The Format is the Formula

Innovative Format + Expertise & Interests = Success

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Welcome back to the Signal, a weekly letter where I share tech stories and valuable insight that helps you become a better, smarter creator and entrepreneur.

Today’s topics:

  • The Format is the Formula

  • Word Association

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The Format is the Formula

I’ve been thinking a lot about format.

Some of the world’s best creators are constantly able to develop innovate content formats. You can often attribute the explosive growth of the fastest-growing creators to a unique format that blends their talents & interests.

The format is the engine. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Kayla Marie Sully figured out a genius format - the news reporter mommy blogger.

She combined what she’s good at (news reporting) with what she loves (her family) and built her own signature style and quirks, like holding a random object as the microphone.

The format propelled her to social media stardom because it was so unique. The magic of her format is that it’s playful, entertaining - and highly monetizable as well. Inserting brands and ad reads is seamless.

Sooraj Saxena is a budding actor and talented filmmaker who decided to use short-form video as a medium for his creative pursuit and philosophical expression.

He developed a unique cinematic dialogue style in which he does all the writing, acting, coloring, editing, direction, etc.

As of right now, he has funneled that attention into a lifestyle/clothing brand, but he is building real fandom through authentic expression and a showcase of his many talents.

The format has propelled him to major social media success – and I look forward to seeing his career blossom over the next several years.

Daniel Mac is a classic example. He’s the guy behind the “what do you do for a living” videos. The format was so wildly successful that they are now essentially paid media appearances for celebrities and influencers.

Kate Mackz has done something similar with her unique running mini-pod format.

Devon Rodriguez has become the most followed artist in the world by cracking a street-style mini-pod format too by painting strangers.

If you can combine an innovative format with your talents, passions and/or expertise – you win.

This goes well beyond content as well. Why did Sweetgreen, Chipotle, Cava, Soulcycle and so many other brands take off? They innovated a unique format.

Becoming Associated with a Word or Idea

A superpower for a creative entrepreneur is to become associated with a movement. Sometimes the movement can be distilled down to a single world or idea.

  • Ryan Holiday: Stoicism

  • Ali Abdaal: Productivity

  • Zach Pogrob: Obsession

  • James Clear: Habits

  • Codie Sanchez: Boring Businesses

  • Justin Welsh: Solopreneurship

This is something that I am actively working towards. But I don’t want to force it – instead I’m letting it develop naturally. I understand that it will take time, and should happen organically.

For many of the creators I just named, they didn’t set out to become associated with a word or idea. It’s something that happened through many years of effort, audience feedback, self-reflection and consistent reps.

Ali Abdaal started by making content teaching people how to get into medical school. He did that for several years, and naturally transitioned into talking about productivity. His audience loved it so much, and the signal was so positive that he decided to build his entire brand around it.

Ryan Holiday started his career by writing about media manipulation and growth hacking. Similar to Abdaal, it wasn’t until he was several years into his writing career that he decided to build his brand around stoicism.

It takes time, but the most impactful creators and entrepreneurs are building a movement.

What will yours be?

A Favor to Ask

I’ve been thinking a lot about my brand lately. The movement I want to build. The ideas I want to be associated with.

Can you reply to this email and let me know what words come to mind when you think about my ‘brand?‘

My guess is it will differ from the brand I’m trying to build.

Which is an interesting exercise, and I’d really value your feedback 🫡

Quick Hits

This section includes things I have found interesting and helpful this week.

 Shaan wrote a brilliant thread about how to “build an audience” in 2024.

 Greg wrote about the emergence of membership communities.

Have a great week y’all.