We spent some time recently with Patrick Hanlon talking about Primal Branding. Having that deep assessment of who you are as a brand can inform and even drive everything you do. I think we reached the conclusion that spending time to deeply understand and define your brand is important, whether you are a content creator or have products and services to sell.

The topic of branding is quite intriguing to me. When it’s done right, the brand is memorable, if not successful. So I wanted to continue the conversation, but add some different perspective to it.

Rick Ray is the co-founding partner of brandstory. It is a brand marketing consulting firm currently based in Italy, though Rick has worked on both sides of the Atlantic over the years. Rick’s experience is leading big agency brand efforts globally, but he’s spent the last 19 years helping companies define their brand story.

Rick’s general philosophy is that success comes from standing out. Brands need to tell a compelling story. That sounds similar to our conversation about Primal Branding recently, doesn’t it. That’s because it is.

Rick’s spin, though, often starts with HR so you’re hiring people who buy into that story. 

His firm digs deep into an organization to find the untold, unheard, unknown and sometimes untellable stories that surprise and delight, move emotions and what he says, “Liberates people power.”

As you might imagine, the same process can apply to creators and personal brands, too. 

But for you brand-side marketers out there, how can you brand story inform the creators and influencers you choose to work with? We’ll find out more from Rick on Winfluence.

As always, this episode of Winfluence is presented by CIPIO.ai. Let us scale your user-generated content needs and deliver authentic, high-performing UGC to fuel your paid, owned and earned content strategies. Learn more at CIPIO.ai.

But we want to take a moment to tell you about a new sponsor of the Marketing Podcast Network. Support for all the shows on MPN, including Winfluence, is provided by ActiveCampaign.

It is a powerful marketing automation platform that can help you to increase your sales, improve your customer service, and build stronger relationships with your customers. ActiveCampaign has over 10,000 five-star review on G2 from happy users. 

For a limited time, ActiveCampaign is offering our listeners a chance to double your contacts for free when you sign up at activecampaign.com/activate. That means if your email list has 10,000 contacts, you only need to pay for 5,000. Or, you can pay for the 10,000 and get an extra 10,000 totally free. 

Go to activecampaign.com/activate to sign up today.

Scroll Down for a Show Transcript!

The Winfluence theme music is “One More Look” featuring Jacquire King and Stephan Sharp by The K Club found on Facebook Sound Collection.

Rick Ray Transcript

Jason Falls 0:00
Do you want Instagramers or Tik Tok errs to post about your brand? Or do you actually want to engage graders who influenced their audience to buy your product? If you’re in the latter of those two, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to Winfluence the Influence Marketing Podcast

Jason Falls 0:23
Hello again friends thanks for tuning in to Winfluence the Influence Marketing podcast. We spent some time recently with Patrick Hanlon, talking about Primal Branding, having that deep assessment of who you are, as a brand, can inform and even drive everything you do. I think we reached the conclusion that spending time to deeply understand and define your brand is important, whether you’re a content creator or have products and services to sell. The topic of branding is quite intriguing to me when it’s done right. The brand is memorable, if not successful, so I wanted to continue the conversation but add some different perspective to it. Rick Ray is the co-founding partner of brandstory. It’s a brand marketing consulting firm based in Italy. Though Rick has worked on both sides of the Atlantic over the years. Rick’s experiences leading big agency brand efforts globally, but he spent the last 19 years helping companies define their brand story. Rick’s general philosophy is that success comes from standing out, brands need to tell a compelling story. That sounds similar to our conversation about Primal Branding recently, doesn’t it? Well, it’s because it is. Rick spin though often starts with even HR so you’re hiring people who buy into that story. His firm digs deep into an organization to find the untold, unheard unknown, and sometimes untellable stories that surprise and delight, move emotions and what he says liberates people power. As you might imagine, the same process can apply to content creators and personal brands too. But for you brand side marketers out there. How can your brand story inform the creators and influencers you choose to work with? We’ll find out more from Rick today on wind fluence.

Jason Falls 2:11
As always, this episode of influence is presented by CIPIO.ai Let us scale your user generated content needs and deliver authentic high performing UGC to fuel your paid owned and earned content strategies, you can learn more at CIPIO.ai.

Jason Falls 2:29
But today we want to take a moment to tell you about a new sponsor of the marketing podcast network support for all the shows on MPN including wind fluence is now provided by Active Campaign. If you’re looking for a way to grow your business, you need to check out Active Campaign. It is a very powerful marketing automation platform that can help you increase your sales, improve your customer service, and build stronger relationships with your customers. With active campaign you can create and send email campaigns, you can manage your leads and customers, you can create landing pages then set up automated workflows and track all those communications and results all in one platform. And you don’t need to take my word for it. Active Campaign has over 10,005 star reviews on G two from happy users which is incredible, an incredible number of five star reviews. So let me give you an example of how one brand is using Active Campaign the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago integrates Salesforce with Active Campaign to automate a thank you email to those who visit the museum. In doing so that shares a form to gather their feedback. That then automatically triggers follow up messages based on the feedback they receive, including returning to the museum for another visit. So if you’re serious about growing your business, and really integrating communications with your customers to drive more business, you need to check out Active Campaign. You can try it today for free and see how it can help you achieve your goals. For a limited time actually active campaign is offering wind fluence and Marketing Podcast Network listeners a chance to double your contacts for FREE when you sign up at activecampaign.com/activate. That means if your email list has 10,000 contacts, you only need to pay for 5000. Or you can pay for the 10,000 and get an extra 10,000 totally free. And if you’ve worked with any CRM or email marketing software out there, you know, additional contacts are like gold. Once you start engaging all contacts in a personalized way at scale, your subscriber numbers will start to grow dramatically so it’s easy to hit those limits. So doubling your contacts is killer. Go to activecampaign.com/activate to sign up today. That’s activecampaign.com/activate And a big thank you to Active Campaign for their support of the marketing podcast network, you should check them out even if only that they keep bringing great marketing podcasts like wind fluence to you each week activecampaign.com/activate

Jason Falls 5:15
What is your brand story and how can it help you choose the more right influencers for your next campaigns, Rick ray from brand stories next on when fluence.

Jason Falls 5:32
Bon giorno Rick, tell the good folks where you’re joining us from today.

Rick Ray 5:36
Hi, Jason. I’m joining you all from Lucca, in Italy in Tuscany, where I and my family moved about a year ago waiting for our kids to follow us. over,

Rick Ray 5:47
very nice. Well, I know you work with brands all over the place. But you’ve been in Italy for a while. Tell us what brought you there. And how does being geographically placed there affect how you’ve built brand story and who you’ve worked with over the years?

Rick Ray 6:33
I’ve moved back and forth across the ocean a number of times mostly family issues, grandkids here, grandkids there. And at the end of the day, my wife and I decided Luca, if nobody knows that, you should check it out. It’s a walled city, and we’re safe within the walls. And so we’re running here, I have a new partner who lives here as well. A partner who used to be an intern of mind 40 years ago, and our past recrossed again a year ago here in Italy. So that’s what we’re doing. And we’re very busy now knocking on doors left, right and center and a good friend of ours in Indianapolis, Roger Johnson put us in touch and he’s my man who Nirvana in the US these days. Very good.

Jason Falls 7:19
Well, it’s, it’s great to hear it’ll he’s one of those bucket list countries that I ironically haven’t been too. I’ve traveled around the world quite a bit but not been to Italy. So I’m gonna have to put that on my list. And I guess Luca just moved up on the list of places. So very good. You’ve done your job as an ambassador, that’s good stuff.

Jason Falls 7:38
All right, let’s let’s dig into brand storytelling a bit. We’ve spent some time on this show recently talking to Patrick Hanlon from Primal Branding, who has a similar approach. But there’s always interesting nuances in difference that can make us a lot smarter. Seeing it from different angles, give us the elevator pitch on brand story that you would toss out to the CEO of a big company, what makes your approach to branding or brand storytelling unique?

Rick Ray 8:02
Well, the fact is that every organization as a brand, every company is a brand, every institution is a brand, etc, has its own strategic brand story, buried somewhere in its DNA, and its past and its present and its future intentions. It’s sort of a new way of attacking things. Most business decision makers, including myself, when I was the CEO of a multinational advertising agency in Italy, were left brain dominated, took me a long time in my career, to understand that you need to use your whole new mind. And the concept of telling stories, or as we now prefer to call it sharing stories, as opposed to telling stories, because I’ve had a couple of friends in the industry alerted to the fact you know, storytelling has become one of the latest buzzwords in the marketing community. And I get it, but you know, there’s storytelling, and then there’s storytelling. And then there’s strategic storytelling. And my partner and I, we now talk about story sharing, because it’s all about getting people on the same page. It’s about breaking down the silos, getting everybody singing from the same hymn sheet marching to the same drum, etc, etc. because the business is all about people getting them motivated, fired up. And most people don’t get excited about PowerPoint presentations or memos from the CEO. And we have discovered and they said the last point of my elevator speeches, were not Johnny come lately. We’ve been doing this now for 20 years now. And I once had a CEO asked me the question, Rick, what if I don’t like the story you guys come up with? And I said, Well, let’s talk about it. But you know what, it’s never happened. And but every time we’re about to share with a fresh new story to a client and a hand group of his, his closest associates, we tell the story and the reaction, I can put it, write it out, put it in an envelope and set it on a table. And I’m saying, Okay, after we’ve had this discussion, you can open up the the elevator, open up the envelope, and you’ll discover what it is you’re going to say. So what happens when the story is concluded, as if our reading a bedtime story to my oldest grandson? First off, there’s silence. People know that these folks have been developing a brand story for the last several months, because we’ve been interviewing them. Everybody’s sort of done their own story, but all of a sudden, their silence when they’ve heard the story, and then usually the youngest manager the crowd, because the big boss isn’t going to open his mouth up first. youngest guy says, Hmm, you know, that is us. But I never thought of ourselves in that way before. And that sort of opens up the floodgates to a discussion of all the people involved. And everybody gets fired up. And it’s a story that says we say the story has to be original, because no two brands are alike, and asked to be authentic. No fairy tales allowed. It has to be credible, because your internal stakeholders will be the first people to smell a rat. They better be memorable, because forgettable ain’t gonna get you far. And it has to be motivating. Because what more can I do on Monday to make my brand more successful. And last but not least, it must be shareable. Because the whole idea behind the developing a strategic brand story is that the story gets shared both internally among all internal stakeholders, employees and managers, and external stakeholders as well. suppliers, distributors, opinion leaders, and yes, brand influencers as well. Because if you’ve got a well documented strategic brand story, that’s much better than your typical left brain brand strategy written out. We’ll write that for you, too, as well as the story that brings it alive. Very nice.

Jason Falls 12:23
So you’ve hinted at this in that explanation. But I’d love to dig in a little deeper, give us a sense of the process for either a company or even if a personal brand or content creator out there wants to dig in deep and uncover their own stories? What kind of exercises? What kind of research do you put the brand through to uncover these stories?

Rick Ray 12:42
Well, what we do and this is an actually, I teach university course of my own at a couple of universities, Butler University in the US IUPUI in Indianapolis and the European School of Economics here in Florence, and strategic storytelling. It all starts with desk research. I find out everything I can find out about your brand for everything that exists in the public spaces. And then What is crucial is with the cooperation of either the company’s HR director, or the CEO, sometimes a group marketing director as well arranges for us a series of stakeholder interviews, where we get to sit down and have an interview, ie an informal chat with people who know the brand the best from the inside. And they are encouraged by their boss to let down their hair and tell us what they think. I learned early on, I would sit up and say Do you mind if I record this, and I saw people being a little bit nervous. So I’ve learned how to take notes very quickly. Because not any brand is perfect. There’s always stakeholders inside of an organization that has an idea that we could be doing things better. I have some frustrations, and they’re not going to say it to the CEO, but they’ve learned they can trust us. And that gets worked into the eventual development story. So that’s the phase we call exploration, desk research, Google left, right and center and then interviewing people asking the right questions, and then knowing how to listen. Because I’ve had people very smart people I work in the past who listen to fast, either listening so fast that they’re preparing their answer before actually registering what’s going on. So we are experienced over the last 20 years. We know we’re like experienced fishermen. If you’ve ever gone trout fishing, if you cast your bait in the wrong place, you aren’t going to catch anything so you know where to launch the questions. You know how to listen. And then eventually we put it all together in a written exploration summary report saying you Here are the three, four or five key issues we have uncovered in our discussions. I’ve had clients say, Rick, this expiration summary report is almost worth the price of your entire project. But we still want the story. Because it’s a left brain document, we then transform that document into what we call the imagination phase. That’s the story development phase. And then the last phase is the narration phase. You know, so many strategic documents and companies get locked up in the left hand top drawer of a marketing director or CEO. And the whole idea of marketing strategy is the private property of the marketing department and their advertising agency. And the first time a, a Procter and Gamble salesman will see a new commercial for bounces when he sees it on television, he doesn’t get to see it within the organization. The whole objective of the strategic brand story is that it gets shared with the entire organization. Now, if it’s a small startup organization of six people, that’s easy. If it’s a multinational organization with 20,000 employees around the globe, it’s a little bit more complicated. But we’ve always insisted that the very first phases are we share the brand story with small groups of up to 20 people. So there’s a discussion afterwards. And that gets people people who’ve been working for the brand for 25 years, sitting down with people who just joined the company six months ago. It’s incredible how much people learn among themselves when they’ve been exposed to the same story. And then the end is gonna get a lot and share that story with your own networks. Nobody shares a PowerPoint presentation with their golfing buddies over the weekend. And if they’ve just heard a good story on Friday, they’re going to share that story with their tennis buddies or golf buddies, their family and their entire social network. And that’s a way of transforming organizations as we call it into employers of choice. If you’ve got your stakeholders on your page with you, you have an incredible competitive advantage. And probably next question, we’ve been doing this now for 20 years. We’ve been doing it in Europe, we’ve done it in the US, we’ve done it in China and India. It’s sort of a it’s a everybody love stories, and its sound from tears without borders, if you do but Right. And so, I’ve been proud for the last six or seven years teaching my university students, juniors and seniors and masters students how to do the process. At the end of the day, in our own brand story, because yes, brand story, we’ve developed our own brand story. It all comes down to why didn’t we think of this 20 years ago? Well, we weren’t ready. There is a process but it’s not process driven. And this is the one time I found and I can see looking at your gray hair does have a value in today’s society when it comes to strategic thinking that it does

Jason Falls 18:18
very very good stuff. We’re talking to Rick ray from brand story about defining the story of your brand. When we come back after the break we’ll dig into how your brand’s story informs elements of your marketing particularly how to choose the right influencers to use in your marketing campaigns. Don’t go away

Jason Falls 18:42
Welcome back to Winfluence talking to Rick Ray today from brand story all the way from the beautiful Italian countryside. Okay, before the break, we were talking about how to develop your brand story. Now let’s talk about how that story informs the brand marketing the execution I assume you start with that story and build messaging and communications around it. But how does that story inform campaign ideas creative and such for a brand?

Rick Ray 19:08
Absolutely. Well, we call the strategic brand story, our final product on multipurpose tool. And we had an example while the story is developed to get all the internal stakeholders on the same page sharing the story with external stakeholders. I had the senior strategic advisor for a major multinational advertising agency Call me after her client shared with her their new brand story and she said Rick, this is the best advertising brief I’ve ever seen. And it wasn’t conceived as an advertising brief but it gets everybody on the same page and really understanding what the brand is it’s more of it’s much more about the internal value of your brand. And it’s not just about a promise and a reason why and tone and manner which is your typical car epi strategy in the advertising community, it works across the board. And then that story itself being shared initially internally with as many people as you can. And I think I mentioned earlier, we’ve been on a plane, from Chicago to Shanghai to Calgary to whatever sharing the story where a multinational organization wants, but also for small startups as well. That story then gets shared with external stakeholders. If you’re in the fast moving consumer goods product for Procter and Gamble’s or Kraft, you will want to share that with your suppliers. You’ll want to share that with your distributors, you’ll want to share that with opinion leaders. One of the universities that I taught at or been teaching at has asked me to develop a strategic brand story for the universities. So it makes it easier to recruit students, HR directors have fallen in love with the strategic brand start, they can help them in recruiting the right sort of people motivating the right sort of people retaining the right retaining the best people. And even if we’re lucky, transforming internal stakeholders into brand advocates sharing the story outside. And that’s where the influencer aspect comes into it. It’s not just a coincidence, but in our in our brandstory website, we publish a blog every few weeks and one of the upcoming blogs in mid June will be how to influence the influencer. Taking the strategic brand story, you choose who you think your best influencer might be, but from what I said, influencers have their own reputations on the line as well. You don’t want to just be shilling for somebody who’s simply paying you off. That’s the poor man’s version of it. But marketers, many marketers, some who have limited budgets, some who have are skeptical about mass media, investments, etc. The whole brand influencer movement is is taking place. We’re observers of that. And we’ve discovered that when major office furniture manufacturer based in the Midwest of the United States, who I shall not name at this particular moment, was looking for influencers in the architectural trade. The brand story they built for the internal stakeholders of oh, we never thought of you quite that way before, and much easier to start recommending you in that basis. So we are finding that the the target audience for a strategic brand store is multiple uncovers a multiple sins, unlike your typical advertising campaign. So that’s where we’re at. And we’ve discovered on our own, off of our own hard work and blood, if you will, that every client who’s finally bitten the bullet and done it have a number of them have come back for more. And that’s word of mouth is is is a great testament for what you’re doing is right?

Jason Falls 23:22
Sure. All right. So let’s let’s get even a little bit more granular for that brand manager or community manager, social media manager, whomever, who is actually doing influencer marketing, they’re looking for the right creators to work with their brand. What components of a story? Are you aligning with an influencer? And or what qualities in an influencer a content creator Are you looking for? That connects to the brand story so that you can use that as a filter?

Rick Ray 23:50
Well, I’m going to sort of step back from your question in saying I’m going to leave that up to the client’s decision. Once he’s got the story in hand. But what we have learned is that the actual story, which is a true story, or let’s put it this way, it’s a truthful story. There’s room for creativity in it, but you don’t want anybody rolling their eyes and said no fair to no fairy tales aloud. When you’ve identified an influencer or two or three because people are now making a living at influencing social media has changed the world tremendously for lots of people. And sharing a well qualified strategic brand story opens the eyes not only of advertising agency creative directors but also opens the eyes of potential influencers saying you know, your brand he really is pretty special. It’s you’re not just making another toothpaste or you’re not just making another automobile or you’re not just making an Other desk for office workers, there’s something special going on in your company and in your brand. And that’s what we think can be an incredible value to an influencer. And I will tell you when we started our business, there was no such thing as influencers on the horizon. This is all relatively recent stuff. And we have discovered that our product is indeed multipurpose, beyond what we were thinking about. Because we, my partners, and I, we were originally marketing folks, we grew up in advertising agency business, multinational, we were pretty good at that. And then all of a sudden, we’ve discovered there’s more to life than just TV commercials and print ads, and getting to the bottom of what makes a brand tick. And I think I may have mentioned to you the first time we chatted, there was a book back in 1999 called the dream society by a Danish futurologist Rolf Jensen, who was promoting the story that business managers of the future have to be storytellers first, and managers second, because what’s going to set your business apart from the future is going to be your story. And that’s what motivated my partner and I to launch this new business. And I don’t think I could have done that we could have done that when we are 25 years old. So we had to wait a few decades before we felt qualified to branch into that. And while I’m not in this, right into selling books, there’s one other book that has influenced us greatly in the development of our thinking. And I’ll just pull it up here, Daniel Pink, probably backwards, Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind. It’s, I urge every left Brainer out there to read Daniel Pink, because I had to read it. And I understand. Yes, left brain checklists are very important. But you don’t get to see the forest if you keep looking at each of the individual trees. And your story is going to let you expand your mind that your stakeholders expand their minds, internally and externally. And if you do, indeed have all of your own people excited about your brand, it’s not just a job. It’s not just a paycheck. Oh my gosh, it’s Monday morning. No, Monday morning should be excitement time, what more can I do for my brand. And that’s what we try to claim as being one of the advantages of the strategic brand store. Because everybody has a story.

Jason Falls 27:42
That is true, awesome stuff, Rick. This has been quite useful. As a conversation. We do appreciate your wisdom. And now we all have homework, we’ve got books to read. So that’s a good takeaway for us as well. Rick, before we go, tell folks where they can find you on the interwebs in case they want to follow up or connect?

Rick Ray 28:01
Well, I would suggest it’s very simple. If you go to www.brandstory.com. That consulting, you will find our entire story there. You’ll find all of our talk about the power of organizational cultures, and its organizational cultures that will change the life of one brand versus another there. There are poisonous organizational cultures and there are winning organizational cultures. And you want everybody talking from the same piece of paper. The story works together in many ways. So www dot brandstory dot consulting and you find that you can reach out directly to Rick Ray if you want or to meet Galen. We’re both on fire.

Jason Falls 28:47
Excellent. Well, I on fire in a good way. Of course we’ll make sure all those links are in our show notes. They will be available at Jason falls.co/rick. Rea that spelled just like you think it is Ric K ra y. You can also go to Jason falls.com. Click on articles in the upper right and find the episode that way. Rick, thank you so much for taking the time away from your schedule to spend some time with us. It was let me see bellissima can … conversacione!

Rick Ray 29:15
Biongiorno. Grazie! Ciao Ciao!

Jason Falls 29:23
Love it, love it. I will talk about the ins and outs of branding defining a brand applying that to your business all day so powerfully informs what we do from a high level which as you heard can trickle down and greatly impacts how well we do the granular pieces of our work as well. So check out Rick and brandstory The links are in the show notes again that will be at jasonfalls.co/rickray. Folks if you’re enjoying Winfluence help us grow and tell someone about the show you probably know someone who We might want to know more about influence marketing send them to winfluencepod.com or share a link to this episode on your social network of choice. If you have a moment drop influence or writing a review on your favorite podcast app we are on them all. The show is now on video as well just look for Jason falls Winfluence on YouTube to see the show as well as hear it when fluids is a production of falls and partners and presented by scipio.ai. The technical production is by MPN studios, wind fluids airs along MPN, the Marketing Podcast Network. Thanks for listening folks. Let’s talk again soon on Winfluence.

Scroll to Top