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May 17, 2023

In this episode, Dan connects with marketing strategist, researcher, author, and sought-after brand therapist Evelyn J. Starr, whose strategic insights have been instrumental in the revitalization of household names including Dunkin’ Donuts, Hasbro, Gilette, Veryfine, and more. Through decades of research and work helping brands in stagnation, she saw a pattern: brands in distress share characteristics that look a lot like rebellious, sullen, angry, confused, overconfident, misguided teens. In other words, brands go through adolescence, and it can take some serious therapy, nurturing, and guidance to help them reach successful adulthood.

She lays it all out in her recent book,  Teenage Wastebrand: How Your Brand Can Stop Struggling and Start Scaling, and in their discussion, she and Dan discuss some of the highlights, including the eight symptoms of brand adolescence, how to diagnose brand issues, the importance of solid values, and much more. Listen in and learn how to:

  • Investigate the value of carving out a unique niche for a standout brand image.
  • Recognize the potential hazards of ego-driven business practices and how to avoid them.
  • Examine the relationship between well-defined values and a supportive company culture.
  • Design a brand strategy anchored in purpose and value-driven principles.
  • Excel in maintaining an authentic and dependable brand presence through effective messaging and actions.

Here's what you can expect from the show:

  • Corporations and brands are just like people which is why they all have life cycles. 
  • How companies can correctly identify and diagnose their brand issues if they’ve stalled. 
  • Understanding attitudes and behaviors and how they impact buyers. 
  • Fear and misunderstanding of marketing and how it can limit business leaders and brand growth.
  • Marketing is a risky investment because the ROI can often be ambiguous, but it’s a risk worth taking.
  • Business owners must learn how to parent their brands through the various stages of life. 
  • How to identify the eight symptoms of brand adolescence.
  • Being brave enough to have hard conversations with your brand about your brand. 
  • Brands have life cycles, and so do customers. 
  • Discipline is necessary to determine your niche. 
  • The need to protect the integrity of your brand through the people you hire.
  • The importance of making a list of values you want to be a part of your culture and your brand. 

Notable Quotes

  • “During a summer internship I learned more about what I did not want to do than what I did want to do.” – (10:02)- Evelyn.
  • “When someone says, ‘I hate marketing’, I’m not running from that, I’m digging a little bit deeper” – (13:20) – Evelyn. 
  • “I started to try to find ways to explain marketing in non-marketing terms” – (14:15) - Evelyn.
  • “You can’t see things when you’re too emotionally close” – (15:55) - Evelyn.
  • “As my brand grows, I’m going to become more of a coach and less of a controller.” – (19:05) - Evelyn.
  • “Identity crisis is the most common one (symptom) I see.” – (23:40) - Evelyn.
  • “In order for a brand to get known and grow, it needs to be focused at least during the beginning.” – (37:15) - Evelyn.
  • “Brands can fall out of favor very quickly due to their self-centered behavior being revealed” – (50:15) - Evelyn.
  • “People bring their values to work, and you want to attract people who subscribe to the way you would like to serve your customers.” – (55:06) - Evelyn.
  • “You cannot be crappy to your employees and great to your customers and not have that get out.” – (1:02:10) - Evelyn.

Resources and Links

The Dan Nestle Show 

Evelyn Starr

Timestamped summary of this episode (Generated by Capsho):

00:00:00 - Introduction, 
Dan Nestle introduces the podcast and talks about the importance of understanding the life cycle of brands. Dan shares his concerns as a parent and how it relates to building a successful brand. He introduces his guest, Evelyn Starr, a marketing leader and brand therapist, and author of the book "Teenage Waste Brand."

00:01:20 - Evelyn Starr's Background,
Evelyn Starr talks about her background and how she started her career in market research. She worked for companies like Very Fine Products, Dunkin Donuts, and Hasbro. She shares how she started working with small and medium-sized companies to help them with their marketing.

00:08:45 - The Life Cycle of Brands,
Dan Nestle asks Evelyn Starr how she got interested in helping brands in their teenage years. Evelyn shares that many business owners don't understand marketing and are fearful of investing in it. She explains how she helps them understand marketing in non-marketing terms. She talks about the different phases in the life cycle of brands and how they can face issues during their turbulent adolescence.

00:17:41 - Identifying Brand Issues,
Evelyn Starr talks about how to identify brand issues and how to diagnose them. She talks about the importance of understanding the customer and their needs. She shares examples of how she has helped companies identify their brand issues and how they have overcome them.

00:25:18 - Branding in the Digital Age,
Dan Nestle asks Evelyn Starr about branding in the digital age. Evelyn

00:15:00 - Identity Crisis,
The first symptom of brand adolescence is an identity crisis. Like in human adolescence, the brand must determine who they want to be and how they want to be perceived. A brand purpose that transcends a particular product and brand attributes that resonate with customers must be determined.

00:23:35 - Symptom Not Stages,
Evelyn Starr emphasizes that the symptoms are not sequential, but rather different characteristics of adolescent brands. Each brand may experience some or all eight symptoms at different times.

00:25:23 - Purpose and Attributes,
The brand's purpose and attributes are key in resolving the identity crisis symptom. The brand must have a purpose that is transcendent and attributes that resonate with customers. Research and feedback from customers can help define these.

00:28:45 - Therapeutic Process,
Similar to a therapeutic process, the brand must go through analyses of the why and what to solve the identity crisis. Exercises like stickies and whiteboards can help in brand discovery, purpose discovery, and attribute discovery. Evelyn Starr provides a step-by-step guide in her book.

00:29:55 - Dealing with Complexity,
The conversation begins with Dan asking Evelyn how brands deal with complexity, specifically in a house of brands where there are multiple product brands under a corporate brand. Evelyn explains that each brand needs to know who they are before they can contribute, and the parent company needs to have a unifying purpose for putting the brands together.

00:35:30 - Finding a Niche,
The topic of finding a niche comes up in relation to solving the symptom of "suffering from FOMO" or fear of missing out. Evelyn explains that in order for a brand to grow, it needs to be focused and known for something, at least in the beginning. Choosing a niche allows a brand to gain expertise and credibility, and finding a new niche can help a brand expand and grow.

00:39:17 - Fear and Innovation,
Fear is a common obstacle for business owners who are afraid of leaving money on the table or missing out on opportunities. Evelyn discusses the importance of leaving fear behind and being open to new directions and innovations. She shares the example of Amazon, who started by focusing on one product (books) before expanding to other products.

00:41:49 - Box Three Solution,
Dan shares his experience with directed innovation and the Box Three Solution, which involves finding new audiences, changes to the product, business model, or value chain. Evelyn notes that finding new niches can combat various symptoms of adolescence, including the need to assert independence, make new friends, or overcome fear of missing out.

00:46:06 - Finding Your Niche,
Evelyn advises against copying someone else's business model and suggests drilling down further to find an untapped idea. She emphasizes the importance of doing research and discovering new things that align with your brand.

00:48:41 - Self-Centeredness,
Evelyn discusses the risk of building a brand solely for profits and not serving the audience. She explains how this behavior can lead to mistrust, loss of productivity, and wasted resources. The solution is to revisit company values that align with serving the customer and the employees.

00:51:20 - The Importance of Company Values,
Evelyn explains how values guide behavior and behaviors create culture. She emphasizes the importance of codifying values from the beginning and recruiting people who share those values. A strong company culture leads to a strong brand.

00:54:05 - Trust and Culture,
Evelyn explains the connection between trust, culture, and brand. Self-centered behavior can damage a brand's reputation, making it hard to regain trust. A clear set of values that align with serving the customer and the employees can prevent this.

01:01:36 - The Employee Culture,
Evelyn discusses how the employee culture is a vital part of the brand. She stresses that the employer brand and the customer-facing brand are all one and the same and that treating employees well is just as important as treating customers well. A strong employee culture leads to a strong brand.

01:02:22 - The Importance of Employee Experience,
Businesses should prioritize the well-being of their employees as much as their customers and consumers. The kind of internal culture a company has affects its overall external brand reputation.

01:04:07 - Transparency in Branding,
Social media has made it easier for people to share their opinions about a company's internal culture, making transparency in branding more important than ever. It's crucial for marketers and business leaders to recognize that employees are a core stakeholder and audience that must be treated with the utmost care.

01:06:08 - The Impact of Teenage Wastebrand,
Evelyn Starr's book, 'Teenage Wastebrand,' highlights the signs of a company that is stuck in a state of adolescence, including a lack of purpose, values, and identity. These brands struggle to stand out in a crowded market and often do not resonate with their intended audience.

01:08:00 - Evolving Your Brand,
Evelyn Starr's brand is evolving as she incorporates developmental editing of business books into her work as a consumer insights expert and brand therapist. She helps business owners make confident marketing decisions and aligns her purpose with theirs.

01:14:50 - Why You Should Read 'Teenage Wastebrand,'
'Teenage Wastebrand' is an easily accessible, relatable, and practical guidebook that helps businesses identify their purpose, values, and niche. The book also emphasizes the importance of employee well-being and how transparency in branding is necessary