An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Building Community. Jeep is an excellent example. I drive my wife’s Jeep Wrangler on occasion, and I still haven’t gotten used to everyone else in a Wrangler waving at me when they pass by. Jeep continues to grow and foster this community through loyalty events, social media, and celebrating their drives. And then there’s the whole rubber duck thing. Just Google it.

As a part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to Interview Erik McKinney.

Erik McKinney has over two decades of experience in the industry leading award-winning, needle moving experiential work across a long list of Fortune 500 clients. He is a B2C-B2B creative hybrid with demonstrated ability in crafting compelling stories that drive engagement across the live and digital world.

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

The crux of my job now is creating live events and experiences between brands and people. Growing up as an only child in rural Pennsylvania, I found myself playing alone quite often. To keep myself entertained, I was constantly imagining new games, new worlds, and new experiences. In many ways, I’m doing the same thing now for brands except I’m crafting the experiences for specific audiences, not just myself.

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

I didn’t start my career as a creative, but I wanted to be one. I started as an Assistant Account Executive at an old school New York ad agency. I specifically remember working on a brand and I thought I had this great creative idea for a new campaign. Fueled by my youthful ignorance, I went to the head of the creative team to share my “brilliant” idea that I had sketched out. I don’t remember the exact idea, all I remember is that it was horrible. There was no strategy, no understanding of the brand and no consideration for the audience we were trying to reach. The only person that this idea was relevant to was me.

He could very easily have laughed me out of his office, and he would have been completely justified in doing so. Instead, he actually sat down and took the time to explain why the idea wouldn’t work and how I should have approached it differently. He taught me the best ideas require you to truly understand what the brand means, what the audience wants and the context within the two will meet. It’s a lesson that I carry with me to this day.

The bigger lesson it taught me was the importance of being a mentor. My dreams of being a creative could have been crushed that day and my career path forever altered. Instead, I was met with kindness, wisdom, and encouragement that kept my dreams alive.

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

I feel there are a lot of things that make Impact XM special to our people and our clients. However, given the chaos of the world over the last couple of years, I think our ability to adapt quickly and intelligently to our clients’ needs and realities of the world stands out to me the most.

During the pandemic, our business got crushed. We are in an industry built on creating live experiences that bring people together, and all of the sudden we couldn’t do that. So, we very quickly pivoted to doing it in the virtual world. We went from doing a handful of virtual events a year to several hundred. This was accomplished through a combination of necessity, innovation, collaboration, and the humility to know what we didn’t know, and then figure it out. The fact that we were able to do all of this so successfully is a testament to who we are and what we’re made of.

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

The most exciting project I’m working on currently is a confidential one. All I can say is it will be a one-of-a-kind event that celebrates a diverse range of cultures and creativity coming together in one place.

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 simplest answer is one is rational, and one is emotional. The best marketing finds the intersection between both. Product marketing is typically very rational; what is the product? How does it fit into my life? How does it make my life better? Brand marketing on the other hand is more emotional. You’re telling a story that connects with people and aligns with their values that define who they are and the aspirations of who they hope to become.

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?

The brand and its purpose should be the north star for all marketing efforts. The products, the audience, the world around us and the challenges we face are ever-changing. An enduring brand adapts to the change, but always stays true to what it is and, by doing so, builds its credibility in the eyes of the audience. This credibility makes it easier to introduce new products and ideas into the world.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. Consistency is key. The idea “Red Bull gives you wings” has been a constant across Red Bull’s advertising, extreme sports sponsorships, and proprietary events (like Flugtag) for decades. They’re so committed to it that they dropped a dude from space. However, no matter how crazy the idea may manifest itself, it always reinforces the brand’s commitment to empowering people to do the incredible.
  2. Being able to innovate while remaining true to who you are. Lego is a great example of this. Legos are constantly innovating with new products, films, licensing partnerships, and even theme parks. However, every innovation ties back to their brand mission to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.
  3. Building Community. Jeep is an excellent example. I drive my wife’s Jeep Wrangler on occasion, and I still haven’t gotten used to everyone else in a Wrangler waving at me when they pass by. Jeep continues to grow and foster this community through loyalty events, social media, and celebrating their drives. And then there’s the whole rubber duck thing. Just Google it.
  4. Demonstrating through action. It is easy to talk about what you can do, but doing it is what matters. An example is the United States Postal Service who live and breathe their slogan — it doesn’t matter how bad the weather is, the USPS always delivers. They were also frontline workers during the pandemic, demonstrating through their commitment that they are a brand people can trust.
  5. Authenticity. You can say all you want about your brand and brand story, but it’s important to practice what you preach. A great example of this is Patagonia who literally put their money where their mouth is when the founder made headlines for giving away the company to fight climate change. This proved to customers that from the top down they remain true to the values that they promote.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

The role social media plays in branding efforts depends on your objectives, but the things that popped to mind are the ability to connect in real time, generate conversation and discussion through a two-way dialogue versus a brand speaking their message into the world. Through that dialogue you build community and loyalty. Also, I think it’s this amplification of your efforts. When working in live events we can take the stories we are creating and amplify them on a broader scale through the use of social media.

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 don’t know how you would do this, but the combination of advancements we are making with the Metaverse, VR technology and artificial intelligence to allow people to walk in someone else’s shoes (as cliche as that sounds). Simply put, the ability to see the world through others’ perspectives and understand how they process information and how it impacts them. In our country there’s so much divisiveness due to the fact that we do not have the ability to see things through someone else’s perspective and we become blinded by our own thoughts and beliefs. So, if we could use all this wonderful technology to actually provide that opportunity to see other perspectives it can probably go a long way and help bridge the gaps.

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

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” — Albert Einstein

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

George R.R. Martin. I’m fascinated by storytellers that create immersive, complex worlds.

How can our readers follow you on social media?


Impact XM social media:

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Erik McKinney of Impact XM: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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