I'm Sari, Kimbell, and I've done just about everything in the food industry. I have helped hundreds of packaged food business entrepreneurs. And now I want to help you make your delicious dream a reality. Whether you want to be successful at farmer's markets, online, or wholesale on the store shelves, Food Business Success is your secret ingredient. I will show you how to avoid an expensive hobby, and instead run a profitable food business. Now let's jump. Alright, right. Welcome back to the podcast. Today's guest is amazing. And I'm so excited to talk with Katie. So today I'm talking with food brand strategist extraordinar and podcast host Katie Mleziva. And she comes from years of steady progression at fortune 500 companies in packaged goods, consumer packaged goods and health care. And then she left the corporate world to pursue her entrepreneurial journey and has never looked back. She's excited every day to work with emerging natural food, businesses and farms to set their brands apart and help more people get access to real food. She does this by using the processes she's created based on her big business background, but streamlined for what smaller, more nimble brands need to set themselves apart. She's driven to help food businesses go from making a great product to building a strong brand. So welcome, Katie.
Katie Mleziva 1:36
Thank you so much for having me. Sari, it's great to be here.
Yes, we both have our podcast setups as as podcast hosts, and I know you have such a special place in my heart. Me on your podcast was my first podcast. Oh, was it? Okay. Oh, that's so cool. Yes.
Katie Mleziva 1:53
And you know what that is? That is what we should link to it. Because it's one of my best or highest downloaded podcast episodes. You did such a great job. Yeah,
it was so fun. And I just remember us connecting and I think Alibaba we connected through alley ball. And I think you're really just had a strong connection sharing, you know, the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur and formed our own little group.
Katie Mleziva 2:18
Right? Absolutely. And I love that we can help some of the same brands too. So yeah, it's always fun.
We definitely I know some of I get some new folks coming in from your Facebook group and vice versa. Yeah, same. And, yeah, you have an amazing podcast. You're You're a couple years ahead of me, but you definitely were inspiring. So thank you.
Unknown Speaker 2:40
Oh, thank you. It's three years this month. I can't believe it. We have. Oh my god, this
is think this is episode. Wow, this will be in the 30s. Anyway, I'm sure what number but it's kind of crazy to think like 30.
Katie Mleziva 2:53
I know that so good. So good. Oh,
Alright. Well, I think your last sense of your bio really said at all. This month, we're focusing on brand strategy and making the customer the center of our, of how we make our sales and grow our brand. But going from a great product to building a strong brand. And I think you're the best person I can think to talk about.
Katie Mleziva 3:20
Aw, Thank you.
So maybe just we'll start high level. And you could talk a little bit about defining brand strategy. What does the brand strategy really mean? Give us your your take on that. This is your expertise.
Katie Mleziva 3:38
Yeah, good. Thanks. I, you know, some people think of branding as a logo. And I think it's becoming more and more common for people to understand that brands go beyond a logo. It's really the combination of everything that you do in the marketplace, and behind the scenes. And so we'll talk about that a little bit more what I mean when it's, you know, the front and back end of your business. But I really like to start with having people picture a Venn diagram, so three circles that are overlapping. And each circle has a seam. So there's the consumer, the competitors and your company. And what we're looking to do is to recognize what your competitors are doing. But then just focus on the intersection of the company and consumer circle, and leave the competitors out of it. And really focus on how you can meet the consumers needs in a way that your competitors either can't or won't. And that's really where the strength comes to set your brand apart in the market. So we take those insights, and we really synthesize them into a positioning and a story and all these other things that you know, maybe the pieces of the brand's strategy will come up as we talk today, but that really serves as the North Star. And that like I mentioned a minute ago, really, it's not just about marketing. It's about everything that you do on the back end and the front end to deliver on your promises. So you're operating can't do something that your marketing is contradicting, for example, and vice versa. So well, I'm sure we'll talk a little bit more about why this is so important as we get into today. But that's, that's the biggest thing that it goes far, far beyond your visuals, or just marketing. The brand strategy is really rooted in the function of big companies called brand management, where you are like the general manager and the hub of everything that's going on, in connecting all the cross functional teams. So even if you're a solopreneur, and you wear all of the hats, you're still that connection point, thinking about managing the brand, and how all the different pieces need to play together.
Yeah, and I was just gonna ask you, so I mean, I know it sounds big, like brand strategy. And, you know, it does big businesses. I mean, when I worked for Whole Foods Market, you know, they have like, the big people at the top doing brands strategy and all of these things. Because it really is that communication, that front end, but also, like you said, the back end of how how customers are interacting with you. But can I do this as a small brand? I mean, I know you work with a lot of small brands, I do. it early, early stage, folks. So what are kind of the key things that they should be thinking about in developing a brand strategy?
Katie Mleziva 6:20
Yeah, you know, I'll first just quickly address the that sometimes people say is it either too early or too late to work on my brand strategy. And I always laugh and say, not just because I'm a brand strategist but it's never too early or too late. So it can sound like a really intimidating term. But that's why I like to take those big business concepts and streamline them, because you, I want to give small businesses every advantage that they can to put these pieces together, and we'll talk about the benefits again, you know, a little bit later, but, but it really does give you clarity, and consistency, and confidence to go and talk about your brand when you have all of these things in place. So it's, it's not necessarily the right time to go spend, you know, more than than you can on brand strategy development. But as you're thinking about the different areas of your business, to invest in, getting the fundamentals down, is really key. And then as you hypothesize and test and learn, you can build those muscles, you've got the knowledge then of how to create this, and then, you know, as your business needs to grow, you can then continue to refine your brand strategy. So that's a little bit of background, but I'll tell you, specifically some of the things that are in it. So we it's all organized the way that I do, it's all organized around those three C's. So we look at your vision and your purpose and your values and sort of that know thyself first. So what are you wanting to do? And what are you really driven by, and then we look externally at the competition to figure out what everybody's doing and what nobody's doing. And I always kind of joke, like, if nobody's doing it, is it because it's a terrible idea, or, because you are just uniquely positioned with your experience and your ideas and the way that you've brought it to life, maybe you're just, you know, this is the time and you're the person and why not. And so, you know, that that's that gap that we can identify. And there's some exercises to do that, and then moving into the consumers and identifying their, their needs and their insights. And, you know, we used to look more at demographics, now, we really focus a lot on psychographics the beliefs and behaviors. And that's, you know, a lot of a lot of psychographic span, traditional demographic, you know, sort of, kind of stereotypes is the right word, but it's not as important. For example, if you're, what gender you are, or what age you are, you know, if you do these beliefs and behaviors on a day to day basis, you might be a good candidate for a certain brand or product. The thing that we want to remember is that some people say, well, everybody's my consumer, and I know that like, but isn't everyone you may want everyone to buy this is like the the best clarification that I can say is that you may want everyone to buy, but you can't create your product for everyone because then it will be meaningful to nobody. So what I like to do is look at a primary audience. And you know, that's that core person that if you have an hour to spend or $1 to spend, that's the person that you need to find because they are going to be so excited and shout from the rooftops about your brand. And you know, and help you grow by being a big fan. And then there's also you know, if you picture kind of concentric circles, if that's your core, and then you picture the people in the further out wrongs you want to need them to buy also to meet your revenue and profit goals. But they are not the primary person who you're designing for you know that you'll get that halo effect with them but so that's how I like to describe the consumer. Then from the company standpoint, that's where we so we have the inputs of your vision and your purpose and your values, then we've got the competitive inputs, we've got the consumer inputs, and then we start to synthesize it all and say, okay, from looking at all of these things, what are our pillars? What value? And what benefits? Are we really providing? What is the personality of our brand? What's the essence, if you know, it's sort of like a funnel that we take all these inputs, and then we narrow it down, down, down down to we've just chosen a couple of words that are the very core of your brand, and what it stands for. And then we can get big again, and start to write the story and all the messages and all of that stuff. But does that explain sort of why they're going there? And then we start to craft messages in the story to bring that back to life.
Right. Because like, you call it the North Star, like we need something to guide it. That's super simple. That's like, Yeah, he speaks to us and encapsulates all that we are in a couple of short words.
Katie Mleziva 11:00
You know, it's so hard. I think it's super fun, but it is really hard work.
It is why we need people like you who think it's fun. I mean, you know, I do some brand strategy. And I have some, you know, when we do refreshes, or new logos and brands, it's like, we do some of this work. But man, if if people are able to do this work with you first and then come to me, oh my gosh, like, cuz you go a lot deeper. And you're you have such great frameworks. And you're very, like, you're a framework gal, which I love.
Katie Mleziva 11:35
I am it helps me organize all the all the thoughts. And I think that's part of why you know, that's the feedback I hear, too, is that you know this that as entrepreneurs, all of us have a million ideas racing through our heads all the time. Yeah. And that's hard, it becomes clutter at times, and you don't know always what to focus on. And so rather than creating the wheel every time or recreating the wheel every time when you've got these frameworks that you put your ideas through, and then you've got, you know, a word bank of the words that you use for your brand, or your key messages that support your pillars and you know, all again, all those outputs, then you don't have to recreate the wheel every time whether you're working on a pitch deck or doing a job posting or interviewing or onboarding or marketing messaging, or deciding what supplier to choose, you know, it's it really is sort of that Litmus tester and are starting to help you decide, you know, make decisions across everything we do, which is liberating.
Isn't that what we all want? I mean, I we get into decision fatigue as entrepreneurs and having yeah, something that just says, yep, that's aligned with our values. Nope, that's not and it just makes decision making so much easier.
Katie Mleziva 12:43
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's not like the tough stuff goes away. But you're right, it's so much easier when you have this, it takes the emotion out of it too, because, you know, we are emotional, or maybe not everyone, but I get emotional because I care so much about my business and the people that I work with. But when you have this, this decision making tool, sort of like a creative brief, when you're doing design work that if you've got this thing that you said, here's what it is, then when you're going back later, you can use your gut, but it's just, it helps you have something to refer to.
Yeah. Well, I know we've kind of alluded to it. But let's go ahead and just answer the question about why why is this so important? Why does it really matter? Why is this something we should spend time on and resources on? Yeah.
Katie Mleziva 13:26
Well, you know, I think that when people are thinking about building a strong brand, you know, one of the obvious things is that if you ever are thinking of selling your business, having the the you know, a clear strategy outlined in your position in the market is really important. When you're working to get into retail accounts, having a clear positioning and story is really important. And knowing where you fit in the category and how you meet consumers needs. Some of the some of the more consumer facing pieces are things like recognition, though. So, you know, thinking about the I know, you've heard me talk about this, the Baader Meinhof effect, sort of that cumulative effect that you know, like, when I got a new silver Explorer, suddenly they're everywhere. It's the idea that once something's into your consciousness, we tuned a lot of stuff out during the day. But once it's in your consciousness, you start to notice it everywhere. So we want to use that phenomenon for your brand. And when you're consistent and show up, you know, in a cohesive way, then people start to recognize you and that builds, and then they can also another benefit is word of mouth marketing. When they see you consistently they know what to say to other people, it makes it stickier, and they, you know, can describe it better to other people. So those are a couple of consumer facing reasons and then going back internally thinking about that clarity and confidence that we talked about a little bit earlier. Consistency doesn't have to be boring or repetitive, it just means that you show up in a way that your consumers or retailers or investors are you know that they get it, they don't see you one day and you're, you know, at one end of the spectrum, and they see another day and you're completely off in another direction, they see that you have it together and that you're organized and you know, hopefully in a meaningful way that's relevant to the market. And so, you know, that makes it exciting that you're, you're able to focus on the things in your business that will really help fuel growth, versus every time you do something trying to figure out, what should I do?
Yeah, and it, I mean, I think about going to a buyer pitching to a buyer, or we're working on a refresh, and we want to do a whole slide deck for their wholesale, you know, company or their, their distributor to help promote their brand. And it's like, yeah, it just helps you get really clear, and you're not fumbling for all the words in the moment, right? Yes. And it's just like, those are just there in the back of your mind. You're like, yep, I know who I am. I know, the data story. I know, I know how to present this. And it does help with that confidence a ton.
Katie Mleziva 16:17
Yeah, yeah, it really does. And the thing that I love about it is that if you get new information that informs it like you don't want to be, you know, flying all over the place, changing willy nilly. But if you get some information or to your point data that changes the outlook on things, then you make an update or a refresh. And but you've got the foundation, at least to have a starting point to say, Okay, here's where we are confidently today. And then as new information comes in, or you learn more about your consumers or something like that, then then you can update and and be testing and learning and growing.
Yeah. And speaking about like the the repetition and the consistency with with your marketing. I was thinking when you were talking about the effect of what was it called, again, the by the what was it called again?
Katie Mleziva 17:06
Yes, um, like at Whole Foods, we, you know, we knew that like only like 10% of the signs that we would put up with, you know, out of all that congestion would be really seen into so making sure you had repetition. I'm sure you do it on the podcast, I know, I will be doing on the podcast where we're gonna repeat certain concepts over and over and over again, because we need to hear them and we want them to be consistent. And so I think brands need to do the same thing. And actually, it could be a big relief to not always have to come up with like constant new, original content, but it's okay to repeat. Like, I'm thinking even on social media, like, it's okay to repeat some of the same things and use the same photos, but with a different caption or, you know, like, repetition is actually Okay, we like to have a solidify our opinion.
Katie Mleziva 17:59
That is absolutely right. You know, that's I mentioned the word bank earlier. But that's a nice way that if you, you know, there could be four different ways to say something, and I'm not saying every single time you have to say it, you know, one way, if you have like, the main way that you say it, then you might get sick of seeing it that way, but to a consumer or you know, other stakeholder, that's just getting the seed planted. And so again, they they can like right off the bat, say, Oh, that's that brand. That's how they say it. And so it doesn't have to be a tagline, necessarily, but just the way that you talk about things, it makes it clear to other people, and then you know, back to the point of word of mouth, that they know how to refer you. See, yeah, you're totally right. I definitely agree.
And if you're not clear on it, your customers surely won't be clear on it.
Katie Mleziva 18:44
Yeah, don't make them guess. Because I like to say like, there is one foot either direction in the grocery store or online that, you know, they'll just move on if they can't tell what you stand for. What you are representing,
so good. Well, I want to talk I was we were talking before we started recording about this. You know, I'm talking a lot about brand strategy and brand story here with some great guests. But, you know, I was listening to one of your podcasts and I'll link up both of them that are so good. But number 74 you were kind of talking about your own experience getting into brand strategy. But you you really talked about like making your customer the center of this and I know that's one of your three C's but I see that as you know if the company I feel like maybe it's an entrepreneur, we all do this we all make it about us right? Because we're they all were in it like it surely is about us. But ultimately, it can't be all about our own values and our own history and and all of the things right so how do you kind of talk about how do you help people with their customer, remind them that their customer needs to be at the center.
Katie Mleziva 20:00
Yeah, yeah, well, you know, that is one of the biggest differentiators that I can think of when you are making a great product. You know, most brands start with a great product, because they wouldn't put something on the market that was just so so I mean, some will. Some are all just marketing. But right quality is usually the place where at least the brands that you and I work with start. And so and that is a good place to start. And it's usually a little bit more, a little bit more focused on the brand and the execution and the operations and getting everything just right. And that's okay, you know, I'm not saying that that's not the right thing to do. But a brand and a strong brand. That is building value is when the consumer is really at the center to your point. So you're looking for those insights and focusing on not just the product attributes, which is what a product focuses more on. But a brand focuses more on those emotional benefits and emotional connections so that it's not a pure commodity or transactional play. So I feel plenty excited about buying certain products, let's just say at the farmers market, I love to go to the farmers market. I know you do, too. Yeah. And so you know, there's let's just say a soap company, or, you know, different produce vendors or whoever I'm buying from, I'm really excited to buy from them. But unless they tell me the story and give me a way to connect with them, it's a little bit more interchangeable. Now, maybe sometimes you make that personal connection to and these are all steps towards building a strong brand. But the idea is that it's more product and product, attribute focus versus brand, is when it's more emotional connection focused. And that's just so important, because that's where you get people actually seeking you out again, and, you know, following you to a different farmers market, for example, versus just buying whatever's there or ordering online.
I say, yeah, I mean people are so quick to be like, I'm just gonna put it up online, but you're asking people to take an extra step and go to your website and fill out their information. You know, it's a lot, lot harder. I mean, harder in quotes, right?
Katie Mleziva 22:17
More time consuming to go to Amazon, rather, you know, I can go to Amazon and put a whole bunch of things, or I can go the grocery store and put a whole bunch of things in my cart and one checkout, but you're asking people to go to your website and look at your stuff, and it's gonna you can't you're not competing on price, of course, it's pretty hard to compete on price on your own website, and then pay the shipping or the additional fees, fill out all the information like, there are a lot of steps in there. Yeah, there has to be some additional connection beyond just the product.
Katie Mleziva 22:53
Yeah, I think that's a good point, again, what that experience, if I've done all that work to go to your website, then I'm not saying that you shouldn't just like at least just get a website up there so that I can order if I want to. Yeah, like if, as again, as you evolve and grow, having a reminder about why people love what you're doing. So as you're telling that story about your brand, it's not all about us, we and I, as the brand owner, it's inviting people into the story. And they should be able to identify themselves in that story on your website. And so yes, you know, it's really good that you say that, if I'm, I'm going to go through the work of going to each individual brands website. Excuse me, I need to be reminded and sort of get that payoff of like, Oh, I'm so excited about this.
Yes, I know. Right? Yeah. It's such a big deal. And I don't know that people always think through that well, and, and I can tell pretty quickly when people are like, yeah, here's why I did this. And here's my history. And here's all about me, me, me. I don't care about that until later, like make a connection with me. Tell me how it's going to help me.
Katie Mleziva 24:02
Yeah. Yeah. So I have two two different exercises people can do. One is on the consistency piece one is on that, making the story about your consumer piece. So if I can just share quickly. The first one is called a one room test. And so what you can do is really pull as many things as you you know, literally pull them into the same room like a sell sheet or a banner from your farmers market or your put your website up on a computer and your product packages like the entire line, not the ones that you don't hardly sell, but like really put them all out there so that you can see the whole gamut of what your brand looks like how it is when you're showing up. You know, are you consistent and cohesive? Do you have some work to do? Usually, there are some places that people say yeah, I've got a little bit of work to do over there and either they knew it or they didn't. But at least when you've got it all, literally on the table, you can see where you could improve or maybe you see that like it all looks the same, but the messaging is different. Or maybe you see that there really isn't much of a message. So that's one exercise that can be really, really insightful for the brands that I've worked with. And then the other piece or exercise that you can do when you are looking at your existing website, copy, for example. Now, first of all, again, I'm there's no judgment here, be easy on yourself when you're doing these exercises. But this is just to always be growing and getting better. But as you look at your website, look at some of the things that you're writing. And when you do see yourself talking about we offer this and we do this and why we're different is all about us. Think about how you might write that sentence flipped into the consumer benefit. So that can just it's a really simple exercise, and maybe you recognize it first and aren't ready to fix it until you can think a little bit harder about what that benefit might be. But if you just go through, or maybe it's your social media posts and start to think, okay, I said it this way, and it's all about me, but how can I say that in, you know, in the consumers, it's not in their voice, but like in directing it to them where they see themselves in it versus me talking to you, instead, we're having a conversation?
Yeah, you gotta like, if I'm the one spending the money, you got to bring me into the storyteller why? why it's important to me, why should open my wallet, offer a benefit? And, and I was also telling you, I listened to another one of your podcasts about the the pyramid, which was amazing. And people definitely go listen to it, because we're not going to obviously recap the whole thing. But could you just kind of share because I can give the high level? I didn't realize there were so many when I think about benefits, you know, I mean, price is always one of course. that were motivated by, yeah. But
Katie Mleziva 26:49
Yes, so I'll just do a really quick highlight. And this is the benefit, or the value pyramid, that was part of a study done by Bain consulting. And so what they did was across industries, they boiled down a huge research study into what are the 30 benefits that consumers get from buying things could be services could be products, they boiled it all down to 30 things when they kept saying, Well, why does that matter? And why does that matter? And so okay, so there's a pyramid with 30 things you can imagine the base is bigger than the top, at the bottom are the really functional benefits of a product. So food, I'll just spoiler alert, the, the two most important things were quality and sensory appeal, which you can imagine it you know, again, most brands are looking for a quality product versus just low cost. And then sensory appeal is everything that goes into, you know, our senses, and taste and smell and all those things for food. So that's the, that's the base of the pyramid and all the way up at the top of the pyramid, or as you go through different levels of more and more emotional benefits. And then at the very top of the pyramid is self transcendence. So you know, something bigger than myself. And the two places that brands get caught up are either playing at the bottom and staying in those more functional attributes, or they go straight to the top, and they haven't earned their way up the pyramid. And so the idea is that you've got to have, you've got to earn your way with trust and proving that you're really doing something like delivering on these benefits before you can just, you know, be this really social mission brand, you've got to you've got to show that you're like, like, you know, legit doing these things can't be smoke and mirrors. And then on the flip side, though, if you stay just on those technical, more attribute level pieces, it you know it's a, it's a dangerous place to play, because everybody's saying the same thing at those levels, you know, you might have a different look or feel, or founder story, but it's Yeah, it would be great if you can link to that. And people can also search for the Bain consulting study on that, because it's not a super long paper, but it's just really interesting to read through. And and I will say one more thing is that usually in brand strategy, we really want to be focused in this exercise. It's just one piece that we do in you know, in the whole thing, but in this exercise, the more pieces of value that you can hit on in each level, the better because it makes people more loyal and less price sensitive. So that is what a lot of the people that we work with are looking for too, you know, finding those people who value the things, you know, similar things and when we can really acknowledge what benefits our products and brands deliver. It tightens that connection. Yep, yeah. I'm glad you liked it.
I loved it. Yeah. Oh, good. And it just gave me so many more ideas and some of you know the usual ones that we use and Yeah, good. You know, last month we were talking about all about money and the challenges of of a you know, starting a business and right money mindset as well as practical things. But one of the questions I asked was like, you know, are you okay with charging what you're charging for your, you know, your bread or your, your granola or your jam? I mean, I think that it can be a really sticky place for for entrepreneurs because they have to, and they, they, they believe in the quality of it, right? I don't think anybody that I'm working with doesn't believe in the quality and same goes for your your people. But I think that they got to layer in some more of these benefits to really feel confident of like, hell yeah, like this was worth every penny of it. That's kind of what it reinforced for me was like, if I as a, as a brand can reinforce my own benefits and my own value through that pyramid, then I'm going to feel more confident to saying good points, here's why you should definitely spend $9 on gluten free muffin or
Katie Mleziva 31:06
I agree. And you know, the just one more thing on that is that another reason I like that pyramid is because once you've gone through and identified the things that you are adding value, you can also identify the next places that you would want to go, you know, maybe we're not doing this today, but where else would we want to go. And the other way you can use it is inspiring social media or email or other content creation. Because you can you know, it gives you let's just say you're 15 out of the 30, it gives you 15 different things to say, you know, I thought starters on w ell, how do we deliver that benefit? Okay, here's the different ways we do that and can help with that content.
That's a great, great way to use that tool, inspiration and direction. And we're
Katie Mleziva 31:48
Yes, we all need it.
I love that. We'll definitely link to that. And then you link to the study. So go check out Real Great Brands podcast, and we'll we'll put all your links in the show notes. So how about we, we switch to talking about some specific examples, especially that you see with clients that you can share with us. I think we can get a lot out of you know, listening to real world stories.
Katie Mleziva 32:19
Yeah, you know, one that I'm working with right now is really exciting. She is a top eight allergy free baking mix company. And she's just wonderful. You know, I am always so excited about the people that I work with, because they're just really good people. And the cool thing with that is that she has life threatening food allergies herself. And that's not the cool part. Obviously, the cool part, though, is that she has worked tirelessly to deliver this product and build a brand to help other people with food allergies, not have to go through the same things that she's been through and to make it really, really, really safe. And so it's exciting, the place that we ended up like the the insights that she didn't even know that she was saying, as she talked with me that, you know, of course I grabbed on to because they were these pieces of gold, but she couldn't see it because she was too close to it. And so we wove that through her pillars and her story. And now we've got a really differentiated positioning. And she said, You know, I, I'm re-energized about my brand, again, I'm so excited to go get this out in the world and to like, go get it instead of feeling the heaviness of everything that was related to it. And that was so exciting to me, because, you know, this is more than a job to me, like I really, I know, you know, again, like you, you just really love what you do and the people that you work with. And so those are the things like when people feel kind of worn down, like this can be a hard business. And I think it can be really refreshing when you can, again, take all of those pieces out of your head and connect the dots. And, you know, sort of glue it all together and synthesize it and and get the get that clarity that makes you feel energized again, that's, I think that's really exciting. Yeah. And another example, I know that, you know, the folks that unwrapped also. And that was another fun example, because they had a really good idea of what they you know, a good example because they had a good idea of where they were going and what they wanted, but they just needed those frameworks to put it through. So whereas the first person I talked about, we've been working one on one, they used my more DIY, you know, guided DIY kind of process because they just needed a little help to get through and have those frameworks to hang their ideas on and you know, like and pull new ideas out. And so that is exciting too because then they were able to work with their packaged designer to say, okay, here's the key things that we want to communicate and I love their new packaging and or their whole new brand identity. So the thing there is that it's nice that when you're working with partners that you give them, you know, sort of a sandbox to play in, I like to say we don't tell them to use the blue shovel, and the red scoop. But we say like, here are the, here's the tools that you have, here's about how big the sandbox is, you know, maybe you can surprise me with with something else. But here's basically where we're playing in. Yeah, the designers that I know really appreciate that. And they feel like they have room to be creative than knowing basically what, what their client is looking for. And I think that that, that helps you be more efficient. So the time and money that you spend on your brand strategy, that's just one example. But it can help you be so much more efficient with the other partners that you work with. Yeah, they're on the operation side and marketing side. And
Same goes for I mean, that would apply definitely for graphic design, but also social media, if you have totally helping you with social media or newsletter writing. And actually, I'm working with a client I've worked with Jessica with Fireworks Butters for a while Oh, a number of years, but I know she has been doing your your program as well. And her brand refresh is Oh my gosh. Amazing!
Katie Mleziva 36:23
I just look at it sometimes tonight, I messaged her one night and I'm like, just because you just love it. Like it's
we like narrowed it down, you know, from all the choices but and we're just finishing up all of her Farmers Market materials and everything, and it just looks phenomenal. But to your point like it definitely reenergized her to get those graphics, but you know, that's the visual fun piece. But also, she was guided by those pillars and those core values and all of those pieces that you offer in your program and, and people thinking about those and getting them on paper, like we do all of this work in our head, but it's so important to get it out on paper. And then we can also share it with all of these partners and make your life so much easier. And and deliver better quality quality items. And now we have great copywriting and it's all guided by by these values.
Katie Mleziva 37:21
And that's a great example. I'm so glad because she she we did have a one on one session, but she did the version where it's like almost completely where there was there's videos. But yeah, so there's there's different options, depending on budgets and preferences. And but yeah, I'm so happy you brought up that example, because it's just it makes me so happy. It's really good design work. And I'm glad to have played some role in it. Yeah. The process Katie's working on. That's really good. That's good.
So and you have your Facebook group where I'm sure you see a lot of these aha moments to talk about brand. And
Katie Mleziva 38:02
Yeah, you know, it's kind of fun. Someone just posted things like I think that I'm, you know, I think that my branding is pretty cohesive. And he showed his product and his shipper or you know, display not not a packaging ship, or like the display box. And, and it's, you know, it's great, it's, it's fun to bounce ideas around. And I'm going to be focusing the conversation more and more on the brand strategy piece and bringing your brand to life, because there are a lot of Facebook groups that are, you know, are available. And I think each has their own niche, and I am going to follow my own advice, I think and, you know, focus the conversation there even further to things like that, because I don't see that conversation happening everywhere. So, yeah, well,
I it's scary to niche, right. I mean, that we could say that for anybody, all of us include.
Katie Mleziva 38:52
Totally, that is another podcast I used to. I used to be more general in my approach, but but I really like once you are focused on the things that are your, you know, some people say zone of genius, or whatever lights you up, or it's just you can operate at a higher level all the time, which is sort of a plug for, you know, you and I were talking about building our teams, and it is when you can to have the right help at the right time. You know, it is really important so that you can focus on what lights you up the most. And what Yeah, what needs to be used doing it.
Right? Yeah, figure out what you should be doing and then, you know, let everybody else do their thing. But you know, I mean, that gets back to that target customer and, and you and I definitely have to go round and round with people on why it's so important to choose a target customer. And I know when I finally was like, nope, here's what I do. Here's who I serve, and it's really uncomfortable and you don't want you want to do everything. But I guess I mean I heard a quote about like good branding. Good. Marketing should be polarizing to some extent, like not that you're going out and being obscene and trying to, you know,
Katie Mleziva 40:07
Yeah, and some people are. That's not. That's not my style. But you right? Yep. so that people can be attracted people who know that you are their person that they can see it and feel it. Yeah, I do agree with that.
Yep. It's like, I know where my cutoff is. And it's like, no, that's not who I help go talk to Ali Ball or, you know, take her program or no go talk to this consultant. But it helps me to be so much more focused on I serve people with an idea are very early stage. And that's how I help. And that's, that is
Katie Mleziva 40:42
absolutely back to that word of mouth that I was talking about, you know, for the listeners too. But that helps. I know who to send your way. Also, you know, so I, I think it, it's just all of this is just good business, whether you are doing it for your food business, or you're a consultant listening or, you know, you are have a nonprofit or a school organization that you help on the side, all of these principles really do apply. across industries. Yeah.
So I know you've had different programs along the way. So tell us more about what how people could work with you how and I love that you do have kind of different levels, different tiers based on people's budgets. And so tell us what you're up Tell me what you're up to, I feel like we haven't actually caught up about business or personal in a while.
Katie Mleziva 41:28
I know, it's been too long. The so the foundations of what I talked about today are the same principles no matter how we work together. So there's, you know, similar things you'll hear on the podcast, which is free, and in the Facebook group, which is free all the way to, you know, the one on one work, where I'm researching ideas and bringing them to you, every every option is collaborative, because, you know, the client is the person who is the expert on their business, I can facilitate differently depending on, you know, again, needs and budget and timelines. But there is that one on one work. And then there's also, there's also group options. And I'm partnering with the food finance Institute to do a, to do a program in late April, where it's a three day intensive program. So we're going to do that once a quarter. So even if this podcast comes out after April, we, you know, people can stay tuned. There's, there's the range, I mean, and then I even do one off strategy sessions, where it's not that we will be able to, you know, create your whole brand strategy in an hour. But if I just had a session yesterday, somebody had been following along on the podcast, and he had laid it all out in during the hour, we went through it together and, and talked through it. And so that was wonderful, because, again, different budgets and different approaches. And, you know, I'm excited to work with people at different stages from, you know, to your point, early ideas to, you know, where we do the more intensive, comprehensive brand strategy work together. A lot of times people are either, you know, just starting out and really want to invest in and set the foundation strong from the get go. Or they are transitioning either from local to regional or regional to national, and know that, to get to that next level, they've got to do something different and have a bit more, you know, a stronger brand. So yeah, those are kind of the two things that I see in terms of what sparks people to come to me. And then we figure out what that right spot is together. But the best way to get in touch is to download a free brand checkup that I have, because that ties to everything that we're talking about today. Where you can it's 25 questions that you can rate yourself one, two, or three on in terms of different areas of the business with your brand, from setting it to integrating your business around it. And so you don't have to send it to me You sure can. But if you download that, then you'll be on my email list and you'll be able to I only email once or twice a month. So I won't inundate you but you'll be able to see what the different offers are that I've got going on.
Perfect. Yeah. And then you have the Facebook group. What's the name of that? So people can find you.
Katie Mleziva 44:12
It's called the Real Food Brands Marketing Roundtable. Yes. Yeah.
The podcast by the same name and you're on Instagram.
Katie Mleziva 44:20
Yep. It's real food brands try to be consistent everywhere. Yes.
I know. I always like when people come in there. They have like one handle for Facebook and one for Instagram and a different website. It's like, I know it's hard sometimes but as much as possible. Let's try this come out of the gate with the same things.
Katie Mleziva 44:45
Yeah, that I think that's a good point for anyone who has an idea now and it's really early on. Or maybe you've got a new line extension idea or a new product idea even if you're an established brand but you like reserving the the Instagram hook and her handle and Facebook page and all of those things, and obviously buying the URL. I do all those things every time I have an idea, just yeah, you know, it's like $12 get the URL or have it? Yeah.
You can set up a private, you can turn the Facebook group that or the Facebook. Yeah, you don't have to do any published. And then Instagram can just sit there.
Katie Mleziva 45:22
Yeah, yeah. But at least you've got that for that consistency sake. Like,
you just make good points. Yeah. So when we talk about people just starting now, what is that kind of piece, that nugget you want to leave people were that they really, you know, should be thinking about? Like, what, what, what advice would you recommend? Would you get?
Katie Mleziva 45:43
Yeah, yeah. You know, I think you actually said it is one of the things that I would recommend is really writing this stuff down. So whether you're going to do a formal brand PR strategy process with me or someone else, or read a book on brand strategy. It's really the idea of documenting these things and getting it out on paper, because something sort of magical happens between your brain and either your fingers, whether you're writing, you're typing, when you have to put words to things. And if you're talking to someone else, that's another layer of it, you know, then you're, then you're bouncing ideas back and forth. But anyway, the words that you land on, can really start to help take you to a different place than before you started writing so. So I really like that idea of, you know, go through the frameworks, but just really write it down. And if you're looking for those frameworks that I use, I'm happy to talk more to people. But again, I just want people to do the work. And so just in writing it down, it really is one of the best ways to make sure that your vision is really meeting the needs of the consumers in a way that your competitors can't or won't.
I love it. I love that that tagline that's, I hear that a lot from you. But I love your repetition. repetition. Yeah, we need to hear it over and over again, kind of walk the walk in there. I you know, I'm sure people are like, oh, there they go. Again, I'm always like, get a piece of paper and a pen, I know that you want to do this in your brain. And I'm always giving people writing ideas and exercises on this podcast. You can't escape it.
Katie Mleziva 47:23
Because it's true.
I know. And I wanted to resist it for so long as an entrepreneur and it I mean, every amazing entrepreneur business person out there will tell you that this is this is everything to put on paper. So yeah, it is do it.
Katie Mleziva 47:42
I just need somebody to help me. It's a little bit painful, because I feel like I should be able to do it myself. But I just hired somebody to help me with some of this. Because it's hard to take yourself through it not the brand strategy side as much as like the vision mission and values just to it's good to revisit it every now and then even if you've got this down, but to build on it and continue to learn and iterate and getting that outside perspective to convey really insightful having somebody pushing you to get it done.
Yeah just like you said. Yeah, write it down, but then talk about it. But it's great to talk about friends and family. But hey, even better to talk about with somebody who like does this all the time?
Katie Mleziva 48:21
And knows what questions to ask.
Yeah, so I think all of those things are really helpful when you get serious about creating a cohesive, engaging brand story. Yeah.
Katie Mleziva 48:36
Well, thank you so much for joining me Katie, it's been so fun to see your face.
Katie Mleziva 48:43
Yes, you too.
It has been too long, because we were gonna get together. Last year in April, right? We were trying to figure out for food finance.
Katie Mleziva 48:54
Yes. Yes, we are going to meet in Madison and then the world shut down.
And then the world shut down. And I was like, I'm gonna finally meet Katie. I know and then no.
Katie Mleziva 49:05
Some day we will do it and we will like be nonstop chattering people around us. Awesome. Well, thank you so much again for being here. Fantastic day.
Katie Mleziva 49:22
Yeah. Thank you, you too.
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