Catch Ross Drakes on the #PirateBroadcast™
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[00:00:00] Introduction: Welcome to the #PirateBroadcast™, where we interview #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. Where you can expand your connections, your community, #kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. Let’s get this party started.
[00:00:10] Russ Johns: And it's a great day for the #PirateBroadcast and we're here again. We're going to have a great Wednesday, and if you're listening to this in the morning, evening, or afternoon, like Ross here, we're going to enjoy the conversation, highlight a few things and talk about branding and how you can stop being boring and how you can start communicating with your audience. Ross, good day. How are you doing?
[00:00:38] Ross Drakes: I'm doing very well. And I've just realized we've got Russ and Ross, which seems to be working very well here. So that's exciting.
[00:00:45] Russ Johns: I used to have a podcast called the RNR business show, and it was because Ronny and Russ was on the show and we had a great time, but I want to talk a little bit about branding because that's been your passion for a number of years. And I love creating content for brands. I love creating, the element and the instrument that communicates that thing before the show, we were talking about how to stop being so damn boring. And how do we communicate in a way that people are interested in talking to us? And so I wanted to riff on that idea a little bit. So for the pirates that may not know you yet, give us a snapshot of who you are, Ross and what you're up to today.
[00:01:34] Ross Drakes: Cool. Thank you. Snapshots, this is a difficult question. I guess right now my favorite thing is that I'm a father of a three and a half year old Sebastian. So I get to play with him with reckless abandon and curiosity is my superpower, so he feels that. For money, I'm the founder and owner of a branding company called Nicework. We're based in Johannesburg and Cape town in South Africa and we help brands to get people to care about them. And then part of the things that I do to keep my curiosity going, I run two podcasts. I've got one for Nicework called one more question, which is all about understanding brands and what people think about them and how they work. And the other one is called radio, which is for the entrepreneurs organization in Mipa. And those are just stories of businesses and business owners. How they came about doing what they were doing, their journeys, how they got there and the things they've learned along the way. And then a sort of recent addition to my quiver is COVID taught me that I have a passion for education. So I've been changing the products in my business or how we deliver the work that we do in our business. And I've been spending a lot of time doing facilitated sessions. And I speak on these topics because I believe that's part of my purpose to, to teach people how to do this better. Cause I don't think it's difficult. I think most people have just learned the wrong things.
[00:03:08] Russ Johns: Do you think they think that it's we're living in a day and age where people are just skimming across the top and not putting any deep thought into how they're communicating?
[00:03:20] Ross Drakes: Definitely. was actually talking about this just before we hit go live is people say that attention's dwindling and I don't believe that because I know almost everyone, I know when the new Game of Thrones season came out, they stayed for two and a half days straight, without showering, without going to work. And they watched that entire thing from beginning to end. So if you tell me that attention is dying, I'm saying, I've said I don't agree. Like people binge watch stuff all time, and they binge consume things. And when a book comes out that you love, you read it from cover to cover, you almost find an excuse to sneak out of there. I think what's dwindling is quality stories and quality narratives that's... and kind of Facebook and Google and these things have enabled this amazing kind of data flow, which is quite powerful and can be linked to transactional sort of things. But the net result of that is people are almost so obsessed with the data that they forget, that we are ultimately humans talking to humans and nobody likes the guy who, every time you see them, he tries to sell you something. Like nobody wants to spend time with that guy. And if most of the brands out there are running me, look at me. I've got a million people coming at me, so I just put up a filter and that's what people I think are perceiving as a lack of attention, but they are brands that are doing amazing things that are getting people to engage in their content, to engage in their community. There's a brand called InstantPot. It's like a pressure cooker and a rice cooker all in one. And they now have an air fryer. There's a Facebook community of 2.9 million and they call themselves potheads and these are different kinds of potheads. And there's more than 2.9 million of them. So these people share recipes and tips and tricks around this product that they are absolutely obsessed with. And the brand has done this amazing job of curating these people and feeding them and giving them first access to products and inviting them to events. And then they're leveraging this relationship that they've formed. And this is like having a relationship with your kettle on Facebook. It's almost bizarre that it exists and yet somebody will put a post on this Facebook group and it'll get between 400 and 2,000 replies. There's brands that are spending tens of thousands of dollars a week to get just to scrape anywhere near to that an Instant Pot is getting it all for nothing, but it's because they created an amazing product. And the owner, if you go and read his story, he was passionate because he had all of these machines. If you're going to Asia, the kitchens are full with these like single use machines. So like the rice cooker and the bun steamer and the, an image just like, why do we have to have all of these things? Can't it all be in one? And he created this product and he scratched on some human nerve, that people who saw this product were like, I have to have it. And then once they got it, his initial thought was only to hear they elevated it through their own sort of tinkering up to a place where there's people kind of making the product better and giving other people advice on how to use it without them doing that. And it's almost like they are become these like unpaid ambassadors for this brand. And the only reason they're doing it is because they love the product and the company and the way that companies treated them so much that they willing to put in that time and that energy and that effort in an almost unlimited way.
[00:07:07] Russ Johns: And it's almost as if the community is powered by curiosity. Because what service, what product, what recipe can I make to contribute to this community? Because everybody's coming back and it's the organic engagement and then the curiosity feeding that curation, it sounds like.
[00:07:26] Ross Drakes: Yes. And I think a lot of brands would try and stop this. I listened to a story about this, there's a thing called LinkedIn live, which was started by a woman in Australia. And she had been in a big city in Australia. She just had a child and she moved to a smaller city in Australia. And she was like I'm going back out into the business world. I want some connections. I want to reach out and I don't really know how to do this. And because she was in a small town it wasn't like there were other things like this that she could just go in the tent.. So she came up with this idea. She was like, I'm going to do this, get together with professionals from my area on LinkedIn are going to meet at a place and just chat with each other. And she put this idea out there into the world and a guy in London and another guy, somewhere else, somewhere in Europe, picked up on it. And they were like, can we do one too? And she was like, yeah, of course. And over a sort of three year period, this thing exploded. So suddenly LinkedIn live, there were like 700 events happening every week around the world of people on LinkedIn getting together and connecting. And interestingly at the time, LinkedIn was way more of a like kind of recruiters tool. So it was a tool you would go to when you switched jobs or looking for a job. And if you weren't switching jobs or weren't looking for a job, you just never unlinked it. So he was just never there. So it was this like weird kind of almost like a poster of a human, but no interaction. And LinkedIn live was one of the things that started to create this sort of movement. But now what Microsoft did that Instant Pot didn't is they try to clamp down on this. They were like, this thing's a brand, like you've got our brand here and they trademarked all the names and they used all their lawyers and all their money to lock this thing down and essentially what happened is LinkedIn live died because the people who were organizing it suddenly felt oppressed by this brand. Hadn't given them permission to do this thing, even though they were, and it was adding value to the company. So LinkedIn live is dissolved and died the stiff. And I think there's a lesson here. That when you start engaging with people as a company, when you start putting out things into the world, you need to be ready and excited when people do things back, like we don't have, we don't live in a world where we can control it. Everything that the world does anymore, those days are long behind us. And I think if we want to keep growing and keep thriving in this environment, we need to almost embrace that kind of naturalness that happens when people pick up something and love it and drive it forward.
[00:10:05] Russ Johns: I really have to amplify what you just suggested because I've been involved in LinkedIn live, I've participated, I've contributed to, and I've actually done LinkedIn live pop-ups during the pandemic where we did it online. And we did not the same thing, , it was slightly different. And I actually registered the domain, a couple of domains that were very similar to that and immediately, I got a notification for a cease and desist like this is too confusing to the LinkedIn brand. You cannot use it. You cannot expand on this. And I've been on LinkedIn for years. I've been on since 2005 and I've always used it for building relationships and connections. And that's what the#PirateBroadcast™ is all about is highlighting people in the community, doing some great work. And I work really hard to highlight people on LinkedIn. I still sense that there's limitations about what can be accomplished through the platform and it would be really nice to allow more organic communication and collaboration and community around that as well.
[00:11:11] Ross Drakes: I think, I don't know, but I can hypothesize why this is happening, but the first thing, I just want to point out how crazy this is, and one thing, there's a marketing team at Microsoft who's engaging, widen Kennedy or, some other massive agency going, what we need is we need people to be engaging on LinkedIn and creating community around it. And and they're going, we've got $18 million to spend in the next six months to get this to happen. And they're shooting off in that direction. Then there's the kind of legal departments and the risk departments at Microsoft, which has found a community on LinkedIn, creating engagements and driving platform. And they're going whoa, we didn't own this. We didn't create this. We didn't mandate this. We didn't stamp this without sets of brand principles, which are so narrow that they don't allow anyone to achieve anything of meaning. So we going to step it up, you've got a cease and desist letter for doing what the platform is designed to do for connecting people and bringing them together in a professional environment. So it's insane. And I think it's happened because I think there's this almost like in my head, two kinds of organizations that are existing at the moment, there's organizations who are clear on their purpose. And some people call that a mission. Some people call that a vision. Some people call that a founding statement that they clear on what dent they want to make in the world. And it's not about them. It's about that dent that they're trying to make. So when other people jump on and take some of the glory maybe, or the brand or the fame or whatever, doesn't matter, they are happy because it's about solving that problem. It's not about being the biggest dog in the room or as being the most known or the one to do it. So they're these purpose driven organizations and then there's other organizations that haven't quite figured this out yet. And they are still operating in a slightly older mindset, which is like divide and conquer. Profit above all else. We'll use our legal team as hard as we use our kind of budgets and we've shut down our competitors. And it's like this divide that I'm seeing happen. And I think brands truly built on that organizational purpose are more able to allow other people to collaborate with them. They're more able to allow things to happen in a natural way and embrace it because it's ultimately that purpose or that mission or that vision coming to life. It's just not being done by you and your team. It's being done by an army of human beings who kind of engage, imagine YouTube didn't want people creating communities around the YouTube channel. It's just the whole platform would dissolve immediately because YouTube...
[00:13:55] Russ Johns: It would evaporate.
[00:13:56] Ross Drakes: Exactly. So it's a backpack. Like it's not that Google has to win and Ross Drakes has to fail, which is almost like how Microsoft is seeing this LinkedIn live thing. They're like if Ross Drakes does well on our plan, then our platform does better and ultimately Google will make more money than I will. Because they don't have just Ross Drakes, they have 27 million people with panels or whatever, building these audiences. And I think you've seen how people, Microsoft has shown again how bad they are, because they bought all of those people that bought people like ninja and they pulled them across onto their platform and then they shut it down. Like one of them were left stranded.
[00:14:35] Russ Johns: I don't want any competition. I'm going to buy you and then kill you. . Hey, speaking the community, I wanted to give a shout out to a couple of pirates in the community. Russ Hedge. good morning, Russ. And he says great morning to be a pirate. Absolutely. Russ has a live show on LinkedIn and around the community as well. Louis good morning, Ross and Russ from Los Angeles. Martin is here, saying, hey, greetings from Nairobi. Thank you so much. Howard Kaufman, curious on how you would define what a brand is. Oh, that's a great question. I like that question. Howard actually has a great product that I love and endorse. It's ORL, it's a mouth care product that is all natural and doesn't contain any toxic chemicals that are harmful to the body. And so that's awesome. And I'll come back to that. Louis. Absolutely. Martin has a couple of things, Ken, from Malta, he's here today. Fantastic. Martins here. For them is about being the biggest dog in the room. Always. He's talking about Microsoft, yeah. So going back to Howard's question. What is a brand?
[00:15:49] Ross Drakes: So I can tackle this question from so many different angles. Cause I've interviewed about 50 people and got many takes on it. But my favorite one, I'm very interested in what makes people emotionally connect to things and the job of a brand for me is to make people care. That's what the job of a brand is. It's to get them to feel something, to attach importance to a product, to a service, a person or whatever, that's what it's supposed to do. But what a brand ultimately is comes from one of our sort of human traits, which is it's a collective hallucination. We've all agreed that this thing exists, but it doesn't, and we've all agreed that this thing has value. When if you actually look at it, it doesn't, but it does because we've all agreed that it does. So I think a brand is a collection of associations that a group of people make around a product or a service. And it becomes a place in which they can store those associations. And those could be life experiences, those could be how it makes you feel, those could be what it says about you and your status in society. It could be what it says about your values as a human being. It could be a lack, a myriad of different things, but I see brands are the vehicle that companies can use to reach an audience that the bridge between a company and a human is a brand. And if you get that, you create an emotional connection between an organization and an individual. And that is a truly powerful thing, because if you stick to the, almost the agreements of what that means, you can create value for both the company and for the individual, and that can create a life long sort of connection in whatever sense. And that might be something that they spend a lot of money over their lifetime. It might be something that they do just once, but they still have this amazing sort of experience of it. I always, sorry, go ahead.
[00:17:58] Russ Johns: No, go ahead. I was just going to say it's interesting how, because you can have a brand and what comes to mind is like Coke versus Red Bull. They're both drinks and they're both brands, however, they attack and attract their audience in a completely different way. Red bull is this not so tasty drink, but it has a lot of adrenaline attached to it. And Coke is just a long standard. It's Coke. It's just like a piece of the architecture of today's communities and today's organizations and it's just like there. So I'm thinking of a new brand, new companies that come out and how they can actually build a community around that. How do they activate community like Instapot does?
[00:18:48] Ross Drakes: I think community's a double edged sword and I don't think every company needs or should want a community because you don't turn a community on when it suits you and then turn it off when it doesn't. And if you are going to have a community, you need to be committed to the long term investment. That means because like I say, people start to associate with the brand and they start to build equity in it, in their mind. And then they have expectations of that brand. And , if you've set up a community, then you need to fulfill those expectations or alter those expectations forever. You can't just shut it down. And we talked about Microsoft earlier, they've shut down a few different things that have really upset people and over the long-term I'm sure that will ultimately affect them, but a really good example for me of a company created something like this that has then leverage that into a bigger thing is a company called Allbirds. And they were started because that the founder was a rugby player. So he used to travel a lot. So they would go on tour for four months, so he'd be living out of a bag. And when you're living out of a bag, what you put in your bag becomes very important to you. So you're like I don't want to have five pairs of shoes so that I can wear something to practice in the morning, go to lunch in a different pair and then take something out. So he was like, I want a sneaker that can fulfill all of these needs, that still looks good and still works practically in those invites. And then in his off season, cause he was a rugby player, he got three, four months a year when it was winter and they basically go or just sit and do nothing. So he was like let me make my own shoe. And he went to China and he started engaging there and he was shocked at how it toxic shoemaking ultimately is. The glues and the dyes and the materials and all that stuff. It's just it's not a great industry for the planet. So he came back to New Zealand and he was like, Let me see if I can do a better job. And Allbirds as a company is based around this idea of the shoe that's got these multiple uses, but they've also invented their own materials. So they've taken Merino wool and they've turned it into a leather like product, they've created glues from eucalyptus trees, they've found bark from a one process and turned it into the laces. So the DNA of this company is a really interesting thing. And obviously a group of humans who that appeals to massively, and they've created this community of people who are think about the planets and think about the materials of what they're buying. And this is formed around this brand, but now Addidas is trying to borrow from that. So now Addidas and Allbirds are doing a collaboration because added assets seen that Allbirds has achieved something that they want to do. So they want to move into this kind of new future and this new sustainability. And it'll be interesting to see how the community of Allbirds react to them taking the step that suits the business. Cause doing a collaboration with Addidas is the best thing for the business. And it'll expand their audience and it'll make them global and all of these kinds of things, which are amazing, but that core audience might hate it. So as a brand, they need to be careful with those people who love them for who they are and they need to communicate that decision they've made in a way that those people don't end up turning on them because what could happen, in one scenario, those people buy into it and they go along for the journey and it's great for Allbirds. In the other one, those people abandoned Allbirds, Addidas will use them for as long as they need them. And they move on to the next thing that they are doing and always will try and return to its original condition and find no one there anymore because everyone's walked away and said, this is not interesting. So if you are going to go for a community, know that comes with great reward, but also great cost because if he didn't have that community could just do whatever he wants. And he's this is the best thing for my business, so I'm going to do it and nobody, like there isn't anybody around who's going to be vehemently opposed to this because nobody cares about us to that sort of level.
[00:23:04] Russ Johns: I love that conversation and it's one of those things that you can think about all kinds of different products, different audiences, different ways to communicate. I just want to make sure that people know how to connect with you Ross before we take off. I know that we have, let me bring this up. If you want to connect with Ross, you also are a speaker and you're giving presentations out on a regular basis as often as you're able, I'm not sure how you're local situation is there for getting out in public, but it differs around the world. But also mentioned your company again.
[00:23:38] Ross Drakes: So my company is called Nicework.
[00:23:40] Russ Johns: Nicework. I like that. I like that.
[00:23:43] Ross Drakes: If you get a nice way...
[00:23:43] Russ Johns: It's got a branding thing to it. Nice one.
[00:23:45] Ross Drakes: And there's a trick there because essentially we are promising only Nicework. I'm not saying great work or outstanding work so we can promise low and over-deliver every single time. So that's the thought behind it.
[00:23:59] Russ Johns: This is great. I love the fact that we can actually highlight people. Elise is down in your neck of the woods. She's in South Africa. She comes on the show on a regular basis. I've got some great connections here. Wendy is on the show. Good morning, Ross and Russ, a grand example of bearded pirates who exemplify #kindnessiscool and provides lots of free smiles. And that's the whole thing about the #PirateBroadcast™ is #kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. That's the brand. And that's the message that I want to make sure that we share out. She also goes on to say brands whose fans that make that epic impact on each other. Harley Davidson, Peloton, Coke. Who else? The list goes on and on. We could talk about this and as a selfish side note, I really like the idea of building out the #PirateBroadcast and the #PirateSyndicate, hopefully your experience getting on was easy access. It didn't create any problems for you and the notifications followed up and in signing up for the #PirateBroadcast™ was okay. That's what the #PirateSyndicate does. And that's what we do for other organizations is help them organize that and get them online as well.
[00:25:14] Ross Drakes: I love what you're talking about there and it's actually something I sent you back an email when we first connected. I love that the concept of #kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree so for me, that's almost your rallying call. That's what you exist to deliver. And you're going to attract people who like that. You're going to attract people who when they see that they go, I like that. And what you've done there, which is I think that kind of newer companies are more comfortable doing is you've drawn the line in the sand. You've said, this is what I stand for. This is what's important to me and if you like that, come and join me on this side of the line and if you don't, that's also fine. You're just not my people. You're not my people. We're not going to work together. We're not going to engage with each other. We will have a coffee, not like we're going to have you on this platform. And I think once again, there's something there for companies, is that who are you for and who are you not for? And that is so important because I think saying who you say no to is almost as important as who you say yes to because that's what defines how you behave in the world, how you show up, how you serve people, how you create products, how you talk about what you do, how you find people, how other people will share. There's an amazing saying that, do you want to be someone's favorites or their regular, and I think that's different because you go to your favorite restaurant once every now and again, but they are products and this brands that you invite into your world that you use all the time. And I don't know if there's a right or wrong answer to this, but I think being intentional about it and thinking about what's important to you as the founder of the business and what's important to the people that you serve and building around that is what makes things that make the world better. And this is why I do this work as I'm a selfish human, I want to live in a world where brands and companies are doing things that are making the world around me better. Even if it's not for me. Like I think the day and age of these like tone deaf brands that are just like steam rolling everything is ending. And, there's an amazing if you go look at the S and P 500 from 1970, 1967 to 2017, there's only one company that made it in the top 20 all the way. And that's a AT&T, but AT&T is not the same company they were in 1917 as they are today. So I think big companies feel invincible, but Nokia, who else? Kodak, Enron there's companies that go away and they do and I think this is the, almost the thing, I think people need to realize that if you're not clear about what's important to you and why that matters, your brand context and your company will ultimately go away. And I'm not saying that companies like Microsoft are going to go away, but if they don't catch a wake up, people can come along and steal away a lot in a very short period of time. And that doesn't necessarily carry you forever. Look at Facebook has gone in sort of five, six years from being the company that everyone loved to now, the thing that people kind of use, but grudgingly, because it's there, but if there was a better alternative, I'm sure a whole bunch of people would flock off.
[00:28:33] Russ Johns: There's always going to be another alternative coming up attempting to attack the the big dog on the block.
[00:28:40] Ross Drakes: And then you look at a brand, Harley Davidson was mentioned earlier. I love it. It's not a brand for me. I will never buy a Harley Davidson, but when I look at how they've built something that people love, that people spend like tens of thousands of dollars on tassels for their handles, because it's not just a task. They are building out an extension of who they are as a person and that extension says, this is who I am. This is the community that I belong to. This is what's important to me. These are all of the things that I believe about the world. Those tassels embrace them. Harley Davidson truly gets that, but people have tattooed Harley Davidson across their body. Like massively it's insane. But they do it anyway.
[00:29:24] Russ Johns: They do have some fans. Ross it's been amazing. I love this conversation. I'd love to have you back on the #PirateBroadcast anytime. You're a pirate, you're always welcome back. And also, I just want to remind everybody that go out, connect with Ross. We got to wrap it up today, but I know that you're available on LinkedIn. You have a LinkedIn profile. So just tell Ross you're a pirate. You can make a connection. Start these conversations, build the community because the pie never runs out. We can always collaborate and have a great time and a great conversation. So thank you so much for being here, Ross. I really appreciate you being here.
[00:30:03] Ross Drakes: It's a pleasure. And thank you for the work that you do. I think you are the person who's connecting and curating and pulling all this stuff together. So thank you very much for your platform and for your time.
[00:30:14] Russ Johns: You bet. And as always everyone, #kindnessiscool, #smilesarefree, so you #enjoytheday. Take care. Thank you. Bye-bye.
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