The MindValley podcast is a industry staple for entrepreneurs, innovators, and business-savvy individuals looking to shake up antiquated industries. Serial entrepreneur Miki Agrawal recently stopped by the MindValley podcast to speak with host Vishen Lakhiani, and to share tips for building a successful brand from scratch. Miki Agrawal is the best-selling author of “Do Cool Sh*t” and “Disrupt-her”, both books focused on leveraging creativity to explore untapped business arenas. In addition, Miki Agrawal is the founder and CEO of various successful companies, including Wild, Thinx, and Tushy. Below, read all about Agrawal’s conversation with Lakhiani:
Vishen Lakhiani: Hi, I’m Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley, the school for human transformation. You’re listening to the Mindvalley Podcast, where we’ll be bringing you the greatest teachers and thought leaders on the planet, to discuss the world’s most powerful ideas in personal growth of the mind, body, spirit, and work.
Okay. So, let’s get into this. How do you creatively introduce a disruptive concept to market? How do we do that? How do you shift culture? How do you take a company or an idea from nothing and build it to $150 million having raised only 1.5 million? How do you do it profitably in this market where the Facebook algorithm is messed up? How do you do that?
Miki Agrawal Peels Back The Curtains
Miki Agrawal: I’m going to open up, sort of pull back the curtain on how to do that. I think oftentimes in conferences, people talk in sort of like high-level platitudes. I think, for me, what I gained the most is when I really get into the weeds of, “How did you do it, what ad worked, what worked, what were images that worked?” I’m just going to get into that really quickly, so we can explain and share with you what worked for us.
Artful and fridge-worthy. My team, I’m always challenging my teams for all of my brands to come up with designs and creative that are artful and fridge-worthy. What I mean by fridge-worthy is, you know when you walk home into your house, you open your door after a long day, right, you get to your fridge and on your fridge there’s like pictures of your family members, invitations to weddings, like these little emblems of your life, like photographs of your loved ones, all these things. My challenge to my teams is: could we make something, a piece of advertising, so beautiful and so artful and so personal that it can make the small real estate on your fridge? I mean, that’s a challenge. Like, what can you make that can tug on the heartstrings and feel so authentically personal, that it can make the small real estate on your fridge? Here are some of the fridge worthy ads that we created that were on people’s fridges. We sent these out and it was just an amazing show of yes, we created something that was fridge-worthy.
Accessible, relatable language is another key thing when you’re introducing something different or unique or something sometimes confusing; when you can’t be like, so what do you do, and you can’t really say it in one sentence, to really talk about what you’re doing, you should be able to say it in one sentence. If you can’t, talking about it in an accessible, relatable way is so critical. I remember the very beginning, when we were really green, we would be so technical and academic and clinical and medical about all the things that we’re doing. We’re like, so highbrow, what we’re creating and what it means. People were like, “Huh, does it work? What is it? I don’t get it?” The minute they’re like, “huh,” they’re done. You don’t have a lot of time to capture someone’s attention before they’re like, “Forget it. I don’t get it. It’s too like out there.” So, accessible, relatable language.
What I learned is that rather than talking about something in those ways, to talk about it like you’re texting your best friend. What can you do that’s so authentic and put out in the world in the public, from an ad campaign perspective, that’s like you’re texting your best friend. How do you text your best friend? It’s sloppy, it’s funny, it’s weird, it’s silly, it’s real. You can really, really taste… It’s not like, oh, that person is trying to be real and trying to be real with me. I’m trying to think about what the customer wants me to say and then me be real with them. You can just tell that you’re going through that. Versus like what do I deeply, authentically want to share and just share it? That, that’s it! That is what needs to be put out in the world and that’s what’s going to resonate with people. That’s why I feel like for us, our companies, people are like, ugh, because they just feel the authenticity.
Miki Agrawal On The Power Of Guerilla Marketing
Miki Agrawal: In the beginning, we spent all of our time just doing digital ads, just direct response ads on Facebook, Instagram. We realized, okay, we now have amassed enough money and capital to create our first subway campaign. The New York City public transit system, we found out, did not want to put our ads in the subway because we created these ads, which are beautiful and artful and really, really considered from a creative perspective. They said, “You can’t use the word periods in the subway, because it’ll be offensive to riders.” We were like, “Oh, no, you didn’t. All right. Game on.” Instead of just being like, “All right. We’ll just change the words and say time of the month, and like end of the sentence.” No. We’re going to say period. We’re going to fight them. So, we said to them, if you do not let us say the word period, in the New York City subway, the most progressive city in the world, we are going to press. They were like, “Go to press.” I was like, “You called my bluff. I don’t know any press. Ugh!”
At the time, I had no contact so I was like, all right, okay, watch me. Okay. Fine. So I had like, two contacts barely from fourth removed. I sent them an email subject heading “Scandal with the MTA.” I wrote them this really impassioned email. And they both said, “We want the exclusive.” I didn’t know anything about press. I was like, “Perfect. You both get the exclusive.” They were like, “That’s not how press works.” They got mad at me. It was a whole thing.
But finally, Mic.com, God rest his soul, published it and the story went viral internationally. It’s like those moments where you know how, like, if I always pictured myself as someone like busking on the subway, people like throwing me pennies, and you’re like, “Thanks.” and you’re just singing your heart out doing everything you can for people to get what you’re trying to put out.
So this ad campaign really, really put us on a map. We were going to send the MTA like a basket of grapefruit as a thank you. They were like, “Not funny.” Lean into the uncomfortable. I mean, just in that particular example, we could have been like, “Oh, well, they said no.” Instead, we’re like, “Ooh, okay, we can take a scandal out of this. It would be interesting.” In the same way, leaning into the uncomfortable is so important business.
Miki Agrawal On Leaning Into the Uncomfortable Space
Miki Agrawal: For us, we’re always talking about how do you lean into the uncomfortable. One of the things that happened was that while we were building the company, so many people in the trans community reached out to us and said, when you transition from woman to man, you still get your period and it’s a time of weird shame and we feel so outed every month and we’re always wearing like three pairs of boxers and trying to conceal the fact that we do have the anatomy of women, but we’re men. There are 900,000 trans people in America, half of which have transitioned women to men, so it’s a huge community.
We spent the next year developing a pair of boyshort specifically for the trans man in mind, and not only were the trans community so overjoyed about it, this story went viral. Again, internationally. When something that you do authentically, not knowing what’s going to happen, like we didn’t know. It’s not like weren’t doing it for… We just were doing it because we were like, this is the right thing to do. We forgot about this entire group of people, we’re going to support them. Then, people wanted to write about it. It was really, really cool. So, when you lean into the uncomfortable, it actually does create this friction in the story, and people do want to read those stories. It does shift culture when they read those uncomfortable stories.
Miki Agrawal On Radical Honesty
Miki Agrawal: People forget that people want big truth, people want big, radical honesty. We just, even within ourselves, often are not in alignment. You know, I’ve been seeing a life and leadership coach for the last six years. Mark and I actually share the same coach. And what we talk about every week for 90 minutes is integrity. What you’re thinking, feeling and saying have to align. What you’re thinking, feeling and saying have to align.
What’s off? Are you mumbling to yourself about something that you’re not speaking up about, but you’re saying it to yourself? Are you saying like, “Oh, hey, b*tch” in your head. How often do we do that? Right? So often. We’re just not in alignment with ourselves. We think that we’re integrous people. We think that we’re good people. But so often, we’re not in alignment with what we’re thinking, feeling and saying. That’s what radical authenticity is, is that when you just can’t help but be exactly who you are, because that is just… you just can’t help it. I said that just twice. But that’s what it is.