Creating a great brand requires more than just making a beautiful logo. It’s about finding the right voice that reflects the business you set out to create and making sure that voice is leveraged across the business within your marketing materials, on your website, and beyond. In this panel discussion, hear best practices from brand leaders on how Black business owners can create a unique, highly resonant brand that will keep customers coming back.
Nana: Are you ready to bring your brand to life? We have a panel about the best practices from brand leaders on how black business owners can create a unique, highly resonant brand that will keep customers coming back. I know I’m ready for this. Already told you, I’ve been ready since the get-go. Wayne in the last session even talked about it like, “We got to talk about branding. In today’s day and age, you cannot leave that out.” So I want to invite our amazing moderator, Sandy, to the stage, and I would love to invite the other panelists as well. Hi, Sandy, how are you?
Sandy: Hi, Nana, how are you? I’m so excited.
Nana: I’m good. I am so ready for this panel. I am a huge fan of everyone here, so I feel like I’m totally fan-girling, so I’m going to leave now. Thank you, guys, so much. I can’t wait to hear from you.
Sandy: Yes. Thank you. Hi, everyone. Good morning, good afternoon wherever you are on the coast, and welcome to how to bring your brand to life panel. My name is Sandy Pierre. I am the brand and execution manager at Refinery29, Unbothered, working on all things brand partnerships when it comes to social, video, and editorial. I’m joined by some amazing, dope people that know all things branded. I’m going to let them introduce themselves because I know I can’t even do justice. They’re just amazing and dope people. I’m going to kick it off to you, Kim.
Kimberly: Great. Hi, everyone. I am Kimberly Paige, currently the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at BET. I have a long storied career experience by way of general management and brand management. Started my career at P&G, spent the bulk of my time at Coca-Cola, and then transitioned to the beauty industry, and now in the amazing media and entertainment space. I’m really happy to be here.
Sandy: Yes. Black girl magic. James, I’ll kick it off to you.
James: Hi, everyone. Thanks for being here. I’m James Toney, I’m Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Maximum Effort. It’s a production company, creative agency, and growth equity fund founded by Ryan Reynolds. Before that, I was the head of innovation at 20th Century Fox. And prior to that, I built and sold a creative agency. I was focused on the intersection of social good and marketing. Very excited to be here.
Sandy: Yes. All things amazing. And last but not least, we have Detavio. Hey.
Detavio: Good morning from the West Coast. My name is Detavio Samuels, I am the CEO of REVOLT. We stay all the time, “We wake up every day trying to build the world’s largest, most powerful black storytelling engine on the planet.” My career started off at Johnson & Johnson doing global marketing. From there, I jumped into the black-owned space back in 2007 working for Don Coleman who built the number one multicultural advertising agency. Then jumping over the work for Cathy Hughes, first black woman to IPO. There I did digital cross platform and built an agency business for it. And now I have the privilege of being with REVOLT and working with a really amazing team doing really amazing work. Glad to be here and good to see you.
Sandy: Yes, I love to hear it. We haven’t even started and I’m inspired already. I’m going to kick it off with our first question. What exactly is a brand, and how is it different from building a business? Anyone can take that question first.
Detavio: I’ll jump in.
Kimberly: Oh, go ahead Detavio.
Detavio: No, you can. No, no.
Kimberly: No, no, no, you go ahead.
Detavio: Quite simply, for me, a brand is simply the perception that exists in a consumer’s mind about a business, a product, a person, or a thing. It is that gut feeling when you mention the name Coca-Cola, when you mention the name [inaudible 00:03:54], it is that gut feeling that they have about your business. I think the important piece about that is that we as branders don’t own the brand,. We own the design of the brand and what we give to the wild, but once you give it to the wild, they take over. And so, that to me is what a brand is.
Kimberly: Exactly. I was going to say the exact same thing. I think ultimately when you think about product marketing, that is your product, your go-to market strategy. You’re doing a lot by way of ensuring that your salespeople and your customers know the reason for being, for the product, the brand attributes. Branding is net net just the emotional connection that you’re trying to create, and that is through emotion and experiences. To Detavio’s point, I think the biggest thing is that the most coveted and winning brands, they give them over to the consumers and to the marketplace, and they then apply those values and emotions. And that is what allows you to build equity over time, which allows you to operate above and beyond your functional reason for being, which is your product marketing strategy. I often say people buy products, but they join brands, and that is because they have a deep resonance as it relates to the emotional connection associated with that particular brand versus the other.
James: Yeah, I completely agree with that. I mean, I don’t have much chat other than the fact that brands can help establish credibility, which I think is really important. I think when we think about product marketing, we think about establishing product market fit and the rightness of this product for your particular need. But there’s also an element of credibility that I’m the kind of organization that you want to be in business with. I share your values. I see the world in a similar way. And so, communication for that credibility is part of brand building the way that product marketing communication isn’t.
Detavio: Yeah. Just pop in there in terms of what Kim and James are both saying in terms of delineating the difference between product marketing and branding, and it goes back to your original question which is, what’s the difference between that and I think you said the business. For me, branding exists at the level of when you build the business model, when you build the overall business strategy, the branding is baked into the top and then flows through the rest of everything and the example of things like product marketing.
I think I was just reading something the other day where it polled some of the top CEOs. It’s interesting that they’re attributing almost 40% of their market cap to the reputation of their brand. That really underscores the power of what it means to have a brand and what it stands for in the marketplace. You can trade on the cultural credibility and the equity of that brand. They are almost literally associating 40% of the value of that is associated with their brand. And so, it really underscores that you’ve got to be intentional. The product is the what you do. I think about the brand as the why you do. It is why you show up every day, what are the values and the purpose behind what you’re doing.
Kimberly: I think I love the marketplace that we’re in today because consumers are demanding that brands show up and contribute in meaningful ways above and beyond the product offering. And so, it’s a very, very important time as you think about starting to build your business, how are you being showing up with intention around what your brand means and what it is contributing and how it is?, I would say, inviting people to be a part of the brand in a meaningful way? For me specifically, when people say, “Who’s your target audience?” I’ve never tried to use that word as a marketer. I think the word target feels predatory in nature. If you think about it, when you’re someone’s target, you’re literally in their crosshairs, right?
Kimberly: I think we’ve all felt that we’ve received some type of product messaging that we felt targeted versus are you truly inviting people to participate and be a part of the brand in a meaningful way? And so, what I challenge myself and my team as I think about how our brand shows up it is, if you were to come across this, would you feel targeted or would you really feel invited to be a part of this brand? It’s a small nuance, but it really can make the difference. I think that is where consumers are saying, “Do you really understand me? Do you get me? Do you recognize me? Do you respect me? And more importantly, how are you advancing the things that I personally care about?” And so, it’s a great time, I think, both from a consumer lens and obviously from a business and a brand-building lens as well.
Sandy: Yeah. I love that you said that because it leads to my next question. When first building a brand, what should you prioritize? Should you be looking for your target audience first? What are the steps that you should be taking to really make a resonated brand?
Kimberly: I think great brands start from within and I think the notion of, what’s your purpose? I think it has to be rooted in, again, not what you do, but why you do it. For us, our purpose here at BET is to advance black love, joy, pride, and power. If we’re not doing that, and so while we may have a show and, that is the what of it, a show or some type of event, but ultimately our rallying cry and manifesto is, how are we advancing this notion of black love, joy, pride, and power? I think a great brand has to start with your purpose and your values. And that can’t sit on the shelf. It can’t be this beautifully, well-designed brand book. It has to inform. Again, and if your people internally don’t live the ethos of that, it will not be authentic, and it will definitely not be consistent. And so, for me, I think it has to start from within in terms of your purpose.
James: I think what’s beautiful about what Kim said here is that it’s just really simple. If you try to create this super delicate, intricate brand that requires all of these things perfectly communicating at the right time, it’s going to collapse on itself. There’s some basic questions around, what am I trying to create in terms of impact in the world and what can I say or do that authenticates the people that I’m speaking to that I’m really about that and that I’m about them? And if it fits within the filter of that, then you’re probably in a place to try some things, learn some things, and develop a relationship. But if you’re really trying to be perceived as something as opposed to gearing something, people are smart and they know, and it’s just not going to connect. So keeping it simple is super key.
Kimberly: Love that.
Detavio: I love that idea of keeping it simple. I feel like when I was young, like in business school when you learn about branding, brands have 20 different components and 20 different pillars, and you’re trying to build these massive brand architectures. I feel like as I got older I realized, as James was saying, that it is really so simple. So for me, there are only five things that I look to when I’m trying to build a brand. Who are we? What is it that we do? So REVOLT, we’re trying to build the world’s largest storytelling engine. Why do we do it? Kim keeps coming back to this notion of purpose. Why do we do it? Because we want to shift the narrative for black people globally. How do you do it? What is your approach?
Detavio: And then within that, you’re looking for the things that make you special. A lot of times, the what, a lot of us are doing the same what. We’re all trying to make pencils. We’re all trying to make cars. But you differentiate yourself in the why or you differentiate yourself in the how. And then the other thing that I want to tap into that Kim keeps mentioning is this notion of it is your purpose and your values that set you apart in this day and age, that no longer are people looking for you to just make a great product, but they’re looking for you to make a great product and help create the world that they are trying to live in. That’s why Tom’s back in the day did so well because they were helping to create a world that certain people wanted to live in.
Detavio: The last piece that I’ll say on that is, and because of that, I think the job of the CEO, and I think the job of the CMO is almost like a politician. You have a campaign agenda that is based on your values and you are spending your energy and your effort communicating that, trying to find your tribe who has those same values and those same beliefs.
Kimberly: I love that political analogy because I used to talk about that often. It’s like once you have that community, because that’s how we think about it, that community, they will do the phone banking. They will do the canvasing for you because, again, they have brought into and feel like they have a sense of investment and ownership in that brand and what it stands for. And so, if you are not building those communities, I would really encourage you as a business owner, who is your community? Can you articulate who your community is? Those are going to be your super… we call them our super fans, right? They’ll take that ball across the five yard line for you. And I think that is what really is one of the metrics of having a strong brand when the community is louder than you are.
Kimberly: I think Beyonce has probably one of the biggest in terms of the beehive. She has to say zero. Her community is helping to advance her brand in so many different ways. And so, as a business owner, think about who’s your tribe, to use Detavio’s language, who is your tribe. Once you can really understand that and then what makes them so connected to you, then you can replicate that as you seek to grow and scale. But really understand, who are my first fans, and what brought them to this brand above and beyond my functional reason for being? That becomes then the footprint as you seek to expand and build equity of your brand over time.
Sandy: I love that you said that Kim, as far as community, knowing who are the people that help you get there or who are the people you were looking up to. Starting a business is amazing, and you want to have everyone be a part of it, but you got to know the root of who’s really in it and who that audience is. That leads me to my next question is, how do you build an authentic and relatable brand? The market is very saturated, so how are you standing out?
James: Well, I mean, just to jump in here, I think you got to start looking within. As an agency, for years and years I’d go to brands and they would look around and say, “Nike’s doing this or Adidas is doing this. Your Beats is doing that.” I’m like, “That has nothing to do with what you need to do. That is absolutely irrelevant.” What do we have license to do? What are we passionate about? What’s authentic to us?
James: I think the minute you try to be something for someone you lose the power that comes with just real brand integrity. And that’s what I believe in more than anything else is, how do you go out there be honest and direct about the things that you want to see in the world and ask people to join you. If you’re trying to always meet people where they’re at… I mean, I’m not saying don’t listen. We’re putting our products and brands out there into a global context and we should be aware of what that is and we should make priorities around it, but it doesn’t necessarily change what you can do or what you believe. And so, I just think it’s really important when it’s time to look in that you look in deeply and thoughtfully and within the context of the large world. But it also starts by who are you, in my opinion.
Kimberly: I love that, the consistency, the integrity. At the end of the day, your brand is simply just your promise. What is your promise that you’re willing to give over and over and over again and over a period of time? Is not what you say, is what you do. And so, there is self-promotion by way of branding, but to the earlier point Detavio made, it’s not what you think about your brand, it’s what others think about your brand and what are their values and perceptions and belief. And that can only come through authentic connections consistently over time. And so, it’s not about your latest campaign, it’s not about your latest innovation. It is, how are you showing up in the context of advancing the good of the larger community? Over time, those are the values that they then associate with your brand. And so, I love the spirit of what James is saying by way of just it starts internally. Yes, you can look to the left and right, but if it’s not rooted in something that is solely unique to you, it will not be authentic.
Detavio: I don’t know that I have too much more to add. I think I’m just going to punctuate some of the other brilliant things that were already said. But I think cultural context matters. I think great brands have always been aware of the context of the moment and built a brand that could usher us into a new world. When dove comes out and does their campaign about beauty, it is very much rooted in a cultural context that says, “There’s only one standard of beauty.” And then they come in and break that. So the cultural context matters.
Detavio: I’m totally aligned with my partners on this panel that consumer insights matter, but not in terms of telling you who you are. You have to understand who they want to be. And then how does your brand help usher them into that world, their aspirational self, what they want to accomplish? I think those things matter.
Detavio: And then the last one that I’ll just say is differentiation. If we are playing this game and not waking up every day finding ways to differentiate ourselves and outmaneuver and develop a strategy that helps us outmaneuver our competition in a radically different way, then I don’t think we are ultimately doing our job. And then the last one I’ll just punctuate that Kim said is, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do. And so, it’s better to not say anything and just do, do, do. Or if you say it, make sure you do that. I think those are my keys.
Sandy: Yes. I totally agree with everything you guys are saying. I’m taking notes. I hope everyone else is taking notes. Building a brand, there’s so many layers to it, especially the environments. What are the most important environments your brand should be in? Detavio?
Kimberly: I don’t-
Kimberly: Well, I was just going to build on what Detavio just said. It is within the context of the world you live in, right?
Kimberly: And so, the context and the beauty of humanity is this notion of change and growth and evolution. Our culture changes and shifts by way of societal norms and behaviors. And so, while your values are pretty much rooted in who you are, you have to be cognizant of societal changes and norms. And those are the brands that continue to advance and, again, continue to grow. It’s not that they’re changing their values, they’re understanding the context of the marketplace.
Kimberly: I think about Ben & Jerry’s. I mean, it’s ice cream, but everyone knows what that brand is and how it has such a strong POV in advancing this notion of social humanity and really speaking on behalf of things that they feel are in conflict with that notion. The flip of that is that we’ve all seen brands who don’t understand who they are and try to insert themselves in conversations and in cultural things. The first statement generally is, who was at the table?
Sandy: Yep. Yep.
Kimberly: And it is a fiasco. That’s why I was saying earlier, you see stock prices plummet, you see brand reputation. It is a PR nightmare. And then you have to shift and pivot resources to try to really solve for that. And so, if you don’t understand the conversations where your values give you license to participate and fuel some of those things within the cultural zeitgeist, it really can be pretty damaging to a business. Some have been able to rebound, but I will tell you, it really is. You’ve got to have that internal compass by way of your values and really be connected to culture in a very meaningful… It’s a business imperative, quite honestly,. It’s not, “I just want to be cool and do cool things.” It is, “How can I think about all of the things that James and Detavio were saying around how are you advancing the broader good.” And if you don’t understand that in the right way and have people at the table who are decision-makers, who are well resourced in order for you to grow, it’s going to be very difficult for businesses who don’t understand that to be able to really drive transformative growth.
Kimberly: I mean, I often talk about your cultural credibility is linked to your commercial viability. We see that collision happening at such an accelerated rate. And a collision is nothing but when two things come together and influence one another, so it can be a positive collision or it could be a wreck, a negative collision. I think if as a business owner, really taking a bit of a beat to think about what are those cultural context in which your brand or company can participate in and advance.
James: I make… Sorry, Detavio, please.
Detavio: Okay. I align with everything Kim is saying. I think ultimately where a brand shows up in the world is dictated by the brand. So again, that strategy, that thinking is happening up top, business model, et cetera, and then should be flowed through the distribution model. And so, I’ll use Kim’s example, which is Ben & Jerry, you don’t see a lot of ice cream makers who have ice cream shops. Ben & Jerry’s has scoop shops. Why? It’s not necessarily because you have to have a scoop shop to make it in this day and age, but if Ben & Jerry’s is about social justice and fighting in the community, then what better place to have a distribution outlet than to put your stores literally in the communities that you care for. So, the brand strategy is dictating how the brand is distributed and shows up in the world. That’s how it should be.
Kimberly: Love that.
James: Yep, I completely agree. I mean, the only thing I’d add is the rubric that I use is really basic. It’s, can it have impact by joining a conversation? Yes or no? Oftentimes, we can join conversations that aren’t necessarily added to our credibility or aren’t making the conversation at hand any richer. One thing I think brand owners make the mistake of all the time is thinking that people care about them. They don’t, I promise you. They’re walking around thinking about taking care of their kids or taking care of their house, whatever their issues are. And so, you can’t think that people just want to talk to you to talk you,. You have to have something of value to say that matters to them in order to actually belong. And so, it’s just important to have that self-awareness when you’re out there communicating and establishing your brand.
Sandy: Yeah, I [inaudible 00:22:36].
Kimberly: I love that. I’m giggling because I think sometimes as marketers, you love this brand so much, but that notion of whether keep it simple or be self-aware around what’s really top of mind for the community and the people that you serve is so important. I spent 17 years at Coca-Cola, and literally it’s like, “Guys, we’re making brown sugar water, it’s not that serious.” But it became that for so many, and it was like, “Just bring this within the context.” But if you’re operating at that higher level of purpose, then those are the things that you start to care about. And it is of service to the community, it’s not, “I got this message that I just have to put out because it’s so important to me as a brand owner.” I think that’s where it can go awry.
Detavio: [inaudible 00:23:27]… You go.
Detavio: You got it.
James: I was just going to say, for us in our production company looking at movies, we’ve seen a very similar way. I think with the arrival of Breaking Bad you saw the ushering of a whole bunch of TV shows that were just really dark. Excellent shows, but very dark. When you started to see this interesting thing where The Office, which is 15 years old, it’s like number one on every platform that exists because there’s a predictability on I get to feel light watching this. And so, we come out with Free Guy and Adam Project. We make these films that are just easy to consume, where good matters, I feel good, and they’re a success. We chose to do that because we can incredibly execute that, we’re known for that, that feels right from us. And so, understanding that context and how you’re additive to what people are wanting to feel or what they need, it’s just an important line to walk when you trying to be resonant out there. Sorry, Detavio.
Detavio: No, you’re brother. My note is on this notion of how we often as marketers get convinced that what we’re doing matters more… it matters more on the inside and it actually does on the outside. One of my favorite books that I read when I was young and growing up in this game was this book called Marketing With Meaning. The core idea was every time you are performing marketing, it should have meaning, meaning it should deliver value to the consumer. Are you helping them escape? Are you entertaining them? Are you providing them with coupons? Are you giving them an experience that they could have never, ever had somewhere else? But the only way to truly break through is not to make a campaign, but it is to make something that has value and meaning for the person on the other side baked in.
Kimberly: It’s so funny, you guys can’t see my office, but I have this notion of marketing with a big M. I talk about that as exactly what Detavio just said. But I believe that to my core, and I believe that that is how all three of us have really advanced the businesses that we’ve run and operated. If the work is meaningful and it matters, it will move the metrics.
Detavio: That’s right.
Kimberly: Full stop.
Kimberly: And so I’m constantly saying, “Don’t think about the activity, think about the impact.” Oftentimes, organizations get so focused around activity versus impact. And so you say, “Guys, will this really have impact when it lands in the marketplace? If not, why are we doing it?” And so, if it’s not meaningful, if it doesn’t matter to our community, then it will not move the metrics. No matter how much money you put behind it, if it doesn’t have that foundational purpose behind it, I put it in the activity column. It’s not going to matter to anyone.
Detavio: And most brands suck at that. I think it’s Havas, they do a survey every year about what percent of brands matter, and every year, the number is people wouldn’t care if 76% of brands disappeared, disappeared. That means only 24% of brands are doing a good job, they’re doing the work that Kim’s talking about. So the job every day is to wake up and not be part of the 76, but to be a part of the 24, the ones that matter, that are actually moving the needle in this world.
Kimberly: Yeah, I love that. I have not heard that data point.
Sandy: That’s some interesting data.
Kimberly: That’s incredible. But it’s so funny because I see that real, I mean, I see that happening for us even here at BET in the most dynamic and competitive marketplace. Detavio and I have known each other for many, many years, he’s pure genius. But I think about even what we’re doing here, we are on a third year run of record-breaking performance at BET, a 42-yr-old brand. But I think it goes back to that. We can do content and we can provide experiences, but the third unique pillar is we exist to change outcomes for the community. And if you think about what our community, what the black community has been through over the last, one, forever, but more importantly, the last three years, it was this beyond a trifecta in terms of what was going on. Our focus shifted. It went from, “Yes, we’re going to continue to do compelling content,” but there was a lot of energy and resources and meaningful work around changing outcomes. I think it was a combination of that real intention that has allowed us to advance and obviously doing some other things by way of business, getting into different adjacencies by way of our business. But ultimately, if I had to say what has been the foundation to our growth, it has been about changing outcomes for the community.
James: Kim, just to put you on blast a little bit as someone who appreciates what you do from afar, you also weren’t scared to meet the moment. You know what I’m saying? I think that’s pretty key about what you guys have done most recently, is that you’ve understood the world that we’re living in and said, “Hey, we have a role here as leaders to play.” I think that a lot of brands are looking to not get in trouble. They sometimes are scared. They’re looking to just reserve and conserve what they’ve got. I think that you’ve come out swinging in a way that’s really admirable, so I just want to make sure that that’s said.
Kimberly: Thank you.
Detavio: I want to point back to Kim on something as well. A, thank you, you know that I think you’re an incredibly genius black queen as well. But what she did in that third pillar that she called out, I want to say, those types of strategic decisions are where the magic is. It’s everybody else is digging, so everybody else is making content, everybody else is making experience, but where am I zagging? This notion of, “Oh, we actually are going to care about outcomes,” that’s what makes the brand different from every other media company. The way you talk about yourself. At REVOLT we’ll say, “We’re not a media company. We are an engine for transformative change that happens to make media.” By definition, we are defining ourself differently, and so then the brand gets to act and behave differently. And so, Kim said it nonchalant. You’re like, “1, 2, 3.” But that third decision that she’s making is genius and where the magic really lies.
Sandy: Yeah, and I love that. We spoke a lot about value, purpose, things to consider as a black marketer, as a black business owner. I know a lot of people are probably waiting to hear, “How do I pitch my brand now?” When speaking about sponsorships or getting your brand in front of people, what are the proper ways to pitch a brand? And so, for example, if someone was to email either one of you, what are you looking at, What are the dos and don’ts, what are you like, “Come on now.”?
Kimberly: I’ll let Detavio take that one. He said something really funny, so I’ll let him have that.
Detavio: I’ll start and say, the first thing is, the most frustrating notes I get all of the time are ones where people are like, “I’m sitting on a brilliant, genius idea, can I get 30 minutes of your time?” Time is the most important thing that we have. Our future is the most expensive thing that we have. I just don’t have the time to give 200 people a day access to pitch me on an idea that I don’t even know what it is. And so, I think a couple of things for me are core. When you email, I think keep it as brief as possible, meaning the folks on this Zoom call are very busy and don’t have time to read three hours of a thing, but you want to get straight to the point. What is it that you’re creating? What is it that you’re doing? Why is it differentiating from anything else? And then move to some sort of an ask. I also ask, don’t assume that I have the time. A lot of times people will say things like, “Oh, hi, Kim, can I be with you, or is there somebody else in your office that you might be able to meet with?” Just the acknowledgement that what I’m focused on, this may not be my top priority, but maybe there’s a way that I can help. So those are just a couple of quick thoughts.
James: Yeah. I think when you get into the room, you need to understand that 75% of your pitch almost has nothing to do with you. You’ve got to understand some of the challenges or concerns or points of focus that my organizations are facing and understand how you fit within that. Because if you’re just coming in asking me to get really excited about what you’re doing, I may, and I will try to, but we’ve got things to deal with. And I think that’s really important.
James: The second thing I’d say is you’ve just got to become someone who knows a little bit about everything. I think that we’ve come into this place where in business we’re taught to be very narrow and very focused and build excellence around a thing. But the fact is everything is so interconnected and things change so quickly. You’ve got to read. You got to read what’s going on a macro business level, on a micro business level, what’s going on in your industry, what’s going on in adjacent industries, and just come to things prepared to think very large so that you can make the appropriate shifts and change to what you are pitching to accommodate the moments that we’re living in or the concerns of who you’re talking to. So that preparedness just goes so much beyond just talking about what it is you want to do.
Kimberly: Nothing to add, I think they nailed it.
Sandy: I was going to say as well, knowing exactly who you’re pitching to. Can this person actually even help my business? If not, then probably I should not be emailing them. So proper research is definitely, definitely key in being prepared. I want to leave some time for some questions. We have some questions in the chat. One question, someone asks, “How do you avoid compromising integrity for scalability?” Who wants to take that?
Kimberly: Please repeat the question.
Sandy: “How do you avoid compromising integrity for scalability?”
Kimberly: I mean, I think as someone who’s worked on very established billion dollar brands to emerging brands, that’s probably one of the biggest challenges for a young company if you seek to grow. Again, it goes back to, what was that core thing that really allowed you to build a connection from the beginning? I think you’ve got to figure out how to scale that. That’s your base. Again, going back to the political analogy, your base is so important as you seek to scale and grow, it’s a constant game of expansion and growth, but don’t lose those core things that connected you. We know incredibly powerful businesses that really are large in one particular market because it is so core to who they are and they can’t deliver the integrity of that experience, the integrity of that product once they get to a certain point.
Kimberly: That happened a lot in the beauty space, quite honestly. You have these amazing young beauty brands who had these amazing products and claims and all those things that they could not scale. The cost structure wouldn’t allow them to do that. And so, you started to then, and we’ve all seen the social chatter, “This brand doesn’t feel the same. They’re cheapening their product. Da, da, da, da, da, da.” Because they didn’t really understand what needed to be true and what was really foundational to the core of how they first connected with their market. They were willing to bet that just by way of tonnage and scaling that they would be fine, and many aren’t. And so, you got to really understand the core goes back to all the points that James and Detavio mentioned. What is your unique point of difference? If it’s going to be compromised as you seek to scale, then I think you’ve got some real decisions to make.
Kimberly: That is a core question for many small businesses, how can I maintain this integrity? And so you got to be very intentional and methodical about your brand positioning, how it can grow with you as you seek to scale, and what are those fundamental things that make your brand unique? Once you start to get out of that lane, then that’s a business decision that you have to make. Because there are rebranding efforts that companies do all the time to try to reimagine who they are and how they show up. It’s a very difficult exercise and a lot fail, but it can be done, but it is a lot of internal understanding and diligence by way of what your brand means at its core. And if you were to walk away from that, then what does that mean to your actual business, if you will?
Detavio: Yeah, I’m with Kim. You identify what’s core, and you never trade off of that. Specifically when you’re in a client customer relationship, the most power you have is when you decide whether you will take someone as a client or not. The second you say yes and they’re handing you a check for $5 million, they got a big opinion about a whole bunch of things. And so, the best thing you can do is be really intentional about who do I say yes to and who do I say no to, because every single yes will define your brand. And if you are saying yes to people that are outside of your core, if you are saying yes to people that break the integrity of your brand, then by definition you are bringing people in that will shift who you are and your consumers will lose sight and understanding of what you stand for.
James: I think that’s perfectly said about being really tribal about your core. But one thing I would say to people starting out is make sure what is core and what is not core. I can’t tell you how many businesses we’ve started that were like, “We’re going to do X,” and now it’s this crazy successful thing that looks like Y. There are so many reasons to reconsider things along the way, but things like your personal integrity, there’s nothing more important than that. Your values, nothing more important that. Those things never change. But make sure that you’re being really guarded about the things that truly matter and not being too careful with too many things. That’s a hard line to walk.
Sandy: I love that. We only have a couple minutes left, so I definitely want to give you guys time to give final advice to everyone that is watching, especially black business owners that are looking to start a business, that have started a business looking to scale. What are some final advice that you can give everyone?
Kimberly: I’ll just start. I think, again, great brands start from within. If as a business owner you have not really done the exercise of crafting and, more importantly, standing up a business that is true to your values and your purpose, it’s a good time to do that. And so, that would be the one thing I think it is. The purpose is what’s going to get you through those 14, 15-hour days, right, because you’re operating at a level above and beyond your functional reason for being. And so, if you can articulate that, really bring in your leaders or you as the owner, really take a minute to be able to write that down and massage it and allow that to be your internal rallying cry. It’ll get you through the tough times. When you start to do it consistently, it’s going to definitely allow you to continue to excel and compete at your highest level.
Sandy: Love that.
Detavio: Yeah, love that. Let’s see. My final words are that this is our moment, that this is our time, that this is a very specific moment in time for black people, that I don’t know why we happen to be the ones that exist in this moment, but I am grateful every day that we are. I heard T. D. Jakes speak this Sunday, and he was talking about how fear and faith are not enemies, how fear and faith are cousins and they go together, in the sense that fear should not be a stopping point for you, it should be something that gives you a sense of urgency. And so, I am fearful that this moment will end at any day, any moment now, and so we move with a certain amount of energy to try to take as much advantage of the moment as possible. And so, those are the final words that I would give to the folks on this. Because this is our moment, this is our time to be moving with urgency and faith and believing for the most incredible things possible.
Kimberly: Detavio, good saving over there.
Sandy: Thanks a lot.
James: My closing thoughts would just be around being generous. I think living abundantly invites abundance. I think that you have more to give than you realize. I can’t tell you how many times the difference in my career has been having people on my side. And so, if you can find a way to say yes and be generous within the confines of not overstretching yourself, I think you’re going to invite people into your tribe and they’re going to make a difference in ways that you don’t even know yet. So trying to find a way to say yes, trying a way to live abundantly, being generous, really believe in that.
Sandy: Love all of that. I just want to thank you all for being here. This was an amazing, amazing panelist. I left with some gems, so I hope everyone else did, and they bust out their notebooks. Thank you, guys, again for being here. I just want to kick it back to our host, Nana. Thank you, guys.
Nana: Thank you. Thank you.
Detavio: Thank you.
Nana: Thank you, guys, so much. Once again, gems were dropped, keys to success were dropped. One of the most valuable things, I think, Kimberly, you might have mentioned this was with purpose drives values that drives customers. At the end of the day, have it on your vision board, manifest it, what is your purpose? Because at the end of the day, a business is going to grow when it’s a purpose-driven business. So thank you guys so much for your time. Thank you so, so much.