Sasha Strauss is perhaps the most compelling thought leader and expert on brand strategy in the world – as his resume will show, transforming major brands the likes of PayPal, Lego, Google, Disney, Adobe, Amgen, ADP, and more, at the C-Suite level. Sasha is a globally recognized and award-winning builder of consumer and marketplace brand messaging, employee onboarding, internal organizational messaging on purpose, and bringing the various “silos” within a company to work together. Sasha focuses on how PR, Marketing, and Customer Relations all work together in a single, focused, and aligned way.
Years ago, when Sasha started delivering his “Rise of The Herogen” keynote (which has been delivered in 20 countries), he accurately predicted and defined the digital new world/ the new normal we now live in.
Sasha is an expert in: leveraging emerging technologies, understanding what the consumer wants and how they think, and defining an organization’s internal message and purpose – then getting that message out to the masses in a relevant way that resonates.
Sasha has taught brand strategy for the past decade to graduate students at the MBA programs at UCLA, USC, and UCI, where he remains one of the highest-rated faculty members.
For more on Sasha or to book him as a speaker: https://www.calentertainment.com/portfoliotype/sasha-strauss/
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Sasha Strauss: Global Brand Building Legend On Branding Strategy Today To Own Your Marketplace
Joining us is Sasha Strauss, perhaps the most compelling thought leader and expert on brand in the world. As his resume will show, transforming major brands, the likes of PayPal, Google, Disney, Adobe, and more at the C-Suite level on consumer and marketplace brand messaging, employee onboarding, internal organizational messaging on purpose and bringing the various silos within a company to work together. Sasha focuses on how PR, marketing and customer relations all work together in a single, focused and aligned way.
Years ago, in his Rise of the Herogen keynote, which has been viewed online over a million times. He accurately predicted and defined the new world, the new normal we now live in. Sasha is an expert in leveraging emerging technologies, understanding what the consumer wants and how they think and defining an organization’s internal message and purpose as well as getting that message out to the masses in a relevant way that resonates. Sasha teaches brand strategy to graduate students at the MBA programs at UCLA, USC and others, where he remains one of the highest-rated faculty members. Please join me now with the incredible Sasha Strauss.
Sasha Strauss, how are you? Thank you for joining me here on the show. How is it going?
I am glad to be here with you. I’m honored. Considering all the guests you have had, I feel lucky to be here.
Thank you very much. I’ve been very much looking forward to having you. Every time we talk and have a conversation, for me, it’s so entertaining because we have a lot of energy and enthusiasm about what we do but I always learned so much. It’s not an easy conversation for somebody to be able to convey what it is that you do at such a high level with the brands and the companies that you have worked with over the years. It’s a privilege because people pay a lot of money for this kind of service. I don’t think everybody understands what brand strategy really is, what it means and why it’s necessary. It’s not advertising, PR or campaigns. What is it? Tell us a little bit about what brand strategy is?
I appreciate that you are asking because the truth is people tend to think that brand is anything with a logo or campaign. What we teach in the brand strategy is that, “That’s fine. You could do something now or this week but what brand strategy defines is what you are going to do this year or the next three years.” Think about a workforce. A workforce doesn’t want a new ad every week. That’s not how you engage employees and get them to participate. A brand strategy helps you figure out what do these people want for their careers? How can you build an internal dialogue inside your organization so that these people feel like, “This is the right place for me? I want to advocate for it. I want to recruit my friends to work here. If it’s a customer’s call, I know what to say and how to say it.” That type of communication cohesion builds strong companies. That takes a multi-year effort. That’s not a weekly program.
Is it true that every company out there knows what their message is for the next year, three years or even beyond that? Is that the case or some people make it up as they go?
You can totally win by making it up as you go along. No question. The problem is that your heart can only last so long. Think about it. It’s frenetic and intense. On your Sunday night, you are reading tweets and trying to decide if they should go live. There is absolutely a spirit and a place for that. What I deal with and what my C-Suite clients deal with is, “What are our consistent actions? What are we going to say over time so that it compounds and equals an understanding that can’t be knocked off a ledge?” Let’s say you are in a category with spirited competitors. The competitors are trying all these risqué things and distracting. They are spending lots of time and energy, lots of money on media, buying lots of training, etc., but how many times can they do that? Think about their audiences. The audience can only receive so much. You can only be refreshed so often. To answer your question, the smartest businesses, nonprofits, religions and political organizations are thinking about long-form human engagement, not the frenetic short-term stuff that happens to the advertising.
One of the things that interest me about it is, isn’t it sometimes a little bit about the vibe? How we are, what our energy is, how do we care, what’s our angle and the consistency. Talk about that throughout everything that somebody sees of your brand. Talk a little bit about that personality as well as not only the message but also what you are going to get and how you are going to feel.
Often, we think about business in only business terms like units sold. We are selling things to humans or humans have to sell our things so they need to relate to who we are and why we matter. In the branding business, we say, “Let’s not leave that humanization to chance. Let’s decide how we want to portray ourselves and what type of actions we want to take. More importantly, let’s decide what type of talent we want to recruit.” You will notice if you talk to your friends and ask them, “What’s your favorite organization? What’s your favorite brand?” They might talk about the product. As soon as they’ve got past the products, features and functions, they’ve got into the spirit of the organization and the urges that they portray.
That’s what builds life-lasting relationships. I will put something out for you, which is, every business, nonprofit and religion is going to make a mistake. You are going to misfire at something, donate to the wrong thing or hire the wrong person. What you need is resilience. Humans do not forgive Excel spreadsheets. It’s a binary conversation on or off, whereas when there is a humanization of the business, you talk about the people in it or the audience’s that you are trying to serve and what type of people they are, you earn forgiveness. You earn a little bit of space to not be perfect because humans are not perfect. It’s interesting.
Even though we are trying to build these huge commercial empires like Tesla or SpaceX, Elon Musk has way more followers, response participation and engagement because he’s human. He’s saying inappropriate things, he’s trying risky things and people are like, “I don’t like it but I like that he’s a person and someone I can connect with.” I will ask you on the spot, “Who’s the CEO of Volkswagen? Who’s the CEO of Ford?” You have to look it up because they are going to personality. You don’t know what leads them emotionally engaged. That spoke simply as brands need this. If you are going to sell to humans or your humans are going to sell what you offer, it has to be persona built-in.There's a century of research about how humans need help connecting with choices. Click To Tweet
There’s actual research on this, I take it.
There’s a century of research about how humans need help connecting with choices. The fastest way to connect is via human or human characteristics, at least.
I know that you have worked with some of the biggest brands on the planet. One of the ones I really like when I think about you is PayPal. I remember back in the day that people were afraid of PayPal. I was afraid of PayPal. I didn’t want to put my credit card through the computer and trust this entity to have my information. They overcame that. Now, everybody uses PayPal and Venmo. Back in the day, I remember that was a real hurdle for them. Did you come in at that point?
Funny story, I haven’t shared this publicly. When we started working with PayPal, all of their marketing was very explicit and descriptive about product feature function. In fact, the number one most used phrase when we started working with PayPal was safety and security. What we figured out was that by saying safe and secure, you are telling the audience, “You should be concerned.” Let me bring it to light. Ever since we did our work, Paypal’s voice has completely changed. It only ever is, “Pay or get paid.” Everything PayPal says or does is simply about you either paying someone or getting paid by somebody. We don’t have to mention security once.
What did they do to convey that? What was the four-pronged approach that they took to spread that message and to connect with consumers?
What PayPal did was that they grew either organically or inorganically. They either built stuff or bought stuff. They smacked it all together because it was all about financial transactions. They assumed that everyone would understand. Small businesses and consumers would understand. What we have proved to our research was that people don’t know what PayPal is. They don’t know what I should be using it for. Should I trust it? When we help them figure out that the product portfolio was an internal collection that externally it can be simplified, that practices called Brand Architecture. Brand architecture means to make it easy for audiences to buy or easy for salespeople to sell. That’s that rationalization and the simplification of the product portfolio. That was the work that we did for PayPal. We took hundreds of international products and simplified them down to stuff that you use to pay and get paid. That simplification made it far more accessible.
At some point, I wonder when it was. Their sales and usage must have skyrocketed exponentially.
The mobile phone was the catalyst. Years ago, people were not transacting on their mobile devices. They didn’t have an internet connection everywhere but as soon as we became accustomed to being on our mobile screen more than our desktop screen, Paypal’s history was made.
The app was so easy to use, then they said, “Let’s roll out Venmo?” They also rolled out Venmo, correct?
Yes, they bought Venmo. We recommended that they did not rebrand it as PayPal. What we figured was that the young market did not want their father’s payment platform, which is fine. Instead of judging them about it or saying you need to learn to love PayPal, we kept Venmo separate and still do because it’s a completely different transaction behavior. It’s much more social, smaller payments more frequently and that needed a different brand. That’s why we kept it separate.
One of your most important points, which is also a keynote and methodology that you have spoken about for as long as I have known you, is called the Rise of the Herogen. The interesting thing about it is when I first heard you describe it to me years ago, I had no idea how to understand it. I remember I called a meeting with you where you could explain it to me. I walked out of the meeting. I pretty much understood it but you were foretelling the future. You were talking about this Herogen. The Rise of the Herogen was the new world that we were living in, digital and how we are connecting, which is so important to obviously what you do in branding and brand strategy. Tell us a little bit about the talk you have been giving and the way of doing things you have been doing with your company for so many years. How that leapfrogged or at least all became very much obvious to everybody once the pandemic hit? I feel like when the pandemic hit, you were like, “I told you. Now, we really need to adopt this stuff.” Tell us a little bit about that journey.
Years ago, I’ve got a call from my client at Google saying, “We have produced the most robust set of data on consumer behavior ever. We can’t explain it. We don’t know how to talk about it. Can you help us explain it?” Through my analysis, I concluded that through these transitions, the way that we learn, connect, save data and shop is going to change the human psyche from the way that it was to the way that it is now. Years ago, I traveled to 25 countries presenting that research and that work to all the world’s largest companies. They had combat presenting it to them. Everyone said, “This feels futuristic. I don’t quite understand it yet. What do you mean that people are not going to be attending class? In class, they are going to be doing remote classes. They are going to be learning dynamically on their mobile device. That seems so strange. What do you mean that workers are going to be connecting to the cloud and using all of their interfaces remotely?”
It wasn’t that I was like pressuring and imagining COVID but technologies were there and in certain marketplaces, people were adapting. I was presenting to my graduate students at UCLA Anderson and I thought to myself, what would really bend their brain? I decided that I was going to present to them all that research and the Rise of the Herogen. As you said, COVID sped that up so fast that it is as accurate as I possibly could have dreamt. If I ever wanted to write a speech, that would have been futuristic and accurate. It worked out. I’m so happy to say that that speech continues to be a game-changer and is still one of my most popular.
It’s also the way you run your business, right? When you meet with a client, you tell them, “This is how we do things. It’s based on this research and premise, which is how we need to take advantage of and connect with everybody through all of these tools that we now have and are now becoming even more rapidly adopted by everybody.
What we help our clients realize is that although they want recognition and status, it’s hard to create that from zero. You want to go where your audience is. If someone says, “Should I advertise on Facebook? Should I promote on LinkedIn?” My question is, what is your audience there? What we have helped our clients figure out is not only defining who they are, why they matter and where that should be discussed but helping them understand how to meet the new behaviors where they are at. To give you an example, we have some very large clients in healthcare systems. Pre-COVID, we are helping them realize that Telehealth is real. It’s coming. You need to do this. Their inclinations were, “It’s risky. People are not comfortable talking about their private life on their mobile device.” What we were able to help them figure out was the seven-year innovation plan that they were going to implement, COVID warranted a pull-the-lever-let’s-do-it-right-now.
What we are seeing our healthcare systems do, “We used to only interact with our patients when they came into this box. Now, we are interacting with them daily. They are doing their internet of things brought blood pressure cuff, thermometer and the data is coming to our caregivers inside our facility. The healthcare system, which is in America, competitive business, went from, “We are only going to see once a year or only come in every three months to now we are talking every day.” That transformation has changed healthcare and it will never go back.
It’s happening across many industries as well. What I wonder about is, do some customers not even know what their message is? People who run businesses from huge companies to small businesses are owned by one person that has 5 to 10 employees or maybe 20. Do people really struggle with what their message is?
They do. I will say most people struggle. The problem is that you are too close to your business, I’m too close to mine and we can’t see the forest through the trees. What brand strategy helps you do is it helps decouple your daily work from the intention you want to create. What do you want your business to be able to do? That requires research. I will give you one simple example. I talk to nonprofits and corporations every day. I say to them, “Talk to me about your competitors.” Often, they will either spite their competitors and will say, “Those guys don’t know what they are doing or we don’t have competitors.” It’s so funny. I don’t mean to call them out on it but I want you to see that people could say that. It can come to that conclusion. What we help them recognize is that there’s learning over there. There are so much to understand from the best practices of these institutions. Instead of looking at them like you want to beat them, look at it like they are doing research that I could not have done.
What we end up bringing to executives that feel like they know what they know or don’t know what they don’t know is help them with market data and market insights. Contemporary reflections, another simple example is the concept of social listening where you don’t go into social media to post. You only go to collect data to connect and understand how consumers your target audience is communicating. That’s a data set that you could never have had access to before. If I said, “Chris, tell me what 2,000 bankers feel.” You would have to be like, “Let me launch a one-year research study.” Now, I can go into Clubhouse into the Banker’s Channel and listen to 2,000 bankers talk about their most contemporary challenges we can see. That’s not instant. Anybody who can imagine what you can do with insight that fresh. That’s what a brand strategist helps our clients do. It helps them get out of the forest, identify the trees and understand the actions that they need to take so that they can stay to market leader.
It works also from the outward messaging to the consumer and the potential customer as well as internally. Does it have to match? In other words, we are talking about ourselves, employees, leaders and workers. Everybody got buy-in on this idea. That’s also the idea we are pushing out so when somebody calls in, all the messaging they have seen in the marketing and all of the branding that we have done is real. There’s somebody there who lives and embraces that. How does that work?
I love what you just described but it’s not so pure. It’s familial. It’s not the same. For example, investors. You can imagine what they want to talk about is probably a little different than what the employees want to talk about. You are right. They need a common thread. Why are we here? What do we hope is going to happen to the world? What makes us different and like our competition? There needs to be consistency. That way, when the CEO is giving a speech at a conference and employees are in the room saying, “What is she talking about?” They are saying, “That’s what I believe.” That way, when they go pick up the phone to do customer service, they are relaying that same notion. To answer your question, it comes down to training. One of the most profitable sectors of brand strategy is not the research, strategy or design. It’s the activation. When you activate it for investors, activate for executives, workforce and resellers. It makes the brand a living breathing entity rather than just the PowerPoint deck in an executive computer.
How does it get activated? What’s the activation process?
The activation process is, first of all, where did this come from? People don’t want to see a shiny object. They want to see where you’ve got it from. Activation for investors, employees and executives are, “Look what we learned. Look what these consumers were doing. Here’s what other markets we are doing. Isn’t this interesting?” Though we are not being clear. Given these market actions, where are we not being direct? Where are we not being explicit? Where are we not being intentional? By simply showing them that there’s better to be done, often opens their minds to the idea that I’m willing to listen. Once you have shown them all that research, the next thing is to train them but with kindness, not a mandate. Not hear open guidelines and you must comply.Choose the platform where your audience is at. Click To Tweet
Here are the tools that might help you sell better, Salesforce. Talk to us about your sales process. That means that if we put that slide and this slide together, you are going to be able to tell a consistent story or, “Investors, your investment does well when people hold on to the shares.” Let’s help people hold on to the shares. Let’s help them have a verbal relationship with your business so that we are not buying and selling. What does that mean? That means at the investor summit, there is a big discussion about the brand. How do we make it? Why did we make it this way? What does it mean to you? What should you say? Here are the sales sheet for this website.
By giving people all the tools they need to do their jobs or live their lives, they will love the resource. When they see that it shows up the same on YouTube as it does at the executive summit, they start to say, “Now this feels like the community and a consistent experience. My shares and my job is going to be worth more. The executive is going to come on and want to work here.” There’s the research and then the showing of the research. There’s the toolmaking and then the training against the toolmaking. That’s how you truly activate a brand.
Is there a somewhat simple example that you can give us of where this is work, maybe in the pandemic or coming out of it with a company that you can easily talk to us about?
One of our clients in this pandemic is this huge healthcare system in Colorado. Thirty hospitals. Can you imagine what an enterprise that is? Is it 30 hospitals? It’s about 20,000 caregivers working day in day out. It was a hospital. Caregivers care. They do their job. They are destined to be health caregivers. Is that enough? No, it’s not enough. Why? It’s because people in Colorado live a certain lifestyle or have a different view on healthcare when it’s in remote neighborhoods versus in big cities. In a remote part of Colorado, you don’t go in for regular checkups.
You go into the hospital maybe once a year. Whereas, in the big city, you might have an appointment on the odd Tuesday. What we had to do for Sentara, this will blow your mind, we took a Winnebago. We emblazoned it with the brand story. We went to all of those hospitals. We met with caregivers coming in and out. They came into this private Winnebago where they’ve got to tell stories about how they’ve got into healthcare, why they chose this organization and how they work with their co-workers every day and then we took all those videos and created a montage that now shows at all-employee meetings.
That is the intro to conversations about where you work and why you work here. Now what we are working on favorite part is that every single new employee has a brand onboard. I know you need to sign this legal paperwork to get paid but we want you to spend as much time learning about the history of this healthcare system, the future of this healthcare system and the other 21,000 caregivers. That in itself is inspiring people to stay connected. COVID was stressful for the healthcare industry. The emergency room is the number one revenue stream for a hospital. When people are not driving, not riding motorcycles and they are not getting out because of COVID, your revenues declined. This healthcare system had to struggle and figure out how do we keep our employees passionate. Brand, that brand story inside and outside made them feel a part of a contiguous whole. That’s how that organization has endured.
It also reminds me that you have talked about how sometimes within any size company, the different silos feel separate. They feel like they are not interconnected. Tell us a little bit about what is brand strategy has to do with silos, people working on one side of the company and not relating to the other? How do you get them connected? Why does that matter?
Usually, it’s a misunderstanding. Often people talk about verticals in silos inside of business as fiefdoms as people defending their territory. The fact is that if you are in silo one and I’m in silo two, we both could sell more if we collaborate. It’s about more one-on-one more of two. Let me give you a real example. There’s an incredible biotech firm here in Los Angeles called Amgen. They have seven business units. Each business unit is a multibillion-dollar business unit. Through our brand work, we were able to figure out, business unit one is amazing. Business unit six, unbelievable, business unit five, I can’t believe what they do.
The problem is they didn’t understand each other. What was the branding work we did there? He helped business units explain themselves to business units. Why? There are less data loss, signal loss, more cross-selling or integrated planning. Imagine, if that saves 30% on the bottom line for a billion-dollar organization, we are talking about huge capital savings. That’s a perfect example. Consumers never saw the internal branding at Amgen. It was just you and I go into a meeting and say, “Chris, what business unit are you from? Are you from vertical two? Can you give me the spiel? I will give you my five-minute spiel on my business unit.” That will help us collaborate and create common goals and revenue.
In those scenarios, an opportunity for one silo to say to the other, “I had a guy on the phone who didn’t know what we had but I could have sent him over to you.” Is that what it was?
There’s the referral thing. My favorite part about this is solution selling. For example, we know that McDonald’s doesn’t make money on the hamburger. They make money on the fries and the soda. Apple doesn’t make money on the iPhone. They make money on the app in the App Store. The point here is that businesses need to not sell verticalized, although they need to speak to verticals. That’s aerospace and healthcare and they hang out differently. There are common ingredients and things that need to be cross-sold. What brand strategy helps you figure out how to do is figure out where are there common values and when can we sell a set. My favorite set of examples is Microsoft. They taught us this a long time ago, PowerPoint, Word and Excel. Let’s sell them as a Suite. Now you buy the three together or Adobe Creative Cloud. You used to buy Photoshop and Illustrator now you buy the Suite. What you end up doing is trying new products. Therefore, these verticals were very resistant. I’m telling you, at Adobe, they were my client, the video team did not hang out with the graphic design team who did not hang out with the enterprise team but once they understood that there was an opportunity to solution sell and cross-sell, they became one of the same.
The small business owner doesn’t have silos. It doesn’t have a board and investors. It’s just a family and 20 people or maybe 100. Let’s say a construction company. Can they take advantage of this brand strategy?
It’s part of why I run my own business. We have Fortune 10s as clients but we also have mom-and-pop. We have a company right now called San Diego Landcare. It’s a solopreneur who has contractors and they build out backyards going through a brand strategy process. Maybe this business only has a perimeter of how far a truck can drive in a day. Are there other land care specialists? Yes, there are. How are they communicating and in what channels? Let’s find that out. Who is their audience and how do they tend to refer us business? They say that we make waterfalls and get nice trees. Interesting nugget. Let’s consider that in our communication. Brand strategy is better and faster for small to medium businesses. You can do much more and be much more regional about your outreach. Imagine being an international brand. There are so many cultural factors to consider that it’s really daunting. Often an international brand is the lowest common denominator brand or an SMB can be exact in their buyer needs.
It feels to me like the CEOs and the owners of these companies can come out of working with you having been trained to smile more, be more fun or empathetic sounding in the messaging that we are given. Is it almost like a little bit of coaching as well in that year? You are educating them on how to reach out in every way we reach out?
We call it personal branding. It’s not about making them something that they were not. It’s about celebrating specific things that make them what they are. Instead of walking into a room as an executive and being everything you were, who you were in college and after, think about who your audience is, how do they want to relate to you and what stories can you tell that are true. That intentional communication helps people trust their leaders. We have many clients that are only paying us for a personal brand strategy for the leadership, who drive the organization is its leaders. If those leaders don’t know who they are and why they matter, no one will follow.
Speaking of leadership, I know we are coming through this pandemic now. We feel like we might see the light at the end of the tunnel. As a nation, city and a world but in a lot of ways, leadership may have failed us. Maybe we need to rely on ourselves as businesses, make our own income and not hope that we are going to get it from a gift, stimulus payment or loan. A lot of people are realizing that they are taking matters into their own hands and that’s the way we get through this situation. The creativity, passion for business and understanding what consumers need now is what matters. Do you share that with me?
I had a very productive year during COVID giving keynote speeches. My most fire speech is called, “Only Business Can Save Us Now.” It totally tilts your head. You are like, “What? That sounds like capitalism”. What I basically help people understand in the presentation is to decouple business from capitalism. Business is a social construct. It’s an international dialogue. It’s empowerment. When I say business, I don’t mean empire. Business can be mom-and-pop. It can be an Etsy shop. The point is we all now have the tools to sell. Before, we didn’t. Now, everyone is mobility connected and has digital payments as we described. Technically, grandma can sell knit hats and she is.
People don’t realize this. More people create an income on Etsy than the entire National Football League and all of its employees and all of its teams. Think about all those teams, referees and the number of people. More people are creating a livelihood on Etsy than the entire National Football League. What does that say to you? This wasn’t possible before. These people are literally, as you are suggesting, saving themselves. They are creating income streams and creating a connection to their core audiences. This is what inspires me right now. I’m so motivated by the opportunity for each individual to be a business if they want to. That’s what I think is going to save the future.
The smaller, medium size to large companies, they are able to listen more.
That’s the trick. Everyone has to listen more. There has to be more focus but cheap and easy is getting fast. It doesn’t cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to know who your audience is. Spend a couple of hours on Facebook watching them behave. Watch a couple of their YouTube videos and listen in on a Clubhouse room then you’ve got market data that I couldn’t have bought. It’s so hot and fresh.
Tell people about Clubhouse because this is a brand-new thing. I have heard you mentioned it twice in this session. I know a little bit about it. I know some other interesting similar apps and companies are coming out to compete with Clubhouse. Tell me a little bit about why it’s important and what people need to know about it.
I have been researching it nonstop. Much like when TikTok came out, I was using it every day to understand how consumers were interacting with it. To simply explain Clubhouse, it’s the first kind of social media where it’s not about perfectly written words or perfectly taken pictures. It’s about what you and I are doing but with no video. It’s only audio and it’s more relaxing. You can let go a little bit. You can doodle while you are engaged in social media.
It is live but there’s something about it being like a phone call. There are permissions. You can make mistakes, whereas when you are doing a live interview like this, you and I are trying to be all perfect. That is not how Clubhouse is. To simplify it, it looks like a very simple interface. As I have joked about it publicly, it’s a user experience over a conference call that anybody can be invited to. Do you want to invite thousands of people to that conference call? Go ahead and do so. I think you know this, but I have been teaching on SimonSinek.com and he joined. It was amazing. On Sunday, he decided to have a session and 2,000 people listened to him talk for an hour and a half.A brand story inspires and makes workers feel a part of a contiguous whole. Click To Tweet
You’ve got to ask yourself. That has got to be good for business. “Where else could he have had an uninterrupted dialogue for an hour and a half where his voice is the only voice?” Wealthy people can pay him to give a speech at a conference but even then, it’s in stage stuff. It’s like what did the executives need him to say. This was a full assignment in its purest form. I think we are going to see a lot more of these. My favorite part about it is you are sitting in rooms with anyone. For example, I’m not a woman and I’m not an astronaut but I have been in so many rooms of female astronauts. Russian astronauts and Japanese astronauts are talking about their training and vision for the future in space. I’m like, “Where could I have got this before?” Nowhere.
Where could they have got the feedback before from across the globe? For them, that’s invaluable.
Both sides. They wouldn’t have been able to have got the feedback and we, as audiences and fans, would never have been able to pay attention. We wouldn’t have had access to it or our space agencies would have been too specific about what they have to say and not say. Whereas this is again, an open casual dialogue, unrecorded, theoretically and space for people to express, be heard and understanding.
Can people just create their own conversation whenever they want? How do people find out about the conversations they want to get in on?
Both. You can have one haphazardly like I’m throwing up a chat who wants to join anyone who follows me or is linked to me when I notified or I can pre-schedule it. That’s what Simon Sinek did. He pre-scheduled it for 11:00 AM, Pacific time on Sunday. People plan their lives around it. The app is very intuitive. It will automatically populate your calendar with an invite. When you click the link, that opens the app. You are getting both. What’s cool is you are only going to be exposed to pop in the rooms based on who you follow. That’s informative. It’s interesting. It helps open up the conversation because if I sign on as Sasha Professor brand strategist, I’m only going to get marketing rooms but because I follow astronauts, politicians and all these folks, I’m getting access to these rooms that are lighting up my mind. I swear, it’s crazy. I hang out with my kids and what you hear about is listening to a very intellectual conversation. I’m totally immersed with my kids. That was never available to me before. I couldn’t hear such interesting contemporary content and interact with my kids but because the platform is so simple and only audio, it works. We formally connected.
It’s free-market research for anybody who wants to listen in on people talking about what they do.
I think people are tired of me saying that. In Clubhouse, there are big rooms that people like, “How do you blow up on Clubhouse?” “How do businesses and brands succeed in Clubhouse?” I keep saying back to them, “Listen to these people talk. Listen to these conversations unfold. You will learn more about your audience’s behavior via this channel than any other online survey or classic focus group could ever have told you.”
Sasha, this has been absolutely awesome. We have the only scratch the surface in an hour and it goes by so quickly with us. Leave us with something a little bit about how you feel about the future. The roaring ‘20s, we have heard that is coming again out of the last pandemic. It came in the 1900s. I’m feeding you that hoping that’s a part of it. We are at the beginning. I can’t believe already almost April 2021 here. In 2021 and ‘22, what are you thinking about? I know you are optimistic and excited. Tell us about what’s on your mind.
This is a very personal question to me because I am an optimist. I work hard at it. It’s not like I wake up every morning and look at the sky and say, “I work at this.” I make a concerted effort. One of the things that I am absolutely inspired by is this. Prior to COVID, when I talked to my clients about corporate social responsibility, the responsibility of a business to do good and not just do well profitably, they always were like, “I know I have to do it. Maybe my employees are going to ask about it.” Not anymore. You don’t get to be successful and productive post-COVID without also doing good for the world. It’s going to be interesting that even the most commercial enterprises are going to be asking themselves. “Okay, and.” How do we tell our employees and our customers that this work is not just to create cash for the shareholders? It’s also to create revenue for the world and contribution to the planet, etc. My most enthusiastic response to your question is finally, corporations, large and small, are going to be required by their audiences to talk about how they help the world as they grow their business. That makes me more excited than I have been in branding for a long time.
Do you agree with the notion that companies, no matter big or small, should think of themselves these days as a media company?
It’s hard because we are all controlling our own media channels. We used to be TV production studios, and now you just hold up a phone and you’ve got 1080p high-resolution video. Do you believe that every business needs to understand that? You need to be known to be bought. You need to be known to be donated to. You need to be known to be hired. You’ve got to control and you are being known. That requires media and whether that’s Instagram media, television interviews or a podcast, that’s media. Every organization, including nonprofits, needs to be a media producer. That’s why I agree with your assertion.
It’s becoming more evident that if you are not doing any of this, then you are going to be left behind.
What are you doing? I don’t know what to say. If you are not getting out and communicating, I can’t know and love you.
I know and love you. We know and love you. Whenever anybody hears you speak, the reviews are always through the roof and you always deliver. You care about each audience. Like with your company, you care about the companies that you are dealing with. You do a lot of research, a lot of preparation for every move you make, everything you say and suggest. That’s appreciated, not lost on me, on the people I have booked you for and who I know who loves you as a thought leader and as a speaker. Thank you for all of that work and caring. Thank you for being positive out there in a world that needs that kind of voice from people like you.
I appreciate that. I’m sensitive. I’m an emotional person. This is the stuff that got me in trouble when I was a kid because I was so affected by my classmates, I couldn’t sit in class. When I’m standing on that stage, I am feeling that audience and I am only who they need me to be. That’s probably why it’s worked so well.
Very likable guy and a very smart guy too so that doesn’t hurt.
I don’t know about the last point but I will take it if you say it.
Thank you so much for coming on. This has been so great. Have a wonderful rest of the year. God bless. I really appreciate you.
I appreciate you asking me to do this. I have to say, you have done some incredible amount of this and each one of them is my melter. I feel lucky to be in that set. They trust me to do this. I appreciate it a lot.
You are welcome and thank you again for doing it. Take care. I will talk to you soon.
Chris, thank you
About Sasha Strauss
Businesses, non-profits, universities, and faiths call on Sasha’s company to help create and communicate their brand’s reason to believe. Sasha Strauss is a branding industry veteran, with two decades leading brand strategy programs worldwide.
Sasha and his team advise organizations on how to tell their unique stories through branding. Their clients have included organizations like Google, Disney, Amgen, ADP, the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish Federation, Homeboy Industries and the Boy Scouts.
Sasha Strauss speaks from two decades of experience in brand strategy and brand development for corporations, nonprofit organizations, philanthropies and universities. His unique and proven perspective on how brands should be built and communicated is the foundation for his educational pedagogy and Innovation Protocol’s approach to brand development.
In addition to teaching graduate brand strategy and marketing courses as USC and UCLA, Sasha is a trusted keynote speaker for companies like Google, Nestle, LEGO and American Express. His ability to inculcate brand truth is the reason NPR, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal seek his perspective as a brand authority on topics related to market dynamics, culture, and innovation.