EPISODE 23: Reinventing Branding : an interview with Rachael Kay Albers

small 1

You can find the From Hustle to Hell Yes podcast on:
Apple Podcasts
iHeart Radio
Google Podcasts

and pretty much anywhere you listen! Audio files and show notes are below.

Rachael Kay Albers is a creative director, business comedian, and brand strategist gone wild. Think of her as the court jester of online business. When she’s not muckraking about marketing and the intersections of pop culture, branding, tech, and identity, Rachael runs RKA ink, a reinvention studio and branding agency for businesses that burn the rulebook. And today, we’re going to talk about what RKA knows best - branding. 

This is NOT an intro to branding conversation we’re about to have. We’re busting myths and having real talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of brand strategy.


You can check out the article I mention at the end of the episode on Rachael's website here: https://rachaelkayalbers.com/how-to-lose-friends-alienate-people-brand-loyalty/



Emily Carter  00:06

Hi, I'm Emily. And this is From Hustle to Hell Yes, the podcast where I share insights and interviews on entrepreneurship for small business owners raving a GPS. Hop in, and lets joy ride to a sustainable, profitable business without burning out, getting stuck or stalling out. Destination: more revenue, less hustle.  Hey, y'all, welcome back. Or if you're new, welcome to my little corner of the internet where we talk about entrepreneurship as a tool for personal freedom and for instigating huge change.  For better for worse, how you run your business has a huge impact on people who come into contact directly or indirectly with what you've created. In today's interview, I'm delighted to host Rachael Kay Albers. Rachael Kay Albers is a creative director, business comedian and brand strategist Gone Wild. Think of her as the court jester of online business. When she's not muckraking about marketing, and the intersections of pop culture, branding, tech and identity. Rachael runs our RKA Inc, a reinvention studio and branding agency for businesses that burn the rulebook. And today we're going to talk about what RKA knows best: branding.  This is not an intro to branding conversation that we're about to have. We're busting a ton of myths today. And this is a call to action about how branding is used for good and evil and how as business owners, we need to be more aware of the work our branding is doing in the world and be more conscious consumers as business owners. So get ready for this talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. From history lessons to tightrope walking tips for the rule breakers and Rachael's hot takes on the age of the personal brand. We're going to peek behind the curtain of branding, how we're using it, and consider how we might do it better as individuals and as a collective of business owners who know there's another way to do business that isn't about false urgency, dark nudging and bait and switch tactics. Rachael Kay Albers. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to From Hustle to Hell Yes, I am really stoked that you're here today.

Rachael Kay Albers  02:27

I am all hell yes. And no hustle for you. So I'm so pumped.

Emily Carter  02:31

Excellent. Excellent. Y'all. You can't see Rachael right now. But she has the most adorable like rain cloud earrings with like rainbow raindrops. And she's dressed in yellow. And just looks like she is ready to rock today. So I am super excited to get into this conversation, in part because I've been following you for a little while, and have been really impressed and like inspired by the content that you've been putting out there. So thank you for putting out such interesting stuff on the internet.


You're very welcome. I will continue to try to live up to that expectation. You could be my hype woman, you along with me. You're hired, 100% I'm in.

Emily Carter  03:53

So one of the questions that I always like to ask guests is how did you come into online business? How did you get to be online? 


Yeah, how did I get to be online? Oh, my gosh, that is the question, isn't it? Well, actually, it isn't your typical entrepreneur story. I feel like often the the entrepreneur story is like, Oh, I was working, you know, a cubicle job was cubicle ridden. And my dream was to start my own business. So I, you know, worked my way up, but I quit in a glorious way. And now I'm here. And actually I really kind of stumbled into business was not trying to start my own business. I was in law school back in 2008 2009. And I got an internship in southern Mexico doing organizing work and community education work. And in this internship, I kind of discovered, oh my gosh, I don't want to be a lawyer. This is not what I want to do. But I really was on fire about some of this local community organizing work that I was doing there and the people that I had met in southern Mexico so I decided to quit law school. Okay, so I did quit something. Move to Mexico sold out My stuff. And I'm like, Okay, I'm sitting there thinking, how am I going to stay here? How am I going to continue doing this work because I was doing this work pro bono, right? I hung my digital shingle, it was a means to an end. So the dream wasn't the business, the dream was to continue doing this pro bono work. And I had to find a way to fund it. And so I started my little business didn't really care very much about it. Other than you know, I did the minimum speaking of from hustle to Hell, yes, I did the least amount of hustle I could, so that I could afford my like, $90 a month, like, concrete room that I rented with, like 12 other people, you know, and, and keep doing the the nonprofit work that I was doing. And along the way, it got me the the trap of entrepreneurs. No, I'm kidding. But like, I fell in love with entrepreneurship. Years After embarking on the journey. I feel like that's kind of the opposite experience. A lot of people have kind of weird, huh. 

Emily Carter  05:55

It's always so interesting to hear how other folks got their start online, because I actually didn't intend to start an online business either. And it was like culture shock. 


Oh, my gosh, there we go. Well, that's it speaking of culture shock. I mean, that was there was some somewhat of a, I always like to say that when I started the business, I started it while living in Mexico, I lived there for almost eight years. And then I moved the business back up with me back to the States. But while I was out of the United States, it I had this benefit of kind of like being on the outside looking in, like I wasn't fully in this world, even though it was online, it still felt like a total cultural difference from where I was living where everything was very still much very small, business oriented. And people didn't know about that, like big you internet, like all of the files and the online celebrities, those people weren't didn't matter where I lived. And it was kind of like a whole other universe. And there was, it gave me a sense of balance that when I came back to the States, and then like, fully immerse myself in my business, and I was surrounded by a culture of either just being online, like everyone being excessively online, and a culture of you know, the entrepreneur space was growing and changing. That's when things start, like the tidal wave swallowed me whole. But I had like the privilege and the gift of watching the circus from the outside and being able to detach and kind of shut it off, and retreat and fuel, you know, kind of refill myself that I lost when I came back. And then I just got sucked in. And then I was like, all bets are off.

Emily Carter  07:41

Yeah, you know, it's funny how you can get sucked into thinking that, just because you're seeing everyone else, do something that that's just the thing that you have to do, I immediately was like, Well, I don't, I don't know how I'm going to make this work. But I'm going to have to, I'm gonna have to find my weird corner of the internet, because faking it till you make it is just not it was not working for me, let me just be honest, was not working for me. Could not could not get a grip on it. And finally, I was just like, You know what, I'm just going to do it the way I want to do it, because if I'm going to fail, then I should probably fail on like, at least what I want to be doing. You know?


Yes. Right. Like, what a horrible like, you know, the pain of failure is It is enough. But yeah, fail and then also be like am I wasn't even doing what I wanted to do. I was like failing it. Somebody else's BS? What was I thinking? If you're gonna fail, fail as yourself?

Emily Carter  08:30

I guess, oh, man, that's one for the books right there. So one of the things that one of the reasons I'm so thankful that I found you is that I want to talk about branding with you, because one of the things that really attracted me to you how I found you, in our strange little corner of the internet, is because of how you talk about about branding. So you're a you're a brand strategist. And you're the first one that I found that made me feel like I do not have to know what the rules are to do anything. And like this weirdo me could make this work, right. So let's talk about how you do branding. And I want to talk about a little bit about these rules that we believe exist, but don't really exist. Well, yeah, I

Rachael Kay Albers  09:15

do. These days. You met me in an interesting time, Emily, because I say that I'm a brand strategist, Gone Wild, because I've kind of gone through my own transformation in how I approach branding, and how I look at branding and maybe how I talk about branding, because I've shifted over the last few years and especially in the last year to being a brand strategist that is also doing this work while navigating the crumbling of capitalism around us right and doing brand strategy work for self described radicals and revolutionaries and rebels who are struggling within our brand culture struggling with the consequences of living in a society Where every aspect of our lives is touched by, by brands, and typically by big multinational brands with tons of influence, while still having to feed ourselves and either choosing between either I'm going to be employed, or I'm going to employ myself and either I'm building somebody else's brand, or I have to build my own, there is no, there is no opting out of that. So I'm helping people navigating that tension, walking the tightrope between living their values and still building businesses that support them in a robust way. So that, you know, that's right, that is the tension that I'm walking.

Emily Carter  10:38

For me, hearing you talk about branding is like, like a window opening in a burning building, you know, because like, that's the kind of relief that I'm feeling like, oh, there's a way out of this, right.

Rachael Kay Albers  10:51

Yeah, there. Yeah, I would say is the window opening in the burning building, because the burning, the building is burning, and I don't know, if we're gonna be able to put out the fire. Let's just say that I think it's more like, yeah, hope you get a ladder, save yourself, like, string together some clothes, you know, tie a knot all the

Emily Carter  11:08

Yes, yes.

Rachael Kay Albers  11:09

And save yourself kind of, I guess. But, um, but that's the thing like it, when, as I've been doing the work that I've been doing, which is really shining a light on not just what branding can do for us individually as business owners, or for our companies, or the businesses that we run, but also at the same time shining a light on what branding and brand culture is doing to us. The typical response is, okay, how can I, how can I get out of this? Like, how can I opt out? What's the better way? What's the alternative? And unfortunately, just as I talked about, like, we're all living within the crumbling of capitalism, and something else is on its way, we hope it's something good. We've, you know, it's up to us to make that happen. But, you know, the typical response is like, how do I do like people want the microwave? Not this, do that instead. And unfortunately, it is more, like I said about walking a tightrope, because there is no fully opting out of brand culture, there is no opting out of capitalism. So it's more about how do we daily develop the tools to to navigate this in an ongoing way as our world is shifting all around us? So it's not about like, yes, there is another way. But it's not necessarily a way out. It's a way through, if that makes sense,

Emily Carter  12:29

ah, a way through, see. So this is so enlightening, because I talk a lot about hustle culture, you know, the stuff like do more and do it faster, and productivity as self worth and successes, unlimited resource, so therefore, I must be in competition with every single business owner. And to me, all of that, like, just makes my creativity shrivel up and die. But if I can move past that hustle culture, then suddenly my creativity is on fire. And I don't even have to worry about the hustle culture or toxic capitalism, or however you want to phrase it. Right, you know,

Rachael Kay Albers  13:06

right. I mean, I think I will. So I totally get that. And I agree with that. And at the same time, I feel like we can't fully ignore Yeah, we can't ignore that the building is burning. And so even if we're able to find our own coping mechanisms within hustle culture within the toxic productivity culture, I think I hear a lot of people being like, just keep your eyes on your own paper, focus on your own thing, tune it all out. Yes. And that's a first of all, it's a privilege. Yeah, I absolutely agree. Because the reality is hustle culture is affecting us whether or not we're tuning into it or not, right, like we find a way to 100% Meditate and like we can cope with it. But it's not just it's it's all around us. It's happening, whether we accept it or not. And it's also affecting our audiences, right? Yes, was an immersive experience, right, like whether we have found our individual or whether we are afforded privileges that allow us to kind of skirt around its worst effects. The reality is, like everyone else around us is still swimming in that and it's still grappling with it. And there's, you know, psychological, emotional, spiritual, physical effects on us, and the people that are buying from us and the people that populate the world around us. So it's, it's the both and it's about finding your coping mechanism, finding your way through. But as I did say, you know, working with radicals and revolutionaries and rebels, there is a responsibility at the very same time to be addressing the and addressing these harms, and finding ways that are that the weird little corner of the internet that we're curating is making the world a better place is also like and that's what you're doing. Like by finding a way of coping within Hustle Hustle culture. You're creating new alternatives that help us adapt to around cope with hustle culture. So I think it's about the both of those things. Does that make sense? Like, yes,

Emily Carter  15:05

100%. This is exactly what I talked about, because this is why it matters, how you do your work. This is why it matters, how you run your business, behind that public wall, right. So like behind the curtain, where all the other stuff happens when you're sitting there crafting emails, when you're making your sales pages, when you're doing all that stuff, how you're doing, that the tactics that you're using, the psychology that you're trying to use, like being aware of the strings that you're pulling behind the scenes of your business is just as important, if not more so than all the other stuff that's going on out front. Because inevitably will have an impact on your business, it actually creates the world around us, as you said, and I love I just love hearing you say it's music to my ears, because I think that this is how we start to create revolutionary change, right? We can't escape capitalism, as you've pointed out, like it's around us were immersed in it is the immersive experience of living on the earth today, right? And because of that, we have to figure out a way whatever that next way is, it's going to be on us to figure out how to make that work. Right? We can't opt out of the system, we're in it to win it. Right. Right. So we've got to figure out how we're going to shift our practices towards what's emergent, right?

Rachael Kay Albers  16:18

Yeah. And it's also another another way that we have to, that we're fighting against the capitalist programming is, you know, capitalism says that each, it's up to each of us individually to solve the problems, right? Like you there entrepreneur are going to look at the landscape see a problem that also happens to be like a sellable product, or a monetizable problem to fix, and you're going to come up with some sort of a product or service or offering or invention, that's going to tackle it, that is the logic of capitalism, that is the logic of the free market. That is that the free market will give us the competitive like hustle culture driven drive to to fix problems, because the marketplace will reward us for it. So just like I said, it's not about like tuning out the hustle culture, it's also about being in conversation with the world around us with our community is paying attention to the collective engaging in the collective collaborating with others, because it's not going to be like yes, us individually, we can we can start to influence a big influence, right. And yet, it's not going to be us individually that none of us are going to have the the one answer with a capital A, it is going to be through collective action through collaboration through community, that we're gonna create that better world. And that goes against the very like heart of how business is built. So it's right walking that tightrope every single day. Because it's not a scalable thing, either. It's not like, Okay, here's the rule, this is what you do instead, just do this every day for the rest of your life. And it'll mean better, like, no, it's gonna change tomorrow, and the next day, it's gonna change again, because the world is changing. And so are we and, and it's exhausting. And yet, that is the work, you know,

Emily Carter  18:07

yes. And this so I have, like, 10 questions coming at me at once right now. So let me just pick one. The first one that I want to, I want to ask you is how do we how do we stay in this conversation that we're having? How do we continue to have conversations with community within and collaboratively? And collectively, how do we get into that conversation? Well, I

Rachael Kay Albers  18:37

would say it is about I think that that this ideology, but it's all about like keeping your eyes on your own paper and not paying attention to what other people are saying I don't I don't necessarily agree with that. Like I think first of all, it is about intentionally choosing to surround ourselves with different voices. And like, yes, we're doing that in the context of an individualistic approach, like I am individually, choosing to pay attention to other individuals. But I also think it is about exploring alternative business models, collective business models, coops, unions, things like that list those, those types of alternatives that have kind of been poo pooed. I mean, within the structure, especially in the online business world, all of us are kind of like trying to climb the ladder or like our way to the top. We're afraid of other people stealing our ideas. We're afraid that we're not going to be the first to the party, we want to like kind of brand and own our little form of intellectual property and expertise. So I think it is about challenging those instincts about ourselves. I think it is about intentionally seeking out diverse voices that are sharing different, you know, different colors of the Rubik's cube that are sharing different mirrors. I know that each of us have our own little mirror on the disco ball that's going to kind of come together to light the party of the future, right? Yes. I think that's a good place to start. Yeah,

Emily Carter  20:02

yes, a lot of this reminds me, it's, it's really great that we started with your background in activism, because a lot of this sounds like an activist perspective on how we can continue to move forward, because it kind of gives us an idea of like, where we might look for advice as we're trying to navigate that, look, to your activists, look to your people who are doing this work in social justice and environmental justice, right? Like, right, these are really important places to be looking for inspiration for how you want to run your business.

Rachael Kay Albers  20:35

Yep, can we look at community organizers, look at the movements that are that are already there, the people are doing this work, people have been navigating and coming up with economic alternatives for a very long time, those people are out there, oftentimes, they're not the celebrities, right? So it's also like, you know, going out of our way to to curate diverse voices and perspectives that are going to be off of the algorithms beaten track, if you will, because the algorithm isn't showing us that the algorithm doesn't necessarily, you know, push the best ideas to the top as Google doesn't always push the best idea. So the top there pushing to the top, what's going to get the most traffic, right. And so that's, that's all and I think, you know, when it comes to the work that I do with it with branding, it is helping people to disabuse themselves of what we have been trained to do, which is like creating for the sake of the marketplace, first and foremost, creating for the algorithm like, what will the market bear? What will the algorithm push to the top? And that's hard? Because, like, also, at the same time, we we do need to make money to continue doing the work, right, like, yeah, intentionally impoverishing ourselves, it's not going to, to help the cause either, right? Like, purposely avoiding money, and making it within capitalism is actually going to hurt us. Yeah. And, and not curate, you know, not building an audience and not having people listening and buying also. So it's like that, that, you know, I'm in the process of writing books I'm writing, I'm writing, I'm writing two books, they're both very different at the same time. Of course, I am, of course, of course, it's all the things but I'm struggling. You know, one of the books I'm writing is about the about personal branding, and what it's doing to us, and for us, and all the things. And I'm struggling as I write this book, cuz I'm like, it's going to be my personal brand that helps get this book sold. That is the truth. Yeah, the size of my audience does matter when it comes to trying to get a book published and who publishes your book can mean the difference between it being seen by a few 100 people or hundreds of 1000s of people, right? Absolutely. That's a reality I have to contend with. I can't just be like, screw my audience, screw my brand, because my brand is gonna help me get my ideas about branding and what it's doing out there. So it's like that meta contradiction. So it's not about ignoring reality, or acting like it doesn't exist. But like I said before, it's that tightrope that we're all walking at all times. And the very nature of a tightrope is it requires a constant state of consciousness and care, you never just get lazy on the tightrope, you're not like doing something else, and multitasking and the tightrope you are walking carefully and intentionally at any moment, the wind could blow or something could happen to knock you off. So you've got to have your head in the game at all times. And I that that realization that reality is hard for people to grapple with, because capitalism has sold us all of these quick fixes. It's sold us the lie, that it shouldn't be so hard, but like, just take this course, follow this three step formula, do the same exact, you know, thing for the rest of your life. And it can be easy, and that our addiction to ease is what's keeping us in this place. And making things worse is yes, is what has created culture, hustle culture. Actually, interestingly enough, even though hustle culture is the antithesis of ease. And yet it is what has created that so

Emily Carter  24:01

yeah, you know, this is so interesting. I think some of this reminds me of how, you know, one of the things that I think about often, especially when it comes to activism and diversity, and trying to do the best I can regarding social justice, and eco justice, and all of these things that I think are really, really important, diversity, etc. I know I'm going to screw it up, right? Like that's one of the very first things that you learn is that you do screw up, you will screw up, you will always screw up, right, because that's the nature of it. And the goal there is is mostly to just know that what's important is that you keep getting back up on that tightrope that you keep doing it anyway, right? Like, that's what that's what makes the difference. It's not that it's not that perfectionism, it's, it's not that it's that you're gonna, you are going to probably fall off that tightrope, but hopefully you're gonna climb back up there and start walking again.

Rachael Kay Albers  25:00

Yeah, and I think along with that, like getting back on the tightrope is, you know, within our, the current brand capitalist economic system that we're living in, we're all driven to believe that we have the answers and that we will see that that it's not worth doing if we don't, if we can't immediately enjoy the fruits. And I think I've had to train myself to be thinking that there's layers to the changes that I hope will be made in the world. And some of this is planting seeds that I won't necessarily see grow and letting and rooting yourself in that humility, letting go of needing to, to have the answers with a capital T with a capital A meeting to letting go of the idea that you know that the only ideas worth pursuing are the ones that we can enjoy the the pride and the ego boost and the credit for that's also, you know, learning to live within the collective contributing to this greater good, without needing to necessarily have the gratification of seeing every single result happened right before our eyes, or like attributed back to us. And that's, that's hard. That's challenging because, of course, we want to, we also need to feel that we're meaningfully contributing that we matter like ISACs, the, you know, giving over to the collective is also not just about some subjugating our set our will, in our desires in our own greatest just for the collective, that's how authoritarianism happens to right. That's how I nationalism, like blind nationalism happens. So it's like, that's part of the tightrope to of contributing to the greater good, while also returning back to our own values and our own sense of meaning and purpose and significance. It's both of those things at the same time, too.

Emily Carter  26:45

Yes. So I want to I want to shift gears just a little bit. It's not a hard left, but it is taking a different a different route. So when we're thinking about our brand, a lot of us in online business, have personal brands, even if our business doesn't carry our name. I was born with the name Emily Carter, and there is a author who also has that name. And yeah, she doesn't have the website, but because she's an author with some notoriety, got the Google Cloud. Yeah, yeah, the Google Cloud. And so the, the domain name is like a ridiculous amount of money, I'm never going to be able to afford that domain, I don't care. So I have a different domain, it's not my name, but I still have a personal brand, right. And a lot of us are encouraged to have a personal brand, even if our brand isn't necessarily us, we're encouraged to have a voice to be authentic to let our personality shine. And all of that gets back to a personal brand. So I'm wanting to know from you, what are some ways that we can look at personal branding or acknowledged personal branding are some questions that we can be asking ourselves or things that we can remember, while we're navigating this tightrope? What are some of the main things that we can be keeping our eye on is like a point of focus,

Rachael Kay Albers  28:03

I would even take it further, Emily, the beyond the idea that a lot of us were encouraged to have personal brands, I think we're living in the age of the personal brand. And there is no opting out from that either, because employees and people who are not self employed, so I don't, when I think about personal branding, I'm not just thinking of self described entrepreneurs or influencers, or like you said, people whose business like that they put themselves against this name, right. But like all of us, I mean, my my mom, who's like, you know, 60, something accountants, like getting close to retirement has been told by her employer, while she needs to think about her brand, her personal brand, and like how she's showing up on LinkedIn, and how it's supporting the company, job seekers who are out in the job market, the prevailing wisdom of the day is, as you're going out and looking for a job, you've got to think about your online footprint, you got to think about your personal brand, even for the vote for people who opt out who say, I'm not going to be on Facebook, I'm not going to be on the internet, I don't have a website or never LinkedIn, I don't have anything well, in whether you're looking for a job or even like looking for a girlfriend or a boyfriend or a partner on the internet, like a lack of an online presence. Yeah, creates a personal brand for you. It tells a story about you, as you know, you're going to be branded one way or another, whether you do it for yourself or whether somebody else does it for you. Right. So I mean, that would be my first thing would be that we're living in the age of the personal brand, there is no opting out of the age of the personal brand, your brand or be branded whether we like it or not, I'm not saying it's a good thing. It just is right. I think going back to what I was saying before about like so much of the prevailing marketing wisdom is the idea like create for the algorithm. Think about your audience first, which there is some merit to it, like branding in and of itself is a conversation like your brand doesn't live Your logo on your website in your copy in your mission statement. Essentially all of those things are you making a bid or a wish or a halt like an act like you're, you're hoping that by creating those things and doing it well enough, you can shape your audience's perception of you, but your brand at the end of the day, it lives in your audience's mind. It is a memory, your brand is what people come to expect from you. It's what people remember or think about when you come to mind, right? It is the associations, the expectations, the experiences that we've had with a company or with a business or with a person. That's what a brand is. So it doesn't live it isn't, it isn't up to us to decide at the end of the day, what our brand is, it lives in the eye of the beholder. And that also speaking of that disco ball that Rubik's Cube changes, based on who is beholding us, right, and what that held. That's why you know, different people have drastically different impressions of the McDonald's brand, the McDonald's brand is different in different locations for different groups, communities, people, whatever. So I think that the first thing that I would I would say about this is when you're thinking about your brand, is you've got to start from a place of your values, and the impact that you want to make in the world. And the, you know, people often ask me, like, how do I come up with my content, where my content ideas come from. And I always say that my greatest content comes from the stuff that pisses me off. Because typically, anger is like a little bell that's digging, you know, directing us, it's like a signal pointing us in the direction of what really matters to us, right. And so my greatest content, and I'm not necessarily saying that my greatest content is angry content, but the inspiration for that content comes from things that make me angry, because it's showing me oh, here's what needs to change, here's what's missing from the conversation, here's where, you know, here's where there's an opening or something is missing, that people need more of, or less of, or whatever. And that has really guided me in terms of what I create, and and what I'm putting out into the world. Starting from that place of what I know, from my values perspective, the world needs more of, and again, this is a challenging place, because what the world means and what will sell are not always typically often not the same thing, right? So it's also walking that tightrope of, you know, finding your values and then finding a way to fit them into the marketplace. So that you can survive, you can pay your bills, you can you know, find your joy, all of those things. But I think it's all about creating, creating from your values versus creating from I get a lot of people are like, Okay, I have this great idea that I think I can sell. And they're more concerned about the sell ability than they are about the change that they want to make. It's like almost like yeah, sell first, and then like make change, like, then you can come up with a story about like, how this is your why, but like, so few businesses are really operating from there. Why first, it's like they come out of like, you know, profitability first, and then I'll invent a why I'll create an illusion of some great better, you know, purpose for humanity later. Right, right. No, no, I think it's got to be values first, why first? You know,

Emily Carter  33:15

yes, preach, I preach this all the time. This is music to my heart. Because I know that this matters, like I know, like, all every fiber of my being, that this is so so important that creating from that place is the most authentic place that you can create from and people will gravitate to it. Whether you mean them to or not, you know? Right? Yeah, you know, one of the things that really stood out to me, I made some notes here, as you were talking about a brand as like a memory, it's like a feeling that you've created in those folks. Right? And, and what's so powerful about that is one, if you're inspiring the right kind of feelings, really powerful feelings, people are gonna remember you now they might hate you, but also they might love you. Right? And, and inspiring that feeling is about how they feel when they come across your brand across, you know, like, across every channel that your brand is in, right? So when we're thinking about it that way, and leading with value suddenly becomes a lot easier to figure out how we want to inspire those feelings. So it's sort of like connecting those

Rachael Kay Albers  34:27

dots. Those are the two questions when I'm working with a brand like when we're people often come in and they like want to talk about when they think brand, their first thing that they think is visual. So they're like, I want a new logo. I want a new website, I want new colors. I want new photos I want and they're often disappointed to find that like when I'm doing a branding process with people that we often will spend months in strategy before we ever talk about any of the fun, beautiful, like that's kind of like the cherry on the sundae or the reward for doing this strategy work. But people come in and may have Have these these ideas? Okay, I, you know, my favorite color is red. So I want my logo to be red or, you know, I really like this or I really like that. So let's, you know, just like I saw this website, and I really love it. Let's copy it. Let's do something like that. Because, um, and I, what I, where I really try to start with the question around design is not about favorites, about favorite color favorite, this favorite that? I think of my Can you hear me? Yeah, my ear buds has died, which were half dead, um, is two questions, two questions that have nothing to do with your favorites. But how do you want people to feel when they encounter your brand? So you just pick up write up on that? And number two is how do you want to be remembered? How do you want you know, hi. And from there, I kind of like to ask the question, how are we then when we think about visuals? How are we going to decorate the space like the space that you rent in your audience's brain? Right? Going back to those questions of how do you want people to feel? And how do you want to be remembered when people come in? And they say, Oh, my favorite color is red. So let's make the branding. All right. It's like well, Brett red is an action color. It's an energy color. It's often associated with warning or with emergency. Sometimes it can be associated with passion and excitement. Looking at the color red gets people's hearts beating faster. Yeah, it can stimulate appetite. Like that's why you see a lot of, you know, fast food companies, they pair the colors red and yellow, there's been studies to say that it makes us want to act fast in some cases makes us hungrier. So you got McDonald's and Burger King. And you know, Sonic and I could go down. Yeah, Wendy's, I mean, just think about you know, any fast food companies that like really focus on the color blue, not too many, right? Like, it's not as common, like there's talk about got purple in there. So if you're like a yoga or wellness or like you're in the business of health, you want people to feel calm, you want them to feel cared for and nurtured and, and trust and taken care of, you're not going to lead with the Colorado. That's not how you want people to feel right. So it's all about those two questions. How do you want to make people feel? How do you want to make people feel? And how do you want to be remembered?

Emily Carter  37:13

Yes, yes, yes. See, this is brilliant. Because when you're creating from that space, aside from some of the silly things that algorithms want us to do, like dance with bubbles, right? Like I power to you, people who love that and thrive in that. I do not, sadly, so you will not you will not be seeing me on Instagram, dancing and pointing it bubbles. But that wasn't a thing until the algorithm decided it was a thing. Right? Like maybe a couple people were doing that. But mostly people were not doing that. Now it's sort of the thing to do. Because it rises to the top. The algorithm is like, one of my one of my business besties shout out to them, sent me I was railing about this Monday, sent me a message that was along the lines of it was like a meme that somebody had had sent her. And it said something along the lines like the algorithm is the greatest cult leader. And I was just like, Whoa,

Rachael Kay Albers  38:12

yeah, love that. Put another bumper sticker put it up, monetize that, look, look at me, that's where my head goes, like, Oh, you got to take wisdom and turn it into a premium. But

Emily Carter  38:21

I love it. Yes. I was like, yes, because it takes away your agency, you're not allowed to disagree, or you're punished by not showing up in people's feeds. I mean, it was uncanny. I was like, Whoa, yes, that is 110% What's happening there. So listen, if you love doing that stuff, awesome, keep doing it. But if you don't love it, consider maybe that there might be some other stuff that you can do that the algorithm will also like, and it doesn't have to be dancing with bubbles. Just throw on that, okay.

Rachael Kay Albers  38:49

And I also like, you know, going back to this idea of like creating from values first, and then it's about so, you know, coming up with the products and services that you know, the world needs, but then it's also about translating that into the world's language today. Right? And so that's a lot of people will start with their content creation process with Okay, so like the dancing with bubbles is really hot. So I'm going to do a dancing with bubbles video. Okay, what am I going to talk about that it's like that is the recipe for mediocre content. It's a recipe for just creating more of the same contributing to the sea of sameness. But at the same time, like if you've got, you know, I always like to help people, you know, come up with their great Cornerstone content, and then it's just what we're purchasing the hell out of it into the different languages of all the different platforms that we have to distribute our message. And each platform Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tik Tok Pinterest, you could keep going on and on has its own essentially culture and language, right? Like, yes, the currency of Instagram is different than the currency of Twitter is different than the currency of LinkedIn. So one problem I see is people taking one message and just bringing it up across every different medium, not translating it or not with no conflict, no cultural relativity within the culture of that particular platform. So I mean, if you may come up with a piece of really great Cornerstone content, that that translates really well into a video of you dancing with bubbles, and how Yeah, I mean, if hopping on that algorithmic trend helps to get your message out in front of more people while still like, like using the algorithm against itself. I'm all for it. But I think that the problem comes with so much of that content that we're seeing that's riding the wave. And the pattern to trends is like, Ooh, this is a trend. Let me try to come up with an idea for the trend. Yes, oh, I have an amazing idea. I've cultivated it, it's ready for the world. And now I'm going to take that idea and translate it into the language of the day. Does that make sense?

Emily Carter  40:51

Yes. Beautiful. And Absolutely. Because, frankly, if you have something that you can translate well, that way it doesn't, it starts to feel not weird, it feels authentic, because you created that content from a place that mattered to you in the first place. Right?

Rachael Kay Albers  41:05

Right. So no, no shame on the tour. I jump on them every once in a while. It's fun, you know? Yeah, absolutely. A little bit of lift. And sometimes it is jumping on a trend like that, that can get you in front of the audience, that then allows you to change the world, right? So it's like that's the tightrope again, it's not either or, it's not like I you know, I wear you mentioned my rainbow earrings. I and I rainbows are a theme throughout my visual branding. And it's not just because I love rainbows, although I do love rainbows. But it's also because it's a constant affirmation of my brand values, which is it's not about black and white. It's about living in the rainbow. It's about honoring the nuance of every situation, and what each color and perspective and emotion has to teach us. Right?

Emily Carter  41:51

Yes, and I love that you use the word nuance, because it's not something that we're very good at putting into soundbites, because like Nuance doesn't fit in a soundbite, right? Like, you've got to explain it, you've got to have paragraphs of text, you've got to, you know, break all of these rules that they tell us like people can't handle. But here's, here's what I know is like any rule that somebody tells you there is somebody out there kicking ass, not doing it, like totally breaking that rule, right? Know those

Rachael Kay Albers  42:18

rules, so you can break them in the strategic ways. Yeah. And that's the hard thing. Like, today's like, for example, tick tock, you know, and Instagram reels like this little bite sized content is really turning us all into. It's shaping how we consume and, and process information because now we're starting to only pursue ideas that can be turned into little sound bites, right? And so what is this speaking of this question that I'm always asking myself, What is branding doing to us? Right, like, was not just what branding can do for us. But what does it mean to us? It scares me what's happening to our intellectual curiosity, both because we're being encouraged to to, you know, to only develop ideas that are sound viable or easily, like, you know, seven seconds or less, you know, you've got to be able to grab somebody, and if you don't, well, it's just not even worth saying, that scares me. That's why it's all about like, starting with about us first, create the big giant, Cornerstone 3000 word essay, and then take that essay and translate it into these, like more, but I'm sure there's, there are sound bites that can be, you know, brought out of the essay. But if you're doing your job, well, you're ultimately driving people, you're your tech, you're hooking people in with that little bite sized stuff. And then you've got a big robust body of work behind you to give them the nuance that they really need, like, sell them what they want, give them what they need. That's the dance that I'm always dancing.

Emily Carter  43:46

Yes. Oh, so this opens up like a whole new path for us, which is consider not just what you want your brand to be, but also what it's what is it really doing in the world, right? And paying attention to that enough to know that it is having that kind of influence, can help us make better decisions about what we want to do, you know, like, and like you said, walking that tightrope means that we have to be able to balance what we have to do, because this is the system that we're operating in, and what we would like to be able to elevate, right? Because in order for this ship to go, we got to be able to do both. That's it. Yes, it baby. Yes. So some of the questions that I have about branding, you've already answered but one of them that that continues to pop up for me is when we're thinking about branding, especially if we're thinking about pivoting I talked to a lot of folks who feel like they built their business in one way but needed to move in another way. What are the things that can help either incorporate that seamlessly into what we already have, or can make that transition feel a little less Rocky.

Rachael Kay Albers  45:08

So when we're, the question is like when we're pivoting our business from one place to the next and yeah, so,

Emily Carter  45:16

yes, so our business has evolved, maybe maybe we have a different sense of what we want our business to be able to do. Not that we're totally changing necessarily what we've built, but we're making a change that's significant, either in the products that we offer and how we offer them, or were attaching this to a different niche, for example, what are some things that we can think about? That allow us to, to work with that a little more? With Open Eyes, I guess? Yeah,


I would say okay, so recently, I got this feedback, like, okay, a year ago, I kind of gloriously and gloriously, like burned down my life and businesses. I knew it. I mean, always, I announced, I was getting a divorce. I strange myself, for my family. It's a long story. I did a bunch of whistleblowing in my industry. And I kind of just burned the former way, I was doing things to the ground. And I was talking to somebody a couple weeks ago, they're like, okay, but when I look at the old view, and the newer you, I don't see off the bat, a huge change. And, and that shift for me felt a lot more natural than the way you're describing it. And I was like, wow, okay, you can owe that to visual branding right there. That right, the tie that was that bound and wove its way throughout, and I've got a few different, you know, even in me and how I do business, the part of how I parse out my different worlds is by having them live in different places, like I've got a creative studio RK Inc, that's where I do the done for you services with brands where I'm building brands over a long period of time, then there's me the Rachael Kay alvers brand, which is connected to that. But this is a lot more of my marketing muckraking, my thought leadership. This is where I get to be experimental and like tear at the seams of brand culture as we know it. So that's its own world. And then I also have your you're watching me right now as we have this interview, I've got my home office Palace brand, which is where I'm creating like the world's greatest DIY home office, and that lives in its own kind of universe. And you know, different offerings sometimes float around in between those worlds. But if you were to, to go between RKA Inc. and Rachael counters in the home office Palace, they all kind of feel like they're part of one family. And that's because I've got visual threads and cues that way weave their their way throughout the color palette is pretty much the thing that I stay consistent, my fonts might change, the style of photography might change, my focus and messaging might change. But my colors, my rainbow colors, kind of. I use them in different ways throughout each of those different brands, but I they are the one of the ties that bind so that it feels cohesive. And it feels and as I'm cross promoting them between each other because sometimes there is overlap between them. It feels very natural, it feels like it's part of a branded family. So I think this is one of the cases for you know, visuals and design are one of the ways that we shortcut or we accelerate. That emotional experience that we want to create for folks like content is king and design is its cohort at the same time. So I think one of the ways that you know, you can pivot and make it feel natural is by having certain ties that bind throughout, whether it be visual cues, whether it be kind of bringing an old buzzword or an all you know keywords from your old brand into the new brand and the new niche, making that feel more natural. And at the same time, I would also say like it doesn't mean to be like you can also just frickin burn it all down and start like literally burn it all down and start from scratch, like sometimes trying to make everything make sense inside of like the box that you created for yourself years ago, like trying to fit everything into that little branded box. That's what leads people to break down. That's what people like, that's where people like have existential crises, is they're trying to make it all make sense, in a certain framework. It doesn't have to make sense. You know, like, you can just totally blow the whole thing up, you know, set. What do I like to say, instead of thinking outside of the box, I want you to strap that buck box to a fire cracker and watch that sucker explode. Like, you can do that too.

Emily Carter  49:25

And if that's the path that folks want to take, I'm going to point them in your direction because you're the exact person to help them blow up that box. For sure, let's go. So we're coming up towards the end of our time here. And I wanted to ask you, you know, you've talked about the three different sort of buckets of your business. Where can we soak up all of your wisdom for the future? Like where can we find all of this and how can we engage with it?


It me baby, Rachael kit, you know, go go to Rachael Kay Albers dot com. That's RACHAEL I got that extra scarlet letter in my name, and that's definitely on purpose. So that's kind of like the that's where you're gonna find my thought leadership. That's where you know all roads kind of meet back at me and me, you know and all of my wildcard or re you know, the wildcard that is me. So yeah, go check it out.

Emily Carter  50:25

Rachael, you're awesome. Thank you so much for being here today. I have like my brain is exploding. I've gotten so much out of this conversation. I know folks listening are gonna want to follow you too. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today.

Rachael Kay Albers  50:39

Thank you for having me. 

Emily Carter  50:44

Hey there, I bet you thought this episode was over. So after we stopped recording, Rachael and I kept talking and I had to ask her if I could hit record again because she has this amazing way of explaining how branding started to become what it is today. She also now has an amazing article about it on her website so that link will be in the show notes. So here's Rachael Kay Albers schooling me on the roots that today's age of personal branding grew from. 

Rachael Kay Albers  50:44

Branding as we know it today would not exist without World War One propaganda. Yeah, that is true. Yeah. I'll just keep talking just for the purpose of explaining what I'm saying but before the turn of the century, like branding really got its start with it like the mid 19th century because before the age of mass production people bought from people right we bought from the shopkeeper we bought from people and we bought based on reputation, which took years decades often to create, right? Yeah, then now we've got mass production and capitalism requires us to be able to sell all these goods that we're creating otherwise, this this new system that we just colonize the planet and this country for isn't going to survive, right so how do we do it? How do we get people to shift their trust to know like trust the companies versus like the shopkeeper who like scoops our oats out of a barrel? Brandy right branding, right, you know, was created essentially to replace human beings okay, but early branding and marketing and advertising got a really bad reputation very quickly because people could say whatever the hell they wanted whether or not it was backed up by facts and they did you know, this is how we were selling people like sulfuric acid diluted as like a cure all for all their ailments when we were killing up right so okay, we come to the turn of the century branding and advertising was still kind of looked on as like a like pseudoscience it was it was looked in as like, disreputable it had a bad name, then enter World War One. And actually it was England that started it and then we pick it I mean, it does that sound familiar? Um, we're just always just copying everybody else isn't stealing their tactics and making them worse. But okay, so they had to get people to voluntarily you know, go to war, even though the odds were really bad, like, go to where you were probably going to die. How did they do that? Wide, massive, like, you know, huge volume, omnipresent marketing propaganda campaigns. And it was so successful in England, like, you know, the whole we want you your country wants you like Uncle Sam pointing his finger on the poster didn't even start in the USA. It started with Lord Kitchener his army conscription campaigns over in England, and then we copied it, brought it back, here's what happened. It was so successful. This is how the Committee on Public public information was created, which was essentially the first date. Like it was the first systemic state sponsored marketing campaign in the history, like propaganda campaign in the history of the world was this is the first time because before democracy and capitalism, kings and queens and shit, they actually like they rule based on mystery, not based on campaigns to get people to like, like, it was a whole other ballgame. Blah, blah, blah, long story short, this worked these and not only what did it get people to sign up for the war, but it got the public to support the war, to kind of have one ideology about the war. And so the powers that be saw this saw how effective propaganda was, and they were like, Okay, I can see how this can be used for business. And two kinds of camps came out of this, one of the camps was like, wait a minute, this is kind of scary, because we've seen now that if you are able to surround people with messages everywhere they go at the movies, in the newspapers, like in, like on the town hall, like on the posters on the wall, everywhere, on the radio, you know, all these different things. If we're able to do that, we can actually change people's pump, we can change public opinion very quickly, versus they would take decades or more before. And so they saw this so there's one kind of ideology that was like, oh my god, this is dangerous. This is going to curtail free speech and free thinking, like this is gonna change. intellectual discourse as we know it. The other side, which happened to be championed by Bernays who was Freud's nephew who is known as the father of modern public relations. His thinking was, oh my god, this is amazing. You know what, we can't let the stupid peons think for themselves anyway, they're gonna make the wrong choice. They're gonna vote for the wrong candidate. They're gonna have the wrong opinions. So propaganda is amazing because then we can just get them to think like we want and of course business saw the power of this were like, well, we can get them to buy what we want and we can get them to, you know, all of the things but you know who else was paying attention all this? Adolf Hitler, okay, he also freakin took notes after World War One was like, Well shit, we you know we didn't have a good time but look how good propaganda was I'm going to do one better. And I think you did so I mean in the context of he used propaganda very effectively yes to do what he did that you know caused the next World War. So everything you know, branding as we know it today owes itself advertising our modern culture as we know it today owes itself to World War One propaganda and Lord Kitchener and his finger pointing finger country needs you ads.

Emily Carter  55:46

Wow. That mean,

Rachael Kay Albers  55:52

I'm upset? Yeah, reading his propaganda because it's ultimately meant like the goal of branding is to is to subvert our logic and reasoning and get us to act from emotion is to get us to make choices from emotion. So we're playing, you know, it's hard. It's hard to do this work and like, still sleep at night, you know, so but I think that like my goal, at the end of the day with the work that I'm doing is not to give people the answer of what they should do instead, but instead to make us critical thinkers, like it was Brandeis Justice Brandeis who said in like, an opinion that came down right around this time. That you know, the true key to happiness is freedom of thought. And the way that we achieve freedom of thought is through courage, the courage to have, you know, our own is to go against the grain and to think for ourselves, but we've created a whole culture where we're being propagandized, where do our thoughts even come from? So Brandeis really fought for free speech? Anyway, you got me going. That's my thing. That's my sign. See how to write in this email. I'm all fired up.

Emily Carter  56:58

Thank you, Rachael.

Rachael Kay Albers  57:00

Thanks for letting me say all that and like I needed to say it out loud. I appreciate it.

Emily Carter  57:04

I love it.  Before you go, thank you so much for listening today. If you liked this episode, please share it. Leave a review wherever you listen, and hit that subscribe button so we can keep the conversation going. If you want to dive even deeper into today's episode, just go to www dot change agent dot studio slash podcast and look for this episode's show notes.