster
    • [00:14:57] 42 Agency—My Number One B2B Growth Agency
    • [00:15:43] Create On Brand Copy In A Few Clicks Using Copy.Ai
    • [00:16:25] Discussing Brand Purpose with Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep
    • [00:21:00] A Discussion on the Impacts and Philosophy of Brand Work
    • [00:22:10] Building Stories Around Brand Purpose: A Discussion with Shannon Deep
    • [00:24:26] Brand Strategy and Story Choices in Company Marketing
    • [00:27:43] Content prioritization and story-telling in branding
    • [00:29:05] Discussing Branding and Marketing Strategies in Business
    • [00:33:46] Identifying the Creator Archetype for Oyster
    • [00:37:13] Building Structured Company Stories for Effective Brand Marketing
    • [00:40:55] The Role of Brand Marketing

    Episode transcript

    [00:00:00] The Power of Brand Storytelling with Kevin Lee and Shannon Deep

    [00:00:00] Ramli John: What makes a $100 bill worth more than another hundred dollar bill? Well, it's a story. If you can prove that this one, one of them is actually owned by Abraham Lincoln and you can prove it, one of them will be worth more than another. The same can be said about marketing. Stories matter. The brands that tell the most compelling stories will win. Whether that's in B to C or B, two B, it doesn't matter. Our job as marketers are to bring the stories to life. That's where Kevin Lee and Shannon Deep comes in. They've worked with fast growing companies like Oyster and Rattle to bring those stories to life. And now they both co founded Bonfire, where they help companies do the same and ignite their brands using the power of storytelling. In this Marketing Powerups episode, you learn first, the three steps to the brand storytelling framework. Second, how to craft a brand purpose. And third, the importance of brand archetypes and brand voice. And finally, number four, a career Power Up that's helped Kevin Lee and Shannon Deep with their careers. Before I started, I created a free Power Up cheat sheet that you can download for free to apply the brand storytelling framework that Kevin and Shannon talks about in this episode. You can go Marketing right now or find the link in the show notes and description of this episode.

    [00:01:16] Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep Discuss the Brand Storytelling Framework on Marketing Powerups

    [00:01:16] Ramli John: Anyways, are you ready? Let's go. Marketing Powerups. Ready? Go. Here's your host, Rambly John. Thank you both for joining Marketing power ups. We're excited to be talking about the brand storytelling framework that you both have applied to Oyster.

    [00:01:39] Discussion on Brand Marketing

    [00:01:39] Ramli John: Now, before we get into the deep end, shannon, you've been in brand marketing leadership for quite a while at Rattle. At Oyster, you were at a few agencies. I'm curious, first of all, how you would define brand marketing, because it's one of those things where you ask 20 people and you get like, 30 responses as to what brand marketing is.

    [00:02:02] Kevan Lee: Yeah, that's a great question. So I'll probably give something that's maybe a little woo woo, and then maybe Kevin can bring it down and make it a little more practical. But I would say that brand marketing is the curation and evolution of the entire customer experience that somebody has with your or not even customer experience, the entire experience that someone has with your brand. And that can be everything from news stories about your brand all the way down to the smallest touch points like error states and things. So I think it can be a lot of different things, but globally, it is the experience of your company to any external audience.

    [00:02:51] Shannon Deep: Yeah, it's a great question to ask in an interview also, because you get so many different perspectives from brand marketing.

    [00:02:57] Ramli John: So did you ask Shannon that question?

    [00:03:00] Shannon Deep: Oh, yeah. It's like boilerplate for any brand marketing role because some brand marketers will say, oh, brand marketing is social media, or oh, brand marketing is voice and tone or probably like the answer that almost like the biggest flag for me is like brand marketing is the visuals, like the logo and stuff. And I think brand marketing, the way that Shannon and I think about it is so much deeper than that. And if you almost think of brand as the sum of all the experiences with your company, brand marketing can almost be like the shepherd of those experiences or the person kind of guiding and maintaining and quality, controlling what that looks like and feels like. That's the right answer. If you're ever interviewing with me, people heard it.

    [00:03:43] Ramli John: If you're looking to interview in brand marketing, here is the right answer and you mentioned it so much more expensive. I think when I think about brand, I think about the feeling somebody has and that comes shannon, you mentioned about the airstate, like something that could bring a lot of ill that's not on brand or whatever, but it is part of that experience or feeling that somebody has when they're interacting with a brand. Really?

    [00:04:15] Kevan Lee: Yeah. You have to think about corporations are not people, despite what US. Law says. But you have to think about your brand and your brand's identity almost as a person. And people aren't perfect. And so whenever you're thinking through your brand and how you want to show up, you can't just imagine your brand with everything going right all the time. Like no gaps, no notes, things will go wrong. You will sometimes have to disappoint customers either purposely or accidentally say you're discontinuing a feature for a strategic reason and you need to communicate that and meet them where they are. And so just like dealing with every person in your life, your brand also needs to show up in a multifaceted and complicated way in that same respect.

    [00:05:17] Ramli John: I love that. I think that totally makes sense, how you put it there, that sometimes you do have to disappoint them or it's not on purpose, but it is part of that experience that you have there.

    [00:05:27] The Power of Storytelling in Marketing and Brand Amplification

    [00:05:27] Ramli John: I want to talk about tying brand into storytelling. Storytelling is such a great part to really amplify that feeling somebody has or that marketing that you have. I'm curious why it's such a powerful device that marketers need to be tapping more. I know. Kevin, you had this anecdote in this newsletter that you have that I'm a subscriber by the way. I should be a paid subscriber, so I'm going to link that in the show notes and everybody listening should subscribe. You talked about this book Alchemy and how brand can storytelling can really make a difference there.

    [00:06:06] Shannon Deep: Yeah, I think it's such a differentiator for companies today. And yeah, that story from the book Alchemy, which is written by I think he is like a senior vice president or something at the Ogilvy agency. So he knows this stuff about brand. And the anecdote is that this advertising agency used to ask this test for aspiring copywriters, and one of the questions was, here are two identical 25 cent coins quarters. Sell me the one on the right. And one candidate thought it through the problem and was like, okay, I'll take the right hand coin and I'll dip it in Marilyn Monroe's bag, and I will sell you a genuine quarter as previously owned by Marilyn Monroe. And I just love that anecdote because ultimately we're selling the same thing at the end of the day. But the way that you talk about it, the universe of story that you build around a thing can totally impact the value and the perception of that thing. I think that is what brand can do, especially in today's culture and markets where there's so much saturation of things.

    [00:07:05] Kevan Lee: Yeah, I think that's such a it's such an important point to remember that there are eight different ways you could sell the same thing. You could tell the story of The Three Little Pigs as a tragedy. You could tell the story of The Three Little Pigs as a comedy, or you could tell the story of the Three Little Pigs from the Wolf's point of view. And these pigs are in his neighborhood gentrifying it, and he needs to get them out. And the angle that you take, really, and that is your brand. Is your brand? The wolf. Is your brand the comedy, or is your brand the tragedy? And it's all part of the but the base story or the base thing that you're selling doesn't change. And I think another really great example of that is the Significant Objects Project. I think, Kevin, you and I have talked about this before, but you can look it up. It's still, like, extant. And they have a book and everything. And yeah, it was a group of it was kind of half art project, half sociological experiment, where they bought a bunch of crap, like, just like cheap things from dollar stores or from thrift stores that cost them maybe a total of, like $20 or something. And then they took each thing and they worked with an artist. They worked with a writer to give it a backstory, a fictional, obviously backstory, and they put it on ebay, and they weren't, like, deceiving people. It was like, this is the art story that goes with this object. And they saw how much money they could sell the objects for, and it was like something like a 900% increase in what they I don't know the exact number. Don't quote me on that. But it was an exponential increase in what people were willing to pay because it made them feel something. It wasn't just a little plastic toy horse that cost fifty cents. It was a story.

    [00:09:03] Shannon Deep: Yeah.

    [00:09:04] The Power of Branding in Tech Marketing

    [00:09:04] Shannon Deep: I think one of the ways I've experienced this and Shannon, you and I have talked about my love of water, which is kind of silly, but if you think of water as one of the biggest commodities there could ever be. There are still so many water brands if you go into the store and how do you sell water in a unique and differentiated way and you can do it so much to branding. There's water that is all about being in an aluminum can and water that's all about being sourced from Fiji. There's water that is like think of like liquid death, which is I don't even know how to describe liquid death brand, but it's all at the end of the day, it's water. And for most people, if I'm being honest, probably like it all tastes the same, but the brand is different. And that brand is what differentiates and tells the story, even for huge commodities like water.

    [00:09:47] Ramli John: And that brand can also affect I think I forgot what it was, these two guys, Penitenteller, where they gave water to people and then they gave them the expensive water and it's like, this tastes so much better, it's so sweet and it's like it's all tap water. So your experience of the product can really affect by the story you tell of it, even though it's all essentially the same, that story with water.

    [00:10:20] Shannon Deep: I think one thing that I've experienced with brand over the years, so I worked at Buffer, which is social media management software, and so much of social media management software is the same no matter what tool you use. But we would have people at Buffer who would pay for Buffer regardless of what the product features were. They just wanted to support the brand, to be part of the brand experience. That is like the Nirvana state of brand, I think, is if someone's willing to pay just to be part of your ecosystem, that is wonderful. And I think that's going to be like the future of tech and marketing in my mind. It's like brands that can do that are going to be the biggest brands. Wants to win.

    [00:10:56] Kevan Lee: Yeah. Never underestimate the power of the cool factor when a buyer is trying to please a grouchy bunch of end users. At the end of the day. I was just talking about this with someone. Even if you are aiming brand initiatives at not necessarily your buyer, but your fans, you are able to kind of up that cool factor. And if it comes down to the choice between this kind of unexciting piece of software or the piece of software that every couple of weeks there's some cool thing they did in the news, even if they're functionally the same, you're probably going to go for the one that did the cool thing.

    [00:11:41] Discussion on Retention Strategy through Emotional Branding in B2B and B2C

    [00:11:41] Ramli John: Yeah, the other thing around that I'm thinking we're talking a lot about more on the top of the formula acquisition. This is also potentially a great retention play where I don't want to leave this brand, this company, because I don't want to leave the cool, know, Apple has done such a good job. I mean, they do have that tech ecosystem, but people get their identity so associated with that feeling that they're like churning away is almost like pulling a piece of yourself of themselves. Apart from that, would you agree or.

    [00:12:22] Shannon Deep: What you think is totally true? I think you see a lot of those examples in the B to C space. Like you mentioned, Apple, even direct to consumer brands. I think there's a lot of that cool factor in feeling like that loyalty for things to a brand. I believe it's very true in the B to B space. Also, I know someone once told me that going through an RFP process is simply justification for an emotional decision that you've already made about the thing you're going to go with. I totally believe that 100%. I think it's true both in the top of funnel stage, but also in the bottom of funnel retention stage too. You want to stick with the brand. You want to stick with cool brands. And if the brand is cool enough, you will find rationale in order to stick with them in like a B, two B context too.

    [00:13:09] Ramli John: I love that. Thank you for sharing that.

    [00:13:12] Understanding the Brand Purpose in Storytelling Framework with Oyster

    [00:13:12] Ramli John: I actually want to get into the steps to the storytelling framework that you both worked at Oyster. Now, the very first step here is really to know your brand purpose. I know brand purpose. I'm thinking like going back to high school, I'm not sure what is your life purpose, but you provide a very specific definition and visual of what a brand purpose is. Kevin, I'm curious what you mean by brand purpose and what exactly is that?

    [00:13:41] Shannon Deep: Yeah, and there's lots of different ways to define brand purpose. So the way that I've done it in the past is not by any stretch the right way or the single way. I stole mine from the Ogilvy agency again, I promise I read other things than Ogilvy. It just happened to be another one that caught my eye. And this is one that companies like Wistia have used. Ogilvy uses it for all the brands they work with. And what you're trying to find is this intersection between a tension out in the culture and the best version of your brand self. And I think that is that sweet spot where those things overlap. That is your brand's purpose. And essentially brand purpose is like the why you exist in a way. And so as long as your why connects to something outside of yourself, something that is true in the culture today, that's going to be it's almost like your product market fit arena is like there has to be something external to you that resonates and then there has to be a reason why you made the thing that you made. And what is your best version? So that intersection is where you want to operate as a brand purpose and the way that you would express that is we believe the world would be a better place if and then you kind of fill in the blank there. And so relative to the cultural tension and what you think your brand can bring, how do you make the world a better place? And that purpose becomes like the foundation for everything else you would do from a brand strategy perspective.

    [00:14:57] Ramli John Talks About The Services Of 42 Agency

    [00:14:57] Ramli John: Before I continue, I want to thank the sponsor for this episode, 42 Agency. Now, when you're in scale up growth mode and you have to hit your KPIs, the pressure is on to deliver demos and sign ups. And it's a lot to handle. There's demand, gen, email sequences, rev ops and more. And that's where 42 Agency, founded by my good friend Camille Rexton, can help you. They are a strategic partner that's help B two B SaaS companies like Profit to Wall, Teamwork, Sprout, Social and Hubdoc to build a predictable revenue engine. If you're looking for performance experts and creatives to solve your marketing growth problems today and help you build the foundation for the future, look no further. Visit 42 to talk to a strategist right now to learn how you can build a high efficiency revenue engine.

    [00:15:43] Why You Need Copy AI for Your Marketing Campaigns

    [00:15:43] Ramli John: Thank you also to the sponsor for this episode. Copy AI. Now, let me ask you a question. Would you rather cut grass with a pair of scissors or lawnmower? The answer is pretty clear, right? With the right tool or partner, you can turn tedious, repetitive and boring tasks from hours to minutes when it comes to on brand content and copy, that's Copy AI for you. Marketers from companies like Zoom, Okta and SurveyMonkey trusted to produce high converting copy for their campaigns. With just a few clicks, Copy AI team has created some of the best AI powered marketing templates for ads. Chris podcast outlines, email marketing campaigns, content marketing plans and more. You can go to Copy AI to get those free marketing templates right now or find it in the show notes and description.

    [00:16:25] Discussing Brand Purpose with Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep

    [00:16:25] Ramli John: Well, let's get back to this episode. Super cool. I'm curious what that looks or I'm guessing you're early stage of working at Raddle as well. But Shannon, I'm curious, what does that look like at a.

    [00:16:42] Kevan Lee: Going to I'm going to read it directly so I don't mangle, like like Kevin said, it's stated as something that you believe about the world. And the thing that you believe about the world could either be said directly or it could be sort of implied. You'll see what I mean in a second when I read Oysters. So this is Oyster's brand purpose. Oyster believes the world would be a better place if access to great talent and opportunity for great jobs was not limited by geographic location. So Oyster is a global employment platform and they help companies everywhere hire people anywhere so borders don't matter. And they automate all of the tricky processes from legal and finance and payroll that would otherwise complicate international hiring. And so what is inherent in this brand purpose? Like the thing that we believe about the world is that right now, access to talent and great jobs are limited by geographic location. And the kind of truth that we're driving at there is that Oyster believes that by eliminating that, we can reduce inequality. So those two things that opportunity is limited by location is a driver of inequality. And so that's what the brand is aiming at fixing. So it kind of elongates the distance between the initial belief and what your company is doing. But through that lens, you're able to not just say something very, I don't know, pat or rote like we want to reduce inequality. The mission of the company is to reduce inequality. Okay, but how and why specifically? And so you have to kind of connect those two things through that process.

    [00:18:41] Ramli John: What I really love about this idea is specifically seeing the problem in the world and how we're fixing that is it becomes really a mission call, almost like a roll call to get people excited. Not just like people outside, but people internally as well. We're making the world a better place. But how? And then you describe it specifically by how. And that becomes more exciting to not just buy that product, but work at a company that has something, that has a rally call to do something, to fix something. Is that something you?

    [00:19:23] Kevan Lee: Yeah, I guess I just want to caveat. I don't want to be a killjoy here, but I don't think that every company needs to save the world. I will say that that's true. I don't think that every company needs to save the world. But what I think is valuable about this exercise is that by tying your purpose to something you believe is true about the world, then you are still getting that kind of, as you said, like rallying call of people who think the way we think. Like this brand is for you, this company is for you. And so I guess I just want to take the pressure off, maybe founders or anybody. You don't have to save the world. It's okay. But I think doing this exercise, even if you think, oh yeah, our product just does this one kind of limited thing. Yes, but it's tied to something you believe to be true about the world. And what is that thing? And that's the thing that's going to really get to the heart of it.

    [00:20:16] Shannon Deep: Yeah. And I think that is very motivating for everyone in the company too. Like, if we just woke up every day and we're pushing pixels around, I don't know that we'd be doing our best work and feeling most fulfilled. And so I think there is something innately within brand purpose that is tied to obviously your brand strategy, but also the overall company's vision and mission and values and these bigger concepts. And so making sure that that is obvious, that it is communicated as such, that people are on board with this and can almost recite this kind of thing to you. I think that cohesion is really important from a company perspective too, to get everyone feeling like there's more that's bigger than themselves. It's bigger than just the transactional state of pushing pixels around.

    [00:21:00] A Discussion on the Impacts and Philosophy of Brand Work

    [00:21:00] Ramli John: That's such a good point that you made there. Often sometimes we get so like, I don't know, maybe it's me. I get so deep in the work that I don't pull out enough high to see what is the impact of the work that we're doing. And this kind of is a reminder like, hey, there's a bigger world out there. It sounds like we're getting into very philosophical kind of discussion now, but I think that does apply here where you're seeing the impact, you're hearing what exactly is the impact of our work here?

    [00:21:34] Shannon Deep: Yeah, I think that's kind of what brand is intended to do. I don't know if you disagree with that or not, Shannon, but you almost start philosophical and from that base, then you're able to make it more tactical and break it down. But you need that bigger story, that bigger starting point before you can decide what routes to take off of that. I don't mind the philosophical at all, and I think it's intended to be philosophical at a certain point.

    [00:22:00] Kevan Lee: Same.

    [00:22:01] Ramli John: Oh, I was hoping you would disagree, Shannon, so we can have a bad well, I am just joking.

    [00:22:10] Building Stories Around Brand Purpose: A Discussion with Shannon Deep

    [00:22:10] Ramli John: The second step here is once you have this brand purpose, is to build out three to five stories around this brand purpose. I love the example you brought up earlier, Shannon, with the Three Little Pigs, because I guess you get to select the stories, but depending on who the characters are, the story might be different. I feel like this is where this is going, kevin, is that what that's about? How do you select those stories and what did it look like at.

    [00:22:41] Shannon Deep: I mean, to the Little Pig's example is maybe a little different than that or that there's different people telling different pig stories. I may be exhausting that metaphor, but I'll explain how it worked at Oyster. So if you think of Oyster's brand purpose as being about inequality, being about access globally to great jobs, there's a handful of stories that we have access to within that overall brand purpose. And so there's probably 50 hundreds of stories like you can make there. And so we want to be deliberate about which stories we are choosing to have a point of view on and to create conversation around within the market. So, as an example, we had a category story. So there was no software category that existed to solve a problem like this before. And so we chose a storyline of how software is solving this problem that used to exist and was done in a very manual way before. But we've kind of updated it. So there's a category story, there was a persona story. And so understanding the main people working on this challenge are people ops professionals and what is their life like today? This is in peak COVID times and things their life was hard. It was not a fun job to be in. Most of our jobs are not super fun to be in at the time. But theirs was rough. Everyone was wanting to go remote. They had to figure out all these different policies and things. So championing them as this underserved undervalued role within a business was really a critical story for us to tell. It played into the larger narrative and then we had a really high impact focus arm of our business too. We were going to be a B corp and we were going to do all these other things. And so having that impact piece, it's so closely tied to the inequality aspect of the brand purpose too.

    [00:24:26] Brand Strategy and Story Choices in Company Marketing

    [00:24:26] Shannon Deep: But we wanted to be really specific about well, what does that mean for us? So what stories do we show up in? A lot of that ended up being some of the remote work policies that would come out. Some of these the news stories around countries, around the world would have changes to their rules and regulations around remote work. A lot of narratives at the time was about oh, you can save money by hiring internationally. And that was a really interesting one because it became almost this concept of offshoring talent which I kind of bristle at that idea. I don't kind of bristle, I a lot bristle at that idea. And for us it's more about no, the intention is not to offshore talent. The intention is that there are great people worldwide that you have access to now to hire and bring to your team. And so that was our perspective on that story. And so being deliberate about those stories was something that was really important to us and I think being deliberate choosing that these are the stories we're going to show up for. Yes, we can opportunistically jump into other conversations too, but we are building strategies and pillars around these stories in particular from channel strategies spokespeople like the whole nine yards.

    [00:25:37] Kevan Lee: I think what Kevin just did a great job of illustrating is that the brand stories and your brand strategy in general isn't in a vacuum or in a silo. We are expressing the priorities of the company from a product perspective, from a customer perspective, from all of these different perspectives through each of the stories. So it's not like we went away, came up with them and then came back. It was oh wait, what are we actually trying to accomplish as a company? And how do all of our business priorities flow through the brand strategy?

    [00:26:11] Ramli John: That's interesting. I was going to ask how do you select those stories? And Shannon, you just answered it's around what is the overall business strategy and the product strategy? Is that how you would advise companies if they were trying to pick their stories? Look at what your company strategy and strategy is all about.

    [00:26:30] Shannon Deep: I think that sounds right. I think there needs to be a connection. Brand is not in a silo, just as like our purpose is not a silo. The brand team should not be in a silo within a company either. And so the brand teams need to be connected to product marketing, to growth marketing, to product strategy, to company strategy and all these things. So typically when you're choosing those stories, yes, it'd be great if there is a product story to tell within those stories. Yes, it would be great if there is a story oriented toward a persona. For instance, Shannon and I are both at Rattle today, which is a revenue tech platform that helps sales teams be more productive. One of our primary personas there is revenue operations. So what stories exist for us to tell around revenue operations? Let's pick one of those stories as well, and then the mission impact more the philosophical touchy feely stories like those ones, you can totally grab some of those, too, making sure that you're at least having a mix of all those things. Like if it's all philosophical stories that may not move the needle as much on the business side, if it's all product stories, that may not build as much brand affinity for you because it's very transactional and pixel oriented. So making sure you have a mix, then developing and evolving that mix as time goes on based on where you're.

    [00:27:40] Ramli John: At as a business makes sense.

    [00:27:43] Content prioritization and story-telling in branding

    [00:27:43] Ramli John: The other interesting thing you mentioned around each of those stories are not weighted the same. I think I saw in the thing that you sent me, Kevin, the content weight. There was a percentage, and then one of them was 40% and 20%, something like that. I'm guessing that's super interesting for me because now you're thinking about how much content should we create for this? And really that's, I guess, tied up all to what we're just talking about now that your strategy as a company and a product could be also defining how much content and where you create more and less often.

    [00:28:22] Shannon Deep: Yeah, I mean, it sounds a lot more scientific than it might have been in practice. But the idea is that we have a limited number of resources, and if we have five stories that we're going to tell, how do we divvy up our resources to go and tell those stories? Yes, you can split them equally, but perhaps there is more urgency or prioritization around category creation today. And so we tell 40% of our time goes to telling that story. I think, Shannon, you were kind of in the weeds of actually bringing those percentages to life, so I don't know how helpful those were in practice. But in theory, that was the idea behind it's. Kind of like a prioritization resource exercise.

    [00:28:57] Ramli John: In terms of those stories. I know it's important to have characters for them and each of those stories would have different voices.

    [00:29:05] Discussing Branding and Marketing Strategies in Business

    [00:29:05] Ramli John: Shannon, I know this is like, probably I'm assuming it's your bread and butter. I read some articles about this. I'm curious, how does that fit in here? This brand voice and archetype. I know, I saw the creator is the archetype for.

    [00:29:22] Kevan Lee: I. I love talking about this stuff, so you might have to cut me off at some point. My first agency job, I was working on the Brand communication strategy team at Seagull and Gail, a global branding firm. And this was like, really what we did. Like brand voice exploration and definition for dozens of clients, mostly B. Two b clients. And you're right when you say that you're thinking about it as a character. So it's like, who is actually telling that story? And that's where not that we're belaboring this, but that's where the Three Little Pigs kind of difference comes in, is like, who is telling that story and what is their perspective on the story that you're trying to tell? And I found my way to marketing through theater and the storytelling, brand marketing. And so I think about developing a brand personality. And brand voice is kind of like a subset of that as creating a literal character who has motivations, who has things they care about. Whenever you are writing plays or whenever you are directing plays or you're part of a play creation process, you're looking for your actors and the writing to have a specific arc so that you feel like the character that you're watching in Act One is the same character at the end of the play. Right? It would be weird if the character did something totally to break their moral compass or the thing that they said that they've cared about this whole time or like the goal that they've had. And I mean, we all saw season eight of Game of Thrones and we all hated it. So you know what it's like when the character breaks in a way that feels like unexpected and unnatural and unsatisfying. And so when you think about developing your brand personality and your brand voice, what you're looking for is that consistency. And please note that I don't mean monotony and I don't mean like, homogeneity. I mean consistency. And consistency is a function of well, actually, trust is a function of consistency. So being consistent in how you go to market and the ways that you express yourself and the tone and all of that, giving people a clear expectation and meeting that expectation every time is a huge way to build trust with your customers and with your audiences. And so thinking about brand personality and having attributes that can guide people who are the kind of the mouthpieces for the brand. So specifically, writers and designers are going to be the people who are most using these tools. When you're thinking about these attributes, you want them to feel like the metaphor I like is like spices in a particular cuisine. So if you think about and I live in France, I love living in France, but the Mexican food here is trash. It's absolutely terrible. And I love Mexican food. And so when I go to a Mexican restaurant here and there are peanuts in my Mexican food, I'm like, this is not right, this is not consistent. This does not align with my understanding and experience of Mexican food. Because cumin, garlic, chili, paprika, onion, those are the spices I associate with Mexican food, right? Not peanuts. And so some dishes might have more or less of some of the spice, but it's all going to still taste like Mexican food. And so whenever you're talking about modulating your brand voice across audiences, across touch points, across channels, you're still using that same set of spices. But maybe this one's really garlicky and this one has a lot of chili, but it should all feel like it's Mexican food.

    [00:33:39] Ramli John: I'm hungry now. That was so good.

    [00:33:46] Identifying the Creator Archetype for Oyster

    [00:33:46] Ramli John: How did you land on the creator archetype for Oyster? I assume it's through reviewing everything and interviews through customer. I'm not entirely sure, but I'm curious how that came about.

    [00:34:06] Kevan Lee: Yeah, I don't remember the process super well. So Kevin, you might have to jump in and save me here, but I'll talk a little bit about just like archetyping processes in general. And so there are a lot of tools out there that will help marketers choose archetypes. There are generally twelve. Most of the archetype wheels I've seen have twelve different personalities or sort of stock characters that you might see in a movie or a book or something like that. And they're generally broken down into four different categories. And anyway, you can look up these archetype wheels, they're very interesting and they're very helpful because you can look at them. And the way I usually like to start is by plotting your most direct competition on the archetype wheel. So each archetype will have certain characteristics associated with it. And if you think about your competition, you can, and this isn't going to be exact, because it's you assigning things to your competition, not their self conception. If you are looking at how they go to market and how they express themselves, you can kind of maybe see like, oh, everybody in our category kind of clusters around these certain archetypes. So do we want to ride the draft of all of the people who are doing this? Do we want to sound the same? Do we want to be consistent? Do we want to play in the same space? Or do we want to take advantage of the white space that we've identified and try to define ourselves in that way? At Oyster, I think it really was about just kind of matching our mission vision and values with the values and point of view that aligned with, as you said, the creator for Oyster. And so it kind of was like we already had who we were. We just needed to find the right description to sort of crystallize that and then make it more actionable.

    [00:36:21] Shannon Deep: Yeah, and I think our process is very similar to what you described, Shannon. There was the competitor piece first and then we did sit down with I think the exercise was led by a brand agency we were working with, but it could have been done in house just as easily. And we brought together people from throughout the marketing organization. There were 50 of us in marketing at the time and so there were maybe ten of those 50 who were on the call together, along with product representatives, sales representatives, and some senior leadership just so we have perspectives from other parts of the business. And then it was an exercise in bringing our perspectives together, kind of voting on which archetypes most resonated. And then I think it was a relatively easy process for us because everything kind of started pointing us toward the.

    [00:37:02] Ramli John: Creator one that makes sense. I think that's just that exercise all is something that I do see.

    [00:37:13] Building Structured Company Stories for Effective Brand Marketing

    [00:37:13] Ramli John: I want to move on to the step three now about building your structures around this story. I'm curious what that means. Kevin, what does that mean to add in the structure to the story?

    [00:37:27] Shannon Deep: Yeah, so if you think through, you have your brand purpose, there's a handful of other brand pieces that you'll have within your strategy. But the stories in particular, if you end up with three to five of those stories, then the actual structures is like, how do you get those stories out to market? And so that becomes touch points, it becomes channels and it becomes people. And so for us at Oyster, it was about listing out, well, what are all the different channels that we own, what are the different channels we have access to from like an earned media perspective? How do we want to orient these stories into those channels? I want to place them there. And so for instance, a lot of the product stories were about like lifecycle communication, they were about webinars, they were about events. A lot of the impact and mission stuff was about PR and earned media and podcasts and places that we could put our spokespeople. And then we also had the opportunity, we had a really big ambassador push within the company. And so like, our CEO was a really vocal presence on LinkedIn. A lot of our senior leadership team was vocal and we would build their personas up as a marketing strategy that gave us then additional outlets to talk about these stories. And so we ended up assigning the CEO was the category story and our co founder was the mission impact story. And our chief workplace officer was the persona story. And so they're just like those naturally fit anyway. But making that extra deliberate about when we spend time crafting our CEO's LinkedIn posts or crafting his speech at conferences, it's going to be oriented toward this story in particular. Rather than we could tell any and every story that we want to in this instance, which can make it really hard and can lead to I know it kind of waters down the overall message, but if you really focus it and say, well, no, our CEO is talking about this thing everywhere. That he's talking about this. Let's be deliberate about that. It adds some structure to it. So that's kind of the structure pieces you think of channels, touch points and people, and you'd be deliberate about focusing in those areas.

    [00:39:28] Ramli John: That makes sense, I think. Now you're putting it's interesting. You mentioned that you wrote your father's story when he's talking to other places, he would tell that specific story to people is what I'm hearing. Is that right?

    [00:39:43] Shannon Deep: Yeah, he would tell a lot of stories that he would want to tell also. So it wasn't all just like you have to tell this one story. But I guess the touchstone of the stories was this particular narrative. It was great for him because he created Oyster because of a pain and need that he felt innately within this gap in software for previous companies that he had built. And so it was a very personal story for him to tell anyway. And it tied very closely to the category piece, which is great. I think it's hard to go the other way where if your founder doesn't have a clear perspective on the why other than maybe there was a market opportunity or something, you kind of have to retrofit that in a way that can be a bit tougher. But in Oyster's case, it was a very natural fit. And so that's like the starting point for sure. And maybe 70% of the stories that he tells are related to the category piece, and 30% can be how he does work remotely or how he thinks about leadership or whatever comes to mind in more of an opportunistic way. But the core is based around the story, and that's where the structures come into, where the percentages come in. Like, majority of it should be this, but there's plenty of room to be flexible within that.

    [00:40:55] The Role of Brand Marketing: A Conversation with Oyster's Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep

    [00:40:55] Ramli John: I'm curious, we've talked about the three steps. Now, how did you roll it out to the I mean, maybe this is more a question for Shannon. I'm curious, did you all present this to the team and be like, this is what we're doing, content team, this is what you're talking about now 40% this and then, okay, make sure that archetype. Make sure you're talking to the creator. I'm curious how the rollout of this storytelling framework happened at Oyster once you kind of finalized all the pieces and all the steps together.

    [00:41:33] Kevan Lee: Yeah, it definitely was something that we explicitly rolled out and people had access to. And it was like, this is our strategy. And we had a fabulous team at Oyster who all of our contributors are strategists in their own right. And so saying, you are building your individual pieces and the things that you're working on on the back of this overall strategy. And so the content and editorial strategy was coming directly off of what is the brand strategy and et cetera for the other disciplines that we have in the marketing team. Everyone isn't going to be supporting the stories quite so explicitly as the content and editorial team, but everybody is in service of getting these things out into the world because we've decided to prioritize them.

    [00:42:29] Shannon Deep: Yeah, and I think we had a couple of advantages with that too, just given how we organized the team. Like content editorial were very close to brand like Shannon came into Oyster from an editorial perspective and was the people manager for a lot of content people at first. And so there was that natural connection there. And then I think there was also work to do on the company perspective too. So I remember I put together a little presentation in all hands and had this dumb slide that people could download and save to their desktop or something just as a reminder. But I think that broader communication piece is really critical because then it allows brand marketing to play more of that role of shepherd and to have something to point back to and be like, oh, remember when we said this this thing that you're doing out in the world is not quite in the right space yet this is how we might tweak it or think about it differently. And you have that thing to refer to. And so I think there is that piece of it from like company perspective too. I wouldn't expect our CX team or our product team to have memorized all of our brand strategy and voice and tone and things, but as long as they know where to find it, as long as they know we'll help you stay on track with what we want that to sound feel like that's the most important piece.

    [00:43:36] Kevan Lee: Yeah, it becomes like the most important, it becomes armor for your marketing team to be able to say no, look at this thing. We all agreed this is the standard, this is what we're trying to get to. And yeah, like Kevin said, I would never expect that people outside of even the brand team are memorizing all of this stuff. And at a certain point for people who are not just creatives but who are generative on behalf of the marketing department, you kind of internalize it, it kind of becomes second nature and what I think a huge strength is or something to aim for at an organizational level. So even across product and engineering is not to train everybody to be able to write a tweet that sounds like your company, but is to acculturate everyone to see if something isn't right. So to have the negative reaction of, like, that doesn't seem like us is a much lower bar and still very valuable to have the company have an instinct for, even if they're not executing and writing or designing on behalf of the brand.

    [00:44:56] Shannon Deep: Where it gets really fun for me is when it comes into those decisions. We're having to make real decisions on this. Like, for example, at, like, the Ukraine war started when we were there, and that is a very globally impactful thing that we wanted to have a brand reaction to and having a brand strategy and having this brand purpose made it very easy for us to look at this decision. Like, do we say something? What do we say? How do we act? Hold it up against our brand purpose and say, yes, obviously we need to do something. Maybe that's more of an obvious one, but I think one that was a bit more subtle is that at Oyster, we are kind of in this interesting, almost like it's an interesting conversation around the difference between global employment and remote work. And so when a lot of conversations were coming up about, oh, remote work has allowed me to go and travel the world and still keep my same. Like, do we as Oyster want to be part of that narrative and you hold it up to our brand purpose? And no, our brand purpose is about creating access to jobs for people around the world. It is not about me, Kevin in Idaho now being able to travel the world with all my privilege because I get to be remote working remotely. And that is the story we want to tell. That's different than what our brand purpose is. That was a really clarifying moment because it could have been very easy for us to get sidetracked and go down different rabbit holes there.

    [00:46:17] Ramli John: That totally makes sense. I mean, I love how you're calling out that people in the company should be able to say what's not on brand and something that our brand would say. But I'm hearing that there is no specific editorial process where every content has to go through brand and be like, that's on brand, that's not on brand. Come on, fix that. Or was there a process where, like, a review.

    [00:46:46] Shannon Deep: Or should there be?

    [00:46:48] Kevan Lee: Yeah, so I've been on it's funny. When I was at Siegel and Gail, I literally was the brand police for one of our clients. Like, every piece, every piece of advertising came to my desk for a brand voice check. And I was evaluating and giving feedback, and it was wild. Do not recommend. I do not recommend. Yeah, it took a lot of time. So there's like, that extreme where you're putting we'd like to call them the brand cuffs on everybody and you're saying absolutely everything has to come through us. But what I really think it is, is about empowering and enabling the teams that really need it. So like your customer success team, anyone who's building or writing in your help center, sales teams, people outside the marketing team who are communicating on behalf of the company. This also applies to spokespeople too. Getting proper media training and working really closely with a PR agency if you don't have it in house, who knows how to internalize and digest a brand voice and a point of view and can coach your thought leaders on that? I think a lot of things went through the content and brand team because I have pretty high editorial style standards and I wanted everything proofread before it went out. Makes sense. My general rule of thumb is two people should see everything. So no single set of eyeballs something goes out in the world, I think that's a dangerous place to be in. And so I think even if you don't have a dedicated editor or proofreader on the team, even if you don't have brand marketing, who have the time to review absolutely everything? As long as you're checking in with at least one other person, I think it helps up the quality and consistency.

    [00:48:50] Shannon Deep: Yeah, I think the two eyeballs rule is great. And I think even the difference between talking about it as brand police versus talking about it as a brand shepherd, I think those are very different feelings. Right. I don't know if you ramble in your role, felt like you had brand police on your team, how would that make you feel as a creator or as a marketer versus if you had a brand shepherd to guide you and watch over you and things like those give different vibes. And I think that is I think of that very intentionally when I think of how we communicate what brand marketing's role is within a company, that's great.

    [00:49:24] Ramli John: I like that paradigm shift or that mindset shift that it's more a brand shepherd.

    [00:49:29] Embracing uncertainty and harnessing curiosity in marketing: An interview with Kevan Lee and Shannon Deep

    [00:49:29] Ramli John: I want to start wrapping up and ask you both this question first with Shannon. You've held several brand communication marketing roles and leadership positions at companies like Dashlane Oyster and now Rattle. Curious what's a power up that's helped you in your career, something that's helped you get a leg up and accelerate your career itself?

    [00:49:50] Kevan Lee: Yeah, I love this question and I'm going to answer from a sort of philosophical mindset kind of side of things. So as I mentioned, I come to marketing from a creative and like a theater background and in know I think I was in grad school still and Paula Wagner, who is a very well known and successful film producer TV and film producer. She's an alumna of the school that I went to and she came back to address the student body in the school of drama. And somebody asked her something along the lines of how do you know how to attach yourself to the right projects? How do you know what will be successful and what she said. And I apply this to my daily life and career all the time. She said the secret is nobody knows anything. And I think about that every day. Nobody really knows anything. And marketing is not a science, actually, and especially brand marketing and creative, it is not a science. And so to think that there is a right way, even there are only three things you can do that will work is like a really limiting and anxiety inducing kind of mindset to have. And so I think thinking that if nobody knows anything really about marketing, then I think things. So why don't I have a voice? Why don't I have a perspective? I do actually. And my perspective is just as valuable, interesting, creative as anybody else in the room because this isn't a science with right answers. It's people coming together with thoughtful, considered hypotheses and creative ideas and imagination and.

    [00:51:59] Ramli John: Collaborating so good nobody knows anything. It's easy for you to share something. I love that. Yeah. How about you, Kevin? I'm curious know you have more than a decade of marketing leadership roles. Vox Media, Buffer, Oyster, now Rado curious, what's a career apart for you that's helped accelerate your career?

    [00:52:21] Shannon Deep: Yeah, it's funny, I resonate a lot with what Shannon said because I may have that experience, but I feel like I don't know anything most every day too. So I think what's been key for me is curiosity. I think that's maybe one of the biggest power ups that has helped me because I came into marketing through journalism and came into tech totally blind and cold to everything. I had no idea what I was doing and I credit any of the successes I've had to just being really curious and also being very lucky to have landed in places that allowed me to be curious and allowed me to go and research things and to learn things. I think one of the most helpful pieces of advice I got is that it's okay to answer a question by saying I don't know the answer to that, but I will find out. I think that phrasing was so helpful for me because it gave me permission to not know and it gave everyone was asking me the question confidence that I would go and figure out how I would do the thing that I don't know how to do. I'm not 100% successful in always figuring out how to do the thing, but I'm at least curious to understand how do I get one step closer to understanding this thing. And I think that has helped me go from content to brand. Like all the stuff we just shared about brand I had no idea about a few years ago and have had the chance to learn it all and just have stayed curious about it. So that's something that I hold pretty dear. Is that curiosity mindset for if you.

    [00:53:44] Marketing Powerups Episode Closing by Ramli John

    [00:53:44] Ramli John: Enjoyed this episode, you'd love the Marketing Powerups newsletter. I share the actionable takeaways and break down the frameworks of world class marketers. You can go Marketing subscribe and you'll instantly unlock the three best frameworks that top marketers use, hit their KPIs consistently and wow their colleagues. I want to say thank you to you for listening and please like and follow Marketing Powerups on YouTube, Apple, Podcasts and Spotify. If you're feeling extra generous, kindly leave a review on Apple podcasts and Spotify and leave a comment on YouTube. Goes a long way in others finding out about marketing talks. Thanks to Mary Sullivan for creating the artwork and design. And thank you to Faisal's High Gold for editing the intro video. Of course. Thank you for listening. That's all for now. Have a powered update. Marketing Powerups until the next episode.


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