The Importance of Branding with Nick Stringari

If you heard the name “Twitter” in 2001, you probably would have said, “What on earth does that even mean?” In this episode of Rocky Mountain Marketing, we speak with Nick Stringari on the importance of having a clear idea of your brand. Whether you are starting from scratch or doing a rebrand, he explains the many steps that you need to take and consider the full process of branding.

Learn the importance of branding for your business in this valuable episode!

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Katie Brinkley 0:02

Hey there. This is Katie Brinkley and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing. This podcast is all about helping Colorado based small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals discover the strategies and systems that take their marketing to all new heights. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Welcome back, everyone. My guest in this week’s episode is Nick’s drink Gary. fresh out of college, Nick took a job as an engineer with a fortune 500 company bringing new technology to market. fantastic experience. He wouldn’t change it for the world he claims in 2015, he questioned everything he was doing and flipped it on its head. Now he’s focused on building stoic, a full service agency built for what works? Oh, and of course, he likes to read invest. And he’s addicted to this little game we call business. Nick, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Nick Stringari 0:53

Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate you reaching out and always good to connect with like minded people. And, you know, talk about the different nuances of what we’re going through talk about basically just anything in general. So I appreciate that.

Katie Brinkley 1:05

Well, let’s talk a little bit from the beginning, and how you where you grew up and what your life was like growing up.

Nick Stringari 1:12

Yeah. So I grew up in the small little town of Canyon City, Colorado. So if anybody doesn’t know where that is, that’s about two hours south of Denver. And it’s known to have prisons, that’s basically what people know it for. So I grew up was born and raised there, and went to high school there, of course, played sports throughout high school, and then went up to college up at Fort Collins, or Colorado State University, got a degree in mechanical engineering up there and graduated about oh, not 2009, I believe. So my first experience to I guess the real world was graduating from college with the financial crisis of Oh, eight, no, nine. So that was a nice introduction to how college likes to tell you the world operates, and then getting a nice introduction to actually how the world operates. So once I graduated, actually kicked around up before Collins for about a year, and then moved back down to Canyon City, and was funny enough running a golf course, which, you know, random, right? But actually, it’s pretty fun experience. And I was doing I was getting my MBA at CSU pueblo. During that whole time, I then got my first job with a fortune 500 company in Pueblo doing engineering stuff. And I stopped my MBA and just went in full time and did that. That was about 2011. Fast forward to 2015. Well, I mean, I guess a little bit about what I did is basically commercialize technology. So what that means is basically taking ideas from business plans, and actually bringing them to out the door to the customer, help launch product all out throughout Europe, Asia, North America, so on so forth, again, fantastic experience. And then just one day, the entrepreneurial bug in it’s kind of in my DNA with my grandparents on my mom and dad’s side. I just was like, You know what, I kind of want to always wanted to do my own thing. So I just kind of up and quit my job out of nowhere in 2015, moved up to Denver, and started dabbling in the entrepreneurship world, worked for a startup for about a year and a half, two years. And then I eventually started my own gig, which was string Gary media, and we recently just rebranded into stoic agency. So that’s kind of the cliff notes from Canyon City all the way up until now.

Katie Brinkley 3:38

Awesome. Tell us a little bit how the rebranding process went for you. Because I know that a lot of business owners start with one idea and then find that they’re doing more something else and need to do a rebrand, talk about how that rebrand process went for you.

Nick Stringari 3:51

A rebrand is never anything to take lightly. I mean, obviously, it’s the name that everybody knows you buy. It’s the feel the emotion that people have the perception around your business. So I think the first and foremost, it always needs to be somewhat, especially if you’re doing a rebrand, you need to have somewhat of a reason why a very compelling reason why, in my opinion, the other flip side of that is, I feel like businesses a lot of times and people get too caught up with the names of their products. Prime example. If I came to you in 2001, and said, Hey, I’m going to launch a company called Facebook or Twitter, you’d have been like, what does that even mean? Like it’s a weird name, right? And now it’s all household names, because why everything that’s built out underneath those companies is actually what makes people care about the name. So it’s kind of two different contract contradicting ideologies, but it’s still one of the same as don’t get too caught up in the name, but at the same time, if you’re doing a rebrand, definitely have an idea of why you’re doing that. Like what is the why behind wanting you’re wanting to do that and then it gets into the pieces of the art direction font styles, all the different things in my culminate in the rebrand So for us, I mean, it was definitely something that we had been on our minds for a little while. And since this is kind of our area of expertise, we were able to do it a little bit quicker probably than, than others. But, you know, it was the process of changing the website, changing emails, the URL, all of our media places, all our platforms, all those different types of things, and then even coming up with tweaking our mission statements, our philosophies, and then explain to customers why that happened, how that transition, and all that kind of stuff. So, I mean, I want to say it was a pretty smooth process, I mean, but it definitely is work. And I don’t want to, because I know that when we work with clients like that, you don’t want to underestimate how much work actually goes into when you’re in the product world, like where I’m from, when someone says you want to, you know, build a cell phone or something, people get that you have to build something, you’re talking about brand names, or what have you. A lot of times people kind of think that this stuff just pops up in 1520 minutes. And it doesn’t, right. It’s there’s work that goes into those. So, you know, I guess if I’m answering your question, as it was, I’d love the process for us. I would you know, and it’s one that I would definitely do again, and I think for business owners going forward, if they’re looking to do that is, you know, go all into it. I mean, it’s not something that should scare you, but realize also that it is work, and that you need to do it right and not treat it like this haphazardly thing. And I

Katie Brinkley 6:23

think you brought up a really good point, it’s not a 20 minute thing just being like, Oh, I’m just gonna change the name and change some of the colors or I mean, this is a big long process. Can you go into some of the details of the rebranding process for us?

Nick Stringari 6:36

Yeah, I mean, I think the first one is, you have to start off is is like I was saying, What is the reason that you’re doing this, when we did stoic, it was more on the stoic mentality. So there’s a whole mission and a statement. So we knew why we were doing it. Before we went into that, then we kicked into our direction, what is this brand going to look like? What’s it gonna feel like? What’s the font look like? How does it contribute to that? How do we word things differently? And

Katie Brinkley 7:06

today, I have you said the font. And I think that that’s such a huge part of a brand is the font. And a lot of times people will grab, oh, these two fonts look cool. And don’t realize that maybe one font is a script. And it’s going to be everywhere. And if it is like a messy script, it’s hard to you know, it might be hard to read, but that’s what you’ve gone with. Can you describe the importance of choosing the right font?

Nick Stringari 7:35

Yeah, well, so I think I like to relate this to the product world, because in the product world, when people can pick things up and grab them, they get the work and thought process that goes into it. As I’ve shifted on his marketing and branding world, you kind of see the disconnect, when things are something you can grab and tacitly hold on to they think that just comes out of nowhere. And so where I’m going with this is just think about the engineer or the people behind what the next BMW supposed to look like there’s four to five years of deliberation on the lines, the paint color, the sound of the button, the customer experience from when you get in that car, and you turn the ignition, all of that is thought of when you get into marketing and branding, it’s so important to think about that because all marketing and branding does is engineer customer perceptions. And if you aren’t going down to the final piece of even the spacing between your words and how those things breathe and how it’s all coordinated, it can come off wrong and people’s subconscious, right. That’s the biggest piece of marketing is we’re constantly in the world of people’s subconscious mind. It’s kind of like the movie Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio, a great idea and a great whatever plants itself in your brain, and it conceptualized itself throughout time. And so again, with the font pieces, you want to just respect the craft respect what you’re doing, don’t just go get some font and huckster it together and throw it out there. And unfortunately, in our marketing industry, I mean, I’ll just flat out say, the majority of people are hucksters, and they’re just throwing garbage by my program by my $97. Then you get on Fiverr. And everybody wants to do edit a video for $3.95. And so cheap and creative, which creative is what separates a brand and agency from the pack. And if you’re able to work with an agency or a marketer that understands that they can bring your brand to the next level. And that’s the things that people pay a lot of high dollar for prime examples, Apple, when I say the word apple, everybody’s emotion, images, everything went in your brain. Why? Because there are teams of people that spend countless hours worrying about is this spaced appropriately? Is this whitespace enough with this image? All of that stuff builds into that so obviously could go off on days on that, but it’s just important and I think it’s something I didn’t have appreciation from because I was an engineer and it’s something I’ve learned to respect and understand how those things come together.

Katie Brinkley 10:01

Talk to us a little bit about how your engineering background has helped with your businesses with helping brands really find their their true brand.

Nick Stringari 10:11

Absolutely. So at the truest sense, we can talk about like, still like, we’re a bunch of product people. And when you approach things from the product mindset, you realize that you are either crafting a product or you’re crafting, like I was saying marketing does is crafting perceptions, you’re building things. So there’s steps within that of the ideation stage of it. What is the market telling us? What are the insight that we have as a company bringing those together to give you the insight of how we move forward. So that whole product development process, if you will, has helped in the marketing piece of even how to run projects? And then there’s, well, it’s branding. And marketing is not independent from product like, this was preaching to us in college, and it’s so wrong. Is a good product sells itself. No, that is so far from the truth. It’s like not even funny in the the example I give is, if a tree fell in the forest, and nobody heard it, would the tree have even fallen? Right? And that’s where with the marketing and branding and product development has to come together because you can build a cool product. But if nobody cares about it, or nobody knows about it, then it really doesn’t matter. Right?

Katie Brinkley 11:19

The thing that comes to my mind is the squatty potty, talk about a product or no one would ever even think twice about it. But they had some incredible marketing behind it. And everyone knows about the Squatty Potty.

Nick Stringari 11:32

And even I think even a better example is somebody in the engineering world that’s looked highly looked up to and I don’t blame them. I love Elon Musk and what he’s doing. He has a sentiment that Tesla and SpaceX, we don’t do marketing and we don’t believe in it. Well, that’s wrong. He is the biggest online influencer in the engineering space. So Tesla and SpaceX have a very lucky scenario where they have the biggest online influencer, founding their companies. So he tweets and changes the market, right? That is something that brands go out and look for spokespeople in the red he is that, so to say that they aren’t doing marketing, it’s just naive to what he’s doing on Twitter, what he does in his PR actions. And again, it’s something that I love, Musk and what he’s doing but I feel that’s the disconnect that happens is that we all think that his product is all that matters and or brand is all about No, they have to be in synthesis with each other. And we have to realize that each one of them is a craft that has to have time spent on it in order to execute correctly.

Katie Brinkley 12:31

Now, let’s talk a little bit about influencers for brands, and aligning your brand with the right influencer. How how do you advise your clients and customers to find the right way to align their brand with the right people?

Nick Stringari 12:48

Yeah, well, I think we can address what’s going on in the influencer market is you rewind the clock a couple years ago, and it was the craze, right. And I still think it’s valid. I mean, let’s even when we talk about influencer marketing, I mean, you can trace that back to why queens and kings were printed on pottery. That’s influencer marketing, right? And then we even fast forward to like when Shaquille O’Neal was on those Ben gay commercials on TV, that’s influencer marketing. So all it did was change forms into things like YouTube and Instagram. So it’s an age old idea. Just adapting with media platforms, first and foremost. Right now, I think a lot of influencers are being exposed of not actually being influencers, right. And it goes down to the simplest principles. And this is what I tell brands, even though we work with followers does not equal sales, or even brand equity at all right? And so when an influencer has all of these followers, who cares, right? I mean, I’m not saying that that’s not a metric that we look at. I mean, there’s software out there that we use to evaluate an influencer to see if they’re right for brands. So there are tools that we use, but using only follows only likes, it’s not going to equate to anything and I think a lot of these influencers are being exposed because these brands piled in, gave them free hotels, free resorts free this free that saw nothing in return for it. And so now everybody’s very calloused to influencers. So I there are still good true ones out there. It’s just a little bit more of doing your due diligence on well, who is it? What do they stand for? Right? What are they constantly out there creating and posting and truly, you want an influencer, that’s a creator, but they create things they don’t just take a selfie video and say buy my product like nobody is going to convert on it. They have to be creators, like Casey Neistat is a prime example of somebody that’s in the YouTube world who’s done stuff for Nike and some of the biggest brands in the world. Why? Because he’s a he’s a creator, He knows how to storytelling and bring brands into it to make it effective. So is that is that is your question? Yeah,

Katie Brinkley 14:53

that’s that is so great, because I think that a lot of brands out there do forget that the biggest thing to social media is to be social on it, and you have to have a story. You have to you can’t just throw out content saying by, you know, by this by me, and a lot of influencers for a while we’re just doing that. And it brought to light how that fallston phony that they were? Oh, absolutely what what is the single as a as a business owner of two businesses that have gone through a rebrand? What’s the single biggest piece of advice that you’d want to give a new business owner as they start their journey

Nick Stringari 15:27

in general or in context to

Katie Brinkley 15:29

a rebrand in general? Yeah, you’ve gone through, you’ve built two companies, you’ve gone through a rebrand? What’s the biggest thing that you learned out of all of this?

Nick Stringari 15:39

Yeah, well, I mean, I think there’s a the first piece I want to say is that business and people and whatever is a very complex thing, right? There’s multitude of variables. And so I think, what’s even a testament to what is going on in the market, you have all these business gurus that are like, be a millionaire in three steps, like, first of all, that should be a red flag, but they don’t know what they’re talking about. Right. So that being said, at least something that I’m big on right now is perspective. And I think that that gives value to people starting an adventure. And, you know, I guess let me explain is when we look at the what I call the greatest generation, which is my grandparents, they went through the Great Depression and World War Two. And so it made sense that it’s like all of a sudden, the economy that came out of World War Two was building these businesses that have propelled us 60 years in the future, because they had perspective, they were in the trenches with bullets flying over their head, do you really think they care if a customer didn’t come in and buy their product? Not really, I mean, they did. But at the same time, like, Hey, I’m alive, and I’m not, you know, in France, freezing with bullets flying over my head. So I think that there’s perspective that needs to be had and how I relate that to my generation is, it is absolutely comical to me that my generation, everybody comes out of college, and they’re like, I’m gonna make six figures. It’s like, what like, what Gods, What planet do you live on? And what I mean by that, is that, is that a possibility? Of course, right? But skill execution, your network, all these things that need to be built up in order to get to that. So it’s like, if you’re going to start a business, like be humble to the fact and realize that, hey, you’re not going don’t think that you’re going to make 150 grand your first year, like you’re just not going to and pay your bills and pay your people. It’s not going to happen. Like I’ve been waiting and I can’t wait to tell the story of when I quit my job. Like I’ve moved up to Denver, renting rooms, from my friends, paying myself like 20 grand a year to build what I’m at today. And even there’s moments now with Coronavirus for like I’m taking I take pay cuts to pay my people, because I’m constantly looking to the bigger thing that I’m building. So the if the advice is perspective, and it’s perspective on the things that you are spending money on in order for you not to be able to pursue your dreams, like, I’m sorry, but how can people not survive on $50,000 a year with building things that you’re wanting to do? I just I don’t I don’t get it. Because I’ve been there now on both sides of it. And it’s just a matter of what you spend money on the things you think are important.

Katie Brinkley 18:07

And I think that you touched on that a little bit with people coming out of college and thinking, Well, I’m gonna make six figures. But what do you think one of the biggest mistakes business owners make when they’re trying to grow and sustain up successful businesses?

Nick Stringari 18:20

Man? Um, I mean, I think that scaling too fast is definitely an issue for sure. Um, it’s something that I’ve ran into myself. And I would even argue that pieces that we’re continually evaluating, and what I mean by scale too fast is that, of course, speed is what you want to have in the market, right? You want to beat your competitors to places but it’s just like, if we took a bicycle and ran at 70 miles an hour down the highway, I’m sure the bicycle would fall apart, right. And so it’s that whole kind of analogy of thinking that you need to scale so quickly, that stuff just starts to break. So I think that that’s wrapped up what I see, especially in this last 11 years of this bull market, so many hucksters were telling everybody go faster, go faster, go faster, where now it’s time to re back and evaluate and eight sharpen your sword first, go back in the lab and sharpen your sword for a little while and figure out how to use it and then come into the game. What does your

Katie Brinkley 19:13

model look like for finding and engaging and selling to new clients and ideal customers these days? Yeah.

Nick Stringari 19:19

So I mean, we use the same model that we use for clients. So it’s, it’s what I tell people is putting content in media in the places that people spend their time. Right now Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, depending on your business, Snapchat, depending on your business, LinkedIn, I mean, podcast bit right here that we’re doing YouTube, you know, this is where these are, the social media is a jargon term for what these platforms are. These are the modern day platforms where people spend their time. And so you brands need to go where people spend their time. So if you’re a business wanting to build, and you’re not building a presence on these platforms, you’re naive to what is going out there in the market. There’s over 2 billion users On on Facebook, why would you not get on Facebook?

Katie Brinkley 20:02

What type of marketing? Have you found works best for your business? Do you do social ads? Or, as you know, Google AdWords? Or what type of marketing do you find is really been the best route for you?

Nick Stringari 20:14

Yeah, I think in the market, what people call it is content marketing. Again, I say that because I didn’t come from marketing. So I like I hear these terms. And it’s different to me. But you know, what I tell people is our brands are not advertisers, their show runners. So we run the show running model for our brand. And what that means is just that we have campaign work layered in with steady beats of micro content. And so constantly, we’re providing people value, right? I’m sure maybe some of your listeners have heard of Gary Vaynerchuk. For example, I’ve had the privilege to meet him in person a couple times super solid guy, and it’s that model, it’s give value, give value, give value, then ask right, nobody’s gonna convert on your Facebook ad that has your phone number and says Call this number of 555. Like my generation grew up in diapers watching TV commercials, we are not going to convert on that, we have to realize that what we are going to convert on Yeah, entertaining people through shows. There’s a reason that every college girl went to college, looked and dressed exactly like every girl on the hills on MTV, because subconsciously, that show was programming an entire generation to go out for lunch for sushi, drink Starbucks coffee, were certain styles of clothes, so on and so forth. So there’s an example of the model working before we knew what to do in advertising

Katie Brinkley 21:31

around that. Now a lot of businesses like, like yours and mine are typically kind of seen to be out on the coasts. What is the appeal to having your business and life here in Colorado?

Nick Stringari 21:44

Yeah, well, I think the first piece I mean, the reason why New York and LA are where brands and and agencies conglomerate is because that’s where the biggest brand headquarters are, right? Like that’s where the most people are. And so you get these ecosystems like Silicon Valley, when we look at Denver, you know, I have a very bullish approach on this economy here in Denver is changing. I just read a report the other day where we are now rivaling Silicon Valley and venture capital money. And so it’s trying to it’s it’s we’re seeing the shift. And it’s my bet is to get in with these companies that really want to do things differently and want to build brands and build what have you. And so, to me, that’s why it’s made sense to be located in Denver. But definitely not naive to what goes on in New York and LA, because it definitely makes sense why they’re out there.

Katie Brinkley 22:35

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received? And how has it impacted your business?

Nick Stringari 22:39

I mean, I wouldn’t, it was never like something that was told to me, but it was something I think that I just picked up from my grandparents was just that it was working, working hard and caring about your craft. And what I mean by that was, it was just like, everything that you do do what the for most effort? Because if you don’t care about it, why does anybody else care? And I think it’s sometimes that it gets lost in our generation of like, well, I hate my job. It’s like, okay, but why don’t you first become the best at it. Because when you’re the best at something, it’s pretty hard to hate it. And I think if we looked at that methodology, we find a lot more happiness in our lives. And so I think to me, I’ve seen that go over again. And again, it’s why for the last three years, I’ve been able to work 365, seven days a week is because I care about what I’m doing. Absolutely.

Katie Brinkley 23:29

And I remember being in the hospital after I gave birth to my second daughter, and I was still working away. And if you’re passionate about something and you want to succeed, you’re gonna still find the time to do it. Because you want the best for your company. Yeah, exactly. Now, before we finish up, is there anything I didn’t ask you about during today’s discussion that you think is important to share?

Nick Stringari 23:51

Um, you know, I think we can ignore what’s going on in the market right now. I mean, I think that with COVID-19, it’s, it’s we can all at least agree on, it’s bringing a lot of fear into the market of what people should do, how they should navigate this. And it’s something that I tell our clients now and even preach internally is the first and foremost is you have to accept the situation, right? We are moving into a recession. It’s good it is right. And so to ignore that is naive to where we’re going. So the first piece is accepting that now, within that. Now it’s time to innovate, it’s time to change what we’ve been doing because the market when we come out of this is going to be different. The market has always been moving direct to consumer. So whatever business you’re in, if we’re not looking at how to streamline and go more direct to consumer, you’re moving the wrong way. And that doesn’t mean that b2b businesses need to go directly to the person they’re marketing. Now there’s a reason why was stoic, creative, paid media strategy is all under one roof because what used to be all these segmented things in the ad industry, we’re streamlining to go more direct to consumer. So for what I tell business now is except the situation that we’re in, things are changed, they are changing. Okay, now, how do we innovate? How do we come a little bit better? How do we streamline our processes? And along that way, how do you communicate with your customers? How do you tell them check in on that? How are you doing? How are you feeling throughout this? And I think that if we observe those three principles, we’ll be able to navigate. Um, you know, what I think is basically, you have to net setup to navigate the second quarter, the second quarter is going to be tricky. And q3, and q4 is when maybe when the new normal starts to happen. But that that’s when that’s what I would tell that we haven’t talked about today.

Katie Brinkley 25:38

I was just saying, let’s, let’s just talk about that just for a minute about how businesses are having to pivot a little bit now moving every a lot of their business that they might have never even had online to an online form. How are you helping your clients and customers? And how are you as with your business making that change?

Nick Stringari 25:58

Yeah, well, I mean, I think there’s the obvious of just right now having to adapt with working remotely, right. So it’s adopting tools like zoom that we’re on Slack is another communication tool. So I think those are kind of the obvious pieces at the moment. And then when we talk about it least well, sorry, what was your your last piece? Your question again?

Katie Brinkley 26:18

How are you transitioning yourself, your own business and your clients to be more online?

Nick Stringari 26:25

Yeah. So with those, those pieces that I just mentioned, again, it’s kind of stepping back to like, alright, what is now the fundamental business problem that we need to solve because those problems and things have possibly changed, it could go back from before, it was all about sales. And now it’s like, holy cow, our brand is positioned all offline. And our new goal is to position ourselves online. So the first step is, what is the problem that you’re trying to solve? It can’t just be sales, sales is such the cop out answer, like, of course, it’s sales, right? What are the other problems that you’re trying to solve? Once you identify that, you can actually start putting together the hit list of how to do that, and then it’s reaching out to people that are in that world know how to help you through that transition, and bring on the network of people that can help you build that, like, it’s okay to not know how to build a website, there’s people that know how to do that. It’s okay to not know how to craft a brand. There’s people that know how to do that. It’s okay to not know how to set up your IT infrastructure. That’s okay. There’s people that know how to do that. Right. So it’s, again, I’m trying to give the general advice because a lot of it gets very specific. But I think that in general is just understanding what you need to solve and then not being so callous to bringing on new people and new ideas to try to approach this thing differently.

Katie Brinkley 27:45

Nick, this has been such a great conversation. Where can we send our listeners to find out more about you and your business online? Yeah, so

Nick Stringari 27:53

pretty simple. It’s stoic dot agencies. So sto IC dot agency. And there you will see kind of everything that we’ve alluded to here, you’ll see the team that that we work with, and then obviously, you’ll see some information on yours truly. So I think that’d be the best place

Katie Brinkley 28:12

to send people. Awesome. What thank you again, so much for coming on the show today.

Nick Stringari 28:16

Absolutely appreciate you having.

Katie Brinkley 28:19

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at or connect with me on LinkedIn. Just look for Katie Brinkley. Let’s keep taking your marketing to new heights.