Arlen Robinson [00:01]
Welcome back to the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast, everyone. My name is Arlen, and I am your host. Today, we’ve got a very special guest, Emma Schermer Tamir helps businesses in high competition environments transform into unbeatable brands. Since 2016, she’s lead the team at Marketing by Emma to help over 2000 businesses boost their sales and build their brands online. And as a thought leader and trusted consultant, Emma empowers leaders to think deeper to dominate the competition. Welcome to the podcast, Emma.

Emma – Marketing by Emma [00:40]
Thank you. That’s actually the first time I’ve heard that. It’s a new bio. It’s the first time I’ve heard it, and I like it.

Arlen Robinson [00:45]
Yeah, it’s nice. Definitely concise. It covers what you’ve been doing and what you’ve got going on. So, yeah, good stuff. You have a great client base under your belt. I know things are going well. Today, I’m really excited to talk to you. We’re going to be discussing strategic positioning, customer research, brand identity building, and even Amazon product page optimization. So those are some things that you specialize in with the customers you’re working with. Before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your background and how you got into what you’re doing today?

Emma – Marketing by Emma [01:31]
Absolutely. First of all, I’m really excited to be here and talk with you. I fell into the world of marketing very early in my professional development. I grew up as a skilled writer. As I started taking jobs, even waitressing at restaurants and working in natural food stores, my bosses kept recognizing my writing skills. They’d ask, “Do you want to help us with our newsletter? Do you want to maybe start a blog for us?” I started saying yes to these projects and realized I needed to learn more. It’s not just about being a good writer; there’s a lot of other elements at play to determine whether projects like that are going to be successful. The more I started educating myself about it, the more interested I became. Fast forward to my second date with my husband, and he said, “I don’t know what the future for us holds, but I can see you’re miserable at your job.” At this point, I was working in marketing for a software startup. He said, “I have a big network, and I would love to introduce you. I think I could get you some great gigs if you wanted to go out on your own.” I was like, “No, that’s so embarrassing. Please don’t do that.” Then we eventually got married, and he decided he didn’t need my permission anymore. I was away on a business trip, and when I came home, I learned not to leave my husband by himself for five days because he might start a business.

Arlen Robinson [03:09]
Oh my God, that’s funny. So when you got back, there was a business going?

Emma – Marketing by Emma [03:12]
There was a business, and he said, “Okay, there are all these people that want to talk to you about working with you.” At this point, I had some freelance clients, but I wasn’t actively pursuing going off on my own. Very quickly into agreeing to at least humor him, we recognized there was a lot of demand and a big need. At the time, there were not many copywriting services specializing in the Amazon ecosystem, and there’s a lot of nuance to what it takes to be successful on that marketplace. We found ourselves at a turning point: do we stay small and hand-select the clients we want to work with, or do we grow an agency and figure out how to hire people and develop systems? We opted for the agency route, and we’ve been doing that since the end of 2016, which I can’t believe. We’re approaching eight years in business, and it’s mind-boggling.

Arlen Robinson [04:23]
Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s a great story. Thank you for sharing that. Congratulations to you guys for reaching that milestone. Eight years, you’re fast approaching 10 years, which is definitely an accomplishment. As a business owner myself with a long-running business, I know what it takes to get past those milestones. It’s not easy. I know you guys have been putting in the work, so that’s great to hear.

Emma – Marketing by Emma [04:44]
Thank you.

Arlen Robinson [04:46]
One of the things I’d like to get into is something that I know a lot of listeners and viewers are wondering about. Whether they have a particular brand or are thinking about starting a brand, I always love to learn lessons from existing companies. I think that’s the best way to learn, from the trenches, so to speak. Could you share a story of a brand that successfully transformed its identity and positioned itself strategically, especially in a high-competition environment? It doesn’t have to be one you’ve worked with, just one you can cite.

Emma – Marketing by Emma [05:28]
Sure. This was a question that I had to pause at when preparing for this conversation because I talk a lot about brands that do a great job of launching with a clear identity, but finding those that successfully transition is less common. Especially as you get larger and more entrenched in your ways, it’s harder to convince enough people that it’s worth taking the risk and pivoting to a new phase. One brand that jumped to my mind is Stanley. Stanley, if you’re not familiar, competes with brands like Thermos and Yeti. They make insulated drinkware, which isn’t particularly revolutionary in terms of technology, but the brand is a significant point of differentiation. Stanley started in 1913, so they’ve been around for over a hundred years. Up until just a few years ago, they were seen as a working man’s kind of no-nonsense brand. Then, a few years ago, they started going viral on social media. One thing they did very well was listening to what was happening online. When they saw the opportunity, they ran with it. People started talking about their mugs on TikTok, especially women with children who loved the handles, portability, and size. Stanley embraced these women, partnered with them, listened to what they wanted, and started creating limited edition colors and designs. It’s amazing to see how a brand that could have stayed comfortably entrenched in their ways was nimble and open-minded enough to recognize the opportunity and capitalize on it.

Arlen Robinson [07:58]
Hmm.

Emma – Marketing by Emma [08:20]
For example, I have a light pink Stanley mug, which is never a color that would have been in their catalog 20 years ago. It would have been on the clearance shelf, even if someone had taken a chance on doing that. One of the big lessons is recognizing that who you think your customer is, or who your customer was, might not be who your customer is or could be today or in the future. It’s crucial to keep a solid focus on customer research, understanding your competitive landscape, and maintaining an evolved understanding of your brand. Otherwise, it’s easy to have an outdated customer avatar that’s not relevant to your current customer base. You need to be mindful of this to stay relevant and successful.

Arlen Robinson [11:00]
That’s very true. Thank you for sharing that. It really is an inspiring transformation. It’s fascinating to see how Stanley made those strategic changes and the significant impact it had. They started in 1913, making drinkware for men going to construction sites or working on farms. Now, they have products like the pink mug you held up, which is a complete 180 from their original target market. It’s good to know that it’s never too late to make a change and adjust with the times. It seems like it has definitely paid off for them.

Emma – Marketing by Emma [12:04]
Absolutely. In some ways, they’ve reinvigorated that whole product category. Their competitors have benefited from the Stanley craze that took over social media. It can also go both ways. We see companies that don’t figure these things out or, once they get acquired and have to answer to shareholders, lose the things that made them special and allowed them to connect with customers in a meaningful way.

Arlen Robinson [12:45]
Yes, true. I’m glad you mentioned that because it brings me to my next question. How does strategic positioning differ for a startup brand as opposed to an established brand like Stanley in a competitive market? It seems like there are two different ways to address this.

Emma – Marketing by Emma [13:29]
Totally. That’s an excellent question. When starting out, you need to have a lot of clarity, precision, and narrow focus on who you are serving. One of the biggest ways to build momentum as a new brand and win over market share is by making bold choices and speaking to a very defined target market. When entering a category, it’s rare to bring a completely new innovation or product. You’re competing with established companies, and their customers are already shopping from your competition. To win over new customers, you must give them a compelling reason to choose you over others. Your brand identity and positioning are primary tools for this. If you can do a better job of making a certain group of people feel seen, understood, and excited about your business, you’ll be successful. As you become more established and seen as the market leader, your target customer base will naturally widen. While maintaining a clear identity and voice is important, you also need to appeal to a broader audience. However, this can lead to a dilution of perspective and clarity of brand identity, which is often in response to wanting to appeal to shareholders or a wider audience rather than being in the best interest of the brand strategy.

One example that comes to mind is Allbirds. They started as a tennis shoe company using sustainable materials like wool and innovative rubber alternatives,

positioning themselves as a highly sustainable and comfortable brand. As they’ve grown and tried to appeal to a wider audience, they’ve somewhat abandoned the things that made them special and unique. Now, they’re just selling shoes without the strong emphasis on sustainability and anti-consumerism, which has hurt them financially. Losing sight of what allowed them to be successful in the first place is a big mistake.

Arlen Robinson [19:06]
That’s a good point. It’s a mistake many brands make. You bring up Allbirds, which highlights the importance of having a tailored strategy and sticking with it instead of just following what competitors are doing. You see this all the time. A brand starts with a niche, like shoes, and then expands into clothing. While it makes sense to expand, it’s crucial to understand your core customer and decide if it makes sense to move into new areas.

Emma – Marketing by Emma [20:49]
Yes, and I don’t think adding clothing to their line was the mistake. Their big mistake was losing sight of their unique perspective, commitment to certain values, and target customer. By trying to broaden their reach, they ended up losing their perspective, which is problematic. Sales is about giving people a reason to choose you and not the alternatives. You need to connect with them in a way that makes them want to do business with you.

Arlen Robinson [22:07]
Yes, very true. A lot of it goes to customer research. What are some key elements of effective customer research? How should a business leverage these insights to build a strong brand identity without becoming too scattered?

Emma – Marketing by Emma [22:50]
Right. There are a few elements to effective customer research that evolve as your company and customer base evolve. If you’re starting a new business, you don’t have a customer base yet, so you need to research who you think your customer base will be. Look at your competitors and see who their customers are, especially if there are customer groups not well-served by the competitor that you could serve better. Competitors’ reviews, as well as your own if you have them, are great insights. Social media is also an amazing tool for understanding your customers. You can see people talking about items or categories, giving you a more three-dimensional view of your customers.

One mistake companies make is being very sparse in identifying who their customers are. Saying your target customer is anyone between 18 to 99 is not helpful. You can use AI to distill commonalities and patterns from reviews and build a profile around who your customer avatar might be. Understanding where your customers spend their time, whether on Facebook, TikTok, Twitch, or Reddit, is crucial for putting your effort into the right place.

Arlen Robinson [26:52]
Yes, for sure. It seems like there’s a lot that goes into customer research, from analyzing reviews to more formalized surveys. It’s important to have serious brainstorming sessions with your team and decide the direction you want to go. Before we wrap things up, keeping things in the same vein of brand identity and customer research, where do you see everything heading in the next five years, especially in high-competition markets? Are there things brands can do to stand out despite increasing competition?

Emma – Marketing by Emma [28:12]
Great question. Things are changing rapidly, and five years is a long time. Some trends we’re seeing include the rise of social selling, where everyday people recommend and sell products on platforms. This creates a more direct line between the consumer and the brand. To be successful, brands need a clear identity and a strong sense of who their customers are. Investing in creating loyal, excited customers who want to be associated with your brand is crucial.

One brand doing this well is Liquid Death, which has a very clear identity and set of values. Another is Elf Cosmetics. Both are very clear on who their customers are and where they’re going. Brands that can connect with and delight their customers in an ongoing, meaningful way will have long-term sustained growth.

Arlen Robinson [31:26]
Okay, great. Those are some fascinating predictions. It’s interesting you mentioned Liquid Death. In my previous podcast, we did a mini case study on them. They’re not for everyone, but their positioning works, and their valuation is unbelievable. They’re doing something right.

Emma – Marketing by Emma [31:53]
Absolutely, and they’re selling water. The takeaway isn’t to make people angry but to be inspired by what they’re doing and apply those concepts in a way that aligns with your identity. Whether your identity is gentle and delicate or conservative and wholesome, be clear about what makes you unique and embrace that.

Arlen Robinson [33:00]
Yes, exactly. You have to figure out who you are and go with it. Liquid Death definitely did that and ran with it. This has been an awesome conversation. I’d love to have you back on the podcast to dedicate a full show to the Amazon world, maintaining brand identity within the Amazon ecosystem, optimizing product pages, and more. Many DTC brands also have a presence on Amazon, so that would be a great conversation to have. We appreciate having you on, but before we wrap things up, I’d like our audience to get to know you a bit better. Could you share one closing fun fact about yourself?

Emma – Marketing by Emma [33:59]
Sure. This is like those icebreakers in school where my mind goes blank. An interesting fact about me is that I’ve lived on four continents. I’m currently in Las Vegas, but I’ve lived in various countries and have a big appetite for new cultures, places, and foods.

Arlen Robinson [34:23]
Wow, four continents. That’s awesome. You’ve got me beat by several. I’ve only lived on one continent. You must have some great stories about where you’ve lived. Thank you for sharing that. Before we let you go, if our listeners and viewers want to reach out to you about building a unique brand identity or anything else, what’s the best way to reach you?

Emma – Marketing by Emma [34:58]
You can visit my website, marketingbyemma.com, where you’ll find email, contact form, phone number, WhatsApp—whatever your preferred medium of communication, you can reach us there. I also have a YouTube channel where I go in-depth into many of these topics. It’s Marketing by Emma on YouTube.

Arlen Robinson [35:27]
Got it. That’s great. I was mentioning that I caught one of your videos, and I’m going to dive back into it. I encourage people to check you out on YouTube as well. We’ll have those links in the show notes so people can reach you. This has been an awesome conversation. We really appreciate having you on the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast.

Emma – Marketing by Emma [35:56]
Thank you so much.

Arlen Robinson [35:57]
Thank you.

Podcast Guest Info

Emma Schermer Tamir
Co-founder of Marketing by Emma