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Vera Fischer Solocast Episode #3

Episode 30: 5 Lessons for Creating & Embracing an Authentic Brand Strategy, with Vera K. Fischer

Vera K. Fischer began her career in residential real estate, working her way up from Leasing Agent to Property Manager. She segued to Operations Manager for the first privately held Cognitive Rehabilitation clinic in Austin, Texas.

In 1993, Vera launched her career at GSD&M, an internationally known advertising agency. After various positions within several Austin area agencies, Vera went client-side to Forgent Networks. There she managed and implemented a multi-million dollar marketing budget for several years.

In 2004, Vera founded her agency, 97 Degrees West known as The Brand Marketing Agency. Since 2004, the agency has survived both recessions and shown significant growth since 2012. Clients include: LS Tractor USA, United Heritage Credit Union, FirstCare Health Plans and several area small businesses in real estate, oil & gas and specialty medical practices.

97 Degrees West has been the recipient of 15 international creative and marketing awards including a Stevie Award from the American Business Association.

Vera is a member of the University Area Rotary Club, a member of the Advisory Board for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University, a Mentor at Capital Factory and most recently, was accepted to the Master’s program at Texas State University in Strategic Communications.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How brand and authenticity has changed from the Mad Men days
  • Showing that your brand is authentic without saying it (and why saying you should never, ever say you’re authentic)
  • Lessons for embracing an authentic brand strategy
  • Paying attention to your cultural experiences and how they can impact your brand
  • Why you need to employ a brand historian
  • Letting consumers into the cult
  • Making the most of lucky breaks

Ways to contact Vera:


Welcome to System Execution, the strategy and system behind today’s successful companies.

System can make or break your company, but here we’ll solve your physical, technological and psychological systems issues by connecting you with experts that have succeeded in overcoming those challenges in their own business and providing you the guidelines and tools you need to implement those same strategies for immediate results.

Now, here’s your host, Vera Fischer.

Vera Fischer: Hey listeners. Welcome in System Execution, a podcast devoted to using processes and systems to drive to a better outcome for your business. I’m Vera Fischer, your host.

Before we get started on today’s third solocast, which I will tell you is the most difficult podcast for me to record.

I don’t know why. I feel like I’m pretty good at interviewing people, but when I have to talk about what I think or what I’m doing, it can be a little difficult.

I’m sure some of you can relate to that, but aside from being a host for this podcast, I do other things and one of those is I’m the founder, CEO of 97 Degrees West, which is located in Austin, Texas and the name is the Longitude of Austin, which is pretty clever.

We’re a brand marketing firm and we provide traditional and digital services for verticals, finance, energy, manufacturing, healthcare and distribution.

We get great results and I spend most of my days running the business, being an entrepreneur, making mistakes, fixing them, doing some great things for our clients, etc. That’s what I do.

Let’s get back to the topic at hand, which is my third solocast. On my last solocast, I explored the topic of brand authenticity and the six strategies that you can choose from to reach brand authenticity.

This next solocast is a follow up to that conversation. I’m going to explore five lessons for brand managers who want to embrace an authentic brand strategy.

If you haven’t listened to my last solocast, that’s okay. Just keep listening, because I think it’ll still make sense to you.

A little refresher on authenticity: most of us will use the word real in its place. Is that a real Prada bag or a fake one? Does that customer service rep really want to help me or are they being fake? Which you know the difference.

Back in the Mad Men days, companies conferred realness or authenticity to a product with trademark protections, legal force and of course, branding.

Let’s fast forward to today. Guess what? Where does your brand live?

Well, it lives in the mind of your customer, your consumer, your employee, your team member, your key stakeholder. That’s exactly where authenticity is living as well.

Today, I have five lessons for brand managers or said differently, I have five potential mistakes you can make when you are working with an authentic brand strategy.

Let’s get started.

Lesson #1: Authenticity is Shown

There are volumes of consumer research that tell us that blatant claims of authenticity are considered marketing hype.

The unintended consequence of brands claiming they are authentic, even if they really are, is that consumers think you’re a fake. It’s the same thing when someone comes across and says, “Trust me,” or “I do really quality things,” or “Buy my product, because it’s really quality.”

Well, no one really believes that, because A, I’ll be the judge if your product is quality or not quality and B, when you say that in words or in audio, then all of the sudden, I’m immediately skeptical.

That’s something that you really want to stay away from.

How do you project authenticity without saying it or writing it? Well, you can draw on several attributions.

Examples of those: the creative process, non-commercial values such as core values of your brand, historical associations or your relationship to a place or a sub-cultural space that is appropriate for your brand.

Lesson #2: Cultural Immersion

Owners of authentic brands collect a large amount of information and filter this information down to their employees. Small details, one-off experiences brought to the table by employees should be given just as much or more credence to that brand.

What’s the lesson in building your authentic brand strategy? Pay attention to what is happening around you.

If you’re on a business trip, if you’re on vacation, no matter where you fit in with the brand that you represent and that’s for all of you, accountants, all of your customer service people, all of you, product folks, everyone that’s within that company, that brand, you have something to offer. You want to bring that observation back to the team.

If your brand is really focused on millennials and you’re a millennial, you’re out on vacation, you observe something that is really insightful for your brand, you’ve got to be able to bring it back to the table and really discuss it.

For you leaders out there, you have to create an environment that allows those folks to be able to share that information. Your cultural experiences are actually cultural immersion and they have to be communicated.

Lesson #3: Employ a Brand Historian

For one, this sounds like the greatest job on the planet for me. I would love to be this, but every company really needs to have a brand historian.

Here’s why: most companies do not retain records of their past.

People come and go and with that, the traffic, the knowledge, the past walks out with them. Those lucky brand managers out there that have incredible evidence that their brand is the oldest or the first brand of their type, their job is infinitely easier.

But when you know that you have those qualities, but you don’t have the evidence to back it up, another brand can come in and do the claiming and there’s really nothing you can do, because we are an evidence based society.

These brand managers that have that history, they can weave a story that’s rich with tradition, personality and a lot of cases, a lot of drama, which makes for great storytelling.

You brand managers out there that don’t have this type of history documented, try viewing your role as keeper of the history of your brand. Retain all of those press clippings, even if they’re traditional, look at all the digital, shout outs, keep the good, keep the bad and keep anything that you believe is worth retaining.

For inspiration, go check out Vespa, Jack Daniels and VW. Google their historical archives and you will see that rich history. Everyone’s got a history, so that’s a fun one to me.

Lesson #4: Don’t Be Afraid of Letting Consumers In

Okay, for those of you who listen to me say that those with authentic brands don’t really listen to consumers, I’m about to contradict myself.

While listening to the consumer en masse is not welcomed from those authentic brand stewards, letting consumers into the cult is very welcome.

Think about how this might be accomplished. Been to your favorite bar or restaurant where they know you and they make a special drink or food for you that not on a menu?

Now, you’re in the cult.

You signed up to be in the group to use a technology before it’s public, you’re in the cult. There’s an example of In and Out Burgers. Some of you may be familiar with that.

There was a special key, several I believe, that were on their cash registers so that people who knew that if they asked for a Neapolitan shake or a four patty burger, even if it wasn’t on the menu, they could still order it and the cashier could still ring it up. That was a cult.

Lesson #5: Make the Most of Lucky Breaks

Some of us are lucky and those brands that get lucky need to take full advantage. Luck is also known as being in the right place at the right time.

Sometimes, it comes out of an absolute disaster. Here’s an example: Starbucks. Remember a year or so ago, probably two years ago, the red Christmas cup fiasco, the uproar over Starbucks ruining Christmas with an all red cup? Well, what did Starbucks do? The red is really a pallette for our customers to draw their vision of Christmas.

Now, was that luck or PR brilliance? I’m not sure.

It could be luck, but there are those out there that all of a sudden, a trend emerges where something that was old is new again and you just happened to have the brand that is the old brand moving into the new? There’s lots of examples out there, especially when you give it a little bit of thought.

Listeners, we’ve covered five authentic brand strategy lessons for brand managers and their authentic brands. Have you learned any of these lessons firsthand?

If you have, I would love to hear it. Let me know, tweet me @systemexecution.

On the next solocast, we’ll be discussing a system for getting your new company started.

Until next time, System Execution fans, no matter how many notes you took or how often you re-listen to this episode, the key is you must know that every successful business uses systems to drive to a better outcome.

Thank you so much, listeners, for your support and your time.

We hope you found this episode of System Execution enlightening. For free examples, case studies, ebooks and more, be sure to visit systemexecution.com/resources. Contribute to the conversation by reaching out to Vera directly on email at vera@systemexecution.com. Until our next episode, thank you for the privilege of your time.




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