Adam is joined by the author and Senior Vice President Brand Health Tracking at Ipsos, Dr. Emmanuel Probst. His book Brand Hacks: How to Build Brands by Fulfilling the Human Quest for Meaning was part of a recent lit review in one of Adam’s recent research projects, which lead to this follow up conversation.

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Transcript (created by a robot):

Adam Pierno 0:21
Alright, welcome back to another episode of The Strategy Inside Everything. I’m really excited about this episode because we’re going to speak to someone who is hip deep and measuring brands and understanding consumers and the relationship between the two of them. Dr. Emmanuel Probst is joining us. How are you today sir?

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 0:41
I’m good. Thank you for having me on the show. Adam. How are you?

Adam Pierno 0:44
I’m doing great. For those of you who don’t know. Emmanuel is the author of Brand Hacks: How to Build Brands by Fulfilling the Human Quest for Meaning. He’s also the Senior Vice President Brand Health Tracking at Ipsos so we’re I’m really glad we were able to connect in our schedules fell apart a couple times. So thank you for for connecting and making time to do this. Yeah, thank you again, Bobby. Hey, before we get going on our topic today, we’re going to talk about brand hacks and some topics that align with it. Why don’t you give people a sense of where you’ve been and what you’ve done throughout your career?

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 1:21
For sure, I started in the UK over 16 years ago. So I’ve been in the market research industry since 2004. And what keeps me up at night, if you will, is to understand why people why consumers do what they do. And I worked across a wide range of clients and a wide range of business objectives, helping clients predict, measure and optimize the impact of their marketing and their advertising efforts. That’s really what I do for a living So, as you mentioned, Adam, I’m Senior Vice President Brant Health Tracking at Ipsos and I also teach at UCLA and would grant hikes and register it is understanding why people do what they do being curious about the world be curious about people. What that is what keeps me going, if you will.

Adam Pierno 2:24
I’m you know, I’m so sorry, I left out that your your teaching credential there. What What do you teach? What kind of courses do you teach at UCLA?

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 2:33
I teach consumer market research. So so during the day, I eat sauce with our clients. I practice consumer market research and at night at UCLA. I teach consumer market research and very late at night.

Adam Pierno 2:54
So no break, no break for you. You’re really it really does keep you up at night.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 2:59
It does. Keep you up. At night, and then in the morning, I listen to podcasts about market research.

Adam Pierno 3:06
It just if I if I can answer what is your doctorate in

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 3:10
consumer psychology? And yeah, that’s really the crux of it, again is why do people do what they do being curious about the world being curious about our next door neighbor, and they segments of consumers, audiences in general. That’s really what I love doing. And it’s a never ending learning opportunity. And I think that’s valuable to our listeners today. Adam is what’s compelling about this industry and what’s compelling about marketing, advertising, branding, market search, is your ability to every day to learn something new, even when you’ve been in the industry for 15 plus years, or especially when you’ve been in the industry for

Adam Pierno 3:55
right. I think you’re right that learning new tricks is is critical because things are changing so much not just technology and channels, but preferences and people’s approaches to how they want to relate to brands. Indeed, I mean, especially as new, new categories are born, new solutions are introduced to clock to customers, you know how the people react to those based on the paradigms we already understand and whole new modes of thinking that address whole new solutions for problems that they wouldn’t have even had pre internet pre digital. We’re creating disruptive solutions for things that problems we never would have predicted at the beginning of both our careers.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 4:44

Adam Pierno 4:46
Can you talk a little about brand hacks and you know, the genesis for writing the book, you know what, what got you started writing because it’s a great book. What I liked about it is, it is I’m scrolling through right now it’s 200 pages, but it doesn’t it’s very light. And each page is a lesson that is, is really actionable. So can you talk about the intent when you started writing?

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 5:13
Sure. You know, the starting point for Brand Hacks is the world we live in is overwhelming. We are exposed to a lot of media, lots of advertising. We check our phones eighty-six times a day on average, we post pictures on Instagram-41,000 pictures every day. We are connected all the time. Therefore, as they give us as consumers, we’re just overwhelmed with media overwhelmed with advertising overwhelmed with brands. And the starting point for Brand Hacks is to say consumers don’t look for any more brands. consumers don’t Look for any more advertising.

Adam Pierno 5:56
So as marketers, how can we attract consumers basically to like our brands, and the point is to take a step back hearing you describe the starting point of your book. I know you haven’t read my book yet, but I’m going to send you and as soon as we’re off this call, is the same foundation of my book specific. We’re going to compare notes. Because the idea that and this is why, when you reached out when we started talking, this is what I wanted to talk about. I 2,000% agree that we don’t people are not looking for more brands. I don’t need more answers to most of the problems that that I have in the form of a in the form of a logo and a jingle.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 6:52
Indeed, indeed,

Adam Pierno 6:54
I probably shouldn’t say 2,000% to someone who is a PhD in marketing research.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 7:04
You made your point.

Adam Pierno 7:06
Yeah, sometimes you have to go over the top to do that. So the book is about how then since since we agree that people are not looking for brands, I think you and I take slightly divergent responses, which is what makes them different books. But your take is they’re not looking for brands, what are they looking for? What are we as people? What are we striving for that brands can fill? in our in our day to day life or in our search?

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 7:35
Yeah. So the book looks at personal social and cultural meanings. And that is, really, in my view, what people are searching for and personal meeting is about, who are you and who do you want to be as any video and social meaning is about Who do you want to be as Part of the group where do you want to belong? and cultural meaning means how do you want to learn? What is how do you what do you like about the arts? And what is your relationship with culture in general. So people engage in various activities to find that again, personal social, cultural meaning if we understand these different meanings from day we can build brands that help fulfill this means that’s really what the book is about. And I’d be happy to take some examples for you but I should let you proceed.

Adam Pierno 8:38
Thank you for thank you for giving me the the lead here. I appreciate it. But we are going to dive into some examples for sure. Because when I look at your descriptions, personal, social and cultural are my question as I was taking notes are do people have a preference or in your research have you found that it depends on the category, the solution, the brand and the customer type of which of those three types of meeting are going to be the most valuable or salient.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 9:10
Yes – thank you for bringing this up. A brand does not have to tick all the boxes. As a brand you’re trying to fulfill all 10 meetings that are in the book. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. So examples of meanings being authenticity, nostalgia, or sense of belonging, or visa meanings that a brand can fulfill. Again, there’s no point in trying to fulfill all of them. You should as a brand you can choose what aligns most with your core values and of course with your product and your purpose. And stick with it if you will invest in fulfilling one meeting and many We can take Airbnb as an example. I feel them is really helpful for our listeners today. And, of course Airbnb provides you with accommodation, so does, Marriott so does Hyatt so does Hilton, right? If you don’t need us, Airbnb reprises, that vdv, accommodation charities, but importantly is a sense of discovery and adventure. And in that way, Airbnb is a meaningful brand. And fulfills your quest for discovery and adventure, whereby you’re going to engage with the host and you’re going to discover a new city, and you’re going to discover a new cuisine. And you’re going to be to go off the beaten path, really, within the safe environment still, because the experience has been vetted by Airbnb, if that makes sense. So it’s adventurous, just enough so that you can fulfill your quest for discovery and adventure at the same time it is safe because it has the Airbnb seal of approval. That’s right story short, that’s an example of a brand that fulfills meaning. And in contrast with benefits provide you with others.

Adam Pierno 11:20
Yeah. So the the, the idea of going off the beaten path is something that is a zeitgeist, that travelers maybe they didn’t maybe Airbnb helped unlock that like guys before it was had a had an description to it. But there was a trend or two gathering around the idea of taking non traditional trips. But the Airbnb brand fulfills the same role as Marriott or Hilton, because it’s got their brand on it, which guarantees some level of quality and safety of the accommodation. Is that right? Exactly. So the brand still plays a role. It’s just, it’s translating the The desire that the meaning that the person is seeking into something that is productized or, or qualified in some way.

Unknown Speaker 12:08
Absolutely. The brand plays a role. It’s a seal of approval. It’s an emotional connection. And with less of an emphasis on the functional benefits and the functional benefits is the bed. That’s really what it is.

Adam Pierno 12:30
You said the word functional and that that touched on something for me that I mean, I’m doing a research project right now. And in fact, Brand X is in our literature review, which was an early stage of the, of the project. But the some of the questions we have about creating meaning in brand relationships and in experiences overall, are about that idea of function. You know, when we talk about air b&b, they’ve talked they’ve captured this idea of this non traditional travel, this excitement of travel, the serendipity of travel. But at its heart, it is, like you said, it’s a bed and a towel. Even Let’s step down even one more level and say, you know, a product like a brand like 3am that makes posted notes or something really functional staples or Office Max. How can where do those brands succeed? And do you have examples of brands that create meaning and really functional, practical solutions and those categories that we don’t deem as exciting? By description?

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 13:40
Yeah, so you’re right, Adam. All products have a functional benefit and emotional benefits. And in a nutshell, the functional benefit is what the product does for you. And the emotional bases. How does it make you feel and To your client, it’s a lot easier for we start to emphasize the emotional benefits, obviously, because it’s luxurious because emotions are very high because you get fantastic amenities. And it’s easier for Ritz Carlton is Horcrux. Why because for most people bleach is not very emotional. With that said coach is actually a good example of a brand that managed to turn a very functional product into an emotional and create an emotional connection with the audience. They have a 15 seconds that ties the product to taking care of the elderly. So it’s, again it’s only 15 seconds, and you see someone preparing a nice bath and guiding an elderly person from the bathroom and obviously is encouraged to to clean this bathroom and in a nutshell Shell that exemplifies how you can take a very functional and, and differentiated product. Obviously, I challenge anyone to tell me the difference between pose and lie. So once it’s in your blackheads and once you’re laughing before, but again, this is a brand here that did a good job conveying a meaningless care and purpose and community with a very functional product. Now that’s a good example.

Adam Pierno 15:30
Do you you give the three examples in the book personal social and cultural, as as types of meeting can reach can break through it? Is your experience that brands achieve one only or are there brands that transcend and hit multiple

Unknown Speaker 15:47
types of meaning? Some brands can be multiple types of meetings. I think it’s important to stay true to yourself when you brand before opening the checkbook. You need to sit down and Saying what can i reasonably achieve? And you want to be authentic and you want to be credible for your audience. Don’t try to be someone you are not or you can be. And I think an example here when Pepsi created an ad in house and and received Kendall Jenner

Adam Pierno 16:25
notice our audience will notice that for sure.

Unknown Speaker 16:28
Yeah, so as a reminder for our listeners in this ad Kendall Jenner was to stop a Black Lives Matter Riot with her can of Pepsi. So that’s an example of failed commercial meaning simply because number one, is forming the Pepsi’s place to be to solve racial tensions in the United States and to resolve the respect for Kendall Jenner who is a very talented lady but she was nothing about bias she grew up in Calabasas 10 minutes away from where I am today and I can assure you Adam we’ve never seen a riot in Calabasas so that’s the point here is Kendall Jenner is talented Pepsi’s agreed brand. But Pepsi trying to solve racial tensions is just out of context. And an example of a brand trying to harness cultural meaning and not succeeding and

Adam Pierno 17:33
who could have harnessed that who is there a brand that could step into that role even I mean, it’s such a you know, the construct of that ad is so demented it’s just a such as weird, unsafe place for a brand to wade into anyway, but why? Why a soda brand and you know, it’s just so weird to me.

Yeah. So an example of a brand that exceeds that taking cultural standpoints and risky ones and configure Nike, right? So Nike can be disruptive, very progressive. And we know of civil examples. It was completely dead and it felt as an example. But here’s the difference is Nike does not have a large market share in any of the categories that play Nike is at 15 to 20% everywhere, whether it’s sports at all in sneakers and and what have you. And in a mass market like Cola, you probably don’t want to be a polarizing brand.

Yeah, they should stick to personal or social or, or tap into easier cultural areas, though.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 18:58
safer, more friendly.

Adam Pierno 19:00
Yeah, I mean, I think about their “Is Pepsi OK?” campaign. And that is weirdly a cultural tie in because everybody has been asked that question when they’ve ordered a coke generically, the server always says is Pepsi, okay? When they use that? I thought, oh, they’ve really they’ve really got something because everybody has heard that question before. Can we talk about authenticity? I have a, the word authenticity. I think you said credibility, which is a word. I’ve been using the word consistent as a replacement for authenticity, which is something I, I think is there’s a, I heard an interview with someone from Taco Bell. And it was the chef, the chef who runs our test kitchen who said we’re not authentic people. Don’t come to was for authentic Mexican cuisine. They come to us for a, you know, true Taco Bell experience. And from then on, I’ve been thinking, yeah, authentic is not the right word. You said credible. When you were describing Airbnb I want to I want to talk about authenticity and credibility. How do you how do you think about those words?

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 20:23
Yeah, so authenticity is a bit of a buzzword in the market research well into marketing industry in general. And the exact definition of a fantasy it means being aware of and expressing our true nature. And that’s what being authentic means. And what we expect from brands and products, as consumers is really to reflect who we really are as individuals and who we aspire to. Be? That’s what I mean by authenticity in the context of brands and branding.

Adam Pierno 21:08
And are you thinking about authenticity as a medium between the brand and the consumer? Is it that they they share some kind of common, authentic connection? Or is it really just Is it an echo of that idea of consistency that the brand will be authentic to this set of principles that they’ve they’ve made a commitment that this is how they’ll communicate and engage as they authentically do that?

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 21:34
So authenticity and consistency in my mind up to slightly different things. It’s and right, its authenticity and consistency. So being of authentic means people like people like themselves. I think that’s the point when you can example Victoria’s Secret is thriving, because everyone is another fantage, whereby most consumers cannot relate to the Victoria’s angels because Very few people weigh 90 pounds and look like a Victoria’s Secret model. So that’s very true. So Victoria’s Secret struggling to connect with your audience for the reasons we know importantly, because people cannot relate to the models. And in contrast, there is a brand called a re and that brand in the underwear category relies on what they call the everyday girl as their target audience. And what I mean here is they use very little Photoshop. They use very little special effects and things like this and makeup. And they rely on everyday people, everyday girls to advertise their underwear also had a very successful campaign around A few years ago, the point is, you’re more likely to connect with people like yourself, and people that look like your next door neighbors. So that’s what authenticity is about in branding consistency, in my view, is about delivering an authentic experience of your time. So stick to your values, be consistent over time in your delivery of experience. And it’s interesting, you mentioned Taco Bell, because that is also how McDonald’s made all his money, where they McDonald’s is not necessarily the best burger. In fact, it is not and that’s

like those wins on consistency.

Adam Pierno 23:52
I’m gonna get and I get it.

Unknown Speaker 23:54
Exactly. Starbucks is the same way the brands might go to Starbucks. Taco Bell. Dungey, most of the time blind tests lead on 305 and that’s fine. There we are delivering a consistent experience because I know that the cheese burger is going to be exactly the same in West Hills, California, in New York, in Chicago, in Dallas, Texas, and in Fargo, North Dakota. That’s what I’m doing from McDonald’s or by extension from a brand like Taco Bell.

Adam Pierno 24:27
glad you brought that up too because McDonald’s and Taco Bell, strive for that copy paste identical consistency of your of your experience of your meal of each heart. And then Starbucks I feel, tries to vary everything up to the conversation with the barista and the the actual taste and smell the product but they vary their footprint they have the store they vary as met as many things along the way to make each Starbucks feel just a little Different so it does not feel like that exact copy paste experience like a like a McDonald’s or or a taco bell.

Unknown Speaker 25:08
And you bought it Vegas pide Adam and I think at Starbucks the products the outcome is going to be senior. However you’re right to say that at store level, they’re doing their very best to tweak. The stuff would be in turn and the script a little bit if you will, to make it more local and more personal. It’s obviously extremely hard to deliver a authentic local experience when you’re brand like Starbucks that operates 11,000 Press outlets in the world.

Adam Pierno 25:46
Absolutely. How do you how do you define meaning? Because we need we probably need three hours to talk about this. In a nutshell in in your thinking about it. How do you define meaning? For for customers relating to brand.

Unknown Speaker 26:03
Yeah, well, we want to be concise here. And I want to differentiate for our listeners who difference between a fad, a trend and in meaning. So if art is something that fades as an example, most diets of us Why? Because it’s unlikely that our listeners and yourself and I will drink. celery juice prevents today for the rest of our lives.

Adam Pierno 26:34
I hope it was.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 26:36
A trending contrast is something that lasts longer than Assad. And that influences the markets. So CrossFit, meditation, polities cycling classes, all these are trends whereby bricks and mortar businesses are brilliant around them. And hopefully they can convey a sense of purpose and community that will last for more than five years. And in meaning is something that has a deeper impact on us in meeting, meaning something that make us feel larger than ourselves, if you will, meaning in contrast with a trend and aside something that is consistent over time, and allow me to plug grand heights here. Please do please do. And what’s compelling about this book is, is basically an evergreen My point is doesn’t really matter what color is in and out of fashion over the next six to 12 months. What matters are the meanings people are trying to fulfill and whose meanings are consistent over time.

Adam Pierno 27:53
So they’re good for the next five 710 years. So So meaning for you It happens over time. It’s not something that people come to a brand or walk away from a singular experience with a develops over over a relationship or over repeated exposure.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 28:10
Exactly. And that’s where brands have to be patient, when you want to develop. When you want to build and grow your brand, you need to think in the long term. Of course, there’s pressure on your board and from your CFO to deliver immediate results, and that’s fine. That’s why people get excited. Keep food rates and lower funnel metrics is nothing wrong with this. But that’s not how you build a brand. You can drive traffic to your website, to your soul to your product. So you can that’s okay, that’s not brand building that’s just driving traffic to a tactical in shadow. When you build a brand, and you want to build a brand that’s meaningful and salient and differentiated you need to be patient and to take the time to harness meaning

Adam Pierno 29:07
yes and i agree with what you’re saying and I and yet each of those individual components a visit to Starbucks or driving traffic to a website that crashes and keeps me from buying the thing I need to buy contribute to the My feeling about the brand and the meaning I placed on it of maybe reliability or about access or about something else. Indeed. So everything Everything is connected as we say.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 29:36

Adam Pierno 29:39
Dr. Pros, this was this was really time well spent. Thank you for for joining me today.

Unknown Speaker 29:45
Thank you so much. I’m really appreciate you having me on the show. And thank you to our listeners today. And of course, the booth has been to x but if people want to connect with me, I’m on LinkedIn at Emmanuel props, and I’d be happy to address any questions I will release in US may have today. So feel free to reach out to me directly on YouTube. Absolutely, I will I will add a link for those people who are shy about spelling, they could just tap the link and where can they find brand hacks online if they if they would be so bold as to order a copy, which I recommend v store is Amazon, right?

Unknown Speaker 30:23
I’ve heard of this store. So si p should type in Amazon.

Adam Pierno 30:31
Awesome. Well, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for making time for me today.

Dr. Emmanuel Probst 30:35
Thanks again. You have a great day.

Adam Pierno 30:37
All right, so long.

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