Our latest expert interview is with Karen Loomis, founder of No Moss Brands. She shares her expertise on brand strategy and creative execution, and where she sees the future of the industry headed.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into this industry
Marketing is my second professional career. I started in marketing after a decades long career in the fitness industry. I realized at one point that I needed to better market my own business and went back to school for a Graphic Design degree. Upon graduation I decided to move into the advertising field full-time and let my fitness industry career slowly die.
I worked for an advertising agency for two years, and then moved to Phoenix. I took over a Creative Director role at a locally headquartered company worth $500M and a public company at the time. By the time I left ten years later the company was worth $1.5B and private. I managed a very large marketing budget in the millions with over 110+ retail locations in 20+ regions.
When did you start No Moss Brands?
I had intended to go to work for another large company, but in 2011, the marketing world was looking for extreme specialists. My experience not only was in marketing, but in the business world as well. I am a very well-rounded marketing and business professional, so after a year of searching for the right role I decided to create No Moss Brands instead.
Because my background is so broad, I literally had the pick of the litter when it came to “what do I want to focus on”. I’ve always loved creating the image and story for companies, so I set-up No Moss Brands to focus on branding of large, small-businesses who wants to expand or grow.
I do occasional “branding” projects for start-ups. But mostly I do re-branding for those businesses who are at about the five-year point. This is the time frame when business owners realize who they thought they were no longer applies to today’s market or the products they are selling are completely different. I also specialized in start-ups who have big, big business goals to accomplish in a short period of time.
What’s one of the best success stories you’ve had with No Moss Brands?
Two young millennials decided to enter into the market I specialized in…automotive dealership marketing/advertising (specifically the subprime market). I’ve spent my entire marketing career doing automotive dealership marketing. The automotive market is one of the most competitive consumer markets out there. People have a zillion choices when it comes to buying a car. My job to provide the brand and marketing foundation enabling my client to generate over $3M in revenue the first year and opening their second and third stores the following year.
I remember sitting down with these young men and asking them how they saw themselves in the automotive world. Their answers were so Polly Anna (unbelievably naive) that I chuckled internally thinking, I sure hope they are joking. They weren’t. I built the brand in the most believable way possible, and then set out to execute the brand through marketing and advertising. With three million in revenue the first year, you can call this a major branding WIN!
Why would people want a service like this?
Brands take many years to fully develop. Developing a brand requires not only understanding your business goals and vision, but also being able to look at the marketplace in an unbiased way. Business owners are very biased when it comes to their business. It’s a struggle for business owners to understand they are impacted by outside influences, and their brand needs to be solely focused on their customers’ needs. Ohhhhhh, that’s asking a lot.
Why can’t small business owners just handle their own branding?
Business owners are often not able to craft a story and the corresponding pieces (logo, colors, tagline, website, sales materials, etc.) that tell the story. Crafting a brand isn’t just about the logo, yet this is often the first thing company’s do when they think they have a viable product to sell. Creating a logo before you had a chance to think out the ramifications of the font choice, colors, icon or no icon, etc. is a surefire way to set the wrong impression about your company. Undoing a bad first impression can take years, and with today’s highly competitive environment many of your prospects won’t give you that chance.
I’m not suggesting you need to spend large amounts of money to have a quality brand built, but you can’t spend $5 on a logo from Fiverr and expect to have a positive return on investment. A brand is so much more than a logo…it’s your position in the marketplace and your company’s tone/feel. Are you a Walmart, Target or Costco? All are retail locations with much different brands and much different targets. Are you a happy go-lucky company, or a stiff, conservative traditional business? All of these decisions are part of your brand.
The building of the brand in the eyes of your prospect also takes time. Have you ever said, “huh, where’d that company come from…never heard of them”? Well, you never heard of them because it takes time to get that mainstream exposure and memory of your brand. Branded companies don’t happen overnight. They happen over long periods of time being consistent in how you present your company to your prospects. Every time you change your look, tone or feel…you confuse your prospect. Confused prospects can’t find you, because they don’t remember you.
Brands require memorability. People don’t buy your product every day unless you sell a consumable, like coffee, gas, etc. Many of the tech companies I’ve worked with are basically in start-up phase. No one has heard of them. The competition is fierce. Your brand is what keeps you in the mind of your prospect when they need your product or services. Memorability is everything for your brand.
Where do you see the future of branding going?
In my opinion, this need for memorability in brands is only going to become even more critical. We live in a digital world. That’s not going to change anytime soon. If anything, it’s going to increase the exposure of your competitor’s products to your prospect. How will you distinguish yourself from them? How will you be remembered? Will you win the battle of the brand? You won’t win if you don’t understand the value of your brand, and its relationship to your bottom line.