Mike Kim // Ep 45 // Finding Passion in Marketing From Art and Culture
Welcome to Episode 45 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Mike Kim on this week's episode.
We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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Mike Kim is a business coach and marketing strategist who specializes in personal branding, product launch strategies, and copywriting. His core philosophy of marketing is this: Marketing isn’t about closing a sale, it’s about opening a relationship.
When we get this part of marketing right, results follow. He has used this same approach to serve today’s most influential thought leader brands including John Maxwell, Donald Miller, Suzanne Evans, and Catalyst Leadership.
Before running his own consulting business, he worked for several years as the CMO of a successful multi-million dollar company near New York City. He coaches students, serves clients, and also records his show, the Brand You Podcast — a show dedicated to personal branding.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan.
And my name is Maggie
And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asiansto pursue their dreams and goals.
We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us. His name is Mike Kim. Mike is a business coach and marketing strategist who specializes in personal branding, product launch strategies and copywriting. He has helped New York times bestselling authors, world renowned speakers and hundreds of small business owners in more than 14 different industries achieve real measurable results. Using his unique approaches to marketing and brand strategy. Before running his own consulting business, he has worked for several years as the COO of a successful multimillion dollar company near New York city. [00:01:00] He also has his own podcast, the brand new podcast, a show dedicated to personal branding. Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike: [00:01:07] Hey Ryan, it’s so good to be with you guys. Thank you for having me.
Bryan: (00:01:10) Of course. They’re so excited to have you on, but we want to dive deeper into who you are. Mike, where’d you grow up and what was your upbringing like?
Mike: (00:01:15) Yeah. I grew up in Northern New Jersey, the home of many Koreans, right.Uh, right in that area. Just outside. Yeah. In New York city, I was born in California. I was born in Berkeley. Wow. There for some weird reason that I still haven’t forgiven my parents for, they moved from the Bay area to New Jersey. Yeah. That’s that’s what happened, but, uh, yeah. Yeah. My grandparents were over in New York city and so my dad wanted us to move near them. So I’m really more a Jersey kid than anything else. Uh, I dare not say New York because all the new Yorkers will actually get really. Uh, but yeah, I’m a, I’m a Jersey kid. I was just an Asian American kid, uh, who grew up in the suburbs. I was told, you know, study hard, go to good school, then life will be set.And I wasn’t made for that apparently. So, uh, yeah, that’s how I grew up. That’s how I grew up. Yeah, just in New Jersey.
Maggie: (00:02:08) Wow. Yeah. And so what was it like, kind of growing up in your family? You know, I remember you said your parents were telling you to, you know, go to, go to school, graduate, get a well-paying job. Can you explain a little bit about like your upbringing and, you know, your relationship with your parents? It was like, yeah.
Mike: (00:02:23) Yeah. So we had a very tumultuous household. My parents never got along for as long as I can remember. And, um, you know, I have good relationships with both of them now, you know, we’re all adults and stuff like that. Um, but they were always working out their own issues, right. Both marriage and money and all those things. And I was one of those kids, you know, a lot of kids when their parents are fighting or they’re not getting along, they. Kids tend to blame themselves. They think that they’re the problem. I’m like, no, you guys are the problem.Well, you guys got issues, man. Like your issues have issues and you got it. You got to figure it out. I’m going to just kind of hide away here. So I actually, uh, buried myself in basketball. Uh, video games until my parents took that away from me. Um, I was very involved as Korean Americans are apt to do, uh, to be involved in church in the suburbs of New Jersey, made a lot of my, uh, Asian American friends there. I grew up in a very Caucasian town in New Jersey, so I didn’t really have much of a social circle at school. Um, the only way I really was involved in school, I know you guys can’t tell right now, but I’m six foot three. So I’ve was always been pretty big. And so I played basketball for my high school, but my social circles were really like other Korean American kids that I met at church. Um, and we all sort of lived in the same area. So we’d just find ways to hang out with each other and playing a lot of basketball and going into the shopping mall. But, um, my parents were different in the sense that they didn’t really press me to study as hard as other. Asian parents are apt to do. Uh, my mother was an artist, so I inherited a lot of like artistic. Uh, ability from her and my dad was kind of more just this free spirit. He just kinda did whatever the heck you wanted. You know, it was just, I think, where I got that from, but I was able to harness it a little bit better and kind of use that to, to just kind of grow in my own career and start my own business. But, um, it was a very typical New Jersey upbringing, if you will. Yeah.
Maggie: (00:04:25) Wow. Yeah. And can you talk about your experience growing up in New Jersey and how that kind of shaped your age?
Bryan: (00:04:32) No. As you mentioned before, like you grew up in a really predominantly white area near really close culturally tied to the Korean community, your church, but how that shaped your Asian identity, what was your view at the world at the time and how has that changed over time?
Mike: (00:04:45) Uh, I didn’t know who I was, to be honest. Cause uh, you know, Oh, I was pressured, not, not really by my parents as much as I was in that church that I was involved in. Like other adults would all be like, how can you not speak Korean? Like you’re Korean, how can you not speak Korean? And my parents didn’t raise me speaking Korean. They spoke to me in English from like day one, because back then they assumed that kids couldn’t learn two languages at once. So they wanted my sister and I to really concentrate, um, on English. So we do better in school and go to a good college and blah, blah, blah, have a good job. Um, I think all of these years later, um, I’ve been trying to find that identity. Um, but early on I resented it. Because I wasn’t accepted by Korean culture. Uh, we weren’t the Korean American identity. Wasn’t that formulated yet? Um, I know, you know, you guys might think I’m a little younger, but I’m 42, right? So it’s like, no, thank you. Thank you. I’ll take that. I’ll take that as conflict, right. Asians don’t age, right. Um, until we hit like 50 something and then it’s just. It seems to happen overnight, but, um, but back then, there wasn’t, there weren’t these kinds of conversations that we’re having now, um, being an Asian American was still a very new identity for us. Um, and so I gravitate towards that in church, but there was no real external validation for it. Both of my parents spoke perfect English, but there wasn’t really any external validation for who I was and what I was doing in the world. So. I actually really resented and didn’t feel a part of Korean culture. I hated going to Korean church. Like I hated doing anything Korean. I, I willingly didn’t want to learn it. I willingly like intentionally resisted learning it. Um, I just felt like Caucasian people were better. Right. Or there’s something was wrong with me growing up in that town, in that town. And I wasn’t as accepted there either. Um, so it was just a very confusing time. But as I grew and grew and got older, like, you know, those things actually may like meant a lot more to me.
Bryan: (00:07:02) Wow. That’s, that’s a really insightful explanation of the experience that you went through. And it seems like it seems to be a common theme among a lot of Asians growing up in America, you know, grew up in a situation where we’re not proud of the culture and are proud of who we are. But as you get older, we’re going to do a movement right now where we are proud of being Asian.
Maggie: (00:07:28) Yeah. I think what’s really interesting about your situation is that. Oftentimes Asian parents, I think, especially where like Brian and I grew up too. We’re surrounded by so many Asians. Right?
Bryan: (00:07:38) I didn’t know I was a minority until I left California.
Maggie: (00:07:41) And so personally, like for myself, my parents don’t know how to speak a lot of English. So I feel like when that happens, you know, Asian parents try to force you to learn your cultural language. You know, I was forced to learn Chinese and. Sometimes when I go back home nowadays, like my Chinese has gotten so bad that they shame you, bro. Like, man, your Chinese has gotten so bad. Like what happened? You know? But for you, your parents kind of like pushed you to just speak English and not Korean. So I think that’s really interesting.
Bryan: (00:08:09) Yeah. I think it was pretty easy too. I wasn’t allowed to speak English at home.
Mike: (00:08:15) Yeah. I have friends who are like that and I kind of wish it was like that because then I know more Korean, but the funny thing is then my parents got upset at me when I got older that I didn’t be Korean resisting English. Where do you expect me to learn this Korean school and all this stuff? I was like, yo, it’s too late. I’m like 16. I’m not learning Korean. Right. So it was just, it was just kind of like a weird like that. And, um, I would say my life was pretty much like that even through college. Right. Um, I was still involved with like my old Korean church friends and stuff through college and made a handful of new friends, but really like during college and thereafter is when I really started making more non-Korean and non-Asian friends and actually having that experience made me want to like learn Korean more and become more entrenched in my Cultural identity because it made me stand out and I was like, Oh, this is something that they’re interested in. Like, like I’d take them out for food, like to a restaurant and be like, Oh, this is so cool. And I was like, I was just started to be like, Oh, this is actually something to be proud of. And, um, stuff like that. So yeah, it was, it was kind of worked backwards for me, interestingly.
Bryan: (00:09:33) And can you walk us through like the first progression career to where you are now? We’re kind of curious about that entire journey.
Maggie: (00:09:38) How did you get into marketing?
Mike: (00:09:41) Yeah, so it was totally an accident, but I also believe in like the universe guiding us, you know? So, um, I, as I said, I grew up like, you know, church was a big part of our lives. Like Korean, Korean people are apt to do. And so I was pretty involved in that through college. I was involved in music. I did a lot of music. I had a music background and right when I was in my, like very early thirties, late twenties, I got hired, um, at America at an American church. Get this as their music director. So here was this like 95% Caucasian church in the middle of Connecticut. Like near Hartford, not an Asian area at all. I was married at the time and, uh, I took that position and my world was just culturally flipped, upside down. Like you can find good Chinese food, good Korean food, nowhere. We had to drive all the way back to New York. Um, you get it. So I did that for about four years, and then I went through all these different questions about what I really believed about the world and God and religion and all this kind of stuff. And, um, so much of that got redefined for me at the time. And I moved back to New Jersey where, you know, I I’d married and, uh, kind of grew up and. I just realized that’s not the, the, the life that I wanted. Um, I realized that life was too short for the wrong career, you know? So then I went back to New Jersey. I, I, um, got a job at an old after-school Academy, you know, like those ones that prep you for the SATs and stuff. I sort of like so many. Yeah. So many Asian kids. No. Right. We were all sat there after school. And I had worked at this Academy, uh, for a couple years while I was out of college. And I kept in touch with the boss. We always had a great relationship and they found out I was back in town and they’re like, do you want to come back and teach some classes for us? I was like, no, I’m like 30 something years old. This is not a job that I want, but I just needed something to do. So I went and did it. And. I kid you not like one day I was walking out of the office and my boss was like, Hey, can you come in here for a second? And she showed me an ad that they were running for their Academy. They’re like, what do you think about this? I was, I completely took it apart. I was like, this is wrong. The heading is wrong, the copy’s wrong. And she just looked at me like I was crazy. Cause she didn’t know. I knew this stuff. And I realized I had been earning an education in marketing all those years when I was doing music. Because I had to learn how to promote albums that we recorded. I had to learn how to promote conferences that I was hosting. I learned how to put on conferences cause I was the host. Um, I had just a lot of that kind of like intuitive, you know, insight to it. She asked me right there, she’s like down. She was like, what would you want if you took over marketing for the whole company? Just give me a number and I throw out a pretty large number. And then she said, yes. And that’s how I got the, it was like a six-figure job, boom like that. And so that was my, my job. And it happened through a relationship in, you know, this, this weird thing called life. And then people ask me, how’d you get so good at copywriting and you know, marketing. I was like, well, you try taking the ramblings of like some Korean people who can’t speak English, translating that into marketing copy, to communicate to a very intelligent and high earning clientele. Because those parents need to have money to send their kid to this Academy. You’re going to learn how to write really fast. And that’s really how I learned marketing. Um, it was, that was exactly how it happened. And, uh, while I took that job, I knew I didn’t want to stay there forever. And I discovered blogging. I discovered podcasting and I started sharing my marketing stuff online and that’s how I grew this audience. And eventually I went full-time. Yeah. Crazy, right. Yeah, it was crazy. It was crazy. It’s a crazy time.
Bryan: (00:13:42) Usually the whole solar story.
Maggie: (00:13:45) I love that. I incredibly like how you took matters into your own hands too. And you know, as we’re talking to you and as you know, while you were at MEK, you know, they knew that you had such an experience in marketing, but it wasn’t just who you were as a person on that day. It was like all your experience and you know, all those years of doing marketing when you were in music. And I think that’s incredible.
Bryan: (00:14:09) Yeah. That’s so incredible. Yeah,
Mike: (00:14:11) it was interesting because like, it was interesting because, um, they were a small business and then after like one year. Marketing their stuff. They like the like six X, their profits was crazy. But during that time, I did a lot of work with our bosses to go promote the program. So we’d go to colleges and try to hire teachers and I would conduct those interviews and then we would have seminars for parents. So I would do those seminars. So from day one, she kind of knew I had a different skillset. Yeah. And I just learned a lot from this. Like it was, it was really a couple that owned and started the company. And I worked a lot with his wife because she was running the operations. And guys, I tell you what, like every time I’ve doubted myself in business, like when I, when I, when I, after I struck out on my own, I was like, her name was Ann and on like Ahn. Right. And, um, and I said, if Mrs on, could. Grow a multi-million dollar business, not speaking any English, like. Selling, uh, courses to non Korean people. I have no excuse because I saw that lady show up every day and hustle. And I was like, I, every great lesson I learned as a startup was from working with her. So she’s like my mom and business in that sense in many, many ways.
Maggie: (00:15:36) Yeah. That’s amazing. Wow. And so while you were going into podcasting, what was that transition like? And, you know, I’m sure around that time, I know like Brian has been doing podcasting longer than I have, but when you were doing podcasting, when you were starting out, what was the podcasting world like? Like, was it getting really popular at that time?
Mike: (00:15:55) It funny or not like, believe it or not. I thought I was late to the podcasting game. Yeah. Because a lot of the folks I will, I was following work in marketing. So, you know, marketers are always at the, at the front end of everything. Right, right. They’re always the earliest adopters, like, look at clubhouse right now. It’s already rife with marketers. Right. I mean, it’s, before we know it there’ll be a clubhouse, how to make seven figures on clubhouse course, you know, marketers do that kind of thing. So. Um, I built my kind of online presence, uh, sorta like, you know, I, there was this great Chinese restaurant I went to when I was in school. And I always remember like seeing the, the whole Zodiac, I’m not an expert in that stuff, but it was just the year of the cow, the year of the horse, whatever. And so I just kind of like, I was like, this is too much for me to learn all at once. So I’m going to just. Add one skill set. Every year I realized like success is sequential. It’s not simultaneous. Most of us want everything. Boom drop on our lap at once. So 2013, I said, hell or high water. I will blog every Monday. And that’s what I worked on. I just worked on blogging. The maggot 2014 is when I added the podcasts, but I didn’t stop blogging. And I realized that I learned so much about. Social media and online media through blogging. I applied that to my podcasts. Now, for all of you are listening who may want to do a podcast one day, like I was a musician, I was a speaker. Podcasting was really hard. I was like sitting in my shorts in my room and I’m like, there’s no energy in here. Like I was so used to live interaction and I realize on a podcast you have to bring 100% of the energy. Yes. Yeah. So that was a completely different light thing that I wasn’t used to. So I struggled through that. I’m believe it or not podcast four in the morning, editing the thing, Brian, maybe you did the same thing. Like, Oh my God. I said, um, I gotta delete every single thing. And I was like that for like a year. Yeah. A year, but I did it. And then 2015 is when I launched my group coaching programs and I had built. Enough of an audience at that time between my blog and my podcast, when I did the group coaching, I made more than enough money to leave my full-time job. And then every year, since then I had it in another, another thing, 2016, I added my first online course, 2017 was my first online, uh, my first live business event, which I filled with people who bought my course. Right. So everything just stacked. Um, yeah. And all the way till now, 2018 was the year of speaking. Uh, 2019 was the year of video. Uh, last year was the year the coronavirus, you know, but I, I, I wrote a book. And then 2021 is the year I’m promoting the book. So people look at all of this that I have, and they think you’re just supposed to have it overnight. But really for me, it was a year by year thing. And I was like, this is the year of the blog. This is a year of the podcast. That’s how I built it.
Bryan: (00:19:08) I like how focused you are, you know how you broke that down too, because a lot of people look at you, you you’re like, wow, my, you got it so easy. You know, like you said, like you mentioned before, it’s very sequential and it takes a lot of discipline and focus and sacrifice, and self-belief mostly it’s I think overcoming that you can do it is the hardest obstacle and it seems like you broke it down year by year. So that’s great for people to know. Cause I feel like nowadays success is so glamorized. Does it, you could have it overnight if you try it. You know, it’s not the case.
Maggie: (00:19:41) What I really like about you though, is that, you know, what you specialize in and you know, that, you know, personal brand name marketing is your forte, but you try different things at the same time, you know, podcasting, blogs, courses, everything like that.You were not afraid to take risks and actually go into. You know, different areas, but you knew exactly what your specialty was.
Mike: (00:20:00) Yeah. And to that, I would say this just for, just encourage those you guys who want to want to get online and all that stuff. My first. 30 episodes or so of my podcasts, you guys will laugh at this. So this is what I decided to call my podcast at the time up and to the right. And yeah, and everyone’s like, what the heck does that mean? I was like, Oh, it’s a business term, but like your profits over time, like nobody understood it. But then I started to realize everyone who was reaching out to me on Facebook, Facebook was like the primary social channel at the time, they were just asking me about building their own coaching business or how to start a podcast. And when I tweaked it. To call it brand you that’s when it took off. So I really labored for about six to seven months. With no one really listening to my show, but I was, I was growing that skill of listening to people and try to evaluate what they were responding to. And then when I made the switch, it really took off. So yeah, just, I didn’t get it. All right. The first time that’s definitely for sure. It was a process kind of going through all that. So, yeah,
Maggie: (00:21:01) that’s really interesting. I oftentimes I feel like a lot of people are afraid to rebrand, you know, like, you know, there’s all also risks that are involved when you rebrand yourself or rename it anything. Right. And I, I love how you took that risk to rebrand yourself and you renamed it to brand new podcasts and that’s when it really took off for you.
Bryan: (00:21:20) Yeah. I liked that too, because my first 15 episodes of my real estate podcasts are crap. Please, please don’t lose another. Listen to them
Maggie: (00:21:28) in the background too. I’ll be like, Oh yeah, it’s pretty bad.
Bryan: (00:21:35) It’s just so nerve wracking, you know, but you know, I took, and the real estate podcast applied to Asia also network and became a lot more successful this time around of course, having Maggie as a co co-host helps a lot too.
Mike: (00:21:46) Yeah. And that’s stuff that no one can take away from you, you know, and Maggie talked about rebranding and a big thing that helped me rebrand. And this is one of the things that I do with a lot of my clients these days is I just ask them three questions and it helps get clarity. I’m like, what pisses you off? What breaks your heart? And what’s the big problem you’re trying to solve. And usually if you can, and reverse engineer the answers to those questions from a brand, or even a podcast, Brian, or even with what you guys are both doing with on like, it’s very clear, that’s why it works. It’s like we’re pissed off that they’re not enough voices or platforms for Asian American entrepreneurs out there. Right. And it really breaks our heart because I mean, You guys didn’t even tell me this. I can reverse reverse engineer it, what breaks our heart is that there are so many successful people in so many great stories that need to be told. So the problem we’re trying to solve is we’re going to create a platform to tell these stories, like, that’s why it works. So when I work with whether it’s a person or a product that we’re trying to launch or anything along those lines, I just use those three questions as a guiding principle, because that’s actually what helped me rebrand. I wasn’t like waking up in the morning, really pissed off that businesses. Weren’t moving their profits up into the right. And I wasn’t heartbroken that they weren’t, they were leaving revenue on the table. What really ticked me off was someone else telling me what days I could work. And I, I didn’t, I couldn’t spend with my family, you know, at the Academy. That’s what happened. I was working like a dog. But they were like, they called me in one day on black Friday. Right after Thanksgiving, I got so pissed because I had this Cray dinner with my mom and we stayed up till like two in the morning drinking. And she’s telling me all these stories about my childhood that I never heard. And I had to leave her at my house and go to work the next day. And I was like, what if I get in a car crash or we never get to do these things ever again. And that was the primary driver. So. For me as a business coach, I always tell people I’m sorta like a business coach. Um, I’m like a life coach in disguise, right, right. Of business. Because I want to help people who want to start a business for themselves in coaching speaking, or creating so that they can live life on their own terms. It’s not really about marketing. I do marketing right. But it’s really deeper than that. And that’s why people have resonated.
Maggie: (00:24:03) So I love that. Yeah. We definitely agree. You know, it does go a lot deeper than that. And, you know, while we’re on the topic of stories and storytelling, I’m very curious what you think about, um, the specific topic because Brian and I, we have our own opinions on it too. We think that there needs to be a story behind every business. And that’s all about Asian hustle network, too. Right? Asian hustle network, people are more willing to share their stories. If they’re able to tie their story with their business, it actually helps the audience tie. How they’re viewing their life to that story. Like, Oh, I really relate to that story. Like, I really want to support this business, you know? So I’m very curious what you think and what your thoughts are on people who think that they should stay behind the scenes of their brand and you know, what your opinions are.
Bryan: (00:24:47) All right. Will be forefront like for fun. Yeah. Yeah.
Mike: (00:24:49) Yeah. I’m, I’m more often than not. An advocate of someone being at the face of their brand. And you might say, people might say, well, that doesn’t really work. Yeah. But look at Sarah Blakely and, and, and Spanx, everyone knows who she is. Right. Um, when you’re pitching a startup and you’re doing it in the traditional way, you’re looking for investors, you have to be the face of that brand and, and, uh, collect investors. Right. And so even when you go to the market, Especially now, like your personal story is the biggest differentiator. That’s the one thing no one can compete with. So I always tell folks, like they get hung up on storytelling because they think they have to tell their life story. And that’s not true. It’s just three stories you need to tell for your business. The first is what I just mentioned, which is your founder story. Like, what’s your background? Why’d you get into this line of work, then you have the business story. Right. And then you have the customer story and that’s really it. So for you guys that it’s a founder story. You know, we, we met, we were together. We just decided to do this thing, but then on has its own story. It has its own story because it’s a separate entity from you guys. It’s your entity, it’s your baby, but it’s different than that. Right? And you tell that story. And then the stories of transformation from your listeners, from all those who are listening today, from the people who are in the Facebook group, uh, the community you’ve built. Um, that’s a separate story. I think where many entrepreneurs and many people get hung up on storytelling is they, they, um, they struggled to tell stories and it’s not their fault. It’s school’s fault. Right? We were all taught to write stories a certain way. So just to kind of give a real helpful, um, framework, every story starts with a character who has a normal life, and then there’s an explosion or what Aristotle used to call the exp the inciting incident. Right. And then that leads them to a new normal. So when I coach people or business owners on telling their stories, I just say normal explosion, new normal start with the explosion. That’s what we get backwards because in school we’re taught to talk about what the exposition and the introduction is, right. We all wrote essays in school and they’re super boring to write and blah, blah, blah. But on an everyday level, you come home from work, right? And you had a bad day at work and your partner or spouse asks you, how’s your day, honey. And you go, Oh, you’ll never believe what that idiot Mike Kim did at work today. You start at the explosion, right? People are like, Hey, how was new? Year’s. This is what I tell him, dude, I lost my phone and my keys. And that’s a true story. Just like over this past new year’s that’s the explosion. Right? And so that’s what makes for a good story. If someone is taking, if you’ve ever been bored by someone telling a story, it’s usually because they’re taking too long to get to the explosion. So in business stories, they don’t need to be our biographies. They don’t need to be our autobiography or life story. They just need to be, like, I just said it before. I was really pissed off that I had to go to work the day after Thanksgiving. So I decided no one’s going to control my life. And I made my way out. That’s the story. I tell an every show, every podcast, every interview. And it’s what resonates.
Maggie: (00:28:16) I love that love that very, it makes me a lot of sense, normal explosion, new normal, because although the normal can apply to you and it might be important to you, you know, because that is your life story. But the explosion part is where you can attract other people because they’re going to see it as an issue to them too. Right. And that’s probably an issue that a lot of people resonate with. So they’re like, Oh, the explosion, I really resonate with that. They’re like, yeah.
Bryan: (00:28:41) So that’s when we talk about personal brands too, like I’m curious what your thoughts are and what are the three identities to a brand
Mike: (00:28:47) Yeah. I don’t think personal branding is going away and to be honest, everyone already has a brand, you know? Uh, and what I say to folks is that there are really three sub identities to every brand, whether it’s a product, whether it’s, you know, a person, whatever it is, there’s of course the visual identity, which is what we normally think. Right. What are the colors? What are the logos? Um, what are the photos look like? The image of the brand? The second is the verbal identity. How they talk. Right. I mean, not to be polarizing or anything, but Donald Trump’s a really good example of having a very strong verbal identity. I mean, you know, when it’s him talk, like people can imitate his tweets. It’s crazy. That’s that’s good branding, you know, not a good message, but good branding. Right. Um, and then 30 of the value identity of the brand, which is your positioning, you know, where you sit relative to the competition. So, um, in a personal brain, especially all three of those things have to line up. Right. They’re like legs on a tripod. If one is shorter where one’s like off the whole thing, kind of topples over. Um, just imagine with me, if I took a Louis Vuitton ad, right? Like $5,000 purse and $3,000 watch and cufflinks. And I put like Walmart text over it, like big discount sale ends today. It would feel wrong. Right. You don’t need to be an expert to know something’s off about that marketing and that’s the visual and verbal and value identity not aligning. So with us as personal brands, you know, and I just want to commend you guys all you’re listening. We didn’t talk before this. So all of this is just from me to you guys. Um, But what do you guys have done is you’ve built something that, um, you’ve built a campfire that people can gather around. And when you’re a personal brand, that’s, what’s important. A lot of folks will ask me, is it too much to share this or too much to share that? And what I just say in response, like very kindly as can you build a campfire around it? Is it warm? Is it inviting? Is it inclusive? Is it, uh, are you a person that people want to be around? Um, what I see a lot of people in the space do, and now the space is so much more mature than when I started back in 2013 or whenever it, it was like they just flat out lie. They rent an Airbnb in like stage of photo shoot and act like it’s their house. That’s right. That’s crazy. Right. But they lie or they overshare in the name of being authentic. Right. And what they’re really doing is they’re sharing. They’re trying to, it’s okay to share your struggles. But as soon as you try to start trying to sell your struggles, you’re not building a campfire, you’re building a car wreck, you know, like a lot of eyeballs are on you, but then they go away because you can’t build a community around a train wreck, a car wreck. So I just say, can you build a campfire around it? And that’s what you guys have done. With on it’s like people are Congress. They’re like, I think I belong there. This is great. This is a warm, inviting place. I like these people. Like let’s tell everybody else, Hey, we’re all gathering around your and share what happens at camp for you share stories. That’s exactly what you guys have done. So whether you realize it or not, High fives to you, both for doing a great job with your branding, [because that’s exactly what you’ve done and that’s why it’s working.
Maggie: (00:32:04) Oh, thank you. I love that analogy. I haven’t really thought about it in that way. As a count of
Bryan: (00:32:08) all the things that we do in the age zone is from the heart. When you feel like you want to be the shiny life for the community, but now you put in disrespective. We need to read your marketing books when it comes out.
Mike: (00:32:19) I’ll send you guys a pre-coffee no problem. Yeah.
Maggie: (00:32:24) I’m very curious. Um, what would it be? The one thing that a person can do for their business, that would be the biggest differentiator among their competitors?
Mike: (00:32:35) Hmm. Well, I know this is going to sound kind of like a, um, a stock answer, but it’s really to tell your stories. Um, I do that all the time, but you could, there are a lot of other people who teach what I teach there are I teach it in my own certain way, but the reason folks gravitate towards me is because of my stories. Right. And then who I am, and those are the, who I am is intangible. Like they just like how I talk. They just like my personality. Um, I’m a little bit more, uh, I try to be more approachable, whereas other people, and there’s nothing wrong with this. Like Gary Vaynerchuk or, you know, grant Cardone, they’re salty. Right. Yeah, no, they’re angry almost right. And some people respond to that. So when I say, when I see someone who is launching a personal brand, or even just a brick and mortar, small business, I’m like, what is the story behind this? This is what we want to tell to people. If you’ve ever sat down at an Italian restaurant where the place mat has a little story of how uncle Giuseppe came over from Italy, with his secret sauce from his third grandma, people read that. And there’s kind of like this deeper connection there. Um, we mentioned Sarah Blakely before, um, her stories, what differentiates Spanx, it’s a great product, but she personalizes it. Um, and if people think this is new, it’s not like this may be before you guys time. But, um, man, when I was like a really little kid, my mom got into the juicers, you know, and there was this great juicer called the juice man juicer. And then before you knew it, this fitness guy named Jacqueline Lane, it’s like this old dude who did pull-ups all the time on infomercials. He’s like seven years old. He had a bunch of gyms. They were like the LA fitness of the day. And he came out with his own juicer called the power juicer, but people bought his stuff because of him. Right. Two identical products, but the personal brand and is what set him apart. So my mom bought that juicer cause she was like, Oh, there’s a Jacqueline lean fitness club in Fort Lee. Like we tried past all the time. She had the brand recognition and there was a story behind it. He was like, Oh, he’s old. He can do 20 pull-ups. It’s probably because of his juice. I was like, it’s the same juice. No, it must be special because it comes from his juicer. Right? So even that is an example of personal brand or story, helping to strengthen a product even more. So if it’s a restaurant or, um, you know, consulting or creative services, whatever you name it, all that cuts through the noise.
Maggie: (00:35:15) Really interesting. And do you think that if you build a following and if you build a really good personal brand for yourself, you would have your followers follow you into whatever niche you go into. If you decide to go into different niches.
Mike: (00:35:27) Yes, absolutely. So, um, I know those of you who watch, uh, listening on the podcast, can’t see me kind of visualize this, but there’s this thing that I’ll, that I actually talk about in the book, um, which you guys didn’t even know about. So, Maggie, I love that we’re talking about it. I just call it the path of the personal brand. Oh, so when you’re starting out, you don’t have any followers, you know, but you don’t even know anybody, but you, you move along, you put yourself out there with social media or, you know, a podcast or whatever it is, and you enter what I call the Valley of focus and it feels very lonely and it feels like almost like someone who’s asking you to niche down and concentrate and focus. Brian, like you said, on one thing almost feels like it’s limiting you. Like you’re asking, someone’s asking you to like walk with one arm tied behind your back. But that focus is actually what brings clarity to the marketplace. And you slowly start to attract a follow me of your own. And then you start to attract other influential people who come to you because you can fix one certain problem. They bring with them their big tribe. Yeah. And now they ask you to present on their podcast or webinar or whatever it is. And you’ve just picked up a bunch of their followers. Then another influencer finds you and the process repeats itself until you found three or five or 10 or 20 or a hundred influencers. Now you have this following from their followers and a very small percentage of them. But if your audience is big enough, it will be fine. We’ll follow you. Not because of what you know, but because of who you are. Right. And you can go into the land of whatever you want. Right. And this is what has happened with Joe Rogan. I’m going to name a few people, right? Joe Rogan, Oprah Winfrey, Gary Vaynerchuk, the rock people like the rock can do anything. Yeah. But for, but he was a failed NFL player. He didn’t make the NFL. He was a professional wrestler for 20 years. And a lot of people don’t know this cause he hit his peak. When I was in college, when he started getting his first movie deals, wrestling fans hated it. They thought he sold out. But enough, yeah. Enough people liked him to watch his movies. Right. And then he went full-time into that. Now he has deals with what under armor, all these movies. And this is tell me this is an off-brand. He’s a fitness action star promoting tequila. I mean, that’s unhealthy for you. And yet it works. That’s the power of the personal brand. So those are all really good examples of people who concentrated in one area. Joe Rogan did fear factor UFC Gary Vaynerchuk sold wine. Oprah was a weather person at the local news station. They did one thing for a long time. Right. And then they could go into whatever they wanted because they grew up enough of a following.
Bryan: (00:38:29) Yeah. So, I guess I have a curve ball question to that. How do you feel about people? Let’s say you built a personal brand, right? You’re known for one certain thing, but now you’re having a lot of people asking to partner up with you to quote unquote, try to do the same thing. So you are, but always love is your name. How do you feel about protecting that personal brand in terms of lifestyle, including my knee, with your name?
Mike: (00:38:53) I feel like this is a real question, Brian, I’m going to give you something that’ll hopefully help. Okay. Um, when a partner approaches you, or when you want to approach someone you want to partner up with, this is the perspective I take, right. Partner up, collaborate across mentor around. Those are the three ways that you build relationships in this industry. So partner up is I need that person. They can do for me, something I can not do for myself. That’s a very different relationship than collaborate across. Right. Um, and then those who are just around you just mentor those folks, the people who are already listening on the podcast and following you. Right. So when I go to a partner up. Or a collaborate across. All I’m really trying to do is be the jelly to their peanut butter. And if I can’t figure out how to do that, I’m going to expect, they’re going to say no. Right. So someone comes to you, Brian. Okay. Just hypothetically, let’s just say right. And they’re either a collaborator or they want to partner up because you’ve earned some influence. They bring better, bring some jelly to the peanut butter. It’s gotta be different, but still can fit sort of in the same sandwich. And if they don’t do the hard work of differentiating themselves, you know, for themselves, then you should just say no, because then it’s just more peanut butter. We don’t need more peanut butter, dude. We need a little bit of jelly in the sandwich. I mean, you can have a peanut butter sandwich, but peanut butter and jelly is way better. So it’s their job to differentiate themselves. Even when I go to people who I want to collaborate with, people are sort of on the same level or, you know, few notches above or few notches below whatever. Um, I’m always asking them, how can I compliment what you’re doing? How can I add value to what you’re doing and not step on you? So when I go to my friend, Chris Ducker, Real real life guy teaches personal branding is based out of England. When he’s like, Mike, can you come and speak at my conference? He doesn’t need to ask me not to speak on personal branding. I already know. I’m just going to Chris. I’ll talk about copywriting. Cause I don’t want to, I don’t want to step on his toes. He’s inviting me to his stage. I want to make him look great. I want to add value to his audience. I’m going to bring jelly to that. Peanut butter. Right. Um, so I’m always trying to be conscious of that. And I’m looking for people who are gonna put that amount of forethought when they approach me and you guys should do the same, you know, and for anyone listening, just partner up, collaborate across mentor around, but you have to really think about how you can compliment and not compete. And for me, a lot of my biggest doors open because I did that, I wasn’t a competitor. I was a complimenter.
Bryan: (00:41:46) Yeah, I can totally relate to that too. I’m pretty much compliments or uplift there, like supporting people.
Mike: (00:41:53) Yeah. But also, you know, now you guys built this great community and it’s your time to you. It is really your time to lead and people are looking to you. And so with leadership, it like there come, you know, more responsibilities and more opportunities actually to say no. Um, which is really important. You know, um, it’s just, it’s just the way it works. It’s hard, but it’s the way it works. Huh.
Maggie: (00:42:18) Wow. That’s amazing. I love how you’re just giving us these analogies. Cause it’s so much easier to picture them. So let’s talk a little bit about you, Mike, and you know, your journey after, you know, all the, all of these ventures. What has been your biggest challenge thus far and what have you learned out of it?
Mike: (00:42:39) Oh, yeah. The biggest challenge is, um, is I think just taking responsibility for myself. Um, I don’t think that in this industry, the one that we’re in, where like you are the face of a brand, I don’t think that your impact and your influence can really far exceed your personal development. And so, yeah, you always have to look at yourself. I’m always feeding myself personal development books and speeches, like the, Oh, gee guys, like Jim Roan, like Tony Robbins coach, you know, um, I call them the grand coach, right? Like, uh, you know, my coaches, coaches. Right. And I’m always like, kind of looking to those kinds of people and, um, Maggie to that point, it’s like every mistake I make in business ultimately falls on me. Um, every success I have, I ultimately have to say, like I had a hand in that I don’t want to boast about it, but if you’re going to be your own worst critic, you have to also be your own biggest fan sometimes. And your own biggest encourager. And the hardest thing for me now is at this point, um, I haven’t figured it all out yet, but it’s really looking for the next thing that really lights me up for many years. My goal was simply to get out of my day job and be my own boss. And I’ve found that it’s not enough to be saved from something you have to be saved to something right, right. To a greater purpose. And I think gradually that shifts over time and you move from like a, uh, you know, a present negative to a future positive. But if you wait too long, it becomes a pre you know, you’re, it’s like a present positive and a future negative, and you’re afraid to start taking more risks. Right. And you take your foot off the gas. And so for me, it’s really, um, it’s why it resonates so much with what you guys are doing. I’m like, okay, I’m Asian. I think I was Asian for a reason aided in this world for, to some degree, you know, I have like really good connections in this whole online marketing world. Um, they don’t see me as a person. Like they don’t see me as an Asian guy. They just think I’m Mike, but how do I share some of what I’ve learned? So that 20 somethings and 30 somethings don’t have to like languish in lines. They don’t, they don’t really love or work that they don’t really love. Um, and they don’t have to wait until they’re 30 something like I was to figure it out. So that’s really what my life is like slowly becoming about, I think. And, but finding that clarity was really tough. It was. I mean, yeah. You guys know as business owners and entrepreneurs, like you have to answer questions that a lot of people don’t have to answer. Like, where am I going to live here? We can live anywhere. Okay. That’s kind of weird. Like what do you do with your day? Yeah, I can do anything. And most people don’t understand that. That’s a really hard question.
Bryan: (00:45:38) Very hard question. Yeah. I always tell people, it almost feels like I’m drifting sometimes my day. Um, I have a lot of choices and comes. A lot of uncertainty comes a lot of doubt. Which is they’ll have a guiding more start guiding along the process. You’re most likely lost. I have to, you know?
Mike: (00:45:56) Yeah. So, so many of those, so many of those questions are answered for people, and then they say, I want freedom and then they get it. And they’re like paralyzed by all this choice. And like it’s in marketing, we call it the tyranny of choice. And that’s why, like, when we, when I craft marketing campaigns, I’m like, no, there are three things that a person can do. That’s it I’ll tell a client. They’re like, no, they should be able to do anything. I was like, no, there’s a reason extra value meals sell so well at McDonald’s it removes people from having to think so much, right? Like even Chipotle is very, very easy to choose what you want. Right. Then you go to a restaurant, we’ll make anything you want. That’s really hard. But when we get to that point in life, It is hard. So you have to surround yourself with other people. Um, I’m part of mastermind groups. I run mastermind groups for those express purposes. Like we help each other kind of figure out, you know, where we’re going and it’s really important.
Bryan: (00:46:53) Yeah. Like Spiderman, saturate, or inspired him in the movie with great power comes great responsibility. I can play at the Wilson situation, but you know, with great freedom of choice, you know, great responsibility.
Mike: (00:47:05) Yeah, totally. I totally agree.Yeah.
Maggie: (00:47:08) After years of just helping so many authors and world-renowned speakers and small business owners, what would you say is like the one biggest mistake that people make when starting a business or just, you know, Trying to be an entrepreneur in general.
Bryan: (00:47:25) I want to hear this.
Mike: (00:47:29) Okay. The one biggest missed. So I’m going to frame it in terms of entrepreneurship and business. Okay. I’m going to frame it in that. Um, because there’s so many things that we could get wrong, but, um, I think not being honest with what you really want, a lot of people hide behind activity or busy-ness and you might not know like, How you’re going to get there, but you need to know what you want. And I’m not saying like who your client is or what your sales numbers are. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about what do you want your business to give you? What do you want your business to allow you to do? So for me, it was freedom. That was my big thing. And um, if I could give another analogy, right? Maggie. So like here we are, we’re all on this Island called pain Island and we’re trying to build a boat. That gets us across the water to pleasure Island or happy Island. You need to know what pleasure Island is. You don’t need to know what the boat looks like necessarily right now. Like if we’re trying to get off a burning Island, like the three of us are on it, we don’t care what the boat looks like. Just get it. Some guys like, Oh, we have these great propellers in the water and these wonderful leather. So you don’t get us on the boat and get us out of here. Tell us about the bull leader. We actually don’t really care. We just want to get to pleasure Island. Right. And so what happens is a lot of us spend an inordinate amount of time. On what the boat looks like and what kind of boat we’re going to build and what color it is and how many propellors it’s going to have and how many motors it’s going to have, how many seats? And it’s like, dude, that’s what entrepreneurship is about. You figure that out, but you need to know where you’re going. So for me, it was, I want the ability to work from anywhere. I wanted to be able to, uh, do my work by sharing thoughts and ideas. Um, That I actually believe in, I don’t want to sell Q-tips. I don’t want to do telemarketing from anywhere. I don’t want to, you know, that that’s, I want to do things that I love and believe in and share my ideas. And I want the ability to do that. Usually at any time that I want and have control over my schedule. Right. Other people say, I want to start this company so I can empower my community and create jobs. Like, you know, God, God rest his soul. Tony Shay. Right. Did that in Vegas. Right. He had a different vision for his business. And I wouldn’t say it. I would say it’s a bigger vision than what I had for mine, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better one because your business should be what you want. You know, it should give you what you want it to give you. And that’s where, you know, people aren’t really honest with what they want. Um, a story on that, like, uh, recently I hired. Or the last two years of hard to fitness coaches. Right. And the first one I lied to, you know, he was like, Oh, well, what do you want? I was like, well, you know, I just want to get my blood pressure down. I’m working too hard and blah, blah, blah he’s. Okay. So gave me all these crazy calisthenic exercises, right? It’s killing me. Just killing me. Right. And I’m not gaining any muscle, I’m just, you know, just killing me. Right. And so I quit after like three months. Right. We did it virtually. And the second person I hired, uh, she was actually one of my, in one of my coaching groups. This is a young gal out of San Diego. She was a Navy rescue swimmer. So she’s pretty jacked and all that. And young, young, young lady, like 23, 24 years old. And she, um, She sat me down and he was like, Mike Kim, your life is out of control. Cause he was with me at a conference and she saw how I live at conferences and you’re not sleeping. You’re drinking like a fish, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You need to get your life on here. So she sits me down. He says like, what do you want? I was like, well, you know, I want to get my blood pressure down. And she’s like, yes. Right. Lie to me. I’m military, this little girl, right. This young girl that was like, all right, Christina fine. Her name is Christina Hall. You’re I always give her props because she she’s really transformed my life. And since I knew her, I didn’t think it would be inappropriate. Right. Cause you know, we were in the same group together and she knew my humor. So she’s like, what do you really want? I was like, okay, can I really tell you, will you promise not to do. Be offended. If I say that, she’s like, yeah, it’s fine. I was like, I just said, I just, Christina, I just want to look good naked. And she just laughed. I want girls to like me. I’m divorced. I’m single again. I was just getting older. I want to like, if you could make me look like Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool pay whatever amount of money and we had a great laugh and she’s like, okay, we’re going to call it. Operation look good naked. And I was honest with her and we just had this great shoot. Oh, really? Did you have another beer today? Really? I’m seeing what, you’re, what you’re entering into the app. She kept me on a ball and chain with his app on what I was eating, but I was honest and it worked and I just needed to find someone I could be honest with. Cause this other dude, I didn’t trust him. You know, I didn’t trust him. Cause I heard him talk a lot about his other clients. When he was like working with me, I was say, I don’t want him telling other people that, you know, he works with me and that he’s going to spill on my side. I didn’t really trust him. So I gave him a dishonest answer. I trusted her. And it was really honest. And so, you know, I think that’s really where it starts, guys. It’s be honest about what you really want then the right coaches and people can help you get there. You just need to be really honest about it. Yeah. Sorry if that was TMI too graphic, but it’s always a Hilarie people always get this crazy reaction.
Maggie: (00:53:03) Takeaway is just be honest with yourself, even if it’s. Looking good naked. That’s always Brian’s answer too.
Mike: (00:53:12) There you go. Oh, dude. Right on man. I’m right. High five.
Bryan: (00:53:19) All my friends
Maggie: (00:53:23) have one last question for you, Mike, we would love to know what your goals are going to be for 2021.
Mike: (00:53:31) I want to hit the New York times bestseller list with my book. Right. Um, we’ve done a lot of work on it. Uh, this probably like, I always joke, like this is like the third hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And then, uh, people always go, what are the first two? You know? And I don’t know, that’s the inner market or coming out, you know, just salt, some mystery on it. But, um, it really was blood, sweat, and tears writing this book. And it’s the, it’s the book I wish I had when I started out. When I started out, there were a lot of books on marketing. There are a lot of books on career changes, but there were no books on starting a business as a creator. We’re a coach and sharing your ideas online. And so, um, I really want to get it into as many people’s hands as possible. And, uh, to that end, I wanna, you know, make a bestseller list. I want to, I want to be an Asian American author. Who hits a major bestseller list. I think we need more of those and I feel safe sharing that with you guys. Um, you know, and, uh, and give a voice, you know, to, to people who really want to do work that they love and believe in. That’s what I want. So whether I’ll get there, I don’t know, I’ll die trying of do everything ethically possible, uh, to get there. And so, and you guys are a big part of that. Thank you so much for having me on the platform. Um, But I really want to do that, not just for my, uh, not just for my business or what, if people can consume my content whenever they want, but the book to get it in the hands of people to give them hope and to really help them say, finally, this is what I’ve been looking for, a roadmap and a blueprint to do this. And especially for Asian Americans, you know, cause I mean, we’re pretty smart. We’re pretty hardworking. We’re pretty good people, you know, and I want to help as many of us as possible to get.
Maggie: (00:55:18) Definitely love it. Well, keep us updated about the book. We’re super excited to hear more about it and for our listeners, how can they find out more about you online, Mike?
Mike: (00:55:28) Yeah. So if you guys are into podcasts, you’re listening to a podcast right now, just hop over to my podcast. It’s called brand U uh, the brand new podcast. A lot of what I’m sharing in the book is taken from the stuff that I shared there. And if you’re looking to, um, And build a business as a coach speaker creator. Um, That’s the podcast for you. We’ve done really well. I’ve been very humbled, uh, to see how the show has done. And the book is called you are the brand and it comes out July 13th. So yeah, that’s, that’s where people can find us.
Maggie: (00:56:01) Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Mike. It was amazing hearing your story and we had an incredible time having you on the show.
Bryan: (00:56:07) Love listening to you.
Mike: (00:56:13) Oh, this was so fun. Thank you for having me. I feel like I can like, just let loose, you know, and talk about things that I don’t normally talk about. So this was, thank you guys for having me. This is really a privilege.
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