Jamming brand and rarity
SCOTT OXFORD 02.173 [music] Good day. I'm Scott Oxford. And welcome to Brand Jam, the podcast where we jam about brand because brand is our jam. [music]
SCOTT OXFORD 14.998 We're delving into one of my favourite brand topics today, rarity or the vernacular we tend to use in Australia is distinctives, uniqueness, the things that make you stand out, not just make you special, but as you'll find, it's so much more than that. Today, I'm Interviewing a colleague from the other side of the world. She's someone I admire for her rarity among many other things. And she's worked with some pretty incredible brands. And while it's a fresh Brisbane morning here for me, it's the end of a Brooklyn, New York, working day for her. My guest is Sunny Bonnell, the award-winning CEO and co-founder of Motto, one of the top leadership and branding consultancies in the US and author of the ground-breaking business/career book, Rare Breed: A Guide to Success for the Defiant, Dangerous, and Different. Named one of GD USA's top 25 people to watch, Sunny has an unconventional approach to building standout brands and empowering young entrepreneurs to dare to be different in a sea of sameness. And don't we know all about that? Alongside, her co-conspirator, Ashleigh Hansberger. Sunny has worked with the world's most visionary leaders and ambitious companies to break the status quo, including Google, Microsoft, Hershey's, USA Today, and 20th Century Fox. Sunny's earned her way to the front of this workplace revolution and devoted her work to inspiring people to think with this rare-breed mindset and demand more of themselves, their careers, and their companies. In addition, she's been featured in Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, and the Wall Street Journal, among other notable publications. It's amazing that my first agency-side guest would be one of New York's brand luminaries. So I'm so excited to welcome you, Sunny.
SONNY BONNELL 02:03.307 I sound like I'm really lazy [laughter] in that introduction. Thank you so much [crosstalk].
SCOTT OXFORD 02:08.187 Really, really lazy, you spend your time doing interviews.
SONNY BONNELL 02:11.112 Sound like a real lush. You know what I mean?
SCOTT OXFORD 02:14.651 I'm so looking--
SONNY BONNELL 02:15.228 Who gave that to you? Our publicist? She's making me sound really famous here. No, thank you. I'm totally ecstatic to be here with you.
SCOTT OXFORD 02:23.665 Well, when we were talking about this episode in advance, I started thinking one of my favourite podcasts is Brené Brown, both of her Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us. And I have a feeling you're going to find your way onto one of those podcasts in the very near future. And we'll find out why as we dive into it. So I'm looking forward to talking about the book and how it came to be because that's a great story in itself, but I just want to start out with this idea of rare breed because this a brand podcast. And you've worked in brand, and rare breed has very much come out of that. So tell me in a summary, and I'm sure you're really good at this pitch by now. What's a rare breed?
SONNY BONNELL 03:06.573 Well, I think it starts with a question of how we arrived at that. So we kind of started with this curious question: what if you could take the parts of yourself that other people criticise, traits they call defiant, dangerous, and different, which rare breeds typically are, and what if you could flip the script on that and turn those vices into your virtues? What if you could sort of change all the things that people were criticising you for or saying that you should change or that you should quiet, grind down those prickly points? And what if you could turn them into your selling points? And so that is how we began to question what makes someone truly rare? What makes somebody unordinary among the kine, which is what a rare breed is by definition? And so as we went kind of toe to toe with visionary leaders and went inside companies and tried to get a sense of, what makes someone a standout, we began to unlock these, sort of, seven traits that we found were traditionally seen as counterintuitive to success. And by unlocking some of these traits of a rare breed, these traits that people tell you to silence in yourself, we discovered that those same attributes were also the driving factors to break through success. I think rare breeds typically don't fit the mould. There someone who stands out against the herd. They look the status quo in the eye, they punch it with brass knuckles. They are unafraid of being the least favourite person in the room. And they are able to realize visions that are outlandish to the rest of us. Their reach far exceeds their grasp. They're willing to take the arrow in the back each and every time in order to realize that vision and move the world forward.
SCOTT OXFORD 05:05.503 And they're completely willing to take risks. And just as you say it, I've thought-- since I read the book, I've thought about many of these, but I just continue to think of people like Elon Musk, who brought his beautiful new car out with the unbreakable windows and hit them with a hammer and they broke. And it didn't matter. And he didn't flinch. And he got past. And he's so willing to make a mistake and to publicly make a mistake, and totally own it. And the latest figures on his wealth, and his success, and his-- he is clearly an epitome of it. But what you're saying is that there's a lot more of us, I think, who have a rare breed in us, it's just this-- we need to unlock it. We need to get past the fear, the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of being exposed, the fear of embarrassment, all of those things. And there's a whole lot of fear. And I think, back to Brene, the classic shame aspect, is this idea of fitting in. And that's what really came through to me is, if you can somehow-- and particularly, let's bring it back to brand. If you, as a brand, can totally say, "Well here's where the heavy criticisms are. Rather than try and mould those and lose what we are, let's actually see if we can flip the lid completely, take one of those things and totally make it what is special about us."
SONNY BONNELL 06:35.533 Well, I think, also, that this conditioning, right? We're taught from a very early age that success is conditional. That we can have the job, the successful life, if we sort of don't ruffle feathers, right? We keep our head down. And this starts from the very moment that we're born, right? Some of the first eyes we ever look into is the eyes of our parents, and they often have hopes and dreams for us that we don't have for ourselves yet. We don't even know the path that we're on and yet they see a life for us that we haven't even lived yet. And sometimes they even cast their own failures onto us, not out of anything but love, right? We want to save the people that we love from hurt. And we also want for them to realize, maybe, the hopes and dreams that we have for them. And that may not always be congruent with the life that we see for ourselves. And you're encouraged to develop yourself, but only in a way, I think, that makes everyone else feel safe and comfortable. And, when it looks like you're going to go against the grain, when it looks like that you might defy the rules, when you might defy what others may have an idea of you upholding, you're then labelled defiant, dangerous and different. And that's why it's the subtitle of the book. Because there is so many of us in the world that at various times we're either silenced or awakened from a very young age, all the way up until the companies that we build, that clients that we work with, the criticism that we take, right? And in those moments, right, you are either silenced or awakened. And what we have found is that some of us stay silent forever. We never truly hear our own voice. We never really fully lean in to who we are, or realise our potential. And that is the difference between a Rare Breed and everyone else, is while everyone else is sort of suppressing those pain in the ass qualities, Rare Breeds have finally leaned into them. They have let them off the leash. They are vandalising tradition. They're completely comfortable with who they are. And even though they know that the vice has been turned into a virtue, and it's actually alive and working and they're actually-- they know they're doing it, right? Rare Breeds have a self-awareness that they're kind of-- they know they are this way, and they know that they can break down doors by being all of who they are, not just the pretty parts. What you find is that they're just able to do extraordinary things. And we wrote the book not for them. We wrote the book for people who have been silenced, and [who?] have lost their way, who are not totally clear. They have a dream, they have an audacious dream, and for whatever reason life has kind of made them believe that it's not attainable for them. And that is the point of Rare Breed. To unlock the potential in others that's just simmering below the surface, and to tell you that you can have the courage to do extraordinary things, and be happy while you're doing it, and truly love the work you're in every day. And so this kind of thinking has sort of radically shifted into not only the kind of mindset that we're trying to teach companies.
SONNY BONNELL 09:53.550 So we've slightly evolved-- and you and I talked about this a while back, but our company motto, which is traditionally a branding company, has now evolved into the work that we're doing, which is really, radically different than the business that we started in, which is now we're going into companies and educating them on not only how to think like a Rare Breed, but how to hire for the Rare Breed. How to not suppress that talent in your organisation, and more importantly, how to radically change the way that you are thinking about the way you should run your own company. So we have kind of gotten out of the branding game in some weird way, whether we wanted to or not, by means of Rare Breed, and it's been a really exciting thing.
SCOTT OXFORD 10:38.443 For me, that's the transition from branding to brand. I know that sounds semantic, but for me, brand is the lived story, the lived experience, and the real conversations. And you can help leaders and staff own something, and teach them a script, and give them some inspiration, or you can actually transform them from the inside out. And they are the brand alive. And that's what you're talking about here, is-- in these businesses. And so that's where we do go to the true brand as in the story, the living heartbeat of an organisation is in its people. And these people are truly living the uniqueness, and bringing the unique flavour, the rare flavour, to the overall. And for me, that's exciting. When I was reading your book-- I'm also, just at the moment, I'm in the middle of reading How I Built This, by Guy Raz, who's got an amazing podcast, interviewing start-ups and entrepreneurs, and telling [the?] stories. It's like a how to book on how to go about building a start-up, from finding the right partner, and-- if you come from money, if you don't come from money, these kind of things. But the stories that he tells about some of these great successes, they're pivotal to a parent who didn't impose their own failure. But to a parent who actually bought into the rarity and empowered them-- and there's so many of these great stories where a parent or somebody close did. And for me, for my money, when you don't have somebody who has that vision for you, that's where your movement, I guess, where we've gone beyond being a book - it's transitioning into a movement - that's where it gets really, really exciting. And I've always seen the idea of personal brand as being where we create an artifice around ourselves. Personal brand can be a whole lot about the glitzy Instagram filters that we put on everything, whereas the true, authentic, real kind of brand is what Rare Breed inspires us to not hide those things but to stand out and to go against the grain. And that's a great segue I guess into talking about the book because you took a fairly classic approach like most of us would, which is to take the IP we developed in our practice over the years and create a book. And you set out to create a book on brand, didn't you?
SONNY BONNELL 13:11.450 Well, in the beginning, yeah. So--
SCOTT OXFORD 13:13.229 In the beginning, yes.
SONNY BONNELL 13:14.514 --in the very beginning, well, we [had?] gotten advice, right, that this was the lane that we knew. We were a branding company, so we should write about brand. What we didn't know at the time, kind of the publishing world-- I don't know if this is true now or not, but at the time, the first iteration of Rare Breed was kind of-- it was sort of-- yeah, it was rooted in brand. It was definitely sort of a branding leadership kind of book. But it was really a branding book, I think. And when we submitted the proposal, it got rejected by every major publisher. And we were, of course, super deflated and remember calling up our agent being like, "We don't understand," right? It's such a powerful concept. And she's like, "Branding books don't sell." And that was the feedback that we were getting from publishing houses. We're like, "What do you mean? Couldn't you have told us that?" You know what I mean? They don't tell you this, right, when you're going into it. But the truth was is that we had positioned the book wrong. It was all along not a branding book. And the problem was is that we were trying to make it a branding book, but we were writing it in such a way that it was a personal development book, a personal success book. And it was unbeknownst to us. We had this kind of inner war going on where we were trying to fit it all in. And we kept hitting this wall where it just wasn't clear. The book was not clear. So of course, we get rejected. And we tell a story in the book about the name of the book or the name of the proposal being Rare Breed. And in the publishing industry, there is a little-known fact that if you submit a book proposal with a name and it's rejected, it's highly unlikely or very recommended not to go back-- even if you're going to rewrite the proposal, to not go back with the same name. And of course, we didn't listen because we're probably all seven traits of the book. You know what I mean? [laughter]
SCOTT OXFORD 15:17.692 You're living it, yeah.
SONNY BONNELL 15:19.255 Yeah. Our agent was like, "Ayayay, you two." [laughter] And she just said, "Don't do it. Now you're going to make people mad, and they're just going to throw it out." And Ashleigh and I were like, "Well, there is no other name for this book. There is no other name. This is the name. This is the concept of the book, and there is no title that we should throw in there in hopes that we can sell it in. We're going to just rewrite the whole thing. We're going to tear it down to the studs. And we're going to go back." And she said, "All right. I'll submit it." And then we did, and it went into a bidding war. But what was really funny about it was that we printed out [every?] rejection letter that we got and we posted it in our office around us so that we would feel frustrated and then feel like we wanted to quit, we would read one of those letters and get fired up again and just say, "We're going to prove you wrong." And it was, of course, a very rewarding moment to have the book go to a bidding war and be able to write something that truly had a lot of power in terms of building not just a book but a movement. And I don't think we realised it at the time but it surely has been something extremely extraordinary for us for many reasons.
SCOTT OXFORD 16:43.122 What I love about that story too-- and again, just to mention Guy Raz again, in his interview with Brene-- sorry, I sound like a total fanboy, don't I, of Brene? But--
SONNY BONNELL 16:54.110 I know. She's been in this episode like four times.
SCOTT OXFORD 16:56.380 I know. Sorry about that.
SONNY BONNELL 16:57.498 I love it. No, she's amazing.
SCOTT OXFORD 16:59.100 And I'm believing that you'll be talking to her on her podcast very soon.
SONNY BONNELL 17:05.293 Wow. I don't know. Are you going to make a recommendation?
SCOTT OXFORD 17:07.501 Yeah. I'll do my--
SONNY BONNELL 17:07.820 Are you good friends with her?
SCOTT OXFORD 17:08.780 I'll put in a good word if you can get her on my podcast. No, but--
SONNY BONNELL 17:14.249 Oh. Fair. Fair. Fair enough.
SCOTT OXFORD 17:15.638 The key takeaway from that discussion, and that's why I bought his book, is he said, "Those failures and rejections are not just part of the process. They're absolutely essential. If you don't have them, it's very, very unlikely that you will succeed in any measure." And so it's almost like what they say in the sales process, "You got to kiss a lot of toads to find a prince. And every toad you kiss is exciting. Even though it's hideous, it's exciting because it's a step closer to your prince." And so that's the beauty for you guys. And that's for anyone listening who is got to push through the rejection. Because it's bloody hard to get past that and if you can use it to fire you up, that's great, but the rest of the time, it's this demoralisation that you've got to kind of push through. If you can flip it-- and that's, again, right back to the Rare Breed mindset which says, "Take something that's wrong and completely reframe it into, 'It's actually right.'" And that's what I love about that which is loving your uniqueness, loving your strengths, loving all of those things. So I'd love to know how Rare Breed, I guess as a movement-- you mentioned some pretty incredible brands there. Google, Microsoft, Hershey's. Have you got a great story about Rare Breed and how that's sort of come into your work with one of these brands that our listeners will be very, very familiar with?
SONNY BONNELL 18:51.752 Yeah. I think one of the stories that kind of comes to mind is a story recently with Microsoft. So one of the head of brand advertising over there at Microsoft picked up the book, I want to say in like a New York airport, and read the book on a flight from New York to LA. And by the time he had touched down, he had Ashleigh and I on the phone and he said, "I want you to bring this thinking to Microsoft." And we were like, "Amazing. Sign us up."
SCOTT OXFORD 19:20.077 "Mh-mm. Mm-hmm. Yep. Yep."
SONNY BONNELL 19:22.412 "Let's do it." But he was like, "We'll just do it with a kind of a small group. Six people." And we're like, "Fantastic." And then we hung up the phone and we were like, "Oh, shit. We don't have a workshop. There is no workshop." And so we kind of booked it here and there. Few conversations back and forth. Get some folks on the phone. Next thing you know, there's 30 people in the workshop. And we were doing it in early January and did not have any kind of framework really, truly for Rare Breed as a workshop per se. Now, in Motto, right, we do workshops all the time. We work with some of the brightest minds in the world, to help them align their leaders [in?] organisational thinking, and do a tremendous amount of culture work, and leadership work, and, of course, brand work. And so the concept of workshops were-- we do it all day, every day.
SCOTT OXFORD 20:18.475 How hard can it be--?
SONNY BONNELL 20:18.703 And sometimes a [line?]-- how hard can it be? But knowing that Rare Breed the book was not really-- it was not really written as a how to. And so we were like, "Well, how do you take sort of this ethereal concept, that's so big, and so heady, and how do you turn it into a framework that then goes and supercharges the internal organisational structure of these companies and orgs?" And lo and behold, we pulled it off. It was extraordinary. They called it one of the best trainings they'd ever been through. They wanted to expose it to the rest of their team. And then, what kind of happened next was a really kind of a-- just something that you kind of only hope for, which is they-- I started seeing more and more of their team members were taking the quiz. We have a quiz called rarebreedquiz.com, where you can actually take the quiz. Teams and even individuals can take the quiz and find out which of the seven virtues are your dominant traits. So we talk about seven virtues in the book: rebellious, audacious, obsessed, weird, hot-blooded, hypnotic, and emotional. These are all seven traits that society has taught us-- again, back to the opening comment about [are?] counterintuitive to our success. And you can take the quiz and find out which one of these seven traits are your dominant trait within your life, work, and career, and which one you should really be doubling down on [or?] recognise. And so what we were doing in that workshop was not only-- it was over two days, but we were doing a reveal, across their team, of what the traits were within the team. And lo and behold, some pretty remarkable things happened out of it, where it was kind of an a-ha moment. But what was really cool out of that was that more and more people started taking the quiz, from within Microsoft. People that we hadn't even talked to. And then, from there we started to see that people were actually running their own Rare Breed workshops within the organisation.
SONNY BONNELL 22:19.685 And then we started to get calls from other people who had talked to somebody that was in that initial workshop. And now we're just-- we can't even field the amount of workshop enquiries coming in, of people who want to bring Rare Breed thinking into their company. And that's just one of the most exciting-- I think that's the most exciting thing than ever. That, number one, it can be a workshop. Number two, people can do it necessarily without us. They don't need us to facilitate the workshop, they're taking it and bringing it and doing [it on?] their own. And the fact that it can be bigger than a book. It changes the way organisations think and hire. And we didn't know it at the time, but to be able to change that conversation around invisibility, which is really-- it [stems?] to diversity and inclusion, right? Which is, we hire a checklist of people that are black and brown, and we just kind of go down the list. But that doesn't necessarily equate to diversity of thought. And that's what Rare Breed is really sort of planting that seed, is that, not only do we need to have diversity of thought, but we need to create the conditions within our organisations to allow that thinking to take place without punishment or for fear of losing your job. And when we tapped into that, that is what has been, I would say, the most extraordinary piece of the puzzle, is that we're able to now go in and share this thinking, and have other people change the conversation, which is a conversation that really desperately needs to be changed. I mean, Ashley and I are women. And we've been women in this industry for 15 years. And I can tell you with 1,000% certainty that still to this day we run into quote-unquote, "white males," who - sorry, Scott - but we do--
SCOTT OXFORD 24:05.885 Yeah. We have a phrase, "Pale, male, and stale."
SONNY BONNELL 24:08.948 Pale, male, and stale.
SCOTT OXFORD 24:10.008 And it's--
SONNY BONNELL 24:10.488 Well, the truth is that we run into a lot of these situations where we're trying to be put in our place. And I find that to be extremely discouraging. And I want to change that.
SCOTT OXFORD 24:19.530 I find it unusual in this and age too, but I mean--
SONNY BONNELL 24:23.028 It is. You would think it would be more-- you would hope that it would be more unusual, but the fact is that it's not. It's actually incredibly, incredibly common. And women, specifically, face it all the time, but of course, Black, Brown, Latina, Latino. This is a phenomenon. This is a cultural lake of ignorance. And if we can try to have any part of changing that conversation, it's what we're on a mission to do.
SCOTT OXFORD 24:57.468 Yeah. I think, as a man, I look at the female rare breeds over the last 20, 30, 40, 50 years, and they're always applauded for their success but considered to be-- I don't know. Just somehow, there's a negativity. I mean, if you look in the UK, Margaret Thatcher and Diana, Princess of Wales, those are two figures who are very big at the moment because of the [inaudible] the crown, but there's a real reflection on them. And the idea of looking at them was that they were somehow sort of flawed geniuses, whereas men don't seem to be measured by the same--
SONNY BONNELL 25:45.332 No. So Diana, so she's a perfect example. Princess Diana is an emotional rare breed. Her sensitivity is why people fell in love with her. She is a phenomenon on every level. And I think in an interview, she talked about, "They just don't understand me, and I'm criticised for feeling the way I feel." And we write about that in the book extensively about how emotional rare breeds are often criticised for feeling and being on a different frequency than everybody else. And they're punished for that. They're punished for having a sort of EQ, or the radar goes up, or they change the energy in the room just by-- they read the room differently than everybody else, I guess, is what I'm trying to get at. And for a long time, we've heard it, "Oh, you're so emotional." And in the book, we explore why there's a dark side to these traits and, more importantly, why they're seen in this way and what does it mean when you are one of these traits and how do you navigate the world as one of these traits and how do you succeed as one of these traits? And I think Princess Diana is a wonderful example of that. I can think of so many more, right, that have this kind of sensitive EQ that paid a dear price for it. And--
SCOTT OXFORD 27:10.229 Men who are highly sensitive as well have paid that same price. They have by default been placed into the feminine side and for whatever reason because we still can't seem to deal with men who feel.
SONNY BONNELL 27:28.871 Well, we identify gender as what's sort of between your legs, so to speak, but we're all a mix of everything. Right? I mean, we have female and male traits and even traits that we probably don't even understand or qualities that we have that we don't understand or where they come from. And there's no label for them, but yet, because we like to put things in boxes, we have the need to somehow classify it as such because, otherwise, how could we possibly understand it? And I think that's what's so beautiful about rare breed is the letters that we get, that Ashley and I get on a day-to-day basis are people who have felt most of their life misunderstood. And for once, they feel seen. They've been invisible. They've flown under the radar. And for once, there's a book, there's a phrase that doesn't make you feel like a misfit. It doesn't make you feel like the ugly piece of fruit. It doesn't make you feel like you're an outlier, that you're on the outside of the glass looking in. We want to change that. And I think rare breed is a positive affirmation. It's a positive phrase. It's a badge of honour. Wear it with pride. Right?
SCOTT OXFORD 28:45.903 Do you know who I think could really benefit?
SONNY BONNELL 28:46.064 The letters that we get are extraordinary, just people doing radical things, like leaving jobs they've been in for 40 years. We had a story about a young girl who actually came and heard Ashley and I speak. She was with her mom and dad-- or her stepfather, actually. And she couldn't be more than a minute. I mean, she was 8 years old at the most. And she was at a book signing that we were at. And they had brought her along. And long story short, this little girl had been through some scenarios, and had made her quite afraid. And she was not herself and we did this kind of talk, and she was back there doodling. And we imagined that maybe she wasn't paying attention at all. Lo and behold, we get an email-- or a note on Instagram actually, from the stepdad. And he says, "I just want to thank you. My little girl is-- she's writing her first novel because of you." And I was just so moved by that. I just couldn't believe that, that this little girl, she was afraid to go downstairs, and she was like, "Remember those two girls that talked about Rare Breed?" She's like, "They made me feel that I can be myself and that I don't want to be afraid anymore." And I was like, "Wow." If that message can hit home with an eight-year-old, imagine what it could do to leaders and teams who have lived their whole life with some of these preconceived notions or perhaps navigated their whole life, and it's penetrating the way that they manage others or lead others. If we can change that, what would that do for the world?
SCOTT OXFORD 30:32.289 Hey, just before you tell that story, I was going to say, "You know who you need to package this for? You need to package it for children because I think this is--" many years ago, I used to volunteer on a camp for high school kids. And it was artists and musicians. And it was basically people who didn't largely fit in in normal life. And for a week every year, they came along in this camp, and they found their people. And they were legitimised. They were-- I wouldn't say normalised because-- but normal in a good way, as in they found that who they were was celebrated and didn't require hiding. And I think that story plus my experience-- because we had a kid who came along, and we had a similar story after this. His father just said, "You have changed him. He is a new person after this." And I just think, well, the book itself is in good shape for a 12- or 13-year-old to read. I reckon that's my challenge to you, to create a junior edition because I think--
SONNY BONNELL 31:33.951 Rare Breed for kids, right?
SCOTT OXFORD 31:35.249 Absolutely.
SONNY BONNELL 31:35.625 Well, it's funny that you say that. So we wrote an-- well actually, I think we're about to write an article. I can't remember if I did it or not. I've written so many articles about Rare Breed. But I wrote a-- or I jotted down a note where I was like, "Your kid isn't weird. They're just a rare breed."
SCOTT OXFORD 31:53.437 Nice. Nice.
SONNY BONNELL 31:54.769 Yeah. And I was thinking that that's actually kind of a quick manual that we could create, like Rare Breed for parenting, because they need it more than anything. It's sometimes not the kid that's the problem; it's the parenting that's the problem. The parents just don't understand them and in turn try to sort of, as I said earlier, cast their judgement, cast their ideologies and even their failures onto their kids. [It's just?]--
SCOTT OXFORD 32:18.180 They need a guidebook.
SONNY BONNELL 32:19.100 --know the answers.
SCOTT OXFORD 32:19.801 They need an--
SONNY BONNELL 32:20.217 What's that?
SCOTT OXFORD 32:20.675 They need a guidebook, an understanding. That's exactly it.
SONNY BONNELL 32:22.338 They do. They do. Absolutely. As a matter of fact, when Ashleigh and I did a talk a while ago for a women's conference and we had a book signing after, a woman came up to me to sign the book. We were both signing it. And this woman came. And when I opened the-- she had a sticky note that was outside of the book. And when I opened the book, I looked down, and it said, "David, you're a rare breed. Love, mom." And I was like, "That's so cool." Because she was like, "I've never known how to be the right parent for him. I love him dearly, but I don't always understand him, and I want to do the right thing by celebrating him, not suppressing him," and she's like, "This is the perfect book." And I was like, "Wow, that was kind of interesting." So again, Rare Breed has just taken on this sort of really powerful storyline. It's just fun to be on the ride I'll tell you that.
SCOTT OXFORD 33:22.674 [Oh, look?] I bet. And, I'm excited to jump in at this point and share it. And just grateful that meeting you has given me an opportunity to read it. And we'll be putting the links in the show notes and it will be very easy for anyone listening to order a copy and read a copy. And, as someone who has loved it, and secretly identifies strongly as--
SONNY BONNELL 33:47.695 What? Did you take the quiz? What did you get?
SCOTT OXFORD 33:49.673 No, I haven't taken the quiz yet.
SONNY BONNELL 33:51.083 What?
SCOTT OXFORD 33:51.444 No, I know.
SONNY BONNELL 33:52.204 Scott. Oh, you have to take the quiz. Come on. You should do it right now.
SCOTT OXFORD 33:56.214 I should do it on air.
SONNY BONNELL 33:56.965 You should. Yeah, do it. Let's hit pause. You come back on and you're like, I'm a-- let's find out what the audience thinks you are.
SCOTT OXFORD 34:03.899 Well, that's why I want them to jump on and read the show notes [laughter]. They have to find out. I promise I'll put it in there.
SONNY BONNELL 34:09.878 Okay, yes. Please do. Now I have to know. I have to know.
SCOTT OXFORD 34:13.028 I'll tell you as well.
SONNY BONNELL 34:13.876 What do you think you are? Let's start there. What do you think you might be?
SCOTT OXFORD 34:17.764 This is dangerous because it's possibly a little bit like enneagram, where you've actually got to find your own way. But there are actually a few. And what I've found, as someone who adores enneagram, because, for me, it was a really valuable tool in understanding that a lot of things that I thought were my failures, were actually just my traits. And what I love about enneagram, it picks up from where that leaves off. It actually picks up, and now that I'm ready to, sort of, embrace my traits, and not consider them flaws anymore, I'm ready to take them and run with them. So, for me, it's a case of, I think I'm going to find my way through a few of them. Stay tuned. Stay tuned on that one [laughter].
SONNY BONNELL 35:08.227 Well, what's really interesting too, is some people have a primary and secondary. So, the first iteration of the quiz, we worked with a psychologist and professor on this quiz. We're actually in a process of evolving it for teams and organisations. But, what's really, really cool about it is, the first iteration of the test, you could actually get a first and a second. So a lot of people would identify as being audacious, for example, and then their secondary might be that they're obsessed. And that was true for me. That is me 1000%. If you work with me, you probably know I'm obsessed. If you buy into any of my visions, you probably think I'm audacious, right? And I think that those are really, really accurate portrayals. But, there's always one that's just a little bit stronger than everything else. And it's a dominant one that's at play. And that's what you have to, kind of, lean into.
SCOTT OXFORD 36:05.873 Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And similarly, in enneagram, I'm a four with a three-wing. But the four is-- I'm most definitely a four in all the four ways. So, yes. So, stay tuned. I'll come back to you with that because I'm about to do a reread of the book. I'm one of those get through it. I read it predominantly in advance of this interview, and now I'm like, "Okay. We're going to go back and do this properly." So, I'm looking forward to that.
SONNY BONNELL 36:36.725 Very cool.
SCOTT OXFORD 36:37.406 I wanted to, sort of, ask, I've got some classic brand questions to ask you. But I just wanted to ask, before we finish sort of our main chat about rare breed, to someone who's a brand owner, so someone who is either a CEO or a head of brand, or someone who's leading with brand, how would you suggest that the [inaudible] platform could transform what they're doing with their brands?
SONNY BONNELL 37:01.955 I think that if you-- I think business prides itself on, or should pride itself on, unique perspectives and innovative ideas. But the truth is, is that most of those ideas get shut down. We've been in some of the most innovative companies in the world, and I can tell you that there's so much red tape, and a lot of teams within teams get stuck, and there was a lot of wanting to do something extraordinary, but not being allowed to do something innovative. And what happens when the danger in stripping away and discouraging idiosyncrasies across your team is that we also end up smothering that rebellious, visionary fire that leads to great breakthroughs. And so when we're coaching companies, we want to first coach them on embracing the rare-breed mindset, first and foremost, as a business that sort of helps people working inside of it make the contributions they know they're capable of making. And I think when you find that you can unleash that within your team and your workplace and culture, you kind of enabled-- you're able to sort of become more-- leaning more to that standout quality that you're hoping to have, and to also let people within your organisation thrive.
SONNY BONNELL 38:33.048 I think when you are a rare breed who's within a company that does not allow you-- so I think it's twofold, right? It's one, the company itself, and then you've got the people who work for the company. And for people who are rare breed or exhibit rare-breed traits and they are within companies, I think it's also important to understand when you are in a company that is not allowing you to totally thrive, and also for the company itself to recognise those that are not thriving. Because what often happens to rare breeds is they get frustrated and leave. And then they go and start things that-- think of Tim Burton, right?
SONNY BONNELL 39:12.466 Tim Burton was fired from House of Mouse because he's-- I think he did Frankenweenie or something like that. It was like, "This is bizarre." And he was the king of weird. He was already having a signature style and a signature way and a quirkiness and eccentricity that was truly unique, and they didn't understand him. And so he got canned. And I think that's what happened to a lot of rare breeds. And so what we've been working on recently was to try to find training and tools to help companies navigate that better so that you can, in fact, not only hire for them, but retain them. Because that's probably the biggest nemesis. So again, it's thinking with the rare-breed mindset. It's also hiring for that mindset, and it's also creating the conditions to allow that mindset to thrive.
SCOTT OXFORD 40:01.787 But the hiring aspect is really interesting because your quiz is really helpful in terms of identifying, but I-- we have a client, Australian/US company called Criteria Corp, and they work in the space of assessments, pretty higher assessments, and things like DISC and the like. As an employer, as a leader, I know I would love to be able to include a form of this as a hiring assessment. That actually enabled me to gauge while I was buying from this perspective because DISC isn't going to tell me that and some of those other emotional intelligence. All of those tests have their [place?]. So I think there's a really interesting-- "Here we go. I'm giving you a new product idea. We've got a book for kids. We've got a hiring [inaudible]--"
SONNY BONNELL 40:45.560 I actually just wrote an article on this. I'll send you that article--
SCOTT OXFORD 40:48.208 Oh, please.
SONNY BONNELL 40:48.439 --too so that you can put in the show notes. Yeah, I wrote an article on LinkedIn. I don't know if you saw it, but I wrote an article recently called hiring for the rare breed, how to create a culture of innovation and belonging. And it was kind of some questions that you could ask, but also what to look for, for certain rare breeds and things of that nature. So I think that would be a valuable tool. And of course, more are coming. I'm writing them all [inaudible] working on workbooks because the one big piece of feedback that we got from the book was, for those that really, really love the book-- now, we've been-- being asked to create almost like a how-to. If you are rebellious, how do you navigate your life, work, and career as one, as a rebel? And I found that to be extremely good advice and a good request. And so, now we're working on materials around that, which I hope to share with everybody soon.
SCOTT OXFORD 41:39.618 Yeah, that's great, because that means I can include it in my professional practice with my clients. So I've got some video introductions from you guys and these workbooks that we can use. And I use the word guys a lot, by guys, that's a very inclusive term, so forgive me for that. I was pulled up on it recently, but I mean it with great affection. Because you've done an incredible amount of work with big brands and some amazing brands, and I just want to tap into a few of the questions that I love asking too. And one of them is, you work in brand, so it means something to you, and there must have been a brand from childhood that first took a hold in you, a brand that means something to you and has always meant something to you because it first hooked into you. Is there something that first connected with you? A brand?
SONNY BONNELL 42:31.704 Let's see, from a young age you mean?
SCOTT OXFORD 42:35.528 Yeah. Yeah. From a young age. There's a particular fuel brand, for example, we have in Australia, called Golden Fleece, and for me, every time my dad filled up the car I would sit there and look up at the signage, this beautiful signage of this golden sheep and watch the numbers tick over on the bowser. And there's something about-- and for me, fuel has a meaning, and fuel brands have a meaning that they wouldn't otherwise have. So, is there something like that for you?
SONNY BONNELL 43:03.962 So, this is going to sound really cliche but Nikes, because when I was younger, I used to -- when I used to-- this is so stupid [laughter]. This is revealing myself here. But in third grade I used to breakdance and--
SCOTT OXFORD 43:22.063 Awesome!
SONNY BONNELL 43:22.253 --and I grew up a little on the wrong side of the tracks at the beginning, and I could not afford-- my parents could not afford to get me those kinds of shoes. And I used to breakdance every day after school, but I used to trade my school lunches. My mom used to make these elaborate-- in the brown paper bag with a little note in it, very much loved. Food was her love language. And she used to make these brilliant little lunches. And I would give them away so that I could borrow some kids' Nikes so that I could breakdance in them after school. So I'd trade my lunch, borrow the Nikes, breakdance in them, and then give them back. And so that was my first memory of, kind of, wanting something that I couldn't have, and finding a way, entrepreneurial, ding, ding, ding, to kind of get it, even if it was for a short period of time. And so, they were synonymous to me with reaching for something, wanting something, to say, "Oh, I can wear those,", or, "I can put those--" It was such a symbol of something because all the over kids could afford them and I couldn't. And it was the moment that it was teaching me a lesson about what you have to do sometimes to get what you want. And those lunches were pretty valuable, apparently, so.
SCOTT OXFORD 44:45.719 Yeah, yeah.
SONNY BONNELL 44:46.889 I bartered.
SCOTT OXFORD 44:48.067 Yeah. It's like smokes in jail--
SONNY BONNELL 44:48.852 But yeah, Nike for sure.
SCOTT OXFORD 44:50.568 --or something like that, cigarettes in jail [laughter].
SONNY BONNELL 44:53.226 Yeah, totally. You're sliding two tips across the [laughter] bar. You're like, please, please. No, seriously because the kids used to be like, "Yo, you got one of those lunch-- your mom's lunches [laughter]?"
SCOTT OXFORD 45:08.486 But what little buggers that they didn't just loan them to you.
SONNY BONNELL 45:10.979 I know, and then I was like, "Mom, what did you put in those lunches [crosstalk]?"
SCOTT OXFORD 45:15.605 Yeah, a bit of crack in there. A little bit of [crosstalk].
SONNY BONNELL 45:18.332 Yeah. No, totally. But it was pretty amazing, for sure. It taught me a lesson about being-- I was so entrepreneurial at a young age. I mean, going back, I mean, I was playing music-- nobody can see this but I have guitars behind me. But--
SCOTT OXFORD 45:32.866 You do. Yeah.
SONNY BONNELL 45:33.761 --I've been a [young?] musician my whole life and started when I was really young. And I started playing out when I was like 12 years old and was playing for money when I would book my own gigs and I was in bars. And I had lived a lot of life by the time I was like 22 years old. So I had already been making my own money by playing. By playing music. So I kind of understood the concept really, really early on.
SCOTT OXFORD 45:57.802 Yeah. And how did it feel when you got your first pair of Nikes after borrowing them for all that time?
SONNY BONNELL 46:01.945 Oh. It was pretty amazing. Yeah. I mean, of course. But what I have found about success though is that-- I've also found this about perfection, is that the mountain just keeps getting taller. And sometimes, as I've gotten older, I've had to sort of step back and reflect on, "What exactly am I chasing? What ghost here am I trying to-- what in me needs more?" And I think a lot of us who are creative and entrepreneurial and who have achieved a great deal-- I mean, just listening to you read my bio at the beginning, I was like, "Ugh. I really should chill out or something. What is going on?"
SCOTT OXFORD 46:49.291 Yeah. Take a day off.
SONNY BONNELL 46:49.799 Take a vacation or something. But you know what I mean? That thing that we crave, I've always been really interested in. And that's why one of the traits is obsessed because isn't there such a dark side to that? When you're really obsessed with perfection or obsessed with your career or obsessed with more, more, more, what does that do to you? And that's the dark side of the trait that we explored in great detail. And I learned so much about myself by writing that book. About what it means when you are obsessed and why that can really be your undoing in so many ways.
SCOTT OXFORD 47:30.446 Yeah. And that idea of the dark side that can take you down, so. Yeah.
SONNY BONNELL 47:35.466 Yeah. It's powerful but some of the greatest-- I would argue some of the greatest rare breeds in the world have also been some of the most evil and also the most-- they drank their own Kool-Aid and that's how they fell.
SCOTT OXFORD 47:49.166 Yeah. Love that phrase, "Use your gift for good not evil." And just always keep that as one of your cornerstones, so. Yeah. We're running out of time but I do have a couple more questions that I'd love to--
SONNY BONNELL 48:01.639 Yeah. Go for it.
SCOTT OXFORD 48:01.833 --ask you. I wanted to ask you, is there a brand now that you don't just like and connect with but is there a brand that you really love, that you love it, and why?
SONNY BONNELL 48:13.878 Oh. Absolutely. I'm wearing it right now. Goorin Bros.
SCOTT OXFORD 48:18.248 Yeah. Tell us about Goorin Bros.
SONNY BONNELL 48:18.677 So all my fedoras are Goorin Bros. So I get asked this a lot, about what brand of fedoras am I wearing. Goorin Bros. And I'm an absolute loyalist to the brand, to the material, to the communication. It's just it feels like a very special relationship that I have with the brand and with the people of the brand. And it's just an exciting thing. And I have a lot of different things in terms of brands that I wear and things like that but absolutely, Goorin is at the top.
SCOTT OXFORD 48:53.420 And how did that connection happen? Is that through music? Is that part of how you connected? Because in Australia--
SONNY BONNELL 49:00.035 Yeah. I mean, I was wearing hats when I was a kid. So I was a little bit of a weirdo and I used to wear paperboy hats when I was in like third grade which was just not cool. And it was the 80s and people were like, "What are you wearing?" It's was parachute pants and Nikes and a paperboy. And I'm a girl and I'm breakdancing this is just not supposed to go together. But yeah, as I got a little bit older and I started playing out, I used to wear fedoras when I would play. I was wearing them before they were cool. I mean, now they're everywhere. A lot of people wear them now. But I've been wearing them for a long, long, long, long time.
SCOTT OXFORD 49:39.601 Yeah. The--
SONNY BONNELL 49:41.072 And now they're just part of me. It's kind of like when you don't see me in a hat, you're kind of like, "Is that really Sunny?" It's like a part of my identity, and I feel comfortable in them, so it's important to me.
SCOTT OXFORD 49:54.936 Yeah. And I'm looking at it now, and yeah, it is gorgeous. My grandfather looked like Errol Flynn. [laughter] And as a family, we were looking at photos-- I've just lost an uncle and going to bury him next week, but we're just looking through all the family photos. And yeah, my grandfather with his beautiful-- never saw him out of a hat, and it is a beautiful thing that I wish was a part of my life, so I'm--
SONNY BONNELL 50:26.030 Yeah. Well, maybe you can get one of those hats.
SCOTT OXFORD 50:28.622 Yeah. I think I should. I think I should. And I love that it's part of your brand as well. [Your?]--
SONNY BONNELL 50:32.554 Oh, I'm so addicted. It's now become a problem. There should be a class for people like me because I'll get a notification that they have a limited edition, and then I started designing my own hats. I mean, I was getting really into it.
SCOTT OXFORD 50:45.406 This is the dark side you're talking about, an obsession. [laughter]
SONNY BONNELL 50:48.032 I know. I was like feathers and I was really into it. But it's like an art. It's so much your ability to express yourself, which I think is really kind of cool. They allow you to do things-- they allow you to choose certain materials and bands and feathers and [just certain?] pieces of it, right, that are kind of uniquely you and that you would have only chosen for yourself. And I love the ability to do that. Not many products do allow you to do that. And you end up wearing a Warby Parker that kind of looks like everybody else. But a fedora's kind of one of a kind. I love that.
SCOTT OXFORD 51:25.373 Yeah. And we have probably an equivalent in Australia called Akubra which is basically the sort of classic hat, and they're a part of--
SONNY BONNELL 51:35.372 I'd have to get me one of those. I don't know how I'll get one, but maybe you can send me one.
SCOTT OXFORD 51:39.246 Yeah. We'll talk. We'll talk because--
SONNY BONNELL 51:42.087 Well, I have the smallest head, so just know.
SCOTT OXFORD 51:45.332 Well, we'll get sizing. We'll get everything. But--
SONNY BONNELL 51:49.520 Yeah, yeah. There's no medium and large here, my friend. It's tiny, tiny. [laughter]
SCOTT OXFORD 51:53.447 Akubra are on my target list, and I'm pretty sure they do custom as well. So there you go. So--
SONNY BONNELL 51:59.553 Oh, I love it. Yeah. Let's check it out.
SCOTT OXFORD 52:00.390 --that'll be perfect. So yeah, a little bit of Australia. I just wanted to ask you. What's probably the biggest misconception you've seen around brand? When you've worked with leaders, when you've worked with great companies and the like, what's the big thing that seems to always be misunderstood or misconceived?
SONNY BONNELL 52:23.575 I actually think there's a few things. One is brand is left to the marketing department. I actually just wrote an article about this. And I would also say that companies are reflections of the leaders at the helm. And I always find it really discouraging when I'm reached out to by some brand manager that's been there for six weeks and is like, "We need a makeover, but the CEO is too busy to talk to you." And so we have no idea. They've sort of self-prescribed what the problem is. And they've handed off some generic RFP that does just describe what's going on, but they've kind of-- how do you actually know? And I find that to be really a huge misconception in the industry that-- brand is extremely misunderstood, and it has its own sort of identity crisis as well. So brand people can't even describe it then you've got people who want branding but do not know how to ask for it. And then you've got CEOs who are completely uneducated about how the power of brand and how important it is to their success. And then you have the sort of fallacy of they don't realise that their brand is often built in their image. So it's kind of a-- we try to bridge the gap between all of those things.
SCOTT OXFORD 53:44.898 Yeah. I interviewed last year, the head of brand for Flight Centre, which is pretty much our biggest provider of travel. And mid-pandemic, it was pretty fascinating to talk about that. But one of the things that I loved is that as head of brand for that organisation, he's on the C-suite. And that is an organisation, the founder, and owner of that business, values brand, and understands brand to the point of putting-- and for my mind, what you're saying there is this needs to be a C-level responsibility. There needs to be ownership at that level of this topic, not a palm off, and absolutely deliver through a team below you, but takes an interest, and takes an ownership. So that's awesome. That's awesome.
SONNY BONNELL 54:29.411 Yeah, no, it's something that we fight against all the time of trying to educate leaders and their teams on going about it the right way. There is a right way and a wrong way. And the right way is-- or the wrong way, truthfully, is paved with a lot of obstacles and challenges that-- you're not just doing the work. You're educating them about the work. And I find that to be-- we're in 2021, and you would think that more companies would understand that brand is nothing more than the brand. You can have the most beautiful product in the world, but if nobody wants it, you haven't created any emotional desire. And that's what the brand does for you.
SCOTT OXFORD 55:12.611 That's connection.
SONNY BONNELL 55:12.899 So, yeah.
SCOTT OXFORD 55:14.516 Absolutely. My last question - one of my favourites as well - is any brand that you have not worked on or for that would be your dream brand to work with. And from what you've told me, from what's happening behind the scenes right now, there's some exciting brands knocking on your door, but who would be the ultimate brand?
SONNY BONNELL 55:35.578 Who I'd love to work with?
SCOTT OXFORD 55:36.877 Yeah.
SONNY BONNELL 55:37.091 [And I?] have not worked with the Dallas Cowboys. So I'm a huge, huge-- not many people know this-- but I'm a huge Dallas Cowboys fan and have been since I was very young. They have been very bad as a team for a long time [laughter].
SCOTT OXFORD 55:53.109 That's why you love them.
SONNY BONNELL 55:54.751 But their brand is so other-worldly, the stadium, the experience. I've been to the stadium many time. I'm that person that draws stars on my face and really looks obnoxious. [laughter] But yeah, so stars on my hand. I'm really hardcore. I've been in the stadium. I've been behind the scenes of the stadium. I lived in Dallas for several years. I've been to the Frisco stadium or the Frisco headquarters, and I just want my hands on it. I want to work with them at the leadership level, I think, would be pretty powerful.
SCOTT OXFORD 56:31.553 Oh, that's so good. Sunny, I feel like we've got another three episodes in us. [laughter] And--
SONNY BONNELL 56:38.742 I know. I was like, "We're going way over."
SCOTT OXFORD 56:40.793 Yeah. Maybe we'll work out how to do that, but I just want to thank you. It's been such a pleasure. Thank you for you guys writing that book and--
SONNY BONNELL 56:50.104 Thank you. Thank you.
SCOTT OXFORD 56:50.565 --for the benefit. I have a very quirky 20-year-old daughter who is an absolute rare breed in itself, and I can't wait to get her to read it.
SONNY BONNELL 57:00.374 I love it. Well, like father, like daughter, right?
SCOTT OXFORD 57:03.252 [laughter] Yeah, I think so.
SONNY BONNELL 57:03.559 She got a little bit of you in there. So you would probably [inaudible] a little bit of [inaudible], and you don't realise it.
SCOTT OXFORD 57:09.323 Absolutely. And yeah, she, thankfully, is in an era when we're certainly better than we were 20, 30 years ago, I think, in terms of allowing unique women to write up and be themselves. So I'm excited for her and excited to watch it.
SONNY BONNELL 57:26.581 Definitely be that dad. That can give you any advice to be that dad.
SCOTT OXFORD 57:30.463 Absolutely. Absolutely. But Sunny, thanks again. And don't forget, jump into the show notes and you can find a way to order Rare Breed and links to those articles. Ever since I met you Sunny, every time I read your name, it just makes me smile and makes me happy, so.
SONNY BONNELL 57:47.401 [laughter] Thank you. Thank you.
SCOTT OXFORD 57:47.401 Thanks again.
SONNY BONNELL 57:48.853 Well, if you start singing to me next time because a lot of people do. A lot of people hear that song Sunny and try to sing it back to-- I've had many serenades. So next time you can serenade me too.
SCOTT OXFORD 57:58.890 All right. We'll duet.
SONNY BONNELL 58:01.409 All right. Cool. Well, thanks again. I truly enjoyed it. What a fascinating conversation.
SCOTT OXFORD 58:08.764 Please do subscribe, like all good jam, Brand Jam should be spread around generously. So share us on your socials via text and good old word of mouth. And don't forget you can let me know via brandjam.co who you'd like me to interview and the brands you'd love to hear about. And to sign off today, I'd like to quote Rare Breed itself. A beautiful quote for us in brand. And for us, personally, it calls us to succeed because of who you are, not despite who you are. I'm Scott Oxford. Thanks for joining me today on Brand Jam.