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July Speaker Series Recap: Embracing Your Weird with Josh Sullivan


The eFactory’s July Speaker Series was weird. But weird in a good way, you know? Josh Sullivan, Marketing Director at Mother’s Brewing swung by to talk branding, cobras, and math over ice cold Mother’s beer. If you missed it if may have been because you were busy or because it sounded so weird you decided not to come. Either way, we’ve got your recap below.

Josh is the real deal when it comes to design and branding, having worked in-house for Mother’s Brewing, in an agency setting with the Marlin Network, and freelancing throughout with his own Deep Fried Design Studios. He’s worked with local clients like Druff’s, Ruby’s Market, and Scotch & Soda plus big name outfits like Kellogg’s and Proctor & Gamble.

 We know you’re wondering. Why ‘Embrace Your Weird?’ Josh firmly believes that what made you weird as a kid can make you pretty badass as an adult. We knew with his help we could learn how (and why) we oughta embrace those the things that make us and our brands a little different. Let’s get ready to fly those freak flags high, shall we?

Do your research, and then throw it away.
Market research can be valuable, but people don’t always know exactly what they want. Take Henry Ford for example, who said ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ Boom! People may not know what they want until you’ve given it to them. At the end of the day, you have to know your brand and your audience well enough to be able to make some decisions regardless of what a slick market research firm may have to say about it.

Above all else, know your voice.
What does your company sound like when talking to customers? Even this designer thinks it’s a brand’s voice, not their visuals, that carries most of the weight. So find your voice! And whether it be technical or playful, snarky or somber, use it throughout everything the brand does.

If you love your team, set them free.
Josh walked into a pretty good gig, because Mother’s has long had a stacked team of awesome people helping them out. But after being there a few months he realized some of their roles could use some tweaking. Bartenders who have an amazing eye for photography? Take that Instagram account and run with it! Tasting room staff with a pen that’s way mightier than any sword? Welcome to copywriting and marketing, friend. Josh stressed the importance of empowering your team, no matter the size. Empower them to do more. Allow them to make mistakes. Encourage them to grow and flex their skill sets.

But branding done well sounds like hard work 🙁 
Why bother developing a voice, adopting brand guidelines, and determining what makes your brand different? Josh thought you would never ask. Since embracing their weird and fully committing to injecting it into everything they do, Mother’s has seen their social media engagement skyrocket, they’ve noticed way more people stopping by the tasting room, and traffic to their recently revamped website is through the roof (Nice work, Mostly Serious). This is one example for one brand, but you need to look no further than your Instagram feed or Facebook timeline for further proof. The way that brands engage with customers is changing, and it takes a solid strategy to win in today’s marketplace. If you’re looking for a major overhaul it’s probably worth paying the pros for their help.

And what if your brand isn’t exactly weird?
Josh made no secret that quirky captions and pictures of beer aren’t going to make sense for every brand. What makes your brand weird doesn’t have to be weird. Are you confused yet? It’s your difference. Your distinguishing factor. Find it and then run fast and hard with that.

Think about Zappos – their brand isn’t about being ‘weird.’ It’s about being obsessed with customer service. That’s their thing. That’s their distinguishing factor. And everything they do, from their Facebook posts to their automated emails to the copy on their website revolves around that notion of obsessive customer service. Find your weird. Find your differentiating factor. And use it relentlessly.

Like any great presentation, Josh’s left us wanting more. Specifically, more of an explanation about what he meant when he said design is just like math, but with no numbers. If you figure out what that means, please let us know.

Don’t miss The eFactory’s August Speaker Series: Understanding Millennials’ Thoughts with James Bonds. That’s right. We said the M-word. You’ll have to come over on August 22 to hear more.