[Podcast] Working With Leaders – JUST Branding Podcast EP 11 with Motto

[Podcast] Working With Leaders – JUST Branding Podcast EP 11 with Motto

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Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger of Motto, a strategic branding agency in NYC, reveal what it takes to work with “rare breeds” – the leaders, rebels & entrepreneurs who do things differently. You’ll find out how to build more purposeful brands by better connecting with your clients, plus exactly how you can use your “vices” as superpowers, backed up by personal stories of failure and courage.

 

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Show Transcript

Matt Davies:
Hello, everybody, and welcome to JUST Branding. Today, we have a very exciting episode for you we have Ashleigh and Sunny from brand agency Motto. We’re really excited to have them on the show they’ve written a book called Rare Breed, which we’ll dive into soon. And today, we’re going to be talking about working with leaders. So welcome to the show, Sonny and Ashleigh.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Thank you so much for having us.

Sunny Bonnell:
Thank you for having us. We’re excited to be here.

Matt Davies:
Okay, so we’re going to dive straight in. We don’t mess around on JUST Branding. Let’s get straight to the juicy bits. The first thing we always tend to like to do me, Jacob and I, is to ask our guests about definitions because brand and branding has loads of kind of weird things floating around in terms of what that even means. So, to you guys, first of all, let’s start with that, what is brand and what is branding to you and how do you see it Motto?

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Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
So, I was like, “Who’s taking that one?” So, we subscribe to the idea that a brand is really the sum of all of its parts. There’s this common misconception that a brand is a logo or a set of fonts and a color palette. We really like to think of brand as everything, the total experience that a company delivers to the audience and then in return gets a perception of what that brand means. And so, brand is really that that core meaning of what something stands for, who it is, what it believes in, all of that combined together is ultimately what a brand is.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
And I think that this is really a key question and a beautiful one to open up with because we have this problem within the industry in general where there isn’t one place to go. “What is a tree?” Well, I can clearly see and define that, but what is a brand is so much bigger than the question itself and it is confusing and it is kind of complicated. So, we like to try to clarify and simplify as much as possible so that we’ve kind of help reduce some of that when it comes to working that therefore in branding.

Matt Davies:
Fantastic. Thank you very much. And just while we’re on definitions, I don’t know some of our audience may have heard of Rare Breed, some may not, so for those that haven’t, what is a Rare Breed and we’ll come to kind of your story in a minute and how you came up with the book Rare Breed, but just in terms of that, what it that all about just as a high level 1,000 to, well, 20,000-foot view of Rare Breed? Sunny, do you want to do that one?

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah. So, rare breed is simply unordinary among the kind at its most basic definition and we have reframed it for leaders, individuals, teams, organizations, who have learned to take the parts of themselves that make them unique or rare or different and really celebrate those in their life, work and career. So, Rare Breed is really just about standing out in a sea of sameness.

Matt Davies:
Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. So, let’s get into that, but let’s start with your story. I think it would be great to hear your story because a lot of our audience have come from, well, not exclusively, but some have come from a design background and they’re starting to grapple with strategy, and I know that’s probably a journey that you guys have been on yourselves. Talk to us about that and start from the beginning or as far back as you want to go.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah, well, we go way back.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah. We were on a snowball fight in our early teens and have grown up together and went to college together and in our early 20s, we dropped out of college together to start Motto, and we had $250 to our name. And we started in a town where there were a couple of key established players, maybe three advertising agencies that had all of the town on sort of locked down. And here come these two young girls where in a world where 60-ish admin made the rules and pretty much everybody told us that we would fail.

Sunny Bonnell:
And it became the battle cry, if you will, of trying to be audacious enough and believe in ourselves enough that we could in fact change the conversation around branding, but most importantly, launch our careers from a very small town into working with global brands, which now we’re in our 15th year. So needless to say, we were able to quiet the naysayers a little bit, but we started working with leaders and teams, very early on to help them identify sort of the big idea what the purpose was.

Sunny Bonnell:
That’s why we named our company Motto. Motto is a reason to get out of bed every day. It’s the short aphorism of what you believe in and what you stand for, and so it became kind of the centerpiece for the work that we were doing very early on. And so, we started really small working with like local clients and then very quickly emerged out of that got some press for the work that we were doing and the kind of company that we were and quickly sort of catapulted out of that into working with attracting clients from really all over the country and now globally.

Sunny Bonnell:
So now, we have clients as big as Google and Hershey’s and 20th Century Fox, but we also have a lot of emerging startups and challenger brands that are coming out and trying to flip the giants on their head. And we really run the gamut of being very category agnostics, so we like to work in, there’s no problem from a leadership standpoint that we probably haven’t seen or worked on. So, any kind of challenge that is put in front of us, we try to work with that company and organization to solve through it and lead them to a point of clarity and then from there, reveal that new clarity within their brand.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
I think it’s also interesting because you brought up a good point, Matt, about how does anyone get into strategy work. Very early on, Sunny and I, when I think I was 22 when I started Moto or when we started Motto and [crosstalk 00:06:41]. I don’t think we really knew necessarily what branding was, so to speak, because we did start off more in the design lane, right?

Sunny Bonnell:
Right.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
We were kind of like a little company that could that was designing logos and band posters and album artwork, and the typical things that maybe most graphic designers start out working on. And then we just realized that there was always something intuitively within us that was kind of saying, “This isn’t it. There’s so much more to this. There’s so much more to this story when it comes to designing a brand. There’s so much behind that, the thinking behind that, that goes into it.” And so we just started becoming really fascinated with this world of brand and this idea about that it’s actually something we’re trying to influence the meaning and the perception of this company or this product or the service or whatever it is to create something significant and truly meaningful.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
And I think a lot of people get into strategy through an accident, like they’re either copywriters or they’re in design or they’re in some other sort of lane and they ultimately find their way to strategy because something inside of them is kind of searching for something more. And I find that’s why most people get an interest in strategy to begin with, because there’s just like a little click that begs the question, “Why are we doing this?” And once you start asking yourself that question, you start realizing the underpinnings of what brand strategy is really all about, which is that clarity, that point of crystallization around a concept or an idea.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah, and I think I would add to that, too that what made moto sort of unique in those early days is that we didn’t have another agency to look up to. There was no one that mentored us. We literally, I was going to be a veterinarian and Ashleigh was going to be a journalist, like we couldn’t have been further away from being in the branding space. So we dropped out of college, no blueprint, never have worked for another agency at all and built this blueprint, tore up the rulebook of what we knew or saw around us and said, “How do we carve out our own path? How do we blaze our own trail?”

Sunny Bonnell:
And I think that’s what kind of, that own foolishness perhaps or maybe even naivety that we didn’t know and we didn’t have anyone else’s playbook, it made it very easy for us to create our own, because we were just curious. So, we would go into these teams and organizations and start asking these very deep profound questions. “What’s the purpose? Why does it matter? Why are you doing this? Why are you coming to work every day? What are you trying to accomplish in the world?” And they’ve never been asked those questions, strangely enough, they were the most simplest questions and yet nobody was asking them.

Sunny Bonnell:
It was more about, “What kind of logo do you need? What kind of website do you need,” but no one was actually asking them the questions of what are you trying to do in the world with this business and what purpose are you fighting for? And those fundamental questions lead to some very surprising answers. And I think that that’s kind of where we started ad it became the very linchpin for everything that we do. It now has become not only the book that we’ve written, but also the way we’ve shaped our company.

Matt Davies:
So, such a similar story to me. And I think what struck me when I was kind of coming through that similar journey was when you’d ask people because if I think any designer who wants to do meaningful work, they’re going to get to a point in their careers where they’re going to be dictated to and at some point, they think, “Oh, I don’t understand this, so can you explain it and the most disappointing thing that I found, probably similar to you, is when you ask those questions like, “Well, what’s the purpose? Why is why do you even exist?” And people don’t know the answers, they’re kind of like a little bit taken aback, and then they freak out.

Matt Davies:
And at that point then you have two choices. You either go, “Well, go off yourself and find the answers and come back, so I can do some good work or I tell you what? Why don’t I work with you to find those answers?” And then suddenly, you’re a strategist, suddenly you’re in the realm of strategy and you either sink or swim, basically. Jacob, did you want to say something?

Jacob Cass:
Yeah, I was. I was going to jump in to something you earlier said about being the only three in your neighborhood, which is amazing. It will be a critical thing to do now where there’s like 3,000.

Sunny Bonnell:
Right, I know. Now, everybody’s a branding agency.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
We wish.

Sunny Bonnell:
Everybody. It’s crazy.

Jacob Cass:
Yeah, so I was going to ask like what was your big break? Like when did you suddenly realize that you wanted to do strategy or that you got like a huge client or like what was big break moment?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
You know what? I don’t know. You might have a different answer. I don’t know if there was one big moment, I think-

Sunny Bonnell:
I think was a series of moments. Yeah, that sort of led to the breakthrough. I think there were several things that happened early on in our career that led us into it to being recognized. And I think early on the Count Me In Contest, the competition that Ashleigh won, we got booed off stage and came back to win the whole damn thing. We were the youngest female awardees of that and that was a really, really big moment for us because NBC was there, we had press, we went to all this huge entrepreneurial package, and it was kind of a pivotal moment. We actually talked about it in the book in some detail about what that was like to do that, but that was kind of [crosstalk 00:12:52]

Matt Davies:
Sunny, what was it? What was it exactly? Some sort of competition like business competition was that or?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Now, I get now I get to be embarrassed. Thanks.

Sunny Bonnell:
I wouldn’t call that an embarrassment. I would call that a complete and total Phoenix Rising?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Well, all right, I’ll take that. We hadn’t been doing strategy work before this point, but what Sunny is referring to is this event that we decided to pitch our business to this organization whose goal was to take micro female-owned businesses, so businesses under the $250,000 revenue range annually and sort of grow them and turn them into million-dollar businesses. And pretty early on our career, we decided, we’re like, “Oh, my God, this is amazing. This is what we need.”

Sunny Bonnell:
Because we were like a year and a half in the business, I think at that point.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah, and you know-

Sunny Bonnell:
And almost ready to quit. We were at a point where we had been pretty crushed like mentally and emotionally.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah and when you bootstrap your own business, some agencies are formed because they’ve got million-dollar clients and these people go off on their own, and it’s a sweet deal, right? Ours was a struggle.

Sunny Bonnell:
Not a sweet deal.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Ours was a struggle. Ours was the opposite of that. I mean, every penny mattered, every dollar counted. It was really hard for us to start making money. I mean, we did make money, but at then…

Sunny Bonnell:
It was a struggle.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
… it’s still quite small. So, we decided to pitch the business at this business event and I had to prepare a speech, but essentially pitched our agency to a panel of very esteemed judges, women who were kind of like the Floyd Mayweathers of female entrepreneurship. These ladies knew their shit and I got up the day before the event to practice my pitch and they were going to give us some tips, some tricks and some feedback to improve our presentation for the next day.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
And I got up there and I went blank. I forgot my name. I couldn’t even explain what we do what, what our business was, how we make money what we do for our client. Nothing. I just, I was like, I was so nervous. I was so nervous, so naive, so nervous, so-

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah, but you were like 23, so-

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah.

Sunny Bonnell:
And everybody else was like double our age. We were the youngest women there and it was super intimidating.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
But so full of self-doubt and like, “I don’t belong here,” having that imposter syndrome that creeps in every once in a while. And I basically cried myself off the stage and-

Sunny Bonnell:
Well, the judges’ kind of tore her apart.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
The judges, there was one in particular that really didn’t fancy me too much and she-

Jacob Cass:
I just picture that shape [inaudible 00:15:47].

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah.

Sunny Bonnell:
Oh, yeah, yeah.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah. It was very much like that.

Sunny Bonnell:
She stood up and-

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Except I did it to myself because nobody was pulling me off. I ran for the hills. It was so embarrassing, but she made me feel like I didn’t belong there. I wasn’t ready for this. And so we spent the night, like in the bar. This is a way long story. We don’t have time for this, but if you want to know the full story, you could read the book, but basically…

Sunny Bonnell:
It’s very detailed.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
… I got drunk, I went to the bar, I started crying, I felt sorry for myself and Sunny, the way that she always does and what is wonderful when you have a partner like that, that lifts you up when you’re down, she was just like, “We’re going to fight this.” So, we rewrote, well, she rewrote the pitch because I went to sleep. She rewrote the pitch on some bar napkins, and the next morning, we went to breakfast, had some pancakes and I was ready to go. I had packed my bags and she said, “You know what? If you don’t get back up and do this, you will regret this for the rest of your life.” And so I was like, “Oh,” like, it just fired me up and I found the courage to get on stage. I was the last one in line. I was the last one to make the pitch. I got up there and I did a pretty damn good job and got the award.

Matt Davies:
Nice.

Sunny Bonnell:
She got a standing ovation, which was from the people who had kind of criticized her and that, I think they couldn’t believe that she had actually come back because we slid in like right before they were going to go on stage and they had sort of said that we weren’t… they figured we weren’t coming back. And we did show up and she ended up getting a standing ovation. It was a pretty pivotal moment, because we were very much at the crux of our business and that we were very hungry, we were not really able to pay our bills, and we had very little clients and we were really struggling.

Sunny Bonnell:
And it was make or break at that moment. It was the kind of shot in the arm that you needed to keep going. And that happened to be one of them. And that sort of propelled us into some awareness and then from there, we started to get some clients. We got a really cool B Corp client, one of the very first B Corps, as a matter of fact. They make the brownies that go in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, landed them. That was a really big project for us. And then sort of from there, we kept just getting… people heard about us, and they were like, “Who are these women? What is this company.” And that’s how it sort, it just went from there.

Matt Davies:
That is so inspiration. I find both of you incredibly inspirational whenever we speak, and I think that is a testament to your courage and bravery and I guess it probably didn’t feel like that at that time, but now, what a great story. So, I guess what I would say to folks is put yourself out there like Sunny and Ashleigh, like try stuff, get it out there. It’s not going to be easy. You might run off stage crying, but you can turn it around, get up, keep punching.

Matt Davies:
And I think I heard a quote somewhere and it said, “The more times you get up to bat, the more times you’re going to get out,” right? And I assume that’s a baseball analogy. I’m British, so I don’t really understand that. But I kind of get the sentiment, right? You’ve got to keep getting up, you’ve got to keep getting up, you’re going to get out occasionally. You’re going to get knocked down, but ultimately, if you’ve got the passion, if you’ve got the belief, and you have the people around you that can keep you buoyant like use it, use it to your advantage.

Matt Davies:
So, let’s get on to Rare Breed. So, you’ve been running the agency, you’ve been some strategy stuff, where did this idea to write a book, this crazy idea to write a book come from?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Well, to be honest, we had in the past talked about writing a book, but it was never anything we took very seriously. And one day, it just kind of fell into our lap. Sunny had a conversation with somebody who wanted her to be his mentor. And he said, “Have you ever written a book? You just have like such a goldmine of thoughts and ideas and motivation and all of this stuff.”

Sunny Bonnell:
And I blew him off.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
“And I believe everyone would want to read it.” And Sunny like blew the kid off.

Sunny Bonnell:
I blew the guy off, where I was like, [crosstalk 00:20:08].

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Unfortunately, I mean, well, yeah, you-

Sunny Bonnell:
I don’t know. I was like, “I don’t want to write a book.”

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah.

Sunny Bonnell:
That’s a no, we’re not going to write a book, but then we wrote a book.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah, so kind of one thing led to another and we started just framing this idea and I don’t know what exactly triggered it. We just started taking it seriously. And we’re like, “You know what? We do want to write a book.” And when you’re an author for the first time and you start saying that you have no idea what’s ahead of you, you do not, I mean, it’s exhausting. It’s painful to write a book, especially if it’s a book that’s like an expression of yourself and your soul and all of your hard work and your thoughts and your feelings. It’s hard to do it.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
But we started thinking about, “What do we want our book to be about?” And we had a conversation years’ prior with Sunny’s dad, who was a really good mentor to us and we always went to him. He was a successful business person, had built himself from the coal mines of West Virginia, a nobody in everybody else’s mind into a very successful entrepreneur who ran a commercial construction company. And so, we will always go to him for insight and for help. And he said to us one time, he’s like, “You guys are a rare breed. Not everybody’s going to get you, not everybody’s going to love you, it’s going to be hard, but the ones who do get you, the ones who can see you for your value and what you are worth, they will never forget you.”

Ashleigh Hansberger:
And so we started like having this like, “Oh, my God, a rare breed. Like that’s such a cool idea. Like, what does it mean to be a rare breed?” And it just flew from there and we started to really start to connect some of the dots in the business experience that we had had working with leaders and seeing the rare breeds that we had worked with and the icons that throughout history that you spot someone, you’re like, “Oh, that’s a rare breed. There is no one like that on Earth.”

Ashleigh Hansberger:
But we started kind of connecting these dots around what makes them them? What makes them so unique and so special and such a gift to the world? And we started putting these virtues into place, real advices, things that usually what we find is there’s these things inside of you that you’ve been told your entire life not to be. Your parents, your mentors, your teachers, everybody’s like, “No, you’re too this, you’re too that. This is what you need to be doing. This is how you need to be successful. Go down this path, have a plan B, put your head down, stop being so weird.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We’re constantly bombarded with this voice that isn’t ours. And-

Sunny Bonnell:
That really became the features of it.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
And it just kind of grew from there and it blossomed from there.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah, I mean, I think that we started to recognize patterns and traits. And I really think it started with us, right? We defied the odds. We were the rose that grew from the concrete. We were suppressed by many people around us, by those who doubted us. People who didn’t really see the value and didn’t think that we were capable of building anything. And so first, it was about trying to prove them wrong and force your way, elbow your way into a lane.

Sunny Bonnell:
And I think that understanding what that trajectory looks like for your own life, when you’re 15 years in, you start to have something to say about it because you were able to figure out what those things were and I think back to my dad’s conversation, we put a pin in that. That conversation happened probably a year and a half, two years into our business, and it now became the concept of the book. And it was, what he reminded us was, you have these inherent traits within you. These are the things that make you who you are. Don’t be ashamed of them, celebrate them, let them off the leash. Try to find ways to make who you are the key to your success. Don’t shy away from the traits or vices that people say that you shouldn’t be or shouldn’t do.

Sunny Bonnell:
And really, that became the thesis of the book, which is there’s seven traits that society tells you that are counterintuitive to your success and we have completely reframed those as virtues.

Matt Davies:
So walk us through the seven. Can you do that for us?

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah.

Matt Davies:
Would that be okay?

Sunny Bonnell:
So, the seven are rebellious, audacious, obsessed, hot-blooded, weird, hypnotic and emotional and these are all things that people tell you are counterintuitive to your success. They’re something that can be as uplifting as they are undoing and so it was really important as we were defining the traits and when we started to write the book, we had hundreds of them. I mean, they all sort of, we had whiteboards full of vices and virtues and what kind of connected them all. But what we found was they kind of laddered up to one of these seven traits.

Sunny Bonnell:
And what was interesting about it is the more we explored them, the more we realized that they have this dark side. And what really fascinated us was the dark side because what people have and what they embody is once they have these traits, they sort of can lie dormant and they’re in them, but they don’t exactly know how to activate it or utilize it to some effect. And either it becomes something where it’s really dangerous or it actually becomes something that ends up kicking down every door that they ever came across.

Sunny Bonnell:
So, we spent time really digging into not just telling you to be rebellious, but rather showing you what it means to be one of these traits, both in the positive but also what it means to be that in the negative and really go deep on what that looks like for individuals as well as companies.

Jacob Cass:
Could you give us an example of maybe one of your top three favorites from those seven, for example?

Sunny Bonnell:
I would say, “Well, one that comes to mind immediately is the king of weird.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
The trait.

Sunny Bonnell:
Like a trait?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Like what traits are our favorites? Man.

Sunny Bonnell:
Oh, I know. I’m like, oh, that’s like-

Ashleigh Hansberger:
I mean-

Sunny Bonnell:
There are like hundreds of aphorisms in the book.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
I mean I think that the first three in the book are actually really special to us. They’re rebellious, audacious and obsessed, and with those qualities we’ve been able to harness those for good to make a difference. We have always wanted to be ones who really break the status quo, who don’t accept business as usual, but try to do something about what doesn’t work and try to put systems and things and thinking in place and ideas in place that help to shape perhaps a new type of reality or something better. So, we very much personally identify with having that rebellious spirit and also audacity.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
There’s this sense about being an audacious person where you kind of do what other people can’t, you do what other people won’t, because you have a very big vision, usually you’re highly ambitious and there’s a there’s a certain, I don’t know, if I would use this, well, I’ll probably use the word arrogance about it, that it’s almost necessary for you to believe that you can do something and make some kind of difference and some kind of change.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
And then the third one is obsessed. I think we have some dangerous qualities that relate to obsessed and kind of the idea of going all in on something and eating, sleeping, and breathing what you love and kind of going down some of those paths and it’s a curse and it’s a strength. It’s blessing and a curse, but I think that those three are probably three that we’ve got some heart for, for sure.

Matt Davies:
But, so in the book as well, what I think I found quite exciting about it is, that although these are traits and you’ve kind of touched on this earlier, although these are traits embodied in individuals, of course, brands are often built, well, all built by human beings, right?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah.

Matt Davies:
And often built by leaders at the top who exhibit some of these traits. So, I’ve got the book here and I remember just reading, I just looked it up. You referenced, for example, there’s loads of references throughout the book, so definitely grab hold of the book if people are interested in kind of going deeper. But for example, you have the story of Wild Fang, like I think that might be an example that would be quite helpful for our listeners. Do you want to talk just briefly about that and show how it fits into one of these traits? Can you?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
I would, yeah, we’d love to.

Sunny Bonnell:
Oh, yeah. Great.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
We call it fuck norms. I mean, that’s the first chapter.

Sunny Bonnell:
That’s chapter one.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Chapter One: Fuck Norms. The way that the book is structured. I should probably just mention this really quickly, it’s organized by the seven vices and then underneath each of the seven vices is a series of mantras and these are essentially aphorisms, mottos, mantras, things to essentially live your life by and to be able to embrace. And one of the first chapter under rebellious is fuck norms.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
We talk about an entrepreneur, Emma McIlroy. She is the founder and CEO of a brand called Wildfang. They’re based out of Portland and have grown to New York and L.A., but her and a friend of hers were like ex-Nike people. They used to work in consumer insights and marketing and branding at Nike and had always kind of wanted to wear men’s clothing. They liked the fit of a jacket and a graphic tee and stuff that was designed for men that never quite looked right on a female body. So, they had a lot of gender-norm breaking to do and they set out to create a company that basically just takes men’s silhouettes and concepts and turns them into pieces that fit women and female bodies.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
And so, the whole idea of like fucking a norm, literally like breaking the status quo on something and turning it into something that other people can respond to and relate to. There’s an entire community of people in the world who don’t want to just shop in the men’s department because it’s the men’s department or the women’s department because it’s the women’s department or do whatever society is telling us we need, like “What if I want to wear like a tux? Like, I should be able to rock that if I want to, but I want one that’s going to fit me.”

Matt Davies:
I think that’s true.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
There wasn’t anything like that existed. I don’t know. Sunny could rock a tux for sure. I wish I could.

Sunny Bonnell:
Nah, it would just look weird. You could totally rock it. You could totally rock it.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
But it’s examples like that. It’s brands like that. It’s leaders like that, who are out to do something dramatic and different and in a way, it’s like in doing that and creating Wildfang, they have given a voice to so many people who never could shop the way they wanted to, and who couldn’t express themselves. Our clothing is in many ways an expression of who we are, who could never find where to go to buy something that they feel was authentic and fit them right in their personality. So, that’s just one example of a story that we tell out of many about how to be, how to live through one of these virtues.

Matt Davies:
I think it’s a great example and what’s fascinating is, particularly when you play in the startup, sort of SME arena, which I think all of us in this episode do play in. You definitely come across these people, right? When you go into the more corporate world, I find that people tend to be playing the game a little bit more, there’s a little bit more politics going on, but when you’re working with a leadership team or even an individual CEO or a managing director who owns the company independently, these are really where the rare breeds, you find them, that’s what I find.

Matt Davies:
And so, what I’m fascinated in, in talking to you about just in the kind of the closing few moments, is when you’re working with a rare breed, when you’re in front of them and their team, most people would be terrified, right? And particularly younger people kind of entering the strategy space, they’ve never kind of got to grips with rare breeds. So first step, I guess is to say, “Read Sunny and Ashleigh’s book, you’ll get to kind of get the mindset a little bit.” But do you have any other kind of thoughts and tips particularly in sort of dealing with these types of people, and particularly in regards to helping them see the value of brand strategy for them and their businesses?

Sunny Bonnell:
Well, are you talking about people that are within the organization that are rare breeds themselves and they work for a company that is or isn’t or has these traits?

Matt Davies:
Yes, but I mean, I was more going for like, say a designer who’s starting to work with a company and the leader is a rare breed, but also, I guess you’re right. Anybody working within a business and the leader is a rare breed, I guess both in a weird way need to, if you kind of see the value of, of brand strategy yourself, you need to try and convince a rare breed or you might need to start working with a rare breed in order to kind of get the right information to do your work really well? Have you got any thoughts on how to do that? Like how do you do it at Motto?

Sunny Bonnell:
Well, so something that we’ve really, I wouldn’t, I mean, I would say we’re pretty good at it now because we’ve been doing it a long time but we go through a really serious intake process for our clients now where we are looking for a specific caliber of team or company or leader that we know have the qualities that not only are willing to change, but they’re brave enough to go through the steps that it needs to change. But also, most visionaries need a co-pilot, they need a doer. So, you’ve got the dreamer and you’ve got the doer. So, what we’re finding is in these organizations is you have people who are within the organization who are rare breed talent or employees or people that think that way and they’re trying to change the organization from the inside out, and then you have leaders at the top who might be rare breed and the people that they have underneath the company are not exactly equipping them to be able to fully realize that dream.

Sunny Bonnell:
So if you are tasked with trying to solve a problem for a company like that, I think first and foremost, you have to understand what your gift is. What are your gifts? What are the things that you’re going to bring to the table that can help accentuate or improve that company’s outcome? And also realize what’s not a good fit and what is a bad fit? Because that is probably the hardest thing that we’ve learned over the years is you will lead many people to the ledge, but they will not lead. And so if you are within that realm of trying to find clients that you can actually transform, you have to be looking for the right kinds of qualities, characteristics and traits in order to be able to do your best work.

Sunny Bonnell:
The reason that a lot of designers and people that are strategists and they end up being frustrated, it’s because they did not find the right fit. They’re working with a company who just wants the topical, and you can’t transform somebody who doesn’t want to be transformed. And so at least in our experience, we’ve gotten extremely diligent about trying to interview our clients just as much as they’re interviewing us because I want to know who I’m going to be working with. What are you like? Are you going to let me help you? Because if you’re not and your team is not, or you’re the kind of leader that everything within your organization and everyone within your organization is trying to make change from within, but you’re that leader that isn’t allowing them to move you forward, it’s just, it’s so, it just crushes morale.

Sunny Bonnell:
And I think that’s what a lot of new designers and young designers just get wrong is unfortunately, I think they think too small. And they don’t actually think about all the things that are actually really important, which are, “What is the dynamics? What is the culture and the DNA of this company that I’m actually working? What are their behaviors and patterns? And how do they behave when no one’s looking? And if you can’t align that, it makes it very hard to do any kind of work of significance.

Sunny Bonnell:
I mean, like, we have a saying at Motto, “A lot of good agencies can make you look real pretty, but not everybody can make you matter.” And that’s the truth. You have to be able to make a company matter. You can’t dress them up nice, you actually have to give them substance, you have to be able to give them something to say, not just something to sell. And that’s where, I think if I were to give any tips at all, it’s be like figure out what the gifts are, what the strengths are, what the traits are that you have that you bring to the table and then find out what companies and leaders and teams align with that, so that when you go to do that work, that you are able to look back on it and say, “I didn’t just make something pretty I actually made something matter.”

Matt Davies:
That’s awesome. Ashleigh, you got any other thoughts? Like for example, let’s say you’ve done your due diligence, you think, “Yep, we’re a good fit.” Then kind of as you start working in those environments, what kind of things do you deploy to kind of do your best work?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah, I mean, we look for a lot of what is the triggering motivation? So when we’ve got a client and let’s just say they are a rebel or let’s just say that they are an emotional rare breed or an obsessed or whatever kind of rare breed they are because you can be all kinds of rare breeds. Rare breed isn’t just one thing. I think that the most successful that you can be requires you to be able to understand someone else. And so when you can understand someone else, when you can say, “Okay, now I’m seeing this person, and I’m hearing what they’re asking of me. I need to get under that surface.” So, I love to be able to work with people. It’s like a date. You’re learning about this person like, “Do I like you? Do we want to be friends? Tell me about who you are, where you’re from?” All kinds of stuff, conversation needs to happen.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
You can’t just execute a brief. You have to learn about what someone wants. What they desire, what are they looking to do, what kind of transformation do they feel like they need to take, what kind of pivot are they in, what do they see for their future? If you can start to understand those things and get clarity around that, you have a much greater chance of helping them succeed in that vision. I think a lot of people just don’t take the time and effort and energy to understand what our clients want from us and what they need from us. What are we here to help them do?

Sunny Bonnell:
Because there’s always a problem to solve.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
There’s always a problem to solve and no one client is ever the same. Every client that we have even though we have systems and processes in place that help us know what to do and when to do it, every client we have is a completely new experience for us because you’re dealing with people and everyone is different. Everyone has their own personality. Every team has their own dynamic. Every company has their own culture, so every time we work with a new client, our learning curve is completely new, even though we know what we’re doing, we have to learn that client from scratch.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
And you have to tailor your approach and your way of doing things, I think, I believe, to do what they need, because they’re the ones that you’re doing this work for. So, I think understanding is so underestimated and if we just took the time to understand people a little bit more, I think the world and business and design and branding would be so much better.

Sunny Bonnell:
Well, and maybe even having people that I think also, you get a lot of people who are really uneducated about brand, and I think that makes it that much harder, because you’re working with people who actually, they’re writing terrible briefs. They’re sending you these RFPs that you could punch holes in them all day long and you’ve got people who actually really are in a brand manager position and actually don’t know what they’re doing and you find yourself trying to spend the majority of your time actually educating them on why these things are important. Why does that matter?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
But I think that is really important, to educate, like to be educator.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah, you have to be an educator first, because that’s part of the role, like you have to be able to educate.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
You can’t expect people to know what you’re talking about because if we, if designers and strategists and branding people can’t even answer the questions, how would we expect everyone on earth who owns a business to know what we’re even talking about? What these terms mean, right? So whatever you learn, you should therefore then pass forward and help your client help themselves through that education. Be a teacher to them.

Sunny Bonnell:
But I also think that there could be like a little bit of help on the [crosstalk 00:43:42].

Ashleigh Hansberger:
I mean, maybe they could help themselves, too.

Sunny Bonnell:
Like, just Google it or like start somewhere, you know what I mean?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
It’s complicated, though. It’s a little more nuanced than that as we all know.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah, it’s definitely is but yeah, yeah. But something, too, Matt, back to your question about figuring out what the trade is, so something that people could do if they’re listening to this is to actually go to rarebreedquiz.com and take the Rare Breed Quiz because you can actually find what your dominant trait is and we go into great detail about what your that primary virtue is and then how to use it in your life and work and career. And we’ve had over, I think we’ve had close now to 25,000, 30,000 people take it.

Jacob Cass:
I did it last night, actually. I found out-

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
What’s your virtue.

Sunny Bonnell:
I saw it.

Jacob Cass:
Did you?

Sunny Bonnell:
I saw it come through.

Jacob Cass:
Obsessed, obsessed. Flex biceps is the practice, so-

Matt Davies:
He’s obsessed with just branding, that’s what he’s obsessed with.

Jacob Cass:
Obsessed with branding, that’s for sure.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
I mean.

Jacob Cass:
And I liked it how you equate it to celebrities like Prince or Elon Musk because that was like, it kind of just brought it down to earth.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah.

Sunny Bonnell:
It was important for us to do that.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
And I think it’s a cool thing to do for yourself and it’s an even cooler thing to do with people you work with. Have someone you’re working with go take the quiz, too because that now they know their virtue, you know your virtue, and you can almost start to respect each other more for who you are. Now that I see you, now that I know you’re obsessed, I’m going to be better equipped to know how I need to speak with you and deal with you, right? And what I need to be able to do to help you do whatever you want to do. So, it’s just a mutual respect thing. I just believe that the more we understand each other, the easier life can be. I mean, we’ve got such an opportunity here to really get to know who we are and who the people are that we work with on a much deeper level. And in doing that, I think really great things could come.

Sunny Bonnell:
Like don’t send that man a deck with typos in it.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
No, no, no. Uh-uh (negative). He’ll probably freak out.

Jacob Cass:
But that’s really what branding is all about really is finding out who they are and how can I actually connect with them, so I think it’s great.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah, absolutely.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yep. It’s a fascinating quiz. I mean, it’s mind blowing how many people have taken it. And then what we did beyond that was we took it a step further, and we created a YouTube show, where we sit down with cultural provocateurs. We’ve sat down with Charlemagne tha God. We’ve sat down with Bremen Rock, YouTube beauty influencer, we just sat down with PJ Morton from Maroon Five and we interview different rare breeds. And we’d go real deep for an hour about how they have turned that vice into a virtue, where have doors been shut on them because of that virtue and vice and then when has it also unlocked those doors.

Sunny Bonnell:
And it’s been truly remarkable to see how different the conversations are between each guest, even if we’re talking to two rebels, their path and their journey are completely different in the way that they’ve leveraged it in their life, it has been so interesting to hear. I mean, I’m beyond fascinating every time we sit down with somebody because we’ve learned so much about who they are and what led them to identify with that trait, and it becomes the thing that they’re sometimes, once they’ve harnessed it, they know how to use it. It really unlocks all of their opportunities for them.

Jacob Cass:
And it’s beautifully produced. I watched the episode last night and it’s really well done, so go check it out on YouTube.

Sunny Bonnell:
Thank you.

Jacob Cass:
I wanted to ask about the seven traits, like what is the most common or most, I guess top three, like most common traits that people have?

Sunny Bonnell:
The biggest one right now is actually emotional.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah, that’s the one which I think is really interesting because we’re collecting this data. We haven’t shared it with anybody, but I think it could be very valuable to share what the sentiment of people is right now given the political landscape and what’s going on in our world. The amount of emotional people that are out there is staggering. It’s unbelievable. And then there’s quite a few weirdos and some audacity in there as well and quite a few people are obsessed, but emotional has been the one that’s probably been the most.

Sunny Bonnell:
And I’m so curious, I’m like, “What if we had done that five years ago? Like would emotion be the trait that was the most compelling or is it something else that would be even in a few years from now, will there be another trait that tends to dominate the landscape?” So it will be interesting to see. But yeah, they’re all kind of equal, though for the most part. The beauty of the quiz that we created, we worked with somebody really incredible, who was a professor and a psychologist and we worked with her to curate those questions, so that you can’t really know when you’re reading a question, you don’t exactly know if there’s a right answer.

Sunny Bonnell:
So, if you’re like weird, there’s not one question where you’re like, “Oh, I’m the weirdo, so I’m going to choose this question.” We didn’t do it like that. It’s actually extremely thoughtful because we worked to make sure that you couldn’t kind of guess what you were going to be and that’s what’s been interesting. And then we’ve had a lot of people ask us if there’s like a primary and secondary, which in the earlier versions of quiz, there was a primary and secondary trait. So, you could be like audacious and then your secondary trait could be like obsession, which happened to be mine. And Ashleigh, we’ve never revealed those but you are audacious and emotional.

Matt Davies:
Come reveal, reveal away.

Sunny Bonnell:
Emotional and audacious.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah.

Matt Davies:
Come on. It was what?

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Emotional and audacious.

Sunny Bonnell:
Emotional and audacious.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Yeah.

Matt Davies:
Brilliant, Ashleigh.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Those two were like the odds.

Matt Davies:
I’ve not taken this quiz yet. The first thing I’m going to do after this-

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah, take it, Matt.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Take it.

Matt Davies:
Oh, well, it’s like 11:00 in the UK, so I am going to bed.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Right. Tomorrow morning, first thing when you have a cup of-

Matt Davies:
First thing, cup of coffee, cupper, I’m going to get on there and do that quiz. Ladies, it’s been absolutely fantastic having you on the show.

Sunny Bonnell:
Yeah, so fun.

Matt Davies:
I think your tips have been superb, get to know your clients better, get to understand people, take that time to get under the skin of the problem and educate them along the way. Don’t be afraid, be brave. Exhibit some of these traits that you’ve highlighted in Rare Breed. And then I think, it’s been a super inspirational episode and an honor to have you both on. I’m sure speak for Jacob when I say that. So, thanks so much.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Thank you so much.

Matt Davies:
And what we’ll do is we’ll drop some links to your book and to the quiz et cetera in the show notes. But yeah, so is there anything else kind of you ladies want to kind of say, just to kind of sum up. Is there any other kind of parting thoughts you want to leave with us?

Sunny Bonnell:
I think that we had talked about this earlier, but for a lot of the people listening, I think one thing that I would remind us all is that we’re going to hear no. You’re going to hear no more than you want to hear no and what you do with that no, it can mean the difference between success or failure. Rare Breed was rejected 18 times before it went to a bidding war and it was turned down by every major publisher, and everyone told us that we couldn’t go back with the same name, but we did. We didn’t listen and we went back to all the same publishers that told us no and eventually went to a bidding war. And we actually rewrote the manuscript to all the letters. We tacked up all the letters of rejection in our office around us and wrote to each one of the people that said no to us.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
After we cried, of course.

Sunny Bonnell:
We did, we did.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Or I cried.

Matt Davies:
It’s emotionally, emotionally. Audaciously and emotionally cried.

Sunny Bonnell:
[crosstalk 00:51:59]

Ashleigh Hansberger:
I’m like, “Those bastards.”

Sunny Bonnell:
She was like, “Forget it.” And I was like, “We can’t quit.” But no, it’s true, I mean, I think-

Ashleigh Hansberger:
It sounds so cliché.

Sunny Bonnell:
It does, but it actually is very meaningful to people who don’t do, they don’t turn the no into a yes. You have to turn the no into it because otherwise you will just hear no and you will quit because no is easy. It’s easy for anybody to tell you no, but it’s much harder for you, again, to be the rose that grew from the concrete. You have to be able to fight oppression. You have to be able to swing for the fences. You have to be the one to throw the knockout punch, not keep taking the black eyes and I really believe that’s why people go on to greatness is because they were just too stubborn to quit.

Matt Davies:
So, folks, don’t quit. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s been awesome to have you. Jacob, any last words?

Jacob Cass:
No.

Matt Davies:
I’m going to sign off. Thank you for coming on. Jacob, do you want to have to find the last words?

Jacob Cass:
Yeah. Thank you so much Sunny and Ashleigh, so go check out Motto and Rare Breed and it was a pleasure having you guys, girls.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Thank you both so much. Appreciate it.

Sunny Bonnell:
Thanks, guys.

Matt Davies:
Thank you.

Sunny Bonnell:
All right. Adios.

Ashleigh Hansberger:
Bye.

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