Brand isn’t about picking a font and a colour. It’s about articulating how your work meets the needs of the people it serves.
Anne Miltenburg pursued her life’s purpose by taking the skills she’d acquired in years working for design agencies, and desalinating that knowledge to people in the developing world. She founded Brand the Change to provide workshops, tools, and training materials to put world-class brand knowledge in the hands of impact entrepreneurs.
Some things to consider
- Knowledge – like a tool – is neutral. It’s how we choose to use it that matters.
- When entering an unfamiliar space, strike partnerships with people who know the space.
- The most interesting people in the world have trouble describing what they do, or why it matters.
- “If the whole world is your ocean, it’s really hard to go fishing, because the fish could be anywhere.”
- Take an interest in people and you’re more likely to have that interest returned.
- Originality is crucial when building a brand.
- You don’t own your social media followings.
Check out my new newsletter, a love letter to your own creativity. Sign up at Steadman.land.
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It's Thursday night. Nine o'clock. So what are you going to do after this? I mean,
You're listening to Ear Brain Heart, an experiment in showing up. I'm Mark Steadman and I'm trying to use the skills I have to help those who want to change the world. For me, this goes beyond just talking about purpose, and into the ways we can actually move the needle and nudge the discourse in the right direction. My guest this week is no stranger to putting to use skills that could earn a lot more in the corporate world.
Anne Miltenburg founded Brand the Change to help agents of social and environmental change get clear on their message. She now lives in Kenya and works across the globe, providing tools and training formats to democratize high quality brand knowledge.
Anne started her journey towards helping change makers long before I did. So. I wanted to get a sense of her origin story and find out if they were any elements we shared.
I guess the, the whole Venn diagram, the ikigai thing of like, you know, pull together, what does the world need right now? The world needs work in social and environmental justice. And what is the skill that you can bring? Well, that's brand. So at the middle of that is definitely where I saw a lot of potential for many years and interestingly enough, that's where I started initially.
So I became a graphic designer thinking that that was a job through which I could, you know, do meaning the full things in the world. And for my graduation thesis, I designed a HIV AIDS health campaign in Mali and Africa for people who can't read and write, but also can't read and write images. And that process and the research there, my experience there was like, it was quite eye-opening.
So I think for me, that experience of encountering the development world and the whole sector that's traditionally thought of the impact space was very disillusioning. And so actually when I came back and I graduated and my first job offer was at a brand agency. I really took it with both hands because I felt like it was like morally very clear. There were no smoke and mirrors. There was no hidden intentions. It was very clear.
And there's ways that you there's different ways that you can pursue your purpose in life. Right? So what you maybe don't get on the job, you can find in many different areas. So I was doing some volunteer work and we also at the agency where I worked at, we, we, we did work a little bit for NGOs and we did some work in the cultural sector in the government sector. But yeah, the, the, for me, the bubble really burst at this point where I started working for, into brand, which is like a global brand agency. And they're extremely good at um documenting their way of working and training strategists and creatives to work in this particular way of working.
And the commercial work that we were doing was for me not necessarily. Not fulfilling because it's fulfilling on, on different level. But I did feel like, yeah, but what could we do if we could apply this to all the big changes that we need in the world, right?
And yeah, then it's, it's actually very easy to say, like, yeah, I was a little bit tired of like working for, you know, brands that you feel like this is not super relevant in the world, but yeah I D I think also there's a tendency to kind of look at the commercial world then as something that's just the bad guy and I don't necessarily feel that way. So it's not so black and white for me, but it was definitely like, hey, you know, this is an amazing opportunity. Why don't we use this, these skills and very interesting is that people feel like brand and marketing are incredibly yucky, um, and so you really have to do some really good explaining and evangelizing on why I think it's so important to think a little bit more like a brand strategist.
And so that was the start of the journey is, was both like, oh, okay. I think this is going to be really helpful, but it's not like all these change makers across the world are going to be like, yes, Anne, like this is what we've been waiting for. Like, you actually have to do the work to get them to understand that that those are skills that they might benefit from.
I'm a fan of the idea of taking what the large organizations are able to do and how can we put that into the hands of people with. smaller budgets or more importantly, with a particular mission. And again, like it's not saying that these superpowers are being used for evil. That's, That's not the point, but it's about saying uh there's these, you know, this knowledge that's been built up over decades, about branding and, and that kind of stuff. And there's a similar model in um I seen the book Hooked which is about how we can, how we can build addictive products that are where we're building healthier habits, for people rather than you know building on people's needs to just
Yeah. Yeah. Your gut, your gambling betting app. Something like that. Yeah. Yeah. Instead of getting people addicted to horse racing, we want to get people addicted to carrots or whatever it is. Yeah,
Well, it's really like, I think a lot of these these skills that these superpowers that you, that you touch upon are a little bit like crowbars, like yeah, you can use them to break into someone's house, but you can also use it to break out of it if there's a fire, right?
So it's just a question of it is a tool and as a tool, I think it's rather neutral. Has it been abused in the past? Yes, absolutely. Does that mean that you need to disregard the tool just because it's been abused? I think not. And there's a definitely, like, I would love to have more of the philosophical discussion of like, can you break the master's house down with the tools of the master? Maybe not. But I think if we get stuck in that philosophical conversation, nothing is going to change in the meantime.
So when people tell me like, oh, but you know, let's first discuss whether or not it's ethical to use any sort of manipulation, I'm like, yeah, okay. But, you know, climate change, like we don't have, like, I don't have 10 years to figure out whether or not something is up to your standard of ethics.
And what's very interesting too, is like, it's really just about this question of meeting people where they are. So we always use the example of eating less meat. So if you're, for instance, an animal rights activist and you are just extremely passionate about animal rights and you would love for meat eaters to stop eating meat. And let's say you start a V. Hamburger brand. We have many of those now, but when I was a kid, she did not. You could take two routes. You could say, I'm going to keep my hands clean. I'm going to create a vegan hamburger for vegans and vegetarians who care about human rights or sorry, animal rights, human rights may be as well, but animal rights first or I'm going to go for the meat eaters where certainly the market is bigger, the impact is bigger. And I'm going to try and understand what will get them motivated to eat this plant-based burger. And I'm going to try and broaden the tent for these vegan products, because I want as many people as possible to be part of this party.
And I see. A lot of people within the impact space traditionally, because they've just been up against so much, they've got a news to preaching to the choir, and preaching to the people who are already showing some sort of motivation. But when you think more like a brand strategist, do you automatically start thinking about, okay, but where is the market? And what's the opportunity to create the biggest impact here? Like who is the right audience for this that we could really make a difference with? And how can we position this in such a way that those people would totally embrace it?
And that doesn't mean that we're going to manipulate them with lies. That means that we're going to listen to them and we're going to listen to their needs. And we're going to start to create a shared language around stuff.
Because one of the things that's extremely frustrating. I don't know how, like, if you experienced this in your daily life, but it's one thing. If like you don't want to come on board with something because you're dead set against it. But that's another thing if we're not understanding each other, because we're not speaking the right language and we're not willing to meet each other halfway. Right? And whether that's about ocean policy or you know, conservation, if it's about human rights, if it's about sexual health, mental health, like all of these things where it's really important to think about, Hey, what, how does this matter in the life lives of the people we're trying to reach?
Another great example is there's a, an organization here in Kenya called Shujazz and they create comic books for young Kenyans to reach seven and a half million Kenyans each month. And in those comic books are messages around for instance family planning and sexual health. And no one in the morning wakes up thinking about, you know, family planning, reproductive
Today. I want to learn about, Yeah.
You wake up and you think about the hot guy, you know, at work and you think about, you know, what feels good and how you might impress a guy or a girl. Right. So
I think traditionally in, in the impact space, we tend to think that we should lead with purpose. Like we should lead with like, Hey, but what matters is this big change, but actually what matters to people is very close to, you know, just their daily lives. And I think that's really important to keep in mind. And so that's what I'm a big advocate for is like meet people where they are and, and, and help them to embrace whatever the change is that you want to see from, from that vantage point.
I started reading Tamsen Webster's book, find Your Red Thread. It's the first time I'd heard about it. So I I really liked this, this concept of having a sort of a central message. And being able to communicate your message and kind of winding around that. I'm wondering if we can look at what branding is in more detail than just it's a color and a font.
Yeah. I mean, it's definitely changing. I mean, I think 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or in certain countries or in certain circles, that's still the case. But then I think what's interesting. So the red thread is really a common, yeah, it's definitely a common phrase that we've used for a long time in all our programs, because what we see, especially for like solo entrepreneurs or, or people are starting something out of a really deep passion is that they are often working within disciplines. So they're putting new areas together and different interests from different parts of their life, and they're trying to find new ways of creating change. And they're unprecedented. And they often hail from very different experiences in their lives. So sometimes even from like way back in their childhood, where they pull something like an, I can give this example for my own life, like.
When I was 10, I wrote a paper for school, for school on Kenya. And I was really interested in like different cultures and I wrote something about Kenya. Funny enough, I think Goofy in Kenya was my single source, literally literature source. And um I, you know, my mom was always very busy with like what I call activist shopping.
So she would not buy, you know, wine from South Africa during apartheid, or she would, you know, byproducts from uh fair trade organizations. And she would support women entrepreneurs in low income countries. And that was something that just kind of stuck with me.
And so you get these little clues, you know, and that shape you as a person throughout your life. And then I studied design and then this design and engagement. And so there's stuff that comes together. Right. And I think to kind of, I mean, we're all trying to just find like, where do I belong in the big picture of things and what makes me me and what is something that I'm truly passionate about?
And then I think that red thread is just that connecting the dots that you do from all these different things in your life, and all of a sudden those things that never made sense, and that made you an outsider. And that made you defined, like, because everyone else was in these very specific boxes and you could never really match up, but all of a sudden when you follow that red thread, you kind of get to your, you know, that ikigai idea of like, okay, yeah, I'm going to tie these three different things together.
And what's really important about that for brand is that you're basically, you've taking a new position and that's not easy to do. It's really scary, um especially if you're between disciplines, because at first people are not going to understand what it is that you do. And you're going to have to do a lot of convincing and talking. And in some cases it might, you know, wow, it's a hit, like everyone's onto it and everyone's into it. But in some cases, if you're really ahead of the pack, it's going to take awhile for it to kind of for the quarter to fall as we say that for it to click with people.
And yeah, it's not for the weak hearted, right? It's really tough. And it's, it's it's. I actually feel like for people in this space, it's almost an existential thing to be able to articulate their purpose with the right words or to articulate what they do, like their job title or whatever you want to call it, like their role.
Because all throughout your life, you know, you get to a party and people are the first thing people ask you is like, what do you do? And you're like, well I am.
Like, I'll take my husband. So my husband was in it for 20 years was really, really passionate about wildlife. And so decided like, okay, well, what's the intersection of those two things? And so he develops games based on real uh wildlife data. And so when you go to like a family get together and you have your uncles and aunts, and they say like, well, you know, what do you do then at first that's a really tough question to as well, you know, I'm trying to explore if tech can do something for wildlife. And then in the second year, like, well, I'm starting in technology for wildlife company. And the third year, you're like, well, we're building games that engage the bigger public with conservation. And so you, you know, you get better at crafting that story over the years. It's not necessarily like this, like one lightning uh moment.
And so I think also from like the dreaded personal branding conversation, there's always this, this idea, like, okay, you have to get it right once it's like, no, it's a living thing. And you know, you're going to learn so much every time you speak to someone, you're going to find a better word. They're going to give you back a word because they're going to marry you and you know, hopefully try and explain back to you. Like what, what is it that I'm hearing? And so over the years, you'll you'll get there if you, if you never had the, you know, that lightening moment.
I love that because two ideas. clicked for me at a really similar time. And it was only six to eight weeks ago and they were, I want to do some sort of podcast incubator, helping people in a group as a cohort, start a podcast. And then a few days later, the final sort of quarter dropped. For me about the conversations that I was hearing, and, and getting access to as a, as an editor were so many conversations around change. And it got to the point where it was like, okay, the universe, I'm a, I'm listening, I'm open. I need to be working in this space
yeah, it was, and it was, it w it sends shivers down my spine when I, when I sat and I got that like absolute clarity. It's, It's that sort of I forgot what the film technique, is. Uh But there's like, this sort of foreshortening of fit where you see the crash zoom, I think they call it, you know, the zoom in, and then the background seems to be, And it was like that moment of absolute clarity of oh, this is what I do now. and it still took a little bit longer. Cause I just had to find like is it Changemakers impact Is it social entrepreneurs. And it's kind of all of that. But you know, I can put a a name to it. And and I love that idea of the meeting people at different parties or different social events and and going from yeah, I work in podcasting, I help people make podcasts. I teach, podcasting too. I help people feel good about podcasting too. I work with social entrepreneurs. so they can use that voice to create impact, you know, it's, it's getting those moments together. Those little moments of clarity, I think. Yeah. It's, it's, it feels so energizing. I
well, yeah, what I'm hearing you say is that you, by helping people discover their voice, you're giving them a really, really precious gift. Right. And I think a lot of people from very early age have incorporated this message that their voice isn't necessarily worth listening to. And you know, also in a world where it, you know, a very loud world, like how will you be heard?
And it's very scary. I think, especially in the English language world, which is huge. I mean, it's a vast ocean of voices out there. And so I imagine, yeah, it's not. I mean, for me coming from the Netherlands yeah. There's 16 million people in the world that speak my language. If, you know, already, like that's a much smaller fish tank, so to speak.
But yeah, I imagine, and, and that's a soup, like it's a super worth while thing to pursue and being able to put that label on that, I imagine for you has a big impact, right?
I want to talk to you about about Kenya and about Nairobi. And You sort of describing that as the sort of social innovation. capital I'd love to, I'd love to know more
Yeah well so I, I didn't know anything about, well, besides that thrilling report I wrote when I was 10, I didn't know anything about Kenya much. And I first came here because I was invited to teach at Amani Institute, which is a school for social innovation at Robi. And that was a total eye-opener for me.
And so at Amani Institute, they teach a social innovation management program, and that means that they basically help people in this process of understanding what does it actually take to change things? Because I think that's, it's kind of a, like, you know, it's a huge thing to take on and we treat it as a whole. Or as something that we stumble into, but actually there is a science and there's a process and it's an art. Um so that was first of all, really eye-opening that there is actually like, there's a method to the madness.
And then one by one, like seeing some of the really, really amazing work that's being done by Kenyans who, you know, Kenya is an amazing place of contrast. So it's you know, almost 60 million people it's you know, both super urban as very rural and you know, we have millionaires, very fancy malls, Hummers, two, I think, two Hummers.
But we also, yeah, we also have, you know poverty and we have hunger. And one of the things that I think makes the Kenyan approach to change so interesting is that they really, really quite early on embraced technology as a way to address some of these issues. And thinking about, well, actually, what can we do to reach more people and how do we reach them at scale?
And I was just really struck by um work that people that I met were doing in the health space. So for instance, developing apps that are able to train millions of healthcare volunteers through basic mobile phones at the push of a button, like people who are, you know, 2000 kilometers away, or, you know, 10, but usually far away.
When you have a huge deficit of doctors and nurses, you need healthcare volunteers. And this is an amazing way to train them at scale in a way that, you know, fits. And so that was, I w I worked in that space first. So in the healthcare space.
You know I guess coming from the Netherlands and coming, maybe from Europe in general, I think people are quite nostalgic. And people love tech and, you know, everyone's like fully bought into the Silicon Valley world view using the language, using everything. But I think what I admired here is that people had, you know, just a very fresh and different perspective. And they weren't so tied down by taboos and of like, yeah, but that doesn't belong or that doesn't like, they're very willing to experiment and drive different things.
So that just really resonated with me coming from a small country and where a lot of things are, you know, to certain degrees still very much govern about like, oh, but what will people think of me when I, when we do it this way or when we. Um so it was just super inspiring.
And then I got my first client and my second client and I initially started when I first made the switch and decided like, yeah, I'm gonna quit my job at, into Bratton and I'm going to just think about how I can use brand for social change. Initially, I thought about like, just being a consultant. But then very quickly really was like, well, that's not really gonna do much. And if it wasn't for Kenya and seeing people constantly think about how can we reach more people, I would have never gotten the idea of starting an education company.
So just being able to say like, Hey, instead of consulting with like six clients year, could I train 500 people to think a little bit more like brand strategist? And I think that was crucial. So in that sense, Kenya brought me a lot from a professional perspective, but also very much from a personal development perspective. And yeah, I've just been extremely fortunate to be able to be a guest in this incredible ecosystem that was built by Kenyans. And I'm always aware of that that guest privilege and that status because it's an ecosystem that was very much built by people that had to put in an incredible amount of blood, sweat, and tears to, to build that.
So as a foreigner, I think you have this tremendous disadvantage, which is you don't really, truly understand your potential client and you don't understand the market. So from the beginning, when I came here, I was always lucky to have very smart clients and also have very smart colleagues. So I have always teen teamed up with Kenyan. So I'm always part of a team and I have to credit my incredible colleague, um, Wanjiru Gathanga who's my right hand on the projects that I run here in Kenya. And interestingly enough, we also worked together on projects in the U S or in the Netherlands. And I think just in, I guess what we traditionally call the west we are just, I guess, raised with an incredible amount of uh unfounded, confidence that whatever, you know, your method will be able to apply in whatever the situation is.
And I had a colleague who used to tell me yeah, you don't like it. You don't let your lack of knowledge hold you back. And uh uh he did not mean that as a compliment, but I kind of, I was like, okay, I'm going to take that as a compliment. I guess what I'm I think you're saying is that I'm stupid, but I'm also a little courageous, so, you know, in my stupidity, but I definitely think that's something to keep in it. It's something to keep in mind. Right. Like, okay. Yeah. I don't know anything about this space, but of course, like I've now been here seven years. So if I work with clients here, I need to understand them just as well as I would need to understand, like, you know, working for, like, I don't know anything about the UK, for instance, I have no idea.
I recently listened to a podcast about ginger nuts. I had no idea how popular ginger not biscuits were. I didn't know what they were and how prevalent. And I heard all these stories about the incredible role of ginger, not biscuits in the lives of, of, of British people.
It's a good biscuit. Apparently. Thank you, George Beverly.
Yeah. And so yeah, if I would come to the UK, I'd also have to team up with someone to do audience research because I would just simply not know. Right. So I think as long as you are aware of your biases and you work with local teams and you do your research, I think you're okay.
And that, that ties into uh I guess some of, some of your work where you've you you've got case studies and you've got sort of guest, writing from people where you're, you're sort of stepping back and saying, well, listen, you know, I, know this area, but I don't know everything about everything. so if I need someone to come in and talk about story, then you know that then there's somebody who can do that, or, you know, digital infrastructure stuff, and creating a space where you can bring these people in to say all right. you know, I'm stepping aside. and letting this, this person drive for a bit.
Yeah, because I mean, for instance, like if you think about storytelling, so, so let's put your, your podcasting in the context of storytelling. Like there's a lot of different aspects that, right. It's like discovering your story, telling your story, creating that narrative arc like using rich vocabulary, understanding your audience using like technical equipment, spreading the word. Like there's so many different elements, right? And that's the same with Brian. I mean, brown is so vast there's strategy. There's implementation. There's the creative direction. There's the trend forecast, consumer insight research metrics, overseeing digital marketing. Like it's a super vast space and you just be lying if you said like, yeah, I know I was done.
Like, if that's, if, if that's your perspective, I think, I guess, you know, you have that, those three circles of like, there's what, you know, you know, there's the second circle of like what, you know, you don't know. And then there's that third circle of like what you don't know, you don't know. And people would tell me like, yeah, you know, I'm okay. I know how to build a brand. I'm like, okay, well, wow. That's amazing because I've been in this space for 18 years and I'm just scratching the surface. And, and so I think like, oh, but you don't know about the third circle.
And so well, we, what we recently did for Brand the Change is we, we basically mapped out, like, what did we think, a person building a brand for change? Like, what do we think is the knowledge and skills of that person needs to have? And when we started to map it out, it was like, wow, it's a miracle. We would even find one person as all of this. So this is really the point of like building community around this is that it kind of takes a village to build a brand, right? You need someone with, with copy talent and you need some of visual talent and you need someone who knows how to build good relationships and you need an Alistair. So it's kind of a funny thing that we kind of expect ourselves to be able to do all of that. I think it's, it's quite quite a benchmark to set quite a standard of success.
Really is. I guess that then sets you as you know, if you are an organization an owner of an organization or, or a one person outfit. and You're looking at brand, then that really puts you in the mode of the director because then you are sort of, you're bringing these, these parts together. and it's your particular vision that says yes. Like you set the tone, you set the, what then becomes the consistent messaging
I, Yeah, I totally agree. And what's interesting about the word consistent is that I think like creative people, don't like the word consistent because it sounds like you have to be the same Like you have to be the same all the time, but the way that we usually frame that conversation in training programs for solo entrepreneurs or activists or scientists who need to, build an audience and connect with an audience is people need to understand what they come to you for. And with every action and every piece of communication that you do, you need to build on that understanding.
So if you, by building a brand, what you're really doing is you're directing how other people think and feel about you. And that means that you need to understand what is it that people need to think and feel about me in order to embrace this idea that I have will product or service? And what often happens just in, you know, every day life work life is that people are inconsistent in the messages that they send out. Not necessarily because they use different words, but because they're undercutting that clear understanding. And I'm not saying that you have to make a single choice. Like you have to be only, you know, a tailor or only a UX guy or only, but it's, it's very often the case that people just like, the most interesting people in the world have trouble describing what it is they do and why that matters and who it's for.
And so if they're not clear and consistent on what they could mean for someone else, that person is going to build associations in their head that are not going to contribute to them saying, yes, let me hire or buy from or support this person.
And I think that's yeah, often what I think is really shame. If I look at super talented people, I'm like, but you're not getting the customers you deserve. You're not getting the press you deserve, or the referrals because you haven't managed to crack this understanding of like, this is what I want to be known for. And I'm just gonna push on sending that signal out super clear.
And also I think what is the case? There is just like I guess another Dutchism is like, soft doctors make stinking wounds. So if you don't gentle doctors, I should say if, if you don't make some tough choices about like, this is what I want to be recognized for, there is just this general kind of brand wisdom of like, well, you know, you can't be everything to everyone you'll end up being nothing to nobody.
So you can be the guy who teaches people to find their voice through podcasting, and it just, you're probably never going to rise to the top of the list of, of people that other people would think about when they're thinking, huh, I need to kind of figure. Like my story. And I went to put a podcast about how many new you're only going to get there if you actually send out the right signals to that person that, Hey, I am the best person for just that.
So this is Anne Miltenberg. And what, um, w I mean, this isn't, this is Mark Steadman. Hi. Uh, but a pleasure and a privilege. It was to chat to her. This is quite a few weeks ago where I was really in the throws of, of designing and, uh, promoting a. Uh, program. To bring together Changemakers and and help them make podcasts. And in that process, I've learned so much in a really short space of time. And one of the things is figuring out how I want to help.
I started by having lots of conversations, this very podcast in itself, I call it an experiment in showing up because part of what I'm doing is having conversations and learning and finding out like, how do I, how can I be good? How can I do good? Uh, how can I help others do good by using the skills that I've got? And so this is why. Um, Anna was such a valuable person to talk to because. She has these, like I said, right up top, she has the skills that you could, and she has spent, spent time in large organizations developing large brands using the design knowledge that she's picked up, but she wants to take. That stuff, those skills, the knowledge, the experience that she has, and put that stuff into the hands of impact entrepreneurs and small scale um, groups who want to change the world. And I can't think of a better use of that. And. I don't know why it's something that I in some ways kind of resisted. Not because I didn't want to help, but because it felt like how do you find the joy. In that high, can you still find the joy without it feeling like jutti doesn't have you know? Like without it feeding, like I, this is a guiding principle and I must be stoic about it. Well, we will cover how we are able to find the joy. Uh, in our next episode, actually, which is with Stephen Dargan, who helps create workplaces that light people up and helps people. Uh, we, we talk a lot about happiness, um, happiness at work and, um, just in our daily lives as well. So as we kind of continue to, or as I continue to learn, um, I'm so grateful to be picking up these, these threads of conversations with people.
And speaking of threads. I mentioned find your red thread. There's links to everything in the show notes. By the way, for you to take a look at your phone, you'll find links to everything we've discussed today. Um, there's still lots more to come from Anne, but on the subject of Find Your Red Thread, I'm delighted to be speaking uh, in a few weeks now with Tamsen Webster, the author of Find Your Red Thread. So that's going to be a great conversation as well, but there's still loads more wonderful stuff too. Discuss with Anne Miltenburg of Brand the Change, so let's dive straight back into it.
Just before we do, uh, just a quick reminder that if you want stuff like this, um, delivered to your inbox every week, then you can head to podcode.org. Uh, you can also go to earbrainheart.com and you'll find all of our past episodes, and there's also the newsletter there where you can sign up and get some useful stuff on how to use your voice to effect change. And create impact. So that's all that at earbrainheart.com.
So let us get back into our conversation with Anne Miltenburg. Now, whenever we're talking about marketing, showing up. Brand. We inevitably touch on the idea of niche, and Anne started us off with quite an apt aphorism.
if the whole world is your ocean is really hard to go fishing because the fish could be anywhere.
Oh God. That's so,
Yeah, right? And so for instance, like as the head of brand, often you also have to, you have a say about the marketing budget and how it's spent. So it's much easier to say like, okay, well, I'm developing, we're developing this project product. We're very early stage. We're going to hit single moms in this neighborhood of Bristol, and we're going to see if this product resonates with them and we're going to market this to them. And we're going to get lots of great conversations going. And we're going to learn from those conversations about our product, and we're going to learn how to do better marketing. And now we're going to try single moms in all of Wales, or in all of Scotland or now we're going to scale it a bit and we're going to see where those conversations go.
It it's much, it's just much more effective and it just makes your own work much more pleasurable as well, because it's about like, Hey, I'm seeing, I'm, I'm able to move the dial for myself as well as for other people. And so, you know, I, I get this answer all the time as well. And our training pros out we're really, for everyone. I'm like, well, good luck because there's 7 billion everyone's. It's just really, really hard. And I understand where, where that kind of, where that first response is coming from. But that's just a signal that you've very, very early in your discovery process and that you need to put in the work to get closer to that to that person.
Because I think it's also like, it's really about building relationships with people, right. And especially if, you know, Marketing budget. You, it's going to be about you building relationships with people and people wanting to be your ambassador to the outside world. And so if you don't take an interest in them, how can you expect them to take an interest in you?
Curiosity is not getting enough play. I think That, that, yeah, that, that listening and and sort of just yeah, just sitting back sometimes, and, and, and like I have this conversations like that. I don't know if it's something you encounter, but I sometimes find I get into a conversation with potentially someone that I I might want to work with. And I start by asking them you know, what they're about and stuff, and we can get so many questions. in and at some points, I guess I have to go, Oh, I should explain what I do. because You know, I'm trying to sort of come at this from the point of view of your needs and how I can then help. But it's like, yeah. At some point I should say, oh yeah, no, I like, I work in podcasting. But you know that there is a happy medium there to be struck by having Curiosity really does. It, and I I wonder why it seems so difficult. for people to, because I think it was for me for a long time to really embrace that.
Well, if you're, if you're a creator and I know that's a very popular term now, but I mean, artists, I guess, was the version before that, or writer or but you just want to create what you want to create. Right. And I think the audience is just to be honest, like the audience is just getting in the way of that.
I was literally going to use that. phrase. Yes.
And so, and I think there's not necessarily anything wrong with that. So actually like one of the first articles that I wrote after founding the education company was about the unreasonable advantage of certain type of entrepreneurs because they really work from this personal drive. So they're not the people who like, there's an kind of entrepreneur who sits somewhere and sees like, Hey, this is a need that someone has hasn't been met and I'm going to build that thing. And there are people like, oh, this is what I want to do with my life. And I'm just going to have to figure out how many people are willing to pay for me doing this thing.
And so like, most classic classical musicians, most artists, most theater makers, more, most people in the cultural space belong to the group of people that's like, oh, this is what I want to create. How do I find an audience? Rather than this is a need that exists within that audience, and I'm gonna bring that to them. And I think that's why this for the second group of people, it's so hard to stomach this idea of building a brand, because that is, that feels to them like compromising on their own yeah, sometimes on their own creative vision. But I really think then in that case, it's just really about like being able to articulate what is so incredibly you know, worthwhile and valuable about what is the thing that you do.
So we had a a hangout two weeks ago with a Brand the Change community. And there was a woman, a brand strategist who works specifically with classical musicians. And she also said like, yeah, this is definitely something that we run into all the time. Like, yeah, what need are they really serving? And so we brainstormed about, and I was like, well, I D I, there is a place like there are people who are need of wonder and magic in their life. And then the ability, like a moment escape mundane everyday shit, going to the grocery store, changing diapers, you know, sitting on Zoom. And now you're in this amazing enthralling space, literally a space with music.
And so, but then you need to articulate that, right. And then you need to bring that to the outside world. So I think there's almost an answer to every single thing, but it just requires a little bit more of, of like unconventional thinking sometimes to bring that out
Something you you mentioned about going the long way around or doing the hard work, So if I take what I do for example if I were a podcast editor for hire as I sort of have been, uh one of the traditional routes uh that you you do with marketing is you say okay now I'm going to make a podcast about podcasting, and I'm going to interview other people in the space. Well-known people there's plenty of names that I could reel off. And we're all making the same kind of show. We're all doing the same, how did you get your start in podcasting? What do you think podcasting's future's going to be? And, and when I was thinking I wanted to find a way to consistently show up to an audience and the idea of doing that just kind of left me cold.
Yeah well I guess what what I hear you say is that there's just also a deep desire to be original and to actually discover something new
Yeah which brings us back to curiosity
and and from a brand perspective that's absolutely crucial because you need to have something different than everyone else It's really really hard to build a brand for something that's exactly the same um as something that already exists.
So um From my Ted talk, you might remember the example that I use, like the, the kind of the straw that broke the camel's back when I left my job was that we had to work for this drug store chain that was selling the exact same tampons and lipstick as the next drug store chain. And they asked us to come up with a reason why customers needed to go to them instead of the other guys. And I just like, I don't have that kind of creativity. At least I didn't feel like I had it at the time. And that was pure. I have to say that was purely lack of talent on my side. And I don't mean to sound judgmental about them.
But I did feel like, but if you don't know, why would I know? Like, this is your store? Why can't you just be a little bit more thoughtful and original or driven by some sort of purpose. But what I didn't understand at the time w w I wasn't able to articulate it so well, is that there was a process of discovery that they could have gone through, because that was beyond scope for, for the kind of work that we were doing. And probably also beyond skill. My skill, not their skill, my skill.
But I think so. I think the desire to be original is definitely, it's hard because I think, you know, in a world of algorithms and in a real world of format, certain things just work well. And I think it's, it's good to kind of find your way and be aware of that, because I think, like, to be original on topic is absolutely crucial, but to fight reality, for instance, on how algorithms work or how people treat intellectual copyright, that's a little tough.
I think ma choosing your battles of where do you want the originality to be, to be in, could be really a worthwhile exercise to consider. And I have personally made a lot of stupid mistakes over the past seven years of trying to be bloody original in something that was not that where I actually was fighting reality.
Yeah And I would say, I guess if we, if we're going to put a particular hat on here um you can, It's not necessarily wasted time because you can look at that and go, well, now I know that like, these are things I've learned, you know, I've made, Yeah. I've made plenty of mistakes. And sometimes you don't want to look at a failure and go, what can I learn from this? sometimes you just want to sit there and lick your wounds and go, that sucked, that, that, that didn't go the way I wanted it to. But then, there are other times where you can look back with, with a bit more wisdom, you know.
Having left behind last year a brand you know, it was a, it was a media hosting company in the podcasting space, and it had brand stood for something, you know, we actually put out like a manifesto it made people think that I was much more than one person working in this particular little office because there was that consistency which to a degree was the mistake. I, you know, I was making is trying to put on a suit and and stuff that wasn't necessarily, something that I embodied.
I think what we, what we have seen and what maybe I, myself guilty of sometimes as well, is that if you're an introvert and you do not feel comfortable with the whole vanity game of like, you know, building your personal brand then it's, yeah, it's very convenient to be able to hide behind some sort of organization. But at the, what happens at the end of the line, people are going to end up at you. And I do think that there is just the reality that like at this moment, every single company I know is trying to be more like a human being and human beings, the best type of human beings at least the people that I find loveliest, most thoughtful people uh are sometimes trying, you know, feel like they're pushed into a position to be more like a company, cause that front kind of helps them to keep some of the pressure off them as a person.
But what's really interesting. So I was, I was chatting with the female entrepreneur here just last week about this idea that If, if we're, if we're lucky we're going to have a career of like, you know, maybe 50 years or 60 years now, so that red thread that you talked about, that's going to come together, it's also going to continue in the future and we're going to take every single experience of that journey with us into something new that we can't see yet. And so every brand that we build along the way will potentially fail because every company fails. Even after 350 years, I think the oldest company in the world is a Japanese temple builder that's I think over 750 years old, imagine being the next generation and having that on your shoulders, that's, that's pretty intense.
But you as a person are the red thread of it. And stuff can attach to you, but very few times will it attach to those brands because those brands will come and go, but you will exist. And sadly enough, also like your personal cloud is stretched out across all these different channels. Like you don't own your following on LinkedIn. You don't all in your following on Instagram, Instagram owns them. So I actually I've learned from that process where I was, I was like, yeah, I'm, you know, I'm going to put Brand the Change first, and it's all going to be about Brand the Change and realizing over the years like, oh, but people have a relationship with. And I've just been denying that denying, denying, denying, and it's actually like, you know, my colleagues then go like, yeah, but you're hiding. And if you would just stop again, fighting reality that this is the case, what would happen?
So many other things that have been used that we could pursue. I could have another conversation for another hour, but At some point. You know, it's, it's been a long day, so Anne thank you so much. Obviously brandthechange.org is, is uh where people should go, to learn more about the work that you do, but how else? should, should people keep in touch with you and find out about how you can help
Yeah, well um so on I have LinkedIn as my sole channel. So if you want to follow the work, the topics, the thoughts, actually, I have a lot of questions for people more than I have answers. So if you're interested in getting some questions about what brand could mean for you and how you might use it then for sure, find me on LinkedIn.