Why Your Brand Should Be Aspirational with Drew McLellan


December 21, 2015

drew mclellan

“A brand is a divining rod. It’s a filter to make big decisions.” Drew McLellan spends his time tackling brand from a few different angles. First, as the owner of McLellan Marketing Group, he helps B2B clients build better brands. As part of his work with the Agency Management Institute, he also helps agencies focus their brands as well. I couldn’t wait to talk to my fellow Iowan and agency owner Drew McLellan on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

Enjoy This Episode Now

About Drew McLellan

Drew McLellan has worked in advertising for 25+ years and started his own agency, McLellan Marketing Group in 1995 after a five-year stint at Y&R. MMG will celebrate its 20th anniversary in the fall of 2015. The agency specializes in the B2B financial services industry.

He also owns and runs Agency Management Institute (AMI), which offers agency management training, consulting, and facilitates agency owner peer networks for small- to mid-sized agencies (advertising, digital, marketing, media and PR) so they can increase their AGI by at least 25%, attract better clients and employees and best of all — exceed the agency owner’s life/financial goals.

He launched his agency’s blog in 2006 and it has been on the AdAge Top 150 from the list’s inception. His first book, 99.3 Random Acts of Marketing, was published in 2003 and Drew and Australian marketer Gavin Heaton created the Age of Conversation series of crowdsourced books in 2007.

Drew’s often interviewed and quoted in Entrepreneur Magazine, New York Times, CNN, BusinessWeek, and many others. The Wall Street Journal calls him “one of 10 bloggers every entrepreneur should read.” Publications like The Washington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur and others have invited Drew to write for them as well.

Episode Highlights

Today, brands are built from the inside out. “When I meet with a prospect, I warn them that marketing is everything. It’s the receptionist’s smile — or lack thereof — it’s your billing, everything.” As brand builders, agencies “have to be comfortable rolling up their sleeves.” But we can’t do it alone.

Why you need a brand task force. Branding has to live beyond the marketing department. Okay, but how do we go about doing this? When Drew’s firm works with clients, they often start by having them create a brand task force. So who should be on this task force? “No more than 12 people. You should have worker bees — they see the company differently. You should also have those bigger thinkers who aren’t territorial.” In addition to serving as your compass, task force members can also be cheerleaders helping you get buy-in on difficult decisions that are necessary to build a strong brand.

“A brand is aspirational. Think of it as a flag planted in the ground a ways off. You’re always trying to get to it. You may never make it but you strive to get as close to it as possible, as often as possible.” You may stumble, so make sure you have a plan for how to make it up to your customer when you break your brand promise. “Today when your brand breaks its promise, it’s not met with a whisper. It’s met with a shout.”

What does the future hold for branding? “Brands can’t be on the surface anymore. They have to be organic. It’s too easy to be caught lying.” It takes commitment. “It’s really the difference between getting a real tattoo and one of those lick-and-stick tattoos.” You have to commit.

What’s one thing Drew would remind brand builders? “Brands are not about marketing. They’re everywhere in your organization’s DNA.”

What brand has made Drew smile recently? As someone who’s been to Disneyworld at least once a year every year since it opened in 1971, Drew went with Disney. In fact, he was sitting there while we were conducting the interview. Because of their expertise at crafting magical experiences, Drew now feels as though he is a part of the brand. “When I see a piece of litter on the ground I pick it up. This is my park!”

To learn more about Drew, check out the websites for McLellan Marketing Group and the Agency Management Institute. You can also read his award-winning blog and follow him on Twitter.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community … Our super-fan Sean Carpenter gave us a shout on Twitter about our recent episode on what to do if your brand is stuck featuring Steve McKee. 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 Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.




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