As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview AJ Adams.
AJ Adams is a digital brand strategist and the founder of D6Media. He went from broke janitor to highly paid personal brand strategist and consultant to multi-millionaire entrepreneurs, celebrities, and $100M brands. AJ is proof of the power of creating influence. He has also built a personal brand with over 125,000 followers across social media, more than 29 MILLION impressions, and his content has reached an excess of 15 MILLION people worldwide. In addition to his business success, AJ is an international bestselling author of three books and a dynamic speaker on the topics of personal branding, authority positioning, and high-ticket client acquisition. AJ also hosts The Brand Domination Show, a Top 50 Ranked podcast on iTunes, where he interviews top entrepreneurs and reveals powerful insights and actionable strategies to help listeners dominate in their brands, lives, and businesses.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I would get my entrepreneurial Journey sort of unexpectedly. At the time I was working as a telemarketer 4 University and my wife, a former Division 1 college basketball player, was coaching a freshman girls basketball team at the local high school. One day the head coach randomly came up to me and asked, “Hey AJ, have you ever done motivational speaking?” at the time, I didn’t even know what motivational speakers were. I have been a former youth pastor for several years, so the only experience I had as a speaker was in that context. But I agree to do it anyway and began to obsessively study the top motivational speakers I can find. it was then that I discovered people like Les Brown, Zig Ziglar, and Tony Robbins. I realized that there were people who actually got paid to travel and speak to crowds. my mind was blown! From then on I was obsessed with mastering the craft of public speaking. the only problem was that I had absolutely no experience building a business and even less experience in branding and marketing. So again, Begin to obsessively study. and within two years not only was I getting booked to speak on stages, but I was also making more for a single talk that I was making in a whole month at my day job. This attracted the attention of other speakers, coaches, and Consultants and eventually, lead me into the space of High ticket coaching and Consulting. Today, I’ve coached, consulted, and built brands for celebrities, multi-millionaire CEOs, and $100 million dollar brands. My current focus is teaching experts how to create a high-ticket personal brand and land their first high-ticket clients in 45 days or less.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
What is probably the funniest branding mistake I made early in my career Is building my personal brand around a gimmick. I’m an experienced martial artist with a first-degree black belt and I decided to use that as my Brand. I came up with the moniker “The Black Belt Leadership Speaker”. I will wear my black belt uniform and speak to large groups of students about how to overcome failure. To end my talks, I would break a stack of bricks on stage as a way of proving that overcoming failure is 90% mental. It was a great gimmick and got me booked on stages, but it ultimately wasn’t a sustainable or even safe brand strategy. I came to this realization during the very last talk I gave as The Black Belt Leadership Speaker. On that particular day, I would be speaking to over 1,200 students and therefore, decided to you raise the steaks and break not my usual three bricks, but I was going to attempt a personal record and break a stack of eight bricks! To make a long story short I only broke through the first six bricks, And nearly broke my hand in front of over 1,200 students. I learned a valuable lesson that day, that a brand must be built for evolution, which means it cannot be built on a gimmick. It must be built around an authentic and relatable story.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?
There have been multiple tipping points along my entrepreneur career, but one of the most significant occurred when I made the decision to focus on investing heavily in growing my influence through my personal brand. As I began to post more content on social media that spoke to the Right audience and I implemented more intelligent marketing strategies, I went from reaching hundreds to reaching Millions of my target audience. As a result, within 18 months I had grown my personal brand to over 125,000 followers across social media, my brand had been seen over 29 million times, reached over 5 million unique users, and amassed over 4 million views. The major take away is that influence is everything. Without influence, you are impacting no one, and without impact, you will never generate an income from your brand.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
The project that I’m really excited about right now is my new top-level coaching and mentorship program “Zero To High-Ticket”. In this program, I teach coaches, consultants, and agency owners the exact strategies and systems I used to go from being completely unknown to landing High ticket clients what paid me as much as $13,000 per month. The way that I built this program, it will help experts build their personal brand and get their first High to get clients in 45 days or less without Facebook ads or complex funnels in technology.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
I have had to learn the hard way that burnout happens when you begin to add more things to your business that do not align with the reasons you started your business in the first place. I believe this so wholeheartedly that in Q4 of 2019, I eliminated everything from my business that did not align with the lifestyle that I want to build through my business. I fired clients, cut ties with business partners, and eliminated every service offering that no longer aligns with my vision for 2020 and beyond. As my first coach told me, “When your values are clear your decisions are easy.” get clear on your values and make your decisions based on those values.
Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
What’s the difference between brand marketing and product marketing is actually quite simple. Product marketing is communicating clearly and concisely to the marketplace what you are selling. This includes the features and benefits of your product or service. Brand marketing, on the other hand, is deploying a compelling message as to why the marketplace should care about or value the product you are marketing.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
I recently published a book with one of my former business partners who was the lead brand strategist behind multimillion-dollar fashion brands people like Jennifer Lopez and Tommy Hilfiger. In the book, we discuss how branding is the key to building long-term wealth and success in any business. Marketing and advertising make consumers aware of your product or service and invites them to become customers, Whereas branding is a long-term strategy and process of building what I call “relationship equity” with your future and current customers so that they will buy, promote your brand, and buy again.
Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?
There is a lot of misconception around the term rebranding. Too many business owners when they think of rebranding, they assumed it to mean building a whole new brand. In reality, if a brand is built correctly and with the right strategy — meaning that the brand has been built for evolution — then, rebranding is simply the process of revitalizing the brand in order to make it more relevant as you pivot expand your reach in the marketplace. take for example, Brands like Facebook and Coca-Cola. they have both rebranded multiple times by updating their logo, shifting to a more customer-centric Focus, etcetera. Completely changing a brand would be to throw away the things that don’t work along with the things that do work. instead, brands should go all-in on the things that are proven to work while eliminating those elements of their brand and no longer align with their vision for the future.
Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?
As I mentioned, the only real downside I see in terms of rebranding as the old saying goes, throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Success in branding and business, in general, is more often about doing less than it is about doing more. So my advice to any company that is going through the process of a Rebrand is 2 evaluate how they can provide more value to their customers and the marketplace by doing less and focusing on what works best.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.
Align rebrand strategy with business goals
Strategy is the foundation of all true branding and should be the restarting point for any rebranding campaign. Whereas most business owners hear the term “brand” and immediately think of graphic elements such as (logos, fonts, and color palettes), it is the brand strategy that informs the design of each creative element.
What Instagram updated its logo in 2016, they did so as part of a strategy to evolve the brand beyond its origins as a photo-sharing service. The new logo was clean and simplistic while also being more versatile which aligned with how the company which had expanded to include multiple sub-brands.
Cash in on brand equity
Great brands are built with the end consumer in mind and therefore, should be rebranded in the same way. Rebranding most often occurs as a company is building upon its success by evolving its offerings and expanding its reach in the marketplace. It is important to take into consideration the equity that has been built with consumers in order to increase this equity and bring a fresh vibrancy to the consumer experience.
Leverage existing brand loyal customers
One of the most powerful aspects of social media is the ability to get immediate and real-time insights directly from the marketplace. a simple yet powerful way for companies to improve the likelihood of a successful rebranding campaign is to involve their social media followers. This can take the form of surveys, livestream Q&A sessions or directly asking users to vote on potential logo concepts or products.
Do less, not more
More often than not successful branding is the result of doing less, rather than doing more. In fact, removing elements from a brand can actually enhance it and position the company for greater success. Simplifying a brand can also include removing products and services.
Update visual branding
Brand strategy is the foundation upon which effective brand design is built and without it, a company can fall into the trap of creating an aesthetically appealing brand that does not sell. The very last step of a company rebrand should be to update the visual branding so that it aligns with pivots being made in the overall company strategy.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
One of the best examples I have seen of a company successfully executing a brand makeover is mega-brand Starbucks. In 2011, as the company was expanding beyond the coffee market, it removed the word “coffee” from its iconic logo to create an updated brand with greater versatility.
What I find most impressive about this rebrand is the incredible simplicity of the execution. The current Starbucks logo is a prime exemplification of the “less is more” principle.
Companies can replicate Starbuck’s example by simply evaluating their offerings and future business goals, asking “Does our current branding align with our future vision and goals?”, and then removing any of these elements that no longer align. I personally did this in my own business during Q4 of 2019 when I removed most of my clients, business partners, and offers from my business. As a result, my profitability has increased ten-fold.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am on a mission to multiple my influence one-hundred times over in 2020 and leverage that influence to inspire a movement of entrepreneurs who are fulling committed to building businesses that are committed to creating profit for purpose. My company will donate 10% of our profit in 2020 to social causes we believe are making a positive local and global impact.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My life lesson quote is simply, “Build something worth being known for; leave something worth being remembered for.”
I wrote this quote several years ago to remind myself that I became an entrepreneur not simply to make massive amounts of money, but to build a legacy that will create a global impact that transcends my lifetime.
How can our readers follow you online?
Readers can connect with me on the major social media platforms via my website at www.AJAdams.biz
Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.
5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image with AJ Adams was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.