Integrated Marketing –Branding for Success

Integrated Marketing-Branding for Success

Aug 2, 2021

Integrated Marketing Is Specific–It’s not the Same as Branding

Integrated marketing is a great phrase. Branding expert Ken Bator’s goes way beyond integrated marketing to focus upon customer experience. Ken shares the keys to branding for success. When it comes to Ken’s branding for success, I’m tempted to turn to clichés such as ”He’s the cat’s meow.”  But that would be so unfair, since Ken is so much more, seriously, the cream of the crop…ok. Enough with the clichés.

Marketing, whether you call it integrated marketing or just marketing is not the same as branding. Branding and marketing are not synonyms. Marketing is a specific function. Branding is much bigger than that, especially when it comes to branding for success and where customer experience becomes key

Ken’s B + C + S formula is BRAND + CULTURE + STRATEGY. Ken’s formula is not just another three words he came up with to capture our attention. Ken has distilled his years of creating customer experience on the front lines, solving issues for services brands. After seeing the failures and implementing branding for success, Ken came to a realization…these three words are the exact three areas business owners should focus upon when branding for success.

Branding for Success Includes Customer Experience

Ken has more than 20 years of experience in focusing upon customer experience as part of branding for success, particularly for service brands. Ken helps brands reach new levels of effectiveness by helping them learn his B + C + S formula, Ken has hosted and produced four different shows, including the Cool Culture Corner, Branding The Experience, The CU Business News podcast, and Beyond The Call.

Key take aways:

  • If you drive people to a customer experience of your brand that doesn’t match with brand integrated marketing, then you’re going to have a real problem on your hands.
  • Branding for success doesn’t have to be expensive. Instead be consistent in telling people about what that customer experience is going to be. And match the experience to what you tell them.
  • In a service-based business, the customer experience is as, or more important than the actual product. 
  • The customer experience is actually the more important part of branding. Sometimes, one incident can just kill the entire brand

Connect with Kenneth Bator:


Connect with Cheryl Hodgson:   


Today on the Brand Revolution Podcast, your branding, whether you know you're or you're not, you're either branding passively or you're branding actively. Welcome to Brand Revolution, where we answer the question, what does it take to launch your own brand revolution, create evolution, and who are the people that help you foster connection, community, contribution and currency for a brand built to last, you will also meet brands changing the world and the lives of those they serve. Here's your host, Cheryl Hodgson.

Cheryl Hodgson 0:36
Today's guest is Ken Bator of Bator Training Consulting, also known as BTC. Ken has more than 20 years experience in guiding brands, particularly service brands by helping organization reach new levels of effectiveness by helping them learn his B + C + S formula, which is to help clients create brand, culture, and strategy and aligning them to be more effective. Ken has hosted and produced four different shows, including the Cool Culture Corner, Branding The Experience, The CU Business News podcast, and Beyond The Call. Hi everyone, I'm Cheryl Hodgson. Welcome to the Brand Revolution podcast. I'm here with my guest Ken Bator and Ken a brand experience is and brand strategy expert, who has lots to share with us today. Welcome, Brand. Welcome, Ken. How are you?

Ken Bator 1:46
Welcome you brand guy. Thank you. Yeah, I was gonna say don't even edit that. Because that is like one of the best intros I ever had. It was not only quality, but it was funny on top of that, so leave that in.

Cheryl Hodgson 2:04
I am all about having fun at this stage in life, right? I mean, you know. And I want to say I'm so excited to have you on the show. Because your background and your experience is so near and dear to my heart, you know. And there's so much we can talk about which we're going to dive right in. And I have a question for you again, how did you go from an MBA in entrepreneurship, to your passion for helping businesses align their brand, their culture and their strategy?

Ken Bator 2:36
Oh, it's a long answer. But I'm gonna make it as short as possible. You know, what's interesting is when I was getting my MBA in entrepreneurship, what happens to many of us in that program is some people and master's degree programs have to do a thesis, we had to do a business plan. And I had done a business plan on a sales and marketing training company. And then fast forward about four years after I got that degree, I got canned from a big VP of business development marketing job. All right, well, this would be a good time to kind of dust this sucker off, meaning the business plan, and do this. And what I found was in teaching sales and marketing is that my clients really needed a lot more that. We could talk about marketing tactics, and we could even talk about outdated sales programs and way of forcing a product or service on people. But you know, what they really needed, I found was more of an airplane viewable high level way of putting all these things together. And slowly, it came into my mind that the questions that really needed to be answered wasn't necessarily, you know, how do I push this product on somebody? But more so, “What's the image we need to create out in the public? What's the experience we need to create both for in through our employees and the strategy? How do we drive more of the right business to our business because of the right business is coming to us?” We don't have to push anything, they're going to want what we have.

Cheryl Hodgson 4:27
Yeah, well, you know, you just hit the magic word, the experience, right? To me, that's what a brand is all about is what kind of experience the customer has, and we're going to get into more of that because you have obviously have a lot of background in creating that. So where did you go from there? How did you launch your business plan or is what you're telling me your business plan got dusted off and that is your company now?

Ken Bator 4:53
you know, the short answer is yes, the long answer which is actually kind of funny, which I will share is I morphed in 2001, from less of the tactical sales and marketing to more of the branding end both from a visual and messaging in your brand and also for the experience, because the fact is, if you drive people with this great visual brand to an experience that doesn't match that, yeah, then you're going to have a real problem on your hands. Case in point, rally around the time I was morphing to more of the brand culture strategy guy, or as I call the B + C + S formula, from just the sales and marketing expert, I had a client this was, I want to say, 0203. And it was a financial institution, actually credit union because I worked with a number of credit unions, that's kind of my background. And they want it to switch from being a very closed niche to just a specific group of companies to going community, which, frankly, is one of the worst things you can do unless it's really necessary, or how you think about it. Um, you know, as our friend Steve Olsher says many times, you can't niche your ties enough. So they're going from a very niche-e program to something where, ‘hey, we're gonna be all things to all people’. And they did a very good job in this particular morphing, if you will, of branding themselves visually, and through messaging of how they want it to be this Community Credit Union for families, the visuals were great, the copy was awesome. The VP of marketing that was doing all this is one of the smartest gals that I ever met. If you saw something or read something from this particular credit union, you knew that it was from this institution, it was a great job of branding. But the problem was the culture wouldn't support this family type of experience that they were promoting. So case in point on one of the meetings that I was meant to go to with the VP, with one of their chief executives, beforehand, I said, ‘You know what, I'm going to go and check out this main branch, where you're going to try to drive a lot of these new members too’. And my main context is.. ‘Do you want me to tell the branch manager that you're going to be coming so she could expect you?’ and I'm like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, I don't want to bother her. I just want to go in, take a couple brochures up, and then I'll come to the meeting at your headquarters’. Now, if that wasn't the purpose, I didn't want the branch manager to know that I was coming because I wanted to understand, okay, what type of experience are we driving these new members, these prospects to? And I walked in, and the very first thing that happened.. and I was in a suit and ties, so I don't think they thought that I was robbing the place. But it was, but it was like everybody scurry. Yeah, everybody scurried. It was like, you know, you turn on a light in a condemned building, and all of a sudden, roaches go screaming, or it's corners. And I'm sitting there going, ‘what the heck happened?’ And and people were like, ‘Okay, if we don't make eye contact, we won't actually have to serve them. We can hide over here.’ Ironically, one of the people that went and scurried, was sitting under a sign that said, Information Desk.
Ken Bator 8:37
But anyhow, so I walked around for a good five minutes, nobody acknowledged me. Nobody said, ‘Hey, are you new in town?’ You know, ‘how can I help you?’ Yeah, ‘I see you're picking up a brochure for business checking. Are you interested in that?’ None of that happened. I took brochures, nobody acknowledged my existence. I was about to walk out. And I happened to see a picture with its face up against the wall. It hadn't been hung up yet. So being the nosy guy that I am, I went and took a look at the picture, put it back on the wall and walked out. And what was on that picture was their list of service standards. And the very first service standard was ‘we will acknowledge the member as he walks through the door’. Now my point of telling that story is what convinced me, one of the things that convinced me is that talking about just basic marketing and sales tactics just doesn't work. Unless you have an experience that you're going to drive people towards first, then tactics can become very valuable. In this case, what this particular credit union was about to do is drive people with an expectation of an experience that they just weren't prepared to deliver. And not surprisingly, that particular institution is not in business today.

Cheryl Hodgson 10:00
Wow. Well, you know, I think you've hit on something very fundamental and really important, because, you know, one of the things I run into from the legal protection standpoint, and obviously I cross over into branding, but I see so many entrepreneurs who start out and I think of it on a largely budgetary issue, which I understand. They think, ‘Okay, well, branding isn't important at this point, I just have to watch my product or service,’ right? And so branding kind of comes in somewhere down the line. You know, what is your advice and your frame of reference in terms of your experience, just like what you're sharing that, you know, that maybe there has to be some consideration given to the experience of the brand and the product for the customer along with sales and marketing from the beginning? Does that makes sense? I'm not saying that very well. But…

Unknown Speaker 10:59
No, it makes perfect sense. And the two things that I tell, especially businesses that are still, that are just starting out, um, number one, your branding, whether you know, or not, you're either branding passively, or you're branding actively. And if you're branding passively, much like the credit union example that I just gave you, you might not like what comes out of that because, and this may not have been the case, because, yeah, shortly after that meeting in that one particular branch, they didn't stay my client for very long afterwards. They just didn't get it. But using that example, to take your question a little bit further, is that it’s because they were passively branding, at least passively branding from a standpoint of the experience, the organization couldn't sustain itself, they were driving people to an experience that they just couldn't live up to. And that, in essence, created their downfall. So if you're not branding actively, you're branding passively. And what happens in that type of situation is people from word of mouth, whether it be Yelp, or just talking to your friends and saying, ‘Yeah, you know, I expected a family experience’, you know, switching gears. So another example, I expected a family experience going into this restaurant, because that's what it said in this ad. But you know, they came out and all their prices were high end, and their portions were really small. They didn't even have any crayons for a little Betsy over here. And they call this a family establishment. Yeah, now your branding, still, but your branding in a very negative way, and you don't want that. Number two, branding doesn't have to be expensive. It really doesn't. Social media and email marketing right now is very inexpensive. You just have to be consistent in telling people about what that experience is going to be. And matching that to it. You don't have to take out an ad during the Superbowl, you don't have to have a one page ad in the New York Times or the LA Times, depending on where you are. But you can do Instagram, and YouTube and all those other fun things, and they don't have to be expensive. The last thing I'll say on branding the experience, if you're doing that actively, it doesn't have to be expensive. All you need to do is be aware of what type of experience you want to create, both for and through your employees, and make sure that happens. The number one tip and in fact, you know, I'll give this out if your audience doesn't take anything else away from our great conversation, take this — and I always tell people if you don't do anything else, do this, create service standards and do so with the entire org chart. So if you're a restaurant, for instance, and I know a lot of our restaurants are hurting, right? But if you're a restaurant and this may be a good time to actually do this activity because unfortunately a lot of restaurants are just doing carry out in time of the Coronavirus. Not trying to date your podcast Cheryl, but it's a good example, is you know you have time to create service standards. Have your waitstaff, you know, have your chef, have everybody that is serving either your customers or serving people that are serving customers develop some service standards on, you know, “we will seat people within 15 minutes”, “we will greet people when they walk through the door.” “If there's a complaint on food, we don't ask questions. We take care of it right away with a free dessert” or whatever the heck it is, but actually have your frontline staff write those service standards down and then as a Team, Owner Management, everybody hold those things down to a list that you can all agree upon. Because then it's not something else that's just being pushed down by management. It's something that has buy in from everybody, that everybody can live on a daily basis. And if you follow that, then you could do some real valuable advertising and marketing, because you can actually live up to what you're promising out there.

Cheryl Hodgson 15:25
Well, there's so many directions we can go on this, and there's one I want to come back to. But before I forget it, I want to just kind of echo what you're talking about with an example from my own life. And there was a restaurant here in Los Angeles. You know, for many years ago, I don't even know if they're still in business. They may be gone now. But they were around for many years, was called La Bruchetta.

Ken Bator 15:49
Easy for you to say.

Cheryl Hodgson 15:50
*laugh* Not really. I’m trying.. But it's right in line with what you're talking about. And that place, for many years, when I first moved here back in the 90s, it was kind of a place where people who worked in the music industry did “let's do lunch. You could go there, and you'd see a lot of who's who executives in the music industry. But the thing I remember about the place was this, and I took it for granted, but it was lovely — no matter, they learned your name, and you would walk in the door, and I don't think I've ever seen almost any restaurant anywhere in Los Angeles that did that with such consistency. It would be “Hi, how are you, Ms Hodgson? Welcome. Nice to see you again.” Something as simple as that, you know, they didn't take their customers for granted, which was one reason why I think they had such a loyal following, even though the Italian food was quite good. But this is the part of the story that really amazed me. Fast forward. 10 years later, I went into a restaurant on Montana with a group of women there that a friend of mine had organized. And I walked in the door. And it was one of the waiters from La Bruchetta, who I had not seen in 10 years. First words out of his mouth were “Hi, Miss Hodgson, it's so nice to see you again.” I almost fell off my over, you know, I've never forgotten that. You know. And to me, that is part of the example of what you're talking about.

Ken Bator 17:25
You know, you hit on two great things there. The last one is that that particular waiter even though he had moved from one restaurant to another, and this goes back to one of the things that I say that, you know, if you're a career motivated, the B + C + S formula applies to individuals too. You know, he took pride in his job. Even though he was working, even though he was working at a different establishment, he understood that his livelihood was tied to creating a great brand experience. If he was working at McDonald's, I guarantee you he would still acknowledge “Hey, Miss Hodgson, how do you want your Big Mac today?” “You want fries with that Ms. Hodgson?” It proves that it applies to individuals and individual branding as well. But I would probably go, I've never been to the restaurant that you mentioned. And I'm not going to even attempt to try to enunciate it. I would probably say that that restaurant, although providing a great experience, probably wasn't the best — was great, I'm sure, but probably wasn't the best Italian food you've ever had in your entire life. I bet you if I asked you that question, there'd be another restaurant that would come to mind. But this particular one really stands out in your head because they offered good quality food and an awesome experience. And a lot of times it's that awesome experience that people remember more than the best food they ever tasted in their life.

Cheryl Hodgson 19:04
Absolutely. And you know, you can take the flip side of that equation, which is places, and I've said this for many years, probably because of the positive experience I did have at La Bruchetta for so long, is you go into so many of these places in Los Angeles that are like when, you know, it's the hot trendy place. And no matter how many times you go in, they have no idea who you are, they don't really care that you're there. It's like, it's almost like, you know, “Well, we're busy, too bad.” “You know, we can't fit you in, you know, come back another time.” It’s that kind of a lack of caring, not to bash them, but because they're in deep troubles with what's going on in our economy right now. But the airlines are the classic example to me, who have finally just in the last three or four years decided they might need to do something about their customer experience or the way they treat people. Because I've said for 15 or 20 years if I treated my clients the way, you know, American Airlines and United tend to treat any of their customers, I wouldn't have any. And somehow they've been able to get away with it. But I think it goes back to part of what you're talking about is, in your work you do is the team building, because if people on a team don't feel appreciated, and they're not part of the brand experience and understand the value they bring to that, for the company and for themselves as team members, then you know, you don't, they're missing something very significant don't you think?

Ken Bator 20:31
Absolutely. Almost all my clients are service based businesses, whether they're a bank or a restaurant, or spa, or a wellness expert, or consultant, or what have you, where the experience is as or more important than the actual product. Um, and that's so key, because, you know, most of us as small business owners are really offering an experience. You know, it's different if you're say, apple, or let's not beat up on Apple, because I can't, I'm not an apple guy. I don't own any Apple products. Let's talk about, we'll talk about Samsung. I am a Samsung guy.

Cheryl Hodgson 21:19
Are you a Samsung guy?

Ken Bator 21:21
Yes, I am a Samsung guy. I am a raving fan of Samsung products, iPhones, I've got a couple of Samsungs. I can't say Samsung, but I love them. I'm literally staring at two Samsung tablets that I have over here. I have a Samsung TV here in my office.

Cheryl Hodgson 21:45
Ah, you’re a brand ambassador for Samsung.
Ken Bator 21:49
Well, I love their products, but using them as an example, the experience is, is a quality product. Yeah, I've had good experiences with it, and so forth. Now, if I happen to go to, let's use a fictitious name just so I don't erroneously give a bad name to anybody. Let's say it's, you know, Jan's Appliances and Electronics, if I go over there to buy a Samsung product, and I have a crap experience. Yeah, now, I'm probably never gonna ever go to Jan’s. Again. Yeah, I'm going to tell everybody about it that you know, Jan’s is a bad experience. And then I'm going to go to T-Mobile, my provider, or Best Buy or someplace else to get that same Samsung product. Yeah, I'm not going to use that bad experience at Jan's to stop buying Samsung, you know, so yeah, there is that experience, obviously, in the product. But where I do most of my work is with the service-based businesses, and restaurants are a great example so are airlines, in that, you know, people think erroneously sometimes, that your small business restaurant is about the food quality. Now, granted, you can't make people sick, you get this awesome experience around it, there is a certain bar where you have to at least have average or better food, but you're just having great food doesn't cut it. Yeah, two examples. There's one high end restaurant in downtown Long Beach, I won't mention their particular name, because in all of my shows, whether I'm a guest or not, the point is not to disparage somebody, it's to learn from somebody else's mistakes. But it's a high end place in downtown Long Beach. And their food is awesome. Yeah, I'd say at least the nine out of 10 but I rarely go there, because the experience isn't great. Yeah, the tables on top of each other. So you know, you got people spitting on you, you know, you hear another conversations. Yeah, you definitely don't want anybody spitting on you today. Um, you know, you've got servers that are obviously taxed in terms of their effort. They're serving too many tables that are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. The music's too loud. It's just not, you know, as good as the food is. It's just not an enjoyable experience. You know, but I find myself going back — this I will shout this out, one of the restaurants I go to on a very frequent basis is a place called the Gas Lamp in Long Beach. Their food is good. It's not the best food you'll ever have, but their food is quality. I've always had a decent meal there. But I always feel welcome. You know, regardless of who's serving who's at the bar, who's up front, they greet me right away. They know what my drink is, the TVs are exactly where they need to be to be able to watch the sports you want. The music is just at the right level. Yeah, even though they don't have the best food in Long Beach, they have good food and a really, really great experience that makes me want to keep coming back. So when we talk about, you know, how important the team is, you certainly have to have at least a product that's going to allow you to compete. But you also have to have an experience where people want to keep coming back.
Cheryl Hodgson 25:29
In any business, you know, even product related, you know, it can take a long time to build up that good reputation, and it can take five minutes to destroy it. It can take one person, one bad experience with one person who doesn't seem interested in really solving your problem or helping you on or you get that, you know, bad customer service experience on the phone. That's where it tends to come up, and it's gotten better, because most of them have the same script now. When you call somebody, have I solved your problem today? Or they repeat back to you what you said five times, and you go, “I think I've already said that to you three times, could we just get to the point and solve the problem.” But they mean well, you know, and you know, I have my own horror story. And I'm a huge Apple fan, I have been devoted, but I'm waiting for my moment to share this with Tim Cook. So this could be it, you know. I mean, because it's really… I bought an iMac, MacBook Pro in 2016. And this is public knowledge now, but Apple didn't admit it for two years, which is the first time I've ever seen them not, you know, face up to where they really had a problem, is this butterfly keyboard. And it wasn't until two years in that finally the tech writers had written about it so much that they finally came out admitted, ‘yes, we have a problem’. But rather than issuing a recall and telling people who had purchased it, ‘bring it in, we will either replace it, will do something to give you an updated computer without charge or a massively discounted rate.. My MacBook Pro has been to the depot five times in three years. And I am not exaggerating. One time, the day before Thanksgiving, when I had a court case deadline and had to file something for a client. I spent 14 hours at the Apple Store, I was in line an hour before they opened. I was the last person who left at seven o'clock that night. And you know, it just, it's really, it's been in four times in the last six months. And their responses were ‘you can buy a new one, we'll give you a great trade in’ I'm like, ‘I don't want to trade in. I want a machine that replaces the one I paid $3500 for.’
Ken Bator 28:00
Oh, I don't know exactly what a butterfly keyboard is because I just am not an apple guy. I don't have a problem with Apple, I just, I just choose to be more of an Android Microsoft guy. Um, but you hit on a very important point as it pertains to branding. Because a lot of people think of branding so much as a visual or a messaging, and not the experience. And the experience is actually the more important part of branding. And the point that you make in terms of, sometimes, one incident can just kill the entire brand. And sometimes it doesn't, sometimes it doesn't. And I usually refer to when I teach branding, the experience. Steven Covey's concept of the emotional bank account of, anybody that's ever read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People probably remember this, but it's just simply a concept that when you do something positive for somebody, it's a deposit in their emotional bank account. And when you do something negative, it's a withdrawal out of their emotional bank account. So if it's early in the relationship with a brand or a business, and it's a bad experience that withdrawal may get you into a negative and you'll never go back there. You'll never use that particular business, but much like you've seen with Apple, and I've actually seen… Well, we'll go back to the airlines because I'm a big fan of Delta. They've almost always treated me properly and well and I'm a raving fan of them. You still love apple. So even though with each of these experiences, it's taking withdrawal of that emotional bank account, you have such a large balance, or better way of putting it, they have such a large balance with you because you like apple. That easy. Even though that's a withdrawal, it's still a positive balance. And it's the same with me with Delta Airlines. I've had so many good experiences, I fly them almost exclusively. They've given me upgrades, they've treated me well. There's been.. I can think of one or two instances that if I really wanted to share it, you know, were really negative, where it really did, to use a very high end MBA phrase, pissed me off. That if that was the first time,
Cheryl Hodgson 30:29
Is that where they teach that?
Ken Bator 30:30
Yes, yes, yes, they teach that in the MBA program, what it's like to be pissed off and to piss people off. But I can remember one instance, in particular, where they really ticked me off, they made me really angry. But they had built up such an emotional bank account with me, but it certainly wasn't withdraw. But it wasn't enough for me to say, I'm never flying you again.
Cheryl Hodgson 30:56
Right? I hear you. And you know, just to, and then we'll move on. But I think just to put the nail in the coffin on that, for me with the apple thing, it really wasn't that the product had a problem, because I look at it this way — they're really good at engineering products. Okay? It's very rare that they would have something like that. It's the fact that they couldn't deal with it by just admitting it, you know, it's like the person who you call on a mistake, and they don't, aren't mature enough to be able to say, they go into defensiveness as opposed to ‘look, I made a mistake. I'm here to make it right.’. And that also applies to brands, because it's what you're saying, the emotional bank account is strong enough to withstand one incident, if there is an attitude of ‘I'm here to make it right’. You know, behind that.
Ken Bator 31:50
Yeah. I think the point that people should take is, it's the overall experience, you know, everything contributes or deteriorates from or detracts from, I should say, the experience. So eventually, you know, even great service doesn't always save you with this emotional bank account. And I'll share this experience that my dad had with GMC trucks, he loved his truck and the place that he took it back to the dealer for every mistake, every issue that he had with it. And he had great service, they were very polite. They took care of him every time they gave him a loaner. But they just couldn't fix this one problem. They just couldn't fix it. And they said, “you know what, it's a problem that we've had with a couple of these trucks. We've tried, you know, 12 different things, and we just can't fix it.” And he got to the point, it wasn't because of the dealership, it wasn't because of bad service — he finally got so fed up with the product, he traded in his truck and wound up getting a Toyota. So I think, a lot, I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh, it's just about service, it's about good customer service.’ And that's certainly the start, but that doesn't necessarily save an overall bad experience.
Cheryl Hodgson 33:09
Yeah, must have a good product.
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I want to go back to your BCS formula because we talked about it but I didn't really give you an opportunity to kind of outline the overall formula and why you created it and how it how you work with clients using that.

Ken Bator 34:25
The B + C + S formula is brand culture and strategy. What's the image we want to promote out in the public? What's the experience we need to create both for and through our employees? And how do we drive more of the right business to our business? and how I use the B + C + S formula is, is I try to pinpoint you know where the biggest problem is, believe it or not, yeah, I went to so called consulting school it was a in depth see a nine day freakin program even on Sunday didn't go to church, they put us in class. And one of the things that they pounded into our heads is, is you have to deal with the biggest problem first, if you deal with get one of the symptoms, one of the little problems, you know, you're never really going to help your client. And I find that almost always the biggest problem at any particular client has to do with branding, the image, the culture, you know, what the team morale is, and how we're providing an experience; Or the strategy, you know, how are we setting goals and driving our business driving more of the right business to our business, because not every customer is our customer. So one of the things I start out with is what I call a B + C + S snapshot. It's a questionnaire which is much like a brand audit, but on steroids, where I asked some very specific questions that gets me thinking, ‘all right, I see where we can pinpoint a real issue here. So let's find a way to really attack this particularly.’ So that's how I use the B + C + S formula at the beginning to really pinpoint the problem and start fixing that right from the beginning. You asked how I created it. Yeah, it was just simply over time, you know, I found that, that these were the three buckets, at least in my mind, that if we could align these three parts of the business, the brand, the culture, and the strategy, that we really have something special. Um, and you know what, I always joke that I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree. I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I did get an MBA, and I did get good grades. But I had to study for days and days and days to get those good grades. I wasn't one of those guys, that always annoyed me that would read the book for five minutes and then getting a plus on the midterm. I mean, yeah, you get there. But you got to work hard to get it. So I could understand why somebody else couldn't understand. So I created the B + C + S formula first for me, in trying to create that understanding, because you'd, you'd read a book on re-engineering here. And then you'd go to a seminar on employee engagement there. And then you'd, you'd read an article on six sigma, and they were all good in and of itself. But I found myself thinking, alright, how does this all fit together? To build a business? You know, couldn't I do employee engagement and re-engineering at the same time? Sure, you could, yeah, it's just a matter of understanding how the image, how the experience, and how the strategy all need to work together. And things like re-engineering and employee engagement, for example, just become tools in order to create and maintain that alignment, if that makes sense.

Cheryl Hodgson 38:26
Yeah, absolutely. Well, one of the things I thought was interesting that I saw you made a comment about in one of your presentations that you bring out is why every position in the organizational chart is part of the branding department. I'd love to hear your thoughts about what that was about.

Ken Bator 38:44
Yeah, great timing, because I actually did a session on branding for board directors. And you wouldn't think that board members would necessarily be part of your branding. But they are anybody that is a part of your organization is part of the branding department. Marketing is a specific function. And we need people with specific expertise to do marketing. But branding is much bigger than that.

Cheryl Hodgson 39:14
Thank you, thank you for saying that. There are so many businesses that still operate on the premise that branding and marketing are together. And that's all, they don't go beyond that.

Ken Bator 39:29
That was one of the first things I did in my session today to board members, the first thing you need to realize is branding and marketing are not synonyms. They're not. Now when you're doing marketing, your branding in one way shape or form. You know, however, you might be branding and not necessarily marketing. Yeah. So when I said this to my board members, If you're wearing a T shirt or a collared shirt that was given to you by the organization with that logo on it, and you walk into the grocery store your branding right there, if you, you know, it had do something ridiculously stupid like swear at your cashier at the grocery store and you're wearing that logo, that's a directly a negative brand image for that organization. And even if you don't have, that's an obvious example, you know, even if people know you're a board member, and you're sitting around Thanksgiving, you, they know that you're a board member of that organization, yet, they understand that if you're bad mouthing, or good mouth thing for that matter, that place that you're a board member on that that is an act of branding, and even your part time individual. You know, there's a story that you've probably heard Cheryl and many people have heard is there was a story of somebody driving a van with the logo of that business on the side. And he was cutting people off and flipping people off on the highway. And a lot of people call and complain to this business, that you know, ‘hey, this van, you know, which is common from your organization, you almost killed me on the freeway’, and it got up to the CEO. And he realized, wow, you know, even the janitor is branding our organization, because that's who was driving the van, you know, so everybody in the organization is a brand ambassador, frankly, whether they like it or not. And that's why it's so important, is I even say to create an experience, both for and through your employees. Because if you're not creating that experience for the employees first, where they want to come to work, where they don't want to bad mouth the organization, where they do want to be a part of something special, then even without them even thinking about it, they're going to be a positive brand ambassador for you out in the public.
Cheryl Hodgson 42:01
Absolutely. Well, that goes to back to the airline example. And in fairness to the employees, I think in the examples I gave, I think a lot of their problems come from the fact that their employees weren't being treated very fairly, with all the mergers, and, you know, taking pay cuts and pension cuts and that sort of thing. So it reflected in their attitude, you know, in performing their job.
I want to ask you something about what you were talking about with the, you know… I embraced this concept, which I picked up out of a much older publication, I think back in 2009, written out of the UK. But it talked about the idea of each organization needing a brand CEO. And that's not necessarily a literal position. It's somewhat metaphoric. But, you know, in your experience with the clients you've had, how do you get buy in? You know, I mean, we've got an existing company, if they haven't really done this culture work, or this brand experience work, how do you bring that about? I mean, is there one person within the organization you work with? Or how does it how do you bring that, that consciousness into the organization that's already there?
Ken Bator 43:19
Yes, there’s so much there. And your question, and I'll try to answer this. There's the concept of brand CEO, which I'll get to, but I'll direct my answer first to the buy in, is if there's one word in what may turn out to be a long rambling answer to a very good question. It's involvement. I preach this to all my clients today. It's been my observation, that over the past almost 20 years of being blessed to do this type of consulting, is that when I started in this, it was all about communication. We're going to, nobody's going to be surprised. Nobody's going to be blindsided in our organization with anything, you know, we're going to be highly communicative. Yeah, we probably will still screw you over, and you probably won't like it, but damn it, you're gonna know about it, you're gonna knowthat you're getting screwed, you're gonna know why you're getting screwed, you're gonna know when you are actually in the screwing process. And after it's done, we're going to tell you how you how we screwed you, we're going to communicate all that to you, you know, but you didn't, there's going to be no surprises. And then we went from communication, you know, after the Great Recession to employee engagement, that we had to engage with our employees way that we had to create a fun atmosphere. Everybody had to have a nerf football and hit each other in the head. Everybody had to had to go to the family style picnic. We may listen to your ideas, we may not that actually, we probably will listen, we won't necessarily take them seriously, but we're gonna engage you, in one way, shape, or form. In fact, we're gonna engage you even if you don't want to be engaged, damn it. We're about engagement. And now what it is today, what I really feel we need today, and we'll even need much more after this pandemic is to go from communication, to engagement, to true involvement. And what involvement looks like is, you know what, that that is a good idea. Um, here's a budget for you. You go and pick your team, and you run with it. This is your project now, me as the CEO or business owner or executive, I'm your resource. I'm here for you within these parameters. You could do whatever the heck you want. And if you need my help, come to me, but this is your baby. Yeah, that's involvement. And that's how you get by and even from the example that I gave earlier, and my number one tip with service standards for the love of God, you know, don't take this and say all service standards are the key. Me and my Chief Operating Officer there spend this weekend writing out every service standard, and then we're going to hand it to our employees next Monday. Yeah, I've actually seen a client do that. They're also not in business anymore. If you create buy in, by allowing for involvement, and by involving the staff. And so you know, what, you determine what the service standards are. Can we can we have a service standard of resolving all problems within 24 hours? Is that realistic? that'll come from you. Is it realistic that we're going to return all calls within three hours of getting them, if that's realistic, and that's something that you can provide and live up to, you decide what that looks like. And we'll all live by the standards, because now there's involvement in that buy in because we all created something.
I believe it was Dr. Lee J. Collin, who wrote a book called Leadership Matters, it's almost as good as mine. That's an excellent book, where he talks in there about the fact that people support what they helped create. And that's where you get buy in is through that involvement. The last part of the answer and I'll finally shut up is you talked about brand CEO. And I think that while everybody is part of the brand department, um, I found that just about every organization, if not every business needs that rah, rah, guy or gal. And it's terrific, if it is actually the business owner, or Chief Executive Officer, to be that person that naturally will rally people. Um, unfortunately, not every business owner or CEO has that personality profile to do that long term, you know, in a crisis, in real or extraordinary situation that may even be positive, yes, you know, you can muster that personality up to be that brand CEO to be that rah-rah person. But if that doesn't come naturally to you, if you try to do that all the time, then people will see through it. So what I often suggest is, if it's not you, as the business owner or CEO, to use your brand CEO example, find that rah-rah person, that person who's going to brand the experience for the employees, you know, sometimes it's that Chief Operating Officer, other times, maybe it's the son or daughter and the business of the business owner. Maybe, maybe it's even somebody that you just hired that you're like, ‘you know, you got something special, you know, I want you to run these meetings that we have every month or something of that nature’. So I don't know if that's exactly what the article you're referring to meant. But that's what I think of this brand CEO, you need that one figurehead internally, that's going to be that person that does adopt and embrace that rallying— cry, if you will.

Cheryl Hodgson 49:21
Oh, absolutely. And that's exactly what it is. It's someone who within the company that you know, can help be the point person for what the brand and the brand experience is about. So I want to touch on one couple more things because there's so many interesting things that you have to share. You're talking about how you create a strong brand from the beginning with the necessary internal steps and you're talking, I think it's somewhat related to what we've been talking about. But I'd like to have you talked about that, as opposed to ‘Well, I just need to get my logo, and I just need to get my you know, my name and you know, my website set up’ versus, you know, because the brand is so much more than the visual identity, right?

Ken Bator 50:12
Yeah, yeah, it is. And that's, and that's the crux of the whole B + C + S formula. You're not just building the brand, you're building the culture and the strategy as well. And all that stuff that you that, as a small business owner or executive you may have learned, either in college or possibly from a book or a seminar on mission and vision and values that actually does matter. Believe it or not. Yeah, I believe that there are three, or excuse me, there are five pieces to the core, not only of your brand, but also to your culture and strategy. And that's your history, your mission, your vision, your values and your service standards. In other words, we may very well just be starting a company. But that point in time still has a story as to, you know, why are we doing this in the first place? what problem are we solving, where we're starting this business.
And the mission is, is the ‘why we even started this’, I've seen many organizations that have been around for decades, some even close to 100 years, where the mission statement hasn't changed that much, because the ‘why we started this business’ in the first place is still valid. And then you have the vision statement, which is the ‘where’, ‘where are we headed’, and that changes very, very often. So much chaos that comes with us. That comes at us, actually. But the where we're headed is very key in understanding that not only for our brand so we can communicate that properly, but also for our culture so we can communicate that internally, people know where we're headed, that's very important, and it forms that foundation of our strategy. It's very difficult to set goals and objectives when you don't have a clear vision as to where you're headed. And the values are the ‘who we are at our core’. And the service standards, which I've said at least about a half a dozen times in the show but I think that this is really the key to the whole brand culture strategy formula is the ‘how’, you know, the values, you know, we put those out there. And for instance, one value may be respect, I see that a lot. You see it on a list, and you just see respect, or you see respect and a little bit of a definition to it. But the service standards is the how we show respect. And we might have a service standard that we give people the benefit of the doubt. And that's actually a great example, I didn't create that I saw that in a particular business, they had a value of the ‘who we are’ is that we respect each other. And then the service standard that tied into that of the how we're going to exemplify that was, ‘we will give people the benefit of the doubt’. And that was all about ‘you know what, let's not get angry. Um, you know, sometimes things happen. Sometimes. Yeah, we just have to say, all right, yeah, I accept your apology, because, you know, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you weren't trying to screw me over, or even insult me, you just made a mistake. So let's move on from there and heading in the same direction together’. But the ‘when’, the ‘why’, the ‘where’, the ‘who’, and the ‘how’, yeah, those are important questions that we need to ask at our very foundation internally, whether we're just starting a business, or we're doing strategic planning, and we're trying to enhance what we're already doing.

Cheryl Hodgson 53:55
That's fabulous. Thank you so much. That's really awesome. Because it's, it's one thing to have an idea or vision, but then it's like, metaphorically, it's like, you know, rolling up your shirt sleeves and getting down and dirty. How do we, how do we make this happen? What is it we're going to say and do along the journey for the customer to make this happen?

Ken Bator 54:21
Yeah. And I'll give you a perfect example of how, what I call these five elements, our organization drivers. And people may think that they're just words on paper, but, one - they shouldn't be, and two -they don't have to be. And I'll give you an example, many, many years ago, when home banking was just starting to be a thing. I'm starting to date myself, you know, anybody that's like, a 21 year old entrepreneur listening to the show is like ‘I've only always had home bankings’, but in the 90s home banking in the financial world was just becoming a thing. And I remember sitting in a meeting with executives and the Board of a particular financial institution, and they were going back and forth like ‘Oh, we need to spend these resources on this brand spanking new high end home banking system for our institution’, and then others would argue and so ‘we don't have the money. We don't have it budgeted, you know, what if it doesn't work out, you know, we just don't have the resources for this’. And then finally, the CEO after listening to this crap for about half an hour. He stood up, he stood up and held up the piece of paper with the vision statement, and the vision statement simply said, ‘we will be one of the most technologically sound credit unions in our region’. And then she said something else about the fact that, ‘you know, we said in our last strategic planning session that we would be a leader in technology. So we either, A - need to spend the rest of our time here changing our vision statement, because we're obviously not ready to live up to it. Or B - we need to friggin find the resources real quick, so that we can actually do what we said we were going to do.’ And they found the resources, then they did adopt that home banking system. But that's an example of how powerful you know these organization drivers can be if they're not just words on paper, if you actually follow them to create a brand, to create a culture, and to live up to that strategy.

Cheryl Hodgson 56:41
Yeah, you know, there's a, I don't know if you're familiar with Cameron Harold, have you heard of Cameron?

Ken Bator 56:48
I am not — I live, I live in a cave, Cheryl. I don't hear much that's going on. Oh, probably he’s really good.

Cheryl Hodgson 56:55
We all live in the cave right now, actually. But I’ll share this with you, and I'll share it with you. But it's like, he has a thing that is really fabulous. He has a book called Vivid Vision, which is he was the COO, his big thing as a COO. And as in his younger days, he was the COO of one 800 got junk, which grew from zero to $100 million company within a relatively short period of time. And this concept of the vivid vision that you actually, the CEO goes away, sits down and you create this actual document. That is the vision for where you're going to be in three years as a company. And it embraces a lot of that. And then how do you live into that vision in all aspects of the company. So it's just a great tool to get people. So that we have so many things that we haven't talked about, there's so many things I'd like to share. One thing I want to come back to because we've alluded to the fact we're recording this, and we're all under, you know, social distancing, if you will, the moment. And I know many businesses including… I actually had somebody in a grocery store yesterday, in a very high end grocery store, who, according to my estimation, he was five feet and eight inches away, but he got very distraught and started attacking me because he thought I wasn't six feet away. But that's neither here nor there. So you know, people are worried, people are having challenges in their business, the revenues have been cut off. What, you know, you've worked with companies who are struggling, you've worked with companies who are obviously successful, but are there any ideas you can share? In the context of, you know, branding and consumer experience and stuff that, you know, people could implement in their business immediately that have to do you know, with going trying to manage what's going on for people?

Ken Bator 59:05
Yeah, I've said this a few times during this unfortunate pandemic and it's branding doesn't stop. Um, yeah, it's now is the time to isolate physically, but it's certainly not the time to isolate visibly. If you're a business that is still in business, and I work with a number of financial institutions, I implore them, whether they're clients, prospects, or people that I've just talking to in that space, is if you've already been good at branding visibly, through video, social media, email, and so forth, you know, now's the time to not only continue that, but to raise that up to do more of that, and not necessarily do selling. But tell people what you're doing during these times. Banking is a good example, because, except for lobbies, being physically closed, drive ups are still open. I know that that banks and credit unions are still lending loans that were about to be closed or still being closed. I went to the ATM the other day was still spitting out money. So the banking industry and credit union industry, if you want to take them separately, are still moving strong. And I think that's one of the reasons why we don't have so much chaos and panic right now. Because people still have access to their money. So from a branding standpoint, I think that it's very important to continue to get that message out. tell people what you're doing for them and their time of need. A lot of financial institutions are giving people skip-a-pay. They're doing two, maybe even three months of you know, don't-have-to-pay-your-mortgage, if you can prove that you're in a real hard spot. Those are things that not just need to be communicated. They need to be branded, because when we get on the other side of this, people aren't going to remember what you did for them, they're going to remember you as a trusted fiduciary. And for those that are really hurting, I've worked with a lot of restaurants. And yeah, my I'm not a I'm not a real emotional crying guy. But I've come close to that, frankly, and seeing some of these restaurants because of no fault of their own. They're really struggling. And the best thing that I could talk about with the branding, of course, is adapt. You know, we I often go back to the fact that at one time in this country, we had prohibition. And a lot of these businesses needed to adapt to another model, where we can't serve beer anymore, we can't make beer anymore. So let's make root beer. Let's make this instead. And unfortunately, our restaurants out there have to pivot. Many have gone to carry out and free delivery. Some of them have even gone to giving food or at a literally low price to seniors that are that can't leave their homes. And another example is a business that I've worked with not as a consultant but as a user and a business partner. Landry's Inc out there that owns McCormick and Schmick's Morton steakhouse, Bubba Gump and a number of others. We were talking to them about how they're struggling, but how their employees are ready, willing and able to deliver food. And one of the things I talked to them is, you know, while some people aren't working, there are some people that are working overtime. Yeah, we've got first responders out there, police officers, firefighters, healthcare workers, that are working 12 hour shifts, let's find a way where we can still make money and deliver food to those folks that are working so hard that they can't make money. They can’t make their own meals. Well, let's find a way to solve the problem. And that's one of the things that Landry's is doing from a real positive example, on a real basic example, just again, if you're struggling look to see ‘okay, what problem can we solve?’ And I'll close this answer with this, I had somebody that whose business is walking dogs and taking care of pets. And she made the comment that ‘Well, my business is screwed because everybody's home now. Nobody needs me to come over and take care of their pets.’ And I said, ‘You know what, again, there are a lot of first responders and healthcare workers that have pets, they can't be home right now unfortunately. Seek those people out and tell them about your pet sitting and pet walking business, because they need you right now. And they're still getting paid. And they're more than happy to pay you to spend an hour with their dog or cat or fish or iguana or whatever it is they have.’ So you need to adapt, look for the problem and try to solve it.

Cheryl Hodgson 1:04:17
That's great advice. So I want to thank you so much for appearing on the podcast. Before we go I have a couple of little questions always like to ask, is there something about you personally, that most people wouldn't know about? I mean, you know, where you like a little league guru where you like having something in your, from your path.

Ken Bator 1:04:39
I sucked at Little League, Cheryl. If I didn't, you know, I probably wouldn't be talking to you now. You know, I'd be sitting you know, waiting for the baseball season to start again. Um, but you know, one of those fun things that a lot of people don't know about me, and I think maybe this goes back to my passion for first responders is when I got out of college, I actually even with a finance degree, I decided, you know, maybe the banking thing isn't right for me, and I actually trained for a short time to be a firefighter. Um, and I think that's one of the reasons why I have so much respect for those guys. Because in those tests, those are tough ass test. Fortunately, I was in my early 20s, and I always pass the physical part of it, you know, even being afraid of heights. I still walked up the ladder without a problem. But where I always, where I always had a problem was in the interview process, especially when one person said, you know, when the fire chief says jump, you know, all you need to ask is how high and I thought you know, I've never really been good at following orders. Maybe I need to go back into this business sector.

Cheryl Hodgson 1:05:56
Okay, that's great. So now, my next question is, what's on your bucket list? You have something huge on your bucket list that you think ‘oh, someday I'm going to it, would mean a lot for me to do that’?

Ken Bator 1:06:11
Ah, yeah, that's an interesting question, one that I don't spend a lot of time thinking about. I think if I did have a bucket list item, it would probably be to take a very, very long cruise with my wife at some point, that's not going to happen anytime soon.

Cheryl Hodgson 1:06:33
Yeah, not a good time for that.

Ken Bator 1:06:37
But yeah, I always thought, you know, taking like one of those like, three month, six month cruises where you get to see so much. Um, and you know, especially if you end up in a port that you really don't like that much, you can just get back on the ship. And after you find a place you really liked on this trip, you can always go back and spend more time. I don't, I don't have the time, nor the resources to do a six month cruise or the inclination right now and this pandemic, but that would probably be a bucket list thing for me.

Cheryl Hodgson 1:07:10
That's great. And last but not least, is there anything you haven't shared, that you would like to share about any of the things we've discussed?

Ken Bator 1:07:20
Oh, it just simply that, you know, we've talked about some ideas and concepts that may seem complex. Um, they're really not, frankly, the whole B + C + S formula, if I could figure that out just about anybody can. And a lot of times, and a lot of times, that seems daunting, because it's a formula, or people don't quite know what branding is or what culture building entails. I promise you, if I understand it, I can help you to understand it. And it's many times ‘isn't this huge process?’ Most of the time, it's just a little tweak here, a little tweak there that gets your brand culture and strategy in the alignment that you need. That makes a big difference to the bottom line.

Cheryl Hodgson 1:08:13
Thanks again for such a wonderful interview and appearing on the show. For our audience members who would like to learn more and have a way to reach you, how would they go about learning more?

Ken Bator 1:08:28
Oh, well, first, it was my pleasure to be on the show, I really appreciate the invite. Best way to find me is just on my website, which is If you go to the homepage, there's a free ebook that you can sign up for right in the corner. It's titled ‘When Your Formula Doesn't Add Up’. Because many times you know, it isn’t the formula, it's just that one little thing that isn't adding up for you. So I give some tips right there that you can use. And to anybody in your audience, If you go to my website, go to the Contact Us page, and send the word ‘brandaide’, for the name of your show, I'm more than happy to give your audience, anybody in your audience a 15 to 20 minute complimentary session. We’ll talk about their brand, their culture and their strategy.

Cheryl Hodgson 1:09:23
That's awesome. Thank you. And we will post all these links and the information in the show notes. Thanks again for being here on the podcast. And thank you for tuning in everyone. We will see you in our next episode and wish you all the best and see you on the other side.

Ken Bator is the entrepreneur’s dream when it comes to helping develop a strong brand and marketing strategy and to integrate the company culture into that brand. He has 20 years of experience helping companies and organizations bring together their brand, their strategy and their messaging through his BCS formula. Make sure to follow Ken on one of his shows, and his podcast, which you can find wherever podcasts are found.

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Narrator 1:10:52
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