Mike Leon-MBA ’06
Managing Director/Founder of Brand Heroes
Mike Leon is the Founder and Managing Director (Chief Brand Hero) of Brand Heroes. Mike believes that brand storytelling has the ability to empower brands and unlock the true power of an organization. Since starting Brand Heroes Mike has been able to secure big name clients and use his energetic and charismatic personality to produce articulate stories. During the past year Mike has been interviewed on radio more than 40 times! Mike is a graduate of the 2006 Lazaridis MBA class. We sat down with Mike to get his insight on entrepreneurship, branding and what a crazy year it has been.
1) Tell us about your company, and what the process has been from beginnings to growth.
A: I’m the Managing Director of Brand Heroes, a Toronto based video and social media storytelling agency that I actually started while in the MBA program at Laurier back in 2006. I’ve been running it full-time since 2008, in fact, we just recently celebrated our 10th anniversary! Growth wise, it’s really starting to sync in what being ten means. I started Brand Heroes with zero investment and only $2300 saved up, and today we’re national and complete over 250 video and social media projects per year. We have an incredible team of five staff and over forty freelancers, including production hubs all over Canada and the US.
2) Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur, or where did this seed get planted ?
A: It’s funny looking back on it, but I had no intention of wanting to be an entrepreneur when I first started the MBA program. It was only after my first term when I had the opportunity to participate in the 8 month “Start a Business” courses that I realized this might be the path I’d want to take. Entrepreneurship runs in my family, so it’s always been something I’ve been familiar with. Interestingly enough, at the time I went back for my MBA, there was a dominant view that people don’t do MBA’s to be self employed. They do them to work for someone else. I also held this view, so it was tough to change mindsets. But thanks to some incredible mentorship from some incredible faculty, mixed with some early successes with the business, I was able to see the possibilities and potential in taking a single idea and being able to make a business out of it. That’s way I’m so proud of our story.
3) How many times have you been on Global Radio and why do you think they ask for your opinion?
A: I’ve been fortunate enough to be the featured marketing and branding expert on Global Radio Toronto AM 640 and have been on-air 45 times in the last year to provide context on a variety of different issues ranging from politics, to ad campaigns, retail and more. What I love about branding is it impacts absolutely everything, so any story really can be a branding story, especially when it comes to understanding how the public responds to it. I think they ask for my opinion because I bring a different kind of perspective on branding. Having come from a creative field and then into the business world, – plus being an entrepreneur – really gives me that 360 perspective on an organization, which makes for very interesting conversations when talking about brand!
4) Lets talk about branding. What are the biggest mistakes companies or individuals make when establishing a brand?
A: Above all else, brands need to connect with the folks who are most important to them. This means that the brand is really about consumers, not the organization. It’s easy sometimes for brands to lose sight of this. Branders may be custodians of the brands, but the true owners are the consumers. The ones who remember this do extremely well!
5) What makes for a good brand campaign?
A: Honesty, humility, aspiration and belief. I build brands from the standpoint of the consumer. I don’t want to just believe in the brand, but I want the brand to inspire a greater sense of belief in me. It’s a subtle but very important difference.
6) Who in your mind has been really successful at branding themselves?
A: This question may change by the time this newsletter’s released but I find a brand like OnePlus has incredible clarity of who they are and what their mission is. It will be interesting to see if they can hang on to this as the organization and focus expands!
As you can tell we are huge fans of what Mike has accomplished, and his employees are too!