If you’re like me, you’ve long been confused by celebrity endorsements. Surely, no reasonable person is sitting in front of their TV thinking “I’m going to drink Pepsi because Beyonce does.”

So why do they do it?

Turns out, it’s about emotion. Companies want you to transfer the positive emotions you feel toward a musician or an athlete an associate it with their shoe or soft drink. They’re not selling you a product. They’re selling you an experience.

And according to Fargo marketing expert and MSPIRE CEO Amanda McKinnon, this approach to branding should be the same whether you’re Coca-Cola or the morn-and-pop down the street.

We recently spoke with the industry veteran about what “brand” means to her and how she approaches the branding process with her own clients. We even had her walk us through a couple of real-life examples.

Q: There are few words in the business world as ambiguous as “brand.” What does that word mean to you?

A: “I really feel that branding is the feeling that someone gets from your business. It also means recognition when you’re ultimately doing it well. Branding can have its negative site, too, depending on what’s going on with the company. And that’s where I think it is so much more than a logo. I’ll talk to people about branding and they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got my logo, my business cards, my stationery.’ And I’m like, ‘No, no it is so much bigger than that.’

Q: With how much branding has changed in the last 10-15 years, do you think it’s been good for companies?

I think so, yeah. I feel like people expect more and are a lot more educated with the digital world that we have now. There is so much information that people can find out about you before they even meet you. Brands need to be held more accountable for what they’re doing.

Q: You mentioned something about a “front stage-back stage” approach to branding. What does that mean?

It’s something the Disney Institute talks about. And how they should really be no different. how you are in the break room should be no different than how you are in front of customers. Because it’s hard to make that transition quickly. You go on a 15 minute break and you’re whatever conversation you’re having and then you’re like, ‘Oh hello, Mary Sue, welcome to your appointment.

They talk about Snow White smoking or having a piece of gum and then heading to hang out with the kids. The front stage and back stage should blend and be positive.

Another thing I tell a lot of clients when I start working with them, ‘You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing, advertising, and branding, but if you are not working well internally, it’s not going to matter. You need to be working in tandem.’

Q: When a company first comes to you for either branding or rebranding advice what’s the first step you take with them?

I absolutely always sit down with them and just have a really free-flowing conversation. .I like to get the vibe of them just talking versus: question-answer, question-answer.

Then I have a specific questionnaire that I send to them and I say, ‘I want you to sit down with a clear head and go through it.’ And it really just helps me get inside of their brain. For example, I’m working with a gal who’s opening an international apparel company and while I ws designing her logo I was listening to her favorite playlist. I just wanted to get into her headspace and what she listens to when she’s in her creative mind.

Q: You say that one of the ways your approach to marketing is different is in the way you speak and interact with your clients. Can you elaborate on that?

One of the things I’ve felt over the ;years with marketing people is that a lot of them are so focused on marketing being cool and we have to use marketing speak. But I think, ‘Let’s just talk like people.’ We don’t need acronyms. We’re confusing our own customers trying to look smarter.

One thing si often find is that there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen so there are a lot of opinions and decision-makers. I was working on a project with a client a couple weeks ago and they kept wanting to change things I just said, ‘You guys are looking old and you’re not old. Let’s not do that.’ And that’s how I talk to my clients and it seems to be working. I’m open.

Q: You’ve been around long enough to really see first-hand how things have changed as our world has moved more from the brick and mortar to digital. How has that changed your approach to branding?

For me, it’s that you’re always having to stay on top of what is out there about you. It’s just so important. People are constantly putting stuff out there on the internet and then you have social media which is a whole ‘nother beast.

Social media management, that’s a full-time job. I manage social media accounts for some clients and my phone is constantly dinging. Because I need to stay on top of it. If a message is sent to their business page or a post happens, I need to make sure that we’re staying on top of it.