Oct 28, 2020
Written by CJ
Junction Live host and VP of Marketing at CJ Affiliate, Nicole Ron, is joined by Frederick Goodall, creator and editor-in-chief of lifestyle site, Mocha Man Style, to embark on part two of our four-part series where we chat with content creators to hear about how they're adapting to the rollercoaster that is 2020. Frederick was generous enough to share a glimpse into his experience as a Black man in America, how he's been spreading encouragement and supporting his audience during this time, and why it's so important for brands to pay attention.
Image courtesy of Frederick Goodall
Junction Live, taking thought leadership off the page and into the studio with some of the sharpest minds in affiliate marketing.
NICOLE RON: 00:13 | Hello, and welcome to this episode of Junction Live. I'm your host, Nicole Ron, Vice President of Marketing and Business Systems here at CJ Affiliate. I'm excited to dive into today's episode, which is part of a four-part series where I connect with a different content creator each time. In this series, we explore how things have changed for each content creator over the course of 2020, how they've adapted, and what brands need to know in order to find success when working in content. So, get your notepad out—our next guest has a lot of great information to share. All right. With me today, I have Frederick Goodall, publisher and editor-in-chief of Mocha Man Style. I'm super excited to have you, so thank you so much for joining. I'm really looking forward to hearing about how your business has adapted during such a crazy time.
FREDERICK GOODALL: 01:09 | Yeah, thank you for having me. It is quite a crazy time.
NICOLE RON: 01:13 | I think that's something we all can agree on. I'd love it if you could start by telling me a little bit about your site. Who's your audience? What kind of content do you create? What stories do you tell? And anything else you think might be relevant to understanding Mocha Man Style and your goals.
FREDERICK GOODALL: 01:29 | Okay. Well, I started Mocha Man Style at the end of 2012. So I've been adjusting throughout this time. But it's mainly a lifestyle site that focuses on an African American male audience between the ages of about 30 to 55. The content is varied—we talk about fashion, we talk about autos. Lately, I've been doing a big push on health just because so many things are occurring right now. And somewhat of my audiences are adversely affected negatively by many types of diseases like heart disease, different types of cancers—so I really want to encourage men right now to go get their appointments, go to the doctor, and take care of themselves, especially during this period. It's quite crucial. And also their mental health, as well. That's something that's quite important. I cover those serious topics, but also cover fun topics like music and movies and entertainment. So I try and be well-rounded with the site to try and cover a lot of different phases of men's lives to give them different types of content to look at wherever they are.
NICOLE RON: 02:49 | That's really great to hear. Thank you for sharing that. I love that you mentioned health. I think that's so important right now and that that's been a focus of yours. I also very much so resonate with autos. I have to ask—do you have a favorite vehicle?
FREDERICK GOODALL: 03:03 | Well, I get to drive so many different vehicles. I guess, the last vehicle that I liked a lot was the Dodge Charger Hellcat, which is—
NICOLE RON: 03:16 | Oh, man.
FREDERICK GOODALL: 03:18 | —a very powerful, muscular vehicle.
NICOLE RON: 03:20 | Yes, I'm a big car enthusiast. So I used to own a Challenger R/T. So the Hellcat or Demon—right there with you.
FREDERICK GOODALL: 03:33 | I got to drive one of those Hellcats on the track when it first came out. So I'm a big, big fan of this.
NICOLE RON: 03:39 | Oh, I'm jealous. So jealous. Well, anyway, I'll come back to cars because I would love to hear more about that. I'm curious, what types of brands, products, services previously resonated with your audience? And I'm really interested to hear how that has shifted in light of the pandemic and everything else that we've kind of faced in 2020.
FREDERICK GOODALL: 04:02 | Before the pandemic, a lot of the higher-end fashion brands resonated a lot with my audience. But now because of COVID and many of the financial situations of a lot of people, doesn't seem to be so popular anymore. Right now what I'm seeing is sneaker brands are doing very well. More of the, I guess, casual type of clothing since people are spending more time at home. But those are the biggest shifts that I've seen right now.
NICOLE RON: 04:40 | Got it. I know I live in my athleisure wear these days more than I'd like to admit. I even told my husband—the other day I was like, "I have to change into something more comfortable," and he's like, "More comfortable than leggings?" Exactly.
FREDERICK GOODALL: 04:52 | I still do this side. I still encourage men. It's still nice to dress up periodically, even if you're not going anywhere. It's good for your mental health to just get out of that rut and to change into something a little higher level than just sweatpants and sweatshirts.
NICOLE RON: 05:11 | Totally. Makes sense. I'm curious, when did you realize that things had started to shift due to the pandemic, and what did you see in those first days, weeks, months?
FREDERICK GOODALL: 05:29 | I guess a lot of things just occurred kind of at one time and just looking at my overall site analytics, that kind of bounced around a lot. Some days it would be quite high. Some days it would be quite low. And I was trying to figure out what's going on here. Is it because people are at home more or people are spending more time working, so they're not getting online? So that was quite confusing for a little while, and I couldn't quite figure out what was happening. But then things leveled off and I started to notice people were looking more for the, I guess, specific products. Doing some searches for specific products on my page. Like I said before, around the sneakers, I started getting a lot of searches for sneaker brands and sneakers and sneaker reviews. Like okay, I guess people aren't wearing dress shoes anymore. They're looking to wear something a little bit more comfortable. So I started to shift a little bit more focus towards that area.
NICOLE RON: 06:40 | Got it. That makes sense. I'm curious, how did your audience react to the things that you then started to produce from a content perspective in light of what you were seeing? And were they seeking anything different beyond some of the product shift changes that you saw and kind of—in vein with that, but did you also see the development of a new audience emerge?
FREDERICK GOODALL: 07:08 | I think the content I was putting out, the things that were resonating the most with the audience, were more of the, I guess, positive, forward-looking kind of things. I just try and write things with some words of encouragement. Like I have my letter to the editor where I talk about various topics. Some of them are specifically, "Hey, I want to encourage you. I want to lift you up. If you need any help, contact me," and I'll put my contact information so people can reach out to me directly if you just want to talk. I also talk about what's going on in the world today, whether it's the Black Lives Matter movement, whether it's COVID-19, whether it's some of the institutional structures that are affecting so many people, and being very candid about this with my own personal experiences with it and trying to let people see, "Here's what I've experienced, maybe you've experienced something similar," or, "Here's what I've experienced, maybe you had no idea this was happening, but here's a firsthand account of it." So I try to be very relevant to what's going on right now and meet the audience where they are, and have those conversations that they are engaging in online and in-person, and try and be a source where people can come to for some information but also with some encouragement.
NICOLE RON: 08:35 | That's really amazing to hear. And I think that—you touched on one of the things I was going to ask about which was your response to Black Lives Matter, social injustice, everything that we're dealing with from a vote perspective and how much is at stake in that regard. I'm curious, how has your willingness to share in a really authentic way changed your conversation with the people who are coming to your site?
FREDERICK GOODALL: 09:07 | Main thing is—I've been talking about this for years, so this is nothing new. And I'm a Black man in America. I've experienced many of these things. One of the posts I did—I think it was in July—about the whole George Floyd thing, I went back and found an old post I did in 2016 where I appeared on a local news station to talk about whatever shooting it was. I think it was Ferguson, back then, but talking about my fears for myself, my fears for my children, and hoping that people would look at these things and see that serious change needs to occur. And the words that I said in that news broadcast were the exact words that are being repeated today. And it was very disappointing to me. Like, "Wow." I can take this interview and put it right here in this post, and it's exactly the same. And that's very disappointing. And I shared that with my audience before. But I also shared it with some of my partners who are advertisers. And the thing is that a lot of them were very shocked and surprised by the things that I said and things that they read. And they were talking about how they needed to make changes themselves to the way that they operate because a lot of the things they were ignorant of simply because they had never had any experience around these areas. So they were very thankful for me being open and authentic about my experiences and sharing it with them so they can see this is what it's like to deal with these things from a firsthand account. So they just kept encouraging me like, "Hey, if you need anything, if we can reach out to you, just let us know." But it's been a good conversation to have with the audience, with the advertisers, so that we can all see—we're trying to work on the same common goal. We may take different paths, but we're trying to work together. And if we share information, if we're open, we're honest, we have conversations, I think we can move things forward.
NICOLE RON: 11:24 | Thank you so much for sharing that. I think that's such a powerful and insightful experience to share. I'm really curious, you mentioned that you have some advertisers that have been willing to have the more challenging conversation and offer support. Are you seeing more of that in this moment? I totally understand there's a lot more to do. But I'm curious, are you feeling hopeful? Does it feel different this go-around?
FREDERICK GOODALL: 11:54 | I mean, it does feel different. And it was very encouraging when I go to some of the advertiser sites that see the statements they've made and the commitments they've made. But I'm a little bit cautious because what people say and do can end up being different things. But I'm very encouraged because I've seen some actual change take place. I've seen some brands take some actual steps and some actions to push change forward, not only within their organization, but within our society by putting some money and some serious manpower and legwork into pushing these things forward. So those things encouraged me a lot. I just hope that all the people who are saying things and doing things right now—I hope the spirit continues to live within them, and they use the influence and the platform that they have to really push forward social change.
NICOLE RON: 12:57 | Yep. Great. Thank you, I really appreciate your willingness to speak on that and share the sentiments and I truly also hope that the focus that we've been able to gather as a society in an effort to right a lot of wrongs, systemically speaking and otherwise, persists and that that passion continues to keep being something that people tap into for motivation to truly drive the change that's necessary. And I know it's a lifelong commitment not something that can be a moment or a social media share but something that takes a lot of work and dedication, so I appreciate that.
FREDERICK GOODALL: 13:41 | I also saw an article that was being shared a lot yesterday on social media about influencers and how they can no longer afford to be apolitical, which was an interesting take for me as someone who works in this space. I know a lot of people spent a lot of time trying to say, hey I'm not taking any sides, I'm just here doing this thing and a lot of them, I guess, are starting to get some pushback and having their audience challenge them and force them to take a stand on something and I don't know if this is a good or bad thing for these specific influencers, but I guess just looking at the whole trend around companies—people are forcing companies to take a stand one way or another. People are forcing the influencers to take a stand. So it's going to be quite interesting over the next few years on where people stand and how their political or social views affect their overall business strategy.
NICOLE RON: 14:45 | For sure. I think it's forcing companies to define where they align and which route they're gonna go and in speaking with—I had the privilege of getting to speak with a few really great folks at different brands and publishers that we work with—I think it was actually just a week and a half ago. And one of them stated, “Not everybody comes along. If you take a stand, you have to be willing to hear that people aren't gonna agree with you.” And I think that that's such an important thing to understand that—if you've got a perspective and you decide to take action, that not everybody is going to come along. And I'm curious if that's something that—I understand your audience, of course, I think typically aligns with your perspective and so that's wonderful that you're giving folks an opportunity to learn and share in a way that's healthy. I'm curious how this shifts, how you decide to work with brands, or how brands need to think about how they're leveraging their content creators or influencer spheres and how those brands then do or don't align with the beliefs that you have as a company?
FREDERICK GOODALL: 16:03 | I mean, I really want to work with brands that have some interest in supporting the community, supporting social change—companies that give back in some way. There are a lot of companies out here and I really go and investigate companies to see what kind of charities they've donated to, how they've been involved in the community, what they've done, and sometimes you just see some companies and sometimes the things feel forced and it doesn't seem genuine. I really want to work with companies that have a deep investment in the communities where they are, a deep investment in supporting the people, not only who work for them, but in the communities where they work and trying to build up those communities to strengthen those communities as well. I’m looking for companies that are striving to make some internal changes themselves because in order to really have some validity in the global stage, to me, you have to have that validation within your own company. So I want to see companies that are looking at diversity from their internal perspective and how well they're doing that diversity, because so many companies end up making serious mistakes in their advertisements and we've seen so many of these cases. If only they had a more diverse staff, then this particular advertisement would have never gone out because someone would have said, "No. We can't do that." So it's important to have that type of diversity when you're putting together your advertisements, your messaging, your marketing to make sure that that you're not offending people. And I know nowadays people get offended by many different things so easily. But there are some glaring things that we need to pay attention to and that cross these boundaries, and it's important for companies and brands to have that diverse voice within their companies so that they can speak to diverse audiences outside the companies.
NICOLE RON: 18:22 | 100%. I wholeheartedly agree that having diverse representation whether that's race, gender, ability, etc., really provides more perspective and that perspective ultimately leads to an ability to think more inclusively and ultimately reach people who are going to resonate with your brand. But it starts at the core of what the intent of the company is, so I appreciate you sharing that. Do you have any other advice that you want to share for brands that are looking at their marketing efforts at this time? I know you mentioned really evaluating what they're putting out there, how they're talking about it, but any other practical advice that you want to impart on how should they be thinking about themselves in general during this time? And specifically when they're working with influencers or content creators what do they need to be aware of in order to show up right, and also be successful?
FREDERICK GOODALL: 19:19 | I mean the main thing is really—pay attention to what's going on. Some of these campaigns that brands put out with influencers or on their own, they put them out at a certain time and they absolutely fall flat because they weren't aware of all the other things that were happening and they put this thing out like, "Well, that was quite insensitive," and, "Well, what were they thinking by putting this out right now?" So it's important too to look at the whole landscape to see what's going on, to understand how your campaign is going to come across to different types of people and make those adjustments as necessary. I mean, no campaign is so far gone that you cannot make an adjustment and figure out, okay, that's not where we need to go. Let's adjust. Let's try this again. Let's do something differently. And let me let people know that, hey this first thing we put out, that was insensitive, that was incorrect, we shouldn't have done this. This is what we were intending to do. And this is how we will correct course going forward. So I mean, it's just really about reading the room, understanding the circumstances that are going on, and putting out content and working with influencers and content creators who have a firm grasp on what's going on and what the audiences are looking for.
NICOLE RON: 20:50 | Got it. And I assume that a large part of that and, of course, correct me if I'm wrong—is not making the mistake of coming to a content creator and saying, "This is what we're going to do. Yes or no." But using it more as a learning opportunity to collaborate on what is it that the audience is going to resonate with and how do you structure a campaign to ultimately be mutually beneficial, so that you aren't giving up editorial integrity or creating a divide in terms of what your audience expects to see from you, but is still helping meet the brand's ultimate goals at the end of the day, right?
FREDERICK GOODALL: 21:26 | Absolutely. It has to be a collaboration. It has to be a process of sharing ideas, of learning from one another. The influencer has to learn, what are the brand goals? What are they trying to accomplish? And then the brand has to understand, here's my audience. Here's what they're seeking. Here's how they view me. And here's the image I'm trying to convey with my site or my social media channels. So both sides have to take those things into account and work together to figure out what's going to be the best way to spread this message, and to share this message, and to connect with the audience, which is ultimately what both sides want to do.
NICOLE RON: 22:06 | Got it. That makes sense. Help me understand if you wouldn't mind, how has working in the affiliate channel changed or not during this year, and it can be as tactical as something like, is the monetization strategy the same, has it changed. What do you think other content creators or brands need to know about being an influencer or a content creator working in this channel?
FREDERICK GOODALL: 22:35 | I mean, the main thing for this year is the budgets are significantly affected across all the channels. So I guess we have to figure out how we work together with some limited budgets and be more creative with using those budgets to get the most bang for our buck. So brands are going to have to look at different ways to use this money and to work with influencers and content creators. And the content creators obviously have a vested interest in promoting their brand and making some income off the things that they're doing as well. So I think there has to be a lot of collaboration, a lot of negotiation back and forth, and just listening to one another to understand, hey, this is what I need to continue to operate my business, and from both sides. So right now there's a lot of give and take. We have to figure out with this partnership—and we want it to be long term—in this moment what concessions can we give one another until we can get to the point where we're back to operating at 100%. So it's that give and take, it's that negotiation, it's that conversation that people are having with one another, and making sure that we're working together during this time to support one another because we do want long-term contracts and long-term partnerships with one another, and we want to support each other through this period, and beyond.
NICOLE RON: 24:14 | I love that. I appreciate the true integrity that you operate under and how you approach business, but also treat it more from a personal dedication side of things. I think it's really amazing. Is there anything else you want to share in light of what you've learned or what you think others in this space might benefit from knowing that we haven't touched on?
FREDERICK GOODALL: 24:42 | Like I said, it's a time to be creative. It's a time to examine what you've been doing and figure out is this really the best thing to do. Of course COVID-19 has changed everything so nothing will be the same when we get past this. So now's the time to look at how can we be stronger? How can we grow together and how can we do something different that will sustain itself as we get past this? It's a time for brands to come out and think about really creative campaigns and really creative ways to share their messages and to market their products and to market their services. I think so many things are happening right now and people, sure, they're under stress and it's a difficult time, but I think it's important just to step back for a moment, step away from all the stressful activities that you're dealing with and spend some time to just try and think and try and process what's going on and figure out, what do I really need at this moment for myself, to sustain myself and to sustain my business and how can we get there. So it's a time for introspection, time for reflection, and then it's also a time to look to the future and figure out what does that look like for everybody.
NICOLE RON: 26:15 | Awesome. You're inspiring me. I think it's such a refreshing perspective to treat this moment as the moment of learning but also of opportunity in order to see how we progress, instead of being stuck on all of the challenging or difficult things but using that as a learning opportunity to figure out how we emerge stronger and better so that we can thrive in the future.
FREDERICK GOODALL: 26:44 | Yes.
NICOLE RON: 26:46 | So, truly from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today and for sharing just your thoughts on everything that's happening from COVID to Black Lives Matter and social justice movements, I really appreciate it and truly appreciate the authenticity and integrity that you bring to everything that you do. And hope that this is one of many conversations that we get to have on such important topics. So thank you. I really appreciate it.
FREDERICK GOODALL: 27:17 | Thank you for having me. I really appreciated it. This was a great discussion.