Laurel’s agency, Pearl Consulting NYC specializes in authentic brand strategy and messaging for purpose-driven clients. 

In the latest episode of SMarketPlace™, we had the pleasure of talking with Laurel Carpenter, the brilliant co-founder of Pearl Consulting NYC. With her deep expertise in brand strategy and copywriting, Laurel helps purpose-driven entrepreneurs find their unique voice. This is Laurel’s second appearance on our podcast and it was so great to have her back! She talks with us about her journey as an entrepreneur. She emphasizes the importance of customer-centric and authentic brand messaging, adaptability in branding, and the harmony between visual and verbal branding. 

Pearl Consulting NYC, co-founded by Laurel and Charles Herold, specializes in crafting authentic brand strategies and messaging. The synergy between Laurel and Charles is the secret sauce behind their success. Charles, a former New York Times writer, brings a treasure trove of experience in storytelling and content creation to the table, alongside handling much of the business operations. His journalism background enriches Pearl Consulting’s approach to creating compelling brand narratives. Together, they have successfully pivoted in response to market changes, always putting customer-centric and authentic messaging at the forefront. 

And of course, what about rock ‘n roll? Laurel’s passion for rock and roll is a metaphor for her own creativity in brand strategy and messaging. Her journey through music, from early concert experiences to exploring new artists, reflects the adaptability and innovation she brings to her projects. Later in our conversation, we dive into how her love for music influences her branding work, showcasing her unique approach to creating vibrant and engaging brand identities.

Key Takeaways About Authentic Brand Messaging

  • Customer-Centric Messaging: Prioritize listening to and integrating customer feedback.
  • Authenticity: Authentic messaging builds stronger connections and fosters trust.
  • Adaptability: Stay open to market shifts and refine strategies accordingly.
  • Visual and Verbal Harmony: Ensure a cohesive brand experience by aligning visual elements with messaging.

From Academic to Relatable: A Psychotherapy Practice’s Transformation

Laurel shared an inspiring story about a psychotherapy practice that struggled with its brand messaging. The practice’s website was laden with academic jargon, reflecting the founder’s impressive PhD credentials. While this showcased their expertise, it failed to emotionally connect with potential clients.

Laurel’s empathetic approach made all the difference. By attentively listening to client feedback, she identified a crucial gap: the academic tone was intimidating. “Clients felt the language was too clinical and distant,” Laurel explained. “They wanted to feel understood and connected, not overwhelmed by jargon.” 

By transforming the messaging to be more conversational and relatable, and introducing the new tagline, “Real Therapy for Real People,” Laurel helped the practice resonate deeply with its audience.

Journey and Evolution: From Blogging to Brand Strategy

Since its inception, Pearl Consulting NYC, guided by Laurel and Charles, has evolved from traditional blogging to strategic brand messaging. This shift was driven by changing market demands and the need for authentic, customer-centric messaging.

Initially, Pearl Consulting focused on blog writing services. However, Laurel noticed a growing demand for strategic branding and messaging services, which proved to be more lucrative. “We found that in the blogging market, the pricing and opportunities were not the same post-pandemic and with the advent of AI,” she explained. This realization prompted them to pivot their business model.

Now, Pearl Consulting delivers impactful and authentic messaging for their clients, underscoring the importance of resilience and a keen focus on customer feedback. As your business grows, your messaging must evolve too.

Customer-Centric and Authentic Brand Messaging: Emphasizing the Role of Customer Feedback

Effective brand messaging begins with understanding your audience. For Laurel, prioritizing customer feedback is key. “Listening to your customers is not a one-time activity; it’s an ongoing process,” she notes.

A notable success story involves a small law firm transitioning from its long-time founder to a new partner. The founder’s messaging emphasized being a “good neighbor,” but the new partner wanted a more rebellious, crypto-focused approach. The challenge was balancing these styles while maintaining team coherence.

Laurel facilitated this transition by engaging deeply with the firm’s clients. “Clients appreciated the personal touch of the founder but were intrigued by the new direction,” she explained. By incorporating feedback, she helped the firm develop messaging that respected its heritage while embracing new opportunities. This involved blending the “citizen” archetype with a touch of the “rebel,” resulting in a brand voice that was both familiar and forward-thinking.

“Using customer language is crucial… sometimes we need someone outside of ourselves to reflect our own genius and our greatness. ” Laurel emphasizes. When customers see their own words and thoughts in your messaging, it creates an instant connection. This practice builds trust and familiarity. Customer-centric messaging also fosters loyalty, as customers are more likely to engage with a brand that listens and understands them. Authenticity in messaging builds a foundation for long-term relationships.

Adaptability and Innovative Approaches in Branding

A recent example of adaptability in branding is Laurel’s work with a private language immersion school. Initially, the school’s messaging was very academic and formal, which did not resonate with prospective parents seeking a more community-focused atmosphere. Laurel’s task was to refine the messaging to better reflect the school’s welcoming and supportive environment.

“Parents felt that the language used in the school’s materials was too detached and didn’t capture the nurturing community they experienced,” Laurel explained. By conducting focus groups and interviews with parents, Laurel gathered valuable feedback that reshaped the school’s messaging. This new approach highlighted personal experiences and success stories of students, making the messaging more relatable and engaging.

Laurel believes brands must be willing to pivot and refine their strategies to stay relevant. Integrating customer feedback into the branding process is essential. “When you listen to your audience and adapt accordingly, you create a brand that feels authentic and dynamic,” Laurel says. By staying open to feedback and being willing to iterate, brands can navigate market shifts effectively and maintain their relevance.

Laurel also highlights the importance of integrating modern tools and methodologies in branding. Her firm uses a blend of traditional research and innovative techniques to stay ahead of market trends. “Adapting your messaging isn’t just about reacting to trends; it’s about anticipating needs and staying ahead of the curve,” Laurel notes.

Harmonizing Visual and Verbal Branding

Effective branding requires harmony between visual elements and expertly crafted copywriting. Laurel’s approach emphasizes this balance, ensuring that a brand’s visual identity aligns with its verbal messaging. This synergy creates a cohesive and compelling brand experience.

A recent example of Laurel’s expertise involved her work with a fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The CMO’s messaging initially leaned heavily on her corporate background, resulting in a tone that was formal and stiff. However, the CMO had a great sense of humor and a light-hearted energy that was not reflected in her brand’s visuals and copy.

“Her corporate messaging didn’t reflect her unique personality and approach,” Laurel explained. By integrating feedback from clients and understanding the CMO’s true personality, Laurel helped transform both the visual and verbal elements of the brand. The new messaging was more engaging and authentic, highlighting the CMO’s expertise and her approachable demeanor. This transformation ensured that the visuals and the copy worked together to present a unified brand identity.

Laurel emphasizes the importance of collaboration between copywriters and designers. “These days, my preferred model is actually to start the project with my partner Charlie Burch from Humanize Collective, who is a web designer and visual designer,” she explained. “We are aligned on the archetype approach and developing a brand new assessment process together, so we can start from the beginning with clients and lay out that identity right out of the gate.”

During the interview, Tom asked Laurel about the process of creating a unique voice for a client and how it integrates with visual branding. “Is it a lot of dialogue with them? Is it researching their websites and anything that they published?” Tom inquired.

Laurel responded, “Our process actually starts with a brand persona quiz to get a baseline of what three archetypes seem like your values. From there, we have a lot of conversation with the client about what resonated for them and what doesn’t. We also dive deep into their website, look at client testimonials, LinkedIn profiles, and all their social media to ensure consistency across messaging. It’s a combination of dialogue, research, and iterative feedback.”

Laurel highlights that aligning visual elements with the right words can create a powerful brand message that resonates deeply with the audience. By working closely with visual designers, Laurel ensures that every aspect of the brand, from logos to website design, supports the brand’s overall message.

This approach enhances the brand’s appeal and builds trust and recognition. When the visual and verbal elements of a brand are in sync, it creates a consistent experience for the audience, reinforcing the brand’s identity at every touchpoint.

Laurel Carpenter’s Rock and Roll Journey: Music Meets Branding

Laurel’s passion and diversity in tastes for rock and roll provide an apt metaphor for the creativity in brand strategy and messaging she brings to her professional life. One of our favorite parts of SMarketPlace is when people begin to talk about their music experience. For so many of us, that has been a rock ‘n roll experience and people light up as we explore their story.. Laurel is no exception. Her journey through the lens of music, from early concert experiences to exploring new artists in NYC and New England, well reflects the creativity, adaptability and innovation she brings to her client work. 

Laurel’s first concert was Bryan Adams in the early 1980s, an event that sparked her love for live music. “Growing up in upstate New York and Burlington, Vermont, music was a big part of my social life,” Laurel recalls. This foundation set the stage for memorable concert experiences, including a standout moment at a U2 concert during their Joshua Tree tour. “We managed to get onto the floor, and the energy was just electric,” she shares.

Her musical tastes have evolved over the years, from the Grateful Dead to contemporary acts like Alabama Shakes and Beyoncé. Laurel’s appreciation for different music styles mirrors her approach to branding – versatile and always open to new influences. However, she admits, “I’m not a huge fan of the Dead and Co thing. It’s just not the same for me as it was back in the day with Jerry Garcia.”

In contrast, our cohost, Tom Dempsey is a big fan of Dead and Co, having just returned from Las Vegas where he saw them in residency at The Sphere. This diversity in musical preference and the discussion of preferences of a creative product echoes her approach to branding – understanding different perspectives to create inclusive communication strategies. 

Reflecting on her experience seeing the Rolling Stones, Laurel said, “I did see the Rolling Stones too, by the way, Keith.” This was a nod to our backstage conversation in the studio about Keith’s adventures to see them this summer. This shared enthusiasm for legendary bands defines the power of the connection a shared experience can have – whether it is a brand, or a band..

Laurel’s engagement with music parallels her work in branding, where she emphasizes authenticity and emotional connection. “A good brand message, like a good song, should evoke emotion and connect with people on a personal level,” she explains.

Her rock and roll journey also underscores her approach to adaptability, a crucial element in her branding philosophy. “Music is always evolving, and artists who stay relevant are those who innovate and adapt,” she says. This perspective is echoed in her approach to branding, where she encourages clients to stay attuned to market trends and continuously refine their messaging. And be ready to pivot, as she and Charles have done. 

Laurel’s rock and roll journey speaks to the power of creativity, authenticity, and adaptability in her work and life. Drawing parallels between music and branding, we can see she and Charles bring a unique and dynamic perspective to their work, helping people create brands that resonate with their customer audiences in meaningful ways.

Authentic: Crafting a Cohesive Brand For Enduring Success

As a business owner or executive, your journey to effective branding and consistent messaging is anchored in your authenticity, adaptability, and the harmony between visual and verbal elements. Laurel and Charles’ integrated approach to developing brand messaging for clients at Pearl Consulting exemplifies these principles she spoke of with us last week. 

Laurel’s emphasis on the importance of listening to your customer audience and infusing it in all you do is the key to cohesion necessary for branding to truly be successful, as  she demonstrated with the psychotherapy practice. 

Integrating client feedback to create relatable and engaging messages transforms a brand’s connection with a business’ customers so people have a better experience. “When you listen to your audience and adapt accordingly, you create a brand that feels authentic and dynamic,” she notes.

It was great to dig in on branding and messaging with Laurel Carpenter’s insights reveal that successful branding is not a static achievement but a dynamic process of continuous improvement and alignment. 

By going through her methodology and integrating customer feedback, staying adaptable, and harmonizing the visual and verbal elements of a brand, business owners and executives can build strong, lasting connections with their customer audiences. 

Thank you, Laurel for showcasing your artistry and the strategy involved in crafting a cohesive, enduring brand that stands out in a crowded market. Hope to have you on again soon. 

Some quotes have been edited or paraphrased to improve the storytelling. You may request the full transcript here.

Watch the Full Interview

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