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This is Capitalism: Up Close, Inspired, Explained

Dec 1, 2020

Patricia O’Connell interviews Howard Breindel, Co-CEO at DeSantis Breindel. Patricia and Howard discuss the meaning of brand, how companies may need help clarifying their brand story, and why brand matters. They also touch on some of the changes the COVID-19 epidemic has forced onto B2B businesses.


Listen in to learn how you can strengthen your company brand in any environment.

Key Takeaways:

[:27] Patricia O’Connell welcomes Howard Breindel to CEO Stories on This is Capitalism.

[:48] DeSantis Breindel is a B2B brand strategy and brand experience firm working with companies going through critical inflection points. They help companies maximize their brand. Brand is the promise a company makes to all of its key stakeholders and the experience it delivers to fulfill that promise.

[2:09] Younger companies may need help to define their value proposition beyond their product to focus on what they enable the stakeholder to reach. More mature companies may need help with business strategy as their offerings evolve.

[3:00] DeSantis Breindel helps companies translate their business strategy into a valuable brand strategy for their partners, influencers, customers, investors, and employees, making sure that everyone understands the value proposition for them.
[3:37] Howard studied accounting in college and started in that world. He soon found he was more interested in how companies presented themselves to the world than in their numbers. He saw branding and marketing as a career that would leverage his financial background and his interest in the image a company presents.

[5:05] Howard recalls getting exposure to many different kinds of industries and people from all walks of life and all the countries of the world as he grew up in New York. That exposure gave Howard the sense that everyone is driven by different values and needs. That informs Howard as he helps companies understand all their important audiences.

[6:40] In the branding business, curiosity about businesses is critical. To do the job well, you need to understand deeply and be good listeners. You need to keep asking questions, listen to the answers, and connect the dots. Successful people in this industry have had exposure and experienced diversity, and they apply their knowledge to a complex world.

[7:40] At DeSantis Breindel, a mid-sized company, people wear many hats and are agile. There is not a playbook for everything. They need to be innovative and thoughtful.

[8:07] The stakes are much higher in B2B marketing than in B2C marketing, with more widespread ramifications. For DeSantis Breindel, research across audiences is critical to understand more deeply what drives decision-making and what’s on people’s minds.

[10:05] Howard tells how branding and marketing are linked. Branding is about an operating philosophy and marketing is about putting all that out there in the world.

[10:59] Howard sees challenges in how companies define and tell their story. Companies need to understand their brand proposition for all stakeholders. The story is really about the brand experience. How companies craft the stakeholder journey with their brand determines how stakeholders will perceive their story.

[12:43] Howard believes culture eats brand for breakfast, especially in B2B. What a company’s employees say, think, and feel every day cannot be paid for in marketing. Make sure your employees truly understand your value proposition — what it means to them and the experience you expect them to deliver to your customers.

[13:56] A brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what your stakeholders say it is. You might have a “brand gap” between what the employees think the brand is and how the customers perceive it. If you understand the gap, the brand strategy becomes clear.

[14:42] You cannot go through a branding exercise without engaging the employees and listening to what they say. Curiosity and listening are the two most important parts of the exercise.

[15:44] Brand is the one strategic asset that is shared across the C-suite.

[17:44] The COVID-19 pandemic has required companies to become more comfortable with digital interactions within the company and with external stakeholders. It has been a big adjustment. If this pandemic had happened before digital tools were available, it would have been much more devastating to businesses.

[19:26] Creativity is critical in every business. Working remotely, you have to work harder to make creativity happen. DeSantis Breindel has created online workshops to replace workshops that were held in person. They are using technologies to whiteboard things online and share files more quickly and easily for rapid-fire interaction.

[20:40] At DeSantis Breindel, every interaction with clients and each other is held over Zoom. They have no phone calls. They hold regularly-scheduled group meetings. In some ways, people are more engaged because their camera is on. However, everyone misses the casual interactions that happen in a business office environment.

[21:50] Howard looks forward to when they can go back to an office, whenever that will be. When it is deemed safe, they will go back. They surveyed the staff and 95% said they were not prepared to go back to the office before there is a vaccine. Some didn’t want to go fully back to the office the same way as they did in the past.

[24:21] Patricia thanks Howard for being on the podcast; This Is Capitalism.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Howard Breindel

DeSantis Breindel

Peter Drucker