In this episode we talk Phillip Oakley, VP of Strategy at Sales Factory. He talks about some favorite podcasts, marketing books, a revived effort for a struggling client as well as the brilliance of marketing by Elon Musk. It’s a lively conversation we hope you enjoy.
AMA Voices Phillip Oakley
How did I first get into branding?[:
We could, we could define it in different ways, but I think the way I got into the, the industry was I'm trying to figure out how far I'm back to go. I, I took a lot of college credit courses in high school around art. And then when I got to university, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do.
So basically I took some time off from school, is what I did. and worked. And I literally, you know, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do later in life. And I saw this movie called What Women. I've told this story so many times, and one day I'm gonna say it in, the audience isn't gonna know the movie because it's, you know, it's, it's not a recent movie.
But in a nutshell Mel Gibson's character is basically has an accident and gains the power to hear women's thoughts. Now there's a lot of really awful misogynistic things that come with that I am not interested in, to be blunt.[:[:[:[:
Women more, but also he just understood consumers more. And to me that was fascinating. You know, again, seeing beyond the silliness of it, you know, the superpower or how, how he was using it to date women. Reaching a point that you could actually help people more if you understood them better. And so that's what kind of got me on the right foot for getting into to, to advertising and learning more about marketing obviously.
And my career path has been I went back to school for design and advertising, you know, designer, art director, agency owner. And, and now really even stepping away from the agency I founded to join a much larger agency that's rooted in research. You know, the more I get to learn about the target audience, the more I can align them and align brands with, the point where they they actually work for each other.
So, so consumers buy more, but they actually make a better connection with the products that serve best.[:[:
However, they don't have the opportunity to actually impact price or they can't impact how a product is developed or, iterate to make it better for the consumer. Or they don't actually get to be, you know, involved in researching the right placement. They're almost always in promotion. And that's actually something that we do here for our clients.
You know, we have several large clients. We don't have, you know, Proctor and Gamble who has a lot of those marketing functions internally, right? But for our clients, the right fit is when we can actually lead them to do the research, to get to the right consumer, to do the right segmentation so that we can actually help them sometimes iterate their product.
Or make a new product or a pricing promotion that matches something on Amazon for them so that we can get it in brick and mortar the right way and make it competitive. Or, or making sure they're even in the right places, you know? Sure. You know, are they, are they being highlighted on a TV show? You know, why aren't they in the toolboxes of, of, you know, this type of contractors?
Cuz contractors don't think of this brand this way. So we have to reposition the brand. So this kind of contractor understands this tool better for them than what they've been using for 30 years. So really a fascinating opportunity to operate with all four of the Ps. Not just, you know, love the commercials and websites and other forms of promotion.[:[:
Thanks to fall allergies we, you know, we worked really hard with the marketing director to create the right branding and even worked on some packing. And worked on you know, getting things ready for the consumer. When the product was ready. We were starting to, to build some followers.
We were starting to create some awareness of how there could be a better solution for managing your asthma. Long story short, it was an app based platform that communicated with a Bluetooth device that actually you could hold to your throat and breathe and actually measure the sound of your breathing. We realized though, a common business problem, they needed a certain amount of funds in order to actually finish creating the product and take it to market. So they're not, they're not real numbers. And they needed $10 million to go to market.
They had only raised $5 million. So they had some investors trying to get the, the, the first device out the door so we could start gaining some sales. The problem was getting someone. To understand how this device was gonna make a change in the world of asthma management. And at the time, medical devices weren't sexy and cool and popular.
This is before everyone wanted an app. And this is before, you know, San Francisco had turned. You know, every, you know, every person into investing. You know, angel investing like that stuff was very new. We needed to make sure that we were clearly communicating to the investors that we were talking to, the value of what we were doing.
So the branding turned from, or the, the way we talked about the brand turned from being consumer faced on one side and speaking like clinicians and, and Doctors, if you will, and technologists to the investors. We had to turn that external brand message internal and talk to the investors so that they understood the emotional connection that people were gonna have with the brand.
Instead of showing them slides about data or charts about, you know, how the device worked. We just had to create that emotional connection with the investor to the end. And when we did that, they actually raised three times the amount of money they needed to go to market. And so it, it, so I say that it's, it's almost like you know, I think we had dialed in for the external communications, but even just the business communications, we had missed, missed our chance with several investors who just didn't get it.
They didn't understand why this was gonna matter. So we really had to turn and dial in on our target audience at the time was investors. It wasn't, it wasn't consumers who would maybe eventually buy their device.[:[:
There was proof that was proof, not just marketing promotions.[:[:
It's really just when my body wants to wake up, no matter when I go to sleep. That's my natural rhythm, but getting up and getting that work done emails, start rolling it, or, you know before You know, the kids need something or and a coworker knocks on the door, sends me a text message.
Now I've built a lot of friendships around the world on social media, so I don't get, you know, a social media downtime. I often actually bounce up and wanna see what my friends in the UK are doing and I'm trying to get bed. The friends in Australia are starting to ping. So so I have to actually just leave that stuff off during that time. But that magic time between probably five and 8:00 AM. is probably the, that's where the most the best creative comes out, I think. And it's because I've actually had a chance to, you know, load my brain up with all kinds of problems and go to sleep and let it work itself out. and then going through just really just monotonous, autopilot stuff like being in the shower, you know?
Right. Cause you don't even have to think about what you're doing. You're giving your mind a chance to just disconnect from your body and work some things out. That's why we always had those ideas in the shower. Right. But that, that, that's the time early in the morning for me.[:
just, I, I force myself up, but it just, yeah, it, I have other times that, that I'm a little bit more, more powerful in the brain department. What's the most important brand lesson you've learned over your career so far?[:
However you wanna paint that, that all means the same thing. You can't control. , you can only influence it. Mm-hmm. , and you better do it. You better do that way ahead of time before someone else starts to massage what that brand or change what that message means for you. And it's easier to, to get it right the first time than change it later.
It's also a reason that brand really has to start within. We talk about things like why and purpose. Those are really more internal things. So we understand you. We're all rolling in the same direction, right? And you gotta get that right internally first, and not just make it external marketing, promotional messaging because, you know, if your employees don't believe in it, there's no way they're gonna help.
Make sure your, your customers, your target audience, believe it, but do it early. Get it right. Make sure you understand the messaging and everyone involved, all the stakeholders down from, you know, the president to the janitor all believe in the same thing. Sure. Before you're out telling everyone about[:
his podcast . Mm-hmm. . But they do such a good job of, you know, in their words, peeling back the, the bullshit that gets spread around in marketing. And tapping into different, different people in different places, and not just geographically, but in different involvements in in marketing. Sometimes it's client side, sometimes it's freelancers or it's agency side, and bringing in different types of perspectives.
Bringing in different perspectives. And, and really good, smart, gracious people, not just the hustlers who wanna go on LinkedIn and spread things and, you know, share shit like I just hate the, the myth that's traveled around that Tesla doesn't market or they haven't done " traditional marketing".
And I, I hope you don't mind me saying this, but that's bullshit. They are masterful marketers. Mm-hmm. Again, going back to the four Ps we talked about in the beginning. Right. And marketing is not just promotion and really what it comes down to is Tesla doesn't do paid advertising. And I swear I've seen it somewhere, but , they, they still do almost every form of marketing.
As a matter of fact, I read somewhere that the, the Tesla X, their suv. Came outta market research. They couldn't figure out why mom wouldn't buy one of their cars. You know, they would, they know moms buy sedans. Why wouldn't they buy this car? Well, really what it came down to is they wanted, they wanted a minivan or midsize suv.
Over a four door car. That's hard to put a child seat in. So that's actually where the, the, the Tesla X model came in it's market research. It is flat out understanding your consumer and creating a product that they will buy at the right price point that is marketing. So that's just, you know, that's, that's, that's me piggybacking.
I haven't been on "Gasp" . Hint hint, Jiles one day. . But they really do such a good job of not only peeling back some of the, the bullshit and telling you the real, the real news you should be listening to in marketing and advertising, but they really do a good job of humanizing the guests, the podcasts and letting, or podcast guests, excuse me, letting you know a little bit about the people behind the.
It's, it's interesting you say Tesla. And, and I can't disagree with you. They just stayed away from paid promotion. In one, One of their tactics I think was they, they acquire to promote,
Mm, mm-hmm. .
Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. .[:
He was wrong. He may have done that on purpose.[:[:[:
What are some favorite marketing books or authors you'd recommend to our audience and why?[:
You know, such, such wonderful old stories of advertising that we don't experience nowadays. And it's funny how the more things change, the more they say the same. Mm-hmm. . So those old lessons that we could learn from there, I mean, you keep going back from, you know, Napoleon Hill, you know, Or Zig Zigler, You know, we've got all these, you know, old pieces of business advice that are just repackaged and sold as thought leadership on LinkedIn or Twitter now.
Mm-hmm. And "Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This" is, is very similar in that vein. For, for the world of advertising, it's a must listen. There's lots of really good authors out there who are very active in the world of advertising and also very active on social media like Twitter. And Dave Trott is one of first names that comes to mind. His book, "Predatory Thinking" is really good for getting us to, you know, really think about how approach our work. And then the beautiful thing is he's also, like I said, he's, he's active. So you can actually go on Twitter and ask the guy a question and he may actually you know, answer, which is really cool.[:[:
And yeah, you know, you can't say built friendships, but he found some, some mutual empathy there to survive the horrid things they were going through. And I think if we can do that same thing, it's easy to go on social media and say, Who's this asshole? You know, why is this person sharing this? And instead of attacking them or writing them off, trying to actually understand why they have that viewpoint and listen to them, we may actually learn something about ourselves. And there's so many instances in that in interacting with people in public And I think that's a really good lesson that comes outta a book that was written a long time ago.
Mm-hmm. Yeah, some of my favorites.[:[:
And I'm pretty responsive on both those platforms. Maybe too much actually.
how would you answered?[:
You know, I, I started in the world of design and so now I have a different way of thinking when I approach almost anything or whether it's a business challenge or a piece of, you know, an ad or something. So, so what used to be, you know, seeing rivers in copy or, you know, bad font choices or juxtaposition of, of, you know, shapes and colors has turned into seeing patterns.
And it's not just seeing patterns when I'm driving a car and I'm looking way ahead of me, or looking at data with our research team and looking for patterns. It's almost anything. It's, it's recognizing patterns and behavior with children, you know So I think that design thinking gave me a different way of approaching problems, but I didn't stick around with being a design nerd.
I, I'm very critical about design and there's things I, I let go and stopped caring about so I could grow as I became a better marketer and moving from design into, you know, more advertising and then building brands. And then, you know, you, you can't really talk about building brands without understanding marketing in my book or at least seeking to understand marketing.
So my current path is just becoming just a better marketer, and I can't do that if I'm doing what I've always done. So it's not just books. Sales Factory is fantastic in the fact that they actually our, our CEO, Jed King, actually teaches marketing for the MBA school Wake Forest. They actually folded us in. So many of our employees could take the same type of courses at Wake Forest University although we don't receive an MBA for it and wasn't quite as intensive. Mind you, we actually all gained a certificate for completing this course and I learned so much in taking that course where I, I'm in a point in my life where it'd be really hard for me to go back and get an MBA.
I was able to learn a lot more that not only How to apply that towards our job, but also open my mind towards other areas that I want to pursue and grow as a marketer. And I would encourage anyone, it doesn't matter if they're 17 and interested in marketing, wanna do it for college, or they've been in marketing for five years and they think that, you know, the way they market now is the way things will always be. Or if they're a senior person like ourselves who, you know, have been doing a lot of things for a long time, there's so much more out there to learn. Just keep reading. Keep learning and keep rubbing elbows with people who are much better than you and some of it'll rub off.
That's great. Well, I wanna thank you for coming on the show, Phillip.
It's been great having you as a guest and I hope, I hope our listeners and people viewing it have gotten something out. I have no doubt.