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“You need to zoom-in and zoom-out.” With Fotis Georgiadis & Eric Michael

You need to zoom-in and zoom-out. Or, in other words, you need to look at where you’ve been, where you’re at now, and where you want to be. Is your current branding the magic carpet to get you there? If not, why? As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to […]

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You need to zoom-in and zoom-out. Or, in other words, you need to look at where you’ve been, where you’re at now, and where you want to be. Is your current branding the magic carpet to get you there? If not, why?


As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Eric Michael. For more than a decade, Eric Michael has lent his creative voice and vision to the development, direction, and deployment of more than three-hundred-fifty individual brands, people, and organizations around the world. It’s through his signature, hands-on approach to project completion that design, messaging, business, and reputation management strategies are paired with unparalleled precision and a highly-competitive, totally unique method of deployment.


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?

Absolutely, thanks for including me in this conversation.

I found my way into the brand development space a little differently — a little more authentically — than most. The journey for me started on the heels of my high school graduation, in 2008; I had graduated with a certification in graphic design and digital communications from a trade school and audaciously began accepting freelance clients immediately. One-off logo and web design projects left very little room for longer-term security so, about two or three years in, I started introducing retainer services (hosting and website maintenance packages, ad brokering, etc.). That really changed the game from a business perspective. Clients who would usually stay 2–4 months were staying for years and years. (Some of them are still with me.)

Things changed again when non-clients began approaching me (literally courting me) to represent them as their publicist. I guess they liked my writing and social acumen and saw something else in me that I hadn’t before: a unique, fearless, and tenacious approach to media engagement. I focused solely on PR for three to five years, until snapping out of it and realizing “just wasn’t for me.” But, like everything else, I knew there was a lesson there.

Spending that time in the Public Relations space gave me a whole new perspective on overall corporate communications and really laced a new level of consciousness into my design work. I was no longer striving to meet a modern-day aesthetic or trend set by the public but rather making a nod to an overall story and complementing a larger narrative. My work has never been the same. And, once I hit that place of awareness and stride in productivity, things just really took off — for the better.

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?

One time, very early on in my career, I had been working on a website for a general contractor in my small hometown suburb of Philadelphia and accidentally put my phone number on his site instead of his. So, for like a week or so, I was getting all of these calls about general contracting gigs and could not figure out why. Then, one day, someone left a voicemail asking for the client by name and it didn’t take me to long to realize after that what was happening.

I was mortified but the client thought it was hysterical. And, the good news was, I had ten to fifteen warm leads to hand-deliver to him. That was also probably the first time I saw first-hand the results that my work brought to my clients. Those calls were so annoying.

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?

Of course. The moment I began outlining my terms of service and setting personal boundaries with my clients (2017) and actually holding myself to those standards, the game changed entirely. I had clients calling me at 9p on a weekend “just to talk,” associates texting me in the middle of the night about assignments. And, if I’m honest, I found some pride in being a source of support for those people. But, living like that and working around the clock got me absolutely nowhere; it was unhealthy, unproductive, unfulfilling, and your efforts go completely unappreciated.

There’s a lot of social media hype around finding your worth but very little instruction on how to do it or the equation necessary for maximum fulfillment. But, let me tell you, that’s it right there: Devalue yourself the most, hit rock bottom, and come back stronger, more intentional, and a greater force than you were before.

I think it was a perfect storm of circumstance in the establishment of terms and boundaries, new business development practices, clearer goals, and a stronger team of associates that really changed things for the better.

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

There’s always something in the works. The Studio is currently going through a little branding “refresh,” to position ourselves a little more clearly in the competitive market. By the time this goes to press we’ll be ‘Eric Michael & Associates’ rather than the curious, autonomous “powerhouse” of a seemingly individual force. The reality is — and has been for quite a while — that it’s not just me here doing things independently. There’s a team of support that brings our projects to life. (It’s always nice to drink your own champagne every once in a while.)

In the industry: I’ve somehow found myself in a field of cannabis (quite literally) and I’m having so much fun cultivating and readying these brands for the global marketplace. We’re currently working on six cannabis brands throughout the country. Three of them are local to the Philadelphia area and that’s a big deal as PA is often a relatively conservative state. Other clients are spread across the entertainment, fashion, wellness, travel, and hospitality spaces — all launching (or being re-introduced) in 2020.

On the personal front: We’re trying to tie up and release season one of Unpacking It (the podcast) which had almost immediately identified itself as a labor of love. (If you’re contemplating a podcast, I’d sincerely recommend having a strong team to support the efforts — or a great therapist.) I am also hoping to take my work with budding freelance creative talent and turn those efforts into self-guided online workshops for a more “round the clock,” comprehensive, and just generally more effective approach.

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

Figure out your terms of service — the general guidelines to which your practice flows — and set clear, appropriate boundaries with your clients. If you feel like you’re being walked all over it’s probably because you’re allowing it. If you feel like you’re always chasing the check, it’s definitely because you’re allowing it. For every problem, there’s a fix.

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?

The best way to describe it is to think of branding as the foundation of everything. The messaging you set in your brand development and introduction to market initiatives will be amplified throughout the lifespan of the organization. You can tweak this as the brand evolves, of course, but don’t think of a minute that you’ll ever paint over it completely. Advertising is the amplification of who you are, what you do, and (most importantly) why you do it.

For instance, Nike implores the world to “Just Do It.” Their advertisements motivate, inspire, and show you how.

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?

I have this conversation with people all the time. (Most of the time it’s not even prospective clients, those people already “get it.”) People tend to get hung up on the overall spend and it’s not even about that. Regardless, you’re going to spend those resources — the time and money of yourself and others — doing what needs to be done, because it needs to be done.

You see, it’s less about the question of, “should I,” and more about the “when will I?” You need to brainstorm your verbiage. You need a mission and corporate and product positioning statements. You need boilerplates and social bios, product listings, and the like. It’s just a matter of when do you want to do that (sooner? or later?) and who is going to do it (an amateur or a professional?).

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

If there’s a disconnect of any kind, you want to begin exploring that. Sometimes it’s as simple as refreshing the messaging. Sometimes it’s an overhaul, complete with market research and messaging workshops, design time, and so much more. If your product, service, or overall company isn’t communicating or resonating with the intended audience you’ve got a problem. But, *grabs the S and the cape* I can help.

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

Of course, it’s a gamble. You need to make sure the intention is correct and that you’re doing all of this at the right time, speaking to the right people, and following the right strategy.

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.

You need to get serious about business. Some businesses — be it their location or consumer or road to success — can coast steadily just being “another shop on the corner.” A serious business knows the power of powerful branding.

You need to zoom-in and zoom-out. Or, in other words, you need to look at where you’ve been, where you’re at now, and where you want to be. Is your current branding the magic carpet to get you there? If not, why?

You need to play (if not start from scratch) with messaging. Don’t be afraid to carve out a day (maybe a weekend) to sit down and complete a messaging exercise. I have one that I do with clients but there are hundreds on the internet. You don’t necessarily need shamen (or sales team) to tell you when it’s time.

Then, in the same way, mentally play with the identity. It’s healthy to recognize and want to emulate those “that are doing it right.” (If you don’t have a source of inspiration there’s something wrong with you, in my opinion. Own it.) They may be doing it right but you’re doing it differently — and better, hopefully.

Finally, don’t do it on your own. Find a skilled support team that can complement your efforts. There’s a reason cobblers make shoes and doctors perform surgeries. We’re best at what we know. If you’ve never built a brand from scratch you’re definitely going to need support along the way. And, I can’t emphasize that enough.

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?

Champion. Champion is a great example of what happens when you strategically and properly re-brand, without putting too much outward pressure and hype into it; especially for an older brand. They were in a really interesting position, not doing terrible (financially or in the marketplace) but able to identify room for growth. They didn’t change the logo — you’ll notice. They just changed what it stands for and how they present it — physically and otherwise. Playboy is another brand I’ve admired as leadership has changed.

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. 🙂

This might sound a little unorthodox, coming from a city-dweller, but I wish someone could find a way to Überize (read: streamline and popularize) kindness and compassion. The world really (really!) needs it right now. On the business front, however, I think more people need to lean-in to the struggle and share a more realistic, less curated, and perfectly imperfect representation of what’s going on in their boardrooms around the world. Show the losses and not just the profits. Collectively, we need a reminder that we’re not the only ones riding the struggle bus.

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

Brené Brown woke me up long before I heard her say, “You know the irony of charging for your time? When I do something for full-fee people are respectful and professional. When I do something pro bono, when I care about the cause, people are so respectful and professional. When I do something because I feel pushed, pressured, shamed, or guilt-tripped into doing it I expect people to be appreciative in addition to exhibiting both respectfulness and professionalism; yet 90% of the time they are none of the above. This is the question: How can we expect others to put a value on our work when we don’t value ourselves enough to set and hold uncomfortable boundaries.”

That was the moment I said, “never again,” to a lot of people. (A LOT. Of. People.)

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as @xEricMichael — and y’all can explore the blog, podcast, and upcoming courses at MrEricMichael.com.

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