Robin Albin is a serial brand innovator and strategist with a wealth of experience in creating and revitalizing brands. She is the founder of INSURGENTS, a company that partners with business leaders to break through barriers and uncover new opportunities.
Robin has helped invent or reinvent over 50 brands throughout her career, including Origins Natural Resources, Sensegen Taste, Smell & Beauty, and Voli Vodka.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Robin Albin: I am a serial brand innovator, strategist and virtual Swiss Army Knife of creative with an insatiable curiosity about people and culture. I founded INSURGENTS with the goal of partnering with brave business leaders who want to break through barriers and bureaucratic BS to uncover new worlds of opportunity.
Over my career, I have helped invent or reinvent over 50 brands. Some of the original brands I have helped create and steer to success include: Origins Natural Resources, Sensegen Taste, Smell & Beauty, Sweegen Taste Solutions, Léman Manhattan Preparatory School, DrinkLavit, Voli Vodka and microMend.
I also have helped many mature brands rediscover their “True North” in a contemporary way. Some of these brands include: Estée Lauder, Alpha-H, Darphin, Keepsake Engagement Rings, Playtex Apparel, Stetson Apparel and Klinger Advanced Aesthetics.
I act as a Branding Mentor for many start-ups including Columbia University’s Almaworks and NYU Female Founder’s Fellowship. In 2016, I was chosen to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) at Stanford University hosted by President Barack Obama. In addition to participating in the Summit, I conducted a branding workshop for dynamic global women and youth entrepreneurs.
I am a frequent Guest Lecturer on Brand Creation at SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design), FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), Parsons School of Design, LIM College, New York University School of Continuing Education, Baruch College/CUNY.
I also speak about branding and storytelling for organizations such as Boston Consulting Group; JPMorgan Chase Bank; VSP Vision Care; Aesthetic Intelligence Labs; The Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford; Foresight and Trends; Harvard Business School NYC Alums In The Alley Panel.
If you were in an elevator with Warren Buffett, how would you describe your company, your services or products? What makes your company different from others? What is your company’s biggest strength?
Robin Albin: The market is crowded, competition is fierce and consumer attention spans are nano-seconds short.
How do you stand out in a noisy marketplace?
By finding the needle in the haystack. The kernel of creativity that will stand out of the sea of sameness.
That’s where INSURGENTS comes in.
We are is a full-service, brand strategy, innovation and creative consultancy that helps courageous companies of all size and scale invent the future with speed, agility and a bold, fearless attitude.
We live to solve the big hairy challenges, the stumpers and head scratchers – the stuff that keeps you up at night.
And we use our Insurgent mindset to challenge you to think bigger, better and smarter.
We uncover human insights that strike a nerve and get to the heart of the consumer.
We respect the rules – but don’t always play by them.
We know what’s happening in the marketplace right now and have a Spidey-sense for where it will be tomorrow.
And because we believe brands are best when their purpose and promise touch every touch point, Insurgents does brands from end to end.
Whatever your size or situation, we assemble a swat team of Insurgent creators and ideators, market movers and masterminds specifically curated for your project.
Need a formula? We work with the best trans-formulators.
Website? No worries.
Digital? Logo or Package Design? Done! And done!
And we do it all without the outrageous agency bloat that bogs thinking – and budgets – down. Seriously who has time for that!
Our clients trust us to use our Insurgent mindset to challenge them to think bigger, better and smarter and confront the status quo confidence. We promise to shake you out of your comfort zone. No guts. No glory!
Give us a blank piece of paper and a problem and we’ll fill it with what-ifs and why-nots that will turn your head and sometimes test your courage – but will never be off-strategy. The result: a compelling proposition with irresistible emotional pull.
What advice do you wish you received when you started your business journey and what do you intend on improving in the next quarter?
Robin Albin: Don’t be afraid to poke the bear. The messed-up things that happen in life – the shit you think is going to sink you forever – actually present moments of incredible transformation. They provide us with the greatest opportunity to leap forward and achieve things that we never thought possible.
In the next quarter, I plan to use my Insurgent mindset to challenge a portfolio of new clients.
Here is a two fold question: What is the book that influenced you the most and how? Please share some life lessons you learned. Now what book have you gifted the most and why?
Robin Albin: I have been inspired by the amazing essayist and risk analyst, Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his bestselling book – Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.
He wrote: “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder and stressors and love adventure, risk and uncertainty. Let’s call it anti-fragile…Anti-fragile is beyond resilience and robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stay the same. The anti-fragile get better.”
Taleb defines glass or fine china as “fragile”. Things that should be handled gingerly or even better left alone on a shelf in peace, quiet, order and predictability. Fragile objects do not benefit from earthquakes or toddlers. Fragile seeks tranquility. Anti-fragile thrives on volatility. Anti-fragile grows from disorder.
My life has been anti-fragile. And I’ve learned that anti-fragile can send you on a path you would never have found otherwise. Shrinks refer to this path as “Post Traumatic Growth”. PTG is positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event. Those who experience PTG don’t simply bounce back, they bounce higher than they ever did before. We truly can build a better future out of the ashes of the disrupted past. By standing up, standing out, sticking to what you believe in you can harness the forces of change that are bound to come.
Christopher Hitchens, an American journalist, is quoted as saying that “everyone has a book in them” Have you written a book? If so, please share with us details about it. If you haven’t, what book would you like to write and how would you like it to benefit the readers?
Robin Albin: I am currently writing a book entitled “The Sensual Revolution. The next great awakening in wellness. It centers around reimagining longevity through Sensual Wellness™ – using our sight and hearing as well as our Cinderella Senses: smell, taste and touch.
2020, 2021, 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into businesses on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned and what advice would you share?
Robin Albin: The potential for a recession has many marketers in a state of panic.
I’m no economist. So, take my recession recos with a grain of salt. But here’s what I do know for sure.
When the scalpels come out, Branding is often the first item slashed. Big Mistake.
Shaky times are precisely when solid, strategic Branding is vital to your company’s health, well-being and future financial success.
Retreating is a surefire way to end up in obscurity. Brands that are out of sight can soon become out of mind. Research shows those that cut their spend in year-one of a recession can take up to 5 years to catch up. Now is the time to project stability to your audience. Worried consumers see trusted brands as safe and comforting in trying times.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton. When asked, “What do you think about a recession?” he responded, “I thought about it and decided not to participate.”
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Robin Albin: My super power is the ability to find needle in a haystack.
I’ve never met a founder or a stakeholder who when asked what his / her brand stands for doesn’t rattle off a laundry list of assets.
Each and every one competing for attention.
Too often the big idea is hiding in an accumulating mish-mash of competing ideas. The challenge is to extract it.
I help brands know where to look. What to elevate and emphasize.
And chose the assets that really shine – saving the others as reinforcements.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Robin Albin for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Robin Albin or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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