Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on June 13, 2016

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Creating Culture Through Brand Camp at Spiceworks

jen slaski on brand

“Everything we do as employees translates into the brand.” I’ve been fascinated by the Spiceworks brand since I first read about them in Jay Baer’s new book Hug Your Haters. This people-focused community platform for IT professionals is the very definition of an inside-out brand. I couldn’t wait to discuss this philosophy and more with Spiceworks’ Exec Brand Muse Jen Slaski on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

Enjoy This Episode Now

About Jen Slaski

Jen Slaski is the Executive Director of Marketing Communications at Spiceworks but she’s more commonly known around the office as the “Exec Brand Muse” where she’s responsible for the essence of the Spiceworks brand – a brand that’s previously won MarketingProf’s Brand of the Year. And a brand that Jen refers to as an “inside-out” because of how Spiceworks company culture helps fuel it. Jen joined the company in 2006 and has been helping to create and evolve the company’s brand and marketing efforts ever since.

Jen has always had a passion and flair for the start up world. Before Spiceworks, she held multiple marketing positions at companies like pcOrder.com and Motive, and ran a full spectrum of guerrilla, online and offline marketing programs, and events as an independent marketing consultant.

Jen graduated from Stanford University with a Liberal Arts degree. In her spare time she enjoys day-tripping to classic Americana towns, vintage thrifting, journaling, collaging and facilitating self-discovery workshops and retreats for individuals, teams, and small interest groups.

Episode Highlights

“A brand shouldn’t be something you enforce. It should be something that inspires.” Jen may not have coined the term inside-out branding but it’s at the very heart of the philosophy she works to inspire as the exec brand muse at Spiceworks. The dictionary defines muse as “the source of inspiration for a creative artist.” This makes her title and what’s she does (and how she does it) even cooler. “I never wanted to be ‘the brand police.'”

Road-trip branding. “In the beginning, the founders of Spiceworks hit the road and talked to other IT professionals. Getting to know people drove everyone’s work — even mine, at that time, email marketing. These authentic, human relationships were at the heart of everything. We developed a deep respect for these people.” More brands should take road trips — even short ones — to get to know their customers better. “It doesn’t have to be a three-month focus group. Invite a few customers out for a beer.”

The power of asking real people. As I note in my book Get Scrappy, you have to embrace your people power. Spiceworks does this as often as they can. “Whenever we have a campaign idea we always remember to go downstairs and ask IT — the actual customers we’re marketing to. Connecting with real people is a great way to get inspired and re-inspired.”

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This one time, at ‘brand camp’ … As culture plays such a critical role at Spiceworks, it needs to be a big part of the employee on-boarding process as well. That’s why Jen began developing a ‘brand book,’ a document she hoped wouldn’t be thought of as corporate guidelines. In the end she realized that “it’s hard to capture a human brand on paper.” Thus brand camp was born. “Some time during an employees’ first two months they go to brand camp and get training on how to be the brand and bring the brand to life — how to write in the brand’s voice. Our CEO called it ‘corporate rehab’ as it’s a mindset unfamiliar to many, especially in IT. Ultimately the brand book had it’s place as a reference after brand camp.”

What’s Jen’s one thing brand builders should focus on? “Go sit down and have a beer with a person you’re actually marketing to.” As a marketer, don’t get lost in your cubicle. Get out and find your people.

What brand has made Jen smile recently? “They’ve been making me smile for years. I know this might sound bad with all of my road trips and living in Austin but I really , really appreciate the Starbucks brand. I love talking with the people at the counter and seeing the people working and meeting there.” It’s not so surprising that this is a favorite brand as it’s also an inside out brand.

To learn more about Jen and what she does, you can go to the Spiceworks website — where you should also check out Jen’s post on how your brand’s A-game is you. Jen and I are also presenting on a panel on scrappy marketing with Erica McGillivray from Moz at Marketing Profs B2B Marketing Forum this October. Learn more.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
This week I want to give a shout out to my friends at AWeber who had me as a recent guest on their podcast where I discussed my new book Get Scrappy and how marketers can do more with less with their marketing. AWeber is a great partner of Brand Driven Digital. AWeber’s Mike Smith — a past On Brand podcast guest — is speaking about email marketing at this fall’s Social Brand Forum and AWeber is sponsoring.

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

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



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Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, where he helps build better brands online. He also teaches at the University of Iowa and is host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.


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