Why Having a Brand Filter Makes Decisions Easy at AWeber

mike smith on brand

“Your brand is more than your logo.” How many times have you heard something like this? If you’re a visual brand builder like Mike Smith, you probably find yourself saying this a lot. But what does it really mean? As art director at email marketing solution AWeber, Mike has been responsible for reinvigorating the venerable brand and bringing it to life across new touch points including a live event and a mascot. I couldn’t wait to talk to Mike about all of this on this week’s On Brand podcast.

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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith is an art director with a passion for high-quality design and a knack for branding. He first realized his love for graphic art as early as middle school and has been nurturing this love ever since. Today, he is an expert in design, branding and visual consistency. As a member of AWeber’s creative team, he thrives on visually presenting the AWeber brand. “It’s more than just slapping a logo on everything,” he says as he spearheads the company’s artistic direction; knowing that small visual details can make a big difference to consumers.

Since joining AWeber in 2013, Mike has led the charge to create the company’s first-ever company mascot. He also directed the creation of all design assets for AWeber’s inaugural ASCEND Digital Marketing Summit, an event that attracted over 200 marketing professionals and entrepreneurs. While he loves to create and design things digitally, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and a talented craftsman. Want to get his attention? Strike up a conversation about creative design or his one-of-a-kind spoon carving business.

Episode Highlights

Before we got too far, I had to ask him about his spoon carving business. “I saw a video and was curious to see if I could do it. I was fascinated at the idea of creating something from nothing.” Always looking for a smooth segue, this reminded me of the work we do as brand builders around creating meaning — making the intangible more tangible. Like carving a spoon from a block of wood.

How does AWeber make decisions about their brand? “We have a personality that goes with our brand. So we put things through our Brand Filter/Funnel.” This useful tool is shaped like a funnel and serves as a filter for key decisions around the business and the brand. The top level of the funnel is Purpose, followed by Position, and finally, at the base of the funnel, Personality.

What do Australian cattle farmers have to do with branding? Mike shared one of his favorite internal brand-building metaphors. Australian cattle farmers have lots of property. Their challenge is to manage it all while not losing tons of time building and repairing fences to keep the cattle contained. Instead many opt to build wells to draw the cattle in. To keep them engaged. That’s why Mike prefers helpful microsites and posters that inform team decisions rather than confining style guides.

Why did AWeber decide to create a mascot? “We wanted something friendly and the name AWeber isn’t that friendly on its own.” Mike led an effort to poll their team and help narrow down some of the more “out of this world” options. They finally arrived at AJ the Astronaut. Mike set the stage for some future announcements around AJ including a potential unmasking. Stay tuned!

What’s one thing Mike would tell brand builders today? “As hard as you try to attract customers to your brand, ultimately the brand is made in their mind’s eye.” Today we’re laying a bread crumb trail for people to follow on a ground already littered with crumbs.

What brand has made Mike smile recently? “I have two. The first has to be digital. I love (online direct banking solution) Simple. They have a video on their homepage that almost made me cry.” Mike’s second brand smile was reserved for Patagonia who continues to swing for the brand building fences.

To learn more check out the AWeber website and follow Mike on Twitter.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Recently On Brand super fan Sean Carpenter created a post about his favorite podcasts and was kind enough to include On Brand. He also created several Instagram memes out of quotes (like the one below) from John Michael Morgan’s recent episode. Thanks Sean!

A photo posted by Sean Carpenter (@seancarp) on

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!