Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Anika Jackson, founder of Your Brand Amplified. In this interview, Jackson talks about branding and social media practices for small and medium-sized businesses. Jackson is the founder and chief strategist for Your Brand Amplified, a marketing and communications agency, and host of the podcast by the same name. As a Marcom executive, she has done it all including experiential marketing/event production, launch marketing, public relations, digital, and influencer throughout her multiple-decade career. She is also an adjunct professor at USC.
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Produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Erin Manning 0:02
Welcome to the Dead Pixels Society Podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau. The dead pixel society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Advertek, Printing, and School Photographers of America.
Gary Pageau 0:18
Hello again, and welcome to the dead pixel society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by Anika Jackson, the founder and chief strategist of your Brand Amplified by Anika, how are you today?
Anika Jackson 0:33
Good Gary. I'm much better now that I'm seeing your smiling face and appearing on your podcast. So thank you for having me.
Gary Pageau 0:41
Well, thank you for having me. So for those who aren't familiar with your company, what does Your Brand Amplified? Do?
Anika Jackson 0:49
Yeah, thank you for asking. We have a podcast, which you've been on called Your Brand Amplified. But we're also a full-service agency. I'm a very small boutique agency that focuses on strategy. So brand marketing, PR strategy, overall communications, some, some of my colleagues call me more of an outsourced co-founder, because I always like to look at the big picture of what's really going to drive your business forward, and how do we really partner with you? So I'm always thinking of, oh, this company would be really great partner with this other, these other people that I know, or this might be a funding source. So I'm always trying to like think about that as well, as well as focus on what is your brand? Who are you? How are you showing up? And are you showing up correctly to the right audience? And so we really take people through a process, we have the retainer clients. And then we also have a program that we're launching right now called the brand amplifier. And it's for people who want it there, do it, do it yourself online modules, worksheets, kind of really learn all of the things for themselves or their team. And then there's one with coaching. And then there's one where we put together your website, all of your brand materials, your social media content, your PR all of that.
Gary Pageau 2:06
Great. So how did you get involved with this? What turned you on to be a brand expert?
Anika Jackson 2:12
Oh, me. I accidentally I think most people's careers. Yeah, I always loved bringing people together and connection and seeing how people work together and how, and the joy that happened when people had that aha moment of discovering something, whether it was music, or a product or service that would make their lives better. So it actually started when I was in high school growing up in Lawrence, Kansas. I love music. And I was I was going to Kansas City to go listen to music on the weekends with my friends. And I got asked to start promoting some events and some DJs. And I said, Yeah, sure, I'm already going to these events, I may as well do that. And that's really how I started and it was very organic. And then it moved into a whole bunch of other stuff. Going to age myself a little bit. But this is wave of this is before the internet. You know, we were I had Yeah, AOL chat rooms, things like that. But I dug my teeth. I started in events, but then I ended up doing launch marketing for brands for magazines. On Official Xbox Magazine first came out, I did the launch marketing, and was the Marketing Manager for the publication, and cyber together b2b and b2c programs, depending on what messaging do we want to give to potential advertisers, then to get them in the magazine? And then how do we take their messages and our message and create really cool programs, events, contests, direct mail campaigns, other things, to reach to the ideal audience.
Gary Pageau 3:48
But now in the digital world? How is branding change? Because I think if you were to launch, what's a PS 5 magazine, it wouldn't exactly resonate with the target market, they would say, why are you sending me this physical piece of media? Right? So everything has changed? Rather than focusing on what's changed? Why don't we talk about what stayed the same? Because a lot of people don't even really understand what branding is. So what is branding in your vernacular?
Anika Jackson 4:20
I love this question. And you and I spoke about this briefly. A lot of people think brand is your logo. Your logo is your mark, right? It's the way that people recognize your brand, but it is not your brand. Your brand is all of the things that encompass who you are as a company and as an entrepreneur. So it all starts with what problem are you solving for people with your product or your service? It starts with your mission vision values, who are your customer personas, and how do you message properly to them? And so all of those things go into the creation of your brand and When you look at your logo, right, it's not just oh, I like this logo, I like these colors. Branding experts go a lot deeper. So we'll look at shapes, we'll look at your competitors. Materials, we'll look at what colors are using are the colors evoking the emotions that you want people to feel when, you know they're looking at you as a potential place to buy. So one thing that we really see that's the same as it was that people may not have put as much of an emphasis on before is authenticity. People want to know who's behind the brand. And so that's why it's really important to think about branding, marketing PR all together. Nowadays, it's not just siloed, some people still operate that way. But it doesn't really work. To keep things separate, you have to have an integrated strategy. And that's where I would say digital has changed the landscape a lot, because now you take a piece of content, you can purpose it over your social media channels, your newsletter, put it on your website, for instance, when this episode is released, I will put it on all my social media, I will also link to the podcast from my website. So that will help that builds up more audience recognition for both of us, more thought leadership, right and that authority. And that's also like, you can take a piece of PR content and use it to post all over your social media, because then it's not just you telling your story. But it's that third party validation of a journalist recognizing that you're an authority in that area. So I know that's a lot of information.
Gary Pageau 6:29
And for a lot of my audience who are small business people, that's a big chunk of work that they think they have to do, but I would guess instinctively, most of them probably already know that know a lot of what you're talking about, they know the personas, they know how they're perceived in the community. Do you recommend a small company like say under 50 or 100 employees look at doing a brand reanalysis? How often
Anika Jackson 7:01
Oh, I don't know that I could put a timeframe to that. I've worked with people who've been in business 20 years. And by going through some of the methods that we use, they realized that they were speaking to the completely wrong audience. You know, so, you know, they've been in business 20 years, they've been doing the same thing they've been doing, actually digital marketing for that long. So I do think it's good, just like how people do strategic planning, right? And then you have your annual plan. So look, every three to five years minimum, I mean, I think it's good every year to look at because I know even for my own business, I've niched down I've like looked at, okay, what do I really want to do? Who do I really want to target to work with, and it's always evolving. Now, I know, for your industry, it's a little more clear, in some ways, because you're servicing people who need to get photos, or they need to get protein or graphics or other things done. So it's a very specific kind of product. So I think one of the biggest things, honestly, for local businesses to do is look at their SEO. So that means look at your website, make sure that you're using the right keywords that show that you're local. So if people are in Scranton, I don't know why I picked that name, but just pulled it out of my head. So if you're in Scranton, and you are the one our photo shop, or that was what you did, and now you've created all these other ancillary businesses continue operating, you're gonna want to make sure that when people Google, you know, one hour photo or graphic design or whatever the other things that you're doing, that you're gonna be the first one to come up. And so they do that is to make sure that your keywords on your website include local, you know, photographer, Scranton, or like all the different things that you can do. I mean, you I'm preaching to the choir here.
Gary Pageau 8:54
No, I don't either. But I think it's a good refresher. Because you know, what I encounter with some folks in our audience, they're long established businesses, they've been there communities a long time and the community may have a, a picture, if you will, pardon the pun there, what the business is, but they've changed like, like, you mentioned the word One Hour Photo and right, that's not really a phrase people use anymore, because we're really built around the technology of processing roll film, in an hour, which was, you know, back in the day, that was pretty revolutionary right? Now, it's why would you have to wait that long to print a digital picture? So they've had so they've had to modify or change their branding and their approach and all that, and but it's still very difficult to communicate. And I think that's one of the things you know, where I'm thinking, you know, a smaller company has to become more of a their own publicist. Right, as opposed to just and even a content creator for once. For some point, you know, what do you think, is the first thing a bit Businesses like that they'll say better established, but may have changed its offerings. I mean, they think of a restaurant that's changed its menu completely. Where would you start? Because you can't do it all at once.
Anika Jackson 10:10
Right? I would start with your brand identity with your new offerings, are you still targeting the right audience in your messaging for marketing and PR? Or are you offering something that local schools would love, and you have that, but that hasn't been a target of yours. So think about those two to three really clear customer personas that you would want to get business from that will give you enough business to continue operating, because I know that's something we all have think about, especially, you know, in these times, and think about what the messaging is going to be for each of those. So it could be different could be, the reason why you want to work with us is whether it's price, convenience, excellent, you know, quality service, all of those things, think about what makes you different perhaps, than other companies in the area, and then use that to create different messages for those two or three key audience personas. One of
Gary Pageau 11:12
the things that's happened, unfortunately is many of them may not even have competitors in there, they may be the only there used to be one or photo store in every corner. And now there is one town in percentage, sometimes there's no even cameras stores in a city anymore. So what they have to do is even introduce themselves to a newer generation, and make themselves relevant to you know, Gen Z and millennials who did not grow up processing film, right. So it's a whole different communication strategy.
Anika Jackson 11:41
Yeah, yeah, it really is. And going back to that authenticity, again, those generations particularly want to know who you are. So not just the services you're going to provide, but who's behind the business? Why should they care? What are your values? And I know that gets a little nuanced because cameras start, you know, you're not going to be political, necessarily. I mean, you could be or not, but but they want to see like, how are you invested in the community. And so I think that's a great story for these companies to use. Because they've been long standing in the community, they can show that they have this tradition, but that they're also pivoting to the new times. And then think about how are millennials and Gen Z using photos and technology. And I know you and I both are professors, as well as podcasters. And everything else we do. And it's really interesting to see how they use things now. Because I know for like my class that I just finished, they all had final projects, they had to do videos, they use a lot of photos, they use a lot of technology. I think a lot of them use Canva. But there are other technologies that they could have used or like if they were actually doing a physical presentation set of a virtual one, they would want to know that they could go to this shop and get their presentation turned around really quickly and get everything they need. The other challenge
Gary Pageau 13:02
though, that I see it that I kind of want I want to pivot a little bit a little bit I mentioned restaurants, but you know, nowadays, if you look at like the fast food scene, right, like to pick your big companies, your McDonald's or Burger King, your Wendy's, all of them have astonishingly similar menus, they all have burgers, they all have chicken, they all have, you know, very, you know, there's really not differentiation among product anymore along there when you have a product that is hard to hard to distinguish. Right differentiation is very challenging. So and that's one of the challenges that I think photo companies run into, because, you know, a photo mug is a photo mug and a lot of it you know, you can get them online for a couple bucks or you can pay eight bucks at your local photo store. That's where a lot of companies tend to go down the pricing rathole, right discount discount discount, yeah. What is your i There's a long way for me to get around to that question. If you're having difficulty differentiating How can you not go down the price cutting rathole?
Anika Jackson 14:12
That's a really big question I want I want to ask you something before I answer this. Yeah, so Wendy's Burger King, McDonald's, they might have similar products, but you have do you have a preference for one over the other?
Gary Pageau 14:25
Me personally, I avoid them like the plague if I if I were to I would probably I would probably lean towards the king. So okay. And why is that? I just like how Whopper tastes.
Anika Jackson 14:40
Okay. See? So they do have some differentiate? Yeah.
Gary Pageau 14:42
But what's funny is McDonald's knocked off the Whopper. And Burger King knocked off the big man. So that's where I was thinking of that.
Anika Jackson 14:54
Oh, yeah. But I know like if I'm on a road trip and I'm trying to figure out which fast food place I want to go. If I want chicken, I'm gonna go to Chick fil A, if I want the best fries, and I don't want to have a really fresh burger, honestly, I'll probably go to Wendy's. Or if I feel like having a frosty or so there are certain things that I like better than others at each of those places. So that's one way to think about, if you have a product that everybody else has, what are those little differentiation factors that make you better. The other thing is that price, you know, doesn't equal value, we do live in a society where people are always looking for the discount. And I think you and I both know, in our businesses, it's the same amount of work, whether you discount or not. And if you discount your prices, people tend to expect a lot more, even though they're not willing to pay for it, right, where people are willing to pay more, they just, they're happy to pay that much. They know you're gonna do good work. And it's a little bit easier, they get it, they know that things take time, like in the world of PR, I can have somebody who's like, oh, I have a $2,000 budget, well, I can do this much. But if somebody comes to me with a four, six or $8,000 budget, I can do a lot more with that. Because you have to think about the time that you're investing in your people and your space and your marketing and everything else, I would argue that I would rather go to a local store to support local, and buy an $8 mug, because I know I'm gonna get it right there, I can feel it, I can see what the materials are, I can tell which ones are going to last better, I can get it right there packed it up. Whereas when you order stuff online, even if it's a big company, you might not get it on time, it might be broken, you know, the quality might not be the same, you can't touch it. And so I think really, first local businesses, particularly going after that know, like and trust, make sure that people understand how invested you are in the community. What do you do for your give back? Or how do you invest in the community? Do you give money? Do you donate time as a business? Things like that, that do make a difference in communities?
Gary Pageau 17:02
One thing that a lot of these retailers I've been talking about do is they do a lot of classes of you know, either photo safaris or you know in store clapping or that kind of stuff, which is, which is very cool. It seems to me like the Gen Z and Millennial demographic really wants to be engaged at that level in that process.
Anika Jackson 17:25
Oh, yeah. Experience.
Gary Pageau 17:26
Yeah. Talk a little bit about that. Because it's not necessarily them sitting in an environment and you're talking at them. Yeah.
Anika Jackson 17:37
But you're still offering your expertise. You're right, but they have
Gary Pageau 17:41
to be engaged is what I'm saying. It's very much, you know, they may be talking amongst themselves half the time.
Anika Jackson 17:49
Yeah, but that's, those are fantastic strategies. I know so many people who I mean, I live outside of Los Angeles. And I know a lot of people are like, I want to do a tour of all the cool art, you know, graffiti art all over the city and the different neighborhoods. And so they'll they'll go on photo safaris on their own. But if it was something where a company that is associated with photography was putting it together, right, it goes, you know, maybe a little bit outside of your normal realm, but you're not staying in your brick and mortar, you're taking people out and about, right, or through a slideshow or a number of things. But then there's also so many community organizations, friends, groups, that are always looking for fun things to do collectively. And so that's a great way to again, establish who you are in the community, and to use those as entry points. And then you have really easy access to the items that millennials and Gen Z could pick up and buy while they're at your store. Signing up for the photo Safari or whether they're doing, like you said, a crafting event, or anything like that in store,
Gary Pageau 18:54
when I speak to of, to a lot of the independent retailers that I'm talking about. You know, there's an age gap there, many of them are older, and looking to retire, and or not ever looking to retire. But maybe they have a 2015 20 years left. They're looking at things like tick tock, and Instagram reels and things like that. Is there any really quantifiable use cases and studies that have been done? But where that's like, super necessary for businesses to be doing those things? Or is it just trendy because people can do them at low cost?
Anika Jackson 19:29
Yeah, that's a mixed bag. That is a mixed bag. It's a necessary evil, but it's better to pick one social media channel to really focus on based on who your audience is and the demographic of your audience and how you're really going to reach local if especially if your business is hyperlocal. How are you going to best reach local people? And so that might not even be those it might be next door. It might be local groups on Facebook that year. are just a member of and that you're able to share information about the cool things that you're doing. You know, and the other issue with social media is it's always changing. And we see what's going on with Twitter right now, people are fleeing, they're all these other new social media channels coming up, we don't know what's going to happen to them. We're also seeing trends towards video. So if you are going to post you try to use video doesn't have to be fantastic, it can be you and your phone. And just, you know, introducing who you are, you can start, you can really think about that introducing who you are talking about the history of your business, talking about what great things you have coming up, that is all pieces of content that you can easily create, that can turn into marketing messages and choose one platform, you know, or like, my team will post stuff on Tik Tok, and then they'll repurpose and put it on real on Instagram.
Gary Pageau 20:49
It just it just seems to me like it's, it used to be back in the day. If you were doing like direct mail, you knew the return on investment, there was gonna be, you know, 1.5 to 2%, or whatever it was. Or if you did, you know, radio ads, you could hear the radio ads know that people were listening and all that, it seems to me that the ROI bit on social is harder for someone with limited resources to quantify
Anika Jackson 21:20
Yes, yes, you are 100% Correct. I speak to other professors, because I do teach digital media management at USC. And there's really not such a thing as organic anymore. You just, you have to be willing to boost posts, put some dollars in. And if you and with algorithms changing and then things like Apple privacy, that really hurt a lot of businesses and hurt how they were targeting, and their money wasn't being effectively spent. The best thing honestly, if you're going to put money into ad dollars would be do it on Google. Yes, people are always, you know, Google's the number one search platform, people are going to be looking at it people are going to be Googling, you know, click photo gifts in my city. You want to be the person who comes up
Gary Pageau 22:12
and and isn't there. Aren't there some platforms that Google doesn't crawl? I mean, because I don't think I know that they crawl Facebook purse. Yeah. Yeah. So if you're spending a lot of money there, you're not gonna get it coming out of your Google results was right. Yeah.
Anika Jackson 22:29
Yeah. And Facebook, Instagram, think about them, even though they're different platforms. They're all meta. They service ads the same way? Yeah, yeah. So if you're putting money to that, yeah, that's not going to help you with Google search. And then the other thing is, like, some people might do How to videos, right for different photo things on YouTube. YouTube is now going to podcasting. And that's the platform that they're really pushing out in 2023. Interest, that's another great place that you could be up to show different photo ideas and how to use photos on different products.
Gary Pageau 23:01
Well, you know, it's interesting, you said, because, because I know, a lot of these businesses, you know, have the content, they are willing to do this stuff. It's just, it's a dizzying array of choices with X amount of time. And that's really what the challenge is, is not whether I should do it, it's where and how much time and now it's how much money do I spend on it, because like you says, it's more or less a pay to play environment. Now, if you want to be seen.
Anika Jackson 23:28
Yeah. And I would love to make a recommendation of a platform that I know of, I don't make any money off of recommending this are called simplified. The website is simplified.com. It is a platform where you can post all of your social media on all the platforms through it. But it also gives you caption ideas, hashtags, best times to post, it gets rid of the need for other products, because you can rate everything in there. So you can actually edit video through the platform, you can also create everything to the platform. So you don't need Canva necessarily, and you know, Magisto, or Adobe, whatever suite you're using to create to edit videos, you can do it all in there, and they have a freemium model. So I'd encourage anybody check that out. Because scheduling your posts like that will also cut down on the amount of time that you're putting into social. But I will also say I'll caveat that by saying one of the biggest things people fail to do, they'll make a post and then they won't engage with the audience. So when people start responding, responding, putting whatever comments they want to you have to respond to those people. You have to engage with their audience. And that's the way that is one way to help audiences grow organically. Small, a small bit, but if it's a way to start,
Gary Pageau 24:51
yeah, no, that's a great recommendation because I think you know, they all know they have to do it. And you know, they understand you have to spend money to make money but they also do wanna waste money? Yeah, that's where I think, you know, like you said, there's a dizzying array of choices. I mean, you just rattle off. How many out there?
Anika Jackson 25:09
Yeah. And there's so many more that we didn't mention.
Gary Pageau 25:12
And you can't me. I mean, you mentioned LinkedIn, which is probably right, why audience there are, for me personally have been my biggest platform, because the b2b type person, exactly. So and they're getting in all those things to the videos. And, and, and, boy, they want you to pay for that too.
Anika Jackson 25:30
But they do. And the other thing is that LinkedIn, like other platforms, doesn't want you to leave their platform. So they want original content posted on their platform, they don't want Hey, check out my blog posts, go to my website, that's not going to be as high in the algorithm for LinkedIn. But that is another way to create relationships with local community, and get involved with, for instance, a local school that all their sports teams need photos, they need photo printing, they might need gifts for the coaches, for the teachers for I'm just thinking, because my daughter just ended tennis for the season. And thinking about all the things that we had to do with that and getting the photos taken and like picking what we were going to you know, which photos do you want? Do you want them on magnets? Or do you want them on this? Or that? How do you want all this products? And we use the local company? And you know, it's fantastic.
Gary Pageau 26:20
Yeah, there's, that's been a big business for one of my segments, the volume photography segment is the sports and event business has been doing great. So getting back to the core, you kind of spend a lot of time on, you know, social media and that kind of stuff, what is the singular thing, you would advise someone about safeguarding their brand, right and earn an order in order to because it is an asset, it's when I tell my students says, you know, your goodwill, your brand, that's an asset, it's just like any other piece of your business, and you need to protect it and preserve it,
Anika Jackson 26:57
it's arguably the most important thing that you have. Because it is your identity. Again, it's not just your logo, it's how you show up, how you differentiate yourself from others, and safeguarding the brand. I think you just have to remind people over and over again, who you are, and make sure that you are servicing the people that you really want to and that are the right market for what you're offering right now. And that's something we always have to evaluate. I know in over the last few years I've set gone from okay, I'm just doing PR to know we're gonna offer all these services to oh, maybe I'm only one offer these services. And do Am I really reaching the right people? So how am I retargeting and then who am I partnering with to offer? Everything else? Right? Yeah. And so I think that's, you know, those partnerships, that those strategic thinking, you just have to spend a lot of like, spent a lot of time being right versus just doing so that you can get to the doing but the doing is effective.
Gary Pageau 28:02
If people wanted to learn more about you and your company, where would they go?
Anika Jackson 28:07
Well, if you're going to social, you can look me up as Annika Jackson on LinkedIn. I'm amplify with Annika on all social media, as well as we have your brand amplified. And then my website is your brand amplified.co. And you can learn more about me, my team, what we do see some testimonials, case studies. And then also our brand amplifier program, which is the program we're launching, which is really targeted towards those businesses that want to make sure that their brand is set up correctly, that they've really thought through. And again, I've had companies test this that have been in business 20 years. And when said, Oh wow, I just got so much more clarity. And I realized that I'm not even messaging and targeting the people that I really want to work with and change their entire strategy based on that. Oh, great.
Gary Pageau 28:56
And that is launching early this year, so be sure to check it out. Thank you so much, Anika for your time and best wishes for a great 2023
Anika Jackson 29:04
Awesome thank you to you Gary.
Erin Manning 29:07
Thank you for listening to the Dead Pixels Society Podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at www.thedeadpixelssociety.com
Transcribed by https://otter.ai