The Interview Series

Mike Troiano

Our next guest is Mike Troiano, a venture capitalist who is ranked in the top 1% of the most influential people on Twitter. With nearly 25 years of experience in executive leadership and marketing, Mike has an impressive track record of growing and expanding businesses.
Key ingredients for brand positioning?

Brand positioning starts with clearly articulating your value proposition to the customer. To do that, I use a framework that first drives the team toward consensus on 6 ingredients:

  • Target – actionable universe of buyers
  • Segment – key, predisposing attribute
    brand – a name you call yourself
  • Category – a competitive frame for the buyer
  • Distinction – what makes you unique
  • Proof – perceived evidence of truth

Once you have the ingredients, you can string them together into a sentence like this:

For target who are segment, brand provides the category with distinction because of proof.

You can articulate the value proposition for anything using this framework. For example:

For drivers who value automotive performance, BMW provides luxury vehicles that deliver joy through German engineering.

Skilled creative people can turn that into marketing communications, like this. That’s how it works.

How important is creative when telling a story?
There are many kinds of creativity. The kind that manufactures frilly artifice by the gallon is decidedly unhelpful in this application. The kind of that’s essential in storytelling (and positioning) is the incisive kind, the kind that can synthesize complex ideas into simple narratives. It takes real creativity to first see through all the bullshit we surround ourselves with to the truth of why a product matters, then captures that by telling a story well enough to be heard, good enough to remember, and simple enough for your audience to pass along themselves.
Current state of creative in B2B from your point of view?

Abysmal. We’ve raised a generation of “Growth Hackers” who think Marketing is just Math. It’s not.

The distinction between “B2B” and “B2C” is often part of the problem. Companies don’t buy anything. People, within companies, buy things. And those people don’t magically turn from “Bs” to “Cs” on their evening commute. They’re people, all day, and we should talk to them like it.



Favorite brand and why?
It’s a cliche, but Patagonia. They have clarity about why they exist, what they make, how they want to make it. They really live their brand narrative… it’s not a facade painted on for purposes of customer acquisition. I have such respect for what they do, always happy to pay a premium in support of it. That they make the best stuff is a useful by product.
Future of marketing events and conferences (virtual vs On-site)?
We’ll go back to live, and sooner than people expect. Working from our homes is one thing, and I do think that will continue. But all the more reason for a boondoggle to San Francisco or wherever, to meet people, build relationships, and engage in face-to-face dialogue.
Bonus question: Favorite movie and why?

This is a tie for me, between The Godfather, and Cinema Paradiso.

The former explains how the world works, on the back of relationships, reciprocity, power, passion, and family. The latter is about what makes life worth living… Love, art, friendship.

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