Branding Matters

Tina Wells - Choose Authenticity over Authenticitude

July 02, 2021 Branding Badass Season 1 Episode 31
Branding Matters
Tina Wells - Choose Authenticity over Authenticitude
Show Notes Transcript

My guest today is Tina Wells; entrepreneur, business strategist, and best-selling author. She is also the founder of RLVNT Media - a multimedia content venture serving entrepreneurs, tweens and culturists with authentic representation.

Tina has been recognized by Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business, Essence’s 40 Under 40 and more. And for over two decades she led Buzz Marketing Group, an agency she founded at 16 with clients like Dell, The Oprah Winfrey Network, Kroger, Apple, P+G, Johnson & Johnson, and American Eagle just to name a few.

As if that’s not impressive enough, Tina is also the author of seven books, including the best-selling tween fiction series Mackenzie Blue, its 2020 spinoff series, The Zee Files, and the marketing handbook, Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right. 

I invited Tina to be a guest on my show to discuss how she became an “accidental entrepreneur. I wanted to learn about her Elevation Tribe and I was curious to get her POV on how diversity has changed in the world of branding.

Joelly Goodson :

Hi, I'm Joelly, your Branding Badass, and welcome to my new podcast. Branding Matters. My guest today is Tina wells, entrepreneur, business strategist and best selling author. Tina is also the founder of relevant media, a multimedia content venture serving entrepreneurs, tweens and culturist with authentic representation. And this woman is a dynamo. She has been recognized by fast companies 100 most creative people in business essences 40 under 40, and so much more. And for over two decades, Tina led buzz marketing group, an agency she founded at wait for it. 16 years old. Yep, you heard right 16 years old, with clients like Dell, the Oprah Winfrey Network, Kroger, apple, Procter and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson and American Eagle, just to name a few. And as if that is not impressive enough. Tina is also the author of seven books, including the best selling tween fiction series, Mackenzie blue, it's 2020, spin off series z files, and the marketing handbook chasing you'd culture and getting it right. I invited Tina to be guest on my show today to discuss how she became as she calls it, an accidental entrepreneur, and a successful one at that. And those are my words, I wanted to learn about her elevation tribe. And I was curious to get her point of view on how diversity has changed the world of branding. Tina, thank you so much for joining us today. I am so excited to have you here. Welcome to branding matters.

Tina Wells:

Thank you, Joelly, I'm so happy to be here.

Joelly Goodson :

Well, it's lovely to have you. So you have quite an impressive resume. And I'm super excited to have you on today you founded buzz marketing group at the ripe old age of 16 years old, when most girls are out not even thinking about business. You started this incredible business. So can you tell us about it? And what motivated you to start?

Tina Wells:

Very honestly tell you up front, I was an accidental entrepreneur, I wanted to be a fashion writer and at 15 took a job writing for The New Girl Times. And I'd seen an ad in 17 magazine and was hired as a product review editor. And so that's how I started my career trying products.

Joelly Goodson :

And at 16?

Tina Wells:

Yeah, then I was like this is the gig, right? You get free stuff to give your opinion. And then I was getting so much that I had to get friends involved. And that became doing surveys and crunching numbers and writing reports. And before I knew it, I was in the market research business and had no clue even then that was a thing until a client and I say with air quotes, because again, I've gotten free product and given a report. She said to me, I want you to know something I just paid someone $25,000 for market research. And what you and your friends did is 10 times better. You have a business and now you got to go figure it out. And I was again very lucky. Right time right place. I had just started college, I was taking an intro to business course with the head of the department. And I went to see her during her office hours and told her what I was doing. The next semester, I took an independent study with her. And she really helped me formalize the business. And then it was just, you know, two decades of writing the right waves at the right time. You know, when I started the business, it's all about teens, you know, teen people, Teen Vogue, Backstreet Boys in sync, and then there's teenagers grew up and became millennials. And I was just kind of always in the right sweet spot. And so you know, that's how an accidental business became a top millennial marketing agency.

Joelly Goodson :

That's fantastic. So I have to back up for a second you said you started college but you weren't 16 we started college?

Tina Wells:

No, no. Oh, yeah. When I for two years, I was just kind of gigging and had all these clients and this fun thing that I didn't know could make me money, and then amazingly, got serious about it. I was like, oh, there's like serious money here.

Joelly Goodson :

So not only did you start this business at 16 years old, but you're also a best selling author. You wrote two series, McKenzie blue in 2020. And then it spin off the Z files. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't know much about Mackenzie blue. I don't have daughters. But I hear it's like a huge, huge, popular hit with teenage girls. Can you share that with me?

Tina Wells:

That was just I was doing marketing for a publisher. And they said you should write something. And I ended up coming up with this idea about a 12 year old girl who's trying to survive middle school and her really diverse group of friends and a best friend who just moved to Paris and and yeah, that series went on to sell hundreds of 1000s of copies. And I was still running my agency, so I didn't really have any time to dedicate to it. And then what happened is I sold my audio rights to Audible, and I kind of felt like the series had a second life and what we ended up doing instead was I went and partner with target and we did the spin off the Z files. which was released. The first book was released last year, we've had two releases this year. And it's been great, you know, to continue almost, you know, for me almost 15 years later the same story, but with the character in a different life stage. And so I love z, now living outside of London and the Cotswolds and going to her really cool, creative arts boarding school, and I just love still creating around her and kind of a new tribe of friends. But I just I love this character, I love who she's becoming now as a teenager, and she's really, really fun.

Joelly Goodson :

So is there any part of you and Mackenzie boo,

Unknown:

I'm sure there are parts of my personality. I think for me, the way she loves her friends, she's so loyal to her friends definitely me the way that she's like, not always totally together is definitely me. And so like, it's constantly like reiterating and figuring iterating and figuring things out. And I also think that, you know, the way she kind of approaches some of her issues, how she's looking for help and looking to do this, like kind of process through it. It's definitely me. But yeah, I just think her the way she loves her friends. So it's definitely a big part of my personality, and also that like talking things out, I have five younger siblings. And I definitely think that's a big part of our family philosophy is that we talk through things and deal with things. And so I definitely think that's probably in the series as well.

Joelly Goodson :

Oh, that's great. And you're the oldest of five kids?

Tina Wells:

I'm the eldest of six.

Joelly Goodson :

Right? Yes, five siblings. And what do your parents do?

Tina Wells:

They're both retired now.

Joelly Goodson :

What did they do when they were working?

Tina Wells:

My dad spent his career at Lockheed Martin. And then after he retired, he took a job as a teacher's aide in an elementary school. And you can say, he was definitely missing the six of us. Oh, my goodness, that and my mom spent her career really in like management focused on like, the organizational side and admin, and she loves admin. And then she I love my parents always having second careers. And my mom has taken on, like different roles in hospitality management. And now she just decided her love. She loves Disney. And she's like, I took a course to train in customer service for Disney.

Joelly Goodson :

That's awesome. I

Unknown:

Now that the six of us are gone. They're like living their best lives. And these are things they want to do. So I think it's great. And I definitely see parts of my personality, like I was explaining on my mom taught me how to write a professional letter and taught me kind of all of those business skills that I really needed for success back in the day, and I can see it now. It's just like what she loves. She just loves anything that's administrative, or if it's planning a big trip for 100 people like she's she just loves those kind of things.

Joelly Goodson :

Do you love those kind of things, too?

Unknown:

I do. I like a lot love strategy. I'm very creative person. But we know as marketers, it's a comment marketing is an art and a science. And I think I like both sides equally. You know, I love research, I love to create art that's informed. So I definitely am not a person who would like just writes a book, because it's like, oh, like, I love this. It's like, well, I take a lot of time studying the consumer and where he or she is what they need. And then I start to craft something creatively from that data. And so I have a hard time with the idea that I'm an artist in any way, because I really think about how strategically I'm applying those skills.

Joelly Goodson :

So let's talk about storytelling, because obviously, you love to tell great stories, you have best selling books. And a big part of branding is using stories to connect your brand with your customers. So what do you think makes a great story? And what are some tips that you could share?

Unknown:

Yeah, so I think with storytelling, number one, I think good storytelling has gotten a lot harder, because we don't have a completely captive audience the way we used to almost 1220 years ago, you know, so I often hear people say, Oh, this person's the next Joker or that person's the next Oprah. I always say there is no next Oprah, right? Because we're never going to have a time again, where we're all focused on watching one hour of TV a certain time every day where we give any person that much of our attention to set the landscape and conversation. And so I think that there's so many places for content to be these days, right? And it's great, because it opens opens up so many opportunities for creators, but it also means that our audience has 1000s, if not 10s of 1000s of decisions about what content to consume. And so I think that what makes a good story, understanding that to be niche is really great. And bringing that on, right? How often do we hear people say, I want this to go to everyone, but I think the bigger opportunity is to saying I just want to talk to women in business. I just want to talk to tween girls, you know, that's why I don't write why it's why don't craft stories for other audiences because I've spent so much time getting to know this girl and what makes a compelling story for her. I can't tell you the first thing about what makes a compelling story for a young adult audience because that's just not my audience and it may be there for different things I need to do that what I do for my middle reader but I think good storytellers understand their audience, they understand the needs and wants of that audience. And then they understand what channels and platforms are most relevant for that audience. You know, there are some audiences like if I were going to talk to female small business owners today, the first place I go to have a conversation with them is Pinterest, you know, understanding that Pinterest is a social media platform, right? It's not Facebook or Instagram, it is really this beautiful search engine that uses art in this really amazing way. And by the way, most people are not paying attention to it the way they should. So it gives a small business owner a huge runway two create a very loyal audience. And so that's different than if I were to make something for ya, I would probably go straight to tick tock right. And so I think when we talk about what makes it it's not even just that you have the right story, it's that you then funnel that right story through the exact right channel to get to your intended audience.

Joelly Goodson :

So when you're telling your stories, you know, a lot of people talk about when brands tell stories, it's being authentic, you hear this a lot lately, right? It's make sure that you're authentic in your storytelling. And, you know, that's how you're going to connect with other people. What do you say about that?

Tina Wells:

You know, as a marketer, I think that there is authenticity versus authenticity. Dude, never heard that before. A really good example. You look at like, Hollister, right. And it says, founded in 1893, or has 18. Like, we know, Hollister was not founded in 1893. They've done authenticity tattooed very, very well. And I think sometimes there was a period where people thought that was bad. I don't think that's bad. If you really own your brand and stick to it, and and you look at like shows like remember, like Laguna Beach versus like voc. So one is reality show. The other is a scripted TV show. And they both wanted shoot it with authenticity, shoot one with authenticity, light, right. But both did really, really well with the audience at that time. And so I think it's okay, that goes back to the storytelling, right. And like, I write about fictional characters, right. So I want an authentic voice to come through. But I also realized that I'm creating authenticity, creating this fictional world where my average girl is not going to private boarding school in the Cotswolds, right, but she loves having that escapism of reading about these crazy life. And so my job is to deliver high entertainment, aspiration fun. And then to also have a certain portion of that content feel attainable to the reader, right. And that's where the science comes in for me of figuring out how much of the story needs to be relatable and attainable, versus what's my job? As an entertainer. It's always a balance for me figuring out where do we need to be authentic? And where do we need to choose, you know, the fiction and the creativity that the reader is looking for?

Joelly Goodson :

Okay, so how would you take that? Because you're talking about fantasy, like you said, these are fiction? And how would you transfer that, let's say to brands, how could they go to market and be authentic and tell their story,

Unknown:

I think that there's been such a push towards authenticity that we actually don't want, like, the average consumer does not want to see their life reflected at all. We do not shop to see our life reflected, we shop because we aspire to a better version of ourselves and what we feel we have at the moment, right, and so we love to watch reality shows because they're not authentic, because they're just a little bit more elevated, like we don't live like The Real Housewives of Atlanta or Beverly Hills. And we love to consume that content. Because we can relate to being housewives, right and having friends but our friends don't do that thing. And so I think where the authenticity comes in is, it's very smart at saying these three things need to be relatable, and then we're going to go crazy with these other 20 that makes it must see TV. I'll give you an example. With McDonald's. We want McDonald's to always sell us french fries. No one is going to McDonald's because they want to have the healthiest salad they've ever had. Right? This is not the brand ethos and so you know I want you to make me the best fry I've ever had because when I'm walking in and I am now not doing my keto whatever I'm doing I want to enjoy every bite of that fruit like I don't want you to serve me up anything. That's not what I come here for. You know, if you want to say that you are selling me happiness. I'm all in if you want to say that you're selling me entertainment, I'm all in. Are you selling me health? Like Really? That's what I would say Not really.

Joelly Goodson :

But then how is that authentic today? Like if there if you go in woud, it's being authentic?

Tina Wells:

I think not all brands. That's why I said they're very different ways of doing business. Not all brands buy into authenticity. Not at all. You know, I think that when I think about that, it's the idea that you see it a lot in fashion, we have to create a persona of who's coming in, right? We have to create this world for the customer. Not every brand has to do that. If you're going into a Walmart what authenticity do they need to create? They don't because they're brand new. is around value pricing, right? They don't need, they're not selling you a style or on Beyonds or any of that it's very much when you look at like Target, right a company I love to do business with, they are selling you style as part of the brand promise, right? You know that you are getting these elevated basics that come with style. And they do that and deliver on that very well. When we're talking about authenticity versus authenticity, sometimes that's why I can say, a lot of authenticity with beauty, or fat. These are places where because they're building in that level of authenticity, you're not paying for that, right? Because we look at every character like category and see where you're not paying, you're just getting the good, right, you're just getting, you know, if we look at a McDonald's burger versus five guys versus the gourmet burger, we can see at each level, how you're baking in more of brand brand ethos to deliver on a higher price point, right? You just end up having some businesses at scale, whether it's McDonald's, or Walmart, where they actually because they deliver so good on what the brand promises, they don't have to build the other stuff that's not part of their business. And I find that when brands try to get into that, right, where they're like, Well, we've got the money. Now we want to play in this space, it doesn't always translate because you forget why the customer is there, forget that the customer is fine with the burger and fries. That's why they there. You don't need to build all this other stuff. And if you can do the other stuff, that's good. But I think sometimes we get so caught up in the other stuff that we forget why why customers are coming to us. One more thing. I want to throw it at you because I find this so interesting. I've never heard about this before. And I'm getting like all these ding ding dings and it's awesome. Okay, so let's talk about a brand like Starbucks authentic tude or authenticity. Often, right? a barista terminology or, you know, like, isn't that what it's all about is creating that you talk about?

Unknown:

Always, because again, look at the price point, right? You can go to get a mid cafe for $1. In some chains, you cannot buy any Starbucks drink. I mean, now the average drink is costing me $6.

Joelly Goodson :

we call it star five bucks.

Unknown:

Exactly. And so I think when you start to deliver on, and that's what we're calling like a luxury product, right? We haven't even talked about real luxury goods. But when you get into that category, it's like, you see more and more and more of this authenticity to it, or the story. And sometimes authenticity is really like what I said that the earlier example of like this brand was not founded in 1893. You see those numbers everywhere, and then go back in your life.

Joelly Goodson :

It's a marketing kind of strategy or part of their branding.

Tina Wells:

Yeah. And when I look at what Starbucks does with their vernacular, right, and how they then started to translate, well, you just can come obviously, pre pandemic, this is the place to work that now there's so much value being given that you don't care if you're paying five $6 for the coffee, because now Now I don't need an office, I can go work from anywhere I can do you know, then it becomes? Well, they've really delivered on the value and I paid $6 where I if I run it in office, I'd be paying $25 a day, you know, then then that conversation ships?

Joelly Goodson :

Well, thank you for sharing that that was really interesting and eye opening. And we could do a whole episode just on that because I have so much more. But I want to move on. I want to talk about your other business, because you're just talking about your mom or your parents having different businesses. I mean, clearly the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Let's talk about RLVNT Media. So when did you start RLVNT Media and what motivated you to do that?

Unknown:

So started it in 2019, and really formalized it last year. And the goal there is to really focused on representation and media and I focus on three main categories. tweens, obviously we talk a lot about my tween products, and then entrepreneurship and then a category I call culturist, which just really almost gives me the freedom to do a lot of stuff with influencers and people I'm fascinated by and lifestyle experts. And so I focus a lot on the book side, I have in total under contract and titles to come out over the next few years. I'll have a total of 17 books in the middle grade space. And then I'm working on a few other adult books. And then on the entrepreneurship side with elevation tribe, we're working on a TV show, I'm working on a book focused on entrepreneurship. And then on the culture side, we're just starting to do some really exciting things around lifestyle experts in bringing some brands to life. And so all focused on diversity and inclusion and really equity the equity piece too, and how you know, it's one thing to have the conversation, but it's another thing to create projects and properties that really start to create equity for so many others.

Joelly Goodson :

And so you mentioned Elevation Tribe, is that sort of an entity of RLVNT Media? And what is Elevation Tribe? Yeah, so I started elevation tribe in 2018. And it was at a time where I saw all of these variables before relevant for me, it was again I had a like I had my McKenzie blue before which is what led to the creation of Do you ever sleep?

Tina Wells:

Ha! Way more often than people think, because I have to be rested. Oh, that's a whole part of the elevation approach, which is how I approach business and life and way, way more than people think I can't function without proper sleep. So it's not even a something that like I want. It's, I can't even make good decisions without it. And so it's the only thing that's just non negotiable all the time. But to answer your question, is there only female communities that were popping up? And I felt that we really needed a place that focused on some really specific nuances faced in the workplace by women of color. And so when I created elevation tribe was really to create content, community and experiences that would help women of color launch grow and lead in companies. And so you want to start up, it's how do I bring together all my amazing friends who have done it, who maybe don't have time to mentor but have so much to offer? How can I create a forum that gives them the ability to give that great advice that allows me the place to just say, Here's everything, I wish I could tell you about starting a business. And earlier this year, we launched a course called the elevation approach. And so it's been great for me to kind of get all of this stuff down. Like I just taught a masterclass last week on ICA is your ideal customer avatar, and I was able to give all of the students like and here's a workbook to help you work through how I figure out who an ideal customer should be. And so, you know, that platform is really afforded me the opportunity to create all of the tools I wish I had as a black woman in business back when I was starting. And the connection to hear from so many of the women who have done it who understand are very unique nuances and challenges around network around networks. And so the TV show will also really, I hope, very cool way explore, you know, me going into businesses that may be struggling and bringing in an elevation tried to say, here's how we're going to fix your business. And hopefully all of you at home, can now see how you can make some changes in business to make them more profitable, more thriving, and also create business that works for you and your life. Because we always want work life harmony. And so people always say you're doing so much you're doing all these things I said, but there's not one thing I'm doing that's out of alignment with my work life harmony. And when anything does come in to disrupt it, then I just don't do that thing anymore. And so, you know, that's what I hope for all entrepreneurs is you get to a place where you have a really great work life harmony.

Joelly Goodson :

Oh, I totally agree with you. I'm the same way I'm saying my word million hats as well. So that's why when I said that you because people always ask me between work and podcasts and kids, and you know, everything else. It's busy, but I feed off and I agree with you. I think they all work together all harmoniously. But I have to stop you because you said TV show. And I'm like what? Tell me about that?

Tina Wells:

Yeah, I can't say much

Joelly Goodson :

You started it. So what can you say?

Unknown:

I can say that there's one in the works, and that it will, you know, focus on helping entrepreneurs who are struggling in their business and bring in an elevation tribe to help make it better.

Joelly Goodson :

That is amazing. Okay, so is this TV show gonna be authentic? Or authenticity?

Unknown:

Oh, no, I think when you're dealing with businesses in crisis, I think that's a very authentic situation. Yeah, I think it's gonna be a reality show,

Joelly Goodson :

I tried to get some information out of you.

Tina Wells:

Yeah, it's definitely not going to be a scripted show. And so I think the fact that it's unscripted, you know, will definitely be reality. And obviously, they're the thing I love about reality is you get to clean things up, right, so you're gonna have a great office, you're gonna have a great space, but the situations are 100% going to be real. And I think how we fix them as 100% going to be authentic to and that's what's gonna make the show, right. And I think that's where you have to know is, you know, we're not if I were making a fashion brand, obviously, that wouldn't be 1,000% authentic, because you need to create a lot of aspiration. And sometimes we need to as marketers create that magic, you know, but in reality show the magic is in how you bring together a tribe of people that construct that can solve the problem, right? That's where you need to have this non manufacturer, you know, you either can work well together or not, it's and that's what I love about this kind of show that I came up with is that it's not about who's investing or who's not investing. It's really about how do you solve the problem and letting people in on that part that you don't always see, right? You don't always see the before and after. And I think we realize that the education is in that middle, right? It's in, I see what they were. And I see where you ended up. But But I can learn something as a viewer if you expose me to the middle, and that's, you know, so that might be messy. And that might not be fun. And I may be arguing with consultants who say we need to do A versus B. But I also do that knowing the viewer is going to benefit from the real life conversations of what helps a business survive and thrive versus what's the nice to have

Joelly Goodson :

And you know, going back to storytelling, I think when you were describing this, that's what you're doing. You're taking us on a journey with you right and i think that's It's a great story when you have a beginning and maybe there's challenges or you're setting it up. And then the middle is the best part, right? That's where the meat is. That's where all the excitement happens. And then the ending hopefully is going to be a good ending. And sometimes it may not be. So that's the journey that you're bringing people along with you. And I think that's what attracts people and wants them to go on that journey with you. And obviously wants you to succeed succeeding, where you have to keep me posted on what it's all about. So I've heard you say that you built your entire career based on the idea that we make most of our purchasing decisions based on what a friend recommends. So back to talking about influencers. So have influencers in your mind? Do you think they become like the new infomercial, where you see all over social media, you see actors and all people from all walks of life trying to sell something online? Right? What's your take on that?

Unknown:

I think everything goes through cycles. I think that there was a cycle when it was new and fresh and so groundbreaking, but it worked really, really well. And then I think we got to this place where there's so ubiquitous that you don't know what moves the needle anymore. And now we're getting to the place of seeing what happens where we build people who don't necessarily, let's say they're not necessarily subject experts are having, you know, they became an expert at a tool, then when real controversy hits, and they don't know how to manage it. We're all surprised. But we don't realize that that was not the skill set they were built for. Right. But they just weren't built to be companies or deliver or know how to handle some of this backlash. And we've seen it time and time again, right? We call it in the US kancil culture, we don't realize is, you know, brands don't always get canceled, or they know how to weather the storm, because they have teams of people who are experts at how do we communicate? How do we articulate how do we speak to this, and they configure and manage that. And so I have felt for a while that I really like micro influencers, I really am intrigued by people who maybe have 50,000 followers, but 50,000 people who are incredibly engaged, and very loyal to that person. I'm really fascinated by curators, you know, by people who spent careers curating or creating some of the things that we all enjoy and don't actually know the people behind. We're now getting into their own space, because they've been doing it forever. I think that when we become experts at a tool, and then the tool kind of backfires on us. And then we realized, like, I didn't really know how I was doing this thing in the first place. that's problematic for a lot of people. It's problematic for the influencer, who isn't equipped to handle those storms, right? Who everybody messes up everybody, you know, oops, my bad, we make a mistake. But when companies make a mistake, there is a whole infrastructure to support how to navigate that. And I feel oftentimes, influencers, even if they're Hollywood celebrities, in some stages, if we're seeing these things happen, it's like where's the infrastructure around this person to help them navigate how to figure this out. And so that's what's really scary to me, I used to always have the same where I said, you know, you'll never find the Nike swoosh drunk in an alley, right? There's so much control around that worse. And so I find that as a very type A personality marketer, business owner, I don't know, it just makes me tense up to think about putting an investing so much into a person that hasn't had the proper training around how to be the brand, right? Because when we think about these big brands that we love, all joking aside, there are 1000s of people, whether it's the Dell Technologies of the world, their teams just dedicated to how these brands show up in the public role versus product rollout and all of that. And I think that it's unfair to think that people need to be capable of generating this kind of income and not make mistakes, when we're all in this very new undiscovered reality, you know, and so now we're just seeing through the first cycle, some really big mistakes. And then what's the knee jerk? This brands canceled? This one's cancelled this route. And I'm like, well, as a retail partner, you know, maybe we all need to take a step back and think about how do we invest and how do we create infrastructure? So that we're Montt? Right? Because when I do, like, for example, I won't say the technology company I was working for. But there was a social media command center, we could measure it any day time moment, what the sentiment was about this brand, were people happy with the brand neutral to the brand or upset with the brand. And we had tools in place to figure out how we're going to mitigate that risk. Don't do that with influence or someone can put up a bad post someone can bully online, canceled next moment, you know, and so I love experts. I love learning things from people. I love that whether it's how to style a shirt, how to plant butterfly, like I love that that comes from people. But I think we have to do a really good job or much better job of creating infrastructure around people as brands to make sure that they're fully supported, and that we're not just leaving it up to them. How to do this because there's no brand, that's a major brand in the world where the face of the brand is the one doing all of that. And we ask influencers to do that all the time.

Joelly Goodson :

I love that you said that. I totally agree with you. I mean, you see it all over social media see it on Instagram, or, you know, everyone's on there, like I said, trying to promote and sell a product. Where do you see the future going with influencers? Yeah, well, I'm also very opinionated as I'm working. Oh, I couldn't tell. I mean, I love that about you.

Unknown:

I have some skin in that game. But where I am really focused. So here's the way I've looked at it, I still believe in I have, from the beginning of my career that we do things because friends tell us to, and it's statistically proven 90% of our purchasing decisions, I think the definition of a friend is changing. But for me, I want to be really focused on partnering and working with people who are experts in what they do, and have done it for quite some time. So that means that if I'm working on a new brand, with a landscape architect, that has been their career, right, they're not someone who's gone on Instagram, because they love plants and could get hundreds of 1000s of followers. It's the person that maybe has 2000 followers, but they know that they know that they know that business. And I know that they can create products and services that are going to make your life better or elevated in some way. And so I am almost thinking about how I retrofit for the audience. I'm much more focused on the method or the zone of genius, or what they know that other people need to learn. And so I've kind of walked away from the noise because what's happened is we've become so captivated by the size of audience that we haven't dissected. How is that person built audience and the people I'm really drawn to right now just blow my mind and how they, you know, they're what people who I'm friends with, but I'm introduced, like, I just went on a trip. I was in Africa for three weeks, I did two weeks in Namibia. And a week in Mozambique totally planned by a friend who I did not know had the skill set is traveled to over 100 countries, she was head of travel rewards at Uber and just recently left, and I sat down. So I want to build a brand with you. Because your knowledge of how people want to travel, what they the tools, they need to have the best experience what the luggage should look like, feel like to have the best I want to build with you. Right? You had no followers up to two weeks ago. But that knowledge, I want everybody I know to have access to your brain and how you're thinking about this. So I To me, it's like, we have to get back to the people who know the most they may not photograph the best and looked at but but there's going to be a way of us to fuse that intelligence with the tools, right? So it needs to be much more about the person than someone's ability to manipulate the tools. And and that to me is where we have to find this happy medium where we have been fascinated by someone's ability to understand tools. And then when it when the like, you know what hits the fan, they don't have the infrastructure because we never planned for that versus me now saying I'm going to go with the people who have existed in corporate they actually understand the infrastructure. So not if but when that situation happens. It trigger know how to deal with this right? I've dealt with this my whole career behind the scenes. Now I just have to do it for myself. It's very different than I don't know what's happening. I don't even know how to deal with this. I just started as an influencer to I don't know, you know, that's what's happening is people are having I don't what's happening to me, and there's no one to say, we have to protect around that. And so I don't think we throw the baby out with the bathwater and say influencers wrong, I think we have to take a step back collectively and say, Who are we elevating? And why? You know, I think we've seen during a pandemic that the people who were elevated were the smartest people who couldn't speak to what was happening, right? It didn't matter if they looked great on great camera, right? It was like, Who is the person that understands how I need to disinfect my home. That's why I want to talk with and then we can obviously design brands and product, we will do what we do as marketers and make it beautiful and make it great. But when you think about some of the brands that we love, or that have lasted, how did they start? You know, Colonel Sanders isn't some great looking guy from KFC. Right? He just had some secret original recipe that just everybody loved when he made and now we've created this legacy brand, you know, and it goes back to some of these strong brands, it was really the understanding of what a customer needed at that time paired with the exact solution that then created, you know, these mass brands. And so I think we're getting back to that place of saying what's the secret ingredient? What's the secret everybody, right? All these big companies we love they have their secret recipe that only you know, we have to get back to understanding that secret sauce and what separates products and then really creating more of that.

Joelly Goodson :

It's funny you talked about followers and how you know there's so much emphasis on numbers and just because someone has 400,000 followers that they what they say must be right right versus really understanding how they even got there. I think it's okay to buy the media but again, it's a buying followers. Do you think that's the same thing as Buying media,

Unknown:

I think it depends on what is the secret sauce, you can buy, you can have all the, I always used to joke, my joke as a marketer was like, I can lead a horse to water. If your water sucks, it's not my problem, right. And I think that you have to start with a foundation of a method of product is something that works, you know, and I think that every day we see people accelerate growth through buying media, right media is all about eyeballs, and awareness and attention and come here, don't go there. But at the end of the day, if you don't have the goods, you can buy all the media in the world that you want, you can buy all the followers in the world that you want, if you don't have content, when they land on your page, you haven't been thoughtful about what are your five buckets of content? What are you speaking to? What are they going to get from you that they're not getting from? Like, I'll give you example, for me, I had a really hard time and struggled a lot for me personally with my Instagram when I couldn't travel, because a big part for me with Instagram is telling the story of all the places I get to go. And I'm so inspired by travel. And it really feeds the creativity of everything I do. And so I realized my audience does not care about hearing about business tips from me, they want like when I was on my three week trip, and I'm showing them shots from Namibia and all the that's what people want from it. And so I have to be really responsive and say maybe Instagram as a channel does not feed my other businesses. But it just feeds, my audience just needs this thing from me. And so I think the buying is okay, but if you start and there are so many businesses, we saw that were digital first, right, that when you know, things started happening with Facebook algorithms, and Facebook is on one hand making things way better for us as consumers, it's really disruptive to the advertising algorithm. But I say to those businesses, if you've ever business around an algorithm you didn't actually build around a customer need or want. That's not Facebook's problem, unfortunately, I'm sorry to tell you that I would say the same for about buying followers by all you want. But if you don't deliver on any promise to those people, once they land on your content, you've wasted your money, you're not going to make that money back, you're going to have a vanity account. And then when it's time to actually tap into that customer loyalty. There just is not you know, and so I don't think the buying is huge. I don't think any of that the issue is do you have the content? are you delivering inspiration, something a reason for people to come to your feed,

Joelly Goodson :

Totally agree, because like I said, you see all over social media, just all these accounts with huge followers or influencers and then you listen to what they have to say, and their content isn't really what you signed up for. So I totally agree. And then you just end up unfollowing them anyway. So yeah, okay, so let's go back to, you know, you mentioned you touched on it really briefly about diversity. So being a woman of color, how do you feel the way brands are addressing diversity in their branding? What's your take on that?

Unknown:

Yeah, so I always find that I feel like if you're a bigger brand who touches a bigger consumer segment, this is something that you've had to deal with always because you need to get people in the door, you need to really understand what that looks like. I would say again, thinking about charging years ago, right before diversity inclusion equity became a conversation. They understood that people like me want to go to Target and buy products for my hair, right? There used to be one place I could go by, I was literally called Beauty Supply where I could find black haircare products. And now I can walk into any target and find files full of product that works for my hair. I don't think that that was because diversity inclusion matters, I think it was because they understood the bottom line of who was coming into their stores and what they needed and what was going to help grow that business. And once they started and you saw breakthrough brands like Carol's Daughter Shea Moisture, that's now created huge opportunity for many other brands. So now when we start to talk about very niche brands, right, luxury brands, who by the way, don't realize that their audiences are so diverse, I mean, black women alone, the buying power and spending power black women I don't think most people even understand. And so I do think there are definitely spaces that need to do way better. But I find that so many companies really like and I'm talking about really, really mass brands, the Coca Cola is of the world of McDonald's. You know, McDonald's has a huge ownership network that are black owners of the McDonald's franchises, right? These businesses that are way more dealing with the average everyday person understands the need to understand the need for diversity, inclusion, equity, because it comes from the customer set. I find that the tension is what if your customers are your key demographic aren't people of color, for example, high end luxury, sustainable fashion brands? We saw that with reformation you know, and there was a reformation referendum around that founder of like, we don't like how you're doing business. And so I'm not saying I mean, I was a black woman who I just bought a reformation dress the week before and I was like what happened? Oh my gosh, you know, but that is where It's harder when you as a marketer say, I don't even have that consumer in my top five consumers, what do I need to do there? That's a really interesting conversation. I think that as I study younger generations, as we all have this data, we know that America is only getting more and more diverse, and that that diverse diversity, inclusion equity, especially when you go to younger and younger and younger consumer sets, it is just the way it needs to be. I think the hard conversation in our industry is what do we do with general market agencies and diverse agencies when they almost really need to swap? What is Gen market anymore? You know, when we look at Gen Z, the most diverse group in history, they are almost equal of people of color versus, you know, white Americans, what do you do with that the whole framing of our industry needs to be completely changed, who's taking that on, if you are the client, and that's where I go back to the clients are the ones that have to fix that, they have to now say, and I think it will happen to generation at time, I think if you are a business really focused on Gen Z, I don't see how your general market agency does not flip with who would have been your multicultural agency. But that's just natural, it has to happen. Because that dialect that what's driving that consumer segment, we now statistically can see is very different. And so I think that these are very nuanced conversations, I think that they involve an incredible amount of money. They involve incredible amount of assets, equity, all these things having to shift and we know that whenever you start to shift these things, it's complex. It's nuanced, it's complicated. But I really believe what I've always loved about marketing is that the customer always finds a way to guide those conversations as marketers, we will do what we need to do to get that sale and to meet that customers need, right. And similar to what I just said about target, I would love to say, well, they just wanted to create a more, I'm sure that that was such a great benefit to create a more diverse shopping experience. But the reality was, we can serve a customer set in a really special way and get that dollar in our store that was going to all these different places because they did not have one place to combine all of their haircare products. So that's a great example of where you see diversity, inclusion, equity, also meet a consumer shopping experience, deliver on that experience and create revenue. And that's, to me, that's what diversity inclusion and equity does at its best it creates it doesn't take away from and so gonna take a lot of work from really smart people to sit down and say, how do we make the shift in an industry that was designed to serve a customer literally back from the 1950s? Right, there's a lot of change that needs to happen. But I think that that change will be driven by the customers. And by that I mean the McDonald's and Pepsi's of the world who are driving these Nikes of the world who are driving these massive budgets to say we need to look at our spend a different way we need to bring different people to the table to have a conversation of what our media needs to look like.

Joelly Goodson :

But I love the way you said you know, it's not going to happen overnight. And people need to brands need to sit down and come easy to talk about it and how they're the best way to execute it and bring it so it's all part of their brand. What about all these marketing and branding you see right now all over again, TV and social media where all of a sudden, overnight, it seems everybody was doing it. And all of a sudden you're seeing all this diversity? Do you think they're you know, and again, I'm going back to the intensity? How much of that do you think was really part of their branding as far as being authentic? Or was it just like trying to do what is the right thing to do right now because there's this demand and people are watching you. And if you want to keep your customers and keep your loyal customers, you better get on the bandwagon and start showing diversity ASAP.

Tina Wells:

Any time any situation that gets us to look at a situation is welcome. If it's knee jerk, and it's a knee jerk that moves us in the right direction. I'm here for it. I think that there's way more work to do. I think that we're in a bubble of talking about diversity and inclusion, because to shift to the equity conversation is a very uncomfortable shift. Because in some ways people think for you to have more means I have to have less, right? There isn't yet this idea of we can just make a bigger pie. I think we're still focused on it's your slice or my slice, not just how do we make a bigger, better pie. And so I think if you're a bandwagon are great. I'm so happy to welcome you to the conversation because it's still the conversation that needs to happen. And when I think about representation, even thinking middle grade fiction, yes, I'm thinking about the fact that less than 10% of protagonist and middle grade books are girls of color. But I'm also thinking about also bringing to light the stories of learning and attention issues. I'm also thinking about how we bring to light the diversity of families, right? And so for me, I'm working through a concept right now, I'm really focused on how do I diversify these families, and also start to really talk about same sex couples right and marriages and bring that to light in middle grade in a way that feels so authentic. And again, the authenticity is there even if the authenticity Now I created this utopian world where all these different girls from different families and faiths get together. Right. And so I think it's a great conversation. I welcome it. I think it is such an unfortunate set of events that got us to have a conversation label, like kind of layer on the most unfortunate event, you layer on the most unfortunate global event, right? So we're all in this place of being able to sit down and look at what was happening and say, well, right, there's someone I met, and then we all sat and watch the piling on. And then as people were trying to fix, they were getting cancelled, because people were saying, actually, what you're talking about isn't even authentic, because you did this to me when I was working for you. And it was just like, wow, right? Yeah. And now that we've kind of brought all of that up. Now we can take a step back and say, how do we continue to address this in a way that for me, I'm kind of past the diversity and inclusion conversation, meaning we have checked the boxes, if that has to happen, what I'm really focused on is the equity piece, and what that means for all of us. What does that mean for women? What does that mean for young people who constantly inspire culture? How do they participate in culture in a way? How do they get the financial benefit of that inspiration, and then also looking at all the different ways that we show up as humans that also need to be reflected in our culture in a way that feels like I see myself in the books that I'm reading. And that means a lot of different things. That doesn't just mean, I see myself as a black girl, what if you're a black girl who comes from a really wealthy family, what have you or someone like myself, who grew up, you know, whose parents are still married 42 years later, we need to see those examples as well. So it means a lot of different things. And I don't think any one person can take all of that on. But again, someone who's really skilled at answering this question might have a totally different answer for you, when they can look at all the data, all of the research of how people are really moving the needle, they may say, I don't think enough is happening at all, I'm looking as a very optimistic marketer who believes that customers at the end of the day have such a powerful voice. And the more diversified the end user and buyer becomes, the more diversified I believe we have to become to serve those needs.

Joelly Goodson :

Well, for someone who said you didn't really have much of an answer. I think you were bang on. I loved your answer. I believe everything that you said, as long as you're talking about and starting the conversation now, and it's going in the right direction. I think that's really what it's all about. So thank you for sharing that you are just a dynamo, you're so interesting to talk to you. I've really been enjoying this conversation so much. Thank you. I really appreciate it. So if people want to learn more about you, Tina, where is the best way for them to find you,

Tina Wells:

I would say start with Tina Wells, you'll find all my handles there. And you can subscribe to a newsletter I have that has business tips and everything. It comes out once a week, once a week, although I'm about to drop a note to everyone telling them I'm taking a little time off as I have to live my own method, right. I have a lot of other worksheets and things that you can download and mini courses and it's all free on my website.

Joelly Goodson :

That's awesome.Well, and I'm excited to hear about this TV show. I'm gonna have to I'm gonna have to follow you. I guess maybe you'll share with us from the triads. Good luck with that.

Tina Wells:

Well, thank you again. I appreciate it. I

Joelly Goodson :

I hope I get to meet you one day. Where are you living right now?

Unknown:

I live in South Jersey. So I'm just about 10 minutes outside of Philadelphia. And I recently moved I lived lived a little bit further in South Jersey, but I am definitely a South Jersey girl for sure.

Joelly Goodson :

Oh, wow. That's great. Well, thank you again, I really appreciate it and enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you. You too. Okay, I. And there you have it. I really hope you enjoy the conversation and maybe learned a few things to help you with your branding. But most of all, I really hope you had some fun. This show is a work in progress. So please make sure to rate and review on whatever platform you listen to. And if you want to learn more about the branding badass, that's me. You can find me on social media under You know what, branding badness. Thanks again. And until next time, here's to all you badasses out there.