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Becoming More Than a Brand Inside and Out

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Everything you put out as a brand should be interesting, it should be relevant to your consumer, and you and your employees should be proud of the final product. So why then are so many brands finding that the people who work so hard on and actually create the marketing materials aren’t sharing the end result? 

Max Summit is a marketing consultant who has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world — Adidas, Lululemon, Athleta, the list goes on — and regardless of the brand, whether they sell online or in brick and mortar, Max knows that true connection with customers start with the connection to the internal employees. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Max discusses all the ways that brands should be doing internal pulse checks and reinventing their mission in order to make their marketing materials hit home with consumers. Plus, she explains how brands should be thinking about ways to become resources for customers beyond just being a provider of goods and services, and she gives examples from her days at Lululemon that any company can learn from and where VR and AR can come into play. Enjoy this episode!

Main Takeaways:

  • Who’s Sharing What?: To gauge the health and success of your company’s creative, doing an internal pulse check is necessary. Are employees sharing the work they have produced? Are they proud and willingly talking and posting about the latest project they are working on? Do a post-mortem to gauge how a project went, what aspects were wins and where things could have gone better and allow everyone to share freely and openly how they really feel.
  • Who Knows What?: The boots on the ground at retail stores are often the people with the most knowledge of the consumers and what they want. Brands need to create a more connected communication structure that allows everyone in retail to interact with HQ and the ecommerce team to paint the most holistic view of the customer and then create products and marketing content for them. 
  • Who’s Engaging with What?: One of the biggest struggles brands face is getting consumers to engage both initially, and long-term. So brands have to hook a consumer quickly, and keep bringing them back with an interesting, exciting, and valuable experience. Virtual and augmented reality experiences are a recent way that brands have been solving this problem, and the creativity and utility that VR and AR offers sets the table for it to be a major way that brands and consumers interact for years to come. 

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“The realization of life and how fragile it is and how limited our time is and it can be on this planet, I think was reintroduced to me at an age where most teenagers aren’t thinking of that. And I think it’s allowed me to move through the world a little bit more intentionally.”

[On advancing at Adidas] “I would raise my hand …At the time I was living in Boston, and Adidas was a big sponsor for the Boston Marathon, and I raised my hand and said, ‘Can I do any graphic design work? Do you guys need help as a volunteer?’ It was just saying yes until someone and something was willing and ready to bring me on board.”

“Where we’re at now is that most brands, if not all, need to have a purpose-led message or at least a mission-driven DNA aspect of their brand. I think consumers are demanding more out of brands, I think that now more than ever they’re equipped with knowledge and the tools to actually do the research. Which I think before, oftentimes the brands really held that power. They could really decide if and when to release messages around sustainability, messages around diversity, equity inclusion everything was very much calculated I think 10, 15 years ago in marketing. Now, if consumers can’t find that information on day one on your website or through your social channels, they’ll walk away and they’ll go to another brand whose mission and purpose is more overtly available on site as well as in their social channels.”

“You have to ask yourself and your organization, what are you as a company uniquely qualified to give to the world?…  Brands that aren’t having those honest conversations with themselves, I think their desire to want to jump on something that is currently mainstream but not necessarily an element that trickles down back to their DNA and their structure and their organization. It doesn’t take long before it’s a domino effect. It doesn’t take long before you see all of the pieces falling at the same place.”

“I think really identifying what you as a company are most uniquely qualified to deliver to the world and to your customer, I think that is the hardest, if not the most important conversation that you can have and you can also give to your marketer.”

“The true measure of whether your work is adding any value or is exciting people is whether or not your employees are naturally promoting that work. Very often it does not happen, you would be shocked how many times even sitting in a marketing function living it day in, day out going through the blood, sweat and tears will team members refrain from posting. I think it’s just that there’s very little work that I think is being put out into the world today where employees take pride in wanting to showcase it and really wanting to advocate for it.”

“My way of measuring success is if you can take a head count around the table, and if every member from your team posted, shared it, communicated, was proud to wear it as an emblem, I think you’ve succeeded in your role first and foremost, if you’re just relying on that customer, if you’re just relying on that external feedback again, I think you failed as an organization and as a mentor and as a leader internally.”

“We forget that retail is not dead. And if you have a retail structure that is highly connected to your community, they often know more about your consumer than you do sitting at HQ. And it’s really that share-ability from the boots on the ground, I hate using the word bottom up, but I think that’s really the mindset… [It’s] about what are you hearing? What are customers saying when they’re coming to your door? What’s the feedback that you’re receiving in store? I think that’s really pivotal.”

“[AR/VR] really challenges this archaic notion that digital experiences don’t create meaningful connection. ​​Having VR and having augmented reality has really challenged that way of thinking, because it can absolutely transport you into a different world. It can absolutely create an emotion and it can also create an action. And I think that universe excites me tremendously.”

Mentions:

Billie Eilish and Moment Factory

Spotify episode of Marketing Trends

Where The Crawdads Sing

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Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hey everyone, and welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is Stephanie postles, CEO at Mission.org and your host. Today on the show we have Max Summit, who is a brand marketing consultant. Max, welcome to the show.

Max:

Thanks Stephanie, I’m really happy to be here.

Stephanie:

I’m happy to have you too. So with you, I want to start back in your personal story. Growing up in Brazil, you have a very interesting story around medical issues and growing up in this very creative household, very intriguing household. So, I want to hear just your background before we dive into what you’re doing today.

Max:

Sure. Absolutely. Let’s see, the elevator pitch here. So I was born in Boston, but actually raised in Brazil. I am the proud daughter of a ballerina turned designer my mother, and my father was very musically inclined, he had a lot of passions around art and music even though eventually he really poured I think the majority of his time into tech and entrepreneurship. But my upbringing in Brazil I think was anything but traditional.

Max:

My stepbrother and I, we used to spend our summers down in the beach barefoot on the sand, falling asleep to the stars at night. My granddad would sometimes pick us up after school on a Friday, we would drive down to the beach and we’d spend the weekend on the boat, which was awesome and really lovely. I think as a child, you take in these experiences as they come but when you live as an adult, you oftentimes, I think, look back and reminisce and you think, “How can I also provide that for the next generation or for myself and my own kids?”

Max:

So yeah, I think it was a very interesting upbringing, very dynamic, I think absolutely it was not traditional by any means. I think that existence and that relationship that I was taught at a young age to be embracive of nature and be embracive of human experiences I think ultimately led me down to this path in brand marketing unknowingly, but that’s where I am today is just really embracing, I think, storytelling and identifying the unique patterns and behaviors of organizations that can really communicate something to the world and to the people around them in a way that I think makes sense for today’s audience and today’s consumer.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah. I love that. I’m just having an entire movie playing out in my head, imagining you on the beaches also now I’m like, “I need to go to Brazil. That’s the next step for me?”

Max:

Yeah, it’s funny. I’m definitely painting a more poetic existence, I definitely think my brother and I, we were quite mischievous as well as I think that playful character and that playful nature, I think also lends itself well for a role in marketing. Although sometimes in a leadership position, you can’t be as playful as you like to be, but it’s definitely I think helped me get to where I am today, for sure.

Stephanie:

I love that. And tell me a bit about, I know you had a medical scare I think it was around 15 or something. And I was reading a quote where you’re saying, “That changed the way I thought about everything,” and I wanted to hear a bit about that because I’m sure it’s impacted even where you’re at today.

Max:

Yeah. Absolutely, as I said I grew up in Brazil, sports I think is very much a part of the culture and the DNA there. I did everything from soccer, to swimming, to [inaudible], and eventually I think I really found my place in volleyball. That was really the sport where I felt most comfortable. Again, I had great mentors and great coaches who identified long-term potential and I think saw an ability for me to do it even professionally at some point in my life and my family and I really invested a lot of time and energy going to games, getting the proper coaching, the proper training. And I was in a final match, a pre-qualifier for you to be on the national team.

Max:

And I came down from a jump serve and I remember hearing this massive, shattering pop that went from my ankle all the way down to my hip. And essentially I ripped six ligaments on my leg, my achilles, my hip tendon, my ACL and my MCL, you name it and eventually it was just one go. And it was in that recovery phase where in post-op I went through surgery and I was recovering, and we’re flying back from Brazil where my leg really began to swell and the pain intensified over the course of the plane ride.

Max:

And when we landed back in Boston, it had really gotten to a place where it felt extremely uncomfortable and my mother and I, of course back then there wasn’t a lot of research and knowledge around clotting and how that happens postoperatively and how flying can sometimes intensify that. So, I think we were really uneducated around some of those medical complications that you can face, so we shrugged it off as it was a 13 hour plane ride, your leg is probably swollen from the compression or decompression.

Max:

We didn’t really think much of it and we went to bed, and I woke up in the middle of the night really screaming, had really intensified pain, not really understanding what was happening. And I remember my mother was really rushing up upstairs because I was calling for her, I was yelling like, “Mom, mom, mom, something’s wrong.” And when we pulled the sheets over, my leg was gangrene. It was blue, black, every color that you can imagine I think all the capillaries were just exploding subcutaneously.

Max:

And one of the last things that I remember was actually my mother grabbing me by my shoulders to try to calm me down. And this feeling of almost, I would say I think I’ll use this on the interview as well, like a champagne cork when it explodes, it just happens in an instance. And when that sensation happened, everything just melted away and what we found out weeks later when I woke up in the hospital, was that the expansion of the leg was really what’s known as a DVT, a deep vein thrombosis.

Max:

And the clotting had literally originated from my ankle and had gone all the way to my knee and a piece of it dislodged and went into my lung. And when that happens, your body’s deprived of oxygen and it shuts down, and I experienced all of this at age 15, which I think for a normal 15 year olds everyone is planning prom, everyone’s playing around their first boyfriend. If they’re lucky, maybe they’re celebrating their one year anniversary with their high school sweetheart. And for me, I spent the majority of my 15 years in a hospital bed at Mass General in Boston.

Max:

I think the realization of life and how fragile it is and how limited our time is, and it can be on this planet, I think was reintroduced to me at an age where most teenagers aren’t thinking of that. And I think it’s allowed me to move through the world a little bit more intentionally, and in a way I think I’ve been seeking a greater sense of purpose since so that if I were to find myself in another hospital bed hopefully I won’t have as many regrets or as desires as I thought I had at age 15.

Stephanie:

Wow. Wow. I have goosebumps with your story right now. I feel like we could just make that the entire episode, talking about how to live an intentional life. Oh my gosh, that’s wild. Yeah.

Max:

Definitely. I think if anything too, COVID has in a way, I think shed light for a lot of individuals. I think a lot of families, a lot of my close friends and even professional mentors, I think everyone has used this as an opportunity to self-assess and to reevaluate and really measure the scales of life

Stephanie:

That’s amazing story. So, I want to dive into the brand aspect of things. You said an interesting quote early on before the interview, that you stumbled into it, you did not plan to get into this world, but when you look at your roster of brands that you’ve served, it’s wild. So, first talk about how you got into this world and also some logos just to show people you know obviously what you’re doing.

Max:

Sure. I’m definitely lucky, I’m going to say I think luck is a big aspect of it. But yeah, essentially I studied philosophy and English in college which is so bizarre to think that someone who studied those two fields would eventually end up in marketing. But I think the way everything cascaded and fell into play was really at the root of it was just having fantastic leaders and mentors who identified my potential, who I think understood the reward that comes with molding someone and bringing them into the process and giving them the right opportunities that I think really shed light on their personal aspects, but also their professional aspirations.

Max:

And the way I fell into this industry was, so actually I started in non-profit worlds, really volunteering, taking gigs as they came mostly in the creative parts. I did a lot of pre-production post-production work then I eventually went into graphic design, I did a graphic design residency for about two years and then eventually got pulled into copywriting then from copywriting I did video. So, doing the gamut of all the art functions and I realized in that process it actually sucked at all of them. I was like, I was good enough to have a general understanding at introductory level, but I very quickly on realized that I was never going to be the director of copywriting or the director of photography-

Stephanie:

Which is a beautiful thing, because it answers a lot of questions for you. I’ve had many of those experiences where I’m like, “Well thank you life for showing me that’s just not my thing and I can move on now know.”

Max:

Yeah, and also it takes a lot of vaping gut too, to tell yourself, “I suck at something.”

Stephanie:

I’m going to own it, I suck.

Max:

And I need to find something else that I enjoy, but I knew that I wanted to be in a creative function. But I think ultimately what was missing, I think from all those experiences was the afterthought. So, the strategic side of it and I got my foot in the door actually as a freelance graphic designer working at Adidas. And the way that happened was really through networking. So, when I said that I was really hustling and trying to get gigs on the side, that’s literally what I was doing, I was identifying meet and greets that’s right. I used meet and greets, which back then was meetups.com at work in my local community.

Max:

I would raise my hand, any volunteer opportunities for races or local community events. At the time I was living in Boston, and Adidas was a big sponsor for the Boston Marathon. And again, I raised my hand and said can I do any graphic design work? Do you guys need help as a volunteer, it was just saying yes until someone and something was willing and ready to bring me on board. And I started as a volunteer graphic designer and from there that role quickly became a little bit more robust in nature. So, one project led to another, it went from being freelance graphic design to, would you like to support us at a photo shoot? Would you like to do some post production work for us, some casting?

Max:

And things just fell into place, and it took a very wonderful mentor and a very lovely boss like I said, to really identify that potential in me and tapped me on the virtual shoulder and said, “Hey, I think your place is actually in brand, it’s not in creative,” which like I shared with you guys I knew that already, I sucked at all four fields. But I hadn’t yet gotten that golden offer, that golden ticket to come in full time and he offered me a job. He said we’re starting a new division at Reebok.

Max:

At the time he was moving over from the Adidas side onto the BU classic side I’ll be overseeing the division there and we need a brand manager would you like to take a chance on life and take a chance on this opportunity? And needless to say, I said, yes. And things really cascaded and fell into place after that. And just to throw some logos out there like you asked from Reebok, I went to lululemon, from lululemon I then joined a much smaller, but reputable brand in Canada called Lolë. And then from Canada, most recently I was the director of marketing over at LA Athleta, which is a [inaudible] company.

Stephanie:

Wow. Yup, yup. Awesome logos of course, which is why I was like, “You have to name drop them.” That’s a really fun story about getting that invite and having someone bet on you before you even knew if you could enter into that world. I want to talk about brand in general and defining a strong brand, because you’ve worked at some amazing companies now who have done just that and they’ve been able to develop this following and stay true to brand. And you just see the cohesiveness when you look at what they’re doing everywhere, you get it instantly. So, what do you think defines a strong brand today? How do you go about building that?

Max:

It’s a great question and it’s definitely evolved. I think when I first started my career in this journey working in performance sports, endurance sports, I think it was very much benefit led marketing. So, it was really about the best shoes takes you on the longest run. Sometimes you got the occasional, this is the shoe that was designed by Michael Jordan. There’s a little bit of that celebrity persona aspect of it, but when I really began this journey, it was very product marketing. It was very benefits led, it was a very simplified message.

Max:

I think there were very little brands that understood and promoted, I think mission driven content and purpose led communication. Nike, I think was one of the first in the industry to package that up and present it in a way that was digestible to the consumer. I think where we’re at now today is most brands if not all, I think need to have a purpose led message or at least a mission driven DNA aspect of their brand. I think consumers are demanding more out of brands, I think that now more than ever they’re equipped with knowledge and the tools to actually do the research.

Max:

Which I think before, oftentimes again, the brands really held that power. They could really decide if and when to release messages around sustainability, messages around diversity, equity inclusion everything was very much calculated I think 10, 15 years ago in marketing. Now, if consumers can’t find that information on day one on your website or through your social channels, they’ll walk away and they’ll go to another brand whose mission and purpose is more overtly available on site as well as in their social channels.

Stephanie:

So, when you’re approaching brands that maybe don’t already have this, how do you go about it in a way that keeps it authentic? Because, throughout all the things that have been happening in the past year or two, maybe you see brands quickly trying to lean into something and be like, “Oh, we’re in that space too, we’re doing that well.” And then a lot of them end up one week later, two weeks later or whatever it is it’s gone and that can actually do more harm probably than not having anything at all. So, how do you approach that, because it feels like a tricky space to play in?

Max:

It is. And I think it’s definitely a hard question that you have to ask yourself and your organization, what are you as a company uniquely qualified to give to the world? Because, I think it is that unique nature that me as a brand marketer can package up and I can create a strategy behind and a communications and really elevate that and present that to the rest of the world. I think the brands that are struggling like you mentioned some were having to pull back.

Max:

Other brands that aren’t having those honest conversations with themselves, I think their desire to want to jump on something that is currently mainstream but not necessarily an element that trickles down back to their DNA and their structure and their organization. It doesn’t take long before it’s a domino effect. It doesn’t take long before you see all of the pieces falling at the same place. But I think really identifying what you as a company are most uniquely qualified to deliver to the world and to your customer, I think that is the hardest, if not the most important conversation that you can have and you can also give to your marketer.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yep. How do you go about measuring how a brand is doing? So, I’m thinking about what consumers say versus how they really feel, a good quote, maybe not a quote, but a summary from the CMO of UPS, they came on another show of ours and they said that they had really good brand recognition, people trusted them, but a lot of their consumers saw them as an old and stodgy company so they had to rethink their marketing because of that. But I’m like, if you would’ve just heard the first piece of oh, we have a great brand, recognition and trust, I’m just going to stop there, I’m good. Versus, getting into the details of, and it’s a yes and they also think this, how do you go about measuring a brand’s performance or how the consumers actually view them?

Max:

I love that quote too, taking a soundbite and turning it into an actionable insight. I will probably say something’s that’s a little bit more controversial, but that’s in my nature.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I love that.

Max:

I love internal employee pulse checks. I think for me, the true measure of whether your work is adding any value or is exciting people is whether or not your employees are naturally promoting that work. Very often it does not happen, you would be shocked how many times even sitting in a marketing function living it day in, day out going through the blood, sweat and tears will team members refrain from posting. I think it’s just there’s very little work that I think is being put out into the world today where employees take pride on wanting to showcase it and really wanting to advocate for it.

Max:

So, my way of measuring success is if you can take a head count around the table, and if every member from your team posted, shared it, communicated, was proud to wear it as an emblem, I think you’ve succeeded in your role first and foremost, if you’re just relying on that customer, if you’re just relying on that external feedback again, I think you failed as an organization and as a mentor and as a leader internally.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah. I love that. That’s really good. I’m thinking about different types of companies that probably definitely have an easier time. I’m thinking the non-profit world, people go there, maybe not always getting paid the highest, but they are there for a mission versus maybe other companies where people are there for the money or it’s a trend. How do you think about actually getting that feedback? Are you literally going around the room being like, “Did you share, did you share?” Or how do you do it at scale if it’s a team of thousands?

Max:

It’s so great, I love internal surveys. I think anytime I always loved doing postmortems after a campaign or after we deliver an action, because sometimes it doesn’t have to be a piece of creative content. It could be a public commitment, that you as an organization decided to make and that structurally made sense. And I’ve actually found that oftentimes employees are more willing and ready to share public commitments than they are with pieces of content, but anyway to answer your question, I’m a really big advocate of doing postmortems and in those postmortems, I think an internal employee pulse check with a survey I think is most often the best way to conduct that type of review process.

Max:

I also found that allowing employees to share feedback anonymously, I think helps exponentially and I think people are always more hesitant to put their name behind the feedback, but I realized very quickly in my review process that the moment I allowed people the freedom to actually say what they really thought without having to put their name behind it, I think the amount of feedback that we got was just astronomically higher, I think by nature.

Max:

I also really love when we are speaking about obtaining external feedback, I think social media has done a great job with that. Depending on which channels your organization is most active in, for me Athletic Apparel socials the epicenter right now, over all the community activities happening. I love doing pulses and customer surveys on Instagram. I think it’s such a great way for you to get feedback in real time, which can also be very eye-opening right.

Max:

So, when you capture your audience’s attention, you have a brief second to really engage with them. And if they’ve already made that first move, I think that to me is a lot more telling for a brand and organization than if you were to conduct customer insights and this extensive six month interview process where you’re most likely bringing in individuals that aren’t actively engaging with your brand. But on that aspect, I will tip my hat to Instagram I think for introducing that feature a thousand times over again, I’ve actually used it numerous times, not only for feedback on creative and campaigns that we’ve brought to market, but also as a way to guide our strategy.

Max:

So, I love doing polls where we basically ask our community what content would you to see us produce more? And sometimes the answer doesn’t have to be very philosophical, it can be very direct, it can be very simple. And the responses that you get can actually dictate the course of almost an entire season. And I definitely have done that before.

Stephanie:

Yep. So, are you doing that for some of the brands like Athleta, and how did you structure the polls to get actionable feedback?

Max:

Yes. I think Athleta is a great example, especially during COVID right. It’s hard to think back where I was a year and a half ago, but I remember having just moved to San Francisco for the job. I think I was in the office for a total of seven and a half days. The city just shut down and no one knew what to do. The organization didn’t know what to do. I think as employees, I think everyone was in a standstill, but again, the community and our audience demanded responses, they demanded actions. And I think our social media team, I think definitely held the grunt of that work, they’re at the battlefields, every single day whether it’s delivering good news or tapering and bad news.

Max:

And so, I think there was a lot of immediate and actions that we took and we really utilize social, I think, to dictate the course of how we would, I don’t want to use the word market, but really communicate where we were as an organization, because everything was at a standstill for 30 days. And it was really through that engagement and those backend DMs, those poll surveys, and I think we really found power in the voice of our community and we also understood what it really meant as a brand to show up for your community.

Max:

So, one of the things that quickly became evident as the city started shutting down was that the majority of our members at Athleta were business owners, female owned businesses, which some of that meant that they own their own studios, yoga studios, gyms studios, and those were the first to be impacted by COVID. And so, how do you as a brand support that community in a way that isn’t related to product and I think for Athleta, being under the umbrella of Gap Inc we decided to really create a financial resource for a lot of these female owned businesses, where as a member of the Athleta community, you could apply for a grant or a funding that could really for some moms and for some women could really help keep their business afloat for the foreseeable future, which is where we were at the beginning of COVID.

Stephanie:

I love that. And did you find out more about who needed that help or what help they needed through social media, like you said, through those DMs?

Max:

I would say a combination of social media and our retail teams. I think especially working in the Apparel industry, we forget that retail is not dead. And if you have a retail structure that is highly connected to your community, they oftentimes know more about your consumer than you do sitting at HQ. And it’s really that share-ability from the boots on the ground, I hate using the word bottom up, but I think that’s really the mindset.

Max:

So, let’s [inaudible] this top-down mentality and really about what are you hearing? What are customers saying when they’re coming to your door? What’s the feedback that you’re receiving in store? I think that’s really pivotal and I think that was really the feedback that was necessary for us to translate that into actionable insights as I call it.

Stephanie:

It seems there’s still going to be so much work around getting those insights and incentivizing the employees to share that, but now consumers are basically coming to any retail shop expecting the same thing that they can get from online. It’s like, yeah, of course I should be able to have this. Of course, I should be able to see inventory, talk to you quickly get what I want, but I see there’s that catch up to even just going in different stores around Austin right now and being like, “Oh, this still feels like 2019 right now. What are we doing here?” How do you see that evolving?

Max:

It’s also fascinating too, because you bring that up. Your store experience in Austin will probably be much different than a store experience in San Francisco. And even under the context of COVID, I think that’s going to feel a lot more amplified as well in today’s industry. I think what that touches on is really what I love to refer to as a decentralized model, where I think what we’re witnessing in marketing and in omni-channel experiences and retail experiences is these little pockets, these little hubs of community oriented messaging and team structures.

Max:

So, a retail store is no longer just a retail store, it’s actually a space for you to welcome members of your community, I think it’s a space for you to engage with local businesses. That was actually an aspect that I love the most about working at lululemon was just how they really understood, I think the power of community and how a retail store could actually be an extension of that local market or that local demographic. And it didn’t have to just be a place for business transactions, it didn’t have to be a place just for you to go in and buy stretchy yoga pants as everyone likes to say.

Max:

For some, it could be a resource. I took a trip down to Key West Florida, of course this was before the pandemic happened. And I wanted to know what yoga studio to go to, what coffee shop I should go to, and the first place I went was to a lululemon store and ask their community members, ‘Where do you go to work out? Where do you go to get coffee?” And it’s just amazing how I think retail environments have become a source of information for a lot of members of the community. And I think the brands that are adapting to that mindset, I think are the ones that will really in the end come out winning and will be stronger I think in today’s industry.

Stephanie:

I love that, such a good example. How does a company do that though? How does the brand pull a piece of the playbook from lululemon and create that community, do it in a way that people actually want to engage with, they trust it where they’ll go and ask advice like where’s the best coffee shop and buy from it. You essentially nailed every aspect of what every brand probably wants, but what do they do differently to get all of that?

Max:

I think it comes down to the original question that you asked me, I think a few minutes ago, which is, I think it’s just having that honest conversation as an organization as to what are you most uniquely qualified to give to your audience? And I think for lululemon, again, I’m probably not in a place to speak about this because I wasn’t there in its inception, but I can only imagine that when the founder sat down and analyzed that exact question, I think they knew that the power rested in community, so they made a conscious choice to really embed that in the organization’s structure, as well as their brand DNA.

Max:

And I think from that brand values the mission statements evolved and it serves as a filter, as you grow and expand, I think for a brand that maybe is not rooted in community and is wanting to maybe shift into that world, I will continuously say that, I think you need to ask yourself are you in a place that you can authentically play in that ecosphere, because if you can’t be authentic then I really don’t think you should invest the time. I think you should really, really embrace what makes you unique and what it is that you can deliver to a customer in a unique way.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yep. I love that. So, earlier you were talking about Instagram is where it’s at, it’s got all these amazing features that can help a brand learn about their audience, answer all the questions they need. What else are you betting on? What other platforms are you bullish on right now?

Max:

VR, virtual experiences augmented reality. I am so excited for that future. I think if anything, COVID and remote living and brands having to force themselves, how else can we engage with brands that is interested in ecommerce platform and think have really forced us to reconsider other ways to bring customers along the journey and the creative experience. And I think augmented reality has certainly put us in a place I think of a lot of excitement.

Max:

My favorite to date has really been the Billie Eilish and the Moment Factory partnership, they created an out of this world, no pun intended experience where they really transported her audience and her fan base into this imaginary world. And the question was really what happens to you when you fall asleep? So, it was really this dream like state and it was just, I think, a beautiful representation of what the future of content can look and feel like. And at the same time, I think it really challenges this archaic notion that digital experiences don’t create meaningful connection.

Max:

Which I actually think having VR and having augmented reality has really challenged that way of thinking, because it can absolutely transport you into a different world. It can absolutely create an emotion and it can also create an action. And I think that universe excites me tremendously, and if I could shift my focus and my attention, I think it would really be in a place where I’m playing day in and day out with that type of environment, for sure.

Stephanie:

Oh, I love that. This is something I’ve been looking into more from the crypto side and the cities, same, same though. I was learning all about these digital land sales and getting in there early, they’re building this entire world and people go and interact there and do essentially commerce in this world, but to think about it from a brand perspective, how can a brand play in VR because Billie Eilish, I get it concert go somewhere to a different land, I love the idea, but if I’m a brand, what opportunities do you see right now?

Max:

Well, I always think back to yoga of course, because I worked for one of the best yoga brands in the world, but I think again, not wanting to go back to COVID, but I think COVID really shed light on our inability to go outside, and again, be in studio and being in environments that felt very natural to us. And again, I’m speaking in these terms assuming that you’re probably the athletic person who does yoga, but if it’s not yoga, it could be you wanting to go to a restaurant or a concert or whatever it is.

Max:

But in the context of yoga I think there were a lot of studios that were actually introducing this notion of virtual reality in which that even though you couldn’t physically be present in the yoga studio, you could absolutely be transported there. And I think, again, it was a way to just create that connection and create that meaning and really bring people into one digital world that really felt physical visually.

Max:

And I think the brands that understand and harness that power, I think they’ll start using that as a mechanism potentially to either create content. So, one way that I could think this coming to life, and actually it was one of the first big projects that I worked on at Reebok. At the time Google and YouTube had just started partnering on VR experiences and we did an entire documentary campaign experience, where we brought audiences basically along the ride for four emerging athletes.

Max:

And it was really a way again, for you to be transported into the physical spaces in which they train day in and day out. And I think for a customer to have that behind the scenes look, it’s really one of a kind. If you can imagine this in an era of a Michael Jordan, to have that unfiltered access to an athlete before or after, or even during experience, I think that’s a great place to be in, in terms of VR experiences and building that digital world and that digital infrastructure for at least athletic brands, which is where I operate in.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I can imagine so many different experiences to leverage [inaudible] not just from shopping, that’s just the after effect of bringing in customers from all over the world and at the same place, instant way to build community, meet people. I think that’s what COVID taught everyone, is we were in our own little bubbles and we’d gotten to this place where the only time you maybe saw people who didn’t live near you, was in work meetings. And then all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh, but now I need more community.”

Stephanie:

And now it’s actually my work friends I need. And so, starting to broaden that, going into a whole different world and being able to have an experience together, you vet your community and then you can also shop while you’re there and maybe even change the experience as well, where it’s, try that on for me. Oh, I’d like to see a model showing me this outfit who looks like me, this entire thing of shaping where you’re at and be able to control it too.

Max:

I love that. And I think Warby Parker did that.

Stephanie:

Oh, did they?

Max:

Yeah. I think before any other brand caught onto that, the idea of essentially creating a virtual experience in which you could try on the products. And I think that notion that you, and I think you actually said something that gave me goosebumps, that idea that you could in real time see the product on someone that looked and felt like you, I think that’s really important as well. And I think that’s a shift that we’re seeing more and more. And I think if anything, I would give credit to VR for building that and putting that at the forefront of conversations and marketing, for sure.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah. We’re going to be looking back and be like, why did we just look at, oh, this model is 5’4 and 100 pounds. And me being like, okay, so that’s not me. So if I was much taller and bigger, how would it look on me? How would it flow? We’re going to look back and be like, “Why did we ever buy things based off of one picture? I want to see how it moves and fits and looks on someone.” And I should be able to choose that experience if I’m not going in the store and trying it on every time there should be no return rates from our products.

Max:

I love it, do you want to work in marketing?

Stephanie:

Let’s do it, I’m down. So many ideas I realized on the show, I’ll just give everyone ideas and maybe someone will implement one of them. Every one of a thousand is an okay idea of mine. Super fun. Yeah. I love thinking about that stuff. All right. The last thing I want to touch on was what brands are you watching to keep an eye on the industry? Who’s doing a really good job when it comes to branding where you’re like, “I keep tabs on them every week to see what they’re doing?” Maybe someone you’ve worked for.

Max:

Oh my God, that’s such a hard question. It’s interesting, I think I’m going to go outside of my respected industry. I’m really fascinated by what Spotify and Netflix have done, I think to the industry. I think Netflix has really capitalized on an audience-based as well as on a perpetual habit that I think we as consumers are starting to have more and more of in this digital age, and they’ve just managed to build this empire that I am so in admiration of, I also love what they’re doing as a platform in terms of exposing younger audiences to different types of content with documentaries being at the forefront, I am a huge advocate of documentary.

Max:

In fact, one of my first experiences was working in post-production for documentaries. And I think I give them so much credit for just having that vision, having that ambition. When I think back from where they were 12 years ago or [inaudible] first heard their name and where they are today being nominated for Oscars and just the amount of insights and data that they have on us as an audience and as a viewership and how they translate that data into building out specific content programs and building out specific platforms on their channel, everyone else is chasing them and I think that was a gift.

Max:

To me, they’re the Kleenex of the, they’re probably going to hate hearing that, but they’ve defined online streaming. The idea and the notion of online streaming did not exist before Netflix came into the picture, and all brands now are chasing them and they want to compete. And I think that’s a brand that I go to, I think, as a source of inspiration, which is weird to say, maybe it wasn’t what you were hoping to hear.

Stephanie:

Oh, actually, when you said that I’m like, oh, obviously you’re watching Formula 1. You’re seeing the brand and the content angle and then you can go to the whole platform play, which also equally is inspiring. We’ve written entire stories of mission around Netflix and how they basically killed off their entire revenue stream to bet on another big one and inspiring all around. So, I love-

Max:

I agree. It’s thinking big, bold and audacious and just watching the ripple effect happen. And I think they’re definitely a brand that I go to inspiration. And another one is Spotify, again, I think the brands that excite me are the brands that understand their customers and they’re catering their business decisions based on that understanding. There’s no better brand that exposes and showcases that as Spotify, even the types of content and the marketing campaigns that they’re putting out there all originally from their customer insights comes from data. And you got to give credit, I think, to a tech company like Spotify, where they’re consistently operating in this multi dynamic world.

Max:

Because, if you can only imagine between licensing music rights and managing talent and branching into podcasts as well as music, it’s got to be a living nightmare. Every time they have the opportunity to put a piece of campaign out there, a piece of content it’s so powerful and you can see it from a share-ability aspect, from an engagement aspect, people are excited, people are waiting for it. Again, it’s so simple their marketing but it’s so effective and it’s done in such an authentic way. Again, it comes back to that topic that you and I were talking about. It’s authentic in nature to who they are as a brand, as well as a business. And I really admire them for that.

Stephanie:

Yep. Yeah. I love it. Anyone who wants to hear more about Spotify, we had their old CMO on, he’s not their CMO now, but Seth, it’s a good marketing trends, the podcasts it was really good. I think we did two parts with him and he was epic and you’re like, now I know why the company is where it’s at now and all of the decisions that were made to get them where they are now. Cool. All right. Well, let’s move over to the lightning round. Lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud, this is where I ask a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready?

Max:

Yeah, I’m prepared.

Stephanie:

Okay. Get amped up. First one. What’s up next on your reading list or your podcast queue?

Max:

Oh, great. Where the Crawdads Sing.

Stephanie:

Where the crawd… I have not actually heard of this one, I’ll have to look at that.

Max:

I have it right there on my shelf. Yes, I bought it two years ago, It’s collected dust, but I’ve made a commitment to finish it before the end of August. So, that is on my reading list for sure.

Stephanie:

Wow. Good reads a million votes, 4.8 stars. That’s very good one. Cool. All right. If you were to have a podcast or show, TV show, movie, whatever you want it to be, what would it be about, and who would your first episode or guest be?

Max:

I think I’d have to do a podcast that is centered around people, places and products and how each of those define the course of your existence and how they really shape who you are as a human. And I feel anyone could speak or relate to any one of those elements and [inaudible].

Stephanie:

I like that. Who should be the sponsor for that? You already probably have a couple in mind.

Max:

I don’t know, I’ve actually never been asked as a question. I don’t know, maybe something will originate here.

Stephanie:

Yeah. There you go. Here comes the show, anyone who wants to sponsor it, Max is ready for you. What is the biggest disruption coming to ecommerce over the next year?

Max:

Hands down, virtual experiences.

Stephanie:

Love it. We already know your love for VR, so that makes sense. Next one, what is the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for you?

Max:

I’ve had a lot. I was working at Reebok, I had a really tough day, it was the first time I cried in a bathroom. You know when you just want to hide your tears, you go to-

Stephanie:

I’ve been there, corporate life.

Max:

And I stumbled across someone who worked across from me and she asked me what was wrong. And I said, “Nothing everything will be okay,” as we usually do. And the next day when I showed up, she bought me daisies, which she knew were my favorite. And she had a little bouquet of daisies there, and with a little note, and I had only interacted with this person once. And I thought it was just such a genuine kind gesture, and I’ve carried that moment since.

Stephanie:

I love that. That shows how such little things can literally impact someone’s entire life. And this person listening, I hope they’re out there so they can realize well-

Max:

[inaudible] bad-ass now, so you snagged a good one.

Stephanie:

I love that. That was great. All right, Maxwell, thank you so much for coming on the show, sharing all your brand knowledge, where can people find out more about you and maybe even hire you?

Max:

So, they could visit me at maxsummit.com. Yes, that’s right. I’ve basically bought out everything that has my name on it.

Stephanie:

That’s a good brand.

Max:

It was my little own brand marketing.

Stephanie:

Love it.

Max:

Yes, and my website you can visit at maxsummit.com. I’m also on LinkedIn again, Max Summit you can always find me. If you Google Max Summit, I’m probably Max Summit, Instagram, Max Summit LinkedIn, Max Summit Twitter, Max Summit at Yahoo, Max Summit at Gmail.

Stephanie:

There you go, Myspace, all the things.

Max:

Yeah. I’m Max Summit everything, but I love connecting with people, I love building stories. Even for virtual connects or coffee, it doesn’t have to be business related, I’m open and I’m here.

Stephanie:

I love it. Thanks so much.

Max:

Thank you.

Episode 133