The World of "Un"

March 19, 2018 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

“Welcome everybody to the 200th episode of the show!”

“Yeah, I’m surprised we ever actually published one, to be honest.”

Interesting opening to a podcast, right?

Well how about the fact that this podcast with recorded in a live studio with a live audience and then put on YouTube (yes, YouTube).

In November of 2017, at B-Town Studios in Burlington, Ontario, Scott and Alison Stratten of the UnMarketing universe celebrated both the 200th episode of their podcast (aptly named (UnPodcast – The Business Podcast for the Fed Up) and the launch of their 6th book Unbranding.

“I don’t know why they do this.”  

Scott’s referring to audience members taking time out of their day to watch their podcast recording.

Jokes aside, if you thought about it enough, he’s right – you’ve probably never attended a live podcast recording.

This isn’t how things are done. But then again, Alison and Scott Stratten don’t do things the way everyone else thinks they should be done, so to speak.  

Taking a look at Unbranding, it’s a matte black book with no imagery. No testimonials or reviews. No price printed on it. Nada. It doesn’t fit any of the typical requirements you’d think a book would need to, to have successful marketing.

But as they launch their 6th book, the Strattens continue to expand their world of “un” beyond just the books and podcast, reminding their followers of a very important, eternal lesson: they don’t have market to consumers the way they think they have to.

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What started with The UnMarketing Book in 2010, eventually grew into The Book of Business Un/Awesome, QR Codes Kill Kittens, UnSelling: The New Customer Experience, UnMarketing Second Edition: Everything Has Changed & Nothing is Different and now Unbranding.   

It’s an entire collection of business books for the fed-up business people.

Unbranding is no different. In fact, it’s a continuation of an idea that came about while writing the second edition of UnMarketing which focuses on the idea that “everything has changed and nothing is different.”

“We started looking at businesses operating in disruption and what are the things those companies are doing for success,” said Alison.

From companies who have stood the test of time to those who have had to employ strategic defense mechanisms to get through the choppy waves of disruption, Alison and Scott have considered them all. For those unfamiliar with UnPodcast, the Strattens routinely share case studies and brand stories back and forth and discuss them.

In terms of UnBranding, it made sense for the marketing duo to formalize their witty banter into 100 mini case studies that are “an actionable love letter to the cornerstones of good business practice.”

And truthfully, good business practice is at the essence of anything the Strattens put out.

UnBranding puts it succinctly: “The age of disruption means nothing at all. Good business is still good business.”

When asked what she hopes readers (or brands, entrepreneurs, businesses, etc.) will take out of the book, Alison’s answer boils down to focusing.

“It’s ‘I need, I need, I need all this stuff.’ People tend to jump at things without asking why. And that was one of my favourite parts of the book is that the most important question you can ask yourself in business is ‘why?’”

To her and Scott, the most successful brands are always asking why. Is it something the market wants? Is it something the brand can provide? Is it something the brand can provide well?  

Just don’t ask her to pick out her favourite chapter. “It’s like picking my favourite child!” she laughs. Though if there’s a specific case study Alison things you should turn to, it’s Lesson 52 (and it involves a one-armed chair).

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Once we finished reading through the case studies (from Pepsi to Patagonia), we realized one of the biggest statements actually came in the intro.

“Your brand belongs to your customers.”

While at first read this line might sound a little counter-intuitive to a brand, Alison clarified that it’s all about experiences, memories and feeling.

“The reality is that [customers’] reactions define our brand. If we change the colour of the logo, we might not notice it, but if we have a terrible experience, I’m going to remember that,” explained Alison.

And this is actually where UnBranding got its start. Logos aren’t enough. It’s about experiences, providing on promises and treating customers well.

As Alison puts it, “[brands] can control the experience through providing.”

These kinds of messages are what the UnMarketing brand is all about providing. Or should we say the World of Un.

It’s these anecdotal brand lessons that are what started everything in the first place. Here’s your anecdotal proof (in paraphrased terms):

Scott was visiting a friend at work. This friend was complaining about receiving cold calls immediately after having received one, was rude and quickly ended the call. As Scott and his friend were wrapping up, this friend said that he had to “make his calls.”

If that’s not a good case of dramatic irony, we don’t know what is.

But here, the seed was planted.

“We do the things as business owners in marketing that we hate as consumers – but it shouldn’t have to be that way,” said Alison.

For her and Scott, it’s about not marketing the way we think we have to and first and foremost, being consumer advocates at all times.

Though Scott originally created UnMarketing on his own, he joined forces with Alison after having met on Twitter. Their first meeting they met for coffee for seven hours.

They simply haven’t stopped talking since then.

Fast forward from 2009 to today, the dynamic between the two goes quite hand in hand. Everything that gets shared through the World of Un is the stuff both Alison and Scott really enjoy talking about.

They don’t prepare.

They don’t script.

They just talk.

Then, when Scott yells something like “funnel vision” with zero context before walking away, Alison is the mastermind who puts it into words.

“Scott is absolutely brilliant with ideas… I’m good at teasing out ideas and figuring out what you want to do with them,” she said.

All the research from reading plus their right and left brand complex is what churns out all the content. The best part? None of it feels like work to them.

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When one takes a look at it all together, it seems like the pair are a couple of renegades out to break the rules.

After all, it’s a blank book with no embellishment.

They don’t work as a traditional working partnership.

They email stories back and forth and just talk – with no apparent plan.

Heck, even with UnPodcast, Scott took a podcast class to learn how to do it only to promptly decide he didn’t want to do any of that. (Rest assured, they have a team to bring it to life and record a bunch of episodes in one go).

But truthfully, they don’t want to be viewed that way.

“I don’t think about breaking the rules for the sake of breaking the rules… it’s really more about old fashioned, tried and true business messages,” admitted Alison.

So, there you have it. They might not be following the “rules”, but the way they do work is actually based upon the most basic fundamentals of good business.

As for what’s next, Alison had an even more epic “non-answer” answer. “Hopefully lots of plateau!”

Don’t get her wrong. She loves where Scott and she are at with UnMarketing. But that’s just it. They’re both feel an immense amount of gratitude for the things they’re able to do and wouldn’t change it one bit.

Whether it be more books, more podcast episodes or the occasional blog post, fans of the World of Un can expect, well, more of the same. The main takeaway often comes down to tried and true good business messages.

“We just want people to care and think about their messages and why they’re doing them,” explained Alison.   

And there’s absolutely zero problems with that, from our perspective.

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