AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising

One-Minute MarketerWhat Can Your Brand Learn from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper?”

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What Can Your Brand Learn from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper?”

Chip and Joanna Gaines have taken a simple remodeling show to a national trendsetting blockbuster. I even saw a man in Galena, Ill., with a Magnolia Farms t-shirt on — he was shopping in a shop carrying Joanna’s furniture.


Joanna’s line at Pier One

Their urban-farm look is changing how we all design our homes and how we talk about our homes’ interiors — did you know what ship-lap was before watching the show?

Is there anything we can all learn about branding from Chip and Joanna? Absolutely.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Consistency—Your catch phrases must be used consistently to be effective. Chip and Joanna always say, “Are you ready to see your fixer upper?” before the big reveal.
  • Innovate—You have to find products or processes that innovate and differentiate you from all the others. The Joanna look is now synonymous with hip country design. You can’t get that same feel if your brand is outdated like brass fixtures.
  • Tell a story—Each episode is a story from start to finish. There are stories inside the main plot making the show interesting and surprising. What is your brand story and the little stories inside the larger story?
  • Be Approachable—Too many times brands are unapproachable (that’s why you need logo cops and brand managers), but the it’s not the fonts that feel real, it’s the overall look and feel of the show and the design. It’s friendly and fun. The fun makes you want to get close and embrace their brand.
  • Humanize the brand—Chip and Joanna are stars, but they also bring in so many other people into the story that it starts to feel like a family of stars. You can also see the humanizing effect of Joanna’s designs in the houses.
  • Have fun with your brand—Chip and Joanna appear like real people by showing outtakes, bringing their kids into the storyline, and adopting a casual, comfortable lighthearted style. We all get very serious around our brands, and we forget the value of a smile or the fun you can have with a brand. Google changes their logo font every day and it doesn’t seem to hurt their brand.

Written by:

Mark wrote his first direct-mail fundraising letter in 1981 for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. The effort raised a few million dollars in undiscovered wills and legacy gifts. From that day forward Mark discovered a love of the big idea that moves the needle. After 12 years at KWWL, Mark became a business owner as a co-founder of ME&V — rebranded as AMPERAGE in 2015. After 25 years of leading creative teams in video production, graphic design, PR, writing and web development, Mark transitioned out of ownership in 2021. Today he serves in an employee role as special projects consultant. He is creatively ambidextrous — son of an artist and engineer — and famous for distilling complex ideas down to a few words and a few visuals. Mark is a writer. When he found that many nonprofits struggled with complex branding puzzles, he wrote the book, “NonProfit-NonMarketing .” He also wrote a novel called “Reenactment.” Mark is an active blogger OneMinuteMarketer® with nearly 1,000 readers each week on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. One of his most popular YouTube videos is on “How to Look Good on Zoom.” One of Mark’s fondest business memories was being named to INC 500 two times and attending the INC 500 conference with other winners. Mark is considered by some a Civil War expert (and that explains his novel). Mark also served as an adjunct professor in the business and in the communications departments at Wartburg College. Mark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is currently vice president of the University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board. Mark is married to state Sen. Liz Mathis, and the two love to travel, even when it means being trapped by a volcano in the Czech Republic for three weeks.