Karen Albritton and Donald Thompson: Connecting Business Strategy and Marketing

Marketing moves fast – new channels, approaches and technologies are constantly emerging.

And expectations for marketing and brand are changing.

Leaders today expect answers to questions like “If I spend this money in branding, what will I get for it?”, “We have really big goals. Can I count on marketing to deliver?” or “There are lots of different areas of the business that are competing for investment. What’s the ROI on an investment in marketing?”

Today we’re joined by two guests — Karen Albritton, CEO of Walk West, and Donald Thompson, CEO of The Diversity Movement.


Derek: Today’s conversation addresses a fundamental question every business leader asks, why am I spending this money on our brand? We’re connecting brand and marketing strategy and business strategy, and joining us for this discussion is Donald Thompson, former CEO of Walk West, now board chair, he’s the CEO of The Diversity Movement and on the Forbes next 1000 list, we also have Karen Albritton, who is the current CEO of Walk West and chair the board of directors at the American marketing association. Welcome to the conversation. 

Don: Glad to be here. I’m excited. 

Karen: Thank you, Derek.

Derek: No problem. No problem. So I know we want to give our listeners as much value as possible, so we’re going to jump right into the conversation to make sure that we can leave them with as much knowledge and nuggets to take away and apply it to their business. And so today’s discussion we’ll, we’ll kick it off with that strategic level. You know how brand alignment and business strategy really works, right. You know, when you talk about the value of branding and how it aligns with your business. And so let’s open up the dialogue there.

Donald, I’ll start with you. How do you from a strategic level, from a high level, when you’re thinking about branding and how it ties into the business strategy, how are you seeing it apply it to business today?

Don: Derek, thanks for the question. And I’m really excited to be here. And I love this topic. One of the things that is really important fundamentally is right, what is a brand, right? And it is a representation of who you are as a company and the promise that you’re making to your stakeholders. And that’s something that is growing and maturing right, and evolving every day. And so a lot of times we think about the brand as simply a logo as simply a website, but really we need to humanize branding. And that’s where a relationship between a company and its employees, a company and its clients really starts in lives. 

So I wanted to start that as the backdrop, the way I’ll answer that high-level question then. And I’ll be brief because I can’t wait to hear from Karen on this, is that you want to create an environment with your brand where people understand why you exist and how your existence helps them be successful.

And that’s whether it is in sport, whether that is in science, depending on what you do, engineering whether that if you are a public speaker and executive coach, right? Why are you here? And then how can your engagement with my brand help you meet your goals and live a better life at that altruistic state. But I’ll turn it over to Karen and get some of your thoughts, but I do think it’s important just to set that foundation as we go deeper.

Karen: That’s a great foundation to have Donald, and I also think your notion about the promise that you made the stakeholders is, is so relevant. And, for business leaders, I think for them, they need to think about what is, what value, what economic value what other business value can I attract based on that understanding in the market place and based on what my vet, my brand stands for. 

So I think often people think of brand as, as downstate as a logo or as something that helps sales. And that’s certainly a key part. I mean, if you think about, can the market better understand how I can benefit them, that is definitely going to result in more customers coming to you, more of the right type of customers, but more than just those, those customers, it is, Can I charge more? You know, because if I have a brand that stands for something that means more, that means more valuable.

Do I have the ability to, to get better compensation for my product or service? You know, can I attract better talent? You know, do I want to come work with, with, with Donald and the Diversity Movement or with Karen and the team at Walk West because of the brand, or, you know, think about all of the other brands that people want to go work for and want to be a part of now, certainly that’s another value that brand can bring. You know, and for entrepreneurs, one of the other things that many of them are thinking about is what value does that brand add to just the, the market valuation of my business. 

And, and so, you know, I know many brands that many companies that have been sold that have commanded a premium because they had a stronger, because it mattered. and I think we all know of companies that have been acquired and actually the acquiring company kept their brand because it had so much value. So for the business executive, it helps the short by saying let me think broadly about all the ways, that understanding of the promise I’m making in the market, that that understanding of the distinct space that I occupied. In the minds of all of my stakeholders. Let me understand what that can mean in so many different ways for my business.

Don: I mean, Karen, there’s a couple points that you outlined that I want to extend. Right, and one of them in particular is very clearly linking the growth of a brand to a business value that I can quantify. And I think that’s really important for business executives that don’t understand all this marketing stuff.

And why do I need an agency? And right, we have an email address. We have a website and we got a cool logo. Why isn’t that enough? And the reality is that there’s so much competition for mind share in the marketplace, a successful and powerful brand allows you to be in contention even when you’re not physically there.

And so the stakeholders that are choosing companies, the employees that are choosing employers, are at least checking your website to see what jobs are available when they’re looking. A client is at least saying, why am I not including right XYZ firm? Because I’ve heard about them. I’ve read a white paper from their executive.

I’ve seen them in the news for the excellence that they provide, whether it be marketing, whether it be engineering, whether it be life sciences. And so I think that connection with your brand, giving you a leg up on the competition in a measurable, meaningful way. I think that’s really powerful the way Karen articulated that.

Full Episode Transcript

Talk West is brought to you by Walk West, and is produced by Earfluence.

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