My Only COVID19 Conversation | Brand Strength & Direction

In this episode, we talk with Chris Tschantz and Eric Jacobs from Test Pilot Creative about brand strength and direction during the COVID19 pandemic.

Chris and Eric share tough times in history and stories of what brands did to win. They talk about being authentic as a brand, leading with empathy, and so much more.

If your company is trying to navigate COVID19, this is a positive episode offering ideas for you to leverage as you move forward with your brand, marketing, and sales.

👉🏻 Sprocket Talk's Mission

At Sprocket Talk, our mission is to help you navigate the HubSpot tool. We will help you get 100% ROI across the Marketing Hub, the Sales Hub, the Service Hub and yes, even the HubSpot CMS. Our videos will educate AND entertain.


About the Expert

Eric Jacobs

For the past two and a half decades, Eric Jacobs has been using his design and art direction talents to help his clients elevate their brands. As a hunter of big ideas, a gatherer of creative energy and a curator of plaid button-downs, he has amassed numerous awards and honors while achieving real, measurable results for his client partners.

Eric approaches every project as an opportunity for the brand to challenge conventional thinking in order to resonate with the target audience in a deep, meaningful way.


Full Transcript

George Thomas 0:08
Ready to spend 15 minutes with the experts you admire need strategy sessions from thought leaders brought directly to your ears. Welcome to the sprocket talk 15 minute strategy podcast where every week George B Thomas uncovers the challenges that sales, marketing and service professionals face and of course, the strategies to help them overcome their biggest hurdles. So sit back and set your sights on growth with these bite sized conversations build with your strategy goals. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 15 minute strategy podcast. Hey sprockets, cheers. It's your boy George B. Thomas. And we're back with another episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast where well, we talk about a business strategy in about 15 minutes, which never happens. It's usually 1820 or somewhere around there. But today, we are going to be well addressing the elephant in the room and to be honest with you, it's a conversation that I didn't think that I would have didn't really want to have but I feel like from a business standpoint, it's something that we should have, but we're going to have it in a very positive way before we dive into the deep end of the pool. Let me introduce our guests today. So Eric, and Chris, why don't you explain to the sprockets years who you are, what you do, and where you do it.

Chris Tschantz 1:14
Hey, guys, I'm Chris chunks, which is probably creative. I am half of the team. founders, me being a writer, my partner Eric, art director, designer, and thank you for joining us today.

Eric Jacobs 1:27
A sprocket tears I'm the other half of test pilot creative. I am the art director and designer is Chris mentioned and he is our word guy. Yeah, we

George Thomas 1:38
all need those word guys. I'm telling you and those designers. So here's the thing. I love that you guys positioned it that you are a brand agency because the conversation that we're having today is really about the brand. And this whole COVID-19 thing that is happening. You wrote an article that will give people to at the end of this that they can go and actually read it but one of the The things that intrigued me and one of the reasons that I wanted to do this interview is that at the very beginning of the article you talk about, it's a chance to thrive instead of just survive. And might I just say in a time, where a lot of companies are actually like, not even doing either. So talk me through kind of this idea of can your brand have the power the standing, how we can thrive through this time as a brand,

Chris Tschantz 2:25
the biggest thing we need to remember is, regardless of the times are good or bad, your brand is everything, your brand really holds the power. There's a unique opportunity right now as everybody pulls their budgets back as they start to internalize what's going on, there's a lot less noise out there with a lot less noise also means prices are down. If you want to create noise of your own. It is a perfect opportunity to kind of get your brand out there. Let people know who you are, what you are, what you stand for. And then that will start to resonate with people. It's not about Got an instant sale right now it's about sustainment through longevity of not just this epidemic are going through, but the longevity of the brand itself.

George Thomas 3:09
So one of the things as you were talking, Chris, I thought about, you mentioned the word sell, or sale. And I'm wondering if right now, if folks who are actually using their brand, and positioning it around the relationship or building relationships is almost more important in this next near future than the actual generating of revenue. What are your mind or your thoughts around that?

Chris Tschantz 3:33
This is a question because the answer to both of those is yes, you have to have your brand happening, but at the same exact time, you have to have sales, you have to have revenue coming in the doors quite simple to keep your doors open to keep your employees employed. But the whole driving force of this is that your brand is about a slow burn, right? It's about keeping it relevant, keeping it top of mind making it mean something to me, the sales is actually going to be this is What you need to solve your problem right now, the two cannot be mutually exclusive of one another, they have to work together. car sales are a perfect example of that, you're going to see stuff for Ford or Chevy, these big trucks driving across rugged terrain. And then you're going to see your local Ford dealer, have their sale, hey, this car is now 25% off, or you're going to have this particular deal going on, which goes all the way down to the retail level, but you have to have it go sustaining both of them, because one without the other just doesn't quite work as well.

George Thomas 4:33
And Eric, when I talk about relationships and a brand, being able to build those relationships during this time, is there anything that you would share with the sprocket tears that you see people doing now, around COVID-19 that you see people do in the past that either are really good ideas or man, that was a terrible idea? Why did they do that?

Eric Jacobs 4:53
That's a great question. Um, one of the things that I've been seeing lately is there are a lot of friends that are actually reaching out to them. My family, I'm sure Chris, you've had some and George, you've had some where they have the golden ticket to get you through this pandemic. And that golden ticket is more LinkedIn followers, or it's if you do this, I promise you, we'll get, you know, ramped up on your SEO. And really what they should be doing is they should be getting to know their audience. This is a scary time. It's scary for businesses, it's scary for people. It's scary for me, it's scary for us. And they have to understand that that sometimes building a relationship is getting to know your audience, and just having empathy talking to them about this virus and telling them that you know what, you're not in this alone. We're here for you, whatever you need.

George Thomas 5:50
And I love that and it really we're kind of going into the section of communication. And so when you think about communication now, I think communication is always important, but when you think about it, Typically now, and the whole COVID-19 thing that is out there, and that is happening, how do brands have to communicate just especially deeper this level right now,

Chris Tschantz 6:12
the biggest thing that a brand has to do to communicate is to be authentic to themselves. Every single one of us have received that email, oh, we're thinking about you. And this time of need, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You've never heard from them before ever, ever. Now all of a sudden, they care about you and your family, they don't know you and your family that is not authentic to your brand. So that's the thing. Number one, you have to be authentic to your brand. Now, sure, you might care about the people that are out there. And that's an important thing to communicate, but you need to have more messaging with it. So a good thing might be, hey, here's how you do business with us during this tough time. And we're running a virtual office or we're only allowing 10 people in our store at the same time. So please be patient line your cars up in this way. However it is let people know How you could do business with us and then let us know we're doing it this way because we care about you not just this blanket email from the CEO yeah we care about you it that really does not work.

George Thomas 7:11
I've seen a lot of not working lately and and then it turns into this conversation that I want us to have. And that is I've seen people online because we're in the marketing space, you know, sprocket talk are all about marketing and HubSpot, and all that good stuff. We see people talk about like, ah, stop marketing or Hey, now's the time to ramp up and market like, Is it time to abort it? Is it time to do it like what say you guys as far as what people should be doing with marketing or not marketing right now? Is it time to be silent, or time to be noisy?

Chris Tschantz 7:44
So in a war, it is time to double down, double down on the marketing no doubt, to abort your marketing right now would be really, really, really short sighted. However, you can't go on with your advertising program your marketing program as usual. The world has changed. People aren't out there. So for instance, if you're in a metropolitan area, New York, LA, something like that, and you put a lot of money, say, into transit advertising, you got stuff on the subways, the buses, things like that. It's not going to fly, because nobody is using those those resources anymore. So maybe pull money from those things, put it into something where people are, where are they, they're at home, they're not doing anything. So maybe you do a bigger TV buy, you know, buy some more commercials, maybe you do something online, you do some more digital advertising, or maybe you pump it into social, you got to do something where people are at the moment, it is nice to have a good, robust plan. But when people aren't consuming a particular form of media, in this example, transportation, or any out of home kind of stuff. Let's go ahead and move in though.

George Thomas 8:46
Love it. And Eric, when if we're going to continue to do this marketing just in a different way. When you think visually of the story that's being told around COVID-19 are there some things that visually are like Oh, shame on you? Or is there? How do you approach this from a visual standpoint? To actually, you know, you use the word scary? How do we make it not so scary? Or how do we set a tone graphically when we're communicating this to our marketing?

Eric Jacobs 9:13
That is a that is a fantastic question. Um, I've seen a lot of advertising out there where brands are doing their best to reiterate the message of social social distancing, they're doing their best to read it reiterate the message of, you know, the shelter in place, stay at home. And I think that I think some of it is working. Although I still think that when brands do that, there has to be some sort of value along with that, if you can't just say stay at home, you know, and just kind of walk away. It's like, why should I stay at home, one of the things that we have to understand and I go back to is, there's more to that message than just staying apart or making sure you wash their hands, there's the message of, you know, we are in this together. And the more people that we can get to do this, the better off this country is going to be. And the quicker we can beat this pandemic together. And I think that goes back to what Chris was saying, with the power of the brand. brands have the power to do that they have the power to create a movement, if you will. And this is a perfect opportunity for brands to unite in creative opportunity to beat this pandemic.

George Thomas 10:39
Yeah, I love this idea because you could totally have an ad or some messaging about, you know, social distancing. And you could show people like apart six foot apart, but with that graphic, maybe something where you show a family or a group of people that are doing like a zoom call or or some type of Skype messaging where they're not together, but they're together. Right through through the distraction through the pain, there's hope. And the hope is this new temporary norm that we're going through during COVID-19. Here's the funny thing, though, is humans we have this like, limited historical draw, that we ever pay attention to, like, every time doo doo hits the fan if we act like it's the first time that do to ever hit the fan, and it's just not. So, Chris and Eric, when you think about, like, what has historically happened, that we could look at what businesses did, then, to maybe pave a road map of what business could be doing now, in other words, like, you know, looking at the past to understand what we should do in the future as we move forward.

Chris Tschantz 11:43
Yeah, there's actually lots of examples of that. One really good one, actually, that kind of mirrors what's happening today, or at least the fear of today was the Great Depression in the 20s. So looking back at like consumer packaged goods, cereal post cereals was never the king they owned everything and then the Great Depression hit. So they did what just about every other company did is they scaled back their marketing spin tremendously, I mean almost to a trickle. So the competitor to that was Kellogg's, well, Kellogg's understood inherently well, gosh, everybody else has gone maybe we should go big. So they literally doubled their budget. And they also knew since nobody is advertising right now this What better opportunity is there to launch a new product. So during the Great Depression, they boosted their marketing spend by two, and they introduced Rice Krispies. Now, the result of this ended up to where they took over being the leader and during the Great Depression, increase their sales by 30%. They became the category leader and to this day are still the category leader. So they didn't just what people would consider Take a chance on it. They did. They did a very calculated spend. And it worked. And it's still working to this day because it took them up. It changed the whole brand perception and increase sales.

Eric Jacobs 13:14
Yeah, I think, you know, Chris brings up a good point about staying on top of this and really focusing on the opportunities that some might not see during difficult times like this. We did a ton of research and even in the recession of 28, during the housing bubble and everything that was going on there, there were even new brands that were created. Some of the new brands that were created were Uber. I believe Airbnb, slack was created Venmo was created so it's it's also about looking for those opportunities tochange, change the world change your company. change the way people think, change the way people do things, you know, there's so much going on now, especially with this pandemic, you see people doing things differently, which is kind of exciting. Because it, I feel like the country is starting to come together and unite.

George Thomas 14:18
Yeah. And Eric, I would agree with you, I would, I would almost even say not the country but the globe, right. And when you think about people are already doing things different, which leads us into that we need different products, we need different services. They're like, I want somebody to come up with a way for us to easily be able to watch videos together on different devices but like communicate, there's probably is that by the way, or be able to play Cards Against Humanity or some other game together, where it's in like this virtual setting now that we have because you can't go over to your best friend's house like things like this are or just even imagine this like where it would be a breathing apparatus that doesn't look dumb. Like all of these things could happen, right? This could happen. Now. Here's As we close out the 15 minutes strategy podcasts have one question. It's for both of you, if you had the ability to talk to the entire globe, and you from your company wanted to send out a message of hope, or empathy or be authentic in this time of the covid 19 pandemic, what words of wisdom? What message would you give out to the world?

Chris Tschantz 15:21
Wow, that's, that's a tough question. I guess the thing number one is you need to look internally at your company and what it is. So yes, you have employees and they they need their their salaries to survive. However, if your company can't even make it through this pandemic, then nobody's gonna have a job. So some tough decisions need to be made right now. Are you able to hold on to your salary? Or are you going to choose marketing over that? I mean, hopefully you don't have to make the decision between the two but you might. But the thing is, though, is this is a temporary thing. We're going to figure it out. If it becomes our new normal then so normal, but the fact is, is that the swirl that's happening right now is a temporary swirl. Eventually we're going to get back to whatever normal is. And we have to plan for that. Not for what's happening right now we need to survive what's happening right now. But we need to thrive the future, right? So we need to make that call, what we have found is that the marketing thing will sustain that company will sustain more jobs over the long term. Yeah, you might have to rip the band aid off right now, which sucks for everybody we get it. But it's a really got to be about the longevity. So my, my theory on this is look to the future and really plan for what is to come ahead, like that and let today kind of work itself out. But you need to focus on you and yours and your people by doing a future cast if you will look towards that future because that's going to be the best way to prepare

Eric Jacobs 16:59
myself. advice would be this, I feel that individuals, companies, businesses, they don't give their brand enough credit. A brand is very powerful. And people need to understand that. People need to understand that your brands can project stability, and they can project reliability and they can project confidence in a time like this. That will and I think we said it before, that will generate hope for people. It's more than just selling products and trinkets. It's providing a sense of hope, and confidence that we can get this get through this together. So that's kind of what advice I would give

George Thomas 17:50
love it. So if folks have questions, if they want to read the article, if they want to engage with you folks, as a company, where do you want to send them?

Chris Tschantz 17:59
Or if you guys To check out the article, please go to test pilot creative comm and click on our blog section in the article pop right up for you.

Eric Jacobs 18:08
We're also on the the social network. So you can find this on LinkedIn, Eric Jacobs respectively and Chris Johnson, respectively. We're also on Facebook. So you can hit this up on either of those two platforms

George Thomas 18:22
and sprocket tears. You might be wondering, Well, what do I think about this whole thing? Here's my advice. My advice is to have faith in your brand that you've been building, make smart decisions and keep on building if at all possible. have the right messaging, be authentic, use empathy and love. And while you're doing all of that, and staying safe and washing your hands, we'll be here waiting for you on the next episode. Did you enjoy this episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast we'd love to know. leave a rating and written review wherever you listen to your favorite shows and keep that learning going by visiting sprocket talk comm sign up for your free membership and in that membership area. If you can find bundled episodes where we combined like strategies to help you grow better make the world better and share this episode with your friends and co workers who may be battling this same obstacle. You can always reach out to George B. Thomas on Twitter with questions or guest suggestions or just to talk about your favorite Marvel superhero and go out into the world and leverage this strategy for your success. And we'll see you on the next episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast.