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Success Story Podcast

Mario Natarelli, Managing Partner at MBLM | How Brand Intimacy Can Make or Break Your Business

By January 13, 2022February 28th, 2022No Comments

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About The Guest

Mario is a trusted advisor to executives and their companies as he looks to leverage their most important asset—their brands. By first being able to uniquely understand a brand’s true challenges and untapped potential, then through deliberate and extensive analysis he’s helped major Fortune 500 companies—and even entire countries—tangibly transform while helping to align their cultures and deliver unprecedented growth and value.

Mario is also the author of Amazon #1 bestseller Brand Intimacy, A New Paradigm in Marketing. He is a regular speaker and has been featured on Yahoo Finance,, Fox Business TV’s Mornings with Maria and Nasdaq MarketSite, among others. He has also spoken at conferences and industry events.

Talking Points

  • 00:00 — Mario’s story.
  • 5:05 — What are the lessons that Mario has learned about architecture that carry over to marketing?
  • 7:44 — How has marketing changed over the years?
  • 8:56 — What do brands look for, when working with agencies?
  • 10:15 — How Mario builds intimacy with the brands he works with.
  • 16:51 — Emotional decisions and marketing.
  • 20:17 — The formula for brand intimacy.
  • 21:48 — Brand intimacy and customer acquisition.
  • 29:53 — Tactical steps to increase brand intimacy.
  • 44:12 — Brand intimacy throughout Covid.

Show Links


Podcast & Newsletter Sponsors

  1. Netsuite
  2. Crowdhealth (Code: SuccessStory)
  3. Hubspot Podcast Network podcastnetwork

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What is the Success Story Podcast?

On this podcast, you’ll find interviews, Q&A, keynote presentations & conversations on sales, marketing, business, startups and entrepreneurship.

The podcast is hosted by entrepreneur, business executive, author, educator & speaker, Scott D. Clary.

Scott will discuss some of the lessons he’s learned over his own career, as well as have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas and insights.

He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their story to help pass those lessons onto others through both experiences and tactical strategy for business professionals, entrepreneurs and everyone in between.








Machine Generated Transcript


brand, marketing, intimacy, business, people, year, product, netsuite, hubspot, emblem, build, customers, measure, bonds, create, study, company, clients, important, helping


Scott D Clary, Mario Natarelli


Scott D Clary  00:00

Welcome to success story the most useful podcast in the world. I’m your host Scott D. Clary. This success story podcast is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network the HubSpot Podcast Network has incredible podcast like the gain grow retain podcast the podcast is hosted by Jeff Bruns, Bach and J Nathan. Now gain grow and retain is built to inspire SAS and technology leaders who are facing the day to day challenges of scaling hosts, Jeff and Jay share conversations about growing and scaling subscription businesses with a customer first approach. If any of these topics sound interesting to you, you’re gonna like the podcast creating more brand advocates SAS as a predominant model for business, customer success at scale, or the challenges of integrating new tools with CSM some of these topics pique your interest, you’re gonna love the podcast you’re gonna love gain grow retain, go check it out wherever you get your podcast remember, gain grow retain on the HubSpot Podcast Network. Today, my guest is Mario Natarelli .Mario is a managing partner at emblem emblem is a marketing firm that focuses on brand intimacy. Now what is brand intimacy? Brand intimacy the definition is the emotional science behind the bonds we form it the brands we use and love. So in 2020, emblem did a study to measure brand intimacy. This was the list Apple, Amazon, Google, Walmart, YouTube, Toyota, Disney, Netflix, Chevrolet and PlayStation from first to 10th. So that those are the brands with the top 10 highest brand intimacy. Now why does brand intimacy matter? Well, across revenue growth, profit stock price, brands that have the highest brand intimacy with their customers outperform everyone else. So there’s a huge revenue component tied to having high brand intimacy. And this is what emblem studies and this is what emblem helps their customers with Mary himself is the author of the Amazon number one best seller, brand intimacy, a new paradigm in marketing. He is a regular speaker and has been featured on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Fox, TV, mornings with Maria, and NASDAQ market site, amongst others. He also speaks globally at conferences and industry events. So let’s jump right into this. Let’s understand brand intimacy and how you can improve your brand intimacy with your business. This is Mary Oh naturali managing partner at emblem


Mario Natarelli  02:38

Well, the fast version of that story is thanks for having me. By the way, Scott, the fastest version of that story is I graduated as an architect at a time of a recession in Toronto, and I love architecture, I love the education of architecture and the application of it. And I practice for about five years and really struggled and saw this career trajectory that was going to take me multiple decades. The recession was a blessing, I ended up doing everything to kind of survive, a lot of it was marketing related. And I started a digital marketing business at the beginning of the internet, essentially, with some colleagues and we had a lot of success very early on. We were one of the first companies to use virtual reality and, and a lot of the exciting things that were happening in the internet in the early days, we got acquired, and this little company from Toronto, was then part of a big marketing conglomerate called Interpublic. I moved to New York, I thought it was gonna be a two year move. And then I’m now in my 20th year here. Along the way, I learned a lot, I joined a branding agency within Interpublic called Future brand. I led the digital practice there for a good five to six years, and then eventually worked my way up to CEO future brand in North America in the Middle East. I worked on brands of every size, scale nature, it was really my indoctrination to all things branding. And along the way, I learned that there were a lot of parallels between the study in the education of architecture and the building of brands. And about 11 years ago, we decided that we, we really needed to rethink marketing and branding. And we decided that starting a new company called emblem would be a better vehicle for doing that. And so here we are in our 11th year of proving out that theory.


Scott D Clary  04:27

So first of all, congratulations on the success. I’m sure that exiting a marketing firm is not easy. But still, that’s that’s very impressive. Even the early career pivot and the success, they’re very impressive. I didn’t even know you’re from Toronto. I’m Canadian as well. So I’m also I’m also from Toronto, a little a little bit younger than you I didn’t go through the recession and the and the early stages of the internet, but that’s still it’s still incredible. I’m curious. Okay, so two questions out of that. First of all, what are the what are the lessons that you’ve learned in architecture that can Over to marketing. That’s an interesting lens that I don’t think many people have.


Mario Natarelli  05:05

Well, architecture is a wonderful education in art, science, technology, culture, really understanding how cities work, but also how we live in the environments around us. So you really have to be tuned to a lot of things and really be masters at many of them to be a successful architect. And I think that’s what really intrigued me about the profession, it’s sort of felt like this, you know, entire lifetime of Journey to arrive at building, you know, spaces that will remember and that will change the way we live or the way cities work. There’s something very ambitious and bold about brands, their culture driven things, right, great companies are great cultures, building those from scratch is analogous to how you form a building or how you form a city. It’s also analogous in that it’s art and science, right? A lot of this can be measured and can be engineered, and some of it is instinctual, creative, and whimsical. And so there’s some parallels there that, that were interesting. I think the other thing about architecture is it gives you a training in in a critical eye, you know, understanding the role of history, and art and how to judge critique, evolve, create, collaborate, is really important in architecture, and also in marketing. So those are just some of the things that I draw parallels to.


Scott D Clary  06:36

I love the I love the I love the analogy and parallels that you see in architecture versus, versus marketing, because I definitely agree that all those things are what makes marketing so beautiful. And what I’ve seen more and more. And I want to get your input on this is that it seems like people are focused more on transactional marketing, versus that beautiful culture that the whimsical and the creative mix with the tangible ROI on marketing dollar spent in this particular thing. And I’m curious as you’ve basically been in marketing, since the internet, which is very impressive. Have you seen


Mario Natarelli  07:22

or sorry?


Scott D Clary  07:24

Yeah, no, well, listen, it’s you have you have such tenure in the industry? Have you? What have you seen change in what marketing is over your career? To what it is today? Or has the main core thread of what marketing has stayed the same?


Mario Natarelli  07:44

Well, I think there has been some major pivots and the one that you started the question around, is this ever increasing focus on the near term and the tactical and I think the more tools that we have to measure things, the more the executive layer of organizations see, look to see immediate returns on on on actions, initiatives, and marketing tends to fall into a dangerous zone when you think of it in short term. And especially when you think about the culture of an organization, how long it changes how long it takes to mold a culture and then shift it. It’s hard to measure those things. In immediate terms. It’s also hard to measure things sometimes on tactics. So you know, our job as helping clients transform brands, we try to help move them upstream and think about the wider view the longer term. But that’s a perpetual challenge for executives. And for CMOS. I mean, we’re here on the agency side, our challenges is significant. But on the client side, I imagine that’s even harder and probably why CMOS have such short 10 years.


Scott D Clary  08:56

And all revenue leaders have increasingly short 10 years CMOS in particular, CROs VP sales, it’s difficult because the especially in an increasingly venture backed world, where the the, you have to have like results on steroids are your out, which I don’t think is healthy, either. That’s a whole other, you know, podcast holder set of issues. So Right. When you when you started in marketing, what would a client come to you to achieve when you first started your firm?


Mario Natarelli  09:26

Well, on the digital side of the business, you know, these were the early days when people were enamored and sort of digital was romantic, in a sense. So really, just having a presence was the achievement. So in the early days, it was, you know, rather simplistic, you know, Can we can we build a digital version of this brand? You know, we spent a lot of time even convincing people that there was a reason to do that, if you can believe it. So we’ve long since passed those hurdles and challenges, right. It’s almost funny to think back at some of those initial conversations that we had with brand owners trying to explain to them the role that digital play I have a website. I have a website, right? What what is e commerce? And what do I do I need it. Those are almost cute nowadays, right?


Scott D Clary  10:15

And now when you when you when brands approach you and emblem, what are they? What do they need? Now? What’s the what’s the, you know, your as an agency, I’m sure you specialize. And I want to unpack what emblem actually specializes in. Sure. But what are brands approached you about because they see you, they see the work that you’ve done, and they say, I want to achieve what,


Mario Natarelli  10:36

yeah, clients come to us with similar pain points, generally, they’re in a transformation of some time, you know, we are trying to move from x to y, we’re growing, and we’re maturing, and the brand needs to keep pace with that business growth, or sometimes two brands are coming together, and they need to form a new entity or a business idea needs a brand from scratch name, identity, you know, strategy execution. So those tend to be the reasons people join or come to us initially. One of those pain points is, is generally prevalent. In addition, we do do some surgical work on big companies that have well established brands. And that could be things like helping them rationalize their portfolio, do they have too many brands? Are they the right brands, so they organized in the right way? Or tactics sometimes are important. We need a campaign, we need a new web presence, or we need a new strategy and social or, you know, we have some interesting thought leadership, we need you to help us package it or activate it. So those those tend to be more surgical deployments compared to the more larger brand transformation work,


Scott D Clary  11:51

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Mario Natarelli  14:36

Well, yeah, let me take you back to why all the whys, right, the y’s are important. So we were in a leading brand consultancy, shaping the world’s best brands in a really competent way. And what we realized is that there was a pivot in the marketplace and we didn’t think we could solve it using the same tools and approaches. And so here’s the shorthand view. of the way we saw the world, and it’s still true today. One, there’s an ever increasing proliferation of brands. So more more noise, harder to differentiate the signal from the noise. So if you’re a brand, if you’re in the brand building business, it’s harder to kind of step up way to differentiate or to create distinction, if you’re on the receiving end, you know, you’re kind of it’s a cacophony of signals, right. So that’s one issue. The second is that increasingly, customers are in control, right? So it’s now fully pull versus push. And so again, increasingly hard if you’re in the brand, formation and transformation business, the third force really compounds the first two, which is the role that technology is playing. So increasingly, with the supercomputers in our pockets, brands are being basically disintermediated. By technology technology is the gateway to either enables or dilutes the brand experience, right. So that’s, that’s definitely more kind of common now. But it’s 11 years ago, that was becoming clear. And the last course and the most important is that what we know about how our brains work, is new and different behavioral scientists have proven that when we make decisions, emotion drives those decisions. So we like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, but you know, ultimately, if decisions are being driven by emotion, then are we factoring that into the way we build brands, and then how we measure them. And then ultimately, how we prove out this idea of marketing effectiveness, right. So those were the forces at work. So we knew something had to change. Brand, intimacy basically became our journey into looking at what is the role that emotion plays in branding? And how can we get smarter around it, the book became a kind of output of what we discovered along the way.


Scott D Clary  16:51

And, and the, the initial, and what was so you, you, you start to understand, okay, so if emotion is driving decisions, because every decision is emotional, even, you know, I’m more of a traditional sales leader than marketing leader. But you know, most of you make decisions based on emotion, then you justify with logic, but those are still emotionally like driven decisions. So if that’s how a customer thinks, then we have to find a way to build out a more replicable process around creating brands that sync up with the consumers emotions. And also, that’s that’s a that’s a smart, that’s a smart concept. Now, you put together a study on brand intimacy, throughout COVID. Was that concept, something you were already working on before COVID? Or did COVID just further double down and propagate this idea that how important brands and brand intimacy was with consumers?


Mario Natarelli  17:48

Yeah. Yes. So the study, the recent study is one of we do it annually. So it’s been ongoing, but it’s the first time we thought the study you’re referring to is the first time we did this measurement, post pandemic. But the studies are a byproduct of understanding, a bigger idea here. That is, what we learned about consumers is that they form bonds with brands and similar ways that we bond with each other. So those bonds are reciprocal, they’re fluid. And when we discovered that, that we actually create these bonds, like we do with each other, we thought, well, wouldn’t it be great if we can measure those? So okay, how do we do that? Right. So that took numerous years, a lot of qualitative and quantitative research, where to fine tune, a formula to measure the degree of intimacy or the degree of emotional connection between you and a brand. So the the foundation, and that’s really what the book tries to lay out is how we arrived at that formula and what you know what it does for us, but really simply, the formula is you have to be a user of the brand to count that’s important. So this isn’t about what you perceive or what you think or what you heard. It’s not about awareness, it’s purely about the connection you have to a product or service that you use. Next, we measure a series of archetypes in a series of stages. The archetypes are kind of like the DNA of the relationship, and the stages or the degree of intimacy. And then we use a an algorithm to create a quotient score from zero to 100. The point of all that is, it gives us a mechanism to see who does this well, who doesn’t. Why is that? What can we learn from them. And it also allows us to look at industry performances, performance of brands and industries versus each other. It allows us to look at demographics. How does this change with old people versus young people? You know, what do millennials prefer versus another demographic? And it basically gives us a framework also to work with our clients to say, Hey, this is this is a kind of new compass or new alignment of where your long term marketing goal is. Stop thinking about your brand as a thing. And think about your brand is a series of relationships with key stakeholders that you’re going to measure and improve over time.


Scott D Clary  20:17

Now, one point that I wanted to just touch on that you mentioned is one of the one of the metrics that you include in this calculation, because I think it’s also interesting that you point out that you focus on brand intimacy based on people that are already using your brand. I don’t want to dive too much down another path. But I’m just curious as to your thoughts on how brand intimacy can play into gaining net new customers as well to bring them into the fold?


Mario Natarelli  20:44

Yeah, I think it’s a great question, what happens to the people that aren’t users? Right? So our belief is that if you know, why, if you know how to build strong bonds with the people who use your product, that is going to hold true for how you attract people towards it. So there may be other by the way, this isn’t also suggesting that all the other ways you measure brand, or all the other things that you do aren’t useful, you know, brand value or Net Promoter Score are these other mechanisms, or they have their role in their place. And, you know, we’re not trying to say, do away with all that, we’re just trying to say that. There is some things that are antique and maybe should be thrown away. The idea of loyalty is a good example. Right? So I’m loyal to my cell phone provider. But I don’t really like them, in fact, that


Scott D Clary  21:34

definitely you don’t, you’re running out of choice at that point. Exactly.


Mario Natarelli  21:39

Yeah, so as a mechanism, loyalty is a kind of data concept. So right away, intimacy can replace something like loyalty, for sure. And to your question, then, so if I’m in the business of just attracting customers, what role does intimacy play? Well, if you think about those things as early relationships, one of the interesting data points we have is the most correlated and interesting thing we learned is that the first impression with a brand is extremely important in building intimacy. It has an extremely disproportionate amount of importance versus the multiple touchpoints that follow. So if you know that and you’re in the business of acquisition, customer acquisition, that could change the way you really think about your marketing and your investments. Right. And that’s just one example of many that we’ve come up with because of the data on brand intimacy.


Scott D Clary  22:32

And one of the one of the points, which isn’t really that surprising is that throw COVID brands that have this that had the score higher on this on brand intimacy, they continuously outperform. So even walk me through some of the things that you’ve learned throughout COVID, with brands that do have high intimacy scores with their customers, is it obviously one of the most difficult times and you know, current history, when you say they perform better? Is it a noticeable multiplier versus ones that don’t? Or is it a percent better? What’s the How much do people care about this? Basically?


Mario Natarelli  23:14

Well, you care about it post COVID, or in general,


Scott D Clary  23:17

it well, I guess, I would say I would, obviously postcode, but I would say you can look into you can look into the most troubling times in in recent history to understand in the worst case scenario, yeah, brand intimacy, what that does, what does that actually mean for a brand and their customer versus in probably a less stressful environment?


Mario Natarelli  23:38

Well, look, every year we learn more and more, and when the world changed on us in early 2020, right, may or April 2020, we actually wondered, well, what are we going to survive to if we survive? What’s the role that brands play in our lives? And as we moved into the second and third quarter of 2020, we thought it was really important to test that theory, you know, what is the role of emotion now that the world is upside down? The early results were surprising, we thought we didn’t know what to expect, to be honest. But the early results were that we bond more with brands since COVID, than before, and this is significantly more. So we also have 33% more brands in our lives, that we have some form of emotional connection with than we did before. And that’s also surprising. And I think maybe it’s shouldn’t be surprising because the more isolated we became, in a way brands replaced the role that almost people were forming in our lives or in our relationships. And there were things that aren’t surprising, like zoom and Purell became, you know, breakthrough brands in our study, as you would anticipate, right. Amazon and Apple did extremely well, the streaming brands did, generally much better. But there were other things that That caught us off brand and also off guard and other other surprises brands, who really pivoted extremely well, in the early parts of the pandemic, were interesting for us to observe, you know, brands like Walmart that you wouldn’t necessarily anticipate, or Microsoft did extremely well, in the early days, we just repeated the study, and we’re about to launch it. So in September, October 8, we’re going to show the second year of the data. So from April 2021, and there’s, again, general new layering of information brands are doing extremely well as they were before in the pandemic. And there are some new, you know, risers and some brands that have suffered since the beginning. But those are just some of the things that we’ve taken away in the in the COVID version of the study.


Scott D Clary  25:53

And the people that do it the best. I’m curious as to who those people are, but what are they? What are they really doing differently? You mentioned one thing that was the initial touch point with the customer. But for somebody who’s listening to this, perhaps they already have a, you know, they, they obviously want to focus on customer acquisition always. But there’s, there’s probably other things that they do well, the top brands that somebody would want to replicate or emulate, to tap into their existing and build intimacy with their existing customer base. So what are you let’s let’s walk through some people that do it incredibly well, like he mentioned some, but there’s some probably others that maybe post COVID are also exceptional?


Mario Natarelli  26:36

Yeah. Well, there are some brands that do well and have always done it well. And they, you know, they create a kind of distortion field because, you know, they do so many things well, that it that it’s almost a humbling and paralyzing at the same time a brand like Apple, when you think about a brand like that, from a brand point of view, marketing point of view. And its, its dominance in the industry. You know, it’s hard to take lessons from that because of the scale that it operates on and the extreme kind of sophistication. But that’s one that’s sort of continual performer. Let’s take one that wasn’t that is pivoting? Well, Microsoft is interesting, and never been a Microsoft fan necessarily, but under Nadella Nadella, I think that’s what you pronounce his name. The new CMO, the CEO, the leadership, the brand really pivoted to a much more nurturing much more sensitive orientation around its messaging and marketing. And then Jerry COVID, doubled down on some of those pivots, and created a much more relevant message tools that were helping us while we were remote or in collaboration or what have you. And it really benefited it really, you really saw clearly how it out Sean, its its peers in terms of the quickness with the pivot, and then the effectiveness with which it sort of reached its target with effective messaging. So that’s what that’s a quick example there. You know, the other thing that I like about the study is that you don’t have to be a big business to do well, I mean, we just talked about two ginormous companies. But I kind of like how even smaller companies do very well. So before the acquisition, Whole Foods had historically always done well in our study. And, you know, things have changed since it was acquired by Amazon. But before the the acquisition, it really stood for a brand that was extremely well tailored and oriented towards a very clear idea and well executed and consistently executed. And it was also a quality play. So it was interesting to see that performance, another brand just just to bring up Sephora does very well year over a year. And that is not withstanding that luxury brands and health and beauty brands generally perform very poorly. So Sephora has an interesting why is that? Just a good question. I can only surmise a couple of things. One is it’s it’s it’s an amalgam of product. Right? So four is a great aggregator. So if you’re interested in the products that are staged there, I don’t think anyone does it necessarily. Anyone curates it necessarily better. And then the customer service and the experience are very, very good. So I think that’s the reason why that brand does extremely well. But let me get back to your question, which is, you know, how do you do it? Right. How do you build in how do you build intimacy?


Scott D Clary  29:44

Yeah, because there’s all these examples and and even people that are going to hear Whole Foods, you’re like, Well, I don’t have a whole whole photo.


Mario Natarelli  29:50

I get that, right. Yeah. Well, okay, so the first thing I’ll say is, if you’re thinking about your brand as an inanimate object Jack Dorsey thing, you know, change that right? Start thinking about the relationship of you and your stakeholders, whether they’re employees or primary audience, target audience, or influencers, or investors, think about those bonds and how you’re forming them. That’s sort of the a priori lesson to take away of this. And I think right away, if you do that, it’ll change a lot of what you do. So second, we have a framework that we use when we’re thinking about brand building. It’s a simple framework. And it can work as both a process and a diagnostic. So think of it in three steps. Defining your essence, what you stand for how you articulate it, codify what your brand looks like, sounds like feels like. That’s the core foundation of the brand, the next layer and think of it like Russian dolls, or cascading or rippling water, right, the next layer is the story layer, your narrative, how you engage your audience, this is the lifeblood of the brand. So on the foundation of essence, sits the story. Then the next layer is the experience layer, orchestrating the touchpoints, and really engineering a kind of cohesive, frictionless experience. Now that sounds simple, right? We know, that’s really hard to do once, and it’s extremely hard to keep doing that. And so what I think great brands do Well, aside from understanding their brand is a relationship and how to nurture it, is they know how to do essence story and experience well, continually. And you know, this is sort of circling back on an earlier point you made. This isn’t just marketing’s job, right? If you’re running a company, these are, this is a multidisciplinary challenge. This is about product, it’s about strategy, it’s about customer service, it’s about sales, it’s about a bunch of things beyond just how you market, right. And that’s another thing that a lot of these great brands demonstrate that they aren’t just layering a message on a flawed product. They’re ultimately great businesses with great brands.


Scott D Clary  32:12

Do you Do you still see, because obviously, when you have multi million and billion dollar marketing budgets, you can hire the expertise to understand this and to execute on it. I don’t know how small the organizations are like, at the small end of what you work with, I know you work with large brands, but I’m just curious in the startup ecosystem. Do you? Well, first of all, do you work with any smaller companies in organization startups? Okay, so do you feel like the average CEO founder skews towards a more old school version of marketing and brand as more transaction? Or do you feel like the paradigm is slightly shifting towards something that is more in line with this holistic view of what marketing is what marketing has to be to, of course, sell your product, but also, turn your customers into evangelists build that intimacy? Where do you think founders default to?


Mario Natarelli  33:11

So we, we do a lot of work with startups and what I would call mature startups. And I think it is fair to say that they tend to fall more in transactional space. I don’t think it’s any easier for a small startup as it is for a big company to do this. I mean, you can make counter arguments, a big company trying to turn a big company around is like turning a tanker, right, it’s extremely difficult. So yes, they may have great consultants or great staff. But you know, at the end of the day, if you have 30,000 employees and used to be known for one thing, it’s very hard to change that. So the challenge is consistent, and equally difficult to involve. And our work tends to be just as hard building a brand from scratch as it is working with, you know, very sophisticated and bigger brands. What I would say with mature startups that I feel is an extra layer to the challenges that the creator of the founders mindset, especially if it’s a scientifically LED or engineering led solution, those tend to be heavily rationally oriented. mindsets, right. So, you know, one of the things that Apple and Tesla and other companies like that, sort of darlings of Silicon Valley have done is convinced people that product is marketing. So I’m going to build the best electric vehicle and it is my marketing. And I don’t need to do Superbowl ads. I don’t need to be on social media. I can just make this great thing and they will come. And that’s true. If you’re Tesla and Apple, maybe you’re not but if you’re All right. But there’s no, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that thinking though, right? The product is, is the most important element of all of this has to be great. Is that the marketing? In all cases? I’m not sure. I would say that that’s that is a flawed way to look at it. And even Steve Jobs, understood the role that marketing played, it was actually extremely adept at it and did some of the best marketing ever created, even though the products were also heroic. So I think people sometimes fall into these traps, and I think they lose sight of the role that marketing play.


Scott D Clary  35:40

Very good. Very good. I just want to take a second and thank the sponsor of today’s episode HubSpot. Now, you may have heard me speak about leveling up in the past how we can level up our careers, our businesses, our customer experience, I wanted to take a minute and focus on that last one because when we level up our customers experiences, we transform our customers into evangelists and help our business and our careers grow like crazy with new features dedicated to helping your sales teams improve your customer experience, HubSpot is on a mission to help millions of companies grow better starting with yours. Conversation intelligence tools help your teams get real time insights into calls with automatic recording transcription and call analysis with more visibility into customer conversations, coaching and customer feedback becomes that much easier, easy share meeting links. Let customers see availability and book meetings for you all from the HubSpot platform. This cuts out endless cycles of scheduling email, learn more about how you can transform your customer experience with a HubSpot CRM What would be what would be one tactical step that somebody who’s listening to this would want to focus on tomorrow, if they wanted to move their company in this direction? Would be a mindset thing. Would it be? Yeah, hiring?


Mario Natarelli  37:04

Well, we always welcome that. I think the first Yep. What is the role? I mean, first of all, if this company has some scale, and it has a degree of customers and data, you know, it’s what to what degree do you augment your data with some emotional measures? So when we first started this, nobody was really talking about these kinds of measures. Nowadays, almost every research company does a form of this. So you can now Augment, and think about your data differently. So that’s a good first step, if you have some scale. If you’re small, as smaller or just forming, I think that question is, to what extent can this be a compass for you can bring them in to see be the thing that guides your marketing, long term and your brand? So if that were the case, you know, to what extent does the relationships that you want to build? How do you want to engineer those relationships? How are you going to nurture them? How do you move them from, you know, starting to use you to being ultimately fused with your brands. And when you start thinking on those terms, it’ll change all your tactics. It’ll change what you measure, it’ll change how you communicate. It’ll change how you evaluate your partners and the work that you do.


Scott D Clary  38:29

What would be what would be one potentially unpopular opinion that you have about brand and marketing? unpopular opinion? What a great question. an unpopular opinion, something that goes contrary to what most people would believe.


Mario Natarelli  38:55

Well, the idea that marketing is fundamentally rooted on something that is emotionally driven is, I think, a bit of a renegade idea in and of itself, right?


Scott D Clary  39:07

I mean, it shouldn’t be, but I agree that it is.


Mario Natarelli  39:11

There’s a lot of science that may say, you know, through data, you can get to truth. And I think that’s fair, maybe in some cases. So I guess that could be one of them. That’s a really good question. I’d have to think more on. Here’s an AI. Here’s another thing that comes from the study that isn’t necessarily counter, but it’s completely new. And that is, the closer you are to the hardware, the more the magic of the device. The more the brand gets credited with the magic of the device. So if you’re a smartphone manufacturer, you get credit for the content, the information, the access, the social media, connectivity, and agement. All of those things that happen on a smartphone, even though many brands drive that most of the credit goes to the hardware makers. In fact, shower. That’s something we’ve learned in Brighton intimacy. Interesting. And that’s also true for gaming. And so why does that matter? Well, if you’re ever partnering with any of those brands, whether it’s a an entertainment brand, or social media brand, or a access brand, or a hardware company, I think it’s important to know that because at some level, those brands are being discounted, those other brands are being discounted the non hardware brands. And I think the truth behind that is that you’re holding it, it’s it’s tactile, it you know, it sort of commands this priority to those other brands, maybe fairly or unfairly. But that’s


Scott D Clary  40:37

a gateway to everything else. You’ve you pick it up, it’s the thing that use Okay, games. Yeah. Yeah, tactile thing you picked up.


Mario Natarelli  40:44

One of the reasons why social media brands do extremely poorly and are.


Scott D Clary  40:48

Because the because because people don’t actually have intimacy with the brand to have intimacy with the device that they access the brand or the app on.


Mario Natarelli  40:57

That’s one level of it. I think the second level is that they’re seen as utilities, they’re free, generally. And they’re, they’re not the bonds that they’re forming. You know, you, you I don’t really bond with Instagram, I bond with my community on Instagram, right. So the brand isn’t really working overtime to build a bond with me. I’m more interested in the connectivity within it. So I don’t national media brands know that and probably are trying to work around that. That’s also one of the reasons you’re seeing Google, Facebook and others doing so much more advertising lately than they’ve ever done before. And if you notice that the advertising is extremely emotionally driven,


Scott D Clary  41:37

yeah, yeah, I do. I really do. I’m just curious if you think that there is a correlate, because when you’re trying to market a product, you may want to put free stuff out into the world to bring people in. But I’m curious on that point that you just mentioned, do you think that you lose that brand intimacy if people aren’t paying for a product?


Mario Natarelli  42:03

So our study says that that isn’t the case. And I understand the freemium model that you’re referencing, we haven’t seen a correlation between how much you pay for a product and the degree of intimacy. There’s a couple things that are interesting myths that we’ve debunked one, how much you use a product has no correlation. So if I go to my favorite resort once a year, versus using Instagram 50 times a day, those two things don’t affect how much I feel about brands. So degree of frequency doesn’t matter, to intimacy. Net Promoter Score doesn’t matter. So to the degree to which I would refer another person to this product or service has no correlation to intimacy, which is interesting. Advertising also has no correlation. So whether I see a message today or recently, and then you interview me now has no correlation to how I feel about that product i whether or not I saw those ads had had no effect. I said earlier, one thing that does correlate is first impressions. So


Scott D Clary  43:08

but on the on the flip side of that, if I do have brand intimacy, am I expecting my NPS to go up? Is there an inverse correlation?


Mario Natarelli  43:17

There is the correlation between the two. I would suspect, if you’re really good at building strong emotional bonds, you will have a strong net promoter score. That would be I think, fair to assume that the two are not correlating there, I will say that there are other benefits to intimacy we haven’t talked about that we are excited by one is, we know the more intimate you are, the more you’re willing to pay for a product. That’s important. We know the more intimate you are, the more aligned your behavior and actions are. So that’s really important if you want to build an ethos or a strong employee culture around the brand. And we know that the more intimate, the most intimate brands outperform the fortune 500 Standard and Poor’s in revenue and in profit. And lately, even stock price. So there are real financial and business.


Scott D Clary  44:07

That’s a pretty big, those are pretty big benefits to an organization to a company.


Mario Natarelli  44:12

Yeah, we just recently measured that if you just joined COVID intimate brands did 7% Better, which sounds like a small number. But if your score raises 7%, you’re going to jump a lot in the standings. That’s 7% translates to a huge amount of lift. If you take what intimate brands do profit alone, it’s billions and billions of dollars. I think the the estimate is on an annual basis is 16 billion more dollars for intimate brands versus those and Standard and Poor’s and fortune 500. Now remember, these are big companies, right? So it’s big numbers, but that’s that’s a lot of money.


Scott D Clary  44:58

It’s a lot of money. Yeah. That’s a hell of a lot of money. Yeah, that’s


Mario Natarelli  45:02

feels like a smart thing to do.


Scott D Clary  45:06

It does feel like a very smart thing to do. No, that’s great. That’s That’s perfect. That’s I’m glad you I’m glad you brought some of those points up. Okay, I want to I want to give people some some direction to go see more than reach out to you learn more about emblem before we drop that and then I’m gonna do a couple of rapid fire career questions for you. Was there anything else that you want to touch on that we didn’t go into today?


Mario Natarelli  45:32

No, I really, Scott, thank you.


Scott D Clary  45:34

No, no, my pleasure that Well, thank you for for for the awesome chat. Okay, so let’s, let’s just drop some socials. Where do people get the book? Where do people connect with you? Where do people go see emblem? Anything you want? Sure. I’ll put the show notes to


Mario Natarelli  45:49 is the website. The book is available at all your favorite book retailers? It’s called Bretton intimacy, new paradigm and marketing. Our annual study and the data related to it is free for people to peruse and download and play with that’s also available on MB LM calm. And that is our Twitter handle. And you find us in all the usual social places with that handle as well.


Scott D Clary  46:15

Do you want to do you want to drop your stuff as well? Where like your what’s your favorite social, your Twitter or whatever.


Mario Natarelli  46:21

So it’s m naturally at I am that early is my Twitter handle. So first initial M as in Mary na ta r e l li. And that will hold true for LinkedIn and other places too.


Scott D Clary  46:36

Great. Okay, perfect. Okay, so in your career, you’ve had an incredible career, you’ve had an exit, plus multiple successes in various various iterations of marketing agencies. What was your largest challenge? It could be personal or professional. What was that challenge? How did you overcome it?


Mario Natarelli  46:57

So I think the biggest challenge has been working in an industry that completely overnight shutdown during the recession, you know, financial services and real estate were hard hit, the economy was in a freefall, every client of any significance evaporated. And so when you see that happen in the lives that it affects, as a leader, you really take stock on? How do you build, you know, recession proof businesses? How do you build for the long term? How do you weather the ups and downs? You know, marketing is very much a feast and famine, type of reality, and to build a kind of consistent business and maintain sanity through that is the biggest challenge. Amazing. Not sure I solved it yet.


Scott D Clary  47:51

No, I was gonna say, what were some of the things that as an agency, so there are people listening to this that are working in agencies? What were some things that you had to do differently? Or was it just weathering the storm, that you change? How you prospected the change your product offering, whether anything significant?


Mario Natarelli  48:09

Yeah, you know, you really start to value proactive new business efforts to really understand what it means to build a wide funnel of opportunities, it really is important to invest in the brand, your brand, as an agency, and your thought leadership, many of the reasons we do what we do is because we’re trying to build, you know, tomorrow’s prospects and the future clients of the business, right, and also elevate the reputation of the firm. So those are things that are an endless requirement, sort of a bottomless pit of energy. And I think the challenge is how do you maintain an energy level for a long period of time to sustain those things? You know, we experiment a times with certain channels and certain initiatives, and sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes your timing is right, but the product, but the execution is off, and sometimes the reverse is true. So I think you just kind of have to maintain your wits and your energy levels to to sort of sustain effort on a continual basis and hope that you reap those rewards.


Scott D Clary  49:11

But it is it is it is upping the energy level upping the activity. And that’s what sort of weathered the storm.


Mario Natarelli  49:18

Yeah, it’s also being decisive and making difficult decisions quickly. Yeah, but you’re right, it’s kind of seeing, taking a horizon taking a long term horizon view of a reality that, you know, isn’t the present day crisis that you’re in and trying to sort of get through it with that in mind.


Scott D Clary  49:39

Very good. And that’s obviously like that. That’s that’s a huge shout for everyone but I appreciate you diving into that setting because a lot of people that didn’t weather as well as as emblem. So I think that that’s some it’s a smart lesson for people to just take note of.


Mario Natarelli  49:56

Well, I’m sure people did it better than we did. You know, like I


Scott D Clary  49:59

said, Yeah, did a better but I mean, there’s a there’s a scale, there’s a scale of success coming out of COVID. But I mean, you’re still at, you’re still an organization, you’re still around, and you’ve had you’ve had, you don’t know, you double down on it, like you’re even releasing reports about, about things that reinforce your message as an organization through COVID, you’re talking about lessons learned out of COVID, how to apply those to businesses. That’s, that’s, that’s, you know, it’s intuitive. It’s a different way of approaching COVID, as opposed to just pretending it doesn’t exist and try and do the same thing that you’ve done forever, you actually leveraged it to an extent to help businesses, be smarter, be better, better educated, educated, excuse me.


Mario Natarelli  50:42

Yeah, I think that’s very true. And I appreciate that. Thank you. I will say, you know, Scott, I listened to a lot of podcasts. And it’s easy to listen to people and think, oh, wow, that, you know, that that sounds really great. And Rosie, and what a great success story in reality, you know, it’s been a tough slog, it’s been really difficult. And we probably made every mistake, and most of them worse than most, right? So, you know, I want to sort of share that, you know, what, what has helped us is that we have a collaborative spirit, we really want to build brands that we believe in, and, and for our clients as well. So, you know, that’s been ultimately what’s gotten us through this and made us compelling, I guess, to our clients that they believe in us, right. And I think you need to find that you need to find that truth in your efforts, or in your work that resonates and is, you know, both believable and differentiating. And, you know, it takes a lot of time and energy to get to that, I think and you know, don’t don’t worry too much about the things that don’t go the right way, if you can see progress, even in incremental ways, and you’re getting to, you know, something better and something more productive at the end of it. I think that’s, that’s what should keep you going. I hope that helps.


Scott D Clary  52:07

I think so. If you if you had one person, there’s probably been many, but if you had one person in your life that you’d have to pick that had a major impact on your life, who was it? And what did you learn from them?


Mario Natarelli  52:27

So another great question.


Scott D Clary  52:31

Is usually tough, because people have so many people that have had impacts on their life, and it can be personal, it can be family, it’s okay.


Mario Natarelli  52:47

You know, I think the one person I’ll say, is a client that taught us I think, the role that we can play this, this client was interesting, because they were on the surface, very typical, right? But they let us they were, they let us dream with them, and they let us Elevate, and they taught us that, you know, we could achieve incredible things if we just committed to it. So I think that’s the one person I would say has dramatically impacted my life on a professional level.


Scott D Clary  53:36

Amazing. I just want to take a second and thank the sponsor of today’s episode, crowd health. Now as you all know, open enrollment is ending soon, it’s time to think about the best health care option for you and your family. And I know a lot of people are still trying to figure out what to do. Now. When it comes to health care, it’s important that you’re getting your money’s worth crowd health helps you with covering medical expenses, it’s a more flexible and affordable health care option without the hassle of insurance. So while you’re shopping around, don’t forget to head to join crowd 99 Find out how crowd health can save you 40 to 60% in healthcare costs every single year. And just to give you an idea of what crowd health is, crowd health isn’t health insurance. It’s a modern way to pay for medical expenses. Crowd health is a community of people who are tired of paying into a broken system being in the crowd health community can save you hundreds of dollars in monthly expenses and put 1000s of dollars back in your pocket. Now you’re probably asking why would I choose CloudHealth over traditional insurance three main reasons flexible, simple, membership based membership is a monthly subscription starter stop whenever you want. There’s simple and transparent pricing that fits exactly what you need to use it all you have to do is scan bills and throw them away. CloudHealth takes care of the rest. Now CloudHealth is able to offer incredible pricing because of its cost. Community of health conscious members and they put together a special offer just for success story podcast listeners. So get your first six months at just $99 per month. That’s a savings of almost 50% off their standard pricing and a lot less than one of those crappy high deductible plan. Just go to join the crowd 99 and enter code success story at signup that’s joined crowd 99 and promo code is success story enter that when you sign up. Remember, crowd health is not health insurance. It’s a community powered alternative terms and conditions do apply. If you could tell your 20 year old self one thing, what would it be?


Mario Natarelli  55:44

Oh, oh my god. I’m wondering how people answer these questions on the fly my 20 year old self, what I would say to them is enjoy the ride. You may not be heading where you think you’re going. But ultimately in a workout. B kind of dance around you.


Scott D Clary  56:07

That’s how they answer it. That’s it. Do you have a book or a podcast? Something that you’ve enjoyed that you’d recommend people go check out?


Mario Natarelli  56:21

Ah, well, I think I read probably the things that most of your podcast listeners consume. You know, Gladwell, and I enjoy Kahneman and Kahneman is kind of our patron saint. He’s the system one system two behavioral scientists who basically formalized a lot of the theories that we use in understanding how the brain works. So he’s a little bit more upstream in the heady column, but I really enjoy podcasts that make me laugh. So for me, smartlace and Conan O’Brien, and anything that has some humor to it is what I really thrive on.


Scott D Clary  57:03

Amazing. And last last question, what does success mean to you?


Mario Natarelli  57:11

As a leader in an agency success is making good on the promise of envelope, which is to redefine what a marketing paradigm could look like, feel like for both our clients and our employees. We’re really passionate about what we do. But we also want to build a culture that’s nurturing, collaborative and fun to be in. So to us, it’s a kind of dual prong challenge or three prongs to our challenge one. Do something that’s smart and meaningful in the world of marketing, help clients, build great brands and build a team around you that enjoys the work and feels fulfilled at the end of the day.


Scott D Clary  57:54

Too damn, good answer. You got you got all the you got all the answers on the fly?


Mario Natarelli  57:59

Oh, we’re trying I don’t know how. I don’t know how you grade us on any of those right now. But you know,


Scott D Clary  58:05

that’s, I think it’s great. And I think it’s great. That’s all I got. That’s that’s it that’s, that’s how we close out the show.


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