Adam O'Leary is the President of encite branding + marketing + creative, a Denver-based marketing agency. He founded the agency in 2005 and has since grown it into an award-winning team of professionals. Adam specializes in market strategy, public relations, graphic design, and web design. His role involves working closely with clients to build their businesses through branding while fostering the growth of his team.
Standing out from the competitive business world requires a well-crafted brand strategy. But how do you create a strategy that not only captures attention but also resonates deeply with your target audience?
In this week's episode of the DesignRush podcast, Adam O'Leary, president of entice, takes us on a deep tour of personal and professional branding, underscoring the importance of brand strategy and recognizing your audience for successful campaigns.
As we delve deeper into the realm of brand marketing, we also take a closer look at how technology trends are shaping branding practices. Adam stresses the importance of keeping your finger on the pulse of the marketing and tech world.
Listen to the full interview below:
Vianca: You founded encite during the economic crisis in 2008, soon after you got laid off from the company you were employed at. What pushed you to work on encite during that time of struggle?
Adam O'Leary: I did start the company three years earlier, officially while I was working client side with a software company, but it was just something to earn a few extra bucks. I had some friends that had small businesses. I made them a business card or whatever.
It was always that kind of thing, yeah, so in 2005 I started the business officially. I had a few friends that had businesses, and I did a couple of different small projects for them as best I could. But when I got laid off on the client side in 2008, that's what kind of pushed me out of the nest, if you will. There are just no jobs out there.
I decided to say, well, I think that's maybe the catalyst that I needed to get kind of me going. And it's out of a need to pivot, a need to make money, a need to drive that business. And sometimes, we just need that little push. Fortunately for me, it worked out well At the time. It was a little stressful and nerve-wracking, but I needed that push. I had to learn new skills kind of. I had to learn different kinds of software. I had to just kind of drive it.
And that's what I did. I kind of consumed any and all information that I could, any and all content that I could. I went back to classes at some community college stuff and started to learn those things, And I would find those things or identify those things that I needed to learn just by talking with clients or talking with colleagues or that kind of thing And going to networking events, which I was a whole, 100% against.
I'm a pretty social person, but even as an adult, walking into a room of 100 people, you don't know, it's awkward sometimes. But I just pushed myself to do that, I said, "I'm getting up, and I'm doing it." And it was a huge lesson and very valuable for me, kind of moving forward.
encite’s focus is on small businesses aiming to build their brand. What are the most frequent mistakes that up-and-coming businesses make when working toward success?
One of the most common mistakes we have observed in small to medium-sized businesses is their tendency to dive into tactical approaches too quickly. It is understandable that they often feel pressured by their superiors or CEOs who urge them to accomplish tasks as soon as possible. And if there's no strategy behind it, as we talked about earlier, you know you're going to miss the mark kind of.
I think another big one that they've I've seen mistakes is you're handing off different kind of tasks, you know, based on their current resources, and I can totally understand that. Like we only have, you know, five employees and we need to make a flyer for our trade show.
I can completely understand with budgets, finances, with resources, small businesses are trying to do more with less, but how are you? you know, how you put priority on how you present your business and how you present yourself is a huge mistake just based on that.
And just based on kind of what resources they have. So that's you know. I could go on and on about, you know, things that I, you know, would do differently in small businesses.
But you know, I think those are kind of the two big ones is not really identifying, you know, and doing some research before you jump into tactical and then putting, you know, some kind of task on one of your team members that just they just don't have the skills, they just don't have the experience to do that, and you're probably hurting yourself more than you're helping yourself.
Your agency is known for its strategic approach from a “branding lens.” How would you describe encite’s brand strategy?
That's a really good question. You know, we have an internal strategy, especially for new business development, but our brand strategy is well part of our brand attributes is to be authentic, real, and we talked about the word candid a lot, but we are very candid.
And so we want to make sure that our communication with our clients is also candid. So, you know, our brand strategy is very focused on building relationships. It's very focused on being super authentic and real and making sure that you know our communication is open and transparent. I think we use that word a lot, people use it, but I think it's key to make sure that we're transparent.
But I think one of the things that are a kind of paramount for our brand strategy is part of that transparency is, you know when we mess up, I'll tell you we messed up, we dropped it, you know, and it happens.
We do everything in our power not for it to happen. But you know that social media posts didn't go up. You know on that day that you needed to go. You know we dropped the ball. I apologize. We put in, you know, a process in a place that doesn't happen again.
But I think that's one of the key things there is and I think that builds a better relationship with our clients because everybody messes up right, but it's how we react to how we mess up or how we, you know, miss something, which is the more important thing in our eyes, and it's a very positive reaction from our clients with that candor and with that openness.
Because, you know, whenever you kind of do drop the ball in something, I guess the natural reaction is like, oh, we didn't do that, it was because of X, Y and Z. Let's try to make an excuse, right, but you're never going to. You're never going to do that. But our brand strategy is to make sure that there's that authenticity and that openness and transparency.
What are the biggest changes you have noticed in branding trends from encite's launch in 2008 until today? Are there any trends that are a “must-follow” now?
Well, you know, from a branding standpoint, you know, some of the branding attributes of branding strategy are kind of real-time testing. So I would still think those apply today than what they applied then.
From a creative standpoint, I think that the advent of the evolution of some of these other different marketing channels that are starting to break some of those brand guidelines, so you know, a logo, for example, was, at some point, you had an icon and the name and the tagline and you follow some of the standards where you never, you never broke those up, right, they look exactly like that every single time.
Well, what happens when social comes along, and you have to have an icon for your business page, and if you put that in there and you look at it on your phone, well, that's unreadable, unrecognizable. So those kinds of things have evolved and kind of that we're breaking those standards just because of the different channels and different tactics that have come along. So you know, I think that you just kind of have to roll with some of those new tactics and channels.
What are some of the key things that you still apply to work in an agency environment now and with branding for businesses?
I still use the skills that I learned. At one point, I was doing graphic design, so I learned Adobe software and learned to make new things. But one thing I learned there is I know that at one point, you just can't be the jack of all trades; you can't do everything, and bringing in people that specialize in that and are focused on creative development takes our work to a different level, takes our client work to a different level.
But I think the one thing that is really beneficial is I still have some working knowledge of that. So I know, in speaking with clients and communicating with clients or colleagues or whatever, I still have that working knowledge enough to say what is valuable for me to talk about deadlines and how long certain things take.
So I have that knowledge rather than relying on my team, who my team is phenomenal, but it helps to continue that communication on the client side because I think communication is one of those things that are super key and super beneficial to both sides, to keep us accountable, to keep them accountable and even kind of building relationships on the client side.
I think that one of our big focuses is making sure that communication is continuing and consistent, and cohesive with our clients as well. So, yeah, many of those skills that I learned early are very much applicable now, and I even try to expand some of those. Continue to try to learn 100%.
How can brands work to differentiate their voice across all marketing touchpoints, especially considering today's over-saturation of branded messaging?
A lot of brands compete on this same type of messaging or the kind of the same positioning, right? So a good example for us that comes out in brand strategy is the research that we do on competitors, whether that's direct competitors or indirect competitors. "What are they saying? What are they? What's their main message, their primary message, secondary message, tertiary."
A good example of that is we're working with a client that's in the kind of landscaping business. They have a pretty big competitive environment. And you know how are you differentiating yourself from all of those other kind of landscaping groups, right? And they're competing on price, they're competing on timeliness, they're competing on oh, all of our people are background checked or you know whatever that is.
But I think the key here is to differentiate your messaging you don't have to differentiate yourself from every other business necessarily. You just have to differentiate yourself from those who are competing with you in the space, and even more granularly, you could differentiate yourself from those people in just that geographic area, right? So that competitive research is key.
Watch our full discussion with Adam O'Leary on YouTube.