Rick Caballo of Dead Horse Branding: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand
August 1, 2020 by Fotis Georgiadis
Courtesy of Authority Magazine
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Rick Caballo, Art Director and Co-Founder of Dead Horse Branding. Equally at home on stage before thousands, or working up designs for a cutting-edge brand, Rick Caballo is nothing if not creative. Now based in Nashville TN, Rick was born and raised in Wollongong, near Sydney, Australia. This accomplished singer-songwriter, artist, photographer and designer has a rare combination of charisma and ingenuity that means he is constantly in demand.
Working with partner Melissa Core, Rick has established numerous successful enterprises. After launching their flagship company, rock-fashion label CORELLO, in 2012 the pair quickly attracted interest from several quarters. Rick’s CORELLO designs have been donned by Steven Tyler, Don Was, Miranda Lambert, Train, Hayden Panettiere and Ryan Roxie / Alice Cooper, among others. The line also featured in hit TV series Nashville and Duck Dynasty, plus LA Fashion Magazine, Country Weekly, People Magazine and InStyle. In 2015, the pair launched Dead Horse Branding. This 360-degree creative management company provides creative art and brand management, combining Rick’s across-the-board art and design direction with Melissa’s visionary approach to marketing and management. One of Dead Horse’s major projects is a coffee table book for legendary music producer (and keys player for Elvis) Tony Brown. Due for release in 2016, the book is entirely art-directed by Rick, from graphic design to photographing the 40+ featured celebrity portraits and working with Brown to document the history of modern country music.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? Asa kid, I always wanted to work in a visually creative field, I used to draw a lot. I left school at 16 and started my apprenticeship as a sign painter, as it was the only place I could be creative and get paid at the time, BC…Before Computers. The skills I learned there gave me the capacity to take on anything from mural art, screen printing, sign painting, graphic design, fabrication, sculpting to automotive painting , branding and marketing.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? I can’t say I have a funny story with marketing as everything is so strategically prepared before we go for it. But as a sign painter’s apprentice, I went out and painted a sign, only to get a call later that day to let me know I had spelled the word available wrong. Keep in mind, back in those days it was paint not digital printing. So, I drove back out to paint over the mistake and then corrected the spelling. The next day I got another call, “Hey man, you spelled the word available wrong again!!” That story is more embarrassing than funny.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story? Dead Horse Branding is a one stop shop in having all services from graphic / visual design, publicity, marketing to overall brand management all under one roof. If you are outsourcing several services to different companies for your company, there’s a good chance the end product of your brand will be disjointed and incohesive. We encompass all facets of branding. We aren’t just a PR and marketing company; everything is executed from a branding perspective. Most PR firms will take what you’ve given them and then run with it without any revision to entire business structure. We like to look at the overview of the brand and fix any cracks in the foundation, which will save a lot of time and hardship on the back end. Given our edgy approach to doing things, we’ve had several corporate companies that have acquired our services because they want to shake things up and be a little cooler than usual.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people? We just finished working with the Baha Men on their rebranding of a logo, website and social media. They are super talented and equally as fun to work with. 2020 sees their 20 year anniversary of the release of ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’. We are also in the works with a country music documentary and a TV show that we can’t talk about quite yet but are super excited about.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain? A BRAND is your identity. Who you are, what you stand for and what are selling? Marketing and advertising are the vehicles you use to sell your brand. Think of a brand as your home. You can decorate it how you like it, paint the walls a certain color and hang all your favorite pictures on the wall that represent you best. To finish it off, you place your number and house name on your mailbox for all to see. Marketing, advertising and sales are the real estate agent selling your house. You advertise your house on certain websites and magazines. You may also choose to plant an abundance of beautiful, rare plants in your front yard to entice people with green thumbs to seek out purchasing your home, for example. You need a brand to be able to market something. Marketing a product that has no foundational identity will be short lived as you will be a bland rival to your competitor.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts? These days websites are your storefront where you get to curate and showcase your brand. If people are Googling you and getting information from a multitude of places, they will make up their own minds on who you are rather than you driving the narrative for them. Just investing your efforts into socials like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook is not a smart move. What if these platforms fizzle out like Myspace did? It is so important to own and control your assets by building a website of your own sharing to socials from there and visa-versa. As for general advertising efforts, it truly depends on the business. Most of the time we’ve built a solid brand, PR and marketing strategy with a great social media roll out, so we don’t need to engage in advertising as the PR is enough to get the eyes on our clients. Anyone can pay for a billboard or a page in a magazine if they have the money. However, not everyone is worthy to have an editorial written about them in a magazine or TV spot. For that reason alone, PR shows more credibility than advertising to us. Let others talk about you, rather than you speaking about yourself.
Can you share 5 strategies/ methods that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand?
Who are you and what’s your story?
Who are you selling to?
After reassessing your brand’s core attributes, make sure your message aligns with your brand’s identity and audience. It’s great to be happy with what your brand is, but if your core demographic doesn’t connect with your message, then you won’t be able to capitalize from your audience.
Once you have gotten your brand’s identity and message down, now is the time to get your assets together to make sure your message is loud and clear across all platforms. This includes your mission statement, photography, website, social media aesthetic and voice, in the flavor of your brand.
Finally, get out there and be seen. Clever marketing and PR will help shape the story and bring eyes towards what you have spent all this time building.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that? APPLE, they say so much with so little. They are clean, sleek, sexy, high quality, cool and consistent with their brand messaging throughout the entire company. The less you have to explain yourself to the consumer the better. Each brand is different and requires their own aesthetic, so replicating the Apple format when you’re selling $2 fidget spinners is generally not going to work. Find out what your demographic is, as well as who your competitors are and check what they are doing, then fill in the blanks.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different? It’s hard to quantify both advertising and a brand build as they both have more of a trickle down effect in regards to sales. How do we know that the sales you received were purely based on your advertising spend? Versus, what if the brand build was so solid, it convinced people to buy your product? It’s more important to have a well branded brand and product than to have a great advertising campaign with a mediocre brand presence. Let’s say people finally go back to your site or product and it doesn’t represent what you have sold in your advertising. Consumers may not buy into it as they may not be confident that your product will last, get delivered on time, or the message is so scrambled that they do not believe in the integrity of your brand. When you spend dollars on advertising, you want 100% certainty that when they go to your brand it’s flawless.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts? It’s super important to be actively on it and redirecting people back to your website. Between all the traffic from various social media platforms and your own website, you can compile stats which help you adjust your message, as well as provide you a laser focused target audience to sell to.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout? Nothing burns you out more than working with clients and products that you’re not passionate about. Do what you love and love what you do, show that enthusiasm and the clients will come.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. We are so polarized as a nation and the list is too long to mention just one. But right now, I would love to see the day, sooner rather than later, where all our brothers and sisters of all different creeds and colors are treated as equals without question. In these hard times, the creatives of our world pull everything together through, art and music. They are the HE-ART!!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? “A river cuts through stone not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” Be patient, be focused and be consistent. You may have the skills, but relationships take a lot of time to build. It doesn’t matter how good you are as a marketer or designer, if you can’t consistently deliver on time, you’re no good to the client. Baby steps then big leaps!!
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? - Bono, not only is he an amazing performer and great songsmith, he constantly is fighting for a better world and speaking out for the less fortunate. I’m also a huge fan of U2’s graphic design and merchandise team, as well as their very creative stage production and music videos. Very cool!!!