Community//

“Build your brand.” With Fotis Georgiadis & Sid Shah

Building a brand should be your number one priority before anything else because it is the core of what your company is about, it’s not just a pretty logo. Customers today want authenticity more than anything else and that is wrapped up in your brand. Your brand today is how you talk, how customer service […]

Building a brand should be your number one priority before anything else because it is the core of what your company is about, it’s not just a pretty logo. Customers today want authenticity more than anything else and that is wrapped up in your brand. Your brand today is how you talk, how customer service answers the phone, how your employees dress, the quality of your product, the mission of your company, etc. All those components have to work together seamlessly and be communicated to the customer in a bite sized chunk, so that they can feel the authenticity of your brand. There are so many choices out there, that is what is going to help you stand out, and find customers that believe in you.


I had the pleasure to interview Sid Shah of BCG Digital Ventures. With over 20 years’ experience in successfully launching and operationalizing companies from the ground up, Sid specializes in helping startups and growing SMEs, with particular expertise in the digital space. He has advised corporate and celebrity clients on structuring investments and building partnerships, and has held leadership positions at large global corporations, high growth startups, and philanthropic community organizations.

Previously, Sid was the founder and CEO of the Wild East Group, a brand/celebrity IP commercialization firm. Its primary property, HRX, was India’s first homegrown fitness and digital celebrity brand. He also helped Britney Spears launch her fragrance nationally across retail.

Today, he is managing director and partner at BCG Digital Ventures, the Boston Consulting Group’s incubator and investor arm. In his current role, he is responsible for investing in and creating category-changing businesses at start-up level for the world’s most influential companies.


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?

Two things have always driven my career decisions: experience and pushing the status quo. I ask myself, “Does the opportunity excite me?” I started my career in consulting with PwC, and Deloitte. For many people the chance to work for one of the ‘Big Four’ is allure enough, but the thing that really drew me to consulting was the travel. I essentially got paid to travel the world and work at different companies, so it certainly felt like the most exciting opportunity that was in front of me at that time.

It definitely opened the world to me. I worked in Italy, France, Germany, Japan, and India. I did that for seven years before I realized I had other goals and passions that I wanted to pursue, beyond making slides and giving presentations. So I went to business school to spend time figuring that out.

I attended Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Chicago to pursue my passions of entrepreneurship, pop culture, and business development. Following that, I landed a job with the company that built the Britney Spears fragrance line, a firm that ended up becoming a billion dollar company. I loved it. I was able to be an entrepreneur and create a new category of business leveraging pop culture and intellectual property.

I wanted to do more, but I wanted to be the owner this time, not just the facilitator. So I evaluated areas in the world that were heavily influenced by celebrity but where their IP commercialization was next to zero, and India came up top of my analysis. I started knocking on doors and met Hrithik Roshan, arguably India’s top celebrity of the last two decades. He and I ended up starting a fitness brand together called HRX, which at the time was India’s first celebrity brand extension, as well as India’s first homegrown fitness brand. We were competing against Nike and Reebok so it was a real baptism of fire — but it paid dividends.

Fast forward five years, and we were the number one online fitness brand in the country; it wasn’t long before Flipkart (Walmart India) came calling, who ended up taking a majority stake in the business. Once I felt the brand was in good hands, I left India and joined the founding team of my current operation: BCG Digital Ventures (BCG’s corporate venture fund and incubator).

In the five years since we started, we have launched over 100 businesses globally, with the largest and most influential corporations in the world. Personally, I have launched businesses in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Spain, and the US. We have scaled the company to over 1,000 people worldwide, with six global centers. All of this is because I chose experience as my key filter in making decisions — and so far it has been an amazing ride.

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 remember when I was in high school, I made the cheesiest every-business card, something that if I remembered what it was today, I would be extremely embarrassed about. It was really horrible. I do remember though that most people I gave it to made comments about it, and lots of people remembered the card years later. I realized that it is important to stand out from the clutter: be different from the status quo and take risks even if you feel like a fool. Of course, I am much better in what I put out now, but that was an important lesson to me very early on in self-branding, as well as ideation for some of my entrepreneurial endeavors.

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 would say when I started my own company. Not only did I start my own company, which is tough enough, I started in a new country, India — which isn’t the easiest place to do business.

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

The most exciting personal project for me right now is a podcast that I have developed and launched called Chasing the White Rabbit, which is a discussion with interesting people about risks they have taken, or going down the rabbit hole, without knowing what’s on the other side, and how that changed the trajectory of their life. I hope this helps people realize there are multiple decisions frameworks that people use to take risks and capitalize on them. There is not one size that fits all. I also hope that people realize that to do anything extraordinary, you have to jump down that rabbit hole.

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

In general, I don’t really believe there is work life balance, I think it is work life harmony. You have your phone, email, text, etc all of the time and it is a global economy, so you are effectively ‘on’ all of the time. You have to really be introspective and think how do you make it work with your personal life and other non-work goals, and then commit to that lifestyle.

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 is your company, product, and people definition. Advertising is how you communicate that to your specific customers. For me, there are my intertwining components of brand: product, mission, customer service, people, value proposition, messaging, logo, colors, distribution, etc. There are also many different ways to advertise: social media, ATL, BTL, growth hacking, word of mouth, referrals, etc.

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 should be your number one priority before anything else because it is the core of what your company is about, it’s not just a pretty logo. Customers today want authenticity more than anything else and that is wrapped up in your brand. Your brand today is how you talk, how customer service answers the phone, how your employees dress, the quality of your product, the mission of your company, etc. All those components have to work together seamlessly and be communicated to the customer in a bite sized chunk, so that they can feel the authenticity of your brand. There are so many choices out there, that is what is going to help you stand out, and find customers that believe in you.

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

Just like people, artists and celebrities, brands can change or grow-up. Their values and products may evolve and the brand has to capture that growth. Rebranding is great if done at the right time for the right reasons. Most of the greatest brands on this planet have rebranded at least ten times in their life and typically business continues the same way as it did before.

A rebrand can occur for so many reasons but typically you’re looking at refreshing for a new generation of consumers and you’re wanting to reflect the world they see themselves in. Otherwise, you might rebrand to encapsulate a new product in your messaging or to put forth a new and relevant set of values or technology. It’s a multi-faceted decision that is going to be inherently unique because it has to keep the brand’s DNA. Anything else is a debrand.

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

I think there are some basic reasons to think through as you consider re-branding. Will it cause confusion in the market or with your customer? Is the re-brand drastic and a complete departure of your current brand or an evolution? Do you have the money to launch a full re-brand? It’s typically quite expensive to do it properly. You have to be prepared to lose a few customers, because the new brand may not resonate. If you have a proper re-branding strategy, then all of this will be taken into account. You are playing the long game with your brand, not the short game, so hopefully it works out.

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.

I will give you three. I think brands get re-energized by the people working for them. They need to be energized about the brand and be obsessed with it. That has to be the starting point.

1. Ensure there is a unique origin story around your product/service that rallies all of your stakeholders (investors, customers, employees) — Airbnb is a great origin story that everybody around them identified with and joined their movement which became a cult which became a massive disruptive company

2. Align product/service, brand, colors, packaging, office design, methodology, values, and employee proposition so that they are encapsulated. Apple is so great at this. Every single part of their value chain is seamless with the next part, and they are all aligned based on their brand values which are directly correlated to their employees’ value proposition. Everything is about building products they believe in, going for it, caring about what they do, everyone is in this adventure with them, and make a positive impact on society while making a profit

3. Get into the press with your customers, create moments and virality — I think the NBA does a great job. They use every platform differently and intentionally. Want NBA highlights? Go to Instagram. Want NBA news? Go to Twitter. Want NBA comedy, memes, and motivation? Go to TikTok.

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, originally Dunking Donuts, did a pretty good job. People already just called it Dunkin, and they just went with that. They have a strong and loyal customer base that didn’t budge,and now Dunkin which still sells donuts, can do a lot more.

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. 🙂

Right now my wife and I are focused on developing and investing in ideas that help children without parents. This is deeply personal to us and something that we want to spend more time on over the years. We see how important a child’s development is with the right attention at home, and we know there are so many children around the world without it, for so many reasons. We are parents, and it breaks our hearts to think about all of the kids out there without parents, without love, and without direction.

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

The quote I like right now is by Marc Andreessen. I have seen it happen in my life and to those around me. Basically, if you really want something and go after it, the world will make room for it somehow: “The world is a very malleable place. If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you much more quickly and easily than you would think.”

How can our readers follow you online?

www.sidshahlive.com

IG, Twitter, Linkedin — @sidshahlive

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

“Be where your audience is.”, with Mike Maleszyk

by Ben Ari
Community//

Why Sidney Clevinger Has Been Able to Generate Millions With His Advertising Agency

by Jonathan Rays
Community//

Anna Crowe: “Be clear, compelling and consistent”

by Ben Ari

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.