Your brand has to evolve. Entrepreneur and branding mogul extraordinaire AJ Adams says that the power of branding lies in taking that approach and strategizing how to we build a brand that can be either evergreen or allow room for it to evolve over time. AJ helps entrepreneurs deconstruct their story, find the golden nuggets, and then develop content around that by determining the pillars and the core values, and what it is about them that is the most powerful that will add value to an audience. From there, they’re able to build out the offerings and base the brand on what the story is and the personal connection people can make with you to build that relationship equity for long-term community growth and success. AJ loves helping people to communicate their message in a better way and shares their D6 process for strategically and methodically building out a brand.
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The Power Of Branding with AJ Adams
Our very special guest is AJ Adams, a branding mogul extraordinaire. AJ, thanks so much for joining us.
I appreciate it. This is definitely a purpose on being in the show and thanks for the generous title introduction.
You didn’t start out as successful as you are. How did you get to where you are now? You’re doing work with celebrities. You’re doing work with some amazing famous people helping them get it to the next level when they think they are already doing great.
I started out as a motivational speaker. I was talking to kids in high schools and colleges and I learned branding out of necessity because when I started I was broke. I had no money. I had a passion wanting to inspire young people, so I had to force myself to learn branding, marketing, social media. Got pretty decent at it. Years later, I had colleagues asking me, “Who’s doing your branding and social media? Can you help me start doing some consulting here and there?”
Then my wife, all my best ideas come from her. She said, “You need to speak on branding, not all this motivational stuff.” I started doing that, saw the response and realized, I love this. I love helping someone to communicate their message in a better way. Then we launched these at media this year and just through branding, networking, make sure my message is clear. I connected with Greg Writer, who we all know, and things have grown from there. It’s pretty incredible.
You’re doing some work with some amazing people. The first household name that comes and pops into my mind would be Bethenny Frankel.
That was a cool project to do. This was right before she went on Shark Tank as a guest shark. Shortly after connecting with Greg and Bernt Ullmann, we’re now partners and they said, “We need to reposition her,” because her existing site was a more of a blog and people knew her as the real housewife of New York, but she’s so much more. She is a business dominator. She has done incredible things with her Skinnygirl brand. Her books, philanthropy, very charismatic dynamic speaker, but that wasn’t necessarily reflected in her brand and her website. We took an approach and we strategized how to communicate that, redid her website, her copy and let people know Bethenny Frankel is so much more than what you’ve seen so far, so keep looking.
Near and dear to me talking about Shark Tank, AJ. That’s pretty cool. It’s funny because at Shark Tank you’ve got Richard Branson, Alex Rodriguez. That’s a great concept of what you’ve done to reposition people a little bit because people think of Alex Rodriguez as an amazing baseball player. What they maybe don’t realize, because I know a little bit of detail that he’s young, fairly astute at some of his investments. Some of these ball players, you hear, “They made money, but then they lost it. They didn’t do good in the market or they got taken advantage of.” There are transitional things for some of these folks. Magic Johnson, for example, he became very successful as a businessman and even more so out of his businesses than even his basketball career. The rebranding and repositioning can be great at getting great opportunities for some of these guys too.
It’s one of those things too that a lot of people don’t think about is that your brand has to evolve. Embarrassing story. When I started as a speaker. I branded myself as the black belt leadership speaker because I have a background in martial arts. I will talk about adversity and how I grew up with a fourth-grade education, high school dropout. At the end of my talk, to prove that overcoming anything in life is 90% mental, only 10% physical, I would break a stack of bricks on stage.
Kids loved it. It was exciting. It wasn’t practical because it hurts every time, but I realized that that brand didn’t give me room to evolve in the future. I looked, ten, twenty years and I thought I’m not going to be able to evolve. A lot of even celebrities, they need to evolve their brand. That’s where we take that approach and strategize how do we build a brand that can be either evergreen or allow room for it to evolve over time without it being confusing.
I have a question because when you talk about helping Alex Rodriguez and Bethenny Frankel, that’s pretty powerful. That’s good stuff to know that you’re a go-to guy for people that have, in those two cases, they’ve already gotten there. How do you take somebody that is a startup entrepreneur and they want to build a brand? How do you help them identify maybe even a brand that they want to get rolling with and then identify what brand they should pick and then how to build it from there?
We have a proprietary process that we use. We called that D6 process and the name D6Media comes from that. It came out of the company called Social Media Marketing. I quickly realized that we didn’t want to do that because the real problem for the potential clients we were talking to was that their brand sucks. They needed a stronger brand. What I did was I sat down and I made myself my own client. I said, “How can I strategically and methodically build out a brand?” In doing that I wrote down, discover, determined, develop, deploy, deepen and dominate as the process. I looked at it, it’s six Ds. That became our name and now it’s our process. We take a client through that and the very first thing we do is we dig into their story.
Like so many things we go through, once we go come in adversity or a challenge, you’re working out at the gym, you become stronger. Everything you did prior seems easy and we can forget how powerful that is for someone who’s still in that space. When I tell a story about how I sat on the Taco Bell and I had $6 to my name with a wife and two kids at the time to feed. For me, it’s like, “I’ve got past that.”
If I tell a story to an audience, grown people are in tears. I help them deconstruct their story and find what we call the golden nuggets and then we develop content around that. What are the pillars? What are the core values? What about you is really the most powerful that will add value to an audience. From there, we’re able to build out the offerings and base the brand on what is the story. What’s the personal connection people can make with you, so we can build that relationship equity for long-term community growth and success.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see business owners and entrepreneurs making when they come to you and you say, “This person needs my help.”
It’s the difference between value and vanity. Many entrepreneurs and business owners start out building a brand for their vanity. I want to look a certain way. I want to be perceived a certain way and that’s a part of it. They start creating content, building a website, giving themselves a title, creating product offerings based on what they want without fully considering what does the market want. What is of value to my audience? We took a stance when we create content for our clients. We’re creating content that is actionable, that gives them some value. Either it’s motivational, it’s educational, but it’s also not cliché. it’s authentic to their story or the story of their brand.
That’s interesting that you talked about, is it what you want or is it with the marketplace wants? I have a personal example of that. My wife’s favorite restaurant growing up as a place called Swiss Chalet, which I don’t know if either of you who’ve ever heard of. Maybe it’s an East Coast thing. There were two in Western New York, that she used to go to as a kid. Both of them have gone out of business. You can only get Swiss Chalet in Canada now. You’ve got to drive half an hour to an hour to get Swiss Chalet. A couple of times a year we make the trip to Canada to feed her fix. She’s like, “I want to start a franchise in Buffalo so I can eat it.” I said, “It’s because you want.” She posts on Facebook and all of her friends say, “We would eat there too. We miss it too.” I say, “Why don’t you get the uniform offering circular? Call the two companies that went out of business and find out why there might be a good reason to that.”
We are doing a show on Facebook live. We call it 12 Days of Branding. We talked about some global brands and when you look at how they’re marketing globally, they have different campaigns in different countries and different regions of the country because what’s going to connect on the West Coast doesn’t necessarily translate on the East Coast or in the south. Coca-Cola for example, they have a campaign where they’re putting names on their bottles to really connect with people and get people to share, buy more products.
I think it was Asia or Europe, they had a different campaign where for the same purpose of sharing one bottle, you had to have two of them and they would interlock and that you would turn it and it would open the bottle, so you had to have two of them. They didn’t do that in the US because they know that won’t connect but it will connect over it.
You need two bottles together in order to open it, so we’re going to drink it together or you’ve got to drink two of them.
You’ve got to know your target market, but if you’re going to market nationally or globally, what’s your target market look like in different areas and regions. What’s the linguistic track? What’s their cultural experience? Otherwise you disconnect and we’ve seen brands do that. We’ve seen brands just connect and make major full pause and just do some horrible things. It’s because they didn’t consider that.
AJ, let me roleplay. Let’s say, when I first went on Shark Tank or somebody gets to get a little bit of pop somewhere, something positive is happening to them. Maybe they had some breakthrough article or video that went viral and they get a lot of attention. A lot of eyeballs. That was me for a while on Shark Tank, but there was nobody that I connected with that point that said, “Kevin, this is going to be a temporary thing. You’ve got to take that and roll with it for the future. You’ve got to build the brand.” You’ve got an initial, I don’t know what you’d call it, but a little potential branding. How do you make it long-term? What are the top three things that you’re going to tell somebody that got that initial pop? How do you capitalize on it and become a brand and build that brand?
The top three things. The first thing I’ll do is look at why did it blow up? What was it about you being a Shark Tank or whoever the client is, what was it that really captured the attention? Leverage that and then look at what are other conversations happening around either your brand or your service that you can enter into to add value. How can you bring people back to a conversation that you have either in your community or other community, Facebook group, your Facebook page? It’s really read the marketplace. If people value a certain aspect of who you are, how do you give them more of that and then segue that into whatever other offerings that you want to deliver.
One of the things I’m getting at create more content for the things that people are coming to you for because they’ve only seen like maybe the tip of the iceberg. You want it then now create more of you to get them more excited in long-term, like for a long-term relationship.
Always thinking long-term, short-term moves, but then every move has to be calculated. When you play chess, I’m going to take your pawn, but I’m doing that because 12 moves ahead, I plan to put you in checkmate. A lot of entrepreneurs think very short-term or they think so long-term that they’re not making the short-term move. I pull back from you in being a martial artist, when I stepped into the ring, I’m going to fight. I’m thinking through each move is a stacking of the deck to get the final win. You think long-term short moves that add up to long moves. I had this thought process recently and for entrepreneurs there’s trajectory and then there’s a pace and many confuse it. My trajectory for D6Media is to build a $100 million plus company in the next five years.
Every move has to be calculated.
That’s our trajectory. That’s what we want to do. The pace of doing that means that we take one client, we do a live stream that doesn’t generate revenue but gets attention and you make small moves. Many entrepreneurs I think they confuse. If I just take this smaller client or the smaller gig or opportunity, that’s not on par with building $100 million company. No, but it’s on pace. That’s where the patient piece comes in. When you understand those, now you’re moving patiently, but very strategically.
With all the success you’ve had, what’s your biggest challenge now? How do you take the D6 brand into the stratosphere?
With D6 brand we continue to look ahead. Where is our industry, so branding and creative design, where is that going in terms of technology? What’s happening with Snapchat? What’s the next social media platform coming up? Trying to get a read on where things are going at five or ten years. Making short-term moves to prepare so that we can capitalize on that. Even looking at cryptocurrency right now that could impact how we do business. That can impact the clients that we have. Biggest challenge is looking for the next wave that’s coming and being prepared for it and really staying on top of the industry.
Are you taking payment in bitcoin yet?
Not yet. We’re researching it. My wife who is our one of our cofounders, she’s deep into understanding that space and we’re having a lot of conversations and getting a feel for it a lot. It’s popular but it’s one of those things that is, is it a trend or is it long-term? We think that what really is long-term is more so than the currency, it’s the technology, the blockchain technology.
Is there a blockchain play for branding?
What’s important to do is to look at that space. I know there are speakers who are speaking on that. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next decade that there are companies starting to build around just that technology. Of course, then, when you have multiple players, that’s when branding comes into play. How do you set yourself apart as the premier blockchain technology company or whatever?
IBM and Xerox are both heavily involved in that. I have a former employee who went to work at a cryptocurrency hedge fund in New York where all they do is trade this stuff all day long.
My own philosophy, I come out of old school, product development, fulfillment of packages to people’s homes, advertise, know buying ads. What I’m doing in the world of blockchain. I’m involved with something called ShipChain. It’s a blockchain for fulfillment. I’m getting involved with another advertising network that’s going to use blockchain for proof of ads being run because there’s so much fraud in that world. I’m looking service side of what I do and that’s why it made me think in terms of services, fulfilment, advertising, branding. There may be some play there and that might be a little venture we can explore, AJ. Let’s keep the doors open here for some possibilities. Tell Greg Writer that I wish him the best.
Thanks for being part of our show.
I absolutely appreciate it, Kevin.
AJ, for our folks who are resonating with what you’re saying and want to learn more about D6Media, where should we send them?
AJ, thanks so much for joining us. Everyone, thanks so much.
- AJ Adams
- Greg Writer
- Bethenny Frankel
- Social Media Marketing
- @ImAJAdams – Facebook
About AJ Adams
AJ began his entrepreneurial journey in the same way he began life—dirt broke and against the odds. Nonetheless, AJ set out to impact lives across America as a motivational speaker. With no capital, no education, and little experience, he knew that in order to achieve the success he would have to develop a competitive advantage.
AJ became obsessed with learning how to build a brand that would get attention and convey his unique value in the marketplace. He realized that in order to win in business…a brand needed to connect emotionally, personally, and authentically. Today, AJ is a sought-after keynote speaker who has spoken to hundreds of audiences across the globe.
It didn’t take long for colleagues and social media followers to notice AJ’s success and talent for branding and social media. In response growing demand, AJ realized entrepreneurs and businesses needed a systematic brand strategy for attracting and engaging with their ideal clients and customers. He created that systematic brand strategy and D6Media was born.
Only a two months after launching, D6Media is providing brand+social media development and deployment strategy and consulting for clients generating multiple 6-figures and 7-figures in sales. AJ’s insight and ingenuity have been instrumental in helping startups and established brands gain enhance strategy, clarify messaging, identify new market segments, grow social media followings, and generate increased sales.
AJ is continually striving to better serve his clients by staying on the cutting edge of trends affecting how brands leverage the power of social media to engage the marketplace.
Charismatic, authentic and insightful, AJ is irrationally passionate about helping people to stop competing and start dominating.
When he’s not building his business empire, he enjoys martial arts, trying new restaurants with his wife, and hanging out with his family. He also has a blast finding new and exciting (perhaps, even dangerous) experiences that invigorate his spirit.