Interview with Branding, Marketing and Customer Experience Expert Bruce Turkel
Bruce TurkelBruce Turkel has been helping to create some of the world’s most compelling brands for over 25 years, and has worked with brands such as Nike, American Express, Discovery Networks, Bacardi and many, many more.

A captivating speaker and author, Bruce has spoken at MIT, Harvard, TEDx, and hundreds of corporate and industry conferences. Bruce appears regularly on FOX Business and has been on CNN, ABC, CBS, and NPR. He has been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, Communication Arts, and AdWeek.

So I am honoured to introduce today’s guest, Bruce Turkel.

Hi Bruce, it’s great to have you on Activia’s Expert Insights today – could you tell us a little more about yourself?

Quite simply I spend most of my professional time helping my clients make their products and services more valuable. I do this by working to change the perception their customers – and potential customers – have of what they do. Besides running my full-service branding and advertising agency Turkel Brands, I also write books on the subject and speak at conferences around the world. And a couple times a week I’m on FOX Business, CNN or CCTV where I try to show people the branding implications in what they see in politics and business.

In my spare time (hah!) I’m a husband and father, train for marathons, scuba dive, and front the Miami R&B band Blackstar.

It’s clear that you’ve had a long and varied career, how did you find yourself where you are today?

I started with a design degree and worked in a few different ad agencies before opening my own design firm. I was probably a bit too young and inexperienced to do that but it turned out to be a pretty good move. My father described it as “the confidence of ignorance.” Over the years, we grew the business to a speciality in Travel & Tourism, Health Care, and Financial Services. With time and technology I found that the true test of the success of most of the companies we worked with was not the functional benefits of their products but the quality of their brand value. The little light went off in my head and I moved our business and our clients to a concentration on building their brands. That led to everything we’re doing today.

Your new book, All About Them: Grow Your Business by Focusing on Others, is coming out this week, could you tell us a little about it?

All About Them by Bruce TurkelBefore the Internet became ubiquitous, selling yourself by saying how great you were was a terrific way to market. If you didn’t blow your horn, who would? And unless you had an enormous marketing budget and could afford a robust advertising campaign, selling yourself was the only way anyone could learn about you.

But today everything’s changed. Today we each carry a thin wafer of silicon and glass giving us immediate access to all the world’s knowledge. Got a question about a product or vendor? Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google can all give you more answers than you have time for.

Of course, your potential clients and customers have access to the same technology. This means your business prospects can know everything about you before they walk into your store or restaurant or talk to you. As I said, today everything’s changed. Today, success requires you to turn the lens around and focus relentlessly on your customer.

That’s what my new book — All About Them – is all about. It’ll show you proven, albeit counterintuitive, techniques to build your brand and your business in today’s environment.

Why did you decide that this topic needed to be addressed in a book?

Because everywhere I go I hear supposed experts talking about how to market, advertise, and brand. But much of what I hear is hogwash. I think there are a lot of people who need help building their careers and their businesses and they’re getting a lot of bad advice. I want to see if I can be helpful and share a little of what I’ve learned over my years in the trenches.

Have you got any new exciting projects coming up, or what’s next for you?

There’s so much I want to do – so many opportunities I see. But right now I’m 100% focused on building my business and getting my book into as many hands as possible.

Could you explain the concept of storytelling in marketing and sales? Why is this becoming increasingly important?

Many salespeople think sales is about communicating facts. If you listen to their pitches, you’d find the structure looks something like this: Joke. Introduction. Fact. Fact. Fact. Story. Fact. Fact. Fact. Recap. Fact. Fact. Fact. Close.

I’ve learned that the structure for a successful presentation should look more like this: Story. Story. Story. Story. Story. (Repeat as necessary). I call this story selling.

An example: my friend Stan ran a very successful law firm in New York. He told me a story about a case he once tried that profoundly changed the way I make pitches.

Stan was representing the family of a seven-year old boy named Billy. The family was pursuing damages from the company whose product malfunction was to blame for the boy’s death.

The defense’s opening argument was typical courtroom fare. The attorney explained what the case was about, told the jury that he had reams of data that would prove his client’s products were not to blame and then reviewed a timeline of the events leading up to the regrettable incicdent. When he was done he straightened his tie, thanked the jury for their attention, and sat down.

Stan stood slowly. He turned towards the jury, cleared his throat, and told them this story:

“I went to visit my friend Jack the other day. When I knocked on the door there was no answer. I thought this was odd because Jack was expecting me, so I knocked a second and then a third time. On that last knock the door budged a bit and I realized it was unlocked. I turned the knob, pushed the door open, and let myself in. I saw Jack from across the room. He was staring into the backyard, his shoulder slumped against the window frame. He must have heard me come in because even though he didn’t turn around he started talking without even greeting me.”

“I used to come home from work and stand right here,” Jack said softly, “and watch Billy on that swing. That swing set was Billy’s favorite thing and he’d swing back and forth and back and forth, always with the biggest smile on his face. The swing would squeak in a funny kind of way and as long as I heard that squeak I knew everything was okay. Billy would swing back and forth until he’d look up and see me standing here watching him and then he’d jump off and run inside to give me a big bear hug.”

Stan dropped his voice, imitating Jack’s faltering tone, “I just realized that no matter how long I live I’ll never hear that swing set squeak quite the same way ever again. They took my little Billy away from me.”

With that, Stan turned from the jury, walked over to Billy’s father and sat down next to him, putting his arm around the sobbing man’s back.

Is there any question which communication technique was more effective, Stan’s emotional recap or the opposing counsel’s evidence-based rhetoric? The defense attorney neatly presented the facts, summed up the situation and made his point. And over the duration of the lawsuit he followed the outline we’ve all been taught. That is, he told them what he was going to tell them, he told them and then he told them what he had told them.

But Stan’s presentation went much deeper, touching the jury’s heart and affecting their decision-making process and validating their values on an emotional level. Stan was story selling.

Bruce Turkel

How important is it to forge relationships with customers nowadays?

Forging relationships is the key to success – it’s both what customers expect and a great way to demonstrate that your company can go beyond the usual and delight them with your products, services, and culture.

How is social media changing the face of marketing and customer experience?

Today every business – no matter how large or small – has the opportunity to reach its clients through social media. And because of the nature of the technology, businesses can better know their customers and build a relationship – albeit an online relationship – with them.

What is a simple way to make customers feel individually appreciated?

Show up where they are. Don’t pick social media based on what you like to do or what your IT people think is the most expedient. Use available data to learn where your customers are spending their time and meet them on their own turf.

How do you think marketing and customer experience will develop in the next few years?

A few things are going to happen: big data is going to both become more sophisticated and more available to smaller businesses. That way you’ll know who your customers are, what they care about, and how you can thrill them. Also, product function will become less and less important. Thanks to computerized design and systems management all products simply do what they’re supposed to do. When was the last time your TV didn’t work or your car didn’t get you from point A to point B? Once customers get used to that, it will take something else to gain their trust, businesses, and loyalty. I believe that something else is your brand value.

What is a basic tip you would give to a new entrepreneur who wants to build a strong brand online?

Stand for something. Plant your flag. Make your statement. Write a book. If you can’t write a book, write a manifesto. Declare your future and lead your employees to it. THAT’S the way to both be a thought leader and to create your own opportunity.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Today is the best time ever to build your brand. We’ve never had so many tools, so many opportunities, so many new outlets for creativity. And never before has building brand value been as critical to your success.

Well said – it’s been great to talk to you Bruce, thanks for stopping by!

Bruce's book, All About Them: Grow Your Business by Focusing on Others is out now. If you'd like to have a look and get your own copy, you can do so on Amazon and other online booksellers. If you'd like to connect with Bruce, make sure to say hello on Twitter at @BruceTurkel.