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Sending the Right Message through Intrinsic Branding (Episode 117)

Justin Foster and Emily Soccorsy are co-founders of an innovative marketing and brand agency called Root+River. Root+River believes in intrinsic branding and humanistic marketing that positively impacts the world and companies.

Justin is driven by the belief that leadership begins in the heart. Not only is Justin the co-founder of Root + River, he is also a speaker, writer, poet and mentor. 

Emily is the co-founder and CEO of Root + River. She brings her intelligence, drive and creativity to bear for their clients through smart, soulful marketing and brand strategy.

What you will learn

  • How the marketing world is changing and influencing our daily lives
  • Is your brand having an identity crisis? Here’s how to solve it
  • Audience vs Target Market: What’s the difference and why does it matter?
  • An introduction to the concept of ‘Intrinsic Branding’
  • Why Root + River aren’t for everyone (and why you shouldn’t be either)
  • How do you make your customers the hero of your brand? And why is it important?
  • Discover why word of mouth marketing is more effective than any other strategy
  • How to choose your language wisely to send the right message to your prospects
  • Discover the ‘Defiers’: Mission-driven, empathetic and self-governed leaders
  • Essential reading for Marketing Professionals


Jeff Bullas

00:00:03 - 00:00:36

Hello everyone and welcome to the Jeff Bullas show. Today I have with me, Emily and Justin. Emily Soccorsy and Justin Foster are the Founders, joint founders of Root and River, which is a marketing agency with a difference. And we're going to find out what that really is about. So they especially do a lot of branding and we're going to find a little bit more about how they got together and obviously started this unique branding and marketing company.

So, welcome to the show guys, it's such a pleasure to have you here.

Emily Soccorsy

00:00:37 - 00:00:39

Thank you so much for having us, Jeff.

Jeff Bullas

00:00:39 - 00:00:55

So, Emily, you met Justin on a gig, is that correct? As in you were working, doing some work for a company and you bumped into him around the water cooler. What happened?

Emily Soccorsy

00:00:55 - 00:02:07

Yeah, pretty much like that. Yes, our company was holding, the company I worked for at the time, was holding a conference for its global network of partners and Justin was actually working with one of our partners and so we met at this conference, I had actually seen him speak a couple of years earlier but our paths really hadn't crossed. So I sort of knew of him and I was like, oh, this time for sure, I'll have to introduce myself. And so yeah, I saw him at the conference and introduced myself and we just immediately sort of had this meeting of the minds. Justin and I have an iron sharpens iron kind of relationship. So we didn't waste much time before we started tussling about ideas and me challenging him, him challenging me and that was the beginning of, it was like one of those immediate friendships were like, hmmm this person is, this is intriguing and this is going to be part of a larger conversation. A lot of it to do with brand. A lot of it to do with the way things were being done and kind of what was pissing both of us off about the marketing world and definitely how people were getting brand wrong at the time.

Jeff Bullas

00:02:08 - 00:02:22

So Justin, you met Emily and you have worked, you were working, I think the time for a behavioral science or behavioral company that specialized, can you tell us a bit about what you were doing at the time?

Justin Foster

00:02:23 - 00:04:51

Yeah, that was the company that Emily was the head of corporate communications for, and so at the time and I've been doing this for about 20 years. The last eight years is Root and River with Emily is, at that time I was doing, you know, freelance brand strategy gigs and also serving as a fractional CMO for 2 or 3 companies at a time and my background prior to that was in sales as far as I know and all my travels around the world that I'm the only former like sales executive that became a brand strategist. And so that used to make me feel like I was an outsider and it definitely makes me feel like an outsider now, and I'm 100% okay with that. So because the, you know, as we moved into the kind of this age of social media and more 1-1, or hyper personalized branding and marketing was far more about sales than it was like brand building or slow agonizing or propagandizing like it used to be.

And so I felt as my career was growing, I was the only guy that brought the can opener to the picnic, you know, like there was this thing and when Emily and I met, I think the first thing that we bonded over was the fact that most of a lot of our industry sucks. There's a lot of what we call in consciousness language, lower self manipulation like fear, uncertainty,

doubt, getting people to buy, you know, ship they don't need to support someone else's business model and not coincidentally, you know, most of the methods of marketing and PR were invented by Freud's nephew and taught them to, you know, everyone from ad agencies in New York to Joseph Goebbels, you know, the propaganda minister of Nazi, Germany. So that kind of pervasive, what we considered unethical way of manipulating people, we were like, we were gonna do something different and a lot of that was because we both had this fascination with behavioral, human behavior, which is why I was at the conference as well. And it's like, wait, these are tools. Marketing is a tool. You can use it for good if you want. You don't have to use it as a tool of manipulation. And I think that was the first coalescing around an idea that eventually became Root and River.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:52 - 00:05:03

Right. So you guys discovered you had mutual minds and ways of thinking about the problems in the industry of marketing and branding?

Emily Soccorsy

00:05:04 - 00:05:07

Yeah. Definitely. Mutual outrage.

Jeff Bullas

00:05:07 - 00:05:14

Mutual outrage. Okay, that's a strong term. Tell us more about that mutual outrage, Emily.

Emily Soccorsy

00:05:15 - 00:06:59

Well, just as Justin was saying really in the 20th century, there was this standard that marketing was about manipulation. It was about, branding was about creating a false reality and then preying on people's negative feelings in order to convince them that they needed to buy something. We often point to like Betty Crocker or the Marlboro Man when those products actually ended up killing people like at the end of the day. So we had some righteous indignation around that. And also I think around the idea that language was being, was the tool of choice, was the weapon of choice, really taking language and being insincere about it. And in the 21st century, that's not. We immediately both agreed on this that that was not, we wanted to change that. We wanted brand to really be about what's going on inside. That is not some game to try to figure out what people want to hear, what's going to make you look good, but that if you get in touch with what you're here to do, your mission, your value, your belief, and then you begin to explore what you really want to say to the world and the change you want to make in the world, then we're aligned, we're in, we're in authenticity, were sincere and it makes the beauty of that approach is that it makes marketing so much easier, more organic, it feels better, you know, so many people, I'm sure you've heard this kind of have that icky feeling around marketing or advertising and when you know what your brand is all about, and it's a reflection of who you are and what you want to express to the world, that goes away. So that's what we both really were wanting to change the conversation around.

Jeff Bullas

00:07:00 - 00:07:42

I love that because part of my thinking too is we're on this planet number one, you've got to discover why you're here, and I think, and that might be to start a business, but then or start a service, product to develop one, and I think discovery is this beautiful dissection of innate ability, your life experience, and also what you love doing, and if you can get them to intersect and develop something that helps the world from there, then that sounds to me a lot like what you guys have been talking about is that it comes from the right place and you're doing it for the right reasons. Is that correct?

Justin Foster

00:07:43 - 00:09:30

Yeah, very much so. And I think also, Jeff, the other area that we still believe is the lack of human compassion for marketers. It's a thankless job, it's got the shortest tenure of any of the executive positions, CMO does. The most outlandish expectations placed on marketing to come up with that some sort of brand strategy to sell, you know, poop sandwiches or to try to compete on price and all these like basically setting marketers, marketers and marketing leaders have been set up to fail by CEOs and Founders that don't know anything about branding and marketing other than what they maybe took it a class, you know, in the 90s or something and that really bothered us that, you know, it does that being a CMO or VP of Marketing, Director of Marketing, that job has gotten so complex because you can't do it all and then you have people exploiting what they should be doing and that's the should, well you should do ClickFunnels or you should do digital advertising, you should should should and when we work with a marketing leader inside of an organization.

Well, one of the things that surprises them and partially this is because it's our business model is we were talking about how much money we can stop spending and how much less work we can do that they have to do and reducing the load on their team and all that. And that's, it's a discussion about resource allocation, not ad spend. And there's this visible sense of relief of like, oh I don't, it doesn't have to be so damn hard. And because it's again, it's not getting any less complicated and it remains a thankless job in a lot of ways.

Jeff Bullas

00:09:31 - 00:09:43

Yeah, I totally get that. And I think there's a lot of overwhelmed happening in the marketing world along with the world itself. But especially maybe what you're talking about is minimal viable marketing.

Emily Soccorsy

00:09:44 - 00:09:47

That's a good way to put it. Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:09:47 - 00:10:28

Yeah. Because you've got to work out, okay, so I could do 10 different tactics. Maybe you should just do one or two and let's see how that develops and then we can build it out from there. One brick in the wall at a time. So we've just launched a new monthly premium newsletter which we launches a minimal viable product. And well, also I've got to restrain myself, so I don't take the team and distract them from getting the job done as well. And not trying to do too many things because I only got a small team. Yeah, but I think, I might, we could maybe take that. And fruit juice is an acronym MVM.

Justin Foster

00:10:29 - 00:11:38

I think taking your acronym live of MVM, I think there's a couple of things that you can do that with one is if you know who you are, you know, most of branding is a terrible way to solve an identity crisis. They're trying to market your way to an identity. It's just, it's stupid and painful. So know who you are. Number two is know what you want to say. Know your message. You know, not your campaign, not your slogan but the thing that you're the sole of your brand wants to shout to the world. And third is that you need to know who you're selling to which is basically selling 101. But a lot

of that is still demographic based. And demographics are not that useful anymore. I mean there's in the United States, there's too predictable groups of people and that's the elderly and Trump supporters. Outside of that, it's fragmented and diverse and nobody is the same. And so if you want your marketing to have this minimum viable marketing approach you have to know who you are what to say and who you're saying it to at a soul level. Not at a demographic level.

Jeff Bullas

00:11:39 - 00:11:46

Okay so forget demographics, really get to the heart of your customer. What their pains and problems are and challenges. Is that what you're saying?

Emily Soccorsy

00:11:47 - 00:13:34

No it goes a little bit deeper than just pain point, because that's been around forever, right? And not a slippery slope into that manipulation. We talked about earlier. So when we work with our clients to develop a deeper understanding of the audience, we kind of take it from a psychographic profile and we work with real clients. They already have that they love working with. We don't based on fiction or some kind of invented avatar, we actually look at the human beings and we ask what about them? Their personality, their likes, their traits, draws you to them, gives you energy. And we also make this distinction about audience. And this is where a lot of old school marketing has gone wrong. Your audience is not the people who are who you're looking for. Like I'll bring out the people, it's the people who are already looking for you and what that does is that removes this idea that I've got to go convince people. Again, stripping away that artifice. And if you're thinking of your audience is the people who are energy positive for you that you enjoy interacting with, who are already had some experiences and had something happened in their past where they're like, I wish I could find a person who is going to present it this way. Or I'm really looking to work with somebody who comes out things from this approach. That's how you want to shift your mindset when you're considering audience instead of reverting to that target market because nobody wants to be a target, I mean, just that language itself is so harsh and so predatory that we're trying to shift away from that and really go deep and figure out who they are as a person that is essential.

Jeff Bullas

00:13:35 - 00:13:48

In other words, you want to find, you want to get the customer finding you, looking for you because and when they find you, they're going, where have you been all my life, Is that correct?

Justin Foster

00:13:49 - 00:15:25

That's exactly right. And, you know, there's a test of philosophy in any philosophy that you can trace it back to ancient principles. And so when we talk about audience, we're talking about the hero archetype and the hero, and then we're also talking about the, you know, attaching it to this, or aligned with this phrase of when the student is willing, the teacher appears and the role of the brand is not to be the hero. The role of the brand is to be the mentor, the guide or whatever you're selling, let your customer be the hero. And I think that's what makes what we call what we do intrinsic branding because it starts on the inside, as far as an identity of who you are, the sole of your brand. And when you know who you are, and you know that people are looking for you, that authenticity becomes almost like a pheromone. There's a brand here in the States that may be a spread outside of the United States called Liquid Death, which is a water brand. They make, its water and so it's a commodity about, there's not much more you can get as a commodity besides than water, but they, they had enormous success by making the customer the hero, being super irreverent with their messaging and organizing their brand around kind of the cause about why they exist and all those components are interwoven into a strategy to go be who you really are in the world.

Jeff Bullas

00:15:26 - 00:15:48

I love it. And the other thing that I suppose being authentic means you've got to tell better stories that are authentic stories. That revealed to the customer that this is where you came from, this is your story and this is the reason we created it to help people become the heroes.

Emily Soccorsy

00:15:49 - 00:16:00

You're a natural marketer. Exactly, exactly. Story is a huge part of it as it is that so much of humanity is telling great stories.

Jeff Bullas

00:16:00 - 00:16:30

I’m just reading a book by Tony Fidel called Build that's just come out, the Founder of iPod, worked with Steve Jobs for 10 years and also founded Nest that he sold to Google for 3.2 billion. A product engineer, software, hardware guy, it's a great book. It's one of his chapters is on the storytelling. Don't work with assholes as one of his other chapters.

Emily Soccorsy

00:16:31 - 00:17:38

Yeah, when you, when you know who you are and this is something that we live as well in our brand, you know that you know who you're for and who you're not for. So on our website we have a warning label and at the top of that warning label page, it says we are not for everyone, but we might be for you and we are so hard wired as human beings to survive and to be accepted and to be liked and so you have to kind of again overcome and reverse the polarity on it, overcome that need that strong drive to be liked to get real with like who you are really for and what you're about and don't make your audience work hard to figure that out. Like a lot of people we work with a lot of really humble brands and leaders and they're like, oh, you know, I'm more comfortable behind the scenes and it's like, yes, but you're making your audience have to dig in and work harder and have more prospect calls to determine who you really are, take that away and now everybody you're speaking to is aligned and there's just a better synergy around it.

Jeff Bullas

00:17:39 - 00:18:00

So the old models that look avatars are used a lot in marketing and and so what's your thoughts on avatars you're saying that's not really a good thing, or is it a good way to try and discover the cycle graphics that you're trying to touch?

Justin Foster

00:18:01 - 00:19:25

I mean maybe this is strong, but I think it's dehumanizing avatars are because there are composites. It's kind of like when you, you know, when you hear, you read a good story and you find out that the main character that was supposed to be a true story was a composite of you know, six different people because it made the story more interesting. I am sure that there's some useful functionality to them, but

it's such a simple problem to solve. To figure out who your audience is, you just go ask them, go ask your customer service people, go ask your sales team, go ask your, you know, do a survey and find out what they believe, find out what they love about you, what they're trying to do in the world to make an impact, learn about their motivations. That can all be done through survey. You know, sometimes with our clients, we do like listening groups where we just listen to what they have to say about who they are in their lives.

I think that avatars are kind of like what curie gives to coffee, it's like a shortcut that is sort of offensive

to the entire process of coffee drinking and as opposed to like doing the work. This is why we say building a brand is like making bourbon, like distilling bourbon. It takes time and you have to be super fussy about quality control and avatars are just lazy in my opinion.

Jeff Bullas

00:19:26 - 00:19:33

So you've used the example of Liquid Death. Is that correct? Is that one of the ones you worked with?

Justin Foster

00:19:34 - 00:19:37

No, they don't need us. They're good at what they do.

Jeff Bullas

00:19:37 - 00:19:39

They've already nailed it. Is that what you're saying?

Justin Foster

00:19:40 - 00:19:49

Yeah. So yeah, we give them an Atta boy maybe. But yeah, they don't, they know who they are and they know what to say and they know how to say it too.

Jeff Bullas

00:19:50 - 00:20:05

So in your observation of them, for example, what would be, what are they providing to their customer to make the customer hero? Where did Liquid Death do that? It's a great brand name by the way.

Justin Foster

00:20:06 - 00:21:16

It is right. Yeah. The main thing that they're doing to make the customer the hero is that if you buy a case of Liquid Death, they'll send you a mailing label for the box. The box that you come in and you fill it up with water bottles like Dasani or Coke brands or Pepsi or some of the bigger brands. You fill it up with their plastic bottles because Liquid Death is only in metal recyclable cans. And so they and then they have contributed to the large sum of money, to cleaning up plastic out of the ocean. And so, you know, but they don't lead with that. It's like a little subtle discovery. It's like you're drinking it because it's got a cool label and it's funny, it's very irreverent. It's sort of South Park in the way that it's designed. But that

actual cause is you can put all the empty water bottles in the box and put a mailing label on it and that they ship it to, it'll shift to Coke’s headquarters. So Coke's headquarters just getting thousands of boxes of plastic. They're empty plastic bottles shipped to their main office, which is hilarious and brilliant.

Jeff Bullas

00:21:17 - 00:21:18

I'm sure that created some PR.

Justin Foster

00:21:18 - 00:21:20

Yes, it has.

Jeff Bullas

00:21:23 - 00:21:51

Yeah, it's, the marketing game is basically a human game and that's what makes it fun and messy and interesting. So, you do mention other terms, like, what was sent through to me was category ownership

is one sort of area. Tell us a bit about what you mean by category ownership. I have a bit of an idea, but tell us, Emily, maybe you could tell us about that.

Emily Soccorsy

00:21:52 - 00:23:10

Yes, so category is really referring to the larger conversation that you want to own in the marketplace. So as it really replaces old school positioning and category is about examining, again, going to the audience on a deeper level, a more soulful level and examining what is really the unspoken need. So not the surface need that they're going to present with. And then contrasting that with the excess resource that you bring to the table from your brand and in the middle, in between is a space to uncover and name. In our example, intrinsic branding is our category and that allows you to have conversations for years to come, lead the conversation, start the conversation, a new conversation that is a really rich seed bed for thought leadership for book writing. And it allows you to differentiate yourself in a time when it's nearly impossible to do so when you're using already established categories or language. So, a lot of this is laid out in a book called Play Bigger. The ideas of category design and we've really taken that and build that into our practice. We credit them with those initial ideas.

Jeff Bullas

00:23:11 - 00:23:13

So who writes Play Bigger?

Justin Foster

00:23:14 - 00:24:29

It's a group of guys that owned, I don't know if they're all still together so I can't I don't remember all their names. Yeah, I think part of this too, just a little additive there is what category does is it taps into the mind, the human minds incredible ability to create association and advertisers have typically done this around the brand name, so Coke or IBM or whatever, but that that being top of mind does not mean top of conversation. If that were true, you know, there would be many brands like Pan Am and Blackberry, that would still be around but top of top of conversation is around association, so when you hear the term rideshare, Lyft and Uber and until they, you know, hefted up the concept of co working as a category was

owned by WeWork and you can, there's you know many, many examples of the power of association, not because you paid for you know, $10 billion in advertising. It's because you built a category that became top of conversation when out in the, you know, in the outside of the vacuum of a marketing campaign or

an ad campaign.

Jeff Bullas

00:24:29 - 00:24:42

So you're leaning towards very, very old school and that's true to the heart of marketing, which is word of mouth marketing. Is that really what you're trying to tap into as well?

Emily Soccorsy

00:24:42 - 00:25:39

Definitely, definitely. A lot of times people are like apologetic like oh I built my brand on word of mouth. We're like that's great, that's what we're all going for. That our brands can be shared from one human to another and that is gold. But how often do we get very intentional about the words that we're using to describe ourselves that we're feeling like yeah, that's exactly what we do. We've nailed it. If we don't have that clarity, then people are never going to repeat those that language back to us. So we, yes, we love word of mouth. We organize around it and we really want people to get very intentional about those words and that language and when you hear your customers repeating it back to you, that's when you know that you have succeeded as a brand and there's a lot of metrics and there's a lot of obsession with metrics and numbers and the data and all the datas, it tells you something but that's more of a qualitative piece of data that really gives you insight into the strength of your brand.

Justin Foster

00:25:40 - 00:27:04

And I think that what we're doing here with, Jeff, is with when we talk about word of mouth. Yes, it's buzz and it's you know, all that but really what it is word of feeling. It's they don't, you know when you spark that sense of you know, neural coupling, that is the fancy word for trust. When you spark trust and you have a great experience like me talking about Liquid Death, it's the feeling that you are transferring and it's not that they're parroting the same language. The languages to spark the attention and hold the attention so that they can have the experience that they then go talk about and we apply that to your internal team. So when we work we do a rebrand or brand strategy. The first people we roll it out to are the employees and we do messaging training, not how to sound like, you know, it sounds like where, you know, you know, everyone sounds the same, it's not a cult. What we work around the feeling of that they want to express

about the brand, then it goes out to the customers and the general marketplace because that feeling

is a contagion and if you can harness it through or spark it with really good language, then you get this beautiful flywheel effect that we would call word of mouth, but it's more neuroscience based than that.

Jeff Bullas

00:27:04 - 00:27:54

Right. And Emily, that comes down to your, obviously, love of words because of your love of writing, because you've got a masters in it. I fell in love with words when I was 50 plus and I discovered that words and writing had rhythm and I went, wow, is that true? Then I discovered that simple words were better than big long words and acronyms. So what you're trying to do is get to the heart and intrinsic

branding, you call it in other words. Then you've got to wrap that with the best words you can find to get that message across and touch that heart and soul, is that correct?

Emily Soccorsy

00:27:56 - 00:29:26

Yeah, I think it's the best words of truce words. We often tell our clients it's not the words always that makes sense from a logical standpoint, but that, that you feel in your heart, that you feel in your body. So when we're working with clients and we're crafting that language were like tune in, you know, tune into that intuitive sense to your emotions and let that guide you. We worked with someone earlier this morning and we were working on her beliefs and she, she actually came in with a set and then by the end they were all different because she was coming at this from a different perspective and she was just astounded by how, how different it felt, how energetic it felt. And so that's what we really ask you to do. We asked our clients to connect on that deeper level and languages is I think the number one thing that we see over and over is people just not pushing far enough on the language, they're relying on colloquialisms or common language, they're saying the same thing everybody else is saying using the same words and it's about giving yourself permission to be bold and daring, branding is really an act of courage and it's an act of boldness. And so it helps to have guides that can push you further because I think when we're left to our own devices, we do tend to go back to those safe places. So, but yeah, you've got to make room to have those moments where you're tuning into yourself to find out what's the language that really moves me first.

Justin Foster

00:29:26 - 00:30:53

And using words is not the same as using language. Language is a mechanism for connection. Using words is checking boxes and that's why we say most marketing is rearranging cliches. It's like pop music, It's rearranging a little bit of the same thing. So it sounds a little bit like the last thing that you heard.

And that's why, just like in music, it takes a true outlaw, a true, you know, Bruce Springsteen or Willie Nelson or Janis Joplin to come and go, whoa, this is so different. It's still music, but they're not rearranging somebody else's stuff. They're making something original from themselves. And that's why we also say to do this kind of work is you have to know like, looking back, that you have to know who

you are, you have to have this deep sense of, you know, you don't have to have all your shit together,

but you need to at least have some level of spiritual, emotional maturity as a brand in order to go out and to be confident to do the courage as Emily said to have that courage to use original language, not just use, not just word salad, that's easy to do. There are apps for that now. So yeah, that's that ancient, the ancient use of the word, you know, in the bible verse, in the beginning was the word. Well, that's the, if there's a branding bible, the beginning of the branding bible is in the beginning was the word.

Jeff Bullas

00:30:53 - 00:31:55

So I quite often use and it's the combination of words. It's the rhythm you're trying and you're totally correct in that. I think as humans will get trapped in old paradigms and ways of thinking and talking and messaging that I have been given to us by parents, friends, family, our schools, universities, colleges,

tv. I sometimes find that I'm just, I've taken word salad and I just keep mixing it around in different ways. And I think what I've found useful as well to help me escape that is so they go looking for the right word to put into the rhythm of the message. Using synonyms for example. So I just, because I didn't think of that word and some words are just really hard to replace. But so yeah, it's a wonderful thing and it's art and science, isn't it? At the same time.

Emily Soccorsy

00:31:55 - 00:32:17

It is. Sometimes we like to say, it's like mega overused word in marketing is “better.” So it's like, can you say this without saying the word “better”? You know, just sort of putting those restrictions. It's like with the artist narrowing the canvas down. It makes you get more creative. And also I think dig a little deeper to be more aligned in the language.

Justin Foster

00:32:18 - 00:33:44

Yeah, that's why every week, the main message that we do with our clients, we come up with called a root belief and that's the first thing out of their mouth. First thing on their hero image of their website. And I don't know, we've probably done 400 of them, not one “and.” Not one “and” because if you can get rid of “and” you've got clarity of focus about what you want to express as your core belief to the world that you're inviting the marketplace to participate in. And so it is a process of kill your darlings and reductions,

reductionism and reducing and that takes discipline though, that takes courage unto itself to do that. I think partially too, is that, we still deal with a lot of masculine type business thinking and I don't even really mean gender. I mean masculine more energy and feminine, but more as an energetic thing. And the masculine tends to over explain everything. A little bit like I'm doing right now. And the feminine is more like condensed and here it is. Because and the differences is that explaining comes from the mind and we're trying to make an intellectual argument about why our products the best and no one gives a shit.

But when you speak from the heart, which is the feminine, it's short, condensed, true and memorable, which is the whole freaking point of marketing is to be short, condensed true and memorable. I think it's expressive. I mean, I don't, it's evocative, it's expressive.

Jeff Bullas

00:33:54 - 00:34:37

So I interviewed David Lewinski recently, who I've never heard of him. I think I said, okay, so I'm gonna write a one page marketing plan. What are three or four things I should include on that one page. He said there's just two things you need to have on that when you write a business plan. He said #1, write in one sentence, what you do. So people will know what it is. One sentence. #2 write down all the reasons why you are uniquely qualified to deliver that product or service. He said that's it. I went, okay, yeah.

Emily Soccorsy

00:34:37 - 00:34:53

We would add to that. We would add to that at the top. We would say just add one sentence about your philosophy, your point of view, why this matters at all. That should be the first sentence. And then those next two will be there. You've got a brand narrative.

Justin Foster

00:34:54 - 00:35:46

Yeah. And his brand, you can see that like it may not be and they don't lead out of the gate with it. But the whole story of how he started the company and what they're trying to do in the world and all of that, That's that first thing because it really is philosophy before methodology or philosophy before product. You look at the world's most successful brands. They're selling a philosophy. You know, Apple is a classic example or Patagonia, you know, they're selling philosophies, there's no methodology there. They don't even really even talk about their speeds and feeds. They're not talking about, the Patagonia is not talking about zippers and you know, strengths and things like that. They're talking about how they're trying to change the world. And again it goes back to you got to know who you are. It takes a lot of confidence to go out and say this is our philosophy. If you believe what we believe, let's do this together.

Jeff Bullas

00:35:47 - 00:36:27

Yeah. Just summing things up simply distilling and taking complexity and distilling it into simplicity is, it's a huge challenge. it's something I wrestled with. I try to explain everything in fact, so I used to do presentations with data and information and I went, you know what, I need to tell better stories and then I

can make a point. But it's just and it's much more powerful because you're talking to people's hearts and souls not their heads.

Emily Soccorsy

00:36:28 - 00:36:53

Yeah, so and now we know from neuroscience that that's where all decisions are made and then there are those emotional decisions are made quickly and they're justified by the logical brain, but the logical brain will always find a way to justify. So it's essential that you hit that emotional element or draw them in using a story.

Justin Foster

00:36:53 - 00:37:41

And we would challenge any marketer whether you're, you know, you work for an agency or you lead marketing inside of a company or your solo brand. Doing your own marketing is, check out the David Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness because it's about the emotional map of humans and the middle of the line to use a word that we've used several times in the middle of consciousness is courage. It's not the end result, it's the middle. Well then look at that map of consciousness, find the courage line and then go look at all of your marketing, go look at your messaging, go look at your visuals, go look at your feedback,

all the pieces of your marketing and eliminate all the stuff that's below the line. And if you can't eliminate the stuff that's below the line because of the culture that you're in, you've got to go get a different company.

Jeff Bullas

00:37:41 - 00:37:43

Explain what you mean by below the line.

Justin Foster

00:37:44 - 00:38:57

So below the line are things like anger, resentment, comparison, guilt, shame. You know, classic example is life insurance. If you don't have life insurance, if you don't buy life insurance, your family, it's going to be homeless if you die. Or beer companies. If you do not buy this beer and drink our beer and pretty girls won't talk to you. Those are all below the courage line. And it's really getting into the more you know, fear-based part of the brain. And fear-based marketing is unsustainable, it's also highly corrosive. And from almost from a spiritual footprint standpoint, because you can't really sustain going out in poking the fear button constantly. The beautiful thing is you can get above the courage line, which includes a reason and wisdom and compassion and love and joy and peace. You can market up there. We see brands

do it all the time. That's why ultimately we say brand is, your brand is comes from how you lead,

who you are as a leader. So every shitty branding decision started with some bad leadership decision.

Jeff Bullas

00:38:58 - 00:39:04

I love it because you want to be motivating people for the right reasons. That's what you're really saying?

Justin Foster

00:39:05 - 00:39:06


Jeff Bullas

00:39:06 - 00:39:14

Okay. And it's really interesting, there's a great line by Charlie Munger, he said “I didn't set out to be rich, I just wanted to be independent.”

Emily Soccorsy

00:39:14 - 00:39:18

Yeah, yeah. Right. In the power of knowing that motivation.

Jeff Bullas

00:39:19 - 00:39:24

And I heard Tim Ferriss interviewing Steven Pressfield who's one of my favorite writers.

Emily Soccorsy

00:39:25 - 00:39:31

One of ours too. We love him. That's a great interview.

Jeff Bullas

00:39:31 - 00:40:32

Yeah. And I love the story he told of he was out in the woods driving when he had no money, truck driving

in between I think, and he said this cat showed up and it didn't need anyone to look after, it refused to be fed, and this cat looked after itself, it was independent and Stephen Pressfield said if the cat can do that, I can do that as well. So the cat was fiercely independent. And so part of my underlying philosophy is freedom. The underlying philosophy of new product we're launching is independence and chumps comes from my story and what I experienced. So that's the foundational philosophy of what we're doing, which is called the freedom code.

Justin Foster

00:40:33 - 00:41:38

I love that. I mean, that's your spectrum. You either are contributing to someone's freedom or you're contributing to someone's oppression. And we have, you know, a lot of businesses like the banking industries example, sort of monetized codependency, you know, it's not, they're not, you're not contributing to freedom other than some brands like SoftAl and SoftBank, maybe they do that. And it's a choice. That's a beautiful thing. You get to choose how you show up in the world and you can choose freedom, love, opportunity, independence, or you can choose authoritarianism, you can choose tyranny, you can choose manipulation. And I think that's why they're still like, what was the statistics, like 10% of the population are sociopaths except you get into executive positions and it's like 40%. And think about

that impact then, Jeff, on marketing, if you've got a bunch of sociopaths influencing marketing, you're gonna get a bunch of marketing that is around that fear, below the courage line aspect of it. But again, it's a choice.

Emily Soccorsy

00:41:40 - 00:42:30

I think in this day and age when there's so much influx and there's like a vacuum. I think the brands have this opportunity to decide. Are they going to add light to the world or are they going to kind of shrink back and continue the old ways of manipulation. But I think brands, people are looking to brands and leaders in a completely new way. They've lost trust in social media. They've lost trust in traditional news outlets. And this was a recent Edelman study revealed that we're still looking and still holding leaders and businesses in higher regard as a more trusted source. So how do we step into that as brands and businesses and you get to choose as Justin said the way that you enter that space and what you add to it.

Jeff Bulas

00:42:30 - 00:43:08

Yeah, it's so much a more powerful place to play. And I love what you guys are doing., So in terms of what are your typical clients that you're looking for? The ones that wanted to make a positive difference in the world. Obviously it’s one, are you looking for bigger brands? Where's your sweet spot in terms of startups? What's, where do you guys love to operate? Who gets drawn to you? I said, where have you been all my life?

Emily Soccorsy

00:43:08 - 00:44:06

They're really what we call the defires. So there are people who want to change their industry, their community or the world through their brand. A lot of times there with midsize businesses, but they can be small businesses, they're usually well-established at least in some regards at 5, 10, 15, 20 years in business. So they have a healthy culture and they're thoughtful and intentional about what they want to do with their brand. So that's typically where we work, we love working with the marketing leader, a CMO or a director of marketing but coming in and working with the whole leadership team, but through that person to help them kind of change, well and amplify the goodness that already exists inside of their company. Typically startups that they're still in that identity crisis mode and work maybe not quite as effective, particularly if they're really looking at proof of concept and scale.

Justin Foster

00:44:06 - 00:45:26

I think there are other common denominator that we find is and it doesn't really matter their industry per se, but they are, they've learned how to be successful inside of an institution or industry and now they're ready to like go really do something to disrupt it. And so we have clients that are in financial planning and clients that are that, do you know, logistics, trucking, you know, shipping, logistics, he's very like old, staled, very pale male and stale industries, but these thoughtful people, you know, coming out of it going, I want to do something different and for us often and this is again, probably why we don't get a lot of startups is there's the shift from sort of goal orientation to more impact orientation. We don't really vibe well with people that are super goal oriented because they get data obsessed and they love their gurus and we're not gurus and data is useful but it's not, it's not, shouldn't be idolized. People that are impact oriented are much more open to how they to coaching about how to articulate who they are and what kind of changes they want to make in the world. And some of it's probably related to maturity as well, you know, you get into that, you know, middle part of life and you start to realize, oh, I'm not just here to, you know, you kind of outgrow your ego sometimes.

Jeff Bullas

00:45:27 - 00:46:06

Yeah, I think if you let your ego go then you've got a much bigger smaller sport of tools available to you and also people to help you because they will contribute because they're not afraid of being smacked down by a stronger ego. And it's really, I totally agree with you. I think the biggest challenge for all of us in life as we evolve is letting ego go. So are there any other tools or resources that you'd recommend? You've mentioned a couple of books. David Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness, is that a book?

Justin Foster

00:46:06 - 00:46:09

It’s a book. You could Google that and see the little chart

Jeff Bullas

00:46:09 - 00:46:24

And you've also mentioned Play Bigger. That's another book. I'm an avid book reader. and ever since I discovered words at the age of five, I've been hiding under the [inaudible] ever since, reading late at night.

Emily Soccorsy

00:46:25 - 00:46:59

I would recommend and I'm enjoying Brene Brown's new book Atlas of the Heart. And the reason I would recommend it is because it opens up greater conversation around our emotions and it's so insightful. And if you are a marketer, you're really in the empathy business. So it's very critical to understand and find your own misconceptions that you might have about certain emotions. So that's another one. I would definitely add to the list.

Jeff Bullas

00:47:00 - 00:48:10

What I love when I read her first book was The Power of Vulnerability. I go there quite often actually. I'll share a story around the dinner table to people that maybe slightly horrified. But what's great about it is they actually start sharing more deep stories and better stories themselves. Had that last Saturday night,

we shared some stories one guy did, then I shared my story and then one of the other people that shared her story left a little bit on the shelf, but that's okay. That's another story at another time. But there's just incredible power of vulnerability. Because you go into people's hearts, don't you? Okay. I'm opening my heart. This is what I'm about. This is some of the elements that have created me who I am today and when you do that, you I am constantly amazed.

Justin Foster

00:48:10 - 00:49:25

And it's a great human dichotomy, especially in Western society, which is we desperately want to be seen, but we're also terrified of being seen. You know, I often say in the United States, it's not open for most people. It's not ok to that. You are poor or sad, you know, you have to keep that to yourself and be all shiny and whatnot. And I think that what vulnerability does is as you just expressed is it creates this space that you can, other people come in and be like, okay, I'm okay here to show this part of me. And I think that's especially true with, oh man, you know, especially men 45 and up like where we were raised by like our grandfathers fought in World War II type generation and we were allowed to emotions, you know, anger and humor. And to really show your emotion is an essential leadership trait to begin with. But then again, if the more connected to you are to your heart, the better leader you are and the better leader you are, the better you're going to be a branding. That's you know, it's all interconnected.

Jeff Bullas

00:49:25 - 00:51:11

Yeah, I'm loving the journey of life. Discovering who I am and that's never going to finish. Yeah, you can never be perfect because there's not many of those on the planet.

So just to wrap it up guys, I really love this conversation. I love where you're coming from in terms of being ethical, intrinsic marketers and brands. I think it's very, very powerful. And I, I love these conversations that I have regularly with experts from around the world. I feel like I've been taken back to school every time I had chats with experts and people love what they do. I've just the last two years of doing the podcast, I've just been amazed and astounded by, I felt that experts like yourselves have taken me on a journey and I promise you that I'm going to take some of what you revealed to me today and it will be applied and shared with the team because I think it's just such wisdom in what you're doing and that there's not enough of that in the world today. So, I applaud you for that. That's fantastic. Any final words from both of you, in other words, if brands want to get across a powerful message and make a difference in the world, what would be a top tip or two from both of you? So Emily, what would be your message to other CMOs out there that want to make a difference in the world for the right reasons?

Emily Soccorsy

00:51:13 - 00:52:08

I think it's to, this is one and two, is to pull the car over. We’re so frantic. Life is so busy and it's very easy to get caught up in what you're doing, but you are not what you're doing, you're being and if you're reflecting a larger brand, you still have to reconcile where you are and who you are. That was a mistake I made for far too long. But really taking time to understand who you are, what your personal brand is all about, just who you are at the soul level and then getting curious about how that aligns with the work you're doing, whatever position, if you're the CEO or CMO. That's going to be really insightful for if you're at a right place and you're gonna also, it's going to open up a lot of other opportunities for you to see the stories and what you're doing and to connect on an emotional level.

Jeff Bullas

00:52:09 - 00:52:15

Would you also suggest that on that reflection? How would you get that reflection out?

Emily Soccorsy

00:52:17 - 00:52:32

How to elicit it? Like how to, where to start with that. So one question that we often posed to our clients is what have you always known to be true that no one ever taught you, I think that's a good, that's a good one to sit with and reflect on.

Jeff Bullas

00:52:32 - 00:52:34

Okay, could you say that again?

Emily Soccorsy

00:52:34 - 00:52:39

Sure. Yeah. What one thing do you know to be true that no one ever taught you? What set of beliefs do you have always felt were true that you didn't learn from anyone else?

Jeff Bullas

00:52:50 - 00:52:50

I'm just reflecting on that.

Emily Soccorsy

00:52:52 - 00:52:57

Lots of your ability in that question.

Jeff Bullas

00:52:57 - 00:53:38

Yeah, I think, And I totally agree with you. I think I love your analogy, pull the car over. And reflect. And for me what's important is a part of that reflection is capturing that in words and then trying to make it as simple as possible.

Yeah, I love that. So pull the car over, reflect. We don't give ourselves permission, do we? To actually stop because it's not productive stopping, apparently we've been told by popular myth.

Emily Soccorsy

00:53:39 - 00:53:42

Productivity is just folly.

Justin Foster

00:53:43 - 00:54:50

Yeah. And I think, Jeff, my like almost plea to people in marketing, especially marketing leaders is if you have unresolved or unexamined trauma, please go to therapy because it changes everything you will be, you will then connect to your heart, all the stuff that you, all the armor that you have around your heart

because you haven't examined that the trauma, especially childhood trauma, is affecting you as a leader. It's making you inaccessible. It gives, it creates the impulse to people control or people please, which is basically two different kinds of narcissism and but if you integrate your dark parts, you will be such a better better leader and as such a better marketer you'll be more compassionate, you'll have more wisdom, you'll be more intuitive, all of these things are weight doing that work. And so that's my plea or reminder to marketing leaders is go to therapy.

Jeff Bullas

00:54:51 - 00:55:17

Okay, I haven't heard that said before. That's great. And yeah it's, I suppose it's getting in touch with what's driving you or stopping you and they're big and hard questions, aren't there? They need to be facilitated. That's what you're saying. Anything else guys before we wrap it up from this fabulous conversation?

Emily Soccorsy

00:55:20 - 00:55:28

No, just we'd love to hear from anybody, we're very accessible. So if their lingering questions just reach out.

Jeff Bullas

00:55:29 - 00:56:43

So thank you Emily, thank you Justin. It's been an absolute pleasure and a joy to have this chat. I loved one of the things you shared which was making the customer the hero. I think people need to read Joseph Campbell's book’s The Hero's journey. I'm a Joseph Campbell fanboy and I don't know if anyone, you guys have seen it, but there's a six episodeYoutube. Well I don't know where it is now. It's been sort of moving around. I'm not quite sure it is but Eric George, Joseph Campbell's interviewed by one of the top reporters in the US back in the 1980s. It is incredibly powerful and it was done on George Lucas Ranch. So I would recommend that to anyone. And so but thank you very much for sharing your hero's journey and helping other people discover their sand brands. So thank you very much. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Justin Foster

00:56:43 - 00:56:46

Thank you. Thank you.

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