Episode #115 – Bryan Semkuley – Leading the Brand of Consistent Innovation

“How we portray the brand, how we market the brand, how we communicate everything around that brand needs to be in sync. You need to get the whole organization understanding what that ethos is and be consistent in its application and its communication. And you really need senior leadership to align to that.” – Bryan Semkuley  

  • [02:08] Patrick introduces his next TEDM guest: Bryan Semkuley.
  • [02:54] Two old friends, Bryan and Patrick first get caught up with each other. With a long list of adventures and accomplishments, Bryan shares what he’s up to today and the projects he’s working on.
  • [05:58] In his world of consulting and advising, Bryan’s focus is mostly brand marketing and innovation through product development, improved processes, and communication strategies to name just a few.
  • [07:10] Bryan brings us back to post-University days where he joined Labatt brewing company, not just for drinking the beer but as a Market Analyst and later in Sales. A gratifying and fulfilling start to his career, Bryan got a deep-rooted understanding for the complexities of the brewing business which created a solid foundation for his future as a brand promoter and marketer.
  • [11:30] Beginning with the end in mind. Bryan attributes his mindset back to his teenage years, dreaming of how he could have a million dollars by the time he was 65. With goals and milestones set along his journey, Bryan consistently set his course with that dream firmly in place.
  • [14:08] Nature and nurture, they both played a role in shaping Bryan’s trajectory and mindset. With care and encouragement from both of his parents Bryan understood the value of working hard, educating oneself and keeping a competitive edge. He enjoyed the challenge of elevating his skillset to match a competitor’s and get the most from any of his endeavours, be it sports or career.
  • [16:12] The growth mindset he learned from his father guided Bryan in his early career with Labatt to show up and be recognized by leaders and mentors as someone who would benefit from exploring and experiencing more than his day-to-day job might offer. Bryan, with the further encouragement of his wife Kathy, accepted and took advantage of the special projects and opportunities that came his way which expanded their world enormously.
  • [20:44] With a constant stream of growth and learning opportunities, Bryan felt no desire to move on from Labatt and instead focused and capitalized on the new challenges he was being given and was inspired to contribute to. The competition of business was very analogous to the competition of sport.
  • [24:25] Bryan describes how he showed up as a leader during that time. Driven to achieve with a strong, silent, and genuine style and a firm recognition of his team and their development. The leadership paradox: as a leader he worked for his team, not the other way around, to set them up for success which in turn escalated the corporation’s success.
  • [26:11] A leader by nature, Bryan has often found himself in leadership roles. From kindergarten to sports to career, only as he began to take on more corporate leadership roles did he start to dive into more intentional self-development.
  • [28:36] Bryan shares the whirlwind course that his career path took, which brought him and his family some tremendous opportunities from Canada to the United States and finally to Europe.
  • [34:18] Although his work required a healthy time commitment, Bryan and Kathy were dedicated to prioritizing family rituals and time together.
  • [36:02] With another corporate restructuring that wasn’t particularly appealing to Bryan, he made the decision to look for other opportunities. This decision brought them to back to the United States where he embarked on his new consulting career and a short turn with the New York commuter lifestyle from Connecticut to Manhattan.
  • [38:00] Bryan explains his approach to undertaking the scale of global branding and marketing plus the skill of forensic marketing and understanding the nuances of cultural diversity.
  • [40:35] Oh Canada. Bryan talks about the large learning curve he experienced moving from a relatively small pond in Canada to broadening his wings and perspective going to work in the vast consumer pool of the United States.
  • [43:21] Bryan speaks to the ever-evolving nature of marketing and the shift from one-way communication to a two-way communication with consumers who see themselves as brand custodians and marketers just as much as the company itself. Social media has also brought marketing and its scope of activities to a whole different level. Bryan has also observed what can become the downfall for companies who change their position and attach their brand to the next flavour of the day rather than standing firm in what they believe and represent.
  • [46:11] Ethos and alignment. Without the buy-in of senior leadership to communicate and align with the ethos of the company brand, what they stand for and who they are targeting, “brand drift” will start to occur. Short sighted decisions are made in pursuit of the bottom line, and damage to the brand becomes the consequence. Consistency is critical.
  • [49:23] Is every experience in Bryan’s life a big marketing assessment? Well, it’s pretty hard to turn it off. In an interesting turn he has now begun to work more with entrepreneurs and start-up companies and use his extensive corporate experience to help them find their brand and point of distinction.
  • [51:43] Bryan and Patrick discuss the importance of senior leaders creating their vision, clearly conveying it to their team, and ways in which they envision getting there. Equally important is the engagement, buy-in and support of an organization’s “second-level.” The team two levels below the CEO who are executing and implementing the strategies to achieve that vision. The absence of that is where Bryan has seen organizational sabotage occur.
  • [54:16] The life of Bryan. What is he jazzed about in the world of consulting? The theme is flexibility and exploration.
  • [58:35] Bryan describes the ways in which he is pursuing opportunities and marketing himself as a consultant. He is also seeing a greater demand for the gig workforce.
  • [61:14] Attention small business owners! Bryan puts on his marketing hat to provide some nuggets of wisdom to increase your brand’s exposure and messaging. Advice among the nuggets: first establish yourself among a core community or tribe that your product or service is targeted toward, avoid immediate dilution of your message, and start with the pebble approach. Drop a pebble in the pond and let the ripples grow.
  • [64:58] Ok let us ripple out into the rapid fire! The book that has impacted Bryan the most, then what he is most inclined to gift; silver, gold, or bitcoin; iPhone or Android; iPhone’s great marketing prowess; favourite bands; favourite movie and favourite swear word.
  • [70:33] Bryan’s gratitude.

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