Interview with creative content strategist Chris Rubin
Tonight our guest is Chris Rubin. He is a creative Content Strategist and Brand Messaging consultant based in San Francisco. We have conducted an interview with him.
Based on your 20+ years experience in brand identity and creative messaging, what are the 3 types of problems and challenges clients face?
First and foremost is a lack of clear and authentic brand identity. Without the necessary due diligence to establish a brand ID that is connected to the ethos and DNA of the company, products and people involved, the impact and resonance of any creative marketing efforts is radically diminished. This of course reduces ROI on marketing dollars invested, and represents missed - and potentially wasted - opportunities.
Another major challenge is when the brand is well represented via visual design and communication, but the language and messaging has not received the same level of attention and expertise. This is similar to having impeccable style, without having anything meaningful to say. Visual + Verbal design = two halves of the same whole, working in synchrony, each much less effective without the other in alignment.
Finally I would mention those brands that have not revisited their identity and messaging within the past 12-18 months. Without a regular assessment, internal teams can grow comfortable and complacent, risking missed opportunities via stale messaging that no longer reflects the current market and audience realities.
How do you help solve those problems via your specific expertise?
I’m quite passionate about the process of working closely with brand stakeholders to suss out and clarify the pillars of their brand ID, then producing foundational documentation to codify and propagate it for internal purposes.
From there, I apply principles of content strategy and UX to define and refine the core brand narrative, with the audience - users - firmly at the center. Then we iterate versions of that narrative, tailored to each specific customer touchpoint, and begin the process of testing and refining each individual message for maximum response and engagement.
What is your contribution in the UX design phase, and how do you express your ideas to the team?
Yes, great question. Collaboration and cross-pollination of the various disciplines is critical to the team’s success, and those sessions are where much of the fun - and magic – happens.
My favored approach is to bring all of the subject matter experts - typically: Account, UX, Visual design, Verbal design, Strategy, Development/Engineering - together to review and discuss the Project Brief. We ask and answer questions, identify key challenges, agree on roles, responsibilities and timeline, and generally get fired up about the tasks at hand.
Then we break apart into our smaller teams and begin Discovery, where we do all the necessary due diligence to inform the work. From there we begin to iterate initial work product. E.g. For my Verbal design team, we would likely produce concept pitches and outlines for various potential creative approaches. Next, we regroup with the UX team in particular, and start to merge our initial thoughts and work product into a combined vision for our core creative concepts and approaches.
Then we would break apart again and pursue further iteration and advancement of the core concepts, come back together again with the other teams, review, edit, and then repeat the cycle again - Agile-style - until we produce a final, finished product… and a happy client.
Can you show us some of the case studies you have written and produced for flagship accounts?
Which is one of your favorite and best experiences, and why?
The Airline project was my swan song at Fantasy Interactive (Fi), following on a series of Case Studies that I wrote, edited and produced over a two-year period. The agency had no sales team, and the Case Studies were - by far - the #1 source of new business for the agency.
With ROI on those projects well over 10x, the CEO approached me with a budget, and a challenge. He wanted to create the next big buzzworthy Case Study to get the phones ringing, and he gave me carte blanche to conceive, write, direct and produce it. As long as we stayed within budget, we could do anything we wanted! Needless to say, this was a very unique opportunity, and the most exciting I’d yet experienced in my career.
Within a week or so we had zeroed in on the travel space, and within that airline sites specifically. We found they were all badly broken beyond repair - from a UX/CX perspective in particular - and set out to dream up what might be possible.
The end result was quite gratifying. Beyond huge traffic numbers, and coverage in Wired, we had over 50 major airline and travel brands contact us directly within the first two weeks after launch.
This project is definitely my favorite. Working with a world-class team, we created something totally new and unique, blew out expectations and objectives, and we’re all quite proud of what we delivered.
How are you able to help address brand messaging challenges for a client who has a low budget?
This is an interesting challenge, but the key factor is actually the client team, not the budget itself. If the client already understands the critical importance of their brand identity, and how that relates to ROI on marketing dollars, we can definitely find a viable solution toward meeting their goals. If, however, that is not the case, no amount of money is going to help improve their situation.
For any client who understands and appreciates the tremendous value of a clear and coherent brand identity platform, I can find ways to move the needle in various ways, regardless of budget. The savviest of those clients will make an initial investment in shoring up and refining that brand ID platform, which is my favorite part of the process.
We work together to distill the core tenets of the brand’s essence, as pertains to their target audience, then codify that into a clear and simple document, which then gets approved by all major stakeholders.
Building from that sturdy foundation, we can iterate versions of the core brand narrative across the various customer touchpoints to incorporate nuance specific to the user group who sees it. Every marketing dollar spent moving forward - via content strategy and brand messaging - will see definitive increases in ROI, compared to prior efforts made without the clear and cogent brand foundation.
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