In this episode, our host Julie Slater talks about brand performance with Erik Huberman, Founder and CEO of Hawke Media.
Hawke Media is a full-service data-driven agency based in Los Angeles.
Julie and Erik discuss how to grow your brand and get the most out of your resources, AKA brand performance.
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Julie: Welcome to The Brand Moat, the podcast where each month we bring you inspirational stories from global brand leaders who share how to build your brand and future-proof your business. I’m Julie Slater.
I start every episode with big ideas and wrap up each show with key insights so you can focus on taking action. Oh, in case you were wondering, why do we call this The Brand Moat? Well, just like in a castle, your moat protects you from outsiders and the competition. When the idea is applied to your company, it helps you maintain your competitive advantage. Your moat may be a feature, some tech magic, or marketing secret sauce. But we think your strongest moat is your brand. This podcast is all about that.
This month, I’m speaking with Erik Huberman, the founder and CEO of Hawke Media, a full-service data-driven agency based in Los Angeles. Our topic is brand performance — how to grow your brand and get the most out of your resources.
Hawke Media was founded on the idea that every modern business needs a CMO-level expert to lead its marketing efforts. Launched in 2014, Hawke Media has been valued at $75 million, and has grown from seven to more than 140 employees.
Erik is the recipient of numerous awards including Forbes “30 Under 30,” Inc. Magazine’s “Top 25 Marketing Influencers,” and Best in Biz North America’s “Marketing Executive of the Year.”
Here’s my conversation with Erik Huberman.
Julie: Erik, welcome to the show.
Erik: Thank you for having me.
Julie: Okay. So I always start out with, you know, your company is Hawke media. Why did you start it?
Erik: Yeah. So started Hawke. I built and sold two eCommerce companies and then was advising and consulting for a lot of brands, saw how hard it was for these brands to get access to good marketing, whether it was hiring good people in house or hiring agencies. It’s just an impossible landscape to find that talent. And so, wanted to solve that and built my own team that was all a la carte all month to month flexible marketing services to make it accessible to get great marketing.
Julie: Because you offer a la cart — that it could be something maybe more affordable for a smaller company?
Erik: Yeah. So it’s affordable and flexible. I mean, if I think flexibility is the biggest thing, like, and yes, we’re priced super reasonably intentionally. Yeah, we’re basically built to be — the key word is accessible. So it’s whether it’s price point, whether it’s, you know, long contracts, all of it, it’s like, we just want it to be easy.
And I thought that it gets crazy that agencies haven’t made it easy. And the way we’re able to do that, which is different from most businesses as we’ve just built a scale where it all evens out. So even though we have volatility on an individual basis, sometimes cause a company could be turning on and off different channels at scale, it evens out enough.
Julie: Can you think back to the beginning of Hawk Media, what was one of the most valuable lessons you learned?
Erik: Kind of crazy story, but right when we starting out, we were a few employees. My, one of my employees, it was managing half our clients’ email marketing, emailed me on a Monday morning and said, Hey, Erik, long story short, I fell in love on Saturday, asked her where in the world she wanted to go. She said, Hawaii. We’re here now. I’ll be working remotely. And I had never had people work remotely. What is going on? But I also knew this guy was sensitive. So I called him over and over again on Monday. It wasHawaii, so he wasn’t answering. Finally, he calls me back in the afternoon. He goes, Hey, Eric, what’s up?
I’m like, dude, where are you? What’s going on? He’s like, Oh, I’m in Hawaii. Like, no, it’s great. Everything’s good. He’s like, don’t worry. I’ll be handling my stuff. I’m like, okay dude, please, please just stay on top your work. Like this is important. Again, we were brand-new, barely any money in the bank and he had half my clients on his roster.
So he’s like, I got it. Don’t worry. I’m like, okay, cool. Next day, all his clients call me and he’s completely flaked on them and can’t get ahold of him. And they’re all freaking out. So I call them over and over again. Can’t get a hold of them. Finally, I get I’m on the phone and he’s like, like, where are you?
What is going on? He’s like, Eric, I’m gonna stop you right there. This is the happiest day of my life. I’m getting married. I need you to respect that. And he hangs up on me.
Erik: So I freak out a little bit. My, my director of operations who became my business partner. I’d say this was probably the biggest move that made him my business partner. He goes, I guess, I have to learn how to do email marketing and spent the weekend studying and like actually took over, made up for all the lost time for those clients. And I pick up the phone, my dad’s an entrepreneur. So on my way out of work, I called him and was like, here’s what happened. And I told them, I took a lot longer. It was a lot more detailed of a story of everything. It was like, let’s say three minutes. It took to tell the story. And he listened. He’s like, Oh, yeah, that shit happens all the time. Anyways, I got to go talk to you later and just hangs up.
Erik: The lesson, which is why, like he doesn’t even, and I’ve told him since like how much I’ve repeated this. Cause he wasn’t even trying to teach me a lesson, but it’s still the most powerful lesson I think I learned in business was from him, which is being a business owner is firefighting. Always like, again, I know I’ve brought up a few times on this, but the coronavirus thing with business owners, like it’s just the next thing.
I don’t mean this from a health and like, you know, tragedy perspective from the people that are actually affected from the disease, but the economic situation. Welcome to being a business owner. This is a shit you have to deal with and you either sign up for it or you don’t because no one forces you to be a business owner.
So like right now I’m working my butt off to get through this whole thing and working harder than I ever have to, frankly, and not for growth for sustainability. That’s okay. Cause it’s what I chose while, by the way, most of the people around me, my friends, my family don’t have businesses, you know, small and medium businesses that they’re operating. So they’re kind of enjoying the quarantine process cause it respecting it and staying home. But then yeah, you know, I work out four hours a day or whatever it is.
Julie: Baking bread.
Erik: Yeah, exactly. Nope, I got to work day and night to keep things going, but that’s, that is what I signed up for.
I can throw in the towel tomorrow. I wouldn’t feel good about it, but if I really wanted to, I could shut down with my business and call it a day, but I don’t want to do that. I love this stuff. And so don’t get me wrong. I’m not happy that this in this current moment about that. I know the long term outcome of this, I would take over the other options.
And so that’s the most important thing every business owner needs to understand: you’re going to be dealing with this shit the rest of your life. This is what you signed up for — and you have to be okay with that, because I’d say the pro pros outweigh the cons, but there are cons to being a business owner.
My stepdad used to tell me, like, you never get to punch out at the end of the day. Just remember that you don’t get to go home and just check out. If there’s a problem. It doesn’t matter what time it is. You get to handle it.
Julie: Well, I think there’s something, thought, calming in understanding that there’s always going to be fires. And when another fire comes up, it’s just the next one.
Erik: It’s always something. And you know, some days there’s a lot more than you can handle it. I mean, from like a time perspective, it’s just too many problems and you’ve got to like triage and pull in people to help.
And then there’s times where it’s like the small stuff. And by the way, problems are also very much subjective. And in context, like right now the problem is a pandemic, but I can tell you, like, you know, let’s say a year ago, a problem could be that one of our executives first quitting. Oh my God, what are we going to do?
Like, we’ll never find another executive to replace them. And let’s be real. Two weeks later, we were fine. So it’s like those kinds of things that like, in context, it feels like it. But you just got to get to the point where you accept it as a challenge, you understand that this is how it goes and don’t let it emotionally hit you.
And then. Frankly, it’s a lot of fun.
Julie: And why do you think you were the person to create Hawke Media?
Erik: Without trying to be too conceited, I actually knew what I was doing and I give a shit about other people. So the combination, because you have plenty of altruistic people that want to do the right thing and build a good business, but they don’t necessarily have a background in building and selling brands.
Most agencies are not built by people that know how to build businesses.
So that in of itself, we’re differentiated from again 99%. And then the 1% that are actually, you know, can build businesses and know what they’re doing, generally, they’re not as concerned about their customer. They don’t like, like we, we really run on principle versus running on, you know, what the model, what the book says about building a big business.
Julie: I would think it’s pretty important for each company to create their own purpose, but then how do you also keep that sense of purpose going within your own company?
Erik: Well you just, I mean literally that is the end point of what we do and how we do it. So when we’re talking about pricing, it comes up all the time. When we’re talking about how we deliver, when we’re talking about how we hire that is our purpose. There is no argument, and what’s really nice about it is because we finally were able to, it took us a while to articulate that purpose.
We always knew that was our purpose, but to actually put it in a sentence and this statement took a while. And then when we did it, it helped us with hiring more. It helped us with who we wanted to retain. It helped us weed out the people we don’t. Because a lot of people don’t align with our purpose and that’s okay.
There are plenty of marketers that they don’t, they only want to work with Nike and Red Bull and not everyone else. And that’s okay. Go for it. We want to be open to everyone that needs it. And so. The people that align with that purpose. Now you have a much better culture and a much, much more alignment with your people because you’ve gone out there and blatantly stated here’s who we are.
This is what we stand for. And so it leaves way less room for debate. So you get everyone on the same page, which again, given the whole coronavirus thing, we’ve just seen, like everyone’s aligned, like our team hasn’t missed a beat, even though we’re not in the same room together. It’s pretty remarkable.
Julie: Now, what do you think stops a small company or even a big one from getting the marketing they need? Do you think it’s budget? Do you think it’s expertise? What would be the biggest fail?
Erik: Yeah, it’s improper guidance and snake oil salesmen, honestly, like, and I shouldn’t say snake oil salesman. Cause sometimes these people don’t even know they’re selling snake oil. Like people they’ll convince themselves because they’ve seen on paper, a positive ROI on a Facebook ad that they’re excellent marketers. And really like marketing is not about like your return on ad spend on Facebook. It’s about building a brand that actually has longevity and — don’t get me wrong — return on ad spend as an important factor, but it’s one of many factors.
And so what we see is just a lot of people that don’t understand the bigger picture that are not that smart in terms of marketing, selling services, and like, I wouldn’t expect most business owners and small and medium businesses to be able to even vet these people. So they run into, you know, the vast majority of snake oil salesman, and we’re even looking at, pushing government regulation to try to eliminate a lot of this.
Because in any type of other industry you have, whether it’s, you know, legal, accounting and financial services, anytime you have people managing a lot of money, there’s usually some sort of a test that they have to get through and government oversight. And somehow in marketing, it hasn’t been that way, which is at some point kind of crazy because like we’re managing a hundred million dollars of people’s money a year, and you know that we could do whatever we want with that. There’s no regulation. If that money goes to zero and doesn’t do anything, there’s nothing like there’s absolutely no regulation. So it kinda becomes a what a ridiculous cause how many people just burn people’s money?
Julie: What do you think is the first step for a company or brand to vet, you know, to make sure they’re not getting stuck with someone selling them the wrong goods.
Erik: I would say first step is really finding out how they’ve done, what you’re trying to do. It gets the old statement of if you want to win a Super Bowl, bring on people that have already been there. Don’t go hire an agency that’s young and scrappy, but has never actually built the business to the success of what you want it to, or at least to, you know, for the next two years.
So whatever your two year goal is, if that agency hasn’t built any other companies to that two year goal that you’re trying to achieve, don’t be their Guinea pig.
Julie: Right. And okay. So our theme today is brand performance. How would you define brand performance and how would you give advice to someone growing their brand performance?
Erik: In terms of defining brand performance, I mean, it to me, brand has to do with it a level of trust and awareness of your brand. The consistency in what your brand stands for. So there’s a difference between like brand awareness and brand performance.
Performance to me is like, is tracked by how long are your customers hanging with you. So like what’s the lifetime value of a customer and how you improving that to keep that relationship with your existing customers. How much word of mouth are you driving so that how many people are talking about your products and bringing people without you having to put money behind advertising and all that.
And how, how high is your conversion rate? So is there an inherent trust with your brand already, or at least a perceived trust when they actually discover you that people are converting as a customer at a higher rate? Because you’re either again, your brand is, do they have awareness around it? They’ve heard about it, or you’ve presented it in a way that builds that trust. How can your brand stand on its own without just dumping money into marketing?
Julie: And what would you say is one of the best first steps for building trust in a brand.
Erik: If you’re just getting started. Third, third party validation’s critical. You’ve got to get as much credibility from other people and kind of borrow that credibility at the beginning as you can. So that can be, you know, influencer marketing or testimonials or press. Things that help, you know, other names and partnerships helps to any place that you can get other names that have trust to lend kind of their trust to you is a really good way to start while you start building your trust. It’s that, you know, a good example of this is like, if you’re a brand new energy drink or soda, let’s say you’re a friend brand new drink, nobody knows who you are and nobody’s going to buy your product until they hear someone else talking about how it’s positive.
And you have some interesting hook or selling point that might attract some early adopters. But if you’re Coca-Cola — I know when I bought Coke, I know what I’m getting and that’s brand and trust. Like it’s not that I’m not saying whether it’s healthy or not, but there’s a brand there. Like, I know what a Coke I’m getting when I buy a Coca Cola and like, it’s very consistent. So I trust it. That is an established brand. If you’re new, you’ve got to get that trust elsewhere because consistency isn’t the part of it yet.
Julie: Do you believe in spending a lot of money with influencers?
Erik: I would say it’s part of the mix. I don’t know if I, anytime it’s like anything in life, you go all in on one thing it’s bad for you, but like a balance and using influencers. Yes, absolutely.
Julie: And how can marketers better understand the marketing data that’s available to them? I mean, there’s so much data. How do you even sort through it all?
Erik: I would say don’t sort through it all. Like I think people have become too engrossed in the data and they end up cutting off their nose to spite their face.
Like there isn’t enough time to analyze enough data, to make full decisions. It can educate you and it should be a factor, but it’s kind of like when we look at like, again, going back to Facebook advertising, if you’ve got a consumer product and Facebook advertising isn’t working for you, the problem isn’t Facebook, it’s your product, it’s your messaging it’s something else.
Because Facebook as a mass advertising platform is still one of the best. And so. It should be leveraged. And so we say like, you know, when you’re looking at the data and optimizing, it should be for optimizing, not for like deciding what to turn on and off. And people get a little too worried about, like for awhile, there was this huge trend on attribution modeling.
Like if I get a sale and the person clicked a search ad, a Facebook ad, got an email, and when I went straight to my site and bought: What deserves attribution there? is it 8% SEO and 30% email? No, the answer is it’s a hundred percent of all of those things. It took all of those things to get you a customer.
And so people are getting so. Or trying to educate or trying to inform themselves in a way that doesn’t make logical sense and how these things work. And it ends up really hurting a lot of brands and I’ve watched it — a lot of these eCommerce brands that are failing recently were all these hyper data driven, you know, direct response eCommerce brands that we’re constantly trying to try and drive return on ads. And the problem is, you don’t do the things, the intangibles and the more brand-driven, longevity-driven things that you can’t see the direct results of for a while, and because you’re marketing that way, you end up not doing any of those things. And so you don’t build any longevity in your brand. Going back to brand performance. You don’t build any trust. You don’t build any consistency, you know, build that relationship. You’re just driving a new customer acquisition and you just burn through people and that’s hyper expensive as a company.
Julie: Would you say that with your company, Hawke Media, that also you help a brand, maybe do a little more gut instinct on marketing, as opposed to just relying on data.
Erik: It depends. I mean, at the end of the day we try to, and we also are still working for someone else. So it depends, you know, people are gonna run their business the way they want to, and we can advise all we can, but sometimes they just want to know what the return on ad spend is. And so, you know, we, we try to help push and educate and push back.But I mean, even to this day, we’ll get pushed back on best practices for like tracking windows, like we’ll have clients tell us that they only want to have a one day click window on Facebook ads, meaning you only track the sale one day after someone clicked an ad. Just completely illogical, cause like many, many, many, many people will click and ad, and take two or three or four days or two weeks or three weeks you buy something. And we actually have very specific data on purchase cycles for these companies. Meaning from the first time we’re gonna have to, when they buy. And if you have a product over 50 bucks on average, your purchase cycle is going to be over three weeks.
So to say, you want a one day window, you’re just cutting off your own data for the sake of whatever story you’re trying to tell yourself. And so it’s those kind of things that we run into that we try to educate, but we also are at the mercy of what the client wants.
Julie: Yeah, they definitely want to see the numbers on what’s happening.
Erik: Yeah, exactly.
Julie: I saw in an earlier interview, you said content marketing and social media marketing allow for incremental testing of creative. Can you explain a little what you mean by incremental testing?
Erik: Yeah, you can just it’s, you know, you can test different variables, you can change the title, you can change the image on it — that’s what I mean by incremental tests– to see what I really hone in on what’s working and what’s not. You can’t really do that with, or you can kind of do it with tele you can’t actually not, you can’t really do it with television. It’s really hard to run that many different types of spots and out of home, like you’re not going to AB test a pro board unless you’re getting into digital billboards. So it’s hard to do other than digital.
Julie: One of the services Hawke media offers is lifecycle marketing. So I’m wondering if you could expand on that to a new client. Like, what exactly is that and how will that help me?
Erik: Yeah. So it’s really, like the biggest service we provide is email marketing followed by SMS, chatbots, referral programs. What it is, is marketing to someone during the life cycle of them being a customer, from conversion point, like trying to get them to convert from a lead through building up their lifetime value.
So it’s a lot of the ongoing messaging and communication with your customers. And we just can see, you know, it’s the life cycle of the customer. So we try to. You know, find different ways to improve the lifetime value because that’s the biggest lever that most companies miss. They do tons on customer acquisition costs, but they don’t do enough on driving their lifetime value up, which by the way, the whole game here is minimizing your customer acquisition cost and maximizing your lifetime value.
So if my CAC — customer acquisition cost — goes up or down, you, you can counteract that by increasing your LTV.
Julie: And when you said increasing your LTV, what is that
Erik: Lifetime value of a customer.
Julie: Okay. IIf you’re trying to build a longer life cycle with a brand, how do you think is the best way to keep that person there longer? Like what, what sort of marketing would you provide for a brand?
Erik: It actually starts with merchandising. The products or services that people can come back and purchase and would, I mean, that’s what a lot of people miss, like, you know. Well, Casper are struggling right now. We’ll go figure. They sell mattresses. How often do people buy mattresses? Like, there’s just, you have to have these ongoing selling points that you can bring people back to buy things. So merchandising number one is having the product and then, you know, keeping in touch with people. So let’s take a bedding company, like, sheets and, home goods, like if I just bought sheets from you. Don’t market me, market to me the next day saying your sheets are now 20% off. That will just piss me off.
But if you wait a month and go, hope you ever sheets, would you like our pillowcases? Or hope you love our pillowcases, would you like, or our duvet covers, our towels or our robes or whatever else it’s selling. These are things you can follow up with over time. And then, you know, if you’re doing a good job in this data, you can start to see what performs the best at what time, in what timeframe, and start to figure out again how to maximize that to get people to purchase as much as possible from you over time.
Julie: So you’re still a big believer in email marketing.
Erik: It’s not a believer. This is always funny to me. Cause It’s not a belief system. It’s for the past, I’ve been doing this for a dozen years and the email open rates and click through rates and conversion rates are the same they were 12 years ago. So the idea of email dying or being dead is just a it’s it’s an uneducated point that is just gets headlines in this industry. The average open rate of an email is still 15%. The average click through rate is still 3%. And so it’s still, it’s still about 25% of commerce revenue is driven through email.
It’s a massive, massive part. And it also, we see an increased conversion rates anywhere between 50% and 300%. Like it is a huge part of the, of internet marketing that a lot of people shy away from because of some headlines. And what I will say is SMS is quickly catching up to that because it’s way more effective.
See, the average open rate on email, again, is 15 perspective rate. SMS it’s 98% open rate, which is, of course, you’re going to open your text messages. So of course it has high open rate, but the click through rate is 30% from three to 30%.
Erik: So the efficacy of SMS — now you have to collect someone’s phone number, which is slightly harder, when I say harder, I mean, you have a slightly lower conversion, but it’s nothing close to 10 X. So your SMS marketing’s really taking off. We actually invested in a platform for SMS marketing because of it.
Julie: That’s interesting. Marketing personalization is a game changer for digital marketers. Would you agree?
Erik: Yes. I think that the more, it all depends on the tools, but the more you can make someone feel like you’re speaking one-on-one to them, the higher conversion rate you can have, cause treating everyone the same, obviously has a breaking point.
And you, you, you lose people along the way if you’re treating them like everyone else. So the more you can personalize things, the more you can speak directly to someone individually, the better.
Julie: And what would you say, going back to social media, what are your picks for the best use of social media. Like which ones, you know, whether it be Instagram or Facebook or, and do you see something that’s coming up on the horizon?
Erik: Yeah, so. Instagram and Facebook are still very, and they’re the same platform. They’re, they’re still the best place to gain new demand for a product, just because of when people are on Facebook and Instagram, they’re just bored and scrolling.
And so hitting them with advertisements, it works really well. I don’t, I do think we might be seeing the peak of it. I think the usage is going down, I think is gen Z and is starting to get older. Like it’s just not as adopted. And it, the thing about these social media platforms is, you know, the critical mass works both ways and the network effect works both ways.
If every, all of your friends stopped using Facebook. What are you going to do on there? So I guess people start to drop off. It takes other people with them pretty quickly. The up and comer. I see, frankly, as TikTok, I don’t know what that means for, you know, the Chinese involvement and all that. So Twitter very much used from our one-to-one messaging. Facebook and Instagram, again, the reason it works so well is you’re sitting there bored, scrolling through, and I can, as a marketer can target exactly who I want to during a time when they’re bored and just open to seeing whatever. And I can literally hone in on exactly what type of messaging to send them, because I know who they are. And I know that they’re bored. So that’s hard to replicate. With Twitter, it’s much more about one-to-one communication and tweeting back and forth. It’s not just this newsfeed scrolling thing. People don’t do that the same.
So advertisements don’t perform the same there. Same thing with Snapchat. It’s way more about messaging small groups, not just scrolling through your stories. So they haven’t had the same luck with advertising. TikTok has that same feel as Facebook and Instagram, where you can just scroll through these, you know, different videos and just constantly be watching your videos. If someone inserts an ad into that space, it’s not necessarily interrupting. As long as I can just keep scrolling if they want to, it’s not going to, you know, give them anxiety and or anger them, like YouTube ads do, and YouTube doesn’t perform so well for most companies. So. With TikTok. I think that probably as soon as they start launching more advertising platforms, I think that’s going to be really interesting, especially with, I think there’s been a lot of older adoption during their quarantine, that starts to become super promising from a place to market.
Julie: Have you done any marketing in e-sports?
Erik: Yeah, quite a bit.
Julie: What would you say is the best type of brand from your point of view to market to e-sports? Like what kind of brand would you suggest that they should go there?
Erik: I’d say ath-leisure and, drink food and drinks, food and beverage that fit that demo probably are the best. I used to be a competitive gamer in high school a long time ago, but, that, that whole world, I mean, it’s, again, they haven’t really figured it out yet that people are still trying, but same kind of thing..
There’s not a lot of disposable income yet that is circulating around in that world. And people are just less interested in doing things in that world. Like if they have their computer their gaming console, they’re kind of set. And then they just need food, drink and things to wear.
Erik: They’re satisfied. Like, Nolan Bushnell who invented Atari, you know, he talks a lot about spitting flow, right. Being in a flow state, which is how games are built, is the idea is you’re, you’re just challenged enough that you’re fully engrossed, but you’re not stressed.
And that’s the idea of being in a flow state and I’m getting way scientific here. But just to be clear, like the problem is when someone’s in that state, they’re not left wanting anything, which means if you’re marketing to them, they don’t need anything. They’re in a perfect state of being, they don’t want any of your stuff. So it’s hard in that sense.
Julie: What would you say is the best advice for young companies that they come into Hawke Media. Should they be spending the money in their budget on like a logo and branding or be more inventive and do something else?
Erik: A logo and branding. It depends on how much trust you need because the logo and brand can go a long way with that. there’s a lot of scrappy ways to build that too. Like if I were starting a new company, I’m probably not blowing in my blowing a hundred thousand dollars on the brand right away.
But it also depends on how much money you’re putting behind a launch. Because if you’re going to spend a few million dollars launching your company, then absolutely get a professional way of growing everything done. But, you know, Nike was built by, you know, what he recruited girl from, yeah. University of Oregon, he just recruited an art major there, I think was how he got that done.
I did the same thing. Like a college friend of mine made my logo for a few hundred bucks. Thank you, Kim. And so we’ve, we’ve stuck with, you know, adjusted it slightly throughout the years, but it’s built, you know, we’ve made, as I mentioned about over a hundred million dollars and we do it on a logo that costs a few hundred bucks.
So that’s not necessarily always important. It really depends on the individual company. And that’s what we do. We’ll go in and actually based on your financial constraints, this is how we would allocate this budget.
Julie: And what would be the difference between a small company coming in and a large company that comes into Hawke Media and needs marketing advice.
Erik: I mean, they’d have a similar experience. It just usually a large company with has a lot more data for us to weed through so it might take a little more time for us to look at what their needs are, but they’re going to get very similar talent. That’s the whole point. It’s like we have top talent that will service anyone.
And so we do have a lot of Fortune 100s that we work with. And, you know, the initial experience, just usually it just takes a little more, more diving, a few more phone calls, a few more meetings just to discuss what’s going on, but that’s about it because obviously with a brand new small company, there’s not a lot of things to talk about in the beginning. It’s pretty, it’s not very complicated.
Julie: They haven’t built all their data yet.
Erik: Yeah, exactly. So there’s just not a, I’ve had that conversation where a company is like, here’s my Google analytics. Can you come back to me and tell me what you, what you think we need I’ll log into their Google analytics. And they have 20 total visits to the site ever. And I’m like, so you need to start from ground zero. Here’s what it looks like. There’s none of this doesn’t this data doesn’t mean anything.
Julie: Right. We call the show The Brand Moat. What would you say is one of the best ways to market and keep the competition away?
Erik: Again, it just goes back to really keeping your customers like. I’m going to use my current favorite t-shirt brand, Buck Mason, which is decently known in the guy’s world. They’re great guys. They’ve been around a while. Clothing holds up. It’s super consistent. The sizing’s consistent. I like ’em. So like every time I feel like I’m, you know, my t-shirts have gotten a little worn out after a while I just go buy five or 10 more there. And so from a brand moat perspective, you can send me Facebook ads for your perfect t-shirt or you want, I’m not going to deal with you.
I’m just going to go back to him company because they’re consistent, reliable. They’ve serviced me. Like is not easy to break through that. And so if you do a good job for your customers and you keep them well and you keep them happy, other companies, like — we had it, we have it with our own business, Hawke Media.
You know, we have people that are trying to poach our clients all the time. We don’t deal with that many problems because most of the time our clients understand, like you’re doing a great job. Why are we going to take a risk on leaving?
Julie: So would you say then that maybe a brand shouldn’t spend so much time focusing on their competition that they should just focus on really building a loyal fan customer base?
Erik: So yeah, focusing on your competition, I generally think is a waste of time. Like it’s not bad to pull certain data points and certain things from them and borrow certain ideas, but I think there is no first – there is no prize for being the best copycat. And so I think a lot of companies struggle with just copying what their competition is doing. And then they’re just the second mover on something and they’re not innovative at all. And it kind of narrows that down. So I try to like acknowledge what my competition is doing. Cause sometimes again, you can get some good ideas there, but not focus on it. Like we’re running our race, we’re doing things our way.
Because it also forces you to actually think about the logical outcome of what you’re doing versus just going our competitions doing it, so it must be the right thing. Like that to me is a recipe for disaster in a lot of ways.
Julie: I saw a video from a couple of years ago with your company and it said it was the happiest place to work. Is it? I mean, let’s put aside what’s happening right now, but is it still the happiest place to work and how do you keep that up?
Erik: I think it goes through waves. I think that, you know, there, there’s big changes that take away some of that and,it just, it depends and keeping it up. I think it’s just, you have to be intentional about it. You have to fight to make it the happiest place to work. It’s one of our core values is have fun. And we truly believe, like not to be too spiritual about it, but you make your own happy. You choose to be happy.
And like — I’ve traveled around the world too much, but in too many impoverished countries to think that like anyone living in Santa Monica and working at our company has any right to be truly unhappy, you know, and don’t get me wrong. There’s people that are going through stuff, but on a general basis, in context, it’s pretty, people have it pretty good.
And so really it’s a function of trying to facilitate that and help people be happy. And then also just be a place where we care about our people. Like that’s been the biggest part of both my business partner and I really align on, like, we want our company to be a place that people love to work.
And if you really fight for that, It can be that. It’s all choice. I tell my team all the time, like we have no investors, we have no outside debt. I get to do whatever the fuck I want with my company. And I can even make the decision to be illegal haven’t but I’m just saying like, I can literally do whatever I want.
And so if I’ve chosen that. I want people to be happy here. All they have to do is come to me and tell me what makes them happy and we can fight to make it work. That’s how this works. So it really does open up a lot of opportunity for happiness.
Julie: That’s a great philosophy. And I see you also have a mascot. Do you believe a mascot helps with the happiness?
Erik: Uh, yes, because the story behind that’s ridiculous, because we bought what we thought was a red hawk costume from China and go figure, a red Cardinal costume showed up. But I was like, well, it’s what we got. So there’s been so many, like bets lost where someone had to re run down to the Santa Monica, promenade and run down the promenade, wearing that thing. And like, it’s been pretty funny, like the way, those kinds of fun, goofy things we’ve done as a company.
Julie: Very funny. Oh, I really enjoy your philosophy on life and all those things. And if you have any other advice, you’d love to give a brand. If they’re starting out and what’s something you would tell them.
I would say product is all that matters. If you have a good product, marketing is easy. If you have a shitty product, marketing’s really tough, like worry about your product, really be the expert in your product. Be the best. And that will carry, carry you through a lot of problems. Because it’s — building a business is really hard, but if you have a product people want or need, you’re going to be okay, you’re going to figure it out.
Julie: I feel better already
Erik: That’s what I’m going for.
Julie: Okay. Well, thank you so much, Erik, for being on the program.
Erik: No, of course. Thank you!
Julie: That’s our show! Hope you enjoyed it. Listen to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
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Thanks for listening. I’m Julie Slater.