Episode 006

Veronique James

 Founder & CEO of  The James Agency

Your Brand: The Promise That You Make To Your Audience

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About This Episode

In this episode of The Content Coalition, we interview Veronique James, founder & CEO of The James Agency.

Veronique and her team at The James Agency collaborate to produce creatively-fueled, results-driven campaigns that help clients achieve their goals and positively impact their bottom line.

The James Agency has worked with notable brands such as Hotel Valley Ho, Mountain Shadows, Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, Spinato’s Pizzeria, Marriott International, Epoch Residential, Fox Restaurant Concepts, among others.

Under Veronique’s direction, The James Agency has been honored with numerous industry and culture awards, including being named to the Inc. 5000 and Entrepreneur Top Company Cultures lists.

Tune in as we discuss brand persona and its relevance to your marketing initiatives. Veronique also shares a bunch of questions that you can reflect on to come up with your brand persona and how her agency helped Hotel Adeline’s brand to shine.

What You’ll Learn

  • [01:56] How The James Agency works with different clients
  • [04:36] Veronique shares what tools they use in the agency
  • [07:02] The current trends across Veronique’s clients that stands out
  • [10:16] A story where a client doesn’t have a “personality” to resonate to its customers
  • [12:51] 1 actionable thing to implement within the next 48 hours
  • [16:46] The story of how they worked with Hotel Adeline to bring up their brand persona

About Shaina

Shaina Weisinger is the Founder and CEO of Repurpose House, which turns long-form content into optimized videos and images for high engagement social media strategies. Shaina has a background is video production for digital marketing and is on a mission to show content creators the untapped potential and repurposing power of the content that they already have. She has taught about content in many publications including DigitalMarketer, Inc., and Startup Nation, and continuously offers valuable takeaways by interviewing industry experts from world recognized brands such as Godaddy, HubSpot, MarketingProfs, and more through her video podcast, The Content Coalition. She loves to laugh loudly, be obnoxiously competitive on the volleyball court, treat her dogs as her kin, and recover from tripping on or running into almost everything within a five-foot radius. Learn more about Shaina here: ShainaWeisinger.com

Read Episode 006 Transcriptions

Veronique: You. I believe that like a brand is a promise of what’s to come, right? So when they get in and they experience your brand and that doesn’t create a synergy for them, they’re not going to go out and continue to be ambassadors on behalf of your brand. And that’s the best way in today’s Day in age is to build a, you know, a solid gold brand is when people are like, they did it right. I came, I experienced, I enjoyed. It was fantastic. Yeah, I’m going to go tell my barber or goes to a barber.

Shaina: I’m Shaina, I love dogs. I trip a lot and I happen to have a knack for making pretty sweet videos for businesses. But the more videos we made, the more questions I got about how video and other content can be leveraged to make a bigger impact in their marketing. I mean, 44% of marketers say that producing content is their biggest challenge. Get content marketing is 62% less expensive than outbound and produces three times more leads. Now I know a lot, but I certainly don’t know it all. So I’ve made it my mission to talk with content, kings, queens and bosses to learn as much as I could about crushing content marketing. And I’m taking you along with me. Welcome to the content coalition.

Shaina: Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the content coalition. I am here with the gorgeous and amazing Veronique James. She is the founder, CEO of the James Agency in Phoenix, Arizona. Thank you for being here. Love it. Thanks for being here. So the reason I brought her on a is because she’s a bad ass female and I like those. So here we are talking. I collect good company. Okay, there you go. Perfect. I’ll take it. Um, and I wanted to talk to her a little bit about content. When you’re an agency, you have a lot of uh, clients that are similar. You’re talking to the same audience. Like how do you differentiate between content, like what the strategy looks like? Because a lot of people out there have their own businesses and they’re creating content for themselves. But when you’re creating for multiple companies that are doing kind of the same similar things, at least like how do you differentiate, you know, how does that work?

Veronique: Yeah, interesting. I mean, so my agency has been around for 15 years and we really found that we specialize in four unique verticals. One being a boutique hospitality, so the classic space of like a hundred to 200 doors. So great examples locally would be like hotel valley, Ho Mountain Shadows, uh, ac hotel, moxy hotel, right? That, that, uh, very niche, I guess you could say category. And to your point, you know, they’re all within like a 15 mile radius of each other and generally there around the same price point to somewhere a higher echelon. Some are low and restaurants too was one of our categories as well. Both like corporately owned. We, we deal with the corporate to support the franchise or we’ll work closely with independent family owned and operated facilities. And so, um, so when it comes down to content and your marketing, uh, the number one question that we often get from clients is, well, is this a competitor?

Veronique: Right? Are you, are we going to be going to the well too often? And that makes a lot of sense and I completely understand if you think about that. So a couple of challenges. Um, I am certainly not the PPC expert. I know that you, uh, interviewed Adam and his team when he’s amazing. Um, and my team could support this. You know, there is definitely a limitation to how much we can do from a PPC perspective with multiple clients because you essentially are bidding against each other. But when it comes to content and content generation around social or paid social, it really comes down to personification, right? We’re looking at who our target audiences are through, um, research. Um, and we use a lot of really cool tools. So we kind of peek behind the curtain to see who are we talking to, what’s the cadence of that conversation?

Veronique: And that allows us to define the fact that we’re not talking to the same actual people every time. So you think about mountain shadows, they have a higher price point than Valley Ho granted their sister properties, right? They’re owned by the same company. Um, and then a seasonality of promotions and things like that allows us to make sure that we’re not, um, just really tag teaming on all of our client’s efforts. So using research, using soft branding efforts to be able to narrow into who those targets are and be very refined versus casting a really wide net, which is not a very nimble or agile way to spend our clients dollars. Right. And, um, but as an agency, we do make the decision when we do find that there are direct conflicting target audiences, we respectfully declined the opportunity because, you know, we want to make sure that we’re not cannibalizing our client’s investment.

Veronique: Right. So that’s a great way to put it. Yeah. Our clients just gobbling each other up, you know what I mean? It’s kind of creepy if you think about it. So what are some of the tools that you use to look into those? Oh Gosh. I mean, we can use everything. I’m super creepy tools. Like, oh, it’s so the capabilities blow, it’s like big brother, but way worse, way worse, honestly, way worse. Uh, so our media team will use and our social insights team will use efforts like PushSpring, which is pretty cool. It will literally extrapolate a, um, a persona or who you are as a consumer by looking at your browser history, what your apps are. Um, so, uh, what’s funny is if somebody looked at my phone today, they’d find maybe think that I was a three year old, uh, because of all the games and things that my daughter is using on my phone.

Veronique: But what’s very cool as we can lift that information, um, public reports like the census, Google analytics of course to look at, you know, competitive traffic and what’s happening from feeder markets. Um, and then Nielsen, um, our team really likes to layer in all of that third party digital data. Um, and then, uh, align that with First Party information, some meeting with the client, key stakeholders, understanding what their assumptions are, which may be aren’t factual, but a lot of times it’s great to get kind of squeeze that sponge dry of, okay, what do you think your brand is? Who are we talking to? Um, what’s really cool about that experience is when there’s multiple partners are key stakeholders, sometimes they’re not in alignment. And so to take their information and then layer over the third party information from these very specific creepy tools allows us to create essentially a diagnosis as to where those dollars should be spent.

Veronique: So for a client, that is our very first step in the discovery process because otherwise you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall and you’re hoping it sticks. So having the data and the information will allow us to build that critical path. And it’s a no risk value proposition for the client because we have the proven, um, consumer behavior tactics to be able to say, okay, this is where we’re going to place our dollars. This is how we’re going to communicate to those people. This is how often and when we’re going to day part. And then we continue to turn the dials on the campaigns, right? In any facet from PR to, to creative whatever we’re doing based on their performance. Right? But we’re at least starting in a really good place that’s allowing us to not be this. Um, what I would consider a guessing game that we used to do back in the day.

Veronique: Right. You know, we can literally define exactly who we want to talk to and a, and let me do it, which is really cool. That’s crazy. It’s the capabilities are incredible. Now. Um, so based on the different types of clientele that you facilitate, like are you seeing trends within, um, like across each, across the different types of clients? Are you seeing trends within just like boutique hotels or restaurants? I think the biggest trend I’m really seeing both from corporate large organisations to boutique, you know, independently owned is everybody is trying to infuse a personality back into their brand and you’re seeing those movements. You know, virgin did a beautiful job over the last couple of years. Um, you know, you’re saying holiday and do it all the way to smaller clients who have self reflected over the past year and a half. And realizing that with all of these very tender spaces online, which we consider to be the most important part of that brand experience.

Veronique: So that brain activation, those multiple touch points, like in travel, it’s upwards of 50 to 60 before somebody decides to book a hotel. Um, you know, what’s interesting is, um, there, there needs to be a sense of connectivity and I think that with us being consumers and looking to vote with our dollars on something that you know, is kind of like a snack, travel as a snack, it’s not a must have. It’s a nice to do. Um, we need to, uh, feel a sentiment or a sense of connection. And so I’m seeing a lot of trends in consumer specific marketing, um, where people are craving that personality or that brand tone and voice so that they can align their travel objectives that are dining objectives, whatever it may be, um, with that brand. And so that’s why social so important, right? And all of those consumer related review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, right? You see a lot of the corporate narrative and then you see the, um, the traveler’s experience. And if those don’t align, then the brand feels very disingenuous. And I think that our target market is so you’re out. You know, they bounce if it doesn’t seem like there is an alignment of personality and brand tone, uh, through the marketing objectives to what the traveler with the guest is saying.

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Shaina: Have you been in a situation with a new client where they haven’t established more of like a personality that can resonate?

Veronique: Yeah, we’re like at work. Think of it right now. The team just got back, right? A large bulk of my senior team just got back from the east coast last week. They were there for five days. We’ve just engaged with this client. They’re a large, uh, entity where they have coop dollars from a bunch of other big hospitality brands and some restaurants and there’s someone kind of like a CVB or a convention visitors bureau, right? But, um, what’s really interesting is they have practiced for 10 years under this entity. And it’s, it’s a great brand, but it’s very structured. It’s, um, it’s, it’s not very dynamic, um, well standardized I would say. But it really lacked the enticement of who are they trying to be, who are they trying to connect with?

Veronique: And because of that, and because of the trends that we’re seeing in consumer behaviors over the last two years, their retail occupancy is completely fallen out because I think retailers want to do business where there’s that energy and there’s that sense of pride, right? And that personality. Um, and also just to travelers in general and locals. And so, uh, they just did this amazing exercise, uh, for two days with all the key stakeholders. And what was the most incredible part of that experience is all of them kind of laughed and said, wow, we’ve never really had this conversation before we, and they were chuckling that at, they never thought they would come to an agreement as to what that brand voice should be and what that personality should be. So it was an enlightening experience for the client and then for our team to start creating that alignment and that first party information that I talked about at the top of the interview.

Veronique: Right. So, um, you’d be surprised how many companies go very far and they’re tenured ship of operations and never truly do that discovery as to who they want to be and who they’re talking to you and how that connection is going to happen. A lot of what we keep talking about, I, you know, I’ve interviewed like 95% of the people we’ve interviewed really make it a huge point to be like have a story, have a voice that can be personal because people want to do business with people and we haven’t really talked about like the exercises to get to that. Like, if you haven’t figured what that, what that is for your business, like for me were ridiculous and fun and like we try to do personal and you’re unapologetic about it. Fantastic. That’s good. Maybe that’s not, you know, it is what it is.

Shaina: That’s what it, that’s what we’ve decided to be, you know, cause it’s like an extension of me, of Sarah the team. So, um, what kind of exercises, and I think this kind of dives into a question I ask everybody, which is what can somebody do in the next 48 hours that will put them steps ahead of their content game, their branding game. Um, starting today. There’s some really cool things I think that you don’t need an agency for. You can put up, I’m sure you could Google this and come up with a bunch of brain questions. What’s, what’s important first that’ll start with is people need to, uh, re replace the brand with their personal, uh, opinion. So when they’re going through that persona discovery, stop thinking about what you think it should be and start thinking about what the brand or the company should be.

Veronique: And that’s a hard departure first and foremost. But, um, fun questions like if your company was a car, what would it be? If you were a book or a genre of music? I mean, you start thinking about questions like that and you can come up with a pretty decent dossier of what your persona should be based on some of those questions. Another really fun activity is take just a stack of index cards and write out a bunch of adjectives and a bunch of personality words. Funny, clever, unapologetic. I mean, you know, smart. There’s a bunch of things there. Uh, so descriptors, personality, key words, and maybe archetype like hero or um, uh, patriarch, you know, there’s a lot of cool things there. And then just stick them on the table and with your group or your partnership or if you’re a sole proprietor, just start gathering them based on your perception of what the business is, not what your opinion is, right?

Veronique: And maybe pick 10 or five from each category and then look at those that you’ve selected and group them together. And that should start to create a really solid foundation very quickly as to whom your brand voice should be as an organization. Sure. Yeah. I think that some people get caught up that how you’re saying obviously take into consideration the people who are going to be communicating with your brand too. But like for me the unapologetic thing was tough because I was like, well, I don’t want to offend anybody or like, and it’s going to have, maybe I’m great and it’s too much. You know? Totally like at some point like the people who you want your brand to be, what it needs to be so that you would attract those types of people that you want to work with. Right, right. Ultimately it’s like what’s the end goal here?

Veronique: Like do you want to work with a bunch of people that you don’t want to be working with in the first place? Or, I mean, I agree. And I also think that’s very true in any kind of marketing initiative to you want to attract the people who want to do business with you and want to vote with their dollars or spend the money, but also that are going to continue to be ambassadors for your brand. Right? And if you set up this false pretense of what you’re trying to be, boutique, hospitality, restaurants, multifamily and feel real estate, and they come and they experience the brand because they have this perception from your external marketing communications. And then there’s misalignment once they get there. You know, I believe that like a brand is a promise of what’s to come. So when they get in and they experience your brand and that doesn’t create a synergy for them, they’re not going to go out and continue to be ambassadors on behalf of your brand.

Veronique: And that’s the best way in today’s Day in age, is to build a, you know, a solid gold brand is when people are like, they did it right. I came, I experienced, I enjoyed, it was fantastic. I’m going to go tell my barber or goes to a barber. Um, but you know what I mean? And my nail lady, who knows. Um, but you’re right, you know, and you go on the James Agency website and the homepage says no bs. And that’s one of our biggest ethos. This is just, we’re, we’re not going to bullshit you. Right. You know, hopefully I can say that word and say whatever. Okay. Yeah. Three second delay. But, um, yeah, you know, we’re just not going to be those people who are going to tell you what you want to hear. And if that doesn’t work for you, that’s okay. Right. That means that you’re not the right client for us.

Shaina: Do you want us to bullshit you or do you not want us to pull? No, and there are certainly companies that do that and that’s fine. So, um, so I think you hit it on the head, right? And I think you’re doing a great job because you know, your personality of the company is mirroring what your initiatives are. So I think it’s fantastic. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you very much. Is there a campaign that they either your team did or that you’ve seen that you were just like, this is, this is bad ass. Oh Gosh. Well, you know, I’ll tell my teams up. Let’s hear it. Cause they are just going so hard and doing such a great job. So we recently brought the hotel Adeline to market, which is here, right across adjacent from Scottsdale Fashion Square. And that’s an excellent example of a garden style hotel that used to be the Scottsdale in total eyesore, right.

Veronique: And a company came in and they took a daring, um, kind of leap of faith. And so hotel Adeline is about, um, I would say like kind of like a hipster savvy has a really great kind of underground connection with all of her favorite things. And so when you walk into that hotel, my team has made sure that the brand voice and all of the collateral, the, the site, um, the logos, like right when you walk in, there’s a giant sign that says WTF. And at first glance you’re thinking that means what we’re used to, but it’s, where’s the fun? Right. And the intention there. So, um, that’s a great, that’s a great example from start to finish. Brand Voice Foundation, graphic standards, marketing communications, where we’ve taken that soft branded persona and we really allowed Adeline to shine through all of those efforts. I’m super proud of my team for that last year.

Veronique: That’s fun. Yeah, it’s really fun to ground up too. That’s exciting. You’re not taking an existing brand. Nope. Yeah, that’s pretty renamed all the cocktails. There’s the originally had kind of a, a sort of stale suite of cocktail names, um, help them with their speakeasy concept and you get to walk up to a phone booth and you dial in and the bartender gives you a secret word, you know, just fun things. Right? And so it’s really about the experience. Is Adeline a person? It’s a, it’s a girl. It’s, it’s an actual girl. It is not actually a girl. So the name itself came from one of the principal owners. I think it’s nice. Um, we loved the name and then we created this fictitious woman who I would envision between like 27 and 30. Very set in her ways. Um, you know, has a really incredible style and just particular about how she experiences life, you know.

Veronique: But what was so cool about that is I had to ask if it was a real person or not. Right? Like that’s, that’s how it should feel. Like it’s embodied. It’s an embodiment of somebody. Yeah. And, and the grand opening was just that when you walked in, you had Adeline’s favorite cocktail and then we had a florist making head wreaths and we had somebody doing henna tattoos because that’s what she would do if she partied. Right. And we had girls in these like big clear bubbles and the pool. So cause that was just something that she would’ve loved to have seen. So you can take a personality and carry it through any kind of brand. And it can be something really boring. And I don’t want to say like financial advisory companies are boring, but you can infuse a brand through that. You can find opportunities to create that sentiment with you’re a consumer or your target audience.

Veronique: And it doesn’t have to be garish. It doesn’t have to be kitschy. It can be serious. It can be sentimental. Um, but if you’re trying to create that connection before you even had that conversation with somebody face to face, that’s a really great way to do that through marketing communications. That’s awesome. Yeah. I love where this turn because, okay. I know [inaudible] I just wasn’t sure where we were going to lay our, you go. I love, I love the brand personality and all that, especially coming from you because I love what you have done with the James Agency and just seeing like some of the brands that you’ve worked with banks. And I think my perspective is maybe a little bit wider because we’re an integrated firms. So rather than just being focused in one discipline of PR, um, paid social or whatever it may be, we’re always looking at that holistic approach.

Veronique: So maybe my perspective of your question, um, reiterated that, cause I’m thinking not just creative being the driver position or just the data, but how does it, you know, threat it’s way through an entire content strategy for a client. Yeah. I mean really that’s baseline. Yep. What, what are you gonna build content around if you don’t have the base figured out? Yep. That’s awesome. Was there anything, I mean I’ve been schooled so is there anything else specifically that you think that those folks watching the world that’s watching? Gosh, no, I mean I feel like you could school me on a ton of stuff so I’m just the boss lady that sits in the office and runs the, runs the beers now day to day. Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. Thank you. This was amazing. Thank you. I really appreciate it. And letting us sit in your gorgeous office. This office is ridiculous. I it’s, you guys have been here a year now. Yeah, just over a year. Two year anniversary thing cause it’s so fun. Yeah. Awesome. Well thank you. Thank you guys for watching. Tune in again next week and check out hotel Adeline. I’m excited to go. I live here so I get to go walk in there and check it off. Check it off or off the hook. Truffle fries are a real problem for me. It’s awesome. Can’t wait. Well thanks guys. Thank you. Thanks.

Shaina: Thank you so much for checking out this episode of the content coalition. Now, whether you’re listening or watching, make sure that you subscribe to the Youtube Channel and to whatever platform you’re listening to it on because you’re not going to want to miss out on the incredible things that I’m learning with these amazing content marketing pros. So make sure you subscribe and we will talk to you next week.

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