Dre Pao is a creator & entrepreneur from Ontario, Canada. Dre is best known for his diversity as a creator and business operator. His work as a TikTok influencer in the food and snack space has brought him a following of over 130K, averaging 2 million views per week, collaborating with major brands such as Tim Hortons, Chips Ahoy, and Shake Shack. His work as a TikTok foodie led to the creation of “Candy & Commerce”, a Rogers TV cable television show, hosted by Dre, that focuses on food culture and business.
As a media personality, Dre has interviewed some of pop culture’s most influential figures, including Sarah McLachlan, Arkells, Billy Talent, Jessie Reyez, Murda Beatz, Gary Vaynerchuk, Burton Cummings, Leroy Sanchez, and more.
As an Operating Partner at Xrozs Group, an international marketing agency, Dre has produced and consulted marketing campaigns for a number of major brands in various industries, including Greenland Group (Fortune 500), Swoop Airlines, Cadillac-Fairview, Mizrahi Developments, and former manager of Taylor Swift, Rick Barker.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Dre to discuss his journey in the industry and here’s what went down:
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?
Whether I am building strategies for Xrozs Group clients or developing my own personal brand, I am focused on taking advantage of underpriced social media attention. This underpriced attention currently exists on TikTok and LinkedIn. Both of these platforms currently offer a large amount of organic reach and also have some of the largest consumer attention of the past year. In 2020 TikTok has grown from a fun platform for Generation Z to a diverse network for creators and brands that is essential for building brand trust and community. Personally, I spent the last year investing heavily in TikTok for both my clients and the Dre Pao brand. My personal account @drepaoofficial started 2020 with just under 10K followers and after posting 700 videos over the last 365 days, I have built a community of over 130K followers. TikTok is one of the only online places where this kind of explosive growth is possible while spending zero dollars. I believe that the most important factor for business growth over the last year has been consistency. For my personal brand and our clients at Xrozs Group, we focus on building small micro pieces of content and ensure that there is the consistent value being released to our audiences. This strategy has led to significant conversions, but most importantly, it has helped develop a core audience that has the same vision and long-term goals as the brands that my team and I represent. 2020 was a tough year for most of the world, and now more than ever consumers want to connect with brands that hold the same values as they do. This is why it is imperative for me to consistently engage with my audience, provide consistent value, and let them know I am there for them daily — not just when I am trying to promote a product or make a sale.
What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?
Paid advertising has brought a lot of success to both myself and our clients at Xrozs Group. The deciding factor on the success of these campaigns has always been the creative. If the piece of creative is not specialized, and fails to speak to the specific audience that is being targeted, then the campaign will not live up to its fullest potential. Creating a “one ad fits all” style campaign has historically led our campaigns to significantly fewer conversions. My personal brand has seen the most success when producing individual pieces of content for select target demographics. Although this tends to require more upfront cost, it has led to more long-term conversions.
Over the last year, video advertising has performed stronger than still images for my paid advertising campaigns. My 2020 data also showed a significantly stronger advertising return when an on-camera speaking talent from the target demographic is present within the ad creative. This helps humanize the advertisements and make them less “salesy”. With this in mind, it is important to remember that bombarding your audience with ads is never a good idea. This is why I find it imperative to have micro pieces of organic content posted in collaboration with these specifically targeted advertisements.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
I think diversity and adaptivity are the most important elements that help my brand stand out. When new information is presented, I am quick to adjust, and when a new platform emerges, I am eager to be an early adopter. This, in combination with networking and collaboration, is what makes me who I am. When it comes to engaging my customers, I feel like I am always trying to give more than I take. I shy away from the traditional sales mentality of “always be selling” and instead, I focus on presenting information that will help improve my audience’s daily life. I find this inadvertently results in more sales, and more importantly, happier customers.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
Marketing has evolved a lot over the years and I, therefore, find it important to adjust my marketing medium to the current times. Although the increase in online attention has led me to focus more on digital marketing over billboards or print, the message remains the same. Presenting information that provides value to the customer, humanizing my brand, showcasing integrity, and building brand trust. On a personal level, video has always been my most successful marketing medium. I feel like everyone has their own communication strength, and for me, video has consistently been the way that I best communicate my message.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
The 2020 Covid pandemic brought a lot of tough times for many businesses, which led to some tough decisions having to be made as both a client services agency operator and a personal brand content creator. The toughest decision I had to make over the last few months was how to adjust to the current world climate. My team and I spent months preparing marketing campaigns for specific brands that needed to be scrapped and rebuilt due to the state of the world. Although this was tough to accept, it is the nature of the marketing business. The way the world interacted changed in such a short amount of time, and marketing materials needed to reflect that.
Video shoots that incorporated large groups needed to be adjusted in order to ensure that lockdown rules were being followed and travel plans needed to be cancelled. This led to delayed projects and unfortunately some financial losses. In hindsight, it has built a stronger team, taught us how to adjust, and helped us get creative with different ways we can produce content remotely.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
If I could go back, I would invest in YouTube earlier in order to build both my TikTok and YouTube presence simultaneously. Although TikTok is an incredible platform for content developers, YouTube continues to provide a lot of opportunities for both brands and creators. Although I am launching a new weekly YouTube segment starting in January 2021, I believe that if I had invested in YouTube while my TikTok profile was young, I could have grown both channels significantly larger over the last year.
What new business would you love to start?
I’d love to build a new product in the food and snack space. I have worked with a number of snack brands over the last year that has inspired me to one day create my own snack product line. I’d love to produce something that incorporates a digital element as well. I do believe that I will create something in this space over the next 5 years.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
One of my favorite pieces of advice was given to me early in my career by my friend Xuso Jones, a Spanish songwriter, content creator, and recording artist. It was simple advice that has always stuck with me throughout my career. I am paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines of “on your journey from the bottom to the top, never bring anyone down or speak negatively about others”. He spoke about how important it is to help others if you have the means and resources to do so. He also touched upon the importance of treating everybody equally, regardless of their stature, gender, or beliefs. I recall him mentioning a story about a friend who was once an intern, that later went on to buy the very company that he once interned for. This taught me very early in my career the importance of being genuinely nice and friendly to everyone. I think this is so important in business and life in general. Being a kind person is truly underrated and is something that goes a long way.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
If I was to give advice to a new entrepreneur I would first be sure to let them know that building both a personal brand and successful business takes time. Although I am having some success now, I do believe I still have a ton of growing to do and this is still the beginning for me. In my first year as a business owner, I didn’t make much money, and when I first began creating content, I didn’t have an audience. My first piece of advice would be to stay patient and be consistent. Next, I would ask them to consider investing in a form of communication that they are passionate about and use this as their main tool for telling their story and providing value to their target audience. If they are the most comfortable speaking through a voice platform, maybe they should start a podcast. If they love video, YouTube maybe their vehicle. Or perhaps they love to write and want to produce articles for LinkedIn. What is most important is that they choose a medium that suits their personal style of communication. If communication is not their strength, I would recommend that they find a partner that is a strong communicator. I’d also remind them that building a profitable business leads to a lot of challenges, adversity, and disappointments. This is why I believe it would be important to state that if they wish to be an entrepreneur, be sure that they are truly passionate about what you are building. If they are not, it will be very difficult to push through those difficult times, which are inevitable.