Your brand must evolve to maintain constant freshness. Every successful company has undergone some kind of rebranding or major face lift in their lifetime and several “touch-ups” so-to-speak. When we examine ourselves, none of us have the same hairstyle, facial hair, style of dress, fashion sense, or even exact same body dimensions for more than five years usually. So just as people evolve for personal growth, a company must evolve to keep up with the public perception of what’s fresh. Don’t ever fall behind the pace at which people change or the tastes and times will quickly leave your brand behind.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Rio Rocket. Rio is a multi-hyphenate film, television, and voice actor, writer, and motivational speaker for Lowe’s Companies, Inc. Rio has a recurring role as G-Force in the upcoming ABC TV Series For Life. In the realm of marketing he is a highly accomplished digital marketing and branding expert who has successfully branded hundreds of individual brands for corporations, small businesses, professionals, products, and services over the past two decades.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Rio! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Sogoing back, I was able to draw before I could read and write. Growing up, no matter what career path I chose I was always led back to being an artist. After a brief stint as a music artist and then a stockbroker for some time, I put myself through college a second time for graphic design and marketing. From there, I spent the better part of the last two decades building and growing my digital marketing and branding business from a seed that began with graphic art.
I ventured into the acting world on a whim. My goal was to audition for a voice-acting role to portray Aku, the antagonist in the animated Samurai Jack movie that was being developed by Frederator Films, J.J Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions in 2009, and possibly Sony Entertainment in 2012.
The film project never materialized, but I had a talent for character voices and discovered that expression of artistic talent isn’t limited to any single medium. The ‘arts’ is one of the most expansive disciplines throughout human culture and society. As I moved into on-camera acting, speaking, and writing, I soon found that all my experience in digital marketing and branding could once again be put to use to benefit my acting career.
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?
Oh yes, you’re referring to the mohawk. Well, I had this pretty extreme mohawk years back and was adamant about keeping it when I transitioned from voice-acting to on-camera work. At the time I figured that was part of my brand image, and it was an authentic expression of who I was at the time.
Now the opportunities came, but were scarce for someone with that extreme of a haircut. One day they just stopped coming. I had an “industry insider” friend break it to me that from this point on, “You’re only going to get a role as an gang member or a drug dealer.” Bzzzzzzt…just like that the mohawk was on my bathroom floor. You know, the ability to listen can almost be considered a superpower.
What do you think makes your brand stand out? Can you share a story?
If you’re looking at it from a visual perspective I believe it’s my artistic eye that makes Rio Rocket stand out as a brand. Weird, referring to myself in the third person like that, but you are your own brand and every five years or so you must do something to reinvent yourself and stay fresh.
To stay on the visuals for a moment, I put a tremendous amount of creative effort in my marketing visuals. For example, most or all of my social media images are pretty much graphically edited by me. I just tell the photographer to send over the RAW files and their response is usually something like, “Sure that’s less work for me and you’re making me look good anyhow.”
Now, from a performance perspective what I believe makes me stand out is my relentless work ethic, but also coming from a place of authenticity and being comfortable in my own skin. Any performance you see from me always comes from a genuine place. I’m deeply connected to the character or I’m not accepting the role.
For every role, even those where I only have a few lines in a production, I go home and write six to ten page character biographies. I’m living in that character’s skin and in that story universe when the cameras roll. Even when they’re not rolling, I’m always about 50% in-character when I’m on set. When I’m hired for a job, the director and production company have a dedicated artist on set always ready to perform at Level 10.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At the moment I’m portraying the character G-Force in the upcoming ABC Series For Life, executive produced by Hank Steinberg and 50-Cent. It’s a drama inspired by the life of Isaac Wright, Jr. starring Nicholas Pinnock as Aaron, the main character.
50-Cent portrays Cassius, an inmate who has taken control of the penitentiary where Aaron is serving his sentence while studying law to overturn his wrongful conviction. G-Force is an enforcer for Cassius who brings some heavy pressure to Aaron and another inmate studying law, Jamal — portrayed by Dorian Missick.
We’ve got a pretty exciting and talented cast. It also stars Hassan Johnson, Colin Kilkenny, Indira Varma, Joy Bryant, Will Cobbs, Tyhem Commodore, Haha Davis, and many other exceptionally talented people I’ve been blessed to work with. For Life is a groundbreaking production by ABC that will bring to light the stories of those who have been wrongfully accused, many still serving prison sentences today.
The 60 Minute Startup is a recently released best-selling book on entrepreneurship, that I worked on with author Ramesh Dontha. It’s a step-by-step blueprint for building a sustainable business in only one hour per day in thirty days or less. The book is based on ‘Agile Methodology’ which is the same intuitive approach to early stage growth that built Uber, Instagram, and Airbnb. Normally utilized in the software development space, the iterative nature of this process allows business owners to hack the growth process by rapidly finding what works and what doesn’t.
Ramesh reached out to me earlier this year about writing a chapter for the book to tap into my marketing and branding knowledge. He was very persuasive, convincing me to give away alot of my “once-secret” sales pitches and marketing templates. If you’re thinking about starting a business and want to get paid fast, this is the book for you.
I’m also writing several original screenplays that are a part of much larger, much greater series even though the story lines are not directly connected to one another. I’ve found that I enjoy writing stories with social impact about those who have felt invisible, voiceless or forgotten (in history). History was an emphasis of mine in college. I aim to generate a strong social dialogue with my stories. A good film or TV series that entertains is all well and good, but one that gets people talking in a dialogue afterward is much more profound. I’m not aiming for good, I’m going for great.
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 an experiential promise in which every time the public interacts with the company or individual, the experience will be unique and unforgettable. So it’s the extension of the company or individual that leaves an emotional aftertaste which determines what people will think of you.
Product marketing are the promotional methods in which a company or individual use to create awareness about products or services for sale. The company or individual is the brand. The products and services are its offerings.
Keep in mind you can also brand your products and market your brands.
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 brand is an asset of immense tangible and intangible value that extends far beyond the boundaries of a corporation. The corporation is sum of the product(s), service(s), and company assets. The brand is the reputation of the company’s interaction with the public and social vibrancy of what it’s value means to the world.
A reputation of high performance, high quality, superior customer service, strong community support, charitable work, and social and environmental responsibility is worth more than the tangible assets the company may own. A company can diminish in value on paper or even be sued for its assets but the brand will remain. If that brand is strong enough in the eyes of the public, it should be able to rebuild the company many times over.
This is happening in the case with Brookstone right now. The company recently closed all of its mall stores and has a emerged from bankruptcy to now have its products sold at Bed, Bath & Beyond and Macy’s. Shamelessly plugged, I am part of their holiday re-launch campaign.
Can you share 5 strategies that a large company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
Whether large or small all of the following must apply:
1. Your brand must be absolutely unforgettable.
Strategy: The only way to do this is through an experience that leaves strong emotional residue. Find events such as your customer’s birthday, anniversary or other special occasion and turn it into a brand defining moment by doing something meaningful and memorable for that customer.
2. Your brand message must connect with consumers on a personal level, infused with personal storytelling that resonates with the audience.
Strategy: Show don’t tell. Create vivid visual and auditory experiences that have a beginning, middle, and an end for your audience that they can relate to.
3. Your message must be personalized and specific.
Strategy: Specificity sells. Carve out a niche and speak their language. If you were creating a YouTube Channel on the subject of “fishing”, your audience would be too broad and you’d be competing with other heavyweights already well-established on the subject.
Where do you specialize in fishing? Canada.
What type of fish and what part of Canada? Trout fishing in the rivers of NW Canada.
That won’t resonate with most people but to the people it does, it will resonate deeply.
4. Your call to action must be powerful but capture the essence of simplicity.
Strategy: Staying with the previous niche example, a powerful call to action would be: Catch 10X as many trout in the rivers of NW Canada with our trade fishing secrets by subscribing to this channel now. The “10X” utilizes the power of numbers, the “trade fishing secrets” capitalizes on the fear of missing out, and the action they need to take is to “subscribe now.”
5. Your brand must evolve to maintain constant freshness.
Strategy: Every successful company has undergone some kind of rebranding or major face lift in their lifetime and several “touch-ups” so-to-speak. When we examine ourselves, none of us have the same hairstyle, facial hair, style of dress, fashion sense, or even exact same body dimensions for more than five years usually.
So just as people evolve for personal growth, a company must evolve to keep up with the public perception of what’s fresh. Don’t ever fall behind the pace at which people change or the tastes and times will quickly leave your brand behind.
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?
Marvel. Ever since I saw the movie Blade in 1998, I knew that this was bigger than toys and comics. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby have created a brand legacy whose popularity reflects in their sales, their viewership, and their immense fandom.
There’s a reason The Walt Disney Company acquired this beloved brand in 2009 for $4 billion and Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox also have characters rights for films. Marvel Entertainment has done an exceptional job at appealing to the inner-child in all of us and our need to seek out heroes (and villains) to model ourselves after.
If you really want to geek out, check out the post, “Every Marvel Film & TV Show in Chronological Order” on my blog.
Replicating the success of another brand at this level falls within the range of highly improbable to nearly impossible. Avengers: Endgame is the highest-grossing film in history at $2.797 billion hovering above blockbusters Avatar and Titanic. What’s beyond impressive is that 9 out of the top 25 highest-grossing films in history are Marvel movies.
The takeaways from Marvel’s success are clear. Appeal to the most inner child-like need of your audience and you will build more than a tribe, you will build an empire.
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?
Monitoring discussions and mentions about your brand, both in frequency and tone, is one of the most useful metrics in measuring brand success. If you’re a large company, you want to track your Net Promoter Score. It’s an index ranging from -100 to100 which indicates the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others in their network.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social Media is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal in building our community or tribe. It’s the equivalent of having a direct line to any and everyone that you would ever need to reach with your message. I use it as a medium to express my creativity, showcase my works, and connect to my audience.
I use Instagram almost to the capacity of a blog, because I put so much into the theme of each post and writing out meaningful captions. I max out my character count almost every time. That’s just me. On the flipside, I’ve seen people have success with two word captions as well. The common goal here is to polish your unique message and communicate your value from a place of authenticity. That’s how you build a strong community and a loyal tribe.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Ah, the B-word. Burnout is a word we’re hearing more often in recent times. People are burned out from work, social interactions, personal relationships, and family obligations. Recently, WHO updated its definition for the ICD-11 to call burnout a “syndrome”, tying it to “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” I find that interesting since the previous ICD-10 declared it was a “state of vital exhaustion.”
Now time for my definition. Burnout is just an extreme state of boredom and fatigue dwelling in the complete absence of passion and motivation. A highly passionate and obsessively motivated person will almost never completely burnout, let alone experience any extended bout with boredom in their career.
Pace yourself, be efficient with your time, and pour into your work. I mean really, pour your mind, heart, and soul into what you do and believe deeply others will acknowledge your passion. Then when that’s all said and done, find time for some really deep sleep and meditation.
But once you awaken, be relentless, driven, obsessive, and move with a high level of conviction like you’ve got to fulfill your purpose before some cosmic meteor is going to smash into this Earth. Unleash your brand’s message unto the world as if the sky is falling and it’s the last thing the world is going to hear you say. That’s how I find my passion and avoid ever burning out.
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’m going to create a literacy program in the future that goes beyond teaching people how to read and write academically, but to nurture voluminous creativity in the areas of writing within marginalized groups. Future writers, thought leaders, and content creators — get your ideas ready.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Be the flame not the moth! — Giacomo Casanova. Moths just go around chasing flames only to be incinerated into ashes. Flames burn bright and are indifferent and unattached to the outcome — thus attracting the moth. Be the attraction and not led to destruction due to what you’re attracted to. Be the seducer, not the seduced.
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. 🙂
That would be LeBron James and Maverick Carter. I’m in awe at what those guys are doing at Team Lebron. Over lunch, I’d love to discuss some story ideas I’ve been developing and pouring into that I know are bigger than just entertainment alone.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.