Ericka on Bringing A Brand To Life

The only way you can take a proper service and create an emotion is to bring it to life and to personify it.

CREATE: How do you approach designing and building brands?

Pittman: The first think you always have to ask yourself in any brand building exercise, is where is the hole? Where is the white space? What's missing in what you're trying to do?

Whether it's creating another vodka or being a female empowerment speaker these things that aren’t new concepts – it’s really about identifying what's missing in that space and figuring out whether or not you or the brand you're creating fills that void.

You identify a niche by backing into what is needed from the market place. Finding your white space in any scenario is the first step to creating a brand. 

CREATE: That's interesting because in the tech world we talk a lot about finding the product/market fit, which basically means having a product that provides a solution that a large enough market is willing to pay for.

It sounds like the way you approach branding is by finding a product/market fit coupled with the unique way your company will approach the market.

Does that sound true?

Pittman: It's 100% true. I think it's a combination of what I said originally about being solutions-based coupled with figuring out the white space in the market. Then figuring out how you're going to fill it. 

The strategy that you implore to fill it is contingent upon the audience and the space. If you discover that 18-year-old Peruvian females need your message then the strategy behind how you solve their void is going to be fundamentally different from the strategy for a 45-year-old African American female. 

Honing in on where the area for opportunity is, figuring out how your brand fits that niche, and figuring out a solution for that particular space are the three components of successfully building out a brand.

CREATE: That's brilliantly succinct advice. Taking this advice a step further. You’ve laid out the steps in building a brand. What would you say are the key elements of a brand?

Pittman: The reality is, you have to figure out a way to personify a brand. How do you take an inanimate object -- a service or a product and turn it into something that has an emotional connection to a consumer. People buy because they feel like buying, people engage because they feel like engaging.

The only way you can take a proper service and create an emotion is to bring it to life and to personify it. 

I think that brands have to have an identity. They have to stand for something whatever that is. Then that something has to be illustrated -- in a way that people can see it, feel it, touch it, and taste it -- whether it's a tangible living breathing thing or not. 

So if you look at the Apple Brand – brand identity - is so prevalent across the board for what Apple represents. It's the reason why the brand is so successful. Android products are quality products but people use Apple products for very specific reasons. They have a personal affinity to what that brand personifies.

Figuring out the life of a brand is why it may stand out and connect with a broader audience vs. a brand that may not have figured that out yet.

If a brand were X, what would it look like, feel like, speak like, taste like, where would it be, how would it live, what would it do?

CREATE: I think what you just said, is interesting because it might for you seem so obvious and simple but I think it is something that a lot of founders in general in the tech space don't immediately understand.

I recently heard Jonah Peretti speak and he said in building out content for Buzzfeed it was not about all these segments like sports, entertainment, and so on but it was how people were emotionally connecting to the content. It sounds like that is how you've been able to be part of building and leading cult-following brands. 

Pittman: Exactly. Most of what the Combs Enterprises brand represent is Sean Combs' lifestyle. There's a thread between every brand that we house. There's a passionate personification of each of those brands -- one of the things he always says is -- you''re going to wake up in the morning and you're going to take a shower and you may use Sean John Men's body wash, then you're going to put on your Sean John suit, then you're going to drink your Aqua Hydrate Water, and you're going to go to work. You may turn on your car and on the radio and you may hear some Bad Boy R&B, you might leave work and decide to have a quick turn down cocktail and have a DeLeon Tequila before you head to the club, you might put on your Sean John streetwear, go to the club, have a bottle of Ciroc, and then hear French Montana in the club. From there you might need another Aqua Hydrate just to go to sleep and do it all over again. 

He always says that. And he's been able to incorporate Revolt tv into that journey and all of the brands that he owns has a space in what his lifestyle represents. The reason why he's so successful with his brand is because it's not one person that is making this mammoth machine called Combs Enterprises go and be successful -- but it is the personification of his lifestyle. So he's been able to authentically inject who he is as a person into these inanimate brands and give them life. People believe in what he represents as a person and therefore the brands translate. 

CREATE: How would you define that brand or lifestyle? 

Pittman: Celebration and luxury. Those are the two things that I think speak to threads of how he lives, what he likes, and what he subscribes to. I think that what we try to put out is best in class product that speak to a generation x/millennial audience in a way that is authentic.

CREATE: That's one of the hardest things that brands have to do -- especially when it's built around a person or a lifestyle. How do we bottle and reproduce that even when they're not always in the room. 

Pittman: I think that goes back to your Brand ID. If a brand were X, what would it look like, feel like, speak like, taste like, where would it be, how would it live, what would it do? 

It's a basic concept of how do you take a brand and make it into a living, breathing thing. You have to think about it through the line and if you think about a brand in the context of personification, it changes the lens of how it speaks to its consumer. And the bottom line is, some people have charisma, some people don't. 

If a brand is personified surrounding something or someone that is not charismatic then perhaps it's not going to connect with the audience it's trying to target. Or better yet if, the audience that it's trying to target doesn't have a void for that brand that it may not necessarily make sense. 

It's just a lot of moving parts and there are a lot of boxes to check off in the paradigm of marketing a brand and making it a success. And everything is timing and that tipping point that catalytic point where things become successful is timing.