Next up in the People of Ptex Series—Elke Taussig!
For this edition of People of Ptex, I sat down with branding and marketing maven Elke Taussig, also known around the office as The Brand Whisperer. Elke is one of the longest time members of the Ptex Group family—she’s been around since the early days, when Ptex was still Printex, and has seen the organization grow into what it’s become today. A deep thinker and creative wordsmith, Elke knows how to get to the essential core of, well, pretty much anything. In this interview, Elke and I discuss the meaning of branding, what she loves most about her job at Ptex, and what it’s like to be a religious Jewish woman in the business world.
What do you do here at Ptex?
I lead branding projects, mostly for our clients that have product-based businesses.
What’s most fun about your job?
I love the entire process of creating a brand from scratch. There’s something about the sheer creative thrill of being involved in designing or redesigning a brand from the ground up. It’s an unparalleled privilege. And, by the way, I use the word design here in its more general sense: encompassing concept, strategy, identity, verbal and even intangible communication. And of course, visual design too—all the good stuff we get to play with (er, work with) here on a daily basis.
What about that excites you?
Imagine you were to have a child and actually be able to design what that child looks like, what their personality is like. Creating a brand is sort of like that. It’s developing an entire identity around a product that many might view as a commodity, and allowing people to see something they couldn’t see before. It’s challenging, but it’s also so much fun.
Only three questions in, and we’re already getting deep! So, how would you define a brand?
Let’s start with what a brand is not. A brand is not just nice packaging or a logo. It’s not just putting a pretty face on a product. A brand, like a human being, has a personality, identity, soul, spirit, and reason for being. A brand encompasses all of this: both in the way it is conveyed, and more importantly, in the way it is perceived by people.
So it seems like you’re saying that a brand is actually defined by how others perceive it.
In many ways, yes. So, if that brand were you, it would be how others feel about you, perceive you, think about you, and relate to you, and on a more visceral level, how you make them feel. Marty Neumeier’s definition is popular and a pretty good one: A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization. In a similar vein, he once said, “Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.” Brands have a lot of control over the ‘’gut feelings” of others, and getting people to feel instinctively just the way you want them to is exactly what we do when we set out to brand (or rebrand) a product or organization.
Flashback to your 10-year-old self. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Well, at 10, I was going to be the first female president of the U.S. There was no backup plan. But you can ask me about what I wanted to be at 21.
Ok. What did you want to be when you were 21?
I wanted to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a management consultant, and an operations manager, in that order of preference. Deep analysis, game-changing strategy, dramatic turnarounds are what got my gears going. My plan (okay, dream) was to get an MBA from Columbia Business School and kill it in the business world. I got as far as a BS in Business, Management and Finance, and a non-concentration in Marketing because I definitely had no inclination for all that marketing fluff.
Ha! Funny how life turns out different from what we expect.
Yup. It turns out I still have no inclination for the fluff, but I have a real passion for the kind of hard-hitting, conceptually concrete, strategically sound, true-to-its-core branding and marketing that resonates with brand owners and brand buyers so that the brand identity takes on a life of its own. With legs. With wings. With a future that goes beyond what any tactical, short-sighted marketing shtick could ever do for a product or brand. I’ve found there’s nothing more impactful, lasting, or meaningful than crafting and implementing a genuinely resonant, well-executed brand.
What do you think are the best skills that you bring to your job?
Identifying a brand’s positioning, or in layman’s terms, “the what, and for who.” That place in the overall market that a brand can legitimately own. And I’ve found that once the positioning is clear, everything else just flows from there. Especially when you’re fortunate to be working with a team of “magicians and merrymakers” as we have at Ptex. Can you link people to our core values here? Because my greatest strength, really, is being part of a team that’s not only insanely talented but one that lives and breathes the Ptex ethos.
Can you pinpoint what’s uniquely special about the Ptex team?
I’ve been extremely fortunate to work in an extremely supportive environment in which creativity is literally bouncing off the walls, with a team of super talented, super driven colleagues that are literally teeming with inspiration and best yet a desire to share and grow together. And all of that fantastic energy comes straight from the top, with explicit and implicit support, and a value system that clearly values all that and a culture of transparency and respect that’s a rarity in the business.
What is it like working as a frum (Jewishly observant) woman in this space? Are there any hurdles you’ve had to overcome because of that?
I’ve been with Ptex from its early days, so at this point, I’ve spent a big chunk of my adult life at Ptex. I’ve literally grown and grown up here, and I can say unequivocally, that our fearless leaders, Meny and Wolf personify the true color-blind, gender-blind version of equality in the workplace—not the PC, fill some artificial quota version. My work and my career trajectory has been judged throughout and evaluated based purely on potential and performance alone, and I believe that’s true for all of us here. It’s a truly empowering feeling to know exactly where you stand and that by working hard and proving your mettle, you’ll thrive no matter who you are or what your role.
Do you have a book recommendation you’d like to share?
My recommendation would be to read anything that sparks your interest. Within your field, and just as strategically valuable, outside of your field. In a hyperlinked, hyper-click, hyper-distracting world, the important thing is to set aside time every day to do some focused reading—and to keep your eyes and mind open. Inspiration comes from the most unexpected places.
What about a favorite personal motto or quote?
This one is from an amazing woman who had some real, seemingly unscalable hurdles to overcome. “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.” – Helen Keller