Brand Consistency. Set your logo, tagline, mission statement and have it been something that resonates with people and is memorable.
Stay True to Yourself. It’s great to stay up with the times and current trends, but don’t lose yourself in the process. Build upon your strengths and maintain the core values you had at the beginning. With authenticity as a driving force of consumer sentiment, and phony people or brands will be weeded out eventually.
As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Morales, marketing veteran based in Los Angeles. His career path started with as an intern in the music industry and progressed to Morales leading strategy for some of the largest consumer brands in the world. Currently, Morales serves as the VP of Marketing for NYDJ. Since joining the company in December of 2019, he has guided the brand’s marketing, visual identity, and commerce ventures as NYDJ maintains its role as a leader in lifestyle and fashion in a post-pandemic market.
Morales is responsible for the migration of NYDJ from Salesforce to Shopify, which reduced costs for the company by more than 65% and greatly improved the consumer experience. Under Morales’ leadership, NYDJ has become an industry pioneer in e-commerce. Morales’ expertise has led to him being a frequent speaker on leading industry panels including Shopify Plus “Road to Success Series,” DNA’s Test, Optimize, Scale, Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, Social Media Week, The Gypsy Shack, and WeWork, Pepperjam’s Peptalks, Social Media Club LA, Expert Dojo (Santa Monica), Travelers.com, Heart of JOB Foundation, and more.
Prior to joining the NYDJ team, Morales spent more than 15 years working in the music industry. He began his professional career working for Warner Bros. Records (2003–2007) where he created marketing campaigns for a myriad of artists including among them My Chemical Romance, Green Day, Avenged Sevenfold, HIM, The Used, while also overseeing fan communities, both on and offline. In those roles, Morales led groups ranging from 300 to more than 50,000 members with an overall network of 150,000 members.
After a successful career in music, including receiving43 RIAA Certification plaques, 1 Platinum Plaques, and 1 World-Wide 3X Platinum Record Awards, Morales, took his passion for nurturing community and decided to expand his reach. Morales worked for the esteemed Bob Marley estate, creating and managing the social media identity for the icon Bob Marley and his son Ziggy Marley. His expertise was sought after to help launch the men’s subscription service Trendy Butler where he oversaw all marketing efforts, growing the subscription base to over 6,000 members in their first year.
Morales was also the Founder of Loudley, a boutique marketing and advertising agency specializing in Marketing Strategy and social advertising (Instagram and Facebook ads). Morales is a seasoned marketing professional expert in all aspects of digital marketing, web development, social media marketing and fan engagement.
Outside of work, Morales is a father, music lover, and sports card fanatic. The LA native can often be found in his favorite LA spots, geeking out over the newest media platforms, searching for the best live entertainment (once the world safely opens up again). Regardless of the field, Morales brings his best self, and a world of expertise.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my career in the music industry. I loved going to concerts and have always been a very social person. I met some people after one of the shows and that led to an internship which then quickly turned into a full-time job that resulted in myself dropping out of college. I never got a job from a traditional apply and interview process. All of the jobs I received came from referrals, or people that I had worked with in some capacity before that wanted to work with me again. I’ve always worked hard, maintained friendships and tried to help people when I have the opportunity to do so, and I’d like to think that goes a long way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Around the time my daughter was born, I had the opportunity to take some time away from a traditional 9–5 to do some freelance work. I landed Bob Marley Estate managing his social media and working closely with Ziggy Marley and his wife Orly Marley (ex WME). It was an amazing experience, but I didn’t realize how much my job impacted what people assumed about me. During my time working with the Marley’s, a friend of mine was working on the marketing team for a high-profile Actor / Musician I’d be a good fit for a role they were trying to fill since we had some close mutual friends from my time working with bands at Warner Bros Record so there were some established synergies there. I showed up to this client’s house [SA3] in the Hollywood Hills for the meeting/interview and one of his employees escorted me to the living room to have a seat About an hour later he walks into the room, I stand to shake his hand and he immediately waves me off and says, “No you’re good” and asks what I do for a living I say I’m working for the Bob Marley Estate managing their social media. He stops me mid-sentence and says, “Oh so you smoke a lot of weed.” I say no, I have a newborn daughter at home, and he stops me again and he says, “Oh so you definitely smoke a lot of weed then.” I again say no. That’s not really my thing, but I had a feeling that the sober, vegan person in front of me has made up his mind about me. We go on to talk about his upcoming plans, and if I would be a fit for the role. It ended up not being a role I took, and I laugh about the story now, but it was an interesting experience.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
When I was newer to my project manager role at Warner Bros Records, we had a band that we really wanted to get behind on a small promotional tour. We were getting out materials to promote them signing to the label and their upcoming release. This was something we were eager to support as a department, and had reps ready to cover their shows, but we were under an extremely tight time frame. The materials came to us about 10 minutes before our scheduled FedEx drop off, and I had prepped our weekly boxes to go out but mixed up the labels and didn’t get the materials out to the first date with our Chicago rep. E-mails kicked up to the 2nd in command of the company about our missed coverage and my boss came under fire over something we were supposed to have locked in. He protected me but told me not to let it happen again.
Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
The in-house person that was helping us make the promotional materials told me, “whenever you rush something or do something last minute, something always goes wrong.” That has rung true so many times throughout my career. If you can, take the time and prepare.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We really love what Reformation did with thredUp and are working something in a similar vein where our customers can donate or recycle their denim. It’s always a good idea to work towards reducing waste and move towards some sort of sustainability.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Find something outside of work that excites you and keeps your mind busy and active. I’ve seen a lot of people have fun with investing in stocks or learning about blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. I myself am an avid sports fan, and I have enjoyed getting back into collecting sports cards and memorabilia.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My good friend Ali Najafian has hired me or brought me along to work on projects three times throughout my career. We met when I was at Warner Brothers Records and he was at Maverick records and hit it off both being kind of technology nerds. I knew he was never comfortable being the face of the company or the head guy in charge, but he is brilliant. He would leave those parts to other partners, but it wouldn’t work out right. It’s been amazing to see him make the transition from someone more behind the scenes, doing all the coding and technical work to being the point person and head of a group that investors keep putting money into projects because he is spearheading them.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’d say I’ve still got a long way to bring goodness to the world, but I’ve worked on starting closest to home. I use my success to support my friends and family when I can. I make myself available to all of my friends that are small business owners and advise them, free of charge of course, as if I was working for them running their marketing efforts. I also support my friends’ companies by buying their products, sharing their businesses on social media and urging others to do the same.
The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
I’d say the “buy now, pick up at store” model has been a huge success. It has had its struggles but being able to keep the same access to goods quickly without having to ship everything has been great. Another thing that we are looking to launch soon is a virtual stylist session with one of our associates. A large part of our business before the pandemic was traditional wholesale, and our most loyal customers found out about NYDJ through our wholesale partners and enjoyed that experience. We want to bridge the gap and create an experience as close to it as possible.
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
I feel that retail stores or malls will continue to exist, just not in the same manner and capacity that we saw personally. Though you can get a lot of your shopping done online, you will never be able to replicate that feeling of finding that right pair of jeans, shirt or shoes, trying them on and knowing when you look in the mirror that you have to have it now.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
First,I’d say it comes down to really nailing down your value proposition and owning it. Second, would be really understanding your customer, and how you fit into their lives. Part of that includes what your pricing is and how that fits into your customer’s lives, which is something that those in the traditional retail space struggle with.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Establish a connection with your customer and nurture that relationship. Go above and beyond and know that someone is trying to come in and win that customer over ahead of you.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Brand Consistency
Set your logo, tagline, mission statement and have it been something that resonates with people and is memorable.
2. Leverage Technology
Embrace technology and use it to your advantage. Stay on top of current trends and leaders in the space, but also follow those that are new and on the cutting edge. I’m a big fan of Shopify and what they do to help businesses of all sizes thrive. We use most of their preferred vendors and have been early on a few that have really helped us grow.
3. Know your Consumer
Name them, build out their personas and further Identify them. Make sure everyone in the company knows who you are selling to because they will keep you in business if you take the time to fully understand their wants and needs.
4. Study your Competition
We live in an extremely competitive world. The second that you lose sight of that will be the beginning of the end for your business. Continue innovating and pushing the boundaries because your competition will be doing the same.
5. Stay True to Yourself
It’s great to stay up with the times and current trends, but don’t lose yourself in the process. Build upon your strengths and maintain the core values you had at the beginning. With authenticity as a driving force of consumer sentiment, and phony people or brands will be weeded out eventually.
If you could start 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.
Just overall kindness, respect and compassion. The pandemic has brought us further away from each other. Distanced learning, working, eating, etc. has had a hugely negative impact on interpersonal relationships. I see it all around, and if more people would take time to just give others the benefit of the doubt it would go a long way.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Though I’m very happy with my stories, I’m making it a point in 2021 to post more on my Instagram Feed so I’d say on Instagram @the_mrktr
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!