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Brand Success

happens through

Legit Passion

Brand success is a big topic, especially these days when everyone is trying to be successful at doing their own thing. The evolution of the internet and social media has made brand success much easier but also much harder all at the same time. While there are many more resources to gain brand success, the competition is way larger than it used to be. But brand success isn’t impossible and it’s not going to require you to pay an arm and leg to achieve it. I want to share my story of how I made my brand successful without even realizing I was even going for having a brand in the first place. This is one of the first articles on my blog, and I wanted to make sure it was a good one. After you read it, if you have enjoyed it, please share it with others you know will also enjoy it.


Brand Success Strategy: My Backstory

Before we get into my main story-I want to be very transparent. I’ve been a fan of computers since they were all-in-one and required you to program your way through them, back when discs were floppy. I’ve been into the internet since dialup which is something many of you reading have probably never experienced. I got into online marketing, blogging, message forums and website building back when HTML was a big thing, back when I was a teenager – that was more than 25 years ago. And while I had many successful website, I never got too serious about marketing and brand strategy until I was well into my adult years.

So, let’s fast-forwards to the year 2012! One night I was working third shift as a security guard. I had bent down to tie my boot and when I raised up, I found myself dizzy and out of breath. At that very moment, I realized I was in bad shape and my health was terrible. I was a kid in his 20s back then. A twenty-something year old kid who has problems after tying his boot. Sounds terrible doesn’t it? It was terrible! It scared me and made me realize I was in bad shape. I smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day. I chewed tobacco on top of that. I drank too much alcohol almost every night. I ate mostly fast food and a lot of it at one time. I did ZERO exercise. I was overweight and horribly out of shape and it scared me enough to make a change.

So, I got a gym membership… I went every night and really tried. But I started failing at it because I knew it was exercise, that made it harder to do and I was bored working out alone inside. I started slacking off and going back to my old ways. I was falling into a deep depression. But then a friend from work told me to get a bicycle and try that. I did just that and after not being on a bike in like 10-years, I rode 20-miles and fell in love with cycling.

Cycling eventually led me to hiking which I also fell in love with. I bought a nice DSLR camera for hiking and started sharing my photos on Facebook. My friends then suggested I make videos of my hikes and upload them to YouTube. So, I did and didn’t expect much from doing that. I really didn’t know what I was doing as a new YouTube creator. Then one day I got a message from an older woman. She explained that I made a video of an area that she grew up playing in. She told me she had lost that memory until she saw my video. She was so thankful that I helped her remember that again. That changed my mission of what I was doing with YouTube. At that point, I decided to go pro and actually attempt a successful channel focusing on local area hiking, biking, and outdoor recreation.

Next month will be my 5-year anniversary of my channel on YouTube. In those 5-years, I went from a simply personal video creator to a Limited Liability Company. I’ve trademarked my name (Hiking with Shawn), started trends, have been mentioned in a book, have been on more than five news networks, have been a guest speaker, have been paid to speak, have been paid to collaborate, am a board member of several non-profits and have become a local authority and some kind of celebrity in my local area (Shawnee National Forest and southern Illinois). Now my brand has its own website and I’m active on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. I’m earning revenue. I’m a bigger authority on content than the local governments in my area. And when I am grocery shopping, people recognize me and take selfies with me. That still cracks me up. And yeah, cycling and hiking changed my life for the better. I don’t smoke anymore. I don’t get drunk or drink a lot. I eat healthier. I am physically active and exercise routinely and I even met the love of my life all because I uploaded a few videos to YouTube.

Fast-forward to now… I want to take my brand success and marketing expertise and help YOU. So instead of just running an outdoor recreation entertainment business, I’m going to dip my feet into the world of digital marketing, search engine optimization and brand strategy with this blog. So, with that being said, let’s move on to the guts of the purpose of this article!


Brand Success Requires Legit Passion

So, when I say Legit Passion, I really mean LEGIT passion. Being successful at building and growing your brand will take serious passion in the niche you are centering around. A niche is the specific topic that your brand is about. So, for my brand, hiking/cycling/camping/nature/etc., my niche is Outdoor Recreation. But my niche is regionally centralized as I mainly cover southern Illinois, which is a specific and in my own experience, a lot easier to be successful at. Basically, what I mean here is that is your niche is Toys, there is a lot of competition for Toys and it is going to be very challenging to build your brand and be successful but if it a specific to a certain toy like Super Van City (showing my age here) then it will be easier as the market will be much lower for a specific niche verses and general niche.

But let’s get back to the passion and I think passion goes hand in hand with specific vs. general niche. Passion, we all know what it means right? It is the dedication you provide for certain activity or subject more so than you would for anything else. I am passionate about hiking and biking in the Shawnee National Forest and southern Illinois. I’m so passionate that I do it every day in some kind of form. I mean it changed my life for the good. It saved my life at that. Of course, I am going to be passionately dedicated to such activities and subjects. Because this is a regional thing, the niche becomes more specific. I don’t thru-hike big trails like the AT or PCT, so I don’t promote that sort of activity in my brand because it is too general for me and I hardly know anything about it. When you are promoting something you know little about, it is usually very detectable by others because there is usually a lack of real (legit) passion.


Having No Passion Results in No Brand Success

Every now and then I see these ‘Buy my book’ or ‘Buy my report” marketing strategists claiming that you can monetize any topic you want whether you know anything about it or not. Doesn’t that sound too good to be true? That’s because it is too good to be true. I mean, let’s really think about that. If you can successfully grow and monetize any topic-wouldn’t you think you’d see a lot of rich people by now? I know nothing about the stock market, and I know that I could never wrap my head around it and monetize off it because it bores me. So, when I see others claim any topic can be successful, I personally see a bunch of red flags at that point. Like I said before, I’m not a longer trail thru-hiker so I wouldn’t be able to offer much expertise in that area if I’ve never experienced it – does that make sense? And it would be a boring topic for me because I’m not experienced. If you want true brand success, you need to figure out what you’re passionate about and make that your niche.


Ways to Enhance Your Niche Passion

Out of all the many ways out there is to enhance your passion for the niche you are into, the best way to this success is through plain and simple EXPERIENCE. Experience will always have more weight than education. Experience gives you education and hands-on methodology that you can’t get out of a book or an article. You need to experience passion that drives you to grow your brand. My article, this article you are reading is helpful but until you focus your passion on the niche, it won’t be 100% helpful. You are going to have to develop experience to drive your passion even farther than what it is today. My passion is hiking and cycling, and it is two activities I do several days a week for the past decade. If sewing is your passion, you need to constantly be sewing to enhance your passion through experience because it is then when you can offer quality to your customer base. I have written over 40 guides for local area trails that people absolutely love and the only way I was able to do that was by personally hiking each of those areas. Experience will always rule when it comes to enhancing passion for growing your niche and brand.


Network, Network, Network

Really folks, you need to be networking. Don’t expect to be able to do all this on your own because it WILL get overwhelming especially if growth of your brand is slow. At first, you need to focus on gaining experience and getting noticed by those in your niche. Get noticed by potential fans or customers. Get noticed by the competition. Get noticed by those who you might collaborate and network with. Once you start networking with your brand, you’ll instantly see the results are successful for growing your brand’s position in the niche market. Networking activities will really vary but I have found that collaborations are a wonderful way to network whether they are free or compensated. Also, I find that speaking is a great way to grow your networking experience and online speaking is a really nice feature these days (learn how to be good at Zoom!). And lastly, try to connect with those you hope to convert into fans or customers. I hike the most popular hiking trails knowing that I will probably meet some fans of my brand and I love meeting them.


My conclusion and invitation to come back!

So, in conclusion, the other way to true brand growth success is through legit passion. Passion for a topic or a niche is only possible if you’re interested in the topic. You need to become an authority of the niche you’re focusing on and you do that through experience. The best experience is actually doing what niche you are passionate about. And finally, you need to work on meeting others in the niche and partnering up with brands for collaborations and networking. Don’t think of other brands as competition, think of them as partners to share loyal fans or customers with.

As for the invitation to come back – I want to become more passionate about my interests in digital marketing and strategy. I’ll be focusing on a lot of experiments, experience, and education for myself to get even better at it. It is something I really enjoy doing. And it is something I want to teach others about. I plan to maintain this blog frequently and I hope you come back again and again.


Thank you for reading my article on successful brand growth through legit passion. Please share this article with others and especially on your favorite social media sites. Feel free to suggest other article ideas that you might want me to cover by leaving a comment below. See you next time!

Writing Engaging Content

This article was contributed by Shawn Gossman, CEO of Social Trail Media, LLC. Shawn has been in the digital marketing business for almost 25-years. His focus has been search engine optimization, social media marketing and content strategy. Shawn founded Social Trail Media, LLC. in hopes to provide a service to folks who need help with social media growth but at an affordable rate with quality in mind. If you want to grow your social media more, check out Our Services today!