After graduating with a degree in biology, our branding and video marketing expert Rick Cesari, founder of Direct Branding got involved into real estate marketing, and discovered that he had a knack for it– from then on, he continued treading the marketing path and branching out to other industries, approaching things with a direct response mentality. His passion for marketing and branding lead him to set up his own company back in 1989, where he became part of the team that made juicing popular to consumers, and in bringing other health products into mass retail. Since then he has contributed his expertise to help develop and market billion dollar brand names like the Sonicare, George Foreman Grill, Oxiclean, and many other consumer products, including, more recently, the GoPro. Get monthly access to Rick’s in-depth industry know-how so you can create and implement a solid business strategy that highlights your brand’s unique selling proposition in more ways than one before launching your product.
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We’re talking with a branding and video brand expert. We’re talking about serious big billion-dollar brand expert, Rick Cesari and his company, Direct Branding. Rick has been working on products that you’re going to recognize. Rick, you got started quite a long time ago like I did. What got you into this product branding area?
First, let me just say it’s great to be here and get a chance to share some of my background and experiences with your audience. I had a degree in biology when I graduated from college, but I didn’t decide to go on or use it for anything. I was looking for things to do and I got involved in going to seminars. People were teaching you how to buy real estate through seminars, and I started helping someone do some marketing and I found that I had a knack for it. That led from one thing to the next, to different products that I started marketing, but always using a direct response mentality. My passion led me into juicing. I started a company in 1989 called Trillium Health products. We develop both the Juiceman and Breadman brands and help make juicing as popular as it is today. I then went on from there to help develop and market products like Sonicare, George Foreman Grill, Oxiclean and the GoPro camera.
You have been working in this marketing world for quite some time. It’s interesting because the marketing process and the tools that you use change over time. Video was so much harder back then. It’s so much easier now and there are all these different things that have changed over time, but the process is pretty much the same. A great billion-dollar brand has a lot of similarity between back then and now, isn’t that right?
You’re absolutely right. One of the things I want your audience to understand is we mentioned some big brand names, but almost every one of these products I started working with when either they were still being developed or new companies, new products. Everything that we’re going to talk about that has worked for these products, I believe this timeless information that will work when you’re developing your own product or service. I boiled down something what I call the Five Keys to Building a Great Brand. These are very much foundational things that you need to have in place that will help when you launch your product and start growing your business. It’s things that I’ve done consistently with all the products we named and many more.
Let’s start with a 101 for our group here. For those that don’t understand, there’s a misconception about what brand is. It’s not just a logo or a package design. Brand is something much deeper and I define brand very frequently as not who you think you are, but how you’re perceived. In the process of developing that, I’m sure that you have because you’ve got to develop that and cultivate that. You have a definition of brand that you utilize as well.
I love your definition of it. It’s what the customer’s experience is of you and your product and how you build that or put that out there. You can do your best to build a brand in certain things. It’s the perception that the people come in contact with your company and product tab of you is what your brand becomes. You can do some things now to make sure that you can take the brand or build it into something that you want to do. One of the single most important things is that all of these products I mentioned, I believe that branding is built by selling products and getting the products in the hands of people, so they can have that product experience.
Everything I’ve done is through a direct response umbrella where regardless of the medium I’m using, if I spend $1 in advertising, I’m trying to generate $2 in revenue. The very first thing, and this should be a thought process when you’re developing a product, is you need to be thinking of your unique selling proposition. Why is your product or service different than any other product or service out there? Because if you’re just the same, then you’re not going to be able to build a brand. It’s going to be a me-too product and ultimately, you’re not going to be able to get the price you want for that product and be able to build it into a brand. There are lots of examples of unique selling propositions, but I like to just mainly tell people, how can you differentiate your product from everything else out there and we can talk in more detail about that if you want.
What you think your unique selling proposition is or your unique features are, are not all these little details that you have in your invention. It’s what the consumer thinks is the most important thing. It’s what they perceive. That at the end of the day is what becomes what I call the me-only brand identity. It’s the only thing that you offer that’s different from everyone else. That’s the only thing that matters, not just the only thing that’s different.
There’s a great book out there for your audience. You’ve probably read it before. It’s called Fascinate by Sally Hogshead. Her sister was an Olympic swimmer. She talks a lot about your personal brand, but also product brand. It is like, “How can you differentiate your product from everybody else out there.” I will give you a couple of examples from the products we mentioned. You take the Sonicare toothbrush. When that first came out, they were having a difficult time creating sales because it was $150 product that was sitting on the store shelves and somebody would say, “Why should I buy this?” People didn’t understand Sonic technology. Sonic technology is a feature and the engineers who developed the product weren’t marketing people and they thought that Sonic technology will sell it, but what’s the benefit of the Sonic technology? The brush was able to clean beyond the bristles and reach into the nooks and crannies between your teeth and help eliminate or reverse gum disease. You have to look at that unique selling proposition about what’s the benefit to the end user.
You have to put it into their terms, into their words and not overdo it. It’s great that you have video marketing tools because it enables you to show a lot more things than you have to talk about. If you put them all in words and bullets and about all of these things that it could do, it just doesn’t work as well as that emotional connection. The Foreman Grill is the ideal thing. When you talked about that as one of your products, you could cook so many different things. You could try all these things. You have all these different ways, which you could use it. Essentially though, it was the convenience and the leanness of it. That George Foreman got across such a great way in his emotional connection to people that they would pay attention for all the other little things that it could do, but our inventors get caught up in all those things.
The George Foreman Grill, that’s a good example too because the second bullet point on building a great brand is positioning. Think about a category in the marketplace. It doesn’t matter if it’s a niche category, but where you can take a product and dominate that category. That’s the way you need to need to think about it. Even if it’s a small niche category. With the George Foreman Grill, when it first came out, it was basically a slanted taco maker. The idea was that people would cook hamburger meat, put it on the edge of the table, and sweep the hamburger meat into their taco shell. Needless to say, it didn’t sell. We repositioned it to basically the reason for the slant was to direct the fat and grease away from your food, so you can eat healthier foods every day that you love to eat steaks and hamburgers and it took off once we did that repositioning.
That’s where understanding your brand can also help you in the product development process highlight these things. It’s never too soon. I’m a big proponent of brand first strategy. You’ll see a ton of posts and videos and articles on that because I write about it all the time. If you don’t know who you are and who you want to speak to, then it really makes it hard to make sure that your products have that built in. I have a much easier time being successful with product designs because we either force our clients to define that. Go find someone like Rick to work with them to make that happen and or it’s already predefined for us. All we have to do is brainstorm a designed great product to fit that brand.
You’re coming to things a little bit differently but we’re meeting at the same point. My branding tip, I think it’s number three or four. It’s always listen to your customers or clients. What you’re doing is you’re getting feedback from the people and working those into the product development. I’ve always found that when you’re building your brand, the more conversation or more input you could have with your customers and listen to what they’re telling you will help you improve your product. At the same time, if you’re listening to what they’re saying, you’re working on a better experience for them and that’s all part of building the brand.[Tweet “If you’re just the same, then you’re not going to be able to build a brand.”]
I want to remind you product launchers that Laura Hazzard is our resident market research expert. She’s my sister-in-law and she’s killer at this and has worked with big brands like Starbucks and Target and many others that you’ve heard of. She does a reasonable pre-check like things that you can ask and surveys you can run. If you have an existing customer base and you want to know some things you want to inquire before you spend a lot of money making something or investing in a brand, find out if that brand message you think you have or that brand USP, that unique selling proposition, resonates with the target market you think you are focused on, you can check that. That saves you tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars by just asking.
That would be the best money that someone could spend instead of feeling out blindly like, “I think there’s a good idea, let’s do it.”
Or the friends and family route, which I’m not a fan of.
Definitely like your wife or spouse or partner said, “That’s a great product, honey.”
Because they love you.
The more real feedback you can get from survey, research, focus groups, if you already had your product getting feedback from customers, that’s golden information that you should build on.
Let’s shift a little bit into defining what direct response marketing looks like today because it’s changed over time. It was a lot more text driven. We’re heading into a lot more video, which is why you’re pivoting in your brand as well. Let’s talk a little bit about what you’ve seen over time as direct response.
The direct response principles themselves haven’t changed a lot, the underlying strategies. The delivery vehicles have changed greatly from print ads in a newspaper to ads on Facebook, YouTube, things like that. I’ve got a lot of my learning using direct response television. The point I want to make for your listeners are, and again, I’ll recommend another book. There’s a great book if you want to learn about basic direct response by Dan Kennedy, he has called the No B.S. Guide to Direct Marketing and he’s got the No B.S. Guide to Brand-Building. These are all great resources for people to learn and understand direct response marketing.
Dan Kennedy is the king of this and this is exactly what he’s a proponent of. Dan Kennedy’s been around. I understand that he’s not even a big emailer, like that’s not his thing. The principles of direct response don’t change how people perceive that. The process by which you do discuss things with them, you engage them. That hasn’t changed. It’s just the vehicle by which you’re promoting it out there.
We’re talking about brand and there’s different advertising that falls into two camps. There’s brand advertising, which you have to have a big budget for that to build your brand and there’s direct response advertising. I’m a big believer in selling to build your brand, generate revenue, get your product out there, and direct response is one of the best ways to do it. When I use direct response, I’m saying is that when somebody sees any type of advertising, wherever you’re advertising, that there’s some type of vehicle for them to be able to go to a website, go to a landing page, call an 800-number, or just some way for people to take an action to visit the company or buy the product. Then you’re able to measure those results so you can compare what you spend on advertising to how much revenue you’re generating.
To put that in perspective, those of you that come out of the Amazon selling world, the ones of you who are doing multimillion dollars per year, are all doing direct response marketing. I have not met one yet that isn’t doing that from the get go or already had tremendous brand awareness. They had pre-invested before Amazon. I have a few of those clients as well who their brand was already a household name or competitive name. You cannot get in today’s world just through the utilization of Amazon. You can’t get to that multimillion dollar brand without some outside traffic being driven in. Amazon requires it nowadays and because of that, the direct response has been the most successful vehicle I have seen from anyone and it happens in multiple ways. Sometimes it is Facebook, sometimes it is YouTube, or sometimes it’s just email campaigns.
It happens in all kinds of different ways, but the ones that are more successful, the ones that achieve that level and get up to $10 million and beyond, have a whole entire revenue stream that comes directly from that part of their business. If you’re building a big brand, which I hope you are, this is one of those things where you want to tune into Rick’s Office Hours. Get some feedback from him, download his, we’ll have that in the resource library, Five Keys to Building a Great Brand. Don’t miss this and listen up to what Rick has to say here because he has experience in this over time. What does work again and again, no matter what category you’re in. That is my number one role, Rick, of who you work with and how you decide who you should work with or who you should listen to is that they’ve done it again and again in multiple categories.
You talked about video and I went from using video and infomercials and things like that. Now I’m working with a lot of large Amazon sellers. You were talking about helping them create videos that are more effective for helping them sell their product and increase conversion rates. Just a really simple statistic to show how powerful video is on Amazon is that we’re seeing that people go from not having video to using video are seeing as much as high as a 20% increase in their conversion rates.
Everyone knows that if you’re selling on Amazon and you can have that much of a difference between you and your competitors, that’s a big deal. What’s interesting though is the type of videos that work on Amazon and it goes back to one of the foundation. The very last principle in my Five Keys to Building a Great Brand is using authentic testimonials. I’ll give you an example, the SousVide Supreme. One of our clients is the SousVide Supreme. If you look at their site on Amazon and you look at their video, it’s a demonstration video of a chef cooking two pieces of chicken. One in a conventional way and one with SousVide, “Here’s what it looks like, dried out when you cook it in a pan. Here’s what it looks like when it comes out of SousVide.” That tells the entire story and helps people decide that this is the right product to buy.
You talked about authentic reactions. You can’t fake a reaction if you were to bite into that and go, “That’s going to be real.” People recognize facial expressions and all of those things. They identify with that so much faster than the words that they’re hearing. You can’t fake that on a video and that’s the wonderful thing.
That’s one of the reasons videos are so effective is that appeals to two senses, you’re hearing it but you’re seeing it with your own eyes and you can’t fake that. If you’re faking it, people can see that you’re faking it. That’s something we don’t recommend you ever do, and I always use the word authentic testimonials, authentic demonstrations so that you’re not faking it.
Unscripted guys, guidelines but unscripted. You have a book?
I have three books. My first book goes back to 2011 and it’s called Buy Now. It goes into detail about some of the early products that we started like the Juiceman, the Breadman, Sonicare, Oxiclean. That’s available on Amazon. My second book is called Building Billion Dollar Brands and that takes what we started with the Buy Now books and to the next level. We go through these five keys but into a lot more depth and detail and how we deployed them with the brands. The last book is called Video Persuasion. It’s all about how best to utilize video to get a viewer, our consumer to take a specific action.
What are the things that you see going wrong because? All the bad things that go along, and all of us here to protect you and help you to keep those things going wrong. What so often goes wrong with either brand development or in the direct response marketing. What big rookie errors do people make?
I don’t know if I’d call them rookie errors because I still make them. You learn more from your mistakes than you do from successes. I feel like every time I’ve had a big success, that it came easily or flowed and every time I had a big failure I was trying to force my views, what I thought the market wanted with a product. I thought I could overcome that is ego talking now with marketing and money. Roy Rogers has a famous saying, “When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging.” I see a lot of entrepreneurs make that because there’s other side of the coin, which is you’re an entrepreneur, you never give up, but never giving up doesn’t mean doing the same thing over and over again. That the market will tell you both when you’re onto something correct and also, it will tell you when you’re not onto something correct and listen to the marketplace.
That is the most original answer I’ve gotten here. I love it because it’s so true because I hear that all the time from especially the inventorpreneurs. You get this model of, “I can just teach them what’s great about this,” and it is so much harder and you will run it and I’ve never seen it work because you run out of money before you’ve managed to do that or someone bigger comes in and just does it a little bit faster and a little bit easier with more access to a market than you. I’ve never seen it work, but you’re right. It is this ethic of “If I throw more hard work at it and if I talk more and sell more, it will be fine.” The reality is like digging a bigger hole. What can our members look forward from you in Office Hours.
We’ve covered a lot of broad brush strokes of things. I could isolate any one of these products and go do a deeper dive into the launch part of it and some of the things that we did so we could pick out some of those products. I can go much deeper in the video area. We talked about the importance of testimonials. How do you create a good testimonial? How do you find them? Where they work so well? That might be a good next one that we could talk about because they’re so important for any product launch is having really good authentic testimonials and I can go into a lot of depth on that.[Tweet “When you’re building your brand, the more input you could have with your customers will help you improve your product.”]
Testimonials, let’s make that your very next one. We’ll be looking for that one. I love the idea of you doing a case study that maybe touches around one of your Five Keys so that you can really highlight that as this is the five keys. This is number one and here’s a case study of why this worked or why this is so important and a critical path on that. All of you out there, when you start to see how other people have done it, then it helps you build a better model for yourself. It also helps you say, “Maybe Rick’s the right person to help me,” and ask the important questions of him because that’s why he’s here to help make sure that you’re going on the path that is likely to lead you to success.
Rick, thank you so much for becoming an expert on Product Launch Hazards. We’re excited to have you here. I know I’m personally going to be tuning into your next Office Hours.
Thanks a lot, Tracy. I enjoyed it and appreciate the opportunity.
- Direct Branding
- Trillium Health
- George Foreman Grill
- Laura Hazzard
- No B.S. Guide to Direct Marketing
- No B.S. Guide to Brand-Building
- SousVide Supreme
- Buy Now