The Power of a Strong Brand & How D2C Companies Are Differentiating Themselves Through Branding – Episode 26: 7-Figures & Beyond Podcast

Episode Summary

In this episode of the 7 Figures and Beyond ecommerce marketing podcast, Greg Shuey interviews Olivia Janisch, co-founder of the branding agency Superbrand, about the importance and impact of branding for direct-to-consumer (D2C) companies. Olivia shares her unique background growing up between London and South Dakota, and her experience in Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach. She emphasizes that branding is more than just a logo or visual identity—it’s about creating a holistic experience that engages all customer senses. Olivia provides insights into building and maintaining a strong brand, focusing on understanding customers, differentiating in the market, and continuously innovating. She highlights the importance of storytelling, staying curious, and being willing to take creative risks to build a brand that resonates deeply with customers.

Key Takeaways

  1. Holistic Branding: A brand is not just its logo or visual identity but encompasses every touchpoint with the customer, engaging all senses and creating a comprehensive experience.
  2. Customer-Centric Approach: Understanding and prioritizing customer needs, problems, and desires are crucial for building brand loyalty and differentiation.
  3. Importance of Storytelling: A compelling brand story, rooted in the company’s history, mission, and vision, is essential for creating a strong brand identity that resonates with customers.
  4. Creative Risk-Taking: Being willing to take creative risks and exploring unexpected collaborations can help a brand stand out and stay relevant in a competitive market.
  5. Continuous Learning and Innovation: Staying curious, open-minded, and adaptable allows brands to innovate and keep up with rapidly changing market trends and customer expectations.

Episode Links

Greg Shuey LinkedIn:

Olivia Janish LinkedIn:


Episode Transcript

Greg: 0:26
Hey everyone, welcome to episode 26 of the 7 Figures and Beyond podcast. Hope everyone is having a fabulous day today. So today’s guest I hope I don’t butcher your last name Olivia Janisch. Is that right? Did I say that right?

Olivia: 0:44
Totally perfect.

Greg: 0:45
Good. So she is the co-founder of a pretty awesome branding agency called Superbrand, and I’ll bet you can’t guess what we’re talking about today Branding Superbrand. So we’re going to be talking about branding, more specifically, the power of a strong brand and how D2C companies are differentiating themselves through branding. I’m really excited about our discussion. I think I mentioned this last time is you know, we’ve never had a discussion specifically around branding on the podcast. So, olivia, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat today, and I know it’s early where you’re at, so thank you for getting up early. Before we dive in, would you take just a couple of minutes and introduce yourself to our listeners and share a little bit about your journey, like what’s your personal story? How have you gotten to where you are today? I always love to get some background and some history.

Olivia: 1:47
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, first and foremost, for having me. This is awesome. It’s great to be here. You know, we’ve had a really amazing journey of building Superbrand.

Olivia: 2:00
My personal background is that I grew up in London, but also my dad is from South Dakota, so I grew up between London and South Dakota, which I think is pretty unique in itself because there could not be more opposite in terms of lifestyle and people and mindset, and so from a very young age I was just really really curious about, like, the different corners of the world and different ways of living and being and experiencing life and we’ll get to it later. But you know, understanding people is a big part of successful branding and successful brands. I moved to the Bay Area in 1999 when Silicon Valley was just kicking off, which was another big stamp in my education. Tech and innovation was a big part of growing up, seeing things start from nothing and then become huge. And then after college, I moved to LA and that a few years later, that’s when Silicon Beach was becoming a big thing in Santa Monica. So I was working in the same office as Uber when it was very young and starting out, which was at a co-working space in Santa Monica. So I’ve lived in some really inspiring places.

Olivia: 3:24
I love learning, I love people. I have always loved brands. I’ve always been fascinated by that combination of strategy and creative, and I met my business partner now through a mutual friend. He’s my, my partner is an artist and the friend that we met through is an artist, and so we kind of came together and we’re discussing building a branding agency based on, you know, our mutual love for brands, but also founders, innovation, startups, technology.

Olivia: 3:58
How do we take our both of us have experience working with big brands and big agencies Vitamin Water, south Park, coca-cola, espn how do we take our knowledge and understanding of working with big, high visibility agencies and brands and bring that kind of quality strategy and thinking to younger, hungry, growing brands? And so now it’s this you know constant passion and interest and growth and different ways of thinking and really looking at how we can help young and growing brands become more successful, differentiate themselves, understand their customers better and really play in wild time. You know, when you think of all the things happening in technology and you know, in D2C and things like Amazon and shipping and supply chain, I mean, the world’s your oyster, in a sense, but it’s made things incredibly more competitive. So how do you be not only better but different and really understand like what’s needed, and how do you deliver that to people?

Greg: 5:12
I love that. That’s awesome, fascinating story. How long did you live in London for?

Olivia: 5:18
Until I was 11.

Greg: 5:19
Okay, you don’t have much of an accent, do they have like pretty good accents in london?

Olivia: 5:25
I was very, very proper growing up, um, but I think, growing up with an american parent, I just I always was very used to the the accent and when I was young I could do any accent, I was like a parrot and I and I loved I honestly I loved accents like it’s, like it was always really exotic to me to hear like a Scottish accent and then an Indian accent, and in England, you know, there’s all these dialects across the country and so when we moved here, like the second you open your mouth as a British person at least for sure, people are like whoa, where are you from, where?

Olivia: 6:02
did you come from? What are you doing here? And I think, just subconsciously, my brother and I just lost the accents in a summer.

Greg: 6:09
Huh, In one summer they were gone. You were Americanized.

Olivia: 6:15
My college friends tell me I was a lot more British in college still.

Greg: 6:18

Olivia: 6:19
But I think 15 years in Los Angeles. Just you know, you get Americanized out here pretty fast.

Greg: 6:29
That’s funny, awesome. Well, thank you again for sharing that story. That was great, so are you ready to jump in? Yeah, definitely. So let’s start off just talking about what is branding. I think a lot of people have misconceptions about what is branding versus not branding and what is brand. So let’s talk about that and also maybe share a little bit about why e-commerce businesses, direct-to-consumer companies they should be obsessed with brand and protecting their brand.

Olivia: 7:03
Yeah, absolutely You’re right. A lot of people think of a brand as a logo and design and a visual identity.

Olivia: 7:11
Colors fonts, yeah, the fun stuff which is absolutely part of the brand, but really a brand is every single touch point that you have with your customer. So I like to sort of compare a brand to like if you walk into a hotel, right, it’s interacting with all of your senses your vision, your smell, your hearing, the temperature, the quality of the person that you speak to. When you walk in, if someone opens the door for you or not, you know. Or when you get into like a car, right, if you get into a Porsche, it’s like the sound that the window makes when it’s rolling down right, like you can hear the weight and the quality of that material and the feeling of the steering wheel and the smell of the leather. Like all of that is the brand speaking to you.

Olivia: 8:13
So this is why the most successful brands eat, sleep, breathe the brand and become absolutely obsessed with every touch point.

Olivia: 8:21
And it’s everything from the top of funnel, if we’re talking about D2C and e-commerce, everything from that top of funnel experience down to that magic time of a customer opening their wallet and becoming the customer, and then through to the experience of the customer receiving the product, the follow-up, the customer service, the different ways that you interact with the customer once they are a customer.

Olivia: 8:49
I actually read something yesterday Warby Parker. I meant to double check this number, but they said that 100% of Warby Parker customers buy a second pair of glasses and talk about like that is the object of an amazing brand. Right, having the highest customer retention you can have, because having people become customers is is one piece of the puzzle, but the next piece is that retention and that loyalty and making your customers become evangelists. And the way that you make your customers become evangelists is through building a great brand, and that comes from design, absolutely. Design is always speaking to us, but it’s the story, it’s the experience online to the website and then also through to all of the times that the customer is going to interact with you. All of this is what your brand encompasses.

Greg: 9:48
Yeah, I love that, and I love when you kind of brought up the way it looks, sees, smells. I mean the first thing that came to mind when you even said smell. Right, we’re huge Disney fans, so we try to get out to Disneyland. And when you I’m sure you’ve been to Disneyland, I mean you live right there. Yeah, you know, when you walk into Pirates of the Caribbean, right, there’s a smell and it takes you back to when you were a kid and like that’s the first thing I thought about and I’m like, okay, I can see what brand encompasses. Right, it’s that ecosystem, it’s the whole ecosystem. That’s cool, that’s hard to build, it’s way harder to build compared to just building your logo, your colors, your fonts, and so I think that kind of dovetails really nicely into kind of. The next discussion point is what goes in to building the brand, like what are the different things that brands need to take into consideration while they’re trying to build that out?

Olivia: 10:50
So I am, as I mentioned, I’m very curious, I’m always studying and I’m always like learning, and so when you’re thinking about your product, you need to be thinking as much, or if not more, about your product. You need to be thinking as much, or if not more, about your customer, so you need to think nonstop about what their needs are, what their problems are, what’s going to excite them. How do you build brand love and constantly innovate based on them, their needs and where this is going to fit into their lives? That’s the first point, and the second point is what’s the market like, what’s happening and what hasn’t been done before? Something that I was thinking about is that we’re seeing brands in a lot of places that we wouldn’t have seen them before. For instance, skims and I know this is one of the biggest companies on the planet, but it’s a good example in that they really filled a void in the women’s underwear category, but now they have done a sponsorship with the WNBA and so they’ve kind of made themselves a hybrid of Lululemon and say Victoria’s Secret.

Olivia: 12:12
Interesting no-transcript really helpful in a marketing strategy when it comes to, like, pr and language and messaging, but it also makes you stick in a place in your customer’s mind. So it’s not about being better, it’s about being different. And so, when it comes to building your brand, what does my customer need? How do I help solve problems for them and stoke them out? And then how do we find a space that we can expand into, because there’s so much out there. And so, looking at the market, I hear people talk about like their visions and ideas that they have, and that’s amazing, that’s beautiful. Find a problem and then tie it to the problem and go from there, because that’s where the space is to really make a difference for people.

Greg: 13:20
I love that. I love taking a customer first approach, and I posted on LinkedIn I don’t know a couple of days ago about the customer journey and it not being linear. Right, it hasn’t been linear in a very, very, very, very long time because there’s so many ways to be able to research and gather information and being in those places where maybe they might not expect it, like you talked about. What kind of tips or tricks do you have for brands who are really trying to understand their customer? What’s the best way to start to gather some of that data and do some of that research?

Olivia: 13:58
Honestly be out in the public, like, I mean, we. Technology is amazing and I you know it’s incredible because you can gather a lot of data really, really fast. But you know, I use chat GPT, as most people do, for certain things and I will ask it questions what’s trend like? What’s trending right now? And it does not have those answers for me.

Greg: 14:21

Olivia: 14:22
We don’t have access to that information. And that was a really interesting moment for me because I was like, okay, like you know, ai is super powerful and it’s incredible in a lot of ways, but good old conversations like getting out there go. I mean, I live in Los Angeles, so if you have any interest in the world, you can find a pretty solid group to join here and connect with those people. Like there’s a run club in Venice and I was sitting having dinner last night and the run club was just going and going for at least like 20 minutes. You know there’s like 500 people every Wednesday night running through Venice, but it’s like go to the run club was just going and going for at least like 20 minutes. You know there’s like 500 people every Wednesday night running through Venice.

Olivia: 15:01
But it’s like go to the run club, go to the coffee shops, go to networking groups and just talk to people and and and peak and just curiosity. It’s it’s it’s so critical because you talk to people and they tell you things that you would have never thought of and a question wouldn’t have gotten you to that answer. But it’s the conversation, it’s the actual engagement. So I think being in person and connecting with people is the best thing you can do. Other than that, it’s really just like finding interesting places for thought leadership people with different opinions, always looking for ways to think differently. I think it’s really important to have strong opinions but then to be open-minded to that. Actually, I feel strongly about this, but it might be wrong, it might not be true, and I’m open to learning if it’s not true.

Greg: 15:57

Olivia: 15:57
I think that really helps you to just keep that malleability. That enables you to really create things that shift your customers.

Greg: 16:07
Yeah, I like that. I like how you said keep an open mind, because I feel a lot of people these days, especially ones that I talk to, are very close minded. Right, they’re very. You know, I’m I’m the product visionary. I built this product for myself because I had a need. I am my target customer and I know exactly what I need to do to be able to reach them, engage them and turn them into a customer. And because of that, they’re very close minded, versus having an open mind and getting out and doing focus groups and calling customers and joining these networking groups and just being willing to say I don’t know everything. And I think that you can learn a lot and use that to be able to position your brand and kind of build that branding. So that’s thank you. Thank you for bringing that up. That’s awesome.

Olivia: 16:57
And it’s so fun. It’s just, it’s, it’s, I don’t know. Thank you for bringing that up. That’s awesome.

Greg: 16:59
And it’s so fun.

Olivia: 16:59
Yeah, it’s just, it’s I don’t know.

Greg: 17:02
There’s always something to learn and you say it’s fun, I say it’s scary. I’m an introvert, so like going and sitting in a networking group, it’s like I’d rather go under the knife for surgery. Honestly.

Olivia: 17:18
Oh man, go under the knife for surgery honestly oh man, I just put my like little researcher hat on and I’m just like wow, like tell me more, you know, and that’s what. Because I, I, you know, we all, we all feel that like anxiety, oh gosh, like yeah, what. But I just, I just try and be like I’m just gonna be curious and I’m here to learn and, and then that, you know, sometimes you have to, for me at least, I’m like okay, who am I going to be in this situation, so that I feel good and you know, I’m going to get a little bit out of this and I get one takeaway that’s huge. I’m super happy, exactly. But I, I hear you, I know what you’re saying.

Greg: 18:02
I hear you, I know what you’re saying, cool. So after you’ve started to build out the brand and you really have that defined, how do you make sure that you stay true to that in everything that you do, because I would assume it’s pretty easy to start veering off course.

Olivia: 18:13
I think the core of it is having a really, really strong brand story. Okay, so, knowing where did we come from, where are we now and where are we going, and really, what is our why, what do we truly believe in, what’s like the heart and soul of this, and knowing you’re always going to be flexing and changing.

Greg: 18:38

Olivia: 18:38
Because that’s the nature of you know a brand, it’s, you know it’s not like one thing that you do and then it’s done. It’s really this like living, breathing entity and but really staying close to the why, but being willing to change and grow, but really having that heart and soul and focus change and grow, but really having that heart and soul and focus. You know, it’s interesting because now a new way of releasing brands and products is just like looking at a hole in the market and then not having a product testing concept and then, based on how those perform testing, branding and communication for each of them, and then, based on the testing, develop the product roll something out so exactly, um.

Olivia: 19:30
So you know, I I really love the brand liquid death a lot and, like they have an amazing story. I’ve listened to the founder talk at their like um VC accelerator science here in Santa Monica and you know they started that company with no product. They started as just building content and then they had all these these pre-orders for the product. But what they’ve done, you know they have a really strong voice. They’re selling an attitude, essentially, Attitude.

Greg: 20:05
That is the correct word.

Olivia: 20:07
Yeah, yeah. And it all ladders back to this murder, your thirst, and death to plastic and death to plastic, and it’s a real FU brand. A lot of people hate them and they embrace that because so many people love them. And they’ve disrupted a very bland category with a can, which is genius because they saw, right, people feeling uncomfortable, like drinking a bottle of water at a party, or kids being like I don’t want to drink water. Now, kids are obsessed with liquid death because it’s a really cool can and it’s that attitude.

Olivia: 20:50
So, and now I just saw they did a collaboration with elf cosmetics, you know, and elf cosmetics in them and them, huh, yeah, they did. They did a candle with martha stewart, like I think, two halloweens ago, yep, you know, but right, they they’re with martha stewart and the cosmetics brand. But it comes back to this attitude and this the design, right, the visuals, the story but because they have such a strong brand, story and mission and heart and soul, really they can go in all these different directions and people are like, oh, okay, yeah, that tracks, like they can do that.

Olivia: 21:36
And what they’ve always done is they’ve used their negative customer feedback and highlighted it and always had such a good sense of humor about it and not not all brands can, you know, have that kind of humor, um, but I think that that’s always been a core tenant for them. Yeah, I like that. So, you know, always remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing and and just and getting creative, and I think being, you know, willing to take those creative risks can can always pay off. It can also be incredibly detrimental, sure, so, right, it’s like how can we be measured? And I mean, it’s interesting because we’re, you know, we’re in this time of immediate feedback and people jumping on bandwagons in both directions. But again, if you’re really thinking about your customers, your core customers, what they want to hear, what’s going to resonate with them, hopefully you make mistakes, but hopefully you don’t make a huge mistake, right, I like that.

Greg: 22:39
As we make mistakes, but hopefully you don’t make a huge mistake.

Olivia: 22:41
Right, I like that, as we’ve seen.

Greg: 22:43
But lessons again. So we may have some listeners who are like cool brand story, but I don’t even know how to like start to formulate one. Do you have any tips or recommendations to start to build that story?

Olivia: 22:56
Put everything down, like get everything down on paper. The process that we do with Superbrand is it is this like deep dive into the history, where you are now and really what the vision is. And there’s an art to storytelling. Sure, I mean, we’ve all been in a room with people and we’re like where the hell is this story going? What, what, why am I, why am I listening? So like, where’s this going?

Olivia: 23:32
There’s a structure to good storytelling and so you can tell the same story a number of different ways depending on the audience. But you need to think what’s interesting to this person, what are they interested in? Are there characters here that’s going to resonate with them? Are there technical things here that’s going to resonate with them? I think if you have customers already, if there’s a good customer story, right, that’s a great way to start. Like humans, from the beginning of time, we’re storytellers. Storytelling has been what has been part of the evolution of humanity. And so, pulling all the information out and really looking at like what’s cool here, what’s technologically advanced or what’s like a really simple solution, start with that and then really figure out how to how to tell the story, because that’s going to get people’s attention and get them excited. For instance, I’m a huge athletic greens fan.

Olivia: 24:38
I’ve loved nutrition for a very, very long time, but like getting all the nutrients that you need first thing in the morning is challenging, no matter who you are, especially if you’re a busy person. So the founder of that has an incredible story. He was very sick and the doctors put him on a hundred dollars worth of medication a day and he was like there’s got to be something better than this. Right For me as a customer. I can say that story quickly, over and over again. And it’s a good product, but it doesn’t have to be complicated, but it needs to feed into, it, needs to create validity for the product and it needs to create something to grasp onto for the customer.

Olivia: 25:21
You know it’s easy to have a big product launch. We worked with an e-bike company that had an amazing product launch. They were super, super successful but because the brand wasn’t built out, there wasn’t anything there for the customers to like, stay loyal to and grasp onto. So we worked with them to really create this narrative around the product, that create this world that people could feel and see themselves in, and so it’s a little bit like therapy. You got to dig deep, you got to ask yourself the hard questions and and and and. Think about like what, what are people going to, what are people really going to find interesting? And then, how do we deliver that throughout all the different customer touch points, like we were talking about earlier.

Greg: 26:07
Cool. I think one of the words that just I guess it’s a couple of words that you just said that stood out as latch onto, right. You want that story that they’ll latch onto so that they can be part of that story, right? And that’s when you’re going to be able to really retain customers and grow their lifetime value and use them as a way to be able to kind of scale up the company. So that’s awesome 100%.

Greg: 26:33
So what are some examples or ways that D2C companies are using brand as a differentiator to stand out and grow their companies?

Olivia: 26:42
I mean, it’s everything, it’s, it’s you’ve got it, I think I. I think one thing that’s really cool to go back to, like the visual, the creative side of of branding is, I think a lot of brands now, as opposed to you, look at older websites and it’s like pages of information. Sure, all this text, and I think one of the big shifts that’s happening is we’re leaning more into creative, into the language of design, and a lot of founders do have creative backgrounds, especially when it’s D2C, because people are so visually inclined.

Olivia: 27:27
If you’re looking at all these options out there, you’re like, oh, this is speaking to me. I don’t know, I can’t tell you why, but I feel something. So I think having creative that speaks to people on a deeper level. I think people are using creative in a bit of like. Maybe it’s brands that I’m attracted to, but it’s sort of this irreverent sort of design. And I think we’re seeing with, like, gen Z they I have a lot of friends who are Gen Z and they’re awesome because they’re very different and their sense of humor is very different and they laugh at things that it’s not slapsticky, it’s not dry, it it’s. It’s its own humor of its own, and I think there’s a lot of ways that design can speak to that.

Olivia: 28:17
So I think really, it comes down to your audience, right, like who’s your audience and what’s going to resonate with them for this? Is it a more serious product? Is it a more serious product? Is it a more playful product? How does your design and your font really emphasize what you want to get across? Because I think now we’re, especially with TikTok and Instagram and the way people are learning about new brands visually it’s a big thing. Learning about new brands visually, it’s a big thing. And then you know, of course, like influencers and celebrities are a big part of brands, I think that those pieces of the puzzle can be really powerful as well. But again, you need to be incredibly thoughtful about it, um, and you know, really, really consider what you’re trying to say, and then how can those other decisions emphasize what you’re working?

Greg: 29:16
on. That’s great. Those are great tips and recommendations. That’s fantastic. So, as we’re wrapping up, I mean I I always ask these kind of last two questions. I think they’re very thoughtful and insightful. I mean, we’re almost halfway through 2024. Where did that go? I know. What predictions do you have for the last half of the year and even in 2025? When it comes to branding, do you see anything shifting, any things that brands just need to be thinking about or aware of?

Olivia: 29:57
I mean, I think it’s a few of the things that I’ve touched on. Really, I think brands showing up in places that you wouldn’t expect them necessarily is going to be a big one. I think collabs and limited edition product drops if if you look at at what does really well and what generates buzz and what gets people excited that elf cosmetics and liquid death collab they sold out in an hour and now I have to go look at that yeah, yeah, it’s, it’s.

Olivia: 30:27
I have an, I have an article I can. I can send it to you. Um, sold out in an hour. I think it was like a 25 product. Now it’s selling on the secondhand market for like 125 dollars you know so. So it’s this like instant gratification and this sort of like excitement to be part of something and have that memento. Um, I think is really powerful for people and I think, again, another place to be really creative and surprise and delight people yeah that’s another great way to stick in people’s minds.

Olivia: 31:04
Um, you know, from like a specifically branding, like messaging and design, less language, but still with a good story, but more creative, more. I think people are willing to just be a little bit more expressive, creative. And I think you know there’s influencer driven brands. Like is just going to keep growing, because if you look at companies that are like looking to do a safe investment, looking to be able to test and learn with an audience that’s already there, that is just going to be something that it keeps on growing. And I know it can be a little controversial because there’s a lot of different things to think about influencers, but at the end of the day, they’re a big part of the economy and marketing. Um, so I think in that world it’s like okay, how do you learn from that? How do we use that to our advantage?

Olivia: 32:16
um, but yeah, two things that’s great I’m hoping for, um, you know, more stuff in like the health and wellness and and well-being and people you know in la, it’s like we’re all looking, everyone’s looking, for transcendence here. We’ve got air, one and breath, work and yoga and you know vitamin. So all I think that space as well is going to keep growing and keeping a really, a really successful space as well.

Greg: 32:44
Absolutely Any other final words of wisdom before we kind of wrap up.

Olivia: 32:50
I think stay curious.

Greg: 32:52

Olivia: 33:04
Yeah, I think from the pandemic if we learned anything, there’s always going to be hard times, but there’s always ways to be successful. And, as difficult as the pandemic was and lockdown, I think a lot of innovation came out of that time. I think a lot of new important solutions, ways of working, ways of communicating, ways to provide value came out of that. And so it’s like how can you just stay curious, be that constant learner, look for new ways of doing things, because things are just moving faster and faster and faster, and I think we don’t have to keep up because that’s impossible. But I think being open to new ways of thinking and new perspectives allows us to just stay fresh and and innovating and and really creating things that people need in a in a time when we really have everything that we need.

Greg: 33:53
Yeah for sure. So there you have it. Stay curious. Those are probably some of the best final parting words that we’ve had on a podcast. So that was awesome, and thank you again for taking some time. That was a really awesome discussion and I think there’s so much more to unpack, so send me that link, I’d. And thank you again for taking some time. That was a really awesome discussion and I think there’s so much more to unpack, so send me that link. I’d love to see that link. We’ll also include it in the show notes. We’ll also make sure to include your LinkedIn profile, your website, so that if anyone’s interested in chatting about branding and potentially having you kind of dig in with them and help them create that brand story and their brand overall, they can do that. So thank you again for taking the time.

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