“I’m asking for negative feedback from the get-go.”
Mario Quezada and I have an open conversation on what it means to be a senior strategist and how we both found our way here from different backgrounds. We get down to the details when it comes to dealing with clients and talk about how content creation has changed our careers.
The overall theme of this video explores the ultimate balance as a creative—having enough empathy to speak the language of your audience, yet being detached enough that you can accept criticism and embrace growth.
If this video is revealing that you may need some guidance with your own brand, we’re happy to help. Here at Wildstory, we offer a no-obligation, one-on-one brand clarity call where we can consult you on the root of your brand challenges. Think that may be right for you? Click the link below to find out.
Marc Gutman 0:00
Thanks for clicking on my video, what you’re about to see is a super candid conversation with me and my friend Mario. We’re both strategists who come at strategy from different angles. I got my start with words, and he got his start design, but we’re both trying to get to the same place. This conversation is full of gold nuggets. And I think you’re gonna find this to be super helpful. There we go. Alright, I’m here with Mario Kesava. And we are talking all things strategy today, and as well as many things. Yeah, you’re ready, you’re ready. I’m nervous now. Well, Maria, you and I were rapping a little while ago. And we were talking about how it’s really interesting that you and I both are our strategists. And we’re both ultimately, after the same goal for our clients, we have a lot of the same processes and teachings but we, we both came to this to this kind of meeting place from very different worlds, you came from a design background, and I come from this this land of words, I’m not a designer, I don’t know anything about design. I love designers. I want to be a designer. I like hanging out with designers. But I don’t know anything about design. And so why don’t you if you would just take a moment and talk a little bit about your journey as a designer and how you how you came to this thing called brand strategy.
Mario Quezada 1:32
Accidentally, I think is the kind of like overview word for me falling into brand strategy. I was actually, I think it just was caught over over the course of my career. Now, it’s weird to say that even though I’m 46, I have a career I’ve had a career in design, starting at, you know, 1996, when we were both babes. But I was in art school, I started email@example.com very early on in the 90s. And started learning started really getting thrown into very strategic positions as far as why we were doing what we’re doing, how to explain that, how to design that and how to build these experiences in this new world, called the internet. And so because I was I was 19. I was I was thrown into this world. So early it was it was really the way I learned how to explain design. When I was building. When I was building my animations in Flash, when I was like doing Gif animations, where I was doing website designs, whatever it was branding, it really became the vernacular of how I used or what I used to speak about my design. Even though I did come from a design place I was, you know, I’m a designer, I do illustration I you know, I love typography visuals, as my jam. That’s, you know, it’s really what I wanted to do. But early on, I was just thrust into this world of figuring out how to explain a user’s journey and a user’s place and a user’s experience in every touchpoint of what I made. And having to explain that at such an early at such an early point in my then budding career. Over time, it was just it grew into really understanding what the client needed and choosing the right questions to ask and how to build rapport and how to connect relationally with people to to get them to earn trust, so that we can build the best thing for them and solve their problem.
Marc Gutman 3:56
So can I ask it really right there? Yeah, absolutely. Not to interrupt, but you’re talking that through your your career, you started to learn, hey, like, I have to describe what this thing I’m making, like how that actually matters in a user journey, and how that impacts like, why is that important? You know, because there’s so
And the reason I ask I think so many people just design they they and I don’t want say just design because I don’t mean it to be demeaning in that way. But I mean, they rush to design they, they execute, they put things out without thinking about that user and that user. So why was that important to you? Like what were you seeing at that point? Like, why was that important?
Mario Quezada 4:37
It’s funny because it in the beginning, it didn’t realize why it was important. I was just like, I want to just be a cog in the wheel. But because I was at a studio that demanded a certain level of explanation as we’re building things out, and our teams were huge, and we had to do things that were that were seen by literally millions of people, every time we put anything on the internet people, you know, millions of people were, we’re looking at these things because it’s Disney, we had to understand what they needed. And so for me early on, I just wanted to be a cog in the wheel and some make make cool stuff. But as I learned how to how to speak the language of our users, it allowed me to make everything so much better. It allowed me to create experiences that they both enjoyed, they were excited about, and they learned something from and it was easy for them to navigate, in every which way, whether they’re in a story, and they’re kind of navigating this internal story, or they’re going around a website or clarity was king. And really design was, was not an afterthought. But design thinking became the forethought. Right, it’s like thinking in a design sense of how to help these people get to the information that they needed, and they wanted. So that’s why it was important. That is why I learned and as I started and starting there, and kind of like being forced to start there, made everything much easier. I was always asking, why, why do you want to do this? Why Why not that? Why have you done this? Why are you doing this now? So a lot of wise, what questions you know, what, what have you tried already? What is it? What is? What’s the point of all this? What’s your goal behind making this blue rather than pink? Like, you know, like we know it should be. So just certain certain questions had to had to be asked, it was very certain at a very early point in my career, and that really formulated my thinking around design a lot more than just going to design school.
Marc Gutman 6:52
Yeah, and I think a design so often, you know, I think the schema in our brains, the way we think of the word design is visuals. But for me when I think of design is exactly how you just described it in terms of design thinking, which is really designing solutions to problems. And that very often takes the form of visual visual identity or visual creation or something graphic. But it could also be words, it could be something totally different. It could be a solution to a problem. And so that were you different, like were you. And maybe you didn’t realize it at the time, like asking all these why and what questions because that doesn’t always seem to be the norm.
Mario Quezada 7:32
I wasn’t, I was part of a really tiny team. And I wasn’t different in my team necessarily, because we were all we were all there’s three of us that were 1920. there we were, we were kind of like highschool friends, and we just kind of found ourselves in this place. And we were learning and kind of growing together in that in that place. I found that I was different when I stepped out of that place. And I was like interacting with other designers or even people because I stepped out of art center to work at Disney for a time. And we talked about this before then I went back later, like years later. But stepping out of Disney stepping out of this design thinking world and into interaction with just normal everyday businesses or companies or even my peers that were still in design school, I realized that how, how intensely my thinking had changed. And into knowing that design thinking wasn’t just how do I solve this logo problem? It was it was a thought based problem solving thing that I was doing. And it was I couldn’t stop it anymore. Because it was it was so powerful and the way I solve people’s problems. And that was what I that was what I focused on. I didn’t focus on type ographers necessarily. I didn’t focus on fonts, I didn’t focus on colors. At that point I was focusing on like, how can I make this thing? Do what you need it to do? in the best way possible? And even before that, how do we make whatever it is the thing that you need that to do? Right? So how do we make? How do we make? Maybe it is your words, maybe it’s simply your words, maybe your everything else is beautiful and fine. You’re just using the wrong verbiage. Or maybe your website is black, and it should be white, or maybe it should be, you know, in a totally different language. Who knows. But I did know that I was asking those questions that my peers that were still in school, hadn’t learned yet to ask which is which is really interesting to me cuz they’re in school, doing the thing that I should have been doing at that time, too.
Marc Gutman 9:47
I mean, it’s super interesting to me hearing you talk like, that wasn’t me, you know, like I was executer I was like, I wasn’t really thinking, why or what I was thinking like how and And the how being like, how do I get this job? How do I deliver? How do I just, you know, meet, you know, the expectation of whoever wanted whatever. And I look back and, you know, I wish someone at a much earlier age would have said no, no, no, like the right questions to ask are why questions and what questions and to really be thinking about that you’re solving a problem, you’re not doing it a task? And I know, for me, I mean, it was many years before, like, I really thought in that way that, you know, we’re solving a problem not just delivering on a specific request or task, you know?
Mario Quezada 10:35
Yeah, I mean, I definitely was, I was still young, and I was still, you know, maturing in every way possible, honestly. But I hadn’t really understood that Disney had had that kind of mindset, like, just complete shift in my brain, to where I was asking these types of questions. I am still concerned with all the same things. I was like, how is this going to happen? Blah, blah, but, but I was also asking these is what and why questions all as well. And it seemed to, it seemed to be a much better place that I would end up, then just just asking, okay, how fast what’s your budget? You know, when do you need buy all the other questions that we would typically ask for, like, producing things. So that the whole the whole piece of the whole piece of the what and the lie, I didn’t think about that, I guess I wasn’t cognitive? I wasn’t consciously doing that it was just happening. And so, but I would still, you know, obviously, it as I grew into it, and I started realizing that the power of the what the power of the why really trumped? Just producing and jumping right into the design. Yeah, it was, it was interesting, growing, growing into design that way, and growing into strategy that way, I came at it, I think of it, I think of coming at it from the backside anyway, cuz I didn’t know what I was doing. You know, I was like, I discovered that I was doing strategy. I was like, Oh, that’s what I do. There’s a word for that. Okay, I get it. Let’s let me learn more about how to do that better. But, you know, I came at it from a design problem, I came at it like, how can I fix your, your imaging problem, your design problem, your logo problem, branding problem, but then realizing that doing deeper dive strategy for branding, opened up every door possible for the client, and also for me as a work but that was almost a byproduct at that point, I can, I can solve bigger problems and help them really understand everything about themselves first, and which is really I love where to start, I love starting there is like, starting internally with the team and internally with their purpose. That’s where I hit that hard. Because after that, it’s an extension. Everything’s an extension, at that point, their logos, an extension of their purpose. Right. So it’s, it’s it’s been a really weird journey for me just like discovering later that, oh, that’s what I do. And then just pushing into that.
Marc Gutman 13:13
I mean, it’s so awesome. The way you describe that. And, you know, I think back to when I was younger, I think I was scared to ask why. Like, I was scared to ask what questions I didn’t want to seem like, either that I didn’t know, which is always Okay, you know, and, or that, or that I was pushy, or that I was driving, you know, driving to different answers. And so I just think that that’s such No, I never saw myself when when I was younger in my career as a problem solver. And I love that you talk about how you came to a strategy accidentally actually have a carousel coming out there tomorrow or whatever that’s really like, like, I refer to myself as I’m an accidental brand strategist. Because, you know, very similar you can replace design with writing and in building businesses, but you know, you and I had some overlap in in, in the movie business and even at Disney. I’m so surprised. We didn’t maybe we did bump into each other who, who knows?
Mario Quezada 14:04
Who knows? Yeah,
Marc Gutman 14:05
I mean, my big wine, what questions were more personal. I was like, like, Well, why do I want to be in the movie business? Is this the rest of my life? And so for, you know, I was like, I don’t know. And I had, that was my only experience up into that point. And so I went out and tried some other things and started a business and that actually turned out to be pretty good. And, but along the way, everyone kept asking me to help them tell their story. And I think I was still in that like, Okay, all right, like, kind of that like golden retriever mode, you know, like, yeah, I’ll do it, I’ll Whatever you say, you know, I want to help I want to be helpful and, and they were self diagnosing that they had a story problem. But, you know, for me, what I found was that, like, if 10 people came to me, asking me to tell their story and met like 10 different things, you know, could have meant brand, which I didn’t know at the time, it could have meant social it could have been working on their purpose. Like they like, you know, they’re having that fundamental intrinsic question like Who are we and They call that their story. And so I think I kind of fell into all this. And I started to ask why, in what questions because I don’t want to bad engagements. You know, like I had like a lot of like, as I rushed to execute, I had either disappointed clients or I was disappointed, you know, it just I felt lost. And I didn’t understand it. And I started asking, you know, these kind of why and what questions and much like you, then things started to get better. But I didn’t, I wasn’t really connecting the dots that this was brand strategy or anything like that. I actually assumed that, since I hadn’t worked at an agency, since I didn’t have that pedigree that I mean, I’d heard about brand strategies. But that wasn’t me, I wasn’t a strategist, because I don’t know, I just didn’t, I didn’t ever have that title. And I didn’t know that, that you could just, you know, become one. And in looking back and looking back and do some self reflective discoveries, the business started to grow. I was like, Oh, wait a second. Like all our best engagements, what we do, the value we provide, is through brand strategy. And for for me, it was really this kind of Venn diagram of being able to write and tell stories, but also to understand business, you know, and to being an entrepreneur and understanding like, oh, wow, like, businesses like exist for certain reasons. And there’s things that drive the business and these things that we’re doing working on websites and logos and, and other creative, which I love just as much as the next person. I love a good hat, as you can see, you know, I love it. We like like, nothing better when a client’s logo goes up on a hat. But it has to have a job, it has to have a purpose. And yeah, that’s kind of how I figured it out. And that’s how I came to it. But it was kind of taking my lumps, like I had like a lot of bad experiences. Because, because because I rushed in, I was super excited. I was like, you want to work with me? Like, that’d be great. Like, let’s, you know, and, and, and obviously, like when you just kind of rushed to tactical execution. It’s really tough, like, you know, and then I’d be sitting there with a blank screen like, I don’t know, like, creator, I don’t know what this is quiet deeds, because we hadn’t done, you know, a lot of the strategic work that all those why questions ask.
Mario Quezada 17:06
Yeah, the self diagnosis thing is, was was really hard. I think as a young creative is really hard to do. To get around and to kind of silence almost not not not a bad way, just like, but there’s a there’s a self diagnosis thing where you you cannot you can’t take their their diagnosis at face value, right. And as a young creative, I didn’t really, I didn’t really know that. So well. So when I felt that they had all the answers to the whys and the watts, I’m like, Okay, well, it seems as though they understand what they’re doing. And so those were the worst engagements when I didn’t want I didn’t dive into what I really what I thought I should do is dive into the what and the why and kind of extrapolate from them the true story of what they they need to do, but I you know, as you know, you’re 19 and 20 year, you’re dealing with these companies that that have a lot of money on the line for them and, and they’re saying what they need, and they’re the ones paying the check. And so you’re like, Okay, well, it seems like this is what they need, I’m going to execute on what they need. And I had my share of, you know, major burnings, right? Because you’re just, you’re just, you’re there, and I remember working for this one small ad agency in Long Beach, and, and I was just a hired gun and like, Hey, we need we need this. And we need that and like, okay, and is, you know, why are these things necessary? All of this because we have to run this campaign. It’s all part of this, and it all fits. I’m like, Okay, well, obviously, it seems like you guys have done your due diligence, let’s let’s get to work. And I would just dive in, I just dove in. And I this was like the last time this happened to and I dove in and did all this work. And I went in and I showed it to the to the creative director. And he’s like, he’s like, oh, man, like, you know, this is cool. But that’s not that’s not what we want at all. And like what you said this, this, this isn’t this, and here it is. And it’s like, well, you know, all we have to consider. So he was keeping all this kind of different, very important information from me that he just didn’t share part of the brief that I wasn’t aware of. And so I literally had to do the project over with him standing over my shoulder because it was just that he wanted me to be his his hands at that point. I was supposed to have it was there was a budget on the on the project and I ended up working like three times as long as it was supposed to take. And I was like, Look, this is how long it took me and he’s like, I’m like you were here. He’s like, Yeah, but you didn’t give us what we want it so I just totally got burned on that project. I think I don’t even think I got paid because I was like, so passed and I was just like, you know what, forget it. I just I just walked out and and you know, they got they got a less than adequate design. I can’t remember who it was for but but it was because I didn’t. I was young, I was naive, and I didn’t, I didn’t stick to my own process. And I didn’t get the information I needed to execute correctly for them. But yeah, I definitely had plenty plenty burnings of clients and situations that that. But with every every situation that that went bad, I learned a little bit more, right, I was able to, like, get my get my druthers a little bit more, and I can, I could stand on my own a little bit more every time too. So. But yeah, I think as as young creatives, well, everybody’s gonna get burned at some point.
Marc Gutman 20:51
And I think it’s not to be not to discourage you if you’re a young, creative, but you’re
Mario Quezada 20:57
gonna take your lumps, you
Marc Gutman 20:58
have to. Yeah, and I think you know, that that raises a really interesting point about, you know, the toolkit or the makeup of a strategist. And, you know, everyone has to start somewhere. But for me, where I look at my value, it’s that Yeah, I’ve taken a lot of lumps. I’ve gotten involved under the hood, and some businesses, you know, pry, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, for so many years. And I mean, where do you think that that really fits in as far as becoming a well rounded strategist? I mean, do you have to have some experience and or take your lumps? Or can you come in fresh and fresh eyed and, and apply, you know, these tools and these frameworks,
Mario Quezada 21:39
I can only speak to this from experience, and I think experience is key in everything that you want to do, the more experience you have, the better you’re going to get. Right. So taking your lumps doesn’t necessarily have to be negative either, right? It could just mean you’re you’re you’re climbing the hill, you’re climbing you’re doing you’re putting in the hours you’re putting in the work, you can come in as as supreme god designer, super strategist, and still fail, you know, you’re gonna take I think, taking your lumps is is living living through an experience and learning from it. So I think it is imperative to be excellent. You need to you need to learn by doing. Because if you think you have it all figured out. It’s it’s not gonna take long before you realize you’re right. It’s just not it. You can’t you can’t, you can’t deny experience in in any, in any profession. But I think brand strategy is definitely one of those things where you’re dealing with such big ideas and big, big four stories of a brand of a company that you you’re not going to always get it 100%. Right. And, and that’s okay, as long as you learn how to recover and get it right. So, yeah, I think experience is huge. It’s always a thing. It’s, I think, experience, people overlooking experience, people want to start at the top and stay at the top. And the ones that start at the bottom and get to the top are usually the ones that are that are the best at it.
Marc Gutman 23:24
Yeah, let’s talk about that a little bit, this idea of sometimes you try your best, but it doesn’t always land, you know, because I’m guessing you’re similar to me, most brand strategists are in the sense that, like, when I get involved with an engagement, we’re talking about purpose and, and values and every I get so emotionally involved in and and, and it means so much to me and like and like and I think that’s part of being a good strategist is that you have to have that empathy, and that, you know, that EQ level where you can really fall in love to a sense with a company and find what’s the best about them and what makes them tick. And, and for me, like if it doesn’t go like if they don’t carry me out of the room on their shoulders. And they’re not. They’re not like, you know, like, anything less than 20. Mark,
Mario Quezada 24:13
Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark. Yeah, yeah.
Marc Gutman 24:17
I know. And, and obviously, there’s that that’s not the case in some people react differently. But, you know, I’m still learning how to like take criticism and feedback when it doesn’t go well how to rebound and stay, stay positive and in the game and give them what they want. Like, how do you how do you do that? as well as how do you balance? Maybe that you’re seeing a different path? And I never go in thinking I’m all knowing it’s just like, Look, this is a better way than maybe like what you’d suggest suggesting. But there comes a certain point where a client Yeah, it’s like, how do you balance all those things?
Mario Quezada 24:52
That’s that’s an interesting, that’s an interesting question. How do I balancing what I see from Outside the bottle, from relative to what they feel that they’re in inside the bottle is a, it has to be, it has to be skated with a fine line, right? You have to really be, you have to be both in their world, but also give them perspective on their world. I like to say so it’s, it’s hard to get people to change their mind about who they think they are. Even if who they tell you they are, is someone totally different than their presenting. Right? And I’m sure you’ve, I’m sure you’ve come across that as strategies, we’re gonna, we’re gonna see that all the time. You know, they’re gonna say that they’re this beautiful philanthropic company that believes in, you know, recycling and changing the earth, but they have a really bad sewage problem. And, you know, they’re they’re not, they’re not carrying through through everything that they’re living out there. They’re so called core values through their company. So how do I manage that? I manage that by just asking them questions that they have no other recourse to answer very truthfully to, and then point them back to really what they said. And so it’s hard for it’s hard for a brand or a company or anyone really to refute the words that they have spoken. So I’ll just go back to saying, Hey, this is what I see x, y, z. And they may they may balk at that. They may, they may say, Well, that doesn’t sound like us at all. And and I will go back to our conversations where I will have said, this is this is what you have outlined. For me, this is what you said yourself a and that’s where I extrapolated this statement from, be this is where you said this, and this is where I pulled that from, am I off? Am I am I wrong here. And either they’ll, they’ll realize that the way they think of themselves is not the way they are presenting themselves. And that’s really what I think my my biggest strength is, is helping people see, just having that clarity on who they truly are, and who they truly want to be and bridging the gap between the two. Right. And that’s, that’s really where, where I like to help people the most, because sometimes they just don’t know. And they’re really, when they when they realize that and it’s in something they really want to accomplish, then they’re really thankful. Because at that point, they really want to be the company that they they see themselves as, but there’s work to get there. Right? How do you how do you deal with that stuff?
Marc Gutman 27:43
Yeah, I mean, well, you know, this topic is a little easier to answer than, like, if it doesn’t go well. Or if you know, people aren’t happy with the with the output I get, you know, I get sad, I’m sensitive, but
same way, it’s holding up a mirror, it’s reflecting. Were there. I mean, I think part of this is what I was getting a little bit before I think like, with experience comes the confidence to say, look, I see something different. And I don’t agree with you respectfully, you know, in doing it in a respectful way, but saying, you know, holding up a mirror and saying, look, I mean, is this real reality? Or is this aspirational? And a lot of times it’s aspirational, a lot of times it’s a sign on someone else’s website,
you know, like,
and, and so working through those same things. And yeah, and I think that, you know, that’s what’s so great about strategy is it’s just about having conversations, and it’s about getting to the truth, and it’s about, you know, really getting to the essence and I always remind people that it’s not that they can’t get there, you know, and and i love this idea of like, Hey, we’re philanthropic or we recycle, because I work with a lot of lifestyle. And outdoor brands are always talking about that, and for the most part that’s ingrained in their DNA. But I mean, there’s been times where I’ve challenged businesses and like will show it to me, right, like, show me how your philanthropic show me how that your environmentally friendly, your packaging seems really bad. I mean, again, I’m in equity here. Am I wrong? You know, and so let’s talk about that. Because, you know, I also remind clients that the outside world you know, I find branding from yesteryear, you know, the Don Draper years to be so like magical and mythical because it was one directional you know, you could create this idea and you put it out to the world even if someone didn’t disagree they were just complaining in their their living room in New Jersey. It never got past that. That bubble, you know, but now people are so quick to call bs are so quick to call you on something that isn’t true or inauthentic that you really need to be on point. So that’s something to that I talked, you know, we’re going through this I was like, Look, if I was to put this out, you know, out in the public and someone was to do a little research would you You get in trouble on us with a flame you are Would you be able to stand by it? And a lot of times, that’s also a good mechanism because they’re like, Oh, you know, like, yeah, I’ve gotten this. And then conversely, I’ve worked with some companies that are really, really smart, like in that regard, and they’re like, Look, we can’t, you know, I’ll be pushing them to say something. And they’re like, we can’t say that, because we can’t necessarily stand by it. And we’re not gonna say anything that we can’t stand by. And I think that’s super great, too. So I was really impressed. I don’t you know, I’m always really impressed with smart clients. Not that all my clients aren’t smart, if you’re, if you’re watching this, but like, work with some marketing organizations of people that, you know, I learned so much from and going through, and those are actually some of my, my favorites, cuz I’m like, wow, like, Yeah, well, what am I doing here? Right? Like, why, why Why? You’re also smart. And I really love that too.
Mario Quezada 30:53
So just going back to the beginning, the actual question was, like, what happens when, when our reveal or tidhar falls flat, right. And it’s like, it’s like, I, I go back to double checking everything that I know. And so I’ll go back and say, Well, this is where I got this from, this is where I got this from. And this is where I got this from. And so I’m very careful to walk them through a solution. And if at any point I’m very open with when I when I start presenting strategy, I’m very open with like, hey, look, this is a living document. This is this is meant to spark, this is meant to inspire you and spark conversation. If at any point you feel that this is off, let’s stop and have a conversation and how we can fix it or amend it or, or change it so that it does represent you better. So I’m always doing a check and balance with them, as I move through my, my, you know, my document for them. And then they feel way less pressure to accept anything that i’m saying is like, Okay, this is this is the way it has to be. And, and so if they’re upset about something, they won’t let it students, they actually, you know, I don’t, I don’t really, I don’t really feel like that represents us very well. So we’ll stop right there. And so I don’t really do a full on, hey, reveal, boom, here you go. See you later. It’s more about like, as we go through, I’ll walk them through a journey and make sure that I’m, I’m walking them through the journey that I want them to see. And so they understand every, every place that I everything that I’ve actually put up for them is coming from a place of their speech, their heart, their company, and just revealing it a little bit more to them so that they can actually see the breadth and the width and the height of it as beautifully as it should be. That’s my hope anyway, doesn’t always go that way. So when it falls a little flat, I always go back to Okay, where are we misaligned? What Where did I Where did I miss the miss the ball? Or where did Where did what you say what you said, it hit me differently, because this is what I took from this conversation. And that’s why I got this. So I used to take it super personally, like, I’m a designer. So it’s art, right? To me, it’s just like, I’m putting my heart and bleeding on this page for you. And I came up with this thing, you know, in sweat and tears and you don’t like it? How dare you? You know, it’s because it’s my thing. It’s like cuz I poured it out of my blood for you. So I used to be really, really just in the dumps if people say, Oh, no, I’m not really feeling it. I’m like, How could you say that? You know, like, I’ve worked on this for 40 hours. But now it’s more like more like, Okay, well, how can we how can we make it exactly what you love? You know? And what is it? So I just go back to strategy brain is like, okay, where’s What? Where are we missing the mark? What is it? What is it that you’re reacting negatively to? How can we fix it? What will represent what do you feel represents you better? So I, I tend to, like have just tweaked my own mind to be more open for criticism. I think being a designer, I’m very emotional. So I do when I feel things, I feel things and it’s been it’s taken, it’s taken a lot of years to like not feel not feel completely, you know, slided when people don’t like my stuff and like so not that I’m the greatest designer in the world or, or is anyone really but it’s it’s more it’s a you know, you have to you have to realize that everything is subjective in this in this case, but strategy is very, very Are you much more objective? You know, which is cool? Because it’s like, Alright, well, it’s it’s art that represents data and, and, and not the other way around. Right? It’s, it’s not, it’s not just black and white, there’s an art to it. But so helping them walk through how I’ve come up with things really, really helps both of us to understand and me not to get my feelings hurt when they don’t like,
Marc Gutman 35:27
oh, Mario, you’re so sensitive, I knew it, I knew it. And that’s what I do love about strategy. I mean, that, you know, two great things come out of it, you have the shared experience, oftentimes with the client, so they have like a sense of like, you know, what ended up on the cutting room floor, why you made certain choices, you know, I had this stand up comedy coach, and before we started, he said, Look, you know, we’re gonna make a lot of choices. And they’re just choices, you know, and we’re just making choices. We’re just gonna, like, you know, pull things in, take things out, like, Don’t get so like, hung up on the choices. And, and sometimes, you know, say that with clients, like, sometimes we’re just gonna make a choice here. And, you know, and we’ll see if it’s the right one, but at least it’s a shared experience and understand why we made that choice. And then much to your point, you know, you know, ever since really leaning into strategy, get far less of the I don’t like it’s, you know, there’s nothing more frustrating. And it made me think of your experience with that creative director, where you like, you come in, and you’re like, look at all this work, and I don’t like it. You’re like, Well, why? Yeah, well, at least he had at least that director had like reasons information he was holding. Yeah, I mean, I’ve worked with so many businesses that are like, that they can they can articulate it is where I’m going with this. And in strategy becomes the shared nomenclature, where we can start to talk about well, does that visual design, you know, does that represent your values? To your point? does it represent your purpose statement? Like, what? What about it isn’t working, we chose made a choice on this color, because we’re trying to differentiate from the competition. So let’s, you know, it just gives us this like ability to have a conversation. And I think that’s really, really awesome. Versus and I do think there back to my early clients before, I was like, really doing strategy. It was like, I was executing, and they didn’t like it. I’m like, why, like I probably one of the reasons, and I’m just realizing this now talking to you that I was so hurt, was because I didn’t know. Right? Like I didn’t, I didn’t know why they didn’t like and I didn’t have really a vocabulary or a process or a framework to figure out why they weren’t happy. And I think, you know, strategy allows us to do that. Because we’ve built this common language over the course of an engagement. We can have those conversations, we can point to different things. And you can say specifically, hey, did I get this thing wrong? Because that’s what’s informing this piece, which, which I think is great.
Mario Quezada 37:44
Yeah, it’s just that little piece of what you just said right now is like, going into, I think, for me, now with strategy, even with design with with anything that I produce for a client, I go in. before when I was younger, I’d go in like, like, not wanting to hear the negative not wanting to talk about the negative, only wanting to talk about the positive, here’s all this great stuff, boom, I love it. Here it is. Pay me my money kind of thing, right? And now it’s like, now it’s like, hey, did I get this right? Are you feeling this and I’m like, I’m asking for negative feedback from the get go. Because I really want I’m really concerned about like, wanting it to be right for them. And I want them to just love it. And the best is when I present and they’re just sitting there just like, no expression, nothing on their face. They’re just like, looking at me. I’ve asked him questions, and they’re just like, you know, not just kind of nodding their head, nothing. So I’ll go through a whole presentation. And at the end, they’re like, Man, that was awesome. I’m like, oh, man, you’re freaking me out the whole time. Because, you know, like, I’m thinking you’re hating it, but they’re just like, kind of absorbing all this stuff. Because, you know, it’s really, it’s really just a compilation of, of inspiration from what they’ve said, how they, how they present themselves and presenting it back to them in a way that they couldn’t do for themselves. And that’s really exciting to me, but But yeah, it’s it’s that it’s that going in asking the negative has changed a lot of the way I I can process that stuff now because I asked for the critique. I love that
Marc Gutman 39:37
that’s so great, like coming in and full on asking for it, you know, asking and expecting the negative not looking at hoping for positive reinforcement. I think that’s that’s so positive. And it seems to me that that’s adjacent to something that our mutual friend Christo talks about artists kind of coming in empty, you know, and coming in without expectation and so whether They’re not you’re asking for the negative, but certainly coming in and not expecting to be carried out of the room and shoulders. But exactly, like what’s coming in empty and, and I think that’s so powerful. And from our conversation, I’m gonna take that away for sure this idea of like asking for the negative i love it. Thanks, man.
Mario Quezada 40:18
Hey, man, anytime, anything I can I can do to to help anybody I’m stoked on.
Marc Gutman 40:24
Well, if anyone’s watching this, what what a golden golden sort of inside there because it sounds simple, but it’s, it’s so hard to do and so powerful. You know, why don’t we shift gears a little bit? And, you know, you and I have both been creating a ton of content. And what do you think now? what’s what’s going on content? Right? Like, it’s a big, big thing, right? It’s it, man, when
Mario Quezada 40:54
I was challenged in 2019, to like, challenge myself to kind of build a personal brand. And then later on that year, I was challenged by Chris, to start producing just all kinds of content. He’s like, you know, try this carousel thing. You know, try this, try that, you know, I think I think that would fit your content pretty well. And I’m kind of a teacher at heart, I’m definitely a mentor. And it’s just just the way I ride. So I speak. So I tried it. And it was really interesting to just put ideas out there that people were were identifying with and being helped by. So now, you’re more than a year later, as I’m just kind of just blaring content out. It’s probably one of the most, it’s probably one of the best ways to share your brand is to produce content, share your thoughts, and give people a unique perspective on who you are, and how you work and what you’re what you’re excellent at. And it doesn’t happen right away. Because you know, content takes time to develop, right, and especially from the from the person who’s creating it. It takes time to really see and develop what it is. But as we as you produce it, it really becomes this this visual, this visual and and I guess verbal, right? Piece of you. It literally speaks to people about who you are what you’re about. And, and it’s so powerful, that it’s so powerful that I include that suggestion to every one of my clients, that they need to be producing content. And if they’re not producing content, then they’re going to be missing out on everything that that content brings with it, which is connection with their audience, by far. What about you?
Marc Gutman 43:09
Oh, man, big, big question. But I know, it’s interesting. Like I got my career started, in a way creating some of the biggest content that you could create as working in the movie business. I was working on movies, I was writing movies. I actually wrote one of the very first video games for Warner Brothers, it was based on a movie, it would like, you know, came on a CD ROM it wasn’t like, I always think back I’m like, man, like, I would have stayed in the video game business. I never really saw it in that way. And I think I miss I just didn’t see it correctly, you know, because even movies are about connecting with an audience and I just, you know, had my own reasons, I just loved the movies so much, I just want to be a part of that. I just wanted to write them and I was, that was my skill I was able to write so I was like, Alright, I’ll go be a writer in the movie business. But after that, I kind of think of my life is like, pre pandemic and post pandemic as far as content and I had been creating content, mostly blogs, right. And I was writing a lot of blogs and, and it was painful. And I fell into two categories. I either blog about what inspired me, which was typically not well read, or I tried to write a blog about things that were strategic through SEO and I hated writing them because it was just you know, this like formulaic process it just felt it just didn’t feel good. And I also had a really hard time just having that that flow and and and so prior to the pandemic for me like Instagram and all that stuff, that’s where I threw up my my snowboarding photos, that’s where my family vacation and pictures of my food went, you know, and and it really was a chance presentation from Chris he had such a huge influence on me and I don’t even I’ve mentioned it to him. I don’t really think he knows like, but I showed up and he was teaching about carousels and he was doing a thing on carousels for the Pro. Group and, and I don’t know what happened. But something clicked for me I’ve always wanted to be a content creator, I felt like I had something to say I want to be a YouTuber, but editing and all that was just really difficult to be consistent. You know, fast forward and I’ll kind of finish the story. But getting involved in some sort of content became a gateway drug to you’d like to video like it allowed me to be better here on video, but I couldn’t have done it without kind of this experience in carousels, and, and what I realize is carousels was built for me as a writer as well. And it was so awesome. And I call it like poetry for business. But to your point, like, I thought I had a voice, I thought I had a brand. But what it’s allowed me to do is test things out, to find my voice to, to get out there to interact, to see what people care about to see what I care about. over this past year, you know, I think I started with less than 500 followers right now I’m not going on 21,000
Mario Quezada 46:02
It’s insane to me, that’s
Marc Gutman 46:05
Yeah, it’s going well, and, and even in this last month, I made a commitment to myself to post every day. Okay, so every day I’m coming up, I’m coming up on that get that like that, I’ve got to slow it down, because it’s just too much. It’s unsustainable. But it has also forced, and you said something earlier in our conversation about this idea between art in and let’s just call it work or a functional job. And it’s allowed me to not think of every piece of content I put out there as this this artistic thought is this Opus, I’m creating, even when I don’t feel like it. You know, Steven pressfield talks a lot about being a pro and showing up and like with this commitment, I have to show up and write and write my carousels and get them done and someone like that, and and I posted, and they do awesome. This is gonna be so great. This is my best thought of all time. No one likes it. Because I’m creating so much that it’s, you know, my sensitive ego isn’t hurt, because it’s just another thing on radar. And it also allows me to work out my thoughts. So I’m working on a keynote around branding, you know, for businesses, and I had this opportunity. And now I have all these ideas and all these thoughts that I’ve that I’ve put out there. And I’ve thought about I can test and see what resonates. And I’m always I’m surprised like you know that most of the posts are either, like, tell your personal story, or some sort of like, like checklist D kind of posts, those typically perform the best. I don’t dislike personal stories, but I can’t tell when every day, and I hate the posts. Because I’m like, Yeah, like this is a technique that people love them. And to your point, I mean, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I look at it, I recommend it to clients as well, we’re starting to mimic this process of carousels to LinkedIn to SlideShare for our clients. And it because it’s a process. And I think that really good content creation is consistent. You have a process, it doesn’t feel like this thing that’s sucking the life from you, it actually gives me energy, like someday I want to figure out how I just sit around and create my own content. Cuz I like it. I think it’s fun. And it’s been the best thing ever. As I mentioned, my follower growth has been huge. You know, but that’s also, you know, allowed me to get leads and clients. And I think more importantly, and you mentioned this, it’s just really helped me develop a solid point of view. It’s helped me explore different areas. It’s made me think, how do you teach this topic and a very concise bit to people. And so it’s been the greatest thing I’ve done, and I look back over the past year, and I’m just like, why did it take a global pandemic, for me to like, start creating content regularly? And I think it’s the single greatest thing you can do as a business or an entrepreneur to help.
Mario Quezada 48:52
Yeah, yeah. I think if you are, if you are a writer, or a creator of any, anything you need to just be creating. And I think that’s, it’s a, it’s a piece of our soul that gets fed when we do that, as creatives, right? That, that we we are able to just stay healthy and that way where we’re, we’re as we create, we stay healthy in that in that in that place. And so why wouldn’t you want to do that? Why wouldn’t you want to create new ideas? Why wouldn’t you want to understand why you think the way you do or how to teach certain things that you’ve never really taught before, but you definitely have a process of teaching. And people can really use your insight with everything that you everything that you know, everything that you do, why wouldn’t you want to teach that to somebody else? And so, yeah, I can’t that your growth is fantastic. So you’ve only been posting carousels the whole time.
Marc Gutman 49:56
The whole time. I started at a recommendation of my friend who had a social media agency I was doing asking permission for guest posts and saying, Hey, here’s a piece of content as reposting. I’ve stopped doing that, because we were on a clubhouse of Chris and he was like, your feed looks like, you know, you’re gonna be misleading. And one of the things like, literally if you want to, like get under my skin or hurt my feelings insinuate that like I’m misrepresenting myself or that someone else might think that I’m misrepresenting myself. So immediately, like, I cut that out, and so it’s just all my own carousels. Yeah, and that’s all I post just carousels. You know, I’m rethinking that strategy, because it’s been an amazing journey. But it’s, it’s, it’s taken a lot of output and so, and a lot of energy. And so I’m trying to think, well, how can I continue to show up and do some things and, you know, for me, I’m still not even sure really, where I’m going to go on Instagram. It’s funny, I, you know, I’d like one post, right, told the story about my father in law, and I think I had like 300 likes or something like that, instead, I put over on LinkedIn, same exact post, same exact post, it goes like 25,000, you know, something like that, and the likes and all this kind of stuff. So it, it’s been great. My goal is to get to 10,000. So I could get the swipe up, and I’m not even using it. Like, I never put like a link in there cuz I just don’t, I probably need to get better at that too. And it becomes like this, this full time job. And so I’m also trying to figure out, you know, how do we optimize it? I love video. I love YouTube, too. Like I mentioned, I think video is so powerful. I just anecdotally I mean, it’s not just data, but I actually look at my own behavior and habits and everything whose ties back to YouTube. I’m like, Oh, I can’t figure out this thing and go to YouTube, you know, and, and so it’s such a powerful search engine. And I think there’s tons of legs left, I don’t think it’s like all dried up or anything like that, you know, I have a podcast and it’s really hard for, you know, an audio only kind of podcast to get distribution into to pay off for the amount of work you put into it. Now I’ve moved more to doing video interviews, but even then it’s like, no, like Apple podcasts or like, they’re not indexing your, your podcast, you know, it’s not searchable, and there’s things you can do we we transcribe it and things like that, and hope that it gets picked up. But there’s a lot of content out there. So I don’t know, a little bit of a ramble. But yeah, I love I love what Instagrams done, and more than anything, I feel like it’s just opened up that window that you described, to be a creator, you know, and to have accessible and what I mean by success is creating not about engagement or likes, I really don’t look at that stuff that much. It’s like I you know, for me, it’s like, putting stuff out into the world and testing it and kind of seeing seeing what I think about things which I love, you know,
Mario Quezada 52:50
yeah, just been so I think thankful, just for, for the journey of it, and just the creating part of it, because it’s, it’s forced me to, to, to test a lot of things that I really wouldn’t have otherwise, you know, and just testing ideas of myself testing things that why do I think this? And can I teach this? And is this something that people want to hear? And is this useful for people? And then, you know, my goal is always to just help somebody, you know, with something. That’s, that’s what I hope to do. So yeah, and content contents, manages it’s, for me, it was just became a visual and verbal diary for myself. And I was just able to have this, this archive of my thoughts and my, my, my thinking and, and design, but more just just my thinking and my thoughts. And so it’s been, it’s been great. It’s been probably one of the best things that I’ve done this last few years is start creating content. Yeah,
Marc Gutman 54:02
I wonder why I waited so long. So if you’re, if you’re on the sidelines or thinking about it, like do it, just do it,
Mario Quezada 54:08
and do it, just do it,
Marc Gutman 54:10
it also has given me the ability to, to not be so sensitive to put things out in the world, and it’s given me a thicker skin and, you know, hey, like, this doesn’t matter. And it’s not the end all be all. And I think I mean, like I the amount of time that I spent laboring over the decision to turn my Instagram from like, my photo album to like, talking about business was huge. Like I was worried that people were gonna think I’m like, some sort of spammer that I’m talking about my business on Insta. Like no one wants to hear about that. I mean, I was I was chewing myself up inside over that decision, you know, and then I did it and I was like, like, I think it’s like hilarious looking back. I’m like, why was I nervous about it? But I think a lot of people have that experience, whether it’s, you know, transitioning the account or just putting themselves out there and, and and going for it and what you’ll find and what I Found was a couple things like, you know, everybody cares, and nobody cares. You know, at the same time, like you hate engagement, people think it’s cool, but it’s like, you know, also no one really cares. And you can it’s, you can put things out there and some people aren’t going to agree with you and, and to your point like I had someone on LinkedIn that kind of accused me of plagiarism on a post in and you know, and like I was really mad and I wanted to like go after them and flame them and I took like a breath. And then I took you know, kind of that, that that accent light, like how do I know, like what they’re saying is true? Like I like why do they believe it to be true. And they were like, they were kind of right, you know, like, I didn’t properly attribute something that I thought I did. It was it was unclear. And, and that was like, that was a crazy feedback. But I share that because it was like, it was like I was combative about it at first, you know, and I heard it’s made me learn that like, even when there’s maybe negative feedback or something, it could have been delivered a little bit nicer could have been, you know, but they weren’t. They weren’t, they weren’t incorrect and, and what they had to say and, and it’s just taught me a ton. And so you put yourself out there and you know, you interact and become a thought leader. And I’ll just keep continuing to do it. And, and also, I think people think that they’re gonna run out of things to say, and, you know, you’re just used to having posted like crazy. And there’s always something, there’s always something,
Mario Quezada 56:24
always something. And the cool thing is like you can even go back into your, your, your older content, and refresh it and use that as a new post. And it becomes it becomes something new for your current audience that wasn’t around when you post that in the first time. And I think there’s a really cool thing about like the refreshing of our audiences that, you know, the audiences that have seen the last 15 posts of mine may not have seen the last 200 posts of mine. So I can actually go back and bring up older ideas and not that they’re changing, but to refresh them and repackage them and represent them. For for a newer current audience, which is great. And it even going back and doing that spawns even more ideas off that same subject, which is cool. But to your point of plagiarism and negative feedback, I kind of hurt somebody’s feelings recently, with a post of mine. Not Not intentionally. But I had been I’ve been wanting to post this, this do this post and I was it was just in the back of my mind. Just I knew what I wanted to say I was just there. And I had written a note to myself because I have this like content note with like, just ideas. And so somebody posted something, I was like, Oh, I should do that post that I was thinking about because it, it inspired me to do the one that I wanted to do. And and that person that who I think is a very dear friend, they just they texted me later. And they’re like, Oh, I was really hurt by your post. And you know, I can’t believe like, you, you. You were if you’re mad, please tell me I’m like, What are you talking? I have no idea what you’re talking about. And but the, the titles of our posts were in direct opposition. And so they felt that I was I was taking action on them on social media. And I was like I would never do. First of all, I would never do that. But it was funny because we were in. In the post, we were actually saying the same thing. But my, my title was very controversial. to, to kind of look look like it was the opposite of what they were saying. But I was I was actually saying that, you know, it was about design school. And you know, so I was like, No, you do have to go to design school. But then I defined schooling and defined education as something that is not traditional, you know, and you do have to you do have to learn you have to learn the rules you have to do so anyway. But a friend of mine and got really get really bent out of shape. And they felt like I I took I took offense to what they wrote and they were really sad. So I had to mend that relationship right away. But it’s funny because content becomes powerful once you start getting a bigger following and you don’t really realize it because you just you’re just creating content, right?
Marc Gutman 59:26
Yeah, totally. I mean, and I’ve had a few of those incidents where it’s just like I get emotional, but like i think you know, what I’ve learned is you just give it some time you reach out to the person you you talk about it and it’s always been never as bad as I perceived it and and I’ve always learned something from it. So and that’s what you know, content supposed to do. I mean, here we are. You’re in Hawaii, I’m outside of Boulder, Colorado The other day I was talking to someone who was from Italy, like I mean, the the power of that connection, and that’s really what it’s all about is like what’s Have a conversation like I do want you to disagree if you disagree, but I want you to like, tell me what you think not just disagree. I want to like, hear why you disagree. And, you know, I’m I’m not the expert on the world, you know, I have opinions and I put them out there. And I have a definite a worldview. But I respect other worldviews. And I think that’s, you know, where social and content can be amazing.
Mario Quezada 1:00:23
Yeah. Speaking to the opposite of what you just said, you were speaking to somebody Italy the other day. I mean, I have, you know, I think we do this. And the more we do this, we speak to people all over the world all the time. But today, I actually had a call with somebody in my, in Oahu, in Hawaii, and I that, that never happens. And they connected with me through my content on Instagram. And it was really hilarious to me, because like, I asked them where they were from, and like, Oh, you know, I’m on a wahoo I’m in, you know, pro city, whatever. I started laughing. I was like, Wow, that’s really funny, because I never talked to anybody in Hawaii ever. Because it’s because I’m always talking to people, at least in California. And that’s, that’s as close as they get to me. But you know, I’m talking to people in Iceland and Sweden and in Denmark, and you know, where anywhere else, but that where I’m from or where I am, which is hilarious to me is the other side of that content thing. No,
Marc Gutman 1:01:20
it’s it’s great, though. I mean, I think it’s, it’s amazing. And I’ve had the same thing. I’ve had clients locally, who I know have been reengaged, or remembered to call me because of content. They’re like, Oh, yeah, mark in his business, they do that and they have the need and, you know, in in purely can can tie it right back to content. So it is just so powerful. So great.
Mario Quezada 1:01:45
Yeah, man. It’s cool. Cool stuff.
Marc Gutman 1:01:47
Cool. All right, well, we can probably put a pin in it there. We’ve been for a while. But that was, that was a ton of fun.
Mario Quezada 1:01:56
It was a ton of fun. It’s always it’s always it’s always great to talk to somebody who’s had more of a career then you know, then then other people and talk to a lot of young creatives, usually. And it’s really about like helping them get through whatever they’re going through. But it’s really great to talk to more experienced bearded strategists.
Marc Gutman 1:02:22
Gray in the beard, yes. Gray in the beard, and the beard. We could talk about that too.
Mario Quezada 1:02:29
We will talk about that next.
Marc Gutman 1:02:31
Well, I was taught by Mario, what I’ll do is I’ll, I’ll create a Google folder and send you the link if you want to. I’ll give you access to it then if you want to drag whatever you recorded, and I’ll probably have our editor go ahead and chop it up a bit. And, obviously give you access to any of the files and do whatever you want with them. And make sure you tag the crap out of me whenever you post and I’ll comment.
Mario Quezada 1:02:51
Absolutely man be a lot of
Marc Gutman 1:02:53
fun. I’ll do the same.
Mario Quezada 1:02:55
Appreciate it. Thank you remark. This is totally a lot of fun. Let’s figure out let’s do a live or something. I don’t know. Let’s Let’s i think i think it’s fun to like talk to more like I said like senior strategist and senior senior creatives because we have a lot more perspective on things and I like the way that we have we come at it from different angles, right? You’re coming at it from really the the messaging and the words angle. And I’m, I’m I definitely coming from the creative angle but but there’s a there’s a place in the middle that we we meet very strongly. So be fun to do some kind of like just Instagram Live strategy session and helping people. Let’s figure this totally fun. Yeah, I
Marc Gutman 1:03:40
Let’s do it. Alright, man. Yeah.
Be good. Enjoy the rest of your day. Go take care of those kiddos. Keep them keep them locked in the house.
Mario Quezada 1:03:50
Marc Gutman 1:03:53
And that is Mario, what can I say? What did you learn something What an incredible, incredible conversation. I’d say my two biggest takeaways from that conversation, one coming in empty. Just forgetting everything coming in with a blank slate so that you don’t come in with any bias to leading with the negative. I mean, who does that? Thank you, Mario. I’m so grateful for our conversation. I hope you the audience learned something please, if you like these videos, go ahead and click the subscribe button that really helps us to create more content. And let us know in the comments what your biggest takeaway was, as well as Do you have anything you want us to cover in future videos. So get get active in those comments, and we’ll we’ll talk to you soon.
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