Creating an iconic brand is no easy task, and few manage to achieve such status. Organizations such as Coca-Cola, Disney, and Lego offer more than just a product, they offer a way of life, a set of values. Ultimately, they operate at a much higher level and with a higher purpose, a vision that is more about society than simply marketing.
One company that has managed to achieve iconic brand status is Fender. Fender is synonymous with the guitar and a certain way of life - that of the rock star, the free spirit. Musicians from all genres have been using Stratocasters since the company was founded in 1946, with legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Buddy Holly performing classic songs in front of millions of people. Fender now hauls in some half billion dollars a year in revenue, a massive chunk of the $6 billion musical instrument market in the US.
B.J. Carretta is VP of Digital Brand Marketing, Media and Communications at Fender, overseeing strategy and teams across digital brand promotion, social, paid media, partnerships and communications. He has more than 15 years experience in marketing, having previously worked at other national institutions including NBC. We sat down with him to discuss the importance of brand strategy and how it is done ahead of his presentation at the Brand Strategy Innovation Summit, which takes place in San Francisco this September 11–12.
How did you get started in your career?
Just before graduation from Purdue University, I was accepted to be part of the legendary NBC Page Program out in LA. In August of 2000, I started at the NBC Burbank studio as an official NBC Page, gave tours of the lot (‘Days of Our Lives,’ ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’), did audience load in for ‘The Tonight Show,’ ‘Family Feud,’ and other great shows. After a few months, I became an assistant’s assistant to an SVP in Video, Music and Product Develop group. I worked my way up to Director in a few years and had the opportunity to book and help produce 16 nights of concerts at the Salt Lake City Olympics; launch SNL Best Of franchise on DVD; as well create original direct-to-DVD content with characters like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
What do you believe are the main components of a successful brand strategy?
First and foremost, it’s confidence in the product and the team that are the main components of a successful brand strategy. We are very fortunate to always start with amazing products, and our product teams are some of the best in the world across any category. Secondly, it’s paramount to work with real data that helps inform decisions, and then lastly, I believe all campaign facets need to be connected. Media, communications, social, grassroots and content all have to work together to achieve goals. We are not working with auto or beverage money, so our plans need to really be synced.
How do you maintain a strong identity in a crowded digital space with a wide range of channels?
We remain true to our core values as a brand, while also expanding our presence to different audiences and consumers. We are fortunate to have top-level content programs and a product that has been part of music for over 70 years.
How important is it to remain agile in a rapidly-evolving market? What advice do you have for other companies?
You have to be agile or you will fail. Feedback nowadays is immediate, so you have to be able to pivot in a second’s notice, and more importantly, you have to be set up to pivot quickly.
Do you think it is ever sensible for brands to get involved with politics?
No, but to each their own.
How do you measure the success of a brand strategy?
Success of a brand strategy is measured taking into account a mixture of sales, community growth and overall consumer engagement.
What other challenges do you face in implementing brand strategy?
Scale is our biggest challenge when implementing brand strategy. We are constantly working on how can we maximize our strategies and content for less. Really driving influence, engagement and then consumption is what the team does on a daily basis.
You can hear more from BJ, along from leading figures from other iconic brands including Google, Mattel, and NBC, at the Brand Strategy Innovation Summit. View the full agenda here.
BONUS CONTENT: Carina Ertl, VP of Global Marketing at Swarovski, discusses why it’s so important to align brand values to your corporate values