Cristina Black and her crew are the magic behind the voices of your favorite lifestyle and luxury brands.
Cristina is a veteran journalist and her work features names like Nylon, Dazed and Confused, Paper, Billboard, MTV News, Village Voice, Foam, LA Weekly and Time Out New York.
In her past life as a music critic, she interviewed A-list celebrity artistes from Adele, Kendrick Lamar and Pink, to Skrillex, Ludacris and Lionel Richie.
In 2014, she founded C. Black Content where she specializes in Brand Voice Strategy and Copy Writing for high-end beauty, fashion and lifestyle brands.
She has successfully pulled off major content campaigns for Marc Jacobs, Nike, H&M and a host of other premium brands.
I had an inspiring conversation with Cristina and we got up close and personal about the Lifestyle Branding industry.
She shared some of her views and insights on burning questions that keep lifestyle entrepreneurs up at night.
Your work at C Black emphasizes a lot on brand voice. Why is it important for lifestyle brands to have a unique brand voice, and how do you they manage to keep this distinct voice amidst the riot of the industry?
It is absolutely crucial to have a well-defined brand voice in this market. You can’t get by on visuals alone. That’s like going to a party looking hot as hell, then when someone asks you about yourself you have nothing to say. Nothing going on upstairs. It’s a very bad look, actually; to be vapid. So it’s really important to get clear on what you stand for and who you are trying to impress, and really put a solid strategy behind how you’re going to nurture that dialogue.
The way to differentiate is more about what you don’t do, than what you do do.
First of all, you need to completely ban cliché. I see lots of brands making one of two missteps: either they’re very serious and write in this stiff business-corporate style, or they try to be down with the kids and throw in all this corny Internet slang/millennial speak.
People can see right through those approaches, and it’s very easy to fall into those bad habits when you don’t have a strategy for how to communicate what you’re about authentically. You end up aping other brands poorly and it comes off really awkward.
You recently concluded an interesting project with Bird in Hand, an Australian wine brand. This is a diversion from your usual work with fashion and beauty outlets. Did you approach this as a typical project with a Lifestyle brand?
We mainly work with fashion, beauty and luxury lifestyle brands, but we will occasionally veer outside of those industries if it makes sense philosophically.
In the case of Bird in Hand, they are a winery, but they’re really functioning like a global fashion brand or a cultural icon. They have strong ties to the worlds of fashion, art, music and luxury, so it made a lot of sense for us to work together. They’re a wonderful company with a wonderful family behind it. I’m more interested in working with great people than sticking to certain industries.
We also recently worked with Solento Tequila, a new brand from some prominent figures in the surfing world. This one made sense because, like Bird in Hand, the brand is all about savouring the moment and appreciating the finer things in life. Not just fancy stuff, but the true luxury of slowing down and indulging in simple pleasures.
These brands understand that elegance is a process and it requires patience. Their values are in perfect alignment with the C. Black Content ethos.
And I don’t even drink alcohol!
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in starting and running C Black, and how do you think they have helped you get to where you are?
The biggest challenge is scaling a boutique, premium service. How do we grow, and yet maintain a high level of excellence and personal touch? I think the answer is, with great care and consideration. And a great deal of honesty.
I make every decision with intention, and with deference to the original purpose of the company. Sometimes I feel out of pace with the modern world, but I once heard slow and steady wins the race, so I think I’m okay.
How do you define success?
I’ve thought about this so much, and for me it’s about getting rid of have-tos. It is basically just doing what you want to do most of the time. The more I am doing what I want to do at any given moment, the more I feel like I’m winning.