Evan Faber is the CEO and Chief Strategist at Moxie Sozo, a Boulder, Colorado-based creative agency serving brands around the globe. Moxie Sozo is known for creating unique branding designs and messaging for brands like Nike, Nickelodeon, and Gruppo Campari. Evan sits down with Chris to discuss how branding isn't transactional, but rather about building meaningful relationships between brands and consumers.
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"I knew that I was passionate about ideas, that I believed that reality is a little bit of a false summit - that often times the opportunities for innovation and truth lie beyond what you can point to and make a case for and it relies on looking a little bit beyond." - Evan Faber, Moxie Sozo
"The age of information is not the age of meaning. It's not the age of solution. It's not the age of 'what are we gonna do with this information?' It's only the age of: here's the information." - Evan Faber, Moxie Sozo
"Why are you creating something? Are you creating something to have a voice in the conversation or add to the conversation? And if it's just to have a voice in the conversation, it's going to be noise and it's going to muddy things up." - Evan Faber, Moxie Sozo
"The mantra we've been using to some extent is retail for replenishment, digital for discovery." - Evan Faber, Moxie Sozo
"Traditionally, there's been a company on one side and the consumer on the other side and a wall in between. And then the brand just tries to lob over the wall what they think is going to work and they listen to see if it hit on the other side." - Evan Faber, Moxie Sozo
"You should always celebrate your resiliency and your power to bounce back." - Evan Faber, Moxie Sozo
Chris Snyder [00:00:43] Hello, everyone, Chris Snyder here, host of the Snyder Showdown, president at Juhll Agency, and founder of FinTech Startup Banks dot com. On this show, we take a no B.S. approach to business success and failure told through the stories of the top executives who have lived them. Join us today as we get the unfiltered backstories behind successful brands. A quick message from our sponsor. Juhll is a full-service digital consultancy, and we focus on helping executives solve their toughest digital growth problems while working as an extension of the executive team. To learn more, go to Juhll dot com. That's Juhll.com or you can email me directly. That's Chris@juhll.com. OK, without further ado, today we have Evan Faber, he is the CEO and chief strategist at Moxie Sozo, a Boulder, Colorado-based creative agency serving brands around the globe. Moxie Sozo is known for creating unique branding designs and messaging for brands like Nike, Nickelodeon, and Gruppo Campari. Evan is here to share his insight on how brands are pivoting both their messaging and product offering in the wake of COVID-19. Welcome, Evan.
Evan Faber [00:02:02] Chris, thank you so much. Very thankful to be here, man.
Chris Snyder [00:02:06] All right. All right. From the great state of Colorado. I have family there. And I've lived in the mountain states my whole life. So we already have something in common. Evan, tell us a little bit about your upbringing, where you grow up. Tell us how you got to where you are today.
Evan Faber [00:02:21] It's a securities journey, and it didn't start on the side of a mountain in Colorado. And it's a log cabin. It started in the suburbs of D.C. and that's where things began. And I did not have a calling of that track I wanted to go on. I knew a few things. I knew in my career I wanted to be intellectually and creatively stimulated. I knew that I was passionate about ideas, that I believed that reality is a little bit of a false summit - that often times the opportunities for innovation and truth lie beyond what you can point to and make a case for dnd it relies on looking a little bit beyond. And the last piece was that I am wildly passionate about helping people and by proxy organizations discover their unique source of greatness and build upon it. I think the biggest deficit of a natural resource we have is the power that's inside of an individual, an inside of an organization, and that which gets realized. And so for my ability to create the circumstances that allow that to happen. Those are the things that drove me. And it began in the hospitality industry where I spent a good amount of time and perhaps my biggest take away from my years there was that every business is a hospitality business because every business exists to serve a human need and never to take our eye off of that and not get focused on just the product or the service. But what is that need and are we serving it? And from there, I went to beverage where I was a sommelier and put together different beverage programs, which was a lot of fun. Talk about Campari. Yeah, it's a beverage is an incredible industry to see the world through because you're looking at it through science and culture and philosophy, and art. And every career we have is a lens through which we see the world and interpret the world. But it was that foray into beverage - I built a micro-distillery and was going to have Moxie Sozo do the branding for me because I knew they were rock stars and basically the deal went through on the distillery side. But Moxie Sozo said, would you like to come to join our team and do what you do for other people? So that's how I came to Moxie Sozo. I've been there for eight years and have worked in many different positions. Their strategy, research, business development and was tapped just a couple of years ago to take over the CEO role to help provide some strategy for where we want to grow as an agency.
Chris Snyder [00:05:18] That is a great overview. And I think all of us have taken crooked paths to where we are today. And, you know, as a kid, when I say kid, I mean, maybe while you're in college or a little bit thereafter, I think everyone thinks they really know what they want. But it's not until you start doing stuff and getting into positions where you have the opportunity to explore. And I think guys like us at this point in our lives, you know, probably early to mid-40s, like we have families. We understand what we're good at and what we love. And like now is the time. You know, I wanted to ask you, what is the Watson Institute?
Evan Faber [00:06:02] Yeah. Oh, the Watson Institute's amazing. This is a university that started in Boulder, Colorado. And what they do is they work with social entrepreneurs ages 18 to 23 from all over the world who are working on the most jaw-dropping social enterprises that are making huge changes. These kids, 18, in Kenya, setting up a hospital that's helping. Like just in ratable. And they come to the US, they get an accredited degree. They get introduced to a network of mentors and network of potential investors that help them accelerate their education and get a degree and also their endeavors. And so they've got a location and Boulder location in Florida. And I've been a mentor with them at a master class teacher and. Oh, my goodness. Like, how rewarding. Amazing. That has been. So I appreciate that.
Chris Snyder [00:06:59] Yeah. No, and these are. You know, it's always interesting for me to learn about the stories behind the stories, and I think basically what you're saying is there's a group of young people that get accepted into this program to do things that are good. Right. And further for the social well-being of everyone, which is a great cause. Speaking of that, is there any work going on? I mean, I've heard of these these these gap years for students. And because we don't know if we're gonna go back to school in the fall and the COVID crew for test and trace. Does the Watson Institute or, you know, any firm that you're associated with? Are you guys looking at, you know, social endeavors like that?
Evan Faber [00:07:48] We try and pick a few projects a year to focus our efforts on. I know with Watson and with the scholastic organizations that we work with, it's definitely just trying to tackle the virtual world, and how to deliver a message is probably the universal question right now, how to deliver a message virtually. And that's probably a big theme regardless of what industry are in right now.
Chris Snyder [00:08:15] Yeah, I actually think and I've got kids 10 and a and one thing I've been I think maybe 10 or 15 years ago or even 20 years ago when being a developer or a coder and being really disciplined in the art of science and math and being very regimented. I'm not saying we shouldn't have those foundations, but what I believe is kind of the next phase for the next generation is being able to effectively communicate their ideas. Right. Like technology. You've heard of this whole no code. You know, technology's moving so fast that they're actually building codes. You don't have to code. And so if you have the ability to communicate, it feels like it makes firms like yours and other people who are really good at placing ideas on canvas. Being able to communicate is going to be kind of the next wave. I don't know. What do you think about that?
Evan Faber [00:09:15] And why is that? I think it's because the age of information is not the age of meaning. It's not the age of solution. It's not the age of what are we gonna do with this information. It's only the age of here's the information. And as we see during crisis, there's a lot of information saying a lot of different things. And so I think what you're alluding to and I wholeheartedly agree with, is hopefully we shift from an age of information into an age of meaning or an age of solutions. And that does require pulling together information into a narrative, ideally and narrative founded in truth. And that's a term which is hotly contested these days. But let's just say a productive narrative that will help people and society advance functionally and emotionally. And but that, I think, is why storytelling and the ability to craft a narrative is so important, because people have the information, but they don't know how to what to do with it. Businesses and data or media outlets. And so I was actually an English major, which is a great major to have to have a career in the hospitality industry. But I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the English major. But ultimately it showed its worth of when you're learning about literature and symbolism and rhetoric and psychology of words, you're really learning about the vehicles that can propagate ideas and change.
Chris Snyder [00:10:58] Yeah. So if you're less creative, you use those skills as a weapon and you become a lawyer.
Evan Faber [00:11:06] I won't shit on my dad.
Chris Snyder [00:11:08] Well, and I've got a lot of lawyer buddies, too. So they're so. So one of the things that you were talking about right there, and I want to ask you about this directly because I feel like they're just overwhelmed by information and content specifically. So in what you said was, look, it's not about having the content. It's about having the meaning. So based on what I believe to be this overwhelming and insatiable appetite towards more, more, not necessarily better, but more, how do you guys look at asset development, asset creation in balance? This insatiable appetite for more, more, more, more, more at lower quality vs.. No, we're sticking to the narrative. We're gonna. A little bit more time on this. It's going to cost you a little bit more money and it's going to be better work. Does that make sense?
Evan Faber [00:12:08] Absolutely. And it's one of the reasons I was thrilled to be on your podcast because in the age of more or in a time of more, I think the value of usefulness and the value of relevancy are like diamonds. And your podcast has served to be that for a lot of people. So I believe that that's true. So when it comes to more, the question is, how do you run it through the usefulness filter? How do you run it through the relevancy filter? And especially with COVID right now, how do you run it through the COVID filter? But a lot of it has to do with your motivations. Why are you creating something? Are you creating something to have a voice in the conversation or add to the conversation? And if it's just to have a voice in the conversation, it's going to be noise and it's going to muddy things up. And so going back to who you are as a brand and you know who you are as a brand and being true to yourself, because we need all voices right now, not just the heartstring voice. We need humor or we need levity. We need punk rock. We need it all, you know. So going back to that, I think is very important. Which brings up a little bit of a trend, I think, of the more and the brands trying to play a valuable role in people's lives. And this is a trend in commerce which I'd like to maybe battle against somehow is the commoditization of virtue where, you know, brands are doing good to sell products and consumers are frayed. They can sense it. They can see it. And so, again, going back to more versus useful, how are brands leveraging their mission in the marketplace? Because pretty soon consumers are just going to write it off and they're not going to applaud the big, virtuous decisions. They're just going to demand it and expect it. And, of course, we should be doing these things. So there's being the usefulness there is being curated. There's definitely less quantity, more quality running it through some of those filters.
Chris Snyder [00:14:28] Yeah. What do you see as a trend? Because looking at it from my point of view, a little bit of an innocent bystander. I don't know much about packaging, but one thing I do know is trends in it feels like since the advent of Amazon on anybody or it goes deeper than that. I think the macro is with the advent of technology and being able to move faster. And we all have our own means of distribution, whether it be advertising posts on LinkedIn that's free or Facebook that's free. Of course, you can pay for that, too, but generally it's free, like if you have an idea and a computer. I feel like anyone can start a brand. So how has that changed the industry, the macro overall maybe. Or how is it? Has it helped? Has it hurt? Has it provided more mission-driven human beings that aren't as greedy or is it the opposite way? We have too many brands on Amazon that were copycat brands and now we're delivering products from China. Right. What is it that is good about it? Maybe an instant brand creation, whereas before this was something that took time. It was difficult to do. It had to be well-capitalized. Do you guys see that in your business? Do you have thoughts on that?
Evan Faber [00:15:51] Absolutely, it's the heart of digital disruption across the board. One of the primary examples that's pretty much analogous to what you describe was the music industry. All of a sudden, if you had a computer and you had you know, you can get on Spotify, I could get on Spotify, you don't want that to happen. But it could. And so you get a mix. I think one point to make right off the bat is the difference between being able to start a company and the difference between and being able to start a brand. Those are two totally different things. And it requires a little bit of a different mindset. You can have a product. You can have a service. They can be amazing and not have a brand. And so you're not getting the maximum value out of your product and out of your service. But the point you bring up here is, OK, we've got digital, we've got the virtual world. There's more choice. I think it does empower a lot of mission-driven entrepreneurs. It makes it easier. And they're charged up and they're fired up and they're coming to market. You also see then if there's a success, the movie two companies that see dollar signs and want to jump in on that. But let's look at it from the packaging perspective. Let's looking at look at it from a shopping perspective and let's apply it through the lens of what's going on right now because what's going on right now is speeding up the trend. The macro trend you're talking about, which is commerce taking place digitally now in new categories. So look at consumer behavior of how they're shopping right now. Ideally, brands would like to picture the consumers strolling through the aisles, looking at the labels, engaging in new brands, you know, asking a store employee for more information. And none of this is happening now. Oh, it is. Get in. Get out. Focus on staples. Less discovery. And while that may shift as people become bored, as they're cooking more at home or, you know, get and one simple way to spice things up, the mantra we've been using to some extent is retail for replenishment, digital for discovery. And so that's not necessarily true for all of the categories. But making sure you're putting an eye on how am I getting discovered digitally and thinking about digital channels through that lens and then how am I, you know, driving replenishment and retention and retail and needing to bring in you know, consumers aren't out for discovery right now. How do we do it? Is it through more education, through packaging? So I think that's one of the trends we're seeing is that the definition of what those channels, digital versus offline, are doing.
Chris Snyder [00:18:42] So if you think about your clients right now, and I feel like what you're saying is in a lot of traditional CPG, you know, I would say Procter and Gamble types, they grew up in traditional CPG. There is this shift. There's a lot of momentum now and almost complete. I wouldn't say complete destruction of how retail should be viewed. But when you think about your clients, if you have. If you have an old school, CPG, traditionally train brand, marketing client, and now we have this, how are they making the transition from thinking about human behavior, whether it be the discovery mechanism that you were talking about or the replenishment mechanism that you were talking about? How are they faring through this?
Evan Faber [00:19:32] Some of those bigger, bigger CPG clients.
Chris Snyder [00:19:34] Yeah. And just a human being that thinks about it in the way that they used to think about it. And now all of a sudden it's gone. I mean, they can't they really are not supposed to think about it that way anymore. Right.
Evan Faber [00:19:47] Yeah. Yeah. I think that a lot of them right now, a lot of our clients are seeing growth. And by just. From what they're doing and a lot of the bigger clients are seeing the benefit of brand recognition pay off for them right now. So they're not getting as much of that pressure. Plus, they have the economies of scale to, you know, jump over to a digital platform and look for creative ways. So, eh. But what we are seeing are looking at multi-sized products. Really a big one is SKU rationalization, really focusing on what are our drivers, and let's cut out some of the fat. I guess looking at new ways to bundle products, looking at new ways to play with shipping rates, and exploring packaging options to cut down on those logistics. Obviously pushing the wellness side of of of their message, but keeping in mind that so well, a lot of people and so we need to evolve that be an important part of the message. But look past it and they're looking at what's already in their toolbox that allows them to easily expand.
Chris Snyder [00:21:07] Yeah, no, that's a great answer. And I think that another thing you started to touch on was maybe a little bit more on the quantitative side, which is wait a second. We've got a great brand probably, which has provided us some cover. Thank God for that, because we have our base, we have our audience. They're always going to shop for us, whether you're Old Spice or whoever it may be. And there's a lot of tier two, Tier three and all the way down the tiers of smaller and larger brands. But when you think about that and what you're just discussing is now you might be moving more into more quantitative and product exercises around maybe product expansion. You know, maybe some products, you know, being put into the onto the back burner because of their size. Or talk to me a little bit about now how you move from a pure-play branding discussion, which is a little bit different from a creative and communication standpoint to maybe talking to moving more into the business side and having what it feels like to be more quantitative discussions. Is that an accurate statement on my part?
Evan Faber [00:22:15] Absolutely it is. And that's why we call what we do strategy and not brand strategy, because strategy has to sit in three primary areas. It has to align with your growth strategy, the audiences you're going after, the opportunities you're going after. It has to sit at how you execute the brand from both what the products end up being to how your customer service responds to emails has to align with the brand. And of course, there's communication strategy, but brand strategy. We believe that you talked a little bit ago about the difference between a company and a brand, a brand. One of the attributes of it is it has a north star. And so you can make business decisions when you have a strong brand and especially a brand essence. But one of the exercises we do is a portfolio architecture. And that bridge is a brand strategy with business strategy by looking at, OK, where's the company positioned? What's their overall value proposition? How can we segment their audiences to maximize their growth opportunity? What are the key business drivers of those new segments? The promise of those new segments, the current products that they have in those segments, and then the future products that they can have in those segments. And with that tool, we can make decisions around what's a shiny new object that we don't want to chase after, what is a golden opportunity? Where can we cut? And there's a mantra that one of my mentors and strategists taught me that strategy is sacrifice. And my goodness, when you sacrifice and focus on what you do, you become exponentially more powerful. So that's one of the ways that we have those discussions that does step out of the creative realm. But creativity and art, the original definition of art, meant a skill learned from expertize. And so there's art and design and there's art in business. And we sit at the center of both of those things.
Chris Snyder [00:24:30] I love that answer. I just fucking love it. Because if you go too far into business, right. And you're not creative enough in all you pay attention to your spreadsheet, you become capital allocators that are risk-averse and you will only do things that are safe and certain. And if you go too far onto the creative side, quote-unquote, and you don't mix it enough with the business side, you actually go the opposite direction. The. If you can sit in the middle of that and provide so it feels like that's why, you know, Accenture and Bain and all these guys started to get into this business. And so I kind of feel like as agencies, especially creative agencies, we need to level up as it relates to our business acumen. Ah ah analytics, you know, our quantitative thinking, because I think it's much harder for someone who's highly quantitative and analytical. I think it's a lot harder for those kinds of folks to be equally creative. I think it's easier to learn if you're a creative person, at least learn some business fundamentals in some spreadsheet fundamentals, and kind of bring them together. Do you have a point of view on that?
Evan Faber [00:25:44] Absolutely do. And fortunately, we're blessed with a CFO who's one of our partners who understands the difference between a cost and an investment. And just that little thing alone makes all the difference in the world. So to your point, Moxie Sozo is a term. And it means courageous moxie. And Soso means intelligence and creativity. And so it's the bold application of intelligence and creativity. And so it's a North Star. It's a business philosophy. And what it means is we're wise enough to understand the risks. We have the wisdom to know when to follow the rules. But we have the guts to know when to break them. And so the CFO who is just on spreadsheets collectively is the whole organization might be a good tether to the visionary creative, you know. But as long as the organization as a whole is sort of operating with this idea of Moxie Sozo, it means making decisions for a place of strength versus a place of scarcity, that you look at all the risks. You look at all the factors. You don't shy away and you speak about them and you debate about them. But when it comes time to make that decision, you make it out of strength. And sometimes that means not making the bold move. And the strength in that sense is you have the courage to bite down on any pride or ego or status or what people might say when you don't do it. And it also means putting your money where your mouth is when you say you want to be a disruptor. When you say you want to do these things, well, OK, we're showing you how. So do you have the courage to go for it? And so, absolutely. Your point is spot on.
Chris Snyder [00:27:36] Yeah, no, I love that. I mean, there's a lot of people out there that talk, but when it comes to making the investment and if you have a strong partner on the other side, on the client-side, you know, they have some convincing to do because I know some of the things that agencies do or not always looked at as investments and they want their money back right away. And what I tell a lot of our clients is I'm like, look, Bob or Bill or Suzy. If if if I could give myself a dollar and I knew I could get 10 bucks back, you and I certainly would not be having this conversation right now. Right. Like, I would own private islands. Right. And so the point is, is that anything you do that's an investment and not entirely known, that's a little risky. You got to figure out if you're going to make that bet. Do you have the DNA to extend your legacy and your brand to the next level? And unfortunately, I think people are short-sighted and they don't see the usefulness in that. Let's talk a little bit about agency life because you - it looks like you were on the client-side. More on the entrepreneurial side, more on your own side, building your own brand. You'd mentioned a distillery at the beginning of this. So I just want to be bold here and ask you, why in the hell would you leave the client side your own thing and go do an agency thing? What was the driving factor behind that?
Evan Faber [00:29:04] Slower pace of life?
Chris Snyder [00:29:06] Oh, my God. Here we go. No.
Evan Faber [00:29:11] A lot of reasons. First of all, not just any agency. This one is sort of like culturally. And it was going to be my first one. So I needed to be able to trust that team and the people in the culture. And that's what initially got me. But going back to what has always sort of driven me was the desire to be intellectually and creatively challenged. And some just fascination with ideas. Watching new ideas come to life takes shape. And then, as I spoke to a little bit earlier, helping people in organizations like tap into their greatness. I mean, those were overwhelming forces to be able to then go to an agency where it's not necessarily my vision. OK. So it doesn't. Matter what's written at the top of the letterhead, it matters more what's written on the page for me. And so going into the agency side, all of a sudden I get to help all of these visionaries and companies, big and small, with different variations of dreams, like it's a dynamic place. You know, this it's every day is different. Every challenge is different. And then getting to work with just a brilliant group of artists because I'm very cerebral. So, you know, I take these ideas and they see them in new ways and bring them to life. And I get to see them visually back. And it's just insane. So I love the agency life to answer directly because of the variety of challenges because it's a service to other people. And with the clients we have, you know, really trying to move society in a direction, through commerce, through the brands that we create in a favorable direction. So it's you know, I haven't worked in my life with everything I've done. It's never been that it's been this symphony of just movement after movement of exploration. And that's what sort of led me to ask.
Chris Snyder [00:31:15] I mean, look, if you're not passionate about this business, don't be in this business because you will get beaten up, you know, just the everyday, like, you really have to love what you do to go out and serve other people like you were saying. And not always, you know, they don't always accept what you're selling, I guess is one way to put it or they don't always believe the path forward is the way that it's described. And it's very collaborative. And it's very if you come into it with the mindset that you're there to serve, which is obviously what you guys have done, I think it's amazing the work that you can do when you come in with the right mindset. So tell me where you think you've been in the agency world for eight years. Is that a fair statement? So, you know, eight to 10 years and you've been doing other things, you know, an entrepreneur and other things for, you know, long before that. So tell me where you think the business, not your business, but the market for firms like yours or, you know, service firms in general, if you want to classify us, I mean, we're intellectual, we're creative thinkers. We get paid for our time, basically, although it's not packaged that way all the time. But where is this business headed? I was, you know, reading something from one of the big firms the other day that said, hey, we're gonna go out and work on your business for 90 days and if we don't hit our KPI, then we'll give you all your money back or something crazy. It was the most absurd thing I've ever read, by the way, because you wouldn't do that with an employee that, you know, if you felt like they were delivering work, you wouldn't claw their paycheck back. It doesn't make any sense. But there's a lot of what I believe to be consolidation, outrageous competition, commoditization, offshore, onshore contract gig. Where's this business going? Do you have any thoughts on the future of advertising in creativity?
Evan Faber [00:33:24] Yeah, I have a micro answer and then maybe a more macro answer. And the macro answer is more of questions that I don't have answers to. But on the micro sense. OK. So what you just described. Let's also let's look at the vodka category for a minute, where by definition, vodka is supposed to be odorless and tasteless and fundamentally the same. So now you have all these fundamentally the same things, yet new ones enter the market. The brand stands out. So there's a couple of different things, functional things that agencies need to do. Number one, I think we do need to be smarter about showing value, building deliverables that have quantifiable solutions to them. Even in the branding side of things, you know, we do a lot of messaging works. So I've been pushing our messaging strategy. How can this be more quantified and tested? And, you know, there is an element, which is why the need for agencies that say don't pay us unless we perform pop up there need, you know, it's something we have to we're working on. It's how we show more transparency in the benefits that we're providing. And in that quest, we're going to up our deliverables, will up our tactics. We might look at payment structures. So there are things on the functional side and let's wrap them all up under the umbrella of having more transparency into the benefits that we provide. High level, and then there are things that the functional I'm sorry, more of the emotional side of the agency that you're right to win. Not trying to be everything to everybody. The same thing we would tell the brands, if, you know. So it's focusing on that. So there's it's got to be a cultural fit on both sides at the agency and the people. So that's kind of at the micro-level. At the macro level. Well, what's the future of advertising? The questions are really interesting because you could argue that the role that a brand plays. Has changed over the years, and it's in this sort of awkward adolescent stage where they're trying to figure out how to connect and relate to consumers because consumers are looking at brands a little bit more Actavis. Do you have a stance? Do you have a point of view? That's great. You sell soap. But what? Tell me more about why and you. And this. And so the questions that I don't have answers for that we're looking for is what is the role that a branch play in the lives of consumers? And what is the responsibility of advertising as both an educational and an entertainment force delivered through commerce to try and better things in the world? And so those are questions which are, I think, fascinating and are keeping us excited.
Chris Snyder [00:36:31] Yeah, no, I love that. I love that. And I think one of the things I've been reading on a little bit is, you know, some of the B2B stuff that I've read is actually suggesting that this movement or this motion towards potentially building your entire audience and treating it as a private network and getting really super close to your true customer is is probably where the puck is headed rather than pay. How many impressions are we going to buy? So we can potentially get a one percent response rate. Right. Like, so going back to your comment about brand building and going back to your comment about being very thoughtful and specific about your audience and what you represent as a human being, hopefully that trickles down like, let's say from the CEO to the mission in the brand. It starts with people, right? Those people start to gather around. They create products that they love, which in fact, other people will love because they're culturally aligned or they're thoughtful or they're mission-driven. So it's kind of interesting to think about it. Getting back to your Botkin example. I have so many choices of vodka, which is why drink bourbon? Because they're just too many choices of vodka. No. But like I, I drink certain things because of some brand affinity that I believe drives my personality in that. And so now that we've had this little discussion, I never really thought about it before until you brought it up. How do you incorporate what we're talking about right now into a brand? How do you do this?
Evan Faber [00:38:14] Yes, I love it. So first of all, the first point that you brought up was, you know, customers want to know where their products come from. They want to have a closer relationship with the brand. So the first point and this is I think, again, it's a challenge and a question that doesn't have an answer. But traditionally, there's been a company on one side and the consumer on the other side and a wall in between. And then the brand just tries to lob over the wall what they think is going to work and they listen to see if it hit on the other side. But maybe the future is how does a company break down the wall between its audience and its consumer, sorry, its audience and its operations to become more of a collaborative force together? And if they did that, they would have answers to a lot of the questions which they're asking right now, because the audience is going to tell them the answers before they ask them. So from a product development standpoint and from a messaging standpoint, how can we create more of a connection between a branded consumer and break down that wall with the important caveat that consumers don't always know what they want and what's best for them. So the brand still has to be guided by their philosophy and what they believe in. To listen to the consumers and to then say, I know you asked for this, but we're going to remove that port anyway and it's going to drive you all crazy. But you're gonna love us even more because you struggle to love us. And creating friction sometimes creates love, you know, when it's not just a seamless thing. So that's kind of the first. The first part. The second part about where you mentioned the Plotka being, you know, a little bit connected to who you are and the lifestyle. We haven't heard as much of brands talking about wanting to be a lifestyle brand like that was a huge buzzword a couple of years ago. I think they still have that desire. But we say don't be a lifestyle brand because ideally many different lifestyles can enjoy you be a cultural force. And by that we mean to have a shared set of values and ideas that unite a variety of different lifestyles around you. And so that's how we're looking to incorporate that kind of human connection. But truly, brands are a badge of honor. It's on a spectrum. You have functional purchases and have emotional purchases and. More emotional purchases are the more of that badge of honor status. But for the moment, more functional purposes don't wait. Purchases don't wave the white flag saying, oh, we're in a commodity or we're not sexy or we don't have a message. Use that as the challenge to start pressure testing that takes all the assumptions that people have about your brand or your category or your industry list, all of those assumptions out, and then list all the ways that you're going to flip them and change them. And so did commodities fight that inertia. So that's how you get a little bit more emotional when you're on more of that functional end of the spectrum and have that kind of product or service.
Chris Snyder [00:41:19] Yeah, there's so much to have so many comments about what you said there, but I'm not going to because then the show would be like two hours. People say they want things, they say things but that they don't really mean. And then when they actually get it included in a product cycle, then they don't buy it. Right. They say it, but then they don't do it. So, you know, it's a little bit you have to be a little Machiavellian in some ways. You're like, look, I know what you want, but we're going to do what we want. But we have to figure out a way to integrate you guys that the human brain also, you know, has curiosity and it wants something new, but it can't be too new because if it's too new and too risky, then we run away and we hide. Right. So there's always this balance between. And if you stay playing, Jane. Right. I hope that's politically correct. Still, if you stay playing Joe. Then you're kind of fucked that way, too. So really, I think what I'm saying is I think you would agree as this rolls up to the human element in the people you work with, in the teens that you have recruited to get on this mission, in this journey with you. Did you guys have to move through this brand engagement? Probably over some amount of time. And you have to keep these people on the bus and they have to be engaged and they really have to believe that the humans have to believe or they're going to let this all test-and-learn play out. Right.
Evan Faber [00:42:50] Yeah, totally so to that to those points really quickly. The first one being that consumers, you know, say something and mean something totally different. It goes back to the whole idea about the age of information versus the age of meaning. And one of the things I think we see is that people debate words and get lost in words with each other and don't dig deeper to ask themselves what does this person mean? And maybe the words that they're using don't line up. So when we're doing research, you know, ethnographic research or listening to consumers, it's not the words they say. It's the meaning. And the meaning comes from nonverbal and the meaning comes from tone of voice and the meaning comes from context. So so there is that piece of it. I just wanted to touch upon the difference between what a consumer says, which you can't always rely on, and what they actually mean, which you might find some more opportunities in.
Chris Snyder [00:43:50] Got it. Let me change gears a little bit here and talk about the agency as its operating during COVID, because for an agency like yours who really has to become intimate with the team. You guys have the same kind of passionate discussions that you and I are having right now. They're a lot more vertically directed towards the task at hand. Right. Whether it be a growth strategy or whether it be a brand strategy or whether it be any of the things we talked about. So now what? You're in Colorado, you wake up one day and it's like no one can go to work, right? I mean, what? How are you guys handling this? How does this work for your culture and your brand?
Evan Faber [00:44:38] It's no joke. We woke up, though, a few weeks before we had to go. And for some reason, even at a time where people were debating on whether this is going to be a thing or not a thing, we for some reason we had clarity on it and we said this is going to be a thing. And so weeks before, we weren't taking cues as much from the media because they were saying different things and leadership and governments in a tough position because they have economic forces influencing their decision making, moral forces. And so it's almost, it's very difficult to show good leadership there. So we said we are going to chart our own course. We're going to look at the indicators and we're going to make a decision that benefits the people. And so we were out of the office before most of the other businesses were. And we have relied for 20 years on human-to-human interaction. But we moved swiftly to get out and taking some cues from the CDC for sure. But luckily, because we've always been a company that has made cultural decisions first. So even when it comes to working with a client, that client thirty-six people in the agency, everyone's going to have a connection to that project. So it's a cultural choice to bring it on. And so because we've had that when we went remote, the spatial barriers that were put up that could have possibly inhibited connection and collaboration didn't exist as much. Is it incredibly taxing? I think it's more taxing. I think this situation is really hard on people physically and mentally. But we've seen people go. Our team has leaned into this and it's our responsibility as leadership because one of the jokes and now realities that we're dealing with was that it just seems like Blur's day. It's all one day like those have real psychological effects on on on people. And so part of our job is we've named every week we're looking to segment as much as we can. We're looking to restore pattern interruptions so that people do see that each day, each week is different. You know, and we have a virtual lounge where people can gather and just shoot the breeze. But we're also trying to not let the flow of business and the busyness be the sole factor that drives people's stress levels. Like, how can we as leaders create downtime, create breaks, create mental breaks for people, especially if the team is pushing as hard as our team is if the team is not pushing hard, that's a whole set of different challenges that I couldn't speak to at this point. But I can speak to how to help a team that's going 24/7 with e-mails, trying to balance kids and, you know, all getting proposals out and all kinds of things. For us, it's how do we break up their day? How do we give them space? We took a mental health day last Friday and such. Got it down now. Shut it down and take a moment to breathe. And that's really important because then it bounces back. So Danny Meyer in his book Setting the Table talks about the virtuous business cycle and he talks about how, you know, if you take care of people first, you take care of your team first. It's not just the client, its always team-first and they will take care of everything else. So from a business standpoint, as well as a just moral standpoint, that why are we here? It's hopefully to take care of each other standpoint. You know, it meets both of those important needs.
Chris Snyder [00:48:49] Yeah, I appreciate those comments. So we're getting on time. And I think you and I could probably do this for a couple more hours and maybe we should. We'll do another one for sure. But I'd like to close these shows with. Look, the reason why we're choosing entrepreneurs and executives at companies is because I believe there's a lot of folks out there that don't have access to all the moving parts all the time. And by the nature of where we sit, the executives, CEOs, entrepreneurs, by the nature of where we sit, we see a lot of stuff. So hopefully in an effort to get back. If you're, you know, an entry-level employee or a freelancer or whatever, you only see what you see and what you really need to see. Hopefully, as you grow in your career and you become more defined, you get to see what we see. So what you see, given your role in over the many years of your career. What advice do you have for our audience? Based on what you see, it can be, you know, take your family, take your kids. Like, I'm sure there's all great stuff but specific to you, what's on your mind about advising our audience about how to deal with this stuff right now?
Evan Faber [00:50:08] How to deal with this stuff right now? Yeah, I think it would go back to. OK, so you use an example really quickly of a person who's starting and who's freelancing. I do believe in the power of having a personal brand. And it sounds really corporate-y, but that people can compete on your technical abilities, but nobody can compete on who you are and your North Star. And so I would say taking the time to whether you call it a personal brand or you're just getting in touch with your value system. Use that to guide your decision making. And right now, you might not be able to celebrate your wins as much, but you should always celebrate your resiliency and your power to bounce back. And there's that great quote that life is about getting knocked down seven times and coming back eight. And that might be what this is all about. It might not be. It might not be thriving through adversity, but it still should be striving through adversity.
Evan Faber [00:51:22] I love that. You know, that's great. Nobody can compete with who you are.
Chris Snyder [00:51:27] That is a that is an excellent statement for both brands, humans, companies, and then also this message of resiliency getting knocked down and just continuing to get up. Evan, it's great to have you on the show today. Evan Faber is the CEO and chief strategist of Moxie Sozo, a Boulder, Colorado-based creative agency serving brands around the globe. Thank you very much for being on the show.
Evan Faber [00:51:54] Chris. Thank you so much for having me. What a privilege.