Oct 21, 2020
Our guest CJ Casciotta is a well-known speaker, author, and Tedx alum. Today we talk about what it means to be weird and how embracing that can propel your business into a truly purposeful venture. Everything you do can be knocked off, but your unique weirdness, cannot. At college in Southern California during the birth of YouTube and the Twittersphere, CJ started out helping people develop their brands. Now he’s a brand consultant and has turned his specialities of leaning into purpose on himself- the result is Ringbeller Studios. Today’s episode is going to dig into CJ’s unique value proposition, how embracing his weirdness has turned business into passion, and how you can apply this same technique in your agency.
Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode:
For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:
About our Guest:
CJ Casciotta: Founder of Ringbeller Studios, author of Get Weird, and overall brand-building specialist, CJ resides in Franklin, TN after moving from Southern California. He is the innovative brain behind educational and kid-driven content that does a great job of teaching skills that kids can use every day. His childhood love of the Muppets and Mr Rogers Neighborhood planted a deep desire to create positive change and teach kids kindness and creativity in a way that was palatable for them, meeting kids where they are at, both in the classroom and at home.
About The Guys:
Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000 -2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob:
Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:
Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken:
[1:00] Brad introduces today’s guest, CJ Casciotta of RingBeller Studios. They met back in Santa Monica, CA several years ago and both wound up in Franklin, TN.
[5:15] CJ talks about his late college years when YouTube and Twitter first got big and how quickly that changed the landscape. He worked as a freelancer and media producer as a natural flow from college and eventually honed in on branding as a speciality.
[7:18] CJ continues: “Then at some point I kind of woke up and realized I like doing this, but what is my core purpose? What’s my unique point of contributing to the world? And I realized I wasn’t leaning into my personal weirdness…”
[10:05] Bob talks about how The Guys have extensive careers in branding and creating unique visions for their clients, but often the hardest client is yourself when it comes to branding. A quote we mention often at Agency Exposed “The cobblers kids have no shoes.” He asks CJ about the process of moving from clients to himself as the focus.
[10:49] CJ: Says he will probably always be iterating what that looks like- but starts with knowing when to invite people in and what to invite them in on. Perspective can get narrow, so it’s important for him to know what ONLY he can do and maintaining that balance has been the struggle.
[11:45] Brad asks about CJ’s theme of “weirdness” in his business and why he values the weird so much in a business sense.
[12:15] CJ talks about the wakeup call of realizing that the need to fit in and measure up that we are taught as kids no longer applies- in reality, it’s what makes us stand apart from others that will bring real growth. This is truly the cornerstone for branding for any brand and business.
[13:55] CJ “The great danger is that we are educating our kids and conditioning kids to really neglect the thing that will help our society move forward and innovate and be the environment that we are all really long for and wish for.”
[15:27] Bob asks “Would you say that you’re taking the word unique… and figuring out what’s your unique selling proposition? Are you saying that, are you taking the word unique and exchanging it for weird, or would you define them as different things?”
[15:55] CJ responds that yes they are being used synonymously. “It drills down to how you position the business, how you create a team culture, etc.”
[16:46] Bob says that being “unique” or “different” is one thing, having a different angle to approach a sale. But truly being “weird” is a bit more vulnerable, a bit more human.
[17:31] CJ talks about another litmus test for weirdness versus your run of the mill unique selling proposition- it comes from your people, the humans and make up your organization- not just a product set apart from other products.
[18:18] Ken asks CJ for more info on his current business model. “Do you have clients? Do you create products?”
[18:31] CJ responds. V1 of an app for Ringbeller is in being built. They are building more interactivity and games for ways to turn kids into the media creators. This is being filtered through a school product but also a family product.
[20:46] Ken says that he feels this need, as a dad trying to help his kids through the delicate learning stages they’re at right now.
[21:23] CJ says that Ringbeller is focused more on soft skills, on social and emotional learning. There is a lot of content out there that focuses on these things, that are very touchy feely, but Ringbeller has created an archetype of an 8th grade boy that may not have resources or support, that would find these videos attention-grabbing and laugh-inducing, to then teach him important life skills that he needs.
[24:11] Bob asks CJ what his ringbeller is, what his Why is behind the company.
[24:32] CJ says “I don’t think Mr Rogers ever intended to have his successor… his entire career and purpose was about helping us be a little version of what he was teaching… I really do think it’s not going to take one sort of individual leader, it’s up to a lot of little micro decisions and choices from each of us to live out that message.”
[26:35] Ken talks about how businesses should and could change lives, some are explicitly in that space. Some awesome realization that don’t think they have a deep reason for existence to realize they do, then use that influence to help the world is THE way to go.
[28:15] Ken highlights the pain points of creating a brand
for yourself after you’ve spent so much time creating brands for
your clients. How do they start creating their own media that has a
meaning and purpose?
[28:36] CJ says that for him, creating new content has always resulted in getting a new client along the way. It’s the one area where you don’t have the restrictions of your clients preferences. It might seem like playing, like too much fun to be work, but at the end of the day it is! It’s work and it’s investing in your brand and your vision.
[30:26] Ken can sympathize with this shame and guilt, as Metacake has created YouTube videos and books.
[32:25] Brad asks CJ: “How do you communicate about your
business to your employees so that they understand what the big
picture is and what you’re really there to do- what’s the ethos of
[33:00] CJ talks about being aware of the majority and minority micro culture that exist within every company. He gives the example of a brand he’s worked with, a young, creative, surfer kid-led company that constantly butted heads with their finance department. This was a great thing ultimately, as both play an important part of knowing the culture and maintaining the balance of authenticity.
[35:20] Brad asks CJ if a little bit of weirdness is necessary for the leaders to be able to get their employees to think outside of the box.
[35:22] CJ: There is a difference between a company that defers to whatever the competition is doing versus a set of people who are free to create their own path to differentiate from the competition. He says there needs to be a little bit of that rebellious attitude in this regard- sort of like “We’ve gotta carve our own path, zig where everyone else is zagging.”
[37:38] Brad: “Knowing what makes you weird is the best thing you can offer your art, your business, your friends, your family, and yourself. It’s the essence of creativity. It’s the stuff of movements and the hope of humanity.”- this is a quote from CJ’s book!
[38:42] CJ plugs his book and platform! Getweirdbook.com and ringbeller.com
[39:53] The Guys reflect on their talk with CJ. Bob says that the feeling of shame that we all struggle with when it comes to creativity and the fun that comes along with it is important to talk about. With so many voices speaking into the void about how to do YouTube the “right” way, how to motivate your clients to click, it’s easy to lose sight of everything that CJ is talking about.
[40:28] Ken talks about how marketing is contributing to the lack of mental health in the population SO much. For example, going into Q4 as an ecommerce brand doesn't mean stress is innate in everything you do. Shame-based marketing, super urgent marketing, etc are contributing to the detriment of people’s mental health. “I think marketers should realize that weight.”
[41:55] Ken: “In my opinion, I think finding purpose is the best business strategy. It’s the only one that people can’t rip off.”
[44:37] Brad talks about the commercials that he’s seen since Covid-19 took over the news and culture. Instead of ads for cars, the ads were about human triumphing, the human spirit, and more of an emotional connection.
[46:41] Ken says that when you’re the leader of the company, when you’re developing the company ethos and pedigree that will be trained into your employees and passed on, at some point you have to come out about what your purpose is. If that doesn’t happen, it’s highly unlikely that your wins are going to have the impact that they could have otherwise.
[48:06] Brad talks about how weirdness may not do favors on Wall Street, but it’s what keeps people’s eyes on you and what truly draws value to you in the end.
[52:50] Bob says that speaking with Calvin Nowell of C’Mon Media is a great example of leaning into what makes you different and even weird, by some standards. It sets him apart and makes him memorable.
[53:46] Brad quotes CJ once again “What if we lived as though we had something to give instead of living as though we have something to prove.”