How To Stand Out With Brendan Gahan Of Mekanism (@brendangahan)

Today we’re speaking with Brendan Gahan of Mekanism. Brendan Gahan is Partner & Chief Innovation Officer at creative agency Mekanism. He has been at the forefront of social & influencer marketing since 2006, developing social campaigns for brands such as Mountain Dew, Unilever, Amazon, 20th Century Fox, and The Olympics. He was recently named one of Linkedin's Top Voices in the Creator Economy. He was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2012 and his agency was recognized as Digiday’s Digital Video Agency of the year in 2017. He was recently named one of Linkedin's Top Voices in the Creator Economy. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur and has recently been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, The Guardian, and Ad Age for his expertise in social media and influencer marketing.



[00:00:00] Jessy: Hi everyone and welcome to the WIIM Podcast. Women in Influencer Marketing is a first of its kind exclusive networking group made up of inspirational women. This podcast is where we explore influencer marketing and get real about women in business. Find us wherever you download podcasts, and of course, you can always find us at iamwiim.com. That’s iamwiim.com. 

[00:00:22] Jessy: Hey guys, what’s going on? Thank you so much for joining today. If you’re listening to this on the day that this goes live, happy Valentine’s Day . I do hope that you guys have a really lovely day and I wanna be the first person to just acknowledge that Valentine’s Day is not always sunshine and rainbows for everyone.

[00:00:52] Jessy: In fact, I wrote a little blurb about. My thoughts about love and career and our latest newsletter, actually. So I hope you got a chance to read it if not, make sure you sign up. It’s iamwim.com/newsletter. Easy peasy. But just basically, I know that like holidays in general aren’t always what they are.

[00:01:17] Jessy: They’re not always Hallmark Holidays. The ones that we see visualized in commercials and hear about from others, I know that they can be hard. So if you’re just going through a breakup or you’re like not in the best relationship or you’re single and maybe you wish that you weren’t, I’m just sending lots of love to you.

[00:01:38] Jessy: It’s just another day and also a reminder that, if you just feel like there’s like something missing like you wish you could celebrate Valentine’s Day and have some more love in your life, just know that love can come.

[00:01:54] Jessy: In a lot of untraditional ways and just because it’s portrayed on TV or the movies that Valentine’s Day is all about getting flowers and candy and cards and getting a reservation and for dinner.

[00:02:08] Jessy: Like just know that you could also have a really lovely day of self-care and treat yourself to a spa and learn how to love yourself a little bit more or you know coming to, well, all our event is was last week, Galentine’s Day themed. So you can’t come to our event but there are other events around town or just like throw your own event with girlfriends and guy friends and just friends like people that you love.

[00:02:38] Jessy: I don’t know it’s just like fresh on my mind and I wanna acknowledge those of you who have plans like fantastic but you already know that like those of us who maybe it’s a challenging day I just wanna acknowledge you guys and send you guys a little extra love. So this episode today I’m very excited about.

[00:03:01] Jessy: We have Brendan Gahan from mechanism. He is the guy I follow on LinkedIn. The guy that I seen have seen recently moderate a panel at CES. But he’s so much more than that and I’ll tell you a little bit about him at least on paper and then he’s gonna tell you in his own words a little bit more about him as a human.

[00:03:22] Jessy: But, Brendan Gahan, he’s the partner and Chief Innovation Officer at the Creative Agency Mechanism. He’s been at the forefront of social and influencer marketing since 2006, developing campaigns for brands such as Mountain Dew, Unilever, Amazon, 20th Century Fox and even The Freaking Olympics. 

[00:03:43] Jessy: He was recently named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in the Creator Economy. He was also named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2012 and his agency was recognized as Digitize’s digital Video Agency of the year in 2017. 

[00:04:01] Jessy: He’s also a regular contributor to entrepreneur and has recently been featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, The Guardian and at age for his experience on social media and influencer marketing, you’re gonna get a ton of that this episode. I know you’re gonna enjoy it, so I’m gonna keep this intro short cuz I want you to enjoy my conversation with Brendan.

[00:04:26] Jessy: So I’m super excited to have you on today. You are someone that I saw a panel at CES. I’ve been following on LinkedIn for quite a bit. So when I reached out and invited you on, I was really happy that you took me up on my invitation.

[00:04:58] Jessy: So, welcome to the show. How’s it going? 

[00:05:00] Brendan: Of course, thanks for having me and things are going well. How you doing? 

[00:05:04] Jessy: I’m good. I’m good. We were like chit chatting a little bit before, the podcast started but I’m really excited to just get to have our audience get to know you a little bit more, get into the nitty gritty of influencer marketing, and let’s get into it.

[00:05:20] Jessy: So, we heard a little bit about you in the intro to this podcast, like your bio you on paper but I always think it’s beneficial and way more interesting to learn more about you off paper. Who are you in your downtime, what do you like to do for fun? Tell us about Brendan from like your friends and family’s perspective.

[00:05:45] Brendan: Oh, that’s interesting. That’s hard. Well, I would say definitely a lot of my life focuses around work in some capacity, whether it’s reading up on the space or now creating content. I admittedly am a bit of a workaholic, unfortunately.

[00:06:03] Brendan: But yeah outside of work, I’m from Southern California, grew up in Ventura which is just between LA and Santa Barbara. Definitely a SoCal kid at heart, grew up surfing it’s probably like the one sport that I identify with and still try and do today although it’s more of a vacation hobby more than anything else and I think friends and family would probably describe me as mellow and hardworking. I think that’s a little bit of the Southern California vibe. Let’s see what else? Hobbies wise, I like to read a lot I’m a big history buff. I love Theodore Roosevelt in American history and my middle name is, well I’ve got two middle names but one of ’em is Roosevelt.

[00:06:51] Brendan: My parents were a big fan of Theodore Roosevelt and The National Park System and all that. So, definitely that’s very much ingrained in me love the outdoors all that stuff. 

[00:07:03] Jessy: That’s pretty fun look good, those are some fun facts. I like that you went there like some people are like, I don’t know, what do I say?

[00:07:10] Jessy: But no, those are good. So, Brendan Roosevelt, wait, did you have another middle name? Did you say you have more than one? 

[00:07:16] Brendan: I have two and it makes filling out forms brutal. I don’t recommend it to anybody yeah. So my full name is Brendan Theodore Forsyth Gahan. 

[00:07:25] Jessy: That’s good but filling out forms not so fun. Can completely understand that. So from Southern California, do you still have family out there? Do you get out there? Like how often are you in Southern California? How often do you do you travel for work as well? 

[00:07:41] Brendan: Travel a lot for work. Travel home a lot. Like I, pretty much will take any opportunity to jump on a plane and visit family.

[00:07:49] Brendan: My immediate family’s all still in California. My older sister and her husband and kids are up in Northern California. But otherwise, yeah, my my younger sister and her family, they’re just about 20 minutes away from my hometown. My parents are in the same house that I grew up in and most of my extended family is in Southern California are, although there are a few folks up in Washington, but yeah, everybody’s on the West coast and yeah I really like going home. So, I’m probably home probably averages once every six weeks or so, although it’s a bit sporadic.

[00:08:29] Brendan: Yeah I miss Southern California, I miss hanging out with family and the beach and that whole vibe so, I make it out quite a bit and then work-wise, yeah, travel all over although post pandemic it hasn’t caught up to what it was pre pandemic for sure. 

[00:08:44] Jessy: So as like a self-proclaimed workaholic, did work bring you to the East coast or what brought you here?

[00:08:51] Brendan: A hundred percent. Yeah. So I had started the my own influencer marketing agency and when it was acquired by mechanism as part of the deal. I was to move to New York, although I was pretty much out here. I was almost out here full-time anyways and I would’ve been making the move regardless.

[00:09:09] Brendan: But yeah work was ultimately the thing that pushed me over the edge. 

[00:09:12] Jessy: So when you compare, those two cities, I don’t know if you’ve lived in a third or fourth city, you how do they compare, work-wise? I’m sure people listening to this podcast might be on the precipice of moving or they’re like it’s post pandemic you can live anywhere.

[00:09:29] Jessy: If somebody was looking to really like make the most out of networking and career but also balance it with fun and lifestyle, is there one city over the other that you recommend? 

[00:09:42] Brendan: Yeah, for sure. So work-wise let’s see, I lived in San Francisco for about seven or eight years. Did a sit in LA for a couple years and have been out in New York for, seven or eight years.

[00:09:55] Brendan: I think professionally, New York is the best hands down. I’d also say it’s like just probably the best city period. You get all the benefits of a city, late nights, plenty of things going on, good public transportation. I think New York is like really really incredible.

[00:10:13] Brendan: San Francisco, I really enjoyed my friends, the relationships that I made there and everything but the city itself I think leaves something to be desired.

[00:10:23] Brendan: And LA is fine. It’s a commuter city and you gotta drive all the time so that’s a bummer but you do have the weather, but I think, New York’s so much fun. The one downside is really just the beach, and the weather. I’m like, right now it’s pretty cold ,as you know although it’s… 

[00:10:42] Jessy: I’m here and it’s warmer than it’s been. Right? 

[00:10:45] Brendan: Yeah, a hundred percent and and it’s still cold for me like I can’t stand the winter in New York but yeah, I think New York is so much fun. I think it offers a ton for really anything you want to do personally as well as professionally. 

[00:11:00] Brendan: There’s just so many different types of people, so many different types of industries and you can make of it whatever you want. I think people assume oh, you live in New York you must be out all the time. It’s no, not really but it’s nice to have options and the ability to go out and explore and do whatever museums to drinks at any time, day or night or great restaurants and tons of smart people which makes it really stimulating I think.

[00:11:32] Jessy: That’s such a good way of describing it. I’ve said so as someone else who’s not originally from New York I’m from Miami, so I can completely relate to the beach thing the weather thing I feel that so much. 

[00:11:45] Jessy: But I’ve said about New York like, I was that girl who had posters of New York City on my wall as a kid like I was just awestruck and really always wanted to move to New York. I was so nervous that I couldn’t make it here but with all of those incredible expectations, this is one of the few things in life, New York City not just lived up to it but like above and beyond. So I love that you’re here as well and obviously have a love for it too.

[00:12:17] Jessy: I think it would be great to start by chatting a little bit about your professional journey and your personal brand. So I mentioned it, the start of this conversation that I’ve been following you closely on LinkedIn and I think we’re both, those nerds who’re part of the LinkedIn creator program.

[00:12:42] Brendan: Yeah.

[00:12:42] Jessy: I know I have so much fun on there and I see you posting way more even than I am and I’m like good for you and you’ve got all this engagement and, It’s such a fun place. It’s interesting, right? Like for those of us that work in social media, like it’s a social platform, but it’s also, where your tribe would be, right?

[00:13:02] Jessy: Because Instagram is just such a wide variety of everybody, but LinkedIn can be all your professional people, your tribe. So tell us just a little bit about your LinkedIn journey and like, how’s it going for yeah? 

[00:13:16] Brendan: For sure. So, I really started posting regularly on LinkedIn, the start of 2021, I believe it was. Maybe 20… no I think it was 2021 and, I think it really stemmed from, I’ve been working in social and influencer marketing for a long time. I got my first internship in 2005. Pretty quickly gravitated towards social and so that’s been my whole career.

[00:13:40] Brendan: But I’ve always been someone who’s very much behind the scenes and, worked with a ton of creators over the years and always admired what they did and the ability to put yourself out there, but always thought oh, that can’t be me, I can’t do that and at different times I tried to break out of that mold and, I started a blog and I’d just get analysis paralysis.

[00:14:03] Brendan: I’d start writing and then, I’d have a simple idea and then I would just over-engineer the whole thing and start writing and writing, and then when time came, time to post, I basically just choke to be honest. Like I think posting is the hardest part.

[00:14:20] Brendan: And so I don’t know, I was really frustrated with myself because I felt like I had things to say and, after being in the space so long and I also wanted to just share my thoughts and ideas because working within an agency, not every idea you’ve got, you’re able to execute on.

[00:14:42] Brendan: And I wanted to prove to myself, I can, not necessarily grow like a massive audience, but connect with people and build a community in some capacity. I wanted to put my money where my mouth was essentially, and so I was thinking about it. I was like, what do I need to do to overcome this?

[00:15:00] Brendan: And I came up with the idea of well, I’ll just post once a day. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be good. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything, really deep or, thought provoking. I really just need to inoculate myself to this idea that this isn’t me and overcome that fear.

[00:15:21] Brendan: So, I basically just made a promise to myself, all right, you’re gonna post once a day and, It doesn’t matter if it’s one sentence or just sharing a link, you’re gonna do that and build up that habit. And so I started there, and yeah, I’ve really kept it up since I don’t post every single day now.

[00:15:38] Brendan: Like I’ll go through phases, but usually it’s at least three to five times a week and it’s been great. I would say the positives are, from a business standpoint, building relationships, getting new business, continuously keeping on the radar of a lot of people within the space.

[00:15:55] Brendan: Reconnecting with old friends, making new friends, as a byproduct of that, I got into like angel investing and stuff, which was really cool. 

[00:16:04] Brendan: And from a sort of like a personal fulfillment standpoint, it’s been really validating in a lot of ways. I think it’s a direct result of that. Opportunities like doing CES and talking at events and that sort of thing, or a direct result of that. I would assume, and I think when you put yourself out there, you act like a lighthouse and you send a message to everyone who thinks similarly that you’re there too. And, you generate a lot of connections and conversations as a byproduct of that. 

[00:16:36] Brendan: So, it’s been really fascinating. I think as many positives as there are, I would also say it’s, can be really stressful at times. I think, even though I’m not posting anything personal, it’s like really much just really just like my thoughts on the space. It can be really difficult in a lot of ways because you’re always like, crippling self-doubt oftentimes people gonna think this is good, should I do more of this? Or people didn’t react to that and am I, suddenly like losing touch with what’s interesting or relevant.

[00:17:11] Brendan: Am I saying anything important? But net it’s been a positive, I think. 

[00:17:16] Jessy: Well, I appreciate the vulnerability and like I can relate to that as well and I’m sure many people can. If you are brave enough to put yourself out there, on a consistent basis, like there are just moments where you’re like, do people wanna hear about this?

[00:17:36] Jessy: Keeping a finger on the pulse of what is interesting or what people wanna know about that’s tricky. That’s definitely a challenge, but I think it’s really freaking cool that you’re getting opportunities from it as well. I think it’s way cooler that you’re being very consistent about it and holding yourself accountable doing that.

[00:17:59] Jessy: What advice would you give to somebody who, has been maybe wanting to do this for a while or, is like is like a little nervous to start. Is there any advice that you would give them just to like put themselves out there professionally on a platform like LinkedIn? 

[00:18:16] Brendan: A hundred percent. I think you gotta not overthink it and build up the habit more than anything else.

[00:18:22] Brendan: I assume most people’s issue is probably like what mine was and maybe that’s not the case, but I think most people get, scared of voicing their opinion and and scared of criticism and being scrutinized. I think that’s the biggest issue and if that’s the case, I think it’s really best to sort of like start small and really focus on building up that habit so that you just become immune to this idea that like every post is a big deal and it has to be this big perfect kind message out to the world, because I think once you overcome that, then you can start to really, focus on the craft and the message much more and you’re not distracted by kind of these insecurities. 

[00:19:11] Brendan: There’s a good quote, I’ve seen different versions of this, but you’ve gotta make a hundred really bad videos before you make one really good one.

[00:19:19] Brendan: Like YouTubers say that quite a bit. And I think when you approach something new with that mindset like oh, like it’s supposed to be bad, this is my first time. There’s something sort of liberating in that because then it’s like I’m getting one bad one outta the way, which moves me closer to like one good one.

[00:19:39] Jessy: Oh yeah. No, I mean I think that’s like in life, just approaching life in that way because every subsequent thing that you do will just be better than the one before cuz you’re always learning something. You’re building a callous, you’re taking in so much information.

[00:19:57] Jessy: Like some of the smartest people I know, they’re just really good listeners and they, they’re humble enough to take in the information that they’re given and I don’t know, it’s just like a more fulfilling life too, to just be growing, snowballing your knowledge set and your, just your craft.

[00:20:17] Jessy: So I agree with that wholeheartedly. You know now, you’re a creator yourself and, 

[00:20:24] Jessy: If you could write a playbook for creators, whether they’re on LinkedIn or whether you’re pulling knowledge, from the agency side of yourself, what would that playbook say, for how creators could be more successful these days ?

[00:20:45] Brendan: For sure. Well, I think there’s a bunch of different ways I could probably answer that and I’ll take a crack at it one way and then we can see, where else we can take it. But I think if we’re thinking about creators who are looking to sort of turn building a community into a living. I’ll sort of rip off what I heard Samir say at the CES panel we did with him.

[00:21:09] Brendan: And I think he broke it down really cleanly. It’s sort of like a three phase approach, like one find community market fit, so you know, create content until it gets traction you build a community around that, and that’s the first step. 

[00:21:23] Brendan: And then from there you want to scale the unscalable. Which is you, the creative element. So, you’ve gotta be in front of the camera, you’ve gotta be writing the tone, et cetera. If you’re doing video, for example, try and find, a team, get, producers, editors, writers, et cetera. So that they can take on more of the heavy lifting and the creator who needs to be in front of the camera can focus on being that piece that they have to be the essential element for.

[00:21:54] Brendan: And then from there, I think you you invest in the scalable pieces of the business. So, developing a product, paid community, et cetera. And so I think that’s sort of the roadmap for maybe like the classic, influencer creator looking to make a business.

[00:22:12] Brendan: Was that sort of the question you were asking or were you thinking more in the context of, like professionals looking to build their own sort of thought leadership presence?

[00:22:22] Jessy: I like asking open-ended questions. Okay, cool, here and letting you take it where you wanna take it. So, yeah, that’s a great answer and I think that like maybe to your point, the word creator, the word influencer has become more and more broad over the years, which I think is freaking awesome.

[00:22:43] Jessy: The fact that we’re creators and then the fashionistas of the world, they’re like the mommy bloggers, like they’re creators too but we’re all in, a similar space but different lanes and that’s incredible. And I think it’s also, really exciting to know that there’s that many different opportunities out there for people, if they are looking to monetize their creativity or their community and things like that.

[00:23:14] Jessy: But, yeah. Is there anything else you wanna add? 

[00:23:17] Brendan: Well, I think if we’re talking about it in the context of somebody who’s working then in the industry and trying to… oh, I wanna start posting on LinkedIn or whatever platform of choice and really put themselves out there, I would say a few things.

[00:23:34] Brendan: Like one is maybe, take out a piece of paper and, draw a line. So you’ve got three columns and think about what am I passionate about, and what am I really knowledgeable about? And then what could I do day, every single day and just create a list, laundry list of ideas in those three buckets, and ideally I would imagine there’s probably some intersection of those three that allows you to speak professionally in a way that’s really sustainable and interesting to you.

[00:24:06] Brendan: And I think that whole idea of what are you passionate about and what’s a mode of like creation that is feasible and easy for you to sustain on an ongoing basis is really key because if it’s not easy or not… I shouldn’t say easy, like it’s it’s gonna be difficult, but if it’s too difficult, and it’s just not sustainable, it becomes this huge headache to do every single day. You’re just not going to do it like you’ll do it a handful of times. 

[00:24:37] Brendan: So really think about the minimum viable content and start there. I started posting on LinkedIn and oftentimes I just post a sentence with an article that I thought was interesting and started there and then over time began expanding.

[00:24:53] Brendan: And so I think that’s. Sort of framework to, to potentially use. 

[00:24:57] Brendan: And then, one other sort of random tip is, for anyone who hasn’t read the War of Art, I highly recommend you read that. That’s such a great book in terms of understanding and analyzing the, maybe like mental roadblocks and like why you are or are not creating in some capacity.

[00:25:18] Brendan: So I love that book and I highly recommend. 

[00:25:21] Jessy: So what did you take from it personally? Like when you put it down and you had one of those aha moments, you were like, shit I learned this about myself, or this really opened up something for you, what was it personally about that book for you?

[00:25:36] Brendan: I think it’s a few things like one, and I actually have a quote in front of me, but or two quotes in front of me first like fear never goes away. Anybody creating always has that sort of fear. 

[00:25:49] Brendan: And then yeah here I’ll just read this line. So fear doesn’t go away not with success, nor awards nor age. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day. 

[00:26:03] Brendan: Like he just does such a good job breaking down, the sort of mental battle and hurdle that you constantly have to overcome and there’s just like a lot of great stories in it about different artists and creators and the battle with that resistance to create and push, publish, basically.

[00:26:25] Jessy: Push publish, yeah, absolutely, or as late push schedule cuz you can schedule things too. 

[00:26:31] Brendan: Yeah.

[00:26:32] Jessy: The future which helps a little bit of that mental battle too, cuz sometimes you’re like in the zone and you’re doing it and you’re like, ah, let me just schedule some stuff for the next like week.

[00:26:43] Jessy: So I don’t know, like maybe those little features that are, slowly being rolled out as of late, like the scheduling feature that I just used for the first time on Instagram yesterday. Maybe that will help some of the mental barriers or like just the reality is that it can be a struggle to constantly be in production mode.

[00:27:06] Jessy: There are very few people in the world that can do that and just be on all the time. So, creators that you’ve worked with that you’re aware of, you follow so many awesome people and it sounds like you’re someone who really values just like learning from others generally.

[00:27:24] Jessy: So, which creators according to you, have built some of the best brands to date? I wanna get to know your taste and creators. 

[00:27:32] Brendan: Oh my gosh yeah. I have so many that I like, for a lot of different reasons. Let’s see here, in the creator space specifically, I like Justin Moore, who’s the Creator Wizard.

[00:27:46] Brendan: He’s got an email newsletter, geared towards creators. Looking to, start monetizing their audiences and he’s got so many great tips and stuff. So I just like him because I think working in influencer marketing, I wish every creator would follow his advice.

[00:28:03] Brendan: I love, Creator Hooks. That newsletter is great. It breaks down and analyzes YouTube channels, based off their titles and performances. So in performance, so he finds within YouTube channels, like outlier videos, both good and bad and then analyzes them and breaks down like frameworks of like why their title’s worth. I think that’s really interesting.

[00:28:28] Brendan: And then a bunch of creators that, are like outside of that group directly. Growing up surfing, I love that there’s like this whole crop of creators. Surfer creators, pro surfers creating content, so like Jamie O’Brien, Dane Reynolds, Makua Rothman, Nathan Florence, Tina Cohen, Ben Gravy.

[00:28:49] Brendan: It’s interesting. I think a lot of what’s happened within, media in general and big brands, in more the traditional space we’re seeing in the surf industry before it was like really consolidated. You had, surfer magazine, surfing magazine, and transworld and like that was all the media, it was like the equivalent of three channels.

[00:29:13] Brendan: And then with the internet, that all blew open and, a lot of the big surf companies fell into disrepair cause they couldn’t really keep up, and so all these surfers are like starting their own brands and their own media outlets and really fascinating to see that transition in another space.

[00:29:34] Brendan: And then I listened to a lot of let’s see, like the Andrew Huberman podcast, Sam Parr and Sean Perry’s podcast, My First Millions, Tim Ferris. All those as well.

[00:29:45] Jessy: So if you could identify a through line in all of those, you know like your taste in creators, why you think they’re so successful. Is there a through line in there? What are they all doing that has gotten them on your radar? 

[00:30:04] Brendan: That’s a good question. I think a lot of ’em, it’s like a lot of analysis and less, fluff. They’re engaging personalities, for sure that’s very helpful.

[00:30:19] Brendan: But there’s like real in-depth conversations and it’s not just reacting to, the news out there in the world and repackaging, commoditized bit of information, but actually coming up with sort of original thinking frameworks, data, analysis in some capacity and providing real tangible value minus the surfing stuff that’s just pure entertainment. But for everything else.

[00:30:49] Jessy: I was gonna say, oh, they’re like teaching you like surfing … I’ve never surfed in my life, so I’m probably like spitting out who knows what but okay, so those are just fun. Those are just fun. 

[00:30:59] Jessy: But the other ones, so they’re value driven, they’re more of like thought leadership. They’re not the ones who are just like riffing off of other people or riding trends. Okay. No, that makes total sense. 

[00:31:12] Jessy: So let’s flip it a little bit, right? 

[00:31:14] Jessy: So like on the brand side, I’m sure you have worked with probably hundreds of brands, maybe thousands at this point, and, are continuing to work with them through mechanism.

[00:31:28] Jessy: What brands can we say have done great work lately that you wanna shout out, give them their flowers? Who should we know about? 

[00:31:39] Brendan: Yeah, for sure. Well, I’ll shout out a client, who we do a lot of work with Adobe who, gosh, I’m blanking on the study, but there was some study out there about like best brands to work with in, in 2022 and Adobe was on there and I think they’ve just done a great job embracing creators and supporting creators. So, them for sure. 

[00:32:01] Brendan: I think Adidas has done a lot of great innovation stuff, as well. Going back to a couple years ago, they did an in-depth partnership with Ninja and they, co-created product, and I think that’s like akin to the Nike Jordan model in a lot of ways, which I think a lot of brands would benefit from modeling themselves after doing long-term, creator relationships where you’re actually collaborating across, campaign touchpoints, co-creating product, all that. So I think they do a great job. 

[00:32:36] Brendan: Cash app has done a lot of cool work, they had a deep partnership with A Hundred Thieves a while ago. They launched Cash App Studios, which is looking to fund and invest in creators.

[00:32:46] Brendan: I think Elf has done a great job over the years, they’ve consistently been on the bleeding edge of a lot of everything from creative partnerships to just social in general.

[00:32:58] Brendan: I always like to think of like with innovation and making headway in social, there’s a great framework, first, biggest, best. And if you can be one of those three on a platform or with some new strategy, you’re creating something really interesting, and I think they’re very consistently first, and as a result they get a lot of disproportionate amount of value from various platforms or strategies.

[00:33:27] Brendan: And then I think there’s some, emerging brands that are more endemic to the creator economy that they’re doing great job like Karat Financials. They created like their own creative Shark Tank, they’ve got a podcast, they’ve got, a creator house, and I think they’ve done a really great job bringing creators into the fold of the brand in a really collaborative way that is I think really special.

[00:33:52] Jessy: Totally. Like with Karat, at least I think of like a creator house and a this and that. I also just wanna make sure that these are viable enough to be sustainable for their businesses. You know what I mean? 

[00:34:10] Jessy: If you’re the Adidas of the world, you could be a little bit more loose with your funds and with your wallet. And I feel like Karat is probably funded, I believe as well, so I’m…

[00:34:21] Brendan: Pretty sure.

[00:34:21] Jessy: Yeah. You pretty sure and it’s Karat, K A R A T for anyone who’s curious and wants to check them out, they’re doing cool stuff. So this is like a good segue though, so you’re talking about Elf I refer to them as E L F, but who knows?

[00:34:35] Brendan: E L F yeah.

[00:34:36] Jessy: Both. Right. But people have definitely refer to them as both. I think of them as being like one of the first, TikTok super embraced it, like the song, I remember I went to was it VidCon last year, maybe the year before and like they always have a presence there and anyways, 

[00:34:54] Jessy: I think it’s a perfect segue to talk a little bit about TikTok. We’d probably be remiss if we didn’t.

[00:35:00] Jessy: So, with the strategies that you guys are implementing with your brand clients, it sounds like you guys work with Adobe and like a ton of other people, how does TikTok play into your team’s strategies this year in particular? 

[00:35:14] Jessy: I wanna be like a fly on the wall and, tell us a little bit about how those conversations go, are people, still a little nervous to get on it? Are people fully embracing it? Do they have clarity on how to proceed on TikTok? What are some of those conversations like? 

[00:35:31] Brendan: Yeah, for sure it’s been really interesting. The rate of adoption around TikTok is fascinating. I think it went from experimental to staple. So quickly.

[00:35:43] Brendan: I’m trying to remember of the exact year, but we did a really early branded hashtag challenge right after, TikTok had acquired musically and rebranded and launched this TikTok and it was within a few months. What was year was that, that might have been like 2019 maybe. Maybe earlier…

[00:36:04] Jessy: For sure. 

[00:36:04] Brendan: Yeah, it was when they were brand new and at the time it was like, yeah, people were like, what is this thing? And it was, the perception was, oh, it’s, dancing and, kids doing dance trends and Okay, fine. Like maybe we’ll dabble. 

[00:36:21] Brendan: But now it’s just, a staple, and I think TikTok has done a great job embedding itself with brands and agencies and marketers and, shifting very quickly from that sort of experimental budget to, staple.

[00:36:37] Brendan: I think they’ve done a few things really well they’ve messaged, the idea of make Tik Tok’s not ads so people really understand, marketers really understand the need to create natively for the platform, and not just like post ads, which I think is a real problem for a lot of the other social platforms, you just get a piece of content that gets repurposed and published and then it doesn’t perform well and people are wondering why?

[00:37:05] Brendan: Additionally, they’ve gone from yeah, it initially was teen Gen Z, but now it’s mainstream the overwhelming majority of their audiences, adults 20 plus, I actually have the data here somewhere cuz I actually just got a media kit recently, I can see if I can find it while we’re on here.

[00:37:26] Brendan: Oh yeah, I do have it actually. So, It’s yeah only 12% of the audience is, teens right now. So it went from like this niche to mainstream usage, people understanding the need to make content specific to the platform, and transitioning away from just this novelty of a branded hashtag challenge to real, add staple via the self-serve dashboard, et cetera.

[00:37:56] Brendan: And and now, I don’t wanna say every client is using them, but, certainly the overwhelming majority, and there, good reason for it. It’s incredibly engaging I think, the beauty of TikTok was their investment in prioritizing the for you page, which, if you think about it, with every other social platform you would need to go, you’d have to have mutual connections to create an engaging timeline.

[00:38:24] Brendan: And with TikTok, you didn’t need that. You could just post something and it, if it was good, it’d be pushed out to the for you page and people would engage with it and you could engage with other people’s content, and so it uncoupled the social graph in this really interesting way that allowed the best stuff to rise to the top.

[00:38:44] Brendan: And I think for a lot of brands, they felt like they were Sisyphus, pushing the rock uphill and getting, marginal gains and then suddenly there was this unlock and it’s oh, we can push stuff out there and actually grow an audience. 

[00:39:01] Brendan: Whereas on all these other platforms, it just feels like it’s so saturated where, we’re not getting the returns, certainly from a community standpoint we once used to be able to. 

[00:39:14] Jessy: So, I have a question, so those who are like fully embracing TikTok, they feel comfortable on the platform, they’ve embraced it, they’re doing it. What does success look like for them on there and does it differ from some of the other platforms like, the traditional YouTube or Instagram where, we measure certain data points on there? Is it different on TikTok? basically just what does success look like on there? 

[00:39:41] Brendan: Yeah, it definitely depends on every brand. For a lot of brands it simply is like an engagement play. Hey, let’s build a community, we want a lot of engagement, we want people to think we’re cool

[00:39:53] Brendan: . Similarly with branded hashtag challenges that we’ve done. The goal is basically yeah, how can we get a lot of people participating in this so we get this knock on effect of earned awareness and this halo of, thousands of people and potentially millions of additional views from people participating, and I would say most content and activations still sit within that bucket of, it’s a channel for awareness and engagement and consideration.

[00:40:22] Brendan: But more and more TikTok is pushing their performance marketing capabilities. I wouldn’t say it’s quite on par with Meta yet, but the rate of innovation is pretty impressive, they’re moving very quickly. 

[00:40:38] Jessy: Well, TikTok, if you ask anybody who works there, they consider themselves a startup , which still blows my mind, honestly.

[00:40:46] Jessy: I certainly don’t think of them as a startup having owned startups, worked at startups. 

[00:40:51] Brendan: Yeah.

[00:40:51] Jessy: But, given that they have the startup mentality, I guess they’re able to pivot quickly or innovate fast and, maybe there’s not as many hoops to jump there’s certainly not as many hoops to jump through as I can imagine, if you’re pushing some product or innovation at Meta, whether it’s Instagram or Facebook.

[00:41:08] Jessy: So, Okay, I can buy into that. So I, I think a great place to end our conversation is just so our audience can just learn a little bit more from you, I’m sure they’ve learned a ton already and I just appreciate the time. 

[00:41:25] Jessy: What are some of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned that you can pass along to our audience? This can be influencer marketing related or not.

[00:41:34] Brendan: For sure. I think sort of influencer marketing related and career related, I would say it’s maybe one and the same, I think don’t be a commodity. I think differentiation leads to distinction. Oftentimes it’s very easy to sort of I’ll go with career-wise first.

[00:41:55] Brendan: It’s easy to get get sucked into established roles, but, if you are are investing in the next thing, you get to be a big fish in a small pond and grow with it.

[00:42:07] Brendan: And then on the influencer marketing front, I think it’s the same thing. If you think about it, the best way to stand out, I feel an influencer marketing is to not approach it the way most brands do, which is they focus on one-offs. They’re very transactional. A lot of the work is done without any sort of face-to-face or human touch and, I think when you really take the time to talk to creators early, you can vet and identify who’s really interested in this project, who’s really passionate about it, and then as you select who to work with, investing a little bit more in that personal touch, creating experiences ideally in real life, and get some FaceTime with them, get their feedback and vice versa, you create something that’s really special and relationship driven as much as you know the contract, which naturally you need.

[00:43:07] Brendan: But it’s not a media buy, and I think oftentimes a lot of brands and marketers approach it through the lens of of a, strictly transaction as a result. I don’t think you get get like that magic that comes from a creator who is really passionate, which, to get people excited about something that, that usually takes you, making them feel excited and investing in them and creating experiences for them.

[00:43:32] Brendan: And I think when you go about it that way you get great great work. 

[00:43:36] Jessy: I love that, I appreciate that so much. So just, don’t fall into that trap of the like transaction after transaction plus I get, I don’t know, more fun, more fulfilling to think of it, a relationship driven, it’s just so much more fulfilling that way.

[00:43:53] Jessy: So, I am so happy that you could join today. I have a feeling that our audience is probably gonna wanna get in touch. So, when they do, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

[00:44:06] Brendan: For sure, whatever your platform of choice is, you can probably find me. I’m at Brendan Gahan, B R E N D A N G A H A N and, I just started up a newsletter, so if you go to my website, maybe sign up for that’d be awesome, and yeah yeah I’d ask people to go there, actually. Start there and then…

[00:44:28] Jessy: Yeah, plug it. Plug it.

[00:44:31] Brendan: Yeah. Brendangahan.com 

[00:44:33] Jessy: Perfect and we will link that in the show notes. Everyone, thank you so much for your time, Brendan, thank you so much for everyone tuning in, and we will see you next.

[00:44:41] Jessy: If you enjoyed this episode, we gotta have you back. Check out our website for more ways to get involved, including all the information you need about joining our collective. You can check out all the information at iamwiim.com. Leave us a review, a rating, but the most important thing that we can ask you to do is to share this podcast.

[00:45:01] Jessy: Thanks for listening. Tune in next week.

Brendan Gahan

Partner & Chief Social Officer, MEKANISM

Brendan Gahan is Partner & Chief Innovation Officer at creative agency Mekanism. He has been at the forefront of social & influencer marketing since 2006, developing social campaigns for brands such as Mountain Dew, Unilever, Amazon, 20th Century Fox, and The Olympics. He was recently named one of Linkedin’s Top Voices in the Creator Economy.  He was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2012 and his agency was recognized as Digiday’s Digital Video Agency of the year in 2017.  He was recently named one of Linkedin’s Top Voices in the Creator Economy. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur and has recently been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, The Guardian, and Ad Age for his expertise in social media and influencer marketing.

Book Your Session