Our Blog

From Living in a Van to IBJ’s “Forty Under 40″: The Daniel Herndon Interview

“I believe that creativity and philanthropy are two things that belong together.” — Daniel Herndon

Daniel Herndon is a bad ass. There I’ve said it.  He’s a brilliant word-of-mouth practitioners, and he exudes energy. He’s just a pleasure to be around. And, I love people, especially people with an unstoppable burning passion for life. Here’s a bit of background on my man…

Daniel exemplified his good-hearted nature in 2009 with his guerilla marketing efforts for a not-for-profit called Community First Initiative. He and the not-for-profit director lived in a not-so-hip or -new van to demonstrate the need for donations for the organization. They streamed videos from the van and gained national attention, ultimately raising $18,000 in funding for the not-for-profit that mentors high school-age students.

Rock-n-roll kick started his career in marketing when he started seeking creative ways to market his own band nationally. He rolled what he learned from creative marketing adventure to form redwall MUSIC, which has evolved into his “experiential marketing” firm, redwall LIVE. His creativity and successes put him on the prestigious Indiana Business Journal’s 2011 “Forty Under 40.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Daniel has now authored Facebook All In One For Dummies (Wiley Publishing).

I dig Daniel Herndon and all that he stands for so I’m thrilled to share my interview with this energetic and clever marketer. With no further fuss… Daniel Herndon!

Three words to describe your approach?

Innovative, Problem-Solving (is that one word?), Scalable

You’re finishing up your first book – what’s it about?

Facebook. Melanie Nelson and I wrote Facebook All In One For Dummies (Wiley Publishing) to help the beginner all the way to the Professional to get the most out of Facebook.

What’s next – once you get the book done?

Speaking engagements, seminars and business development at redwall. We have some aggressive growth plans for the remainder of 2012. We’ve build an infrastructure with a good team, good stories and good portfolio, now it’s time to expand.

A lot of people still think about you as the guy in the van – what’s that story really about?

I believe that creativity and philanthropy are two things that belong together. Charity is an important part of mankind. In 2009 living in a van and streaming it online as a publicity stunt to raise money was merely a way to showcase that philosophy and make a difference (by raising money and awareness for a good cause). The true story is that every non profit (or any other company) can achieve more if they have a guerrilla mindset and use the resources they have.

Where does social marketing fall into your approach?

The greatest capital that any business has is their human capital, often used to refer to employees. To me this also includes social capital, meaning your customers that believe in you. When you inspire people, and offer them the tools to share that inspiration with others, you can make big business happen. We always consider the social element in marketing campaigns. In our approach, we always look for big picture approach (operational innovations, traditional advertising, interactive) and find a place where social media fits, rather than forcing the issue because it is assumed to be important. Social marketing is focused on people; social media is only focused on tools with or without people.

What is your company focusing on / evolving into?

Creating innovations for companies (sometimes not necessarily specific to marketing) that make businesses better. This is ambiguous simply because the solution to every problem is not always an ad or campaign. We still have an emphasis on marketing, with which a lot of our recent work has been video driven marketing. We’re really enjoying delivering a message in 30 seconds.

What’s one thing no one knows about you?

The first thing that came to mind will remain unknown, however if you must know something; (1) I had a mohawk from age 10 to 14. (2) I played guitar since I was 8 but never got good. I picked up drums at 17 by accident and ended up becoming pretty decent, although I’ve never really cared about drums, as much as music. In the end, I was more interested in music business than music itself. (3) I once tried to turn a closet into a bedroom so that my studio apartment could look more organized (it didn’t work).

What inspires you?

Stories of people overcoming their limitations, especially when they refuse to accept they way that those around them have. The Pursuit of Happiness (with Will Smith) is a great story that fits that example.

Finish these sentences…

  • The thing about Facebook is… it doesn’t really matter. People matter.
  • Marketing communications are not… limited to what we call marketing or communications.
  • I’m afraid of… not meeting all my goals before I run out of years.
  • My priority is… to serve God and love people.

Pick one:

  • Style or substance? Substance.
  • Cocktails or beer? Yes (Cocktails probably)
  • Sushi or Noodles? Sushi.
  • Omelettes or broken yolk sandwiches? Omelettes.
  • Movie or book? Movie.

About Duncan Alney

is the leader of the passionate Firebelly Social team. He loves working with people with vision who expect the best of themselves and the people they work with. He also believes that happiness is a critical part of his personal and professional life equation, and works to be happy about whatever he's doing.