Building The Future Show - Radio / TV / Podcast

I’m in the business of making CREATIVE, CULTURAL, & COMMERCIAL IMPACT!

Show Notes

I’ve spent the past 20+ years working with individuals and organizations across geographies and industries, helping them bring new, unique brands and experiences into the world. In my experience, the most successful brands are the ones that were faster, smarter, and better prepared to adapt and respond to changes quickly. If you want to get clear about your value, create memorable ways to talk about what you offer and to attract more clients, and grow your business you’re in the right place.

I’m in the business of making CREATIVE, CULTURAL, & COMMERCIAL IMPACT!

What is Building The Future Show - Radio / TV / Podcast?


With millions of listeners a month, Building the Future has quickly become one of the fastest rising nationally syndicated programs. With a focus on interviewing startups, entrepreneurs, investors, CEOs, and more, the show showcases individuals who are realizing their dreams and helping to make our world a better place through technology and innovation.

Intro/Outro: Welcome to building the future. Hosted by Kevin Horak with millions of listeners a month. Building the future has quickly become one of the fastest rising programs with a focus on interviewing startups, entrepreneurs, investors, CEOs, and more. The radio and TV show airs in 15 markets across the globe, including Silicon valley for full Showtime past episodes. Or to sponsor the show, please visit building the future

Kevin Horek: Welcome back to the show today. We have G Kofi Annan. He's a brand and experience strategists. Welcome to the show.

Kofi Annan: Thank you, Kevin. Glad to be here. Very excited to have this conversation.

Kevin Horek: Yeah, I'm excited to have you on the show. I think what your doing well, I think anybody online struggles with these days and having somebody like yourself to give us some advice and tips and stuff, this is going to be really interesting, but maybe before we get into that, let's get to know you better and start off with where he grew up.

Kofi Annan: Sure, sure. I started off, so I was born in a crowd Ghana, so that's in west Africa, spend the early part of my life in back and forth between Ghana and Liberia west Africa. I always say that like looking back, I look at those experiences kind of moving between the cultures and kind of, between countries and cultures and kind of watching television American television or, receiving those times kind of receive them recordings, video tape, VHS recordings for my father with American television. When he moved out to the states really helped kind of shape my professional, my personal interests, but then also my professional career in the sense that, really looking I'm interested in how other people experiences are and like what drives people to make certain decisions. Anyway, so work grew up there, moved to the states in the early eighties or mid eighties. Again, total cop culture shock, trying to figure out like what is going on?

Kofi Annan: How do people do things here, really crazy stuff. As I kind of moved through my, to my preferred professional side, went to school in Jersey city, New Jersey, that's where we moved to. When we moved to the states into the New Jersey city, New Jersey studied started off by studying design because I was attracted to arts and design. Then, after a while I, I'm, again, I'm very, hands-on, I'm more of a hands-on type person versus a sit in class.

Kevin Horek: Listen the same way.

Kofi Annan: It's like, I always try to, I always balance the, well, what I learned in class, how can I have that? You know, how can I experience that? I started to, while I was in school, I was, I had a few clients kind of local clients, restaurant here, from a design perspective, just kind of helping folks out and kind of practical application of what we're learning there. Then, one of the things, the conflict that I saw personally for myself was I really enjoyed a lot more of the hands-on. The kind of the schooling that the class, at least a traditional college education format, wasn't really working for me. I did, I moved out to Atlanta in the U S and when did accelerated course curriculum at the art institutes in Atlanta, one of the things that attracted me to that was that it was really focused on practical application.

Kofi Annan: So, go out and, and learn and practice design, practice creating, it wasn't really experiences there, but practice creating products and come back and let's have that compensation within with your peers. That really worked out really well for me to really kind of see both the, understand the, the structure and kind of the best practices from the Schooling, but then also the practical application, as we know that in environmental, in the real world, things are really different after I was from Atlanta. I moved back up to New Jersey after I graduated school there, and then pretty much kicked off my, my professional career working with agencies. I started off with Saatchi and Saatchi some years ago, working on a number of their, in their kind of multi-national communications creative agency. I started off there, worked with, while I was working there, I also was also freelancing.

Kofi Annan: I was working with a lot of fashion and retail clients on my own, because that's kind of the, the area that I personally love working with kind of those kinds of creatives. I moved from Saatchi and McCann. And, again, I've kind of worked through the agency perspective, but then even more importantly, as I've moved through my career, I realized that it wasn't really the design part of creation that I w I loved. It was really more about the facilitation. I, and I wasn't that much, that good of a design. I saw folks who were really good designers, and it was like, oh, I can kind of put stuff together, but I'm going to leave that to those folks. I, and I spelled that way, my strength really was in the facilitation. How do I explain the problem solving that creative creativity brings forward? How do I help folks walk through the process of understanding what they're trying to offer?

Kofi Annan: What are they trying to create in the world? How are they going to measure that? Obviously the creation of that comes after that. Right. How do we, okay, so how do we manifest that in the world and then see how it's working. For the past, probably about 15 years, I've been primarily focused within the strategy contexts. Working with creative teams and clients and different brands, both multinationals and startups, to help bring products into products that matter and experiences that matter into the world, we don't need another widgets. Right. So it's , a company might want to bring something to the world, but, I feel like it's my job to help guide them as far as the relevance within the current market, but then also the relevance of specific people, those who can benefit from it the most.

Kevin Horek: Fascinating. No, I, to be honest, I think what you just outlined is really challenging. Like I mentioned before, and I think most companies, if not every company on the planet struggles with that, so how do you work with the company and maybe give us some examples of how do you actually do what you do?

Kofi Annan: Sure. As I've moved through my career, one of the things that I looked at and, working with companies like Saatchi and McDaniel with Mo clients that are domestic and global, right? Some of the things that are some of the things that I saw working for those brands and brands that we all know like Puma, for instance, I worked with them on their world cup campaign back in 2010 was really the attention to detail. More importantly, the process and the focus on the identity, what are you, what does the brand stand for? What does the, what does the customer identify as and what they stand for? To your point, it's, that's the part that folks tend to rush through, because it is it's uncomfortable. It's not, as, it's not as cut and dry as some of the more tactical, if I could just create a website, like, that's, that seems easier, more tangible.

Kofi Annan: Folks, don't a lot of folks inherently, don't like having to answer the questions or understand that then they'll are defined identity. It does become one of those things where I think a lot of folks could use help with, and process works, process and structure, which is something that over, over the years I've seen, that's really been impactful. I have a framework that I work through called the smarter brand framework, having that process to make both walk people through a step-by-step process, but then also make them feel comfortable that they're not just spinning. Right.

Kevin Horek: Sure.

Kofi Annan: Where, where folks just kind of get off the bandwagon and just like, just, I just need a website or I just need a logo and I don't want to do this other stuff. Process is definitely something that makes people feel comfortable.

Kevin Horek: Sure. Can you walk us through that framework? Because while I have it up in front of me, I actually think it's quite fascinating how you go through the different circles and the things around that. I know it's hard to talk about something visual, just audio only, but can we at least try?

Kofi Annan: Sure. Of course. Of course, of course. Yeah, so as I mentioned, it's called the smarter brand framework and it's a distillation of my experiences in the past 15 or more years, what I've seen work, how the kinds of questions, I, it's very detailed, but primarily it's focused around four key areas. There's the essence, which is, more of, kind of the identity, the kind of the, how does the company identify themselves? What are their values, those kinds of things. Also looking externally as well, who are the people that we want to engage, whether it be partners, customers, audiences, what is their identity? We know that changes even more rapidly these days, but, so kind of having that sense of, okay, what is the essence of what we're dealing with and then obviously for startups, or even some, a lot of new brands or new initiatives, it's that product itself, like what have we created?

Kofi Annan: What is like, what is the, what are we trying to do? And then, so that's the essence. What are we trying to do then as we move through that, the next section is that I worked through is the expressions. We know what we're trying to do, then what are the stories that we are trying to tell around that? How do we communicate that? What are the marks? So, kind of visually how we, what are the things that we're bringing to life so that people get it right? It could be logos and all those kinds of things, but really like, how are we trying to express this in the world so that people get it. Because again, especially in this time and age, people have a short attention span and they need to, you need to tell a story succinctly and people need to get it.

Kofi Annan: I, the second part of that framework is those expressions. The next section, the fourth part is the experiences. Now that we know what the story is, what we're trying to do and the stories and the visuals that we're trying to do, what are the experiences that we're trying to create, right? What are the events maybe that we need to be involved in that we're able to find those people, what are the environments? We could talk about, how those, like the environments change, you're talking about online, offline, physical, digital, virtual, I mean, there's so many choices, right? I have a process where I kind of help people narrow down. Like you don't have to do all of them. You don't have to be in a metaverse and to have a brick and mortar at the same time. Like, it depends. It really depends if you have the essence part and who you're serving and who you identify as it should be easier to figure out what the experience is.

Kofi Annan: The conversations, obviously, where to conversation age now, where those stories we kick off, we start off engagements to stories, and then it evolves into conversation. One-on-one relationships, one to many relationships conversations and different topics in those how the change and the last part is the effects. We've worked through the essence, the expressions, the experience and the effect. I added that part because what I realized a lot of times, particularly as things are changing a lot in the world day by day, is that this needs to be a really formalized way of understanding what the impact is, because you can do a lot of stuff, right. Depending on your budget, depending on your budget and your bandwidth, I mean, you could have a website and the NFT, or you could have a, you could create a fashion show. There's so many different things too, but you have to be able to measure those things.

Kofi Annan: What is the effects that, that what you're doing has on the brand, internal, like what your, what the business goals are, and then also the perception with your audiences, because we know that, as you engage with people and have conversations with people, sometimes they change and sometimes you need to change with them, or other times you need to see that it's resonating with them. Then, obviously, a lot of that is looking at specific measurable goals. So, are more people, subscribing are more people you can get as granular as subscription, but you could get something more as a more broad, as, do more people know that our brand even exists more, the right people know that our brand exists. It's those four key areas that I really focus on with the framework that I use. So, identity slash expression as essence, the expressions or the stories, the experiences, and then the effects.

Kevin Horek: Interesting. Can you maybe give us some examples or some tips and tricks and maybe do it by, like, I'm just starting out and I don't have a lot of money, or maybe I've been around for a while, and I actually have some money to spend on some of these things, because I think depending on where you kind of are in your startup or entrepreneurial journey, cash is can be an issue or not so much anymore.

Kofi Annan: Yep. Yeah. And, and that's one of the things with newer startups or newer brands yet, to your point, it's both cash, cash, time and expertise, right. It's like have the money, but then I don't have the time and I don't have the expert. Like I don't have somebody that works there. So, so it's, and you're really optimizing for those things, as you're growing. With, from a, I'll start off kind of with what, I've, what I learned working with kind of large organizations with the budget, right? How this still, how I think that brands that are smaller brands can actually have the same impact without the same budget. A number of years ago, as I mentioned, I was working with Puma for their 2010 world cup campaign. And, Puma is a large company. Most people have heard of it. Well, everyone has heard of it in some capacity, whether they have a affinity to it or not, but within the context of a world cup or any kind of event like that on a national stage, that's huge.

Kofi Annan: That's a huge competition for eyeballs, for awareness for just engagement. Within the workup context, you have Puma, you have Nike, you have Adidas. Puma could never, well, I'll say never, well, at least at that time, couldn't really outspend Nike for the world cup. Like that's right. Nike just dominates, right. They have a machine behind them. They have the budget X, Y, and Z. In that context and Adidas the same thing in that context, dope Puma has more budget than any startup currently within that context, they were still the underdog, right. Working with them, it's again, still going back to that. What, what is the essence of Puma that could differentiate and within on, and have some exercises that have worked through with the creative teams and the clients, brand teams, kind of the executive teams and essentially it's like really understanding, okay, what is the unique value that you're bringing?

Kofi Annan: What is the user perspective? With Puma, we did a few different exercises, some ethanol, talking to some customers, some current customers and past customers, those kinds of things. Really, we figured out that it was that Puma for all the world cups previously had really been supporting and embedding themselves within African football. This was a perfect, and they've been supporting all the teams like they've been creating all the kids for a lot of the African teams when, no one, Nike's or Adidas were really focused in that context. For that world cup in 2010, this was the first time that world cup was going to be at, in Africa, South Africa specifically. While they couldn't out spend Nike, they had a unique differentiation and advantage in the sense of, they understood the culture more, they had more partnerships and Alliance and, and just relationships within that context that they could then leverage.

Kofi Annan: They don't need to buy the biggest ads, but they need to be able to, they already had a network, let's just say that they could leverage. Right. So, so what, so we walked through that, we realized that was a cue for that particular incident. That was a cute key area that they could use as leverage. We worked through some exercises and we did some interviews where we said, okay, so now that's what Puma could do and what's possible for Puma as far as brand awareness. Now let's understand the audiences themselves, because we know that again, audience has changed, climate change. What we ended up with the campaign, which was the love equals football campaign, which is like the key insight there for the audience was that there's this collision of old and new, the old kind of traditional culture and kind of how things were versus this new way of doing things, kind of the more metropolitan.

Kofi Annan: That's kind of where the essence part of it, right. Going through those exercise, help you get those two key areas, both for Puma and the audience. Then, obviously we're as we're going through that filter, we saying, okay, now what are the kinds of stories? As people, as we do interviews and people start telling them, oh, I really like, what I remember when I was younger and I used to play football, in my, in, we didn't even have goalposts, we just put rocks, right? That's, you're listening to those people's stories. These are the things that startups and new brands could do already. Like, it doesn't take much, you just have to talk to people, right. Kind of say, Hey, that's interesting. That's a unique way of people experiences. How now can I use that or partner up with them to enhance that, bring that more to the front forefront.

Kofi Annan: That's what we did with Puma, and that came through in all the creative that you'll see around there, that campaign. Just that process alone, I'm working with a, a startup now, which is a new brand, that's actually launching into the metaverse and NFC context. They're faster fashion focused brand, and they're facilitating fashion brands that are going into the metaverse specifically digital fashion. That's kind of where they're, they're playing to have a, a process and a product that helps facilitate that. Interesting. They don't start there. No, I don't keep going. Sorry. Yeah. So, so it's the same process that I'm working with them where it's like, okay, great. What D what is the, what is the unique value of your product? Like, what does it do, right. What is the, not, what does it do from a mechanics perspective? Cause we do need to understand that, but like, what is the benefit to the end user in this case?

Kofi Annan: It's that fashion startups, or emerging fashion companies, or bigger competitor companies that don't have the knowledge, the expertise, or ability to transfer their offline fashion to a digital context. They don't want to invest in that. The benefit here is that this company can now help facilitate that. You get into the product features. Right. Right. So, so that's a benefit of that. It helps accelerate them into this virtual fashion. And, so now, there's this, that, that benefits in that lines between the PR the company itself and its customers. So, and we got to that by same kind of processes. That's why I thought the framework was really interesting because the startup doesn't have the budget. Right. I mean, they have to do things down and dirty. The tools that we're using, we're doing kind of guerrilla style, like calling people, like going on people's Instagram and like, Hey, can we talk to you?

Kofi Annan: You know, can you DM me? We could just have a quick chat, like that kind of stuff. Versus if you had the budget and Puma, you have to have a focus group and the surveys and all this kind of stuff. Right. The tactics, how you go about it changes, but you still need that output, which is going through the process to get to that key insights, get into their key benefit. So, yeah, so I mean, they're the ways to do it, how you do it changes, but what you're doing doesn't and I think, and that's kind of where I focus, helping people understand and walk through that process so that they're not spending a lot of time, with things that they either don't have the money for or not. It's not making the impact that they're, that they need can the time that they need it.

Kevin Horek: No, that's actually really interesting because I think at least as somebody that's kind of been on both sides where I've worked at companies that were just starting out, or we actually have some money to spend on some things it's still can be challenging, no matter what size you are is to kind of find that niche to go after for that campaign or whatever you're trying to publicize. Right. Because especially if you're a new brand that nobody's ever heard of yet trying to come up with a way to get in front of people can be really challenging and very time consuming.

Kofi Annan: Yeah. Yeah. I, and the, and it's one of the things that I learned even personally over the years is that you don't have to do everything yourself. It's about your resources. I think in some cases, depending on the kind of startup or the kind of new company, that's moving out, sometimes there's folks feel like they have to do it all right. Like I have to be the CEO, the CMO, the designer, the financial person, cause that's, if you're, if you're a bootstraps, like that's kind of what you have to do, right. To get things off the ground. I think there is an opportunity for aligning with different people expertise, obviously again, budget, depending on the budget and kind of being able to articulate what you want to do and what your budget is. And, reaching out to the people with expertise like myself, or even you all to kind of walk you through at least a framework to get there.

Kofi Annan: Now, whether, whether I do the designs or whatever, like I actually don't do designs. I don't do copy, look, stay in my lane in that sense. Whether I do what, how you do it and when you do it is one thing. I think being able to attain that knowledge and understanding the framework or the process to get to things helps. You can kind of, go to whomever to design or I'll put a create your website, everything. I think partnering up with people who have that expertise is really important and that's kind of, and it, and for startups who are budgets, strapped, it helps accelerate you to, right. If you want to be the next Puma, you want to move fast, but you want to also work smarter. You want to work smarter and you want to be more memorable. That's kind of what I encourage a lot of my clients to do.

Kevin Horek: Sure. Well, there's so many free or pretty inexpensive tools these days that will help you with your social media campaigns and your different things. There any other advice or ways that you've found that have worked to actually attract some of those audiences? Because I know it takes time and a lot of people think they set up an Instagram and a Twitter and other social media accounts, and they're going to get like a million followers and like that takes years to get like that. What are some good ways you found to actually attract some audiences?

Kofi Annan: I, I, I would start off with the best way to attract the right audience. It's fish, where the right people are. Not every, not if you're looking, I'm not a fishermen, but if you're looking for certain kind of fish, you would, you first have to go to the pond or the, body of water that those kinds of fish exists. Right. What I find with a lot of folks who go straight to, I need to cast them, I need to cast the cast, my hook. Right. So, they're just, but if your fishing again, if you're fishing in the wrong place you're going to get, so one of the things that I think is very important is audience insights, right? Before you start doing the do and being out there, understand who those artists do, that recon do that audit, or that research. And it's very painful.

Kofi Annan: I understand like folks want to like do something, but they don't want to spend the time doing the planning. One of the great tools that I found, and it's a, it's a, they have a free tier and then they also have kind of on tier payment, but it's a tool called spark Toro. And it's very inexpensive. I think even their, their first pay tiers probably about $50 a month or something like that. And, it's a tool that I use all the time, even with my larger and smaller clients. Just having a tool like that to get quickly get that audience insights is really key a to like spark Toro, or if you have the budget, something like Qualtrics or some of the more established tools will quickly, you can put in somebody's website or, or social handle. They've already done the workups of analyzing those handles.

Kofi Annan: They'll, I'll put you they'll, I'll put the data around who, what kind of people are falling that, that Instagram accounts, what did they like? What did they normally talk about? Hashtags that are using X, Y, and Z. Those kinds of tools, something like that, and spark Torres as much as it has a free. For startups, you could, like, you could literally go to spark to it right now and get an account for free. I think they have like the free versions, like five searches or something like that a month. You could punch in your competitor or whoever, or even yourself, if you want to really get it and you punch it in, and it'll, I'll put in say, this is the profile of the kind of people that are where they are, what the pond that they're in and what they're doing in that pond.

Kofi Annan: You could obviously just kind of move to them and say, okay, well, we want to be there. That's kind of one really down and dirty, really quick way to do it. I also have a, I created a cheat sheet from that's focused around using the, the key areas of my smarter brand framework that asks that people could download. And it asks questions. It says, it asks you the questions. It walks you through the kinds of things that you would want to be doing. If you go to a tool like spark turtle, do you want, what is, what are you trying to do? What are they talking to you about? What are the stories that they're telling you? Like those kinds of things, really down and dirty, 15 minutes audit. It's probably as much as a lot of brand new startups could do. I, and that's a free tool that I have on my website that folks get is download and use.

Kevin Horek: And what's the URL for that,

Kofi Annan: The URL. You could go to a G Kofi Annan. That G K O F I a N N a N. And I'll make it unique, solid. So just Kofi Annan slash B FTF. So building the future.

Kevin Horek: Perfect. No, that's cool, man. I'm curious, is there any other tools like that you use or have used in the past and maybe give us a little example of how you used it?

Kofi Annan: Sure. I'll, I'll the age old. The, sometimes we look for brand new ways of doing things where sometimes the way that we, the down and dirty, the tried and true ways also work. I'll say one of the things that I use regardless of the budget or the kind of clients, or the kind of industry, one of the key things that I, I use, anyone could use our surveys, email surveys, ask them, asking people, right. Whether it be through email or jumping on a I'm on a call with someone, it could be your customer. So, so for companies, I worked with a, a brand a number of years ago that had, it was in a concrete space, really interesting. Didn't know concrete was that complicated. Once these industries it's like, wow, I didn't know concrete. I thought it was just a topic, but, they was there.

Kofi Annan: They had been around for about 10 years, they were called cysteine technologies. The technology product for concretes, the concrete industry, and they had a number of different products and they've been around for a number of years. They kind of were known, but they, they, they had acquired a lot of their products. It was of a mish-mosh of, like from a naming and how they, how do we even identify it and how they all add it up to cysteines, the core company. It's a little confusing. You kind of didn't know which tool that was. Some of them duplicated those kinds of things. I was working with them, they were like, oh, we need to, we need to rebrand and we need to pivots, we need to get rid of some of these products, but we kind of don't know what the right things to do. Cause we do have customers that, how do we manage customers that had, that were familiar with certain products?

Kofi Annan: Again, this is kind of more of a medium sized startup type think what a lot of products. They wanted to do a lot of things. They had a all right budget, but really the first thing that we did, one of the first things that we did was okay, so you have customers already, okay. Let's pick a couple of your best customers. Like people who are like, oh my gosh, these people, like, they, they literally keep the lights on. Like if they go away, like, I would like, I want to duplicate those folks, right? Like a couple of your best customers, a couple of your worst customers. Folks that you had kind of a problem with, or, awareness, really spending money with you anymore. We're going to reach out to them and do, and just have a conversation with them. Right. And it's called stakeholder interviews.

Kofi Annan: So, you come up with certain kinds of questions and we create those questions. In the case of some folks that are like, I don't want to get on a phone or a zoom, just, I would like to give you input, but I don't really want to do that. You could send out literally a survey, a Google form, create a Google form, plug it in there, send it to them. Right. Like that's easy. Right. Of course the more complicated ways like you get on the call with them and you actually have the compensation, they, and record those stories. In particularly in that kind of a context, you want to pull out the stories that people are telling you, not just the, oh, I logged in and my account said X, Y, and Z. That's why I didn't use it anymore. But you want to dive deeper.

Kofi Annan: How, why did you this, and this framework that a lot of strategists use called the five whys. Just keep acting, ask if why I logged in and I stopped spending money with you because I logged in one day and my accounts didn't look right. Why did you feel that was a problem? Well, that the, the riots. If at about five whys, you've kind of gotten to kind of the key benefit or the story that either they've told themselves, but sometimes folks it's just feelings, right. It's emotions. But, so you understand the deeper need or the deeper conflicts that folks are, are that's resonated them, helping them and the things why people are making those decisions, whether it be a positive decision as it relates to the brand or negative decisions. Like, I don't like you because X, Y, and Z, well, I had a, at a professor some years ago and everybody hated him.

Kofi Annan: Cause I'm like, oh my gosh, his name was Ben Jones. I love him so much. He was an art professor, drawing and people hate it. Oh, he's so hard. He's just so difficult. He was my best professor always asks you why?

Kevin Horek: Interesting,

Kofi Annan: Because we had the session where you would put up your drawings or your, whatever your assignment was. You were like, well, and you have to describe it. Hey, I did this because X, Y, and Z. Of course, we're college students were like, oh yeah, I picked blue because it's nice. And he was like, no, why? Well, blue is why is blue nights well, blues? He would walk you through that is very painful right at first. But, it helps you get down to the core reason that people are making decisions in a positive or a negative sense. You know, why did they choose experiences? Why did they choose the bridge? Why they choose brands? What did not choose other brands, product, same thing.

Kevin Horek: Interesting that you bring that up because I had a similar experience, but I was taking this design class a number of years ago at UCLA in California. The one thing that blew me away was were not at computers at all. We were in a lecture hall and every week we had an assignment and we had to print off our designs, even if it was web. The first thing we had to do when we got into class is everybody had to just like duct tape or their designs to the basically like Blackboard at the front of the room. The teacher would go last, had to go through everybody's design and say what they liked about it. The key was, you had to say why, like what you liked, what you didn't like, what it meant to you. There was people from different parts of the world and different backgrounds and stuff.

Kevin Horek: What was really fascinating to me about that is there's certain things you don't think of, especially when you bring in like somebody else's cultural references. The one that kind of came up all the time was like, if you think of the colors, like red, white, and blue, everybody's like, well, that's America. If you're in parts of Europe, you'd probably say, well, that's France. Right. It sounds kind of stupid, but like, when you look at things like that objectively, and you have people point out like, oh, this to means this or this to means that you're like, wow, I never thought of it like that. I found that to be so eye-opening. I think if we did that more as like startup founders or people working at companies, and we just put up some of these different ideas and got a bunch of people from the company to say, like, what do you think of this?

Kevin Horek: Or what does this mean to you? And you take that honest, brutal feedback. You will learn so much and get so much insight from just people in your office and you don't need 10. You could do it with like three to five people. Right. And I found that really useful. I know it's not directly what you just mentioned, but that was something for me that worked and blew my mind. I still think about that from time.

Kofi Annan: Yeah. I agree. It is. It is exactly that we're living at a time now, especially the past two years. Right? Like talk about uncertainty, if you're marching, now, or you launch a couple of years ago, like uncertainty, you're like, you're living a certainty for it forever. Right. And, and that's what this, some folks are more comfortable with uncertainty, generally. Nobody likes it like, right. But, we can pull off this thing, like, oh, no, it's fine. I don't mind if things change every month. No. More importantly, you can't build a business on like constant change in that context. Right. Like, you're not going to have the brand awareness. You're not going to really build the customers or the audiences that are right for you if you're changing your product every day. Like, that level of iteration only hurts the brand and it, and it hurts the, the market or the industry as well.

Kofi Annan: You do so uncertainty is something that we live in through, but with that, the, the companies and the brands that are able to live through that and evolve, you look at someone like Nike, which is a multi-billion dollar company, and they're iterating, and they're evolving. They're, they're innovating the cliche word at an accelerated pace within this context, particularly because they have a framework and a structure, and they are always asking, right. As Nike is one of those companies that we see their products and we buy their products and we see them for what the output is, but they have just as much data around their customers and both the customer's behaviors to beliefs emotional or that kind of stuff, as any other Mike, Amazon, apple. I want to kind of stop Nike ID, any of the, if you've dealt with Nike on, even from the brick and mortar, like a Nike store, or you've done anything with Nike online, Nike has just as much information about what you like.

Kofi Annan: Right. In some cases it's creepy and but ideally you, Nike's also asking you a lot. If you're a Nike customer, you see, how do you feel about this? Those kinds of, pulsing it out over time helps Nike understand how people's beliefs, identities, and cultures are changing. They can take that because they have such a stringent framework and process internally from a product perspective in front of, from an insights perspective, they're able to take that outside information, turn it through there, their, the tried and true process and boom, you have them buying artifacts, which is like a, one of the key case studies for NFT sales in the fashion industry. Right. They bought the disc book, that company. Right. How did the Nike even knowing if the, I mean, artifact existed was because the Nike's on top of that, like they constantly looking at the landscape and the concept I just ended like, okay, we need to move in this space.

Kofi Annan: Okay. We don't want to invest our money is at acquisition making more sense. Yes. That's acquired his company.

Kevin Horek: Yeah, no, that's actually really quite fascinating because I think too, as well, this has always been the case, but I think the pandemic has really made, especially if you're a startup, that's only online is you have a global audience now. Just because you're based somewhere in the world doesn't mean your first or your most popular users might be in a totally different country. Right. Like there's a lot of startups that are in America, but they are really popular in, some part of Europe. Right. That got a hold traction there before they got traction in their own country. I think just understanding maybe why that is and how to kind of nourish that before you maybe go to other places and try to move, maybe back to your other and the rest of the world. Right.

Kofi Annan: I also, so part of, I mean, I, I consult and I, I work with larger clients, but I also work with a lot of incubators and accelerators as well, from an advisory perspective, because I do feel that a lot of founders and entrepreneurs have ideas and I DHEAS whether it be a product or an experience or whatever, have ideas that the world does need. Right. And, it might, for whatever reason, whether it be location or budget or, expertise, whatever, like they have, they might have hurdles to getting it out there at least from a mass market perspective. I, I'm one of the advisors for a organization called TAF, which is a fashion incubator in Singapore. It's focused on, they have cohorts every quarter, every quarter. And, they're primarily focused on fashion brands. You're talking about traditional fashion, or some folks are doing some stuff more in a digital context and to your points, a lot of folks are like, oh, great.

Kofi Annan: I had a, one of the folks I was advising, which was a, a fashion company that was really focused on genderless fashion. Right. That's kind of for the us, that's very fashion, culturally, it's more acceptable and more, but they are Singaporean company and their current customers are Singaporean. Right. So, from a culture perspective and beliefs, the market, the market wasn't as accelerated in as far as the gender norms as us. I, when I started talking to that company, the first thing was okay, I want to, Singapore, whatever, I don't know if I could work in Singapore. I want to come to the U S like, well, yes. Right. Kind of talk about that. What's your budget. What, it's the same kind of questions. Right. Let's crawl before we work, because there is some things that you could, you could some leverage some things that you could do locally that could prepare you for entering the U S market, which is a much bigger market.

Kofi Annan: A lot more from the outside end, you see kind of somewhat homogenous, there's even more fragments in the U S market, depending on where you are, which industry you are. So, my concept and my advice to them was, okay, let's look at the Singapore and market. Singapore is still a big city. It's a, it's a international hub. Like, it's still sure it still reflects kind of the new Yorks of the world. So let's look at that. Let's look at that fragmentation, let's look at this cup that the customer needs, this is, look at what you're trying to do with this agenda, genderless fashion thing. Like, what does that even mean? Right. How do you articulate it? What is the story around it? Why are you even, why are you, why should anybody listen to you and buy from your company? Because you said you wanted to do this agenda, this fashion, like what makes you the, the, the poster person for that, right.

Kofi Annan: I was into that. Why would I buy? Went through some exercises kind of helping that team with two people in that, in this case, really understand, okay, why are we passionate about this whole thing? Right. Let's articulate that, tell the stories. Let's get that down on paper. Let's clarify specifically why we interested. Okay. If we're interested in this, what in the local market who else is into, what kinds of people are interested in that, what did it look like? How did they spend their money and go through? And this is a rapid thing. This is not like six months of research, right. Because we don't have the time and budget, like you need to do this really quickly. That, again, that's where I really focused on the smarter brand framework to like, to move quickly, like even bigger brands I would argue still don't even have the six months they used to think they have.

Kofi Annan: Right. So, yeah. So, we walked through that and really, they found that opportunity within the local, Singapore and market with certain kinds of folks who are, were already buying or using, or engaging with certain kinds of brands, that from a finance perspective that we looked at, what they're spending in the price points and stuff really did match this, what this company could do locally. Instead of spending all the money to advertise and go global with the us and, and kind of be a small fish in a big pond, let's try and be a big fish in a small pond first, and then I'll move to the U S so, yeah, I mean, everyone's global every, like off the bat, but I would argue that a lot of startups take that too, literally sometimes. Right. Like, I just want to go to everyone. Well, if you're going to everyone, then you're not a value to anyone.

Kofi Annan: Like, who are you trying to find the value and where they exist?

Kevin Horek: No, I, I actually think that's really good advice and people should really consider that when they're looking at different things, but sadly we're out of time. How about we close with mentioning where people can get more information about yourself and any other links you want to mention?

Kofi Annan: Sure, sure. Everyone can find me I'm online on most of the particularly LinkedIn Twitter, Instagram, but my website is G Kofi Annan, G K O F I a N N a As I mentioned, I have the brand audit that folks could go there and download to just go to G Kofi, FTF. I'll have that brand audit 15 minutes brand audits. Folks could like quickly understand how they're perceived and what they want to change. Yeah. Folks could just go and download that for free.

Kevin Horek: Well, it could be a really, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to be on the show. I look forward to keeping in touch with you and have a good rest of your day, man.

Kofi Annan: Thank you. This is a great conversation. Thanks Kevin.

Kevin Horek: Yup. Thank you. Okay, bye.

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