One Conversation Dinner Series: What Makes A Brand?

Learnings from our latest One Conversation Dinner - this time the topic on the menu was brand. We discussed how to create magic, what the future of search looked like and how brand signals continue to evolve.

The scene opens on a townhouse in Redfern.

There’s a scramble for kitchen bench space as bruschetta preparation kicks into full gear. The ribeye steaks are scooped out of the sous vide machine, looking questionably pale on their journey to culinary perfection. The dinner table is tightly set, seats touching and lit by the warm glow of an industrious herbarium lamp.

It’s 6.30pm. The doorbell rings. Guests are arriving - impressively punctual and ready to talk about marketing science, brand, and growth.

Who came to dinner?

At this dinner on ‘What Makes a Brand’ we hosted some of Australia’s brightest and quirkiest minds in marketing science, brand, and growth including:

Chris Thurston - Co-founder at Searcheye
Henry Innis - Founder at Mutinex
Anna Cheng - Head of Growth Marketing at Turo Australia
David Quan - Growth Lead at Pilot (part of Eucalyptus)
Lachlan Andrews - Head of Corporate Comms at Canva
Sachin Shah - Investor at Airtree; Host at The Sachin and Adam Show
Michael Beveridge - Head of Creative and Brand at Hnry; Creative Director at Euc Felix Wong - GTM at Immutable

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Steaks and a brand jam: Henry Innis, Adrian Petersen, Anna Cheng, Felix Wong, Chris Thurston, Sachin Shah, Michael Beveridge, David Quan and Lachlan Andrews

What was on the menu?

As always, we paired good food with pointy discussion prompts.

What did we learn?

🦴 Tension is the answer to the question on every marketers’ lips: how do you stop the scroll? Someone’s on a stage - about to tell a joke. Someone’s on a skateboard - about to attempt a stunt. Someone’s in the comment’s section - about to pick a fight. Tension earns you the right to seven seconds of someone’s attention.

😡 A distinctive brand will create a cohort of people who despise it. Eliciting a strong reaction is good - it makes it mean something to associate with your brand. Brands that tell compelling stories do this well: they divide the world into two camps…those that agree with their POV and those that don’t. The key thing here is to have a POV - that inherently means there is something that people can disagree with. All too often ‘belief driven brands’ are watered down only to be left with lofty statements that lack a spine.

💪 Brands can go viral when they give their customers a way to signal something about themselves. Barry's Bootcamp gives members a personalised post-workout smoothie - a sanctioned shareable moment that gives people a way to flex they’ve just worked out - without having to declare as much. Spotify wrapped is another example of this done beautifully - they use data to signal they intimately know their audience; and then doctor it into a digital artefact for people to flex about their musicality.

🍟 A brand’s stickiness depends on its ability to establish a memory structure - something that is triggered every time a customer encounters your brand or product. To establish a memory structure, a brand needs to be both distinctive and consistent. Great brands have built memory structures around the way their product is consumed: Dorrito dust on your fingers; the way bars of Weetbix dissolves in cold milk. In addition to these familiar moments, brands should aim to punctuate the customer experience with iconic, ‘get famous’ initiatives that capture attention while also cementing a thought leadership status.

🚽 For cheap impressions, innovate on channel. It’s easy and safe to spend on Meta and Google. To outperform, find underpriced ad inventory - websites where no one wants to advertise (e.g. Pornhub); locations that are overlooked (e.g. back of toilet stalls), platforms where most content is uninspired (e.g. LinkedIn). These channels also invite creative experimentation as often the medium can dictate the message with precision.

👁️ Some channels shouldn’t be measured by CPM. If compensated by average CPM, few podcasters could make more than a few hundred dollars per episode. However, the parasocial relationships creators have with their audiences are worth more than the airtime. Sponsorship of a podcast should be seen as an investment in the trust a creator is building with their audience. Further, snippets of podcasts make for great social proof! The company you keep as a brand matters; and like many brand building activities, cannot be summed up with metrics better suited to optimising performance marketing.

About out dinners

AfterWork Ventures’ One Conversation Dinner Parties assemble a group of 10 people, each of whom bring a distinctive and opinionated perspective on a topic, shaped by the unique experiences they’ve had in life and work.

We’re guided by a ‘conversational menu’ which guides us through topics against a theme. As a group, we agree to:

1. Adopt a ‘yes and’ mentality - approaching the conversation with curiosity and openness to having our perspective changed.

2. Hold silence. Some people need a few beats before they feel comfortable wading into a conversation. Unless we hold silence, conversations become dominated by those who feel most comfortable jumping in.

3. Collectively create the activation energy to dig deeper and think harder.

If you’re interested in joining one of our delicious discussions, follow us on LinkedIn for more details.