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Last night, we welcomed over 40 people to our home at Colony Square for the quarterly Southeast Magento Meetup. Judging by the energy in the room, everyone was excited to hear from our two honored guest speakers, Eric Yonge from EYStudios and Ben Marks, official Magento Evangelist, speak about branding and all things Magento.

We first heard from Eric, a fellow Atlantan, whose company EYStudios just celebrated their 12 year anniversary the night before (congrats Eric and team!). If you didn’t get to attend the meetup last night, here’s what you missed from Eric’s presentation:

“Developing an Online Brand Strategy that Will Delight Customers and Destroy the Competition”


What is branding? Of all the things people think it is, branding is not your logo, color scheme, graphics, products, services, or even what you say it is. Your brand is what customers say you are. If your customers say you’re sloppy and slow, then you are!

Essentially, your brand is everything that differentiates you from others in the hearts and minds of your customers. Everyone says that their price, quality, and service can’t be beat, so what’s that thing that helps you crush your competition? It’s all about experience. How your customers experience your brand can separate you from your competition and give those customers a reason to come back.

To find what makes you different, think about your company’s unique service and how you would communicate those differences wherever your customers encounter your brand (think omnichannel). For example, Apple’s retail stores are sleek, clean, and modern, and their website is an extension of that. Customers should experience that same iconic modern experience everywhere Apple’s brand is present in order to create a lasting experience.

How do you communicate your brand to people who have never even heard of you before? How do you convince them to give you a chance? If you’ve ever been in Whole Foods, you know it’s the “land of mysterious brands”, as Eric calls it. A company’s value can even be communicated through packaging and cause a shopper to identify with it and make a purchase. Drawing from his own experience, Eric described how his kids were drawn to a snack brand called Pirate’s Booty because of the humor it conveyed, and now it’s one of their favorite snacks.

One of EYStudios’ clients, LA Police Gear, wanted to convey the quality of the products they carry and establish trust through the branding of their website. With EYStudios’ help, their new site and branding matches the level of service and quality they provide.

Contrary to popular belief, your brand’s strategy is about the customer, not you. You can’t control your customers’ minds, but you can influence them. Essentially, your job is to be a brand influencer by having fun with your brand and delighting your customers. Eric firmly believes there needs to be more delight in eCommerce.

In order to influence customers to believe in your brand, you have to value authenticity over exaggeration. One of EYStudios’ clients, The Builder Depot, places great emphasis on the people that make up the company, not just their products. To give their site redesign an authentic touch, EYStudios helped them to feature their team on a well-designed “Meet the Team” page. Dyson, the vacuum brand, features James Dyson (inventor and founder of the company) in their ads because he genuinely cares about the product that he has made and that enthusiasm is infectious.

Another thing Dyson does well is position themselves distinctly against their competitors. One of their ads says “All others lose suction. Only Dyson Cinetic science doesn’t.” A good brand doesn’t just paint a picture of who they are. A good brand differentiates themselves from their competition.

Emotion, Eric says, trumps reason in eCommerce. Buying is an emotional experience, and losing emotion in your brand can mean losing your customers. Customers are looking for brands they can connect to on an emotional level. While a lot of brands gravitate toward becoming more minimalistic, people are looking for personality in the brands they align themselves with. Rational content doesn’t connect as well as emotional content, so be intentional with what you put out for your customers to see. Ranger Up, a veteran-owned clothing company, creates an emotional experience through their unapologetic approach to life and the content they produce across their marketing channels, and their fans love them for it.

Your experience and expertise goes much further than “here’s our stuff; buy it.” Another EYStudios client, ShopWildThings, often features videos hosted by their Vice President Katie Henderson who is extremely knowledgeable in their product and has established trust with their clients because of it.

Eric talked about branding at the Magento Meetup because he said he loves Magento and is inspired by the authentic brand they’ve created. He left us with some final advice: “Make time for your brand — it’s all you’ve got! Be proud of it and show it off as if it was an expensive car you’re riding around town.”


Q&A Session with Ben Marks


IMG_9980Next up was Ben Marks, the official Magento Evangelist (and yes, that’s his official title) who was donning a bright orange Magento cape given to him before the meetup started. Continuing Eric’s thoughts on branding, he said that a brand is most powerful when people invest time into it, especially people outside of the company, and this has undoubtedly contributed to Magento’s success as a brand.

During the Q&A with Ben, we learned some interesting things including:

Q1: There’s no clear consensus on whether or not he would fight ten duck-sized Ben Marks’ or one Ben Marks-sized duck. We’re still working to determine this.

Q2: When asked about the history of Magento, Ben says that the groundwork for the company was started when Roy Rubin and Yoav Kutner set out to start a small web agency (which turned into a company called Varien). They were working with OS Commerce, but they ran into a major challenge: As they took on bigger and bigger clients, the tools they were using didn’t fit their needs. Rubin and Kutner began developing what they hoped would be the biggest eCommerce application, and with $50 billion in goods moving across the platform every year, it’s safe to say they did just that.

In 2008, they released Magento to the public, and word of the new platform spread quickly. Soon, large businesses were using Magento as their eCommerce platform, and it was suggested that they monetize it with an enterprise edition.

In the early days, Magento survived the lack of documentation for the product because the community was so supportive and stepped in to fill gaps. In 2011, Ben was hired to do product training, and the sessions were quickly embraced by the community. I mean, just watch this video on The Benefits of Attending an Instructor-Led Magento Development Course. Ebay acquired Magento that year, which meant there would be an even greater focus on enterprise. This, of course, created backlash from the core Magento community.

Q3: Ben moved into the role of Magento Evangelist in 2014, though he says he’s probably “the world’s worst evangelist” because he’s honest with people when he knows Magento isn’t the right platform for their business (if they, for example, only have one product offering).

Q4: Regarding efforts to improve integrations for Magento 2, Ben says that the platform was built with the assumption that people will need to change, and integrations are imperative to making that happen. Currently, the average store on Magento has approximately 18 extensions running on their site.

Integrations are the bread and butter of the platform, and the new Magento Marketplace will reflect this. There’s now a rigorous approval process to ensure that extensions in the Marketplace are not plagiarized and are high quality so merchants can easily find integrations they can trust. According to Ben, “If we build Marketplace like we should, people won’t need to get extensions from anywhere else.”

By November 2018, Magento 2 will be the only supported version. With the second edition, Magento is working on an improved developer experience and the framework’s robustness. Someone asked if Magento is intentionally making M2 more enterprise focused instead of small business, and according to Ben, that while it will take a certain caliber of developer to implement, they aren’t intentionally trying to leave anyone out. Because of the higher standards placed on M2, it probably won’t have the same rate of adoption with smaller stores.

Q5: When asked, “How do you convince a client who’s happily on Magento 1 to switch to Magento 2?”: Ben says that the new feature offerings is one of the biggest draws for M2. Right now, it hasn’t diverged much from Magento 1 but will over the next 6 months. One major reason to switch, however, is that Magento 1 will no longer be supported starting in November 2018. Merchants don’t want to be on an unsupported system, so more may be compelled to switch before 2018. Enterprise Cloud, announced this year at Magento Imagine, may become more compelling too since they are working on an offering for smaller businesses.

Notable shoutouts: Two notable shoutouts from Ben: “Alan Storm is a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon and a tireless steward of all things Magento” and “Sherrie Rohde is a community wizard,” which we could not agree more with.

Thanks to everyone who came out last night, and a special thanks to Reggie Black from Better Way Health for helping to bring everyone together. We can’t wait to see everyone back here at Colony Square on October 27th for the fall Southeast Magento Meetup! For more pictures from last night, follow us on Facebook.