VIP Guest Post – “How to Fund Fearlessness Like Only You Can” from Suz Brewer


Hola Amigos,

I’m humbled and thrilled to share this week’s post from a great mentor to SRH and me, Suz Brewer, the former CMO of Duluth Trading Co. who launched that brand into infamy and explosive growth.

Suz is an all-around rock star as well as a very hirable “spiker of the punch bowl.”

In fact, we recently hired Suz to guide our agency branding and marketing. “Wait a second, Matt,” you say with a raised brow, “Isn’t SRH ‘a branding and marketing agency’?” We sure are, which is why it’s even harder for us to get out of our own way and tell the most powerful story we can.

Thus, in Suz we trust!

Please read Suz’s post and take action.

But first, as always, let’s take a quick tour of some of the stuff we’re grooving on…

How to Catapult Joyfully, Successfully out of a Pandemic

Hi, friends of SRH. Chances are, I’m like you. A corporate marketer responsible for the joys and toils of being Keeper of the Brand. As a CMO and Chief Brand Officer by trade, I now consult companies and their leadership teams on marketing, brand and business strategy, with a hearty heaping of culture development on top. I built the Duluth Trading and EatStreet brands from 2007–2019 and have an ad agency brand management background with passionate brands, like Jimmy John’s, Ford and Target.

Tire kicking aside, here’s my plea:
Come out of this pandemic as the beater of drum, the champion for your customer with a rallying cry that moves and motivates your executive team, your marketing team and your coworkers. Nobody in your org can do it like you can.

Having spent more than a decade in retail marketing, I can only imagine COVID’s impact on the marketing strategy, budget, channel strategy, creative, staffing and functions needed to keep your companies moving ahead while turning off the ad spend greatly last year.

What would I do? If I were still on the client side of the brand, here’s what’d be coursing through my mind on many sleepless nights. My game plan for fiery rebirth from the ashes of campaigns dashed in 2020 would look something like this:

  1. Comp budgets to 2020 Actuals (not your original budget) as a baseline. Through black swan events, we learn better ways, efficiencies, new habits and how to live, even thrive, on much less. If you can, hold a little aside for bets and tests.Be scrappy as hell this year, fearless with your concepts and experimental with the deck of cards you play (media mix, target audiences, content creative budgets). Take what you learned from the pandemic, the efficiencies, the wins, and build around those.Somewhere in my creative and marketing department budgets, I always dog-eared a line item that could fund Fearlessness. One board member and mentor called it the Atom Smasher. Figure out the small, powerful marketing idea that can change the direction of your brand and your company. Place some of your money on those scalable bets.
  2. Ideally in 2020, you regrouped and doubled-down on brand strategy and customer insights, especially as media and digital spend may have been drastically cut. When CFOs look to Marketing’s hefty ad spend as the first place to cut budget in times of crisis, be a sound business partner and defend the most critical, revenue-generating spend. And fight to invest some of that into brand strategy, growth marketing, robust target audience understanding, and even brand positioning.
    How you exit this pandemic, how you evolve after the most life-changing global event since WWII, how to curate a culture (internal and external) with the people you live to serve are paramount to your ability to catapult joyfully and successfully out of a pandemic.
  3. Take your shot. Fearless creative that inspires, entertains, strikes a chemical chord in your consumers’ minds is the smelling salt we as consumers and business leaders need. Why not? If not now, when?Bigger brands are more conservative. Their hierarchies and legacies, fat budgets and earnings calls put them at risk. And these guys are risk averse. Underdog brands have the luxury and, frankly, the obligation to take the shot. I encourage you to build the brand of your lifetime. A little pre-sell and skin-in-the-game among your executive team peers can help you eliminate hesitancies and obstacles that can riddle fearlessness.
  4. You can’t use your 2019 playbook. Ditch it. Burn it. It’s antiquated. You’ve evolved. The world and our consumption (media, consumer spend…) have changed. What we value has changed.

As the keepers of the brand, you possess the talents and the tools to rally not only the company culture in a comeback year but to inspire and delight your customers. Make some bets. Stretch your brand to be a little fearless, and put work out there that elevates people. Go get ’em!