What big brands can learn from entrepreneurs

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On the Brand Storytelling podcast this week, we are joined by Jonathan Chan from Foundr Magazine, an inspirational resource and guide for the next generation of young entrepreneurs. 

Jonathan talks with Rakhal about how Foundr got started, what drives individuals such as Gary Vaynerchuck, Arianna Huffington and Richard Branson to be successful and why brands should always be rewarding their audiences with quality content. 

5 Lessons from Jonathan Chan & Foundr

1. Let your content act as a guide or a mentor to its audience. 

2. Every piece of content your brand publishers should add value. 

3. You don’t know until you start the conversation. 

4. Start humanising your brand – establish your brand and yourself as trustworthy. 

5. Reward your audience before you reward yourself.  

Here’s a sneak preview of the show:

Rakhal Ebeli: For our listeners who perhaps don’t know much about Gary V. who of course is a prolific content creator. Author of Jab Jab Jab Right Hook and so many other publications. What would you say is the best way to sum him up?

Jonathan Chan: To sum him up as a person, he is manic. He is a hustler to the very bone. Someone that refuses to do anything but be productive every waking moment of his day. With his philosophy and with his teachings I have to say he is the latest in the line of brand storytellers in the same vain of Seth Godin, for example. I think doing good content has always been valuable. It has always been something that is recognized. Gary is the person who is taking that philosophy and putting it for our generation. For the social media generation.

Rakhal: So from those lessons that Gary V. is imparting upon the younger generation and entrepreneurs out there, what can big brands take out of those messages?

Jonathan: How are you serving your audience? I think a lot of big brands tend to … and edit this out if it’s a bit too risque but I like to call it, a lot of big brands like to market bait. They like to do marketing or do brand storytelling that makes them feel good instead of helping their audience. You see this a lot with, I don’t want to give out any specific examples, but you see a lot of brands they’ll put out ads or they’ll do pieces of content and it’s so self-congratulatory. It’s almost condescending. It’s like, look at me.

How funny am I for saying this joke? Or how witty am I, how in touch with this generation am I? A lot of it is market baiting. Its self-pleasure. It’s to pat themselves on the back. People can immediately, one hundred percent always pick that out. As soon as you feel, come off as pretentious, as condescending, people will pick that up from a mile away. From a hundred yards away. They’ll look at that and be like, “yeah, I’m not into that”.

Anything with Gary Vanderchuck’s philosophy is always make sure you’re rewarding your audience and not yourself first.

Rakhal: It’s a huge lesson but one that’s a big risk I imagine for brands to take isn’t it? Because they have a particular persona and often its about building trust and it’s on a bedrock of foundation that’s being built over generations or years and years. To leap away from that and to show some humanization almost of their brand can be a real challenge.

How do brands best attack that without potentially letting themselves or their audience down?

Jonathan: If I was going to give an actionable step? Use his generated content. People love user generated content. Whether it’s getting people to give video testimonials about you and cutting it together or I think hungry jacks did a recent ad with their coffee, I think? Just social proof. Showing that regular people are enjoying your stuff and that they are regular people. That’s always a great way to do it if you wanted a really actionable tip.

As an overall strategy? To get more in touch with your audience I would say fire your marketing. No, gosh, don’t do that. Hire me instead! No, start positioning it. Start getting more outside people to look at what you produce with fresh eyes. Something that I’m very guilty of and I think everyone’s guilty of is that when they work on something when they pour a lot of blood, sweat, and tears and hard work into something they create a silo around themselves.

They think this is perfect, this is amazing and don’t let anyone else see it or it goes through a really awkward process of checking and that creativity that’s sparked with whatever you had turns out really wasn’t there. Being okay with letting go of projects that just didn’t turn out right. Don’t do the whole cost fallacy thing where you spend a hundred thousand dollars producing an ad and then later you look at it and it’s not that good. Just because you spent a hundred thousand dollars on it doesn’t mean you should let it go to air if it’s actually damaging your brand.

About Jonathan Chan & Foundr

Jonathan is a content crafter and marketer at Foundr magazine where he and the team have created content to guide young entrepreneurs to be successful. 

Foundr has interviewed the likes of Richard Branson, Gary Vaynerchuk and Arianna Huffington to tell their stories and share advice how to build a successful brand. 

The team at Foundr
The team at Foundr


You’re Afraid to Fail Because of Other People’s Opinions – Gary Vaynerchuk

Richard Branson: Advice for Entrepreneurs – big think

Arianna Huffington: How to succeed? Get more sleep – TED Talks

Gary Vaynerchuk – Website

Photo credit: World Travel & Tourism Council via Visual hunt / CC BY