Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on January 16, 2017

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Creating Stories from Customer Empathy with Carla Johnson

carla johnson on brand

“Brands that we look to, that are charismatic, know their audience. They know who they are.” Stories, personality, and experiences are the building blocks of modern brands of all shapes and sizes. This week, Carla Johnson of Type A Communications and co-author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing stopped by the On Brand podcast to discuss all of this.

About Carla Johnson

Carla Johnson helps marketers unlock, nurture and strengthen their storytelling muscle so they can create delightful experiences for audiences. She works as a trusted advisor at the highest level of blue-chip brands to establish open conversations, instill creative confidence and inspire an environment of receptivity that develops highly prized teams and stellar business results. Carla has worked with companies that include American Express, Dell, Emerson, Motorola Solutions, VMware, Western Union and Smurfit Kappa on how to tap into a wellspring of ideas and unveil new ways to bring their brand stories alive in fun and captivating ways.

Named one of the top 20 most influential content marketers, one of top 25 business-to-business marketers, and one of the top 50 women in marketing, Carla is the co-author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, which teaches marketers how to develop, manage and lead the creation of valuable experiences for their organizations. She serves on the Executive Committee and as the Vice Chair on the Board of Directors for the Association for National Advertisers Business Marketing Association, an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute and the Digital Analytics Association, is a frequent speaker and writes about creativity and innovation, the power of brand storytelling, and customer experience for numerous media outlets. Dig deeper at Type A Communications and follow her on Twitter.

Episode Highlights

“When you tell a story driven by empathy, you’ll always see results.” Understanding your customers is a cornerstone of effective brand building. Yet with our focus on quantitative analysis and data, we often know too little about our customers and what they want. How can we fix this? Carla reminds us to “Just talk with them.” Conversations can yield powerful results.

After talking with your customers, don’t forget your employees. Internal brand communication is key. Carla cited a study from Gallup noting that less than 40% of employees understand what their company stands for. If properly educated, your employees can be a powerful marketing engine. “If you get the internal right, you can reallocate your external resources.”

“Experience and story are tied together. Hand in hand.” As Carla notes, you have to ask yourself, “What are we going to be known for.” She then shared a great example from Big Ass Fans on how a simple brand touch point can inform an entire brand experience.

As we head into the new year, what’s one thing brand builders and marketers should do more of? Look for ways to be “more creative, interesting, and different. Look at brands from outside your bubble.” What are they doing? How can you do more of that?

What brand has made Carla smile recently? Carla pointed us to HP and their recent rebranding. “They spent us much time (communicating that) internally as they did externally.”

To learn more, go to the Type A Communications website and check out the site for her book with past On Brand guest Robert Rose, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Recently Mike Smith from AWeber gave us a shout for our 100th episode featuring Seth Godin. Thanks for listening!

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!




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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