Episode #21: Communities, Category Creation, and Karma, with Marc Stoiber

Marc Stoiber, brand expert extraordinaire, joins me for a conversation about category creation, the collective wisdom of online communities, and the karma of enlightened self interest.

If you haven’t yet joined Marc’s BrandDIY Facebook group, then what are you waiting for? Seriously, just do it now:  www.brandDIYgroup.com.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad
All right, here we are at the CXM Experience. And it’s Grad Conn CXO at Sprinklr, and today I’m joined by my very special guest and my very first guest, Marc Stoiber, Marc and I worked together many years ago at Grey when I was VP and GM at Grey Interactive. And Marc was the overall Creative Director for Grey Canada. And we had a wonderful collaboration back then and stayed in touch over the years. Marc has an amazing community that he’s building called BrandDIY… brand do it yourself. So we’re going to talk about that today. But first, I’m going to welcome Marc, ask him a quick question. And we’re gonna chat a little bit about his decision to use Facebook and how BrandDIY is building community. Marc, welcome.

Marc
I’m super stoked. I can’t tell you. I didn’t realize I was your first, man. This is… you should have picked somebody important for this.

Grad
You’re very important. You’re one of my favorite people in the whole world. So you know, this is… who else would I have first?

Marc
I don’t know. But I mean, I love talking to you, man. And it’s super fun. But like I said, I’m very flattered. This is very cool. Thank you.

Grad
Well, so let me start with an awkward question, if you don’t mind. So since I know you. I’m on the BrandDIY site on Facebook. And I’m on the November 16 show: from judge to collaborator how ideas succeed, which is a great show, by the way. I really, really love. And I actually love all the stuff you do, where you talk about creative and how to think about creative and how to think about how to create great stuff. The stuff that you talked about in the early days of your first creative job… really amazing. But I do have a more serious question is, in that episode, what happened to your wardrobe? Just what were you thinking? I just wanted to know what was happening.

Marc
I live a very lonely life, especially post COVID. And I’m out of my home office… not a home office out behind the home. It’s sort of a coach house. And I’m here every day and the dog and I are having conversations. And you know, I asked the dog what I should wear and I got some good advice, I thought. Turns out the dog… the dog is half blind.

Grad
Well, that dog misled you. All right. Okay, that’s fine. Okay, cool. But that answers that question. So we’re moving. We’re doing well already. Okay, so there’s a book out there. I don’t know if you’ve read it or not. It’s called Play Bigger. You ever seen that?

Marc
No, I never heard of it. I’m writing it down.

Grad
You will love it because it’s got the word pirate in it. It’s called… I know. It’s called “Play Bigger, how pirates, dreamers and innovators create and dominate markets.” And it’s actually by four people. Al Ramadan is one of the authors. Dave Peterson. Christopher Lochhead and Kevin Maney. And Kevin actually is a friend of our CEO, Ragy Thomas.

Grad
And so, Play Bigger is about a very simple idea, which is, if you can create a category, you end up taking way more share from that category as the category creator. For example, the iPhone captures about 83% of the value of the smartphone market. Not necessarily unit sales, but the total value 83% of it accrues to the iPhone. And they go through example after example after example of category creators… their basic idea is you should try to create a category. So it’s like the big thing now in tech is everyone wants to create a category. So you’d love this book.

Grad
Anyway. Part of how you build a category is that you’ve got to get people to agree that you’re in new category. Right? Like you can’t just say poof I have a new category. If you’ve come up with say SUV, you come up with SUV, you can’t just say SUV and everyone just like kind of nod. You have to get everyone to agree that’s an SUV. The influencers, the analysts, the review sites, all that stuff have to say there’s a new category called SUV. And this brand Ford Explorer or whatever, you know, is the first one. You’ll see people like even car market people keep trying to introduce CUV’s and different they try to create new categories. They fail because they’re the only ones saying it no one agrees with them. Yeah, but you know, Chrysler did it with a minivan. And today the only people still make minivans is basically Chrysler right?

Marc
Great example is the Pontiac Aztek. It was a real crap SUV, and so they called it… it’s the starter SUV, the starter SUV. They tried to create a category of SUV with training wheels, and nominated the king of the baby SUVs and you’re like nah, you just made that up.

Grad
Yeah. Interesting. Aztek is famously one of the ugliest cars ever made. So to get everyone to agree, you got to create community. And this is where it comes to you. So, you know, I think creating community around an idea is hard. And I saw you start this, I joined, I think reasonably early. I’m in it so it’s a little hard for me to see outside the edges of it because it just looks awesome to me all the time. But I’d like to know, just from your standpoint, how did you choose Facebook? What do you think about as you’re building community? How do you feel about how it’s going so far? And what are your sort of dreams and aspirations over the next couple of years?

Marc
It’s funny, the whole thing started because I had some guys do SEO on my website. I wrote a book… short book… guidebook called BrandDIY. And it basically replicates the steps I use to help people build brands. And I said, You know, I love working with entrepreneurs, the world needs more entrepreneurs, but they can’t always afford me. I want to give them something for free. That’ll help them DIY their own brand. Take control of their own brand. So I wrote this book, and the guys doing my SEO said, you know, people are actually downloading this book, and I go, no way. They said, would you like to make some money on it? And I go, Nah, I don’t want any money. No, thank you. Of course, I want money.

Grad
That’s what I’ve always loved about you. It’s always everything’s always free. It’s fantastic.

Marc
I know, talk to my banker, they’re so happy. And, they said, we’re going to start a Facebook group. And you know what the decision came from that. They said, we’re going to start a Facebook group. And I said, Okay. It turns out that they’re well versed in Facebook, they’re their social media guys. And they said, Facebook is a great place to grab people who might not be as far along in their career, who might be more startup-y. And it’s also a more chatty place than LinkedIn. And I said, Okay, I’ll buy that logic. So they set up a Facebook group for me. And I got the URL. It’s BrandDIYgroup.com. To make it simple. I actually call it BrandDIYFacebookgroup.com. Until Facebook wrote a really nice letter to me.

Grad
Super nice letter I bet.

Marc
It was awesome. They’re so…

Grad
They’re so great. When they write those letters, they’re so nice. I know.

Marc
There’s Mark Zuckerberg paying attention to me. And I’m like, that is so cool. See, it’s working.

Grad
Yeah.

Marc
And the idea was, we’re going to create a community for entrepreneurs and founders who want to take control of their brand, and where they more than anything else, where they can share stories where things that work, things don’t work, those kinds of stories. And then lo and behold, I also started getting brand professionals, you know, writers, art directors, PR people, social media people, the works. And they all started to join. Initially, I did it just through my own personal network… from my LinkedIn network, my Facebook network. But then, you know, people started to invite other people. And I said, you know, I’ve got to do something here, I got to give them value. So I said, every day, at 10 o’clock in the morning, I’m going to go on, and I’m going to record a 15 minute brand tip. Just something that I would pull from a book. It was valuable to me because it forced me to remember all the stuff that I knew but had forgotten. And so I was forced to dredge up all those great books, like the Ogilvy books, and the Claude Hopkins books, and Seth Godin books and just a little snippet every day.

Marc
And then what I found, I should bring an expert in, and one person from the BrandDIY group community, once a week. So on Tuesdays is an expert, who gives advice. And Thursdays is an entrepreneur who basically shares a challenge and like Law and Order inside of an hour, we fix their problem, we solved the crime. And those are the things that absolutely took off. So that tells me, people love to hear from people like themselves, and they love to get short bits of advice from folks that might give them a bit of an inside edge. So you know, you want to start a category. I guess it’s just kind of organic in this case.

Grad
Well, what category Do you think you’re starting right now?

Marc
Um, I believe…

Grad
I think you are starting something.

Marc
I believe, okay… the thing is COVID, and the economic downturn has created a whack of unwilling entrepreneurs, people who have been thrown out of their jobs or said screw it, I’m gonna do it myself. And then what? I know when I started as an entrepreneur, I was dying for advice and I couldn’t find any or I didn’t know where to look. And I said, You know what, somebody needs to stick up for these folks. And you know, I’m not making money on this thing yet. I’m creating some product, what I call power packs, mini lessons on how to do stuff. But so far It’s just a love of… a passion of mine. And I think that there’s a category in helping people do stuff themselves, but just sort of giving them an ooch along every once in a while to set them on the right path.

Marc
And you know what i do believe a lot in karma. And I think all this stuff will come back. People do remember, and if you’ve helped them, maybe there’s a category in giving stuff away for free blindly, hoping that somebody will actually repay you. Maybe that’s the category.

Grad
Hmm. Yeah, there’s something around advice network that I think is powerful.

Marc
I’m gonna write that down.

Grad
I think that’s kind of what you’re creating an advice network. And there aren’t a lot of those.

Marc
Really? There aren’t a lot of these?

Grad
Not in business.

Marc
Hmm. Because it is, that is what it is right?

Grad
There is like, you know, in softer things, like, I belong to a number of cooking sites, and there’s stuff like that, that I yeah. But uh, but in terms of business advice, it’s pretty rare.

Marc
That’s really cool. Because that’s exactly what it is. It is, yeah, there’s me giving stuff. But more than that, everybody sort of chiming in. Like we put polls up. People ask what should I call my company, and everybody kind of chimes in. And that’s, I mean, the essence of research is to get cold objective eyes telling you what they think. And so they’re benefiting from I guess, a crowdsource, or a research group, to help make their businesses better and in exchange for helping out when they’re called on. That is great.

Grad
And so you’re finding that what makes a community sing the most is when people have an enlightened self interest, like when they’re asking for advice, and people are chiming in, that support network in the community is what drives the stickiness, not the content itself.

Marc
Well, you know, there’s nothing lonelier and scarier than being an entrepreneur. And just, yeah, just have people around you going, Oh, man, you screwed that up. I screwed that up too Suddenly you go, I feel a little bit better. And then having like, you came aboard, and we talked about classic advertising. And how, as one of the experts… folks don’t know, they should check out our episodes, two of them. You’re the only guest I’ve had on twice, by the way.

Grad
Thank you.

Marc
You know, folks listen in because there’s so much wisdom that you have, and they get it for free, and you have fun to boot. It’s a bit of good karma. And, yeah, I think it is enlightened self interest. At the end of the day, I don’t know if I’ll be able to help you. But I do know that I can help all the folks who come on every Thursday… the entrepreneurs with a problem. And if they bare their soul, and tell us what the problems are, and I help them fix them. They know that they’re helping other folks and that other folks will bear their soul in turn, you know.

Grad
Very interesting.

Marc
Gives them advice where they go, Oh, man, that guy screwed that up too. Oh, I gotta listen in. You know?

Grad
Yeah, that’s really compelling. So I think if I was, to summarize it, what you’re saying is that it’s not really a community unless people are truly in a community mindset of helping.

Marc
Now, let me just give a caveat. Because I also had the experience where a couple people sort of ran away with it and sort of gave themselves the self appointed title of admin, and start posting stuff that went off the BrandDIY agenda. Just, you know, like Facebook, where people just post all sorts of crap. And it was kind of on the periphery business, you had to squint pretty hard. And I had to give them a little nudge and just say, you know, this isn’t really what we’re about. So it is still about me, being the figurehead, the administrator saying, This is BrandDIY, that’s not BrandDIY. But inside those confines, letting people go a little bit loose. So as long as you keep it focused, I think people feel that they can contribute in a worthwhile way. I think once you lose that focus, and everybody just goes, ah this is just a stupid thing. It’s just a stupid site where people are just sounding off and bitching. And nobody wants that.

Grad
Well, I belong to a lot of different interest groups on Facebook. You know, I’m into a lots of stuff, right? Lionel trains is one of them. And I’m into obviously DeLoreans because I’ve got one of those and all sorts of space stuff and Gerry Anderson shows and stuff like that. And it was funny the other day, one of my Lionel train groups, the one that’s focuses on dioramas, so creating dioramas… the admin, the person who runs the group says I’m kicking everyone out who’s posting political stuff. And no more politics in this group. Otherwise you’re out.

Marc
A Lionel train group?

Grad
I know. And I’m like, who’s posting political stuff in a Lionel train group? Goodbye, get out? Yeah, it’s so funny. People are hilarious.

Marc
There’s a learning curve, right? They’re totally learning curve because I let it go for a little while. And then I actually had members come back and flag the posts. And I’m like, what does that even mean?

Grad
So you actually had the same problem. Interesting. Yeah, that’s one of the things with LinkedIn, they’ve done a great job of controlling that. I think Facebook’s a little wilder, but you’re doing a great job. I mean, I’ve not seen that in BrandDIY. So it’s felt like a very focused group.

Marc
I’m German. That’s what we do.

Grad
Alright, so one of the things I miss most about the agency world, I miss many things. One of the things I miss most is that everyone’s office was so individual and so much fun.

Marc
Uh huh.

Grad
You know, remember Grey, you’d walk into office after office and there is like, just essentially a toy collection in everyone’s office, right? And I’m very much like that myself. So I’ve got nervous hands. I’m always doing stuff. So I always have a collection of toys on my desk. I’ve got Iron Giant, a new Diamond Toy select Iron Giant posable figurine with 16 articulated joints. It’s pretty awesome. And I have a brand new Thunderbird 2, Matchbox die cast, which is all metal and is also pretty freakin’ amazing. So that’s what I’m playing with right now. And I want to know, what do you have on your desk right now?

Marc
Fountain pens, lots fountain pens, and also The Book of Heroic Failures.

Grad
Sweet. Yeah.

Marc
But you have to get the first edition. It was written… I read about it in an ad done by Neil French… ad legend, Neil French. And it’s all about the theme of anything in life that’s worth doing is worth doing badly. And you have to get the first edition from the 1980s because the subsequent ones are just kind of like a second album. They’re just kind of crappy. But the first one is unbelievable. And basically it’s just 150 pages documenting people who did unbelievably stupid things and screwed things up… like the Swiss pornographer who got arrested for not having pornographic enough product.

Grad
Sweet.

Marc
Yeah, the guy who tried to kill himself after his girlfriend left him, and he threw himself in front of a train didn’t kill him, threw himself in front of another train, didn’t kill him. And then the priest and the psychologist talked to him and he decided to go on living, walks out in front of the hospital gets hit by a train and dies. So it’s, you know what, in times like these, I think we need to know that there are people out there even dumber than us.

Grad
Wow, that’s amazing. Marc, thank you so much. This was fantastic. I really appreciate your time and appreciate your insights and continued success with BrandDIY. And I’m patiently and excitedly awaiting the next the next installment.

Marc
Well, you know what, tell the folks who are listening to drop by BrandDIYgroup.com and join up. The more the messier. And I just love it. It’s like I said, it doesn’t pay, but it’s super fun. Keeps you sharp. I love brands more than anything. And this just gives me a chance to play.Grad
Fantastic Marc. Thank you so much. And for everybody else, this has been the CXM Experience. I’m Grad Conn, and I’ll see you next time.