Consumers connect with the brand, not the products, and are looking to be part of a tribe whether they know it or not. As human beings, we desire connection and if your brand can connect with people in a more meaningful way than just selling them a product, they will have your back and be great ambassadors for your brand.

I had a pleasure interviewing Reshoevn8r founder Steve Grear. He was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. His childhood and adolescent experiences taught him valuable lessons that inspired him to start his company in 2011. And now, nearly a decade later, his ultimate sneaker cleaner is patented — and Reshoevn8r is one of the top premium shoe care brands in the world.

Grear was raised by his single mother and grew up in a neighborhood comprised mostly of trailer homes. His mother worked full-time and he subsequently became self-sufficient at an early age. Money was sparse for Grear and his family, and he learned to value his shoes. His mother believed that clean shoes are crucial to a presentable appearance, and he followed suit by keeping his sneakers in top condition — foreshadowing Reshoevn8r.

Grear as a teenager transitioned from living with an overprotective mother to a disinterested father that didn’t care what he did in his spare time. He disregarded school as his father toiled away with drugs, and eventually dropped out before graduating high school. Grear was arrested in 2009 on a class-two felony for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, marking a personal low and eventual epiphany. He realized he needed to do something productive with his life, and Reshoevn8r was born.

Grear in the last decade has controlled Reshoevn8r’s daily operations, gaining experience with e-commerce, marketing and building a massive social media platform. He prides himself on his ability to visualize concepts so that they become a reality and is always thinking about how to evolve. Grear has always had an interest in sneakers, and his excitement about the company often keeps him up at night. He’s a progressive thinker that thrives when the company flourishes and consistently has ideas running through his mind.

Grear is also a loving fiancé and father to his newborn baby girl. He enjoys exercising, listening to music, reading, spending time with his daughter, and giving back to the community. He has been involved with a handful of local and international charities and hopes long term to become a better man while keeping an open mind. His upbringing was challenging and humbling but ultimately helped him become the man and entrepreneur he is today.

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

Being raised in the 80’s, I was exposed to a lot of cool things — sneakers being one of them. I have a lot of love for sneakers and from an early age enjoyed the feeling of putting on a nice, new pair of shoes. Growing up I didn’t have much, so I learned to take care of my shoes and I would clean them regularly to keep them fresh. My love for shoes continued as an early adult and one night as I was cleaning some shoes to sell on eBay I had an epiphany. I realized the shoe cleaning process I had been using for the last 15 years was much more effective than any other product on the market and Reshoevn8r was born.

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?

If I had to pick one, it would be when I first started the business. I naively thought after building a website, I would automatically get sales coming in and I quickly realized that’s not how it works. I then attempted to figure out how to drive traffic to my site, so I hired an SEO strategist which led to me spending all of the money that I had left…only to find out that it wouldn’t lead to anything. The lesson I learned is to do as much as you can on your own in the beginning, especially when you have limited money.

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

We pride ourselves on the authenticity and transparency that we provide to our customers, fans, and team. We know how critical it is to build trust and stay innovative in an industry that is evolving and growing rapidly. One of our core values is “be comfortable being uncomfortable” and I do my best to make sure we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone regularly. This isn’t a specific story, but we are always very transparent and honest when we shoot our shoe cleaning tutorials for our YouTube channel, which has over 1,000,000 subscribers. If we clean a shoe and don’t get the results we were expecting, we make sure to show the areas that didn’t clean up so people know not to expect perfection.

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

One of the big projects we recently finished was our rebranding of Reshoevn8r, which we are super excited to introduce. We also partnered with Bata Sole, a nonprofit that provides new and gently used shoes to impoverished communities. We were fortunate enough to help them on a mission to Manila Philippines to provide shoes to 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?

Branding is the visual appearance of the brand — the look and the feeling consumers get when exposed to your logo, name, messaging, etc. I believe how you interact and communicate with customers or fans is a pivotal part of branding. Product marketing is the strategy to sell your goods and drive demand for the items you sell, which requires creativity and a deep level of analysis to do it well. There is also a high level of storytelling and messaging needed in advertising to show people that the product solves a problem for the consumer.

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?

Consumers connect with the brand, not the products, and are looking to be part of a tribe whether they know it or not. As human beings, we desire connection and if your brand can connect with people in a more meaningful way than just selling them a product, they will have your back and be great ambassadors for your brand.

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.

Deliver what you promise: Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Consumers expect for you to deliver when you say you are going to do something. You need to be reliable and hold yourself to a higher standard because you are being observed at all times.

Be Authentic: Authenticity is super important to gain trust from consumers. They don’t expect you to be perfect but they appreciate when you are transparent with them. It helps to be relatable and with so much noise out there, consumers want realness.

Be customer focused: This is a no-brainer but you would be surprised how many businesses don’t get it. It is impossible to please everyone, but you can get pretty close if you treat the customer how you would like to be treated. Think ahead and avoid issues by being proactive instead of reactive.

Be Consistent: Consistency is key and helps build trust; great achievements are built out of consistent work. We have 1 million subscribers on our YouTube channel from being consistent and releasing two videos every week for the last four years. Because of this, our subscribers trust us as the proven leader in the industry.

Educate: Creating content that consumers can find value in is important to building trust and the more you can add value, the more people will appreciate what you are doing. We try to educate people on how to use our products but also take care of their favorite shoes. Some sneakers sell for thousands of dollars and people want to know how to take care of them. We go out of our way to answer questions on all of our social platforms and we are very responsive when people ask us questions.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

One brand that I believe has done this better than anyone else is Supreme. They have done an outstanding job building their brand and, for the most part, everything they release sells out. They do a great job with collaborations and leveraging other strong brands to help expand their brand awareness and reach.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

I consider branding to be the heartbeat of the business and since it’s continuous, it can be measured by industry buzz, social media growth, and relevance in your industry.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

It is everything for us. Consumers will go to social media to learn about your brand and to find out if you are a brand that they will connect with and are attracted to. Consumers can tell from the moment they look at your feed if you are a brand they like. We have built our entire brand and business on social media.

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

I think having the ability to be creative and think outside the box will help create excitement, which is what has helped me. I’m also a firm believer in taking the time to do things you enjoy whether that’s exercise, meditation, cooking, whatever can relax your mind form the daily grind.

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 inspire people to believe in themselves and that regardless of how bad things might seem at the moment, they have the ability to make them better.

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

“Strength and growth come only from continuous effort and struggle.” Napoleon Hill

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 a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

I would have to say Elon Musk.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@mr.reshoevn8r + @reshoevn8r

Steve Grear of Reshoevn8r: 5 Things You Need To Do 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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