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Podcast Pit Stop with Focus Brands Former President Kat Cole

In this episode of Pit Stops to Podium, Kat Cole speaks to the B2C leaders to give specific insight into what it takes to build a winning brand. 

But first, here is a bit about the "crew chief" that just begins to scratch the surface of her awesomeness.

About the Crew Chief

, recent President and COO of Focus Brands LLC, was an integral part in building that brand house with a 10 year investment starting first as President of Cinnabon. Now, her main focus is to help other people build their businesses! She serves on the board multiple scaling companies - HumanCoSlice; and Milk Bar - and is an angel investor in over 50 companies. In addition to all these contributions to the business and tech space, Kat also has been involved for 10 years in humanitarian work in Eastern Africa.  She is truly someone who has competed and won, taking B2C companies from high growth to high scale.

Take 20 minutes and listen for more of what she has learned with all this rich experience!

Episode Highlights

Q: How would you define a Brand? 

"A Brand is a promise to its customers and its employees -  its stakeholders. A promise built by what it says and what it does - what is communicated and what is experienced...The promise and the perception and the promise as defined by the customer over time, not by the company."

Working with a multi-brand portfolio and multi-channel brand like Focus Brands left Kat convinced that the things that allow a brand to be healthy over time fall into just two buckets - relevance and differentiation. Being high on both of these areas is a mark of a brand that lasts and is winning at any point in time.

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Simply put, relevance means to the customer that "it matters in my life today.”  NOTE: This can change quickly. Needs to be continually evaluated. 

These are some of the main brand elements that sit in this bucket:

  1. Pricing
  2. Brand Affiliation and Aspiration
  3. Portion Size
  4. Convenience!!!
    1. Points of Access (physical or virtual)
    2. Speed 

Kat suggests some questions to ask yourself if you are a brand leader:

  1. How easy do I want to be to find?

  2. How many places do I want my product or service marketed, sold, or interacted with? 

  3. How quick can I be? In some businesses this can come at the cost of quality

Q: What brands are doing this well?

  1. Amazon and other such market excel here because they are highly relevant in people’s lives. However, they have a lot of price choices.

  2. Daily Harvest: Leaning into wellness, convenience, and a bit more affordable

  3. MUD\WTR or House of Wise Co. or any company in the CBD market: easy to access, easy to find, price point fits with what they are offering

However, just because a brand is relevant to some, does not mean it's relevant to all. This is where differentiation starts to play a part. 


Simply put, differentiation is what gives your brand that unique flavor, reputation, and perception in the mind of the consumer. Just think Sesame Street!  “One of these things is not like the other."

But, Kat discusses how many brands will lose their differentiation in pursuit of relevance.

Moe's Southwest Grill Example: Although Chipotle is the bigger of the competitive pair, Moe's had the advantage of being highly ranked by families. So, any effort to evolve that might diminish that family orientation factor would lower its differentiation.

Q: How do you balance the tension between Relevance and Differentiation in the midst of growth?

"Brand leaders need to respect that the brand must change and evolve. They are not static. This is a massive body of understanding that is missed even in high growth teams. Many operate under the false belief that proximity to origins means continued rocketship trajectory; up and to the right."

The Solution: Stay insanely close to your customer! Ask thoughtful questions of them to think about what you can stop doing and what you can start doing. Keep a finger on the pulse of how the brand felt and perceived.

Engaging with Kat

Twitter: @KatColeATL



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Come check out the full Pit Stops to Podium podcast repository!

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