Cultivate an Evergreen Brand that Matches the Pace of Innovation w/ Aaron Cort

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Olivia Hurley talks with Aaron Cort, COO at Clickup about creating an evergreen brand that can match the pace of innovation.

Olivia & Aaron discuss the dos and do nots of branding, the importance of marketing that is both evergreen yet ever evolving, and how to understand the context of where your marketing hits potential buyers.

...mhm Hey everyone welcome back to be to begrowth. My name is Olivia Hurley and today I am joined by Aaron Court who isthe VP of operations at click up, Aaron, how are you doing? Hey Olivia, thanksfor having me doing great, my pleasure. I'm glad we get to talk. We've beentrying to make this happen for a little while so I'm glad today is finally hereAaron the last time we spoke when we were just chatting about of the manythings with your background being marketing, of the many things that youcould speak to, Trying to find out that thread that we really wanted to pull.You said something that the brand should flow directly from your productor maybe another way of saying this is you should focus on product, leadbranding. Um I was wondering if you could give some kind of depth anddefinition to that for us to kind of set our trajectory. Yeah, for sure. Imean everything for click up started with our product is the core focuscreating an excellent experience around that. And branding really helps supportthat in its own way and it helps tell a story around it. But we do have what wereally centered in on is an excellent and phenomenal like product experiencefor people and that's really how we grew as as fast as we did umorganically um and then you know, as we continue to grow and they are in otherareas marketing, be that with performance, marketing, digitally or alot of the stuff we do with out of home. Those are just key areas. We've used tohelp support the product as an experience and tell that story, but itdoes all start with the product. So, I mean that's that's really what we'vecentered in on from the gecko and has been incredibly important to us. So ifyou could define some of the, like, major proponents of product leadbranding, what would you say are some of the key ingredients? Yeah, I mean,I've talked about this in a couple different areas, but I mean it doesstart with focusing on, you know, rapid development cycles and rapid feedbackiterations. That's probably the first thing. And, you know, when you'retalking about product lead branding, I...

...mean that that is allowing your productto have its own story that you're telling with the pace of innovation,but also with the pace. I wish you're able to listen to your community, butreally in terms of just branding isolated, um, it does come down to like,core branding principles we have, we have an incredible team on the creativeside that does a great job at this. But, you know, really telling the story oflike, what's the value that you're driving for people more on, like what'sthe value rather than the what it is, uh more like classic feature benefitstuff. We've done stuff with our branding to, with billboards and thingswhere we purposefully like had very vague yet intriguing messages like that,people to like be curious about it, but more so like, like stick in their mind.Um everyone has a different opinion of that kind of stuff, but with that said,it's worked for us um and it's been beneficial at least who are out of hometo date. So I mean definitely focusing on the value of the messaging and whatyou're saying, which is just foundational branding stuff, but I meanthird, if I had to come up with a third pillar really, it comes down to havingeverything like centric. So when you're thinking, brand, brand is an experience.So how does that experience match to what you're doing in every area ofbranding? Not just billboards, not just digitally, but the moment someone seesa billboard hits your website or, you know, watches an ad on Youtube, youknow, it all feels like part of the same story and experience. So beingcentric and having like a holistic approach to it is basically the thirdthing I would call that with a product lead brand. Do you need to evolve thebrand as much as you evolve and tweak the product? How do those things work?Synchronously, yeah, the product story and this just totally depends on thecompany, but ideally like the brand is what you're cementing into people'smind, right? So your brand actually shouldn't change as much for like whatstory, like core story you're telling the product though may change andreiterate, but ideally those changes and iterations or what you're buildinginto, what is the foundational build up of the brand, the brand is the storyyou want to tell me that now, future, present or future looking. So the brand,in my opinion doesn't change as much,...

...but it might become a more fluid storyover time, but it's still telling the same things, right? Whereas like whenyou're releasing new product features and you're building and you'reiterating there, it's a little bit different. So that's the onecorrelation I would call out. Were there specific questions you wereasking yourself as you developed the evergreen brand and the developing thestory that click up was going to tell where they're like, questions that youwould think, oh, anybody could use these to kind of develop the story. Yeah. Among our team. I mean there wasmany discussions about this, about all the different things we could put onbillboards for example, and it all came back to just keeping it simple um, andhaving something that was like centric to our product yet intriguing enough.So I mean really the big things that we did ask ourselves where everything youcould think of in terms of, like what should we put on a billboard or whichare brand B but we did get back to keep it simple, but be effective in terms ofthat simplicity with whatever messages you're trying to get across. Sohopefully that clarifies on that one, definitely. So a little bit for maybefor the people who are a little bit like chicken or the egg, like whichcomes first, it sounds like very much that the product, you create, theproduct, you create the product experience and the brand flows fromthat. How as you're building the rest of the company's identity, how do youmatch everything to your brand? Is that, does brand need to infiltrate andpermeate through the rest of the company? Or can it be this top customerexperience brand is every single thing you do as a company. It's how yoursupport team communicates, it's how your sales team talks to customers.It's how your ads look. It's how you communicate on social media and respondto people. Brand is everything right? So it should be holistic across theboard. I remember when I first joined the company, I was incredibly impressedwith how, how we kept that like synchronized IQ across everythingbecause we care a ton about support for example. So our brand is very apparentand consistent across our support team...

...and other areas of the business, but itshould be consistent in some way, shape or form across everything. It shouldn'tfeel like a disconnected experience and it does go back to experience. Brand isthe company, but it's every touch point that you have with the business. Sowhen you joined, where there are things that you were maybe little details arelarger pieces that you were bringing to match the brand or that maybe she canyou share an example of like, it wasn't like the brand and then we did this too.Yeah, honestly, like we've been super dialed in with brand from the get go.Like from when I got here, Marcia's like is huge, huge proponent ofmarketing and you know, has been core. I mean, he's a product focused ceo in alot of areas. So, you know, the brand and the product and having that extendout and having a holistic experience. Honestly, I can't really say I came inand, you know, had a bunch of ideas that we can better connect the brand.It was more things that were like layering on top of what we're alreadydoing that's working well and making sure those things are consistent. Soknowing that this was the stage that was set from the beginning, so maybemaybe drawing some comparisons from other companies then what results haveyou seen from this simple product lead brand that's very clean and allows forthis creativity. Um yeah, it's a lot of to scale our marketing. I mean, we do alot online, we do a lot on out of home media and other areas as well. Um butwhy not try and do a million things and keeping it centric, but still having adata driven approach. Um you know, we've been able to scale to a certainpoint now we're at the point of like refining things but still knowing whatworks. So essentially it's allowed us to scale up to where we are now, butalso given us an opportunity to dive deeper in the core areas while stillhaving a foundation built for the core programs on at least the marketing,creative and business side. Rest. I'm curious your take on why many companiesmight not have a product lead brand or why other instances where somebodywould choose because it would benefit them to have that or is product likelead brand maybe like a foray into the...

...future approach. It totally depends onyour product and industry like product Lead works for us because we're bottomsup software product right? But naturally we do have like top downinstances and being product lettuce in centric to bottoms up or top down asisolated comparisons. I think at the end of the day, if your product is whatyou're selling, whether it's to anybody on any level of and we're going to beto be standpoint, your product should be front and center, but you should betelling the story of your product and how that correlates and having theproduct experience match that. So, you know, the really simple answer is, Imean, I think cos this is kind of just like the right way to do marketing. Icould be biased but you know, that's mostly I think what people are tryingto learn, some people have to learn through experience. Like we'vedefinitely done things that haven't worked and tested and that's that'salso part of the experience, not everything has been perfect, but at thesame time too, it's important to have that mentality as well. Has productsled brand lead for more creativity and more of um we were talking a little bitabout bringing in some of this BDC style marketing into the BdB placesthat played a part in it. Yeah, absolutely. I mean we definitely focuson like the more human experience to marketing and the nature of our productallows it to be that way. But you check out any of our videos on Youtube, wedid a cool returning work series which is like a good articulation of likethat creativity and BtC style being integrated with like a product thatcars. So it absolutely has. Um and then also the nature of our product in ourindustry also open up things for that. But I think it's a broader trend whereenterprise companies are starting to focus on more human approaches on howthey approach their brand and their company when it comes to the public.And I see that happening. So I think there's a lot of things to consider.There. Are there any limitations to having a product led brand. I mean ifyou change your story. Um but that's like to anything right? I would saylike you want to make sure you have product market fit and you know whatyou're doing before you start pushing that out, right? Because if you don't,it's really hard to change that once...

...you've tried to cement it in people'sminds now, like to truly do that well takes time, it takes money, it takes alot of people. So those are all things to consider. But I would just make sureyou have like product market fit now then, because if you don't then, youknow, you don't want to guess with brand, you want to be pretty tappedinto like what you're doing and why and how it matters, at least, foundationallee before you start pushing that stuff, were there great examples of productbrands that you've emulated or if you kind of, you and your team at click upkind of had to write the playbook or rewrite the playbook in some ways. Imean there's companies that have done a lot of things. Well, I would say we'vetaken our own approach and pretty much every area of creative and andapproaches to performance marketing, but we do have similarities with othercompanies. I mean, I think Twilio has cool billboards to leo's done some coolstuff with their billboards and they're out of home, um that I haven't seenother software companies. Do you know, there's other companies that have donevery well in the performance marketing side in different areas. We havecompetitors that spend a lot there and trying to do a lot. But yeah, Twiliohas done some cool stuff without a home and brand specifically. I've alwaysadmired them. But I would say that like that's just one example. I think we'vekind of taken our own approach every step of the way ourselves and I thinkthat's also important so that you're kind of setting the standard in thepace, but we're also making unique creative decisions to your business.But still keeping in mind what other companies may or may not have done thathave worked. Um like billboards have been around forever, right? It's kindof like if you choose to do it as a company or you don't, that's up to you.Also, there's other areas of marketing outside billboards, but that's just anexample of where you know the way you do it or how you do it or when you goback to your digital experience, it's kind of up for you to set your ownstandard depending on your business. Yeah, Yeah. It sounds like this is likeall marketing very nuanced. Very no one size fits all. But if we can take apeek into that playbook for a second. Like almost like flipping the script alittle bit. Could you give us some parameters around how not to do productlead branding, like either some red flags you encountered or false startsor anything like that. Like just kind...

...of give us like the warning signs, weshould be watching out for sure. I mean I call this one out already, but makingsure you have product market fit before you start trying to approach thingsthat way because otherwise you won't do it correctly will be guessing. Sothat's definitely like a limitation to consider is like having product marketfit before you go all in on brand or even focusing on products and brandingoutside of that. I mean, it just hands, it's like how you tell your story isequally important. It's focusing on value and benefits and just coremarketing principles, but telling a story where people can connect to it.There's emotion, people feel human when they're watching it. Like that's greatthing. Our creative team is tapped into a lot with a lot of our ads andeverything in between. So, you know, those are just key call outs I wouldmake is definitely the centric approach on product market fit and then yeah,taking a human creative approach to how you go about it, where people canactually connect to it on a very basic level. Um not not to focus on the highlevel, but depends on your market, depends on your audience, but I dothink both of those are foundational. Were there indicators early on that youand knowing that you may not have been at the conception of this, but wherethey're indicators early on that you guys had nailed your story and thatyou'd really had product market fit, but also the story and the rest of thebrand we're really right on and we're going to be successful, I'd say withbrand, I mean it's it's it's ever evolving, I think things that we'vereceived qualitative and quantitative feedback that there are things we'vedone well so far on the brand and we've been listening to that. Um but in termsof everything, I mean, the organic approach we took to the business fromthe get go that the company was focused on and how we grew, just literally 100%organically helped us find product market fit faster, which made a lot ofthis easier. Now there's ups and downs with that journey itself, like anystartup, but getting through that and getting that established is probablythe biggest thing that helped us. I'm curious about what you hope to see inthe B2B space moving forward, just...

...knowing that that click up is doingsomething really awesome and it's really working. Are you looking to seeand hoping to see more product lead branding from other companies or youknow, what, what are you hoping for? I'm hoping more companies like take aunique approach to the way they approach putting their brand, theircompany out there. Um you know, we are all human beings and we're rolling onthis planet for so much time. So when we, you know, waste our time not seeinggreat messaging about what people do, or companies who are, how they can helpus. It's, you know, I think it's a waste. I think that like, companiesshould tap into their ethos a little bit more and especially on the babyside show a little bit more of like who they are and what they're doing for theworld, including their customers, but just really tapping into that andtaking an approach of like, why does this matter? Especially at least to thefolks who want to see, you know, what you're putting out there, justdepending on your product. So those are the things I hope to see, Yeah, whatadvice might you give a B2B market or just starting out of like start doingthis, don't do this. Yeah. For me to be, I mean, you need to understand whatgenerates pipeline and understanding like the business fundamentals becausethat is foundational, but at the same time to understanding your industryvery well, every BB industries is so nuanced, so between yeah, naturallyunderstanding what drives the business for your particular business, but yourindustry, um you know, those are like the nuances you really want to tap intonow, that can change over time. But core skills and core foundations aredefinitely just understanding how things work from a business fundamentalstandpoint, so that when you're taking into consideration things like branding,like how does that affect the big picture of things, right? Because itdoes and it does help you just need to be able to understand that the corestory that you can stack into a branding approach and whatever capacitya company does it outside of experience and just being like boots on the groundmarketing, what were some of the resources or education that you gaveyourself to learn about your industry? Learn about storytelling and branding,um storytelling and branding...

...specifically. But honestly if I had tomake any recommendation, like read books on branding, but like humanpsychology because human psychology is like the centerpiece of all of this andlike what matters to people, there's tons of good books on human psychologybut understanding what drives people and performance, I mean there's goodstuff I like you know, Tony Robbins is one of the very well known people outthere, but he actually has a very insightful thoughts on marketing ingeneral just because he understands like people in psychology well, youknow there's traditional books I've read on copyrighting and marketing likeway back when But I mean honestly just understand like psychology psychologyis the most important thing because that's literally the entire experienceand then you can read stuff on branding and everything else that taps into thatas well. But if you don't understand the brain and how it works and howpeople receive information, you know it's hard, there's cool things too,like a good topic to read into it, like neural linguistic programming becausethat's all about how you create connection with people. You can do itin different ways directly, but also on a bigger level. So like that's a cooltopic to dive into. Just on a science of like influence and psychology sortof topic. So I'll throw that one out there as well. Have the things thatyou've been learning and and just consuming from various books andresources. Do they directly impact your work? And have you found that thatthose branches outside of traditional marketing have made you a bettermarketer? Um Yeah, for sure. I mean they've made me a good well roundedperson, especially when it comes to like my work, but it helps, they don'tdo the work for you. They just give you ways to think about it. Um So mostimportantly, just feel comfortable like getting out there and trying stuffthat's that's probably the biggest thing I can consider but definitelyread stuff and ingest information, but I have a really good balance of whereyou're doing that and you're also taking action and then learning fromyour own experiences. If there was one thing that you wanted to stop seeingfrom B to B marketing, what might it be this bad marketing? Bad? It's bad. Youknow, this stuff that's like why did...

...you do this or why no one thought aboutthis or I don't know. Just bad can be relative qualify that for me a littlebit. I'm curious about what that metric is. It sucks when you just see like areally shitty video on Youtube. That's an ad that plays all the time. But whenit's like, it's, it's thought through and it's funny and it's well done or atleast valuable. Like those are two different experiences, Right? 11 reallybugs you and then obviously there's these different types of marketing andSeth Godin talks a lot about this, but there's like, there's permission basedmarketing and then there's interruption based marketing, right? So it's likethinking through context there when you're interrupting people, show themgood stuff rather than the latter. So that's, that's all the stuff I wouldsay. It's just bad bad ads. Bad ads suck. They, people always people's time.It's always engaging when you see something nice. That's actually anadvertisement. So that's what I would say. That could be just like abillboard anywhere. Bad advertising sucks. If there was one take away youwanted listeners to get from this like here this and go do it and apply it.What would it be? Um, in general? Or like specific to product by branding?Both give me one of each. Okay. Product branding, make sure your product marketfit first. That's the most important thing in general. Yeah, I understandpeople. People like what they care about what matters to them becausethat's product branding marketing. Everything is all so yeah, just thosetwo things. That's what I would say. I love it. We get some marketing, we getsome psychology, we get some general extra essential and human conditionadvice. I love that. Well erin for anyone who wants to connect with you,learn more about you and click up. Where can they find you? Where can theyfind? Click up, Yeah, click up, click up dot com. Easiest place. Whereeverywhere and then myself just get me up on linkedin. That's typically whereI spend my time on social media. I love it. Well thank you so much for joiningme on GDP growth. Thanks Olivia...

...is the decision maker for your productor service of B two B marketer. Are you looking to reach those buyers throughthe medium of podcasting? Considered becoming a co host of GDP growth. Thisshow is consistently ranked as a top 100 podcast in the marketing categoryof apple podcasts And the show gets more than 130,000 downloads each month.We've already done the work of building the audience so you can focus ondelivering incredible content to our listeners. If you're interested emailLogan at sweet fish media dot com.

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