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Defining Your Brand Identity

An Interview with Trevor Dudeck

Welcome to E-Coffee with Experts, an interview series where we discuss online marketing with the best minds in the business.

In this episode, Dawood is in conversation with Trevor Dudeck, Founder and Chief Strategist at Lemonade.

Trevor shares his thoughts on the importance of brand audit & brand growth and how social media plays an important role in enhancing the brand value and visibility of an organization. He also expresses his thoughts on the growing importance of podcasts as a medium of mang new relationships as well as for marketing purposes.

Trevor also speaks about Cause Marketing and shares tips to make it more impactful. He also expresses thoughts on social media, content marketing, andhow content must resonate with a story.

Lastly, he shares his work experiences with us for an in-depth understanding of brand growth and awareness, and shares tips for the benefit of marketers.

Tune into this insightful conversation and stay tuned for the next cup of E -coffee with Experts!

Everybody had this idea of you making a viral video, but there’s no such thing as a viral video. There’s a video, and then it might go viral.

Trevor Dudeck
Founder and Chief Strategist at Lemonade
Podcast, Content
Hello, everyone, hope you are doing well. Today, we have with us Trevor Dudeck, Founder and Chief Strategist at Lemonade. Trevor, thank you so much for taking out time and joining us for a new episode of E-coffee with Experts. I am really excited to have you and talk about marketing. But, before we dive into the details and questions, it would be great if you could introduce yourself and what you do at Lemonade?

My name is Trevor. I’m the chief strategist here and Co-founder. I did start the company with a friend of mine, Rowan Brooks. He is our Chief Creative Director. He oversees the creative side of the business. I oversee the strategic and new business side of our organization. That’s the merriment of the two sides of our partnership that works really well.

We met out a while back, working together at a production company. We both come from the content production space. We’ve all been storytellers and really been drawn to that part of the industry. But, we were seeing a gap, and this was six or seven years ago. In that, there was a lot of great content being developed specifically for social, but it wasn’t being developed with social in mind. It wasn’t being shared with the world in the right way.

We wanted to create an organization that was better integrated because we often get these RFPs from other agencies when we were just a production company. There were always things where we had to fill in gaps. We had to fill in in terms of, “Okay, this is a great idea, but it’s not really designed well for that platform.” It’s not developed with the paid marketing aspect that’s going to need to be behind it to drive it. Everybody had this idea of you making a viral video, but there’s no such thing as a viral video. There’s a video, and then it might go viral. We left that organization together and created Lemonade with a goal to create more of a full-service integrated agency where content, social, and paid media could talk to each other in a better way so that everything was not developed in a vacuum but was developed more cohesively. I think we’re doing it.

Yeah, you're doing great work. In fact, while we move forward, we will talk about some of your case studies. You say that you have a proven process, which turns strangers into fans and into customers. That's exactly what a brand wants. Could you please explain your process?

I think we have a process for everything. When we start working with a brand, we dive deep into an audit. Everybody in the agency roles typically has an audit process of some kind. Everyone is usually unique, sometimes they’re not. I’d like to think that ours is. What happens during that period of time, which for us is about a 30-day period, it’s a pretty deep process. We don’t just look at, “Okay, how many followers do you have on social? What have you been doing there?” We look into your historicals. If you’re a new brand or if you haven’t been happy with your performance, your historicals are only worth so much of the value there. That’s one piece of the puzzle.

The rest of what we do is really looking at everything that we want to accomplish. What are our goals and the gap between those? Who are your competitors? What are the steps and the tactics that we want to take to get there? And then building out deep audience profiles so that we know not just who is the typical demographic that you want to reach, but who are the six or seven versions of that person that you want to reach. Where do they exist? Where do they hang out? How are we going to develop that custom content for them? That’s really where the story gets created. That’s where we turn that stranger into a fan. If you’re in gaming, we do a lot of work in gaming, we find how are we going to speak to that gamer in a way that feels super authentic, and that also feels super authentic to the genre of that game, and not just, “Oh, it’s gaming, let’s go on Twitch.” We get that all the time. If you are a mobile app, Twitch probably isn’t a good play for you because it’s highly desktop viewership.

We want to break through all of those easy, low-hanging fruit decisions, and go super deep, go into the analytics, and go into the research so that we can build these profiles out. Then, we go into a three-week testing process once we launch a campaign. We test our theories; we test ourselves. How correct were our ideas? Even in the best-case scenario, you’re close, but you’re not 100% there. It’s like, let’s keep ourselves honest.

From there, we weed out anything that’s not performing or not giving us the insights. We always learn something. Make adjustments, and adjust everything from channels and budgets to your actual content. That’s where you start to see communities develop and start to see fans. You start to see ecosystems around brands that are lasting versus the conversions that like immediate gratifying metrics that everybody wants, which are important, but we need longer-lasting elements if we’re going to really build the brand.

Absolutely. I think telling a story is so important now. You can't have content just for the sake of it. It has to resonate with the story you want to tell. So, Trevor, since you talked about the brand audit, while you're doing that audit, when you look at the competition, again, I understand that for telling a unique story of that brand, you have to actually say what they've done, but when you're doing competition analysis, any particular elements or main elements that you always check?

Typically, there’ll be a few key competitors or North Stars that people are looking at. Some of those can be really lofty goals, and some can be more realistic. Those are just helpful ways to start. A lot of times, we take people through a tone of voice workshop, and we find that even the most established brands that we work with, people who’ve been around for 100 years as a brand, who you just assume have all of those things figured out, oftentimes, they don’t do as much as they think they do. That’s okay. You get busy; you grow; you’ve aged out of certain customer demographics.

This tone of voice workshop, which lots of people have a version of, it’s not to say that it is important to do regardless if we work with it, but I think ours is really fun. It brings you through this journey, where it’s like, “Okay, if your brand was a song, what song would it be?” If it was a movie, what movie would it be? If it was a person, would it be a teacher? Would it be a caregiver? Would it be that fun Uncle? These things are easy for anyone in the organization to answer and not super complex marketing speak.

Once we go through all that and get opinions from a decent group of five or so people, not just that one contact that we’re dealing with, we can start to build out this tone of voice. That allows us to say, “Okay, well, I know you’re saying you want to be like Netflix or someone else who you really think is doing a great job. What’s coming out over here is that you guys are much more like GameStop or whatever. That’s okay, but let’s identify who you really are because these North Stars you have may or may not really be lying.” You can then start to develop what your storytelling should be and who you’re speaking to. I think that’s where you protect yourselves from jumping on bandwagons. That’s something people are getting murdered for on social right now. It’s like, “Hey, it’s Asian-American heritage, let’s just post something to say we support it.” If the organization is not actually doing something to support it, but you’re putting up the picture to say we support it, that’s not gonna cut it.

It’s those things where if you truly know who you are as a brand, then you can know which of the bigger topics, macro-trends you can participate in. You can also know which of the micro-trends and more custom things that are unique to your industry you should be doing every day.

When you're talking about brand growth, how can one leverage social posts?

Sometimes we are asked to do a big paid media campaign. I think one of the things that come into play there is, we say, “Okay, well, who’s managing your organic social?” That’s something we do quite a bit of, and even if it’s not going to be us, we want to make sure that all of your channels and organic content are well dialed in ideally before we’re doing a big massive paid campaign or even a little one. Most people, I think, realize, but sometimes kind of rush past is that, even if you get someone to your landing page or through your funnel, they’re going to check out your product and your page, but they’re still going to go bounce over to your socials and check on that social proof. Are they a real company? Who are they? What are they up to? Do I align with their values? All of that is happening right now. Anytime anyone looks at anything. I feel that’s where you have to have done your homework. Do the work to build social proof. We do focus a lot on foundational elements, as we call them. We have to build the foundation of the house before you can start putting on all kinds of accessories.

Absolutely. How effective do you think is cause marketing for brands? Is it for everyone?

I don’t think it’s for everybody. It’s probably different ways that people would describe it. Different people have different definitions of it. There can be a charitable cause. I think that can be done right, and there are right ways to do that. But again, you want to be careful, like that previous comment. It’s not just for the PR moment. You do get your PR moment out of that. It’s a balance. If it’s obvious that you’re just doing it for that, and it’s like, “Oh, we just give 10% of our product to this charity.” That’s a play to get you to buy more of our widget. That’s something I think is getting less and less traction. It’s almost better not to have that than just being designed from the ground up around that function if that’s really what you’re going to be or have a really meaningful kind of partnership. We say, “Hey, we’re going to partner with this organization to do this upcoming event because they’re good at X, Y, or Z, and we’re good at what we do.” Everybody is staying in their lane, and there is a charity benefiting. So to me, there’s kind of a checklist you have to go through to see if it makes sense. What do you think? I’m curious what you have seen?

Well, same here. A lot of people have tried being associated with a charity just to show and get sympathy from clients. But then, at the end of the day, with social media, and so much data available, you can't just fool your clients. You actually have to mean it to be associated with a cause. If you can associate with a cause that resonates with your brand, and you actually are doing it, it's good. It comes back to the same thing where you say every brand says a story. It's like, "Which kind of charity are you associated with? Does that resonate with your brand image?" I think that is very important before jumping into marketing just for the sake of it. Also, with so many channels available, driving engagement seems like a challenge. You work with gaming clients as well, and there are so many opportunities for marketing across various channels. How do you tackle that? How do you strategize for that?

I think the channel selection comes out of that audit for us. It’s within that process where we figure out who it is that we’re trying to reach and build those detailed profiles of the demographics and the habits. What do those consumers look like? Where are they going to be? See where that aligns with the platform. There are obvious ones. If you’re more Gen Z and younger, you’re looking towards TikTok. Further, it’s Instagram and Facebook. It all scales in certain directions. It gets much more granular, where it’s like, “How granular do we need to target based on how specific our niche or product or service is?” Some platforms have more or less capabilities. That’s where we’ll start to see there may be limitations with social, and we’ll have to go more programmatic because there’s more data we can access there. There’s more layering that we can bring into the mix, especially with iOS 14, and some of those things that are making data a little bit more challenging for marketers.

It’s just a matter of understanding what we really need to accomplish. So for us, it does come in that initial research phase, which is why we typically are not a great fit if someone’s just kind of, “Hey, we want to do this. Here’s where we want to be.” We want to take that breath and step back and say, “Well, let’s confirm that makes sense. Let’s verify that those are the right decisions and then test them for a short period of time. Let’s test it with smaller budgets.” Once we’ve confirmed those things and weeded out two or three of the ten channels, then we go heavy. Then we push all the budget.

Absolutely. When you were talking about videos, you said a very interesting thing. Everybody wants to make a viral video, but you don't make a viral video; you just make a video, it goes viral. The same holds true for a game as well. I mean, everybody wants their game to go viral. But again, you just make a game, and you market it well. So when you are strategizing those strategies, how do you make those viral strategies? What is the best process or approach for marketing a game when you're starting?

It’s giving it the best chance because there is no guarantee with that. The definition of viral is a whole other thing to get into too. What that is now versus what it used to be is so massive. You can go viral within your own little community, which is a success. It should be seen as a success versus you having to take over the entire internet.

It’s like stacking the deck in your favor. If you’re in the gaming industry, you have to have a good product or service or a good game. That’s something where we can’t really control what it is. Hopefully, the product or the game, or the services are great. It does seem that content is such a big factor. Time and time again, we’ve seen where we’ve taken the same budget, same channels, similar tactics, we still improve things, and saw multiples of improvement on the results of the performance because of the creative. That’s where we see a lot of the brands struggle to produce high volumes of original content and original storytelling. That is going to be the biggest factor, and the other pieces of the puzzle are all then going to materialize from it.

Once we started to develop the concept, then we know this should be a concept that’s actually developed natively for TikTok. That means a trailer or something isn’t going to work. It should be developed by an influencer. If you’re on TikTok, the only authentic content you’re responding to as a fan or a customer is something that looks native to the app. It should not look like a polished, edited piece. Those are on there too, but if you want massive virality from something, it should come from an influencer. It’s going to be from someone we can partner with to create content.

Whereas, an Instagram or programmatic or something, we can do really well with something that we edited, that we created as actors. That’s a totally different vibe. That’s where that kind of integration is the magic touch for us of understanding where we’re going, which is Z and where we’re starting, and everything in between to match it all up properly. We have these back and forth dialogues between creativity and strategy, and those go on repeatedly.

The traditional way that a lot of marketing is still done is like, “Hey, we have a TV commercial. Let’s put it out on these networks.” They then go and make the TV commercial. That’s even the way it’s done for digital. It’s like, “Okay, we have the spot, cut it into a couple of versions, even though it’s not really made for a vertical size, make it work. It doesn’t really perform as well because that was not designed natively for that platform. So we spend a lot of time in those details as well, making sure that the consumer experience is native and custom and does feel as though it was meant for me on that channel that I’m viewing. Those are the steps you have to take. It’s less about making the funniest viral video or trying to come up with the craziest stunt. You can try all day to figure out what that next thing is going to be or the next cat video. That’s just luck.

You took a very interesting and entertaining approach while marketing for Casino Metrics. Could you give some insights about that campaign?

They’ve been a client for a while, and we wanted to do something different than the traditional casino marketing. Traditionally, you see people throwing chips in the air, everybody’s winning, drinks and girls. Some of that is necessary, and some of that vibe is required, but we went much more of a comedic route. Even more family and honestly, more relatable because we broke it down to millennial, young adult, young parent, kind of demographic for the customer. That was who we were targeting, and felt like we wanted to create something episodic.

Every time you saw one of the commercials, you’d go, “Oh, this is a new one in the series.” It felt more like a sitcom. It follows the same format for every spot. We did a 60, 30, and a 15 for each one. Basically, they all included the same friend group, all different situations at home where they were trying to create fun at home moments, like trying to play cards. They get interrupted by the mom with the baby, who’s like, “Come on, it’s your turn to watch the baby or the wife and husband trying to have a nice romantic date at home.” But, their cell phones won’t stop going off, and every time the answer that they come up with is, “You know what, let’s just go to Metrics.” Just make this simple. We have a place we can go to have fun. It’s safe; it’s clean. It’s not like anything you would expect in the sleazy casino. It wasn’t focused on things like, “Hey, go get rich.” It was like, “Let’s go have a nice fun experience and get out of whatever is going on in our home.” The moment we’re stuck in right now. I think people really relate to that, and the storytelling kept building. We were able to keep using those characters in radio and digital. It honestly worked for a good few years before we had to change the creative.

Right. Podcasts are doing well. You also have your own podcast. How do you see podcasts as a marketing strategy?

If you’re already an established business, or you have a business that’s different from podcasting, like ours, I think that they can be a marketing tool and Sillery piece of the puzzle. Podcasts can be a good way to network to show people what you’re doing the same way you would show people what you’re up to and who you’re working with on your social. It’s a little bit more of an interactive way to do that. Now that people like to research who they’re going to work with or consider working with, they can go listen to a podcast episode and see who’s the founder of this company or the person who does marketing here. What’s their vibe? I think there’s a lot of things that it provides your potential customer.

The famous thing that I take away from podcasts is Gary V’s rule, which is to bring your ideal customers onto your podcast, even if they’re not customers yet. Use it as a sales tool. They may or may not become a client, but that way, it’s not you reaching out saying, let me sell you something. It’s you just building a relationship. I think that’s one of the best ways to use it.

Then, there’s a whole other category, which is not my area of expertise, which is like, “I’m going to be a full-time podcaster and create a zone for myself in my written niche.” I think that is arguably much more difficult. You really have to carve out a spot for yourself to compete. I applaud people who can do that.

Absolutely. Well, Trevor, I know we are short on time. Any special tips that you would like to give our audience that they could use and benefit from?

Let me ask you, what do you feel is like the majority of your audience? Give me an idea.

It's more of marketers. Either agency owners or marketers.

The thing that I would leave people with is, we always have to figure out the best way to market ourselves. What we do is more B2B, but then what we do for our customers is B2C. It’s kind of an interesting trade-off. I’ve learned to love that and learn to market our business. I think some people who aren’t traditionally salespeople or marketers can get intimidated by that. I would say learn to love bragging about your team, the people you have, who are going to work on the projects, and the things that you’ve done. If you’re brand new that you haven’t done yet, then it’s been building up. Who are you bringing to the table? The expertise you’re bringing to the table. The years of experience, the excitement you have that the person down the street does because there are so many clients, they can’t handle another one. You’re gonna be the one who’s answering every phone call because they’re not. I would say that’s how we’ve built our business is just by leaning into marketing ourselves. You have to do that until you’re more established. That would be my big piece of advice.

Well, Trevor, thank you so much for joining us today, and it was absolutely lovely having you.

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