Voyager LA: Meet Melissa Core Caballo of Dead Horse Branding
Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Core Caballo.
Hi Melissa, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I started out building a fashion brand called Corello Rock Fashion. The co-founder of the fashion label, Rick Caballo, is an incredible designer, artist, and overall creative innovator, and the brand was based around his skill set, his design, and his vibe. I was influenced a little bit by the bohemian aspect, which is where the boho and rock intersections met.
The brand took off quite quickly, launching over 100 wholesale and e-commerce stores in under 18 months. Fans would comment on the brand itself, from photography, PR, product development, social media, and graphic design. People would ask us who was doing all these different facets and our response was always the same: we are.
However, we had also hired a PR firm at the time to give us a little lift: PLA Media with Pam Lewis and Mark Logsdon. Mark thought it would be great to pair Jep and Jessica Robertson from Duck Dynasty with Corello for No-Shave November and have them turn a little rock ‘n’ roll for that month. We sparked at the idea and caused a nice racket on the scene.
From that, Jep and Jessica were interested in having us create a label, as it was always a big dream for them. They are awesome people, so we were excited to take their brand to another level! With a combination of all of that, people started coming to us, wanting their brands designed, built, promoted, and strategized. Thus, Dead Horse Branding was born. One thing we realized during the fashion-building process was there were many missing components to agencies that aimed at helping startup brands launch properly.
As I started looking into it further and expanding this research through the music business, I noticed the same thing. We developed the concept that Dead Horse would be a design, consulting, strategic planning, image-building, marketing, and publicity firm all in-house. You have one brand manager to one brand and a flawless and smooth strategy-building concept.
Allocated services are still optional but we are in the business of advising you what steps and stages need to be attacked first, rather than just implementing a stage because the customer feels they need it. We have been named one of the top marketing and publicity firms in Nashville and we are super excited to be able to claim that. We are even more excited to know that our system and methods work.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
One of the hardest times for me was trying to find the right team members that understood our methods, the Australian mentality in the way we work (which is just a little more laid-back, relaxed, straight to the point, very direct), and people that understood all aspects of branding. A great press piece is only a great press piece if the brand is flawless and it does its job. If the brand has cracks and it’s on an unsteady foundation, all the promotion in the world won’t make it successful.
I went through a point where I just took on everything myself because I wasn’t very successful at finding the right candidate. We had about 10 clients and I just bunkered down 15 hours a day and worked all of them for a good 6 months straight. I proved to myself and the clients that the concept worked and we were making strides, but I was just exhausted. It was just Rick and myself perfecting all of the design and visual branding components, but that didn’t cross over onto my management, brand management, PR, and marketing social media side. I was completely exhausted, but the fact that I knew my contacts were working kept pushing me to find the right people and gave me the energy and strength to keep moving forward.
I eventually found my people and the word branding became more and more used in everyday language. I saw it come on TV and in movies, and people were using it a lot more and referring to it a lot more. This helped open up the branding space. I am also a little hardheaded and I don’t like to give up unless I want to give up. I don’t like outside forces making me make a decision that I don’t want to. Some days it was do-or-die.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
I think what makes Dead Horse Branding stand out is that we are an all-in-house branding agency. What that means, in a nutshell, is, we do all 7 primary key formulas of branding under one roof within one team. It is very unique to be able to have a versatile set of staff that can multitask and wear several different hats, spreading across various industries on a day-to-day basis.
Not only do we design and build the product or person, but we also promote, sell and market it fearlessly. Our uniqueness also spans multiple industries. We have a huge footprint in the music business, talent building, and management. We also have quite large accolades in fashion, food, authors, and interior design.
Years of honing our business model with our clients have led us to develop the DH7 branding module for a global education system. Dead Horse Brandings brand-building technique is now being implemented into the education system in the USA and Australia. We have partnered with the Joel Katz Music Business Program at Kennesaw State University, Georgia. Named Billboard's TOP 5 Music Business and Entertainment Programs in the USA.
The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and are any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Yes, absolutely. When you think you have dug deep enough, keep digging. You have the strength and power to do so if you want to. These last two years have been quite insane for everyone and myself in particular. I have never worked this hard, under such strenuous circumstances, whilst welcoming my first baby and being spread across two countries.
Dead Horse Branding is based in Australia and the USA and we got stuck in Australia and away from our main base. Being in an upside-down time zone but still running our American base meant 3 am starts and lots of coffee. The challenges of keeping the company on track, admitting a random pandemic, trying to navigate first-time motherhood, having an employee steal our clients and intellectual property and breach her non-competition all in 3 months of each other. The lesson: dig, fight, and train your mind like a karate kid, train your body and climb over that hill. Or as Nike says, “Just Do It”.
Dead Horse Branding