*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.
Arek Dvornechuck: What's up? Branding experts Arek here at Ebaqdesign and welcome to On Branding Podcast. And my guest today is Mark Drager. And over the past 15 plus years, he has built a multimillion dollar creative agency, Phanta Media. So Mark has helped launch numerous startups and produce national television campaign. And transport international brands and has won many awards in the process. And today, Mark just wants to share with us some of his secret formula for creating brands. Hello, Mark. Thanks for joining us today.
Mark Drager: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. The secret, the secret formula, like what Kentucky Fried Chicken, Right? You gotta add your, your little spices and your little mixture, right?.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah. Every blending expert you know, there are so many tools and techniques out there. So we have different we, we use them differently, right? You have your own process. So you structured your process around three areas, right? Brand amplifier, experience amplifier and content amplifier.
The Brand Amplifier
Arek Dvornechuck: I would like you to just give us an overview of those three areas. So so starting with brand amplifier, what it is, what it stands for, and and how to start, you know, creating. Either a brand from scratch or working on an existing brand to, you know, amplify that brand. Yeah.
Mark Drager: Well, listen, I, I've, I've, I've been listening to your podcast for a while and so you know, often there's a common language, as you've mentioned, if we're talking about brand positioning, if we're talking about brand strategy, if we're talking about brand identity, ultimately everyone is gonna arrive at the same thing. So, so, so for us, really about the amplification side of things, in my experience, Everybody hits a certain glass ceiling with their brand. You know when, when you're starting and you're, if you're startup or if you're launching a new product, you're launching a new service, you're doing something brand new, very few people out of the gate do everything they need to do to be able to create their brand.
They, they want sales. They want a website, they want tactics. They want leads, They wanna launch something like, you gotta get your beta out. You gotta, you gotta do something. Often those we're working with the, the entrepreneurs, the consultants, the coaches, the speakers they have started and then, and then you hit the glass ceiling. And when you hit that glass ceiling, you suddenly start to realize that the way you look, the way you feel, you're, what you say, how you show up is holding you back. You're not hitting that next level. And so for us, brand amplification is really just about looking as good as you really are.
You have an amazing product. You have an amazing service. You have a ton of experience, but on, on the, either the personal branding side or the corporate side, it just gets so messy and muddled. So what we do is, is our process really focuses on helping people discover exactly who they are and, and who they need to be. It helps distill down to the elements that matter most because Sure, your experience is.
But is it important for, for this initiative, this product, this service, this customer? Sure, you've been able to have these features and benefits, but do they matter at this moment, at this time for this customer, for this product, what have you? So we discover everything. We def, we distill down to the core elements that matter the most, and then we work through defining who you are, who your audiences are, what do they care about, what are their fears, their desires, what are their dreams?
How will you. What's your competition doing? What aren't they, they doing? Mm-hmm. , how will you stand out? And, and really, again, look as good as you really are. Because in my experience, most people are much better than they look. , very rarely. Sometimes scammers are the other way. They look amazing and they're full of kind of garbage.
But for the most part, real businesses, real people, real entrepreneurs, real services, they're so much better than they look.
Arek Dvornechuck: Mm-hmm. . I, I agree. Definitely. I, I can see that, you know, there are many, so many startups, small brands who just have a great product. Product or offer a great service, but their branding sucks and they don't really know what to do to, to make a sense of it.
Mark Drager: It's kind of like all over the place. As I said, messy often it looks messy and cluttered. Whatever, whatever it is. When it comes to visuals or Or the verbal identity, right? Both. So so can you break this down for us? So, so basically the, the first area is brand amplification, right? So, and here you mentioned things like, you know, finding your audience doing some competitive research.
So can you just break this down or maybe you can give us some examples or you know common misconceptions or people. The common mistakes that people make in this first step, when, when, when it comes to, you know, defining your audience or researching your competitors?
Yeah, great question. So, so our, our, on the branding side, we have a process called Core Three.
So I don't know about you, but I love I love, there's a book called Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink . And he's this like ex-Navy Seal. And he co-wrote it with a friend called Named Leif Babin but in their book, these Navy Seals, these hardcore navy Seals guys have this saying where they say the, the,
Arek Dvornechuck: I think he was on, on your podcast, right?
Mark Drager: I've, I've, I've had a bunch of Navy seals on our podcast, but we've not quite had Jock. Oh, it was another Navy Seal. Okay. Yeah, But, Oh, okay, cool. But Jocker writes an extreme ownership. He, he says that, that the Navy seals say that the enemy always has a vote. And you know, you're going off to battle, you know, you're a soldier, you're in the theaters of war.
Then you could have the greatest plan in. But the enemy always has a vote. They always have a say in how things go down. And so when you're talking about the branding process, whether it's a personal brand, a startup brand, no matter, no matter the size of the brand, often we think that we have the only say, we have the only vote, right?
Like we have a plan, we have a strategy, we know what we wanna say and, and what we want to be and, and all of that stuff. But guess what? Just like in. In war, the enemy has a vote. In business, in branding and marketing and strategy, there's actually two people that have a vote. There's not only you, your customers have a vote and your competition or the marketplace, they have a vote too.
And so our core three process on the, on the branding side, on the amplification side, our core three process focuses on three core elements, three pillars. First, you, what are your goals. What are your dreams? What are your desires? What do you hope to accomplish? What's your vision? What's your voice? What's your perspective?
What's your experience? What, what is it that you bring to the table that's unique? Everything about you, your, your purpose your drive, your values, and often businesses, entrepreneurs, small enterprise level people personal brands. Nobody spends enough time figuring that out. Right. They, they, they have fuzzy ideas of what they could be and where it could go.
Yeah. And how it could look, get all of these fuzzy ideas, but they're just not specific enough. And so you have to really crystallize and really understand what it is you wanna accomplish and really put a, a fence around that and really define that. Because the next step, which is as we, you mentioned, you know, your audience side, that's the next step.
You always need to understand who your audience. But, but so much of what you wanna accomplish and what you wanna achieve dictates the very audience, the very channels, the very places you're gonna go and speak to them. And so the second step is, Ex an extreme amount of customer research. So it's not enough just to come up with fuzzy personas, you know Sally Sue and, and you know Debbie, the 30 year old, and this and that.
It's all generic. It's all whatev. You have to get really specific. Our process allows for but, but many people can do this. We have access to market research. We're able to, to, to track, but, but get research on 250 million Americans. On a, a billion devices across a trillion daily data touchpoints. Today, this, this month, this year when you're listening to this, we have access to more customer insight than we've ever had in the history of the world.
We can, we can find which social channels people are following and what do they listen to and where do they go, and what are the audience overlaps and what do people care about. We can go through communities like Reddit and we can look at, at common questions, common posts, common common answers. We can look at articles that people are writing and, and, and YouTube videos and get a sense of, of everything that our audience wants and desires without having to do, like, let's sit down in a room and ask you a bunch of market research questions.
We don't have to do that. We have access to all of this data, and so we can really, really quickly figure. What it is people want to hear from you and who you need to be. And so again, number one is you. Number two is the audience. Number three is the market or the competition. We have so much competitive intel.
We have so much data that we can pull whether you're going to face and looking at through face through, through page transparency, through their ad transparency, whether you're looking at the ads that your competitors are running and the messages that they're using, whether you're scraping Followers and, and customer overlap.
Whether you're looking at the technology stacks that they're using, using to figure out how they're building stuff. There's so, like even secret shopping, there's so much you can do to determine what your customers or your competitors are doing. And once you know who you are and once you know what your, your audience or your customers are looking for in terms of the message and how you need to show up.
And once you understand what your competition is or is not doing in the. In the, the center of that Venn diagram of those three areas, what you have is a positioning and an approach that is 100% unique to you. It's unique to who you are. It's saying and showing up the way your audience needs you to show up, or your customers need you to show up as, and it's showing up in a way that your competition is not showing up, which means you can stand out and be different.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. No, that's, that's, that's, these are some of the fundamental great tips. Just, just to sum up for our listeners, I have some, some of key takeaways from, from this part. So at the beginning you mentioned that startups often hit a glass ceiling. Right. So they start with a product and service.
Mark Drager: They put some branding together, usually really fast. And, but then now the certain. So they just hit a lot. Ceiling. They don't know what to do. Yeah. No. Comes from the fact that they're usually, they have, they haven't invested time and money in, you know, in product research or strategy. So they're not clear about their brand.
They don't have this clarity. That's why you would recommend to, to, to dive deep as you mentioned, into, you know, figuring out who your audience is specifically and what they want and so on. Who are your competitors? A, as you gave us examples, you know, what kind of technologies they use what kind of messaging they use and so on.
So my key takeaway from this part would be to just don underestimate the power of research and strategy, right? So there is whether it is a startup or small business or, or midsize business proper research and strategy is crucial to, to brand.
The Experience Amplifier
Arek Dvornechuck: Okay. So let's move on and talk about the second the second area. So creating the, amplifying the experience, right? So here you talk about things like even branding mc, mcn hosting, Prevent social clips, you know, event production. So can you talk to us a bit about what you do at Phanta Media?
And, and how you can help brands amplify this experience.
Mark Drager: Well, for sure. And, and here's, here's the real secret. You know, we, I started my fan Phanta Media, my agency in 2006. So for over 15 years now, I've been running this. And whether you're doing a brand, a branding exercise, or you're amplifying any experience, live events, training, coaching, award shows, whatever it might be, or you're amplifying your content, Your, your, you know, content marketing advertising campaigns.
It's all the same process. We've produced over 13 million in creative content over the last number of years using this exact same process every single time, regardless of how it goes. And it, and, and the reason why we've developed, right? This really, really tight approach that focuses on you, that focuses on your audience, that focuses on the competition or the market is because it's the same steps no matter what you're.
So if we looked at a live event, we could look at a live event where it's like, Hey, we need ticket sales. We need to get people into this event. How do we go ahead and, and, and jam this event full of people? Well, that's an advertising campaign or a marketing campaign like any other challenge. So do we brand the event?
What do we wanna achieve? What do our customers or our audience looking for? What are our competition doing in the marketplace and how are we gonna stand out and. If we're talking about actually the hosting of the event and the, and the conversations or the speakers or the mc or the prizes or the round tables or whatever it might be.
Okay, let's look at that. What do we wanna accomplish in this hour, in this keynote, in this section? Who is in the audience and what is it that they want to do? And what's the context of the people who spoke before and the people who spoke after? And you're right, there's no competition here, but there is an environ.
And what's gonna happen in that room and what's gonna happen on the live call and what's gonna happen in terms of, in terms of how we're gonna stand out and, and hit the point home and make that connection for people. And if we're looking at the content amplify amplification side of this is a podcast, like your podcast, you gotta think about what you wanna speak about and achieve.
What's the message you wanna get across? How do you wanna show up? Who is your audience? What do they care about? What are the other podcasters doing? How are you gonna stand out? What are you gonna do to be. It's the same process, regardless if we're creating a can't ignore brand or we're creating a book launch, or we're creating a new funnel specifically to get people to, to, to buy the MVP of our latest product, or we're trying to sell more downloads or get more downloads for our new app.
It is the same process, time and time. You start with you, then you understand the audience, then you understand the environment, the marketplace or the competition. And once you go through those same steps, and we've done this thousands and thousands of times you get really good at it, but you start to realize that regardless of the project or the medium, it's always the same thinking.
Arek Dvornechuck: Mm-hmm. . Okay. So it's always the same process. regarding, you know, basically what you do, right? Because ultimately the process is, you know, the framework can be applied to, to, you know, to to different things, right? To different kind of businesses. So and then you, the, the, the third area is content amplifier, right?
The Content Amplifier
Mark Drager: So let's talk about this a bit. So, You already started talking about this, you know, like things like creative videos. We can leverage podcasts, live events, YouTube series digital art campaigns, webinars, courses and and and stuff like that. So, which one of those, like where do you see the most potential here?
Or maybe, you know, people I assume people wanna know which one is the best to, to start with, or you. Requires the least effort or the least amount of, you know, money investment or time investment. Yeah. I, I love, I love that question because , I get a, we get asked that question all the time, right?
As, as marketers, we're always gonna be asked, Should I, you know, should, should I invest in video or should I build new landing pages or should I start an email marketing campaign? Or, or like what? Like what should I do? What's, what's the biggest impact? Where to start? Lowest cost thing we can. . And the question back always has to be the same.
What do you want, what do you wanna accomplish? Right? Like, like is is, is video really, really great? It's a great medium. Podcasting is awesome. YouTube series for sure. Should you launch a webinar or course maybe? Digital and campaigns? I don't know. Of course, maybe Yes. No email marketing. Like, like any tactic, any tactic, which is when we move.
A top level brand down to like content creation, advertising, marketing. These are tactics. A tactic has to be the right tactic based off of your goal. Your objective. Your objective. So what do you wanna do? Like if we came up with a case study or scenario, we could right size this, but. But often we go like, Oh, you know, I need a Facebook campaign, or I need, I hear Facebook is, is terrible now because cuz you can't do interest targeting.
So we need to actually go over to YouTube or I, I really need to launch this thing, or should I be on click funnels or should I, should I build something on WordPress? Like, like all of those things are great tactical questions, but the, the real thing to ask is like, what do you want? And once we know what you want, then we can come up with a plan on the most effective or cost effective.
Fastest or most impressive whatever, whatever results or KPIs we'll use to measure success. But you have to always start with what do you want?
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. No, that's, that's super important. I totally agree with that. So basically the takeaway for, for you guys, for our listeners is that, you know, there are different tactics and, but instead, instead of starting with, with a tactic in mind, like, Hey, maybe I need email marketing, or maybe I need to run ads on Facebook, you should really start.
Mark Drager: The plan with the strategy, think about your goals and then go from there. Because these are, at the end of the day, these are tactics and you can use them successfully, but you know, you need to first have a bigger picture in mind and and then, and then you can pick the right tactic that will help you, you know, get, achieve those goals faster or, or with the least amount of effort or the least amount of investment up front.
So. So that's about it. That's a, that an overview of what you offer at Phanta Media. But just for, for people who wanna learn more from you and connect with you of course I'm gonna link to your website, phanta.com. P H A nta.com. But is there another way you want people to reach out, be on social media?
Well, for sure, I'd love to connect with, with listeners. So if you wanna head over to Instagram, you can connect with me, follow me, drop me a DM at Mark Drager, it's D r A g E R. If you wanna learn more about our processes yet, you can head over to phanta.com or you can check out any of the other content that we do on our podcast or other things.
But I just wanna thank you for having me. I, I think it's, I think this is an important topic because as you mention, We, we all wanna jump into the tactics, right? Like, how can we go, go, go, go, go. But there is a place for, for setting up a plan, so that way you make sure that you're not off running a million miles an hour in the wrong direction.
Especially when it comes to things that you're spending money on. If you're spending daily ads, a hundred percent, if you're hiring employees and they're just sitting on their hands, if you have a sales team that can't connect, can't sell, you're not closing. You're spending money, the tap is open. You're spending money every single day.
So before you start spending that daily spend, put together a bit of a plan and make sure that you're really strategic with, with what you're doing.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right? And ultimately you're going, you're on the right path. Right?
Awesome. Amazing. Thank you so much. And if, if you, if you could, if you could share some socials or whatever, we'll also post to it or link to it.
So that's it. I'm going to link to your website. Thank you very much for joining us today and sharing your tips. And I'm gonna link to your website, of course, and you guys can reach out to Mark on, on social media preferably on Instagram.
I'm gonna link to your Instagram as well. So thanks again, Thanks for coming on the show
Mark Drager: Thank you man. Have an have an amazing day.
Arek Dvornechuck is a strategist and designer who helps brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
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