Author Billy Boughey: “To Rise Through Resilience You Must Be Honest About Your Weaknesses”

Evaluate weakness: You must be honest with where you are, where you have come from and the battles you must overcome. Weakness is only an opportunity to grow.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Billy Boughey author of Culture Reconstructed and founder and president of Elevate Experiences.

Billy Boughey is a nationally recognized keynote speaker, author and host who has led events for Delta, Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A, FIFA, Disney, and many other notable organizations. He is the Founder and President of the Atlanta-based company Elevate Experiences that helps brands tell their story through remarkable events. Billy has been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, Inc, Bold TV, and has a TEDx talk titled: How to lead like a freestyle rapper. As a former pro athlete with the Philadelphia Phillies, Billy brings a fresh perspective to leadership and culture. Pick up the January 2020 book released titled: Culture Reconstructed on Amazon and learn more about Billy at billybspeaks.com.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Every life has a story and I am grateful for mine. I was born in Atlanta and love to support all the teams in my great city. My parents divorced at a young age, mom worked three jobs to get by, and I was a turn-key kid that was marked by my fear, hustle, and a speech impediment. Growing up, sports and music were my identities and that carried through my high school, college, and professional experience. I played baseball all the way to the professional level and learned to freestyle rap, DJ events, play the guitar, and sing. I started a business in 2012 called Elevate Experiences — we help brands tell their story by creating remarkable experiences. Eight years into my Elevate journey, I wrote a book about culture to serve our clients better and have travelled the world speaking, entertaining, and inspiring others to live out the best story they can.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I got to rap on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and it led to six figures worth of business because of the bravery I exhibited. Jimmy was generous to let me rap on the spot and the producer of the show introduced me to the idea that not everything needs to be planned out in advance in order to be successful. There are many stories in my career of taking risk, but this is the biggest one that paid off the most.

What do you think makes your company/brand stand out? Can you share a story?

We listen first…

Our process at Elevate is to listen, design, and then produce. I believe that beginning with your ears leads to better solutions for your clients. The event creation industry is ever changing and the people that lean in and listen first will win in the long term. We had a client that wanted to leverage hot air balloons into the lessons we were teaching about world-view and it was a challenge to pull off. Listening to the client’s goal allowed us to safely and successfully pull off this activation and it taught me to press the limits on experiential learning.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are so many people I am grateful for as the belief in others is what has pushed me to be the leader I am today. One in particular is David Hoyt and he gave me multiple chances on various stages and in front of leaders that I wasn’t “qualified” to be in front of, but he saw something great in me. Because of his belief, it has grown my career and set me on a trajectory of passion and impact.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

You can’t lose, you can only learn. Approaching life with a “fourth-quarter mentality” is how I roll, and I believe your approach will breed resilience only if you begin with this mindset. Resilience is the ability to see the glass half full at all times through rose colored glasses while reality and failure (although known) are not accepted as the final answer. Some characteristics of resilience are the ability to be punched in the mouth, spit out the blood, then turn back and smile. Being positive in pain and speaking a preferred future when it isn’t easily seen is important as well.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

The X games champion Shawn White is the first person I think of. He has transcended the sport and stood the test of time through countless injuries. Tiger Woods is another one that came back from personal and professional challenges to win another PGA tour championship. Talent carries both of these athletes but having a resilient mindset in the midst of failure, pain, and bad choices have carried them through.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I was told by my stepdad that I would never play professional baseball and that became my fuel for 2 decades. It all culminated as I teared up and I signed my professional contract with the Phillies. Not every chip on the shoulder is bad and honestly not all anger is bad either. Denying our feelings is not what winners do, winners take the impossible and turn it into the quite possible challenge in front of them if they believe and take action.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I hurt my elbow my Junior year of college and was told I would never throw a pitch again from a mound. From that point, I exercised, focused on healing and came back a much more focused and grateful pitcher which moved me to be captain of my team and signing a professional contract.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Evaluate weakness: You must be honest with where you are, where you have come from and the battles you must overcome. Weakness is only an opportunity to grow.
  2. Find an advocate: Hold your friends close but hold “freedom speakers” even closer. A freedom speaker is someone who will tell you who you can become and remind you of the vision you have for yourself.
  3. Pick one plan: Don’t scatter and try a bunch of things, pick one plan or one system for your resilient path.
  4. Kick ass: Take consistent action, move, grow, achieve, stop waiting, be more, and having obedience in the same direction is the mark of a winner.
  5. Celebrate, rinse, & repeat: Make sure you celebrate your milestones, rightfully process your accomplishments, and then get back to work. Consistent work, celebration, and recommitment back to that same work will show fruit over time.

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 would challenge people to chase that dream they think about. I would spend my days igniting ideas and fueling people to achieve the success they see out in front of them. Regret is the worst thing ever, and I would start a movement to chase dreams and give back to those around them that are stuck in their complacency.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I want a breakfast/lunch with Justin Timberlake to talk about music, creativity, collaboration, fatherhood, and legacy.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @billyboughey, or on Facebook @iambillyboughey. Readers can also sign up for my newsletter at keepitfresh.vip.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Author Billy Boughey: “To Rise Through Resilience You Must Be Honest About Your Weaknesses” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jon Pardew of CCRM: “When executing early doesn’t pan out, learn from mistakes and improve for the…

Jon Pardew of CCRM: “When executing early doesn’t pan out, learn from mistakes and improve for the next time”

…when executing early doesn’t pan out, learn from mistakes and improve for the next time. There’s almost always a next time. I’ve done this by building an informal “advisory board” in my executive team at CCRM. When one of us missteps, we debrief and assess, pivot, and execute again — this keeps us accountable.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jon Pardew, CCRM’s President and Chief Executive Officer. In this role Pardew is responsible for executing the company’s strategy, leading the CCRM team, and ensuring the company achieves its stated Mission and Vision.

Previously, Pardew was a Managing Director at St. Charles Capital, a Denver based middle-market investment banking firm. In his role as Managing Director, Pardew led the firm’s Healthcare practice focusing on mergers and acquisitions, financings and joint venture transactions involving provider groups across the healthcare industry.

Prior to St. Charles Capital, Pardew held several leadership positions in both business and the United States Army. Pardew holds an MBA from the University of Colorado and a BA from the Virginia Military Institute.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Growing up in a military family we were on the move a lot. I went to several different schools and we were never in one place for more than a few years. I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and pursue a career in the military, where I enrolled at the Virginia Military Institute and graduated with a degree in history. Once I graduated, I became a Lieutenant in the Army for four years of active military duty followed by four years in the reserves. After completing the required amount of service, I went into operations at General Mills where I worked at a plant as a team leader. I decided I wanted to go back to school and pursue a Master’s Degree and received my MBA from the University of Colorado. From 1999 to 2013, I worked as a middle market investment banker primarily focused on services and healthcare transactions. That ultimately led me to Dr. William Schoolcraft, the founder of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM), where I’ve spent the past six years as CEO.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Storytelling is always hindsight analysis. Upon reflection, my career arc has truly been about leadership and learning. In the military and in my first role with General Mills, I was focused on operations. After being introduced to finance, I decided to make a career change and went back to school for my MBA. Finding a job in finance without any prior experience proved more difficult than I expected. When I interviewed for a job with middle market financiers, it was like trying to open a locked door. But I remained persistent and eventually landed an interview with Marshall Wallach, who at the time was the founder and managing partner of the Wallach Company, a leading middle market investment bank in the Rocky Mountains. Based on common experiences that we shared, including time served in the military, we quickly connected. Even though I lacked finance experience, he gave me a shot — he saw my potential to learn and lead, and that created the next few chapters of my career. If it wasn’t for Marshall, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

The same thing happened when I was appointed CEO of CCRM — I was seen as a finance guy, not a CEO. For a while, people saw the last thing I had done as the only thing I knew, not the totality of my experience. Becoming a first-time CEO is humbling. I’m constantly pulling from a career of experience while continuing to face new challenges. The greatest lesson I could share is that if you set out to lead, you will enjoy a lifetime of learning and opportunities.

At the beginning of your career, it looks like a “triangle” — in that there are many paths early on, but fewer later. If you can continue to learn and build your skillset to make that triangle look as much like a square for as long as you can, you’ll have more opportunities to excel. It’s critical to always be open to new opportunities and training no matter what your position. I was in operations, but realized that I was being pigeon-holed, so I went and got an MBA to broaden that career triangle and became a finance professional. The lesson is to develop a broad skillset and be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Leadership experience and skills being the most crucial to best position yourself for future success.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

CCRM was founded by Dr. William Schoolcraft over thirty years ago as a small fertility center in Colorado. Today, we now operate 11 fertility centers with 24 offices across North America. CCRM is known for its pioneering science and technology that drives our leading outcomes in the industry. CCRM has some of the highest live birth rates globally. This is largely due to Dr. Schoolcraft’s dedication in ensuring CCRM’s clinicians, embryologists and staff are all armed with the best techniques and practices to deliver the best care to our patients. The fabric of our company is really the science, but our technology is only as good as the people on our team. A company won’t go very far without great people, and we have a fantastic organization from top to bottom.

One of my favorite CCRM anecdotes occurred within the first few weeks of my tenure at CCRM. At a dinner I attended, Dr. Schoolcraft opened a letter he received from a patient’s son, which he then shared with me. The former patient’s son was now 18 years old and described how he was a recent high school graduate, going to college on an academic scholarship and listed a series of community achievements. He ended the letter thanking Dr. Schoolcraft, because without him helping his parents 18 years ago he wouldn’t be here. I sat back and was struck with how powerful a moment it was not only for Dr. Schoolcraft and CCRM, but also for me. I am thrilled that I can even play a small role in helping people get access to that level of care that has such a positive impact on society.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I don’t think there’s one person or one experience I can specifically call out, but rather a mosaic of experiences and people that I’ve worked with or for that I’ve learned a tremendous amount from. The military and lessons I learned during a very formative period in my life helped shape who I am today. I take away more than I can ever give back with regard to the interactions with people I’ve worked with over the course of my career. For me, it’s been collaborative effort — it’s taken a city rather than a village.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

  • I think it’s the ability to absorb, learn from and pivot off of adversity, whether that be your career or life. Nobody gets through life without dealing with adversity, it’s just how you’re able respond to it that helps you learn and grow from the experience.
  • I think poise in the face of adversity and the ability to calmly and collectively make a rational decision in a difficult situation is what makes someone resilient. A poised, open and pragmatic style who is flexible and possesses the ability to adjust. And obviously pure determination — you have to be determined and tough to be resilient.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Lindsey Vonn. She’s one of this generations most elite athletes. What makes her successful is her resilience to power through injuries, as well as career and personal adversity. If you haven’t seen the HBO documentary about Lindsey Vonn’s life, I highly recommend it. She is the epitome of resilience, in my opinion.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

When I joined CCRM as the CEO, CCRM was comprised of two fertility centers — one in the Denver-area and the other in Houston. The plan was to replicate the success of our Colorado clinic and lab and expand across North America in some of the most competitive markets in the fertility industry. Many thought we would fail or at best, be limited in our opportunities.

Part of the challenge was replicating the IVF lab, which is an incredibly complex facility with stringent regulatory and quality standards. From the air quality to equipment to staff training, every detail matters and there is no room for error. Even though we had limited resources and a small team, through the pure tenacity of our dedicated staff and our confidence in the CCRM brand, we have been able to achieve what everyone else believed was impossible.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I was a military brat growing up. We moved every 24 to 36 months and I went to countless schools over my youth and even spent time overseas. If I were to point to one thing that has helped build self-confidence and resiliency, it’d be that upbringing. I couldn’t ask for a better childhood and it was a real blessing to have, especially at such a formative time for me. I learned how to be flexible, adaptable and confident. I didn’t find moving around all the time to be really difficult or upsetting at all, either. It was kind of normal because you’re running around with a bunch of kids in similar situations. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized I had a different experience than most of my peers. But I benefited from it from a worldview perspective and learned to engage with a very diverse community.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • Resilience to me is about three things. First, execute. CCRM is growing at an extraordinary pace. My style has always been to trust my team, say yes, go, do — sometimes earlier than what feels comfortable. On the whole, that worked out well.
  • Second, when executing early doesn’t pan out, learn from mistakes and improve for the next time. There’s almost always a next time. I’ve done this by building an informal “advisory board” in my executive team at CCRM. When one of us missteps, we debrief and assess, pivot, and execute again — this keeps us accountable.
  • Last, it’s about sharing that lesson, so others don’t have to fumble through. I find sharing my stories helps others find their own pattern of resilience. And I’ve said this many times, but it’s worth repeating. It’s not as bad as you think; it will be better in the morning.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I pride myself on being a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, which often surprises people since I’ve never actually lived in Pittsburgh. A big reason why I love the team is because of the Rooney family, which founded the Steelers in 1933. Beyond building a team that would go on to win six Super Bowls, the Rooney’s created an organization committed to its mission, its community and its people. I hope someday I can leave a similar mark on our organization, community and industry. I would be honored to sit down with a member of the Rooney family, as both a fan and as a CEO.

How can our readers follow you on social media?


Jon Pardew of CCRM: “When executing early doesn’t pan out, learn from mistakes and improve for the… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Elisabeth Cardiello: To Rise Through Resilience Practice Gratitude

Practice gratitude. Find joy in the smallest things. Start noticing things that make you smile throughout the day, different ones all the time. Train your brain to treasure the little moments. I have written down three things that I’m grateful for every night for the past decade. There’s science behind it. Whether you name things you’re grateful for while you’re scooping your coffee into your coffee maker in the morning or as you have your first few sips, morning, evening, doesn’t matter — just start finding things that sink you into a state of being grateful.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Elisabeth Cardiello, Founder of Caffe Unimatic, Brave Conversations Over Coffee and co-founder of Legacy Out Loud.

Elisabeth was probably the only six year old in Brooklyn with her own business cards. After college, business school and a four year stint in the finance industry, this native New Yorker dealt with loss, found herself and her passion, more loss, learned the meaning of post traumatic growth and embraced her pull to create. She started Caffè Unimatic, the coffee company that you may recognize from the Netflix documentary “Coffee For All.” She’s the co-founder of Legacy Out Loud, an educational platform and methodology designed to build confidence and resilience in young women. Most recently, she brought the two together and is the host of Brave Conversations Over Coffee®, a leadership development / team building workshop series that’s part coffee tasting and part communication training to inspire transformational bravery in communication (to support trust, connection, creativity, leadership and mental health) in companies, at colleges and in the community. She always knew she found herself in the world of coffee to use the platform to make a bigger difference. She’s a two time TEDx speaker, has spoken at UN conferences, given keynotes, Congressional briefings and when you hear the way she talks about coffee and it’s power to be a catalyst for change, she will inspire you to be more intentional about your most consistent morning ritual. Her family is still wondering where that shy 9-year-old went…

If you want to get a little better at communication, downloading her 10 Step Blueprint to having a Brave Conversation Over Coffee is a great place to start.

If you love coffee, our readers will receive some serious coffee love if you head to the Caffe Unimatic website, adopt a Unimatic and use the code “readerlove” at checkout.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Sure! So, I was probably the only six-year-old in Brooklyn (maybe in all of NYC), that walked around with business cards in her “purse.” My dad was an entrepreneur from Italy, and that was just how we rolled. He was a bit older than the normal Dad and I was more of a sidekick than a child. While his cards just said his name, beneath my name was a title — mine said: “Owner.” Looking back, I had no idea how impactful that simple affirmation would be. Only now do I realize how abnormal that (and the rest of) my childhood was. He and I would sit at the breakfast table for hours, talking about ideas, people, psychology, business, creativity, the why’s of life — things that I realize now are wildly rare to chat about with a 7, 10 or 13 year old. We’d take ideas from concept to national, to international, through every stage of business, over coffee (or for me, milk with a spoonful or two of coffee before I was old enough for my own mug). Sometimes he’d come home with a business issue and ask my opinion. If I gave him ideas, he’d actually put them into practice. We started a bunch of businesses together. I had my first product on shelves at 13 and he even convinced a board that he was on to let me take part in a meeting or two. Looking back, it’s pretty wild that my life started, over coffee.

At the time, I’m not sure the word “entrepreneur” existed, and if it did, it surely wasn’t popular or “cool.” It would have been way more normal for him to have a corporate job, but he never did. Ever since he came to Brooklyn from a little town in Southern Italy, called San Pietro al Tanagro, when he was 12 years old, he did a myriad of things — all on his own. There was a cookware company called United Cookware, a cosmetic company, an advertising agency, a talent agency, a restaurant and athletic club — the guy seemed to dabble in everything. But he didn’t just start businesses, he also did things that seemed to have a huge impact on others. For some period of time at least, he was in Intelligence with the US Army. One of his mentors was a man by the name of Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote the book on the power of positive thought (around the time of Napoleon Hill). Because of his influence, my Dad would be called in to teach positive thinking to the NYPD. When he’d describe this experience, someone would retire, return their badge and gun and seemingly their identity along with it — which is totally understandable for someone whose whole life was devoted to protecting and serving. But his role seemed less about just “thinking positively” and much more about helping people remember who they were through hard times and the infinite potential they had within them. Note: these were also the kinds of conversations that I deemed “normal.” Only in my adult years did I realize that the things I absorbed from him shaped how I saw the world, how I communicated and how I processed what was happening around me. I never knew that he was quietly teaching me things like how to put myself in someone else’s shoes and drop into empathy, hostage negotiation techniques, the psychology of sales and relational communication, or things that are now part of the field of positive psychology and brain science. What I did know was that genuine human connection, communication, human potential and the whys of who we are made me infinitely curious. I thought everyone was having these sorts of conversations around the table and hearing things like “what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve” every day… but, they weren’t.

So after college and business school, not head-over-heels in love with any of the businesses that we’d started together, I did the thing that any driven, type-A, New Yorker does when they don’t exactly know what they want to do: I found the hardest possible job to get, and went for it. At that point, it was in the finance industry. I worked at a big bank for a year and then at a hedge fund for three. I think I was trying to prove something to myself and trying to “fit in” — something that never came all that naturally. Finance was what everyone wanted to do, so I figured I “should,” too. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy, but since I didn’t have an idea for my own thing yet, I plugged away — until one Fall day, when I was 26, when we lost my Dad.

We were a family of three, so I took over as husband and father overnight. Sidenote: my Mom was (is still) the most amazing Mom. I was really lucky to grow up with all of the love and support that I did, but she was never a business person. So, all of those mornings spent at the table, talking about life and business needed to be put into practice, immediately. Looking back, those conversations were what prepared me for the storms I’d have to weather in the coming years. Those conversations over coffee were the reason I didn’t break. They were my fuel to get back up and put one foot in front of the other.

Losing him was the turning point. It was when I realized just how much I took for granted, that what I was doing wasn’t fueling me and that filling his shoes was not going to be an easy task. Writing and giving his eulogy changed the way I thought about life. I realized how much he had done, the way that he impacted people and that I wasn’t giving myself the chance to accomplish any of the things that I wanted to be or leave behind in the world. I wasn’t putting myself in the situations where I would be able to leave the kind of legacy that I wanted. I went on to write my own eulogy (yes, I acknowledge that’s odd, but in the moment, it felt like the only logical next step). That was what changed everything and I think that’s probably where the rest of my story begins…

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career?

There are so many stories worth sharing but I’d say the most interesting is the origin story of my coffee company, Caffè Unimatic. (P.S. This story is told really beautifully in the Netflix documentary, “Coffee For All” and the TEDx talk “How a Coffee Pot Changed My Life”). After losing Dad, I’d written a business plan to start a coworking space (this was before they were popular). I began cleaning out my Dad’s old office in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, thinking I’d do it there. P.S. This meant that I literally went from working in midtown at a hedge fund to jumping in and out of a dumpster for six months. This place was like a 1960s timewarp. There were remnants from a bunch of his businesses and enough furniture to redecorate the Bowery Hotel, just collecting dust. More old stuff than you could ever imagine, just sitting in silence. We were selling things — garage sale style — we were donating things, we were throwing things away in any way possible. I even became a regular at a scrap metal yard, and judging from their looks, I might have been the only woman to set foot on that property, perhaps ever.

Thing is, I realized pretty quickly that my Mom needed to sleep at night and me attempting to start a business wasn’t the best next step when she needed to pay the mortgage. I was creating these fun problems to solve, but I had real problems and no plan B. Both my safety net, and the person who reminded me that “what the mind could conceive, the mind could achieve” disappeared. (I should probably also mention that about a year and a half after losing Dad, in the middle of this mess, Hurricane Sandy hit my Mom’s house with what was said to be a 9.5 ft. wave. It displaced her — well, us, as I moved home to help — for over a year). For 4+ years “after Dad”, something was always falling to pieces and yours truly was the last (well, only) line of defense.

Long story short, I made the decision to shelf my business plan and lease the space (my Dad’s last words to me were “take care of your Mother,” so there was really no deliberation there). Fast forward to about three weeks after making that decision, we were still cleaning out the space, now for the new tenant. I found the key that unlocked a door that my Dad had always referred to as the inventory closet. I expected to find old makeup or something… Well, when I opened the door, I was met by a wall of boxes, floor to ceiling, of something he helped create half a century ago. It was a coffee pot, called the Unimatic. It was an improvement on the percolator that was popular at the time (ca. late 1950s). He’d helped create it and bought the patent on it. Truth be told, it was the only way I knew how to make coffee, because it was the only thing we ever used in our house. Plus, it was my 5th grade science project, so clearly, I knew it inside and out! Since his cookware company had started to carry a little bit of everything for the kitchen, and since he would say that American coffee “tasted like dishwater,” he did a ton of research and came up with the Unimatic. These little gems were “conceived in Brooklyn and born in Italy” (I even found the paperwork from the factory in Parma that made them). I didn’t think much of seeing the pots at first; I figured, “cool, wedding presents for a year… next.” I imagined that we’d throw them in the car and be done with the closet… I was wrong. That door didn’t lead to a closet. It was the door to a warehouse, full of these original, Italian-made Unimatic coffee pots, ~5,000 of them! They were perfect, just waiting to be discovered.

It was one of those moments where your life flashes before your eyes. All I could see were pictures of those moments we spent together at the table, over coffee. That coffee pot was the reason we’d linger. He’d always cite it as the reason to stay, “don’t leave yet” he’d say, “we’re almost finished with the coffee” and (because of the way it works), “it’s still hot, just stay for one more cup.” And so I would… those moments, those stories, those lessons, those memories, wouldn’t have been possible without the Unimatic. If you could hit rewind and play on the coffee pot that lived at our house growing up, she could tell you all of our family stories. She could replay all of those mornings that we spent dreaming and creating. The Unimatic created those moments, and without them, I wouldn’t be who I am… I didn’t know what I was going to do or how, but what I knew for sure was that if I could give the opportunity for those moments to ~5,000 other families, I was in. It was as if he was saying, “thank you for doing the right thing and taking care of your Mom, now… let’s do this! Let’s infuse some Italian values into the world and keep families around the table, together.” And so, it became my mission to find each one of our original, limited edition, Unimatics a new home.

This all sounds great, but I was constantly (silently) battling imposter syndrome, because my ego kept telling me that although I resolved to make something out of this crazy discovery, none of this was “mine.” I didn’t “do” anything but move them without injuring myself (thanks, Crossfit). I knew that my Dad’s story was cooler, that this was his, and that for me to feel any ownership, I had to find a way to expand it and make it mine. I’d have to add things to it. The most obvious thing being coffee. My Dad always said that the Unimatic brewed the most perfect cup, but I was curious, did the coffee have anything to do with that? So, I researched coffee and found that technically, you’re supposed to roast your coffee for the way that you’re going to brew it and here in the states, we don’t do that. It’s one of the reasons why coffee can taste bitter. I decided to see if we could create coffee that was optimized for the way the Unimatic brews… and we did! People constantly call our blends “the smoothest coffee ever!” — which is fantastic, because that’s exactly what I was going for. So, that’s how Caffè Unimatic got its start.

All that said, from a personal perspective, I think what I was needing in the beginning wasn’t something fully of my own. I think some part of me liked the fact that all this was his and that I’d get to keep him around — or at least be able to talk about him, for good “reason.” I’d learn later that my drive to keep talking about him was actually something that would help me get through grief. The field of Narrative Medicine tells us that sharing your story is healing and we know from trauma therapies that some of the basis of moving through the hardest bits of life is often supported by sharing your story. I wish I could say that I did all this knowing the benefits, but in all honesty, I was just following gut feelings about what I needed to survive (and be sane enough to handle the things I needed to).

Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I’ve learned so much (and continue to), but a few key things rush to mind immediately:

  1. “What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve.”
  2. Play the long game. Make decisions based on the long term impact they’ll have, not the short term gain. Basically, do the thing that you’ll look back on in 10 years and smile about. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
  3. Listen to your intuition. It’s always speaking to you, or trying to. The more you listen to the voice within, the more you trust yourself, and hence, the more you end up trusting others. When your foundation is solid, aka when it comes from something deeper than your ego, you’re more able to accept yourself and others in their imperfections and failures — because, reality is, we’re all going through something.
  4. Ask yourself the hard questions early and often. Who do you want to be? What do you want to give? What do you want to leave behind? And: are you on a path to do any of that?
  5. Know what your values are and try to turn them into actions everyday. They won’t always be popular or make “sense”, but they help you put one foot in front of the other.
  6. After you list out your values, and start paying close attention to the things in life that embody them, fuel them and further them. In hindsight, I can say that it makes perfect sense that I ended up in the coffee business. When you step back and look at my values, coffee embodies all of them: connection, communication, inspiration, hope, daily positive forward movement… but through the dashboard, I saw none of that.
  7. You can’t follow someone else’s map. They’ll offer it. They’ll mean well, but we’re here to calibrate our own compasses. No one can do that for you. It’s not for the faint of heart, but reality is, this being human thing is hard, and the only way out is through.
  8. The greatest stories of your life will make no sense as they’re happening. You’ll need help. Ask for it. Keep moving forward and thank people along the way. And if you forget the last time you thanked someone, do it again.
  9. Fulfillment doesn’t come from “things”, it comes from purpose. There was a period after I found the Unimatics, that we were still cleaning out the space for the new tenant. Because I had something to work toward, something that I believed the world needed — giving other families those moments at the table over coffee — jumping in and out of those dumpsters was more fulfilling than any of the other things I used to have that signified “success.”
  10. That little voice that tells you that you’re not good enough, ask it why. Mine would constantly chatter in the background saying that my story wasn’t as cool as my Dad’s (and I’d be the first to agree), but I decided to let that little voice push me. One of my values is originality, and I needed to honor the fact that I wanted to start things, not just be part of them. So that voice, for me was helpful, not because it was right, but because it was guiding me toward creating, and there was value in that. It pushed me to create a line of coffee and our Brave Conversations Over Coffee® tasting and communications workshop series that we host for companies and colleges. That little voice was like a trail of breadcrumbs that navigated me toward things that wanted to be born. It sent me down the harder road, but in that, I found a way to keep him here, at the table, where we spent so much time dreaming, and now I am bringing teams and companies back to that same table, too — to take brave steps forward, over coffee, just like we did at home.

What do you think makes your company/brand stand out? Can you share a story?

I think our origin story really set us up to be different. Because we think a lot about legacy, we’ve always been driven to use the global platform of coffee for a greater purpose. Now, we get to use it to ignite the conversations that we are needing to have and foster human connection and resilience. Plus, the Unimatic and our blends do make a simply remarkable cup of coffee… We like to say that we’ve perfected coffee! 😉

This all started because I wanted to share something that changed and supported me and keep my Dad’s legacy alive. I had no idea that along the way, people would start seeing their story in our story and in the same way that the Unimatic became my symbol of hope and taking positive steps forward every morning, they made it their talisman as well. You wouldn’t believe the letters I’ve received, sharing such personal stories tied to our little coffee pot. These letters say things like “the Unimatic is part of my healing. It gives me the energy to get up every morning and start again, to rebuild from nothing.” That was from a woman who courageously shared that she suffered horrible domestic abuse and how her coffee, and now, her Unimatic symbolized a new day and a new chance to rebuild life and family. Other letters have said, “the Unimatic saved our family. We’ve been through trauma and tragedy and when we put that pot on the table and told your story, we were finally able to talk about our own. And then, we laughed together, in a way that we hadn’t in years. You saved us and we are forever indebted to you for sharing your story and these last Unimatics with the world.” Then there was a gentleman who told me that he was going to name his Unimatic “Grace” after his grandmother, so that he could have coffee with her every morning, like I do with my Dad. One of my favorites is from an officer in our military who wanted to deepen he and his wife’s tradition of coffee, show the kids the power of ritual and find a way for them to “have coffee together” while he was deployed… And these are just a handful, I cry at least once a week because of the notes we receive. It’s crazy but we’ve somehow found this magical way to make a “thing” part of people’s families and moreso, to remind people of what’s important on a daily basis. I’m proud of that, and I think my Dad would be, too.

Our reason for being has served to inform all of our decisions. It made me want to know the humans drinking our coffee and adopting our Unimatics. I wanted to know the families that we were keeping at the table. I wanted the Unimatic and our coffee to stand for something more, to inspire people to see their potential and that they can get through anything every morning as they sipped. So, we do things like include handwritten notes with our monthly coffee subscriptions or when anyone adopts a Unimatic coffee pot. I figured that even though I don’t know them, these people are letting us in to one of their most intimate and sacred moments of their whole day. I never know what I’m going to say to any one person, but I just write what comes out. It’s been interesting how many times I’ve gotten, “you say exactly what I need to hear.” It’s a joy to know that we’re doing something that resonates and might leave someone in a better frame of mind. I think that sets us apart, too.

This company has been a continuous process of creation and letting go in every sense of the word, from the pots themselves, to metaphorically navigating grief, to our logo and packaging, everything meant a little more and took a little more thought and emotional labor. One of the byproducts of doing something bigger than you is how it nudges you to look within and grow in yourself. I began Caffè Unimatic to keep my Dad’s legacy alive, and in building the company, I actually began to lay the foundation of my own. Exactly none of it has been easy, but all of it has been worth it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Again, there are too many to name, but there are a few that I feel were heaven sent…

The first is Robert Galinsky. Not long after I discovered the Unimatics, I happened to read an article in The New Yorker. It talked about this guy who was writing something called “Coffee: The Musical.” My brain immediately thought: wouldn’t it be cool if the Unimatic had a cameo appearance on Broadway?! The article made the mistake of telling me where this man would be that upcoming weekend; he and the cast would be performing some of their preliminary songs at something called “Coffeefest” at the Javitz Center. So, I resolved to scout out Coffeefest and stalk this poor guy. Worst case scenario, I didn’t find him, but I learned something about my new industry… sounds logical, right?

Fast forward, I showed up at the Javitz Center, Unimatic in hand and actually found Robert! I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I’d been so excited to just find him that I hadn’t gone any further in my head and literally word vomited the story without blinking or taking a breath. Interestingly, he paused and said “could you do that again?” and filmed me with his iPhone. When I finished, he shocked me. He said, “that’s fascinating, of course the Unimatic can have a cameo, but can we talk about writing part of that story into the script?” I was floored, and we’ve been friends ever since. He went on to write a book called “Coffee Crazy” to fund the musical. Since I was quoted in it, he looped me into his book tour/performance schedule. We’d travel around NYC; the cast would sing and I’d make people Unimatic coffee and tell my story. Now, he’s that person that I can trace just about anything magical back to, think “Six Degrees of Galinsky.” He’s like a heartbeat, pumping so much good into this world. (I hope this gets printed simply so I can publically state that about him). At a time when I could have felt very alone, he always made sure that I was included, supported and celebrated; I’ll be forever indebted to him.

Funny, I can actually trace the second person back to Robert as well. One evening on the “Coffee Crazy” book tour, the producer of TEDx Fulton Street heard my story and asked me if I wanted to give a TEDx talk (can we say, dream come true?!). The second person I couldn’t have gotten this far without started as my speaking coach for TED, and over the years turned into more of an Uncle to me. His name is Brad Boyer. He’s famous for helping people tell better stories onstage or in the boardroom. He helped me with both of my TEDx talks and with all of life in between. Everyone needs someone who reminds them of who they are. He’s watched me grow up in a sense, navigate challenging situations and emotions in life and business. When people enter your life and choose to show up for you (when they don’t have to, but purely because they choose to) that’s a true gift. When things feel like they’re falling apart, I know that I can call him. And just that knowledge makes it a little more ok for me to leap and take risks and keep putting one foot in front of the other when I’m walking squarely into the unknown. I couldn’t ask for a greater mentor and friend.

The third person I met totally by chance (although I’m sure I can probably find a way to trace it back to Galinsky). He’s an author of one of the world’s most popular blogs and more than 20 best sellers. The way he talked about human dynamics, marketing and well, most things reminds me of the perspective that my Dad would bring. I’ve never known anyone else to possess that same way of seeing the world. His name is Seth Godin. I met him in a conference, and gave him a business card (which, admittedly, are kind of wacky and memorable), so a couple years later at a different conference, I went to say hi and he remembered it, and me! A few minutes later, I was sitting in my seat minding my own business, when someone asked a question about branding (Seth was doing audience Q&A) and all of a sudden he said, “where’s Elisabeth? Wherever she is, you should go find her, because Elisabeth owns a coffee company and the way she talks about coffee makes me want to drink it — THAT’S branding.” I died. Right there in my seat, frozen. A couple days later I found myself sitting across from him answering questions about childhood, coffee, the why’s of what I wanted to build. Since then he’s been someone who has challenged me and cheered for me, called me out for being in the resistance or hiding from the real work. He’ll tell me to save the good stuff to tell him later and ask me to start by telling him all the things that aren’t working, so we can sort through them together. He’ll remind me of my superpowers and of how important my mission of inspiring and igniting “Brave Conversations Over Coffee” is. He’s one in a billion and even after years, the fact that he makes time for me still floors me.

There’s something that happens when someone reaches out, makes time, truly listens and reflects back that it’s safe to trust yourself. It’s astonishing how many people we sometimes need to remind us of who we are when times are hard. If I had to find a silver lining in the challenges I’ve faced, it’s these three and others like them. One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received is the ability to allow people to show up for me (I spent a long time thinking that I had to go it alone). I’ll never be able to repay any of them, so all I can do is pay their wisdom forward and help as many others as I can.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience?

Well, since I’ve actually studied resilience, I am cheating a little here, but I’ll tell you the story of why I ended up studying this topic and actually building a curriculum around many of its principles… it’s also the reason why Brave Conversations Over Coffee began.

I didn’t know what resilience was when I was actually putting it into practice. After losing Dad, and Hurricane Sandy, I was in survival mode and often following my gut instincts more than having any real sense of knowing what I was doing. What I didn’t realize, however, was that during those conversations over coffee that my Dad and I had around the table growing up, he was actually teaching me resilience. He never used any of the terms that I’d find in textbooks, but when I realized that I could finish people’s sentences on the topics of things like positive psychology, hostage negotiation, mindset strategy or relationship building, I started digging. The way he described things didn’t help — he said he “taught positive thinking” but he wasn’t telling people to “just put on a happy face,” quite the opposite actually. He was addressing the links between the way we think and our identity and potential. He’d say he was a “specialty salesman” not an entrepreneur, but “sales” or at least the way sales is thought of today, seemed like the opposite of what he was doing. He was dropping into empathy and building trust and relationships, the human way. The terms he used perished in the 1950s, so I often found myself in a labyrinth of discovering what I knew.

People would routinely ask me how I knew how to turn something so terrible in losing a parent and a home into something positive — I’d shrug and say, “I guess I got lucky.” Until one day, when a dear friend of mine, who just so happened to have a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology told me that it was imperative that I stop giving that answer because I was doing both the person who asked and myself a disservice. She said that I was “textbook” — that I (somehow innately) did everything that she taught when she was teaching mental resilience to the US Army. I went on to learn that what she was talking about, what I had done, was actually the exact opposite of what happens in PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. I didn’t even know that there was an opposite to it, but there is. It’s called PTG, post traumatic growth. In PTSD, something really hard happens, we are flooded with emotions around the incident, our systems can’t metabolize it all at once and so we shut down parts of ourselves. We put ourselves in a bit of a box, so to speak, so that we don’t constantly need to relive that trauma, but in numbing parts of ourselves, we hold ourselves back from living a full life. Alternatively, in PTG, we allow that hard thing to stir up all the emotions that it does. We let ourselves feel those feelings and we let them give us purpose, we let those feelings fuel our forward movement. We let that challenge be what pushes us forward. Kayleigh told me that in listening to my stories, it seemed like my Dad had instilled things in me that I was able to access when times got hard, things I didn’t even know I knew or had in my back pocket. This is actually a big part of the reason that I co-founded Legacy Out Loud and built a methodology designed to build confidence in young women. The goal was to close the confidence gap and empower young women to dive into entrepreneurship and for that, they’d need resilience.

I started combining theories like PTG with other research and learning more about neuroscience and what was happening in our brain when we were in states of stress or safety. I learned things like where our emotions come from and how we can stop trying to control our surroundings and focus on controlling how we respond to it. Note: it’s important to remember two things: 1) that I was a human development geek, even during college. When everyone else was writing their thesis on Sarbanes Oxley and Economics, I was writing about how humans develop traits of leadership and 2) We lost my Dad to aneurysms on his aorta, caused by decades of heart problems and high blood pressure. I needed to know what stress did to our body, how to regulate it all without medication and how to hack that system. I dove headfirst into building this methodology and figured that if I could absorb skills of mental resilience when I had no idea what was happening, I could (and should) find a way to give that to others. I’ll never forget my conversation with Kayleigh and her saying that since I had a platform in coffee, that if I was able to impart even a fraction of this knowledge through something as universal as coffee, that I could potentially help a lot of people… game on.

I think one of the most important things we need to know about resilience is that it’s a choice. We get to choose how we respond to things. Are we going to let something hold us back or push us forward? We have no control over situations, but total control over how we show up to them. Will we allow them to unravel us or will we use them as fuel? Will we allow ourselves to feel through the hardest emotions in service to that which we most care about? I didn’t know where this journey was going to lead, but I did know that I wasn’t going to waste my time on this earth, I was here to do something meaningful, to build something. I didn’t necessarily need to know what it was in the beginning, I just needed to start taking steps toward what felt good.

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I think one of the main characteristics of resilient people is perspective. When you can zoom out and see something without creating a story around it (a story that will make it seem like it will ruin your entire life for the rest of eternity), you can start to process things. When I wrote my Dad’s eulogy and then wrote my own, I was able to zoom out and really see a bigger picture of life. That helped me course correct and find purpose, and the purpose helped me feel more confident putting one foot in front of the other.

Another characteristic of resilient people is faith. It doesn’t need to be religious faith, just a belief that the universe doesn’t revolve around you, that there is something bigger. When you think you’re in control of everything, that’s only a recipe for disaster. Whether you believe in God, the Universe having your back, Mother Nature, the goodness of others, the energy of love — it doesn’t matter, but if you can allow yourself to rest in surrender, you allow your cognitive brain to pause, which is so necessary to get out of fight or flight.

So much of navigating the challenges of life is in getting comfortable living in the question mark, but doing that with grace isn’t always easy. Cultivating grace means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. For me, it helped to have a physical practice that was making me mentally tougher (as well as boost endorphins). Being a college athlete, movement is quite important to me and I was lucky to find Crossfit right when I needed it most — which by today’s standards, was pretty early on. In my case, having something to train for gave me structure, which was helpful as well. When cultivating resilience, I think we often want space, but when given too much space we can easily spiral. So, for what it’s worth, having some sort of structure was helpful in my journey and in the journeys of people I know.

When you ask yourself the hard questions early and often, you learn what your values are. When you know your values, you start trusting yourself more. Resilient people tend to know who they are (usually because they’ve peeled themselves up off the ground). They are able to catch themselves in their own unhelpful mental loops or stories and because they’ve met themselves at their worst, they appreciate things that others often overlook.

One of the most important characteristics of resilient people is that they are grateful. They find things, often tiny things, to be grateful for. Whether it’s because they have renewed perspective or because they are in the process of proving to themselves that pain isn’t pervasive or perpetual, that other things can exist while pain is still present, they find ways to sink into gratitude..

Resilient people generally have found tribe, someone or ideally, a group of people that they can turn to if life feels like it’s falling apart (or when life is going well). Not because these people will fix anything or change any circumstance, but just because they will witness you in your journey and remind you that you belong, that you are brave, and that you will keep moving forward and can turn to them at any time. Also, resilience is cultivated by sharing your story. (You are seeing the dots connecting to Brave Conversations Over Coffee® aren’t you?) When we feel seen and supported by others, we can often navigate struggle with more grace and ease.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Honestly, I can’t choose one person. I think every single person on this Earth right now is resilient. I think we are all going through something that most people don’t know about. Maybe it’s internal and maybe it’s external. Maybe people know about it and maybe they don’t, but we’re all doing our very best. I just wish that there were more tools available, I wish that post traumatic growth was something that we talked about (hence Brave Conversations Over Coffee and Legacy Out Loud). Since we’re all going to fail and get rejected and have our hearts broken (especially entrepreneurs), I wish our schools taught us more about how to cultivate resilience.

Think about it, we never learn about some of the most basic things, like: where our emotions come from, the process of self inquiry and reflection. Instead, we’re taught that crying and having a tantrum is bad, that emotions aren’t meant to be seen or heard, that we should put them in a box and close the lid. And then we wonder why there are people acting out, why people are using violence to take what they need, because we’ve deprived them of being allowed to feel pain or have a safe place to have the conversations that need to be had. Wouldn’t you have liked to learn what rejection did to our brains when you were a teenager? Wouldn’t it have been cool if school had taught us how to get out of a negative thought spiral? So when I think of resilience, I think everyone right now has the capacity to be resilient, I’m just trying to spread the tools.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I mean, my whole story is an answer to this question. And inasmuch as I wouldn’t wish to go through it again and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I do wish my Dad could know me now. They say the end of the grief cycle is gratitude, and although I’ll never be grateful for my Dad not being able to walk me down the aisle or know my kids one day, I am grateful for the woman who was built by these experiences.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

For a while, when I was attempting to run both Caffè Unimatic and Legacy Out Loud, everyone told me that I couldn’t do both (which wasn’t incorrect) and that a coffee company and an education company that built confidence, resilience, leadership and communication skills didn’t make any sense together. I found myself totally unable to let go of either, there was something more… I knew it, I just needed to find it. Luckily, I had a couple of mentors who reminded me of my own words (from my second TEDx talk, “The Most Powerful Question You’ve Never Considered”), when you know your “why” and your values, and you turn those things into daily actions the “how” figures itself out. Steve Jobs didn’t know that an iPhone was in his future, he just valued design and technology and believed that those two things went together — then he created the reality in which they did. It took a while, but finally, I rose to the challenge that Seth gave me, which was “find an architecture by which you can do both.”

That’s how Brave Conversations Over Coffee® was born. I believed that coffee was the perfect familiar and universally understood platform to be the basis of deeper connection and conversation. They say that when you cross something you’re good at, with what the world needs, you’ve found your purpose in life. Well, how many conversations in the world right now aren’t being had? Right, I know. We were never taught how to have these conversations, and what better way to learn than, over coffee. Plus, if there’s anything that I have 10,000+ hours of practice in, it’d be this. We’re over the moon to be hosting this offsite experience for companies and colleges that want to further a culture of trust, bravery, inclusion, creativity, engagement and mental health. This initiative proved my Dad right, “what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve…”

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Practice gratitude. Find joy in the smallest things. Start noticing things that make you smile throughout the day, different ones all the time. Train your brain to treasure the little moments. I have written down three things that I’m grateful for every night for the past decade. There’s science behind it. Whether you name things you’re grateful for while you’re scooping your coffee into your coffee maker in the morning or as you have your first few sips, morning, evening, doesn’t matter — just start finding things that sink you into a state of being grateful.
  2. Be brave with yourself first. Make a practice of self inquiry. Ask yourself the hard questions: who do you want to be? What do you want to give? What do you want to leave behind? And actually start answering them. Get to know who you are. Get to know your values. Create a relationship with yourself. Start to appreciate yourself, flaws, failures and all. Try to talk to yourself in a way that you would talk to loved ones (we can be quite mean to ourselves).
  3. Listen to your intuition, gut, whatever you want to call that inner knowing that creeps up and whispers in your ear from time to time. Even if that just means taking note of the things that come to you, do it. The more you build confidence in listening to yourself, the closer to taking action you’ll be. The goal is being able to rely on your instincts and not constantly looking outside of yourself for a map or “the answer.”
  4. Be brave with others. Cultivate tribe. Have some Brave Conversations Over Coffee. Start sharing your story with others and let others share their stories with you. One of the most important things you can do for someone in struggle is listen, just listen. If you want to know how, there’s a link in my bio.
  5. Remember PTG. You have no control of circumstances, only over how you respond, so will you let life hold you back or push you forward? Surrender to life but be fierce in choosing how you meet it. Victor Frankl’s quote comes to mind: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Ask yourself what decision you’ll smile about in 1, 5, or 10 years.
  6. Move. I couldn’t not include movement. It’s scientifically proven to aid in resilience, plus it gives you structure, endorphins and makes you healthier.

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. 🙂

How many conversations aren’t you having?

Our world is at once supremely connected and supremely disconnected. Think about it, whether on the geopolitical level, or within companies, communities or even around our tables at home — we aren’t having the conversations that matter, because we were never taught how; and it’s impacting our work and our wellbeing. So, the movement that I am inspiring is called Brave Conversations Over Coffee®. It genuinely feels like I found myself in the coffee industry because I was meant to utilize the platform to create widespread change. Now, we (at Caffè Unimatic) are so proud to be using coffee as a tool to inspire transformational bravery in communication to support trust, human connection, innovation, inclusion, and mental health in companies, schools, communities and families by bringing humans together around the table to take brave steps forward… over coffee.

We believe that “Brave Conversation” is key in unlocking the shift we need to remedy the complex and deeply rooted issues that we face today. We can march, we can fight, we can petition for legislation but change will only be organic, widespread and sustainable when we are able to genuinely want the person sitting across the table from us to be well, no matter how different they, their backgrounds, and their beliefs are from us and ours. Sharing ourselves and truly understanding others is the next necessary evolution in our culture and holds the key to our path forward.

Since coffee is the global symbol of connection — to others, to ourselves, to the days of our lives, and to the world we serve, I believe it has the power to spark change on a daily basis. As you know, I think a lot about legacy, and to us coffee also a totem of inspiration, hope and positive forward movement. The Unimatic was always the centerpiece of our family table, as if she was “hosting” our conversations and witnessing our bravery. At every meal, she invited us to linger, sipping coffee while we listened, while we shared, while we learned. Those stories, those conversations are what made me brave, made me curious and made me whole. Now, her legacy is getting to host, witness and inspire yours…

We are also proud to be paying-it-forward, with a percentage of corporate workshops funding Brave Conversations Over Coffee in the community. We’ve brought together diverse groups such as: 9/11 survivors, first responders, the Muslim community and students to take steps forward toward mutual understanding, over coffee.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

The first person who popped into my head at this question would be Oprah. I admire so many things about the way she shows up in the world and it would be an honor to sit at the table with her, and maybe even have a brave conversation over coffee! 🙂

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram @caffeunimatic (I share a new #braveconversationovercoffee question or tip every weekend, join on on the journey to being braver together, over coffee!)

Facebook @facebook

Thank you so much for having me! 🙂


Elisabeth Cardiello: To Rise Through Resilience Practice Gratitude was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Daniel DeLeon

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes — why do they keep coming back? This helped me figure out which aspects of the brand needed revitalizing and which aspects needed to stay. People kept coming back to Grumpy’s because of the community it cultivated. This defined the messaging we wanted to push when rebranding the restaurant.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Daniel DeLeon. Daniel is the President & CEO of Grumpy’s Restaurant & Grumpy’s Restaurant Franchisor, a traditional Americana diner located in Jacksonville, Florida. Before taking on Grumpy’s, Daniel has grown six local and diverse businesses from the ground up. After owning multiple franchise units for various food concepts, Daniel continued pursuing his passion for the restaurant industry and worked on the franchisor side with Restaurant Brands International. When he found Grumpy’s, he saw all the potential the well-loved local brand had and decided to grow the business. After a top-to-bottom rebranding and renovation, Grumpy’s has launched its franchise opportunity and has big plans for expansion. Because of his hard work and expertise, Daniel was voted as one of the most influential restaurant CEOs in the country by Nation’s Restaurant News.

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?

When I graduated college, I had dreams of becoming an Investment Banker and took a job with Merrill Lynch as a Financial Advisor. I quickly realized my entrepreneurial mindset would drive me to want and do much more and ultimately open my own business. In 2007 I opened my first franchise business and that set the course for the rest of my professional life.

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?

When I first purchased Grumpy’s Restaurant, I quickly realized I was doing things a bit backwards. I was trying to create a logo and marketing content to appeal to the masses. Ultimately, I should have focused on our core values, mission and vison and worked outward from there. I learned that developing our brand the right way easily set the tone and path for all things marketing and branding.

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?

I don’t think I can honestly say there was an exact tipping point, but I defiantly became more successful as I gained more experience all while I continued my learning and education. A huge takeaway for me was to always be evolving, innovating and learning!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Right now my biggest project is growing Grumpy’s. It’s become such a local staple in our community and I know that, now that the brand is freshly rejuvenated, new areas would welcome us with open arms. We have multiple new locations in development and are already eyeing new markets for where to go next. One of the biggest components of our brand, from the very beginning, was that it is a welcoming place for everyone. We say we serve a hungry man’s portion at a working-class price; we always want to make sure that anyone is able to come in and enjoy our food and hospitable atmosphere. I think Grumpy’s helps people feel a part of something — our waitstaff know all of our regulars and they even have their own personal mugs. We have a local veteran group that comes in every week and we get to watch people become lifelong friends before our eyes. It’s all about community and family here.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

You need to go into an industry you love. Even then, it can be tough sometimes, but my passion for the restaurant business has always pushed me to keep going. It’s nice working in an industry that is so diverse, because if you do get burnt out with one type of restaurant, there’s always going to be a million other concepts out there waiting for you. When you find the one that’s a perfect fit for you, you’ll know.

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?

Advertising gets the word out there about what your business is, where it is, what it sells, but branding is more about the experience you get when you walk through our doors. People know Grumpy’s to be a feel-good, hospitable place because our branding emphasizes that. Everything from the comfort food menu items, to the amazing staff who build relationships with the customers, to the affordable prices shows people that we want them here. An advertisement might show you how good our food looks, but in my opinion, good food means nothing if the person serving it isn’t going above and beyond for you.

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?

When I took over Grumpy’s, the brand was on the brink of closure. Even though the food was delicious and the restaurant’s history made it an important aspect of the community, the lack of branding and innovation caused the restaurant to slowly lose a lot of business. When we revitalized the brand, we brought new fresh energy into the business that people already knew and loved, and it completely changed the way our community viewed Grumpy’s.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Rebranding is not something any business should take lightly. It’s a long road to get there and you have to be really confident in your vision for the brand. Companies may consider rebranding if they feel their messaging is falling flat or if there are many pieces do the brand that to not integrate and promote similar messages. Speaking with the restaurant specifically, we noticed that Grumpy’s menu was way too limited. We wanted people to feel welcome at Grumpy’s, but the menu didn’t depict that because there weren’t necessarily options for everyone. Now we have expanded the menu and added creative items that are classic options with a twist, to keep things fresh and inviting.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

While doing a brand makeover, I think people need to be cautious of going too far. If there are things your brand lacks, you can implement them, but to completely change every aspect of your business can often be too much, and you may lose a lot of your current clientele in the process. We knew going into rebranding Grumpy’s that it was an old brand in need of sprucing up, but we never let go of our traditional roots. It’s more about refreshing your brand instead of completely changing it.

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.

  • Put yourself in your customers’ shoes — why do they keep coming back? This helped me figure out which aspects of the brand needed revitalizing and which aspects needed to stay. People kept coming back to Grumpy’s because of the community it cultivated. This defined the messaging we wanted to push when rebranding the restaurant.
  • Visualize your business after rebranding. What about this change will bring in fresh faces? You have to determine how to keep your current customers happy while also bringing in new people. This is why, as I explained earlier, you have to make sure you’re not going too far, but far enough that people can really see the changes.
  • Add menu items or products that have a purpose. I decided that Grumpy’s needed to stay true to its traditional no-nonsense breakfast menu, but we could put a spin on classic items to spruce it up. We get experimental with our waffles specifically and have created flavors like fruity pebbles, red velvet, and strawberry cheesecake to get people excited about the food, without it reaching too far off-brand.
  • Create a better environment. Many diners typically have an old-fashioned, greasy spoon feel, but they don’t have to. Our atmosphere is fresh, well-lit, and modern, making customers feel comfortable when they walk inside. A good environment creates positive energy from both the customers and the staff.
  • Don’t try to change your brand’s history, embrace it. Grumpy’s has been a staple in the community for many years before I stepped in, and to try to erase that history after building such a loyal following would be unfair. Even though the business needed a lot of help, we had to stay loyal to certain aspects of the original Grumpy’s.

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?

I started my franchise journey in the quick serve space, not with this brand, but I have recently seen Subway rebrand themselves after years of bad press and falling sales. They rebranded their logo and are re-position themselves as a fresh and healthy restaurant. We are yet to see how well this will turn out, but I think they have done a good job thus far.

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. 🙂

To me it would have to be a movement around feeding the less fortunate.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Give everything to everything.Inky Johnson

This quote by Inky Johnson perfectly and quickly hits home to everything in anyone’s life. Its not about doing something in life, its about doing something the best way you possibly can in life.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.grumpysrestaurantco.com/

https://www.facebook.com/grumpysrestaurantco/

https://www.instagram.com/grumpysrestaurant/

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 Daniel DeLeon was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Kelsey Specter of Wild

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Kelsey Specter of Wild Side Design Co.

Storytelling is essential to brand success. Humans are social creatures and, as Tyrion Lannister so eloquently points out in Game of Thrones, story is the thing that unites all of us, regardless of background, education, ethnicity and life experience. Story is universal.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Kelsey Specter. Kelsey is a brand strategist, designer, entrepreneur and digital nomad. She is the founder of Wild Side Design Co. and several other companies spanning from e-commerce retail to financial markets. At 18 she traded college for adventure and bought a one-way ticket to Brazil with $600 to her name, where she ended up starting a business (and another, and another…) She now spends her days conjuring up new business ideas and breathing magic into them in her dreamy little São Paulo studio.

She has been named to the Top 40 Brand Designers of 2019 by bestselling author & icon The Brand Stylist, Fiona Humberstone, and her designs have been featured in best of design showcases on Divi Design Showcase, Mindsparkle Magazine, Awwwards and more.

Kelsey is a lover of adventure, open skies, and the 1970’s because she’s a flower child at heart (and because of the music, obviously). Her mission is to help the trailblazers of tomorrow, those determined to challenge the status quo, make a difference in the world, work and adventure on their own terms, and live to do what they’ve been told is impossible.

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?

Well, this is best answered over at least a glass of wine but I’ll give the brief version! Basically, when I was 18 instead of going to college I bought a 1-way ticket to Brazil with $600 dollars in my pocket and a dream of making an adventure for myself. It was pretty scandalous at the time because I had graduated first in my class and was expected to take that traditional path of college, a “stable” career and so on but it was important for me to prove to myself that I could make it on my own.

Since I had no formal training or experience, and no funds to invest in a business idea, I looked for opportunities to make a living for myself from my laptop. My now-husband and I went into business together learning to make websites, mostly through Google and trial and error! We got our first clients by going door to door to local businesses and sending cold messages to Facebook offering web design services. At the time, I barely spoke Portuguese so it was a real learning curve on all fronts! From there, with our first clients we slowly grew the business. But the biggest leap came when I had the idea to create a niche agency for women entrepreneurs to break into the American market, where clients were willing to pay more for the same services we were selling in Brazil. I invested what little money I had left into Pinterest ads and landed my first American clients.

And that’s how Wild Side Design Co. was born!

We slowly expanded our services beyond websites to brand design, where we gained most of our popularity and fame. In the past year we have also delved into brand strategy as we realized that the majority of our clients struggled when it came to positioning themselves competitively in the market; they needed much more than just a new logo!

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?

This one is pretty embarrassing! When I was first starting with brand design, I had to design logo for a teacher’s blog. We wanted to include an icon of an apple in the logo. The design I came up with was like a cross-section, where you could see the seeds inside and whatnot. However, when the logo when live we got a lot of people saying that it looked like female genitalia! Needless to say, I was mortified and quickly updated the logo.

However, it was a valuable lesson is getting a second opinion on whether or not there may be a different interpretation that you are missing. As an artist, when you look at your own work sometimes you get so caught up in your vision for it that you can forget that it’s other people’s interpretations that matter most. When it comes to branding, a design is only successful if it effectively conveys the message you are trying to get across.

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?

Absolutely! In the beginning, we had this generic, agency-like feel. There was nothing really special about our messaging and positioning — we had a lot of success getting work outsourcing from other agencies than from businesses directly.

The tipping point came when I had the idea to nichify down and focus on one specific audience, in this case branding for creative women entrepreneurs. And then I took my marketing to the place this audience spends the most time looking for inspiration: Pinterest. This combination really launched Wild Side!

The takeaway is to not be afraid to get super specific with your marketing. Don’t worry about repelling people who don’t resonate with your message — they aren’t the right kind of clients for you anyways. Those who DO connect with your messaging will be 10x more enthusiastic because of how confidently and consistently you uphold your values. Those clients will really feel seen, understood and at home with you and will become your most raving fans.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Actually, yes! I just launched my very first online course, Passport to Pinterest, teaching the Pinterest marketing techniques I used to grow my account from 700k to 7million viewers in less than 1 year. We do a lot of Pinterest management for clients, and I have people asking me all the time for tips or if Pinterest would work for their industry and so on. I wanted to take all that knowledge and wrap it up into a DIY formula that anyone could use.

A lot of people are frustrated with Instagram and Facebook lately and the changes in the algorithm that are making it really pay to play. I’ve always taken a very anti-Instagram approach and have been very vocal about it, and to be honest people have been speaking up left and right and agreeing and engaging with this topic (much more than I ever imagined)! I think a lot of people feel this way, especially those fellow introverts who don’t want to have to take and post pictures of themselves all the time. There’s this huge pressure to be posting about yourself and it’s refreshing to have someone say, hey you actually don’t have to do this, and you’re not alone. It’s kind of a relief!

Pinterest is still a relatively untapped market with huge potential for organic reach, and in my course I wanted to focus on a holistic approach to the subject. What’s lacking in a lot of social media courses out there is the means to actually track results from your efforts. That’s why I decided to cover other non-Pinterest things like conversion tracking pixels, website KPI’s, sales funnel basics, A/B testing and even brand storytelling. I want people to be able to see their Pinterest strategy through from end to end, and that’s more than just pinning X number of times per day. It’s about measuring and tracking your results and telling a consistent brand story across all platforms.

This holistic approach is similar to how I approach all of my client work — everything is interconnected!

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Burnout is very real, especially when you are self-employed. I like to say, you are the last line of defense! Even if you have a team, if something goes wrong you are always the last man standing and the one who has to make things right at the 9th hour!

For me, cultivating an office/work environment that makes me happy is so important. I spent a lot of time living a more nomadic lifestyle, where I would work sitting on my bed or at the kitchen table, so never really had a designated “work” space that was separate from my “home” space. The biggest change for me was when I got a separate office which became my designated work zone and started building my team. I finally got to choose decorations and design the space in a way that makes me happy and excited to work every day. It seems silly, but surrounding yourself with people and things that bring you joy increases productivity and decreases overall stress. Now, I have clearer boundaries between “work” and “play” which were seriously lacking before!

So I recommend, even though it’s tempting to work from home as a freelancer or online business owner with a remote team, to cultivate a “work” space away from home at least a few days a week if possible — even if it’s just a local coffee shop or coworking space.

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?

Great question! In a nutshell, branding is what other people think about your business, the overall story you tell and how people connect to you on an emotional level. At Wild Side, we work a lot with brand archetypes, which is basically the 12 Jungian archetypes as applied to branding & marketing, focusing on universal human desires, needs and emotional connection.

So a skincare brand, for example, may have an Innocent archetype, appealing to our desire for simplicity (the simpler/easier times), our feelings of nostalgia for “the good old days” and/or our emotional connection with values of honesty and wholesomeness. This is the brand story that makes up public opinion. A good example of this archetype in use is Ivory Soap, and you can see and feel these values permeate the brand — from visual identity to photography to voice and messaging. We find that archetypes are a much truer representation of a brand than psychographics are, because they connect us as humans through common values, not just physical characteristics such as age, location or gender.

So if brand marketing (branding) is the story, product marketing (advertising) is just one chapter or excerpt of the story. Each individual advertising campaign should always stay true to the story as a whole, as in not introducing any irrelevant characters or storylines, but has the freedom to express itself as a part of that larger picture. Just like in a book, each chapter has its own mini plot line that fits into the overall story arc. So when we work with brands on individual campaigns, we always make a point to take into account the overall brand story and positioning so we don’t create an inconsistencies, and so we don’t change the overall “story” or perception of the brand in the eye of the consumer. This is what we call being on-brand!

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?

Nowadays, more than ever, consumers are being drawn towards brands with similar values. With so many product options on the market, people are choosing to buy from companies that resonate with their personal outlook on life. the modern consumer is more informed than ever. For example, there are hundreds (maybe thousands!) of options for shampoo. But now, as a consumer you are looking for more than just a hair wash. Now, you are checking whether the brand is organic or eco-friendly, whether it uses recyclable packaging, whether it’s tested on animals or not, whether it contains chemicals like sulfates or parabens, whether the ingredients are fair trade or it’s manufactured in the United States…and so on and so forth. It’s not about the shampoo — it’s about the brand values.

And branding extends beyond just product advertising. It’s about associating yourself with certain values so that you become synonymous with certain ideals in the mind of the client. Whether that’s organic/all natural, luxury/exclusivity, excellent customer service, or being ahead of the trends…by positioning yourself as a brand with a story to tell, you build loyalty with your customer base. In a recent study by Fundera, the results found that 56% of consumers stay loyal to brands that “get them,” and 89% of customers are loyal to brands that share their values. When it comes to retention, customers are looking for more than just a product — they want an experience and a story to connect with on a deeper level.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

This is a great question. We actually get this a lot at the agency, since most of our clients come to us with an existing “brand” so to speak (in most cases, not clearly defined) looking to rebrand. The first question we ask is what the goal is with such a rebrand — what do they hope to accomplish? In most cases, the company started out going in one direction, usually in a pretty generic fashion, and as it began to grow the owner(s) started to recognize a particular audience or niche that showed more potential.

For example, a local boutique may start out selling all kinds of gift items, but as time goes on they recognize that their bestsellers are actually their metaphysical items like crystals, smudge sticks, tarot cards etc. at which point they may decide to rebrand themselves to focus on this particular niche and audience. This is an excellent reason to rebrand, especially when there is actual data to back up the decision. We always recommend doing market research prior to any rebrand in order to test viability.

In general, the main reasons we would recommend rebranding are:

-to better appeal to a specific audience that you are currently not reaching;

-to align with a change in offerings or products that are not aligned with your current branding;

-to build/clarify a specific brand message/story in the absence of one;

-to update/modernize your brand in the face of a changing market and trends;

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Yes, absolutely. It’s much harder to rebrand an established brand, because there is already a pre-formed image or story in the mind of the consumer. They are used to having a particular experience, and to seeing a specific combination of visuals when it comes to the visual identity especially. I do believe in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality when it comes to larger brands.

In “The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes”, authors Mark and Pearson talk about how brands that stay consistent to one archetype over time see more long-term success than brands that are inconsistent or flip-flop between archetypes.

Rebranding, when done incorrectly, can confuse the consumer and actually negatively impact your overall brand image. With established companies, when set on a rebrand it’s vital to maintain the essence of the brand and only change the minimum amount of aspects to achieve the desired result. For example, if a company is looking to update or modernize its brand in the face of a changing market, I would recommend a refresh of the visual identity within the parameters of the existing brand — maybe a cleaner version of the existing logo, with a more modern font, etc. The same goes for messaging, colors…the story should always stay the same, with changes being made only to the way that story is expressed to make it more relatable to the changing market and audience.

Only under very rare circumstances would a complete rebrand/repositioning be recommended for an established brand, and that’s simply because you risk losing all the traction and rapport you’ve spent years gaining with your current audience. Unless, of course, your goal is to reach a completely different audience altogether! But again, that’s a case by case basis.

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.

Absolutely!

  1. Define/redefine your brand values — When it comes to branding, people always think about the visual side of things — logo, colors, fonts, etc. the strategic side is often forgotten because it’s just not as sexy or enticing as designing a logo. However, brand values are really the foundation, the cornerstone of any brand.
  2. Many of the clients that come to us are actually looking for clarity more than anything — they have too many ideas, too many offerings, too many audiences, and they need help defining the ONE thing, the values that they should focus on. Before spending time and money on a visual refresh, consider focusing internally on your brand values and how you want people to connect with you first. Do you value organic ingredients? Accessibility/affordability for all? Highest quality regardless of price? What makes you stand apart from your competitors?
  3. Implement archetypes — Storytelling is essential to brand success. Humans are social creatures and, as Tyrion Lannister so eloquently points out in Game of Thrones, story is the thing that unites all of us, regardless of background, education, ethnicity and life experience. Story is universal.
  4. Our methodology to build brand story is using brand archetypes, because they serve as a framework for human psychology and the universal ways we relate with the world around us. There are only so many kinds of stories, and all of them come back to basic archetypes. Is your brand a Hero? A Lover? An Explorer? A Jester? What story are you telling? We find that just one archetype is often too shallow or one-dimensional to paint a true picture of the brand story, so we always combine two archetypes in a unique blend. The Wild Side brand, for example, is a combination of The Explorer and The Mage, mixing the need for self-expression and the belief in making a dream into reality. More than just a design studio, we take visions and ideas and manifest them into reality for our clients.
  5. Modernize your logo & visuals — This is the most obvious of the list, and the most “exciting” because it’s the most tangible. When it comes to a rebrand, though, I don’t recommend throwing the existing visual system out the window. It’s important to evaluate what is and isn’t working about what you have now, because it has gotten you to where you are now (so you’ve been doing something right!).
  6. The new identity shouldn’t stray too far from your current identity or you risk confusing the consumer. Continuity can be maintained most easily through color (if you have a specific color associated with your brand already i.e. Tiffany Blue) and the logo. If you have a logo icon already, instead of starting from scratch consider revamping or modernizing the existing design. For example, when Google rebranded, they kept their color scheme while opting for a new sans-serif logo font to make the brand feel more modern. All in all, they kept the essence while making the brand more relatable for the new generations.
  7. Tell a story with imagery — This is especially important when it comes to social media. The way brands connect with consumers is becoming more and more visual, as users tend to read less text and consumer more images & videos. If your brand doesn’t have a clear strategy for visual storytelling through photo & video content, this is an opportunity for you to refresh your brand without a whole redesign. Consider ways you can tell a story or evoke an emotional connection through your content.
  8. A brand I think does an excellent job of this is Spell Designs, an Australian clothing label. They’ve grown their business from a cult following to over 1Million followers on Instagram, and much of it thanks to beautiful imagery and storytelling. Their account showcases photos of women wearing their pieces in dreamy locations around the world, on faraway beaches, sun-soaked European terraces, exploring exotic jungles…each image is a story in itself, and the overall tale is that Spell is a brand for jetsetters, nomads and modern bohemians. Buying a piece is like buying a ticket into that dreamy lifestyle.
  9. Expand your brand with collaborations — When your brand is well established but you simply want to branch out, maintaining the original while expanding your reach, this is a creative and under-utilized strategy. With the rise of influencer marketing, each influencer has become a brand in and of themselves. They have a unique voice, style, story and engaged audience. By strategically partnering with influencers (or other brands) with specific values that align with or stand adjacent to your own, you can aggregate values and potential buyers to your brand by proxy. A sort of “fan exchange” can take place between your brand and that of your collaborator, while at the same time you expand your overall brand image in the direction of the collaborator’s values.
  10. For example, I also own an ecommerce brand that sells planners and agendas called Smart Planner Co. Our products are all very unisex, professional and “black and white” so to speak — no frills or fluff. We’ve positioning ourselves as the go-to productivity planners, exactly what you need and nothing more. But, this year we are looking to expand our horizons into some “prettier” products, a more indulgent line of colors and florals for the more artistically inclined. Rather than rebrand our company as a whole, which would undo all the traction we’ve gained so far, we will launch our “limited edition” line as a collaboration with another artist already known for this type of style. In this way, we “borrow” the artistic authority of our collaborator while expanding our audience to their own followers. It’s a win-win scenario.

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 my favorites in recent history is the comeback of Polaroid. In a time that things that are “old” are suddenly “new” and retro is the new cool, it seems like many brands are trying to fit into this “new vintage” trend. When it comes to Polaroid though, they don’t have to try to be vintage — they are the originals!

With the revival of Polaroid through The Impossible Project and subsequent rebranding to Polaroid Originals, they were able to maintain the true essence of the brand, the retro roots in all of their glory, while making it just modern enough to bring it to the 21st century. They didn’t try to reinvent themselves or to change their story — they simply stayed true to who they have always been, while shifting course ever so slightly to stay up with design trends. And there’s something enticing about being original in a world of so many copycats and spinoffs!

The takeaway from this is to not let yourself be influenced by other people’s opinions, trends and ideas — staying true to yourself and your brand values even throughout a rebrand is essential. What is trendy today won’t be tomorrow, and brands that stand the test of time are those that are authentic to themselves despite the changing tide of opinions around them.

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. 🙂

Some of the greatest value I have experienced in the past few years has been from the cultural exchange of living in another country, of learning a different language from my own. There’s so much richness and wealth of experience when it comes to experiencing other ways of life and thinking. With each new language comes a whole new set of cultural nuances in the way you think and relate to the world. I find that so magical! It opens your eyes in ways you never thought possible.

If I could, I would create a global network and cultural exchange connecting people from all backgrounds, languages, socioeconomic statuses and belief systems. If every person could spend even just a few months experiencing a different way of life, a different set of beliefs and values than those they are used to, imagine what it could do for us as humans. We might find ourselves slower to judge others and more open to hearing other points of view, more accepting of other beliefs because we realize that everyone’s perspective is subjective to their experience.

It does sounds a bit idealistic, but hey, I’m a dreamer!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote, and I’m not even sure where it comes from, is “one year from now you’ll be happy that you started today”. Whenever I’m in doubt about getting started, or get too stuck in my head about making something “perfect” or waiting for just the right timing, this always comes to mind. A few years ago, I put up a list of free fonts as a graphic on my blog with a quick email opt-in link. I never thought it would be such a big deal. 2+ years later, this same pin gets more than 1M impressions per month on Pinterest and generates nearly 100 email signups per day. I’m SO glad that I put it up when I did, looking back now. So yes, this is absolutely true to my life!

How can our readers follow you online?

The best way is through our website wildsidedesign.co or if you’re a social media person through Pinterest (pinterest.com/wildsideco) or Facebook (facebook.com/wildsidedesignco)

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 Kelsey Specter of Wild was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Evan Nierman

I would like to see our country fundamentally rethink our approach to education. I believe that the vast majority of subjects taught in schools are a total waste of time for the students and that some of the most important topics are the very ones that are almost never imparted to children.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Evan Nierman.

Evan Nierman, Founder and CEO of the international PR and crisis management firm Red Banyan. Throughout his 25-year-career, Evan has provided invaluable crisis communications counsel to top business leaders, government officials, presidential candidates and private individuals. Those dedicated to accomplishing their goals — and delivering the right messages at the right time — rely on Evan and his unrivaled team at Red Banyan to Press the Truth.®

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?

Prior to forming Red Banyan, I served as Director of Communications for a fast-growing, highly scrutinized start-up. I represented the company and guided the CEO through interviews with top-tier media, including dozens of international, national and local print, TV and online outlets. I started in D.C. working at the intersection of politics and policy and had the opportunity to see firsthand how stories are shaped in the media. I very quickly learned that some organizations are more effective than others at capturing and adequately telling their stories. Tapping into the power of the press is one of the most powerful ways to influence opinion. I went to work at a D.C. firm for high-stakes and crisis PR because the impact of that kind of work is immediate and makes a big impact. However, I quickly learned that while the clients were amazing, I felt that they should be treated differently. I decided that one day I would start a firm where we eschewed a transaction approach to business in favor of forming long-term relationships. I distinctly remember one evening at dinner saying to a colleague, “One day I am going to have my own firm, but we are going to do things very differently.” Years later I took the leap and made good on that pledge to myself. Starting Red Banyan was one of the best business and life decisions that I have made.

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?

Our first company logo was truly abysmal. We went through two other iterations before arriving at our current brand and logo. Honestly, when I look back at our very first logo, I am mortified. It was a sinister-looking tree that appeared to have blood dripping from the branches. The lesson I learned was to pay attention to every detail when it comes to your own marketing and branding. In our world, the clients have always come first, but communications companies especially cannot afford to neglect their own PR and branding.

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?

Business done right involves the CEO or other leadership team members constantly seeking the next tipping point. Red Banyan has not even scratched the surface yet in terms of what we will accomplish. For 2020 the goal is to rapidly encounter and leap over our next tipping point as a company. My mentality in business and in life is this: if you are not growing then you are dying. I am not a status quo type of person and I refuse to accept mediocrity. My professional and personal life are about wanting more and always striving to get better.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are currently looking at ways to take our service offerings and make them more accessible to a wider subset of the market. Our current pricing structure is not a fit for many organizations, so we are exploring ways to provide added value to more companies and organizations. This will allow us to dramatically increase the number of businesses and people whose lives we are able to change for the better.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Read more books. Listen to more podcasts. Most importantly: stop talking and start listening. Marketers, in particular, often love to hear the sound of our own voices. But real learning happens when you actively listen to the person in front of you. New ideas and new inspiration come from listening, not talking. Active listening is one of the most underutilized skills in the realm of communication. And if you need any validation, then feel free to ask my wife of 17 years, who will agree with that assessment!

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?

There is a fundamental difference between how you create a transactional experience with an immediate call to action, which is the route most often pursued when advertising a product, versus branding. The mechanics of how you advertise is flexible, whereas with branding (where you are in essence also selling ideas or issues), you try to tell the story of what you sell and the story behind who is doing the selling. Branding requires organizations to build awareness around their product or offering while at the same time shaping how the public sees you.

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?

As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” What that means is that people want to buy products or services from companies that they like and trust. Therefore, telling your story and creating affinity and brand loyalty over time will yield far greater results than making one transactional sale with the customer relationship based on an exchange of goods and services for a set price and nothing more, nothing less. Companies need to make sales to stay in business; it’s a critical piece but it cannot be the only one. They also need to pay close attention to how they articulate their brand and seek to build loyalty among their customers. That is how you cultivate repeat purchases. Trust is at the core and that is what brand marketing is all about. You want customers to trust you and believe in you as well as the product or service you provide.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

If a company is failing to convey the proper look and feel, or if the impression they are making isn’t the right one then it is time to rebrand. A rebrand can be done in a situation where something is not working and is flawed, such as Red Banyan’s first logo, or it could be done simply to modernize and upgrade the company’s image. Even the most iconic brands in the world, responsible for producing the logos, commercials and earworm jingles that get stuck in our heads, often find ways to update and put fresh looks on their brands. Rebranding is something that should be thoughtful and careful, but it does not need to be such a painful experience that companies avoid it.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

There definitely can be. PricewaterhouseCoopers sought to rebrand itself as Monday and then retreated quickly due to the backlash. Rebranding can be updating and modernizing, tweaking and improving. It does not necessarily have to be an overhaul where you are throwing the baby out with bathwater.

Some of the strongest brands in America have gone through rebrands. A good example is the fast food industry. These are challenging days for many of them as people are becoming more health conscious in their food choices. Some iconic fast food brands have adapted, updating their logos, the look, feel and décor within their restaurants aimed at creating a different dining experience. Big brands that have stood the test of time tinker successfully with their branding when they make it an incremental process. When you have built brand equity over time you don’t have scrap everything, but a fresh take is often a good thing.

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.

Share with care and post with purpose. This is a key social media strategy. Social media is a powerful tool which can be used as a force for good, or the quickest way to destroy a brand.

To “share with care” is to avoid revealing information that can threaten your safety or negatively impact your personal or professional brand, such as posting inappropriate content.

When you “post with purpose” you carefully consider the strategic objective behind your content. Digital footprints are permanent and the posts we share continue to live on even if deleted.

Press the truth. Spurred in large part by the ubiquitous nature of social media and growing global access to the internet, there are more ways than ever for businesses to engage with the public and drive their messages. Sitting back or employing outdated communications best practices will not suffice.

When you press the truth, you take bold action that puts your brand front and center.
Earlier stage businesses with less-established brands can quickly develop them with bold PR strategies that define themselves, set the tone, and tell their stories before others do so.

Employ three Ps to upgrade your organization and brand and keep them thriving.

Prevention. Think constantly and actively about how your organization presents itself. Prevent negative reflections on your brand through disciplined communication.

Preparation. Have a crisis PR plan in place at all times in order to get ahead of any potential threats to your brand.

Practice. Brand discipline requires practice. Members of your organization must constantly work to communicate your messages and ensure that your brand is shining through clearly and positively.

Always think about your reputation. It’s something that must be cultivated and carefully protected. The core values of your company should be reflected in all that you do, including your marketing and communications.

Use social media. This will help ensure that your story reaches your audience. Rally your PR team and social media managers to craft content that is truthful and authentic.

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?

Mailchimp, whose brand has evolved as their products have evolved. The company released a new brand identity alongside a fresh design system. After their primary stage as a start-up, they homed in on what made them unique and brought that across with quirky appeal.

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 would like to see our country fundamentally rethink our approach to education. I believe that the vast majority of subjects taught in schools are a total waste of time for the students and that some of the most important topics are the very ones that are almost never imparted to children. Some examples of classes that I think would be wildly more valuable than the average school’s core curricula: personal finance, negotiation, interpersonal communication, entrepreneurship and public service. I’m inspired by thought leaders such as Anna Julia Cooper and John Dewey, who look at bring a more hands-on experience to education and strive to create more opportunity for the kids who need it most.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Not too long ago I had the opportunity of the lifetime to meet one of my personal heroes, Benjamin Ferencz, whose photo hangs on the wall of my office. Ben is the legendary last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor who made his mark on history when he successfully secured courtroom convictions against 22 Nazi perpetrators of crimes against humanity. And better yet, I got to share this experience with my son, Gabe. Ben has a personal philosophy that he shared with us that has shaped the foundation of both his personal and professional life: “Law not war.” He’s not just a hero of the Jewish people, but of all people and this personal philosophy of his is a life lesson in justice and humanity.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/evan-nierman/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/redbanyan

Facebook: https://facebook.com/redbanyan

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.

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5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Evan Nierman was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Of Retail: “Retailers will have to adjust to using subscription models” With Sanaz…

The Future Of Retail: “Retailers will have to adjust to using subscription models” With Sanaz Hajizadeh of Happy Returns

When it comes to utilities and non-fashion items, retailers will have to adjust to using subscription models. Today, with the world at the tip of our fingers, people are looking for ease and convenience. Imagine toothpaste could show up at a customer’s door, right as they squeezed out the last drop from the tube. The idea of planning extensive lists in advance and making extra trips to the store would be eliminated, freeing up the minds and schedules of consumers to focus on more important things.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sanaz Hajizadeh, the Senior Product Manager at Happy Returns. With over a decade of experience in companies ranging from Aerospace to Media and Publishing, she most recently served as Product Manager at SpaceX. Before that, she worked as the Product Owner and Senior Business Analyst at Univision Communications Inc.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Like anyone just out of school, I was looking for a job. But not just any job, I looked to establish my career in a field that would provide me the satisfaction of solving meaningful problems on a daily basis and the ability to work creatively in collaboration with smart people that would have a positive impact on society now and in the future. Those goals shaped my career in technology and took me to many different jobs and companies, from building a brand-new software to support digital advertising at Viacom to optimizing engineering processes at SpaceX. These days I quench my thirst for solving new problems and improving existing solutions in the eCommerce world. At Happy Returns, this means reshaping how the industry thinks about retail returns: as an opportunity for shoppers, retailers’ businesses, and the planet!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One of the most interesting moments of my career was when I actually felt how my abstract decisions for software could shape the future…and I mean felt, not just knew. Let me explain…I was at a SpaceX test launch pad in McGregor, TX watching the quality engineers test the Falcon 9 Booster using our updated software. One minute we were outside in sunny weather, the next minute the sounds of 9 Merlin engines roaring, a rocket trying to free itself from the captivity of cables and the gallons of water being used for cooling the platform immediately vaporizing and converting to mud rain tore through the air. I have never experienced such awe…all being controlled from the software that I was part of designing.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

To be honest, I still make mistakes, but I always find a way to laugh about them and learn a lesson. When working at MTV, I had to launch a really big, high visibility product that everyone was waiting for. On the day of the launch, I wanted to do one last round of checks before the release and I saw some random data in the system. I panicked, called a team emergency meeting and set up a war room, all while trying to hide this from my boss, worrying about the project and my job at the same time. Fifteen minutes in, as all the engineers were trying to figure out the issue, one pointed out that I wasn’t looking at the right environment and that we were in our test environment instead of production. It was very stressful at the time, but now it makes me smile. I have since practiced not to panic at the small sign of a problem, but to take a deep breath and look for signs pointing towards a real problem. If there is a problem…I determine how big it is before calling everyone in to help. I make sure I have alternate plans to be able to easily provide the next steps instead of hiding the problem.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Yes, 100%!! At Happy Returns, we are transforming the retail / eCommerce returns industry and making the process easier for customers and more sustainable and headache free for retailers. We are using machine learning to improve the customer’s experience and accelerate the product turn around back to inventory. Using this technology, we are able to offer higher exchange rates to our retailers than the rest of the market.

Retailers such as REVOLVE, Rothy’s, Draper James and Everlane are seeing revenue and profit protection via exchange rates as high as 33% and improved customer loyalty. Happy Returns also helps retailers reduce return shipping costs by 20% by consolidating shipments while using enviro-friendly reusable packaging to ship returned goods in bulk to sorting hubs.

Happy Returns is also addressing waste reduction by offering online and omnichannel retailers and offering their customers easier and more eco-friendly ways to manage returns. We recently launched a first-of-its-kind cardboard-free returns program. The program is designed to stem the tide of cardboard waste by offering cardboard-free returns to its retail customers.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I am not a big fan of the work-life balance concept. I know it’s controversial but hear me out: In this day and age, everyone is always connected, so your work is part of your life and separating them in the name of balance is doomed to fail. But you can be smart, find a job that provides growth opportunities, one that you can enjoy and that helps you learn, just like friends and family do. That type of job can make your personal life more enjoyable and give you more confidence, so work doesn’t feel like a drag on your personal life. At the same time, it’s important to know your limits and when to disconnect and recharge, like the days you say no to seeing friends because you want to read a book in bed!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Among the many people who helped me along the way, Alessandro Brun is someone I think of often. As one of my graduate professors, Alessandro prepared me for the corporate world and its challenges. Thanks to his guidance and support, I was able to publish my first book, Does The Gaining Worth The Compromise?,” penned during my time at Lamborghini (where I was a supply chain engineer), which focuses on the impact of mergers and acquisitions in the luxury branding space.

There’s no doubt about it, mentors are important people that advocate for you and help push your career forward. I have been very lucky over the years to have had amazing support, and now I’m confident I can be a support system for others.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I constantly try to be someone that would make those I looked up to proud. As a female immigrant who moved to the United States with no family and little financial support, I dealt with many obstacles, including language and cultural barriers. I have established myself as a thought leader, and now that I have access to resources, I am trying to make this path easier for others. Through attending women’s leadership conferences and meet-ups, joining various mentorship programs and partnering with career influencers and coaches such as strive.co, careerpunk.com, I hope to help others achieve their goals.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

Retail is a very broad concept, ranging from shopping for groceries at your local store to have products delivered to your doorstep through same-day delivery services. Retail is also a global phenomenon with different trends in various cultures. Here are some of my ideas, based on my experience in the markets I’m familiar with:

  1. When it comes to utilities and non-fashion items, retailers will have to adjust to using subscription models. Today, with the world at the tip of our fingers, people are looking for ease and convenience. Imagine toothpaste could show up at a customer’s door, right as they squeezed out the last drop from the tube. The idea of planning extensive lists in advance and making extra trips to the store would be eliminated, freeing up the minds and schedules of consumers to focus on more important things.
  2. Retailers will have to adjust to growth in fast fashion in developing countries. However, retailers also must anticipate backlash in more affluent countries as people become more aware of the environmental footprint things like fast fashion have: increased water usage and reduced sustainability and recyclability of materials.
  3. A major generational trend we see now is that people value experiences over things, so stores must adapt by becoming more immersive. By immersive I don’t mean just Instagram-able pop-ups, stores in the future will hold less inventory and will serve more as a concept and experience for the customer. This trend is also a nod to the fact that millennials are gaining more and more purchase power, and data shows they’re burned out and don’t want things as much as they want balance and convenience.
  4. When it comes to retail, people shop on a spectrum, some focus on consumer trends, while others only buy exactly what they need, most people, however, are in the middle. The sharing economy will expand into retail to scale the trends in a more sustainable way. The future will bring more rental options not only for weddings and evening gowns but even for everyday outfits. Wouldn’t it be cool if suddenly your neighbor’s closet was yours to choose from for that happy hour you don’t have anything to wear too? There will be more sustainable, high quality but affordable products to satisfy the minimalist and utilitarian crowd.
  5. This might need more than 5 years, but with all the personal data about shoppers collected on the internet, smart companies will not only recommend what to buy (which they already do) but will discourage you from buying something that they know you will return. If a company knows your shoe size is 7, and they know the particular shoe you are purchasing runs small, they will alert you with a message reading “Buy 7.5, for the best fit!” At Happy Returns, we are building towards something like this.
  6. As a retailer, you have to deal with many challenges, from product design to inventory management and logistics, all while competing with giants like Amazon and Walmart. For this reason, we will see economic growth across the platform in the next few years. Each retailer alone won’t have the resources to compete with giants, but they can find success by combining resources. This is exactly what Happy Returns offers to retailers. As an individual retailer, you don’t have the economy of scale that Amazon has to offer free in-person returns nationwide, but as a member of our club, you get that power and so much more.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

We have the entire world right at our fingertips, we have access to the latest medical knowledge, updates from across the globe, and we can even have food delivered right to our doorsteps in minutes. Generations before did not have access to this power, and to be completely frank, we are all kind of drunk on it. We have failed to consider the long-term ramifications of this technology on the environment and society.

I get it, we value time as the most important asset we have, and we constantly try to use it efficiently. In order to reduce our carbon footprint, however, we must visualize the future, and understand we might have to take some different, not-so-easy steps to consciously make an effort towards sustainability. These can be things as simple as waiting two days for a new product instead of same-day delivery or shopping local to reduce environmental shipping costs. This is why I love working at Happy Returns, we make a conscious effort to reduce waste, by using reusable boxes and encouraging in-person drop-offs instead of shipping.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sanazhajizadeh/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


The Future Of Retail: “Retailers will have to adjust to using subscription models” With Sanaz… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: “Why you should listen to and get to know your team personally &…

Rising Through Resilience: “Why you should listen to and get to know your team personally & professionally”with Mark Scrimenti

Listen to and get to know your team personally and professionally — their individual strengths, weaknesses, passions, career aspirations, hopes and fears. Share yours with them as well. You’ll be better equipped to encourage and support each other when facing inevitable setbacks.

In my work as a coach and consultant, I speak with business leaders across multiple industries about their most significant challenges. One common theme continues to emerge — rapid change and disruption are the new norm in business, and the only constant is the demand for resilience. At the heart of resilience is the ability to adapt and recover quickly from adversity. I am certain that more than intelligence and talent, resilience is the single most important trait required to succeed in today’s highly complex market.

My “Rising through Resilience” interview series explores the topic of resilience in interviews with leaders across all walks of business.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Scrimenti, who is a business operations executive, entrepreneur, and writer with 20+ years of experience in software product development, marketing, and customer service. He is a passionate customer experience advocate and researcher, who specializes in scaling technology, teams, and processes for sustainable growth and profitability. Mark has transformed a $40 million ecommerce company into a $140 million growth engine in eight years. He finds creative inspiration and gains strategic insight by talking to customers on a regular basis.

Thank you so much for joining me! Can you share your backstory with our readers?

I started my executive career as a Content Director and UI/UX designer for a B2B ecommerce platform and knowledge exchange startup in the transportation and logistics industry.

From there, I founded my own Web design and development and digital marketing business. On the side, I also built and ran a non-profit social media platform that connected volunteers with service opportunities and organizations.

Next, I took what turned out to be the first in a series of leadership positions at an ecommerce technology company that ran multiple online retail sites in the music gear business.

During my 12 years there, I built teams, scaled operations, and led product development, marketing, the contact center, HR, and facilities. As the operations lead with P&L responsibility, I grew sales from $40 million to $140 million in just eight years.

Ready for my next challenge, I served as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer at a SaaS startup in the healthcare space.

What are the top three factors you would attribute to your success?

  1. Learning and communication skills
    I’ve always had a growth mindset. I also love learning and enjoy synthesizing complex information, distilling it into simple terms, and translating it for different audiences. This has helped me jump into new contexts and solve complex problems I’ve never faced before.
  2. Grit
    As a leader, I’m willing to step outside my comfort zone and take risks to advocate for others as well as values I believe in. I also have the patience and perseverance to do the methodical, often tedious work necessary to achieve excellence or effect meaningful organizational change.
  3. Empathy
    I’ve become a better leader by listening to others first and seeking to understand their perspective, motivation, backstory, and particular pain. Empathy has helped me work through conflicts and adapt to different cultural needs, key to building authentic relationships based on mutual trust and respect.

What makes your company stand out from the crowd?

As I’m in an interim position now, I’m thinking of my last company, where I spent 12 years in different leadership roles.

What made that company stand out was the culture and the people. Almost everyone there was a musician so the place brimmed with music and creativity. At the same time, we were a technology company founded by a musically-gifted, social scientist with an exceptional talent for data analysis and modeling, amongst other things.

As the VP of Business Operations and Customer Experience, one of my primary goals was to build a culture that tempered a bias for action with a commitment to disciplined testing and analysis.

Over time, I helped create a data-driven culture where everyone understood the value of experimentation and iteration. Though the marriage of these two perspectives created friction at times, we built a remarkably healthy business on this foundation.

By the time I left the company, we had revenues approaching $1 million per employee and near 20% year-over-year growth for several years running. Happy owners and shared success makes for a more fulfilling workplace.

How has your company continued to thrive in the face of rapid change and disruption in your industry?

Here’s my Top 10 list:

  1. Talking directly to customers to find out what really matters to them.
  2. Identifying areas of strength — and building on them — while also shoring up weaknesses.
  3. Marrying qualitative and quantitative data to identify new opportunities for innovation and growth.
  4. Taking calculated risks to stake out competitive advantage in areas we think we can win — for example, by extending our own credit line to customers via no-interest payment plans to fuel growth.
  5. Testing everything and continuously refining/improving performance, based on rigorous, insightful analysis of the results.
  6. Building a scalable, operational infrastructure that maps to customer journey touchpoints.
  7. Developing reliable predictive models for critical business functions such as fraud detection and order financing.
  8. Collaborating across disciplines to create flexible product roadmaps that align with long-term business goals.
  9. Refining strategy regularly to maintain an optimal balance of predictable profit, acceptable risk, and sustainable growth.
  10. Thinking in terms of customer lifetime value (LTV) and continuing to deliver the best possible value and customer experience over time.

According to a recent KPMG study, resilience is the underlying trait of most successful businesses. How would you define “resilience?”

I define resilience as the ability to bounce back from failure, disappointment, or loss, and reemerge with renewed energy and focus. First, you have to do the work necessary to learn what you can from the experience, grow stronger, and adapt. Then, you can take on new challenges or approach the same ones from a different angle. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of perspective — for example, seeing everything as a learning experiment and turning a “failure” into a pivot.

When you think of tenacity and endurance, what person comes to mind? (Can you explain why you chose that person?)

Nelson Mandela, who endured 27 years of imprisonment for fighting a corrupt system, yet never lost faith in his vision for a freer, more just and democratic South Africa. After his release from prison, he worked with his former oppressors to peacefully dismantle apartheid, affect racial reconciliation, and transform his country for the better without succumbing to bitterness, resentment, or cynicism.

On a personal level, my Austrian-Romanian grandmother, Mutti, was a tiny woman with enormous courage, wit, heart, and toughness. She managed to keep her family alive through harrowing circumstances at the end of WWII, yet always kept her sense of humor, despite suffering tremendous personal hardship and loss through two world wars.

Was there ever a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? (Can you share the story with us?)

I remember showing up for my first Little League practice when I was 11 years old. Back then, I was one of the smallest guys on the team, quiet and unassuming, and I had a cheap, little red mitt from Sears. An older kid on the team, who was one of the stud players in the league, took one look at me and groaned, “That guy’s on my team?”

Over time, his attitude changed. Why? He saw what I could do on the field. We finished 7–7 that year, yet made it to the playoffs. Underdogs all the way, we did the impossible: we won the championship in a close contest.

I made two game-saving catches in left field, which got featured in our local newspaper. From that season on, the stud player became my champion and my friend. When I got to junior high, he took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. It felt great!

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? (Can you share that story with us?)

2012–13 was a tough year for my family. My wife started having health problems, and my father was diagnosed with cancer. He died five weeks later. Around the same time, our five-year-old daughter began struggling with anxiety issues. It was heartbreaking to watch, and it took a lot of time and energy to find her the proper care. Meanwhile, the company was going through some difficult growing pains.

Not long after my father’s funeral, my 360 review came back with some challenging feedback. People had noticed my recent absences and wanted more of my time and attention. Some were unhappy with the way things were going and wanted me to do something about it. Even though I was still having a hard time personally, I took the opportunity to confront the feedback head on, learn from it, and model the behavior I wanted other leaders on the team to embrace.

So I called a team meeting to share what I’d heard from them, explain my takeaways, and state how I intended to act on them. Some closest to me rushed to my defense; I assured them the feedback was OK, and thanked everyone for it. I also addressed some recent grumbling between teammates. The meeting set a tone for vulnerability, honesty, transparency, accountability, and directness that, over time, became more of the norm.

That year marked a turning point for me as a leader. I grew stronger and more focused. Those whose confidence, trust, and respect I’d earned through this process drew closer to me and became my inner circle. It also became clear who wasn’t on board with the leadership culture I was trying to create, and over time, I found different options for them.

The next year, I followed through on my promises. While my performance was already good, things really kicked into a higher gear once I got all the right people in place.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? (Can you share a story?)

My junior year of high school, my parents sent me away to military school. While I wasn’t happy about their decision at first, I became determined to make the most of my experience there. So, I buckled down, got straight A’s, earned a number of achievement medals, beat out the starting second baseman on the varsity team, and made a best friend from overseas.

Plus, I didn’t take crap from anybody. At the end of the year, the school offered me a full scholarship to return for my senior year. They were going to make me an officer, because they said they wanted more leaders like me. I chose to return home for senior year instead, but the experience gave me an appreciation for systems, structures, and routines, which I learned to internalize through self-discipline. It also broadened my perspective and helped me to recognize the opportunity in every apparent setback.

One of the things I respect most about the military, aside from the sacrifices required, is the decisive leadership it forges. Indeed, I can trace the focus and decisiveness I bring to work as a leader every day back to my military school experience.

What strategies do you use to strengthen your resilience? (Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. Please share a story or an example for each)

  1. Trying new things and seeing new places — e.g., learning to play guitar, traveling overseas.
  2. Practicing healthy habits and self-care — e.g., exercising regularly, eating well, going to bed early, keeping an organized physical and digital workspace, taking time off, nurturing creativity, practicing spiritual disciplines, enjoying outdoor activities.
  3. Stepping out of my comfort zone, inviting critical feedback, and intentionally cultivating relationships with people who are different from me.
  4. Reading broadly and journaling insights.
  5. Giving, serving, and helping others in need.
  6. Practicing gratitude and having grace for myself and others.
  7. Cultivating a close-knit, safe, and reliable support circle.

How can leaders create a more resilient workforce?

  1. Listen to and get to know your team personally and professionally — their individual strengths, weaknesses, passions, career aspirations, hopes and fears. Share yours with them as well. You’ll be better equipped to encourage and support each other when facing inevitable setbacks.
  2. Help outline long-term career paths for the employees you value most, even if they might eventually leave the company to achieve their goals. Try to align their talents and aspirations with the company’s long-term vision, and encourage a sense of ownership in a shared future.
  3. Build a values-based culture that nurtures holistic well-being including work-life balance; physical, emotional, and spiritual health; autonomy, flexibility, and openness. Take time to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate your accomplishments together.
  4. Foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in hiring, leadership, and professional development. It’s worth being intentional and persistent about this. Any additional costs involved will more than pay for themselves by creating a stronger, more resilient, and vital team.
  5. Advocate for your employees and show that you value them first as human beings. Understand what’s most important to them and make sure to recognize them in kind. Risk leading the way in effecting positive cultural change that aligns with core values, communicating your vision every step of the way.
  6. Take time to process setbacks and disappointments as a team. Acknowledge the elephant in the room and talk about it. Share your honest thoughts and feelings, and invite others to do the same, while ultimately guiding them towards acceptance, learning, and constructive next steps.
  7. Guard against/redirect/weed out cynicism in yourself and others. Don’t tolerate backbiting, finger-pointing, gossiping, infighting, or rudeness, no matter who it comes from. Work out conflicts directly and with everyone involved in attendance. See resolutions through to the end.
  8. Instill a growth mindset, and develop a culture of experimentation. Encourage everyone to ask lots of questions. Permit people to make mistakes and learn from them.

Extensive research suggests that people who have a clear purpose in their lives are more likely to persevere during difficult times. What are your goals?

  1. To serve others well, with integrity and kindness.
  2. To engage in fulfilling work that has a positive impact on the world.
  3. To make authentic connections.
  4. To share gratifying experiences in community.
  5. To grow and help others grow in ways that enrich lives with joy and meaning.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Harry S. Truman

Thank you so much, that was very interesting! How can our readers get in touch with you?

Send me a LinkedIn invitation with a personal note referencing this interview, and we’ll take it from there.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/markscrimenti/

Thank you for the interview and to my publicist, Carolyn Barth, for arranging it.


Rising Through Resilience: “Why you should listen to and get to know your team personally &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, With Joel Krieger of Second

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, With Joel Krieger of Second Story

Building a brand is foremost — not an “in addition to”. Marketing and advertising are a means to gain awareness and drive sales. If more companies invested in stronger brand experiences, they wouldn’t need to spend exorbitant sums on ads. People make decisions based on emotion. And experience — not interruption — is how to positively influence those emotions. Advertising is mostly noise we try to avoid. But a great brand experience is something we welcome into our lives.

As a part of my series about brand makeover, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joel Krieger. Joel is chief creative officer of Second Story, a design studio focused on immersive, multi-sensory interactive environments. Working across cultural and brand spaces, Second Story designs new experiences that defy labels, elicit emotion, and spark action.

As head of Second Story, Joel leads the studios’ three locations in Portland, Atlanta, and New York. His work merges graphic and experience design, visual effects and programming with industrial design and architecture. Endlessly fascinated by the art of collaboration, Joel brings together radically different ideas and people for the ultimate creative mash-up.

His design work has been recognized by Communication Arts, HOW Design, the Society of Experiential Graphic Design, FastCo Design, The Webby Awards, IxDA, and The American Alliance of Museums. Joel is a regular speaker at forums like the Experiential Marketing Summit, MuseumNext, and AIGA. Joel also serves on the advisory board of The Ocean Experience Project, an immersive entertainment attraction focused on ocean conservation and activism.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Around the time that digital media’s over-whelming noise and isolation started to take its toll, I became very interested in our physical environment — and its power to bring people together. Creating these kinds of spaces requires a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary practice, which I love and have always been super curious to explore further.

Bringing these passions together, I joined Second Story in 2013, co-founding the Atlanta location and then serving as executive creative director for all three studios (New York, Atlanta and Portland). Now, as chief creative officer, I guide the studio’s vision, which is all about creating physical environments that invite people to interact together. Coupled with emerging technologies, these site-specific experiences are the most powerful channel to influence brand perception.

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?

Too many mistakes, I’m sure. But the most humorous have come from drowning in brand immersion. It’s vital to step inside your client’s perspective to see the brand from the inside. But you must also come back up for air and unlearn everything to see with fresh eyes. One way to balance yourself is having fun playing anthropologist — observing and experiencing real situations and customer moments to collect insights. Only from these foundational experiences do the wildly unexpected ideas emerge.

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?

From a craft standpoint, my background is more visual. But motivating myself to get better at articulating ideas through writing was a game-changer on every front — with co-workers, managers and, of course, with clients. When you embrace writing as a communication tool, it helps your thinking become sharper, more concise and focused — even if ideas are ultimately shared verbally.

Another tipping point: finally getting comfortable pitching ideas to clients. This has everything to do with calming the nerves. When you stop being so attached to the end result, it frees you to communicate with greater confidence and ease. This doesn’t just lead to better outcomes, it’s also far more fun to work this way.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re wrapping up work on the Australian Center for the Moving Image — reopening in Melbourne by early summer. It’s the most visited moving image museum in the world, spanning film, video games, animation, digital culture, and art. This is a great rebranding example, driven completely by the space itself and its reimagined experience. Our efforts will help people understand how we use moving images to construct reality and make meaning. Media literacy is really important considering the current trends of deepfakes and fake news.

Second Story is also evolving our experiential workshop, Make Some Room, which explores unconscious bias in the workplace. Iterating on this project over several years, we’re now taking it to the next level to serve a large-scale audience. This experience has proven emotionally potent and transformational. I tend to shy away from buzzwords like that, but this project really touches participants in a profound way — which translates to greater empathy and understanding in the work environment.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

We live in a culture that celebrates the grind. But success is not based on the hours you put in (brute force). Rather, it’s how meaningfully you spend your time. Cut out the noise of excessive meetings, emails, notifications, and interruptions. Spend more time thinking and making. By doing less and focusing more, you can do everything better.

In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between branding and advertising?

Advertising is how most companies communicate. It has completely saturated our world, everywhere we look. We see thousands of ads each day and ignore most. It’s inherently interruptive, appearing when we’re trying to watch a video, read an article, take a taxi or a flight. Advertising is also the underlying business model that subsidizes many of the free things we take for granted (like much of the internet). A great brand experience, which drives word-of-mouth and gets amplified via social, is a far more effective way to convert new customers than interrupting. I’m hopeful that we’re starting to shift beyond this outdated advertising model.

A brand is the collective perception of a company. It’s ethereal, existing only in the minds and hearts of people who experience it. Companies can influence their brand through actions — but they don’t own it. Similarly, our impressions of people are developed over several encounters based on observations, interactions and behaviors. Think about the most memorable person you know. They probably have a unique personality, which can only come from a strong sense of self and how they relate to others. It’s the same thing with businesses.

If a company was a person, what adjectives would you use to describe them? What character traits would they possess? The strongest brands have authentic personalities, expressed consistently in all their actions. Yes, tangible elements like names, logos, and taglines are important. But those exist only at the surface. Just like your name and clothes, these things aren’t who you are. Branding goes deeper — it’s an experience you live. What’s it like to go into a company’s store, buy their products, or interact with customer service when something goes wrong? All of those experiences (and many more) make up a company’s brand.

Can you explain why it’s important to invest resources into building a brand, in addition to general marketing and advertising efforts?

Actually, building a brand is foremost — not an “in addition to”. Marketing and advertising are a means to gain awareness and drive sales. If more companies invested in stronger brand experiences, they wouldn’t need to spend exorbitant sums on ads.

People make decisions based on emotion. And experience — not interruption — is how to positively influence those emotions. Advertising is mostly noise we try to avoid. But a great brand experience is something we welcome into our lives.

What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

A company might need repositioning to standout in a space that’s grown crowded with competitors. The business may have fundamentally changed to the point where its brand perception no longer represents who they are. Perhaps they’ve merged or been acquired. Whatever the reason, true rebranding is only possible when led by a comprehensive change in experience.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Unless you’re ready to evolve and change some fundamental aspects of who you are and how you act, you’re not ready for a rebrand. An organization must be introspective about their behavior and experience. A brand makeover can’t just be skin-deep with a new logo, tagline, and photography. You need to reimagine the experience of both your employees and customers to really reinvent yourself. Otherwise, it’s all just posturing and positioning.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please share an example for each.

Do the unthinkable. Would you encourage people to buy less of your product? Patagonia did with Worn Wear — helping people get more mileage out of the stuff they already own. You can repair, share, and recycle your gear. This is a company that really knows who they are. And it shows in every bold action they take.

Zig when others zag. While everyone else jumps on the Black Friday bandwagon, REI closed their stores with #optoutside. Sure, there was advertising based around this — but they had to DO SOMETHING first, in order to have something to talk about.

Be a Verb. What happens in your space beyond commerce and transactions? Lululemon and House of Vans are great examples of vibrant community activity within their physical footprint.

Take care of your employees. Your employees are the closest interaction point to your customers. How you train and what roles you offer them has an outsized impact on the brand experience. Just stay at a great hotel, and you’ll remember the difference it makes.

Exist for a reason. There’s much talk about brand purpose these days. But if it’s not baked into your business model, then it’s not really a purpose. People respond to brands that stand for something beyond profit-making. Patagonia is a clear leader in this category, but also companies like Ecosia, with purpose at their core — a search engine that plants trees with every search you make. Personally, this has totally shifted me away from Google. No amount of marketing could ever have achieved this.

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?

From a traditional branding perspective, Pentagram’s work for MIT Media Lab is stellar. They designed a beautiful system of grid-based glyphs for the lab’s 23 research groups. It’s flexible enough to support the organization’s innate diversity and complexity, yet so simple and refined.

From a brand experience standpoint, Virgin, lululemon, and the Ace Hotel all standout. Not sure if these qualify as a brand makeover — they likely have always been this way. Everything they do has a unique and authentic take. You can feel their identity in every experience detail. These brands are extremely thoughtful about how they show up in their physical environments and types of “happenings” that take place. How do you replicate that? Think about your physical footprint as your most powerful brand asset. Pay attention to the details — every little encounter adds up.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Most of the major problems in the world can be traced back to a single, underlying cause: we’ve become fundamentally disconnected from nature, and from each other. We spend most of our lives indoors staring at glowing screens, lonely and isolated from the natural world. There is a collective longing for a return to community and healthy communion with the earth. To help people see themselves as part of nature — not separate from it — would create a seismic shift for the better.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Everything always comes back to emotions.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.joelkrieger.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jkrieger/

https://www.instagram.com/jkrieger/

https://secondstory.com/

https://www.instagram.com/secondstory/


5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, With Joel Krieger of Second was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, With Mardis Bagley of…

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, With Mardis Bagley of Nonfiction

Branding builds consumer preference and loyalty — independent of the product. Apple is a great example with their extensive products and services that share a similar design language. From their first consumer touchpoint through their entire product line, you are acutely aware of their brand. Their entire communication connects together to create a strong, cohesive brand. This builds preference, when a customer seeks out your brand because they love all your other products. And loyalty, when a customer will buy only your product, which ultimately leads to brand evangelists and word-of-mouth advertising.

As a part of my series about brand makeovers, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mardis Bagley. Mardis is co-founder and creative director of Nonfiction, a San Francisco-based product design firm focused on the future of humans. Mardis has extensive experience in branding, graphic and industrial design. He began his career crafting brand stories and digital experiences, before expanding to physical products and transformational experiences for clients including Nike, Facebook, Logitech, Dell, Intel, Chevron, Jiffy Lube, Corning, Symantec, and countless mid-sized and startup companies. His direct efforts have garnered millions in sales and venture capital funding. Mardis also teaches sustainability and social impact at the California College of the Arts.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up the son of a carpenter and nurse. When I was five, I found a screwdriver and removed all the screws from the door handles in the house — locking my parents in different rooms. I helped my Dad lay a concrete foundation when I was eight. I was assisting on construction job sites when I was 10. And roofing houses and welding my own go-kart when I was 13. By 15, I was rebuilding car engines. By 16, I rolled my car end-over-end. It’s an understatement to say I was hands-on. While I could have walked into an architecture or carpentry career pretty easily, I chose my own path.

My design career began in graphic design and branding. I was quickly elevated to art director at a small branding firm — building websites, animations and interactions. But I always missed the tactile feel of making things. I returned to school for industrial design and got a slew of real-word experience, before launching design firm Nonfiction.

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?

I was developing a brand of medical products geared toward the elderly. One of my colleagues proposed a beautiful name that loosely translated to “autumn, or late in the season” and captured the essence of our elderly clientele. I focused on building the brand, including products, packaging and physical materials. In the final hours before launch, the client called about a critical name change. While they had trademarked the product name and domain…they just discovered it was far too similar to a high-end adult pornography website! Based on the clientele’s age and direct-to-consumer shipping strategy, their clients would undoubtedly go to the website for more information and likely hit the adult website. There was no saving it at that point — it was no joke and expensive because the physical products had already been created. But it was also utterly hilarious.

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?

My tipping point came several years into my career when I ventured into freelancing. I was contracting with various agencies where I was brought on as a “hired gun.” It forced me to jump from one diverse project to another. I had to deep dive into projects quickly and create results. I found it exhilarating. It also allowed me to work alongside many different people with unique styles. I learned to say “YES” to every opportunity. Many will work out, some may not. But there will always be something to be gained.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I design many products in the transformational technology field. This is a category focused on making deep, behavioral changes in people’s lives. Most recently, my company Nonfiction launched the world’s first FDA-approved, non-invasive solution to help reduce essential tremors, a condition that affects dexterity and movement in over seven million people in America alone.

We’ve also been designing neuro-priming devices to help athletes perform better by stimulating the motor cortex. And we’re currently creating products related to anxiety/stress, depression, migraine, chronic pain, dementia, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, memory, sleep quality, autism and epilepsy.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Beyond keeping projects diverse and staying challenged, I would advise to travel — a lot. Absorbing the eccentricities and nuances of other cultures is invaluable. It might fuel ideas for your next project or play a role in connecting with clients and consumers. It may simply help you be a more considerate and compassionate person.

Taking a break from work to reboot doesn’t necessarily require two weeks off, sans phone. I love fun unconventional breaks like themed get togethers, such as “monster parties” where guests pull words from hats and handmake representative stuffed toys like “grumpy Gaga”, “hairy hillbilly”, “STD robot” using glue guns, felt fabric, and sewing. Or “director’s appreciation night” where we pick an admired movie director, dress up, drink and party as our favorite character. It’s super creative and keeps your mind out of the office.

To each his own, but these allow me to recharge creatively without client pressures.

In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between branding and advertising?

Good marketing means you’ve reached your target audience, connected deeply and are selling products. On the other hand, good branding is an alignment between the brand’s philosophy and consumers interests. As Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Branding is the representation of your company values. Metaphorically, it’s the lighthouse amidst the storm of advertising. The storm takes on different forms and attitudes depending on the atmosphere. Advertising is something that needs to be updated regularly. But branding is something that shouldn’t change often. It sees through the storm to guide consumers and internal stakeholders toward a familiar vision.

Can you explain why it’s important to invest resources into building a brand, in addition to general marketing and advertising efforts?

Branding builds consumer preference and loyalty — independent of the product. Apple is a great example with their extensive products and services that share a similar design language. From their first consumer touchpoint through their entire product line, you are acutely aware of their brand. Their entire communication connects together to create a strong, cohesive brand. This builds preference, when a customer seeks out your brand because they love all your other products. And loyalty, when a customer will buy only your product, which ultimately leads to brand evangelists and word-of-mouth advertising.

What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Relevance, the industry and competitors have moved on. Its products may have changed. It needs to stay desired and appropriate. A brand makeover could encompass an entirely new image, refreshed for the times and consumer demands. For instance, Sysco foodservice’s 1969 brand was originally focused on delivering products and services in an efficient manner. Its logo, sharp-edged box and capital letters, spoke more to shareholders than its clientele. But the redesigned brand incorporates a fresh leaf mark and commitment to sustainable business. Their new tagline “At the Heart of Food and Service” represents their commitment to enriching their customer’s experience with passion and integrity. It’s a great example of revamping a brand for today, while highlighting and keeping their heritage and core brand intact.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

We’ve seen rebranding programs fall flat, like the rebranding of GAP in 2010. The logo with the 80’s blue square was so badly received that people thought it was a marketing stunt. It turns out it was an attempt at crowdsourcing design. Just for the record, crowdsourcing is a bad idea. But oftentimes, rebranding fails when there’s a misalignment of core consumer groups. You never want to leave them behind. They are your brand evangelists. You want to elevate them to the new vision, while inviting new users to your brand.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”?

  1. Create something unique — don’t follow trends. Stand out from the crowd. If the industry is creating clean white brands, then go dark. If the trend is to go blobular, then you go rectilinear. Being extreme and niche can lead to some wonderful products and kickstart trends.
  2. Don’t overcomplicate things or try to be too literal. Not every element in your brand has to have deep logical meaning. Sometimes things are memorable because they are beautiful.
  3. Simplify your message — but don’t be boring. Create emotional content that connects with the consumer on a visceral level. The best, most effective ads are minimal. Their message is quick and easy to understand. Calm meditation app has a great logo, with elegant visuals and a focused intent (literally).
  4. Be a little mysterious. Don’t give it all away. Create a question that challenges assumptions. These types of communications are actually calls to action. They drive consumers to investigate more.
  5. Look at your brand as if it were another brand altogether. When I was working on rebranding Jiffy Lube, our team challenged leadership in a series of workshops to look at JL as if it were a Starbucks, a Ritz-Carlton, an Apple store and so on. How might this change the customer experience? What would the storefront, the graphics and voice sound like?

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?

Old Spice deodorant was faced with a rapidly changing landscape and AXE deodorant was quickly gaining market share. Old Spice decided to reinvent themselves. They threw out the stodgy old brand your grandfather connected with, and refreshed it with a fun, youthful campaign. They introduced a cheeky verbal identity to guild the brand language.

They took huge risks by celebrating the “art of being a man” in an over-the-top manner. The campaign was coined the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and highlighted a James Bond-like superhero that could do almost anything, even if completely ridiculous. I’ve always said desperation leads to innovation. In this case, Old Spice was desperately losing market share, so they took a chance on something completely different.

Old Spice was given many awards for creativity, and their market share has grown by double digits every year since. Not to leave their original consumers behind, they rereleased Old Spice Classic with an elegant packaging refresh that is speaks to the classic man.

Refreshing a brand named “Old” and “Spice” is quite the feat. Everything is possible with good branding and marketing.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

End single use plastics and packaging. We all love great design and see the obvious connection between the out-of-box experience and sales, but the packaging industry needs a refresh. Why do we need corrugated cardboard boxes to protect cardboard boxes in shipping? It’s excessive. Clamshell packaging keeps your product from bouncing around in shipping and resists theft, but it would be ideal to have less plastic based options. Should companies be required to design packaging for a second life? Could it be a planter, a lamp, a storage solution, etc.? Is there a way to deliver packages without boxes altogether? Can we 3D print our products locally and pick them up without the need for packaging? There’s a lot of room for improvement in our current thinking.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

This quote is at the core of what we do at Nonfiction. It’s not about the product or service, it’s about how the consumer feels at the end. This puts the consumer experience first. As a methodology, I start with the end goal first, then work backwards to align stakeholder interests.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me at:

www.nonfiction.design

www.instagram.com/nonfiction.design

www.facebook.com/nonfiction.design

www.linkedin.com/in/mardisbagley


5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, With Mardis Bagley of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: “First, get in touch with your purpose or passion in life with” Dr.

Rising Through Resilience: “First, get in touch with your purpose or passion in life with” Dr. Ed Barry

First, get in touch with your purpose or passion in life. Oftentimes this can happen early on — kids gravitate to things that they really enjoy doing. But I think the problem for many kids is that they don’t stick with it long enough to really appreciate what their skills are in that particular enterprise and then they move too quickly on to something else. The more confidence you build in your abilities, the more the more success you will achieve early on in life.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ed Barry, a board-certified chiropractic orthopedist and certified laser pain management physician with over 35 years specializing in lower back and lumbar spinal problems.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I was born and raised in New Jersey. I went to undergraduate school in New York, graduated with a degree in English and taught for three years after graduation. However, during my teaching years I became very interested in science, so I took science courses, including biology and chemistry, as part of my postgraduate coursework. Even though I was originally an English major, science was always an interest of mine.

At this time, I was also doing a lot of running. And, of course, like most runners I suffered many injuries. I received treatment from a physical therapist who was very innovative and off the beaten track in terms of his techniques. I was fascinated by the way he was able to resolve a lot of the injuries without medication or any invasive techniques. This made me want to learn more, so I met some chiropractors to look into what they actually did. I was fascinated by the focus of their work, which was basically the structure of the human body — the muscles and the joints that govern the motion of the body. It was a very natural approach.

So, after three years of teaching I decided to make a change. I applied for chiropractic college to satisfy that interest and the desire for another challenge. I attended the National College of Chiropractic which, at the time, was considered to be one of the best colleges in the field. After graduating, I started a local practice in South Jersey and developed it over the years.

As time went on, I started looking for a new challenge. I’m always looking for a new challenge. That’s when I became very interested in the science of laser treatment — using high intensity lasers to treat the same problems that I treated chiropractic, but only much more effectively. And so, I made a critical decision to withdraw from that practice, sell it and open up a new practice, devoted entirely to the practice of lasers. I used high intensity lasers to treat these very challenging conditions. I was learning an entirely new science. It was very innovative, and my practice became very successful.

During that period of time, I specialized in lower back problems, lumbar spine disc problems and degenerative arthritis. I was fascinated by the active exercises that were given to patients who were treated with specific protocols I used in the practice. This was a technique that involved active and passive flexion and traction of the lower back. In my office, I used special tables to treat patients with these conditions, but there wasn’t anything on the market to duplicate that for patients receiving treatment at home.

For years, I thought about a solution to this problem. I came up with some ideas that I took to engineers, but we never were able to create a design that was practical. Then, several years ago, I met a local engineering team in Philadelphia. They were able to come up with a workable design that met all of my criteria, a design that would be safe and easy to use in the comfort of your home. And that design is what became known as the Lift.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

It was the transition from the traditional practice of chiropractic into the laser practice. It was a leap, and it was challenging because not too many practitioners really understood laser. Most discouraged me from going down this path.

Also, you’re not going to get reimbursed for laser by insurance carriers. But I felt that laser was so unique and effective that if patients were properly educated, they would gravitate to it. So, I developed a patient education program and did presentations on a monthly basis. I talked to patients and presented them with an essential understanding of lasers and testimonials from patients I treated.

It was very effective, and patients were responsive. This was probably one of the most rewarding aspects of that practice — treating patients to get them better faster and give them the relief they were looking for without drugs or medication. I felt like I made a meaningful contribution to shifting this treatment paradigm.

For me, the biggest lesson was overcoming the fear of the unknown. If you believe strongly in your principles, you can pretty much overcome all of the obstacles thrown in your way.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The Lift is a truly unique device, in the sense that is the first device to combine the two movements, flexion and traction, which are proven to be most therapeutic for people suffering from common lower back problems. A specialized table allows patients to duplicate those movements comfortably in a supine or lying down position. They can do repetitions and reproduce these movements, which are very dynamic. The purpose of this is to get more blood supply into the disc to heal faster and separate the joints to alleviate pressure from degenerative changes and disc problems.

The only device that I’ve seen on the market, probably in the last 30 years, is the gravity inversion swing where people hang upside down. And while traction can be effective for older patients, it’s really impractical for them to be hanging upside down because of various conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems or vertigo. The Lift is a device that is much easier to use, and it’s more dynamic in terms of movement.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I always think of my dad who was a successful builder and developer in the 50s. He was a second generation entrepreneur after his dad, also a builder and developer.

My dad was very independent and even with very little education, he had tremendous ideas in terms of development. He was in the process of creating a unique development here in South Jersey around an area of freshwater lakes. He bought the property, but since he was unable to get financing the entire enterprise collapsed.

However, since he had the property — a small home situated on the lake — we moved and lived there for three years while he was trying to reconstitute some business. Watching him go through that transition and build up a business was probably one of the best examples of resilience I’ve ever witnessed. Before he retired and passed away, he developed apartment homes and several nursing homes.

My dad didn’t have anything going for him except his own experience and his own knowledge gained from that experience, to continue in his pursuit.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is a willingness to fail and to expose yourself to failure. In my experience, you learn more from failure than you do from success. And once you transition it makes you much stronger.

I always think of a quote by Deepak Chopra. He says that to the unskilled surfer every wave is stressful, but to the skilled surfer every wave is an exhilaration. I think that’s very true about exposing yourself to stress. You don’t really learn anything by not exposing yourself to stress. And if you’re willing to do that in a new enterprise or a new endeavor, you’re going to get to that point of exhilaration, which really equates to success.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

The professional golfer Lee Trevino always struck me as someone who is very resilient. When you think of a professional golfer, you think of somebody who has been born and raised in Country Club environments and played golf in college, but Lee Trevino was different.

He is Mexican American, raised in a broken home, by his mother and his grandfather. One day Lee’s grandfather gave him a couple of balls and he started hitting them. Then, he started working as a caddy in golf clubs. Every day when he was done caddying, he would go out to the driving range and hit 300 balls. Lee developed his swing without any professional golf instruction, and even though it’s the most awkward unorthodox swing that any professional golfer has ever exhibited, he was able to win six major championships. Throughout his career, he beat Jack Nicklaus in a major championship and had a very successful career. It was all on his own — just his own personal determination to excel at something that he loved to do.

I would say Lee is a very good example of resilience. There was no reason for him to pursue this type of career, and yet, that’s what he chose to do. He was determined and even though the path was unorthodox, it was the right path for him.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

When I started talking to people about this company, they would tell me the odds of succeeding are very slim. After working on this for so many years and coming up with failed prototypes, they asked me, “why don’t you just retire and enjoy life?”

I really believed it had potential, and it was through that persistence that I was able to find the engineers who made it happen. The electrical engineer who looked at this concept got it instantly. He understood the principle and within a week he came back to me with a rudimentary design that I knew would work. If I had let the idea go, we never would have gotten to that point.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I had a cousin who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several years ago. Throughout the first year of his treatment, it seemed like he was starting to recover. And since he’d never flown in a plane before, I decided to take him for a trip to Cape May. I was an experienced licensed pilot at the time, and they have a Naval Air Museum there so I thought it would be a great experience for us to fly there together.

As we took off, I had what they call an alternator outage, which means you have no power, and I had to land the plane. Everybody was alright, but it really shook me up. He insisted up until the day that he died, that it was the greatest adventure of his life.

But I felt I had let him down. It took me a long time to get the plane repaired and then regain confidence in my skills as a pilot. I was able to recover and now I’m flying on a regular basis and doing volunteer work for an organization called Pilots and Paws. We rescue animals from kill shelters in the South and bring them up to permanent homes in the Northeast.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

When I was growing up at our house by the lake, I was able to swim, fish. hike and sail every day. It was like being in Boy Scout Camp, and during that period of time I developed a real sense of independence and self-reliance that really helped me later on in life. It gave me skills that I would later be able to use in my practices and also now in developing this equipment. I learned that you have to rely on your talents and have confidence in yourself.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

First, get in touch with your purpose or passion in life. Oftentimes this can happen early on — kids gravitate to things that they really enjoy doing. But I think the problem for many kids is that they don’t stick with it long enough to really appreciate what their skills are in that particular enterprise and then they move too quickly on to something else. The more confidence you build in your abilities, the more the more success you will achieve early on in life.

But that’s not to discourage any individual from developing something or discovering something later on in life. I didn’t start surfing until I was in my 40s, and I didn’t start flying until I was in my late 40s. These are two things that I’ve developed over the years and have been the most rewarding experiences. I remember wanting to fly when I was younger, but I just either never had the time or the resources to pursue it.

On that note, another step would be to remember, it’s never too late and you’re never too old. If you’re just willing to do it, just take the first step. There was an interesting book review in the Wall Street Journal, in which the author, after speaking with people in nursing homes, found one of the biggest regrets was not taking the time to do something they always wanted to do in life. And now they feel it’s too late.

So, don’t be afraid to try something. The sooner you try, the sooner you’re going to be able to make that discovery. Then, you have to stick with it. If you’re really focused and it gives you joy, you’re going to stick with it regardless of the obstacles that are thrown in your way.

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. 🙂

In the field of medicine, I would like to see a refocus from pharmaceutical intervention and surgical intervention to natural and conservative methods like physical therapy and chiropractic.

I believe those methods have tremendous benefits for people, but the world of medicine always seems to be directed in the other direction. I’d like to see that refocus, and I’d like to see more methods that can be used effectively — backed up by research — that will allow patients to take their health and recovery into their own hands. And I believe the Lift offers patients a good method of achieving that, at least in the realm of lower back pain.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Yes, Dan Pederson. He’s a retired Admiral and founder of the Top Gun program for the Navy. There’s a book about him, Topgun: An American Story, and it’s an incredible story about resilience.

When he was commissioned to start the program, he didn’t receive any funding, just an air base in California. Working with very little resources, he managed to become a tremendous success. He built innovative procedures that were taught to naval aviators, making them some of the most successful pilots on the planet.

Another individual I would like to sit down with is Kelly Slater. He’s in his 40s now and still competing for World Championships in surfing. He’s won the World Championship more than any individual and keeps himself in excellent physical condition. Kelly has really set the bar for the modern era of surfing.

I also wouldn’t mind sitting down with Lee Trevino. I think that would be a very interesting conversation, learning about his background, what he’s encountered and how he’s succeeded.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ed-barry-dc-faco-6403a853/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: “First, get in touch with your purpose or passion in life with” Dr. was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” With Mark Natale

Brand Personality: If your brand were a person, how would you describe them? Daring? Conservative? Friendly? Aloof? Take the time to identify and describe the personality traits that your brand has and compare them to your desired traits. Are they in line with where you want to be? Knowing these traits will help you make decisions about everything from whom you hire, to how you craft your emails. We worked with a client to develop a coffee café that took great coffee seriously. So seriously that we would refuse to sell coffee to go, as the brand felt that coffee should be savored, enjoyed, and not rushed, the antithesis of the to-go concept. Don’t be afraid to have standards.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Mark Natale, the chief executive officer of Smarthinking Inc. At the young age of six, Mark stumbled upon the band KISS and their album ‘Destroyer,’ then from that moment on, he’s been all about brands. Mark leads the creative side of the business, asking important brand questions like, “What does the brand stand for?”, “How is the brand different?” and “Why does the brand matter?” This love of brands gave birth to Smarthinking, a factory for brilliant brands. Formerly, Mark served as the executive vice president for American Leisure Corp. where he oversaw the operations of more than 60 residential, commercial, and corporate fitness centers located in New York. Mark’s keen eye for detail and a unique view on branding have shaped him into the innovative thinker that he is today. In addition to being an expert in the branding industry, Mark enjoys reading up on the latest trends in architecture, collecting concert posters, and spending time with his wife and kids.

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 grew up in Binghamton, New York, about three hours north of New York City. My hometown was reasonably small, and at times, it felt too small for me. I went to work in New York City after college and had the opportunity to work for some of the city’s most prolific real estate developers. At that time, I was able to work with people who were focused on developing incredible experiences for their guests and being involved with what allowed me to speak my mind and make contributions that were meaningful and unique. The process of creating these brand experiences came very naturally to me, thinking about what would be captivating and how we could create connections through those experiences.

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?

We always like to make our clients stand out, and sometimes, the content that comes out of that can surely give you a laugh. For instance, we were developing a brochure for a modern, high-end day spa in New York City and led with, ‘There’s nothing like a gentle pounding to calm the nerves,’ to describe a massage. It was eye-catching, to say the least!

Apart from that, we leave the funny business to after hours.

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?

My “tipping point” came to me when I had an employer approach me about an article that they had been asked to be a part of for The New York Times. They stated that they wanted to use my ideas for the article, but I would not get the credit. “Your ideas, but my name” was how they phrased it. At that moment, I understood the significance of my contributions within the realm of branding. That’s what brought me to venture out to open my own agency.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are currently working on some incredible projects in Spain, Mexico, the United States, and, most recently, Africa. Sitting from our office in Miami and working on projects around the world, with such a cosmopolitan clientele, is one of the most exciting parts of what we do. Being able to tell all these diverse and varied stories is a bit like a dream come true.

How will that help people? For me, the takeaway is not to limit yourself. If you had told me that we would be doing so much international work two years ago, I would not have believed it. But we have worked hard to put ourselves in the position to win these jobs, and we could not be happier.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Be very selective in your client choices, and be sure that their goals are aligned with your goals. The work that you end up producing will be challenging, and you want to be sure that your clients share a similar vision of your relationship. The business that we are in is similar to that of a personal trainer in that you are there to get a client to have a vision, push their boundaries, and ultimately get them in fighting shape. Be sure that your client roster is filled with people who understand and accept this dynamic. Otherwise, they’ll be sitting on the couch eating potato chips while you are waiting at the treadmill, ready to kick it into high gear.

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?

We see brands as the foundational story of your business. In short, the brand is why you matter in the marketplace. What will you be famous for, and why should people align themselves with you? These decisions about brands strike at the core of a person’s identity, so you need to appeal on that level. This elemental development lies at the heart of what you call “brand marketing.”

“Product Marketing” is then the strategies and tactics that you employ to promote that brand properly and its products that it offers.

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?

As previously stated, without a comprehensively developed brand and brand strategy, you are basically drifting in the wind. You must ask yourself: who are you, what do you do, and why does it matter? And also, what will your brand be famous for? These are all questions that you need to define as an organization, so you know how to proceed. Skipping this work basically puts you out there randomly, trying to make sense of why you matter in the marketplace.

We see this a lot when we begin certain projects. The business is taking shots to promote itself haphazardly, designing customer experiences and marketing materials without a true directive. They are creating things solely for the sake of creating something and doing more harm than good.

A properly developed brand acts as the guiding light for all of your business efforts. Not only advertising and marketing efforts, but really all of your business efforts. A brand is a story that your business tells the world every day through a variety of mediums. It should dictate the products that you make, the experiences that you create, and the way your staff interacts with the customers, as well as each other. The list of items that a properly defined brand can affect can go on ad infinitum, creating not only value for the company, but also efficiencies that would be otherwise misspent.

For example, we recently met with a prospective client in New York City about updating their brand, and to break the ice in the conversation, I asked, “so what don’t you like about your brand? Is it the logo or…?” Before I could list the other aspects to consider, the client interrupted me and stated, “let’s not discuss the logo. We spent $75,000 to create it, and we all unanimously hate it, but we spent the money, so we are sticking with it.” I thought to myself, what a terrible way for everyone to start such a promising project. Hating the product, spending the money, and having to grin and bear it all along. A properly developed brand will ensure not only creative excellence and market position, but it will also help you define the purpose, increase your efficiencies, and eliminate waste.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Rebranding is a monumental undertaking and needs to be carefully considered before assuming the endeavor. We think rebranding should be done if you feel:

  1. Your brand does not correctly reflect the product. In other words, why you exist and why your brand says you exist are not in alignment with one another.
  2. You are expanding your scope of the business, and your brand is limiting that department from growing.
  3. You need to stand out from your competitors.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

We like to think, don’t fix what’s not broken, and truthfully there is no one rebranding strategy for all. A decision to rebrand should fall on the company’s business objectives and the direction they’d like to take. If you’re on the fence on whether or not you should rebrand, we advise that you conduct a marketing audit of your company and then identify the areas that need support. It is only after this self-analysis and reflection that you will understand whether you need to rebrand or not.

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.

At Smarthinking Inc., we don’t see brands purely as tactical executions, so I don’t think I can comment on 5 strategies that are surefire successes. That seems too short-sighted to me. We see brands as comprehensive systems that work in an interconnected fashion with so many aspects of your organization: sales and marketing, product development, human resources, the list go on.

If you want to focus on aspects that can better your brand, take a look at these components:

Brand Personality: If your brand were a person, how would you describe them? Daring? Conservative? Friendly? Aloof? Take the time to identify and describe the personality traits that your brand has and compare them to your desired traits. Are they in line with where you want to be? Knowing these traits will help you make decisions about everything from whom you hire, to how you craft your emails. We worked with a client to develop a coffee café that took great coffee seriously. So seriously that we would refuse to sell coffee to go, as the brand felt that coffee should be savored, enjoyed, and not rushed, the antithesis of the to-go concept. Don’t be afraid to have standards.

Brand Tone Of Voice: How does your brand sound in both the written and spoken format? Is it cheeky? Serious? Seductive? This is a huge opportunity to differentiate your brand, so take the time to define your tone of voice and then teach this to your team. We developed some advertising for a fitness center client in New York City, and our ads stated, “Did you know? 72% of today’s illnesses result from sitting on your ass?” It was the perfect ending to an actual fact that encapsulated the brand’s tone of voice: irreverent and fun.

Brand Promise: At its core, what does your brand promise the consumer? You should be able to succinctly encapsulate this in a couple of words. Smarthinking Inc. built a spa in the wilds of Western Idaho named The Cove. The brand promise for the Cove was “a collection of spa experiences based on adventure.” That concept then helped guide us for so many of our significant decisions needed to build the brand. For example, we built the pools out of 90,000 pounds or local granite boulders and lined the lobby with 60, 25-foot Douglas fir trees. It really helped us create a unique concept.

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?

In 2019, we saw Taco Bell bring to life its brand in an ultimate way — through a pop-up hotel where every element of the property was reminiscent of its brand pillars — from Taco Bell-themed throw pillows to pool floats in the shape of hot sauce packets. This wasn’t necessarily a “Brand Makeover,” but it was the most significant expression of the Taco Bell lifestyle to date in order to cater to millennials — a key audience for the brand.

Throughout 2020, we will most certainly see other brands try to capitalize on this experiential marketing strategy for their own businesses. To succeed and differentiate themselves in today’s robust market, it will be essential for brands to take on a symphonic effort. It is so much more impactful when the whole symphony plays together versus one instrument. That’s why brands now more than ever will need to focus on so much more than a slick tagline and exceptional materials — it will be about creating living, breathing experiences that immerse the customer in a story.

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 would want everyone to understand that no matter where we are individually from, we essentially all want the same things from life: friends, connections, security, inspiration, fun, peace, etc. Different people may express that in different ways, but mostly it is all the same desire. If we could all just realize that, there would be a lot more understanding and personal happiness in the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“All limitation is self-imposed.” — Icarus

You really have to take the time to understand what you want out of a situation and how you can make that happen. Once you do that, you have to ask yourself, “Is this the best I can do?” Chances are you can do better if you believe that you can.

How can our readers follow you online?

For further information on Smarthinking Inc., readers can visit us at www.SmarthinkingInc.com, or they can follow us @smarthinking.inc on Instagram or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/smarthinkinginc/.

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued


“5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” With Mark Natale was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Ziad K. Abdelnour: “Be bolder, Be more controversial, Be more disruptive”

Be bolder — ‘cause Success is not how high you have climbed, but how you make a positive difference to the world.

Be more controversial — ‘cause rules and conventions are important for schools, businesses, and society in general, but you should never follow them blindly.

Be more disruptive — ‘cause in times such as ours, when there is too much order, too much management, too much programming, and control, it becomes the duty of superior men and women to fling their favorite monkey wrenches into the machinery. To relieve the repression of the human spirit, they must sow doubt and disruption.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ziad K. Abdelnour, Founder, President & CEO of Blackhawk Partners, Inc. a private “family office” in the business of originating, structuring & acting as equity investor in strategic corporate investments and co-Founder of Blackhawk Development Group LLC; a trading platform focusing on the financing of real estate, infrastructure and project finance properties throughout the US.

Ziad is also Chairman of the Advisory Board of Hawkstorm Global — a business specializing in providing a wide array of elite services ranging from Emergency Response and Asset Protection to Security Consulting and Risk Assessments by former members of Navy seals, CIA, DOJ, Blackwater, FBI, State Department, and DEA Agents.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?

Born with a major stuttering handicap… It took me over 10 years to overcome it. I guess this was the turning point in my life when I started seriously thinking I could do whatever I put my mind to and which led me to come to the United States with a burning desire to take over Manhattan.

I also soon realized pretty early in my new life that “finance” was the glue that unifies all and that my mission was basically to create wealth and empower people to create more wealth. WHY? Because I believe that money is first and foremost about freedom. It is not about acquiring things nor flaunting it in front of family and friends. It is all about freedom. Freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Freedom to tell your boss or whoever is running your life to take a hike. The only boss I want to have in my life is money. All the rest is for the birds. This is another key reason I immigrated to the United States back in 1982. To find freedom, liberate my mind and make it big time… and this is the reason I created Blackhawk Partners back in 2008.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First, can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

My story is not a simple one and I had to face in my rise to success, wealth and power every single obstacle faced by mankind. From jealousy to prejudice to ridicule and I soon realized that the only way to prevail over all is by creating “obscene wealth”. Now that I have accomplished my goals, I don’t regret anything I did and would do it again and again. Nothing is sweeter than victory. One thing never to forget though when you reach your goal…. The question is not whether you have the money, it is whether you have and keep the hustle. BIG difference!

A lesson to be learned? Early bloomers enjoy many advantages in affluent societies. But one huge disadvantage they face is that many of the youth don’t give them credit for their success, more than the rest of us do. That’s understandable: adolescents and young adults tend to be self-centered… The problem arises when early bloomers have a setback: either they put all the blame on themselves and fall into self-condemnation and paralysis, or they blame everyone else. Late bloomers tend to be more circumspect: they are able to see their own role in the adversity they face, without succumbing to self-condemnation or blame-shifting.

The sad part….Plants are more courageous than almost all human beings: an orange tree would rather die than produce lemons, whereas instead of dying the average person would rather be someone they are not.

Bottom line: Successful people aren’t born successful. Behind it all there is hard work, persistence and a lot of grit. Over time, grit is what separates fruitful lives from aimlessness. Consistency of effort over the long run is everything.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I guess it has a lot to do with my DNA. Either you have it or you don’t. It cannot be taught.

I am the kind of person who refuses to conform, refuses to be controlled and abhors being a number. There are no “hard times” for me cause whatever hard it gets, I am the kind of person who crushes it whatever it takes.

My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence or of normal life. I crave mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it to suit my skills, temperament, and drive.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Success is no accident or serendipity or just grit. It is much more than that. I had all the odds against me, and I crushed each and everyone along the way. Not because I was a Democrat or a Republican. Not because of my attitudes about social issues. Not because of what my background is or isn’t. Not because people think I’m a nice guy. I succeeded because I’m a capitalist, I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m a warrior. That is the mindset I want to teach others so they can create their own wealth and American success story.

I’m not here to entertain. If you try to please everybody and worry about offending anybody, nothing is going to happen. You might make some money, but you certainly won’t create wealth.

I’m an action-driven individual; too many people — including economists and academics in their ivory tower — watch from the sidelines and pontificate. You should do this. You should do that. But most of them have no “skin in the game”. They have nothing at risk, so they can talk the talk from now to the next century, and it’s not going to make a difference.

A while back some guy came up to me and said: I love what you write, referring to all the blogs and articles I publish. Then he asked: How do you make a living? He expected me to answer: Oh, I do this. I do that. I work here. I work there. Instead, I told him the reality: I am not here to make a living. He didn’t expect that. But the truth is, I don’t work here and there. I don’t make a living; I create wealth using the strategies, knowledge, and truths learned over my decades on Wall Street and the venture capital/private equity business.

I’m not an idealist. I’m a capitalist who wants to empower others to do what I did — find freedom. My uncle was a very successful entrepreneur bigger than life — worked very hard, never got married — who lived to be ninety-one years old. Before he passed away I asked him: How do you define success: Is it money? Is it power? He told me it was none of the above. Success is about “empowering people”. The more you empower people, the more you are going to succeed. This is exactly how individuals and governments alike should think.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

My uncle to start with. A man is bigger than life with no formal education other than being super street smart. I would not be here today without his guiding light. Other people who inspired me along the way to always give it my best and achieve what I’ve always wanted and more are:

In the business world: Michael Milken — Financier and Donald Trump — Deal Maker.

In the political world: Presidents Trump, Reagan, and JFK.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

  1. By enriching people doing business with me through Blackhawk Partners
  2. By having people come, attend our conferences and learn from my team of experts and myself through the Financial Policy Council
  3. By having people read my books, listen to my courses and attend my private briefings on a regular basis
  4. By having people benefit from my philanthropy work. On that note, I, much like Jobs, look at philanthropy in much the same way. I believe that a philanthropist should be an entrepreneur at heart and think of social challenges as an opportunity to create large enterprises. It’s really easy to create a $1 billion company–you just have to solve a $10 billion problem. Most of these large $10 to $100 billion problems happen to be social problems. That’s why I think that some of the largest opportunities exist for an entrepreneur in solving humanity’s grand challenges.”

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am working on financing the completion of 21 projects in the US with a total value in excess of $3.4 billion. These projects will employ, empower and create opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people both nationally and globally. I am also writing “Kick ass” books that are and will be read by millions of people the world over. My new book,, Start-Up Saboteurs: How Incompetence, Ego, and Small Thinking Prevent True Wealth Creation is available in May 2020 on Amazon. Start-Up Saboteurs shows entrepreneurs how to create real wealth by abandoning their limited thinking, eliminating boundaries, and teaching them how to stop defining the outcome along with some real tangible things they should be doing. I like to challenge people to think outside of the box.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Be bolder — cause Success is not how high you have climbed, but how you make a positive difference to the world.

Be more controversial — cause rules and conventions are important for schools, businesses, and society in general, but you should never follow them blindly.

Be more disruptive — cause in times such as ours, when there is too much order, too much management, too much programming, and control, it becomes the duty of superior men and women to fling their favorite monkey wrenches into the machinery. To relieve the repression of the human spirit, they must sow doubt and disruption.

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 indeed want to create a movement of smart, educated, well-informed, independent people and empower them to create their own wealth. In fact, I am doing it every day.

The best way to do that consistently is by explaining how the system really works and teaches them how to differentiate the wheat from the chaff and all the bullshit out there. In the end, it comes down to this: To create real wealth and achieve power and independence you must abandon your limited thinking, eliminate boundaries, and stop defining the outcome. Most importantly it means not letting people motivated by jealousy, greed, and envy dictate what your limitations are.

You have to take risks in life. Your actions are what count.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have no favorite life lesson quote but a few I like and can share.

  1. Always remember… Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools, and accepted by idiots.
  2. Trust is earned, respect is given, and loyalty is demonstrated. Betrayal of any one of those is to lose all three.
  3. We are in an economic war. It is a war between those who create wealth and those who believe they have some sort of divine mandate to appropriate wealth. They don’t have such an authoritative command. I don’t think they ever did. We have tried their command-and-control methods for nearly a century because they said they knew better. It is now obvious that they didn’t.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me at any of the Links below which encapsulate my profit and nonprofit activities along with my book publications and other events

  1. Blackhawk Partners, Inc https://www.blackhawkpartners.com/
  2. Financial Policy Council http://www.financialpolicycouncil.org/
  3. Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5318529.Ziad_K_Abdelnour
  4. Start-Up Saboteurs book website https://www.freedomforall.io/
  5. Personal YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/user/ZiadKAbdelnour

How can readers find you on social media:

IG: @ziadkabdelnour

Twitter: @ziadkabdelnour


Ziad K. Abdelnour: “Be bolder, Be more controversial, Be more disruptive” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” With Michelle Knight of…

“5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” With Michelle Knight of Brandmerry.com

…everything in your business stems from your brand, so it’s one of the most important areas to invest! Without a strong brand, which serves as the foundation of your business, your marketing and advertising efforts won’t perform.

It’s important to invest time and energy in building the foundation of your brand, which includes your story, niche, ideal client, core values and brand messaging. All these pieces will support you in your marketing efforts, paid or not.

It’s become more important to focus on who your ideal customer is, which is part of the branding process, so you can create more relatable content. This form of content creation is taking the place of traditional advertising; it’s why we’re seeing a rise in micro and nano-influencers. Brands want to work with people who have a loyal fan base and have built a connection with their audience. This type of marketing, in some cases, is performing better than paid advertisements.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Michelle Knight the founder of Brandmerry.com. As a Personal Brand Coach and Marketing Strategist, Michelle supports women to brand themselves online, market their message and create a revenue-generating business that makes an impact.

In just 9 months, Michelle launched her online business and left her 9 to 5, while raising her son. Just one year into her business, Michelle created a 6-figure brand and a thriving online community. She now travels full-time with her family while growing her business and personal brand to impact the lives of thousands of women.

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?

After the birth of my son in 2015, I was struggling through a difficult postpartum recovery. It was during this time that I was feeling called to create something more. Although I had full intentions to return to work after my maternity leave, I had a sudden urge to start my own business.

I spent the next nine months building my online business Brandmerry.com using my background in Communications and Public Relations, only to find I struggled to create connections and a strong personal brand. After about eight months of creating without making sales, I took a step back and began to share more of my story, my journey and focused on building a more relatable brand. Almost immediately I signed my first client. I went on to leave my 9 to 5 and within one year I created a 6-figure cash business.

Combining my background in Communications and my journey with showing up and sharing my story I’ve not only been able to create a strong personal brand, but I also have helped thousands of online entrepreneurs brand themselves online, market their message and make an impact through their work.

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?

The jury is still out if this is funny or not, it gives me more of a laugh/cry feeling when I think about it, but I know it’s highly relatable to so many entrepreneurs.

In the beginning, I spent all my time and energy, I’m talking almost eight months, trying to build the “perfect” website and brand. This was back when I thought branding was simply the look of your business. Turns out if you build it, they will NOT come. I had the website and the brand, but no traffic or interest in what I had created. I was so focused on everything being ready and presentable that I was only putting my energy towards the backend.

The biggest lesson from this, and what I really try to reinforce with my clients, is that the core part of branding isn’t the aesthetics or your website, it’s the connection, which stems from your values, brand story, and ideal customer. As you’re building these pieces you want to make sure you’re showing up and building community online and via your email list, so you have someone to sell to when you’re ready.

I carry this lesson with me in everything I do. I always check in with myself and teach my community to make sure we’re focused on content, community, and connection every single day.

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?

Absolutely! My “tipping point” was my first live stream with my son. I started my business when he was just one month old, so I decided early on that sharing photos of him and my journey with him was comfortable for me and connected with my audience…I just didn’t realize how much.

I was hosting a five-day online challenge and on the first day, he was teething. He was not having the idea of me putting him down for a nap to conduct my live video, so I put him in a baby carrier on my back and started the live stream.

My audience loved it. At the time, they hadn’t seen anything like it and to them, it embodied a true mompreneur. I was scared of what people might say, but then I thought about my brand values and my story and this is who I was. Showing up that day, teaching with a baby on my back changed the way I showed up online. Oh, and I signed multiple women into my program because of it!

I began to incorporate more of my personality and storytelling best practices in my email content, videos, social media presence, blogs, and overall content marketing. It was at that moment, for the first time, I realized branding was about so much more than just the product or service we are selling.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I recently opened the doors to my new monthly membership community Brandmerry Academy, which teaches entrepreneurs how to market their brand online without relying on social media.

It’s a project very dear to my heart as a mompreneur and full-time traveler. I want the flexibility and freedom in my business without feeling chained to showing up daily on social media. I’ve been able to create that and now I’m on a mission to show entrepreneurs how to do the same.

Brandmerry Academy teaches entrepreneurs how to use advanced and more passive marketing strategies to consistently grow their community and profits without wasting time.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

It always comes from understanding who you are and your purpose. I think this is why I love story work so much because by tapping into our past chapters we’re able to identify what matters most to us and build a business around that. When we try to market our business in a way that isn’t in alignment with who we are, our values and our purpose, is when we experience burnout.

My best advice would be to always check in with yourself. Some of the best marketing strategies I’ve discovered have come from asking myself what I want to do. Why not try it? What do you have to lose? When we constantly check in with ourselves and the strategies we’re using in our business we become better marketers. We show up more. We create better content. We build genuine relationships.

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?

I think this is a very traditional way of looking at running a business. Traditional marketing no longer applies, the future of marketing, no matter what you sell, comes down to emotional and human connection. The emotional and human connection is your brand and both pieces need to be present for any marketing strategy or advertisement to work.

Think of branding as the first step in building a message and a set of values that you then use as the backbone for your business. Marketing those values and messaging to attract your ideal customer comes next. Only then should we add on the layer of advertisement. In my view, it’s a step by step process.

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?

As I mentioned before everything in your business stems from your brand, so it’s one of the most important areas to invest! Without a strong brand, which serves as the foundation of your business, your marketing and advertising efforts won’t perform.

It’s important to invest time and energy in building the foundation of your brand, which includes your story, niche, ideal client, core values and brand messaging. All these pieces will support you in your marketing efforts, paid or not.

It’s become more important to focus on who your ideal customer is, which is part of the branding process, so you can create more relatable content. This form of content creation is taking the place of traditional advertising; it’s why we’re seeing a rise in micro and nano-influencers. Brands want to work with people who have a loyal fan base and have built a connection with their audience. This type of marketing, in some cases, is performing better than paid advertisements.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

I think there are two main reasons why a company should consider a rebrand: If you feel like your brand values or mission have shifted and/or if your ideal customer has changed. In both of those cases, it’s important to go back to the drawing board and rebuild your foundation.

Another reason a company might consider a rebrand would be if they have scaled past their initial few products. Maybe the company is wanting to create more of an umbrella brand that includes products, services, conferences, etc., this would be a great time to go through a “brand update” to make sure all the pieces strategically connect.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

If you’re choosing to rebrand it should be to fix a communication problem; whether that’s a disconnect with your brand values, a change in your brand story, your messaging, your ideal client, etc. However, if you’re rebranding because you think you need an update, you saw something better or you’re bored (trust me this happens so often) then it won’t fix the real problem.

When considering a rebrand, I recommend you find a direct correlation to what it will improve regarding community/ fan growth/ sales and evaluate what is working and what’s not before they begin.

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.

Strategy #1: Identify your brand values and story

As I’ve mentioned before your brand values and story matter! They are the first connection you will form with your audience and begin the trust-building process.

The idea behind identifying your brand values and story is that you can carry that over into everything you create with the end goal to attract the right people. But, there’s also another important layer to this and that is to repel the people who aren’t right for your brand. A great message should both attract and repel.

Strategy #2: Get in the head of your audience

We all like to think we’ve done our ideal customer research, but I’ve found that this is not always the case. This work is hard, and it should be because it’s going to impact everything you do. After you decide your brand values and the story you need to know how to communicate that with your audience, so you’ve got to know who they are otherwise it won’t connect.

To take it a step further I always recommend using the language of your audience, another reason market research is so important. The more you communicate with your audience using language they recognize or would use to describe their pain and pleasure the more effective your messaging will be.

Strategy #3: Determine the core emotions of your brand

We buy based on the way a brand makes us feel, so one of the best things you can do in the branding process is to determine how you want people to feel when they come in contact with your brand. This contact can come in the form of your copy, visuals or personal interaction.

When you take the time to decide how you want people to feel, again tapping into what your audience desires to feel (i.e. pleasure) the more impactful your initial contact will be. Think about scrolling on social media, we stop when we feel a connection to something, often a photo. This is your first point of contact and can be the difference between interacting with your ideal customer and being looked over for another brand.

I recommend brands choose 5–7 key brand emotions to get started and make sure what they create, including photos, logos, fonts, colors and copy all tie back to them.

Strategy #4: Focus on relationships.

Traditional marketing and advertising are no longer working. What consumers are looking for is a focus on building connections and nurturing the relationship through valuable content, support, and general conversations.

Social media has made this so easy. We have an opportunity to interact with our ideal customer every single day on social media, but so many brands are just using it to “sell”. One of the best strategies brands can adopt is to make relationship-building a top priority in 2020 and beyond.

When you focus on building relationships with your audience, you’re not only going to improve conversions, but you’re building life-long fans and those will be your best referrers and word of mouth supporters for years to come.

Strategy #5: Diversify your marketing

We’re so lucky to have all these free platforms to reach our ideal customer, but so many entrepreneurs are only relying on one strategy. I suggest every business implement SEO (Search Engine Optimization) so their ideal customer can find them on Google, choose at least one social media platform for relationship building and use platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, blogging, video, podcasting or something else to make sure they are reaching their audience.

Relying on one platform is limiting yourself as a marketer and with all the options available to us today you’re doing your brand a disservice by only focusing on one.

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?

I’m not sure if this is a single company, but it’s a movement that I’ve loved following. In the past few years, nationwide travel in the US has experienced a rebrand with their Visit California, Visit Montana, Visit [insert state here] campaigns.

I’ve enjoyed seeing this form of branding happen for locations, just proving that it doesn’t matter what you sell, everything needs a brand.

My favorite part of these “Brand Makeovers” has been that the videos we see tell a story, they share the values of the people who live there and showcase some of the pieces they are most proud of. Aside from the commercials they’ve also gone on to build websites for travelers and locals alike.

I love these campaigns because they took control of their brand, rather than allowing others to brand it for them. This is a super powerful lesson and something we can all remember. If we don’t take the time and energy to build our personal brand, someone will do it for us.

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 believe that if we allow ourselves to own our stories and do the deep work to heal and accept them for what they are we as a collective will grow.

There is so much power in not only owning our stories but having the courage to share them with others. I’ve had the experience of impacting so many lives by just sharing my truth and purpose with the world and wish more and more women would do that. You don’t have to have your own business or company to do it, although that is an excellent platform, it’s more in the day today.

It’s my mission to bring awareness to this and give women the tools to uncover their stories and share it with others. More vulnerability. More acceptance. All leading us to live a life of freedom and purpose. I often daydream about what impact this could have on future generations and it’s so powerful!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes since childhood is from Judy Garland. She said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else.” When I first discovered it, I was navigating those teenage years, always feeling different, but trying to ‘be’ like everyone else.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen this become more and more relevant to the pressure of social media and stand out. There is one way to stand out and that’s by owning who you are at your core. Those quirky traits, characteristics are what make you unique, stop trying to be like someone else. We don’t need more of the same, we need individuality! Oh, and nothing is truer when it comes to branding.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m sharing my journey and travels on Instagram: http://instagram.com/michelleknightco

I also host a weekly live show on Facebook every Monday. Mondays With Michelle airs at 6 pm CST and can be found at http://facebook.com/brandmerrycoaching

And I invite everyone who is wanting to explore their personal brand more to visit my website brandmerry.com, check out the blog and grab my free Personal Brand Roadmap to get started.

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 Michelle Knight of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Ways That Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line, With Lady May

Comfort in the workplace boosts morale — Diversity in a company is very important because people feel comfortable and included when they see co-workers that look like them within the company which in turn increases productivity. My first ever corporate job was with a financial institution in New York and I was one of three black people in the whole company. This underrepresentation made me feel like I really didn’t belong there and was maybe not even appreciated, so even though I was a hard worker, I did the bare minimum of what was required of me at that position.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s, Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine (Lady May) Hagan.

Lady May is a thirty-something Ghanaian — American entrepreneur who runs a boutique Connector Agency The R’ajwa Company. The R’ajwa Company services clients in the USA, Japan, and Ghana by providing Public Relations, Marketing, Social Media and Branding support.

Although Lady May was born in California, USA, she grew up in Ghana, West Africa and strongly believes everyone needs to visit Ghana at least once in their lifetime. This is the reason that Lady May started The R’ajwa Experience branch of The R’ajwa Company that offers one of a kind curated cultural experiences to Ghana.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Thanks so much for having me, I am a fan of this series and am honored to be featured.

This is my ‘backstory.’ The initial plan was to choose every African parent’s dream job for their child — to become either a doctor or a lawyer. To be fair, that was also my plan for myself — I loved the law and I still love the law. My plan was to get a Law Degree in International Law and become a Lawyer in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

After I graduated from high school in Ghana, I moved to New York City to start college and I was working part-time at Victoria’s Secret and taking night classes. I was 18 years old, I had never done PR before, but for some reason, I had this urge to try and promote Ghanaian musicians in NYC. I came up with this grand idea to do a Ghanaian concert in NYC and after doing research, I found that similar concerts had been organized in London, UK. I went on to create a proposal and reached out to some of the organizers of similar concerts in London about possibly partnering up for the NYC concert. One of the promoters I reached out to, Emmelio from West Coast Entertainment, was so impressed with the proposal I sent that he hired me to be his PR person for West Coast Entertainment. So, this 18-year-old girl living in NYC was now working at Victoria’s Secret part-time during the week, going to school at night and working with a London based Events company on the weekend creating sponsorship proposals, scheduling press meetings, etc. Emmelio would fly me out from New York to London at least twice a month on the weekends to enjoy the events I created proposals for. I remember at first everyone thought it was a weird relationship, people were like, ‘you are 18 and this guy is flying you to London — that is weird.’ My mom used to call him from Ghana on the regular and he just always used to tell her how talented he thought I was and how much he needed me on his team. I am still in touch with Emmelio today and West Coast Entertainment is still thriving in London.

I later transferred from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City to Temple University Japan in Tokyo and when I was there I saw how much my Japanese classmates were in love with African and African American culture. This led me to start organizing African events on campus through an African club I created. Immediately after when I graduated from Temple University Japan, I started booking R&B and Hip-Hop Artists to perform in Japan and that is what developed into The R’ajwa Company.

So, in summary, the Law career never took off because I had a natural gift to connect and promote different brands and individuals.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I actually have two stories.

The first one happened about 3 years into my career. Our client, Japanese video game company Namco Bandai, was interested in creating a video game with R&B musician Shaffer Chimere Smith commonly known as Ne-yo. We flew out from Tokyo to LA during Grammy weekend to meet with Ne-yo’s team, the Namco Bandai rep was there as well. However, about 5 minutes into the meeting we already knew the project wasn’t going to happen. Unfortunately, Ne-yo’s management was under the impression that Japanese companies were just throwing money at US artists and had unrealistic expectations for the collaboration, so my team and I knew that the deal was over before it even began. To say we were bummed is an understatement — I may or may have not gone to cry in the ladies’ room after the meeting. Before the Namco Bandai rep left, he mentioned to my team and I (in passing, very nonchalantly) that one of their video game characters PAC-MAN was actually celebrating its 30th anniversary told us to let him know if we had any projects that we could use to celebrate the anniversary.

While still in the ladies’ room after the meeting, I called my brother to vent about how bad the meeting went and also mentioned to him in passing that our client just told us about PAC-MAN’s birthday. About 2 minutes after hanging up from that call, my brother called back and told me about a meeting he had earlier that day about Sean Carter commonly known as Jay Z going on a US tour with various Rocnation Artist and will be doing a mobile pop up Rocnation shop and are looking for partners. We pitched that to our client Namco Bandai and that collaboration happened and has been one of the most fun and most lucrative projects we have done to date.

The lesson from this story is NEVER GIVE UP because you never know what is in store for you. My team and I were so bummed after that initial meeting, but we couldn’t give up. We had no idea about PAC-MAN before that meeting, but if the first meeting was successful, maybe the PAC-MAN project wouldn’t have even been mentioned

The second story happened just last year, 12 years into my career. Last year, 2019 was dubbed ‘The Year of Return’ by the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Akuffo Addo, because it marked 400 years since the first slave ships left the coast of West Africa for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Since I have been a fan of Conan O’Brien for as long as I can remember, I decided to use The Year of Return as an opportunity to pitch for him to visit Ghana for his ‘CONAN Without Borders’ travel show. I did this with total blind faith — I didn’t know anyone on his team and I hadn’t produced a show of this caliber before. So, imagine my surprise when they replied to my email agreeing to visit Ghana (the first country they had visited in Africa) with me as the producer.

The lesson I learned from this project is that Imposter Syndrome is real because, at every step during the process, that little voice in my head kept telling me I had no place being a part of such a project, but I was able to fight that voice and it was a success.

Clip from the Live taping of the Conan in Ghana episode:

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The R’ajwa Company is unique because we are experts in the culture of the different regions we work in, that is, for North America we know US Pop Culture, for Ghana we know the Ghanaian culture and for Japan we know Japanese culture. Because of this knowledge, we are able to collaborate seamlessly across all three regions and we have come to find that all three regions are more similar than different.

For example — One would think that a collaboration between Jay Z / RocNation/Hip hop artists and a Japanese video game PAC-MAN wouldn’t make sense. However, the reason we were able to pitch this deal successfully to our clients is that we are so familiar with US Hip Hop culture that we knew how much PAC-MAN means in the hip hop community. Many hip hop songs reference PAC-MAN and Ms.PAC-MAN and we included that in our pitch deck and our clients were sold.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Yes, 2020 is quite exciting for us, because even though we have worked on projects in Ghana since 2012, we are officially setting up a physical office in Ghana where we will be hiring full-time in-house staff.

We also plan on curating more cultural experiences to Ghana for people in the diaspora and we are even taking that a bit further by introducing curated Ghana experienced for Japanese people as well.

Another thing we are doing is, we are delving seriously into storytelling through film. We dipped our toes in the pond with the 7 part Behind The Behind The Scenes docu-series we created describing how the CONAN in Ghana episode came about and everyone liked it so we have more stories highlighting Ghana and Africa that we would love to share.

These different projects will help people in different ways. We see the emotional reactions people from the Diaspora have when they participate in our cultural experience trips to Ghana, so we are happy to be a part of bringing those experiences to more people. Also, our offices in Ghana will create job opportunities and I am particularly looking forward to teaching my full-time staff the best practices I have learned along the way in the different regions I have worked in for example the discipline and attention to detail I have learned from my Japanese colleagues.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

My advice to other CEOs and Founders is to really let everyone on their team have a voice and feel that their voice and opinions matter. I have personally learned that when team members see their ideas or opinions reflected in the decision-making process of the overall company, there is a sense of confidence and ownership that they feel in the company. This makes them want to go harder and want the company to succeed because they feel that they are a part of it and not just working for a place that pays their bills.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders about how to manage a large team?

I have a fairly small team, but I do have clients that have large teams and I can say that what works for them is having an open-door policy and treating members of the team as individuals with different needs, different working styles and different modes of incentives.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  • Comfort in the workplace boosts morale — Diversity in a company is very important because people feel comfortable and included when they see co-workers that look like them within the company which in turn increases productivity. My first ever corporate job was with a financial institution in New York and I was one of three black people in the whole company. This underrepresentation made me feel like I really didn’t belong there and was maybe not even appreciated, so even though I was a hard worker, I did the bare minimum of what was required of me at that position.
  • Increase in Creativity with different points of view — When there is diversity within a company, people are able to use their different backgrounds and experiences during brainstorming sessions and this leads to more appealing creative campaigns, products or services. Going back to the PAC-MAN / Rocnation deal I mentioned earlier, not everyone would have been able to see the opportunity in this collaboration, but the diversity of the team made it possible to link PAC-MAN and Hip-hop.
  • Protecting Clients in this Cancel Culture Era — we are in an era now where brands are being ‘canceled’ or ‘blackballed’ when they slip up and run campaigns that are deemed discriminatory or racist. We saw this happen with H&M with the ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’ hoodie, we also saw it with Gucci’s ‘black face.’ These could have been easily avoided if there were people of color in key roles within the respective companies. A few years ago, one of my clients was visiting Ghana to showcase progressive companies in Ghana. When they sent over the list of companies they wanted to feature, the first company was a white owned American company which happened to be operating in Ghana. It took one second for me to notice that and mention how problematic it was with a glaring ‘White Savior’ undertone to feature a white owned American company when the focus was Ghanaian companies. They immediately took that company off the list.
  • Forward Thinking and Open Mindedness — USA and the world as a whole is very polarized today where it sometimes feels like we are going back in time and losing some of our fundamental Human Rights. Companies that show how diverse their employee pool is show that they see the importance of diversity in the workplace. There are still many places in America that don’t think women and especially black women need to be in the workforce. For the work we do, we oftentimes have to collaborate and partner up with other agencies, vendors etc. and immediately I visit a prospective partner with no diversity within the company, I decide not to work with them because I know that it will most likely be a longer process of them coming to terms that I even have a seat at the same table.
  • Social media tone — social media has become an increasingly important aspect of the voice of brands, companies and individuals and makes it easy for brands to speak directly to their customer base and clients. With social media, it doesn’t matter what part of the world one is in, because everyone has access to your page. This increase of visibility is a plus to a company if you are able to communicate effectively with the masses and this is easier when you have a diverse team that can assist in what words, phrases, images, etc. can be used.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Of all the places I work in, the USA, Japan and Ghana, Ghana is the only ‘developing country,’ the rest are pretty much developed. I grew up in Ghana, I am from Ghana, Ghana pretty much taught me everything I know. All the life lessons I live by were taught to me by Ghana and it’s been my goal, since I began my career to try and always put Ghana on the map for the world to see what I know Ghana to be. I have done this since the beginning of my career and I will continue to do it and I hope that as I get more successful and as we continue to grow, The R’ajwa Company will be seen as one of the companies that helped bring awareness to how amazing Ghana is.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“Everything is ‘Figureoutable’I try to live by this even though sometimes the chaos of the day to day makes me forget. However, in reality, as bleak as things may seem, it is never the end of the world until it is the end of the world and it isn’t. There is a solution to every problem — it may not be exactly how you pictured it in your ideal scenario, but it can be solved.

Another life quote I try to live by is ‘Be Humble and Be Nice to People’ because the only thing we can predict about life is that life is unpredictable, and I have experienced it first-hand where you are literally on top of the world one day and at the bottom the next day

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I can’t choose one person — I have 3 people I have to mention.

The first group of people is who I like to call ‘The Hagan Clan’ and this consists of my parents and my brothers. The Hagan Clan has stood by me since I made the decision to take the entrepreneurial route and have been there through the headaches and heartaches that have come with this decision. I know my parents would have loved for me to be happy in a full-time reliable job where I am assured a paycheck every month, but they know I love what I do so they love it too. There is this meme that I love that says ‘Entrepreneurship is no joke. You’ll cry real tears and still continue,’ and I have cried real tears on each parent and each brother and they have never said ‘I told you so..’ or told me to quit or give up. They always tell me what I need to hear and let me know that they I have their support no matter what and honestly that has been a leading reason I have been able to continue after all these years.

The second person I would like to mention is Tricia Maxey. Before I moved to Tokyo, I was living in New York City, I quit my job as a salesgirl at Victoria’s Secret and got a job as a temp Administrative Assistant for the Chief Compliance Officer of an Investment Management Firm Van Eck Global. I had never felt more out of place and more undeserving of a position till I started working at Van Eck. I had no idea what I was doing, I felt intimidated about the fact that I was from Ghana — I was one of three black people in the whole office and one of two black women and I was the youngest person in the whole company. It was pretty much a typical Wall Street (although the office was on Park Avenue) environment with all these white men walking around. However, from the first day, Tricia always made me feel like I belonged. On my lunch break, she would take us (just her and I) to get our nails done. She would ask me about the school, my plans for the future, etc. I remember when I told her I was leaving to Japan she was so sad and told me if I changed my mind and decided to stay she would have the company offer me a full-time position with a $60,000 salary, I was still in college, so this offer was very tempting, but I had to turn it down because Japan was on my heart. On my last day at Van Eck, Tricia told me to go to the company Accountant and there was a $10,000 check made out to me from Van Eck to help me get settled in Japan. That was the biggest check I had ever seen at that time. Tricia saw something I didn’t even see in myself and I appreciate her for that.

The third person is Tina Fitch, the CEO and Co-founder of Hawaiian based Tech start-up Hobnob. Tina hired me in 2016 to be the Marketing Director of Hobnob even though I had no Tech Marketing experience. She hired me even though I was in NYC and the office was in Hawaii; she made the position a remote position for me because she saw the vision I had for the company and she understood my type of creativity and she knew how important diversity was especially in the tech world. There were many times when I felt overwhelmed with tech lingo, tech ways of operating, etc. but she was always around to reassure me that I was on the right path and we were able to do great stuff together.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

That is easy, I would love to have a full day with Michelle Obama — breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, dinner and drinks. I personally don’t know how Michelle Obama was able to ‘keep her cool’ for the eight years they were in office. Her grace is something I aspire to have. She recently sat down with Arianna Huffington and spoke about Impersonator Syndrome and how she deals with it. That conversation spoke to me because Impersonator Syndrome is something I continue to deal with and knowing someone like Michelle Obama still sometimes suffers from it gives me hope.

The company website is www.r-ajwa.com

LinkedIn Account is linkedin.com/in/catherinehagan


5 Ways That Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line, With Lady May was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Stacie Pacheco, CMO at

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Stacie Pacheco, CMO at Enviroscent

It’s important to invest into brand building, because you need to create and drive awareness of what you stand for so you can connect with the consumer. We are also investing in marketing and advertising because we are a young brand. For us there is no clear separation of the two — we are communicating both at Enviroscent all the time.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacie Pacheco, CMO at Enviroscent. Stacie is a versatile and results-driven CMO with a solid reputation for driving revenue growth, improving brand health and utilizing data aimed at achieving business objectives. She has established herself as a driving force of the synergy of classical and modern marketing approaches, examining insights, establishing processes/KPIs and leading best-in-class marketing teams.

As a capable leader, her contributions extend to P&L Management, having managed global P&Ls up to $200M and marketing budgets of $20M+. As a result of her Lean Six Sigma background she has developed a strong understanding of establishing KPIs, metrics and visual management for creative services, insights, trade shows and digital tactics including social media, CRM, SEO, email blasts, and paid display.

Moreover, Stacie is a proven change agent skilled in driving continuous improvements and a professional with insightful experience in providing strategic vision and thought leadership in key areas such as marketing strategy, strategic leadership, CRM, demand generation, product development, innovation, and continuous improvements. She also builds high-performance teams that emphasize quality, content, insights and optimal productivity.

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 had an older sister who worked in advertising and that influenced me a lot. I started out in graphic design in my undergrad, following in her footsteps, and ended up working for an advertising agency on the account side working for some great clients in retail and F&B industries. After a few years, I had an opportunity to make the jump to the client side working for Sealy Mattress and there I really found my passion for growing a brand, developing innovative new products, digging into consumer insights and managing the P&L for a business.

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?

I have learned so much along the way, but one example that comes to mind is from my time working for Jarden Consumer Solutions. We really believed we had permission to play with our brand in the diagnostics industry. At the time we launched a line of blood pressure monitors at the retail level. Unfortunately, we underestimated the power of the relationship between the incumbent brands and the pharmacist. The barrier to entry was higher than we thought. Even though the consumer was interested in the product, and the retail buyers thought we were a fit, we couldn’t get past the recommendation of the pharmacist. Ultimately for that reason, the line was discontinued. The lesson here is the importance of understanding the consumer journey and how that maps through to a sale. Whether it’s in brick and mortar or online, understanding what influences purchase will determine your success.

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?

I worked with former Proctor and Gamble employees at both Sealy Mattress and Sunbeam, and that taught me to apply the power of consumer insights. The importance of checking in and validating that you’re making the right decisions. What’s the problem you’re trying to solve? How are you going to market? Is your messaging resonating with that consumer?

I also realized that being in marketing isn’t a creative or analytical role, it’s a combination of both the right and left brain. As I matured, I realized that the balance of both is what makes you a successful marketer.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I have a passion for everything we do at Enviroscent. We have a relentless pursuit toward ridding homes of chemical air fresheners and toxins. We are putting together plans for cause marketing affiliations which will launch later this year. I’m passionate about helping people enjoy their spaces more without putting any bad stuff into the air.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Preventing burnout at work for me is about networking and connecting with others in marketing — there’s so many people who are smarter than me and I feel inspired when I learn. It’s such an exciting time to be in marketing. There’s always a new tool and solution to apply. Consumers are more willing to share their insights. There are countless new ways to use big data.

At home, I’m a dedicated fitness enthusiast. I’m a nut. I work out every morning at 6 am, I do yoga. I make it a priority to give myself time. And most importantly, I make time to enjoy my kids.

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?

Brand marketing is focused on driving awareness of who you are and what you stand for. What you deliver as a company. Product marketing is talking about specific problems we are solving, the tangible product benefits.

For example, the Enviroscent brand is about ridding your air of nasty chemicals, by making products that are safer for people, pets and planet. In our product marketing, we emphasize the various forms and nature-inspired scents that can fit your home and lifestyle.

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?

It’s important to invest into brand building, because you need to create and drive awareness of what you stand for so you can connect with the consumer. We are also investing in marketing and advertising because we are a young brand. For us there is no clear separation of the two — we are communicating both at Enviroscent all the time.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

In general, if you feel like you have a great solution to a problem but for some reason you’re not able to cut through the clutter with your brand and consumers aren’t connecting with it, it might be time to consider rebranding.

We rebranded from Pure to Enviroscent in 2019 because the Pure fragrance brand name was difficult to own and didn’t really stand for who we were. Enviroscent speaks more to our positioning as being safer for people, pets and planet. We were able to relaunch with a new brand, feel and tone to meet the needs of our target personas.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

There are always costs and risks associated with a rebrand. It’s expensive to recreate all your marketing, brand and product materials. And if you’ve already invested in a community and in a retail presence, those are all at risk. You need to evaluate that on a company-by-company basis.

Established brands don’t always need to be made over. There’s a tendency for marketers to want to put their own stamp on things. It made a lot of sense for us because it was going back to our roots in a sense. If you’ve got a lot of equity and your brand is highly recognizable you need to be careful — or people won’t be able to find you.

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.

  1. Find inspirational brands that you think are doing it well. Who is doing it right and what are they doing? This is one of the places we’ve started. We admire and follow disruptive brands such as Goodr, Shinesty, Native, RXBar, Harry’s, Billie, PooPourri and Duke Cannon
  2. Invest in consumer insights. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of your personas unmet needs and wants and how your brand and product solution resonates with your target audience. Check your assumptions at the door and re-evaluate if you need to make adjustments.
  3. Find your customers where they are engaging rather than trying to always draw them to you first. Don’t go to Tik-Tok just because it’s the latest social media channel if your target audiences are not using the platform.
  4. Try new things and make adjustments all the time. On a monthly or even weekly basis. Don’t be afraid to change course when something isn’t working. Disruptive brands need to be nimble and adjust as they learn.
  5. Listen to your customers and seek out their feedback. Make sure your website has product reviews, make sure that your brand health metric is moving in the right direction. Even more importantly, respond to their feedback and make changes along the way.

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?

RX Bar made over their brand by putting all the ingredients on the front of that package. The tone of their messaging really changed with that move. It was no B.S. It was authentic and refreshing and one needs to think about that for their own brand. Consumers appreciate when you’re honest about who you are.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Beyond just our mission at Enviroscent, I am passionate about reducing or eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals in our daily lives. My son and I are both cancer survivors and since we lack any family history of cancer, I firmly believe environmental issues caused us both to battle cancer at early ages. So, I try to be mindful about the chemicals that my kids and dog are being exposed to and choose to buy products that are safer.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Be passionate about what you do and have fun. Keep it in perspective.

How can our readers follow you online?

Connect with Enviroscent on Facebook (www.facebook.com/enviroscent), Twitter (www.twitter.com/enviroscent) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/enviroscent).

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 Stacie Pacheco, CMO at was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr. Bill Simon: “Be a student of your industry; Know the trends, resources, best practices, law and

Dr. Bill Simon: “Be a student of your industry; Know the trends, resources, best practices, law and who’s who”

Be a student of your industry. Know the trends, resources, best practices, law and who’s who. One way to stay current is to join organized dentistry organizations such as the Chicago Dental Society, Illinois State Dental Society, and the American Dental Association, which all provide continuing education opportunities to keep up with the ever-changing dental profession. Keep your ear to the ground and your eyes on the road. It’ll keep you motivated, focused, excited, and hopefully out of trouble.

Dr. Bill Simon is a 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine. After practicing 18 years in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, he opened City Smiles in Old Irving Park in 2004. He also owns and operates Sonrisa Urbana dental clinic which has served Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood since 1987.

Dr. Simon maintains active memberships and participates regularly in numerous professional organizations, including the Chicago Dental Society, Illinois State Dental Society and the American Dental Association.

Dr. Simon currently serves the CDS North Side Branch as Vice President and Dent-IL-PAC director. He is on the Board of Trustees of the Illinois State Dental Society and is the immediate Past Chair of the ISDS Access to Care Committee. Dr. Simon dedicates his time and skill to charitable organizations such as Dental Lifeline Network’s Donated Dental Services Program, The CDS Foundation Clinic, The Old Irving Park Community Clinic and Illinois State Dental Society Missions of Mercy. Dr. Simon is passionate about mentoring and speaks nationally to Dental Students and Dentists.

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell our readers a bit about your ‘backstory”?

I was raised in a suburb of Chicago. As I headed off to college, I needed to make a decision about my career path and which major I wanted to pursue. I was torn between accounting and dentistry. While I was very good with numbers, the thought of working closely with people to improve their health, self-esteem, and quality of life “pulled” me in the direction of dentistry. I also felt that dentistry had the potential to provide a more autonomous and lucrative path than accounting. While I am so happy that I chose dentistry, I wasn’t fully prepared for what was ahead. Starting as an associate in a struggling Medicaid practice, my experiences have included a lost lease, an embezzlement scheme, robbery at gun point, and a major fire. After the fire, my team and I worked out of three offices before settling into an abandoned dental office while we rebuilt. Within four months of the fire, our practice had the best production month in practice history. Over time, I grew to become the sole owner of two highly successful, multi-doctor practices. Included in that was six build outs, nine locations, four space-sharing arrangements, one practice acquisition and more than 25 associates. While my story may have had some rough patches along the way, the trials, tribulations and hard work to become a dentist and run my own practice has been the most rewarding and fulfilling thing I have ever done.

What made you want to start your own practice?

I was always interested in a career where I could be independent and autonomous, which was something that set the dental profession apart from others. The idea of having to answer to a “boss” was not very appealing to me. Furthermore, when I made the decision to go in to dentistry, the overwhelming majority of dentists owned their own practices. It was almost a given that I, and most of my contemporaries, would own our own practices. Looking back on 36 “boss-less” years, I certainly have no regrets.

Managing being a provider and a business owner can often be exhausting. Can you elaborate on how you manage(d) both roles?

I always tell the young doctors who I mentor and speak to that you have to know where to draw the line between providing care and managing your business. Particularly in today’s complex environment of rapidly advancing technology, constantly improving materials and procedures, and increasing regulation. Are you going to be the world’s best dentist or the world’s best business owner? You can’t be both. Where on that line do you want to position yourself?

I have come to learn that I am a jack of many trades and master of only a few. The few that I feel I have mastered, whether it’s a part of providing care or managing my business, are ones that I am most passionate about and enjoy doing the most. Managing all of the others requires me to surround myself with good people, including other care providers, amazing team members and, in some cases, outside professionals.

As a business owner, how do you know when to stop working IN your business (maybe see a full patient load) and shift to working ON your business?

Follow your passion. What is it that you love to do? Spend your time doing that. Just because you are a business owner does not necessarily mean that you have to be the one working on your business. You certainly need to have a leadership role, but that can simply mean lead and then get out of the way.

If you’re passionate about providing dental care, be the dentist and surround yourself with a good management, clinical, and administrative team. If you’re passionate about being a business owner and growing the practice, then surround yourself with skilled, passionate and motivated associate dentists and a good clinical and administrative team.

I often like to make the point that there are dental students now who have no intention of putting their hands in anybody’s mouth. They simply want to get the license that will allow them to own dental practices in states that require a dental license to own a practice. Conversely, there are dental students who have no intention of owning or managing a practice in any way. They simply want to provide care. These are the students who usually go on to work in corporate dentistry, large group practices, DSOs and or public health organizations.

From completing your degree to opening a clinic and becoming a business owner, the path was obviously full of many hurdles. How did you build up resilience to rebound from failures? Is there a specific hurdle that sticks out to you?

As I pointed out in my backstory, my path has been riddled with hurdles. The hurdle that sticks out most is the major office fire. When one finds themselves out on the street with their future in the balance, it motivates you to take action. In this case, every aspect of the business had to be dealt with at once. While I hope that others don’t ever experience an office fire, it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me and my practice. I learned that in some cases you have no control over what happens to you, only how you respond to it.

Mistakes are similar to unforeseen hurdles. While you may have some control in avoiding mistakes, it’s how you respond to the mistakes that matters. I have always said that most of what I have learned has come out of the mistakes that I have made. When you come to realize that, your resilience to rebound from mistakes strengthens.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Grow Your Private Practice” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Your team is number one, your patients are number two. Without a cohesive team, you cannot achieve the goals of your mission. In the words of Simon Sinek, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”
  2. Establish your niche and perfect it. You can’t be everything to everyone. We like to attract patients who appreciate quality of care and the personal touch, not those who are simply looking for the cheapest, quickest, most convenient option.
  3. Surround yourself with experts in your field. Your high school friend Karen the CPA who has no dental clients could end up becoming the most expensive friend you have ever had. When you need to outsource professional services, look to those who know the industry and additionally, even better, share your values.
  4. Be a student of your industry. Know the trends, resources, best practices, law and who’s who. One way to stay current is to join organized dentistry organizations such as the Chicago Dental Society, Illinois State Dental Society, and the American Dental Association, which all provide continuing education opportunities to keep up with the ever-changing dental profession. Keep your ear to the ground and your eyes on the road. It’ll keep you motivated, focused, excited, and hopefully out of trouble.
  5. Closely monitor your key practice indicators (KPIs). Some daily, some monthly, some quarterly, and some annually. You always need to know the score. Look for the outliers both good and bad and learn from them. For us, the number of patients seen in the last 12 months is one of the most important. It tells us if we are growing or dying. And believe me, you are doing only one or the other.

Many healthcare providers struggle with the idea of “monetization”. How did you overcome that mental block?

Certainly, as business owners, we have to be smart and understand that if we aren’t profitable, we can’t keep our doors open to do what we love most — serve our patient’s needs. It becomes increasingly difficult in the face of decreased reimbursement resulting from managed care intervention, and competition from corporate and large group practices who enjoy various economies of scale. One of my practices is a Medicaid practice, where, in my state, we have not seen any change in the already strikingly low reimbursement rates for over a decade.

To overcome that mental block, we have to work hard and work smart. We also subscribe to the edict that if you always do what is right for the patient, everything else will take care of itself. Lastly, I channel my nervous energy from the continual effort into impacting change through involvement in organized dentistry and advocacy.

Organizations such as CDS, ISDS and ADA have allowed me the opportunity to form relationships with other dental professionals. I view my membership with these organizations as an investment in my practice that allows me to better serve my patients.

What do you do when you feel unfocused or overwhelmed?

I rarely feel unfocused, although I may at times be focused on the wrong thing. I often feel overwhelmed, particularly by the rapidly advancing technology and magnitude of information being disseminated. I lean on exercise, running, and golf to bring me back to a more centered place, but even then, I have to continually stop to tell myself that certain things just aren’t important and that there are people truly suffering in this world who would trade places with me in a heartbeat.

I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career — None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?

I too am a huge fan of mentorship. I am very grateful for my mentors and I do everything I can to mentor others. I think that when most people think of mentors, they think of someone older than themselves. I am finding that more and more of my mentors are younger than I am and help provide new insight, particularly when it comes to technology. My goal is to not become obsolete in my own lifetime.

For big picture mentorship, I look to those who have passed before me. My biggest and most influential mentors have been the editor of the Illinois State Dental Society News, Dr. Milton Salzer, and the editor of the Chicago Dental Society Review, Dr. Walter Lamacki. They have both taught me that giving back to the profession is important, particularly in the form of mentorship, community service, and protecting our patients and practices through vigilant advocacy.

My participation with the Chicago Dental Society has also allowed me to serve as a mentor for those who are just starting out in their career and as a collaborator for other colleagues in the field.

What resources did you use (Blogs, webinars, conferences, coaching, etc.) that helped jumpstart you in the beginning of your business?

When I first started my business, there were nowhere near the resources nor the access to resources that exist today. Back then, you had to look for resources and information. Now, there is such an abundance of information and ways to access it that it has become more about effectively filtering information than finding it.

For me, without question, the most important resource that I used to jumpstart my business was cassette tape recordings of the lectures offered at the Midwinter Meeting, which is the Chicago Dental Society’s annual scientific meeting held in Chicago. The Midwinter Meeting is a great opportunity for dental professionals to learn and participate in existing and emerging dental trends. Whether it’s recorded lectures or podcasts, I think it is important to vet the reliability, motivation and potential conflict of interests of the source of information to ensure that the information is genuine and individually well serving.

What’s the worst piece of advice or recommendation you’ve ever received? Can you share a story about that?

When you lean on outside experts or consultants to help you, you can often be given bad advice simply because no one knows your practice or business as well as you do. It may be good advice for someone else, but if it doesn’t match your mission, values, and culture, then it isn’t good advice for you.

There have been many pieces of bad advice that we have received over the years, but the one that sticks out the most in my mind came from a marketing consultant that we partnered with. They advised that we not recommend soft tissue management to our periodontally involved patients because the cost of it would cause the patients, particularly new patients, to leave the practice. Their contention was that most patients are under the impression that their insurance will cover their cleanings at 100% and to hear something different would send them running. In essence, the consulting company was recommending supervised neglect of periodontal disease to improve our bottom line. Besides the fact that this was malpractice, it was a violation of our ethical standards, mission, and values. We ended up parting ways with that consulting company.

Please recommend one book that’s made the biggest impact on you?

One book that has made a huge impact on me is Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek.

Where can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow my practices, City Smiles Chicago and Sonrisa Urbana, on the social media platforms listed below.

City Smiles Chicago

Facebook: @citysmileschicago

Instagram: @citysmileschicago

Twitter: @City_Smiles

Sonrisa Urbana

Facebook: @sonrisaurbana3750


Dr. Bill Simon: “Be a student of your industry; Know the trends, resources, best practices, law and was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: “Build mental fitness” with Harley Lippman of Genesis10

Build mental fitness — learn to view the world with optimism, but not with rose-colored glasses. My dad’s passing catapulted me into a life of constant self-awareness and mental toughness. Those are the traits of resilience one needs to be a founder or CEO.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Harley Lippman. Harley is Founder and CEO of Genesis10, a New York-based technology staffing and services firm providing workforce optimization and domestic outsourcing solutions. Lippman is consistently named among the top 50 “Best CEOs” by USA Today, ahead of well-known companies such as Apple, Lockheed Martin and Chipotle. Prior to starting Genesis10, Lippman was the founder and sole owner of Triad Data Inc., an information technology consulting firm. He serves on the boards of many business, educational and cultural organizations. He is an Executive Committee member on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Lippman serves by Presidential appointment and Senate confirmation as a member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. He is a board member of the Yale School of Management Board of Advisors and is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board at Columbia University’s Graduate School of International and Public Affairs.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

While studying abroad at the University of Manchester, England, midway through my first year, I received the terrible news that my father had passed away, leaving my family in financial turmoil. As the oldest of the four Lippman kids, I came back to New York to manage the family finances and try to recover losses incurred by my father’s company. Everything he did was on trust and a handshake. On his deathbed, my father had given my mother a list of clients who had owed him money and, since we needed to put food on the table, I reached out to each of his clients and reminded them of their obligation. It was difficult at times because people were not being as honorable as one would hope. But, suffice to say, I got enough of the debts paid to take care of my family.

I returned to school, graduated from SUNY Stony Brook near the top of my class and, with a Fulbright program in hand, became the first American exchange student to study political science in a communist country (Poland) since the end of WWII. On my return to New York, I earned my master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, graduating third in my class.

I took my first “real” job at an IT outplacement firm and significantly exceeded expectations. With the confidence I could maintain this rate of success, I started my own company, Triad Data, Inc. In five short years, I built Triad into a successful company. But in 1990, the recession wiped out 80% of the business. After nursing the company back to health, I sold it in 1998 for 15 times EBITA, at a time when the industry standard multiplier was only 6 to 8 times EBITA. It was a take-it-or-leave-it all-stock transaction. The buyer bought a lot of companies, and mine was one of only two that exceeded projections; nevertheless, the stock plummeted, wiping out virtually all the personal wealth I’d acquired in corporate shares.

In 1999, I reached out to 12 of my former colleagues from Triad and told them I wanted to start a new IT consultancy. Ten of them agreed to join me, taking pay cuts of 40% to 80%. I didn’t take any compensation in the year to lead by example. The company name Genesis10 has a special meaning to me. Genesis meaning new beginning and 10 is a nod to the 10 who believed in me to take a chance and join me on this journey. Twenty years later, our workforce has grown to approximately 3,000 and eight of the original 10 employees are still with me.

Two years ago, I moved to Miami, where I now run Genesis10 remotely.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

The most interesting story in my career was the building of Genesis10 from scratch with the help of 10 former colleagues. They all had good jobs and were very successful when I approached them with my idea. I knew it was unlikely they would leave the security of their full-time positions to join me in a completely new endeavor. But they did, and with their help we have built something strong and enduring.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Genesis10 is known in its industry (technology staffing and solutions) as a company with a strong internal culture. We are no longer small, but even with nearly 3,000 employees, we remain nimble and agile, able to pivot and adapt to business and employee needs, while staying relevant in our industry and maintaining low turnover rates for each. Over the past 20 years, our agility has allowed us to focus on the needs of customers and employees, even at a personal level.

For example, during the “Great Recession” of 2008–9, several of our consultants were on the verge of financial collapse. We were able to shift resources quickly, allowing us to provide pay advances for many of them, offering interest-free payback plans that helped them keep their jobs and continue to provide consulting services to our customers.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are so many people I could credit for my success. I guess if I must pick one person, it would be the dean of the Yale School of Management, who took a chance and believed in me, bringing me onto the board of Advisors when there were many candidates more qualified than I. He saw something in me that I had yet to discover for myself.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience?

The short answer is: Resilience is all about not giving up. In a way, it’s also like a game of chess. You have to find a way to move forward despite obstacles and opponents, both known and unknown. You must learn to think multiple moves ahead, planning for several possible future realities. You have to make sacrifices, allowing yourself to fail in order to achieve the greater goal. You also need to anticipate the moves of the other player, which in this analogy could be a competitor, the global or local economy, your industry and market or consumer behavior.

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

As noted above, resilient people have a sense of situational awareness and are driven to a purpose. They have focus and are inspired to make progress toward the goal, regardless of potential setbacks. Resilient people are decisive, yet are able to pivot. They have grit and determination and are able to embrace failure and constructive feedback. But, most of all, resilient people are motivated by their fear of failure.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I’d have to say Winston Churchill. He was a maverick. He had made many mistakes and had fallen out of favor on the world stage, as well as in his own country. What he said the world needed to do sounded alarmist and a bit grandstanding. Yet, he pursued a path that eventually, undeniably, set in motion a course of events that saved the world.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

One day, my sixth-grade teacher, who shall remain unnamed here, brought a classmate and me into his classroom. He told both of us…“to be successful, you need to be one of three things: smart and good in school, and that’s not you; good at sports, and that’s not you; or you need to be outgoing and/or good-looking. Neither of you are cut out for success.” After that meeting, I was determined to prove him wrong! Much of my life since then has been dedicated to that cause.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

When Triad was acquired, I accepted 100% payment in the form of stock and continued working for the company under new management. It was not long before I realized that I had made a devastating mistake. The acquiring company’s leadership was not interested in my ideas and was moving in a direction that eventually would wipe out much of the value of the company. Shares of the stock fell to next to nothing and my personal nest egg was gone…again.

I was scared to try again. Still, I had to do something. I ripped off the mask of fear and set out to build something bigger and better than Triad. That is when I launched Genesis10.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

If I go back far enough, I could point to some early episodes that could have contributed to my resiliency. I told you about my sixth-grade teacher, but he was not the first to disparage me, and he wouldn’t be the last. In high school, my guidance counselor actively discouraged me from applying to college, but I was already determined by that point to prove the world wrong.

However, just a few years later, I was hit with several catastrophes. I was 19 when my father died. I had been in arguments with him and my last words to him were very unkind. I felt so much guilt. But my brother felt worse. He was arguing and fighting with my dad the moment he had the heart attack that eventually killed him. He never got over that, blaming himself for our dad’s death. He fell into despair, then drugs, became homeless and eventually died of an opioid overdose. My father’s side of the family was quite large, as he was one of five children. So, I had multiple uncles, aunts and cousins. Before his death, we would meet every Sunday. After his death, they disowned us and never invited us over again.

I’m not saying all of this tragedy made me a better person, but it certainly made me stronger.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Build mental fitness — learn to view the world with optimism, but not with rose-colored glasses. My dad’s passing catapulted me into a life of constant self-awareness and mental toughness. Those are the traits of resilience one needs to be a founder or CEO.
  2. Learn to embrace failure — If I had given up after Triad, I have no idea where I would be today. But I didn’t give up, and now I am running a successful, 20-year-old company.
  3. Be inspired — read other people’s stories of resilience to reaffirm your own sense of self and unleash what you can accomplish.
  4. Always think about Plan B — Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, as they say. I learned that the hard way when I sold Triad in an all-stock deal.
  5. Surround yourself with people you trust and can count on –When I “circled the wagons” and recruited the initial “Genesis10,” I put myself on the right track. The people you’re with make all the difference.

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 want to protect our planet. I am inspired by the young Greta Thunberg, standing in front of the most powerful people in the world and dressing them down for failing to set our planet on a course to healing. I would love to spark a movement that ultimately forces countries to address policies that affect real change.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

One person I would love to have lunch with is Mark Cuban. His is an inspiring story of resilience and reinvention — two traits that I believe we share in some small way. Mark started out with $60 in his pocket and built his empire from the ground up by following his passion and pursuing success with relentless tenacity. He possesses a wisdom about business that is unparalleled, and I would enjoy comparing notes and war stories with him. There are many quotes attributed to Mark, but the ones that constantly replay in my mind are: “Sweat equity is the most valuable equity in the world” and “Know your business and industry better than anyone else.” In my opinion, regardless of where you are in your career, this is sage business advice.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can reach out to me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/harley-lippman-1918968/) or follow Genesis10 on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/genesis10/) or Twitter (@Genesis10Corp)

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: “Build mental fitness” with Harley Lippman of Genesis10 was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: “Oil painted portraits that come to life with AR” With Sara Riding of Studio…

The Future Is Now: “Oil painted portraits that come to life with AR” With Sara Riding of Studio Moshon

Our latest product is AR portraiture, bringing oil painted portraits to life. We’re used deep learning AI on an oil painted first frame of a video of the subject and letting the AI manipulate the painting to animate the subject following their video. People viewing the portrait in a gallery space can use the camera in the web browser to see the portrait come alive and speak their message. The combination of a medium with so much history, with technology which is bleeding edge helps add a new dimension to the established medium. The result can help communicate stories in an extremely memorable and clear way and help people get their message out there.

Sara Riding is the founder and CEO of Studio Moshon, a creative studio devoted to unique and innovative storytelling. Studio Moshon leverages what they have learned working in the Animation industry to create compelling animations and campaigns that truly engage audiences. Beginning her career in traditional animation, Sara soon found a love of digital innovation through her early work where she was able to combine those two worlds to create compelling animations and campaigns that truly engage the audience. Finding that most studios focus on either pure animation or digital creativity, Studio Moshon delves into the intersection of digital and animation to bring art to life and tell a unique, interesting narrative. Working with well-known studios and creators including Disney, Netsky and Facebook, Sara’s true passion lays in leveraging her work to draw attention to social causes. Most recently, Sara created ‘Women in Motion,’ an exhibit that showcases women in entertainment. Through the use of web-based augmented reality, participants are able to physically hear from industry veterans like Ava Duvernay, Dee Rees, Meredith Walker and Geena Davis about the entertainment industry and how women are essential components of its future.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was always passionate about drawing and art growing up as a way to create fun universes, characters and stories. I originally leaned towards fine art until I discovered animation and realised it was a viable path which has a perfect mix of narrative and draftsmanship. From there I studied animation production at the Arts University Bournemouth and have worked with the medium ever since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

You can learn unexpected lessons at random when starting out. You tend to take any project which comes your way and I had a brief come to me to illustrate maps, I passed the art test and headed to their studio to start the work

When arriving at the studio it turned out the brief had changed, they wanted flying credits in space using After Effects, which I didn’t know how to use at that time. Rather than reject the curve ball I dove in head first, they needed the motion graphics pieces and I wanted to help out.

I picked up the animation software and started figuring out how to apply my traditional hand drawn animation techniques to the software. It turned out great, and not only did I help deliver on the project but ended up with a whole new skillset.

The major lesson I learnt here is that software can be learnt, the principles of animation were the tricky bit. Software is just a tool and you can pick it up super fast. I also gained an outlook of rising to new challenges and accepting projects outside my comfort zone.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Our latest product is AR portraiture, bringing oil painted portraits to life. We’re used deep learning AI on an oil painted first frame of a video of the subject and letting the AI manipulate the painting to animate the subject following their video. People viewing the portrait in a gallery space can use thecamera in the web browser to see the portrait come alive and speak their message.

The combination of a medium with so much history, with technology which is bleeding edge helps add a new dimension to the established medium. The result can help communicate stories in an extremely memorable and clear way and help people get their message out there.

How do you think this might change the world?

We exhibited the AR portraits at the Women In Entertainment summit last October displaying a number of portraits of the key speakers over the years and then at Infinity Festival in November. I hope that by using the technology breakthrough it will bring attention to their messages and communicate them in a clear and engaging manner.

The speakers have such amazing messages and if the project can shine a light on their ideas and get them further exposure I believe it can have a positive impact on the entertainment industry. Giving a louder voice to any positive subject has the opportunity to change the world for the better.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

We’ll probably see more episodes soon about AI generated communication. AI is a powerful tool for creating what would take humans hundreds of hours to put together which creates a believability which is hard to falter. Deepfakes are already real but we are yet to see them put into practice at scale. Information can be communicated which alters your view of the past, makes you question the present and can shape the future by swaying peoples opinions.

I’m excited to use the technology for positive change and disseminating truth, but the technology is out there and public and eventually someone else will definitely use it for negativity spreading false information for their agenda.

My work focuses on adding the power of portraiture and communicating through art with the powerful voices of positive people, if anything in the future perhaps it will be balanced in how the technology grows and inspires more people to use it for good.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

After studying fine art and portraiture I would create oil portraits in my spare time, I’ve even created an oil painting of my persian cat called Nolly. In fact, it’s the cat portrait which inspired the combination of these technologies. It hangs on our wall in Silverlake, Los Angeles and it paints the picture of Nolly’s personality quite well. What was missing though, was motion, and seeing the oil painting on the wall each day with Nolly moving around below it made me realise that bringing it to life could add further depth to what’s communicated. It sounds so silly talking about helping a cat communicate, but if I can bring Nolly to life and help convey what she’s all about, then just imagine the technology being employed to help convey an important message from someone who wants more than a tin of tuna.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

The Women In Entertainment Summit is a great starting point, if we can revitalise the interest in portraiture as a medium then it can be adopted in the industry. Imagine movie posters which come to life with messages from the actors, or if any painting or piece of art could have another layer of interactivity and meaning.

The platforms which host the AR interactivity on your phone currently control distribution of effects, and there’s a step the user has to make to load the effect on their phone. If the native phone camera could detect images natively then it saves the user the step of accessing the effect.

The companies controlling the time of people on their phones currently have the power to decide which technology and media is effective. They decide if video performs better than images, and they decide if AR is something easily accessible or something you have to pay to distribute and get reach.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We’re currently a finalist at this year’s SXSW Innovation awards in the Visual Experience category. It’s going to be an amazing opportunity to show the exhibit again, sharing the messages and experience with people in the industry. I’m looking forward to taking some of the most inspiring women in the entertainment industry and touring their message to festivals, conferences and events. It’s like taking the speakers on tour the conferences and getting the attendees to not only care, but have the opportunity to share the message on social.

If they like the technology, the application of it, the oil portraits, the message of the speaker then they’re likely to share it to show their friends. I’m hoping that by doing this project enough people will see the concept to want their own portrait, or want to do similar exhibits for positive causes. I could imagine an AR gallery to help with the changes in the environment where the paintings show a sped up version of landscapes being destroyed and changing forever.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Studio Moshon has collaborated closely with Powster over the years, doing animations on music videos and helping with AR projects. Our latest collaboration was for Facebook themselves where we made the official #FacebookBeach Cannes Lions filter. Pointing your Facebook camera at the Cannes Lions logo showed 3 different AR messages; Creativity is Diverse, Creativity is Female, Creativity is Proud. Working on innovative projects with Powster has helped Studio Moshon use the most cutting edge technology.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Many of the successful projects of Studio Moshon have helped good causes. From positioning the AR community to look at helping the three key messages mentioned previously, to a penguin animation encouraging the elderly to adjust their thermostats keeping them safe. We’re a studio which cares about what we’re putting out there and wanting to push good causes.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It can be done
  2. Go outside your comfort zone
  3. Don’t let your assumptions decide your path
  4. Visas can take a very long time
  5. Knock backs are inevitable and are part of the journey

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?

The projects I’ve worked on over the last year have had the message of inclusion, representation and equality. I would encourage everyone to create art for the communities they care about and share it with the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’ Oscar Wilde. It’s not about what you ‘have’, it’s having an awareness of your surroundings and putting things into perspective.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them

At Studio Moshon we create innovative ways to convey narratives, engaging audiences in new ways and spreading positive messages of change. We aren’t currently looking for funding but investing in Studio Moshon by having us involved with your ventures could lead to positive impact, draw awareness to your core values and demonstrate innovative thinking.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram @studiomoshon


The Future Is Now: “Oil painted portraits that come to life with AR” With Sara Riding of Studio… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Staci Pacheco, CMO at…

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Staci Pacheco, CMO at Enviroscent

It’s important to invest into brand building, because you need to create and drive awareness of what you stand for so you can connect with the consumer. We are also investing in marketing and advertising because we are a young brand. For us there is no clear separation of the two — we are communicating both at Enviroscent all the time.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacie Pacheco, CMO at Enviroscent. Stacie is a versatile and results-driven CMO with a solid reputation for driving revenue growth, improving brand health and utilizing data aimed at achieving business objectives. She has established herself as a driving force of the synergy of classical and modern marketing approaches, examining insights, establishing processes/KPIs and leading best-in-class marketing teams.

As a capable leader, her contributions extend to P&L Management, having managed global P&Ls up to $200M and marketing budgets of $20M+. As a result of her Lean Six Sigma background she has developed a strong understanding of establishing KPIs, metrics and visual management for creative services, insights, trade shows and digital tactics including social media, CRM, SEO, email blasts, and paid display.

Moreover, Stacie is a proven change agent skilled in driving continuous improvements and a professional with insightful experience in providing strategic vision and thought leadership in key areas such as marketing strategy, strategic leadership, CRM, demand generation, product development, innovation, and continuous improvements. She also builds high-performance teams that emphasize quality, content, insights and optimal productivity.

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 had an older sister who worked in advertising and that influenced me a lot. I started out in graphic design in my undergrad, following in her footsteps, and ended up working for an advertising agency on the account side working for some great clients in retail and F&B industries. After a few years, I had an opportunity to make the jump to the client side working for Sealy Mattress and there I really found my passion for growing a brand, developing innovative new products, digging into consumer insights and managing the P&L for a business.

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?

I have learned so much along the way, but one example that comes to mind is from my time working for Jarden Consumer Solutions. We really believed we had permission to play with our brand in the diagnostics industry. At the time we launched a line of blood pressure monitors at the retail level. Unfortunately, we underestimated the power of the relationship between the incumbent brands and the pharmacist. The barrier to entry was higher than we thought. Even though the consumer was interested in the product, and the retail buyers thought we were a fit, we couldn’t get past the recommendation of the pharmacist. Ultimately for that reason, the line was discontinued. The lesson here is the importance of understanding the consumer journey and how that maps through to a sale. Whether it’s in brick and mortar or online, understanding what influences purchase will determine your success.

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?

I worked with former Proctor and Gamble employees at both Sealy Mattress and Sunbeam, and that taught me to apply the power of consumer insights. The importance of checking in and validating that you’re making the right decisions. What’s the problem you’re trying to solve? How are you going to market? Is your messaging resonating with that consumer?

I also realized that being in marketing isn’t a creative or analytical role, it’s a combination of both the right and left brain. As I matured, I realized that the balance of both is what makes you a successful marketer.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I have a passion for everything we do at Enviroscent. We have a relentless pursuit toward ridding homes of chemical air fresheners and toxins. We are putting together plans for cause marketing affiliations which will launch later this year. I’m passionate about helping people enjoy their spaces more without putting any bad stuff into the air.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Preventing burnout at work for me is about networking and connecting with others in marketing — there’s so many people who are smarter than me and I feel inspired when I learn. It’s such an exciting time to be in marketing. There’s always a new tool and solution to apply. Consumers are more willing to share their insights. There are countless new ways to use big data.

At home, I’m a dedicated fitness enthusiast. I’m a nut. I work out every morning at 6 am, I do yoga. I make it a priority to give myself time. And most importantly, I make time to enjoy my kids.

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?

Brand marketing is focused on driving awareness of who you are and what you stand for. What you deliver as a company. Product marketing is talking about specific problems we are solving, the tangible product benefits.

For example, the Enviroscent brand is about ridding your air of nasty chemicals, by making products that are safer for people, pets and planet. In our product marketing, we emphasize the various forms and nature-inspired scents that can fit your home and lifestyle.

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?

It’s important to invest into brand building, because you need to create and drive awareness of what you stand for so you can connect with the consumer. We are also investing in marketing and advertising because we are a young brand. For us there is no clear separation of the two — we are communicating both at Enviroscent all the time.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

In general, if you feel like you have a great solution to a problem but for some reason you’re not able to cut through the clutter with your brand and consumers aren’t connecting with it, it might be time to consider rebranding.

We rebranded from Pure to Enviroscent in 2019 because the Pure fragrance brand name was difficult to own and didn’t really stand for who we were. Enviroscent speaks more to our positioning as being safer for people, pets and planet. We were able to relaunch with a new brand, feel and tone to meet the needs of our target personas.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

There are always costs and risks associated with a rebrand. It’s expensive to recreate all your marketing, brand and product materials. And if you’ve already invested in a community and in a retail presence, those are all at risk. You need to evaluate that on a company-by-company basis.

Established brands don’t always need to be made over. There’s a tendency for marketers to want to put their own stamp on things. It made a lot of sense for us because it was going back to our roots in a sense. If you’ve got a lot of equity and your brand is highly recognizable you need to be careful — or people won’t be able to find you.

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.

  1. Find inspirational brands that you think are doing it well. Who is doing it right and what are they doing? This is one of the places we’ve started. We admire and follow disruptive brands such as Goodr, Shinesty, Native, RXBar, Harry’s, Billie, PooPourri and Duke Cannon
  2. Invest in consumer insights. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of your personas unmet needs and wants and how your brand and product solution resonates with your target audience. Check your assumptions at the door and re-evaluate if you need to make adjustments.
  3. Find your customers where they are engaging rather than trying to always draw them to you first. Don’t go to Tik-Tok just because it’s the latest social media channel if your target audiences are not using the platform.
  4. Try new things and make adjustments all the time. On a monthly or even weekly basis. Don’t be afraid to change course when something isn’t working. Disruptive brands need to be nimble and adjust as they learn.
  5. Listen to your customers and seek out their feedback. Make sure your website has product reviews, make sure that your brand health metric is moving in the right direction. Even more importantly, respond to their feedback and make changes along the way.

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?

RX Bar made over their brand by putting all the ingredients on the front of that package. The tone of their messaging really changed with that move. It was no B.S. It was authentic and refreshing and one needs to think about that for their own brand. Consumers appreciate when you’re honest about who you are.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Beyond just our mission at Enviroscent, I am passionate about reducing or eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals in our daily lives. My son and I are both cancer survivors and since we lack any family history of cancer, I firmly believe environmental issues caused us both to battle cancer at early ages. So, I try to be mindful about the chemicals that my kids and dog are being exposed to and choose to buy products that are safer.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Be passionate about what you do and have fun. Keep it in perspective.

How can our readers follow you online?

Connect with Enviroscent on Facebook (www.facebook.com/enviroscent), Twitter (www.twitter.com/enviroscent) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/enviroscent).

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 Staci Pacheco, CMO at… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success, with Miranda Gillespie of Luxe.It.Fwd

Make a decision to take action, and know that you need to chose to take the action regardless of how you feel. Don’t use how you feel or how motivated you are to be the driver of what you do in your day.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Miranda Gillespie.

Miranda is the CEO and Founder of sustainable luxury shopping platform, Luxe.It.Fwd. Through championing the re-use and re-sale of unwanted luxury goods, Luxe.It.Fwd also brings accessibility back to luxury, stocking a curated selection of luxury handbags by designers such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci at up to 60% off the RRP new. And for sellers who have unwanted luxury items languishing at the back of their wardrobe, Luxe.It.Fwd provides a hassle free way for them to “luxe it forward”.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

At the time of first launching and growing Luxe.It.Fwd, I was also working in a demanding career as a full-time lawyer. I’ve always had the itch to be in business and I had also realised I didn’t enjoy working in law, despite having a very successful law career and making partner in my late 20s.

So when I came up with the idea for Luxe.It.Fwd, I was excited (and incredibly nervous) about launching what I hoped at the time would be a very successful business, and it also provided me a great avenue to focus on something other than law.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

For almost 3 years from launching Luxe.It.Fwd I worked full-time as a lawyer while spending every free moment running Luxe.It.Fwd. So I would work early in the morning on Luxe.It.Fwd, during the day as a lawyer, and then work on the business at lunch, nights and on weekends. I was also pregnant during this time, enduring incredible all-day sickness and awful back pain for my entire pregnancy.

At that time I had no staff and it was just me who did absolutely every single task in the business. It would be 10pm on a weeknight and while absolutely exhausted from a day’s work in my legal job and feeling awfully sick from my pregnancy, I would be packing up orders and photographing handbags in my very amateur light tent setup in a spare bedroom in my house. And then I’d get up in the early hours of the morning and do it all over again.

To say this was a challenging time was an understatement. It was not only physically exhausting, but the emotional and financial stress on my shoulders was huge. Whilst in an ideal world I would have loved to have quit my job in law at that time to focus fully on Luxe.It.Fwd, I needed to ensure the business was viable before taking that risk and I was also using my day-job salary together with my own savings to fund Luxe.It.Fwd.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I had really clear drivers in my mind for needing to make Luxe.It.Fwd work. I got to a point where I really didn’t enjoy my law career at all and was therefore at a somewhat unhappy point of my life, and Luxe.It.Fwd was my opportunity to move to a career that I was really passionate about. I also invested a lot of my own money into starting Luxe.It.Fwd, and I felt a (self-imposed) responsibility to my family to ensure I didn’t lose that money.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

I was at point A in my life (ie. miserable in my career) and I really wanted to be at point B (ie. passionate about what I do), and I decided I was going to do whatever level of work was needed to get there — which in my case meant working insane hours for a few years on both Luxe.It.Fwd and at my day job. That period was arduous, relentless and insanely stressful. And the only reason I could do it was by applying every bit of relentless grit that I could muster in myself.

For me, grit means choosing to take necessary action every day over long periods of time, irrespective of what I “feel” like doing or how unmotivating the circumstances. And this grit is the key trait that has led to Luxe.It.Fwd’s ultimate success. Motivation and excitement wear off pretty quickly when starting a business, and for me the key ingredient to growing a successful business is employing the grit to compel myself to persist and move forward with action each day, irrespective of how unmotivated or under pressure I was feeling.

During these early days of growing Luxe.It.Fwd while also working full-time I woke up each day exhausted and often incredibly stressed in terms of wanting to get Luxe.It.Fwd off the ground to make it a success. But I knew what I needed to do, and so I gritted down and just did it.

After almost 3 years this hard work work had paid off, having grown Luxe.It.Fwd to a level that I could leave my legal career to focus fully on the business. Luxe.It.Fwd now has a team of 6 and has grown more than 100% year-on-year to be turning over $2 million this year.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Make a decision to take action, and know that you need to chose to take the action regardless of how you feel. Don’t use how you feel or how motivated you are to be the driver of what you do in your day.
  2. Don’t have expectations of everything needing to be enjoyable, but understand what’s important to you that you’re willing to suffer in the short term to get there.
  3. Have a very clear focus on your own “why”. Why are you doing it and what are you trying to achieve.
  4. In addition to the “why”, know your timeline for how long you need to apply grit to a situation to get to where you want to be. In my case, I worked insane hours for almost 3 years, but that’s not something I could or would choose to do for years and years on end.
  5. Know when to compel yourself to keep going when you feel unmotivated, but equally also know when to give yourself a break. We’re not robots and can’t operate at insanely high levels all of the time.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

The downside of being a solo founder is feeling as though you’re bearing all of the problems on your business on your own shoulders. Therefore during tricky times I’ve always turned to my husband because he has seen the evolution of the business from the start and really understands where I’m at. Back when I first started the business from my spare bedroom at home, my husband would help pack orders and all other random jobs, so he understands how far the business has come.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

An inherent part of Luxe.It.Fwd is to champion the re-use and re-sale of unwanted items that would otherwise be unused at the back of someone’s wardrobe or go to waste. We are proud to facilitate a platform that allows both buyers and sellers to participate in sustainable shopping practices and reducing unnecessary waste.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

With our items are one-of-a-kind because they’re pre-owned and with the strong reputation of trust that we’ve built with our community, our popular items sell within minutes and therefore the challenge for us is ensuring we have as many new-arrivals coming in as possible to meet the buying demand. We’ve been tapping into a number of new sources for our stock and are very excited to be in a strong growth phase of bringing a much large range for our eager buyers.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I’m very open with our team including to share the highs of the business. The result is that the team becomes very invested in the business achieving great things and doing the best to help ensure that happens. I’m a big believer in creating an environment which allows employees to find their own space to thrive, rather than dictating how things should be.

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. 🙂

My focus is to really push for the reduction of unnecessary waste in the fashion industry. So rather than buying fast fashion on impulse that doesn’t get used or doesn’t last long because of its quality, I really want to promote a more ethical fashion cycle of mindfully choosing quality items and then ensuring they are re-used over and again to their fullest extent. It’s unrealistic to say that the fashion industry won’t have unnecessary waste, but I really want to contribute to reducing that as much as possible and making that movement more widespread.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do” — Mark Twain. First deciding to start a business has the scarily high prospect of failure. What propelled me was that I knew I could live with the failure if that eventuated, but I wouldn’t be able to accept missing the opportunity if I didn’t do it.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook — https://facebook.com/luxeitfwd

Instagram — @luxe.it.fwd_

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

.


Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success, with Miranda Gillespie of Luxe.It.Fwd was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, With Anna Goncalves of…

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, With Anna Goncalves of Projects by AG

Connect, enthusiastically. Communicate, attentively. Repeat, intentionally. This goes for anyone and everyone that interacts with your brand. An example and one of my favorite things to see is a company replying, close to immediately [with the appropriate reply], to every single comment left on their social media feeds. But that’s just one of the many opportunities out there to connect and communicate with your consumer base.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Anna Goncalves.

Anna Goncalves has 13 years of professional Branding, Marketing, and PR/Media experience. She runs Projects by AG — a company that combines her diverse interests in music, entertainment, lifestyle, and technology and offers services that include: business consultation, artist/talent development, TV and film casting, brand partnerships, copywriting, and digital marketing.

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?

It’s a pleasure! Thank YOU!

As for what brought me here? Meeting a stranger in a plane inadvertently brought me here. Over ten years ago, I met an older gentleman who happened to sit by me inside a plane headed to an international destination. Although this man — as he had mentioned — was a frequent business flyer (you’d think he’d want his space) he initiated conversation with me. Hours later, there we were still chatting away about family, life, hobbies, dreams, future, and so much more. Long story short, it was this man — Gil — who shifted my thinking and ultimately, my career path. What was beautiful about this interaction was that Gil’s willingness to care enough to engage in conversation was all it took for me to, in a way, think outside the box.

I came back from this trip ready to begin exploring what I had learned about myself through this stranger. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Anyway, I knew exactly where to start. (Mind you that at the time, I had just concluded my studies at Bentley University a semester earlier than my class and had a full-time job as Director of Marketing and PR at a private medical practice.)

I ended up structuring my work schedule to allow me to do just that — explore. I studied, I read, I researched, I reached out to professionals I wanted to gain insights from, treated the professionals I got the pleasure of meeting in person to coffee/lunch, interned in the development department of a local TV/Media production company, volunteered at film festivals in the admin and PR department, and so on. In fact, volunteering at film festivals was where I discovered my passion for the arts and for talent. I realized I loved seeing stories come to life through diverse characters. (This experience also helped me get out of my shell by helping me approach and speak with strangers. Not to mention how much it helped me learn how to “sell” since I had to go up to these complete strangers and sell tickets!). I did that for the next year and when a great opportunity came, I left my full-time job and moved to NYC for a full-time, non-paid PR internship at a talent agency that was only but three months old at the time. And this, in a nutshell, is how it all began.

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?

The funniest mistake happened while I interned in NYC at the talent agency that I left my full-time Marketing and PR job for. The agency was lead by two co-founders. One of these co-founders had recently married a very well known name in the fashion industry. And when I say well known, I mean one of the biggest names in fashion. Let’s just say that when I RSVP’d for the founders to an event, I also added this person (aka, one of the biggest names in fashion) to the RSVP. What I did was: I assumed my boss would have his husband accompany him to this swanky event because that’s what couples do! But also, how cool for the two to be seen together?! A part of me also knew I’d successfully lock in that RSVP because of that name that was attached. Well, after the deed was done, I reassured my bosses that I had emailed and requested the RSVP for the three of them. As quickly as I am being reprimanded for my mistake, I am also receiving emails from this event coordinator, and her team, to accommodate this celebrity fashion icon. I was mortified (haha).

The branding mistake, if you will, was using the very popular brand name to get my boss perceived in a “hotter/more relevant” manner and successfully lock in my first assignment. I didn’t think about it from a branding perspective as much as I thought about it from an opportunistic one. What I quickly realized is that my former boss and his spouse were their own brand and they each did their own thing. At the end of it all, I went ahead and wrote an email to fix my mistake and all was well.

Although this story sounds uneventful and even overly dramatic, ever since this mistake, I never made decisions solely based on being “an opportunity” without thinking if the opportunity is the right one for me or a client. (Bet this wasn’t what you had in mind when you asked this question, huh?)

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?

I became a firm believer in milestones. And also a believer that success can come in various forms; wins can be big and they can also be small. I’d say that one of those milestones for me was when I began working with my first international (Brazil) client within music and entertainment. I experienced a win when I realized I had been referred to them. That should be the biggest compliment for any professional. Another win was successfully doing a business call in Portuguese. Although I speak fluently, I had never done an entire business phone call all in Portuguese before; I didn’t think, then, that I would be able to. I look back to that moment and it feels so good to reminisce even still. And of course, building a strong relationship with them so early on where I still have the pleasure of working alongside them is a constant win.

I didn’t start doing anything different, per say, prior to this milestone or tipping point. I was doing what I did best in the way I knew how. And ultimately, it was exactly what kept them interested. As we all know, a referral can only go so far…

The takeaway? Keep doing what you do best and embrace how you do it. Sometimes, it’s important to have the wisdom to recognize what we need to change just as much as we need to have the wisdom to recognize what we shouldn’t change.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I sure am! My clients have dreams and my mission is to help them build those dreams so that through them, their business, or their project, others can be inspired. I firmly believe that all brands have the power and somewhat of a responsibility to inspire people through their stories.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Oh, I have a few! I’d suggest that you get a hobby; something you can dedicate 20–30 minutes doing, daily. I’d also recommend other marketers — anyone really — to make sure you spend time with yourself and with your thoughts. And try to wake up earlier so you can stay away from work matters until after your first hour (at least) of the day. If you ask me about what I have done different throughout my career, this would be it. It would be figuring out what I need before giving my clients and those around me what they need.

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?

In a nutshell, branding is your story; advertising is how you build awareness of your story.

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 know firsthand — mainly from consulting upcoming artists with their development — that money is scarce. But everything worth doing is worth investing in, period. Your time, energy, resources — it’s all necessary when building a brand. And as I tell artists and smaller businesses, especially, I prefer seeing consistency with a smaller monthly budget [for marketing purposes] versus spending a lot of money “when you have it” here and there.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Reasons why a company should consider rebranding could include: they have a new philosophy, a new focus, a new target audience, new mergers and acquisitions, an ‘evolved’ identity, and so on.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

There are downsides to rebranding if you do it for the wrong reasons. (It’s why hiring a Branding Consultant is a good idea, by the way, because here’s an individual that will infiltrate your company’s internal operations with an outsider perspective and help guide your decisions.) I’d advise against doing a “Brand Makeover” if the motivation, for example, is a financial one. Another example would be if a brand is trying to imitate what their “competition” is doing.

In all, though, I think all brands should continuously adapt. Your brand is never “done” being developed just like we, as humans, are never done growing. So it’s important to listen and pay close attention to your audience — what they need, what they don’t even know they need, what will make their lives easier, etc. — and incorporating those well throughout approaches, strategically. You should never stop pursuing, or romancing, your consumer base.

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.

Brands will continuously be challenged as a result of how convenience and technology evolves. And you can’t forget about how consumers are also continuing to expect “better” and “consistent” service from the brands they interact with. So my 5 strategies revolve around what it’ll take for a brand to get re-energized and remain energized as some things evolve and other things remain the same.

Connect, enthusiastically. Communicate, attentively. Repeat, intentionally.

This goes for anyone and everyone that interacts with your brand. An example and one of my favorite things to see is a company replying, close to immediately [with the appropriate reply], to every single comment left on their social media feeds. But that’s just one of the many opportunities out there to connect and communicate with your consumer base.

Listen, internally.

Always listen to your consumer base to become better in how you serve them. But don’t forget about your partners, employees, and everyone in between. Often times we do whatever we need to do to provide the best “customer” service — as we should — but end up forgetting that we need to better serve, all around. Every person behind the brand should be acknowledged. So listen to them and become better for them, also.

Recognize your weaknesses. Embrace your weaknesses. Outsource your weaknesses.

This one speaks for itself.

Lead with your values.

I recently spoke with someone who had just accepted a new job. I remember how excited this individual was about joining the company because of the company’s culture. (The culture was the biggest talking point during his interview process). Well, less than two months in, this person began talking about how it wasn’t at all what he expected. As someone who heard about this culture before the experience and later heard about the same culture after the experience, I couldn’t believe the dichotomy. Well, needless to say that this once excited employee was now without any desire to stay. So he left for another job.

The problem wasn’t the expectation of the employee; it was the embellishment and promise of the employer. If you are trying to build a culture based on what you think will attract people, what you “want to see happen” within your company, or even what you “want to believe” about your company culture, don’t. As the leader, let your values speak through your behavior. Knowing this, you’ll know how to lead and cultivate the community of people around you.

Hire people, correctly, and teach them how to follow-up.

We will forever need capable and passionate people behind a brand; I don’t care how tech-savvy we become. I’ll give you an example of a very recent occurrence with a big-name brand that we all know and love.

So I brought my mom into this brand’s optical department to get her new eyeglasses. The customer service was great! In fact, the associate who saw us there the first time, when we were just browsing, remembered us the second time around when we returned to make a purchase. We wasted no time. I paid for the frame my mom wanted and the type of lenses she needed. Now, we needed to wait for an “automated text” telling us when the item was in for pickup. We were told that it would take ten days for it to arrive in that location. But days had gone by and no text. I call and the same person that helped us make the purchase answered the phone. She proceeded to tell me that the glasses had arrived and there must have been a glitch on the tech side which would explain why we didn’t get a text. So off to pick-up I go. Fast-forward to an entire day with the glasses, my mom notices a few issues with the lenses. So I place the call to let them know. I am told to bring them back in a confused but very nice and apologetic manner. We drop it off and again, we’re told to wait for an “automated text” that would let us know when the item was ready for pickup. And yet again, the days go by and we never get a text. At this point, after waiting so much for a much needed purchase, we decided to simply go back and return it for a full refund. My mom went in alone this time. And once the associate recognized her, she says her lenses had arrived. But by then, we had already made up our minds.

I’m not saying I’m the only customer but every customer should be treated like the only customer. If a tech glitch happened the first time, why not make sure it wouldn’t happen a second time? Or even so, if the item arrived and the customer hasn’t showed up, why not call them directly?

So hire the right people and teach them the importance of following up because it’s just as important as making the sale. (And if we’re honest, a sale is never final.)

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 particular brand that comes to mind is Dunkin’ (formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts). I grew up eating their donuts. I knew they sold other items but it was all I ate every time I interacted with the brand. So to me, little ol’ pre-teen Anna, Dunkin’ Donuts was my go-to place for…donuts. But surely enough, I couldn’t have agreed more with their roll-out to ditch the “Donuts” in their name. An overall great move considering their growing menu. I also loved that even as an older company, they felt the need to adapt with their “store of the future” experience. And they did so without jeopardizing their roots.

I won’t say that brands should “replicate” Dunkin’ but all brands can be inspired by Dunkin’ and commit to the same goal of adapting to how the world evolves while remaining the same.

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 think every person is of great influence and we all really do have the power to bring about good wherever we find ourselves, right now. So if I could inspire a movement, it would be to challenge everyone to commit to at least one act of genuine service every single day. Whether you know the person or not, just do something that’ll make someone’s day. If we all just cared enough to show love with our actions and with our words? Man oh man, what a beautiful world it would be.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Live purposefully with a passion” is my go-to. These words came to me years ago but they’re relevant now and will remain relevant forever. When you live from a mindset of knowing your purpose in life, you have to be enthusiastic about it! How could you not be?!

How can our readers follow you online?

They can find me on social media @annapfgoncalves or visit our website at www.projectsbyag.com to see what we’re up to!

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.

Thank you so much for chatting! Wishing you and your team all the best in 2020 and beyond!


5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, With Anna Goncalves of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: “Resilience is the ability to adapt to changing currents, winds and…

Rising Through Resilience: “Resilience is the ability to adapt to changing currents, winds and tides”, with Hunter Todd, CEO of WorldFest-Houston International Film Festivals

If you look up the definition of resilience, you get a capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. I’d say that is true and what also may be true is an ability to adapt to changing currents, winds and tides. I’m also a Sailing Master and US Merchant Marine (Ret). Being on the open waters as long as I have has given me a space to experience peace and enjoy the constant shifts of nature. Sailing is 95% peace and tranquility and 5% sheer terror.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Hunter Todd, Award-Winning Producer and Director and Chairman and CEO of WorldFest-Houston International Film Festivals Inc. Mr. Todd has the distinction of heading up the world’s longest running international independent film festival in the world. WorldFest has screened the first features of some of our most powerful directors in cinema including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ang Lee, Guillermo del Toro, Oliver Stone, Robert Rodriguez, John Lee Hancock and many more. This year marks the 53rd Annual WorldFest in Houston, TX.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Soon after graduating the College of William and Mary, I became Projects Officer in the US Army, NASA, and RCA Motion Picture Division. It was an incredible opportunity to learn how to make films and I honed my own craft as a filmmaker much like Frank Capra, William Wyler, John Huston and George Stevens. I became Executive Producer at the State Department’s Motion Picture division and simultaneously studied law at John Marshall (subsequently deciding that I wasn’t cut out for law). I journeyed into the film festival business in 1966 as Founder of Cinema America, where I produced more than 300 TV Specials, business films, theatrical feature films and television commercials winning over 100 international awards. In 1961, I organized a dedicated film society which morphed in 1968 into a competitive “Discovery” film festival which has evolved over 5 decades into WorldFest now about to celebrate its 53rd year.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I had the privilege of a very hefty sponsorship to create a film festival in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was a coveted destination for the Hollywood set and drew all the stars of the day — Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Catherine Deneuve and Katherine Hepburn. You would think it to be the ideal setting, a lush tropical island along with a great budget, however it was definitely not paradise. Living on a small island and trying to produce an international glamorous film festival is not the fun you think it would be. I got island fever and left the minute my contract was over. What I learned was though stars glitter, there’s no place like Texas. It’s where I’ve lived ever since.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’re not just big thinkers and visionaries, we actually make the magic happen. It’s not always easy and sometimes you fly by the seat of your pants until the plane lands beneath your feet. I remember one festival, our sponsor had to have Kirk Douglas at the VIP dinner. I really was unsure I could make that happen though I assured them we’d make every effort to have the luminary materialize. I was getting ready to have a Kirk Douglas look alike stand in when the real Kirk Douglas confirmed at the last minute, and with some pretty pricey demands for our budget. But it was all worth it and proved to me that sometimes a Hail-Mary pass really can score.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Honestly, I’d have to say it was the gentleman who helped me into my first position with the US Army in the motion picture department. At the time, coming out of college and ROTC, I thought I would be assigned to Vietnam in some capacity. However, the commanding officer of my temporary duty station had attended Georgia Tech with my father; The CO called me into his office and said “Todd, I’m not letting you waste your time in ‘nam. I’m sending you to the future, young man.” And he assigned me to NASA Cape Canaveral and the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center to be a project’s officer and film director in the Signal Corps. I’ll never forget that he gave me a helping hand that directed me towards this particular career trajectory.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience?

Well, if you look up the definition of resilience, you get a capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. I’d say that is true and what also may be true is an ability to adapt to changing currents, winds and tides. I’m also a Sailing Master and US Merchant Marine (Ret). Being on the open waters as long as I have has given me a space to experience peace and enjoy the constant shifts of nature. Sailing is 95% peace and tranquility and 5% sheer terror.

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people

Persistence and flexibility. But persistence alone is omnipotent…. That’s at the core of my ability to still be running this festival after 50+ years.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Not a person but a collection of people, the City of Houston. I’ve seen this city go through some major ups and downs over the years. The City of Houston has recovered from one catastrophic event after another during the last 5 years. And before Hurricane Harvey, not just floods and hurricanes but economic downturns as well. I believe our city’s resilience abides, because we have hope, community, persistence and a vision.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

When the festival was in Atlanta and my major sponsor filed for bankruptcy I was told by my attorneys that it was time to stop this and go back to just doing film production. I was filming corporate and documentary films to make my bread and butter while I explored creating a film festival. I resisted their instructions and continued. The festival has persevered through our efforts for 53 years.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

When the festival moved from the Virgin Islands to Houston in 1978, it was held in the month of November (we had been filling the shoulder season in the Islands during Autumn). I quickly realized the social season in Houston is filled with symphonies, ballets, operas, social events, parties and balls. So we move the festival to April and it has been a great success in that time slot ever since. April was basically a wide open month for the film festival. It’s right after the Oscars and right before Cannes, in a perfect slot.

I saw an article the other day that even spoke to Spring being festival season so maybe I started something. When I initiated WorldFest, we were number 3 in North America after San Francisco and the New York Fests. Now there are over 4,000 “so called” film festivals in North America. I say “so called” because many of them are not true International film festivals. They are what we call ‘screening events’. In other words, they rent some movies for a weekend and call it a French film festival, Charlie Chaplin film festival or a Latin film festival. WorldFest is International. We have hundreds of invited guests from all over the world — last year we represented 77 countries. We present Premieres of films which have been through the Official International Jury process. Our final Official Selections are exhibited in professional movie theatres and are all open to the public. Such is the standard definition per Cannes, Berlin, and Venice, the 3 oldest festivals to offer those elements to be a true film festival. Of the several 1000 ‘so called’ film festivals in North America, the great majority of them are ‘screening events’ and don’t measure up to the Cannes festival standard.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I have been a sailor all my life in small sailboats and there’s no better test of resilience than sailing. Capsizing, turning over or running aground and then getting back up and sailing again. I remember being a small boy at camp — my parents sailed their boat, Progress, out to Camp Okefenokee and I would sail my little boat out to meet them. Not really a story of resilience but I credit my resilience from learning to sail by adapting successfully to the wind, waves and tides.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Five steps that have worked for me include having perspective, believing in my capabilities, utilizing a network of support, being willing to change and taking action to resolve issues.

Can you share a short story that relates to each point?

-Over the years of the festival we have recognized many different perspectives — Ang Lee’s and Spielberg’s of tomorrow. To evaluate the early perspectives of these emerging cinematic talents and shine a spotlight on them before they became giants of filmmaking in the future is an element of this festival which has become a longtime proven track record of “Discovery.”

I do believe that to trust in the perspective of paying attention to the potential of an emerging artist is so very important. Back in the early 90’s, our attorney neighbor down the hall was Texas Senator Jack Ogg. His young assistant was John Lee Hancock, who began to write short scripts and entered one into the festival and it won a WorldFest Remi award. The next year, John entered his short script as a short subject film and it also won. A couple of years later, John entered and won for a full-length feature, The Alamo. After his third win at WorldFest, John paid us a visit and announced that he was going to Hollywood and after his success for The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks & The Founder, John Lee Hancock credited Hunter Todd and his wins at WorldFest as a means of saving him from a life of having to sue people in court as a practicing attorney. Therefore, I do recognize that awarding this young man’s early talent at storytelling is a strong and significant element of this festival’s continued success. This pattern of watching filmmakers reach their full potential has happened many times over with other directors such as John Sayles, Randal Kleiser, Gavin Hood, Ethan Hawke and others.

Our core festival team is 6 people and yet we have well over hundreds of people in our support network to ensure a great event. We do partner with a wide variety of professional teams such as our headquarter hotels, restaurants, theaters, hospitality operations, limousine services and of course, our amazing volunteers who all come together during the festival. So we actually have a support staff of well over a 100 people that make it happen not just the small core team. Building a community around your mission has been very important to the success of the festival. (1 festival 1 million details when it takes a village)

-WorldFest started in 1968 as a film festival and everything was 16 and 35 mm film. We had jury screening rooms piled with cans and cans of film (we even still have some screeners of films at the office). Over the last 53 years it’s emerged to become a digital event where the entire film festival of 200 movies could be put in a cigar box full of USB sticks. We still used 35mm until 2017. Now 95% of the jury work is done online which is a radical shift from just a few years ago when we had thousands of DVD’s and video tapes lined up in cases down the hall going off to the various Jury teams. Now we have beautiful clean halls.

-I always believe in approaching a problem with a good solid solution and most recently we realized that after five very successful years of panorama China (a focus on emerging Chinese cinema in partnership with their government) we were likely to run into difficulty due to the political fluctuations of our two nations so I decided to shift the focus from China to Asia. Now in view of our expanded horizons to spotlight also other nations such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines, Indonesia and beyond, we will serve a true global perspective moving forward.

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 think that would be a movement of self-belief and accomplishing something you previously had thought might not be possible. At WorldFest, we give each of our filmmakers who enter our festival every possible consideration to place for a deserving Remi award. If their project is “A good story, well told” we score/grade it fairly and award it if possible at the appropriate level to their finished production. They deserve it. To create a concept and bring that story full circle with their features and shorts is a huge accomplishment and we recognize that.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Philip Anschutz is a man of keen vision and ample resources and one who has followed his beliefs and instincts over the years to wonderful fruition. He is also a published author of 2 books about the history of the US West and the leaders who contributed to the early philanthropic patterns of our country. Anchutz had the brilliant foresight to buy the railway right-of-ways across North America and then along with a contract at AT&T to lay down a fiber optic nationwide link for AT&T and while the trenches were opened, Anchutz laid down his own bigger fiber optic network to connect his chain of theaters. This is a man of amazing vision and ability, persistence and may I also say, resilience.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’ve been dabbling with twitter. If our president can do it, so can I!

The festival is on all the regular socials.

Twitter: @WorldFest

Instagram: @worldfesthouston

Facebook: worldfest

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: “Resilience is the ability to adapt to changing currents, winds and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Ben Lee of Schifino…

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Ben Lee of Schifino Lee Advertising + Branding

Make something new. Create a new product or service that is cutting edge and helps redefine who you are in the market. IBM launched a campaign to announce its shift to online services with e-business in the 90s, well before Amazon, eBay and other online commerce giants were in the public’s mind. It keeps the overall brand virtually the same, but also demonstrates that you’re willing to branch out and try something new.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Ben Lee

Ben Lee is the Principal and Co-Founder of Schifino Lee Advertising + Branding.

He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated with a Masters in Management at Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Prior to Schifino Lee, Ben worked as USA Advertising Manager for Philips NV, the Dutch consumer electronics giant, and as an Account Manager at Interpublic Group on the BP (British Petroleum) advertising account. Ben also served as the very first Marketing Director at The Florida Aquarium prior to its opening.

For the past 26 years at Schifino Lee, Ben’s passion and focus has been brand strategy and integrated campaign management. He is a hands-on leader, dedicated to running the best agency in the industry. For the past four years, Ben has been the agency’s lead strategist for GRENLEC (Grenada’s national utility), the Cross-Bay Ferry in Tampa Bay, the Tampa Museum of Art and WRB Energy, a developer renewable energy projects throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Ben has also served as an Adjunct Professor of Marketing Communications at both the University of South Florida and University of Tampa.

Ben is a native of Tampa, and he spends a lot of his free time playing baseball with his two teenage boys.

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 went to New York City for the first time and visited a friend whose dad owned an ad agency. I had never thought much about a career in advertising, but when the elevator doors opened, and I saw all these signs, billboards and a giant gorilla in a cowboy hat — and after meeting the people there and learning more — I knew advertising and branding was for me.

Later, I had professors at Northwestern (Sidney Levy and Philip Kotler) who inspired me when it came to branding. I started a brand management company soon after getting out of school.

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?

Schifino Lee’s first big client was the New York Yankees, which was too good to believe- literally. I had played baseball in college, so when I got a call from the team’s general manager saying he was looking for an advertising and branding agency, I thought it was a prank call from my friends. I hung up on him! I almost hung up on the second call, but after that, they became a 10-year client.

The lesson? Always answer your phone! You never know who might be on the other line.

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?

The first big tipping point for Schifino Lee was the Yankees. But the big step after that was getting our first global client, AT&T. Having those major clients allowed us to hire more great talent.

Getting better talent helped us produce better creative, which gave us bigger clients and let us hire more talent. That’s when I really learned how cyclical this process is. Those huge opportunities snowball into something even more.

My big takeaways from this are to always be prepared for those big moments. You might be a small company now, but you never know when you’ll get something big, and you want to be prepared. Also never underestimate how important the right people are. They’re the ones who will help you grow as a company and as a person.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m always working on new projects! I like to go beyond traditional advertising and reach into product development. Right now, I’m working on Tapp360, a referral marketing software for customer acquisition and employee recruitment. This helps our clients the way the Yankees and AT&T accounts helped us so many years ago — getting better talent, creating more work and earning more customers.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

I’ve been in business for over 25 years, and we’ve learned you have to keep things fresh. My agency has an “Innovate or Die” mentality, so we’re always doing or trying something new. That’s helped us all to thrive and avoid burnout. When you’re doing something different every day, you don’t get to that point.

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?

Brand marketing is the foundation for a company’s image and messaging that can be applied to all communications and campaigns.

Product marketing is specific, individual campaigns ads based off the overall brand strategy.

They can both use a lot of the same tactics — social media, TV and streaming commercials, PR, etc. — but it’s the message in those mediums that changes. One on the brand versus one for a product.

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?

Without a solid, overarching brand, all your other marketing efforts are just one-off campaigns. Nothing is cumulative.

It’s like when you’re taking an exam. If you’re only being tested on one chapter- or campaign- that’s all you study for or think of. Everything else gets forgotten because you aren’t building toward that broad goal.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

You should think about rebranding in a few different situations. If your target audience evolves, you’ll want to make sure you do the same. If you’re introducing a new product or service that doesn’t fit the current brand, you need to pivot to make sure it’s incorporated in a way that makes sense.

Nothing stays the same, so you should reevaluate to see if your messaging matches the new times at least once a decade.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

If a rebrand isn’t necessary, don’t do it! You run the risk of alienating or confusing customers. You can put a lot of time, money and effort into something that isn’t going to improve your position in the market.

It’s worth noting that a rebrand is different from a refresh. If you’re afraid your branding is stale, this may be just what you need. It can occur incrementally and be done every year to stay relevant.

Sometimes customers may never notice, but they’ll be able to tell that you aren’t out of date. A good example is the Quaker Oats mascot. He’s changed visually over the years to stay contemporary, but he’s not radically different from when he first graced an oatmeal box.

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.

Make something new

Create a new product or service that is cutting edge and helps redefine who you are in the market. IBM launched a campaign to announce its shift to online services with e-business in the 90s, well before Amazon, eBay and other online commerce giants were in the public’s mind. It keeps the overall brand virtually the same, but also demonstrates that you’re willing to branch out and try something new.

Update your online presence

Launch a new website or update your current one with a different look and feel. Your brand hasn’t changed, but you can provide customers with a better online experience. One of our clients had been known for having an older clientele, but the services they provided could help people of many generations. We launched a website refresh with beautiful photography that gave the business a contemporary feel and connected them to a younger audience without alienating their current one.

What’s in a name?

This is a more radical, full rebrand, but if you’re looking to really change directions, this is the way to go. The company itself isn’t always changing, but the perception might. Philip Morris Companies, a tobacco manufacturing company, changed its name in the US to The Altria Group in an attempt to dissociate itself from the negative sentiment associated with smoking.

Change from the inside out

Redefine your company culture to articulate your core values in a contemporary language. Communicate those core values to your employees and customers in all forms of media. Just look at Google or Starbucks. A lot of their reputations are built on how they treat their employees. We also have a client that’s a private equity company and whenever they gain a new business, they have a culture-based campaign for new employees to make sure they know that the new owners care about them and the business.

Move on- literally!

This was my choice! Schifino Lee recently moved out of a dedicated office space into a coworking office. It’s made us more agile with mobile working and meeting in untraditional spaces. It forces you to focus on what’s most important. And, when you select a space that’s been specially curated and designed for your industry, you surround yourself with new people and trends that you’ll incorporate into your next assignment.

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?

I think Old Spice has done such a great job making themselves relevant to new customers in the younger generation. Growing up, that was my father’s brand. Now, it’s the brand my sons use. They did amazing work by positioning themselves using their market insights with irreverent comedy — that’s something every brand can do.

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 wish I could say I had some lofty, world-changing idea, but I think that kind of thing starts at the individual level. For me, it’s pollution and litter. I hate seeing people leave their trash places or throw it in the wrong spot. I think it comes back to respecting other people, especially in public places. I’m not a man of giant social change, I just want everyone to leave the world a bit better than how they found it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Make it happen!”

At our agency, we create things out of nothing, especially when my partner and I were starting over 25 years ago. Everything we create is based on individual initiative, passion and energy. If people don’t make things happen, then nothing happens

How can our readers follow you online?

You can check out our agency blog here and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. You can also visit us at www.schifinolee.com.

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 Ben Lee of Schifino… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success, with Adam Kallen and Alex DiMattio of JANE…

Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success, with Adam Kallen and Alex DiMattio of JANE Motorcycles

Learn to do every job before hiring someone to do it. There isn’t a job that we haven’t done. If we had a choice, we wouldn’t have chosen to do every job, but thankfully we were blessed with poverty which forced us to be “jacks of all trades”. If you know how to do the job, it gives you the valuable perspective to know exactly what you’re asking an employee to do. Embrace being a beginner. We didn’t come from this business, so we didn’t feel entitled to anything. You’re going to make mistakes and you should expect it and laugh it off.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Kallen and Alex DiMattio.

Adam Kallen and Alex DiMattio are the founders, owners, and designers of Brooklyn-based JANE Motorcycles — New York City’s custom motorcycle, apparel, accessory, book, and espresso shop. Two longtime motorcycle enthusiasts with an interest in men’s fashion, Adam and Alex opened JANE in 2013 with a few tshirt designs and have been creating more ever since. The shop in Williamsburg sells apparel, gear, and custom bikes, and is a coffee shop where anyone is welcome to hang out.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

I (Alex) grew up in New York and I (Adam) grew up in Los Angeles. We were part of the skate/surf culture of the late 80’s and 90’s and spent most of our time in the shops. We loved the way they felt — the music, the community surrounding them, the whole thing. They were an example of how you could turn what you love into a business.

Life took a turn for both of us and couldn’t really have been more different — I (Adam) went to law school and I (Alex) went to work in nightlife.

The next 20 years were bumpy to say the least — like involving homelessness and prison — and in 2011 we met at an AA meeting. We were both at an impasse with our careers and Alex brought up the idea of designing a clothing brand centered around motorcycles. We started talking more about it and eventually agreed (and it really was that simple), and we began putting together the plan on how to open.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

We knew nothing about opening a store or creating a clothing brand, nor did we have any contacts in the industry. That innocence made every small success feel huge. We met with a business counselor and described that we wanted to open a business where we built custom motorcycles, made clothing and had a cafe, and we also told him that we had no experience in any of these businesses. He told us that we should choose one and concentrate on that. We couldn’t listen to him because our vision involved all three. Being an entrepreneur means doing the thing that sounds crazy and fighting to make it work.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

We were very aware of what it takes to build a business so when things were hard, we dealt with them. It’s the drive that you start with that gets you through all aspects. We are a good team and when things are tough, we really come together and lean on each other to get through it.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

We looked at the store the other day and couldn’t believe how far we have come. Over 6 years we have learned every aspect of running a successful clothing brand. Our success is due to us showing up 7 days a week, asking for help, doing whatever it takes to get the job done and being grateful to be doing what we dreamed of when we were kids.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

Nothing is more important than the business. For the first 2 years, we did not take a day off.

Organize your time efficiently. We still struggle with time management, but we spend so much time at work that everything gets done.

Ask for help. If it wasn’t for people helping us, we wouldn’t have gotten past the business plan. We have found that most people want to help — you just have to put your ego aside and ask.

Learn to do every job before hiring someone to do it. There isn’t a job that we haven’t done. If we had a choice, we wouldn’t have chosen to do every job, but thankfully we were blessed with poverty which forced us to be “jacks of all trades”. If you know how to do the job, it gives you the valuable perspective to know exactly what you’re asking an employee to do.

Embrace being a beginner. We didn’t come from this business, so we didn’t feel entitled to anything. You’re going to make mistakes and you should expect it and laugh it off.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Jane Motorcycles is owned by us, but it was built with the help of everyone in our community. We have a great group of friends that surround the store and each of them has helped us through the tough times and genuinely enjoyed the success.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Our brand is comprised of clothing that is locally produced and made to last. We believe that clothing should not be disposable, and we make garments that will be passed along throughout their lives. We work with small factories that prove that production is not dead in the States — they produce at the highest quality while still paying their employees a living wage.

On a personal level, we are both recovering drug addicts and we host an AA meeting at the store every week. Over the years we have been able to watch and help people get their lives together, and it’s been one of the most rewarding aspects of this journey. The store provides a physical place for people to gather safely in a community that wants them to succeed, and we’re really fortunate to be able to provide that.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are all about community. We are constantly thinking of ways to get people out of their comfort zone and have fun. Whether it be working on our annual “Summer Camp” upstate or getting new and old friends to go out of the city to ride dirt bikes, surf or snowboard — we like to help people see what’s available to them. We try our best to facilitate getaways, trips and vacations that are fun while building a community of friends and family.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

The need for retail stores is fading — if you don’t think outside the box and offer more than just a place to shop, you’ll become irrelevant. Having the cafe has given us the ability to introduce our brand to a much broader audience, and it has given our customer a way to hang out without buying anything more than a coffee. This has helped nurture the aspect of community — people might come in for the stuff or for the coffee, but they come back because of how the place and the people in it made them feel like they belonged there.

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. 🙂

We both believe that the current education system is flawed in the way it does not cultivate or promote being an entrepreneur. There are so many more ways to be successful now than before, and the education system hasn’t really caught up to that.

I (Adam) went to law school because I was told it was practical. I ended up with over $100,000 in debt and never practiced a day of law. After a lot of soul searching, I followed my heart and ended up following the path that felt was correct. This, in turn, allows me to wake up every day happy to do what I love.

I (Alex) wanted to open a business from as early as I can remember, but there was never a class that even remotely spoke to me when it came to reaching my goals.

In today’s world, being an entrepreneur isn’t nearly as hard as it was when we were kids. The internet has made freelancing much more prevalent, however, entering these new jobs requires an education in running your own business just as much as in the background of the field you are practicing.

We would start a movement to expose students to business early and help them cultivate that mindset.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Embrace being a beginner.” Until we heard that, we hated being beginners. Now, we realize that being a beginner is when all the fun happens — you can make mistakes and laugh at them, and you can enjoy every bit of the journey because you have never done this before. If you can embrace being a beginner, you understand that you will experience failure and that’s part of it. If you can move through failure without quitting — you can achieve anything.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@janemotorcycles

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success, with Adam Kallen and Alex DiMattio of JANE… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image With Kean Graham

Website Re-brand: It’s important to do a website re-design at least every few years to keep it fresh with the latest website design standards. Sometimes this is in coordination with a new domain and domain structure. A website re-design is a great opportunity to re-visit the success of the website and to improve the online marketing strategy.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Kean Graham.

Kean Graham is the CEO of MonetizeMore, an 8-figure ad tech company that is a Google Certified Partner with 100+ full-time team members remotely based across the planet. MonetizeMore was conceived in the mountains of Machu Picchu and has grown to $23M in revenues. Graham has traveled to over 90 countries during the 10 years that he has been growing MonetizeMore.

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 originally fell in love with the online industry when working for a large online classified network. The job was an immense learning experience but once the recession hit, the company decided to lay off the marketing department. I lost the best job I ever had but I was determined to turn the bad into something great.

Five days later, I’m on a plane to South America to go on a life changing trip. Four months into my backpacking trip I was on a four-day trek through the incredible Inca trail towards Machu Picchu. By the end of it, I was sitting on top of Wayna Picchu reflecting on my experiences throughout my trip. I have had the most fulfilling time of my life and it finally clicked:

I will work and travel when I want, where I want.

I have to start a digital business to enable this autonomous lifestyle. Seven months later I started the digital business called MonetizeMore which now offers this autonomous lifestyle to every member of our team.

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?

When I started the business it was challenging and exciting. I was able to break-even by month five. My first client was an employer that laid me off a year before. I offered them a percentage of the ad revenue increase and was able to make them additional millions. At the time, I was a one-person company and communicated myself as such. Since I communicated the business as just myself, they looked at my company as just an ex-employee. As a result, when I was increasing their ad revenues by over 300% and earning strong commissions, the executives saw this as unjust that an ex-employee was making 4x more than what he used to earn. As a result, they strong-armed a deal with much less commission.

Ultimately, my mistake was not communicating my business as something bigger than just myself. I could have avoided that re-negotiation because it’s reasonable for a larger company to receive large commissions to pay for overhead, technology and employees. Ever since that mistake, I always communicated my business as “we” rather than “I” even when it was just me out of habit!

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?

MonetizeMore’s first tipping point was when it broke even at month 5 to become a profitable business. However, MonetizeMore first started seeing the light of scalability in the fourth year when I started hiring team members to be able to handle the surplus of demand. After getting over the training hump, we continued to hire and saw our largest growth % year in our history.

I was convinced that it’s possible to scale a business completely remote and that MonetizeMore had greater potential than I’d ever imagine. If I’d never taken that initial risk to hire team members, MonetizeMore wouldn’t be where it is today and I would still be the bottleneck to the business and my own ideal lifestyle. I’d recommend other solo-preneurs to make this jump when they experience a surplus of demand and are the bottleneck to their business.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Many large publishers that have ad space as a revenue source, have a major pain by having many ad revenue sources that have their own reporting interfaces. In order to find out the ad revenues they made that day and the overall ad revenue performance, most publishers copy and paste the ad revenue stats to an Excel spreadsheet.

We are curing this pain that many publishers experience with a PubGuru feature called unified reporting. Instead of publishers having to assign someone to spend hours on data entry, they can log into an interface to see their real-time ad revenue stats on one dashboard. In addition to this, PubGuru helps ad monetized publishers by solving the below pain points:

– No idea what parts of their publisher business are most profitable: PubGuru’s revenue attribution report provides revenue stats for each traffic source so they can decide where to invest in next.

– Publisher ad inventories tend to break often: PubGuru Ad Inspector crawls their page in real-time and uncovers any ad setup issues and how to fix them.

– No clue how to increase ad revenues: Smart notifications can be found in PubGuru to specifically recommend what to adjust on their site via step-by-step instructions to increase their ad revenues.

– Invalid traffic could destroy their business overnight: Traffic Cop detects and blocks invalid traffic to prevent any ad network account bans and revoked revenues. It also boosts traffic quality to entice bidding from the largest advertisers that watch traffic quality metrics per domain.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Back in 2013/2014 I was overworking myself on a path towards burn out. This was the first serious growth stage of the business. I started hiring full-time team members and training proved to be a significant challenge. I not only had to spend more time in my day training them, I still had to do my normal sales, marketing, operations, ad optimization and accounting tasks to keep the business running smoothly. This was even more important because there were new salaries that had to be paid for so the pressure was mounting.

By 2015, the team was at a more self-sustaining level so I could finally focus on higher level tasks. I was able to engineer myself out of a lot of the day-to-day tasks and could finally achieve a healthy level of work-life balance. If I were to breakdown avoiding burnout and to thrive instead into specific steps while growing a company, they would be:

  • Hire new team members
  • Train each new team member the core of the business
  • While training, record the training material so it can easily be used again for the next hires
  • Establish important teams like marketing, sales, operations, support, accounting/finance and product so these tasks can be delegated
  • Engineer yourself out of the day-to-day by training clients to stop contacting you directly and to delegate high-level problem solving responsibilities to other team members.
  • Turn off all sound and vibration notifications from your phone and computer.
  • Do an efficiency overhaul of your email accounts.
  • Engineer balance into your day-to-day.
  • Recognize symptoms of over-work.
  • Build habits establishing and maintaining balance in your life.

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?

Brand Marketing: More of a long-term marketing strategy to improve awareness and recall of the brand while purposefully adjusting brand associations to maximize the overall brand value.

Product Marketing: This form of marketing has more of a short-term approach to drive sales of a product. It’s strategy’s goals are to get direct response which involve marketing specific features, promotions and short-term value adds.

To sum up, brand marketing is more of a long-term approach that focuses on the soft-side of marketing while product marketing focuses more on the short-term and can be more easily quantified via short-term sales and leads.

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?

It’s important to invest in a brand and marketing to develop a long term competitive advantage. This investment builds a valuable brand which leads to greater customer loyalty, ability to charge higher prices, increased sales conversions and greater referral rates via positive word of mouth. As a company invests in a successful branding strategy, it builds a marketing moat that enables growth of the company while securing the current revenues.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

We are actually going through a re-branding of our logo as part of MonetizeMore’s 10th anniversary. We are modernizing our logo and making it more integrateable with each part of our marketing mix. With that said, keeping a brand fresh is an important ongoing focus.

The reason why we’re doing a soft re-brand is to maintain a brand association with MonetizeMore of being cutting edge and modern. Since we’re a tech company, this brand association is key to our success so having a logo that looks old simply doesn’t work. Over a ten-year period, things in the industry change. Market demands change! Therefore, it’s important to have a brand that reflects these changes.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Re-branding is expensive and risky. There have definitely been companies that have hurt their brand by trying to re-brand. Therefore, it’s important that sufficient thought and resources are put into a re-brand so leadership can be confident that the re-brand will yield positive ROI.

I would advise companies that have old and trusted brands that have very high value against re-branding. There’s no reason for them to re-brand if their brand is already strong. Plus, if part of the value of the brand is that semblance of old, wise and trusted then changing the brand would lose that.

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.

  1. Logo Re-brand: Upgrading the logo after many years works well for many companies to keep the logo current and spot-check the brand associations with the logo. It’s good to re-visit it and at least make slight improvements. MonetizeMore is currently going through a logo re-brand as part of our 10th anniversary.
  2. Name Re-brand: Some companies that have bad reputations over-time or because a sudden string of negative events can benefit from a name re-brand. This allows them to start from fresh rather than dealing with the uphill battle of a negatively valued brand. For example, we’ve seen this happen with SumoMe after buying Sumo.com. After the purchase, their name changed to the domain and the Founder leveraged this by creating great content on his podcast about how they went about with the re-brand and what the results were.
  3. Slogan Re-brand: This re-brand is more frequent and common as slogans tend to have a certain lifetime before they are forgotten. This is a great way to gain brand awareness if the slogan catches on and/or to adjust brand associations if successful. You’ll notice big names like McDonalds will come out with new slogans every few years.
  4. Website Re-brand: It’s important to do a website re-design at least every few years to keep it fresh with the latest website design standards. Sometimes this is in coordination with a new domain and domain structure. A website re-design is a great opportunity to re-visit the success of the website and to improve the online marketing strategy. MonetizeMore have done this every 2–3 years.
  5. Holistic Re-brand: Sometimes it’s worth to re-brand everything. This can tend to be the case if there’s a name re-brand because if the re-brand is that necessary then it’s makes sense to re-brand the logo, slogan and website as well. We’ve seen this happen before with oil companies after nasty oil spills that were all over the news.

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?

Back in 1997, the initial name for Google was Backrub. They made a very good choice to adjust it to Google rather than have a name connected to backlinks which was a major differentiation of their search engine. The re-brand was done so well that very few people even know that it used to be called Backrub!

Many businesses start with an unfortunate first name that had little effort put in to come up with it. Once a business starts to get traction, founders tend to put more effort into the name and brand to come up with something better. This is a good lesson for Founders just starting out their business. Don’t worry about name and branding till you get traction but make sure to make the change while the company is still small and agile.

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. 🙂

MonetizeMore is one of the pioneers of location independent businesses. We have proven that it is possible to run an effective business without any offices and over 130 full-time team members. Location and schedule freedom has shown to be competitive advantages for MonetizeMore in an industry where that is rarely offered. As a result, MonetizeMore has been able to acquire incredible talent, minimize turnover, out-innovate competitors and better tailor to international clients.

We can already see effect of the influence of location independent business pioneers like MonetizeMore has had on the technology industry. The trend of remote working has been trending as expectations for in-office work has decreased. I believe in the next ten years when someone mentions a new business, the next common question is: “Is that business location dependent or independent?”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You will never write an extraordinary story until you realize you are the author”

This is an incredible quote because it enables me to enjoy my victories more and bounce back from my failures quickly. For victories, I know that even if there was a bit of perceived luck involved, it was my previous actions to inevitably lead to that event.

For my failures, I am able to learn from them immediately because I take responsibility and reflect on how I could have prevented the negative situation so that it never happens again. From there, I change a good thing into a bad thing by approaching the negative situation from a new clever angle. For example, we were disapproved by Google several years ago and lost millions as a result.

We responded by improving our screening processes, diversifying our revenue streams and creating invalid traffic detection and suppression technology called Traffic Cop to prevent this issue from happening again. As a result, we have re-built the company to be more sustainable and resilient than ever. It ended up being a blessing in disguise!

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter: http://twitter.com/monetizemore

Facebook: http://facebook.com/MonetizeMore

Google+: http://plus.google.com/+MonetizeMorePosts/

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/company/monetizemore

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQI2U5c8n9bmEd_rv5K2s9g

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/monetize_more/

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 Kean Graham was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Denise Blasevick of…

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Denise Blasevick of The S3 Agency

Brandstanding: One way to re-energize a brand is to make it stand for something more — to be part of a bigger, more meaningful picture. To figure out what your brand can authentically stand for in a way that would be relevant to your target market, we recommend answering questions like: What issues keep your customers up at night? What issues keep you up at night? How can your brand impact these issues to improve the customer journey? What can you commit to doing on a long-term basis to make a legitimate, measurable difference? … Not every brand can be a true advocate brand, but every brand can be a thought leader of some sort if they are willing to do what it takes to back it up. Remember, people prefer brands they can buy into vs. just buy.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Denise Blasevick, Co-Founder and CEO of The S3 Agency.

For more than two decades, Denise has been developing groundbreaking creative campaigns for b2c and b2b brands such as BMW of North America, Centenary University, Eight O’Clock Coffee, the National Kitchen & Bath Association, and Tetley Tea. Her creativity and business acumen have been recognized with hundreds of awards, such as induction in the Advertising Hall of Fame of New Jersey and inclusion in NJ’s Best 50 Women in Business, but what drives Denise is helping clients find their brand difference. In addition to heading up strategy at The S3 Agency, Denise enjoys scuba diving, crossword puzzling, and traveling as often as possible with her husband and teenage son.

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?

Thank you so much for asking me to be here — and for asking about what brought me to the creative industry. A career in advertising was actually the furthest thing from my mind growing up! Doctor, lawyer — I was pretty sure I was going to be one of those types of professionals. But in hindsight, I should have seen it coming. I’ve always loved solving puzzles (I’m still addicted to the New York Times crossword), and that is really what advertising / marketing is all about. After all, figuring out how to unlock what is special about a brand and then finding effective ways to communicate that to their target audience can be tougher than any escape room, and far more rewarding. After graduating college with my BA in English, I was trying to “find my career” — and as luck would have it, someone I knew who owned an ad agency asked me to fill in for the summer while her receptionist was on maternity leave. I heard the team brainstorming ad concepts for one of their clients, and my puzzle-solving brain met up with my English-studying brain… The next thing I knew, I had a page of ad headlines. I gave them to the owner, she offered me a job as a copywriter, and I accepted on the spot — and I never looked back. My passion was ignited for an industry I had never even seriously considered, and I will be forever grateful.

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?

A few years after starting The S3 Agency, we were hired by a major automotive brand to launch a new car model. They wanted something unusual, and the experiential concept we came up took place on beaches across the country. We hired the Guinness Book sand sculpting record-holders to create enormous 25-foot sandcastles — virtual sandcastle car dealers, if you will — so that we could surround them with cars, games, etc. (They were really cool events — and very effective for driving awareness and sales.) While we were smart enough to hire a security guard to “watch the castle” overnight, we didn’t realize how tempting the giant structure would be — and the first night, a large group of kids attacked the castle! There was no way one guard could fend them all off…and we had to get out there before sunrise to get everything “shored up” in time for the event opening. Against all odds, the team pulled together and made it happen — and obviously we beefed up our security detail for the rest of the tour. I can laugh about it now (and I can hear Billy Crystal saying, “Have fun storming the castle!” in the movie, The Princess Bride), but that day there was nothing funny about it.

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?

Great question. We were one of the first creative agencies to embrace social media — which helped give us, as well as our clients, a competitive advantage. It was a very “wild west” kind of world back then, filled with opportunity. Opportunity still abounds, continuously presenting new ways for brands to succeed. Given the rapid rate of change in our industry, I think the goal should be constantly thinking about the next tipping point: which areas offer the best potential investment for benefitting both client and agency? Figuring out what new technologies, channels, etc. make the most sense to add to the mix — and what should potentially be dropped — is the a strong path to maintaining brand fitness.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are always working on exciting projects, that’s what keeps my creative adrenaline racing! When we work with brands to discover their strategic point of differentiation — and then bring that differentiation to life via creative campaigns — we are helping create alignment within the organization. That sort of clarity is incredibly helpful to every member of the client’s team, to our team, and to the marketplace who now will have a much clearer understanding of who the client is and whether or not the brand might be a match for their needs. Just today, the launch campaign for a client rebrand went live — and it is completely differentiating within their industry. We feel honored every day for the opportunity to be able to help brands break through at this foundational level.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Get out from behind the computer. Look up from your phone. Experience as many different things as you can. Talk to people — lots of them — from all walks of life. Yes, learn as much as you can about your industry, all the time, but to get the bigger picture ideas you need to let more of the world in. When we conceived of an AR-triggered virtual escape room to help a coffee company connect with a new audience, the idea didn’t come from a marketing conference — it came from real world experiences blending with creativity and marketing expertise. In addition to getting out there to gather up the influences, I am a big believer in taking the time to look inside. I meditate each morning, a time investment that benefits me both by reducing stress and, sometimes, by generating some very interesting ideas from deep in the well…

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?

Ideally your product marketing grows out of and supports your brand marketing — and your brand marketing should set the stage for your product marketing. So they shouldn’t feel wildly different. Product marketing often will be more tactical in nature. But other than pushing a discount or sale, it should still be rooted in the brand. For instance, if a special feature is taking center stage, how does that feature reflect the brand? Is it driven by safety, innovation, ease of use or some other brand tenet? Tying that in will make product marketing work harder.

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?

If you don’t have a strong brand, you compete solely on price and features — and relegating your company to commodity status can be the fastest race to the bottom. It gives people no reason to be loyal, which can negatively impact lifetime customer value. A brand represents much more than advertising and marketing. A brand is more than a logo or a tagline. A brand is everything that makes up the customer experience. For an automotive brand, this includes the ads consumers see; the manufacturer’s heritage; the buying and service interactions at the dealer; the impression it makes on others; the day-to-day driving experience of the car itself; things people hear in the news and on social media; and so much more. People will pay more for — and have higher loyalty to — a strong brand. We will buy more from brand they can really buy into.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

First let’s address what rebranding means. Rebranding doesn’t have to mean changing your name or your logo — and changing just your logo and tagline alone doesn’t qualify as a true rebrand. Why would a company consider rebranding? When a brand finds itself losing power, if market share is declining (or not growing as quickly as they “should”), or if they are competing solely on price, it’s probably time for a rebrand. It also may be time for a rebrand if a company is looking to aggressively grow beyond the offerings / industries for which it is currently known.

Here are four big reasons to consider a rebrand:

  • Company Pivot: in terms of products or services, lines of business, audiences, or geographies.
  • Relevance (or lack thereof): changes in audience attitudes, society, customer needs
  • Commodity Status: competing without differentiation in a crowded marketplace
  • Technology/Innovations: significant improvement in a product / service, the way customers purchase or interact with it, or its delivery

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

There can be a downside to anything, and if a rebrand isn’t done well — and communicated well — it can be a failure. Take consumer packaged goods, for instance. When people are shopping in the grocery store, they want to get in and out. Fast. If there is a major change to the packaging for a product they usually buy, and there is no significant, sustained communication campaign to inform them and remind consumers about the change (and the reasoning behind it), they may not recognize the product on shelf. That may lead consumers to look past their former favorite and consider a competitor. Or it may cause confusion, leaving consumers wondering if the product has changed — and if so, how?

If the rebrand doesn’t have any real purpose other than vanity, if it’s really just a change in name/logo only, what’s the point? Find a good reason and communicate it, otherwise you may be spending money unwisely. People are savvy, and chances are high that people may see through the change and question the motives behind it.

If heritage is your only real meaningful differentiator, then hang on to your current brand. A legacy brand we worked with decided to radically change the look of its packaging — and it was a fairly iconic look that had been around for more than a century. The backlash from consumers was enormous, with people claiming that the brand had taken away their connection to previous generations, recalling their memories of seeing their parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents using the product in the historic packaging. Needless to say, the “new” packaging did not last very long…

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.

  1. Brandstanding: One way to re-energize a brand is to make it stand for something more — to be part of a bigger, more meaningful picture. To figure out what your brand can authentically stand for in a way that would be relevant to your target market, we recommend answering questions like: What issues keep your customers up at night? What issues keep you up at night? How can your brand impact these issues to improve the customer journey? What can you commit to doing on a long-term basis to make a legitimate, measurable difference? When we branded SipChip, the most accurate drink-testing device on the market, our efforts went far beyond simply naming the device. That’s because SipChip is doing much more than testing drinks for roofies — they are combatting the need for their own product to exist by empowering people to take control over their own safety. Not every brand can be a true advocate brand, but every brand can be a thought leader of some sort if they are willing to do what it takes to back it up. Remember, people prefer brands they can buy into vs. just buy.
  2. Go Long on Shortcomings: Every brand has shortcomings that marketers generally strive to bury, whether by ignoring, downplaying or deflecting away from the perceived problem area. The idea of embracing a brand’s flaws, however, can be quite endearing — and it can earn trust from the intended audience, especially in this age of authenticity. One of the best examples of flaw magnification dates back to the 1960s: Avis was second place in the rental car race, behind category leader Hertz. Rather than shy away from this, Avis’s agency (Doyle Dane Bernbach) made their silver medal status the hero of the ad campaign, using it as a way to promote their attention to customer service. “When you’re only №2, you try harder.” The “We Try Harder” approach caught consumers off guard, as well as Hertz, and Avis captured more and more market share.
  3. Be New to Someone. Legacy brands often find themselves feeling like underdogs because, well, the bloom is off the rose. That can be an internal perception, as well as a perception by those who already know about the brand. The reality is that they can be new to someone — a new target demographic, geographic, psychographic — and rather than trying to overcome lingering perceptions that may no longer be accurate, the stronger refresh strategy may targeting those who are not yet familiar with your brand. This is the approach we took with Turtle Back Zoo, a NJ zoo that transformed itself from a “local zoo” to a world class facility that earned the coveted AZA accreditation — meeting the same high standards of care, conservation and education as respected institutions like the San Diego Zoo. When Turtle Back Zoo reopened, there were significant campaigns targeting NJ residents — but the attendance simply wasn’t strong. Why? The lingering perception of what the brand used to be precluded belief in what the brand now claimed to be. When the zoo came to us for help, we chose to focus on building awareness of the refreshed brand to a new audience: we went national instead of local. The national media was very receptive to having a new source of expertise — and when local residents saw this backyard resource featured at that level, feelings of mistrust turned to belief and pride. Attendance has increased more than 10x, and there is even an exhibit dedicated to The S3 Agency. (That was a first for us!)
  4. Own What Your Competitor Can’t. When looking at your brand’s potential assets, it’s important to consider anything you have that your major competitor can’t (and never will be able to) claim. This may yield an asset that your target market is already inclined to believe is a significant differentiator — or can be — and it ensures your brand will be identified with something your competitor cannot emulate. Take Tetley Tea, a brand that has been around longer than any of us have. When we began working with Tetley, we learned that they were actually a British brand — something most Americans did not know (including me, despite the fact that I drink tea all day, every day). What Americans do know, though, is that the Brits love their tea. That meant our Britishness could give us a credibility trump card that the primary competitor, an American brand, could never play. It also gave us an authentic point of expertise from which to speak, which is why the TODAY Show featured Tetley’s tea master on the day before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding.
  5. Go the Other Way. What should you do when your brand or product bucks the trend? Own it. Again, I find myself referencing another decades-old campaign from the legendary Doyle Dayne Bernbach here, and that’s because their work for VW was a game changer. How could they introduce the VW Beetle, a small, cheap, quirky (and, to many, ugly) car to 1950s America, where cars that were large were very much in charge? Go all in on going the other way. If you haven’t heard of the Think Small campaign, do yourself a favor and read about it. The short of it: they went big on being small, owning it in a way that was emotionally convincing, almost a movement starter. This approach really worked for VW, and it’s definitely worth considering for a brand refresh — if the brand had the ability (and the stomach) to be truly revolutionary.

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?

I’ve enjoyed watching Dunkin’ evolve their brand identity over the years. When they got their start, the brand was all about the donuts. As time went on and America’s habits changed, DD saw that coffee (not donuts) was the big draw in the morning, and they created the tagline, “America runs on Dunkin,’” specifically leaving out the “Donuts.” Now, after years of introducing other foods to the menu, including some healthier options, they have officially dropped the “Donuts” from their name. Yes, Dunkin’ still has donuts, but it is clear that what originally built the brand’s reputation is now a sideline to their main focus. What impresses me about this transformation is the clear understanding of how to change to maintain modern relevancy — and the brand bravery to completely remove the attention on their historical focus. While the logo update may not seem like a radical departure — simply keeping the “Dunkin” in orange and adding the “donut pink” color to the apostrophe — it actually shows a tremendous amount of brand power. The further abbreviated “DNKN” usage on cups speaks to a level of brand confidence that is truly impressive. To other brands who are looking to refresh, it may be worth considering the Dunkin’ approach of keeping what was working and modernizing along the way. A logo is not a brand: keep your brand fresh and your logo reflective of your brand.

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. 🙂

After reading a book called A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen, I realized just how much I was allowing myself to get annoyed by little things — and complain about them. I also realized how easily I fell into joining others when they complain. While it can feel good in the moment, engaging in this type of negativity actually makes us feel bad. So my husband, son and I embarked on a strong effort to reduce complaining at home. I then attended a learning event from Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), and learned how complaining impedes problem solving, and I brought that concept to my leadership team to help us find a healthier way to deal with frustrations. While I’m far from complaint-free, I am making strides — and on days where the complaints are down, my positivity and productivity are up. Hopefully reading this will help someone else get started on the journey of breaking the complaint chain!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This is my personal philosophy when it comes to partnerships of any kind: we can point fingers or we can hold hands. Too often I find that the “CYA” culture leads us to point fingers at each other when there is a problem, which moves the focus away from solving and toward defending ourselves. Whether it’s internally with our team at The S3 Agency, or externally with clients or vendors, the best results always, always, always come from when we trust that both sides are working together. There will always be issues that arise — we are all human, the world is constantly changing, and we are trying new things on a daily basis. But if we believe in the best about each other, we will get the best from each other. (The same is true at home!)

How can our readers follow you online?

I’d love to see you all on Twitter (@AdvertGirl) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/deniseblasevick/), and please check out my agency at theS3agency.com!

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 Denise Blasevick of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line with Rousseau Kazi

Access to better talent: Our focus on diversity has allowed us to hire incredible people at Threads, as they were referred by others from under-represented backgrounds. When you have a reputation for creating a safe environment for all individuals, you’re able to access double the recruiting pool and you can hire more, ship more and compound faster. I take every opportunity to brag about the amazing individuals we have working at Threads and how much better they’ve made our company culture and our product.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rousseau Kazi.

Rousseau Kazi is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Threads, a platform that makes work more inclusive. Kazi founded Threads on the premise of empowering individuals to do their best work and ultimately, make better decisions as a team. Prior to Threads, Kazi worked as a product leader at Facebook for 6 years, where in the first year he simultaneously graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science.

Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Absolutely! My name is Rousseau Kazi and I’m the CEO of Threads. I’m the son of Bangladeshi immigrants and I grew up in a town called Moreno Valley, located in Southern California. Before I started Threads, I worked at Facebook for six years building my way up to product leader. I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science during my first year working at Facebook. For the rest of my time there, I spent years growing the search product, supported their transition to mobile and helped to lead the “hackathon culture” that resulted in products like Instagram’s Hyperlapse and others. More than anything else though, I learned a lot about how to lead projects, manage a team and many other relevant skills that transferred over into being a CEO.

Outside of work, I really enjoy comedy, and have found that being able to make others laugh is something I’ll never take for granted. I’m a fan of comic books and manga (a Japanese style of comic books/graphic novels), and also like to pick up my guitar every once in a while.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

While there are plenty of funny stories I could tell, I believe sharing something interesting here would be more helpful for budding entrepreneurs.

I started Threads with three of my friends, two of whom I met through work. Part of the impetus for starting Threads was that we noticed how hard it can be for women, minorities and lower-level employees to share their ideas at work, especially at large companies. We began with the goal to make that communication easier. When we started the funding process, my co-founders and I understood that our choice of investors would ultimately impact who we ended up recruiting, so we wanted good representation in the mix. It’s important to note that the people involved on this journey up until that point were men, so we knew we were lacking in female representation, perspective, etc. We had all of these factors in mind — in addition to the importance of sticking to our core mission of keeping diversity of thought at the root of our company — when we committed to a 50/50 gender cap in our first round of financing. For us, it’s all about being inclusive, because at the end of the day, we’re building a product for the world. Diverse investments lead to diverse teams, and diverse teams lead to better business outcomes.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The work communications market is massive — to some degree, even larger than we expected — and it’s generating so many tools in this realm. The articles, conversations, investments and general chatter around it are growing daily. So, in general, I think what makes Threads stand out is our timing within our particular market.

The beauty of being in the work communications industry is that we live and breathe our product every day. Our culture and product are two sides of the same coin. Our tool is a platform for behavior and at its core, it’s about discussions, decisions, supporting others, listening, arguing and everything in between. We are coding what will shape up to be the next meeting room and we’re building our platform to incentivize inclusive behavior. We believe Threads will be a product that rewards diverse points of view.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re seeing a lot of demand from larger companies, which in turn is forcing us to build out new features, focus on certain parts of our business and ultimately build a stronger product.

While I can’t share details of what we’re working on, I can say that it will make our platform smoother and easier to use for everyone, which serves our end goal. We’re constantly taking customer feedback and priorities into consideration as we continue to update and iterate on our product especially as the needs of the workplace constantly change. We know Threads users are going to find it as instinctive to use as we do, and we’re hoping that through the use of this tool, a larger number of diverse voices will be heard at work, which will make the companies we work with churn out better product, too, in the long run.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

So much of being a good leader boils down to creating an environment where people can do their best work — an environment where people feel heard, things are finite and support is present. Leaders need to understand that making their priorities clear for their company, product, new update, project or whatever it may be, will only compound over time, and building great teams and conditions under which they can thrive is key. Catalyst leaders are those who are worthless when their team isn’t there, but are priceless when they are.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders about how to manage a large team?

As a company grows, it becomes harder for everyone to stay on the same page. It becomes more difficult for your voice to cut through the noise and it also becomes harder for your team to feel like they can approach you with issues. To take a proactive approach to tackling this, invest in a communication structure. Create processes that work both bottom up and top down and make it a top priority to understand points of weakness, even if that means breaking these processes down.

This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Access to better talent: Our focus on diversity has allowed us to hire incredible people at Threads, as they were referred by others from under-represented backgrounds. When you have a reputation for creating a safe environment for all individuals, you’re able to access double the recruiting pool and you can hire more, ship more and compound faster. I take every opportunity to brag about the amazing individuals we have working at Threads and how much better they’ve made our company culture and our product.
  2. Make better decisions: You need full context in order to make the best decisions for your business and having a diverse team is the only way to get that context. It doesn’t matter if everyone at the company agrees on something if that something isn’t beneficial for your larger market. For example, we’ve started talking about integrating ESL into the product much sooner than we anticipated because we have people from different backgrounds who are ESL speakers themselves, and have in turn helped to foster a culture of greater awareness.
  3. Better product development: Empathizing with people at all different levels helps you build a better product. One of our most-used features, “Follow up”, was suggested by our first designer, who felt overwhelmed by the number of threads she needed to catch up on. We ended up building it out — an option you can click to notify your teams that you’ve seen the thread and plan to follow up, even if you haven’t done so yet — and it’s now one of the major differentiators of our platform.
  4. Better culture: When you’re in a group of homogenous people you risk creating a toxic environment — you have a very limited point of view, and you can bring out the worst in a group that reflects your own experience. On the flip side, when there’s a melting pot and you’re forced to think about the larger group of people with vastly different experiences than your own, you’re better able to bring out the best in everyone and create a much more caring environment.

Something else we do at Threads to foster a more well-rounded culture is encourage an environment that’s open about mental health — we cover 4 therapy sessions a month for our employees. When you hire great people with a variety of experiences and want them to thrive, a big part of that is creating a culture that makes those people feel safe.

Personal growth: When chatting with diverse groups that have different experiences than your own you’re going to learn a lot — they notice things you won’t. The world is diverse and distributed, and having a vast array of experiences and backgrounds will help you become a leader for the world; not just a small subset. I’ve learned so much from working with the Threads team, and I know I’ll continue to do so as we grow together.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Let me start by saying that a lot of my success comes from my team, the people I surround myself with every day. One thing that comes to mind is when I was invited to an event with a group of CEOs. I accepted the invitation a few weeks out and the day of the event, I received a list of the other CEOs who would be in attendance. Upon reviewing the list, I noticed that there would be no women present, which is something that both as a leader at Threads and personally, I am not comfortable with. I ended up declining the invitation and offered to make introductions to women leaders in my network, which was very graciously received from the other end.

Instances like this make you realize that sometimes people need to be pushed in the right direction. And if you can be the one to do that for them, to help them grow a little bit more, you’re helping to change the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“The history of mathematics is a history of horrendously difficult problems being solved by young people too ignorant to know that they were impossible.” — Freeman Dyson

For context, Freeman Dyson is a respected theoretical physicist and mathematician who originated multiple concepts that bear his name today.

This quote is all about believing in making the impossible possible. We see this idea reflected in so many important conversations happening in our world today — around climate change, technology and human rights, for example. While the majority will always say something is impossible, all it takes is a handful — or even one — person who believes it’s possible to change the world forever.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

Someone I am very grateful for is my older sister, Sumaya. She founded her own company and was really a trailblazer for me when it came to starting mine. Sumaya supported my initial startup ideas when I was 14 and has continued to foster them every step of the way. She helped me get into tech and watching the way she handled creating her business affected the way I created my own. The challenges she faced inspired the ideal that became core to my company — encouraging, empowering and lending a voice to women and underrepresented minorities and individuals in business. I wouldn’t have the career I have today and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without her.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this!

I would love to have a meal with Donald Glover, better known to some as Childish Gambino. He’s a modern-day Renaissance man: writer, actor, author, rapper, social justice leader. He crosses so many boundaries and is great at it all — a rarity today. I’d love to learn his secret.


How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line with Rousseau Kazi was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, With Alyssa Patmos

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Brands with influence, take a stance. They don’t add to the noise; they create buzz because they have opinions that shape the industry and consistently add value for consumers. This is especially true if your product or service lacks a sense of urgency, give people another reason to jump on your bandwagon. Billie, the woman’s subscription razor company does an excellent job of this when they boldly claim, “Fact: Women and men shave differently” on their homepage.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Alyssa Patmos.

Alyssa Patmos has helped quadruple sales for start-ups with her curated brand strategies and now helps women bet on themselves by designing businesses they love. In addition, Alyssa is the creator of Make it Mentionable, an upcoming summit where she and 10 other entrepreneurs are diving deep into the things that no one talks about while building businesses.

When she’s not challenging companies to go beyond traditional marketing tactics, you can find this NLP certified coach pretending she’s on a cooking show in her kitchen with an empty peanut butter cup wrapper sitting on the counter. Who says dessert can’t come before dinner?

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?

It’s really three things that brought me to this point in my brand strategy business. 1). Knowing when to quit. In 2015, I dropped out of a Ph.D. program, and it was the best decision I ever made. 2). Investing in the right learning at the right time. When someone asked if I could design a logo, I said yes and figured it out. I still remember the first time I sat down with Adobe Illustrator tutorials. When someone I freelanced for needed a media kit, I researched and turned one around (it also brought me a client six years later). When that same person asked if I designed websites, I took the time to learn WordPress. When a healthcare company asked if I could write copy for their app, I jumped at the opportunity and started stalking Laura Belgray. This isn’t to say you need to know how to do everything, but I was willing to learn and to say yes over and over, and eventually, that led to me figuring out what I love doing. 3). Very loving and generous mentors who saw curiosity in me starting at 18 and gave me outlets to channel it.

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?

This isn’t really a mistake but a funny story. One of my first marketing strategies had nothing to do with an online presence. Instead, it was allowing the chance for what I’ve come to call professional eavesdropping. I’d work in coffee shops and seek out opportunities to strike up conversations. One day, a guy sitting next to me had been somewhat obviously looking at my computer screen. When he noticed that I had seen, he asked what I was working on. Within a matter of minutes, he was pulling up his company site, I was giving him messaging suggestions, and then before I knew it, he had set up a meeting for me to meet with the co-founders of the company. They’ve now been a client for four years.

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?

One of the more significant “tipping points” came when I began questioning the rules of marketing. When I started taking proven strategies as suggestions that could be molded instead of needing to be followed to a “T”, things began to change. As I got more and more comfortable expressing myself and questioning norms, I was better able to help my clients take the bold points of view necessary to build a great brand.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m working on two exciting projects right now. I’m going to tell you about both of them because I’m not sure I can choose which is the most exciting. The first is a digital summit I’ll be launching in May called Make it Mentionable. I’ll be interviewing 10 business owners on taboo topics people rarely talk about in business. I can’t wait to reveal what the topics will be.

The other is a project with a client in the healthcare space. They’re helping define what patient engagement means in the market, and we’re about to launch a podcast to dive deep into that discussion with providers, policymakers, and patients.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Boundaries are key. But not just boundaries with clients or work hours though those are incredibly important. I’m also talking about boundaries with what information you consume. Sometimes, as marketers, we become obsessed with reading the latest tips, techniques, and strategies of campaigns that have worked or the people at the top of our industry, but that can kill creativity, and when that happens, exhaustion is lingering just around the corner. Protecting your creativity is key to both thriving and avoiding burnout.

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?

I love this question because there’s often confusion around these two things. I like to take it back one step further and start with brand strategy. Your brand strategy should come right after the business strategy. Many people often think of branding as your logo, fonts, colors — the visual identity of the brand. But your brand strategy includes so much more. It also includes foundational elements like your core values, mission, competition, culture, and offerings.

Brand building activities, or brand marketing as you’re referring to it here is what we do to build trust and brand equity. Specific brand building initiatives can consist of thought leadership articles, story-driven web copy, your onboarding experience, your employee experience, and your customer experience to name a few.

Product marketing or advertising, on the other hand, is how people find you. If you think of an iceberg, product marketing is the flag on top, it’s how you draw people to you. Product marketing usually consists of highly persuasive and targeted messages that exploit the brand equity you’ve built for immediate sales.

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?

Let me ask you a question, are you more likely to buy from someone you like who you know shares similar values, loves giving back as much as you do, and who’s transparent? Or, are you more likely to buy from someone who’s always trying to sell you on their latest product and doesn’t seem to know anything about you?

If you’re like most people, you’re more likely to buy from the first one.

The thing about money is that every time we go to spend it, we have a choice who to spend it with. Why not make people feel great when they choose to spend it with you? That’s the power of branding. You can transcend being a commodity and become an experience.

People buy from companies and people they know, like, and trust. Marketing and advertising efforts typically exploit trust rather than build it, which is why investing in brand building activities is so important.

People can sniff out sales messaging from a mile away. Investing in building a brand is what leads to lasting relationships with customers, premium pricing, and the greatest marketing of all — word of mouth referrals. When you invest in building a brand, you build brand equity, which you can then use during active launch/selling cycles.

My friend Clay from Map and Fire recently researched the Google Trends of the terms brand and marketing. He noted that in 2004 the search for marketing dominated searches for brand. But today, the opposite is true.

This is just one indicator that investing in your brand is one of the smartest growth strategies. More and more consumers are looking for relationships with companies rather than merely being on the receiving end of marketing messages.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

There are all sorts of reasons companies might consider rebranding, but here are my top three reasons.

1). If the direction of the company is shifting, and they need to build or affirm relationships with buyers.

2). If a company wants to shift how they’re perceived in the market to repair or increase trust (and they’re ready to do the work of a complete rebrand, not just launch a new and fancier logo).

3). If the company culture needs to transform.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

One downside is the high cost. Rebranding is much more than jazzing up your logo and typeface and the cost to manage updates to ensure a cohesive rebrand can be high. Another potential downside is that change isn’t always easy. The best brands are lived out both internally and externally, so a company undergoing a rebrand must be prepared to think about change management in terms of their customers and their internal culture.

If a company thinks a brand makeover is simply overhauling its visual identity with a new logo and typeface, they’re likely not ready for a rebrand. Your brand is not your logo, it’s a symbol and symbols need meaning. Companies need to be willing to invest the time in the complete strategy of a rebrand, not just the look and feel. It may help to think of it this way. If you want more energy, do you just change your clothes and voila you instantly feel motivated? Probably not. It’s more likely you fuel up with a snack, maybe take a nap, then change your clothes. If you only replace your logo and font, it’s like changing your clothes when you’re tired to get more energy.

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.

1). Know who you are.

Your brand is what people perceive about your company. If you want to re-energize your brand, you have to be clear on who you are as a company so that you can help shape the perception in the market. Revisit your core values, your mission, your vision, and your offerings. Conduct an internal survey to understand why your people choose to work for your organization. REI is a great example of a company that knows who they are.

2). Stand for something.

Brands with influence, take a stance. They don’t add to the noise; they create buzz because they have opinions that shape the industry and consistently add value for consumers. This is especially true if your product or service lacks a sense of urgency, give people another reason to jump on your bandwagon. Billie, the woman’s subscription razor company does an excellent job of this when they boldly claim, “Fact: Women and men shave differently” on their homepage.

3). Evaluate how much of your efforts are spent on sales activation versus brand building activities.

It’s so easy to think only in terms of short-term sales and to allocate a large portion of the budget to marketing and advertising when you’re under pressure to perform quarterly. But more and more consumers are interested in having a relationship with the companies they buy from, and to foster the type of community consumers are craving, companies must spend significantly more time creating opportunities that allow for those relationships to form. Take Trader Joe’s for example, one of the top-rated grocers in the United States. When onboarding new employees, they’re far less concerned with training them on the point of sale, instead they take new employees out on the floor and train them how to interact with customers. They care more about the experience which ends up showing in the sales.

4). Focus on how you’re making people feel across all channels — both internally and externally.

To re-energize a brand, you have to be willing to look at brand as an experience and something that pulses throughout the entire organization. If your people aren’t happy it’s likely your customers aren’t happy either. When you focus on your employee experience, you have the opportunity to turn employees into fantastic brand ambassadors. That alone can bring renewed energy to an organization.

5). Invest in creativity & communication.

I’m a firm believer that creativity is an asset, not a liability within organizations. Yet so often, creativity is only acknowledged in the marketing department even though there are engineers down the hall making art with code. We’re all creative. Investing in creative thinking and permitting people to propose bold ideas and off-the-wall suggestions is the exact type of energy a company needs if they’re considering a rebrand. General Electric saw the direct impact investing in creativity can have on the business after they put a two year in-house creativity training in place and saw a 60% increase in patentable concepts.

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?

Delta has done a fantastic job of rebranding. I remember hearing a joke growing up about Delta standing for Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport. That’s not the reputation you want in the transportation industry. Now, however, Delta is the top-ranked airline in the US. And it’s not because of a visual overhaul. While they did give the look and feel of the brand a facelift with a new logo and updated uniforms, they did much more below the surface that set a new tone both internally and externally — and it all started with the culture. They got creative with their employee profit-sharing program and became obsessed with their customer experience.

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. 🙂

That’s easy. Make it Mentionable. It’s the name of my upcoming summit series for a reason, I believe (like the wonderful Fred/Mr. Rogers) that whatever we can mention, we can manage. When we have the space to get out of our head and evaluate our thoughts out loud, they become manageable. I believe this is paramount for personal satisfaction and brand building.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Tell the negative committee that meets in your head to sit down and shut up.” When I was 12, my dad gave me a book of leadership quotes. I remember flipping through the pages and stumbling upon this one. It’s stuck with me ever since. So much of business (and life) is how we perceive it. This quote is a daily reminder that we have the choice not to believe all of our thoughts, which is immensely freeing and helps me work through stuck points with greater ease.

How can our readers follow you online?

I share my best stories and tips through email. You can sign up at alyssapatmos.com/sign-up or say hi on Instagram @alysssapatmos.

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 Alyssa Patmos was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success, with Isaac Rosenberg of Compass

GRIT is an overall mentality. Life is a mental game! If you don’t ever quit you don’t ever lose. There are people who have nothing but are happy, the only way to do that is “Grit” or by being mentally strong.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Isaac Rosenberg.

Isaac Rosenberg was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and always had a dream of working with tall buildings. After just two years and over 200 transactions in the NYC market, Isaac decided to join Compass, a technology-driven real estate company. When Isaac is not working he enjoys staying active and fit by starting his day in the gym and enjoys bike rides on the Hudson.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?

Of course, so glad to be here! Since I was a little kid I always loved tall buildings! I always wondered who lives on the top floor? What are the views like from there? About 5 years ago I was hired by a commercial real estate lender to help grow his business, which lead me to look at real estate deals and I thought, “That’s what I want to do!”

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I think the journey never stops; we always face hardships along the way. I always compare initial hardships and fears to the first day/week/month of any job I ever had. When I started in real estate all my colleagues asked me “How did you get so lucky to get that client or get that deal” The answer was always… when you went to the beach… when you took two days off… when you decided you needed a break cause things weren’t going well, I kept working and working, 12 hour days 7 days a week for months on months cause I knew what was on the other side of all that work! I once heard a line from Grant Cardone, “The harder I work the luckier I get” (I play that over and over in my head).

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

What’s my alternative? It feels so much better when it was hard to get! I think about it just like I think about fitness, NO PAIN NO GAIN if it was easy everyone would do it! I fear not living up to my true potential.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

I don’t think we ever reach “success” I just think we get better at pushing through. My workouts in the gym today are 10x as hard as it was when I started in the gym but I’m just as exhausted at the end. Grit gets you to the next level!

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

1) GRIT is an overall mentality.

Life is a mental game! If you don’t ever quit you don’t ever lose. There are people who have nothing but are happy, the only way to do that is “Grit” or by being mentally strong.

2) Mental Toughness Teaches GRIT

We believe everything we tell ourselves if we tell ourselves something long enough you will believe it. I decided to tell myself I am mentally tough and nothing can stop me. I decided to tell myself that I’m happy! I now believe that!

3) Fitness Teaches GRIT

David Goggins says that humans give up when they are only 40% of our real strength. I believe most normal people give up way before 40%, I think the people Goggins hangs with give up at 40% and they are the top percent of athletes or navy seals, and I always work to push myself to be in that top percent.

4) Dedication to Diet Teaches GRIT

I started a vegan diet just so I can prove to myself I can do anything I set my mind to.

5) Dedication to Health and Wellness Teaches GRIT

I quit drinking or any foreign substance 4 years ago cold turkey and still haven’t had any just to prove to myself that I don’t need it to make me feel good.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

So many to choose from… but also none that I think overall changed anything. I learned along the years that you can never count on anyone because no one owes you anything, and if you wait for it, it will never come; if and when it comes you are grateful for it.

I’m always grateful for my family (who didn’t help my career). If I had to choose one person real estate related I would say, Joseph Friedman who was the COO at Nooklyn (the first real estate firm I worked at), he did help me, but I worked my ass off to get his attention and to prove to him I was worth it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’m not sure, I always want to give back and impact people in a positive way but I haven’t done enough yet since you have to ask me this question.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Absolutely! I think any time you help someone find a home, be it a 12-month rental or a home they buy that they will live in for years to come, helping them find the right home and make the process as easy as possible always helps! There are a few other exciting projects in the pipeline that I can’t talk about yet.

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 listen to Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuk) a lot; he has taught me so much. The most important thing(s) I’ve learned from him is that we each have our own journeys and life is not a race. I’ve also learned from him to not judge others, but to try to understand them. I think that’s an important message, we need to be more caring and understanding with each other, but also on the same note… I don’t like when people complain or are “victims” but are not willing to put in the work to change their situation. But on the same note, I understand that we are all on our own journeys and you never know what might be holding someone back.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Everything you want is right outside of your comfort zone” — Anonymous

I know that in order to grow in life I have to step outside of my comfort zone; if it were easy everyone would do it.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@TheIsaacRosenberg on Instagram or Isaac Rosenberg on any other platform.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thank you for having me! Your questions inspired me!


Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success, with Isaac Rosenberg of Compass was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brand Makeovers: “Know your story and make it relatable” with Edoria Ridzmann of Villa Finder

Know your story and make it relatable. It would be best if people cared about your rebrand…so make them pay attention. Hopefully it’s a story that resonates!

For us, we expanded into new destinations based on the demand from our customers. So instead of having different websites and brands for separate destinations, we decided that it would benefit our customers more to have one platform where they could find all our destinations on, as well as for them to speak on one company about any destination and still receive the same expert advice.

When we announced our re-brand, we focused on how our services were now better at serving customer needs and where we were expanding our services to.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Edoria Ridzmann the Digital Marketing and Communications Manager of Villa Finder.

As the gatekeeper of an APAC vacation rental brand, she has the tricky task of weaving the right words and ideas to spark inspirational travel for both families and young adults, while making sure accommodation at villas trump hotels, every single time. Originally from an agency background, she has led successful performance marketing campaigns for clients like Klook, Canon and Meltwater.

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?

Living in different parts of SEA, I’ve been lucky enough to travel the region, parts of europe and australasia, and while it was exciting learning about new cultures and places, what always fascinated me was how communal marketing seemed to be, no matter where in the world. What I mean by this is that I noticed how people were always keen and active in responding to marketing that spoke to the heart and the everyday stuff.

No matter where in the world, people buy into brand stories and the company/solution itself becomes part of a shared experience. Whether it’s a family owned restaurant, design software (looking at you canva) or artisanal chocolate, I knew that I wanted to be in a team where telling the story is as important as the service itself.

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?

Embarrassing and painful as it is, I once approved email marketing copy (that was sent out to a really big database) that was meant for a beach destination, for a snow destination. Imagine, “sunny days ahead for your tan” against the backdrop of Japan’s famous Mount Yotei. Not very funny but it did teach me to always double, triple, and obsessively check copy before sending it out.

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?

When the marketing strategies I was mapping out had to include separate “trendy” campaigns for a different age group- we had a big base of 30–50 year olds booking with us but not many 20–30 year olds- I knew that we were doing something right to attract new audiences.

But the team had to work with a small budget to serve out conversion campaigns that suited both our new and existing audiences. While we had garnered interest from a group that we had been looking to acquire, we realised that we hadn’t accounted for stretching our budget to execute our ideas.

We had to decide which group to spend more time and money on; we decided on our new audiences in the end, but eventually learnt that we could weight our campaigns depending on which phase the audience was in. We learnt that there were ways to stretch our budget and still achieve a desired outcome for both audiences.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! Last year we launched a locally curated guidebook with exclusive discounts for our Bali guests- we handpicked every restaurant and spa based on our own experience. We did this because we found that although there is a LOT of information online about where to go, what to eat or do, there were still gaps around family friendly advice and options- gaps which our core family audience, was missing. Especially when it came to locally recommended options.

This initiative has been well-received by our restaurant/spa/activity partners with many more wanting to get onboard. As the guidebook has also helped our concierge team advise our guests on where to go, we’re looking to replicate the Bali guidebook of offers for our other popular destinations- a valuable guide that isn’t just another “top 10 places to visit in Phuket”

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Find your tribe! Understand which audience needs your utmost attention and prioritise from there. Everyone can seem important when your service can be used by just about every age group, but it pays to be selective. When you know audience A is higher in number than audience B, weight more content and campaigns to serve A compared to B, C, and D.

Make a list of what is NOT important. Decide on customers or things you don’t want to pursue because it takes too much time out of your regular team meetings. Most marketers can get stuck because there’s a lot of back and forth about what could be valuable but in reality, it’s not nearly as important enough for you to devote your time to. Make decisions about what are the things you don’t do, and stick to it.

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?

From Villa Finder’s point of view, our product may be great villas in great locations with great in-villa service but it is only through branding that a customer comes to understand the value of our service.

Brand marketing educates a customer that Villa Finder handpicks and inspects all their villas in 28 destinations and can help you plan your holidays free of charge.

Product marketing gives a customer a selection of villas that suit their different needs; a family villa is very different from a honeymoon villa.

Establish what you’re good at (brand) and what you have to show for it (product)

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?

A product can be inspiring or boring and there are a lot of voices out there- what makes you different? Why should people buy from you, when there are probably more than 3 alternatives for your product?

Most people connect to a brand before they do a product because they’re looking for something relatable. For example, “Only amazing family holiday experiences guaranteed with Villa Finder” is reassuring the guest that Villa Finder are specialists in family holidays, but it only really makes sense when combined with “Our handpicked villas are great because they’re close to the best beaches” as a product push.

You want your product to have a great, inspiring story behind it to convince your customer they want in. Crafting a brand story, building it and nurturing it takes time, don’t ignore it because it’s easier to shout about your product.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

No company starts off perfect and unless you’re very, very, lucky and good at what you do, you probably made some brand choices that now, don’t seem as relevant or there’s a need for change because the product/partners/service has changed or your audience has evolved.

Burberry famously overhauled the brand when it was at risk of being associated with gangwear. But by infusing their heritage brand with a mix of modern looks and partnering with high profile celebrities like Kate Moss and Emma Watson, Burberry successfully steered itself into success and made heritage relevant for today’s consumer.

For Villa Finder, we grew out of the “clothes” we had and needed something bigger to represent the destinations we were expanded into. We were confined to niche markets (villas in Bali for AU/EU customers) and found that our current message limits what we wanted to convey. A rebranding allowed us to tap into markets that we didn’t previously have access to.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

In the case of building your audience or database back up after a rebrand (this may be migration to a new website or merger with a partner), there may be a phase where your “old audiences” or “old customers” need to be re-educated or shift from where you were to where you are now. Not to mention it can be confusing to your internal teams to take on the rebrand and to sing it loud and clear.

Some brands that have amassed a large following or customer base may not find it as easy to re-brand simply because the effort it would take to re-educate might mean sacrificing time that would usually be spent closing deals or winning new business.

Be clear about why the rebrand is important and make sure you have a strategy mapped out on how to communicate your new brand effectively.

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.

Know your audience

In a re-brand, your core audience/customer base is important to your survival. Make sure you know who they are and how to reach and address them.

In our own rebrand, we looked into who our audience regularly “spoke” to and who or what influenced them. For us, it was families who traveled to our destinations. We reached out to travel media and influencers to help us communicate the rebrand.

Know your story and make it relatable

It would be best if people cared about your rebrand…so make them pay attention. Hopefully it’s a story that resonates!

For us, we expanded into new destinations based on the demand from our customers. So instead of having different websites and brands for separate destinations, we decided that it would benefit our customers more to have one platform where they could find all our destinations on, as well as for them to speak on one company about any destination and still receive the same expert advice.

When we announced our re-brand, we focused on how our services were now better at serving customer needs and where we were expanding our services to.

Have a clear actionable plan

Prior to rebranding, we had 6 different websites, 6 Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter accounts for each of the destination, and one for the main brand. It’s important to have a clear timeline to merge all this and to make sure nothing is left out. It’s very easy to overlook details like automated emails, subscription forms, etc. So take time to sit down and think about all that the company has been doing and where you need to change your message/logo.

Know that it’s an ongoing effort

In an ideal world, you only need to say it once, and your audience will remember it. However, that is never the case. “Rebranding” is just a period where you make the actual shift from A to B, from then on, you have to consistently repeat the message to your audience to make sure that they remember. The result will come gradually.

In the first few months of our rebrand, we saw traffic to our new website slowly increase and the return of our past customers who eventually came to understand that they could now book villas in other destinations too.

Don’t forget your employees

The rebranding process starts closer to home. Your employees are your brand ambassadors. All of your effort will be wasted if your team doesn’t fully understand the need to rebrand and end up mistakenly repeating an old brand message.

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?

Indonesia’s Gojek started out with a very specific logo and service. While Gojek succeeded first as an online ride hailing app (and they still provide this service) the company realised they had a bigger purpose in helping the community. Their riders were able to make a real difference- they didn’t only transport people, they could also transport food, services (like their famous and popular “gomassage” or laundry drop off services) and their technology could facilitate cashless payments.

And they needed to break into other markets like Singapore. Their logo at the time was limiting the message they wanted to drive home- that Gojek connected you to a world of services. So they rebranded and designed a logo that allowed them to scale. Now, if you look at the new logo hard enough it takes on the form of:

  • A map pin
  • A search button
  • A power button
  • The top helmet of a Gojek driver

All representing one or another type of service that Gojek provides. Genius? Just a little.

Their rebrand took a lot into consideration; their past, present and future. Gojek wanted a logo and message that resonated with what they were currently doing and could communicate what their future looked like. I believe Gojek succeeded because they understood their audience(s) as clear as day and had adapted their rebranding strategy to meet and put customer needs first.

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. 🙂

Sharing your personal affirmations with your colleagues and helping them do the same. There’s positivity in letting your peers know what is important to you and trusting that they are supportive enough to help you achieve the best version of yourself.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

We rise by lifting others

Comforting a colleague or friend when they’ve had a bad day (and you’re a busy bee) may not be a big, dramatic action but being compassionate helps you see yourself in a better light.

I find that extending a hand, or showing emotion at work is generally hard to do because you’re conditioned to be “formal” or “proper” but there have been times where doing exactly that has helped me understand myself a little better- and not just at work but in other difficult situations where being outside of your comfort zone is the only way to learn how to be a better person.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn for all the exciting work updates and Instagram for travel and life adventures.

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Brand Makeovers: “Know your story and make it relatable” with Edoria Ridzmann of Villa Finder was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Elite Daily Co-founder Gerard Adams: “Here Are 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize…

Elite Daily Co-founder Gerard Adams: “Here Are 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image”

Become an in-house Media Agency. Nowadays we don’t want to just see your ads on facebook or commercials during the superbowl — we want to see a brand have it’s own personality online. Create a consistent content marketing strategy for social media and watch how that changes how the community engages with your brand.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Gerard Adams.

Gerard Adams, co-founder of Elite Daily, one of the top news platforms for Generation Y, is an experienced angel investor, millennial thought leader and social entrepreneur who overcame early adversity to become a self-made millionaire by the age of 24. Devoted to turning dreams into reality, Gerard has made it his mission to inspire and mentor young entrepreneurs on what it takes to be successful. Gerard continues to expand and diversify his investment portfolio backing businesses across multiple industries from technology to digital media to fashion and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Gerard! 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?

Growing up I was always fascinated by stories, I would immerse myself into documentaries, films, books, and history. At a young age I didn’t understand how but I was a naturally confident storyteller. At a young age, I was able to tap into my emotions when telling a story and take the other person on a journey. My parents thought I should have gone into acting for my career but I was too intrigued by the internet and the ability to tell stories online and the effect they had for marketing brands and business. Also, I felt that with the social media space starting to boom around the time I was 17 years old I could tell that there was a massive opportunity to become successful telling stories online. At first, I had no idea how or what I would do, all I knew was that I was extremely passionate about creating content online and understood how to tell a story that moved people to take action. Also, I realized that my generation significantly needed help learning about our world and economy as the majority of them were obsessed with watching Reality TV (KUWTK, Jersey Shore etc) which as we know is not “reality” at all.. this inspired me to start creating documentaries and short films online.

This led me to create a marketing agency to help innovative companies to tell their story online to create brand and investor awareness. This company went from getting its first client at $500 a month and grew to budgets of $300,000 hitting $10 million in revenue by the time I was 24 years old. This led me to eventually get tired of telling everyone else’s stories and I was inspired to leverage my skills and go all-in on taking a risk by building my own brand- an online media publication by millennials, for millennials. I remember thinking of a name in my apartment with only 3 wooden folding chairs and a folding table where me and my two interns brainstormed until it hit me …. “Elite Daily”. I knew I wanted this to be a reliable site covering all trending news daily so it just made sense and we thought elite was a cool way to say that we were the best. This is when the moment of truth happened as we went to godaddy.com to see if the domain name was available… we hit the search button and i’ll never forget the word “AVAILABLE” for $9.99 — I knew in that instant it was meant to be. We bought it and with no college degrees in journalism we started the publication that would eventually be known as “The Voice of Generation Y”. Within 5 years, we grew the business from 3 of us to 200 employees, 80 million unique millennial visitors per month, won an emmy for one of our short-film documentaries, and in 2015 we sold the company to a Billion Dollar Media Conglomerate. After the sale, I finally decided it was time to start using what I have learned about storytelling, branding, and content marketing to build my personal brand and become a platform myself.

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?

The funniest story I can think about in the beginning was when we decided to create a Christmas themed video to help us go viral on social media with a model who would be changing from outfit to outfit without any visible wardrobe changes… well, when the day of the shoot came (and by the way, it was our first ever video we created for Elite Daily) we had NO IDEA what we were doing! We had no wardrobes or props, so I ran out of the apartment to Party City, Victoria’s Secret, and Guess to get whatever I could quickly find at the shopping center. I remember buying this fake snow, large candy cane props, and Santa hats. We started shooting and I started throwing the fake snow over the camera and on to the model but I was so bad at throwing it in the air that I just kept getting it in her mouth and I’ll never forget all of us belly laughing at each other. It was a great memory of the beginning of creating content for our new brand Elite Daily that later would master content at scale. The lesson here was that it’s okay to be naive in the beginning and just start. So many people are afraid to fail or being imperfect that they hinder themselves from even trying. I am all about progression over perfection!

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?

As for a TIPPING POINT… I can honestly say the real tipping point for me was when I got an offer to have my brand Elite Daily acquired from a billion dollar media company. That was when it really hit me that we have built something extremely special and worth $10’s of millions of dollars because of all our hard work, perseverance, willingness to master our niche, and fail fast. The biggest lesson was that it’s truly about not giving up, going all-in, supporting the team and making sure they too believe in a big vision that aligns with their goals, while leading by example as a founder. Another lesson I learned is that things can change for you in an instance… so always keep your finger on the pulse and be data driven not emotional.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Since the sale of Elite Daily, I started asking myself some tough questions… Honestly I was depressed after the sale because I was like “now what”, “what if I made the wrong decision”, “who is Gerard Adams without Elite Daily”, “what is success for me now”?

This all caused me to go on a spiritual journey within. I started to think about purpose and legacy.

I decided I would go on a long journey around the world in search of today’s modern day leaders to tell their stories of how they found purpose, activated success in their lives, and overcome adversity through an online YouTube show called “Leaders Create Leaders; it’s more than just a show, it’s a movement.” It would be released in episodes as a docu-series with 16 episodes per Season. I am currently filming Season 6. I decided this would be my passion project as I untangled my purpose in helping others find what success was in their own lives and helping them activate it while working with my team to create a movement around their mission through the art of storytelling, content marketing, and business & branding fundamentals. Currently we offer a 6 week accelerator, workshops, and a private year long mastermind.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

To avoid burnout my advice would be to master your rituals and habits daily. I believe in protecting your energy at all costs. I do this by owning my mornings with no social media when I first wake up, making my bed, cold therapy “wim hoff method”, meditation, journaling, reading, exercise, juicing, and music. During the day, I time block the tasks that are my most important priorities as a CEO and Personal Brand and delegate everything else to a highly trained VA, and my team of Avengers using Slack and Monday.com. This allows me to have the space needed for creativity and flow state which is the kryptonite for any marketer. In the evening, I go to a sound healing or breathwork class. All my meals are plant based except for Sundays.

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?

Brand marketing vs Advertising. Simple — one is for brand awareness which is extremely important to BUILD TRUST which is the core of what builds a long lasting business. I believe brand equity is significantly undervalued in many businesses yet could be the far most unique differentiator any business has that creates culture and community — two critical aspects of any successful brand and business. Advertising on the other hand has one core objective; to catch a potential customers attention and convert them to a sale. Without effective advertising you will have a problem with scale.

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?

As I have mentioned, branding can not be undervalued by your company. It is extremely important in building a movement around your business meaning raving fans, hacking word of mouth, community, and culture that takes a life of its own… building a brand is directly correlated to how successful of a thriving business you will have as long as your product and customer experience are world-class. Investing in branding and advertising is critical to validating, optimizing, and maximizing your growth potential. Without advertising you will have a very hard time reaching ideal customers at scale.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Rebranding could be very beneficial if 1) you notice people have a hard time understanding what it is you do or what the product solution is… sometimes when we overthink a brand we can complicate it. A great rebranding strategy would be to simplify your messaging. A lot of people think of branding just as a logo, and yes that matters too, but it’s so much more than that and most importantly it’s your messaging and positioning to consumers that matters.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

I believe if it’s not broke don’t fix it and the same goes with rebranding. Also, include your community and customers in the process which can not only bring more creativity but make them feel invested.

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.

1. Upgrade your messaging to become more concise. For our clients we have them complete a fill in the blank exercise “I help _____ do _____ so that they can _______.”

2. Become an in-house Media Agency. Nowadays we don’t want to just see your ads on facebook or commercials during the superbowl — we want to see a brand have it’s own personality online. Create a consistent content marketing strategy for social media and watch how that changes how the community engages with your brand.

3. The people working at the company and founder should build a personal brand. This creates connection with your customers and audience that there are real human beings that care behind the brand. Let your inner-weirdo out too! You don’t have to be all polished… a personal brand means personality! I remember when I finally got the courage to start my personal brand how much this not only grew my business 3x but it brought fulfillment to myself, our team, and a connection like I’ve never had before with our community.

4. Upgrade your video production. 80% of content consumed online now is video. It’s time your team takes this seriously and brings on board companies like Indirap to create high quality videos that can go viral and blow up your business like it did for Leaders Create Leaders guest Suzy Batiz for her company Poopouri to $500 million using high quality videos on youtube.

5. Take your logo to a new level by making it more modern and ask your customers to vote. If you really want to pick it up a notch, do what companies like Geico, Mr. Peanut, Julio by Pringles, and many more do… bring a character to your brand- whether a real influencer like how Sprint used me or a cartoon.

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?

A great company recently who rebranded was Dropbox, a service our team uses. They went with a more colorful and complex brand, all to create a message that Dropbox isn’t just for sharing files but a creative place for teams to live. This rebrand is simply because they realized they wanted to spark more growth- like any company thinking of a rebrand- and I think Dropbox’s bold move to a more creative style will cause customers to rethink how they use dropbox moving forward as they evolve. I think every company should do a deep dive into a rebrand but like Dropbox, if you decide it’s time then don’t be afraid to be bold and make a statement.

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. 🙂

As far as a movement to help people, it is my legacy to build my movement “leaders create leaders” and will do everything in my power while alive to have it become a platform, accelerator, and community for impact driven entrepreneurs, conscious creators, and heart-led leaders to grow their brands and business. We will continue to do this through our online coaching program, immersive workshops, and year long private mastermind “The Trusted Advisors Network”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson would be, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” John Wooden and my Father would always say that to me and teach me that a leader is about character in all areas of your life and how you treat people. I want to be remembered by my character, not reputation.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow me on instagram @GerardAdams and DM ME “Authority Magazine” if they found value in this article. You can learn more about the Movement by going to LeadersCreateLeaders.com and watch the show on youtube.com/GerardAdamsTV or the Podcast “Leaders Create Leaders” streaming worldwide on iTunes and Spotify.

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Elite Daily Co-founder Gerard Adams: “Here Are 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: “Always have a growth mindset” with Lori Kennedy of The Wellness…

Rising Through Resilience: “Always have a growth mindset” with Lori Kennedy of The Wellness Business Hub

Always have a growth mindset. If every experience is created for you, not to you, then how can you use that experience for growth.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lori Kennedy, founder of The Wellness Business Hub

Lori Kennedy is first and foremost a mom to her two kids. She’s the CEO of The Wellness Business Hub, the host of the Business Of Becoming podcast and the leader of the Take Your Health Practice Online Facebook Group and has been featured in Huffington Post, Fast Company and Inc.com.

Using her personal experience of growing a multimillion-dollar company from her dining room table, Lori has a unique ability to empower, teach and motivate alternative practitioners and coaches to step outside of their comfort zones and build the business of their dreams. Lori’s tell-it-like-it-is style is a refreshing approach that allows her to connect with her professional colleagues.

Her company, The Wellness Business Hub, exists to provide industry-specific business training and professional development to support health practitioners and coaches to start and grow their business online. They do this by creating high-value practical and applicable digital content like blogs, videos, the podcast and host live events with the intention of supporting their global community to reach for more and create an impactful business that changes lives.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

The more and more I look back, I’ve come to realize that I am where I am because of my health. I spent my childhood on and off antibiotics for ear infections. I spent my teens years suffering from the effects of dozens of rounds of antibiotics. By 17 I had horrible acid reflux, would sporadically throw-up, was 25 pounds overweight, couldn’t concentrate and felt horrible. At 19 while travelling through Europe with my girlfriends, my body, rather my digestive system decided that was going to stop working and I ended up in a hospital in Santorini Greece.

To make a very long story short, I spent years going from Doctor to Doctor. They were not able to help me over and above handing me a prescription. I was resolute that feeling sick and tired and having to rely on prescription pills was not going to be my life so I sought out alternative health care and worked with a Naturopathic Doctor to reverse the damage that was done and to heal my body.

At the time, becoming a Registered Holistic Nutritionist was not on my radar but after I witnessed the healing power of food and went through my own transformation, at 24 and having just finished University, I decided to go back to school to get my R.H.N. designation. It was in trying to start-up and grow my nutrition practice that I learned the true meaning of resilience.

I struggled for almost 2 years to get my nutrition practice off the ground. Business, sales, marketing as it applies to real-world success aren’t taught in any alternative health care profession so when you graduate, it feels like you’re flying blind. I spent years investing in myself and my business. I got really good at the business side.

13 years later, I now run a multi-million dollar global online business that supports alternative health practitioners and coaches with the business training and personal development tools needed to grow successful businesses online.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

6 weeks after my marriage ended I had to host a live event with hundreds of attendees. I had to stand on stage, teach, be energetic and hold space for all of the attendees who were looking to me for leadership, empowerment, training and inspiration. My now ex-husband was a big part of the business brand. Of course, I wanted to cancel the event, get into my bed and stay there for months but I couldn’t. We had vendors, attendees, tens of thousands of dollars poured into this and I didn’t want to disappoint the attendees who were coming from all over the world.

The show must go on. And it did. The event was very successful.

The big takeaway and what enabled me to show up without having to ‘fake it’ was allowing the mission of my company to drive me. I am so incredibly bought into the mission of my company that the deep-rooted feeling of purpose carried me. I wasn’t there for me, for the accolades or even the big payday. I was there to give my community an experience that would transform their business and lives. Focusing on that intention helped me to reframe how I was feeling and allowed me to compartmentalize my feelings so I could show up in a way that I was proud of.

What do you think makes your company/brand stand out? Can you share a story?

I am not afraid to show my imperfections. In the alternative health niche and by extension the fitness industry, there is a feeling of immense pressure to show up as perfect. That until you’re a perfect weight, have achieved perfect health, eat only organic, non-GMO whole foods, mediate, juice and live this perfect lifestyle you can not be a true professional or help anyone.

I hear from thousands of highly qualified, smart and purpose-driven health practitioners, coaches and fitness professionals that they are playing small and hiding because they don’t feel good enough yet to really put themselves out there which is a huge disservice to the world because they can transform health in a way that allopathic medicine can’t.

What sets my brand apart and has helped me grow a multi-million dollar business without having a massive social media following is my authenticity and demonstrating that there is no such thing as perfect.

The first time I shared with my community of practitioners and coaches that I drank Diet Coke and used Splenda in my coffee when I went to Starbucks, I thought I was going to be struck down by lightning. Instead, I was flooded with emails, texts and DM’s thanking me for being ‘real’. I got hundreds of notes from my colleagues sharing their dirty little secrets with me, just as I had shared mine with them.

I realized that to set myself apart, I had to tell the truth while all of the other influencers went on portraying ‘perfection’. That’s what sets my brand apart, I’m not perfect and I’m not afraid to show it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

First, I operate with a beginner’s mind always so there have been many incredible people along my journey that have greatly impacted me. The two that I feel the most grateful to are the two men who mentored me for years when I decided to take my business online.

Bedros Keulian, CEO of Fit Body Bootcamp and Craig Ballantyne, co-owner of Early To Rise. Aside from teaching me how to run a business online, they taught me how to do business with integrity. They modelled through their own businesses and life how to think, behave and take action, even when you don’t want to. I used to complain that I had no time. My kids were 3 and 1, I was separated and felt completely overwhelmed. Craig said, “wake up at 5 am daily, even on the weekends. You want more time to get your work done. Wake up at 5 am.” He was right. I’ve been waking up at 5 am since 2012 and I know that it has been one of the most pivotal keys to my success.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

To me, resilience is more than the ability to just overcome something difficult. Resilience to me is being able to overcome something difficult, learn from it and use that experience to be a better human being.

Just because you’ve gone through something doesn’t mean you’re resilient.

Some characteristics of resilient people would include personal responsibility, positivity, boundaries, healthy habits and behaviours, having a growth mindset and compassion.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My mother. My sister was born with severe brain damage and cerebral palsy. She almost died giving birth to her. I never saw my mother be a victim or question why this happened to her and to us. Instead of going down a road most would have gone down, she chose to rise up. She focused on her health, her mindset and along with my father and 4 other families, founded a non-profit organization called Safehaven, a project for community living that now has 5 group homes across the greater Toronto area.

I’m sure she struggled, because how could she not but she took a very hard situation and turned into something life-changing for hundreds of families, including our own.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Yes. Many times. The story that comes to mind was when I wanted to run my first live event in 2013. I was just starting online and didn’t have a following, email list or anything like that yet. My mentor, who I credited above, Craig, told me in front of my entire mastermind to under no circumstances run that event. He told me that selling tickets to an event was hard, that I needed a bigger following and that it wasn’t worth my time yet. Wait a couple of years he said, then run an event.

I decided to listen to my intuition and I ran the event. I had no idea what I was doing but I knew that having an industry-specific event was important. It was successful. I had about 120 people there and actually made some money which doesn’t happen often when running a first-time event.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

My divorce was the greatest setback and the most impactful and life-changing experience. The first time we separated my daughter was 2 and I was pregnant with my son. My kids are now 11 and 8 for reference. When we divorced my kids were 6 and 4. Divorce is traumatic. I am the CEO of a global online company and at that point, I didn’t really have a big team. Our revenue at the time was hovering at around $500,000.

I like to say that I productively had breakdowns. I allowed myself to sit with the pain and emotions. I chose to use the years post-separation to heal instead of mute the pain with all of the things most people use — alcohol, food, sex. I didn’t do that. I chose to heal. I used therapy, movement, meditation, journaling and self-compassion. I chose to use that time as a way to fortify my boundaries, behaviours and mindset.

I know that my business wouldn’t be where it is today had I stayed married, not because he would have held me back but because the growth that I’ve had as a result of the divorce has allowed me as an entrepreneur to take bigger risks and show up as a leader.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Always have a growth mindset. If every experience is created for you, not to you, then how can you use that experience for growth.
  2. Acknowledge the experience for what it is instead of bypassing it. You are allowed to be sad, to feel pain, to be hurt. It’s important to feel your feelings. The key is to not let them overtake your life.
  3. Find a healthy and productive way to manage your feelings, stress and impulses to mute the experience.
  4. Tell people what’s going on. It’s not weak or a bother to ask for support.
  5. Focus on the person you want to become. You have a choice to claim victimhood or to use the experience to become a person you are proud of.

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. 🙂

To ask for what you want and need. Women are not taught to ask for what they want and need. Women are not taught to stand in their power which makes it really hard to build resiliency. I can only imagine how different daily life would be if all women were taught HOW to stand in their own power and ask for what they want and need.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Sara Blakely. Since I started this journey in 2007, I’ve looked for a mentor who is successful in business and also has the kind of family life I desire.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.instagram.com/lorikennedyinc/

https://thewellnessbusinesshub.com/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: “Always have a growth mindset” with Lori Kennedy of The Wellness… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Fabian Geyrhalter of…

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Fabian Geyrhalter of FINIEN

“To [TARGET AUDIENCE] our product is the [CATEGORY] that provides [FUNCTIONAL, SYMBOLIC OR EXPERIENTIAL BENEFITS] because [REASONS TO BELIEVE].” It is that answer to the question ‘why,’ the ‘reason to believe,’ that can be the simple most important trajectory for your business. It will turn into a tag line or the key headline, it will be the ending of your elevator pitch, it will inspire marketing as much as sales and even affect product development.

A couple years ago we sat down and thought about how this would have read for a company we all know, Whole Foods, if they would have positioned themselves as well as we see the brand today. They would have said something along the lines of: “To health and eco-conscious consumers, our product is the grocery store that provides the highest natural and organic products that support vitality and well-being because we believe in Whole Foods, Whole People, and a Whole Planet.” If you focus on the ‘why’ behind the brand you can see how it educates what products will be on the shelves, who their audience and employees should be and what their greater mission and vision is. In just a few words. That is pretty powerful. Now, of course this is not how they started out and we took bits and pieces from their web site to create this statement. In fact, Whole Foods started out across the street from a SafeWay and they named their grocery store Safer Way. No joke. We all have to upgrade and re-energize our brand at times.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview renowned brand strategist and creative director Fabian Geyrhalter. fabian is a prolific author and speaker on the subject of branding. He is the founder and principal of Los Angeles-based brand consultancy FINIEN, where he works with medium-sized to large corporations on crafting strategic, verbal and visual brand clarity. His client list includes Honeywell, United Way, Randstad, and Goodwill. Geyrhalter’s best-selling book ‘How to Launch a Brand’ became a go-to resource for entrepreneurs and creatives alike. His latest book is ‘Bigger Than This — How to turn any venture into an admired brand.’ Geyrhalter is also the host of ‘Hitting The Mark,’ a podcast about the intersection of brand clarity and startup success.

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 have always been obsessed with brands, from a small age on I loved to draw logos of brands and that fascination only grew with age. I ended up studying Communication Design at Art Center College of Design overlooking the Lake Geneva and the town of Evian, with the view we all know so well from the Evian water bottle label. It was stunning, until the campus closed, and I moved to the main campus in Pasadena, California. After college I took on a few Creative Director roles until I finally received my green card in the mail. I started my first agency the week after I was legally able to do so. I ran that design agency for a good 12 years when I decided to pivot into brand strategy. Over the course of a few months, I morphed my agency, Geyrhalter & Co, into the purposefully small brand consultancy FINIEN. That was likely my most crucial re-branding project of my life and I am relieved and thrilled that it panned out so well.

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?

Early on we did a lot of proposals. They usually are a big time waster and very unpersonal, but starting out it felt like the biggest honor to receive ‘a request for proposal.’ We always went all-out. I remember a particular proposal that was from a company that built building skate parks and I drove to one of their parks in a really bad area of Los Angeles and spent the day taking professional pictures of the kids riding their boards just to make the proposal more personal and to show how much we cared. So, there I was, the Creative Director of an already reputable agency, in a dangerous neighborhood, lying on the dirty grounds of a skate park, shooting photos of kids flying over my head on their skateboards. I got a lot of fun pictures out of it, but not the job. It taught me that there is a line between passion and business and that you should only cross that line for projects that you are well paid for that you also happen to be passionate about.

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?

Especially in the creative agency world, bigger often means better. The larger an agency is, the bigger the clients will be, and, the better a CEO looks.

Completely wrong. Your company size does not matter anymore.

I scaled back my agency and I am thrilled to have only one full-time employee. I am proud to work with a Fortune 100 client (and a few Fortune 500s) and to have higher billings than my 18-person agency ever had. Bigger is not always better, at least not in the creative business.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My consultancy is knee-deep in crafting meaningful and authentic brands for a handful of clients from all kinds of places, including a human resources fund in Amsterdam and an AI-driven energy startup in Switzerland. With all of our clients we start the relationship, and our work, off with an in-person brand strategy workshop to position the brand. That is the time where I bring the best out of a brand’s future direction and it’s exciting for me to see the pivots and the aha moments that day and subsequently see how I helped shape more intrinsic and meaningful brands.

One of my most exciting current projects though is working on my new book, which will be called ‘The Brand Therapy Book,’ — the title says it all!

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Have a clear focus and stick with it. Don’t run after the shiny objects, instead have clarity around what you are best at, create a process and replicable contractual procedure around it and then hit ‘step and repeat.’ Burnout happens when business life gets messy. Don’t allow for it to get messy. A narrow focus and process to stick to will help eliminate those obstacles.

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?

Brand strategy is a clear path forward for a company to turn into a (more) beloved brand by finding (or further defining) its unique reason for being that is rooted in values, which are shared with a specific audience, that, in turn, will wholeheartedly embrace the brand’s essence, which needs to be showcased through a conceptual, focused and consistent verbal and visual identity. That brand essence showcase is brand marketing. Advertising is taking this essence, or the ‘why’ of a brand and turns it into funnels, the ‘how,’ and messages, the ‘what.’

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?

Going back to the last question, if you don’t have the brand’s positioning, vision, shared values, persona, et cetera established, you are just shooting from your hips. I see it over and over again that young entrepreneurs, especially those with direct-to-consumer product offerings, question the need of brand strategy. Then, a few years in, they keep throwing money towards paid advertising and SEO, but they begin to realize that competitors moved in and start taking over market share and they can’t understand why. It usually is because their competition built a brand, and with that comes a tribe that shares their philosophy, their values. They love to spread the word. They even tattoo the logo onto their skin because it stands for something bigger than just a product they buy. Those things cannot happen through a campaign, they have to happen on a C-suite or Founder/Co-Founder level, and they have to be fueled by honest passion.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Some companies need a re-brand, because they never really took the time to do it and they look stale, the brand is undefined, and they need to make their brand as great to the outside (and inside) world as their offering. Others saw tremendous change inside the organization, may that be new leadership, a product pivot or a merger or acquisition, which demands a new look at the brand so it can be showcased in the correct light and for years to come.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

There are companies that want to change their logo, call it a re-brand and hope it will create change, but change needs to come from within. A logo won’t change company culture, product positioning or market share. For those who are just looking for aesthetical changes, a re-brand often won’t show any tangible results and it could end up being a ginormous waste of budget that could otherwise have been allocated to creating a better product or culture.

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.

First, sit down and assess your brand’s current positioning. Start by giving this simple statement a few hours of thought:

“To [TARGET AUDIENCE] our product is the [CATEGORY] that provides [FUNCTIONAL, SYMBOLIC OR EXPERIENTAL BENEFITS] because [REASONS TO BELIEVE].” It is that answer to the question ‘why,’ the ‘reason to believe,’ that can be the simple most important trajectory for your business. It will turn into a tag line or the key headline, it will be the ending of your elevator pitch, it will inspire marketing as much as sales and even affect product development.

A couple years ago we sat down and thought about how this would have read for a company we all know, Whole Foods, if they would have positioned themselves as well as we see the brand today. They would have said something along the lines of: “To health and eco-conscious consumers, our product is the grocery store that provides the highest natural and organic products that support vitality and well-being because we believe in Whole Foods, Whole People, and a Whole Planet.” If you focus on the ‘why’ behind the brand you can see how it educates what products will be on the shelves, who their audience and employees should be and what their greater mission and vision is. In just a few words. That is pretty powerful. Now, of course this is not how they started out and we took bits and pieces from their web site to create this statement. In fact, Whole Foods started out across the street from a SafeWay and they named their grocery store Safer Way. No joke. We all have to upgrade and re-energize our brand at times.

Second, look at your core values and assess if they still speak to who the company is today and wants to be over the next years. Does it resonate not only with your staff and future employees, but most importantly, are these values that are shared by your tribe, your customers? Shared values sell more, it’s that simple. Values, if introduced into your brand’s messaging can have a big effect on your sales.

I love to cite GEA, an Austrian company that makes hand-made, long-lasting and easy-to-repair traditional footwear. Selling, what can easily be seen as commodities, they have 44 Stores in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and a tribe that loves them. Why? Because the founder boldly voices his opinions on hot topics such as politics, religion & the economy. He condemns consumerism and capitalism and the shoe company publishes a political newspaper. He proclaims “Rights to the people rather than the banks” in interviews and you can only imagine how he does not get along with politicians and with banks, yet when he needs funds to expand, thousands of people rush to crowdfund his company. His entire business is based on values and a strong belief. An extreme example, but it shows you how values can create tribes easily and effectively.

Also look at your customer journey, the touchpoints and user behavior. In the end, that is how your brand is being experienced and more often than not you will find huge areas of improvement if you follow your customers’ journey from web site to product usage to social commentary.

Planet Fitness, for instance, realized that all gyms are catering to the exact same target audience, yet they left a large number of the population unsatisfied in that journey. 10 million people to be exact, which is the number as Planet Fitness is now catering to, who like to not be judged and want to do fitness on their own terms. Planet Fitness’ brand ideology of ‘no critics’ got them to 2,000 clubs today and counting. It’s empathetic brand love based on solidarity, and it can often be found when you study customer journeys and sentiments.

As a fourth strategy, understand that it is crucial to create a visual and verbal brand language that is strategic, consistent, simple and visually stunning.

I recently had Michael Lastoria, the Co-founder of the counter-culture pizza brand ‘&pizza,’ which has 36 locations in the U.S. and is rapidly growing based on its inherent brand thinking and employee-first commitment, on my podcast ‘Hitting The Mark.’ He talked about how his company’s logo is a simple ampersand sign (&) but because of its simplicity it not only stands for the ideology of the brand, but it allows for positive interpretation. When he noticed that some of his employees started tattooing the company logo onto their arms, he made it a company policy that ‘&’ tattoos are paid for by the company. And this is how you create a visual language that also fosters company culture and creates a tribe of loyal followers.

Last but not least, identify, what I call, your ‘Brand DNA,’ by asking “What’s bigger than our product?” Let that question answer to your brand’s DNA which should be your brand essence in a single word.

For Planet Fitness, their brand DNA could be ‘solidarity.’ It’s not ‘inexpensive nationwide gym locations for all.’ Imagine what that simple word could do for your brand?

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?

Not one in particular, but I always applaud large organizations, like Mastercard and Bank of America, that have iconic logos yet they understand that making subtle changes and simplifications to their logos and overall identity along the way can make a big change in how they are being perceived by the public. From complicated to simple and from stodgy to tech, it teaches you to always stand back and assess your brand for the years to come. Don’t be afraid to update your logo like you update your car: Sometimes you need a new ride because things have advanced so much, but most often you just need a fresh coat of paint and a full inspection.

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 feel like I am currently my own mini movement for creating better brands. Sounds ridiculously small, not really like a movement, but if I can positively change the course of 50, 100, 1000 brands a year through directly working with them, but also through my books and lectures, imagine how many people — from employees to customers — I could indirectly affect?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I am not big into quotes and I surely do not have that one big one handy, but for someone who is not a quote person, I found myself sharing this one recently on Twitter: “To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.” Sr. Thomas Watson said this and to me it really captures entrepreneurship if lived the right way.

How can our readers follow you online?

The best way is through our site, my books or podcast and my Instagram channel where I started a habit I call ‘Brand Therapy Thursday,’ a thought every Thursday to inspire entrepreneurs and marketers, which followers seem to like quite a bit.

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.

Thank you for having me, Fotis! It was a great pleasure.


5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Fabian Geyrhalter of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: “They told me it was was impossible, but I did it anyway”, with Jarred…

Rising Through Resilience: “They told me it was was impossible, but I did it anyway”, with Jarred Kessler of EasyKnock

Grit is resilience. It’s extremely important to move forward when it seems like the world is telling you not to. This causes some people to stand out from the rest, and it clearly shows through their business and the way they treat their employees.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jarred Kessler, Founder & CEO of EasyKnock.

Jarred is a vision-driven entrepreneur with over fifteen years of experience in the financial services industry, where he performed for industry stalwarts such as Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and Goldman Sachs. Throughout successful endeavors with these companies, Jarred witnessed firsthand the effects of technological change on the industry. Where others failed, he became adept at evolving his career to align effectively with emerging trends. Since then, Jarred has spotted similar changes occurring in other industries. As CEO of EasyKnock, Jarred now applies this sharp awareness of change and his vision of a new and improved world to real estate.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

My career began in the financial services industry, where I worked for Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and Goldman Sachs for over 15 years. This is where I witnessed firsthand the effects of technological change on the industry. I felt it was important to leverage my experience to help solve problems for Americans by bridging my knowledge from Wall Street with what can help middle class Americans, and that’s when I decided to start EasyKnock. I view real estate as a market that is ripe for disruption.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

During the credit crisis when I was trading distressed securities, I learned a lot about risk. When I was working in the finance space, I lost money and thought I was going to be fired, so I worked twice as hard to really understand my business. This period also opened my eyes to just how badly the middle class was impacted, and inspired me to find a solution, ultimately leading me to start EasyKnock.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

First off, EasyKnock is the only company that offers a unique, 2-option business model — Sell and Stay, which gives homeowners the ability to access the value in their home without moving, with the flexibility to buy back their home or move at any time, and MoveAbility, which solves the widespread timing and financial challenge of homeowners looking to get out of their current house and into a new home. Additionally, EasyKnock solves an emotional and financial need for consumers — which is rare. Each story of how our clients came to use our services is unique, and each one adds a layer to our company that no one else has. Helping each and every one of our clients helps us better our performance, results and day-to-day activities.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Yes, EasyKnock’s first investors. They bet on me — not just my idea — and I am committed to making them proud every single day of my life.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Grit is resilience. It’s extremely important to move forward when it seems like the world is telling you not to. This causes some people to stand out from the rest, and it clearly shows through their business and the way they treat their employees.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My mom is the most resilient person I know. Growing up, she was a great role model and always gave everything her all. She taught me that I should believe in myself and to remain passionate about my endeavors, even if they are faltering.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

When I started EasyKnock, most people discouraged me and said it was a bad idea. I didn’t listen, and now run a successful and rapidly growing business. Every single day I aim to prove those voices wrong.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

As I mentioned above, the uncertainty during the credit crisis really inspired me to learn and master every aspect of my job. I knew that I could be fired at any time, so in order to make my value known, I worked day in and day out to expand my skillset. This allowed me to come out ahead, and set me up for success when I started EasyKnock.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Yes, I had many positive experiences, but most importantly, I had great examples that helped build my resilience. My parents didn’t accept laziness or taking shortcuts, and these values are part of my — and my company’s — core today.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

1) Thick skin

2) Not caring what others think

3) Perspective

4) Grit

5) Not taking things too seriously all the time

An example that intertwines with all of these is founding and running EasyKnock. If I hadn’t used the above to keep my head clear, there probably wouldn’t even be a story to tell, much less the success we’ve seen with EasyKnock.

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 lucky enough to be doing work that I am extremely proud of. I believe that EasyKnock is an already existing movement that has a positive impact on its customers. My favorite part of my job is helping people who feel like they have no options when it comes to their home, and seeing them breathe that sign of relief when we tell them they do!

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

There are so many people with great potential around the world that must be incredible to speak with. If I had to choose, I’d love to sit down and talk to anyone who risked their life for our country because it’s what I respect more than anything!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: “They told me it was was impossible, but I did it anyway”, with Jarred… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Maria Ross: “Here Are 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image”

Gather customer and employee feedback. There is no reason to rebrand if there is no reason to rebrand! Find out what customers think of the company, why they buy from you, what problem you solve for them, what value/benefits they receive, what they wish was better, why did they choose you over a competitor? How did they feel about your company before they became customers, etc. Then ask employees: What do you think customers expect of us? What would you like to be our reputation? What value do you think customers get from us? Do you think we live up to that now? What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses? Why are you passionate about working here? You want to gather both customer and employee feedback because rebranding is just as much about your market image as how your biggest brand assets, your people, feel about the mission and message. I have always loved that my client work results in market success, as well as reenergizing employees.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Maria Ross.

Maria Ross, the founder of brand consultancy Red Slice, believes cash flow, creativity and compassion are not mutually exclusive. Maria has authored multiple books, including The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success, which released this past fall. Maria understands the power of empathy on the brand and personal levels: In 2008, shortly after launching her business, she suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm that almost killed her and inspired her memoir, Rebooting My Brain. She has spoken to audiences ranging from The New York Times to BlogHer and has written for numerous media outlets, including Entrepreneur.com.

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’ve been in communications, branding, and marketing my entire career. I’ve achieved success on both the client and agency sides for companies such as Accenture, Discovery Networks, and many Silicon Valley tech companies, so in 2008, I took my experience and launched my own brand consultancy, Red Slice. I work with fast-growth companies and entrepreneurs to create an irresistible brand story, attract the right customer and clients, and accelerate sales and impact. The work we do is the solid foundation they need to amplify success and I have seen over and over again the power of an efficient and honest cross-functional brand strategy process. I was a marketing executive myself, so I understand that CEO’s and marketing leaders don’t have time for a 6-month navel-gazing exercise to find the right brand strategy. My work now combines many of my core skills;telling a compelling, creative, and clear story, facilitating unruly groups for maximum alignment, instigating and provoking (in a good way) to find the breakthrough, and focusing on bottom-line growth.

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?

It’s funny, ost of us consultants are our own worst clients! I had put together this effective brand strategy creation process that focused on making clients get clear about specifically what they do and which pain they solve. The challenge is to avoid defining too narrow of a niche but being very clear and focused so as not to be all things to all people. When a brand tries to be all things to all people, they end up being nothing to no one. And yet, when I first hung out my shingle, I advertised that I could “do it all!” when it came to marketing, from the strategic to the tactical. And of course, I struggled. No one quite understood where I played so my ideal clients were confused! I regrouped and narrowed down to the work I did best: strategic brand storytelling. Now I work with clients for six weeks, and then provide all the next steps and referrals they need to move forward. My referrals are far better suited to do specific tactical work. It was a game-changer and enabled me to raise my rates as well.

Be crystal clear about where you play and the problem you solve. It can be scary, and you may think you’re “losing out on all those other projects” but you’re really not. When your audience understands exactly what you do, when you take a stand and say, “I solve this pain point for you,” they are not confused and can immediately assess if you are right for them or not. The tendency is to go broad with the brand because we think we can attract more business. The reality is that just leaves people confused. And a confused prospect becomes someone else’s customer.

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?

The tipping point for me was following the advice I give to clients. As mentioned above, I was giving people a roadmap to success and yet not following it myself. I was “too busy” to worry about my own business.

It’s important to balance chasing sales with taking time to look at your own business from the customer’s point of view. Otherwise you get stuck in Ivory Tower thinking and lose touch with your customers. Revisit your messaging and brand strategy at least once per year. Markets, customer needs, and competition change.your own strengths and learning change. You get to know your customers’ needs better. It’s imperative to revisit how you are positioning yourself and ensure you are speaking your target’s language. Take the time to get feedback from them — often. Why did they choose you? What pain do you solve best? How do they use your products and services? The answers will surprise you. I’m constantly shaking my head when clients say they can’t make the time to do this because they are “focused on revenue.” You have to. It’s vital to revenue growth!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I just launched my third book, The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success: A Playbook for Brands, Leaders, and Teams and could not be more excited by the response. Empathy has been coming up with my clients in the last few years: They want their brands to “be seen” as empathetic. But what does that mean? How do you put that into action and walk the talk? Empathy is great, but does it impact the bottom line, or is it just fluff? I spent three years researching the data, interviewing experts, and compiling case studies to prove that genuine empathy is not just good for society, it’s great for business. How can a leader, team, or brand make it genuine? How can they flip the script on what success means? There is ample data on how leaders and brands have found success without being solely driven by greed. Conferences and companies now hire me for keynotes and workshops to show a better, more human, way to operate at work and with customers and (bonus) increase revenue, too. My mantra is “Cash flow, creativity, and compassion are not mutually exclusive,” and I show people why, and how to achieve success themselves. Companies and customers both benefit: More innovation, improved morale, better customer and brand experiences, more loyalty, higher profits — the list goes on and on.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Never lose touch with your customers. Dig beyond features and functions and find out how your products or services make their lives better. This will thrill you and keep you going. Even if your company doesn’t invest in any formal, consistent customer feedback (it should, but that’s a different problem), find ways to talk one-on-one with customers. Why did they choose your offering? What can they do now that they couldn’t before? What was life like for them before? Despite his mercurial leadership style, this was Steve Jobs’ greatest strength for Apple, profiled in the book. He was actually extremely empathetic and in touch with users and what they were trying to achieve, how they wanted to see themselves. When a burned-out marketer hears that her product or service has saved customers hours at work so they can now leave early and spend more time with their families, or how they grew their business 50% and got a promotion, or how they can accomplish a previously dangerous task much more safely, or how they literally could not do their jobs without it, you will be inspired. Knowing that what you do matters to the quality of someone’s life (B2C or B2B) inspires you with a larger purpose during those difficult times.

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?

Advertising and product marketing are actually two different things. But if we’re talking about advertising, that is but one promotional tactic in the marketing toolkit, which includes events, online ads, social media, videos, etc.

Brand is your core, your essence. It’s everything the company is, what it stands for, who it serves, and what value it provides. Brand strategy actually informs more than just marketing — it informs hiring, partnership decisions, and policies or procedures. When your brand strategy informs every possible customer and employee touchpoint, you’re walking your talk and that’s when you can have an “authentic” brand. You live your brand from the inside out.

Brand marketing is more about the overall story you tell, and what you are known for. Product marketing is more specific to the product itself, but it should tie into the overall brand story. Brand strategy is like the umbrella and everything else fits under it. Consider Honda. Their overall brand story is about safety, reliability and value. Their product marketing strategy and advertising go a layer down and talk specifically about a certain car model’s features and benefits. But it never conflicts with the core brand story.

Too often, companies think that “social media,” “PR” and “viral videos” are a brand strategy. They are not. They are tactics — and your brand strategy informs what you will do and say in each of those tactics. Otherwise, you’re just performing what I call “random acts of marketing.” Nothing makes sense, nothing works together. People don’t get a consistent story to understand where to slot your brand in their minds.

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?

Let’s be clear: a brand is an impression, what people think of you and what you do. You have a brand whether you “invest” in one or not, it just may not be the one you want if you’re not paying attention! All of the decisions made create your brand impression.

First of all, most markets are saturated, and we are bombarded with more daily information than previous generations consumed in a lifetime. Standing out is imperative in modern marketing. It’s not enough to have the best quality. People have to know you have the best quality, and they have to believe it, too. A friend of mine calls this being “quietly awesome” and it’s nice but leads to zero visibility and growth.

Standing out doesn’t mean you have to be edgy or extreme if that is not what your brand is about or what will resonate with your target audience. “Going viral” is not a marketing strategy.

There is a marketing and sales journey that many companies don’t appreciate. It goes from Awareness (Do I know you even exist?) up through Consideration (Do I have a need for this?) to Evaluation (Are you the right choice among others?) to finally Purchase. Some journeys take a few minutes or weeks; some, like enterprise software, can take months or years. You have to “woo” your audience. Many general marketing and advertising efforts are set up to do too much within one ad, email, offer and it’s like proposing on a first date. Whoa, slow down! People need to get to know, like, and trust your brand before they buy. That’s why social media, video, podcasts and other content marketing work so well., Offer me value, prove your expertise, and over time, when I’m ready, you will be the top-of-mind expert when I’m ready to buy. Referrals and social proof help accelerate the velocity, but what can you do as a marketer to move people through the journey?

Brand marketing is about awareness and is the air cover needed to ensure your ground game (specific tactics, direct marketing, etc) works more effectively. Once i know you and understand what you’re about, if you are for me, I’m more willing to open your email, pay attention to your offer, or accept the sales rep’s call.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

First, let’s be clear on what rebranding means. Remember, brand is more than just colors and logos. Brand is the core and essence of the business and is conveyed in three essential ways.

  • Visually: How the business looks: logo, colors, fonts, design, imagery.
  • Verbally: How the business sounds: company name, messaging, website copy, voice.
  • Experientially: How the business acts: policies, customer service, hiring.

When a company rebrands, they can tackle any one aspect of these. Usually the most powerful is “verbally” because that in turn can inform the other two. In fact, this verbal aspect, the messaging, is where my branding projects start. Because otherwise, how do you know what story you want to tell visually and experientially?

Companies rebrand for a variety of reasons: They are targeting a different audience, they offer a new value proposition, the competitive landscape has changed, their customers’ needs have changed, or they simply need to update a now outdated and irrelevant look or message and reenergize their customer base — and employees.

Understanding why you want to rebrand will impact your decisions about which of these aspects you need to tackle first. Uber, for example, needed to rebrand because of its horrible reputation of its former CEO, treatment of drivers, and passenger privacy. Clearly that calls for experiential rebranding on culture and how they do business. But they also wanted a fresh start with the public, so they tackled visual and verbal, too.

Brands can and should evolve. A design refresh or messaging update — even a name change — can be a great way to generate excitement and increase visibility but be careful. Don’t change every other six months. While you might be sick of your current brand, you may not have given your audience enough time to absorb and remember your brand story. Additionally, frequent rebrands make your company seem confused.

And remember: Rebranding in any form can be an expensive proposition so make sure you are doing so for the right reasons. A new logo or edgy messaging will never solve fundamental business issues such as poor merchandising, a toxic culture, out-of-touch products or services and bad pricing strategies, so look hard at the health of your company before you rebrand, and make sure it’s coming from a place of strength. Effective branding must start from the inside out.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Two big downsides; first, rebranding arbitrarily, without a keen understanding of your customers or without a clear brand strategy, and second, rebranding as a way to improve company health when the problem is more about operations, culture, or market relevance.

On the first, why do your customers buy from you and what are their emotional attachments to your brand look, feel, and messaging? Tropicana tried to change their packaging years ago and they lost sales as a result. People couldn’t recognize the product in the cold case, but they also had a strong emotional childhood connection to the brand packaging. They ended up wasting millions of dollars and going back. The buying decisions is not always rational, but if often emotional, even with B2B.

On the second reason, you can never “rebrand” your company back to health when the underlying problem is that it is fundamentally out of touch with the market or losing relevance to the competition GAP learned this the very hard way when they tried to change their logo a few years ago. There was practically a revolt. Firstly, it was a really poorly executed visual. It did not convey anything about what the company was all about — because they didn’t know what they were about or where they fit anymore. This happens when you don’t build your brand strategy first before communicating it visually. It becomes arbitrary and meaningless.

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.

There aren’t five cookie-cutter strategies that will work for every company and market. My job would be easier if there were!

But the best first step: Gather customer and employee feedback. There is no reason to rebrand if there is no reason to rebrand! Find out what customers think of the company, why they buy from you, what problem you solve for them, what value/benefits they receive, what they wish was better, why did they choose you over a competitor? How did they feel about your company before they became customers, etc. Then ask employees: What do you think customers expect of us? What would you like to be our reputation? What value do you think customers get from us? Do you think we live up to that now? What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses? Why are you passionate about working here?

You want to gather both customer and employee feedback because rebranding is just as much about your market image as how your biggest brand assets, your people, feel about the mission and message. I have always loved that my client work results in market success, as well as reenergizing employees.

Secondly, step back and facilitate a cross-functional discussion to openly discuss all of this input and come to aligned decisions on what you do, who you do it for, and what value you provide/want to be known for. Discuss your company’s personality and voice (what is genuine, not completely delusional!). You can then decide if these new insights require a new visual identity new messaging or new policies — or all three!

From there, you can determine what you need to “rebrand” and if you need to at all.

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?

I think Dunkin’ has done a remarkable job of rebranding to compete with Starbucks and other upstart hipster coffee shops. They’ve been around forever, enjoying a great reputation for their coffee. But they were often viewed as the slightly sketchy place where only cops got their coffee at 2 am. Now they have rebranded with new visuals, messaging, offerings, and mobile apps to compete with rivals. They are kind of appreciated as a “retro” brand, too, because they capitalize on their longevity — and the lines are often out the door.

I’m impressed by the precision and intentional pace at which they did this rebrand. They did this thoughtfully and in stages, which we can all learn from. First they observed the market and saw what customers wanted from the experience. They learned from the competition. Second, they started with a name change first (dropping the “Donuts”) so they could expand their offerings. Then, they rolled out their “store of the future” experience slowly. This tested new store designs, drinks such as nitro-infused cold brew, digital-ordering kiosks and their mobile app. Yet they kept their iconic and recognizable colors, as they knew they had brand equity built up in them.

This is no accident. When you take the time to thoughtfully consider what your customers need and your new brand strategy and story before you jump into a quick, sloppy rebrand, you’re more likely to place winning bets that work.

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. 🙂

As mentioned, my mission is to spread the word that empathy is not just good for society, it’s great for business. So I’ve been sparking an Empathy Revolution! We must flip the script on what corporate success means. The existing thinking is that we have to be competitive, nasty, immoral, take-no-prisoners in order to succeed financially — and the data and examples outlined in my book The Empathy Edge show that is the furthest thing from the truth. Employees suffer and burn out. Customers end up furious. Companies generate bad press and lose revenue. None of it is good.

We as humans created the current culture of corporate success. It’s not a law of physics. So we can change it! Our world is suffering from a giant lack of empathy these days, which leads to racism, misogyny, xenophobia. But we can do something about it by starting in the place where we spend the bulk of our time: at work. We can have more responsible companies, happier employees, and delightful customer experiences. We just have to start with one action, policy, or habit and watch the ripple effect. We can’t just act horribly for 9 hours a day and then expect we’ll be empathetic and compassionate when we clock out. When we are better people in our work lives, it transforms our personal lives and ultimately, our actions in the world at large.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

While this can lead to perverse justification for all kinds of horrible acts, I love this quote because it’s all about not worrying about what others think if you feel you are on the right path. Many times, in my work life and my business, I’ve been told not to say or do something that I felt was either morally the right thing, or was that the honest, genuine truth. I was told early on not to ever mention my side hobby of acting in the context of my business website, that clients may see me as “not serious”. Yet, being a storyteller is my business! I also was unsure about being so open about my brain injury years ago. But I weaved it into my business and wrote a memoir to share my story called Rebooting My Brain. This experience has won me clients who say, “I want someone with her moxie and grit!” Now, I stand out from the 9 billion other brand strategists out there! You will get more work and interest when you bring your personal passions and story to the table. And if you really, truly, in your gut want to write that book, start that business, take that disruptive market step, or serve that customer DO IT. Just be smart about it and seek wise counsel. If we all only did the things that no one criticized, we’d never get out of bed in the morning. And then we’d be criticized for that!

How can our readers follow you online?

You can check out www.red-slice.com to get to know me and my work and download a free tip sheet, 6 Signs You Need to Rebrand at https://red-slice.com/Rebrand.

Also, please follow me on social for more brand insights and inspiration: Instagram @redslicemaria, Twitter @redslice, Facebook @redslice and LinkedIn (please request to connect with a note that says you read this article!)

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Maria Ross: “Here Are 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Lauren Solomon: “Here are 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand

Lauren Solomon: “Here are 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”

Go within before going outside. This means to go to your employees for feedback, to really hear from them what’s working and not working. Based on that feedback you will know if you need to stick where you are or make some simple adjustments, perhaps a logo refresh which can give the company an entirely fresh approach to its marketing and messaging. As an example, when Chemical and Manufacturers Hanover Banks merged, we needed to revise the logo yet keep the essence of both. So we went to the employees for input. Based on that input we came back with 5–10 designs and created a core committee to do the work. Building excitement within the organization is equally or more important than building the excitement outside. What really excited people was that it was the first mega-merger on Wall Street. Yes, many jobs were lost, but many new ones were created. There were a lot of conversations that made it imperative to get input from the employee base before going to the marketplace, because getting the buy-in of employees gave us the support of 30,000 people who were also customers. Starting it from within was one of the major factors that helped to make it successful.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Lauren Solomon, President and Founder of LS Image Associates, Inc., CXO of SnappConner PR, and TV co-host of Good Day Orange County. She’s a trusted image advisor to CEOs, corporations and individuals throughout the world. Lauren is the former VP of Professional Image Development for Chase Manhattan Bank, author of Image Matters! and holds an MBA in Management from New York University.

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’ve been practicing image since I received my first makeup kit at age three. All these years later, I’m able to apply it to businesses, personal brands and much larger scale operations. It’s amazing what a makeup kit at the age of three can allow or create. The real turning point was an assignment “to create a business we would love to walk out to tomorrow” in a marketing class in the NYU Executive MBA program. This was it. This was my hobby. It was what I loved to do and did for family and friends in my free time. Everyone somehow walked into my closet and walked out happier, smiling bigger and feeling better about themselves. I knew there was something to this whole image and personal brand thing. That was the inflection point.

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?

Before I was in the business of image and fully understood the subtleties and meanings of different styles and colors and the impact they can have, I advised a colleague to wear suspenders and a matching pocket square. It was clearly a more formal than he needed. I suggested it as a way he could give his image a little bit of a “lift.” He went out and bought suspenders with clips, not the braces which button into the trousers. Shortly after, I dove into my studies and really understood the difference. I had to go buy him a new set of braces with coordinated pocket squares to correct the message in support of his personal brand. It’s the little things that make the difference and are the key to brand and image in the first place. That story illustrated for me that a massive makeover if not usually necessary, especially for people leading companies who’ve already achieved great things. It’s those little tiny tweaks, the two-millimeter difference or the two percent improvement that shifts the attitude and the energy of an image, and ultimately will inform the result.

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?

I’ve had the incredible good fortune of working with people who were truly visionary. When I discovered image as a corporate conversation, I realized fairly quickly that it was a true business bottom line conversation. The executives got it. They got it almost faster than I did because they could see how to apply it to all of their businesses and their goals. I could only see what I knew. They had a bigger, broader whole-business vision. When they took my vision and my dream and expanded it, it enabled me to see the overall impact of addressing the employees’ personal brands and how they flowed directly up to the corporate brand. The results were powerful. Until today it boggles my mind that every company and person everywhere doesn’t do this as a matter of standard practice.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am always working on new projects. I especially love creating “new” by expanding what’s already been done. My image and corporate work are my original passion — to help every person show up as their very best at all times. My work in brand and image has led to my deeper work in broadcast, and the work in broadcast is leading to the creation of new levels of passion-play and new opportunities to help broader and different communities that even six months ago I didn’t imagine. The connectivity between everything I do and the chance to layer on new opportunities excites me — every time I learn something a new layer appears and with each new layer comes a new community and opportunities to serve more people.

I’m in constant awe of the genius of my clients. In my corporate work, while we can’t name names just yet, some of the clients are responsible for world changing discoveries that with our help will have the benefit of an ideal brand and identity as they emerge.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

It hurts my heart to see people or companies develop their brands based on superficial assessments. Then, six months down the road they have to go back and redevelop the whole brand because it’s not who they are or want to be in the marketplace. Because they didn’t approach it properly from the beginning, it’s expensive and time consuming. It not only creates burnout, it creates frustration and a negative cloud that hangs over the brand development and, ultimately, the marketing, which should be exciting and fun.

The secret is understanding who you are today and identifying the bridges that will take you to the future. This requires visioning and dreaming which few truly allow for. If more people did this they’d have an easier time building the foundation of a successful brand. They’d also avoid burnout and the risk of leaving it up to others to define them. Ultimately, if you don’t define yourself from the beginning someone will step forward in a matter of minutes and their definition of you could be more convincing than your own.

Another secret — as you participate in the visioning and dreaming, instead of focusing solely on the product or service you’re selling, focus on all possible audiences, even those you’re not considering right now. Focus on how you will make their lives and/or the world better. If we could really speak to the ways all products or services change lives, we’d communicate differently, and in doing so would make our lives and our jobs so much easier (as well as provide a greater outcome for all).

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?

Branding is truly identifying who you are, who you want to be, and how you want to be known in the world. Brand marketing, then, is communicating that message into the world and putting it where your audience is, as well as where the people who don’t yet know about you can become acquainted. I see brand marketing as putting the brand in the right place at the right time.

Product marketing should flow from the brand. Your product doesn’t stand alone but is a piece of what exists under the umbrella of a brand. So while your brand is your global consideration, everything should flow up to the brand, ensuring that the alignment and the messaging are consistent. Product creation is what trickles down from the brand. The communication of each product must be in full alignment with the global brand message. You can’t market a product in a vacuum although, unfortunately, many try.

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?

From my perspective, the investment needs to start with the brand. Then you go to the marketing and communications efforts. First, you must know who and what you are. Then, you can sell something. You have to get that self-image and clarity around the core of the product or service or person you are introducing to the world. Once you do that, the rest of the communication should flow more easily. When we look at how this impacts others, the better you know yourself, the better I, the consumer, can feel that you understand me and can help me, make my life better. Ultimately, marketing and communication express how the product or service will make the consumers’ or clients’ lives better.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Number one, to stay current and top of mind; to be sure you are speaking to your audience and to where they are today. If you were selling a Ford Model T in its day versus a Ford SUV today, you’re speaking to different audiences, even though you’re basically talking about the same item. You must prove that you are current and at the top of your game. Then the listener/client prospect can trust and hear you. This is a great opportunity to show that you understand your customers’ issues and position your product relevant to their current needs.

Number two, when something major changes in the corporation or industry. It may be a small twist that’s needed or potentially a complete overhaul. But the internal organization needs to be reflected in the external brand. A change in the world may impact how and where you want to be known. So a new product, approach or technology would really force a rebrand to make sure that alignment is there.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Well, nobody knew what Google was until Google appeared. And why would “Apple” be a computer or a technology. Coca Cola comes to mind as an example of why to not rebrand when you are truly globally pervasive. When you are known for one thing, to try to step out and create something new may backfire on you. You run the risk of your current audience not agreeing with the direction you’ve taken, and backpedaling, maybe even retracting it. On the other hand, did you take the right time to brand well in the first place? The best brands are going to last for hundreds of years.

It is really important to understand the motivation for rebranding. This pertains to a one-person business as well. Initially, when I created my consultancy, I wanted to appear larger than a single person operation. So I gave the company a corporate name. Years later I realized “I am the brand.” Initially I wasn’t — I had a day job and I had my consultancy. So the branding was good at the time. When I realized it was time for me to step out as a unique entity, it was time to rebrand. That is something people should pay attention to.

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.

  1. Go within before going outside. This means to go to your employees for feedback, to really hear from them what’s working and not working. Based on that feedback you will know if you need to stick where you are or make some simple adjustments, perhaps a logo refresh which can give the company an entirely fresh approach to its marketing and messaging. As an example, when Chemical and Manufacturers Hanover Banks merged, we needed to revise the logo yet keep the essence of both. So we went to the employees for input. Based on that input we came back with 5–10 designs and created a core committee to do the work. Building excitement within the organization is equally or more important than building the excitement outside. What really excited people was that it was the first mega-merger on Wall Street. Yes, many jobs were lost, but many new ones were created. There were a lot of conversations that made it imperative to get input from the employee base before going to the marketplace, because getting the buy-in of employees gave us the support of 30,000 people who were also customers. Starting it from within was one of the major factors that helped to make it successful.
  2. Focus on a different strength of the organization. If you really look at the strengths of the organization and elevate different ones at different times you can give the brand a refreshed and re-energized approach to its messaging across a strategic combination of messages, which will speak to different audiences. By speaking to new audiences who perhaps haven’t heard from you before it appears as if a whole new brand has landed. It’s unexpected, fresh and new. For example, Delta Airlines has refreshed its look repeatedly over the years as a way of emphasizing the things they’ve done to stay current.
  3. Dress up your visual image. Dressing up your website or physical location can upgrade your visual image. Dressing up your personal or company “dress code” is a way of leveling up as well and signaling to your audience that you are stepping up and doing something new. Something as simple as a black and white photo of the SnappConner agency staff, before I joined them, for example, made it easy to tell the professional level and capacity of every individual on the team. Ill-fitting clothes, shop-worn shoes, poorly chosen eyewear or hairstyles, for example, send a message to the world about your confidence and capabilities which speaks volumes about your organization as well.
  4. Empower and engage every member of the team. In addition to visual image, the engagement of the company’s team members is vital. I will never forget, I was living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and heading to work on Wall Street. In the subway car I could hear two young tellers speaking ill of the bank they worked for, in very loud tones. I looked around the subway car and counted about 200 people hearing this message along with me. Everyone was being involuntarily drawn into these very big and negative opinions about the organization that was paying for their rent and their lives with only their teeny, limited view of what actually goes on at the bank. As an executive of the bank I imagined my bonus flying out the window as I realized these were the individuals who interfaced with our clients on a daily basis. This experience underscored the importance of the company sharing its dream and vision with everyone within the company. As a young employee, it wasn’t until I heard the CEO make a presentation about all of the hospitals, the schools and the projects the bank was funding that were bringing good to millions that I started to really understand what our company did and what my role within it was doing to support the overall success. Everyone should be included, from the top execs to those in the mailroom, in understanding the vision and being clear about the value they add and why they are there. And then they can be challenged to help embody that vision and brand in everything they do.
  5. Understand both your professional and your personal vision and mission. The piece about involving and including your employees should extend to the development of not only a professional vision and mission but of a personal vision and mission as well. People want to feel good about the companies they work for and buy from. In my case, it’s my love of animals that can influence my business choices. I use my business platform to support my desire to clear the shelters and encourage people to “Adopt, Don’t Shop,” and especially to rescue-adopt. When business and personal beliefs come together there’s magic in the power you will have.

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?

I can think of many examples, but one that is completely unexpected is not a company but a product or nature. The cauliflower. In 2018, Fast Company named it the trendiest product of the year, with data showing it increasing in purchase by 71 percent over 2017 and showing up in one report in 36 different products within a single store. First it was kale, then brussels sprouts, now cauliflower. Even chips and snack foods are touting the inclusion of cauliflower to make them “healthier” and more current. It’s now to a level that the rice industry has taken action to prevent cauliflower products from using the word “rice.” This brand makeover was the work of multiple organizations that weren’t necessarily working together, yet collectively have managed to make this plain, lowly vegetable one of the hottest nutritional trends. It’s brilliant and fun. And, let’s face it, if cauliflower can be pizza…well, you can be anything!

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’d say to remember that success is rarely about a particular technical skill, rather about finding and engaging the people around who share your vision to jump in and make it happen. This has happened again and again in my life. Michael Darling, my professor at NYU who gave us the assignment to create a business we would want to walk out to “tomorrow.” Jack Stack, head of the retail bank at Chemical Bank who saw the value in investing in the human asset of a business, the people, in a way that opened the door for me to introduce professional image. It was a groundbreaking initiative within a Fortune company to help elevate the employee base and help them better understand and exhibit their value within the brand. And Cheryl Snapp Conner (SnappConner PR), who as a client became a friend and, ultimately, an amazing colleague who saw the value of the work for one person and immediately envisioned the value on a broader scale. She brought it in house to her own organization which has become cutting edge in its approach to high impact and high standard communications, integrating the verbal and the visual in a way that has not been done in the past.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have two favorites. Both are credited to Sir Winston Churchill. “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” I believe that, and I appreciate that he was able to voice it so simply. The second, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” I believe deeply that as we achieve greater and greater things within our lives it is our absolute responsibility to pass that on to future generations, to teach and help them understand that their achievements come with responsibility. The belief that achievement allows purely for personal freedom is misguided. Achievement that begets true greatness requires taking on more and more responsibility to achieve well and to use the benefits you gain for good in the world.

How can our readers follow you online?

There are many ways! www.LaurenSolomon.com, LinkedIn (Lauren Solomon at LSImage), and at Facebook, Lauren Solomon.

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Lauren Solomon: “Here are 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Sara McCord of of Sara

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Sara McCord of of Sara McCord Communications

Take the time to work through a brand discovery process. Don’t simply assume everyone knows what you’re targeting: If you’re doing a rebrand, it’s because there’s a consensus that what you currently have can be improved upon. So, put the time in and consider what you want your new branding to get across, how it will be differentiated from others in your field, and so forth. I always ask my clients to pull examples of what they love and hate from top competitors in the field to add to the conversation.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview with Sara McCord.

Sara is the founder and CEO of Sara McCord Communications. She creates communications strategies and supporting content to help clients grow their businesses. She’s worked with companies and brands of all sizes, as well as individual thought leaders. Sara has spearheaded projects ranging from rebranding and multi-faceted marketing strategies; to writing and editing website, email, social, thought leadership, and ad copy. She has been published on Forbes, Mashable, Business Insider, The Muse, Fast Company, Good Housekeeping, and more.

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?

Absolutely. My journey evolved from content to content strategy to communications strategy. I started as a writer and editor at The Muse and contributing writer for Mashable. It was inspiring to see those companies evolve and catalyzed my interest in strategy and growth.

Fast forward, and as I worked with my first clients on content deliverables, I realized they were often missing a comprehensive strategy that would make these projects successful. They knew they “needed” an updated website or a social media presence, but they didn’t quite no why or how it could benefit them. It inspired me to learn more about the elements my clients had specific questions about: rebranding, SEO, social strategy — and my skillset and business grew in response to their needs.

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?

I created a Google Ad campaign around a dental implant procedure for a dental office. Naturally, we had to be very selective with our keywords regarding before and after pictures of implants, so that we were targeting a customer looking to makeover their smile!

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?

Absolutely. Along the lines of what I was saying before, I became more successful as I grew my skillset. Creating excellent content was a great starting point, but taking courses on SEO, email strategy, Adwords, Analytics, and so on meant I could create and execute comprehensive communications strategies with all of these elements in mind.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am. I’m about to launch my second business. My co-founder has decades of experience as a Biotech recruiter, and we’re going to work with Biotech startups to provide integrative branding, marketing, and talent acquisition services. She’s opened my eyes to how helping biotech companies find the right talent ultimately leads to improved patient outcomes. I’m also excited because I’ve never worked in a partnership before.

Some other exciting projects include helping a client with a growing thought leadership platform, seeing my small business clients grow year over year, and getting back into writing and contributing articles for my own brand.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

I would advise them to find marketing podcasts they really enjoy listening to. I think, in any field, if you stay in the same lane forever things can start to feel stale. Podcasts will expand your knowledge base and ignite new ideas — and there’s a new topic each week! My current #1 favorite is The Goal Digger Podcast with Jenna Kutcher.

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?

One way to conceptualize it is as the difference between generalizing and specializing. Your brand marketing needs to work across all aspects of your business, whereas your product marketing will be specific to the given product.

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?

Brand loyalty is a key component to repeat business. Even if someone loves a certain product or service, that’s not a guarantee they’ll buy from you again. They may comparison shop based on any number of factors (price, recommendations, etc.). Conversely, if they support your brand, there’s a trust and a relationship there and they’re more likely not only to buy the same product from you, but potentially be open to future products as well.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

I’ve worked with multiple companies on rebranding. Most often, they need to rebrand because they’ve outgrown the earlier representation of their company. The best-case scenario at this point is that it’s simply outdated and not doing them any favors, and the worst-case scenario is that it’s counting against them.

More specifically, if you consider your work to be edgy and modern, you want your branding to reflect that. If you have great attention to detail, if you’re creative, if you’re conservative — whatever your brand identity is — if the materials you pulled together when you were launching no longer give your customer an accurate sense of who you are, rebranding may be the way to go.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Obviously, a rebranding breaks brand continuity; so, if you don’t bring your current customers along with you, you can disappoint longtime fans. If they feel deserted and that the brand no longer resonates with them, it can translate directly to losing their business.

I would advise a company that was growing and already had a strong brand loyalty and customer base to think carefully before undertaking the decision to rebrand.

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.

  1. Take the time to work through a brand discovery process. Don’t simply assume everyone knows what you’re targeting: If you’re doing a rebrand, it’s because there’s a consensus that what you currently have can be improved upon. So, put the time in and consider what you want your new branding to get across, how it will be differentiated from others in your field, and so forth. I always ask my clients to pull examples of what they love and hate from top competitors in the field to add to the conversation.
  2. Improve your content and visuals: I know this one may seem obvious, but it’s so important. Rebranding indicates that you’re evolving and sharing something new. Take the time to revamp photos and reread messaging so you can be sure your audience sees a change.
  3. Get fresh eyes. A friend of mine who specializes in branding put it best: “We don’t cut our own hair.” One of the best decisions I made was reaching out to Hillman Ball of Mainland Creative for a fresh logo and brand kit as my company started to grow. It gave me an instant boost of confidence. Plus, when you work with someone else in the field, you grow your team and/or base of referrals for future collaborations. (We’ve worked together on numerous projects since then.)
  4. Ask for feedback. Do you know what is (or isn’t) resonating? Poll your audience and ask them questions around how they view your brand and what they’d like to see from you.
  5. Think about the big picture. Don’t simply change a logo or your colors or font and call it a day. If you’re rebranding, there’s a reason why. Make sure all of your efforts will advance your growth.

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?

The first example to come to mind for me is Airbnb. When they launched their new logo (several years ago now), it was accompanied with a brand story explaining what it represented. Also, it was forward-thinking, they went out of their way to select a message and logo that could grow with the company.

To replicate this success, you should be able to answer more than the “what” when you go through a rebranding process. What’s your “why?”

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. 🙂

My husband and I started the Moses Warren McCord Memorial Fund at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC. It’s a fund to support the most vulnerable NICU babies and their families, as our son passed away at 19 days old. I can think of nothing more impactful then helping families bring their babies home and showing up to support those who cannot.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Rachel Hollis says: “Hope is not a strategy.” In other words, you have to put the work in. I’m a working mom and a business owner, and I have to plan and execute to see things happen.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/saramccord

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarajmccord/

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 Sara McCord of of Sara was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image with AJ Adams

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.

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Patrick Ward of…

5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image, with Patrick Ward of Rootstrap

Deliberate, Delightful Design. Don’t neglect the power of sleek, beautiful design. Design is one of those unconscious elements that if you apply best practices you can elevate your brand to appeal to a contemporary audience. Failing to do so puts you at risk of looking obsolete or old school (Comic sans or Papyrus fonts, anyone), unless that is your intention. The point being, how your brand elements are designed creates an impression in the mind of your customer of who you are and your company ethos. This was particularly pertinent for Dogtown Media, a mobile app development studio. We had no updated physical marketing collateral that could be handed to clients, particular important as our deal sizes were increasing, necessitating in-person meetings, as well as being used for our events for attendees.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Patrick Ward.

Patrick is the Director of Marketing for Rootstrap, a full-service custom design and development agency that digitally transforms enterprises like MasterClass, Google, & Quartz. A writer by trade, Patrick has worked extensively across the insurance, real estate, finance, travel, and tech industries, with notable clients including Allianz, Cathay Pacific, and Fiji Airways. Currently he lives in LA, having been born and raised in Sydney, Australia, and is a diehard Steelers fan.

He is currently a member of the Forbes Communications Council, an invitation-only organization for senior-level communications executives, and the Ad Age Executive Collective, an invite-only community of noteworthy marketing and media agency leaders, marketing and communications executives, martech and adtech founders, and technology executives in the media space. He earned his Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies), majoring in Marketing and Political Science, from the University of Sydney.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Patrick! 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?

Starting college, I was very conscious that my major choice would be a reflection of my desired career direction. I experimented with a few areas: I tried economics, wasn’t for me. I tried finance, still wasn’t for me. I stumbled onto marketing and found my calling. Marketing fit me for two distinct reasons: 1) it’s an incredibly collaborative field, which fit my inherent extroverted tendencies and 2) it has an underpinning of psychology. I’ve always been fascinated with how and why people think the way they do. Marketing for me is using this knowledge to then effectively communicate to people from all walks of life. With that as my foundation, I’ve been able to transcend many different industries, leading me to the realm of tech which is where I apply my skills today.

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?

My first marketing job was as a copywriter for an ad agency based in Sydney, Australia. I’d learned the ropes of writing for SEO and our team was writing thoroughly researched blogposts for an insurance client. And when I say thoroughly, I mean thoroughly. We’re talking articles that would sometimes go through 30, 40 revisions — it was becoming farcical.

When I took on a travel client, I began traveling to different destinations and writing about the places I visited. The irony in all this — those pieces performed better both in terms of traffic volume and revenue than any of the articles I’d “written for Google”. Retrospectively, all I could do is laugh. How is it that the articles I stressed over for days at a time were worse than the quickly written travel pieces done in half an hour? It taught me an important lesson that I hold with me to this day: don’t get consumed by the tactics. Today’s marketing world is obsessed with tactics, but in this instance I learned to never lose sight of why and for whom you are performing a particular task. The travel pieces were written from my own experience, with a greater depth of storytelling: it’s really not surprising that they performed better.

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?

As occurs to many entry-level employees, there is a lot of feeling like you are spinning your wheels. Referred to as ‘paying your dues’ or ‘putting in the grunt work’, you can end up tasked with a multitude of recurring projects that are deemed suitable for someone for your level. This provides you with a breadth of experience but puts you at risk when applying for future jobs. The tipping point for me was when I began to own the business activities that I excel at and concretely focus on them. Can I write? Yes, I love to write; if this job requires heavy amounts of copy, I’m your guy. Can I design? Moderately, but I’m not going to focus on that, better left to a designer. The lesson here is simple: Be clear on what you do.

By standing firm on my exceptional skills, I attracted the roles that would allow me to excel. In an era of increasing specialization, it isn’t enough to simply be ‘ok’ at a task, you need to excel so identify early on what tasks you excel at. From applying this lesson, I also was provided with resources for the components where I wasn’t as strong, allowing me to have a far greater overall impact as my team members’ skills complemented mine, rather than doubling up.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My current company, Rootstrap, has provided me with enormous opportunities to pursue additional initiatives that further both my professional development and the company brand as a whole. Two major projects excite me at the moment: I’m building my portfolio of speaking engagements, developing myself as an authority in the marketing, social media, emerging technology, and career advice arenas. This is already starting to bear fruit as I’ve been invited to speak at the Influencer Marketing Conference & Expo in Los Angeles about the rise of LinkedIn as a content creation platform.

My other additional project is focused on a key passion of mine: mentorship to students. As a student myself not too long ago, I recognize the challenge college students face when determining a career, particularly in this job market where it isn’t enough to simply have a degree anymore. I’m continually finding new ways to partner with universities, whether with on-campus student organizations or guest lecture appearances, to educate and mentor students, especially seniors as they begin the unpredictable journey of transitioning to the job market.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Marketers are, by their very nature, ‘can-do’ people. They are creative, curious people that are easily excited by new ideas and initiatives. As a result, one aspect suffers: time. It might be tempting to try and do it all, but we all know that is physically impossible. The key is to set clear expectations with your manager about what can get done in a realistic timeframe. Your job is to then be accountable to that timeframe, especially since some marketing tasks are not always time-sensitive. Yes, you could take an extra week to do that case study, but you said you would deliver it in two so deliver it in two.

Beyond that, don’t be afraid to ask for resources. Companies are more than willing to spend money when it drives business outcomes forward. Talk their language and demonstrate, with numbers, how an additional resource will make you more efficient and get more work done.

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?

The difference between branding and advertising is synonymous with the difference between strategy and execution. Brand marketing is long-term in nature and focuses on the elements of your company that you wish to be known for in the marketplace. Design systems, voice, iconography, messaging all fit into this category and can not be chosen lightly. Product marketing is far more tactical by comparison — focused on the initiatives and campaigns that will drive immediate results for your business such as lead generation, customer acquisition, email list building, increased social media engagement. The key to determining which is which lies in the desired outcome. If you want to increase revenue or some other tangible metric by a percentage, chances are it’s advertising. If your measure of success is tied more towards your company’s vision and perception in the marketplace, that is branding.

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?

In today’s era, organizations are obsessed with short-term execution-based efforts for marketing. Indeed, this has coincided with the rise of a particular form of marketing: growth-hacking. While it is important to spend in these areas to generate sales in the short-term, advertising can not exist and be effective without the long-term foundation that branding provides. When you build a successful brand, short-term objections start to dissipate. No longer are the conversations about pricing or contract terms and how you stack up against side-by-side to the competition; suddenly the talk is transformed to be about value.

We all know the adage it is cheaper to retain an existing client than acquire a new one, and that comes from successful branding. When you have a brand that showcases your company as truly unique, trust and loyalty is imbued in your customers. As an added bonus, investing in brand building helps your short-term initiatives be more successful too, because you provide a framework in which your prospective customer can understand your product or service offering and how you can help them.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

The most imperative reason for a company to rebrand itself is rooted in philosophy. Namely, that the current company brand no longer reflects the day-to-day reality of the company’s position in its industry, its clientele, its current purpose, and the offering that it provides to its customers and society at large. If left to continue, a company will create cognitive dissonance in the minds of its stakeholders, leading to potentially disastrous results from a revenue perspective.

Another reason to consider rebranding is the converse: that their brand reflects TOO much of their reality and that customer base is shrinking or no longer values the product/service the way they did when they first started using it. In this situation, a rebrand is a necessity as the company will continue to decline without modifying its perception in the market.

Finally, if a company has very ambitious growth goals, sometimes the only way to achieve them is a rebrand. Perhaps the company’s brand started as an accurate reflection of their offering, but this brand is no longer sufficient to explain the new range of products and services that the company sees as key to its future success. Without a rebrand, these product line expansions or diversification of service offerings will fail to capture the attention of the market and thus produce the desired ROI for the company itself.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Marketers are incredibly creative; but don’t let them get too creative. With so much energy, sometimes marketing departments can be too preemptive and seek investment for a rebrand before it is due. The risk here is every time a rebrand is performed, two negative phenomena could occur: 1) you cannibalize your existing brand clout, potentially alienating your existing customer base and 2) your rebrand efforts are ignored by your new target audience, leading to a cataclysmic drop in company health metrics such as revenue and profit.

Every particular company has an opportunity to rebrand, especially given the inherent disruptive forces that exist within capitalism, but a rebrand should only be entered into to course-correct. If the company is declining already, then that might be a sign that a rebrand is necessary. If the company wants to enter an entirely new market, the same situation applies. But don’t undergo a rebrand just for the sake of appearing trendy — there is always a risk to action as well as a risk of inaction, and companies would do well to be mindful of that when evaluating if a rebrand is right for them.

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.

Start with the Story:

When we identify why a brand is no longer working for a company, the first area to investigate is the brand story. This tends to be an underlying assumption about a company and often overlooked, but a brand story dictates your entire brand’s position and therefore how it is perceived by the marketplace. A brand story is repeated across ad copy, email campaigns, websites, social media posts, press articles, the list goes on. Modify this successfully and you will be well on your way to crafting an authentic rebrand.

With this philosophy in mind, when I first entered Rootstrap, a custom web & app development agency, I sought out the story first. With a simple two page document, myself and the senior leadership team clarified the issue and rewrote the brand story. Why? Because our messaging made us appear to only appeal to motivated entrepreneurs with concepts of “bringing a product to life” and “helping your vision succeed”. That language was nice, but wouldn’t work on our desired audience: mid-market to enterprise level companies. By tweaking our story to focus on the business value we provide, combined with the verbiage of statistics, suddenly our brand started to sound less start-up and more in the vernacular of our desired clients: corporate.

Deliberate, Delightful Design:

Copy is important, even essential, but don’t neglect the power of sleek, beautiful design. Design is one of those unconscious elements that if you apply best practices you can elevate your brand to appeal to a contemporary audience. Failing to do so puts you at risk of looking obsolete or old school (Comic sans or Papyrus fonts, anyone), unless that is your intention. The point being, how your brand elements are designed creates an impression in the mind of your customer of who you are and your company ethos. This was particularly pertinent for Dogtown Media, a mobile app development studio. We had no updated physical marketing collateral that could be handed to clients, particular important as our deal sizes were increasing, necessitating in-person meetings, as well as being used for our events for attendees.

By partnering with our talented design team, we were able to create a sleek, minimalist design for pamphlets, brochures and event banners that presented ourselves as a polished, professional team to our prospective corporate clients. The impact of our investment in design was evident, not only did we get praise and delight from our clients, partners and attendees, we were also recognized by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals with a Gold Hermes and a Gold Marcom Award, as well as the American Advertising Federation, earning a Bronze Addy.

Don’t be Afraid of Humor:

When you started your company, perhaps you adopted a business persona with your brand. It makes sense because money is exchanging hands and there is a responsibility and duty between client and vendor. But what does that produce? A stale, boring brand. If you’re looking to re-energize, why not try a little humor. I inherited a brand while at a financial conglomerate that was, to put it nicely, neglected called efutures. It had been acquired years earlier and no one knew what to do with it. This presented an enormous opportunity — there was no existing voice and so it was effectively a blank slate. Rather than continue with the stodgy, stale tone of other financial companies, we decided to brand it via Twitter, since the target clients were DIY traders. Since the main product was futures and options trading on agricultural commodities, we creatively used farm-related puns and animal GIFs to rebrand our offering as approachable. Needless to say, the results spoke for themselves as in the 3 months following the rebrand, the efutures brand gained an additional $2.2million in assets, with Twitter as the originating source.

Humans Grow, Companies Don’t — Invest in Thought Leadership:

One of the biggest challenges with rebrands is that it is predicated upon the idea that companies can change. This concept is surprisingly difficult to convey to consumers as they tend to have a fairly rigid view of companies and how to categorize them in their mind. However, there’s no denying that there is one entity that people accept can change and grow: humans. Rather than pin all your rebranding efforts on convincing people your company has changed, used a surrogate in the form of a company spokesperson or thought leader.

At Dogtown Media, we were struggling to show how we were different, in a sea of very similar development shops. By investing in thought leadership via our CEO as a representative, we were able to demonstrate that our brand was not just suitable for motivated entrepreneurs, but in fact had the capacity and vision to achieve results for mature company clients. The corresponding social proof in the form of Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Next Web, and VentureBeat spearheaded our rebranding efforts as we moved from startup clients to niching down into the healthcare space. The elements that make this strategy successful are evident: powerful storytelling about personal growth from your human representative elicits praise, recognition, and clout that is easily transferable to your company.

Current Client Case Studies:

When a company decides to do a rebrand, the temptation is to start everything from scratch. Not only is this not efficient, but more often than not, you have the tools at your disposal for a rebrand, you merely need to modify those tools. When starting at Rootstrap and being tasked with repositioning them from entrepreneur to enterprise clients, my next step after modifying the story was case studies. Even if the broader market is unaware of your new offering, it is likely you have a few clients who fit that description, otherwise you wouldn’t be investing in that particularly area.

For Rootstrap, it was as simple as determining the client work that best demonstrated the type of company we wanted to be, and therefore drove the creation of the new brand. Instead of talking about bringing projects ‘to life’, we reframed stories to be about direct results: growing MasterClass to $100M, helping Ownable do $2.5M on Black Friday. A comprehensive case study does two things: it lays out the new foundation for how customers and prospects should understand your brand and it draws them in with a compelling story that can produce advocates and further advance your rebranding efforts as you look to penetrate the collective consumer consciousness.

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?

Brand makeovers are tricky business. They often can be flat-out ignored by the market at large, or create a visceral reaction from your customers. The ones we learned about in advertising lectures can seem like folklore — almost imaginary by their very nature. But when you see one performed successfully in front of your very eyes, and you can feel your perception changing, that is the sign of a quality brand makeover. Enter Bud Light — a stalwart of the American beer market, synonymous with blue collar, grilling steaks, and football. The problem? Declining sales in the face of increasing competition from craft beers and millennials who no longer identify with values of the past generation.

The solution? An innovative rebrand that made Bud Light reminiscent of craft beer competitors at the same time as implementing humor that drew in a new audience of millennials. I watched as I saw friends who would’ve formerly sneered at a ‘mass market’ beer, become transfixed with Bud Light. Beyond that, the unique messaging formula can be encapsulated by their partnership with Instagram meme accounts such as ‘Middle Class Fancy’ and ‘Classic Dad Moves’. The memes focused on fathers who were traditionally big fans of Bud Light, invoking feelings of nostalgia in the millennial generation of familial memories. The rebrand formula here is simple: remind people of your brand’s history, but show how you have transformed and grown to attract a new market.

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. 🙂

The movement I would like to inspire is very simple: a foundation of self awareness. It is a scary thing to truly know oneself, and consequently so few people are willing to ask themselves the tough questions. As fear-inducing an exercise as that is, it is not a reason to not pursue it. Self awareness and being brutally honest with who you are, and what you stand for is the key to success. The lack of it is a recipe for failure. For too long have I been dismayed at friend’s who take degrees, jobs, and even careers because of family, friend or societal pressure, without putting their own desires first. I like to say that, “only you can be your number one fan”. When we understand exactly who we are and show up in the world that way, we operate at an ideal level that makes the maximum positive impact on our communities. That’s the key to elevating human consciousness.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

For me, a life lesson quote needs to encompass a philosophy of how to conduct oneself over the course of our lives. With that in mind, my favorite quote is the Persian adage, “this too shall pass”. The modern world has created a substantial consciousness of anxiety and stress, as people search for meaning and purpose in their lives. This existential indecision manifests itself in unhealthy ways, which I’ve particularly observed residing here in the United States, where people are desperately seeking to have everything be ‘awesome’ in the lives and end up dissatisfied. I draw great inner strength from this equivocal quote that reminds me to keep life in perspective, to not get arrogant in victory or despair in defeat, and ultimately to keep a balanced and clear mind on all of life’s trials and tribulations.

How can our readers follow you online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/patrickjamesward) or they can visit Rootstrap’s website (www.rootstrap.com)

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 Patrick Ward of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Liz Goodgold: “Here Are 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image”

Dig Deep to Identity Your Brand Persona- Too many executives are afraid of projecting their brand DNA for fear of offending others. However, successful brands carve out a niche and project it proudly knowing full well that some customers will dislike them, but that they will also earn raving fans. Death Wish Coffee, for example, understands the coffee fiends who are their core customers. On Twitter, for example, one post reads: “DRINKING MY COFFEE. DON’T TALK TO ME” repeated 5 times. Hysterical! They also have the courage to post this statement on their site: 100% No-BS Guarantee.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Liz Goodgold. Liz is a branding expert who works with entrepreneurs and corporations to brand and speak better. From managing part of the $650 million Quaker Oats brand, she shares how to brand out, stand out, and cash in on your brand. With a fireball of energy, Liz has custom-created talks for Pfizer, Warner Bros, Meals on Wheels, Qualcomm and 200 plus other companies. Quick with a quip, she’s been on every national news channel and 2 TV series including Hollywood Scandals and The Kennedy Files. She’s also the author of 3 books including RedFire Branding and How to Speak Gooder.

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’ve always been fascinated by brands starting with Bonnie Bell, Jordache Jeans, and Candies. How did they become hip? How does a brand retain cult status? How does a brand remain relevant and yet differentiated? These are the same questions that drive me today.

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?

I started the DUH! Marketing Awards as a way to fuse learning and laughter. Before the Internet and viral content, my newsletters were everywhere; I even called my first book DUH! Marketing. And, then the reality hit: I couldn’t get hired by the companies that had just received an Award! With the recession of 2007 putting my livelihood in peril. I changed my company name to RedFire Branding representing not only my fiery personality and red hair, but as a symbol of rising out of the ashes of the downturn in the economy.

I learned that first impressions of brand names matter. If you’re delivering a speech called DUH! Branding and meeting planners don’t know you, they’ll assume that you’re mean and nasty. Get the name right the first time.

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?

My business blossomed by publicity. Articles, interviews, podcasts, and TV appearances were a major boost. Lesson: boost your visibility to boost your profitability.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’ve been coaching many executives recently on speaking better because it forms the foundation of their personal brand. Since first impressions are rampant, it’s imperative that you speak with authority and authenticity. It’s time to kick to the curb the “likes” and other speaking disfluencies that are killing your credibility and career.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

It’s important to step away from the job, the PC, and your phone. The world isn’t coming to an end if you don’t respond immediately. Unplug and repeat as necessary.

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?

A brand is your promise to the customer over the lifetime of your product or service. Advertising is an ephemeral ploy to get folks to buy now. One is a long-term proposition and position, the other is a temporary marketing message.

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?

Creating marketing messages without understanding your brand DNA is like putting up a for sale sign without the address. You don’t know where to start! Investing in branding early saves headaches later.

I frequently see clients who tell me that they are having a copywriting issue. Wrong! They have a branding problem. You cannot write one word of copy without understanding your target, point of difference, personality, vocabulary, and promise.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Renaming is at the heart of rebranding. Changing a brand name is serious business; you must weigh the positives of a new name against the negatives of losing any derived brand equity. A company should rebrand because of the following reasons:

  1. It’s Negatively Impacted by The News — Note the discussions about TikTok looking for a new name to disassociate itself from its Chinese roots.
  2. It Is Wrapped Up in Merger Mania — We are seeing fewer “squished” names. 20th Century Fox is now rebranded as 20th Century Studios.
  3. The Name Has Negative Connotations — Do you remember the ’70s appetite suppressant, Ayds? Obviously, chewing the caramel candies doesn’t transmit AIDS, but the tie-in between the brand and the disease obviously hit consumers hard. It died a quick death.
  4. It’s Outgrown the Name — A great example is Boston Chicken converting to Boston Market. Modem Media remains ripe for a name change adopting the more modern name of its parent, Digitas.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Legacy brands should hold up their heritage. The New York Times, for example, established its tagline of “All the news that’s Fit to Print” in 1897 and it still remains relevant today. Even with its digital version, the brand persona as the authority of news remains apparent.

Another brand with a great heritage is Wells Fargo. Established in 1852, the brand should never abandon its iconic stagecoach.

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.

  1. Dig Deep to Identity Your Brand Persona- Too many executives are afraid of projecting their brand DNA for fear of offending others. However, successful brands carve out a niche and project it proudly knowing full well that some customers will dislike them, but that they will also earn raving fans. Death Wish Coffee, for example, understands the coffee fiends who are their core customers. On Twitter, for example, one post reads: “DRINKING MY COFFEE. DON’T TALK TO ME” repeated 5 times. Hysterical! They also have the courage to post this statement on their site: 100% No-BS Guarantee.
  2. Develop A Brand Vocabulary — Dogpile, for example, uses “go fetch” vs. go search; it’s a great example of understanding your brand imagery and appropriate terms.
  3. Change Your Name — The HVLS Company (High Volumes of Low Speed air) caused quite a ruckus when it adopted the Big Ass Fan moniker. Some customers hated it and the company posted their unhappy comments; unheard of at that time. Today, the company is the Big Ass Solutions and it continues to push boundaries. See for example, its You Tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmIYMqTao0A
  4. Invest in a Good Tagline…and Keep It — Too many companies confuse a tagline with a slogan. A slogan is an ephemeral phrase attached to a particular ad campaign whereas a tagline explains the company’s life-long brand promise. The Ultimate Driving Machine (BMW), Tyson (We’re Chicken), Coleman (The Outdoor Company) remain true to their positioning.
  5. Consider a Mascot — We all smile at Tony the Tiger and Mr. Peanut (who recently died during the Super Bowl), but mascots can work for smaller and business to business brands too. They humanize a brand, simplify a complex message, and boost recall. Hootsuite (owly), MailChimp (Freddie the chimp), Linux (Tux the penguin) have all found a way to make them work.

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?

Old Spice is a great example of a phenomenal makeover. It not only introduced hip commercials, but also changed the message at its core. It went from the old, staid image of a ship to embracing new packaging, adding new scents (Fiji anyone?), and a brand promise of embracing manhood. The key lesson is that it’s never to late to reinject energy into an older brand.

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. 🙂

Think like your customers. Stop focusing on your marketing and your desired results, ask the prospect!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Freedom lies in being bold.” Robert Frost’s quote exemplifies the purpose of branding: to take the risk to stand out. If everyone agrees with your brand strategy, I guarantee you don’t have a compelling brand.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://redfirebranding.com/

https://www.lizgoodgold.com/


Liz Goodgold: “Here Are 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future is Now: “How 5G technology will impact and change our lives”, with Ericsson’s Peter…

The Future is Now: “How 5G technology will impact and change our lives”, with Ericsson’s Peter Linder

Peter Linder is Ericsson’s 5G Evangelist, responsible for 5G Customer Engagement Marketing in North America, and has been with the company for 26 years. As a top 100 global influencer on 5G, Peter’s expertise is in fixed and mobile broadband networks, plus digital transformation for network operators. His experiences come from marketing, strategy, business development and portfolio management roles. He blends this with his strong passion for mentoring about digital transformation. At Ericsson, Peter is focused on 5G’s ability to shape the future of connected technology and ultimately how 5G and IoT, in combination with developments in technology and society that enable digitalization, will change the way we work and live. Beyond the 5G ecosystem, Peter has extensive knowledge on smart cities, Industrial IoT, virtual reality, autonomous transport and more. Peter speaks three languages and considers himself a global citizen. He holds a M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and an MBA in International Business Management, both from Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Peter! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I made my first career decision when I was eight years old at The Swedish Grand Prix in Formula 1. I loved hanging around in the paddock. When I understood the role of the car wings, I decided to become a professor in aerodynamics. I got my first job at 11, and by the time I started high school, I had pivoted to electric engineering. I got an internship one summer at a Swedish silicon provider and from that point and on, I was able to see just how far my wings could carry me — often far away from home.

I got accepted at Chalmers University in Gothenburg and graduated with two Master’s degrees, which became my two entry tickets into my life-long career at Ericsson. My role you can say is split 50/50 on three fronts: Broadband Networking, half fixed and half mobile; International Business, half global and half U.S; and finally Innovation, which includes the intersection of tech and business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My most interesting story happened recently. During 2019, we kicked off a leading-edge marketing partnership with Verizon in the U.S., targeting 5G for their enterprise customers. I was selected by the customer unit’s head of marketing at Ericsson to speak at an event. This gave me the chance to earn their trust and participate in thought leadership opportunities with our enterprise customer’s team. The experience was really rewarding and gave me the confidence I needed to share my ideas with the team and help Verizon convey the message of the power of 5G. How often in one’s life, do you get a chance like this to help your customer’s customer?

The exciting moment came on June 6, during the 75-year anniversary of the D-Day, on the aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York City, where over 500 people were in attendance. Leading up to the event, I asked my wife to take time-off and join me during this exceptional moment in life.

I rehearsed my 20-minute session by walking around for three hours in lower Manhattan to get into the right mood. This included talking to myself, waving my arms, and essentially appearing crazy to those people walking by. When I finally took the stage later that evening, it was such a release of energy. A bit like compressing a coil for 2 months and then letting it expand in 20 minutes. A moment of great joy!

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

I see my current role as riding two bullet trains at the same time. One is the industry transformation driven by 5G and the second is the transformation of marketing, where digital and human marketing is integrated with sales. The combination of the two make my professional life interesting.

The first four mobile network generations were about consumers, phones and networks. Today, our phones are smart, the high-speed data connectivity is universal and our apps are based in the cloud.

The fifth generation aka “5G” is ground-breaking on multiple fronts. The network itself is an innovation platform. We have defined 5G with businesses, consumers and the government needs in mind. We’ve also expanded the telecom ecosystem to reach into every connected industry such as manufacturing and healthcare. The technology approach is new, where network hardware is shared rather than dedicated to a specific network function. The software also defines the capabilities of the network, creating the dynamic network that can accelerate already dynamic markets.

How do you think this might change the world?

Each mobile network generation has shrunk the world. First, we gave sales professionals tools to make phone calls on the road, responding instantly to customers and placing orders when they left their customers. Second, we allowed everybody to text or mail questions from a portable device and expect instant responses. Third, we eliminated borders for digital work, mobile data cards and MiFi routers made remote working a daily occurrence. Most recently, social media and apps have changed how we market goods and services and enable digital businesses.

5G shrinks the world even further. We will be able to measure actual purchase and usage patterns for products and services and apply those insights in real time. We will be able to learn instantly by asking Augmented Reality glasses for instructions for the new tasks we face. Response times will be eliminated for cloud-based applications. As if Alexa was sitting next to you all the time. Manufacturing and logistics move towards one click purchases and same or next day delivery. Powered by the movement for the fourth industrial revolution. A large chunk of the unlocked values comes from untethering devices. 5G allows value adding elements to be combined flexibly without dependency on wires.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I think the biggest challenge businesses face is seeing 5G as a faster version of 4G. We expect 5G to grow in phases, rather than be switched on everywhere at once, with different versions and varying capabilities. I think businesses should avoid seeing 5G as optional with the expectation that they can thrive without it or be a fast- or late-adopter.

5G will play the role of mission critical infrastructure for the future economy. We need to make sure it is secure, reliable and available all the time. This includes ensuring that it is operational indoors and outdoors. By the end of this decade, 5G can be the most important infrastructure in our economy.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Ericsson has a strong track record at navigating mobile network generation shifts. It is the only company in the world to do so for all shifts from 1G to 5G.

There are a few things I think have been key to our successful shift to 5G. First, we took the decision to double down on technology development ahead of the inflection point. This paid off with superior performance and competitive cost in time to accelerate the build-outs. Second, a laser focused approach on the markets taking off first. The U.S. has been instrumental in setting up an accelerated agenda for 5G standards and early adoption. The third and final piece is early access to how global leaders think in different industries. Allowing our 5G agenda to be shaped by other industries way ahead of switching on the first 5G network.

What do we need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

The adoption of 5G smartphones is a strong indicator in the consumer segment. What we see now is phones coming to market earlier in more variants than we saw for 4G. The adoption of 5G also has strong potential to transform fixed broadband outside the fiber footprint.

Adoption in the business segment depends on cross-industry collaboration to perfect solutions and business models for use cases and use places. A task that depends on learning by doing, and then scaling fast. Nail it then scale it, is an approach we can expect to see frequently.

The third large field of adoption is for smart cities and the clever countryside. To improve and secure vital society functions, we reduce the digital gap to rural and micropolitan areas rather than increasing it. No country will forget to make cities smart, but efforts are required early on to make sure the clever countryside happens soon after cities become smart.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

For the introduction of 5G in North America, we are pursuing some innovative tracks.

First, we are bringing 5G to life locally. We have a long history of creating 100-ish amazing showcases and bringing them to our biggest trade show in Barcelona every year. Ten to 20 representatives from each of the biggest Tier 1 providers get to see these showcases. Last year we packaged up the best ones and brought them to our communications service providers’ offices here in the U.S., reaching hundreds of people each day in each city we visited.

Second, we have taken marketing one-step further towards the end-customers. We go out with communication service providers and co-market 5G to B2B and B2B2C companies locally. This is so we can make the business sector excited about 5G and provide an opportunity to learn at home rather than going to a 5G conference.

The third element is the integration of digital and face-to-face elements of our content marketing. Our face-to-face touchpoints are diverse, and digital elements play a key role in the customer journey in between. Digital is less about activating assets and more about designing them into a tailored customer journey. For the digital portion, we experiment a lot and pivot frequently.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

This question would generate a long list of recognitions, so rather than select a single person, I am going to share examples of valuable learnings from those that have inspired me.

  • One recommended me to support our CEO in a TV interview overseas and meet/brief them on the flight over, giving me the responsibility to make sure we had all our bases covered ahead of time.
  • One sent me to rebuild a damaged customer relationship, which required 10 overnight flights overseas in a single quarter. It is a skill to travel even if you are not a pilot.
  • One asked me to unwind a standardization dead-lock, since I had personal relations in both camps. The takeaway from that was to invest in building relationships when you can since there will come a time when you need them.

Overall, I think you can describe Ericsson as real-life business school were you continuously learn from new cases and get to work with some of the best in our industry.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This question is hard to answer. I am not sure if I am the egg or the chicken in these stories, but the three examples below stand out:

By dedicating my whole professional life to broadband networks, I think I have made a difference. We now have access to any person or insight in the world at the palm of your hand and it’s at a price a large portion of the global population can afford. It’s amazing since I got my first mobile phone when I was 29.

  • If you ask my wife, she would tell you I take on the role of tourist guide wherever I go. Through exceptional travel and long periods abroad, I have developed a high cultural bandwidth. I am eager to help people bridge cultural differences. Talking and texting with an accent signal you know at least one more language.
  • I am at the point where I have started to give back. I am active on the board for Chalmers Alumni Association in North America, where I’m working and fundraising to send American students to get their Master’s degree at my Alma Mater. I have also spent time to be a digital mentor through a blog, where I have documented my 200 best professional learnings. Check out www.tweeterlinder.com if you are interested.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. You cannot plan a career — I expected my first international assignment to be five years, it turned out to be 19 months. My second I planned for three years and I have not returned. But you can learn every day and be open to exciting opportunities as they open-up along the road.
  2. Prioritize learning languages — This area is often deprioritized by engineers. I graduated high school with a decent amount of English, but horrible French. I picked up Spanish when I was on an international assignment. The reward came during an evening conversation with natives close to Machu Picchu in Peru. It gave me so much perspective and it was an experience made possible by speaking Spanish. So my advice is to learn to live with an accent — I have it for all the languages that I speak.
  3. You cannot explain everything with logic — We cannot figure out everything through thinking. The world we operate in is complex and sometimes the best decision is to start moving and learn and pivot along the road. A good piece of advice is to prioritize progress before perfection. It makes you start in time and give you a mindset that works well in a digital world.
  4. Your passions are life long — It is hard to formulate a career idea when you are young. When you hit the mid-point of your career, you have a solid idea of what your passions are. Passions are life long and dare to steer towards working with what you love. It is the single most important aspects that make you do a good job every day. Not all us get to pursue our passions, but we owe it to ourselves to try.
  5. Look eastbound for your long game — Not all cultures are equal in long-term strategic views and short-term execution. I have always had a better long game than short game and pushed myself to develop my short game. But a real eye opener came during a dinner with a senior leader in North East Asia. He had a phenomenal perspective on how businesses can be driven to deliver value from operations or assets. Developing your long game is tough in an action -oriented world centered on quarterly results.

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?

One movement I would love to trigger could be described as “Crisp up, do not dumb down.”. We live in a world where attention spans are growing shorter and shorter. We live in a world that is growing more complex every day. In such a world, you can contribute to help other people see in areas where you have important and unique insights to bring forward.

Use clear facts to describe what you see. And use all 36 letters in the alphabet, do not exclude 0–9. Talk in plain language, buzzwords and acronyms allows you to get airtime, but few if anything of what you say get picked up. Some people think in words and others in numbers. But do not forget to use a picture or a metaphor to make your insight stick. I see a strong need for a crisp up movement in many areas of society today.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never give up, always fight back”.

In 1979, I lost 46 competitive Tennis games. All the games I played that year. In an arts class in school later that year, I was asked to paint something that could have a positive impact on my life. I “painted” the letters above in bold colors and have kept the painting ever since. It symbolizes the grit anyone can put in and everybody need to reach far in life. My success has come more from grit and persistence than raw talent.

Some well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

The best learnings about 5G can be traced back to Richard and Maurice MacDonald when they opened their first hamburger restaurant in 1948. By focusing on two points, finding a great location and providing the best burgers in town.

It is hard to define the use cases that will drive 5G with a high degree of accuracy. But a good start is to define great use places where 5G can make a difference, and the first use case that can motivate network investments at that location. Once you have vetted a use place opportunity, you will have ample opportunities to scale them to new locations, add new use cases based on customer input and cross pollinate for adjacent use places.

For good reasons, you cannot buy French Fries & Company or Soda & Company. Treat the 5G use place you want to go after as if you were creating a franchise and focus on getting basics right first.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

If you have read this far, I hope I got you excited to remain connected with me. I am active on LinkedIn, Twitter and contribute to the Ericsson blog regularly.

If you think, I have professional insights to learn from you are welcome to visit your digital mentor.


The Future is Now: “How 5G technology will impact and change our lives”, with Ericsson’s Peter… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” with Matt Seltzer of S2…

“5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” with Matt Seltzer of S2 Research

A company would want to rebrand when they realize their values don’t align the values of their customers. When we’re talking about building a great brand, we’re really talking about creating an experience that fits with what your customers are looking for. That’s about values, and what those values are isn’t up to you. A brand would want to rebrand when they did their research, and from that, learned that who they are now isn’t who they need to be in order to attract the right customers. The indicators to look for is unrealized potential. Maybe that means your brand isn’t capturing the full market potential, or maybe it’s a slip in return customers. You’re looking for a misalignment in what your customers are looking for and what you’re delivering. When you find that, it’s time to examine the brand.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Matt Seltzer, the owner of S2 Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm located in Las Vegas. A life-long marketer, Matt’s overseen research and marketing projects at ad agencies and brands across industries like travel and tourism, hospitality, services, education and real estate. With S2 Research, Matt’s working with marketing teams as their outsourced market research team. Providing the services of an in-house market research department, Matt works as a fractional market researcher for marketing firms.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Matt! 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?

Absolutely. I always wanted to work at an ad agency, and got my foot in the door with the market research team at an firm in Las Vegas. That experience showed me a whole side of marketing I didn’t know about, and I ended up falling in love with the market research part of the process.

Last year, I decided it was time for a new challenge, and started my company S2 Research. We facilitate market research for marketing teams, doing everything from the upfront legwork like gathering the right data, to delivering the outputs like creative briefs, summaries and content. It’s been a really great experience!

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?

One of my first big brand research projects was laying the groundwork for a pitch my agency was putting together. I pulled together some great secondary research, and converted it into a 10-page document that covered everything from demographics to psychographics to ethnography and belief systems — you name it, it was in there.

My boss’s big takeaway from all of that research? It was way too long.

After that project, the account lead really helped me hone in as to what it is a marketing team is looking for in research. Usually, it’s something succinct that they can quickly wrap their heads around. When doing market research, there’s some very important to be said about brevity.

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?

The tipping point for me was when I realized how much energy I got from doing freelance work. When it’s just you and client, it’s your brand and reputation on the line. For me, that makes me inclined to try out new ideas and be more creative.

The big change I made after that was starting S2 Research. This company really lets me take my love for marketing, branding and research and bring it all together in such a great way for my clients.

The lesson here is really to listen to what makes you feel the best. Even when you’re in the right career, if there’s a way to extract even more pleasure out of life, pursue that path. You and your work will be better off for it.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m excited to be speaking at a few marketing and communications conferences in the next few months. I really love the environment and energy at meetings and conventions — everyone’s always pumped to learn, grow and connect. Being able to speak in these high-energy environments is always a blast.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Audio books. I know working in this field, finding time to read can be a pain, but books about marketing can really keep you fired up. Switch to audio books through your local library and an app on your phone, and you can turn all of your driving and gym time into a chance to reignite the marketing fires.

A few books I’ll recommend to get started are Contagious by Jonah Berger, Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath, and Measure What Matters by John Doerr.

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?

Product marketing is about telling people what your product can do for them and why they should buy it. Brand marketing is about how you make those people feel, even when they’re not going to engage with your product.

Imagine you’re selling cheeseburgers. Your product marketing is going to describe what the cheeseburger offers the customer: the great taste, how well it satisfies hunger, the value for the price, and whether or not the burger includes bacon.

The brand marketing might not even mention cheeseburgers. Instead it’s about the entire experience, like the quality of the store and the interactions with staff, or the overall atmosphere of the interaction. It’s the takeaways from that experience that have very little to do with the product — the things that made you feel good, bad or indifferent — that are going to stick around with the customer. That’s the brand.

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?

Continuing the cheeseburger example, your customers aren’t always going to want to purchase a cheeseburger. Sometimes they’ll want a chicken sandwich, or a salad, or they’re just not hungry. Because of this, the goal of the brand isn’t to sell cheeseburgers, but to make sure that when the customer does want a cheeseburger, yours is the one that comes to mind.

Marketers need to be developing top-of-mind awareness both when customers are in the market to buy your product and when they’re not. When they’re in the market is advertising, and when they’re not is branding. Both are important.

This is why we see so many brands engaging on social media with jokes, memes and giveaways. These outlets do not sell cheeseburgers directly, but they help their brands maintain positive awareness in the cheeseburger-want downtime.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

A company would want to rebrand when they realize their values don’t align the values of their customers.

When we’re talking about building a great brand, we’re really talking about creating an experience that fits with what your customers are looking for. That’s about values, and what those values are isn’t up to you.

To answer your question, a brand would want to rebrand when they did their research, and from that, learned that who they are now isn’t who they need to be in order to attract the right customers.

The indicators to look for is unrealized potential. Maybe that means your brand isn’t capturing the full market potential, or maybe it’s a slip in return customers. You’re looking for a misalignment in what your customers are looking for and what you’re delivering. When you find that, it’s time to examine the brand.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Building a new brand is a lot of work, especially when you take internal culture into account. If a company is going to undergo a whole do-over on their brand, the juice really needs to be worth the squeeze.

Remember, what your brand is now might not be as far away as you think from what it needs to be. Rebranding is a lot of work, because you’re fundamentally changing who your business is. When you identify an indicator like I mentioned before, a few small changes might be all it takes to get a brand back on track.

The brands that need to take rebranding caution are the legacy brands — the ones that have stuck around a while in a community or industry. A lot of businesses try to completely reinvent themselves when markets shift. Remember, there’s emotion built into those kinds of situations, and brands should always consider building and capitalizing on that history before throwing it away.

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.

  1. Research is step one. You need to have a pulse on your audience, and that comes from listening the right way. This could be a survey, or your marketing team sitting down with your audience. However it happens, your goal is to understand who your customer is and why they want to engage with your products or services.
  2. Number two, you need to do some inward research as well. Look at yourself, your company and your processes, and compare them to what you learned from your audience research. There will be a lot of gaps, but also some bright spots. The latter are the things you want to explore.
  3. Build on your ideas and experiment. If your customers are looking for an inviting space, play with design and colors. If they’re looking for content, then build out a content strategy. You’re not always going to get it right, but like all marketing you’ll see a few things work. Those are the data-points that signify you’re on the right path.
  4. Make sure you engage with your customers authentically. Participate in the events that they care about, and be present and involved in the spaces where they spend their time. If your audience listens to content, get your team involved in podcasts instead of going the advertising route. If your audience is on social, create social content that they really want to engage with and share. Really become invested in your audience’s lives and participate in a way that’s real.
  5. The most important strategy about rebranding is to live your new brand. Your entire organization is what brings a brand to life, and the only way it’s going to come together the right way is for your business to truly be what it says it is, inside and out. If your brand is about fun, then your culture needs to be fun. If you’re providing one-of-a-kind experiences, then your culture needs to be one-of-a-kind. Live the brand, because your customers can tell if it’s just a façade.

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?

Domino’s did something really amazing when they told everyone their pizza sucked a few years ago. I remember in the 90s thinking the same thing.

In the 90s, Domino’s didn’t care about delivering great pizza — they cared about getting you dinner fast (30 minutes or it’s free, that was their brand). But by 2009, delivery was common, and people really cared about taste.

Domino’s rebrand was transparent, which really resonated with me. I agreed, the pizza was no good. Admitting that, they convinced me to try their new pizza recipe, which was a big step. On top of that, the new pizza was actually good, meaning they delivered on their brand promise.

More than ten years later and I’m completely on board the Domino’s train. They built a foodie brand, and my wife and I are foodies, so now we love Domino’s. This is a big deal coming from a guy who wouldn’t even touch a Domino’s pizza growing up.

The thing that brands can take away from this story is the transparency, and the fact that they actually delivered on the new brand promise. It really hit home with exactly where the audience — people like me — needed to be hit.

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. 🙂

Come up with good marketing.

I’ve always struggled with the idea that marketing is this deceitful thing that convinces people to buy things they neither need nor want. But there’s some really great ideas, products and services out there, and they have real audiences that will love and appreciate them. Marketing is about bringing those buyers and sellers together.

The best way I know to go about it is to create marketing that really interests the people your product or service is right for. I don’t mean things that deviously persuade people into ‘clicking here’ or ‘buying this’. To do it right, brands need to research who their audience really is, and then build something that’s really great for them.

A world where every brand does nothing but tries to do good for their customers is a very cool world to live in.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve always loved ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’ I know that gets wrongly attributed to Ghandi a lot, but it’s stuck with me as something big and profound.

Being the change you wish to see isn’t about inciting a movement. Instead, it’s about acting as if the world were already perfect, and you’re just living in it.

I always think of shopping carts as an example. I’m frustrated when people leave shopping carts lying around, and sometimes I also get the itch to be lazy and not want to return my shopping cart. When that happens, I think of the world ‘as if’ everyone already put their carts away, and then it just feels natural to go with the flow and do the right thing. I’m not changing the world, but participating in the perfect world as I see it.

Whether you want to do something like build a whole market research company, or you just want to see more people put their carts away at the grocery store, it’s important to remember that anyone can embody change. Act on what you know to be right, and the rest will fall into place.

How can our readers follow you online?

Definitely check out my blog at S2Research.com, or feel free to reach out on LinkedIn or Twitter too!

Blog: https://www.s2research.com/blog

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewseltzer/

Twitter: @S2Research

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 Matt Seltzer of S2… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” with Fabi Paolini

…I also believe it’s a good time to rebrand if you as an entrepreneur don’t feel excited about the work that you are doing. This means that you need to look into understanding what is missing and what you can improve in your confidence around your business.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Fabi Paolini. Fabi is a brand strategy and online business coach helping entrepreneurs feel and position themselves as authorities online, build premium brands that attract and captivate their ideal audience with powerful marketing strategies that convert. Originally from Venezuela, Fabi is the secret weapon behind hundreds of brands and businesses online, helping them radically transform the way in which they are perceived.

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’m originally from Venezuela where I had a successful business working as a brand designer. My business was built entirely on word of mouth — which meant that my marketing efforts were honestly inexistent. All I had to do was make my clients happy, and that always brought in new people my way. Fast forward to the end of 2015, the political climate in Venezuela started getting complicated, and my family and I decided to leave Venezuela and start all over. That meant that I had to basically launch my business from scratch. I had zero contacts, zero leads, zero online presence. I took over 15 online courses and coaching programs in a year and took massive action in building my own business. I failed miserably at first listening to what everyone else was teaching, until I started to apply more and more of my own experience and knowledge. After all, I had an MBA and had worked with successful million-dollar companies and global brands back home.

Everything started to change, and I went from making $3,000 per month, to $40,000 per month within a year. So essentially, I started teaching others how to do the same, bringing together brand strategy and marketing and helping entrepreneurs position themselves as authorities online. It’s a pretty incredible story considering that as an immigrant with zero digital marketing experience, my business now generates over $500k a year — all through digital marketing.

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?

When I started discovering more about digital marketing, I decided to create a video series called “The Brand Experience.” It was 5 days long, each with a 5-minute video. Those videos took me hours to record. I was so focused on making them perfect and making sure I sounded “professional” that I completely lost myself in the process. Even worse than that, I was SURE I was going to become a millionaire from it, so I reached out to a few designers in case I needed to hire a team.

I didn’t make ONE sale from it. I find it pretty funny right now, but back then I was super upset. Here’s the thing — what I have learned is that building a successful brand is a result of you being yourself and having the capacity to connect with your audience. I was so focused on making my video series perfect that there was absolutely no personality behind it, so my message (or lack thereof) didn’t resonate with my audience.

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?

Absolutely! My tipping point came the moment I decided to stop focusing on marketing and start refining my message. I got really clear on three core things. First, on understanding what was my differentiating factor. What were the things that made me unique as a brand? Once I got clear on this, I was able to leverage it in my marketing and general communication. Second, getting crystal clear on my audience. Understanding exactly what their problems were so I could speak directly to their pain. Finally, learning to communicate based on outcomes. One of the major mistakes entrepreneurs are making is simply stating what they do.

For example, I used to say I’m a brand strategist and designer and I build brands that attract.

There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with that, but it doesn’t say anything to my audience.

Now I say, I’m a brand strategy and business coach and I help entrepreneurs feel and position themselves as authorities, create premium brands that attract and captivate their ideal audience online.

It really comes down to understanding the value that you deliver. When I acknowledged these three things, it gave me the confidence and certainty that I needed in order to take my business to the next level.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! One of the things I am focusing on right now is hosting a week-long bootcamp to help entrepreneurs leverage their messaging and positioning and create content that captivates their ideal audience and takes them to 6-figures in their business. I’m hosting this bootcamp 6 times during the year and my intention is to give entrepreneurs a completely new vision on their brand and marketing strategy.

I’m excited because this is something completely different from what everyone else out there is teaching, and it gives me an opportunity to truly engage with my audience.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Two things. First, I would say to make sure they are building a business that feels right to them. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of following what everyone else is doing in terms of marketing and even in terms of goals. You have to get honest with yourself and understand what it is that you want to do and why you are doing it.

Secondly, it would HAVE to be to work on their mindset. This has been fundamental in my life. What I mean by this is doing the personal development or spiritual work that you need to stay focused and with a high energy. It’s extremely easy to get sidetracked with obstacles and challenges, and you need to be mentally strong to be able to get back up again and again, as many times as it takes.

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?

For me, branding is about understanding who you are at the core. It’s about getting massively clear on your message, your differentiation factors and your major outcomes. This is what allows you to position yourself in the minds of your consumers as the correct option for what they need.

On the other hand, when we talk about product marketing or advertising, we’re focusing on specific things you might be promoting — such as a program, course, or product. Here’s the thing, if you don’t have a well-defined brand, it is likely that your product marketing will fail. The reason for this is that we live in a highly competitive world and if you don’t give your audience a reason to pick you, they simply won’t.

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?

Building a brand is no longer a ‘nice to have’ it’s an absolute ‘need to have’ if you want your business to thrive. Because of the nature of the world we live in, market saturation is at its peak. This means that there are hundreds, if not thousands of people out there trying to sell a similar product or service to your same audience. The only way to truly be successful is by having a brand which allows people to connect with you.

When we’re talking about branding, it’s not just about having a logo and a nice font. For me, your visual brand is the cherry on top. Branding is actually about building a voice, a message and personality that stands out from everyone else making you the no-brainer choice.

If on top of this, you can do a good job of positioning yourself as an authority, it means that you are able to stand out from your competition, attract even higher quality leads, command premium pricing as you increase your perceived value and create more demand.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

I believe that rebranding is fundamental specifically when you are at a point in your business when there’s simply a disconnect. Again, it’s not only about working on your brand identity (logo, colors, fonts), but about truly uncovering what your core message is all about.

I believe it’s fundamental for businesses to rebrand if they are having a hard time making connections with their audience and also within the company culture. You want to look at your values as an entrepreneur and see if your message aligns with your current beliefs.

I also believe it’s a good time to rebrand if you as an entrepreneur don’t feel excited about the work that you are doing. This means that you need to look into understanding what is missing and what you can improve in your confidence around your business.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

If you have a brand that is strongly established in the market, a business that is growing, a clear positioning that you as a business owner are excited about, you should absolutely not rebrand.

Basically, if you are happy with the results you are obtaining you don’t want to fix what’s not broken.

That being said, I personally believe that even if you are well positioned in the market, but as an entrepreneur you are not aligned with your message, it simply will not work in the long run, and I would rather you rebrand, than lose momentum in your business.

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.

The way in which I focus on branding is through what I call the Brand Strategy Pyramid. This method essentially ensures that you start to look at your business as a whole instead of looking at separate pieces which have nothing to do with each other.

At the base of the Pyramid is the Brand Foundation. To me, this is THE most important part of your brand as it provides clarity on what makes you absolutely different. For example, I’ve worked with multiple health and fitness coaches over the years who need to do a great job at differentiating themselves from everyone else because of the over saturation of their industry. Brittany Lake is one of the coaches I’ve worked with and she focuses on intuitive weight loss so her message is all about creating food freedom — which is essentially about being able to eat what you want as you listen to what your body asks from you.

We wanted to make sure that what she was offering was not simply perceived as one more ‘diet and exercise’ program — so we constructed her communication around her own experience with truly understanding how your body works. You can get a sense about her brand and messaging just by looking at her website’s homepage.

To give you a contrasting example, I worked with another company in the same field, BadassGRLBoss whose message is all about helping women feel unstoppable. This is all about empowering women to have the body they can feel sexy and powerful in. The brand image is completely different, as well as the message.

They are two sides of the same coin. Your job in the process of building your brand is finding the best ways to be able to use your authentic voice in order to stand out from others. No matter how saturated your field is, there is always an opportunity to say things in a different and unique way.

The next part of the Brand Strategy Pyramid is your Signature Offer. This also gives you an opportunity to do things in a different way. Because of the world we live in, there is an over saturation of almost everything. Your job is to become the bridge that takes your audience from where they are now to where they want to be. You want to bring in something different and offer your audience an opportunity to truly solve their problem at the core.

It’s also important that you learn how to communicate your value based on outcomes while showing your audience that you can help them solve their problems.

Essentially, what you want to bring in are the things that make you different and leverage those in order to make a powerful offer that gets people real results. What I want you to understand is that you need to be the one that goes the extra mile. You want to be the person that is offering something in a way that no one else is offering it right now. And this needs to be present everywhere in your sales process. This is all a fundamental part of your branding process.

As an example, I worked with a doctor who was having a really hard time selling a program to help women sleep better. So, as part of her branding process, I helped her get clarity around her offer and the things which she is really great at. We uncovered that what she really wanted was to help women reclaim their health and we created a completely different program that focused on helping her clients on a whole different level.

At the top of the pyramid, we have the marketing strategy and visibility plan, and these have to be connected to your offer and, more specifically, to the outcomes that you help others achieve. I believe that your marketing strategy needs to be a reflection of the value you provide. It has to focus on positioning you as an authority, delivering value and overcoming common objections. However, once again, your marketing also needs to come from who you are and what makes you different. All of this needs to show up in the way in which you generate visibility and deliver daily content to your audience.

Finally, when we look at your visual brand, it’s crucial to ensure that everything you put out there is consistently doing a phenomenal job in building your authority. You want your logo to be professional and your photographs to truly lift you up. These are all things that help to establish the trust you need in order to influence how others perceive us.

As an example, I worked with a financial coach that was having a hard time positioning herself online and it really all came back to her not having a brand that was doing a good job of showing her authority. So, we went in there and transformed the way she looked, up-leveled her design and made sure her brand truly represented her value. You can clearly see that it looks like a completely different brand.

What I want you to understand is that when we talk about branding, it’s not just about working on the logo, it’s about looking at all of the elements that make up the brand. Essentially, it’s looking at everything that helps to shape people’s perception around who you are and what you do. While a logo and visual brand is tied to it, this perception is made up of all the components that communicate your voice, vision, mission, purpose, passion and message.

The more you look to bring these pieces together cohesively and with heart, the more powerful your brand will be.

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?

What I see happening globally right now is a simplification of brands. We see this happening left and right. Businesses are going back to basics. They are removing the fluff and focusing on what’s at the core.

A great example of a brand makeover was the one Mastercard went through a few years ago. People would generally think there is no need for this well-known company to even touch their brand as it was a legacy in the marketplace. However, they went back to their roots and went as far in as to offering a new service, MasterPass with the launch of their new, simplified image.

They were looking to speak to a younger audience and to stay fresh and top-of-mind. It wasn’t just about the logo, but about elevating and amplifying the message of such an iconic brand.

Again, it goes back to understanding that it’s your job as an entrepreneur to stay up to date with digital marketing and branding strategies that will allow you to stay top-of-mind and be THE choice for your consumers. You should always be challenging yourself and, even if you are at a comfortable place right now, ask yourself “how can my message be conveyed in a better way? How can I be better at communicating and speaking to my audience?”

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 think that doing what I do right now is really important. People need to understand that when we talk about branding it’s really about helping them transform the way that they see themselves. As human beings we tend to be so hard on ourselves. We go through constant self-doubt and have this eternal mental chatter that is always telling us we aren’t good enough. I believe that branding gives us the opportunity to truly connect back to ourselves and to who we really are. It gives us a chance to see what makes us different so that we can rise up to our worth and start seeing how deserving we truly are.

I believe that the more people can step into this position of certainty, confidence and conviction, the bigger impact they can go on to make in the world. And this is a direct result of branding when it’s done well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Right now, my mantra is “My success is inevitable.” I truly believe that the most important thing we can do in our businesses is focus on giving real value. I always say that you want to be so good, you can’t be ignored.

Anytime I have doubts around myself and the next step I need to take in my business, I go back to remembering how, by giving as much of myself as I possibly can and just moving forward, my success is inevitable. Simple.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on every platform (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn) as Fabi Paolini. You can also sign up for the free 6-Figure Breakthrough Business Bootcamp to help you leverage what makes you unique and captivate your ideal clients online as you develop your brand, right here: www.fabipaolini.com/bootcamp

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 Fabi Paolini was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rising Through Resilience: “Being able to truly know your strengths and opportunities is a game…

Rising Through Resilience: “Being able to truly know your strengths and opportunities is a game changer!” with Melissa Chordock, President of AKT

Self-Awareness. Being able to truly know your strengths and opportunities is a game changer! It is important when building a team and especially in a business when you are interacting with others regularly to know your own personality. What is your comfort zone? Surround yourself with people that will challenge you to grow outside that zone but also who have different strengths and weaknesses and can support you while you grow.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Chordock, President of AKT, a national boutique fitness franchise. Melissa is a seasoned operator with a demonstrated history of success in Brand Strategy Development and Execution in the health/wellness and fitness industries. She has 6 years of experience in Boutique Fitness Franchising, 15 years history in Retail Management and is passionate about growing and developing strong and supportive teams. Melissa is passionate about health and wellness and is a firm believer in the power of movement and mindfulness.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I grew up in retail — literally! Some of my earliest memories are playing Bloomingdale’s with my cousins- not just store, but always Bloomingdale’s specifically. I was very close with my grandma who had worked at the Short Hills, NJ location and I had wanted to be just like her- poised, polished, refined, and sophisticated. I was lucky enough to land a summer internship at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street in the summer of 1999 and never looked back! I spent about 15 years in retail total, 13 at Bloomingdale’s in store-line management, and 2 at specialty brands. When I left Bloomingdale’s, I felt a bit lost- it had become such a part of who I was and I was struggling to find a place I belonged. This is about the time that I discovered SoulCycle! Back then there were only a handful of locations in NYC and it felt like my secret oasis where I was part of a secret community. I felt like I belonged in that dark room with blasting music and that is where I realized I needed to be part of a community, but I also wanted to focus my career on building communities and giving that sense of belonging to others.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

The most recent and relevant interesting thing to happen in my career would likely be the manifestation of my current role. Prior to AKT, I was with a small barre concept and very aware of what was going on in the boutique fitness landscape. I admired Anthony Geisler and Xponential Fitness from afar, and when I heard about the AKT acquisition, I literally said, out loud: I NEED TO BE A PART OF THIS!!

Searching the internet for clues on how to get involved became a part of my daily routine; and then a few weeks later I received a call from Michael Ruiz from Global Talent Solutions- and as they say, the rest is history! I truly feel like I put it out in the universe… and someone was listening!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

AKT is special in so many ways! While the phenomenal, ever changing, comprehensive and efficient programming is a major differentiator in the boutique fitness space, the most special thing about AKT is absolutely the community.

AKT has this incredible way of captivating a community before studios even open with branding that exudes positive energy and a bit of mystery. I am continuously blown away by the response in every new market we activate in. Our dedicated Franchise Partners and studio teams often kick off their community introduction campaigns by hosting a pop-up class. An event recently held in Columbus, Ohio drew in nearly 250 attendees- that’s more than 8x the size of a normal class! As AKT grows into a global brand, I see community continuing to be a significant part of the culture, but in new ways. Our members experience the same choreography at any given time across all studios, opening up the opportunity for dialog on our social outlets across studios, states, and countries around shared experiences.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

At the start of my career, I was very lucky to hit it off with several senior executives that took me under their wing and served as unofficial mentors. They each guided me in different ways supporting my leadership development and my self-confidence- they taught me some humor and wit too…! One of the most impactful pieces of advice I received early in my career came as I was walking to Bloomingdale’s to start my internship — “Don’t forget to say please and thank you, it will get you everything you need here”. Given this was New York City, it really did serve me well! My first boss, Phil Amandola, told me that “there is nothing more powerful than a woman in a stiletto” and has supported me and a healthy shoe addiction for the past 20 years.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

To me, resilience is not just the willingness, but the ability to get back up after getting kicked in the gut- every. single. day. When you believe in something so wholeheartedly that you know you’ll find a yes in a sea of no. Sometimes it’s a cause or a business, but truly resilient people believe in themselves and understand that every setback ultimately makes them stronger.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod embodies true resilience and strength. He has fallen in the public eye and has been fully committed to owning his mishaps and rebuilding not just his image but who he is as a person. I admire the way in which he chose to move forward.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I probably have told myself “that’s impossible” way more than anyone else has. I tend to be pretty hard on myself and am always looking to better my best. But I think that is a pretty common trait. At AKT we see people pushing past what they thought their limits were each and every day. We have members that say “I can’t dance”, but 2 weeks in and they crush the choreography and have a new confidence in their ability to move. Nothing prepares you for AKT, AKT prepares you for everything else.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Running a young business is emotionally challenging! Every single day the team and I are learning something new while trying to drive the business forward with new partners. I’d have to say that every ‘no’ still stings and feels like personal rejection, but we choose to look at each ‘setback’ as an opportunity to grow and learn something new in order to be better prepared in the future. As most, I have experienced personal setbacks too. A few years back I was training for both the Chicago and NYC Marathons and was having a great training season that had me confident I would be able to achieve my time goal. However, I wound up fracturing my foot 3 weeks out. The healing process forced me to be more patient and pay closer attention to details, as well as the value of slowing down to speed up — all things that have served me well professionally too.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I had a pretty calm and stable childhood, but unlike many of my friends, I did not always get what I had wanted at the time- this is probably when I began to come to terms with the ‘no’. When I was 13, my parents pulled me from the sleep away camp I had attended for 5 years and forced me to go elsewhere- I was furious! No amount of screaming, crying, or tantrums would change their minds! As the summer grew closer, I knew I had no choice and that I could either be miserable for 8 weeks or muster up the strength to have an open mind. While that first summer was most definitely NOT the best summer of my life, I did go back 4 more years, make some great friends, and meet my husband of nearly 17 years.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

I believe perspective and attitude are everything and the way one chooses to view situations and life contributes to their overall resiliency. I have some mantras I try to remember and put into practice:

Long Short Road vs Short Long Road

I recently heard this in a speech and it truly resonated with me. In business, we often want to grow and be the best immediately; but it can’t always happen like that. I have found that there is value in being on that long short road- when it feels like results are not happening fast enough, it’s key to take that time to analyze opportunities and build infrastructure- essentially plan for the inevitable rocket ship of success to seamlessly support it when it arrives.

Everything Happens for a Reason

Cliché, but true. There’s a reason things happen the way they do, even if it’s not clear why at the time.

Stay Humble, Hustle Hard

It’s great to celebrate the wins and we should, but it’s also important for me to remain humble so the drive to succeed is always alive.

Self-Awareness

Being able to truly know your strengths and opportunities is a game changer! It is important when building a team and especially in a business when you are interacting with others regularly to know your own personality. What is your comfort zone? Surround yourself with people that will challenge you to grow outside that zone but also who have different strengths and weaknesses and can support you while you grow.

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’d love to inspire people to move their bodies everyday — to gain the drive to keep at it even when it seems impossible. If that can be experienced as a community, even better!

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I guess I would have to defer to my answer above: Alex Rodriguez

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: melissaleighcc

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-chordock-58b10a2a/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Rising Through Resilience: “Being able to truly know your strengths and opportunities is a game… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” With Alexander Porter of…

“5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image” With Alexander Porter of Search It Local

Look within. This is a branding mistake I’ve seen countless companies make. They think upgrading their mission statement, or tone of voice, or content schedule will change their brand. But an apple is rotten at its core. For companies who want to upgrade and re-energize their brand, the most powerful changes start within. Let’s say you’ve built a negative reputation among your customers. Rather than move locations, change CEOs or target new customers, start by looking at your own business. What can you do differently to change the opinions of your dissatisfied audience? When you’re truly honest about your own brand, you can make changes from within that can save time and money on a massive scale.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Alexander Porter. Alexander is Head of Copy for Sydney marketing agency, Search It Local. Helping over 3,000 Australian businesses to find their voice, Alexander is a Leukemia survivor and experienced creative with over a decade of experience as a freelance and agency copywriter. His greatest achievement can’t be noted here, because it hasn’t happened yet, and that’ll always be his mindset.

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?

Thank you for chatting with me!

When it comes to getting to know me, I’d like to think I’m layered, like an onion.

But the reality is I’m probably more one dimensional, like onion soup.

As for my career path, I’m an Agency Head of Copy at Search It Local, a Sydney-based marketing agency with over 3,000 clients across Australia.

While I love my role, and the impact it can have on small business owners, it wasn’t where I originally pictured my life.

In fact, when I was 19 I wanted to become a historian. To the point I was mid-way through a History degree at Sydney University when I started feeling run down and tired.

Blaming it on the active lifestyle of your average teenager, it ended up being Leukemia.

I spent the next 244 days in hospital fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) across 7 rounds of chemotherapy, and my whole world was flipped upside-down.

I’m not sure any of us know why we were drawn to the career paths we find ourselves in, but when I was told “you’re cured, go home” I realized I didn’t want to be a historian anymore.

I felt like I’d endured a traumatic event that people knew was tough, because everyone knows cancer is, but that I wasn’t able to properly convey how it was affecting me.

It was like waking up and speaking a brand new language that no one else could.

So I felt isolated and alone.

And the only way I knew how to share my experience, was to write.

And so I did. I wrote about how it felt when chemo pumped through my heart. I wrote about how it felt to see my ward mates pass away. I wrote about the guilt of surviving when others, equally as deserving as me, would never wake up to another sunrise.

And I realized, that a career in writing was for me.

It was a way for me to express who I was. More than a ‘Cancer Survivor’ which was a label I never felt fully comfortable with.

Yes, I had cancer. But that wasn’t the defining feature of me. But at the same time it WAS a major part of who I was.

So I used the skills I was learning as a young writer to remove the label of ‘Cancer Survivor’ and replace it with ‘Storyteller’. I didn’t just survive cancer, I tell the stories about it.

No matter what my official label has been since — freelance copywriter, junior copywriter, copy manager, Head of Copy — I am, in my heart, a Storyteller.

I guess you’d say the rest is history.

Telling stories and marketing bisect in the middle, and I’ve forged a successful career in marketing as a result.

Now I get to tell stories of business owners across Australia, as well as my own, and there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

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?

I work closely with an SEO team here at Search It Local.

In fact, ‘SEO copywriting’ has become near and dear to my heart. But in my early days as a writer I failed to see the value of SEO and it bit me in a HUGE way.

To give some context, I’m a lover of travel.

Ever since my days in hospital with Leukemia I dreamed of going around the world. It was an escape from reality to leave my frail body and go on journeys around the world in my mind.

So, when I got my strength back, I brought those visions to life.

And travel was great to me! Every trip made me feel more and more ‘alive’, which was a feeling I’d missed for so long.

And as a young writer it was a natural fit to turn my travels into a personal branding exercise.

So I created a travel blog, and a brand around myself, called ‘Inked and Abroad’.

As someone with an affinity for tattoos, and for travel, this name was a natural fit.

In my words I was a ‘tattooed traveler and teller of tales’. I’d provide travel guides, reviews, lists, essays, pretty much anything I could think of to bring my love of writing and travel together.

Here’s where I made a HUGE mistake…

I didn’t know anything about SEO back then.

And being a creative I thought standing out was the ultimate metric of success — after all, the travel blog space is so heavily saturated.

So instead of creating a travel blog, I created a brand around a ‘Travel Glob’.

Yep. That’s right.

I thought the word ‘glob’ sounded much funnier than ‘blog’ so I used it across my entire personal brand.

In my URLs, in my Page Titles, in my copy. Everywhere.

Let me ask you a quick question, how many monthly searches are there for travel BLOG?

Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands I’m guessing.

Now, how many people were searching for travel GLOB?

None. Zero. Zilch.

I’d built an entire personal brand around a keyword that was invisible outside of spelling errors.

Looking back it was a branding mistake that makes me laugh. Because it shows the divide between pure creative and technical writing.

They’re infinitely stronger when paired together. And as I proved in a branding disaster that took a long time to fully undo, they are considerably weaker when apart.

So if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that time spent planning is never time wasted!!!

And if you misspelled your search for ‘travel blog’ and found my ‘travel glob’, well then you’re the real MVP.

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?

I remember my first freelance writing job like it was yesterday.

I was paid $5 for a 100 word article.

As a fresh-faced and idealistic young copywriter I couldn’t believe someone was paying ME to write an article (which I did for free for my own portfolio anyway).

I was so ecstatic about it that I wrote TWENTY of them for this client.

Looking back, being paid $100 for 2000 words isn’t a great financial decision on my part.

I don’t think I’ll be invited to speak at any money management courses.

BUT, it showed me the value of time.

And though it took many years before I fully owned that value, it was a lesson that’s stayed with me.

The moment I started to see success as a freelance writer came around 4 years later. I was a freelance journalist for a publication, ‘Goal! Weekly’, that covered Australia’s domestic soccer league.

In this role I also covered an international soccer tournament — The Asian Cup — which was hosted in my home city of Sydney, in 2015.

Surrounding myself with journalists and writers of an international quality showed me what was expected of great writers, and what great writers expected in return.

Following the completion of that tournament I returned to traditional freelance work and started charging for what my time was worth, not what others tried to price it as.

I think that’s a lesson all young writers can learn.

That’s not say you should set your hourly rate at $100 the moment you begin your career, but don’t let others undervalue your time just because your CV isn’t as full as theirs.

Learn to gauge what your time is worth, and stand firm when telling people.

I promise the majority of people will respect you for it, even if they don’t end up offering you work.

And worst case, you won’t write 20 x articles for $5 each, so that’s definitely a win!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Oh lord. I’ve always got a handful of creative ideas in the back of my mind.

At the moment I’m looking to create a resource for young, male cancer patients.

When I was going through treatment for Leukemia I noticed a distinct lack of support as a 20 year old male.

Through no fault of the system, I was in an adult ward (having missed the cut-off for the children’s hospital by a few years). But the next youngest person was routinely 55 years old or above. So that was very isolating.

I’d like to combine my experience in hospital with my professional skillset to create a guide to cancer for young men.

What to expect. What to look out for. What not to worry about.

I think this could really reduce the uncertainty and fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Because the truth is, not everything is as scary as it seems.

So to have some insight into the ‘this is actually no big deal’ moments would help settle some nerves, and God knows any chance to make things a little easier should always be grabbed with both hands.

At the moment I’m toying with the idea of a graphic novel to make it accessible and easy to consume. And potentially a more deep-dive version that can be used as a guidebook.

Whether this idea ever comes to life, I don’t know.

But I feel like I owe it to my experience, and to all the guys doing it tough today, tomorrow and in the future.

So that’s 100% my creative project right now.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

It may sound counterintuitive, but I encourage other marketers to deep dive into a passion project that utilizes their marketing skills.

For me this means spending my free time writing, creating content and working on short stories.

Although my agency role sees me work with words all day, it’s playing with words in my spare hours that keeps me motivated and fuelled.

I would encourage other marketers to find a creative way to apply their skills too, and in doing so become a more rounded marketer.

Think of it this way, a Personal Trainer could get tired of showing other people how to train their bodies, without the chance to let off some steam and work on their own body.

Your mind is your most valuable tool as a marketer.

So flex it in your own time in a way that inspires you — this can even be used towards a side-hustle that generates additional revenue.

Just don’t spend all your time watching over other people’s businesses or creative visions.

Allow yourself time to be creative on your own terms, and you’ll find burnout occurs far less.

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?

Brand marketing is the reputation of your entire business.

Product marketing is the reputation of your single product.

I’m sure you can find 10,000 word blog posts that debate the semantics endlessly, but why complicate matters?

Think of it this way.

You have a reputation for being a great Karaoke singer (brand marketing). Except you’re terrible when you sing Justin Bieber songs (product marketing).

Based on your brand marketing I’d love to go to Karaoke with you.

Based on your product marketing you couldn’t pay me to go with you.

Simple.

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?

Brands are timeless.

That’s why the biggest companies in the world spend so much time and money in fine-tuning their brands.

It’s easy to think a certain product or service can fuel success. And in the short-term that may well be true.

But your brand is tied into your longevity, even your legacy.

So that when you introduce a new product, or move locations, or replace your CEO — whatever the change may be, the strength of your branding will bring people with you no matter what.

Apple is an example of a branding master class.

Each new Apple product is met with the same excitement as the last (if not more). And that’s directly related to the strength of their branding.

So while it’s important to invest in general marketing and advertising to drive traffic and sales, it’s important to invest in branding to go beyond ROI.

Loyalty. Authenticity. Even love.

These are the results of branding, and they’re timeless.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

The core reasons that any company rebrands is ‘movement’.

You can package the wording any way you like. But rebranding is really just the science of movement.

Whether you want to move from your current size to a bigger company, from your current location to a new area, or from your stained reputation to a fresh start — the common denomination is movement.

Because change represents a fresh start.

It’s the same reason people move countries after a break up. Or replace their wardrobe to start a new job.

Companies rebrand because they’re looking to move from where they are to where they want to go.

It’s the science of movement.

It’s that simple.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

There is absolutely a risk associated with rebranding.

I think too many brands fall in love with the ‘grass is always greener’ mindset.

They think it’s easy to step away from a place, person or problem.

But in reality, the grass is always greenest where you water it.

If brands fail to change the core reason as to WHY they want to rebrand, then the results will be the same — an inevitable slide back to where they came from.

It’s not all doom and gloom though of course. Plenty of brands — big and small — successfully rebrand and enjoy the benefits that come with it.

These brands are successful though because their efforts to rebrand are well thought out and planned. That should always be step number one.

To go with a local Australian example, you’ve probably heard of Vegemite.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s an Aussie classic and you’ve at least HEARD of it.

But back in 2009 the owners of Vegemite, then Kraft, decided to unveil a product extension aligned with their iconic spread.

More than 48,000 possible names were suggested by the public, and Kraft, they went with…

‘Vegemite iSnack2.0’

Yeah, let that sink in. 10 years on and it still sucks.

This attempt at rebranding was not thought out. It felt rushed. And in doing so it alienated Vegemite’s core demographic, while inviting ridicule from around the world.

So to answer your question, firmly established brands should weigh up the value of major rebranding. Is it worth risking heritage for headlines?

Only time will tell.

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.

One — Look within

This is a branding mistake I’ve seen countless companies make.

They think upgrading their mission statement, or tone of voice, or content schedule will change their brand.

But an apple is rotten at its core.

For companies who want to upgrade and re-energize their brand, the most powerful changes start within.

Let’s say you’ve built a negative reputation among your customers.

Rather than move locations, change CEOs or target new customers, start by looking at your own business.

What can you do differently to change the opinions of your dissatisfied audience?

When you’re truly honest about your own brand, you can make changes from within that can save time and money on a massive scale.

Two — Image overhaul

Whatever a company does to improve their overall image, the fact remains that brands are made in the mind.

Customers are the final arbiters of what a brand ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’. But you can tap into this by upgrading the aesthetics of your brand.

First impressions are made on such an instant and subconscious level that the right look, from a visual standpoint, can give you an advantage over your competition from the start.

Is your brand tired, old or outdated?

Invest in a rebranding campaign that brings your branded colors and logo to life. Pay attention to your website colors, fonts, shapes and layout too.

This will go a long way in creating ‘perceived value’ in the minds of your audience.

When I was 9 years old, my soccer coach used to say “if you look sharp, you play sharp”.

I think he might have been talking about branding too. Because if your business looks sharp, it’s more likely your audience will see you as sharp.

Three — Video. Video. Video

If you’d asked me this question 3 years ago I wouldn’t have just been on the blogging bandwagon, I’d have been driving it.

In 2020, content marketing is still a valuable way to drive branded change, but the focus has to be on video content.

And forget about creating tacky, sales-focused videos. Those days are done. They’re in the past like the Dodo or iSnack2.0.

Brands looking to energize their image should focus on creating sharp, actionable video content.

Really dive into the minds of your audience. What problems do they have? What problems are they unaware of?

Start solving these problems with free video content that asks for nothing and gives everything in return.

Not only will this shape the perception of your brand, but you’ll tap into digital word of mouth and reach new audiences through your content which will, with any luck, be consumed and enjoyed widely.

And don’t think you’re on the bench just because you don’t have the biggest budget or gear.

Do you have a phone?

Good. You have a mobile filming studio.

Target a problem. Identify a solution. Record it. Share it. Repeat.

It takes time, but that will plant the seeds of change that will help your brand bloom over time.

Four — Put boots on the ground

Technology continues to evolve, and with it comes new ways to evolve a brand.

But what never goes out of style is good old fashioned face-to-face interactions.

Nothing adds authenticity and credibility to a brand like meeting your audience and engaging with them in person.

This is one branding tool that cannot be replicated online.

Host workshops. Sponsor events. Give away consultations.

Face-to-face interaction is a proven way to energize and optimize your brand, and that won’t change any time soon.

Five — Use social listening tools.

Social listening tools like BuzzSumo or Mention can help you maintain control of your own narrative. While a brand is a powerful thing, it’s also fickle.

Which means the things people say ABOUT you can influence the way people THINK about you.

Social listening tools will let you tap into conversations in real time.

Noticed your brand has been mentioned? Get involved in the conversation and keep the narrative in your control.

Whether it’s a positive mention or a complaint, being active and responding to branded conversations as they happen is one of the most powerful, yet undervalued, methods of energizing your brand image.

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?

As someone who spends a solid chunk of time enjoying streamed content (it’s probably best I don’t put a numerical figure on it or my cognitive dissonance will really struggle), I’d have to go with Netflix.

I enjoy this on a broad level, rather than having lived through the rebranding directly. But as we all live in the era of technology, Netflix’s ability to pivot to stay relevant is, to me, one of the best examples of moving with the current, not against it.

To have moved from a DVD-through-mail business model to a streaming giant was key to their survival.

And while this seems like a natural move in hindsight, Netflix was faced with a very real threat to their survival.

You can raise prices all you want, but when the technology underpinning your viability is pulled out from under you, that’s when hard decisions have to be made.

Netflix was able to respond to a new generation of technological change by using it to create an entirely new business model.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?

Reinventing a company is challenging enough. Doing so after a period of success doubly so. Doing so when new technologies were created that existed in DIRECT opposition to an existing profit model?

I think it’s a remarkable story of rebranding that’s worth retelling.

Now I’d love to tell you more about Netflix, but I’ve got to go watch several hours of Netflix.

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. 🙂

When I was 13 years old, I went on a school field trip.

We were driving 4 hours into rural Australia to visit an old gold field site.

I’m still not 100% sure why. I rarely pan for gold in my regular life. Close to never.

In Australia, that’s the first year of high school though. So you’re the smallest fish in the big pond, with 6 years ahead of you. And the reputation you make in those formative days stick with you.

I didn’t know anyone at my new high school. So I was hoping to make a few friends on this long bus ride. I knew how important these moments were.

The only problem was, the roads were FULL of potholes.

Every time the bus hit a pothole my stomach would rise and fall, and leave me feeling sick and sorry for myself.

I knew I couldn’t vomit though. I’d never get over the embarrassment. Kids can be cruel. And I’d never recover from the humiliation. So I did everything I could to hold it in.

When the bus would hit a fresh patch of smooth highway it felt like I’d be OK, but then we’d ride more potholes and my stomach would lurch from side to side.

I don’t know how. But I managed to make it. And as the bus turned into the long, dusty driveway of this time-worn and weary gold field, I felt…victorious.

I’d made it.

Then, as we pulled up to the car park, the bus hit one final pothole. It was just too much for my stomach to handle, and I vomited right down the front of my shirt.

I could feel the burning sensation in my throat as tears welled up in my eyes.

I knew that the other kids, who I didn’t even know, would have no mercy.

I wished the ground would open up and just swallow me whole.

Then, I heard a voice from the seat behind me…

“Hey” it squeaked, “I felt really sick on the bus ride too. Here, you can have my spare sweater”.

I nodded sheepishly, thanked this stranger, and stepped off the bus.

No one made fun of me that day.

No one even mentioned it.

If I could inspire a movement, it would be to treat life like that bus ride.

It’s full of potholes that feel never ending. But it’s also long stretches of smooth highway.

And when you feel like you’re alone, isolated or misunderstood, there’s actually people going through the same thing as you.

So I’d like to inspire everyone to take the time to lend a metaphorical sweater to someone else.

You might be surprised at just what a difference it makes.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When I was diagnosed with Leukemia, my Dad gave me the most profound and transformative advice of my life. And he did it all in just one word…

‘Endure’.

When things feel darkest, just endure, because dawn will come.

I used that advice to get me through the challenges of my Leukemia diagnosis and treatment, and I’ve continued to use it in my life in the years since.

It’s so easy to fall into pity. Into self-loathing. Into defeat.

But it’s so much more valuable to endure, and push forward to a better outcome.

I remind myself of this mantra in my professional life when a creative project is returned with so many edits and changes that it could pass through an airport facial scanner without problems.

‘Endure’.

The client pays for their vision. And it’s my job to help find the balance between what they need and what’s commercially viable. So I endure and we work towards the optimal outcome.

That’s obviously a very minor example. But that’s the value of ‘endure’.

Whether it’s a small hiccup in your day, or a giant sinkhole in your life’s plans, when you acknowledge the shit storm, and commit to ‘enduring’, magic happens.

I promise you that.

How can our readers follow you online?

No creative would turn down the chance to share their work!

So you can follow my writing on Quora here. My travel blog ‘Inked & Abroad’ here. And my Instagram here.

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 Alexander Porter of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic” With Author Joyce Shulman

Loneliness is literally impacting our lifespan and reducing our happiness. And I believe that, if we aren’t careful, the next generation is going to inherit the way of life we are creating that is fostering loneliness. And, as I mentioned, I believe that loneliness is driving a lack of understanding, empathy and openness to new ideas: I believe it is part of what is making our society so divisive.

As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Joyce Shulman. Joyce is the founder of Macaroni Kid and the Pack Leader at 99 Walks. A recovering attorney, idea junkie, addicted skier, and fitness fanatic, Joyce has spent the past decade working with, leading and inspiring women. A veteran of the TEDx stage, her first book, Walk Your Way to Better, is now available on Amazon.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?

More than 20 years ago, I abandoned law firm life to free my entrepreneurial spirit and since then I’ve co-founded four companies. My most recent adventure is 99 Walks, a company and a movement on a mission to get a million women walking — together. The idea for 99 Walks arose from the decade I’ve spent working closely with women and seeing firsthand the loneliness and wellness crisis they are facing. And I believe those two things are related.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Wow, it is hard to find the most interesting … but I remember the very first conference I hosted for the very first community I founded. I walked into a conference room where 45 women were seated, talking, connecting, laughing. And I realized that those women, who hadn’t known each other before, had come together to create something special. It overwhelmed me and I had to walk out of the room for a moment to gather myself!

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

Few things make me happier than the chance to talk about women, wellness and walking so I’m a frequent speaker and podcast guest. Recently, I was in the virtual “green room” of a podcast as they were testing the sound levels and they said, “just keep talking.” I was rambling on about my dog and what I had for breakfast and all kinds of nonsense when they suddenly disconnected me. It turns out that they had erroneously had the podcast going as a live feed on the radio!

The lesson really is one that I’ve learned at other times in my life as well … you just never know who is listening so it’s best to try not to sound like an idiot. Ever.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Oh my gosh, so many! I took the TEDx stage in December to share why walking together is magic for women and just published my first book called Walk You Way to Better. Walking is so simple and so incredibly powerful with tremendous benefits for the mind, body and mood. And women walking together is where the real magic happens. All of my current projects are driving to our mission of getting a million women walking.

Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?

Early this year, we undertook a study of 2,300 women and discovered that 73% of them experience loneliness. 73%! And the anecdotal stories many of those women shared were, frankly, heartbreaking. Lack of trust. Lack of time. Squeezed in the “sandwich generation” caring for children and aging parents. Feeling like they’ve been “burned too many times before.” Moved to a new town for work and can’t seem to “break in.” So many stories.

Since then, I’ve been on a journey not just to understand why, but to offer a deceptively simple fix: encouraging women to get up, get together and get walking. Because the other thing we learned from our research is that women who “regularly walk with friends” report that they are 2.5 times less likely to often feel lonely.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?

  • As former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said earlier this year, “loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
  • Lonely people are less likely to get out and be active, which compounds the wellness crisis. I do not believe it is a coincidence that we are seeing obesity levels rise as we see loneliness levels rise.
  • People who are lonely have less engagement with others. That means less opportunity to exchange ideas, hear other points of view and learn from one another all of which are critical to learning new things and expanding our minds.

On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?

Loneliness is literally impacting our lifespan and reducing our happiness. And I believe that, if we aren’t careful, the next generation is going to inherit the way of life we are creating that is fostering loneliness.

And, as I mentioned, I believe that loneliness is driving a lack of understanding, empathy and openness to new ideas: I believe it is part of what is making our society so divisive.

The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.

Ah, dare I point a finger at social media? I believe that the incredible rise in social media is being driven, at least in part, by the loneliness epidemic. Now, on the one hand, social media can be useful in helping to forge connections. But social media is a poor substitute for meaningful human connection. So I think we are in a place where people feel like they have friends (“I have 500 friends on Facebook, so I have lots of friends”) and yet yearn for the genuine human connections that can truly only be forged face-to-face.

Second, people move around more than they did in prior generations, both professionally and personally. My dad taught school for 36 years with largely the same group of teachers and coaches who were his dearest friends. These days, people change jobs far more frequently, which makes it far more difficult to create those long-term, sustained relationships.

Finally, we are all too busy. It seems obvious, but the best antidote for loneliness is spending time with other people. But all indicators show that we are working harder and feeling more pressure than prior generations. All of that work and all of that pressure leaves little time for time spent forging the human connections that are essential to ending the loneliness epidemic.

Ok. it is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.

  1. Call a friend and go for a walk together. I know, simple. But walking together gives you time and space, free of distractions and a surge of happiness hormones that helps you connect.
  2. Put a fence around some weekend time. You can’t just wait to “find time” to connect with your friends and family. You must prioritize that time. Put it on the calendar. Make it happen.
  3. Spend time with older people. The loneliness epidemic is particularly hard on our elders.
  4. Make technology your friend. There is no substitute for sharing experiences in person. But technology, if deployed thoughtfully, can help. Facetime, Zoom chats … it is critical to actually see the person you are speaking with but at the very least video chats can help.
  5. Realize that if you feel lonely, you aren’t alone. With more than 70% of Americans experiencing loneliness, chances are that if you feel lonely, so does the mom down the block, or the guy at the gym. Go first. Make an overture. Say hello. Extend an invitation. Forge a connection.

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. 🙂

Thank you for that. If it’s not become clear already, I am obsessed with our movement to get a million women walking together. Because there is no better way to forge a connection and improve health and wellness: walking together gives you the benefit of a shared experience, the chance to be outside in nature, a trifecta of happiness hormones and the time and space to have a real conversation, free of distraction. It is a simple — and powerful — solution.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

There are so many people who’s walking habits support their personal wellness and I’d love to Walk + Talk with any of them! Michelle, Oprah, Rachel Hollis … let’s walk and talk!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They can find me personally on Instagram @joyce.r.shulman and can connect with the 99 Walks community on Instagram @99Walks and on Facebook also at 99 Walks

Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!


“5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic” With Author Joyce Shulman was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years: “Delivery on your terms” With Anees Haidri of Zebra…

The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years: “Delivery on your terms” With Anees Haidri of Zebra Technologies

Delivery on your terms. Retailers will continue to push the envelope on how to get the customer their product exactly how and when they want it (including returns). Most retailers already support the ability to buy online and pickup in a store but those are becoming even more convenient with locker or curbside pickup. Additionally, delivery to a location versus your home or even straight to your garage or refrigerator is becoming available. Next up is autonomous delivery. All of the options will be at the timing you want, including same day. Interestingly, our study found that 75 percent of shoppers are willing to pay for delivery — with approximately one-third willing to fork out for same day.

I had the pleasure to interview Anees Haidri. Anees is currently the Director of Vertical Strategy for Retail where he is responsible for positioning growth opportunities and providing thought leadership within retail for Zebra Technologies. Anees has more than 15 years of experience within the retail industry and has deployed multiple, large scale solutions to drive successful business outcomes. In addition, Anees has over 20 years of experience in building customer focused mobility solutions within a variety of industries. Previously, he served as a Sr. Director of Technology at The Home Depot, where he managed high performing teams aimed at building customer-focused technology solutions for stores & merchandising. Anees holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Rutgers University.

Thank you so much for joining us Anees! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a first-year electrical engineering student in 1994 I was fortunate enough to hear an entertaining lecture from a professor who happened to be a part of Bell Labs (the Google of telephony) when the first wireless phones were created. I was accepted to his lab based off a corny essay that described my fascination with the Star Trek communicator and I’ve been in the wireless/mobility space in some fashion ever since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I was lucky enough to be on a project for the Air Force at Eglin Air Force base, responsible for testing wireless network solutions to support laptops for maintenance techs to use on the flight line. Not only was the project right next to Destin Beach in Florida but I got to see F-15s run sorties on a regular basis. Not to mention see inside the cockpit of a Thunderbirds jet.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I can’t recall a funny mistake but I’m very confident I’ve made many mistakes, both humorous and not so. One thing that I learned much later than I should have was the power of networking and communication. As you grow in your career into positions of leadership, the ability to execute gets replaced by the ability to influence and to do that well requires good communication and networking skills. Finding a way to appreciate that early on is a helpful tool for success.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Of course — there always needs to be something in the hopper that’s exciting. The one for me right now is finding ways to expand our company’s presence inside a retail store. Not only is there great opportunity in that but it will really help retailers win in a currently turbulent industry. That will help a great many companies survive and thrive.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Retail is a fast-paced environment so pace yourself and it’s also a place ripe to leverage technology so use innovation to help keep things new and interesting.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

This might be corny, but the biggest catalyst in my career has been my wife, Tasneem. She gave me a reason to appreciate the value in delivering a result and career success always starts with that.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Hopefully, as a part of teams, there have been a few lessons passed on and a few careers nurtured.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

  1. At your pleasure shopping. Retailers will continue to find easier ways for customers to get access to their catalog and make a purchase. Our 12th annual Global Shopper Study found that online purchases will increase 8 percent in the next 5 years. Additionally, mobile phone access is starting to take over computer-based access and soon, other tools like home assistants and subscriptions will gain mainstream traction. Finally, it’s fair to assume that virtual reality tools will someday make the experience of walking to a store or store fronts from anywhere possible.
  2. Delivery on your terms. Retailers will continue to push the envelope on how to get the customer their product exactly how and when they want it (including returns). Most retailers already support the ability to buy online and pickup in a store but those are becoming even more convenient with locker or curbside pickup. Additionally, delivery to a location versus your home or even straight to your garage or refrigerator is becoming available. Next up is autonomous delivery. All of the options will be at the timing you want, including same day. Interestingly, our study found that 75 percent of shoppers are willing to pay for delivery — with approximately one-third willing to fork out for same day.
  3. Just for you selection. Retailers are already finding ways online to help shoppers make the buying choice that’s best for them by providing ratings, reviews and alternative/additive products that they might like. This will expand greatly as retailers get better and better at using data to help shoppers, and this means products on the shelf in stores will be more tailored to an individual’s personal community, and prices or promotions to that specific shopper. The best brands will make shoppers feel like they have their own personal shopper, allowing customers to focus on just reaping the value of their purchase.
  4. Intelligent automation. It’s not only just about the customer; the retailer needs to get more efficient. In order to meet the demands of a new retail industry and have more resources to take care of the customer, retailers need to automate, and now they can do that more intelligently. Machine learning will be highly leveraged to determine the best ways to merchandise and supply products. It will also be used to determine how well operational processes are being executed and where improvements can be found. Computer vision will be used to help alleviate labor tasks in the middle of aisles or even at the checkout lane. Robotics will help to automate repetitive tasks such as picking product for orders or shipments. In fact, our research shows that almost 26 percent of retailers are already currently providing some level of robotic assistance with 29 percent looking to incorporate the technology within the next year. And, finally sensing devices that help locate assets or workers will be leveraged to fine tune operations.
  5. True omnichannel, tech-driven retailer. The retail business is changing at breakneck speeds both because of the demands of the consumer and the technology innovation that supports that demand. A modern, next-generation retailer will not succeed if they maintain the lines between channels; rather, they must see themselves as a brand that delivers great product, great value and a great experience. To do this, retailers must change their organizational structures to eliminate silos, they must embrace change and applaud the value of failing fast; and finally, they must embrace technology as the best tool they have to improve their business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

In the context of work, success is defined not by the amount you accomplish but by the amount you help others while doing so.

How can our readers follow you on social media? You can follow me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years: “Delivery on your terms” With Anees Haidri of Zebra… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “An App that connects you to your future and past…

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “An App that connects you to your future and past classmates” with Dwight and Angelique Morrison of PS Remember

We feel a tremendous sense of responsibility in helping people to remain connected and hope to play a part in reducing teen suicide and rates of depression among our youths by installing confidence. Facebook has had a lot of hiccups in this area over the past three years. Social media should be for the purpose of getting people together to connect and to bolster a sense of achievement. What we have seen instead is a breeding ground for bullying, harmful ideologies like racism, cult like behavior, pedophelia in some cases, political info wars. People outside of America can’t connect well and there are real frustrations that people are dealing with on this front. People want to come to a space that isn’t rife with bots, while at the same time seeing their culture represented exist in a setting where free communication is honored without censorship. We work very hard to achieve this balanced ecosystem through diligence, research and technique.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years’ ‘ I interviewed Dwight and Angelique Morrison. Dwight and Angelique are a husband and wife team of developers for PS Remember, a new app that connects past, present and future students together in over 100 countries around the globe. The app allows you to track who you may have gone to school with, as well as to network with people at various institutions you are thinking about attending or may have already attended.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The idea surged while Angelique was doing research at the University of Guelph where she had been working for a number of years with scientists to come up with a cure for cystic fibrosis, which generated a lot of press for her. At around the same time, I was working in music and for some reason or other I hooked up with a guy who started a tech company in Los Angeles. I went out there and found that the business relationship began to fall apart as my work was not being recognized by the founder, so I left the company. I spoke to my wife about starting our own tech company to help people in some significant way. We came up with a lot of ideas that night but the one that stuck was the concept that would connect people in different countries that had gone to various schools, colleges or universities. We started the painstaking work of contacting the Ministry of Education in over 106 countries and got the records we needed, which are far more comprehensive than any research we could produce online. My wife is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and she found it very taxing to reconnect with her buddies from school but with the data research background she had, we were fortunate to have been able to collect the information we needed within 18 months. When we look at the landscape of what is going on right now in social media, people — even, high school students — want to connect. Facebook at this time will not allow for that and Instagram is not capable of doing it, so once you have an account with PS Remember you become visible in terms of what academic institutions you are aligned with throughout your lifeline. It took us about two years to build the platform and to make it better. We launched last month and the emails and messages of thanks have been overwhelming, but the reward of connecting people makes it all worthwhile.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

We get a lot of emails specifically from the country of Nigeria. It is interesting that there is a hunger and thirst for what we are doing. Truthfully the tech landscape in Nigeria has exploded and there is a lot of opportunity for our youth to turn this into their new economy, so now here I am, an African American man and we didn’t plan to be recognized as such in from a press standpoint, but it turns out that we are a black couple and are now the poster kids for successful tech firms owned and operated by a black couple. It happened unintentionally, but if it serves to inspire those who feel that they now have a chance to shine, particularly in our urban communities here in America then that’s awesome. Nigeria is our biggest supporter right now and we are confident that we can hit a critical mass in our first year out the gate, just knowing that there are 190 million people living in the country of Nigeria alone!

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Our idea will change the world because this will be a platform that people can connect with on a developmental level particularly if they have been socialized outside of the US and Canada. A pre college or university student can talk about what school they want to attend or decide to mobilize students all around the world in one place to effectuate change. What I like about what we are doing is that if you are currently attending a university and you are a freshman and it is difficult for you to make friends — if you and others like you are attending the same school, you can activate a real connection. Kids these days prefer to meet online before connecting in person, to eventually forge friendships online and create long lasting relationships offline. We learned from our developers in India that there are over 550 million high school students and over 200 million college and university students within our reach in this global initiative.

How do you think this will change the world?

We feel a tremendous sense of responsibility in helping people to remain connected and hope to play a part in reducing teen suicide and rates of depression among our youths by installing confidence. Facebook has had a lot of hiccups in this area over the past three years. Social media should be for the purpose of getting people together to connect and to bolster a sense of achievement. What we have seen instead is a breeding ground for bullying, harmful ideologies like racism, cult like behavior, pedophelia in some cases, political info wars. People outside of America can’t connect well and there are real frustrations that people are dealing with on this front. People want to come to a space that isn’t rife with bots, while at the same time seeing their culture represented exist in a setting where free communication is honored without censorship. We work very hard to achieve this balanced ecosystem through diligence, research and technique.

We will change the world in terms of how people interact on social in three ways;

Process: When you enter the PS Remember platform, the system tells you through a notification “your classmates and friend suggestion”. These are the people that went to school with you. Facebook does not have that tech in terms of a search that will give you the option of presenting all possible students in a given class or given year.

Reach: Facebook can’t seem to connect you with people from other academies in other countries because it’s algorithms are programmed to connect you only with friends of friends and people within the parameter of your physical locations. Yet there are 7 billion people on planet earth and only 1 billion of them are on facebook. That leaves the 6 billion of us to fend for ourselves! India, for example, has 1.3 million schools. If I want to connect with my buddies in Nigeria for instance, which is almost impossible, what we have done, through the registration process, is to identify every time there has been a change in academic status. It asks you: did you complete the degree or program? In what country? What are you doing now? We’ve got people from the country of Barbados, China, India, the Ukraine, french speaking countries like Martinique, the Congo which are recognized on the platform. I could go on.

Flexibility: Other benefits include being able to alter your search by year by country, by high school or by college and university. You can even run a search to find people who have previously attended that particular school. This is not remotely possible for facebook and one of the main reasons for this is that it would mandate every single member to enter their academic credentials and change in status.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

One of the things that we do not incorporate is third party applications. Candy Crush is an example of the third party application. The reason why companies use 3rd party applications is to generate additional income from the end user, but there are other ways to make money. We also understand that investors would like to make extra money but our method is not to attach ourselves to the user’s credit card data like a parasite. Because in our case protecting the user is paramount, advertisers will never see any information about them, but will instead have access to a distribution of people in a segment of its choosing. The benefit to the advertiser is the market to which it will have access. Our business model includes creating portals for reunions, so in a sense, we see a whole new business emerge from the events planning side of the application. And while we have laid out the entrapments of social media communications to the dark side in our former examples, we do not allow anyone under the age of 16 to come onto the platform. Little girls cannot be having conversations with grown men. When it comes to the issue of misinformation, we believe strongly that everything should be vetted correctly. This was the purpose of having completed the painstaking groundwork of acquiring registration rolls from ministries of education. We believe that it is possible to work with every country but we are cautious as to which countries we will be staying away from based on when sanctions will be lifted.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We need to get 1M members in 24 months. If we can get to 500,000 in our first year, that would be awesome. We bootstrapped the company and financed everything from our personal accounts. That works out to about $280,000 in two years. Most of our funds have gone into developing the app, getting it to the point at which it is functional now. We raked through the savings account to make this happen. We want every student in the world to be connected and to have an account with PS Remember.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

5 things that I wish someone told me before I started are:

  1. Have a large amount of cash aside for marketing. We hired too many developers. We didn’t know a lot about the tech terms and the technology. We are constantly learning and this takes capital. We are fortunate to be working with our publicist at Zebra Public Relations who will be able to help us with our marketing needs. To this point, we have personally hired at least two different development teams.
  2. Educate yourself about the space you are in. If you are bootstrapping, it is very normal that you may not have a guide or a mentor in the beginning. As you chart forward, you may seek information by those who have forged a path ahead of you. Take every opportunity to learn from those who have made it before you. If you need someone to motivate you to do this, I would suggest that you are in the wrong business.
  3. Trust yourself to assess who you will engage. We would often get emails from others interested in joining my venture. Many will share how they can help us on our journey. Eventually, we found that most of them are there only to receive the financial benefits but are less interested in the grunt work attached. Be cautious of these kinds of people offering to be a mentor or partner. It was only when we put our faces on the brand that we started to engage a wider audience, but we had to learn this from marketers and before we could connect to authors like Yitzi Weiner.
  4. Be Consistent Some days will be good and others not. You have to ride the wave. Don’t get depressed when you don’t experience immediate results. Every day requires diligent work. In business, there is always something you can do everyday to make your company better.
  5. Stay focused. You have to believe very strongly in your vision . You were out on this earth to do something bing and it is up to you to deliver it. We don’t believe in plan B.

Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?

Marketing and promotion, is what we would invest in as we want to share this innovative platform to former, prospective and future students. Also we want to advertise in the language of all of the countries that we serve around the world. We also want to invest in new technologies to improve user experience.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

For us, especially because of our faith, we are bound by certain principles. This means that we must go by our honor and by our words. If we take something, we have to also give back. Living the work of integrity and following through on doing what you say you will is of paramount importance. If we are bound to an agreement, financially or otherwise, we do not care if it takes our last penny to resolve. We have to do what we said we would and we have also come to understand that if one is not able to follow through on their word, then it means that they cannot be trusted.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Never giving up is extremely important to us. If you believe something at the core of who you are, even if you can’t find funding or don’t have the money to do something, keep pushing forward. Just go hard or go home! And there should be no plan B. Having a plan B only means that you aren’t confident in your ability and there will be some sort of disaster to follow. Giving up means being selfish. Stay motivated to continue based on the people who are waiting for you to succeed. If you have an idea that you know is going to change the world and shift the Universe in a positive way and you feel it within your core that that it will be successful, you have to adopt a stance of never giving up. Can you imagine if there were no Steve Jobs or if he had given up after the first iteration of his Apple computer? Where would we be today?

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

I would say that we should go ahead and change the world together. No other company in the world can reach this group of people in this way and the opportunity lies in connecting people together at one of the most fundamental times in their lives. The technology for the reach in number of students is a testament to our success and keeps us at an advantage as now we are available on Google Play. The other thing is that we are people of integrity with vision and technical background, so no question exists as to whether we will make a fantastic partnership! Soon every student in the world will have a PS account to stay connected. Along the journey, we would like to urge the IPO. We want the prize so that we can use the resources to upgrade the technology.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow us on www.psremember.com (@psremember) to stay up to date on our work.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational. 🙂


Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “An App that connects you to your future and past… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future of Retail: “A massive growth opportunity I see in the retail industry is the ability to…

The Future of Retail: “A massive growth opportunity I see in the retail industry is the ability to provide consumers with deeper information about a product in engaging ways”, with David Fisch of Shopkick

Information: Another massive growth opportunity I see in the retail industry is the ability to provide consumers with deeper information about a product in engaging ways. No longer do you need to read a 20-page dissertation about a product or scour the internet to find certain information. I see more retailers turning to mobile apps for information experiences — for example, walking into a store, scanning a product and having a video pop up that provides nutritional info, recipes, other items that pair well with that product and much more.

I had the pleasure to interview David Fisch. David is the general manager of Shopkick, the leading shopping rewards app in the U.S.. He leverages his extensive experience building successful businesses and creating value to propel Shopkick to the next level.

Fisch is an experienced founder, entrepreneur and business leader with a strong record of achievement in leading Ad-tech, marketing technology and consumer companies. In addition, he has served in key leadership and management roles at Yahoo!, Miller Brewing Company, and Gallo Sales Company.

Prior to joining Shopkick, Fisch was the chief revenue and marketing officer at AerNow, where he was responsible for guiding content creators’ business growth through live and video on-demand (VOD) content. Before AerNow, he served as Vice President of Strategy at Criteo, where he worked to scale the company’s machine learning, big data, and marketing solutions, helping e-commerce companies leverage data efficiently to engage and convert customers.

Fisch graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business, management, and marketing from California State University, Chico.

Thank you so much for joining us David! What brought you to this specific career path?

My career path has been an interesting saga. Right out of college, I started out in consumer product marketing and sales with Gallo Winery. I was given the opportunity to manage a large sales organization and had a truly fantastic time working in all things around retail marketing and sales. From there, I transitioned to Miller Brewing, where I oversaw MB Co’s distributors. I had the opportunity to work with sellers and marketers to put programs in place that would move product. This allowed me to get a clear view of the retail industry and how it operates from the ground-up.

After that marketing role, I decided to make a major career shift to an area I knew little about at the time — digital.

I joined Yahoo at a very early stage and was given the chance to pioneer new ways to move digital marketing products and programs. It was great for my personal growth; if I had an idea, I could quickly implement it and have it seen by millions of people; thus knowing the success, or lack thereof relatively immediately. I spent 7–8 years at Yahoo overseeing what ended up being their marketing solutions group. I worked with Fortune 500 brands, as well as top global agencies — on how to create value for consumers and advertisers. At the time, we were pioneering early days of retargeting — putting a product in front of someone, having them interact with it, collecting the data of that interaction, and then retargeting the consumer based on that experience.

After Yahoo, I decided to take a major leap and started my first company, SlingShot Media, with Peter Guber. From there, I started a few handful of companies in the media and gaming realm.

All of this led to my current position as the GM of Shopkick. In early 2019, I received a call from Trax, the Singaporean company that recently acquired Shopkick, and was asked if I knew anything about the company. Through past experiences, I actually worked with Shopkick quite a bit, so I felt confident that I would be able to come to the table with a clear vision of how to grow this company to succeed in the future. And here we are!

What’s the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started your career?

One of the most interesting things to happen during my career was developing relationships with people at Yahoo during their early years and deciding to make a major change in my career to the then-new world of digital. I was able to be part of the group that pioneered new marketing programs, and it was extremely impactful for my career and personal goals.

What’s the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

When I was at Yahoo, I was presenting in front of several thousand people for a televised event. As I’m sitting in the front row waiting to be introduced, I’m drinking a coffee in, of course, a white shirt. About 30 seconds before I’m announced, I look down to see I had been dripping coffee on myself for the last hour! I was instantly fearful of what people would think, but when I got on stage, I chose to address the mishap instead of acting like it hadn’t happened. And you know what? People got a kick out of it and my presentation went better than I could have imagined!

The lesson I took away from this experience is to not be so hard on yourself about being perfect, because nobody is. If you own that, people will be able to relate to you. It’s a great thing to be able to laugh at yourself and people can respect that!

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

An exciting project I’m working on outside of Shopkick involves the cannabis industry and using big data to collect personalized information in a positive way, providing more relevant products, and services to people. We’re working on connecting people and information in a pretty disparate industry, by taking a specific look at how to service everyone through one ad platform.

It takes out a lot of the chaos caused by questions like, how do you find the right products? How do you find the right services? How do marketers market the right products to the right people? We’re working on quieting that noise to be very personalized with the message.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to not get “burnt out”?

In my opinion, one of the hardest parts of being a CEO is remaining positive at all times. When walking into the office, you could be having a bad day, sales could be down, or any number of things but as a leader, it is your job to instill confidence in your team even when things might not be going as planned.

My advice for not burning out in this situation is to keep the mindset that “the sun always comes up the next day and every problem has a solution”. It is important to remember that you’re not always going to make the right call and mistakes are inevitable, and that’s okay.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

One individual comes to mind right away — Peter Guber. He was there for my first foray into starting my own business. He was extremely influential in giving me the confidence to break out of working for a traditional company and take a chance on a vision. He’s been helpful throughout the last 10–15 years of my career.

I have never forgotten him asking me early on if I knew how hard it would be to start my own company. At the time, of course, I said yes. In response, he said, “No, you actually have no idea.” And he was absolutely right.

How do you feel you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’ve been fortunate to have met people who have taken an interest in me and my career along the way. It’s given me a reason for pause when I see someone else coming up in his or her own profession. Whether it’s hiring interns out of college who are looking for real work experiences or hiring exchange students to give them months of work to extend their Visas, I’m grateful to be able to invest in others the same way my mentors invested in me.

Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

In the next five years, I see retailers adjusting their focus more on:

Convenience: Retailers need to boil it all back down to convenience — the convenience of one-swipe or one-tap on your mobile device to make a purchase, going into just one retail location to find exactly what you’re looking for, or various purchase options like BOPIS. Thankfully, our digital tools facilitate that ability for ease and convenience. For today’s consumers, the more convenient the experience, the more likely they will be to choose your retailer over the next one.

Information: Another massive growth opportunity I see in the retail industry is the ability to provide consumers with deeper information about a product in engaging ways. No longer do you need to read a 20-page dissertation about a product or scour the internet to find certain information. I see more retailers turning to mobile apps for information experiences — for example, walking into a store, scanning a product and having a video pop up that provides nutritional info, recipes, other items that pair well with that product and much more.

In-Store Experiences: From a handful of recent surveys we’ve conducted at Shopkick around consumer shopping habits, it’s clear that the majority of shoppers are still headed in-store. Our latest 2020 Outlooks survey showed that 61 percent of shoppers, across generations, plan to do the majority of their 2020 shopping in physical retailers. And regardless of age, shoppers are looking for the same thing when they shop brick and mortar: inspiration and excitement. Retailers will need to focus on more creative, Instagram-worthy, in-store shopping experiences to get shoppers into their stores and to the register.

Augmented Reality and Extended Reality: On that same note, I see retailers really leaning into augmented reality and extended reality. I see the future looking like a customer walking into a local grocery store, where a notification from Captain Morgan pops up on their phone to say “Follow this map to buy a liter of Captain Morgan and get $3 back.” That customer looks at his phone and sees a store-mapping technology with arrows guiding him down different aisles to make sure he’s finding the products. He then scans the bottle of Captain Morgan, and suddenly additional recipes pop up on how to use Captain Morgan in his holiday recipes. I think this also goes back to my original point of incentivizing sales through convenience.


The Future of Retail: “A massive growth opportunity I see in the retail industry is the ability to… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.