Peter Ring, from Altitude Brands, has been the creative architect of over one hundred brands and brand experiences.
In my hometown of Canberra, Australia, Peter was part of the legendary Zoo Creative Agency and he was part of the leadership team that helped, after it was born from a merger, grow exponentially and very successfully to around 80 staff.
The truth of the matter is, at the time, if you were a big brand in town, you worked with Zoo.
Peter rose to be Managing Director before, in 2009, striking out on his own and starting Altitude Brands, helping many more successful brands.
Peter describes his ideal client as someone who wants to reach their potential and has the desire to make that happen and move to a higher level. That’s because his positioning statement is “Aim High” and, if you do, and you have the motivation, there is no doubt whatsoever Peter can help you build an amazing brand.
Peter has worked with some of Australia’s biggest brands but also SME’s like restaurants and small consultancies. As such, Peter brings not only the depth of knowledge to the chat to you’ll find valuable, but also the breadth.
As part of the service, I have had this episode transcribed. Transcribing, proofing, and editing a podcast episode is A LOT of work. That’s why I use a service called REV who provide professional freelance transcriptionists who are vetted for quality. While they offer a 99% accuracy guarantee, I do not proof-read their work extensively. Instead, I simply copy and paste below and, as such, please note that this is not be a verbatim transcript of the episode and I have trimmed things like the intro, close, and mid-show ad.
Daniel: What is the best thing about working in branding?
Peter: Helping businesses gain confidence to reach their potential. It’s really interesting Daniel, that I’ve thought about this over the years as to why I do what I do and where I get the buzz. And what I’ve realized is when I really assess what it is I do is I deliver confidence for the client. I actually give them the confidence to go and grow their business. And their brand is like their partner. It’s like their best sales person. And they partner with their brand and they go into the marketplace and they grow. So they’ve got this confidence.
And prior to me coming along, they don’t know where their brand sits and they don’t know how their brand fits in with their business or their proposition to their markets. And hopefully after I’ve been in their business and help them, they do know, and they have that confidence to go, I’ve got something really valuable here to present to my clients and they move forward with great confidence. And it’s amazing to see. So that’s what I deliver. Confidence.
Daniel: I love that comment around confidence. And interestingly for me, brands are always something that a 24/7. A business might only physically be open from, let’s say 8:30 to 5:30, but the brand is 24/7. And so the business owner and the staff need to have confidence that that brand is there representing them correctly.
Peter: Totally. Absolutely spot on. That’s right.
Daniel: There is so much that goes into marketing to build trust with a target market, potential customers. And branding is just one of those elements. How does branding actually help play a role in building trust with the target market?
Peter: All roads essentially lead to trust when it comes to branding. It is the holy grail of branding. And it’s the whole purpose. If you have established consumer trust, it means you are considered a safe experience to a consumer and people will choose the perceived safe experience every time. And that’s the purpose, is to become known as a safe brand, a safe experience. So let’s do a little exercise, Daniel. I’m going to ask you a couple of questions.
Daniel: This is exciting.
Peter: I’m going to turn this around. And for your listeners, we haven’t rehearsed this so it’ll be interesting to see. But just as a bit of an experiment. If you have to fly to Adelaide tomorrow, which is a safe airline brand that you would choose? Straight up.
Peter: Thank you. If you were to have to buy garden tools tomorrow, which is the safe hardware brand outlet that you would go to?
Peter: And if you have to purchase toothpaste tomorrow, which is a safe toothpaste brand you would choose?
Daniel: I’m going to say Sensodyne, but that’s the toothpaste I use, but it took me a while to remember the name because I wanted to say Colgate.
Peter: Exactly. But Sensodyne is the right answer, right? Because that’s your safe brand, right? Colgate might be mine, but Sensodyne is yours. If you need to buy groceries, which is a safe supermarket brand you would choose?
Peter: There you go, right? So some people might choose Woolworths. Some people might choose ALDI, whatever. But my point is that I can put that question to you and you immediately have an answer. And that’s the purpose. Because you feel that you trust those brands. You know that if you go to Bunnings and you buy a tool and you bring it home and it breaks, you can take it back and they’ll give you your money back or they’ll replace that tool. You know all those things. And that’s been created. That’s the brand experience. That’s what’s been created. And you have trust in that.
Further to that, research has shown that a clear denominator for attaining and building and maintaining consumer trust is demonstrating shared values to your marketplace. So for those businesses out there right now who are thinking, well, how do I build and maintain trust? Well, if you demonstrate shared values consistently and in alignment to your identified ideal client, then you will be successful. There’s no doubt about it. So that’s an awesomely powerful proposition to just think about, I need to demonstrate shared values to my clients. And if I do that consistently and in alignment, I will continue to have their service. If I don’t, I will lose them. So you shouldn’t, and you can’t be all things to all people. You need to determine who your ideal client is. You need to determine what their values are. Those values should be aligned with yours otherwise you’re pretending and they’ll know you’re pretending. And then go to market. And that’s what I do. I distill all that. And then I say, this is your proposition, and this is your ideal client. And this is why these two things will marry and you’ll be successful.
Daniel: So you mentioned there Pete about going to market. And you and I see a lot of people stressing about their business name and logo and colors, ie their overall branding, at the start of their business journey. Just when they’re trying to figure things out and they might have a business idea. Sometimes it feels like people, they think they need to get their branding in place before they can do some other things around getting their business going or expanding or growing or whatever it is that they have on their plate. Let’s say I’m a new business. When’s the right time to come up with my branding?
Peter: Well I’ll tell you what happens to me is I often get called into businesses after about two years of them being in business. And they will say to me that our brand just isn’t connecting with the audience and it hasn’t gone as we expected and so forth. And I always say to myself, gee, I wish you’d called me prior to going to market and we could have sorted all that out. So for me, the answer to that question is at the beginning, or even before, at the very embryonic stage of your thinking about your business, branding needs to be paramount.
When it comes to branding, the George Bernard Shaw quote for success in life, which is be careful to be born well is so appropriate. And I say this to my clients. Because it’s the crux of what you’re presenting. It’s the crux of, this is who I am. This is how I can help you. This is what I value. It marries with your values. And this is how we can have a successful relationship together. If you don’t do all those things right at the beginning, then you’re probably set up not to be as successful as you could be.
Daniel: Is that a point that if you get that right at the start, it then permeates every decision and every action you take as you build, launch and then grow your business?
Peter: Absolutely. Your brand is the promise of your experience. So that’s what I say to my clients. It’s the promise of your experience. If you come to me, this will be the experience. So you need to identify this promise and be sure that you can deliver on it, right? Don’t make false promises. And then deliver in alignment with your consumer and consistently deliver. That is the most important component.
Daniel: We see some unusual pairings of brand names with industries. For example, Apple and telecommunications. And it sometimes feels like business owners don’t think they can be successful unless they have the perfect name and logo. But how much of a role does the business itself, its products or its services, the way they treat customers, the staff that are involved, et cetera, actually play a role in building and positioning a brand to what it truly is? Ie, is that all actually more important than the name and the logo?
They are intertwined in my view. What you promise and what and how you deliver that is your brand. All right. So your people need to be on the same page and the way you deliver it all needs to be on the same page. And the way you treat your customers when things don’t go right, that all is part of the experience. Your brand is the experience. And it’s about that attention that you pay to the delivery of that experience. It’s the the total experience, the promise that is made, the service that is then delivered and the result you feel after the experience. That’s your brand to the consumer.
Peter: I’ll tell you a quick couple of quick stories about brand experience, the expectation and the result and how you manage it. When I was working with the Canberra Times back in 2005, you probably weren’t even born then Daniel.
Daniel: Very kind.
Peter: I was sent on a trip to go and look at all other newspapers in the UK and the U S and it was a three-week trip. And I just had two little babies, two girls, two toddlers, they were three and four. And so I’m traveling around the UK, I’m traveling around the US, it was great. But after about two weeks, I was starting to get really, really homesick. And then third week into it, I was about to come home and I remember walking down Heathrow airport and there on the terminal was this Qantas plane. And all I could see was the flying kangaroo. And I looked at that and I started to well up because that represented home to me. And then I got on this steel cylindrical tube, which is effectively what a plane is, on on a strange country’s tarmac.
And I sat down and there was the stewards and so forth in their Aboriginal Motiva uniforms and so forth. And I sat there and I just realized I was home, even though I was in a foreign country, because I was in a Qantas plane, which is Australian and the spirit of Australia, I was home. And then the most amazing thing, I was so emotional. And then you fly into Sydney and you fly into that Harbor and you see that Sydney Harbor bridge, and it’s just overwhelming, right?
So Qantas being the spirit of Australia as a brand really resonates with us. And it’s one of the great brands in the world. But what I’m trying to communicate there is that it’s about that emotional connection, right? That I had, that I could be in a foreign country, but that Qantas brand meant home to me. So that’s how powerful the emotional connection is for branding.
Another story is about how a brand managed a poor experience and did it so well is my wife, I think it was our 20th wedding anniversary, decided that she’d splurge on us. And she took us to Singapore and she booked the Ritz Carlton. And she booked the club room and it was $2,000 a night, and I think we were there for four nights. And this is Singapore Grand Prix week. And anyway, we’re on the club floor. So you get the free champagne and the nibbles and all the rest of it. And we went to bed that night and at about 1:00 AM, there was this almighty noise that I didn’t even hear because I’d enjoyed the hospitality of the club lounge too much. But Debbie heard, right, and she went outside into the hallway and they were doing all this industrial cleaning and had the sand blasting and so forth.
And she looked at the cleaners and they looked at her ghast and they just looked at what are you doing here? And so forth. Anyway, they stopped. And they left and Debbie came back to bed and we got up the next morning and we went down to breakfast. And on every floor there’s a concierge. Now, remember the brand promise for Ritz-Carlton is quality, right? You pay top dollar, but everything’s got to be spot on right, right? That’s their delivery. That’s their promise. You’re going to pay a lot of money, but everything should be quality. And it wasn’t. Anyway, so we go down and the concierge says, Mr and Mrs Ring, how was your night? And Debbie felt like, okay, you’re asking, I’ll tell you. And she told them, and again, the concierge was, had a look of horror.
And she said to us, well, what are you doing today? And we said, we’re going to go and have a wander around the mirage. And she said, well I’ll sort it out and I’ll have something for you when you get back. And so we went and had a look around, came back and we walked in and she said, oh, Mr and Mrs Ring, we think you’re going to be happy with what we’ve done. And she said, we’ve upgraded you to the president’s suite, right? This is Singapore Grand Prix week. Right. I’ve got to tell you, Daniel, the presidential suite has been home to Bill Clinton, I know for a fact. So that’s my claim to fame. I’ve slept in the same bed as Bill Clinton. And anyway this suite was massive. Probably 300 square meters. It had libraries, it had a massive dining rooms, media rooms, and so forth.
And I’m calling to Debbie from one side to the other. And we were just running around, massive big windows overlooking the marina mirage, and just spectacular. So we thought this is amazing, right? This is fantastic. I’m really glad that happened. Next thing, the doorbell rings. And they bring in one of those silver coshers with champagne and fruit and all that sort of stuff. And they said, oh, this is complimentary. And we just sort of said thank you. And then he left. Five minutes later the doorbell rings again. We open it. And this lady comes in and she hands us this envelope. And she says, we’ve got a spar booked for you, 5:00 PM today, and a full complimentary spar package. And we’re going, okay, thank you, thank you.
And then she goes, and then the doorbell rings again. And it’s the driver from downstairs. And he says, we’re offering you the full limousine service for your stay here at no charge. Complimentary. And I looked at Debbie and I said, they’ve gone overboard. Why are they doing this so much? And Debbie said, well Peter because, and this was 10 years ago, she said, and this is when all the TripAdvisors and all that were emerging. And she said, it’s because the last thing they want is to put a complaint up on online or on TripAdvisor or whatever, talking about our experience with the brand. And what had actually happened was we shouldn’t have been placed in that room every. Every quarter they do a total industrial clean, and we should have never been there.
So, they went overboard. My point here is if you F up, fix up. And fix up really, really well, because what happens is I’m now extolling their virtues. I’m now promoting that brand Ritz Carlton. And what I know is when I say to this experience to my brand workshops, everyone’s sitting there going, I wish that would happen to me.
Daniel: That’s exactly what I was thinking Pete.
Peter: Yeah. You actually want something bad to happen. It’s not the bad thing that happens, it’s how you respond to it from a brand perspective, because you can turn a bad experience into a positive experience.
Daniel: I love this story going back to Qantas. I love that story about the emotional connection and the impact it had on you, because it strikes me that it wasn’t just about the name, the logo and the colors. There are so many things that went into leading up to that point. But most listeners would think that, well, I just need to get a good name, a good logo and have good colors. But what else is important in creating a brand and positioning it well?
Peter: You’re spot on right again. The reality with the Qantas experiences back in the 80s, they spent a lot of money on branding and advertising. And I don’t know if you recall, but they used to have the still call Australia home campaign. And they had the kids on the mountains, the big choirs in all the countries singing that song. And what that evokes in you is this connection, this emotional connection. And so you think of that song and you think of those kids singing on the mountains and that all belongs to that brand. And it connects to you. And that’s why when the minute I saw that flying kangaroo, all that came flooding back, and I’m thinking of Uluru and those wonderful spots of Australia. So the point of branding is to in effect, be effective in order to be effective.
So I have a saying, which is, if it’s not affective, it’s not effective. And that’s so true in branding. Branding is essentially a sorting device for consumers. So, and that’s why you add the other elements. That’s why you add the descriptor. That’s why you add the positioning. So for instance, if you were looking for the best in motor vehicles, you might choose Mercedes because the Mercedes positioning and their whole branding is the best or nothing. If you want to enjoy the spirit of Australia when you fly, you’re more likely to choose Qantas. If you want to enjoy the happiest place on earth, you choose Disneyland. That’s their positioning. That’s what they promote. If you want to get motivated to exercise, you choose Nike sportswear because their whole motivation and inspiration is just do it. And that’s how it works. So branding is a combination of all these elements and then presented in an emotional way.
Daniel: Another strong brain, particularly in Australia is Arnott’s. And they recently refreshed their brand with a new logo. And a lot of people would have also seen the new logo for Australian made. And for those that haven’t seen them, I’ll put the images in the show notes at marketingbuilder.net. But Pete, the question for you is why would Arnott’s do that? Why would they suddenly think they needed new branding or a refresh? Because it’s such a long well-established brand with emotional connections about childhood and Australia, why would they make the change?
Peter: Sometimes there’s change for the sake of change. Often a new marketing director comes in. I’ve seen it happen with many big brands in Canberra, and they come in and they want to make their mark. And so then they go through this process of redesigning. And you’re spot on, right? But there is a time when you have to evolve a brand. And most of the bigger brands, even the Coca-Cola’s, even the Qantas’s and so forth have evolved their looks. Commonwealth Bank. And you could quote many of them.
But it needs to be done with integrity. Otherwise it doesn’t create the desired result. It needs to establish further relevance and further resonance. And I think that particular Arnott’s one, that’s a corporate refresh. It’s not a retail refresh. So I think what they’ve done is just created this new icon to be more contemporary from a corporate perspective. People don’t buy Arnott’s, they buy Tim Tams. I don’t think it’s going to make too much difference to the marketplace. But if they were to try and contemporize that brand and take away that association that you talk about with your kids and your childhood and so forth, that would be very, very damaging to the brand.
Daniel: I want to come back to your point that sometimes a refresh or rebrand is justified. But firstly, I want to get your thoughts. What were your first thoughts when you saw the new Arnott’s logo?
Peter: A bit indifferent, to be honest. I couldn’t see its relevance. It had lost its homeliness, but that’s the funny thing, right? That was probably the reason they changed it in the first place, it was because it was too homely. But that’s it’s charm, that’s its charm and you’ve got to hang on to that stuff. And as I say, as brands get changed for the sake of change and they haven’t really studied their markets. And if you went to the market place and said, should we change our Arnott’s brand? I bet you, the marketplace would say, no, thank you. We like what we’ve got. And the same with that Australian made logo.
Daniel: That was going to be my next one. What were your initial thoughts when you saw that?
Peter: Well again, I don’t get it. I look at it and I don’t get it. I mean, what people are saying, it looks like the COVID virus. And I mean the previous brand was so simple with the green and the gold and the kangaroo and the triangle and so forth. And then they go and create this whatever you want to call it.
I think it’s supposed to represent wattle.
Peter: Well, if we have to have this discussion where we’re saying, we think it’s supposed to do that, then it’s not working.
Daniel: Well, the only reason I know that was because I read it in the article.
Peter: Well there you go. There you go.
Daniel: I certainly don’t pick it up from the logo. So let’s come back to that point about rebranding and refreshing. How does an average business, not a Coca Cola or an Arnott’s or somebody huge like that. How does an average business, those people that are listening to the show, know that it’s time to rebrand or maybe refresh? Is there some sort of brand audit process or the like that people can follow?
Peter: There are many. All they’ve got to do is Google brand audit and there’s 101 templates and so forth that they can answer questions on. But from my perspective, I think there’s a few questions that they can ask of their branding. And if they’re honest in their assessment, they’ll be able to make a call as to what to do that. And so those questions are, is it authentic? So by that, I mean, does it reflect or represent their core character and purpose? The reason why they get up in the morning, the reason why they do the business that they do. Can they hand on heart say yes, this authentically represents us. Does it connect with people? Right. A brand, as I said, it has to be affective to be effective. So does it have emotional connection? And if it doesn’t. So in other words, the way you know about emotional connection is, are they choosing other brands, your competitive brands as well as yours, or are they loyal to you? And if they’re loyal to you, there’s a reason for it.
Does your brand deliver consistent high worth results for the price? So is it a consistent experience? People have to be very careful with this consistency in the delivery of their brand. I mean, I had an experienced just recently at a restaurant that Debbie and I would go to at least once a month. And pre COVID this restaurant was fantastic. And we would go there. We knew the owners by name. We would just say to the owners, please just bring what you think we would like tonight. And they would bring us a variety of dishes and we would love it. And then COVID hit. And then we went along and suddenly the experience had changed. The consistency had gone.
Daniel: Can I make a comment?
Peter: Yeah sure.
Daniel: Sorry to interrupt. But I want to ask this question before you keep talking. So I’ve had similar experiences. It almost felt like people had forgot how to operate.
Peter: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. And it was so sad to be honest, because as I say, it had become something that we were connected to. Right. We looked forward to that visit each month and the experience was consistent for at least two years. And then during COVID suddenly we go in there, there’s only so many tables that they can accommodate and please, I forgive them for the COVID situation. But I’m just saying, it’s how you deliver the experience. Right.
Daniel: You’d think it’d be easier.
Peter: That’s right. That’s right. And suddenly they both got masks on and we’re sat down and then one of them came over. It was a very, very cold engagement. And what would you like? And we said, no, no. You just bring out what you think. No, no, we need you to order. You have to tell us what you want. And it was the intimacy had gone out of the experience. And Debbie walked out and said, we’re not going back there again. And, on reflection we will go back there again because they are probably struggling. And they’ve probably been through a lot of pain and economic pain and so forth. So you have to forgive them. And I’d certainly give them a second chance.
But I guess my point is there that are you delivering a consistent, high worth experience to your customer. Paying attention pays. You have to pay attention to the delivery of your service because the minute you don’t deliver on your promise, your client has an option. And they can leave. And if they leave, they won’t come back. So please, if I can put a point to people, be consistent in the delivery of your service.
Daniel: And the interesting point for me there and you see this across a lot of service-based industries, it’s not about the transaction. You don’t just go there because you’re hungry. You went there for a whole range of reasons. And sometimes businesses lose sight of that.
Peter: That’s so true. That’s so true. It’s the total experience. That’s exactly right. The other question is, do consumers perceive you as convenient? So this is accessibility. Are you available? Or are you sometimes open sometimes not open. Are you sometimes online, sometimes offline? All those sorts of things. You need to be there when your customer expects you to be there. And then are your customers and potential customers aware of your brand how it can help them? And that’s positioning awareness. So, too many businesses just have a name and they say, I’m a plumber and I’m Joe Blow plumber, and that’s all they say. But what’s the point of difference over you as a plumber versus the next person as a plumber?
And are you enthusiastic and proud to communicate your brand? Is it your best sales person? Is it your partner in business? If you believe in your brand, if you’re enthusiastic about it, if you believe in your proposition, your markets will believe in it. But if you’re just ambivalent about it, it’s just there to be a name for your business, then that’s exactly how your markets will perceive it as well.
Daniel: There’s some great questions for business owners and staff to work through if they’re considering a rebrand or refresh or to check whether their brand is sitting at the right spot. Does the target audience or your existing customers come into that process at all? Should you be speaking to them and saying, look, what do you think of our brand and our promise and how we deliver? Or is that a bit dangerous?
Peter: It can be. Look, how honest do you want to be? I think it’s a good strategy to go to your market. It depends on where you’re at in that brand development process. So if you think you’ve got those components, ie, a name and descriptor and a positioning and it’s still not working, it’s still not resonating, then by all means go and get it tested. But if you’ve just got a name and you haven’t really paid due consideration to the build of your brand, then you should go and see somebody that can help you with it, build that proposition, and then maybe test it with the marketplace.
Daniel: Peter, you’ve worked with some amazing brands over the years, and I know you probably don’t want to play favorites, but I’m going to put you on the spot. What is a brand that you’ve developed that you are either really proud of and, or just really enjoyed working on that and why?
Peter: I guess the ones that I most enjoy working with are the ones that reflect and compliment the character and the purpose of the business. And there was one that I really enjoyed and the result has been fantastic for this couple. This couple came to me, Sanjay and Sunita. And they wanted to set up an Indian restaurant. They were both chefs. They were both working in the public service, but they had this vision to create a restaurant that extolled the virtues as chefs, but also gave back to the community. And the spirit of generosity just kept coming through and coming through in the brand workshop. And I went away and I did all my research, and I actually came up with the word Daana. D double A N-A, and that’s derived from the Hindi. And it means the spirit of generosity in Hindi.
And it’s subsequently been applied. We built the brand they’ve moved venues a couple of times, each time growing. They’ve created Daana pantry. They too have had COVID challenges, but are doing very, very well. And that came about that Daana, which means the spirit of generosity and giving back came about out of the core of these two people whose purpose was not just to cook great meals for a restaurant and have a successful restaurant, but to give back to the community. And I think they’re quite now famous in our Canberra community for that very thing.
Daniel: Outstanding. And listeners, I will put a link to the show notes in the show notes to that for you. Peter, great chat, smartest, man in branding that I know. If people want to connect with you, maybe find out how you can help with their branding, what can they do? Where can they go?
Peter: Altitudebrands.com.au. That’ll give them some case studies and so forth and outline what I do and give them an option to get in touch with me.
Daniel: Peter Ring, CEO at Altitude Brand Strategy. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your insights and advice on branding. That was great.
Peter: Thank you, Daniel. Appreciate it.