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Do You Know Your Branding Basics? Think Again



Do You Know Your Branding Basics? Think Again

There is no topic in business and marketing bigger than the topic branding. 

When you Google the term “why is branding important,” you’ll find an abundance of resources that stress the importance of understanding and investing in branding for your success. In the majority of these resources, there are also vague references to terms like brand value, brand equity, and consumers’ minds and hearts.

You’ll find the topic seems to somehow encompass everything from mission, vision, and values, to colors, fonts, and messaging. The topic somehow does everything, doesn’t it?

As you continue to investigate, you’ll discover that Investing in branding really matters. In today’s digital, post-covid marketplace, brand leaders all seem to know that harnessing the power of world-class branding is critical for success. But how?

Every day you can read stories about the missteps of recent brands like Twitter, who under the leadership of an unguided leader, unhinge years of brand equity, meaning, and value, completely missing the customers they exist to serve. Twitter’s brand was so engrained into culture that even the word “tweet” was added to the dictionary. We immediately know the missteps of bad branding when we see it, don’t we?

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I’ve seen firsthand and can attest to branding’s power, personally and professionally, for both good and bad. Working as a Brand Scientist, I’ve had the opportunity to work with over 150 major brands in 65+ categories, putting 500+ SKUS into the marketplace, and collaborating with small startups from $30K to $30B bluechip companies. It’s one of the things I’m most passionate about, love discussing, and love sharing knowledge on. 

While most marketers will tell you that branding is important, only a few know why.

For the customer, branding is a tool that helps them navigate choices in the category, create perceptions, and influence behavior.

As a company, there’s nothing more important than influencing behavior to drive sales, and branding does exactly that.

Branding ultimately makes it easier to sell, easier to buy, and easier to build brand equity in your category.

Yet, who is branding for, and when do you do it? 

Branding is for Everyone

It doesn’t matter what age and stage your business is either. Whether you’re a—

  • a founder with an idea, trying to get a proof-of-concept and raise capital
  • a nascent and budding brand launching into the marketplace
  • a pubescent growing brand launching new products and trying to get category growth
  • a middle-aged, established brand constantly working to scale and become an authority or
  • a declining legacy brand trying to stay relevant, redefine its mission, and stay in the game and need to pivot quickly,

There’s nothing more critical to the success of your business than strong branding that connects with your consumer, helps deliver the product/service experience, and creates a relationship.

Wow. This topic somehow does everything, doesn’t it?

The Dark Side of Branding

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But guess what—there’s a dark side to branding too. Maybe you’re familiar.

While the topics of branding and everything it contains feels shiny, beautiful, and lucrative, there’s nothing quite as subjective, nebulous, and frustrating as branding.

To quote the kids at the end of each episode of Reading Rainbow, ” –”Don’t take my word for it.” 🎶 bah dum bum 🎶

Here are a few people we could ask more about this.

Here are a Few People We Could Ask

If you’re curious about the dark side of branding, just ask CMOs, agency leaders, and business owners about their experiences with the process and why it’s lost its lackluster.

Ask the CEOs and CMOs about their experience and the daunting task of rebranding. They would tell us about the difficulty in trying to communicate with senior-level stakeholders, internal teams, and customers while managing everyone’s voices being heard. They’d share about the incredible efforts it takes, the pressure it creates, and the expectations of getting it right. How long is that supposed to take? One month? One year? How do you get it right?

Ask the Agency Leaders

We could ask agency leaders when they’re faced with the task of educating and selling branding packages to their clients. They would tell us about the challenges of trying to communicate the need for effective branding to their clients. They also share how they struggle to get clients to pay a premium price for the service and how much the customer struggles to even understand.

They’d tell us about how they cringe and never want to put the clients’ ugly brandmark on the slick, new, beautifully-responsive, cutting-edge website. They could share with us how the client wants the old branding with the new website and doesn’t see any disparity between the two. What do you do?

Ask the Business Owners

We could also ask small business owners who are trying to navigate their marketing when faced with the task of brand/rebrand. Ask them about the three wildly different quotes with three extreme price points from three completely different perspectives from three completely different agencies.

They’d tell us that when talking to marketing agencies, they get several proposals ranging anywhere from $2500 to $25,000 and beyond, feeling unjustified and dishonest. They would share with us how It feels unsettling, frustrating, and slightly deceptive, but they’d also tell you they often pick the middle package.

Aren’t they supposed to be comparing apples to apples? If so, then why such a price difference? And why such a difference in approach? Why don’t branding proposals ever feel remotely similar? What’s that all about?

Ask the Rest of the Us

Lastly, ask those of us who have hired agencies to create a marketing plan for us. We’d tell you about how the agencies return to create a brand style guide and provide services that weren’t what you signed up for.

We could discuss the horrible taste left in our mouths by the majority of professional fellow marketers and their branding process in general.

What’s Happening Here?

It seems like there’s a breakdown happening.

Our professional definitions aren’t the same, and it shows.

We would all agree there tends to be an incredible disagreement among professionals on the definitions, the quality, and the execution of branding. Not only are our definitions of branding vastly different, but our levels of understanding, meaning, and expertise are all at different levels. This certainly doesn’t help.

We would all agree there tends to be an incredible disagreement among professionals on the definitions, the quality, and the execution of branding.

Not only are our definitions of branding vastly different, but our levels of understanding, meaning, and expertise are all at different levels. This certainly doesn’t help.

Although marketing professionals out there are trying to do a good job, these definitions are simply not good enough. Just look at the results. Maybe you identify with one of these people above? What frustrations have you had?

Branding. What is it Then?

Branding is kind of like love.

Just track with me for a minute…

We know it’s important, and we want to see it flourish everywhere, but when it comes down to it, no one ever has offered a set definitive standard on what “it” (love) actually is.

To quote bell hooks, “ Everywhere we learn that love is important, and yet we [get] bombarded by its failure.” Similarly, I’d modify the quote to say that “everywhere we learn that [branding] is important, but we get bombarded by its failure.”

The examples about the dark side of branding summarize a snapshot of the hundreds of stories I’ve heard over the years. Every day I hear hurt business owners, frustrated marketing practitioners, and disheveled agency leaders who are furious with their experience with branding, where it’s gone wrong, and where it’s missed its proverbial mark.

Furious at the experiences with those who are performing it. Furious with the results later that don’t measure up nor create the intended results.

You better believe it puts a lot of pressure on the next guy to come along. That’s usually me.

Even if that’s not been you, we both can agree we’ve seen some pretty bad branding out there. Stuff that completely misses the assignment. We KNOW it’s supposed to be good, but it doesn’t measure up.

Yet, when it’s good branding, do we notice it? How do you know? How can you break down the formula to emulate?

We’d like to think we do. Perhaps that’s the secret? Is good branding truly invisible?

Bad Branding is Everywhere.

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Like the adage, ” Bad design is everywhere, good design is invisible.”

“While we know good branding is important, no one can seem to agree why. If we could all agree on what good branding is, we’d all have it, right?”

While we know good branding is important, no one can seem to agree why. If we could all agree on what good branding is, we’d all have it, right? If this was true, we wouldn’t be taking the latest workshops, reading the latest books, and fervently trying to apply frameworks to our marketing ecosystem again and again, would we?

Modern Snake Oil

I’m not alone in this either.

Please say you know what I’m talking about.

The latest New York Times best-selling author gone marketing guru comes along, you get on their list, you attend a webinar, you get their book, buy their course, and maybe even go to their workshop. 

You think This is the one.”

You spend countless hours and dollars are spent overhauling your marketing. 

You simplify and re-teaching your teams the mantras, and the new philosophies: 

“The way of the purple cow, the immutable laws, the hero framework, the simplified message, the passion conversation, the 6 keys, the decoded message…” They go on and on.

Then what happens? It seems to be working.

Or it seems to.

Everyone gets excited. We have forward momentum. The team gets excited, our marketing has clarity, and it seems like everything is moving forward. This is what we needed, surely.

What are We Getting?

It works OK for a while. But then technology, the economy, the customer, or the market changes, and it all falls apart. Then back to square one.

But, like the weight-loss programs or Sex Panther cologne, the results aren’t typical. 20% of the time, it works every time.

Akin to the Emperor’s New Clothes, you wind up with a solution that’s not based on your business. You wind up with one of a few things:

  1. Something based on trends—what is hot right now, someone’s opinion of clever, sharp, and “now.” Everyone else is doing it?
  2. Something based on their “experience”—how could they be wrong? They’ve been doing this for a long time? They must be right!
  3. Something based on personal choice. Whether it’s your choice, the designers, or the client’s (e.g. “I like blue, I hate circles”), the preferences are subjective. They’re also not based on your business. What could go wrong?
  4. Something that’s a combination of the three. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Most professionals walk away from this experience, wondering, “Maybe it was just me.”

“Maybe I didn’t try hard enough.”

Maybe we didn’t “implement the hero’s journey framework into the archetype correctly,” and “simplify the avatar enough based on the messaging model.” The cow needed to be more violet.

Let’s Ask One More Person to Ask About the Dark Side of Branding

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There’s one last person we need to ask about the Dark Side of Branding.

Maybe this is you. Let’s ask all those left behind in its wake.

Let’s ask the workshop-attending, course-purchasing, guru-following students of the modern, digital age

I would ask these marketers about the workshops they’ve attended, the conference tickets they’ve purchased, the masterminds they’ve joined, and how many different frameworks they’ve learned over the years. I’d ask about the tools they’ve had to implement into their marketing system. The constant up and down of the team morale, and the constant pressure of asking internally “Am I doing this right?”

Then, like the ADHD squirrel-loving, marketing addicts we all are, we move on to the new, the newer, the newest, marketing framework. The shiny, Shinier, SHINIEST, thinking, “This must work, it’s new—it’s cutting edge, right?”Man, belief sure does outweigh truth sometimes. Why is that?

Stop Learning from the Back of the Bus

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As a kid in middle school, the back of the bus was where the cool kids sat. They had a palpable authority that drew you towards them. You coveted them. These kids were cool and we wanted to know what they had to say. More importantly, we wanted to belong and  be PART OF THE CONVERSATION, part of the club. We simply wanted to be around them, learn from them or even become cool, if only via proxy.

The back of the bus is one of life’s first media platforms, the original social network. This is where you learned about the birds and the bees, cuss words, and other things that adults didn’t tell you (or so we believed). All the things you probably got in trouble for as a kid could be traced back to the influence of the back of the bus. 

For some reason, no one taught us about these topics directly in an age-appropriate, authoritative way. If they did, it was tossing you the Children’s Encyclopedia Brittanica—which was not very approachable either.

“When it comes to learning about branding, it seems like we’ve all been learning from the “back of the bus.”

When it comes to learning about branding, it seems like we’ve all been learning from the “back of the bus.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the infomercial-style marketing gurus out there making a buck and not having any skin in the game on my behalf. They’re the cool kids on the bus for sure, but not there when we get in trouble either.

When your business is on the line, where are those experts?

Nowhere. Not in your dugout.

They’re not in the trenches of your business, that’s for sure. Instead, they’re teaching everyone else their framework—which THEY made up. Of course, they’re doing the best they know how, but still aren’t very authoritative. It only was because you thought it was, putting all your eggs in someone else’s basket.So we know good branding is important, but no one can seem to agree. Which brings us to a really big question. What is good branding?

So What is Good Branding?

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Don’t you wish there was a science to the madness?

Don’t you wish there was something authoritative, true, and foolproof?

Something that you can count on, can measure, analyze, and know for certain?

I’d like to offer you a hopeful reprieve from the constant madness.


As a Brand Scientist at Quantum—an evidence-based Branding Agency based in Nashville, Tennessee, I spend my days working on the science of what makes effective branding as effective as possible. Similar to a coffee master or sommelier, I’m a resident expert for brands on their branding using science as the lens for growth.

I do this by breaking apart, analyzing, critiquing, and helping build better brands through a proven process based on science.

It’s my job to help brands diagnose, assess, and create the most effective branding possible. I use the evidence-based metrics of scientific areas of study. I call this BrandScience™ the proven science of how brands grow and sell.

When I recently appeared on the DigitalMarketer podcast with Mark deGrasse, he asked me to come back and record a follow-up episode. He also asked if I’d be willing to share my empirical view of what branding is with the DigitalMarketer community. In doing so, start a dialogue of how we each can make our areas of marketing most effective.

Why Does BrandScience Matter?

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There are so many types of marketing out there. Digital, social media, content, e-commerce, email, paid traffic, paid search, analytics and data, optimization and testing, copywriting, or community just to name a few.

“Regardless of the marketing you do, one constant thread binds all these forms of marketing. These marketing activities are only as successful as their implementation of branding within them.”

Regardless of the marketing you do, one constant thread binds all these forms of marketing. These marketing activities are only as successful as their implementation of branding within them.

This means, if your branding isn’t of superior quality, no amount of marketing efforts can help It.

Most of us know that we must deploy effective branding, but how? We think we know the why: To make our companies grow, drive profits, and help make sales, right?

What if that’s the wrong answer? What if—by not knowing what you don’t know— you’re missing incredible, low-risk opportunities to help your brand grow?

What if you could get where you want faster than you are now?

I’m excited to share my knowledge of the science of branding in a series of articles with you. It’s my goal to help you understand the impact effective branding can have. Most importantly, I want you to get further, faster.

  • What if you could get to where you dreamed about sooner?
  • What if you launched that new product and it sold like hotcakes?
  • What if you could grow and scale your business into being the leading authority in your product/service category?

This is all possible with effective, evidence-based branding.

No matter if you’re a Founder, C-Suite leader, agency leader, marketing practitioner, small business owner, entrepreneur, solopreneur, or agency leader—there’s something about branding that will help you right now.You’ll be amazed by how real, practical, concrete, and succinct we get in our exploration of branding. We’ll look at what it is, why it’s important, how it works, and how to ensure you’re doing it correctly—scientifically speaking.

Get Ready for a 5-Part Series on Branding

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In this series, we’ll be looking at what exactly branding truly is, from a definitive approach based on science. The stuff we’re talking about is REAL, not made up.

“In this series, we’ll be looking at what exactly branding truly is, from a definitive approach based on science. The stuff we’re talking about is REAL, not made up.”

My friend Nathan—who is a librarian and university news collection curator asked me specifically “Are you using the word evidence-based in your article?” (Yes, Nathan, five times and counting).

There are currently 13 different areas of evidence-based metrics I use in the deployment of BrandScience. I’m always searching the depths of neuroscience, marketing science, cognitive psychology, and the worlds in between to help ensure YOUR BRANDING is more effective.

These are evidence-based proven metrics and evaluative tools that ensure that we’re talking about the real thing— not mythological padawan frameworks and violet bovine principles from the latest workshops or people from the back of the bus.

What Can I Expect?

There are a few topics that you can expect to read about (e.g. colors, fonts, etc) and some other ones that may surprise you. Like “Sequence of Cognition” and “Semiotics.” We’ll even discuss insights relating to the human mind, as well as  reimagine some classic terms like “customer avatar” and “content strategy.”

Together we’ll look at things like:

  1. What is Branding?: How it Scientifically Works
  2. The Biggest Branding Myths You May Be Making
  3. What Is Branding Truly Supposed to Do?
  4. When Do You Build Your Brand?
  5. How Do I Bring My Brand’s A-Game?

These are just a few questions that scratch the surface of the world of BrandScience.

What’s In It for Me?

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Once, a professor told me that adult pedagogy (learning) isn’t the same as children, and instead, that adults only listen to WIFM Radio.

I’d never heard of this.

“Please tell me, what is WIFM? I’ve not heard of this station.”

He said ” “What’s In It For Me?” Meaning, most of us only learn when we want to, have to, or need to.

Since you’re part of the DigitalMarketer community, I hope this is an opportunity to learn because you WANT TO. If you need to or have to, that’s ok too—so we’ll make sure no one is left behind.

Regardless of why you’re tuning in, I’m glad you’re here. Here’s why.

As a result of reading this series, you’ll learn some incredible BrandScience Foundations that will allow you to:

  • Make it easier for your marketing to be effective, helping you become top of mind in customers’ minds.
  • Make it easier for your team to deploy your marketing
  • Understand the laws that govern brand growth so you can deploy them every day
  • Learn effective brand strategies that drive sales and marketing together.

Are You Ready to Find Out How Branding Scientifically Works?

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Are you ready to find out how branding works scientifically so you can implement it in your brand? I hope so!

If so, buckle up, and prepare for a wild ride. I can’t wait, can you?

Yes, this is wild.If you don’t believe me, check out the DigitalMarketer podcast episode #338.

This episode is an incredible primer for everything we’re going to dive into in this series. It’ll give you a taste of the excitement I have. Not to mention, a glimpse of the results that it can create for you and your brand.

I can’t wait to share with you truly what effective, authoritative branding is that you can implement in your business immediately.You can even get a head start on your journey, by watching this video here.

P.S. What questions do you have?

What are your biggest branding challenges?

I hope to answer them and many more in each of these articles. And I hope to spark a lot more questions too.

Send me your biggest challenges, questions, and thoughts by hopping on over to my Link Tree

There you can email me directly with your biggest challenges as we address them together in this series.

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)



Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.



To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.

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How to Buy Ads on Netflix: Specs & Tactics for Marketers



How to Buy Ads on Netflix: Specs & Tactics for Marketers


By Emily Sullivan

Netflix, the streaming giant known for binge-watching and award-winning originals, sent shockwaves through the industry in 2022 by announcing an ad-supported tier. This move was likely fueled by a desire to reach new audiences, combat rising subscription costs, and potentially even fend off competition from other OTT platforms. These ads could lead to strong growth potential with advertisers eager to tap into Netflix’s massive user base. 

If you’re unfamiliar with how Netflix works, it’s important to know that Netflix is an OTT (Over-the-Top) platform, meaning it delivers streaming content directly over the internet, bypassing traditional cable or satellite providers. It’s one of the most popular OTT platforms globally, but in the ad supported video on demand (AVOD) space, Netflix is a relative newcomer. Understanding this new facet of Netflix is crucial for marketers looking to capitalize on this advertising opportunity.

Interested in learning more about Netflix and its advertising offerings? You came to the right place. In this post, we’ll cover the foundational elements of Netflix ads including ad types, specs, advertising best practices, and more. 

Why Did Netflix Start Offering Ads?

In November 2022, Netflix introduced an ad-supported tier. This move marked a significant shift, as Netflix was previously known for its commitment to an ad-free experience. The decision likely stemmed from a desire to tap into new revenue streams. With consumers increasingly cost-conscious, an ad-supported tier provided a way to attract budget-minded viewers while still offering a premium ad-free option, similar to established AVOD providers like Hulu and Peacock.

Initially, the launch was off to a slower start, with few people signing up for the ad supported tier and Netflix failing to meet guarantees, but things are quickly turning around and savvy advertisers are taking notice. Netflix boasts a massive user base, with roughly 270 million paid subscribers – a household name with immense reach. In fact, 40% of new Netflix sign-ups are choosing the ad-supported tier, translating to a total of 40 million users. Netflix’s ad platform presents a unique opportunity for marketers looking to reach a large and engaged audience.

“Our goal isn’t just to offer the same products and tools the industry has come to expect — although we’ve made a lot of progress on that front over the last year. It’s to build something bigger and better than what exists today. We want to shape the future of advertising on Netflix and help marketers tap into the amazing fandom generated by our must-watch shows and movies.”

Amy ReinhardPresident, Advertising at Netflix

How to Start Advertising on Netflix

So, you’re interested in capitalizing on Netflix’s massive audience? Here’s a breakdown of the three main ways to buy ads on their platform:

1. Netflix Ads Manager

This platform, powered by Microsoft, allows you to directly purchase ad space on Netflix. However, be prepared to meet their minimum spending requirements, which can be substantial and offer little room for negotiation.

2. Partnering with an Agency

While the minimum spend might be high for direct buys, streaming agencies like Tinuiti can be a valuable asset. They can not only help you navigate the intricacies of Netflix advertising, but also:

  • Consolidate Streaming Data: The streaming landscape is fragmented, with viewers spread across multiple platforms. Agencies can collect data from these various platforms and turn it into a unified, actionable strategy for your advertising campaign.
  • Expertise and Negotiation: Agencies bring a wealth of experience to the table. They can leverage their knowledge of the advertising landscape and potentially negotiate more favorable terms on your behalf.

3. Ad Tech Partners

Companies like Microsoft offer ad tech solutions that provide technical capabilities to streamline your advertising efforts. These partners typically take a more hands-off approach compared to agencies, focusing on the technical aspects of ad delivery and optimization.

The best option depends on your budget, experience level, and campaign goals. If you’re a large brand with a significant budget and an in-house marketing team, going directly through Netflix Ads Manager might be a good fit. However, for most businesses, partnering with an agency or ad tech provider can offer valuable support and expertise.

Ad Types & Specs for Netflix Ads

Now that you understand the different avenues for buying ads on Netflix, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of ad formats and specifications:

Netflix Ad Types

Example of a Netflix Ad Featuring Smartfood and Love is Blind

Currently, Netflix offers two main ad types, pre-roll ads and mid-roll ads. Netflix notes that users can expect to see a few short ads per hour and that they aim to place ads during natural plot breaks for a more seamless experience.   

Let’s take a look at each option… 

  • Pre-roll Ads: These commercials play before a program or movie begins, similar to traditional linear TV advertising.
  • Mid-roll Ads: These ads appear in the middle of a program, typically inserted during natural breaks in the content.

During paused playback, ad breaks are displayed on the progress bar. As an ad break begins, the upper-right corner reveals the number of ads included in that break.

While Netflix advertising is fairly new, the platform has made a few important announcements to look out for in 2024. Netflix plans to introduce a new binge ad format for global advertisers, offering viewers an ad-free fourth episode after watching three consecutive episodes. Additionally, QR code integration in U.S. advertising will launch early in the year. Sponsorship opportunities, including Title, Moment, and Live Sponsorships, are also now available in the U.S. and will expand globally in 2024.

Netflix also offers live opportunities including WWE Raw (launching January 2025), which will air live on Netflix 52 weeks of the year, and the NFL Christmas games which Netflix just secured the rights to. These live events provide advertisers the opportunity to reach ad and ad-free members of Netflix in a live environment with traditional ad formats.

Last but not least, Netflix recently announced they are adding Pause Ads to their suite of custom ad units. This is currently in beta and is expected to be rolled out to the general marketplace in H2 2024.

Netflix Ad Specs

When it comes to advertising specs, it’s important to follow Netflix’s guidelines which include the following… 

  • Supported Lengths: Netflix accepts ads in 10, 15, 20, 30, and 60-second durations.
  • File Format: Ads must be submitted in MP4 or MOV format.
  • Aspect Ratio & Resolution: Maintain a 16:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of either 1920×1080 HD or 1280×720 HD.
  • QR Codes on the Horizon: Netflix is preparing to support QR code integration within commercials, allowing viewers to seamlessly access additional information or promotions.

Hot Tip: Stay tuned for updates, as Netflix is constantly evolving its ad platform.

Why Advertise on Netflix?

Advertising on Netflix offers several unique advantages for advertisers including… 

  • Massive Reach – Netflix boasts a massive subscriber base worldwide (globally, there were around 270 million Netflix subscribers in Q1 2024), providing advertisers with access to a vast and diverse audience. These viewers are often highly engaged, spending significant time on the platform consuming content. In fact, Over 70% of Netflix’s ad-supported members watch for more than 10 hours a month – which is 15 percentage points higher than the nearest competitor according to Nielsen.
  • Targeting – Netflix collects extensive data on user preferences and behavior, enabling precise targeting of advertisements based on demographics, interests, viewing history, and more. This targeted approach increases the relevance and effectiveness of ads, maximizing ROI for advertisers (more on this below).
  • Global Reach and Localization – With a presence in numerous countries around the world, Netflix offers advertisers the opportunity to reach audiences on a global scale. Additionally, the platform’s localization capabilities enable tailored advertising campaigns to resonate with specific regional or cultural audiences.
  • Unskippable Ads – Unlike some streaming advertising platforms, Netflix ads are unskippable, guaranteeing your message reaches viewers.
  • Positive User Experience – Netflix prioritizes a positive user experience, so it’s unlikely viewers will see the same ad twice in a single episode. However, there’s a chance you might encounter the same ad later during your viewing session. It’s also important to note that children’s profiles maintain their ad-free experience.
  • Ad Delivery & Blocking – Since ads are delivered server-side, ad blockers are ineffective on Netflix. Additionally, playback automatically pauses if you minimize the window while an ad is playing, ensuring your message is seen.

Best Practices When Advertising on Netflix

When advertising on Netflix, it’s essential to understand the platform’s unique capabilities and audience targeting options to maximize the effectiveness of your campaigns. Check out a few best practices you need to consider… 

Explore Audience Targeting Capabilities

Netflix offers several audience targeting capabilities for advertisers on their ad-supported tier. These capabilities focus on three main areas: demographics, viewing habits, and content context. Here’s a breakdown:


  • Age: Advertisers can target users by age groups, like 18-34, 35+, etc.
  • Gender: Ads can be shown to specific genders (male or female).
  • Location: Targeting can be set by country or even state (in the U.S.).

Viewing Habits:

  • Genre: This lets advertisers target users based on the genres they watch, like comedy, drama, action, etc.

Content Context:

  • Top 10: Ads can be placed before or after shows and movies on Netflix’s daily Top 10 list, ensuring high visibility.

Advertisers also have the option to choose where they don’t want their ads to appear. For example, they can avoid showing ads on programs with mature themes or content that may not align with their brand values.

By using a combination of these targeting options, advertisers can reach a more precise audience interested in their product or service. This increases the ad’s relevance to viewers and potentially improves the ad campaign’s effectiveness.

It’s also important to note that Netflix now has the ability to target advertiser first party data. The platform currently has two approved DMPs: Liveramp or Adobe. Advertisers who work with either of these DMPs can upload first party data for targeting or suppression.

It’s important to note that Netflix’s ad targeting is still evolving. While it doesn’t offer some of the more advanced options found on other platforms, they are working on expanding their capabilities.

Test Your Ad Creative

Just like any other marketing campaign, testing your ad creative on Netflix is vital for optimizing performance. Here are some key reasons to test your ads:

  • Discover What Works: Testing allows you to compare different ad variations and identify which elements resonate most with your target audience. This could involve testing variations in messaging, visuals, calls to action, or even ad length.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Testing provides valuable data and insights. You can track metrics like click-through rates, completion rates, and brand recall to see which ad versions generate the best results. Don’t rely on guesswork. Testing helps you move beyond assumptions and identify what truly connects with viewers.
  • Meet Audience Expectations: Netflix viewers anticipate premium content, including ads. Testing ad creative ensures that your commercials meet these expectations by delivering high-quality, engaging content that resonates with the audience.
  • Optimize Performance: Testing allows you to refine your ad creative to achieve optimal performance. By experimenting with different elements such as messaging, visuals, and calls to action, you can identify the most effective combinations that drive engagement and conversion.
  • Enhance Relevance: Testing helps ensure that your ad creative remains relevant to your target audience. By continuously testing and refining your approach, you can adapt to changing consumer preferences and market trends, ensuring that your ads stay impactful and resonant.
  • Maximize ROI: Effective testing enables you to make data-driven decisions that maximize ROI. By identifying and scaling the best-performing ad creative, you can allocate your advertising budget more efficiently and achieve greater results.

Measure and Analyze Your Results

Netflix doesn’t offer 1:1 conversion measurement for ad buyers (yet) – but they do have brand awareness and lift studies they offer advertisers so keep this in mind when measuring and analyzing your results. 

The platform did recently announce that this summer, Netflix will expand its buying capabilities to include The Trade Desk, Google’s Display & Video 360, and Magnite who will join Microsoft as the main programmatic partners for advertisers.

Starting in the second half of 2024, Netflix just announced that the following third party measurement partners (partnering to measure and verify the impact of advertiser campaigns) will also be added: Affinity Solutions, iSpotTV, NCSolutions, Videoamp, DCM and TVision.

They also announced Netflix will launch an in-house advertising technology platform, by the end of 2025. This will give advertisers new ways to buy, new insights to leverage, and new ways to measure impact. 

Is Netflix Advertising Right For Your Brand?

Overall, Netflix advertising offers the unparalleled reach of a massive, highly-engaged audience. This can be a strategic choice for brands seeking broad awareness and brand association with premium content.

If you’re interested in exploring advertising opportunities on Netflix for your brand, consider reaching out to the Tinuiti team. Our expertise can provide guidance and assistance in navigating the complexities of advertising on the platform, maximizing your campaign’s effectiveness and ROI. 

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to showcase your brand on one of the world’s largest streaming platforms—connect with Tinuiti today to get started.

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Xngage and HawkSearch join forces with a powerful connector



Xngage and HawkSearch join forces with a powerful connector

The bar has been set by the industry leaders in UX and Merchandising, and our customers have stated their claim clearly – “to grow our market share, we must have an enterprise search experience that drives conversions.

Optimizely offers baseline search experiences within our commerce platform, which are designed to help companies get started with organizing and delivering SKUs to customers. These experiences utilize out-of-the-box algorithms and methods for sorting, categorizing, and customizing.

While Optimizely provides a foundation for search experiences, we knew there were users ready to take their search capabilities to the next level. This is where the Xngage and HawkSearch partnership promises to redefine how you approach search-driven experiences within Optimizely Configured Commerce. Our highly experienced partner Xngage has developed a seamless integration connector, a best-in-class accelerator for harnessing the power of HawkSearch.

The powerful partner in search

HawkSearch is known for its expertise in search-driven engagement, AI-powered product discovery, and no-code customizations. With a strong history of serving B2B customers with enterprise-level search solutions, it was a perfect choice to make HawkSearch directly available within Optimizely’s platform.

The expertise of Xngage made this connector a reality enabling Optimizely’s Configured Commerce customers to:

  • Easily plug directly into the HawkSearch service to share your products and their relevant data.
  • Utilize powerful unit of measure conversions, ensuring your customers can find exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Customize sorting and facets to deliver highly relevant results to customers.
  • Craft a personalized user experience with features like auto-complete and the new ‘instant engage’.

Customers can further explore HawkSearch’s capabilities in this on demand webinar and recap, which highlights the benefits and use cases of the Xngage connector for HawkSearch.

A powerful partner in digital growth

Xngage complements Optimizely perfectly, as they deliver robust solutions in the realm of digital content and commerce experiences. The development of the Xngage connector to HawkSearch is a part of their broader mission to empower manufacturers and distributors to serve their customers digitally. This alignment seamlessly fits with Optimizely, making our partnership with Xngage an ideal choice. 

Furthering their goal of digital growth, Xngage offers a range of holistic and complementary professional services, including:

  • User research & user experience design (UX)
  • Enterprise architecture & ERP integration
  • Product information management (PIM)
  • Ecommerce Implementations, and digital growth services.

To learn more about this highly experienced digital commerce partner visit

The future of the partnership

This partnership is just the beginning. Xngage and HawkSearch are committed to working hand in hand to empower you with the tools and insights you need to elevate your ecommerce site. Stay tuned for future blogs, webinars, and resources that will help you make the most of this transformative alliance.

The future of ecommerce search has never looked more promising, and we’re excited to have you on this journey with us.

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