2018 Q1 Q&A with Brian Till

Q&A with Brian Till

Be empowered. Challenge conventional wisdom. Think strategically. If you’re looking to tap into the vein of brand management today, Brian Till, Ph.D., believes these are the qualities every marketer needs.

In his book, “The Truth About Creating Brands People Love,” Till offers a comprehensive list of ideas, strategies and techniques that marketers can use to transform a great product into a profitable brand everyone will want to follow. With an emphasis on building great brands—and keeping them great—the book features 51 bite-size truths about brands and brand building. Today, Till serves as the James H. Keyes Dean of Business Administration at Marquette University, where he oversees the college’s academic and professional leadership acumen. A first-class educator, Till also was dean of the Williams College of Business at Xavier University, as well as holding marketing faculty positions at Drexel University, Loyola University Chicago and Saint Louis University. Over the years, the former brand manager and strategists has racked up numerous awards for teaching excellence, including being named one of the nation’s “Top 10 Marketing Teachers” by the Society for Marketing Advances.

Relevate sat down with Till to get his thoughts on the secret to successfully promoting your brand in today’s hyper-connected landscape.

Q Why does the process of creating brands people love require more than just loving the product or service?

A Effectively creating brands people love requires a deep understanding of what makes the product or service unique. Who is the target customer? What is the one simple concept the brand represents (usually tied to what makes the brand unique)? The company should certainly have enthusiasm for their products or services, but if they are missing good answers to my questions above, they will not be minimally successful.

Q What is the one thing that marketers miss in the branding process?

A There isn’t “one thing.” Common areas include trying to appeal to too broad of an audience and getting overly complicated with messaging.

Q What are the best ways to correct that?

A What often leads to too broad of an audience is when marketing managers frame the target audience question this way: “Who might possibly be interested in our brand?” The problem is that the answer is often “Pretty much anyone.” The better question is: “Who is most likely to be interested in our brand?” This question should lead to a greater focus.

Q What are the key foundations on which an effective brand is built?

A It’s about being unique in some meaningful way (differentiation). You must have a clear sense of who the brand is appealing to (target audience). And it is imperative to communicate a simple concept around the brand (positioning).

Q What lessons can a university learn from your book?

A The higher education market is highly competitive. Universities have to figure out what makes them (somewhat) distinctive. My experience has been that the feeling prospective students get on their campus visit is extremely pivotal. The university’s distinctiveness puts them in the “consideration set” of a pool of prospective students. The campus visit and the people the prospective student interacts with make the diĀ‚erence. The campus tour really needs to reflect the ethos of the university.

Q What’s the best piece of advice that you can offer today’s university marketing managers?

A Keep it simple.

Q What was your inspiration to write the book?

A I was very interested (with my colleague Donna Heckler) to write a very readable, accessible book that covers the broad range of branding and marketing activities but does so with each chapter being very short and simple. The book is intended as a collection of “nuggets of insight” regarding creating and managing brands.