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Binge Worthy Branding: Sterling McKinley on The AdCast

20 August 2020
Binge Worthy Branding: Sterling McKinley on The AdCast

Sterling McKinley is a keynote speaker, author, instructor, a digital marketer, and a branding strategist. He joins Eric Elliott on The AdCast to discuss binge-worthy branding.

Who is Sterling McKinley?

Sterling McKinley is a person who has always had love marketing and the internet.

In college, digital marketing training, classes, and courses did not exist.

Sterling says he took his love for the digital world and his love for marketing and combined the two.

In 2002, there was email and websites. So, that’s how he taught himself, combing what he learned in class and what he found online.

From there, McKinley began his own company while still attending college.

He would design websites for family, friends, churches, and nonprofits to build a portfolio.

From undergraduate to graduate school, McKinley ran a full-time business while working at iHeartRadio selling advertising.

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From Small Talk to Big Thought


While selling advertising, McKinley sparks conversations with people, usually leading to their interest in building a website.

Sterling could do that.

McKinley goes on to save money, buys a laptop, and transforms his closet into an office.

From there, an uphill struggle turned into contracts piling up.

Now, it 2020, McKinley is comfortable with being himself and really creating his own path and niche.

I try to be different. Not competing with you, but really bringing out all the things that make me unique.

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Race in Advertising

Being a Black man, McKinley began seeing patterns of people not expecting him to be African-American when he spoke at conferences.

The stigma of being an entrepreneur in the digital world, McKinley mentions barriers of a different kind.

“You think about social media. You think about Mark Zuckerberg, all these young guys in hoodies, but you don’t see guys like us. So I think it comes down too to just being seen more and telling people, “Hey, this is a possibility.” Of all the things out here, I think digital has the most room for growth within our community because everybody has a laptop. Everybody has a cell phone. It’s like how can you turn that thing into a business?

McKinley recalls going into his speaking career, always rehearsing speeches.

HE says he is always wanting to make sure that he’s the best, even with the way that he dresses.

I used to get up on stage looking regular, but I said, no, I need to be the exception. I need to be that person and that guy.

Binge-Worthy Branding

Think about binge-worthy.

You think about binge eating, you think about binge-watching Netflix. So,   your brand has to be binge-worthy. You have to create an experience that’s so intoxicating, that customers come back to you again and again.

In his book, Binge Worthy Branding: Build Customer Loyalty Using AI and Personalization Like Amazon, Netflix, and Starbucks, McKinley breaks down stories of Amazon, Netflix, and Starbucks; how they use AI, how they use data to create experiences that are really impacting and align with their customers, and that causes their customers to come back and back again.

You have to really dig into your customer’s likes and desires and give them what they want.

When you give people what they want, they’ll come back to you. So really, it’s just all about a new era and obviously a new era of really our customer-focused business.

Really being all about your customer.

People are always asking what’s next, how can I make more sales.

Knowing your customer is key.

Companies that are growing and flourishing are the companies that are solely focused on their customers.

Binge Worthy Branding is all about your customers. It’s about how you can use analytics, you can use data, AI to really find out what your customer wants.

You can build products, services, ads around what your customer wants.  Once you know what they want, you’re not selling. You’re recommending, and people feel like they discovered something that matches their needs and their wants.

Invest in Technology

Invest in your website and social media and people didn’t do that.

Nobody could have predicted that COVID would have happened and that it would change everything.

But one thing that we did know is that technology was changing everything.

That customers were loving apps and technology and mobile.

Unfortunately, companies got lazy, complacent.

Think about Blockbuster. The internet was there. They ignored it and then, guess what? Netflix came in and it ran away.

Companies that were proactive, the companies that were investing in their customers and their future are the companies that are still doing well.

So there’s still time for companies, but that thought of hey, the internet doesn’t work and social media, email are waste, those days are gone.

If you have that thought and that mindset, your company’s going to fade away.

Serious Social Media and Digital Ads

People take it more serious and they take it from the end of the Kim Kardashian and the Kanye West.

Do not focus on numbers, likes and shares. You’re missing the part about storytelling, sharing.

Social media should be a part of a bigger message in branding. It’s just another extension of your digital marketing campaign.

Digital has this reputation that’s really unfair.

People think that as soon as you do digital, you turn it on for a day and can have valid impressions and a million clicks and streams.

Digital is different than other forms of media, but it’s still kind of the same. It’s a learning and growing process.

As the ad runs, you learn what keywords work, what doesn’t. You learn what is the best price to bid on those ads. You learn what copy performs and when it doesn’t.

People want to buy the perfect email template. They want to know the best time to post online, the right keyword to buy, and want to just buy on the shelf. But life and digital marketing doesn’t work like that.

Yes, there are things that we use. These are some of the standards, but you really have to still find out what works for you, for your company, for your brand, and your demographic. Build those things back into your campaigns.

Netflix was so successful because they have shows like Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why, and these shows, they’re not building out of thin air like Hollywood does. They’re not guessing. They’re looking at your past viewing behaviors and they’re taking that data and then building shows around that.

As customers, as business owners, yo0u have to do it now. You have a look at the data, and the data should drive your marketing and branding decisions. Guessing what will work or just doing the same thing we always do does not cut it.

I don’t want a million followers. I would rather 500 followers that are decision-makers in my industry because they mean so much more than that million.

Stop trying to be like everybody. Stop chasing fans and stop chasing followers. Really learn your story. Really learn what makes you unique and find ways to bring that out.

Be honest and transparent is really important with the clients and letting them know what’s going to happen. What KPIs are you following and why the budget is set the way it is.

Once again, it’s a learning process. Yeah, we’re doing research. We’re doing things, but sometimes you don’t know until you hit start, and then you can manage it as you go.

Setting expectations is really important. That’s always best for clients. Just let them know what’s going to happen upfront.

Radio Advertising

Radio is not a dead medium, but it has a place in the larger branding and marketing conversation.

McKinely remembers his days in radio, pitching it as “the latest, greatest that somebody’s going to call your phone as soon as they hear this ad.”

McKinley says he sees radio more as a branding thing.

It’s something that you’re hearing in the background that’s going along what you see online, what you see on TV, and eventually, that plays a part in helping you lead up to making that sell or making that purchase.

Advertising on TV

Television is very profitable.

In some ways, television has spoiled marketers in the past because it is very simple.

You bought ads on TV, ran them to commercials, have some nice production, and it really sells.

It really sold, but, now, McKinley feels like TV now is changing thanks to “cord-cutting” and streaming TV.

Television is also a guessing game.

TV can be very expensive and costly to produce commercials, and have them air and run.

TV has its place, but McKinley believes TV should be a part of an overall marketing campaign. It shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all.  It should be a part of a bigger conversation.

TV is going through a transition. This new phase of TV where it’s more heavily going to rely on streaming programs.


McKinley believes that newspaper still has a place.

Once again, it’s tough now because the news is accessible on internet.  It’s instant. By the time you print something, it’s out of date. The story has changed.

The paper will still connect with certain demographics. Sometimes the reporting you see in newspapers is sometimes better than what you’re getting on TV.

Billboard Advertising

Billboards are branding.

It’s a niche thing, a message over and over again.

I think about Geico. When I think about branding I think about Geico. They’re putting out short, 15-second commercials. They’re putting up billboards. They just constantly have their name in your head. So, that’s how to push billboards.

People are not going to stop and write down a number on a billboard.

If the website is catchy, the name is catchy, you may remember that.

But once again, the billboard should be paired with a  TV, radio, or online ad.

Social Media Advertising.

Social Media is a great place for expansion and allows us to target exactly who you want.

The cost is lower and you can target somebody where they are already spending time, on and off the internet.

People, yes, they’re in their car still, but they’re kind of distracted and driving.

But social media advertising allows you to hit somebody right where they’re at.

If you run the right ad, you can bank 50 cents a click, 10 cents a click.

Google Ads

Google Ads work.

People always say, “Oh, do they work?” Well that’s how Google makes a lot of their money, through AdWords, so they work.

Once again,  be careful because it can get very expensive.

If I see an ad for hamburgers, you don’t want to come to a site for hot dogs.

So making sure that your landing page, your call to action is very strong.

If you’re a lawyer, don’t bid on the keyword lawyer.

You’re going to get everything and pay a lot for that keyword that people are just browsing.

Be targeted in what you want.

Everybody is trying to go wide, but you need to go narrow.

Advertising on Google can be very beneficial.

When you go narrow, you have a good target. And, if you have a good landing page, that’s going to convert to a sale or to a phone call.

People love real estate, but the most valuable real estate right now is being on Google.

So, depending on what your industry is that you’re selling in, that number one spot means a lot. It is something to look into for your brand.

Want to learn more about Binge Worth Branding? Check it out on Amazon.

You can find Sterling McKinley on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Listen to the full episode of The AdCast HERE.

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