Branding W/ Phil VanDusen | Straight Facqts Ep. 11

How To Position Your Brand On Social Media W/ Philip VanDusen

On this episode, we’re talking to branding expert Phil VanDusen about how you can be able to better position your brand across socials. Plus, we get into: Is Instagram doing the right thing by cloning TikTok and essentially ruining its own brand? Let’s get into it.

Gabe Harris:

All right. We’re here with Philip VanDusen, with over 25 years of VP of Design and Executive Creative Director at global agencies, and now runs his own agency consulting to help you with your branding. Well, Philip, excited to get you on the show and to be able to dive in everything branding when it comes to social media.

Phil VanDusen:

Cool. Gabe, thanks for inviting me.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah, definitely. Excited to be able to talk because right now, social media is such a growing part of businesses and becoming much, much more important as we go along. But when it comes to branding, what is an emphasis that you would have when it comes to social media? What type of impact and what are the things companies should do when thinking about branding on social media?

Phil VanDusen:

Well, I think that branding period is all about consistency. And because I talk about the three R’s a lot: being recognized, being remembered, and being revered. In order to be remembered, you have to be recognized.

So wherever people come across you on the web, you want to look the same. Have that quick brand impression through color, through font, through your logo, through whatever kind of music you use, any animation styling. You want the very fast millisecond thumb scroll impression to be there.

And so you have to be super consistent with the colors you choose, the fonts you choose, how you represent your identity and those sorts of decisions, because building a memory of a brand is done over time. So it’s done over multiple exposures. They say before anybody takes any action on a brand these days, they usually have at least seven exposures to the brand.

“The more you can add a human face, a human voice, a human touch to your brand at every single interaction opportunity that you have, the more you’re going to be humanized in the eyes of consumers.”

So you don’t want people to be confused and not recognize your brand when they come across it because that’s a critical touchpoint to build to some sort of action that they’re going to take to engage with you. So visual design consistency is paramount. That’s number one. And that’s almost like groundwork. If you’re not doing that appropriately, you are just throwing your brand money out the door.

The next one I would say is there’s two more that I think are really important right now. One is engagement, and I think that people want to do business with people. They don’t want to do business with brands.

So the more you can add a human face, a human voice, a human touch to your brand at every single interaction opportunity that you have, the more you’re going to be humanized in the eyes of consumers. And that will make it easier for them to emotionally connect with your brand.

And in social media, in particular, I think a lot of brands really make a big mistake in not engaging in a very human way, through comments, through interaction, direct messaging, stuff like that.

There are brands that do it well like Wendy’s comes to mind, and the fact that they have these young social media managers, people who have incredible senses of humor and take a lot of chances in terms of how they talk to people and other brands, but it really makes them stand out. They’re really memorable because they have this kind of real human touch and tone of voice behind them.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Actually, working for Wendy’s Twitter would be a dream job in my 20s.

Phil VanDusen:

Absolutely. Yeah, of course. I don’t know if I’d done it in my 20s, I probably would’ve lasted like two weeks. I probably would’ve said something a little untoward, and then that would be it.

Gabe Harris:

Oh, yeah, yeah. But that’s almost their branding to say, I don’t want to say the most ridiculous, I imagine that there’s a couple of things they say, like, “This is a little bit too far,” but they do a really good job of pushing that edge.

And also, they do a really good job of using PR because I don’t follow Wendy’s, but I definitely see a lot of those tweets that they do because of that PR that they’re able to tie in with their social.

One thing is to use people’s faces and to put yourself out there. Oh, another thing that you mentioned also is commenting. However, a lot of people don’t have time, or maybe they’re not best prioritizing their time to do comments. So how does that look?

Should you hire somebody? And if you hire somebody, that may be inauthentic of your brand as well, and it may not be what you personally think. So how does that blend in to have that communication with your audience?

Phil VanDusen:

I think that if you’re going to advertise and show up on social, in digital, you have to have some sort of presence, human presence.

I read a study recently that 78% of people who ping a brand on Twitter expect a response within an hour. And so it’s not only that they expect a response, but they expect a response really quickly.

The speed of the internet has made us very impatient when it comes to waiting for any kind of response, particularly to problems. And if you want to get your brand skewed on social media, the best way to do it is to have someone have a problem and out that, on that global soapbox that is social media and not say anything because that is saying boatloads if you don’t say anything. You’re basically selling to people, and you’re not responding.

So I think that if people are going to do paid advertising on social or even content marketing on social, you’ve got to engage. And so you’ve got to hire somebody to keep an eye on it because otherwise, you’re just doing push marketing. You’re just pushing out to people.

“Branding now is a conversation. It is literally a two-way street.”

Marketing is no longer a one-way street. That’s what a lot of brands don’t understand. Especially a lot of older people who have brands, they don’t understand that it’s not like the old days where you put out a radio ad, and you put up a billboard, you put out a TV ad, and then you print something and put it in the newspaper. It’s not like you just show up in front of people anymore.

Branding now is a conversation. It is literally a two-way street. And one of the reasons why that is is because social media has given the consumer as big a voice and as visual a presence as the brand itself.

So it’s as if a housewife buying Tide, when Tide puts up the billboard on the highway, puts up a billboard on the other side of the highway saying, “Hey, your bottle doesn’t pour right,” or whatever they say. That’s the level of voice that people have.

And so accepting that fact is paramount to doing marketing successfully on social media because it has to be a two-way street. And if you don’t accept that, then you shouldn’t be advertising there.

Gabe Harris:

So this may be a big mistake that I see clients do or just brands do is not incorporating that human connection. Or with those responses when people do reach out when they’re launching a campaign, it’s more of an “OS, We saw these comments. How do we respond to them?”

Phil VanDusen:

And one of the things that big companies do, and we were talking about Wendy’s earlier, this is important because the larger the company is, the more difficult they… Because there are so many levels of hierarchy in approvals when it comes to saying anything public on their social media platforms, that’s where they fall down because they don’t realize that the speed of that communication has to be immediate.

And so they have to empower their social media people to be able to respond quickly and hopefully appropriately to whatever problems or whatever engagement they are getting from their consumers.

This is where small brands have the advantage, really, because smaller brands have less hierarchy. They have less channels you go through, you have to have less approvals to actually do something. The smaller company, the better, because you can move quickly. You can respond, you can be human with people, and consumers really, really respond to that.

So this is one area, I was doing an interview with GoDaddy recently, and we were talking about this. There are places where social media has completely leveled the playing field. And in fact, in some cases tipped the balance to smaller companies because they can be much more nimble, and they can also respond quicker and in a more human way.

Gabe Harris:

So would you say if you’re a smaller business and that’s an area that you can be able to leverage, is it almost like you should double down in your communication through social media if you’re going to compete against the big boys?

Phil VanDusen:

Absolutely. That’s absolutely true.

Gabe Harris:

Uh, that is interesting. I imagine you do working in the B2B world or are you seeing a bunch of those B2B ads coming through your feed? I don’t see much about using communication through social media to be able to leverage yours and I don’t see that messaging come across. Pun intended.

Phil VanDusen:

You mean in the B2B space?

Gabe Harris:

In the B2B space where you can be… You’ll see a lot of advertisements, like improve your social media game, improve your TikTok game. But nobody specifically I see talking about using communication through these platforms to be able to leverage your business.

I just see it as make better content, make better ads, make better landing pages, but I see not as many people talking about communication, and I think-

Phil VanDusen:

No, no, no. And I think you’re right. And I think one of the reasons why they don’t is because it’s a lot easier to teach somebody how to do a great ad or teach somebody how to use a particular platform than it is to teach them how to communicate with people.

That’s a lot harder thing to teach, and there aren’t kind of real hard and fast rules. That’s the other thing because a lot of it really depends on what your brand personality is, what product or service you actually sell, and what kind of problems your consumers might have that they might be bringing to the table on social that could make you look really bad or to look really fantastic if they’re having a great experience.

So it’s not as easy to teach engagement and response as it is teaching people how to use the nuts and bolts of a platform.

So you’re right. You’re don’t see a lot of advertisements for social media engagement consultants. It’s kind of like one of those things you have to learn.

But now that we’re talking about it, Gabe, I think that’s a huge business opportunity for anybody who’s listening, who’s a good copywriter or a good communicator. That’s a service that you could totally leverage and market to companies in terms of either training, for training their people internally, how to respond in conversational engagement on social, or to have it be a done-for-you service too.

Gabe Harris:

Oh, that’s interesting. I have not heard of an agency that does communication for you in social media. You got a little white bulb to come back.

Phil VanDusen:

Boom. Yeah, there we go. Business idea. Million dollar idea.

Gabe Harris:

Ideas are cheap, though. The hard part is actually-

Phil VanDusen:

Execution, baby.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah, yeah. Ideas are one in a million. The hard part is actually doing it.

Phil VanDusen:

That’s very true.

Gabe Harris:

Cool. So when it comes to social media, we already mentioned communication is an area where people may fall short. What’s some other things that you see that just make you cringe as you’re going through somebody’s social feed or something pops up that is maybe an easy fix, but a lot of people are just not implementing?

Phil VanDusen:

That’s a really interesting question. I think one of the things that I see is that you may see a brand continuing to beat a dead horse. One of the great things about doing social, either push marketing through advertising or pull marketing through content, traction marketing is that we have amazing amounts of analytics at our disposal now.

You used to have to pay companies to do analytics for you. And now everybody’s got a dashboard on every single platform that you’re on, whether you just post an article or a feed post on LinkedIn, and you can get analytics on who saw it and how many views you got, and what kind of exposure you got.

And one of the things I see companies doing a lot is that they will be pursuing a particular sort of content or a particular kind of ad that is obviously missing its target, but they keep doing it.

A lot of times, some brands are spending so much time thinking about the next ad and the next piece of content that they’re not actually tracking their analytics on what has been successful and what’s actually driving traffic or driving conversions or driving engagement.

“People were looking, they were sharing, they were liking, but they weren’t going to watch the effin’ video.”

One of the things about digital marketing is that it moves at such a speed that you have to constantly be looking at your analytics and adjusting what it is that you’re doing. Because if you’re not, you could be throwing good money after bad.

Meaning, just an example, I knew somebody who was promoting their YouTube channel on Twitter for about six months. And they were getting likes, and they were getting shares, and all this sort of stuff, and they were all happy because they were getting what they thought was engagement on their YouTube promotion on Twitter.

But then, when they actually looked at their analytics on YouTube where their traffic was coming from, they realized that they weren’t getting any traffic from Twitter.

People were looking, they were sharing, they were liking, but they weren’t going to watch the effin’ video. So it was all feel good engagement. But when it came down to it, you had to dig into the analytics to find out whether that was actually driving traffic to the video.

“It’s one of the huge toolbox power plays that we have as marketers is the analytics we have available to us, but we have to actually make use of them regularly and adjust our marketing plans accordingly.”

Now you could argue, okay, it’s brand exposure, people are seeing that you’re there, seeing you’re on Twitter, seeing you’re doing videos, you’re promoting it. They’re not watching the video.

So yes, you’re getting brand exposure and positive repetitive exposures from doing that on social. But the idea of you doing the video is to have people watch the freaking video.

And if they’re not, then you shouldn’t be spending a lot of time tweeting about it. You should figure out what the other platform is. Facebook, LinkedIn, something else, some other platform, Instagram to drive traffic over to YouTube.

I mean, that happens on Instagram a lot too. I mean, Instagram took away the ability to put actual clickable links into the descriptions on posts, which was just… It was like Armageddon because, I mean, you couldn’t drive clickable traffic off of Instagram anymore.

People had to actually look at the name of the video, and then they had to think about the channel they had to go to and then actually hunt and pack to try to find a video. So that’s the sort of thing that you have to be really careful of.

It’s one of the huge toolbox power plays that we have as marketers is the analytics we have available to us, but we have to actually make use of them regularly and adjust our marketing plans accordingly.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah. That is huge spending. Or a better way of putting it, spending huge efforts on Twitter and nobody’s actually viewing on YouTube. That’s very interesting too.

If people are sharing it and they’re still not going and watching on YouTube, obviously, you want to be able to shift away but I’d be curious of the headline of the YouTube video. Why would so many people be sharing it and not actually going there? But yeah, insights on analytics and what is working and what is not.

Oh, I’m going to give you a possible difficult question because branding exists. That’s a duh. But a lot of the times, branding is in that marketing fog where you don’t see that data necessarily come in, but you know it’s working.

So how do you make that evaluation if you don’t see them coming down the funnel just quite yet, but having confidence that, that marketing fog is going to clear up and you’re going to start seeing that data come down?

Is there an insight that you have where you know the branding is strong and eventually those numbers will start coming in because of the projection, the low CPMs that you’re getting?

How do you help define that, say when speaking to different businesses that your branding’s good now, and there will come a time in the next couple of months, maybe a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of days when you’re going to start seeing the fruition of your labor?

Phil VanDusen:

Yeah. I mean, tracking ROI for social media advertising or promotion, whether it’s content or paid, is notoriously difficult for agencies.

28% of agencies in a study have serious difficulty tracking ROI of social engagement. But there are a lot of things that you can look at, and they come in depending on what sort of social it is, what kind of ROI you’re getting from it can be different. But you look at things like followers, obviously, subscribers and followers, it’s the first kind of exposure people are going to get. It’s the first opportunity that they have to actually put their hand up and say, I’m interested.

Then there’s engagement when they have a comment, or there’s some sort of share or some sort of amplification of your message. Conversions, obviously. So that’s clicks, traffic to your website, duration on a landing page, the actual click, the actual download, or the purchase.

And then you can look at things as simple as watch time. So, I mean, it could be watch time on a video. It could also be the page view duration on your website.

“You have to be watching your analytics, paying attention to what you’re actually doing, and then seeing the effect that it gets. And then you adjust to amplify or reduce the volume of whatever it is that’s succeeding or not succeeding.”

So something as simple as page view duration, like if you’re driving traffic from an ad or from content to a landing page or to a blog post, or to your homepage of your website, if you see that your page view duration of your homepage has gone from — because homepage page view duration is many times decimal, it’s like four seconds, seven seconds — seven or eight seconds to 15 seconds or 25 seconds, it means that you have 2Xed the amount of exposure time that you’re getting to get a message through to someone’s head.

And so tracking all of those sorts of, kind of tethers of ROI are important because you can see an uptick in any one of those areas and realize, “Oh, we’re finally getting some traction.” Or “Oh, we’re doing something different or better, or some new thing that we’ve added to the mix is having an effect.”

And that’s why I was kind of harping on the whole analytics point a second ago was that unless you are really up on your analytics all the time, you’re never going to notice the bump in something.

So you have to be watching your analytics, paying attention to what you’re actually doing, and then seeing the effect that it gets. And then you adjust to amplify or reduce the volume of whatever it is that’s succeeding or not succeeding.

Gabe Harris:

So when they do get to your website, you could have great social media branding, you’re using people’s faces, and maybe you have spoken to multiple people that you’re using. I imagine that it’s just as vital for that messaging or that branding to be similar when they go to the website. Otherwise, they may be going, “Who is this guy? Who is this girl?”

Phil VanDusen:

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that’s what we led off the whole conversation with, which is basic visual branding that you have to make sure that there are no disconnects either through visuals, logos, colors, sound, tone of voice, pattern, texture.

If you’re in a retail experience when we’re not digital, you want to think that the smells are going to be the same. And so you have to think of whenever people have an interaction, a brand touchpoint, that they come in contact with your brand, whether that’s digital or physical. You want to make sure that their recognition that you are that company is immediate.

“One of the quickest ways to get through to people is make sure that you’re having a strong color hit of whatever your brand color is so they can get that immediate recognition.”

The quickest way to get that across is in color. Color is one of those things that is a deep emotional trigger for people. Colors trigger certain emotions. It’s scientifically proven.

And so, one of the quickest ways to get through to people is make sure that you’re having a strong color hit of whatever your brand color is so they can get that immediate recognition.

Secondary is a logo, then what kind of fonts you decide to choose, what sort of imagery you’re using.

I mean, you think about Apple. Apple basically owns brush metal. How did they do that? They did that by putting it on every single product that they produce, and they also use it on their website.

They used to have a monochromatic look. Well, they had all sorts of logos. They have rainbow logos. They had black ones, they had white ones, but then they introduced the brush metal logo.

So they started using that brush metal, kind of that titanium brush texture everywhere. So whenever you even see that texture without their logo, you think, “Oh, wow, is that the edge of an Apple ad?” You start to put that together in your head.

“You have milliseconds to catch someone’s attention, have them realize that it’s you, and to make a brand impression. “

So visual branding is paramount when it comes to establishing that level of very quick recognition in consumers.

And the reason why this is so important, Gabe, is because everything happens in milliseconds now in digital. We are literally looking to stop a thumb scroll because people are scrolling through stuff so fast. Even the longest form media that used to be the most popular video. Now video is a minute. We have Shorts, we have Reels, we have TikTok. Everything is so fast.

You have milliseconds to catch someone’s attention, have them realize that it’s you, and to make a brand impression. And so color is a very quick way to do that. And now, with short-form video, music is another great way. Animation style is another great way.

So that’s the whole goal for marketers these days is literally to stop the thumb.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah. And I think speaking about audio, that’s getting more prevalence as we go along. If Instagram wants to fully clone TikTok, then we’re going to be even closer to that where audio is so much more prevalent on TikTok than on Instagram, say three, four years ago.

85% of people on social feeds about four years ago did not listen to sound on their Instagram feeds. I imagine that number has slipped on its head since then.

Phil VanDusen:

I don’t know, I might argue with you on that one. I mean, I think one of the things that Instagram’s done, and they’ve just been introducing it with Reels now, is the ability to use templates. So you can choose other people’s songs. You can choose stock music to put behind your Reels or put behind whatever it is you’re posting.

“How do you communicate silently? And that’s through copy and captions.”

But, you also on the phone, particularly when it comes to business sort of things, people watch videos with the sound off all the time. That’s why, on TikTok, a lot of people burn their captions into their videos for Instagram. If you’re smart, you burn your captions into any video that you do for LinkedIn because for business people who are on a train or in their office, they’re not listening to video on their headphones or in earbuds. They’re just reading it. So they’re watching you talk, but they’re reading the captions.

So I think the introduction now of music and sound into content has definitely, I agree with you, been getting stronger and stronger. But I think you also have to pay attention to the exact opposite. How do you communicate silently? And that’s through copy and captions.

Gabe Harris:

Oh yeah. Yeah. I don’t argue on captions. Crazy is a hard word but it’s surprising how many people — and if you have any friends who watch videos with the captions on, you’ll know this right from the get-go — read captions even with the sound on.

Phil VanDusen:

Right. True. That is true.

Gabe Harris:

And the closer that you can be able to visually have the audio experience, the easier it is for the audience to understand what’s going on.

So even if they can hear it, if they can be able to read it as well, they’re going to have a closer connection to your content.

Phil VanDusen:


Gabe Harris:

I do agree that on LinkedIn audio is not as relevant as on other platforms. I’ve watched actually a YouTube video that you posted, but I probably did not turn sound on for like 30 seconds as I was listening to it. But predominantly for me, I don’t listen on LinkedIn with audio almost at all because it is more of a business formal platform.

Phil VanDusen:

Yeah, absolutely.

Gabe Harris:

I have my own conspiracy theory that LinkedIn doesn’t push video because it wants to have a business type of branding. And otherwise, if they push video, it can turn into the next TikTok, and they don’t want that.

Phil VanDusen:

Yeah. I mean, they’re doing lives now. So you can do lives, and actually, I think that’s super smart. I agree with you. And one of the reasons is because they understand their consumer, their customer, and they’re delivering an experience for them which is appropriate for the customer and why they are there.

And also they’ve introduced newsletters. I’ve been doing an email newsletter for six years, and now I’ve, just in the last couple of weeks, started to repost that on LinkedIn. In their newsletter format, I’ve been doing a carousel. So these are 10-slide kind of PDFs.

They used to be able to cheat and use PDFs and create your own carousels. But now they’re actually instituting carousel as a real thing. And so carousels are now becoming, which are essentially 10-slide decks. But they’re in a square format.

And so they are leveraging and pushing different media experiences that are appropriate for their audience.

“I think that there’s a gold rush to be the next TikTok or to eat as much of TikTok’s market share as you can.”

I actually just wrote a blog post on this, I don’t think short-form media is going away, but I think that there’s a gold rush to be the next TikTok or to eat as much of TikTok’s market share as you can.

So all of these platforms, Instagram in particular, is jettisoning its own core competency to chase this new hot chick.

It’s like Adam Mosseri who’s the new CEO of Instagram, was just on Instagram recently and was explaining to people. He said, “We’re moving towards video. It’s all going to be short-form. And I’ve been hearing from a lot of people that are getting really upset about the fact that we’re deprioritizing photography or photography’s gone away. And I just want to let you know that we’re still going to be supporting photography.”

That to me was like a huge red flag. Whenever you hear a media person say, “We’re still going to be supporting something,” that means in about nine months it’s going to go away.

Gabe Harris:


Phil VanDusen:

Or they’re taking such a market hit from TikTok, and they’re freaking out, and they are pushing Reels, and they’re actually taking any posts that aren’t even Reels, even photography posts, and turning them into Reels and publishing them as Reels.

And so they are actively kind of turning their backs on their core customer and their core competency by embracing this new short-form Reel format so heavily and pushing it so heavily. And I think that it’s a mistake. I really do.

I mean, I think that YouTube is doing it in a much more appropriate way. They have a solid educational and entertainment level long-form video format, but they’ve introduced shorts in a way that you can consume shorts, or you consume long-form video, and you can jump between the two.

And if you want short form, you can get that on a TikTok kind of feed. And if you don’t, you can go back to their regular YouTube platform, but they’re not pissing off the other 5 billion people who use YouTube or monetize YouTube like myself for their businesses. So, I’ll stop there. I’m on a rant. Obviously, Gabe, you got me started.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah. I wholeheartedly agree. I have a thinking that short-term thinking is for the weak, which means that you actually don’t have a goal that you’re shooting for. You’re just going wherever you can to be able to get quick money which will work right now, but that’s going to devalue the brand.

Phil VanDusen:

Yeah. It will. The funny thing is, here’s a fact that’ll blow your mind, Gabe. The average tenure of a corporate CMO, chief marketing officer is 16 months. Meaning an average time a CMO is in his job in a corporate environment is 16 months.

Meaning, he’s got to come in, and he’s got to make that needle move somehow in order to ensure his job and make sure that he gets that first bonus.

So a lot of the time, they just come in and just shuffle the card deck. They chase whatever the hot chick is. And because they want to see the needle move in one way or another, and then they’re off to their next gig. They don’t care.

“Their attention is kind of being drawn away by what happens to be the flavor of the moment.”

And so I think that you’re totally right. I think that for branding, people like you and I who see and appreciate the sanctity in branding and that level of consistency and maintaining and embracing core competency in a long-term sort of view, when we see brands being swayed so easily by something that could easily be seen as a transient fad, I’m not going to say short form’s a fad. It’s certainly not a fad. It’s going to be around forever. But their attention is kind of being drawn away by what happens to be the flavor of the moment.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah. I am not big into the Kardashians at all. But I heard the Kardashians almost stopped Instagram’s or are slowing Instagram’s high pivot to clone TikTok.

So basically, Instagram is losing people’s trust. So like an example is, they’re losing the Kardashians’ trust because of this high shift. And that’s just one example.

Phil VanDusen:

Yeah. They’re a big money maker for Instagram. Agreed.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah. I am losing trust now in Instagram because they are looking like they are losing their north star. And if you don’t have a north star, then where are you going to be in five years from now?

Phil VanDusen:

Yeah, absolutely true. And on the flip side of that, just to be contrarian, because that’s what I like to do, the marketing landscape is littered with the corpses of companies that have not innovated.

“You can’t turn your back on technological innovation or the whim and the wants of consumers, but by the same token, you’re right. You definitely want to kind of maintain the sanctity of your core meaning.”

So you look at brands, the old ones like Blockbuster, who didn’t see mail orders, DVD subscriptions coming down the pike and thought that everyone always wanted to go to a store to rent and argue with their spouse in the aisles of Blockbuster about what video to rent. Or Kodak that has dominated completely globally the photography industry and could not see the value in digital photography. And brands came in, Sony and Nikon came in and just ate their lunch.

And so it is a delicate balance. You can’t turn your back on technological innovation or the whim and the wants of consumers, but by the same token, you’re right. You definitely want to kind of maintain the sanctity of your core meaning.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah. Now we’re getting to the meaning of life. How do you get good balance?

Phil VanDusen:

Yeah, exactly. How should we call that? We’ll call it brand-fad balance. Instead of work-life balance, we’ll call it brand-fad balance.

Gabe Harris:

I like that. Oh, man. We can spend the next two hours just on that topic alone.

Ad Review: Chocolate Brands

But let’s get into something a little bit more fun. So we’ve got three chocolate brands for you to be able to evaluate them on their branding. So which is your favorite, your middle, and your least favorite? We’ve got three videos, and let’s start off with the first one, KitKat.

KitKat Ad

So I’ll give you a break, and it’s really short.

That’s it. All right. And then the next one is Hershey’s.

Hershey’s Ad

And the third one is what I always mispronounce to my friends. Let me know that. Is it Forrero? I’m going to stop right there. You’ll see it as it comes up.

Ferrero Rocher Ad

Phil VanDusen:

Ferrero. I never even pronounce it. My wife eats them, but I’d never even say it. So Ferrero. What do you want my feedback on?

Gabe Harris:

How would you rank them in terms of what is the, for lack of a better word, most powerful branding or does the best job of positioning the brand with these particular videos?

Phil VanDusen:

I think Ferrero probably did the better job. They are a luxury premium chocolate brand. So they went about it in a very tasteful way.

“The way they orchestrated their cinematography was very aligned with what would be a beauty category or a premium food category.”

They had a brand shot with a logo, but then they started off with some really sexy splash kind of crumbled nuts and splash chocolate sort of shots, which weren’t encumbered by text. They were like beauty shots of the chocolate.

And so I think that it really communicated the premium aspect of the brand, and the way they orchestrated their cinematography was very aligned with what would be a beauty category or a premium food category.

“I thought that Hershey’s did a really good job because they took a really good advantage of the bar itself.”

The next one I would rank is probably Hershey’s. I think that when you look at ads like this and products, in particular, you want to look at a few things. One, you want to look at form, so what’s the form of the product, and how are they kind of depicting that form?

The next is color. So are you getting that color hit? Are you understanding? Are you getting a brand hit from the color? And then there’s also the experience. So what’s actually happening in the video?

And I thought that Hershey’s did a really good job because they took a really good advantage of the bar itself. They had the bar in a very static position. You could see the Hershey logo embedded in the side of it. You got a little bit of crack, you had a little bit of flavor appeal.

It wasn’t moving too quickly for you to catch what was going on. And the music wasn’t overbearing because we’re looking at three or four-second advertisements, social advertisements. You don’t want to completely overwhelm the viewer.

“I actually found it fairly confusing, even though they had a massive logo that said KitKat.”

And then the one I would put down at the bottom, even though it wasn’t terrible, is KitKat. And the KitKat in terms of form, they had the broken KitKat bar. So you could see the inside of it, which is kind of what they do. And so you’re understanding very immediately, it’s a KitKat bar because you’re so used to that whenever you see their brand.

But because KitKat is now kind of branching out and doing all these kind of crazy flavors, on two of those bars, the top of the bar is a different color. One of them was kind of lime green, and one of them, I don’t even remember what the other color was, but they’re mixing chocolate flavors, I guess, in the KitKat. And they also had different complimentary colors behind those images of the product that had weird colors on them.

So I actually found it fairly confusing, even though they had a massive logo that said KitKat. So I got that it was KitKat, and I saw the bar, so I knew it was the bar, but then when it came to color and the form and what they were doing with the actual product, I was really confused. I’m like, “What are these? These don’t look like KitKat’s. They look like some sort of bizarre KitKat knockoff,” and so I’d put that third on the list.

Gabe Harris:

And that’s really important because that was the shortest one. That was maybe four seconds. And if you are not able to simply understand what the video is and there’s any confusion, the audience over four seconds, may just completely forget, or that worsens the awareness potential that video can be able to do because it is overly complex with the colors.

Phil VanDusen:

Yeah. And because it’s so short, they were introducing two different products that were weird. So if you got four seconds, it’s like, just do one product.

Tell me what this one new product is and what that flavor of green is on the top because you’re confusing me with the fact that you’re introducing a brand new product, and you’re choosing the shortest form of ad to do it in.

It takes a little bit of describing in order to get me warmed up to the fact that you’re asking me to choose a new, different KitKat. You’re not asking me to understand that it’s my normal KitKat I’ve always known, you’re wanting me to buy one which is weird. And so you’ve got to warm me up a little bit before you get me buying something that I’m not expecting.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That is true. I was trying to think of a connection between coffee, warming up, and KitKat, but I’m just spitting out-

Phil VanDusen:

I was going to go to the foreplay thing, but I thought maybe, yeah.

Gabe Harris:

Oh yeah.

Phil VanDusen:

That’s where I was going with it.

Gabe Harris:

Yeah. I like the inspiration. Cool. Well, Philip, I have definitely learned a couple of things, especially paying more attention to coloring because the one thing that you brought up with KitKat with the coloring, how it was overly complex especially for a short video, that is something that your eye caught that mine did not. So definitely kudos on your end for that.

Phil VanDusen:

Well, thanks, Gabe. It’s been great being on your show, man. I really appreciate you having me on.

Gabe Harris:

Likewise, and if anybody’s looking to be able to push their brand forward and be able to go deeper on this conversation, where can they be able to find and reach out to you by?

Phil VanDusen:

Best place to get me is on my website,, and you can get my YouTube channel, my Instagram, and contact forms. And what we do at my agency, it’s all there.

Gabe Harris:

Awesome. And we’ll be sure to put it in the comments below on YouTube so you guys will be able to check them out. And Philip, man, thank you so much for your time. We’ll chat later.

Phil VanDusen:

Thanks, Gabe.

Thanks for listening to our branding podcast with Phil VanDusen!

Watch the video here:


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts