Never Been Promoted Podcast

"Branding Beyond Logos": Virgilia Virjoghe on Transformative Branding Strategies

April 02, 2024 Thomas Helfrich Season 1 Episode 34
Never Been Promoted Podcast
"Branding Beyond Logos": Virgilia Virjoghe on Transformative Branding Strategies
Never Been Promoted
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Never Been Promoted Podcast with Thomas Helfrich

Virgilia Virjoghe, a global brand strategist and founder of VV Global Partners, shares her expertise on brand development and the evolving digital landscape in marketing. With a remarkable background in fashion and business consulting, Virgilia emphasizes the importance of understanding the brand's core values, customer persona, and the integral role of storytelling in connecting with consumers. Her insights into the dynamics of social media platforms and the necessity of investing in brand identity underscore the critical elements of successful brand strategy.

About Virgilia Virjoghe:

Virgilia's journey from Romanian television to the fashion capitals of the world, working with prestigious brands like Siemens, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana, has shaped her into a formidable force in brand strategy. Her approach integrates business models with brand identity, emphasizing the significance of consumer connection and experience. Virgilia's entrepreneurial spirit led her to establish VV Global Partners, where she leverages her extensive experience to help businesses and personal brands achieve their full potential.

In this episode, Thomas and Virgilia discuss:

The Essence of Branding: Beyond logos and colors, branding is about creating a meaningful connection with the consumer.
The Digital Transformation: How social media platforms have changed the landscape of brand visibility and customer engagement.
The Power of Storytelling: Crafting a narrative that resonates with the audience and builds long-lasting relationships.

Key Takeaways:

  • Authentic Connection: Building genuine relationships with customers is paramount. A brand's success is deeply rooted in its ability to engage authentically and deliver consistent value.
  • Navigating Digital Challenges: Understanding the mechanics of social media algorithms and the commercial aspects of platforms like Instagram is crucial for effective brand promotion.
  • Continuous Improvement: Branding is a dynamic process that requires ongoing refinement and adaptation to stay relevant and impactful.

"Branding is not just about the visual identity; it's about the soul of your business and how it resonates with your audience." — Virgilia Virjoghe


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Welcome to the Never Been Promoted podcast with Thomas Helfrich. Get ready for a thrilling adventure as we uncover entrepreneurial journeys and life changing business insights every week. And now, your host, Thomas.

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Welcome to another episode of  Never Been Promoted, where you're here to unleash your entrepreneur by learning from other entrepreneurs in their journey. Things they know, things they didn't know, and things they wish they would have done or not done. Today I'm joined, I believe, from Miami, Florida, is Virgilia Virjoghe.

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Wow, what a fantastic pronunciation.

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I did it. Thank you so much for joining. You're a global brand strategist. Your company is VV. That's like Victor Victor or Virgilia Virjoghe, global partners. And you're an Instagram influencer. I know you don't identify as such, but with 100,000 followers on Instagram, when I have, like, 54 and have been for a long time, I'm telling you, you're an influencer. So thank you so much for joining the show.

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It's such a pleasure, Thomas. And we had a fantastic conversation prior to that a couple of weeks ago, and it's art basel here in Miami, and it's a fantastic time, I think, for all of us to connect, to speak about what's happening here locally, in Miami, and obviously on a national level as well, because everything is interconnected and on a global scale. And that's why my name, global brand strategy, is my title, because I believe that humanity, professionally, personally, for each of us, will impact us. Everything that happens in Miami, in United States, and on a global scale impacts us all. So here we are. Thank you for having me.

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Of course. And I think I probably forgot to mention, just because you've done it, you're an author and author as well, best selling author as well. So we can talk about that. But once you set the stage, you know, set the table a little bit, tell me, you know, take a couple minutes to talk about you, your, you know, and your journey just to just give us your entrepreneurial background.

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So it's pretty interesting. First of all, I'm sure you understand, you see that I have an accent, so I'm rolling.

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Whoa, whoa, whoa. It sounds like Alabama to me. That's all I can place it at, is Alabama, maybe Mississippi.

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So I was Romanian born, and I moved to the United States from Germany at the time, in 2000, and a year ago, I moved to Miami. So I've been quite around, I think, a few big cities and beautiful countries. And I initially started in television in Romania. And once I moved here, I ended up very quickly in consulting with a beautiful consulting company from Germany, Siemens management consulting. Funny enough, I'm still close friends with my boss from that time, if you can imagine, because I do believe in building relationships. And shortly after that, I got recruited to work in fashion. I ended up with Norma Kamali, whom I adore to this day is one of my greatest inspirations. From there, Versace of five years. Then I ended up with Damon John from Shark Tank in his office. Amazing experience again. Then five more years with Dolce and Gabbana, one year in Silicon Valley, and here I am with Vivi Global partners. I believe the choice has been justified, based on my experience, to just take ownership and start my own agency, to utilize my experience and be able to be in charge. Now, of course, entrepreneurship comes with its own challenges, so we can talk about it later. But that's in, I would say, short explanation of my career trajectory so far, which I'm hoping will continue successfully.

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Well, I can't. I mean, typically the mindset to continue successfully is the first piece of that. And in your story, you know, with, you know, you've earned it the whole way, right? So you've moved here, you're from somewhere else, you're still, you know, you're. There's no excuses. I heard in that, that story. So talk to me about, you know, today, as an entrepreneur, what's your business? What do you do and how do you maybe help others?

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I started, I launched VV Global partners out of necessity. After having worked with so many global brands, but also local brands. I understood that the biggest misconception about branding is that it's very in the proximity of marketing. One of the mistakes that I notice a lot of companies large and smaller scale making is the fact that they invest a lot of money in marketing strategies, in ad campaigns, promoting themselves without fundamentalizing the brand itself. Brand is obviously way beyond the image. Your logo, the colors you are choosing, your brand voice, those are about 5% what truly make a brand extremely successful. So understanding your DNA, your storytelling, your core values, how you create the connection between consumers and your brand, your products and services. This is the huge part of the branding that most of the times is being disregarded. I often hear we don't have funding that we can allocate for branding, but we are going to put money towards advertising. A confused consumer never shops. You can have the most sophisticated ad agency putting together the most incredible ad campaigns. You can be on billboards around the world. If you did not specifically design a brand that connects with consumers from a to z, you are not going to be successful or it's some instant gratification that might come from a great ad, but where is the long term value? Just to give an example, Apple is one of my favorite companies ever. They did not sell products and services. They did television. Think different campaign. I invite each of you to watch it ten times and take notes. It's one of the most, I would say, important campaigns in the history of the world that I say. Why? Because Steve Jobs has not sold the product. Not even one word in that campaign says we are selling products or we are selling technology. He sold a vision. He said, this is for all the people who felt like they did not belong. Let's change the world together. That is the core of what branding truly is. We don't sell products and services. We sell a community building vision that once people fall in love with everything that we will subsequently sell, they will continue to purchase because we build that trust, because they understand they are part of our journey as a brand. They are not just financing our business, they are part of our journey. And that's very important to understand. And I know I took a long time to explain.

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No, I think it's important. There's a lot to unpack there. But I see this as well, as we work with hundreds of entrepreneurs, that so much time and effort, and I'm guilty of it as well. I focus so much on the color and the logo. What's it going to look like? Especially when I was first starting, I spent way too much time doing that and way less about what it is I was giving for value. Because once you focus on the value that you're providing, so entrepreneurs, listen up, right? So when you focus on the value of the niche that you're providing, the logos, the taglines and the colors present themselves to you, they become obvious, are more obvious of what you should be saying, how you should communicate it with the feel is which helps you drive a logo and a brand strategy. And those, like you said, are just 5% of it. It's everything else. It's the tonality, it's your vibe, it's your. How you dress, it's how you interact with people that become your brand and in particular, how you treat your customers before the sale, during the work, and even if they've exited your organization, could you dive into that? Because I think diving into the really the meat where the brand is formed is something that people just don't maybe get. The brand is done in the day to day, it's done in the execution, it's done in the aftermath. What is your take on that, first of all? And then what advice would you give for really getting the meat of it?

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Right, sure. And that's why I wanted to connect the dots here. So understanding that it was a need in the market for truly positioning the brands, I created this approach that is perhaps totally different than what most branding agencies are taking. We integrate the brand strategy with the business model. Why is this important? And that's why I wanted to dive in here. So before actually taking a client on the first conversation we have, I want to understand your business model, I want to understand your operational model. How is the business making money? How are the teams operating? Who is on the team? What specific skill set is each of the team members bringing into the equation? And once we identify that, the first element, because having worked with global brands, you always have to factor in that monetization and revenue are what actually bring the brands, help them to continue to grow and scale. So once I understand the business model, then we create a brand strategy that is in full alignment with the business model. And I'll explain a bit how we work. The very first step after this meeting where we understand fundamentally how the brand can continue to monetize, I created, after many years of experimenting, what I call a brand identity assessment. It's a 90 minutes, one on one, either with the founder of the brand or together with their teams, where we identify precisely the core elements, who they are, what they stand for, their core values, what the objective is, what the ideal customer Persona is. You would be surprised to find out, Thomas, how many people actually have been in business for quite some time and generated profit? Don't know what their ideal customer looks like. I always say we have to brand the customer first and this is part of your brand strategy. How old are they? Where do they live, what food do they eat, what clothes do they wear? All those elements will actually help you to create the relationship between your products and services and themselves. You have to know them in depth.

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Yeah, exactly. I don't mean to, but I want to make drill into that point just for a second. Because in our own systems of helping people, the first step and the most important, the keystone is the profile of one is understanding them. But not just understanding, like, oh, I think it's, you know, they live in the southeast United States, they're CEO's, they're males, they're 35 to 55, whatever. It's understanding that they're maybe caucasian males that own dogs, that don't like vodka, love rock music, hate rap, live on the north side of the street and have a mustache. You want to be able to visualize this kind of individual so well and understand why they think that way, because it drives everything after it. It drives what colors they want to see, what content they want to read, how they want to be interacted with, the understanding, the why and the details, even though you can't put it into a search list for, let's say, on LinkedIn or Google. But if you have that fundamental understanding, you know how to put a brand and a message and an offering in front of them that should resonate at a higher level than your competition. So I couldn't agree more with your statement, but please continue your journey through branding.

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Sure. Thank you for actually kind of connecting the dots here. Now, when I think of the ideal customer Persona, it goes way beyond demographics and psychographics, and most clients actually stop there. We have to understand if they wear Chanel versus Dior or versus H and M or Zara. Why?

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Or Walmart. Don't forget Walmart and Target, two great brands.

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And actually, Costco started lately to make lots of clothes and who.

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I'll tell you what, I walk into Costco sometimes I just want to buy all those sweatpants because I'm. It's that time of year where sweatpants feel better, especially up, you know, not in Miami. It's never cool, actually. But Costco does a good job of me, making me feel like I could be more comfortable.

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Yeah, but these are just examples, right? You have to understand the soul of your customer and the choices. We also have to understand that digitalization has completely transformed the way we interact with consumers, the way we shop. Right now, if something, one little detail upset me about one brand, I'm going to very quickly move with a click of a button on my screen. I'm going to move to other brands who actually did a better job at advertising or promoting their products. I want to give an example, and I want to give a shout out here to Norma Kamali's team. We are talking the most incredible customer service from a to z. If you would see, Thomas, how the product is being sent to us, you would be mesmerized. I will actually have to create specifically a reel around it for Instagram. First of all, the shipping is very quick with Norma Kamali. The product is fantastic quality. Some of them I had since I worked with her, they are in impeccable condition. The quality of the product, the beauty of the product, the versatility of it. Actually, last night and all throughout Basel, I wore Norma Kamali. Thank you for that. The shipping, everything gets shipped in garment bags that are made of recyclable materials with a big logo on it. Beautiful product. Everything is actually put in a beautiful box. Everything has the tissue paper around it to ensure that it arrives in impeccable condition. That to me is branding. I will wear Norma Kamali until the day I die because from a to z, the experience is impeccable. On the other hand, talking about branding, because this is important, I adore skims. Shout out to Kim Kardashian, the quality is impeccable, but the shipping. My packages always arrive in a dirty bag, in a reusable bag that is actually all wrinkled and doesn't look good. And some clients say, is this a return? It's not. The quality is indeed as Kim says it is, but the shipping needs to be addressed. I'm sure nobody has told her that, but those are two elements that actually create that fundamental relationship between brands and consumers. Why would I choose consistently that brand that gives me the experience from a to z? Because they make me feel like I'm important. I do matter. Even the shipping, not only me getting into my wallet and me paying for the product, but even when I open the package. So those are two examples. And again, it has nothing to do with the quality. Both brands do a great job in terms of quality, but the consumer experience is different.

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Absolutely. So. And what you don't ever want to feel, and the underlying thing of that is, you know, I'm buying into your brand of whatever it is. Don't you go be cheap in the process of getting it to me or producing it or in your customer service after it. You know, I'm buying an experience and I'm buying experience. I want to wear it because it looks great and I wouldn't be able to talk about it. And I don't want any negatives in that experience, end to end. So in particular, when it shows up, I don't need it showing up. Look like someone like threw it out the window and said, hey, here's your package. Have it presented with some aura and angel singing, right?

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Absolutely. And talking about other brands. Zara, fantastic shipping. It comes beautifully wrapped in tissue paper with a nice round silver sticker on it. The experience, again, it's great. And we are talking about not the most expensive brands out there specifically. I kind of gave examples of different tiers because this is where we understand consumer experience. Whether I buy a candle, whether I buy a perfume or $100,000 worth of clothes, the experience should be the same. Thomas. I wanted to highlight something here because instead of giving people direction about brands, I love storytelling because I feel like listeners connect easier with the understanding of how to build relationships versus me just giving them guidelines. I worked at Versace for five years, which today is one of my favorite brands ever, because I believe Donatella is a fantastic businesswoman. I met her several times. She doesn't get enough credit for keeping the brand not only alive, but also thriving. The lesson I learned, it impacted my career, and it will continue to do so for the rest of my life. We launched a watch collection and shout out to my team at Versace, who I'm still friends with. It was actually made of ceramic with diamonds. I still own one piece, and I was so passionate about selling that at the time. I started as a salesperson, and there's no shame in that. We all have to start somewhere when entering a new industry. And I was so particular about selling the hell out of that watch because I was promised that if I sell a particular and I reach my goal, I'm gonna get a free watch, which I ended up getting. And I was showing that watch to everyone who came through the door, and this kid comes holding his girlfriend's hand. And I spent an average of 30 minutes showing him the watch. And I remember my manager at the time, he said, you spent 30 minutes with a kid? Have you lost your minds? You could have sold something in the meantime. I believe it was about four or five days later, this woman enters the store and asks, who's Virgilia? And I say, oh, it's me. I was very young at the time. Always energetic and bubbly, just like I always am. And she said, I wanted to thank you for spending time with my son. He couldn't stop talking about that watch. He's graduating. I'm going to get a watch for him and for his father as well. I don't want them to get upset. That moment was probably like a $15,000 sell, which at the time, and probably it still is a very good commission. That was the lesson that I will keep dear in my heart forever. I did spend 30 minutes with that kid, and I was being teased by my boss at the time, but that ended up not only being a $15,000 sale and a good commission, but also fundamentalizing my understanding how we should treat people. We should never judge. We should never think that this is a waste of time. Give your best. Thomas 24 7365. That's what branding is all about. You are your own brand. Branding excellence, just like my favorite guy, Michael Jordan. You don't give excellence by choice. You give it every moment of your life because you never know how this is going to change.

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Yeah, no doubt. One of my favorite books is atomic habits, and they talk about the process of little incremental things. And excellence is found in execution and it's found in having a purpose that's more than just serving yourself, being more altruistic. So the takeaway to entrepreneurs, I tell you, is excellence doesn't show up at your door one day and say, hey, you're great, and you don't know how it got there. It's something that you're striving to do as a core tenant to whatever you're delivering in your life. And the story of talking to a child or whatever else. Uh, it's authentic too. Because when, when you literally give someone attention, this, this plays out on social media today. So if you give someone attention that's authentic, and it doesn't matter if, you know, it's a child or it's an adult or whatever it is, but if you're truly engaged with somebody, that experience transcends almost virally. So that kid had a great experiences with you, and it happened to be where, who knows if he had had that with, let's say, I don't know, in the PlayStation store or something at the time. Who knows what it was, the mom or who the other person would have said, hey, I'm going to get him a PlayStation. He loved that person. Who's the point being is you influenced that person and the people around him to do something and do something that he associated with a really good experience with you, which was the watch. And I think that's the kind of idea of how brand works, is if you give good people good experiences, even if they're not the ones buying it, the people around them will be like, oh, I really want to go do that. So and so had such a great interaction with that person. He's not buying anything anytime soon, but I am, and I heard about that experience. That exact metaphor is an absolute beautiful illustration, if you will, of how to, how to be.

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We must, I believe our life gets better if we are giving our all. I want to be proud of myself, Thomas, every moment of my life. I don't want to for a moment, sit down and say, I could have done better. Of course, we should always hold ourselves accountable and responsible. We can always do better. But in the moment, in the spare of the moment, give your best, even if you made a mistake and just acknowledge it. But you gave your best at that very moment, and that's important now along.

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Your journey a little bit. I always ask this question in various different forms, but maybe what is one thing you wish you would have known when you were younger, now that you're an entrepreneur and you're having success, like what would you, would you go back and tell yourself?

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I would say networking and building relationships is the most important thing in entrepreneurship. What do I mean by that? The way you present yourself in front of your audiences will determine the type of networking you will engage with. I would say some of the greatest relationships that I build in my lifetime, personally and professionally, came from designing my social media content a specific way. Facebook started, I believe, when I was with Versace around that time 2000, maybe four, five. I'm not sure. I don't want to make a mistake here, but that was the moment when I realized I have to have the best profile picture. I have to be mindful about what type of content I put out there. I did that very well. However, what I did not know is the networking has to be, from a to z, managed differently. You don't just build the connection, you know how to maintain it and leverage it. What I wish I would have known and I would tell my younger self, leverage those connections to the maximum. Don't just be nice and follow up and say hello. Ask. We often are so ashamed to ask. We think, I don't want to ask this person for a favor. I don't want them to think I'm taking advantage. There is of no such a thing. Each of us need help at some point in our lives, so we should not be afraid to ask. So if I could give an advice to myself, I would say, all that networking that you've been doing, you did not finish it. You started, you did the ABC. But the Z has not been executed, meaning asking and fundamentalizing that.

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Yeah, well, the network is. Your net worth is what's often used as a statement. I don't think it's quite fully true, but how you leverage a network and bigger is not always better. So think about this. If you're very intimate and tight with the top 100 most influential leaders in the world, and that was your whole network, you got a lot of reach. If you're, your network's a million unemployed people who barely can afford the phone they're on, you have a good reach, but you might not be selling them anything. You might be able to get a movement. But the point being smaller sometimes is better. I think the funniest not funniest. One of the. Jesus had, what, twelve followers or something? The point being is it depends on.

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How you influence humanity.

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And then I think the other side was Hitler had millions. So, like, the idea was like, which one do you want to be? So there's, like, horribly charged jokes and metaphors in that. But the point being is a relevant network that you're engaged with has influence. And knowing that early and doing it for the purposes of truly building a community or a network or a movement is the idea not just to collect followers and names and numbers would be it during your journey. What's been one regret?

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There is a song by Edith Piaf, a song I used to perform. That's music is also my passion. It's called Jeune Regret. I don't have any regrets in life, personally and professionally. I don't believe in having regrets because I always leave for today. I believe every moment you waste looking into the past, it's a waste. I don't believe the only regret I would have is the people I lost along the way, the people I loved and lost. That's something we should have regrets for, because that's something we have no control over. Everything else we have control over to fix, to make better. I don't believe in regrets, professionally or personally. I don't. Except, again, Louisiana people I loved.

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I think that's a great point because it's also looking at the word failure. So failure is not something that exists. It's a lesson to learn. Even if you intentionally blew something, like, blew it out, like, you're like, I intentionally made that not happen. That's not a failure. There's a lesson to be learned of why. And I think having no regrets, I think it's a really positive way to look at kind of life, entrepreneurship. So I agree with that. In kind of where we are in the show, I always let you do it. So listen, who's your ideal customer? How do they get ahold of you? Why should they get ahold of you? And when they do, what do you want them to do?

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So my ideal customer, if I could choose whom I would want to work with out of everyone, Elon Musk first. I believe in his vision. I would just love to work a little bit on the presentation. I believe he's been misunderstood. When you are highly intelligent at the level he is, your mind operates very quickly, and you just spit ideas. And people are not as quick to understand you. These people who are super intelligent, and I worked with many instrumental people and entrepreneurs in my life, their mind is going so fast. So by the time they say something, the audiences don't misunderstand that, and it creates a hallow effect. And then the brand sometimes doesn't get, whether it's a personal or corporate brand, doesn't get the accolades that he deserves. So Elon Musk would be an ideal client. I know this sounds very controversial, but I'm a big supporter of Andrew Tate. I believe he is very intelligent. Yes. He says certain things that sometimes with great humor, people, again, don't get it. Those two people I would love to work with because I feel there's so much to inspire there. There's so much core value that could change and impact the world. And it's being, I believe, translated inappropriately, because, again, how intelligent these people are. And I don't want audiences to come after me. I'm not comparing Elan to anybody else. I'm just saying from the perspective of the approach, there are two different individuals, two different directions in terms of brands. Now, who are the brands that I would love to work with? Skims. Kim Kardashian. I'm actually. I like Kim. I know people might not like to hear that I like her. I believe she's a tremendous businesswoman, and I love the trajectory she had. I love the fact that she took herself from a to, from she was to where she is today, making changes, implementing, adjusting, allowing herself to become better in the process. So those are the few personal brands who are well known that I would love to work with now. Every personal brand who feels they have value and they have been misunderstood, they don't know how to project themselves out there. If they have the ability, if they have the nerve to work with me, because I'm pretty hardcore. I'm nice, but I'm tough. Every personal brand wants to become the Michael Jordan's of their field, the Kim Kardashians of their field, the Elon Musk's of their field, I would love to work with them. In terms of brands, I would say every company, whether in the inception phase or already successful, that understands that digitalization, artificial intelligence, will completely reshape the way we interact with consumers, the way we create our content strategy more and more every day. Those are the brands that can work with me. I'm a futurist. I don't like yesterday when I see that people are still stuck in what, how we did things this way yesterday. It doesn't matter. Today is a different game. And there is an entrepreneur I met this week who completely impressed me. Tim Draper. This is an entrepreneur I would love to work with. He was so kind all through the presentation during art Basel and also interacting with me. We ended up taking pictures together. He's a highly successful, self made billionaire with his own university, investing in tremendous brands in Silicon Valley, also with his own tv show, and his kindness, empathy, and even more importantly, understanding how to manage situations that are not perfect. I would say one of the entrepreneurs that to date, impressed me the most. So I would love to work with him and his teams as well. So those are a few people. But again, it's not about celebrity status. It's about the way I project them. And I interacted with that. That truly kind of put fire in my heart, and I would love to continue to.

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So would you work with the. I'm gonna call it the average Joe, but someone who is an up and coming, inspired person who really understands the value of this, but just needs the coaching and guidance.

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Absolutely. That's why I believe I mentioned, I say every entrepreneur that has the capacity to understand that this is tough work, building your brand. I'm happy to take those people to the next level because it's very easy to build a legend if the legend is willing to put in the work and is willing to listen. A lot of clients have a big ego. It's a big issue. You can't do my job better than I do, just like I cannot do your job better than you do. Putting the ego aside is the easiest way to work with me and help you to turn you into a superstar. And that's the biggest challenge. Listening. So this is for every entrepreneur who wants to become a legend. And a legend. By that, I don't mean you have to be, when I say the Michael Jordan of your field, meaning embody that type of excellence in your industry. And I have to share with you, Thomas, lately, since I moved to Miami, I started to work with clients who are in real estate development in the finance world. And it's incredible what you can do. It's not that these are boring industries. If you have the willingness to work with these people, you realize that every so called boring industry could be transformed into a wow factor industry if we put in and if we design a brand and content strategy that we know how to entice audiences with.

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Yeah, well, no doubt. And I think it's. I just wanted people to hear that, that you, it's the mindset. So those people you'd love to work on because you already know they have the mindset. And that's what I was trying to get to is if you're up and coming and you think you have that mindset of, hey, you know, tear me down to build me up again, you know, like, awesome, because that's what it's going to take, is typically if you're not there, you're missing something. You might be missing talent, you might be missing a strategy, you might be missing lots of components, but they're so far and so high, you're going to be able to go, and without a really good, solid brand to kind of help you guide that into trajectory, that you'll be missing yet another core element. So unraveling kind of who you are is key to rebuilding yourself in some kind of facet.

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I wanted to add something here, Thomas, that is of high importance. Yes, I'm creative. As a brand strategist, you have to have a high degree of creativity and artistry. But at the end of the day, I run a business. We have to monetize, we have to generate revenue. We have to generate profit. A lot of brands come to me and they say, oh, we don't have the budget, or can we just, can you give us a discount? And you know what? I tell these people, branding is one of the core elements that helps you to monetize. Without tremendous branding, you will just generate instant revenue, some quick return on investment. But if you are in it for the long run, branding is a 24 7365 job. You cannot take a break from excellence. You cannot take a brand break from branding. When I started Vivi Global partners, everything I needed, whether I needed great videography, I ran my credit card every day. Was it comfortable? It wasn't. But I understood that if I aim to be successful, if I do want to work with successful brands, I have to put myself in a position where my website looks a certain way, my videos, my podcasts, otherwise, why would people want to buy my products or services? So if I hear that one more time that you don't have budget when you lend it yourself, you placed yourself in a world where you want to be successful. No excuses. You can't compromise on your integrity or on your professional integrity. And this is a mistake. I see very frequently you find the budget for what matters. And if you can't find a budget for what matters, what's your objective, career wise, or with your corporations, or with your personal brand? So that's something that I wanted to say. And briefly, the way I would say on Instagram, don't be cheap when it comes to your brand. Because cheap, as Karl Lagerfeld, one of my favorite designers, said, it himself. If you're cheap, nothing helps.

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There's difference between cheap and inexpensive too. So you can be cost conscious, high value in what you do and pay for higher premium services cost more. I gotta agree. So you have a business. But here's the saying that I know is true. The guy who pays the least usually pays twice. So if you don't spend the money that get the professional, and you're just trying to half ass it, you're gonna pay for the other half later and maybe even more if you multiply a bad brand. Let's get in the weeds a little bit. So your influence is primarily, it's on social media, but you have a high influence on Instagram. We were talking about this when we had first met. Can you talk about the landscape of meta and Instagram? What's changed and why it's so damn hard to grow on Instagram right now?

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So when we think about it, when Facebook initially started, it started initially to build a community. I believe in my heart 100% mark did not realize that it's going to be that powerful. It just literally took the world by surprise. Now, Facebook was the very first platform that sort of brought people together in a way that we have not understood this type of interaction before. Instagram initially was created, and Instagram was a free platform until recently. When the verification badge has been added and generated, I believe 600 million in just a couple of days.

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It was, you know what, I did the verification thing after we talked, and she hasn't moved the numbers, but it's cool.

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But this is why Instagram is so difficult to grow. Think about it, in the inception phase of Instagram, the people who understood the value very quickly got on the platform and leveraged it, and now they have millions of followers. Now, the more people, I believe there are 2 billion Instagram posts a day or something of this caliber. I mean, when we have that quantity, imagine how difficult it is to get in front of audiences. Everyone is trying to get in number one platforms have to control who's getting influencers, because if you continue to help people to get followers for free, you are in the business of monetizing. Instagram is in the business of making money. So algorithms will consistently change in a way to encourage people to run paid ads. That's how they survive at the end of the day. Because initially we did not pay for Instagram anything. Right now you pay, I don't know how much it is like $1112 a month to maintain your verification status. But do you see how if you have people to grow organically. If the algorithm doesn't keep track of who's, of getting in front of audiences, then everybody would be a multi influencer. And Instagram is in the business of making money. So they started to control through algorithms. Who's getting the exposure? Who doesn't? Now, I would say about a few months ago, I spoke at Moishe Mana's event during your fashion week about recession, social media recession. If we look obviously collectively, even for high profile influencers who have hundreds of millions of followers, the number of likes and interaction declined. Why? Because the algorithm has been redesigned specifically to control that. So we have to be mindful of the fact that, of course, they have to create strategies in place based on their business model. They have to monetize, they have to inspire people and kind of give people the hint that, hey, if you want to get followers these days, you have to put money towards creating the ad campaigns. We will help you. And even if you pay, if you don't put at least $1,000 a day, in my view, how many people are you going to attract to your ad campaigns? So we have to be very mindful and understand that nothing is free in this world, especially these conglomerates. They control the narrative. Also, if they don't like you, they might ban you. They might take your information away. You have to be also mindful about all these elements. Freedom of speech no longer exists. And we know that, Elon said in a recent interview, $44 billion was not the cost to acquire Twitter. It was the cost to bring freedom of speech back.

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And even as 44 billion, to be clear on that, there was a beat. And then he told everyone to go f themselves, who didn't sponsor, which I have a short coming out about that. I'm having an interaction with Elon Musk as he's telling me to go f myself. It's coming right?

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So people have to understand that these platforms are not free. They are there to either sometimes take your information. Most of the times, all the time to take your information, control the narrative, understand their. Thomas, since this is not being. Is being recorded, right?

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I hope so.

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It's not live?

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No, no, it's definitely not live.

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Could you ask me again? I want to phrase it better. Could you ask me again this question that you asked me? I want to phrase it. I was a little bit scattered.

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Yeah, that's fine.

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Why is it so difficult to.

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Oh, yeah. So let's pivot. Let me note the time, too, in the show notes. Give me a second real quick. If you don't mind?

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Yes, because I would like for your team not to have to edit. I was just a little bit going around. I want to.

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That's okay. Let me, let me just make sure I know the time on it. Where are we?

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About 1054.

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Oh, it's 45 minutes into it. Okay, hold on. That's what I'm saying. So let's talk about Instagram a bit. This, you have a huge following on Instagram, you know, 100,000 plus people. And, you know, I want to know why it's become more difficult to get followers on Instagram, grow a business there, and maybe just meta in general. What's your take on Instagram today versus yesterday? And where do you think it's going to go?

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So meta and Instagram, part of it. This conglomerates, these media conglomerates are in the business of making money. At the end of the day, if they would support every person to grow tremendously freely without monetizing that, they will never be able to survive and thrive. So what Instagram is doing, along with other social media platforms, they are consistently creating new algorithms to kind of control not only the narrative, but also control how many followers we have and why now, of course, how they monetize, by sending the message out there that you can no longer easily grow on social media, on Instagram. But if you pay and if you create those ad campaigns, we are going to help you to grow. So it's a money making machine, fundamentally, that's at the core of every business. That is at the level of Instagram. The verification method generated, I believe, $600 million just in a few days. This is a money making machine. It's a system on a global scale that learned that by putting pressure on every person to invest in themselves and in their brand to grow, not no longer organically, that's how the company is making money. And we have to understand that these are all businessmen that run this conglomerate. So they are not just in the business of entertaining people. Now, of course, to a certain extent, we do have access to our audiences, but in order for us to become truly influential, we have to invest in ourselves, in ad campaigns, in paid promotion for social media. And again, because this is a business for your entertainment as well.

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What I was saying is, I'll extend this and maybe push a little deeper on this piece. Even I think, though ads have gotten, they're not as viral, they don't go as far, they're not in front as many people, and there's a lot of competition for content. But, and I'll give you an example, we'll run similar content on TikTok, Instagram shorts, and it will perform completely different on organic, and it'll completely, and they will all three be completely different. If we buy ads, equal ads, different things, similar, you know, right formats, all that, it's, it's incredible to watch. But I think on Instagram specifically, even, I think even the ads are not. You're spending a lot more money to get a lot less. So what is your take on maybe even the paid side of the house of that?

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I would say the number one element is also the quality of the ads. A lot of ads are terrible. Most of them are terrible. So even if you get. Think about it, the conversion rate is low. Even if I saw this ad, but if it did not resonate with me, if it was not executed, whether it's a video adjustment, which most of brands are doing right now, video ads are terrible because people don't understand on camera presence right there, there's a huge amount of money that goes towards an ad campaign or promotional strategies, having people in front of the mic who are not capable to understand consumer interaction, how to speak, what to say, how to dress, how to present themselves. So right there, you have 1 second to make an impression. Thomas, it doesn't matter that that ad has, you know, we had a professional videographer. It doesn't matter. People buy into your ability to connect with them, your wow factor. So, number one, one of the reasons the ads are not performing well in terms of conversion rate is because they are not executed the right way. Number two, they're not performing well. We ran ads for clients that actually were beautiful, and we noticed the interaction was very low. This is what algorithm, actually, this is the power of algorithm to control, because they want us to pour more and more money into it. Number three, it takes, according to McKinsey and call insights, it takes. And actually not just them. I would say from the inception of marketing, it takes an average of seven times for a person to see an ad, to click on it and actually have the desire to at least interact with it and buy. Think about that. Seven times. Now, when we talk about 2 billion posts daily on Instagram, the chances for your ad to be seen are pretty minimal because of how the algorithm is controlling who views the ad. But secondly, if all these people see hundreds of ads a day, what makes them buy your ad? Just to be quite frank, the product that I'm buying, I'm buying a lot from YouTube ads and from Instagram myself. I don't buy the first time I see an adjustment. The more I see it, the more inclined I am to buy it. However, there is one product that I bought instantaneously, which is athletic greens. You know why? Because who endorses athletic greens? That's a very important thing and I hope your audiences will take this away. Professor doctor Andrew Huberman from Stanford University. They are sponsoring his podcast. He has 4 million views. He is one of the most well respected authority in the field. I got acquainted with him because he was on Joe Rogan podcast a few times and their conversations are legendary. Joe Rogan spoke about athletic greens and he speaks about it highly. Do you see what I'm doing here? It's the person who speaks about your product that will sell your product faster than your ad can do. If two super influential people are talking about your product, the moment I see the ad, I buy right away. I don't even need to see that ad two times. Does it make sense?

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It does. No, I mean, I get it. There's some certain things sometimes I may have. I feel like I'm seeing the ad full a few times, but I'm in such need of whatever it is. Facebook's so good at doing this. I'm pretty sure I've seen this eight times and just didn't realize it. I know what you mean with that now. Hey, a conscious of time here. I really appreciate it. I think you get incredible advice. I'm going to do a couple of hot seat questions for you. And these, we use these, you know, we jokingly say, to get sponsors in the future, but I think some of the advice of the technology and things you use to help your, your business run better are important. And the one I always ask people is, what do you use? What's your favorite, like, calendar scheduling technology.

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You mean for posting content or.

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Well, for this case, I mean for like scheduling guests. Just coordinating your calendar, your actual like, interactions with people. So like we use calendly is ours. Who do you guys like to use?

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Oh, okay, I misunderstood. I thought you meant for social media.

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I'll ask you that question next because I do want to hear who you use for that for sure.

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So calendly I use mostly. My assistant is taking care of all my assignments. I don't know much exactly what she's using, but calendly, typically I have it in my email signature, which is important because I don't want to have to tell people, oh, this is a link to my calendly in my email signature. I have everything there from my Instagram LinkedIn to YouTube channel and calendly link. So I would say that for scheduling is typically the most used. I'm not sure exactly what my assistant, what else she's leveraging, but that for sure. So in terms of interaction, I've been using Zoom communications and Google Meets as well. But other than that, the technical aspect of it is mostly managed by my team. What use for social media? Again, that's not. I only consult. I delegate to my teams everything related to social media posts, I post my own. But for every client they handle it so that I would not want to get into details because it's not my area of expertise.

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No, I tell you. What's your favorite business book?

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My favorite what?

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Business book. What is an entrepreneur? What's their must read?

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A few I have here. You put me on the spot. I didn't know you asked me this question. Ray Dalio principles. This save mate. Self made. Look at that. This safe met. Oh my God. Thomas, you cut that off. So one of my favorite books ever is principal by Ray Dalio. Everybody should read that. He's a self made billionaire in finance. The branding of the book itself, I mean, it's gorgeously designed to begin with, which is quite interesting. I gifted this book to lots of people driven from within. Michael Jordan. If you want to understand what it entails building one of the greatest personal brands in the world, please refer to him. He is the most controlling and perfectionist person ever. Tuos of the Titans, Tim Ferriss again, incredible. I have an average of, I think, 3000 books in Romania, a few hundred books left in New York City. Here in my office as well. I read a lot. Invisible by Norma Kamali is a story of life and survival and branding yourself to perfection I could give you. Oh, and my life would not be complete without the art of seduction. I actually just created a reel about it. I cannot say enough great things about Robert Greene. The art of seduction is basically at the core of what branding is. When we think about it, the greatest brands in the world that sustain the test of time. Let's think about Cleopatra, Marilyn Monroe, all these people, they created a brand, a legendary brand, because they seduced us. Seduction is the number one game. That's basically at the core of what the relationship between brands and consumers basically is. We seduce consumers, they fall in love with our, with us, and then we get to our heart, we get to their hearts, to their minds and then to their wallets. So the art of seduction is definitely a great book to inspire personal brands and corporate brands to understand how to build that relationship professionally and personally, with consumers, friends and so on.

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Great suggestions, by the way. Thank you so much for the time today. I look forward to our future conversations. So much to learn. And if anyone's out there, obviously really is serious about branding at a whole different game level. Not just logos and colors, but really an experience that is transcending and seductive, if you will. You definitely have to to get in touch with Virgilia. What is the best way though for the audience to get in touch with you?

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Some very, I would say, much in control of social media on Instagram. I'm Virgilia Verzhoge. On LinkedIn, I'm under Virgilia Virjoghe. I am very active on a daily basis. Also one of my assistants, she's actually always overseeing all my DM's. So if somebody has interest, obviously they can reach out. I have my website, vivi Global Partners. I'm on Twitter as well, but not as much. The only reason I will start utilizing Twitter is because I just love Elon Musk and what he stands for. But I would say LinkedIn, Instagram are the easiest way to get in touch with me.

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Awesome. Thank you so much and everybody listening today. Thank you for listening to another episode of Never Been Promoted where we're here to unleash your entrepreneur through learning and experiencing the journeys of other entrepreneurs. Virgilia, thank you so much for, for coming on today.

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Thank you so much, Thomas, for having me. This was a pleasure.

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Thank you. Until next time, go unleash your entrepreneur.

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Thanks for listening to  Never Been Promoted with Thomas Helfrich. Make sure to check the show notes for our guest contact information and any relevant links. Connect with Thomas personally at

Introduction and Guest Background
Branding and Customer Experience
Personal Branding and Networking
Social Media and Branding Strategy
Ideal Clients and Business Monetization
Future of Social Media and Brand Growth
Entrepreneurial Advice and Tools
Branding Case Studies and Personal Insights
Vision for Branding and Entrepreneurship
Conclusion and Contact Information