Christopher Lochhead, known by many as “one of the best minds in marketing,” has been described as a “quasar” by NBA legend Bill Walton and “a human exclamation point” by Fast Company.
It is no doubt Christopher’s passion for “exploring the differences that make the difference in life and business” that inspires these descriptions, and it’s evident in everything he endeavors to accomplish.
That passion was born many years ago, when Christopher was just 18. After being expelled from high school, he had few options.
He chose to design a new future for himself and became an entrepreneur. Viewing that life change as “a way out, not a way up,” Christopher had no idea that it would be his first step toward massive success.
A 3x Silicon Valley Chief Marketing Officer who reached #1 on both Apple and Amazon with his podcast and book respectively, Christopher has been an advisor to more than 50 venture-backed startups. As if that’s not enough, he’s shared the stage with the likes of President Barack Obama, Navy Seal Christopher Fussell, billionaire Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, and many other legends in business, sports, and life. He’s also been featured by Harvard Business Review, CNBC, CNN, Fortune, Forbes, and more, as well as on countless podcasts. His resume is stellar to say the least.
But it’s in sharing his singular perspective as the host of the award-winning podcasts, Christopher Lochhead Follow Your Different™ and Lochhead on Marketing, that Christopher feels most alive.
The central belief that drives his work is that “The future requires different.” As we welcome 2021 still amidst a global pandemic, there are few who might argue this tenet. His candor, combined with a rare combination of wit and intelligence, offers listeners a refreshing voice of reason during turbulent times.
For Christopher, though, the last year has been especially difficult. He suffered two great losses: first, his best friend, Tushar Atre, was murdered during a home invasion, and then, his brother-in-law died in a tragic skateboarding accident.
“Those losses, on top of everything else going on in the world, has caused my family an incredible amount of pain, grief, suffering, and anger. We’ve really had to come together—my wife, family, and I have never been closer. These experiences have changed me, of course. They’ve also taught me that when evil brings a knife, love brings a tank.”
To honor Tushar, Christopher and his friends started a nonprofit in his name—The Drop-In Coalition. Honoring Atre’s love of surfing, design, and building, it’s a much-needed organization that provides one-day field trips for children from underrepresented communities to experience nature’s flow. The objective is to foster their love of nature and science—something important to Tushar.
The organization—and Christopher’s life work—is even more dear to his heart because of his own experiences in school.
“Some of us are inherently different. In my case, that became very clear in the early days of my education, and as it played out over time, I came to a big ‘aha’ moment about those differences. Some people have no trouble finding their place in the world. They know what they want to do, and there’s a framework to follow to get them there.
“But then there are those of us who don’t have a place. We don’t fit in any spot. So we have to make one.
“When I got thrown out of school, there was no place for me. I knew I was inherently different—I struggled with dyslexia and dyscalculia and executive functioning. My brain is not like other people’s. So I had to carve out my own place… my own niche. And I knew I had to do it in a way that would bring me joy and make the biggest difference.”
Another driving force that inspired Christopher to design a different future for himself: his innate curiosity.
“One of my favorite expressions is, ‘Thinking about thinking is the most important kind of thinking.’ I question everything. When somebody says something, I purposefully stop myself from any immediate reaction and ask myself what the words really mean. So instead, I’m going to say, ‘Tell me about that.’ Or, ‘Why do you think that? How did you learn that?’
“It took 300 years after the wheel was invented for it to be used for transportation. It took someone thinking about it differently—someone wondering if it could be used for something else—to become one of the greatest inventions in history instead of something just used for pottery. I have cultivated that sense of curiosity in myself. From a business perspective, I’m constantly asking, ‘Why does it work that way?’ I think differently.”
Through his company, Christopher offers clients that different take on business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and personal growth, while supporting them to design their own category and become known for a niche they own.
To support his endeavor, Christopher launched his first podcast, Legends and Losers. Despite its success, Christopher came to realize he had made the very same mistake so many podcasters, entrepreneurs, innovators, creators, and marketers make—he put all his chips on the brand. According to Christopher, doing so set his podcast up for failure before it even launched.
“It’s the category that makes the brand,” Christopher explained. “And in podcasting, the category you choose—your niche—is way more important than the name of your show. Legends write history and become legendary because they are known for the niche they own. Again, it’s the niche that makes the brand, not the other way around. And so the question becomes, ‘What do you want to be known for?’ When we changed the category for Legends and Losers from Business to Society and Culture, it made a huge difference.”
Two-and-a-half years after launching Legends and Losers, Christopher made the difficult decision to rebrand, ultimately leaving the show behind to create and launch Christopher Lochhead Follow Your Different™. Doing so was strategic, personal, and Christopher admits, “terrifying.”
“When I started in podcasting, I knew nothing. I loved the name ‘Legends and Losers,’ but I wasn’t even thinking about category or the long-term success of the show. And when I took a hard look at the podcaster/author world in entrepreneurship, marketing, and business strategy, I’ll be honest—most of the people in it made me sick to my stomach in a ‘want-to-punch-him-in-the-face’ kind of way. I’ll go even further to say that the ‘hustle porn star industry’ has done more to hurt entrepreneurs in the last decade or so than any single group. I see all these idiots running around talking about hustle, hustle, hustle… insisting entrepreneurs build their personal brand and become an influencer. They’re selling the idea of being famous for the sake of being famous.
“All that made me ill. I’m not a self-promotional kind of guy. Of course, as a marketer, I know you have to promote, but I was set on not having my name in the title of the podcast. What I learned over time, though, is that there are different types of podcasts and different ways in which listeners become ‘attached’ to one. Some podcasts are format driven, like The Daily, and they are incredibly captivating. You can swap the host out, and it won’t even matter much. But some of the biggest podcasters in the world came to me saying, ‘Hey, dude, you’re an idiot for not having your name in the podcast.’ And I’d explain how I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ guys. But then one of them said, ‘No, you don’t understand. Your show is host-driven. People come to hang out with you. They don’t come for the guest.’
“That prompted me to do some analysis, and weirdly enough, some of our biggest episodes were those with completely unknown guests. The bottom line is if your podcast is a host-based podcast, not having your name in the title can actually hurt your growth.”
The analysis and questioning were well worth the effort—Christopher rebranded, and now, the Christopher Lochhead Follow Your Different™ show receives, on average, more than 10,000 more downloads per episode than Legends and Losers. Within its first six months, the show broke the top 200 on Apple, hit #1 in its category, and climbed to #53 globally.
For an independent podcaster with a part-time team consisting of half-a-dozen people, these are noteworthy accomplishments—and they reflect the dream of most podcasters.
So how did he do it?
“We had already done a lot of the ‘right’ things. We had a good website and SEO. My first book, Play Bigger, helped a ton—it was in the top 1% of business book sales of all time. We networked on Quora, Medium, and LinkedIn, too. So I think by the time we changed the name, we already had a flywheel going. And then we relaunched with a handful of incredible episodes featuring a few big-name guests, and everything came together.
“What I would say to the new podcaster is that there is no magical hocus pocus growth hack. Sure, it would be great to find someone to pay a bunch of money and boom… successful podcast. If that person exists, I haven’t identified who that is. The reality is, it takes a lot of time and money to build any kind of real audience.”
Often, that investment translates to meaningful benefits.
“If you’re a company or creator of any size, and you don’t have your own podcast, you’re absolutely nuts,” Christopher said. “It’s a chance to insert yourself into the conversation you most want to be part of and scale like you never have before. And you can let your creativity go mental! Think about it: what do you really want to do? Don’t allow yourself to be constrained by the thinking of the past, because with this medium, you aren’t constrained.
“When it comes to my show, I’m a total geek. An episode comes out and I stop what I’m doing and listen to it. Sometimes, I’ve already listened to it in pre-production, and I’ll still listen to it when it comes out, because then, I’m listening as a fan. I forget that it’s my podcast. If you’re not that stoked about your own show, something isn’t right.”
Christopher’s plans for 2021 include furthering his show’s mission: to introduce the world to great thinkers who have had incredible experiences, and to have authentic dialogues with them about how they are making a difference.
Plus, his success has put him in a position to do something else he considers important: to give back.
“I don’t want to be a billionaire because of what I do. I give as much of it away as I can. I believe if you’re lucky enough to make it to the top of the mountain, you throw down a rope. People have done that for me ever since I started my first company at 18 with no money, no relationships, no experience, and no education. There were always people along the way who supported me and bet on me.
“Now, I want to be one of them—a person who throws down the rope.”