Brand Strategy In Three Steps with Jay Mandel

An interview with Jay Mandel, author of Brand Strategy in Three Steps: A Purpose-Driven Approach to Branding, Bigeye’s featured book for July. Jay discusses how after leaving corporate America, he spent five years teaching, consulting, and coaching – and why he wanted to reflect on his experiences in this book. Blending marketing principles with personal insights, and guided by candor, curiosity, and collaboration, Jay explains how to adopt a more meaningful marketing mindset.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Jay Mandel: I wrote the book to give people permission to show up fully to marketing, and give people the tools that I have found to be very effective that basically make it really difficult to separate yourself out from your work. It’s about being a meaningful marketer. 

Adrian Tennant: You are listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us for this first episode of our twelfth season. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes of this podcast, consumers have become more conscious of the social, environmental, and ethical implications of their purchasing decisions, with younger consumers, in particular, prioritizing brands that align with their personal values and beliefs. We’ve also heard from experts in sustainability about the importance of changing consumer habits and mindsets, plus the opportunities for marketers and brand owners to create meaningful change. Our Bigeye Book Club selection for July is Brand Strategy in Three Steps: A Purpose-Driven Approach to Branding. The book explains a new way of building a meaningful brand strategy centered around identity, intention, and authenticity in implementation. The book’s author is Jay Mandel, the founder of Your Brand Coach, a brand management and professional coaching company. Jay is also a corporate trainer for the Association of National Advertisers, a member of the faculty at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, and an adjunct professor of marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. To discuss some of the ideas, thought exercises, and case studies described in Brand Strategy In Three Steps, Jay is joining us today from his home base of New York City. Jay, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS! 

Jay Mandel: Thanks for having me. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, congratulations on the publication of your first book. What prompted you to write Brand Strategy In Three Steps?

Jay Mandel: I went on this entrepreneurial journey after I was in corporate America, and it’s been a five-year entrepreneurial journey that started with teaching and consulting and coaching, and over the last five years, I’ve taught thousands of students marketing strategy, but I didn’t find that the textbooks that I was reading and using were adequate based on the reality of marketing today. And to be honest with you, I didn’t want to write a textbook. but I wanted to have an experiential book that really encapsulated my experience as a corporate person, my experience as an entrepreneur, and my experience as a person who’s watching the world of marketing transform right before our eyes. And I took inspiration from the great Seth Godin and other people in this world, and I really created a modern-day book that brings not only together this idea of marketing. The way marketing should be, but more of this personal approach that I’ve been living by myself for the last five years where I’m bringing more of myself into my marketing, and that starts with my core values. So when I define the core values of candor, curiosity, and collaboration, in 2018, that was basically the seed that led me to this book, five years later. 

Adrian Tennant: Jay, why is purpose-driven thinking essential for brands today?

Jay Mandel: Well, I don’t know, um, if you ever have this feeling that, someone is disingenuous or some company is disingenuous or someone’s just taking from you, I get that feeling all the time. I feel like there are things that we are paying for that we would’ve never thought to pay for in the past. Like for example, the way tipping is these days is, a little bit out of control in, my mind. And I just got to thinking as a business, the burden of proof that you are in it with the customer that you are adding value is a lot different than what it was in the past. Where in the past, you’re like, “I sell a widget. It costs this much, and people will buy it.” But now, with almost every product there is today, people are looking for something more, and they’re doing a lot more research, and it’s much more helpful if you feel that the company that you’re working with is in it with you. So, you know, I don’t like cliche purpose, meaning the purpose that is manufactured like we’re going to be celebrating every made-up holiday. That’s not purpose. Purpose is more along the lines of, “This company was built for a reason, for a particular audience, and I’m going to tell a story that connects with what my audience wants and needs.” 

Adrian Tennant: Brand Strategy In Three Steps is organized into 10 chapters. The first of these is The Meaningful Marketing Mindset. Jay, how do you define meaningful marketing? 

Jay Mandel: Meaningful marketing is the feeling you get when you are making a difference. That’s the long and short of it. There are plenty of people that are in marketing that don’t really understand the difference between a strategy and a tactic. If you don’t understand the difference between a strategy and a tactic, you can’t do meaningful marketing. When you have an overarching purpose, and you are out there doing good in the world, and you feel good about it, then it’s meaningful. So you talked about the ten chapters of my book, and the way my book is organized is a lot different than a lot of other books in the world. I don’t even know if there is a book that exists. My premise for being a meaningful marketer is that you need to know who you are first. And so I told you that my core values exercise that I did in 2018 was a pivotal transformation in my life: Candor, curiosity, collaboration. Those values help me choose who I engage with, who I don’t engage with, what job I take, what job I don’t take, and what people to hire. And my belief is that those core values need to translate into a promise that you are going to make for yourself and for other people. And that’s the simple marketing promise:

My product is for people who believe ____,
I’ll focus on people who want ____, and
I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get ____.

That is Seth Godin‘s Simple Marketing Promise, and it is such a good, simple marketing promise that it helps me every time I start a project. When you’re a purposeful marketer, when you’re a meaningful marketer, you know what your customer believes. And when you know what your customer believes, you also know that they don’t believe that they want to buy from you. They believe that they need something in their life that maybe you have to offer. So my product is for people who believe that air conditioning is absolutely essential on a hot day. That’s a really important belief statement, but that’s not your product. That’s the answer. The answer is that they want to be comforted, they wanted to be cool. And when you say then, okay, my product is for people, believe, I’ll focus on people who want, then you could start to get into what your product offers and how you can help the person, to, achieve your purpose and their purpose.

Adrian Tennant: As you’ve mentioned, the five chapters which make up the first section of your book, explore identity, inviting readers to reflect on breaking down personal barriers and determining who they are as people and as professionals. Jay, why was it important to include this in the book? 

Jay Mandel: When I worked in corporate America, I felt like a little bit of a shell of myself, in many, cases. I always remember when I worked in corporate America that I would have to put on Twitter or Facebook or wherever I was posting that whatever I say and whatever I do is not the reflection of my company. And I always felt quite awkward about it. I felt like I wasn’t fully showing up. I felt like I was just a representative of the company. And I feel that times are shifting these days I feel like the social media landscape, the younger generations, the way that they engage, and the reality of the world that we live in today, it’s much harder to separate that. And what I realized is that the sterile way that a lot of corporations go about doing business is not the same way that you or I would post on social media when things happen in our lives. So if you start to think about these corporate settings, and they’re posting stuff, and it’s just a schedule, and they’re saying, “Okay, well, today’s National Ice Cream Day and tomorrow’s National This Day.” What are you actually doing when you’re posting your content? So really, what I’m trying to do in this book is basically say, “You know what? You need to find a place to work where you can show up and not be afraid to be who you are. Then you need to be able to translate that fully showing up into something that will allow your corporate social media or your corporate communications or whatever it is you’re putting out into the world, to feel a lot more sincere than what a lot of the bigger legacy companies out there are doing.” Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of companies out there that are quite sophisticated and have really nailed the way of marketing, where it’s customer-focused, and you’re really adding value, and you’re not trying to sell, and you’re really following a modern-day buyer’s journey. But, there are so many companies out there that really are just talking to themselves, and no one cares. So that’s really what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to bridge the gap of being an individual, being a person, being a person who has a personality and an opinion, and being able to share that opinion in whatever setting you choose to work in. 

Adrian Tennant: In the second chapter, you write about how marketers’ empathy and self-awareness can help us to understand our audiences. Could you give us an example drawn from your own experience? 

Jay Mandel: Absolutely. I’m working with a client right now, called Agile Brain. And Agile Brain is an assessment that helps people to understand emotions. And, the way it works is it’s a fast-moving assessment, and it goes so fast, and people are frustrated, “Why is it going so fast?” But the reality is that they don’t want you to think, they don’t want you to think about your answers. And when you don’t think about your answers, you get to the truth. As I’m doing my marketing strategy for this client, I can’t help but think about my life and my son and the experiences I have with my son to really get to know who he is and, understand him. He has ADD, and Autism, and that work is literally making my life better. When I do the work for Agile Brain, I am literally inserting myself in a way that is purely empathetic to the people that are struggling in this world that don’t really understand how emotions affect them. And I literally think of my son. And I think of all the other people in the world, you, me, everyone who is post-pandemic, you know, still trying to figure out what life in 2023 looks like. And I’m able to do that because I showed up to this company as myself. They hired me because they wanted me and what I had to offer, and the way I presented myself. And then I’m able to really bring that empathy into every conversation I have. So not only do I do better work for this client, we can have fun doing it as well. And we could really deliver work that could change the world. But if you go into upsetting and you are just saying, “I’m just doing a money grab here, and I’m just going to take this,” usually it doesn’t work out. People can sense it, they could smell it, that you’re looking to make money. When I needed to make money the most, in the early part of my entrepreneurial career, I was unable to sell. The reason I was unable to sell was because I didn’t have the confidence, I didn’t have the methodology, I didn’t have the experience, and I didn’t believe in myself enough to really, command the sales conversation. But now that I have taken the time to do the work on myself, I’ve taken the time to really do the work to understand who it is that I could potentially get into business with, and I have a standardized, repeatable methodology that could be customized based on who I’m engaging with, which is basically the book. Now I have the confidence that no matter what situation is put at me, I’m going to understand myself, and I’m going to understand my client, and I’m going to understand my audience because I’m going to do the work, and I’m not going to rely on cheap tactics to convey the message. 

Adrian Tennant: As you’ve mentioned a couple of times, to achieve long-term brand growth, you believe marketers need a clear understanding of the difference between strategy and tactics. Do you have an example that you think helps differentiate the two? 

Jay Mandel: Yeah. there was a Marketoonist cartoon, that I always use in class, and the cartoon says, “So what are we doing?” “We’re going to do Facebook, we’re going to do YouTube, we’re going to do Instagram.” And then the person says, “So what are we doing on those channels?” And then they say, “I don’t know. I’m going to figure it out later.” A lot of people say that strategy is, “I’m going to do Facebook, strategy is “I’m going to do Twitter,” strategy is, “I’m going to do Instagram,” or strategy is, “I’m going to do an event.” No, those are tactics. A strategy is an overarching approach, a vision that leads you to a place. And there’s this thing that I use that’s from this guy named Julian Cole, who is an internet strategy person that I follow, and he calls it the Nesting Doll Strategy. And basically, what the Nesting Doll Strategy does is – it’s like a target. And on the outside of the target, it talks about, “What is in it for the customer?” And then you’re able to figure out how you, as a brand, by doing what you do, deliver value specifically to that customer. And so with any project that I’m working on, I really try and deconstruct the project to look at it from the perspective of if this strategy is effective, what place are we going to take the customer from and to? And then as a result of taking the customer from that place to that place, then the money comes in, then the adoption comes in, then all that stuff comes in. But it’s more of a customer-first strategy when you think about helping people to achieve something remarkable. And then you profit as a result of that help. That’s strategy. 

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

Each month in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, the Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in consumer research, retail, and branding. Our featured book for July is Brand Strategy in Three Steps: A Purpose-Driven Approach to Branding by Jay Mandel. The book walks readers through a new way to build a meaningful and authentic brand strategy focused on identity, intention, and implementation. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 25% on a print or electronic version of this month’s featured book by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all Kogan Page products and pre-orders and applies to their free paperback and e-book bundle offer. Shipping is always free to the US and UK when you order direct from Kogan Page, and it helps the authors too. So to order your copy of Brand Strategy In Three Steps, go to

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jay Mandel, the author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Brand Strategy In Three Steps, A Purpose-Driven Approach to Branding. In chapter six, you write about Edward Bernays, often referred to as “the father of public relations,” and you described the four elements Bernays felt were essential for creating a successful brand. Now, Bernays was active in the early and middle years of the last century. How can contemporary brands apply these elements, especially in today’s digitally-driven marketing landscape?

Jay Mandel: Well, what Bernays did, you know, was not stuff that we would be proud of today. He used symbolism and really took products that were not necessarily good for people, like, for example, cigarettes. And he literally did his research and really determined the root cause of why cigarettes were not selling, men versus women having cigarettes, et cetera. And he did this event where he – I think it was the Easter Parade – and he created these things called torches of freedom. If you look at modern-day marketing and you look at the stuff that you’re seeing on TikTok, and you look at the way that people are using these psychological details, the reality is, as I studied Bernays, I realized that nothing has changed in the way we market. You know, it’s really understanding your audience. It’s creating a movement. It’s creating symbolism. So a lot of the things that I did, based on my experience, reading about Bernays, talking about Bernays, I don’t care that he was a PR guy versus a marketing guy. The idea of understanding your audience and creating a movement and really, you know, helping people to participate in the movement, which will lead to an increase in adoption of the product. That’s all he was talking about. And so that’s why I found it important to include. in the book. 

Adrian Tennant: You suggest that one role of an agency is to create tension between stakeholders and team members. Jay, can you unpack this for us? 

Jay Mandel: Sometimes, when I worked with agencies in the past, I felt like I was the smartest person in the room. Sometimes when I worked at agencies, I felt like I wasn’t at all. And there were these strategists that were in there, and they were looking at the work that we were doing from a perspective that was just leaps and bounds beyond what anyone could see or believe. And as a corporate person in the corporate world, we are so stuck and bogged down with stuff that doesn’t really help a consumer to understand anything better. As a corporate guy, I was constantly partnering with legal, constantly partnering with all these people. It was too much reality to be effective at times. And so what I look for the agency to do is to suspend reality and to be so effective and believe in it so much that it causes the clients to also suspend reality a little bit and deliver something that truly, can achieve, meaning, for the customer, the client, for everyone. And so those are the best agencies that I’ve worked with, and that’s what I try and do. When I do work with clients, I really try and get them into a space that is just a little unsafe compared to the box of where they work, just to imagine what the possibilities could be.

Adrian Tennant: To what extent did you reflect your own experiences and those of your clients at Your Brand Coach in planning and writing your book?

Jay Mandel: Well, the book includes The Yanovsky Method, and it’s sort of funny that I call it The Yanovsky Method because I’m really acting like a marketer. I literally invented The Yanovsky Method. One day, I’m like, “Wow, the outline that I use for all my clients is the work of my partner, Jon Yanovsky. And it’s good, and I want to include it in the book.” So I created The Yanovsky Method, and that’s the way we do market research that leads us to an insight and leads us to a strategy. And the work that I do for Your Brand Coach is literally what the book is about. So if I’m working with a client, whether it’s an individual or a company, I always start with the core values. Then I always do the simple marketing promise. Then, depending on the depth of what the client needs, then I start to dive into thorough competitive analysis marketing, analysis of who they are, what they do, how they speak, and what their tone is. And that’s all in the book. And when I taught it, over the years, which is part of my career, I realized where people’s eyes glossed over, I realized where people, got perked up. And so that sort of iteration and refinement of my approach and perspective is very much alive in that, in the book. And by the way, it’s a movement. So I know that, you know, at the end of the book, my movement is exactly what we’re talking about here. It’s about being a meaningful marketer. That’s what I wrote this book for. I wrote the book to give people permission to show up fully to marketing and give people the tools that I have found to be very effective that basically make it really difficult to separate yourself out from your work. 

Adrian Tennant: In addition to working with clients, you teach students about marketing. What advice would you give to more seasoned creative and communications professionals, whether agency- or client-side, who want to make a greater impact with their work?

Jay Mandel: Well, the advice I would give you is to get out of your comfort zone. You know, I was that person that was scheduled to be with a bunch of middle-aged and older people for the rest of my career and, not question that, not question anything about the diversity and the perspectives of the people that I was engaging with until I defined those values. Now, as a professor who’s taught at several universities, I’ve experienced so many things that are just above and beyond anything that I ever thought I would experience. So I think that it’s incumbent for marketers to do exactly what we’re doing right now, which is to talk to other marketers but to talk to other marketers that are outside of your comfort zone. I was teaching segmentation in a university class, and I mentioned this in the book, and I said, “So let’s segment – who is he? Who is she?” And the person in my class said, “It’s not a he. It’s not a she. It’s a guy that doesn’t know, and he wants to wear the lip balm,” and that was a really humbling experience to sort of look at my perspective of how I was teaching segmentation and realize that with all the changes in how our society is acting and behaving and all the sort of way that we share these days, it’s fluid. It’s much more fluid than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. So how can I reflect that in my work? Well, it just becomes second nature when I’m sitting with 10 students last night for three hours in a conference room, solving a big problem in a way that I wouldn’t have solved it had I just been in a corporate office setting. So my advice to a seasoned marketer is get up, get out, talk to people, get uncomfortable, and also share your perspectives. As a coach, my, advice is that you know, you’re not going to get a job or another job. There are plenty of people that are out of work in marketing these days that are very talented, creative people, okay. And those creative people are not going to get a job by going on a job board and just applying, because there’s just so much in the way of that. The way that seasoned professionals get a job these days is to network, and it’s not networking when you need a job. It’s networking when you don’t need a job as well, so that when the time comes and you need the job, you don’t have to make that awkward conversation that’s like, “Oh, hey, can you help me get a job?”. No, that’s not what you talk about. What you talk about is, “Hey, I have something valuable to share with the world. I’m going to post it on LinkedIn. I’m going to post it on Substack, I’m going to post it to the world. I have a content calendar, I have an editorial voice. I’m doing all the things that I would do if I were a client or if I were your agency. And I’m going to demonstrate to you that I’m adding value. And when you see that on a regular basis, then you contact me when you need me.” But as a marketer these days, I’ve done a lot of thinking about like cold outreach, and I think in our world of a services business, I think that cold outreach is incredibly difficult to do. And I think there’s a lack of trust, but there isn’t a lack of trust when someone introduces you to someone they know and says, “Jay is the guy to take you from where you are to where you need to be.” And how does that happen? That happens from constantly showing up and always being open to whatever it is that the world may give you on any given day, and keeping up with people and showing genuine interest. And when they experience that, and they’re part of your circle, they’ll just call you and say, “Okay, now it’s time. I have some work to do. Let’s do it.” So that’s the advice. Always be aware that your work and your livelihood can change, especially in this industry. Most people that I know in the world of marketing have had many, many, many jobs. You always need to be aware that you could be on the market, and you need to pave your way. So I went extreme, and I created all this new life for me, and I created a diversified career with teaching, coaching, consulting, and every day is different, but, you could do that with side hustles as well to be an insurance policy in the event that something unpredictable happens in, your world. 

Adrian Tennant: What do you hope readers will take away from Brand Strategy In Three Steps

Jay Mandel: I hope that people will take away core values. And when I say core values, I’ve talked to many people who have read the book already, and then they’re like, “Oh, you really wanted me to create core values?” Well, yeah, I did. So, I’m giving an open invitation to anyone who listens to this podcast. If you read the book and you put forth a good effort in trying to define those core values, but you find yourself stuck, or you find that you want to review those core values with me, just LinkedIn message me or message me on my website, and let’s talk about them and how I could challenge you in a way that will force you to do a more effective job at your core values than if you were to just do it alone while reading the book. So what do I want people to take away? I want them to take away that everything that’s in the book is stuff that I did, and it was difficult for four years. It’s still difficult in my career, but I am at an inflection point right now with my career in life, and I am ready to take on what’s next, and this book represents that methodology. and if I could do that and start with my core values and then make a simple marketing promise to myself, then create a book like I did. So can you. So my message to you is, I want you to believe that you could do more than what your, job, which might be, “I am just a social media expert”. No, you’re more than that. You are doing meaningful marketing, and sometimes you’re going to need to connect the dots between, you know, what your assignment is and what the bigger mandate of the marketing is. 

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you and Your Brand Coach, what’s the best way to connect with you? 

Jay Mandel: The best way to connect with me is on my website, There is a free consultation link. You could click it, and I’d be happy to meet with you and talk about your core values or whatever it may be. But I live on LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn. I am, publishing on LinkedIn daily. I’m engaging with people and so if you just message me on LinkedIn with a thoughtful message, just saying, “Hey, I read your book,” which is better than a lot of the messages saying, “Hey, do you need a new assistant in the Philippines to help you?” It’s like, “No, I don’t, I have enough of those inquiries!” So you know, if you write a thoughtful message to me, I’d be more than happy to respond and engage and help you. 

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to read Jay’s book, Brand Strategy In Three Steps, as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you’ll receive a 25 percent discount when you purchase a print or electronic version online at Just enter the promo code BIGEYE25 at the checkout. Jay, thank you very much indeed for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Jay Mandel: Thank you for having me. This was a true pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Jay Mandel of Your Brand Coach and the author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Brand Strategy In Three Steps. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at – just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. Thank you again for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye. 

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