Social media has had a tremendous impact on the world in recent years. Many people now use it, and companies are beginning to leverage it as a marketing tool, with social media users constituting a sizable portion of their target audience. How a business decides to use social media can have a big effect on how its brand grows. The modern visitor experience is heavily dependent on the use of social media as a means of advertising to a wide audience.
In this episode of Building Brand Advocacy, Paul is joined by Tricia Mahoney, CMO of Twisted X Global Brands.
If you’re interested in finding out how brand builders use social media to drive brand growth, tune in to this episode of Building Brand Advocacy.
Paul Archer: Hello, my name is Paul Archer, I am your host and I am really excited to be joined by Tricia. Tricia, how are you doing?
Tricia Mahoney: Hi, I am great, Paul, how are you?
Paul: Very well. Tricia, before we get stuck into your, the brands and the amazing work that you're doing right now, can you take us back a few years, starts at the very beginning of your career? How did you get to joining this wonderful world of brand building that we love so much right now?
Tricia: Yes. Okay, so my career began in high tech. I worked for a company at the time called CMGI. They were an internet holding company. I'm going to scoot back a little bit. I was agency-side and got poached by CMGI. When I was at CMGI, this was a really big deal because it was wholly owned and partially owned internet companies at the infancy of dot coms. While I was there, they had about 26 companies when I joined, by the time that I left, they had 76, and that was in less than a three-year period. For me, I love building. I love coming into almost where there's nothing, and I have to find my way through, muddle it through and figure out how to build.
Throughout my career, I have seeked out both agency-side and client-side opportunities where I like to be the person where everyone's, "Gosh, I just don't know how to do that," and I'm like, "Okay, give it to me. I'll figure it out." I love puzzles, and I love figuring things out. My career's diverse agency-side, client-side across a huge ton of industries. I love building and creating awareness for brands that desperately need it.
Paul: That's awesome. A lot of things to jump into there, but how do you start? You've done it enough times to have basically built a model, I'm sure. If you're coming into a brand that hasn't really got everything nailed, and you need to really turn them around and get them going again, where is the first place you look?
Tricia: The basics, you have to take it right down to the raw basics. The most important thing for me is to build it with the right team, you can't build if you don't have the right people. I've had the luxury throughout my career to work with some extraordinarily talented people, and I pride myself on trying to seek out and work with those that are experts in their relative area of focus, and I tried to get them on my team. When you've got an incredible team, you can really accomplish anything, because you've got that trust there. And then you can push everyone's boundaries to do things that we all have never done before, collectively together. We accept the failures together, and we accept the wins together.
For me, when you're building from the ground up, team is number one. And then, it's based on the brand because every brand has something different that you're trying to accomplish, but it really is the mark right? If it's got a tagline, what are we communicating from the logo, the mark? Is there a website? Is there social? Sometimes there isn't. Overall, who are we talking to, and how do we want to present ourselves to those that we're trying to sell to in any way?
Paul: That journey, obviously hiring incredible talent, but once you've gotten the base to understand who you're talking to, how do you go in? I mean, presumably, you've done this for industries you don't know anything about. You're going from the foundation of where do you start with that. How do you start those conversations? What is it you're seeking to understand from those buyers so that you can be better at your job?
Tricia: Where I am right now, that is actually a very applicable question for where I am right now. I am at Twisted X Global Brands. I was recruited here. It is a company of western heritage, and it's a grouping of footwear brands. I don't live the Western lifestyle. I don't have any Western experience, and I've never been in footwear. When the recruiter was recruiting me, I was really clear. I said, "You know I'm not from western?" "Yes, very clear." "You know, I don't have footwear?" "Very clear." They're looking for a brand builder.
In circumstances like that, you have to, for me, it was hard, because I didn't have those experiences. At the same time, I've got a company full of people that are in footwear and live the Western lifestyle. Tapping the knowledge within the walls first, relying on the salesforce next, and then trying to get data and analytics from those end consumers, or those that are buying and touching my brands. Ideally, trying to build an army of an arsenal of those that adore the brand is my ultimate goal.
Paul: That super fandom is the thing that drives it forward. Do you believe that they exist already when you're coming in, or are you building them from scratch, you going and telling that brand story? How do you see the difference between those two?
Tricia: It depends on the brand. This particular brand where I am right now, they have the arsenal of those that adore the brand. There was nothing being done to cultivate and expand that, which-- That made this job really easy because I wasn't coming in because I've come into other organizations where they're bringing you on because they have a nightmare. Their customer service is terrible. They have a terrible product, and that's really hard. That's the hardest thing.
If the product stinks, there's not a lot that you can do to solve for that unless you throw a ton of money at it. Still, unless the product is good, that's challenging. Luckily here, product is fantastic, it was selling literally, virtually no marketing. For me, it was just putting gasoline on it really. How can we just amplify this to the level that we just have fans, fans upon fans upon fans?
Paul: How has that changed in the era of social media? Twisted X been around all social, I would guess is that right?
Tricia: Twisted X was founded in 2005, but because of the heritage of Western-- Western lives a very different lifestyle, and is not as digitally forward as other industries. Twisted X was not in really that digital mindset, until very recently, until I came on board in May, digital being an area of focus, because it's necessary, at this point in the world of social media. Gosh, your advocates are everywhere, and if you harness the right advocates, it exponentially grows at exponential rates. It's finding those that can be your ambassadors, your feet on the street, those that are going to be talking about and adoring your brand, rewarding and giving them the power to tell their individual unique, authentic stories.
Paul: Nay, is my language. This is definitely my jump now, so how did you do that? You were coming in, it was there and a set program in place when you joined. Was there barely any socials happening at all? Do you build it up completely from scratch?
Tricia: We did have some social channels, but it was, I would say the aesthetic, the cadence, the tone, the voice, the messaging was just random. It was whatever at that moment, "Oh, gosh, let's go outside in the parking lot, and let's shoot this particular shoe and talk about how great it is," without having any strategy behind. What are we trying to accomplish? What are the products that we're trying to either accelerate with sales, we're trying to either introduced to the market via awareness? There wasn't strategy. Social was minimal, so it was everything being built from the ground up. Literally, I'm not kidding everything, we didn't have anything here, but that's the fun of it. The fun of it is the building.
Paul: The building is, yes, that's the work and that's the rewarding element of it. Then you were saying about you managed to get these advocates, these boots in the streets, no pun intended, to be your brand and ambassadors, was that the next phase once you've got the social end, or was that integral to getting your social media more established?
Tricia: That happened simultaneously. It was elevating, everything from elevating to the basics of photography, getting the right visual because before, if you don't have the right visual that's depicting where the brand is supposed to be going. Unless everything is working in conjunction, the aesthetic, the tone, the voice, the people, the messaging, the product, it all has to work in unison. It's a perfect little recipe. You have to get the recipe right for that amplification to actually work to the level that you need it to work, whether it's organic or through paid for or a combination of both.
Paul: When someone does advocate for you, they in- make some impact, whether that's online or offline, how are you tracking that and how are you rewarding them for and recognize them for that?
Tricia: We have different programs that we're doing. We track through UTMs and just your normal right analytics, we track that way. That's a new thing for us too. There was no tracking that was being done before. There was also a huge overhaul of the dotcom that we finally now have a destination that depicts the brand properly and all of the things that the brand does from product and people and planet and partnership without the final-- We had to build every single step. It's crazy.
It sounds so basic and so many companies are, I would say, so much farther forward than Twisted X was. It's amazing once you start to get the basics in place, the acceleration does speed up quickly. Back to your original question, how do we track. We're tracking the best that we can at this moment. The reward of the ambassadors or the influencers are different. We have a number of brands in the family and those influencers want to get rewarded in different ways. A lot of it for us is via product, which is super, super easy for us.
A lot of it is-- We work with with a lot of, I would say influencers or ambassadors that are like their follower base is small, so we give them the acceleration for their individual personal brands. It's basically we consider it a little bit of a partnership to help them. They help us, we help them.
Paul: You're platforming them, maybe putting their content into your media buy or something like that. Is that right?
Tricia: 100% yes.
Paul: It's just huge opportunity for them in their, early on in their career.
Tricia: We just now try like as we're getting these models and influencers, giving them that platform. It's like now trying to keep them from our competition because they have such visibility now. It's a wonderful problem to have, but that is a challenge too.
Paul: What's the craziest thing you've seen your mega super fans do for you at the brand? Like what's really surprising, particularly coming in from not from the Western world, what has really blown you away?
Tricia: We do tons and tons of photo shoots. One of the brands in the family is Black Star. It's a higher end women's Western boot line. When we do our shoots, we'll have anywhere from 5 to 25 models, different locations all over, wherever we might be. We have models that beg us to come. They don't want to get paid. From this, it's incredible. They just want to be part of and they want content. For me, it's amazing to me what they will do. We've got models that will drive or travel 10 hours to come for a two-day shoot, won't want to be compensated, and they might just want a cool pair of boots. It's amazing to me, I've never experienced that in any other industry other than the Western industry.
Paul: Do you think that's part of the influencer generation that is coming out now, in that you've got a whole load of people who are like, "You know what? I can make this a career. People are following me. The more that I do, the more brands I recognize, this is my foot on the ladder." Do you think it's a-- They're doing it from a professional perspective or is this about the brand love, combination of the two? And fascinating to know the mindset that these people are doing when they're jumping and deciding, "I'm going to drive across the country to do a shoot, I'm going to take time off work," or whatever the case is.
Tricia: I think that it's. A lot of it is they're building their own personal brands and trying to partner up with like-minded brands that meld with their personal aesthetic. When you get that to happen and you got a brand that supports their influencers and ambassadors, I guess treats their content with as much respect as we treat our own personal content that is a true partnership. I think they're trying to build their own personal brands, and those brands that line up with them are lucky enough to just, we're all lucky enough to just connect at the same time.
Paul: I love that. I spent some time with the team over at TikTok a couple weeks ago. They were talking me through their strong opinions on the difference between creators and influencers. What the insight that I took away from that is everyone who creates content is a creator. An influencer is something you are, so being a creator is something you do, and the influencer is you become influential. You're basically famous.
The old word for it used to be famous but famous for your creations. Your social creator is the role that got you there. Which for me gave me a real insight as to, "Okay, cool, right before you can become famous enough to be influential, ie, an influencer, you've got to create. That creation piece is the work. If you are able to create great content, they are visually aesthetic, you're able to work with brands to level them up. You can commercialize it as well, but at the heart of it's just that content and that content which is being consumed across all the media platforms that we use every single day.
Tricia: I also see there's a difference when you were talking about creators versus influencers. We have a number of photographers that are influencers for us, but I view those photographers, those truly, truly are the content creators. I have to say, I'm not sure how much they desire to be an influencer by default. They end up being an influencer because they ultimately just want to create beautiful, compelling, aesthetic of the world that they live versus an influencer is the opposite. I view them as more of it's about their platform and the content is the conduit for them to level up. We work with both for both of those reasons.
Paul: It's like the irony is the creator is the one who's become the influencer, yet the-
Paul: -model who isn't necessarily creating is one's that's desperate to become the influencer, but isn't one yet.
Tricia: That's right. Yes, yes.
Paul: Amazing world that we live in and the word of mouth, the way that it passes, travels for a brand like Twisted X, do you have regular events for your customers or is it that you, where have you found is a place to find out where they hang out? Is it rodeos or are these events, how do you show up for your brand for your fans as a brand, and how do you support them on a regular basis?
Tricia: We have core art. We have a bunch of different categories that we sell into, Western being our heritage, of course, that's the rodeo scene. Anything around rodeo, we're preparing for right now, which is the largest event for us, is the NFR, the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. It happens every December. We have sponsorships with athletes. For us, it's showing up for our athletes. It's also showing up in our retailer locations at shopping venues during the NFR.
Also just throughout the year, rodeo events and agricultural events too. We're trying to work more and more with youth through the FFA or 4H. For us, we're trying to show up within for those that live the lifestyle of product that we deliver against. We're also, Twisted X is also now selling into mainstream retailers as well. We show up a little bit differently. In that way our main focus is truly when it comes to events and destinations, it is our core Western audience that we're talking to.
Paul: Love it, love a good rodeo as well. I've only been to the Houston Rodeo, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.
Tricia: Oh, they're fun.
Paul: They're fun. In terms of, actually when we-- Shifting back down to talking about brands, how you show up for it and actually how you get in front of people. What do you see shifting or what have you seen shift over the past 12 months since Covid started to settle down and where do you see it going next year? Ads, customer acquisitions have been skyrocketing. Where's next for brands and are you worried for the way things are going? Are you excited? I'd love to get your read on this.
Tricia: Twisted X Global brands, we're not a direct to consumer company. None of our brands in the family are direct to consumers. Our model is a B2B model where we sell to the retailers, we support our retailers, so they can then basically have the click or the conversion with the end consumers. During Covid-- Covid shifted so much for us. When Covid happened-- At that time we completely had to shift everything that we were doing because our success was completely reliant upon our retailers' success.
Many of our retailers, as many retailers around the world weren't open. For us, we completely had to shift the way that we worked. We ended up turning into an ad hoc agency where we were helping to build websites and content for social. We ended up feeding and working with all of our retailers. Now, fast forward, what did that do for us? It actually really helped the relationship that we had with our retailers.
We were able to help them with content and the connectedness and engagement that they had with their end consumers. Now, trends what I'm seeing now is, I would say it's a big shift. Supply chain is still a huge challenge. For the end consumers, it's still hard for them to find the product that they want, but there's a lot of product in the marketplace. We do see that there is a shift of end consumers that are visiting and going to retail destinations, and we're seeing a shift, not a decrease in e-comm, but it's a shift in e-comm.
Some of our independent retailers are having better and more sales at their retail locations, where some of our more focused e-comm retailers, they are seeing an increase in e-comm sales. We're seeing an increase everywhere. I'll say just even with all of the discussion about inflation and economy, we're not seeing a decrease on our side, which I don't know if we're just really lucky or it's a common theme, but we're having great success and we are actually really excited for this upcoming holiday season.
Paul: Amazing. Are you changing your strategy at all next year? Do you think that there's anything that you are going to be doing more or doubling down on it? A lot of brands that we are talking to are trying to get their head around social commerce and how they can really work with creators and advocates to drive that narrative. Not being D to C that's often a little bit more challenging, but where else do you think this is going? Are you like-- Do you think that still it's going to be the classic SEO and Facebook budgets that's driving your retailers to it or actually, are we able to going to be seeing loads more offline activities as the world starts to shift a bit?
Tricia: Yes, I would say for us what our focus is, our focus is the same. We're still in major building mode, but I will say I do think that there is more and more of an opportunity for brands as the world now is much more comfortable with being out and about. Now post-Covid, people are excited about being out. There's not that fear anymore. I would say the adoption of more event-based efforts for us, for awareness, and then for our retailers to drive commerce. That to me makes the most sense and we are ramping up efforts, I would say in the latter part of '23, but that's where the majority of our events happen. They happen in Q3 and Q4 for us.
Paul: Right. Got it. This is busy peak season for many reasons.
Paul: Fantastic. Now, before I jump into some of the quick five questions that I wanted to ask you you, you're a published author. Tell me about the books you've written.
Tricia: It was a while ago, so I wrote a book for women based on style, Style for you. Your Body. Your Life. The other book was an inspirational co-authored book where I brought together six other CEOs. At the time we each wrote a chapter just about what inspires us. And my current manuscript that I'm working on is called Trust the Path. It is strangely enough, it is the journals and my notes of my journey during and post my divorce. It's highly personal and it's about an evolution of life and healing.
Paul: Amazing and by the way, we can cut this bit out,if you don't want to talk about it because I knew that we were recording this as well. Does this tie back to your professional life in many ways? How do you find writing and building brands to have an overlap?
Tricia: I would say there's a direct correlation between the skillset, I would say the topic. The topic, there isn't an overlap when I talk about what drives me from a personal level, which is self-healing and propelling of self. I would say that the skillset of writing and articulation and communication is what I do every day. It's just part of who I am as a human being. It's just core to who I am and it's core to the job that I do. If I can bring the human side at any point of time into the work that I'm doing through empathy, kindness and healing I will and try to.
Paul: Do you think there's a space for brands to be more kind, to be more empathetic?
Tricia: I sure do. I absolutely do and I actually think that at the place that I would say the collective world is at this moment in time, I feel that we need more of that. We need more authenticity, we need more connectedness. I think that social as an entire, as a whole, social has stifled that a bit, but I think that there's a huge opportunity for that to be opened up. It's a different way of thinking, I would say.
Paul: Yes, I completely agree. I think that the generosity that brands can show, because brands are now much more than just a product you buy in a store. They have a personality. They have a direct contact with their customers through whatever channel that may be, but that never used to be possible, which means that they've leveled up to something. What I found fascinating during Covid was how brands were a support network.
The ones who did it well, some brands just continued to try and sell their stuff even when people weren't interested in buying anything. That didn't go very well for them but some just showed up how can we help? Here's some things. Here's an event we've put on, here's some content, we're here for you. Anyone having any time struggles, here's something which are around our products that we can get for you. Here's like an online gig that we've put on. Those are the ones that now are the ones that are still growing because that brand love the advocacy that they built for it. It came from a place of generosity of empathy really, of what their customers are going through.
Tricia: Yes, I agree with that and I'll add to that in that I think that where brands can succeed is truly that authentic caring. Now, if you care about whatever that might be, if you care about the mental well-being of children or you care about the planet or you care about first responders or you what, insert anything. If the brand has a heart for something, do good.
By default, by doing, if I believe that if all brands were to just do a little bit of good, just a little bit of good, authentic good, not the good for the transaction or the click or the sale, no, that has a motive. You're going to do good because you care. Without that click, truly, I believe that if all brands were to do that, it could make a huge difference.
Tricia: I think people as human beings can sniff out when it's inauthentic.
Paul: It means, and they don't buy. Right? You buy from people you trust. It is so integral to everything about the way we humans consume and make our decisions about the way that we part with our money is about trust. For brand building is synonymous with trust building and actually no one's built trust by lying, on being inauthentic. They've built trust by being their true selves and sticking to those values throughout their brand life and well and the people who work at those brands as well.
Tricia: So true.
Paul: Now, what marketing-related advice would you give to your 21-year-old self who's just starting off in their career? What would you say to yourself?
Tricia: It's not really marketing advice, but this is advice in general. I would say, speak up. Don't be afraid to have a voice and it's okay. It's okay to make a mistake. That's two pieces, there you go.
Paul: When did you, when did it, when did you really learn that What was it that was the trigger that you went, "Yes, I get it now. I wish I had known this previously."
Tricia: Probably not till pretty late in my career. I was more of a passive follower. Hadn't yet found my voice, and it took me a bit to find my voice, and I found it through challenges. At that point were challenging situations, environments. Then finally when I spoke up, it felt pretty damn good. I was like, "Okay." Also having the confidence when you know your area of focus. I know marketing, I know branding. Have that voice because you have the experience. State it, and always bring data.
Paul: Party is on, but bring data to dinner.
Tricia: Bring data because then the naysayers they can't say anything because you're like, "The data doesn't lie."
Paul: Love it. Putting the science behind it. Final question is, who in the world of brand building would you like to take for lunch?
Tricia: Oh, my gosh. That's a fantastic question. Brand building. This might be a weird answer, but Oprah just because she's not in branding or marketing, but through her career, the brands that she has built. I think she's a fascinating individual. That might be a strange answer, but there you go.
Paul: The lunch would just be fantastic. Imagine you're just having lunch with Oprah would be fantastic, wouldn't it?
Tricia: Or I would say Lady Gaga for the same reasons just because of the adv-- Just the adversity in her life, and what she believes in and the strength of her voice and belief.
Paul: Amazing. Also, a great lunch. In fact lunch with Oprah and Lady Gaga-
Tricia: Would be pretty cool.
Paul: A couple glasses of wine, I think that would be a couple of hours well spent.
Tricia: That would be pretty cool.
Paul: Fantastic. Tricia, it's been really inspirational, and lovely, and I've learned a lot. Where can people learn more about what you're up to, about you, about Twisted X, or anything that you would like to tell the world.
Tricia: I would say you can learn about Twisted X at twistedx.com, and learn about me? Gosh, I don't know. LinkedIn. [laughs]
Paul: We're all about the LinkedIn about the LinkedIn. Yes, that make sense. Thank you very much. Have a great day.
We can't wait to meet you.