1890 – Create Personalized Brand Stories with G. Kofi Annan

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the Founder of The Brand Sensei, G. Kofi Annan.

Annan Wide

Kofi Annan engaged in a detailed discussion about the branding landscape of 2024, emphasizing the profound impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on marketing strategies. Kofi's deep understanding of branding dynamics, especially AI's transformative role, provided valuable insights during the conversation.

Kofi shared practical strategies for businesses to realign their branding efforts with core values and customer expectations. He emphasized the importance of revisiting the brand's mission, vision, and values to ensure all communications are rooted in these foundational elements, fostering a cohesive brand narrative.

Kofi discussed his approach to client work, including oversized, established brands and smaller, emerging entities. His customized strategies cater to each brand's specific challenges and opportunities, showcasing his adaptability and expertise across various industries.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Kofi Annan's expertise as a branding expert working with large and small brands
  • Discussion on the rapidly changing landscape of branding in 2024
  • Impact of AI on branding strategies
  • Understanding the gap between internal brand identity and external communication with customers
  • Practical exercises for leaders to improve their branding strategies
  • Insights into Kofi Annan's work with clients
  • Offer of a free tool on The Brand Sensei website to evaluate readiness for AI in marketing
  • Valuable insights for business owners and professionals looking to enhance their branding strategies
  •  Practical and actionable advice for branding in the evolving market

About G. Kofi Annan:

Kofi Annan has distinguished himself in the marketing and branding industry through a career spanning two decades, during which he has consistently driven innovation and growth for both multinational corporations and startups. His leadership roles at premier advertising agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi and Ogilvy, have allowed him to leave a significant imprint on over 200 brands worldwide. Among these, notable names like PUMA and Mercedes Benz stand out, showcasing his ability to navigate and succeed in the complex landscape of global marketing.

Beyond his professional achievements, Kofi Annan is recognized for his thought leadership and contributions to the discourse on marketing in a technological era. His insights have been sought after and featured in prestigious media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine. Kofi, a sought-after keynote speaker, has shared his vision and strategies for branding success at high-profile venues like Harvard, SXSW Interactive, and the United Nations. He is also the visionary behind The Brand Sensei, an innovative AI-powered marketing firm aimed at launching and nurturing smarter, more adaptive brands in today's fast-paced market.

About The Brand Sensei:

The Brand Sensei offers innovative solutions for brands at the cusp of launching or scaling, employing an AI-powered approach to marketing that demystifies technology used for business growth. Their SMTR BRND™️ methodology empowers brands to achieve more impactful, innovative, and quicker results without compromising their unique identity or authenticity. The service is tailored to provide scalable solutions that capture but inspire and convert audiences into loyal brand advocates, effectively addressing the challenge of maintaining relevance and engagement in a rapidly evolving market landscape.

Addressing common hurdles businesses face today, such as evolving customer expectations, ineffective marketing strategies, and resource constraints, The Brand Sensei leverages AI to offer a competitive advantage. By harnessing the power of AI analytics for deeper customer insights, automating engagement, and optimizing marketing efficiency, businesses can make data-driven decisions, streamline operations, and, ultimately, enhance their market presence. This approach ensures that companies with limited resources can compete effectively, fostering a community of engaged supporters and driving sales growth.

Tweetable Moments:

04:41 – “They want to discover things that maybe somebody else in the broader market doesn't know so they could introduce that to their friends.”

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out The Brand Sensei’s website at

Check out G. Kofi Annan on LinkedIn at

Check out G. Kofi Annan on Instagram at

Check out G. Kofi Annan on Twitter at

Check out The Brand Sensei's free assessment tool at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach, or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence. Com and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence. Com and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now it is G Kofi Annan Kofi it's great to have you. You are aka the brand sensei and you are found on the web at the Brand Kofi, thank you so much for joining us.

G. Kofi (00:01:15) - Josh, thanks for having me. I'm excited to have a conversation.

Josh (00:01:18) - So let's, someone who has stumbled upon this episode and they would do some searching and now they started listening.

Josh (00:01:24) - Let's just clear things up. Are you the Kofi Annan former UN? What was his position? He was a Baptist secretary.

G. Kofi (00:01:32) - secretary general. Yes, he was he was that guy at the UN.

Josh (00:01:36) - Not that Kofi Annan.

G. Kofi (00:01:37) - No, no, not that Kofi Annan though. We were born in the same country, which is Ghana in West Africa. But, you know, I'm not that Kofi Annan, but I have been, you know, here kind of helping, I guess doing a similar work in my opinion, kind of helping spread the bring people together, make sure people, brands and audiences understand each other and able to work together for a better future.

Josh (00:01:59) - Well, you have worked with Puma, you've worked with Pfizer, Six Flags, Ogilvy, Prada, Bayer. You worked with some really big brands. So I'm really excited to learn a little bit more about your work today, who you typically serve today and what that looks like.

G. Kofi (00:02:17) - Yeah. So as you mentioned, yeah, I have worked with a lot of big brands, some well-known brands in different industries, but I also have been working with at least within the past ten years, really working with growing brands, which is really where I find my passion.

G. Kofi (00:02:32) - I really find the place for me to provide input with a lot of the bigger brands. When I'm working with them, we're really trying to build their they have their established brands, right? People know them already, they understand the brand. But with the changing market and how things are changing rapidly with the advances of technology and consumer behaviors, even a brand as big as those need to reinvent themselves. Re understand audiences, re reconnect with audiences. So I've been working with those kinds of those larger companies with large budgets and a lot of time and a lot of established and also working with smaller emerging brands to really understand the tips and tricks that some of those large brands where I've learned and I've helped in, enabled them some tips and tricks that smaller emerging brands can also use, particularly with the with the advances of technology, a lot of those strategies and those resources are readily available to growing brands. So those growing brands that I work with now to really understand those nuances, to help them leverage the resources that that they have and really make that impact in the world that they're really looking for to do.

Josh (00:03:39) - Yeah. so, Kofi, I, you know, this is what you do. This is what you do professionally. You've been doing this for quite a while. Give us a bit of the of a state of the Union for branding in 2024.

G. Kofi (00:03:53) - Yeah, the state of the Union and branding in 2024 is that it changes every 3 to 6 months. You know, I think a lot of companies, you know, again, regardless of how big budget you have or how many people you have on your team, you're feeling that, you know, things are taking off their new platforms every day. There are new opportunities. There are new people entering your market. So you're competing with in on a lot of different areas. And that's where I come in, right? You know, someone like myself, I come in to help a growing brand to understand, okay, where do I need to put my time and energy? What are the resources that are available to me, and then how do I make that impact where I need to and be more focused with, with, with brands that are growing while they're not readily known? We know that a lot of consumers these days, a lot of audiences really wants they want to be like they want to be discover those brands.

G. Kofi (00:04:41) - They want to discover things that maybe somebody else in the broader market doesn't know. So they could turn there so they could introduce that to their friends. And this is where smaller brands have an opportunity to make that impact. So state of the state of the Union, things are changing rapidly. But there's a lot of opportunity, particularly with the advances of AI. If you're able to incorporate that into your on into your workflow, you could optimize, accelerate and even transform your market, in short time. So it's a exciting time to be able to run a business.

Josh (00:05:11) - Yeah. Tell me more about, the advent of AI. How is AI impacting branding right now?

G. Kofi (00:05:18) - Well, I mean, in short, it's making things a lot more accessible. Now, the downside of that is that many more people who don't, who are not as invested into a market or invest it into a process or, audience that are entering. So that's a downside. But the advantages for a lot of brands that have been in the market for a while have been doing their thing, have really been making that impact and forming those relationships is that it accelerates things and allows people to connect faster.

G. Kofi (00:05:47) - And really that's where the opportunity is. So I definitely is scary because it's a new technology and just like crypto was and metaverse and you know, you hear all these buzzwords. But really I it's not a magic bullet, but it is a tool that when leveraged with the expertise that a founder and the owner has and the relationships could definitely accelerate things. So that's where I see the opportunity for AI and the different ways to approach it. You know, folks shouldn't definitely shouldn't just kind of start doing that. You could try out a few tools, but when it comes to your core business, you really need to have a strategy that is sound and secure. Some of those strategies, which I learned in my past experience, which I use to apply with my current customers as well. So and that helps balance what you're doing now and help you grow in a different market if you need to or get bigger in the market that you're staying in.

Josh (00:06:39) - Yeah, yeah. You know, and everything is branding, right.

Josh (00:06:42) - And so I would just, you know, I'd caution my fellow business leaders, make sure you know, what your teams are doing in regards to your branding, your copy, like your language on social media. Kofi, I've been seeing a lot of this very generic I speak out there, and, and that's, you know, again, I look at, you know, there's a lot of uses for I mean, I probably am in ChatGPT about two hours a day at this stage, you know, for higher level leadership type stuff, strategic, you know, decision making, that sort of thing. certainly laying out some bigger things. But yeah, but I'll tell you, that's one of the areas where I'd really caution leaders, don't just spit out garbage. and coffee. I'm sure you have some ideas. So more is not better. not at all. Can you can you share maybe just a little bit of your thoughts on that topic?

G. Kofi (00:07:39) - Yeah, I 100% agree with you, Josh. You know more.

G. Kofi (00:07:42) - It's not better. It's just like if you if you've been around long enough, like, like myself, you know, at the advent of websites or even email marketing or any of the these new technologies, you have a lot of people that are using it and like you said, spitting out garbage. Right? And then, you know, after a while the hype dies down and those who have really solid strategies and at the end of the day, these are tools that are built upon the strategies and the processes that you have internally, the core, what makes your your business compete in the market, right? So if you don't have that, no tool is going to solve that. Right. And that's why you see a lot of these, these spam type content and these generic things. Because behind those are not really the people don't have the values, they don't understand the market. All the core things that branding and marketing and, business growth really is the foundations for that. Those things are in solid.

G. Kofi (00:08:36) - So you will see a lot of generic stuff. But. Yet to your point, you know business. Business owners should definitely not just jump in and start putting things externally out there, but really take on a watch and learn, test and learn with your processes. What can you do internally to optimize your processes internally with your team? To start seeing how these tools work for your business internally? And then yes, as you mentioned, Josh, you can now start to look at that externally for your customers and how you're communicating. Okay. Now how can we now transform now that we've optimized internally? How can we accelerate what we're doing outside in the market? And then of course, if we really want to go in a different direction, we want to transform. So it's about optimizing internally, accelerating what you have externally. And then in the future maybe transform yourself, your customer or your market.

Josh (00:09:24) - Yeah. Kofi, I'd love to. Maybe to our listener right now give them something that they could do.

Josh (00:09:30) - What's something actionable that that you generally advocate for of something that they can, you know, gather the team together, take them through some sort of a practice or exercise or maybe looking at one's own, you know, content and branding and, you know, language and everything else through a certain lens. Any practical exercise that, that you love, telling leaders to participate in. Yes.

G. Kofi (00:09:54) - I would say, you know, it's not as sexy, but, you know, like we're in business for the long term, right? So we don't really want to jump, like I said, to both feet. And one of the main things that leaders can do right now with their teams is to figure out what is the gap between who they are internally and how they're talking to their customer, and how are they listening to their customer. Right. So how can we use these tools like AI to start looking at our sales process, our sales conversations, the content that we're putting out live and use that AI to analyze that and see the gaps in there.

G. Kofi (00:10:29) - Right. Something as simple as having calling up your best customers, your best customers, and your worst customers. Having a recorded conversation with them get their, authorization as as you want. Have that conversation with, record that conversation, and then extract some of those insights to see where you're doing the best and where you need to buckle down, but then also where the gaps are. And those things used to take months and weeks and, and and sometimes years for companies to really understand. And these days, with the tools that we have, once you start that conversation with an internal stakeholder partner or your best or worst customers, record those, and then you're able to get those gems that really help you shine in the market.

Josh (00:11:10) - Yeah. Coffee. Your website is the brand. Sensei, tell me a little bit more about who you work with, what that typically looks like. What is that process like of of working with the client?

G. Kofi (00:11:22) - Yeah. With the clients that we come, we have clients that are coming and they're they've been around for maybe five, maybe six, sometimes even ten years.

G. Kofi (00:11:29) - Maybe they're not a huge player in the market, but they're you know, they're still they have some momentum and maybe they're losing or they want to do bigger, or maybe some brands that are launching and they still have a new team with venture backing and probably 5 to 10 customers really understanding that product market fit and where we come in is, is we for the companies that are launching, we help them refine their brand processes, right. You know, what is the brand mean? What are the stories that they're trying to tell externally? What is the experience that they're trying to create? Because a lot of times, particularly with with tech and software as a service companies, you know, they're so product focused and even a lot of business, there's so focused on their products. But what is the experience around the product that you're trying to bring forward? So we work. We have our four step process, which we call the smarter brand process, which we work through four areas, both from your experience, the storytelling, the essence of who you are, but then also the impact, the effect that you're trying to make in the market.

G. Kofi (00:12:29) - So we are forced. That process is how we work with all those different companies to accelerate them based on where they need. And then we also, you know, help bring them to market and make them stronger.

Josh (00:12:39) - Yeah. So again, your website, the brand When somebody goes there, what would you recommend they do.

G. Kofi (00:12:46) - When you go there. You're going to see that, you know, and I'll give access here. You know, you're going to understand where we come in and how what our ethos is. And really one of the tools that and I'll give you for your listeners, you could go to the brand sensei co forward slash thoughtful and we could see more about what we do. But more importantly, we have a free tool there that helps you evaluate where you are and how ready you are for AI and the marketing. So again, looking at internally, it's a quick five minute free tool that you can kind of go in and answer a few questions. It could help you both understand where you need to start again if you need to optimize, accelerate or transform.

G. Kofi (00:13:23) - But then also what are the key areas within your business that you could start using AI start focusing and that's at the brand sensei Co thoughtful and you can have some information there as well. Yeah.

Josh (00:13:36) - So an answer to your earlier conversation. About, you know, how you're using AI. I'm just going through the quiz right now. And, you know what's helpful about this quiz? Coffee is it's it's, already stimulating a lot of ideas. I think most of us really like the number one thing. I think, you know, that we struggle with, with AI is just not thinking about what else is possible. There are so many uses and so many great applications available. A lot of times it's like, oh my gosh, customer segmentation. There we go. There's another thing, you know, analytics on, you know, customer feedback. It's like, well there we go. We could do that as well. So and so so I appreciate that. Well again Kofi Annan your website is again the brand sensei.

Josh (00:14:22) - It's been great having you as guest. Kofi, I appreciate our conversation.

G. Kofi (00:14:25) - Thank you. Josh, it's a pleasure having this conversation. Thanks for the chat.

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