Who is Brandie E. Black and what do you do?
That’s right… My name is Brandie E. Black 😉 When I am not travelling, skating the streets of Barcelona, connecting up and coming artists and designers to their next gig and moving about as a solo socialite… I am full-on running Brand-e Media. For those who don’t know, Brand-e Media is my content and branding media agency which I’ve been running for about the last 10 years (actually, 2020 would be our 10 year anniversary!). I have a global content, branding, web and design team of 26 people (and always growing), where we work primarily in the igaming, blockchain, crypto and cannabis verticals; although, we are not limited to only the aforementioned.
I have always had an undying love for not only the craft of writing and communicating a bespoke message of value to a wide audience, but I have been painting all of my life and involved in visual/multimedia art. Fashion sits right alongside the arts, as I have modeled for quite a few streetwear and independent brands over the years in Toronto, London, Poland, Barcelona, to name a few. I also work closely with quite a few independent designers in minor partnerships where I assist them with their marketing and branding efforts… Which conveniently gives me a chance to always have the most unique style at the many business shows ;). Just recently I have gotten involved in music as well and have just signed a song to quite a major House record label from Germany… More about that in the near future ;).
Along with my various skills in business and marketing, my passions coincide with each other, creating quite a happy existence, if I say so myself.
Is Rebecca Black your sister? I love playing her hit song Friday, every Friday!
Ahh, the years of YouTube stardom. I was definitely after hiring her as a writer, as her lyrical creativeness is clearly, second to none. She’s not my sister but hopefully one day we can cruise down the streets of LA in a convertible, together, when she’s of legal drinking age.
What is your experience in affiliate marketing and how did you get started?
Oh, what a long journey it has been! Let’s go all the way back to 2009, at the iGB conference in Budapest, Hungary. Who remembers that one?! I had already started my marketing agency, however these were the very early days and I was only 19. A buddy from Canada had suggested I check out the show, at the time I thought, ‘no way, I don’t work in gambling’… But I had yet to visit Europe so thought, why not. That trip marked many firsts!
When I got back to Toronto I started working on my first igaming affiliate site. I sold it probably 7 years ago, it was a .ca and yet we were getting huge amounts of US traffic. To be honest, I really didn’t know what I was doing. Before Budapest, I had a small network of e-cigarette affiliate sites that I sold for a pretty penny or two (in 2009), so I thought I would go the same route with this casino thing. We kept going along with what was working, the US, and given those were the early days it was very easy to build links, we had great content and some pretty niche domains, so all went pretty well. And then! The US got hit hard and blacklisted, at this point I had new sites up (CasinoBird.com was one of them – which we are now re-releasing to a different market), so our success definitely took a hit. We continued to work on the client side as well, now looking into new markets to tackle and use our track record to benefit a refreshed journey. Actually, without saying too much, our major focus from an affiliate side is esports.
How did you end up doing content creation?
It honestly just happened. I have always been a great writer and not to mention, love writing. A good friend of mine from high school in Canada, Will Webb, he was running his own web dev company at 17 years old, I was a year younger. I always wanted to somewhat follow in his path, be in charge of my own destiny and financial future, so he helped me create my first WordPress site when I was, say, 17… It was an art site. I wrote about artists and musicians in my city (Barrie – What up!) and of course, did not make any money from that but learned a lot. I started in the affiliate marketing game with the e-ciggs, since everyone wanted them, but couldn’t buy from physical shops. Lightbulb! While I was doing that, I handled content and marketing for a local real estate company, among other areas.
When it comes to content creation, it seems long gone are the days of producing 500 words of content, rinse and repeat. What changes have you noticed from the requests of your clients in producing content?
The landscape is definitely very different than say 10, 7, 5 years ago, even 2 years ago. Instead of doing the basic game reviews for a traffic push, which is what everyone was banking on say 7 years ago, there’s been a necessity to be much more innovative. This is obvious as it should be but in gaming people tend to stick to what works. I think you need to relate the content in a much more in depth way to the reader/player and not just go with the goal of picking up traffic from search. I also see over the past years that my clients and brand overall need to make their brands a lot more personal – brand personas and brand guides, ToV’s, are the base of our strategy. The email lifecycle for a casino operator is also much more advanced in how we do things, and very important to the quarterly results. That innovative player journey, ToV and consistency in combination with out-of-the-box thinking is why people work with us, and why our own project efforts continue to thrive. Not to mention, with social and all the many forms of new media, we have actually done a lot more video content where I have my own team based here in Barcelona – But these requests are more on a special basis as you can imagine, location-wise. I would love to work more with my clients in video production, that’s a major goal for 2020.
In a quick poll done on an SEO Facebook group that I am in (Super Cool Dan Ray White Hat Link Building Group) that asked members how would they build a business from scratch without a budget and some of them of course answered they would simply offer link building services. My opinion on this would have been to start a content agency as I think it is easier to get a client buying content than it would be to buy any type of SEO services. What’s your take on that?
Completely agree with you! Content is still king (do people still say that? ;)). There are so many new forms of media and media outlets that broaden the playing field in how brands can stand out to the public and target market, it’s very exciting! I love the challenge in that. In my opinion, aside from technical SEO, keywords will always matter (and the research in defining them, long-tail especially) and should just come as a natural part of the process when delivering to clients. It should go without saying. Link building is something you want to provoke naturally from users by engaging them. So yes, I agree, a content agency is the prime way to go – Especially if you love to be creative.
Do you still see a lot of opportunities in the igaming industry for affiliates or do you think everything is too competitive with super affiliates just getting bigger and bigger?
I think if you’re willing to think outside-the-box and do your research, the game can still be played, pun intended. Esports is an amazing new vertical coming into play, I have been observing and slowly developing the strategy for 3 years now and we have some amazing domains, at that. But – it wasn’t how it used to be. All of the big players, the big media groups, have a strong hold on this spectrum of the industry. That said, if you can build up an amazing business in a valuable niche, there’s always your exit strategy.
What changes are you seeing in the igaming industry and what is your take on the state of the igaming industry?
I think it’s exciting but I have to say, I miss the days when it was a bit more “Wild West” compared to now – It was just a bit more fun haha, but that said the change is needed. So much regulation in terms of markets, which of course is a good thing for many reasons, but does make it hard for those just starting out with a dream to go big. The money needed to get moving is a lot more than ever before. On the payments side, I love to see all the activity within that industry aspect, that’s always an area I keep a close watch on. Lots of new digital methods and innovation with KYC, while the traditional banking industry is being overtaken by fintechs – Love it. Overall I like to see things are becoming more transparent for all, which boosts the reputation of actual fair gaming, the most important aspect.
Which conferences do you plan or want to attend this year?
Well, all of the upcoming iGB, for sure. I would love to attend SiGMA in Manila but nothing confirmed yet, SiGMA in Malta 2020, for sure. Affiliate World Europe is a definite, we conducted video media for Media 500 last year as well as our own affiliate objectives, which was a hit and it’s in my lovely home of Barcelona. Mobile World Conference is always a good one. Lastly, as we have cloned our marketing services for the cannabis industry as well, I will definitely be attending Spannabis in March, also in sunny Barcelona.
If it wasn’t for your content production and projects in igaming and in cannabis, what do you think you would be working on?
Love this question! I am the type of person who always wants to try something new, and more or less I’m always keeping things fresh. If I wasn’t working in igaming/blockchain/crypto and cannabis, I would definitely put all of my time into working with art, fashion and music. At this time, I am always dabbling, however it isn’t my main focus. In the coming years I certainly plan to excel in this area as well – stayed tuned for that! 🙂
How can people get a hold of you or follow you?
I am a pretty easy person to find on the internet! Google ‘Brandie E. Black’ and there’s likely no one else besides me :).
Shoot me a follow or a request! Would love to connect with you all 🙂
Thanks, John, for the questions and the interview! Great questions and keep doing what you’re doing – Always an inspiration!