Steven Burkhart: Hey everybody, welcome to the death to vanilla podcast. I have Gabby on today’s interview, and  I’m so excited to have her on. Spoiler alert, we recorded this at the end. So we already had a good time. And now you get to enjoy it. So she is a branding and marketing consultant. She has worked all over. She currently works all over from Latin America, Mexico, United States, Spain. And so you just have a ton of experience. And so I’m excited to jump in and have a good interview. So go ahead and just give yourself a pat yourself on the back a little bit. Tell us about yourself, and brag a little bit worse.

Gabriella Cardoza: So my name is Gabriella Cardoza, I am a personal and corporate brand consultant. I also dabble in marketing and social media. I am currently working in Europe, in the US and in Latin America. So I have a background in political communication, and then migrated over into design, visual and digital media. And that’s how I ended up in branding, marketing.

Steven: Right? It’s almost like communication is just so widespread and necessary. What a crazy idea. So thing. So there’s a couple things that really popped in my head that I love for us to explore that you just talked about. And one is that I love this idea. And if you could maybe explain if that was something you were already good at, and then just got better maybe? Or if it’s something you had to learn, which is this idea of taking everyone on kind of an individual basis. Right? So in America, we still have a wide range of cultures, right. But we kind of assume that one’s kind of on the same page. Everyone is probably going to use Instagram in a similar fashion or Facebook in a similar fashion. So you’re obviously when you’re talking to someone, you’re really discovering a lot of things for the first time and their own unique way. How do you navigate that? Is that something that’s been hard to learn? Or did that something that came natural? It is. So I think it’s a little bit of both,

Gabriella: I think I had sort of the benefit of one being raised with, you know, the duality of like, being Latin American growing up us. Having family in Europe and having family Latin America. So definitely there was like a predisposition to be, you know, somewhat more cognizant of these differences and how people use them at the same time. I think a lot of it is trial and error. So initially, when I first started working with science, specifically in Latin America, Europe a little less, because I did go to school here. So I feel like I was pretty much immersed in that sort of culture and understanding how, you know, there’s different there’s even different platforms here in Spain that they’ve used that there aren’t being used in the US, like very, like, there’s a platform that’s sort of like Facebook, Myspace, but for Spain, specifically, for example. That’s why, yeah, it’s crazy. And so like, I feel like,

Gabriella: Once you sort of start thinking and being able to place yourself in the position of like, I have so much more to learn. I think that that’s so, so critical. And just anything that you do, whether you’re like a marketer, or you’re in branding, the idea of being a lifelong learner is so important. So being able to remove yourself and and sort of take a step back and observe, just observe how people are using the tools, how people are communicating with one another, communicating with their audiences, so internally and externally, and I feel like you can learn so much from that, that then you can go in and be like, Okay, well, I know that this is sort of what’s culturally expected, or what best practices there are in this specific country or in this specific region. And once you sort of start doing that, there’s a lot of sort of self exploration to sure you have to be able to take what you know, and then go home and practice, right. So it’s like, oh, I’m gonna I heard about this thing. I’m gonna go home and Google it, and play around with it and figure out how people are using it. 

Gabriella: And it’s interesting, I think, in the US, and you mentioned that, which I think is really interesting. I think the US is definitely a melting pot, right? So there’s people from all over, but we’re still sort of have things that unify us, right? So like core values that are cultural values that we all sort of practice, or at least are cognizant of, sure. And then when you leave, and you sort of are exposed to different ones, you realize just how much there is left to learn. So I think it’s it’s an interesting experience, at least it has been for me, I feel like it’s been eye opening. And it’s also caused me to sort of reevaluate even when I was working in the US of like, Oh, well, you know what, now I know that in Latin America, it’s being used like this. Could we maybe take that and do that here? Right? So it like works both ways. I feel like you can pull a lot from different cultures and then use them, you know, bring it back home with you or bring it somewhere else and figure out how You can apply it there.

Steven: Absolutely. I’m sure a lot of what you’re talking about is behind the scenes research, like you said, going home, downloading the app playing with it, seeing how things are working? Do you find yourself constantly asking certain questions that help you discover those things? Like let’s say, for example, we’re talking to someone who is, you know, Chief Operating or Chief Marketing Officer for a company here in the States. And they’re trying to discover their audience. Has there been ones that the questions that you have found yourself asking over and over again, that help you discover how people are really working?

Gabriella: Yeah, so I think that’s a good question. And like, again, so I work more in the branding side? Sure. For me, it’s more of my initial questions. I always have ones that I asked across the board, no matter where I’m working, whether it’s in the US or Europe, Latin America, wherever I am. I always started off by asking people, if your brand was a person, what kind of person would they be? I love that. And it’s so out of yet. So out of the box that people are like, You’re crazy. And oftentimes, they’ll sort of sit there and give me sort of generic answers, like, oh, it’d be friendly, or it’d be accessible. And I’m like, No, no, no. I want to know, like, what they would dress like, what they would sound like, what kind of like music? Would they listen to? Or?

Steven: Yes.

Gabriella: Right. So yeah, it’s the most out of the box thing. And I feel like one, it’s a great way to sort of break down the barrier of, oh, we’re doing something serious right now. Like, we need to think. And we can only think about it the way we’ve been thinking about it, right? So super rigid in terms of like, Oh, this is how we’ve always done it. Or this is how we are looking to do it. No, get rid of that think think creatively. Right? So what is it that you would like it to be like, and once you sort of get an idea that tells you a lot about one, what they’re looking for, but also how they behave in terms of organizational culture, how they communicate with one another, how they see their audience, or how they see themselves wanting to interact with their audience. And I think that is sort of like that icebreaker. 

Gabriella: And that’s one that I always constantly use. And then after that, I’ll often just have them sit and reflect for a while, individually, right? I think, once you start getting into groupthink, it can be really difficult to break out of it. But if you just give people homework with I know that no one likes homework, but if you send them home, and you’re like, you know, just think about it and just write like a couple of like, you know, words that you would want the brand to sound like or that you would want the brand to present itself as you get so many different ideas. versus if you sit in a room and ask everybody to think like on the spot. So those are like sort of the two that I always use no matter where I am.

Steven: I love that. I love that. So from like a marketing end, so there’s so many places to go with this. So I’m so glad you brought that up. I constantly find myself going back to the human model for everything. So for example, in marketing, the way I explain it is, you would not if a stranger came up to you and asked to borrow your car keys because they needed to get somewhere the answer would be no. Unless like you’re my wife, who would just help anyone. Probably drive them somewhere. And so but you would let your friend borrow your keys. Right? So trust has been built. But everyone knows that. No one’s going to just say, Oh, yeah, here take my car at the same but at the same time, the messaging of the marketing is always like, hey, buy this product. And it’s like, well, they don’t know you, would you? How what how are those different? You know what I mean? 

Steven: Like you don’t go on a date and marry someone. I mean, maybe some people do. But a vast majority of people you know, love at first sight. Yeah. Yeah, first of all, don’t and second of all, shame on you. But no. So you know, but you know, people don’t go on a first date and then get married. And in granted, buying a T shirt is by no means a similar commitment. But it’s just that it’s that same idea like this doesn’t ever happen in real life. So why does it happen in marketing life? And I feel in the same way that makes so much sense for marketing or sorry for branding is this idea of like looking at as a human being and you’re right, like what music they listen to what’s their favorite color? What pants do they wear blah, blah, blah, because I think at the end of the day, that suggestion that you had begins to reveal the difference between how they view their brand and how that lines up with their customer. Because if them as a brand wears, you know, Converse has a hat on backwards and is listening to punk music, but they’re ideal market is wearing a suit and tie. We’ve got a problem.

Gabriella: Right? Exactly, exactly. And it’s about people at the end of the day, marketing, branding communications in general. Even the creative industries, like it’s about people. And and once you understand that empathy and, and understanding and having like, a solid understanding of human behavior, once you understand that, I think that unlocks so much potential in terms of like, thinking creatively in terms of it in terms of innovating in terms of creating products or services, once you understand your audience, and also sort of how you plan to relate to them. I think that that’s like the stepping stone that’s sort of like the corner or the the core of it all. So I agree, I’m with you on that. And I’m also not marrying someone. Right, the first date? probably not a good idea.

Steven: No, not at all. No. Yeah, I knew my wife for years and wanted her to marry her really bad. And we still did not get married after the first date. So

Gabriella: There you go. 

Steven I say? So the idea of death vanilla is this idea that you don’t want to either have a brand, right, since that’s really your central area of experience, and you certainly don’t have marketing that just blends in with everything else, right? It’s just kind of vanilla. Like it’s it doesn’t get people excited, doesn’t turn people away. It needs to stand out a little bit in some way. So you were talking about in Latin America, how traditional they are? Do you mean like, like, traditional and like in like, social sense, or traditional in the sense of how they do media, or both? Both? Okay, both.

Gabriella: And I think I think when you realize this sort of like when you step into other markets, you realize that the US sort of is sort of pushing the boundaries, and often at the forefront of digital the digital space. And so a lot of the times they have the same technology, and perhaps it’s taking longer for them to adopt it? Or do you utilize it the same way that the US is doing at least. So I think that’s one the other thing, too, is just sort of historically, everything from gender roles to organizational hierarchy, the way people communicate between themselves is still very much traditional, and it’s changing. And we’re seeing that in certain countries that they are sort of starting to push the boundaries and push back a bit more. But it is happening slower, it’s happening at a slower rate. Right, I feel like that’s definitely it comes into into play. Right, right to figure out what it is it tells you a lot about the people you’re hoping to reach from a marketing or from a branding standpoint, right. But it also tells you internally sort of what you can expect in terms of how much freedom you’ll have doing certain amount of things or how creative you can be right? And of course, obviously the industry also plays a role depending on what industry you’re working in.

Steven: Like, for example, so the like the thing I’m thinking of is, and I’d love for you to find like some sort of like lower offensive comparison, but the thing I think about is like you have like your beer industry, right? And then you have Arrogant Bastard Ale, right? There’s literally a swear word in the title. And the tagline is, you are not worthy. Talk about bold, right? Right, I’m guessing something like that isn’t gonna be a real big hit in Latin America. Because if you know if traditional, like if this is your traditional, right, it’s up here somewhere, which works when the bottoms there. And so my question is, how do you gauge where that line is? Let me back up. How do you tactfully stand out in a traditional market?

Gabriella: Happy question. I think you have to, I always so this is something I was actually speaking about with somebody else. Recently, and it’s you have to sort of set the parameters of, of and of course, sometimes you use that for yourself. But again, sometimes it’s just culturally, it’s been set for you of what’s accepted or what’s perceived as sort of normal or the standard. But then within those parameters, have to be able to take risks. And it’s all about taking calculated risks, whether that’s with the language that you use, whether that’s with the creative, the visuals that you’re using. And, of course, you know, I feel like for me, at least the way I see it is you have to be able to push those boundaries even if you get pushed back. So, of course not everybody’s going to jump on board. Before working specifically in branding, I was in politics. So I, I know that that’s also very much like a very structured, very much rigid in terms of its framework and the way that they they run things. But for example, we, at that point in time, that was circa 2012, I want to say, I don’t even know.

Gabriella:  There was a party that was coming out that was using pink as their color and their branding, and that was political party. Now, at that point in time, people were like, whoa, wait a second. I’ve never seen that before. Like, that doesn’t read as professional like, what is this? And again, it was contextualized. Okay, well, let’s look at it from a purely like branding standpoint of why they’re doing that, why they want to stand out. And it’s realizing that it was very much a bipartisan like system, there was two main parties that were sort of standard and, and the go twos, and this party was smaller, and it was coming in, it wanted to be bold, and it wanted to stand out. 

Gabriella: And it wanted to appeal to people who didn’t feel like they fit in, in the in the, you know, professional dark blue, or in the black that it was like, I want to be somewhere in the middle. Yeah. And once you start sort of understanding the mentality of what goes there, what’s happening behind the scenes of why they’re choosing to do that, or why they’re choosing to stand out, I feel like that pushback almost become sort of an initiative to continue moving forward. So it’s almost like utilizing that like feedback to just keep pushing until it sort of becomes more accepted. And again, I think it depends on, on sort of how comfortable you’re setting in terms of like resources and support, you can’t always just sort of Sure, throw everything caution to the wind, and just like I’m doing it too big to fail. All right, given more flexibility, it’s great.

Steven: So so for example, like a person who’s like a marketing or brand director, right is gonna have, on some level, their job at risk, depending on line, what choices they make, especially if they’re about to train wreck a whole brand. So in the example of the pink, right, you’re gonna get pushback. But I suppose they need to know whose pushback matters and whose doesn’t, right? Because if you are black or blue, you will get pushback, because it doesn’t fit into those things. But then how do you how do you find out what the right pushback is? Because obviously, the people in the middle the people in the pink, right, it’s exactly the message they want to hear. So there wouldn’t be any pushback, there would actually be a wild acceptance. And so how does a brand figure that out? Do they just really hone in on who their audience is? So that way, they know like, hey, if those people complain, we don’t care? If they do we care a lot?

Gabriella: Right? Well, I think I think it starts off. And I think that understanding your branding at the root of it all, it’s understanding who you are, what you do, and what you stand for. And once you were able to successfully define what your unique value is, and who’s going to benefit from that value, that gives you a sense of sort of the direction that you should be pushing in, those are the types of people that are gonna, you know, that you’re trying to reach, or that you are trying to motivate to do X, Y, and Z, those are the people that are going to sort of fulfill your purpose or be the recipients of whatever it is that you’re offering them. And once you sort of realize that and sort of define where you’re going, it’s easier to then differentiate between, oh, this is something that is positive feedback or constructive feedback. Or this is something that is essentially just another motivator to continue pushing forward. And I think that that’s something that both corporate and personal brands sort of need to understand that not every ounce of of hate your your brand can’t stand for everybody, right? So it’s never gonna be it’s never going to be a one size fits all and everyone’s gonna love it.

Steven: Some people’s whole existence is hating on other people, so

Gabriella: Exactly, right. And it’s just about utilizing that as as sort of drive right as fuel to to continue doing what you do. 100%

Steven: So which, by the way, you maybe you mentioned it and I just totally missed it. Where was this brand new political move thing at that was in Spain? Okay. Okay. Would you describe Spain as a pretty traditional type place or Okay,

Gabriella: Yeah, yeah, it’s still very much. Um, it’s, it’s moving forward. I think it’s breaking down a lot of barriers, but it’s still very much like traditional and every sense of the word and sort of relationships like domestic relations. friendships or, you know, gender equality in the workplace, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Sure. That being said that it is, it is far more than sometimes you would see in Latin America in certain countries, what are sort of pushing pushing boundaries a little bit more. And it’s very much they’re cognizant of those things. So they’re, they’re definitely working towards it. But again, they’re always sort of a couple steps behind. And I think you could see that this is more politics. But you could see that, for example, with the branding of the Obama administration, of what that was like, and sort of how they were utilizing social and digital spaces, versus what they were thinking of doing here. And right at that point in time, it was like, oh, if they can do it, we should be doing it too. Right. But then you step back, and you’re like, well, we’re really not there yet. We’re not really people are not so receptive as they are in the US. And that’s where that mentality comes in of like understanding Oh, wait, our audience is different. We can’t just be where everybody else is at the same time. Right? 

Steven: Well, that doesn’t really bother me. I, I don’t think everything that comes out of being progressive is worth duplicating. So that’s separate some for sure are like, obviously, workplace equality is is huge. But just just because America does it doesn’t mean it should be copied anywhere else.

Gabriella: No, exactly. No one. And I think that that’s sort of like the takeaway, for me with what I do is that you cannot sort of silo yourself or, or constrict yourself. And only think about things from one perspective, you just can’t do it. If you want to be successful, and you want to push boundaries, and you want to stand out, or really understand how to sort of differentiate yourself and your brand, you have to understand that there’s other people and other ways of approaching things. There’s other perspectives, other ways of tackling the same issue or the same problem. And I think once you understand that, you’re opening yourself up to far more creative, creative solutions. And, you know, you can successfully sort of figure out how to reach your audience in ways that you probably didn’t think of before. Right. So I definitely think that that’s probably the biggest thing for me is like working with multiple clients is the idea that you can’t sort of just look at things through one lens.

Steven: That’s fair, yeah, no, and you’re the best person to talk about that. Because you’ve been, you’ve been a great deal many places, and I’m like an uncultured swine over here. You know, like, I’ve driven down to Mexico once. But you know, the US is, and actually, to my defense, though, the US is, like you said, a melting pot. So we do get exposed to a lot more than people in other countries. It’s just when we think that everything in this country is how it works everywhere else is where I think the US gets a little off base. So, so one question I had for you, specifically, since you are so well educated. And I mean, that both is a compliment. And as your perspective, right, because part of our audience is going to be like CMOS or marketing directors, people have formal degrees, could you give me like two to three things that you have, especially since you’re consultant, right, so you, you, you’re talking to a lot of different people? What is something that people are overlooking in those spaces that they really need to be paying attention to? Right? And so you’re formally educated. So you’re, you know, a lot about marketing and branding and visual communication? What are people missing?

Gabriella: The value that comes with thinking outside of that degree, I think a lot of the times people are so hung up on getting the formal education, right. And this is speaking, my parents are probably gonna listen to this and be like, they’re, they’re educators. They’re both professors. One of them is the dean at a university. So I’m sure they’re probably like, but I feel like a degree isn’t the end all be all. And it shouldn’t be. I you can learn so much, just by by pushing that aside, or putting that aside for putting that aside. And just immersing yourself in whatever it is that you’re doing. So learning on the job, I think is often overlooked. people not being able to seek out or not wanting to seek out additional personal and professional development opportunities, I think is such a detriment to themselves, and to sort of their growth. Just and I feel like people often sort of wait until those opportunities are presented to them. So they expect their job to sort of Oh, like here’s the conference or here’s a tool or here’s the webinar, you can, they’re not hungry, right? 

Gabriella: You have to take it upon yourself. You have to literally push yourself to want to do more or to want to learn More. And without that drive, if you need a class, you know, to sit down to learn something, that’s a problem, I think you should be able to sort of commit yourself to learning and to wanting to do or to wanting to explore new topics, or to wanting to test new tools or experience new things. So I think a lot of the times, it’s almost like, pushing that responsibility on to others. So it’s like, oh, well, the school didn’t teach me this, or my workplace isn’t offering X, Y, and Z. And a lot of the times it’s like, well, you have a computer, you have access to online courses, or you have access to certification, like certificates or whatever programs, and you have access to other people, right. So it’s kind of like how we met on Twitter, it’s like you have access to these tools that are right at your disposal, where you can learn just just learn from others just sit back and sort of observe or take in what everybody else is sharing. And I feel like that’s often overlooked the idea that you have access, like right at your fingertips to, to things that you didn’t know existed, right?

Steven: Maybe a good follow up to that would be, because what I’m, what I’m trying to figure out is like, what are the holes? Right? Like, what, why? You know? And so for me, the hole that I’m seeing, and you kind of answered it a little bit with that is, why is it that these people who are educated who are in the field hire you? What is it? What is Yeah, what is it like your superpower that they’re missing, that you’re Filling in the gap for?

Gabriella: I think it’s outside perspective. Okay. I think a lot of the times when they’re, they’re been doing something and I think it’s, it’s an it’s an issue across the board, not just one specific industry or one specific field, but it’s just the idea that when you’ve been doing something for so long, you’re so fixated on how you’ve always done things. And it’s like you need somebody else to come on board, from an outside perspective, to offer new insight and to look at things objectively, I think sometimes when you’re so in it, and you’re so committed, and so involved, you sort of tend to baby your projects, right? You tend to sort of sugarcoat them and say like, Oh, well, this is working, because it’s always been working, or this is how we’ve always done things. So like, why rock the boat? And it’s this idea of Okay, yeah, it’s working, but something could work better. And so I think a lot of the times when people realize that there’s sort of a value that is brought on by a different perspective, or a different set of skill sets or different tools, that’s when they realize like, Oh, wait, yeah, you know, what, we could sort of adjust? Or we could pivot here, or we could do this differently and see better results? Not that they weren’t doing great before. But better?

Steven: Sure, absolutely. Well, yeah. I mean, you got to have higher returns every year, if you’re a public business, so you got to keep climbing. Yeah, so obviously, you got to help help have sometimes someone help you find that next step or that next rung of the ladder to climb up? How do you position yourself as the answer to that, that problem?

Gabriella: Good question. I think so. For me, obviously, coming from personal branding, I feel like that’s sort of what you do, right? So figuring out how you can position yourself, and the value that you bring in a way that is attractive to others. So it’s building thought leadership, being active in the space, creating community, I think is absolutely important. Being that sort of point of reference for people of like, Oh, well, we’ve worked with so and so and this person has sort of seen this result or whatever, once you start building that community or that group around you, it’s almost like they can advocate on their behalf over the value that you bring. And I think that that’s sort of, you know, positioning yourself as Okay, well,

here is what I bring, these are my perspectives, this is my experience. This is sort of the past certain, you know, things that I’ve done and projects that I’ve worked on, and sort of they can extrapolate value from that and see like, Oh, well, she’s done X, Y, and Z, or this is sort of what she brings, and then putting that into space, but I also think it’s just about building community and building trust. I think once you sort of consistent in what you do and how you do it, people start associating your brand with that.

Steven: That’s fair. No, I think that’s good. And, and you you know, we like you said, we connected on Twitter. So showing up is kind of half the battle. Because otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to connect because you would have been posting or talking and, and I don’t even think I searched out your profile. I think I just saw you having conversations with other people who are talking about marketing and it just just happened, right? And so there’s a beauty in that. And I’ve actually I shot a video recently about how surprised I was on Twitter. And aligning your brand with a platform that makes the most sense for that, like, fits the personality of the brand. And since, you know me as a bit me as a business owner, I it’s kind of an extension of myself. And so the fact that Twitter was so conversational, and kind of casual and sharing and sharing and caring, but I know right, so corny, but anyways, but you know, for me that was like, so that’s so much more me than LinkedIn is, even though my clientele is totally on LinkedIn, and I can be professional. But for me, Twitter was just a much better fit, right? And so to me, that was really surprising, because I was digging my heels in forever on Twitter, because I was like, it’s old. Like, lots of people don’t like it, blah, blah, blah. But then there, I was having a good time. So yeah, we met because of that. And that’s awesome.

Gabriella: I mean, fun fact, my father had to convince me to join Twitter. Really, he was on Twitter far before I was like, no way. yours, yours, yours. Yeah. And my mom was too. And they were the ones that were like, you need to go on, like, just just go on and try it. Like it’s somewhere for you to build, you know, sort of your presence sailor like and your your work and like, show off what you do, whatever. And I was like, Okay, sure. And then I joined and like, sure enough, like, slowly, I started to fall in love with it, of the idea of like building friendships and getting to know people and sort of, you know, learning as I went along, and it was really cool. But it took me a while. Right? I was hesitant at first.

Steven: I mean, I I’d used it back when I was in high school. Some friends of mine, we were using that as like a group messaging, because all we had is text because you could text Twitter, and then add people. And then so that we were like using that as like a ghetto group texting, like back when I had a flip phone. And so like that was my history with Twitter until like, you know, four months ago. So anyways, so funny. It’s weird how you come back to things or whatever else, right?

Gabriella: It’s, it’s crazy to think how much it’s changed. It’s like perfect example, like cyclical, what we talked about at the beginning, it’s like you’re using the platforms, even you yourself are using the platform, it changes on you like the way, the way. It’s crazy, really crazy.

Steven: So thank you so much for jumping on. And really, though, thank you. And if you could just share a couple places that you are online, we’ll obviously drop links to your social platforms, your website and stuff like that in the description, or however, it gets shared on whatever platform we’re on. Because you know, this will be audio podcasts as well. So yeah, just tell us where we can find you online to connect with you.

Gabriella: So you can find me obviously over on twitter at @cardozagab. Yeah, my website is also    the Instagram @cardozagab.

Steven: Cool. Awesome. Well thank you.