Published on November 7th, 2016 | by Nicole Rodrigues0
The Top 4 Lessons in Marketing Action from Marine Turned Communications Genius, Bruce Cardenas
How many times a day do you find yourself lost inside your technology – your phone, your iPad, your social media – having spent several minutes (or hours) “connecting” with your infinite network of others, without actually having spoken directly to another human being? It happens to the best of us, and it happens far too often. Nowadays, even in business, we rely too much on these digital tools as a means of measuring our interaction and social engagement. We easily forget that there was a time, not so long ago, when the only real way to connect with a brand was to physically enter a store, talk to an associate who represented the company, try out the products and peruse the selection. If there is one thing I’ve learned in PR and marketing, above all else – it’s that one must never overlook the value of the human connection.
In my last few pieces written for Hype Magazine, we offered a behind-the-scenes look at how the media works from a publicist’s perspective. We highlighted the importance of utilizing social media to build your brand, and the way your network can translate into your net worth. Now, we want to give you a real life, tangible example of how connecting goes beyond all of these platforms and boils down to that simple human touch. To do so, we’ll highlight Bruce Cardenas, a bodybuilder-turned-Marine-turned-cop-turned-marketing genius and Chief Communications Officer for Quest Nutrition.
Bruce is the epitome of being a human representation of a brand. He is a walking billboard for the fact that authentic marketing actually works better than just the shiny, digital tools alone. Bruce’s career started with service for the U.S. Marines and the LAPD. After retiring from public service, Bruce pursued his other passion — fitness. It was in the gym where Bruce first met Shannon & Ron Penna, the founders of Quest Nutrition. After just a taste of their product, Bruce was sold. He was determined to get their brand in the hands of every fitness junkie and entertainment influencer possible. Over the course of a year, Bruce volunteered his services free of charge and relied on his natural networking ability alone to increase Quest’s popularity. He’s since helped Quest grow 57000% and gain global recognition, making it “one of the fastest growing private U.S. companies,” according to Inc. Magazine.
Bruce didn’t do any of this work out of entitlement, greed or the guarantee that it would one day pay out for him with an executive position at a massive company. He put his feet to the pavement for a then-unrecognized brand that he believed in, and he did the work for free. Along that journey that led Bruce to his current success, he learned these four key lessons:
1. Be Present in Person: By this, we mean show up. Physically be in the room, at the event or available for fans. Whether you’re the up-and-coming new talent or their representation, be open to meeting with the media and telling your story. Encourage talent to interact with fans. The best way to build up your audience is to let them hear you and know that you care. Hell, even if you are a musical icon, making the time is never overrated. Even Lady Gaga wrapped up each show on her latest “dive bar” tour by sitting down and signing autographs for every single person in attendance, after asking each their name. People need to remember how important live shows are to any artist and every audience. Bruce saw the real connection that springs from human interaction firsthand. Being social came naturally to him, but he was surprised to see how far his efforts to connect impacted the Quest business. “Connecting people and building relationships is sort of my specialty,” he says. “Whenever I’m asked how I build those relationships, I emphasize that you have to leave your desk to do so. There are so many unique opportunities to plant those seeds and grow those connections.” He goes on to say, “On any given day, you’ll see posts of me with influencers enjoying the Quest product. That’s always my goal. I know people in my position don’t have to do all the legwork, but that’s what I’m known for.” He says, “The way I look at it, I’m only as good as the last bar we’ve given out or sold.”
2. Be Yourself: “I’m not a guy who stays within the lines,” says Bruce. “I like doing whatever needs to get done, and that’s what the owners of Quest liked most about me.” Bruce is effortlessly able to interact closely with celebrities and get Quest bars into the hands of influencers – not because he is trying to become some name-dropping, front-of-the-line, VIP salesman, but simply because he is unalterably himself. He simply wants to connect people, and he can be human with them without making it awkward. “I started getting their product in people’s hands. I once brought several flavors of the Quest bars to a friend’s charity tennis tournament and handed them out to a bunch of celebrities. I had their publicists send me the pictures they took with the product, shared them with the owners, and they realized how seamless it was for me,” he says. “The relationship just grew from there. They kept giving me product, and I kept getting it in the hands of influential people.” When asked why he continued doing the work without an official position at Quest, Bruce says, “I was just helping them with relationships – for fun, and for free. I’m also a fan of the brand myself. That’s important. I feel good about the work we do here.”
3. Pay It Forward: In music, media and marketing, many times you have to start by giving away your tracks, your time and/or your product without compensation. It goes back to being humble, staying grateful and remembering that if your talent was just discovered or your brand is brand new, it will take some hard work and humility to gain traction. Bruce is the living testament to putting in the work and paying it forward. He remembers, “I was coming to Quest four or five times a week over the course of a year. The owners finally called to say they wanted to pay me what I was making from my other job and bring me on, officially and full-time.” He laughs, “They were almost uncomfortable that I had been working basically for free. And then, the relationship just continued evolving into what my role is today.” Bruce’s path proves that people will remember when you were doing something for nothing. Maybe the ROI isn’t there right in that moment, but you’ll see – as time goes by, once your client or your brand is exposed and gaining popularity, more and more people will get behind you. Your star will rise. People can feel it when you’re honestly not just looking to get something immediately in return. When you actually do something for the love of doing it or because you believe it plays into a bigger, more meaningful picture, it will pay off in the end.
4. Never Take No For An Answer: Doubt is the trickiest deceiver, and too many great talents have let the answer “No” deter them from their greatness. Bruce reminds us never to fall prey to the false notion that you’re not good enough to pursue something you’re passionate about. “I’m sure that if I had sent my resume to a Fortune 500 company, they’d have said, ‘This guy’s not qualified to be a Chief Communications Officer or a Chief Marketing Officer (etc.), because he didn’t graduate with an MBA,’” he muses. “But I’m a relationship guy, and that’s what’s gotten me where I am. My unique approach to relationships can be seen almost every day.”
The moral of the story here is: Being physically present as a representation of your brand and/or talent will help people remember how important that real connection is. Don’t get locked behind digital tools. When we rely on them alone, we lose the real art behind our work. Go out and make connections. And always remember the reason and passion that compels you to keep doing whatever it is that you do.