Recently we met Krysta Masciale, CEO of Big Deal Branding and were instantly captivated by her sassy, honest and innovative approach to leadership, her business partnerships, and developing successful brands for her clients. We sat down with Krysta and one of her clients to learn more about her approach and how this influences the organizations and leadership she partners with.
Sherry Benjamins: Tell us about how you started your partnership with Gary Christenson, your co-founder in 2011?
Krysta Masciale: I was introduced to Gary through mutual friends from college in Kansas. Like every young professional at the dawn of social media, I sufficiently stalked him and his work from the comfort of my cubicle in corporate America. A current client of ours, who
knew Gary in college, said it best, “Gary was telling us all that he was going to revolutionize the way people used design to solve communication problems through the Internet. We thought he was crazy because ‘who cared about the Internet?’”
After we had both spent a few years developing our careers, I knew he was my best option for building a branding agency. We were both known for making people uncomfortable with our unconventional ideas and honesty. And we seemed to be the only team who could successfully merge strategy and design without needing a mediator.
SB: After meeting you and reading client stories, I can see that trusted partnerships are key to your work. How do you build those relationships?
KM: It is no coincidence that we share core values with our clients. For us, core values are the foundation and launching pad for a brand.
Our clients know to expect the honest truth about their brand from us. We’re lucky to have the ability to build great relationships with our clients simply because of the nature of the business and of the content. Brand is a very personal and relational thing.
SB: Many of our readers are dealing with the idea of “selling” their brand to a younger workforce (millennials) and being more “transparent” with prospective employees. What is your thought?
KM: Older generations relate transparency to Facebook, which is riddled with trolls and uncertified reviews. In my opinion, the Millennial generation has done a poor job of defining transparency. It’s not really about transparency, so much as it is about honesty. There is a BIG difference between the two.
Think of a company like UBER. They are not transparent or warm and fuzzy, but they are honest and they own that 100%. Partnerships, whether between company and employee or brand and client need honesty not full disclosure.
Another example would be a CEO who feels pressured to suddenly disclose personal information in order for his/her business to appear more approachable. If that’s not a sound strategy that’s consistent with your brand two things are going to happen: 1) You’re going to look inauthentic and completely foolish. Millennials can smell someone trying too hard from miles away 2) It will hurt your brand more than help. Your current audience loved you BEFORE you were offering personal tid-bits about your life. Trends come and go. Do what’s best for your business.
SB: You mentioned earlier that your clients expect the honest truth from you… Does that happen during the “Brand Therapy” segment of your work?
KM: It’s funny, our clients actually named this step in the process “Brand Therapy” because of the intensity and personalization.
Brand Therapy is a one and a half month intensive process to literally “unpack the brand” and learn about what they stand for or what their cultural ethos is. Typically we find that the leadership team members have different ideas of what the company’s values are, so we ask provocative questions and provide honest feedback as they reflect on moving their brand forward.
Often, this is the first time a client has really thought about what they stand for. It is easier to just request a web site rather than take ownership of what you’re trying to communicate.
There’s no shame in needing accountability and permission to make major changes in your business. It’s a scary transition no matter how long you’ve been in business. That culture of conflict – and not in the combative way, but in the ‘let’s talk about reality’ way – is something we live by. I can’t tell you how many times Gary keeps me in check or challenges my thinking and vice versa. That’s what takes a company from an entitled teenager to an adult.
SB: We saw in your client stories that you recently did work with, Meg Hall, founder and Celebrity Chef of Made by Meg. Tell us a little about how your partnership with Meg began.
KM: Meg is a straight shooter. I knew I loved her from the first call because she scared the crap out of me and that doesn’t happen often. She was an industry friend and dug in deep with questions to clarify how strategy translated to a website. I loved that she was passionate and actually cared to know why our process was so different than everyone else’s she was interviewing.
We connected with Meg to hear her perspective on this distinctive partnership.
SB: Meg, what made Krysta’s work different from other branding firms?
Meg Hall: There were plenty of people who would point out flaws in my business, but no one offered solutions. Krysta pointed out the same issues, but made it clear that she was there to work with me to develop and implement solutions.
SB: You have had a 183% increase in revenue since this partnership began! What contributed to this growth?
MH: When you re-brand you are impacting a lot of areas of your company. When we rolled out the re-branding it reinforced to our customers and employees that we were here to stay. It was a confidence and leadership boost to every component of our business and that was reflected in our revenue.
As we have had this success, we have become a larger contender in the market and our brand needs have evolved. Krysta and I continually partner to develop and reinforce the Made by Meg values/brand. I know now that brand is not a one and done business initiative.
I found this interview with Krysta Masciale so refreshing, down to earth and real because that is who she is. It translates into how she works with her clients.
Those of us in the people business know that branding your employment proposition as authentic, bold or truthful is so relevant to talent today. Can any company build an effective brand that clients or customers buy into without looking inside first?
We know that brands can be mysterious realities and whether it is a company, culture or employee brand, there is a commitment to a long term relationship filled with speaking the truth and reminding us why we are doing what we are doing. What makes your partnerships work?