In this episode, branding expert, DP Knudten shares how big brands and authors differentiate themselves to stand out in the marketplace and make huge profits!
3 Key Points
Identify the three core principles that ground you and your brand.
Authors who are successful have a niche within a niche.
Every influencer is a brand but not every brand is an influencer.
Ellen: Hi and welcome. I’m your host Ellen Violette, and you are listening to the Books Open Doors Podcast, episode 106. We’ve had a change in plans,
This week I’ll be talking with DP Knutsen not David Riklan and we’ll be talking about nonfiction branding, and discovering craft, and communicating the completely true completely you brand you already are, which is what his books about that we’ll also talk about. There were some technical difficulties with David’s interview, so he’ll be coming up in a future podcast. So, let’s do this.
Music: Welcome to the Books Open Doors Podcast. Are you a mission-driven speaker, coach, consultant, thought leader, creative entrepreneur, or author who wants more credibility, financial abundance, and wants to make a bigger impact in the world and leave a lasting legacy, and who wants to have fun doing it? Then stay tuned for today’s inspiring podcast with your host, Ellen Violette.
[1:03] Ellen: We’re back and I want to welcome our new sponsor. This episode of the Books Open Doors Podcast is brought to you by ShipYourBooks.com If your book is a lead magnet for higher-end service
such as coaching, you’ll want to get your buyers onto your email list. But KDP doesn’t give you their names. But ShipYourBooks.com does.When you print your books through ShipYourBook.com you get the name of every single buyer. Plus, it gives you the ability to include other sales literature inside the Book, giving you another opportunity to sell to your buyers! So, check out ShipYourBooks.com.
So, now let me tell you a little about DP. He’s worked with some of the biggest brands in the business, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Great Wolf Resorts, Closet Made and Georgia-Pacific. And at agencies like DDB, Needham Chicago, and McCann Erickson in Atlanta. A writer by trade, he enjoys playing in the intersection between the visual and the verbal using his nonfiction branding approach to move people and products. So welcome to the call DP.
DP: Hey, thanks, Ellen. For having me on your podcast.
Ellen: I’m happy to have you.
DP: Yeah. It’s my great pleasure as well.
[2:28] Ellen: We had a great conversation on your podcast and I’ve been telling my listeners how, going on other people’s podcasts, if you have your own podcast, is great. Because you find great people that you then want to have on yours, and talk about their expertise. So, yours is nonfiction branding. So, why don’t you start by telling people your definition of nonfiction branding?
DP: Well, actually it goes all the way back to my, I guess, probably the second year of being a copywriter in an advertising agency. And if you bear with me, it’s a long story, but I can try to shorten it. I was at McCann Erickson in Atlanta working on Coca-Cola and other clients, and I got a creative brief. Now, if you’ve never worked at an ad agency, a creative brief is, typically, 300 to 500 pieces of paper that are all stapled together. And they are the things that you will be talking or writing about in whatever the creative thing you happen to be doing is tasking you to do. For example, if it’s a TV spot, a radio spot, outdoor board, brochure, all of these things need to kind of assemble all the information for you.
And the copywriter gets this, the art director gets this, and from that we create whatever the thing is. I got one of those creative briefs one day that, when I looked at the copy-points section, the only section I really paid attention to, because as a copywriter, I just want to write copy about the copy points. These are the data points that need to be included in the communication things like “4th of July sale”, “Supplies are limited,” “One per customer.” These are the facts, the truth of whatever you’re advertising. And so, I have to be very, very concerned about that as a copywriter. When I looked at that section about copy points, it just said, “Write some stuff.” And I’m like, “Well, what do you mean write some stuff?”
I took that copy brief to the account director who created it. And I said, “Dude, what is this? Write some stuff.” And then I said something that I chewed on for the next ten years. I said, “I am not a fiction writer.” Now, that doesn’t mean I can’t write bad fiction that nobody wants to read.
Ellen: Yeah, me too.
[4:56] DP: I certainly can. But when it comes to advertising and marketing communications, I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to make up out of whole cloth…I may take a tarnished silver teapot and shine it to a high gloss, but the silver teapot still has to be there. I just can’t invent it. I need to be communicating something that’s true. And that stuck with me. I’m a nonfiction writer. And then I went even further and said, “No, not only that, I’m a nonfiction brander,” because the brand has got to be based on a foundation that is unassailably true.
And Coca-Cola has been great at that forever, because, frankly, they understand their product is a commodity. It’s sweet, brown, bubbly water, and their fiercest competitor, Pepsi, is a purveyor of sweet, brown, bubbly water. The difference between the two is the difference between French vanilla and vanilla ice cream. There’s very, very little difference. A little bit of flavor profile, but-
Ellen: I was going to say, I mean, they do taste a little different. I mean some-
DP They do. They do enough to make you choose one or the other. And that’s the whole thing. If you’ve ever been to a restaurant and had a server come up to you and say, “Can I get you something to drink?” And somebody says, “I’d like to a Coca-Cola.” And they say, “I’m sorry, we only serve Pepsi products.” And then that person says, “Oh, that’s okay. I’ll just have water.” You know the power of branding, with, of course, a little bit of flavor difference, sure. But it’s truly branding-oriented, because I’m a Coke guy.
Ellen: Me too.
DP: I don’t drink Pepsi.
Ellen: Me too. I don’t like Pepsi. Well-
DP: Yeah, exactly.
Ellen: … I don’t either of them anymore, but, yeah.
[6:44] DP: Well, exactly. I don’t drink soft drinks anymore. Except the odd occasion when I do, and when I do, I want my brand and that is in my case, Coca-Cola.
So, I started thinking about it. Because as a young copywriter, I’d go take ideas to Coke’s headquarters in Atlanta to get approval. And I’d sit across the table from like four or five MBAs, whose sole function was to kill the ad. Because, keep in mind, at Coca-Cola, at the time, there were seven layers of approval.
The first layer was just, is it on brand? Is it off brand? If it’s off brand, we don’t even bother showing anybody else. So, I had to learn very, very, very quickly what was the key foundation of the Coca-Cola brand. And it all boiled down to three words or phrases, concepts, actually, and those words are authenticity, refreshment, and sociability.
Now I could go on for hours to about nuances of what those words mean, but let’s just say that the brand cops at Coca-Cola were very, very astute and clear and disciplined and diligent about whether your communication projected the ideas of authenticity, refreshment, and sociability. And that’s when I started really realizing that, “Oh, that’s the foundation of a brand,” which I now bumper sticker with a saying, “Know who you are, so you can be it.” Because that’s what Coke was doing, “We know who we are, and we have to be it.”
[8:29] Ellen: So, can we go into those three things?
DP: Yeah, if you want to.
DP: The nuances? Okay.
Ellen: Yeah, authenticity.
DP: So, authenticity. Why is Coke authentic? Well, because it was the first cola drink to be distributed nationally. It started in 1886. Now it beat Pepsi by one year.
[8:50] Ellen: I have something interesting to share about that. I saw something on, let’s see, it was a Twitter post on the richest people in America. And every single one of the companies, except one, had been established like in the 1880s, ’90s. The only one that was even in the 1900s or you know, in the last 60 or 80 years, was Estee Lauder, in 1946.
DP: Yeah. Well, and that’s because what they did was they may have taken something that was used locally, but then they branded it, and branded it so that they could take it nationwide, and then after nationwide, internationally. I mean, and Coca-Cola as a brand is so well-known that if you show the green bottle shape of a Coca-Cola bottle to anybody around the world-
Ellen: Yeah, they know it.
DP: … they’re going to know it’s Coca-Cola. In fact-
Ellen: They also have great ads.
DP: Yeah, exactly. And there was even a movie made about it called, The Gods Must Be Crazy, about a Bushman in the Kalahari, somebody tosses out-
Ellen: I’ve seen that. Yeah.
DP: Yeah. They toss out the green glass bottle, it hits the Bushman on the head. He sees it, and he thinks it’s a gift from God, because it’s shiny and it’s green and it’s hard, and you can make music with it by blowing over the orifice at the top, all that stuff.
But it just goes to say that Coca-Cola is authentic and they’ve embraced that authenticity, from the very beginning. So much so that many of their tag lines are some variation on, it’s the real thing, the real thing, enjoy the real thing. It’s real. It’s authentic. It’s genuine. And it can truly say, because it was, “We are the real Cola, because everyone else followed us.” So, that’s kind of authenticity.
[10:50] DP: And Coca Cola looks at the bottle shape and the green glass and all these things as key to, call it the graphic delivery of the brand. The second word, refreshment, speaks for itself. But you have to look at it from Coca-Cola’s point of view.
Ellen: Well, yeah, I really didn’t get exactly what it meant. That’s what I wanted you to go into these. So, what do-
DP: Okay, so refreshment-
Ellen: So what do they mean? Mm-hmm (affirmative).
DP: … the idea of refreshment is not strictly the drink, drink, ah, of the liquid. It’s the engagement with the bottle or the packaging. Back in the day, the design of the bottle was literally, part of the creative brief, back in the late 1800’s was, “We want a bottle shape so distinct, that if you saw it broken on the ground, you would know what it held.”
DP: “You would know the brand that it held.” So, that Coca-Cola bottle shape has been key to everything, but the refreshment part stems… Well, let me tell you a story about how I look at Coca-Cola as refreshing.
DP: My mom, her mother, my grandmother lived in Salina, Kansas, and we would, for some unknown reason, well, actually I know why, we would go visit her in August. Now, if you’ve ever been in Kansas in August, you know that actually is one of the Cantos of Dante Alighieri’s hell. I mean, it’s just miserable. But as a kid, you don’t know that. So, we’d be out playing all day long, we’re, probably, close to heatstroke 90% of the time.
Ellen: Oh God. Yeah.
[12:31] DP: But you’d go running in, and I would remember, go running in the slam of the screen door, because my grandmother was an old Swede, so she would not have air conditioning. She didn’t need it for the three days of the year where it got so hot. Well, anyway, the screen door would slam, I’d run over to the old fridge that was so old, it didn’t have an interior light in it. And I’d fish around in it with my hand until I found that green glass bottle, and I’d pull that bottle out and not drink it, but put it on my neck.
Ellen: Guzzle it. Oh, I was going to say guzzling it. Yeah.
DP: Yeah. Well, first it would go on my neck. That cold refreshing, “Ah.” It started with the bottle before the bottle was opened. And then of course it went on to the liquid inside and all that stuff, but it’s literally the, “Ah.”
Ellen: Right. Yeah. And that is the feeling too, I mean, the way you describe it, when you’re really hot and you just take that sip, and you’re like, “Ah.”
DP: Yeah, exactly. And so, Coca-Cola is very, very concerned about making sure that you always are communicating the fact that, with Coca-Cola, you always get an, “Ah.” There’s more to refreshment than that, but that’s what they mean, the, “Ah.”
[13:47] And then the third word with sociability, which is key. You don’t drink Coca-Cola by yourself. You drink it at holidays. You drink it at baseball games. You drink it at picnics. Wherever people gather, you need to have Coca-Cola. Now, this plays out for a lot of us around the holidays. Oh. surprising, that’s when Coke does a lot of really great advertising, right around the holidays. We’ll talk more about that in the second.
DP: But the reason why they heavy up on advertising during the holidays is, if my dad’s coming over, and he’s a Coca-Cola guy, and even if we don’t drink soda, we’re going to put Coca-Cola on the grocery list because, well, dad likes Coke, and so do some of the cousins. So, we got to have a cola, it’s going to be Coca-Cola. We got to have a lemon-lime soda, it’ll be maybe Sprite or something like that.
Ellen: I’m going to have 7 Up.
DP Knutsen: Yeah, or 7 Up. Exactly. But the whole point is people have the-
Ellen: That’s my brand, right?
DP Knutsen: Yeah. People have their preferences.
Ellen: Right. Exactly.
14: 52 DP: And if it’s not what their preferences is, they might go, “Oh, I’d prefer a 7 Up, and that’s not 7 Up, so I’m not going to have anything.” That happens a lot. So, Coca-Cola is making the point with the idea of sociability, that you drink Coca-Cola when you’re with other people, especially, people that you love to be around or love, just because they have a place in your heart. Well-
DP: … by doing that, Coca-Cola has a place in your heart and your head at the same time.
[15:21] Ellen: So, how does this translate for Internet and book authors, marketers, entrepreneurs?
DP Knutsen: Well, let me ask you this. If you look at any author out there, if I said, “Stephen King,” could you distill Stephen King down to three core concepts?
DP Knutsen: Well, yes-
DP Knutsen: Thriller. Thriller.
Ellen: Thriller, yeah.
DP Knutsen: Definitely, not a light summer read, but a heavy summer read.
Ellen: Right. Right.
DP: He’s not an intellectual giant. I mean, yeah, he’s a genius at what he does, but he’s not Immanuel Kant, you know?
Ellen: Right. Right.
DP: You don’t have to get out a dictionary to read his books, but you can, literally, distill him down. Compare him to Michael Crichton, the author of-
DP: Yeah, exactly, Jurassic Park, all that stuff. They are both writers of thrillers. But Stephen King always has a little bit of macabre or a whole lot of macabre. Michael Crichton always has a lot of science that doesn’t quite go full sci-fi. And then compare that-
Ellen: So, they still have a niche within the niche. They’re niche down.
DP: Yeah, exactly. And part of that is because Michael Crichton is a doctor. He got-
Ellen: Well, it’s that he was doctor. Yeah.
DP: Yeah. Well, he hasn’t practiced anything other than raking in the dollars on books for many, many years. But at his core, he was a scientist, who worked with people in the form of being a medical doctor. Even if he never had a patient, that’s where his heart, his soul, his DNA was located. So, The Andromeda Strain, again, about people dealing with this strange extraterrestrial, “What is it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Let’s figure it out.”
Jurassic Park, the ability to extract DNA from ancient mosquitoes. All those things are scientific, they verge on sci-fi, science fiction, but they never leave the realm of the possible. It’s like-
[17:40] Ellen: Okay. So, we’ve got authenticity there.
DP Knutsen: Right?
Ellen: And we’ve got niching down, but, I guess, does refreshment not work with-
DP: Well, refreshment doesn’t work for… That’s specific to Coca-Cola.
DP: But my point with the example of Coca-Cola, those three concepts, every author, every person who wants to personally brand themselves, whether you’re a CPA, a doctor, a medical doctor, a crypto currency trader, if you want to be known, you need to identify the three core principles that ground you and your brand. I pick three, because, one, they’re memorable. Anything more than… The human mind is geared-
Ellen: More than three.
DP: … towards being able to track a series of three. Our phone numbers are (608) 469-8453. They’re in groups of three, because you can remember them. So, the key thing there is, remember your key three, that’s what I call it, your key three, so that you can always take a look at what you’re doing online, especially, and say, “Does it project the ideas that I want people to think about out?”
[18:54] Now, let me give you an example. I am an author. I’ve written two books. I’ve self-published two books. I am not writing children’s books. I am not writing science books. I’m not writing sci-fi, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I am writing books about personal branding, or personal-brand adjacent topics that are meant for people who want to build and bolster and enhance their personal brands online, primarily online. Consequently, the key three, and also the service as I provide for people on my everyday job, are designed to do those things as well, for not only individuals who want to personally brand themselves, but small businesses.
[19:40] So, what do I tell them? Well, I tell them my key three. This is how I explain it to people. I say, “One, I’m a collaborator. I’m collaborative. I have to work with other people. Why? Because I’m not a fiction writer. I can write fiction by myself, but to understand and tell effectively your stories, I need to collaborate with you. And I also have to collaborate with the viewers and readers of the communications I create.’ Collaboration, absolutely key to what I do.
The second word of my key three is creative. I’m a creative guy. You are not going to get analysis from me. Before you hit play on this session, I mentioned the fact that I don’t look at analytics on my podcast, on my book sales, on anything, because I’m not an analyst. If I were to give you advice on analysis, I would be a fraud, because that’s not who I am, what I do.
The third word, and this was the hardest one for me to understand about myself. But I started talking to people who knew me, worked with me, or had engaged with me out in the world. And I would say something along the lines of, “I’m trying to define myself, what is the most important thing that I do or I guess I want to say most impressive, almost or most valuable thing that I do?” And people would use slightly different words perhaps, but it always came down to the fact of, “You make me think, even when I don’t want to.” And so, in order to keep everything an adverb, I want to be creative, collaborative, and the word provocative.
I want to provoke ideas. So, when you come to me, I’m provoking ideas. When you read my books, I provoke ideas. When you listen to my podcast, I’m provoking ideas, ideally, in my niche, which is that personal branding area.
So, that’s what I’m talking about with a key three. Coca-Colas is authenticity, refreshment, and sociability. Mine is collaborative, creative, and provocative. And by the way, if you got an invoice from me, it would say, “Collaborator Creative,” because that’s my LLC’s name. My DBA LLC is Collaborator Creative. Talk about saying exactly what you do in your business name, that’s a pretty good example.
[22:25] Ellen: Okay. Well, I love what you just shared. I think that’s really interesting and important that people think about those things. And I was telling you, before we got on the call, I’ve been working with a YouTube specialist, and we were talking about your description. And it’s so important to, like what you were just saying, know who are, so that you can communicate who you are because you can’t share it, if you don’t know it.
DP Knutsen: Absolutely.
Ellen: Right? Yeah.
[22:57] DP: And the whole thing is, you can see a… And that’s where a lot of people go, “Well, personal branding, that’s like influencers, right?” And I say, “No.” Well, every influencer-
Ellen: Is a brand.
DP Knutsen: … is a personal brand-
DP Knutsen: … but not all personal brands are an influencer. Like we’ve come to know as an Instagram influencer. I for one certainly do not do makeup tips on Instagram or show pictures of me wearing a swimsuit on a beach in Belize with the wind in my hair. No, I can’t do that, because, well, frankly that’s not me, right?
DP: But in my own little area, yes, I am an influencer, but mostly I’m a personally branded individual, so that people can know who I am, what I do, and how I do it. And most importantly, why they might want to engage with me.
[23:49] Ellen: Right. Exactly. Yeah. So, do you have any final tips before we go? This has been really enlightening.
DP: No. Well, the one thing is, you got to do the know who you are part first. You literally have to do the work. And what I’d like to do is offer your listeners the opportunity to pick up the three downloadable PDF worksheets from my website. All you have to do is go to nonfictionbrand.com/gift, and you can download three downloadable PDFs, print them out, and start doing the work.
Now, one of those is a very simple five-question starter to get start thinking about your key three. And then the other two worksheets are actually techniques you can start using today to start building your personal brand online via social media. Which, by the way, why would you want to do that? Oh, I don’t know. You get access to the entire online world, for free. Again, all you got to do is pay your broadband bill and you can access, potentially, anybody who’s online around the world.
Now, I know, Ellen, you know this, but I just want to impress this fact upon your audience by saying, the one analytic on my podcast that I checked, Connie Whitman, who’s a really great friend of mine said, “You got to check one analytic, and that is how many countries have listeners who’ve-
Ellen: Wow, interesting.
DP Knutsen: … listened to the podcast?”
Ellen: And why is that?
[25:23] DP: Well, because you’ll be impressed, personally impressed. I’m not trying to impress others, because she said, “DP, when I looked up, I found out that I had listeners in 27 countries around the world.” And I went, “Oh, you’re kidding. I got to look up, see what mine’s been doing?”
DP Knutsen: I’m proud to say, Ellen, I’ve got listeners in 42 countries around-
DP Knutsen: … the world, including the Faroe Islands, which are kind of hanging out with Norway, but they are actually a separate country. Anyway, that was just fun. But the key thing is that you get out there, via these free social media channels, and you’ll be surprised at what can happen. And put it this way, if you don’t do it, don’t worry, someone else will, and they’ll eat your lunch. You’re just leaving opportunity on the table, if you don’t do this stuff.
[26:20] Ellen: Right. I’ll tell you, one of my mentors is Keith Krance. And he’s done ads for Frank Kern and Ryan Deiss and other people like that, and he’s brilliant. And he’s been hanging out on TikTok. And he said, “Right now, TikTok is like Facebook was in 2011.” He said, “It’s just blowing up right now.”
DP: Yeah. And it’s not just for 20-year-olds doing crazy dances.
Ellen: Right. Right.
DP: Any, literally, any sub-niche you can think of is on there. And there are influencers, there are personal brands who are creating big names for themselves. For example, I’ve been following linguists on TikTok, and there are guys on there talking about the verb roots of the Algonquian languages of the North American Indian tribes. What? There are people on TikTok talking about that stuff? The answer is yes, and they’re really interesting. And they are making a name for themselves. Which again, if you’re a linguist and you’re looking for a job at one of the few linguist gigs at a major university or something like that, could it make a difference if you walk in and say, “Yeah, I’ve got three million followers on TikTok”?
[27:38] Ellen: Oh yeah, absolutely. I’ll tell you something else. Another place that really makes a difference, I mean, people who know me know, I was in the music business for twenty years. I still write on my own. And we are fanatical about American Idol and The Voice. And The Voice just concluded. And it was the people… I mean, they were amazing, I don’t want to take anything away from them, it was a brother and sister group and their harmonies were just angelical. But some of the judges were afraid that Ariana Grande would win, because she had millions of followers more than the other judges. But guess what? It was that that group had the most followers of the people singing, and they won.
DP: Well, one of the stories I tell in my book NONFICTION BRAND is about a friend of mine who works with voiceover artists in Los Angeles. Do you know that even if you’re a voiceover artist, if you have more followers, you may get the job because they know the voiceover artist is going to post about it? Like I’m thinking about specifically the voiceover artists who do anime or popular cartoons or adult cartoons, things like that. Yeah. Literally, I was talking to Justin Baker, and I write about it in the book. He represents a named individual who happens to do a lot of voiceover work for the type of stuff that appears on Adult Swim or the Cartoon Network. Yes, he gets gigs, because he has more followers on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc. than his competitors.
[29:23] Ellen: Yep. So, everybody who’s listening, I mean, you got to do it. You got to do it. And if you’re just starting, I would say, definitely get on TikTok right now, because that’s the place to be. But if you have other places, like one of the things that I just realized, working with a YouTube specialist, is that I was really wasting my time on YouTube. I was doing it here and there. And I have, I think, about eighty videos on there, but the channel was in such bad shape, just in overall how you’re supposed to do it, that it really was a waste of time. So, it’s really so much better to do something and learn how to do it well than to be all over the place and not have it do well.
[30:06] DP: Fewer things better.
Ellen: Yeah, fewer things better.
Ellen: So, yeah.
DP: Well, exactly. But at the same time, I will say that, like, you’ve got a podcast, I’ve got a podcast. For the first three years of my podcast, I did not do live streaming of the actual session. I am now doing that. And it is going out absolutely free to Facebook Live, LinkedIn Live, YouTube Live, Twitch and Twitter, live. Now, am I going to get a lot of viewers out of that? I don’t know, but what’s it cost me to do that? Zero.
DP: I’m literally getting my face and voice and reputation and brand out there for zero. And all it takes is one person of note to see it. And they go, “Hey, I like the cut of your jib, why don’t you come work with us?” Or, whatever. And again, there are a 100, there are a 1,000, there are a million of those stories. Like Justin Bieber got discovered-
Ellen: Yes, he did.
DP: … singing in a church basement video on YouTube. Now, I’m not saying yet have to be the Biebs, but I am saying you got to be seen. And the best-
Ellen: Yeah, absolutely.
DP: … way to do that is via social media.
[31:28] Ellen: Okay. Well, thank you so much. I mean, this is something that is so important, and I think we’ve given some great tips to the listeners. So, thank you.
Music: You’ve been listening to the Books Open Doors podcast, with your host, Ellen Violette. If you’d like to connect with other mission-driven speakers, coaches, consultants, thought leaders, founders, creative entrepreneurs, and authors who are changing the world one book at a time, join us in the Books Open Doors community at facebook.com/groups/booksopendoors. Let’s rock your business with books.
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