The Business Gay Podcast with Host Calan Breckon
The Business Gay
Strategic Marketing Through Storytelling
Strategic Marketing Through Storytelling Nik Varlamov and Benjamin Gibson from Toronto Creatives

In this episode of The Business Gay Podcast, host Calan Breckon speaks with Nik Varlamov and Benjamin Gibson from Toronto Creatives.

Toronto Creatives is a multidisciplinary content creation and marketing agency located in Toronto, Canada, that help their clients internationally achieve their goals through high-quality content, storytelling, and strategic marketing campaigns that they custom-design and tailor to each client.

Nik and Ben are both partners in business and in life, and are Proud members of the Canadian 2SLGBTQI Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC).

Watch on YouTube

► Today’s Sponsor is PartnerStack – Affiliate Marketing Made Easy.

Get a FREE Website SEO Audit from Calan:

Join the email list for news and updates

Links mentioned in this episode:

Key Takeaways for quick navigation:

  • [01:52] 70% of the internet is video content; high-quality videos enhance retention and watchability.
  • [03:13] Effective video marketing combines entertainment with promoting products, focusing on engaging the end user.
  • [11:24] The Hero’s Journey framework captivates audiences, involving a hook, journey, and resolution in storytelling.
  • [14:52] Personal stories in pitching add depth, emotion, and relatability, building connections beyond showcasing the business.
  • [18:30] Human connections drive business decisions; personal connections or liking individuals behind services garner more support.
  • [23:20] Effective storytelling involves creating mystery, allowing the audience to connect on a deeper, emotional level.
  • [31:27] Taylor Swift’s popularity is attributed to her storytelling, creating a connection by addressing shared human experiences.
  • [33:56] Guiding branding with storytelling in short-form content involves focusing on the hero’s journey, engaging content, and authenticity.
  • [39:58] Video content remains crucial; being human, not just a polished business, connects with the audience on a personal level.


[00:00:00] Calan Breckon: Looking to grow your business? PartnerStack accelerates the growth of your partner ecosystem by simplifying every step of your partnership journey so that you can find new customers, grow your market share, and boost demand for your products. Trusted by companies like, and Vimeo, PartnerStack is your go to resource for partner management and affiliate program Software. Head on over to to take the free quiz on affiliate marketing or just click the link in the show notes.

Now let’s get on to today’s episode.

[00:00:40] Calan Breckon: Welcome to the Business Gay podcast, where we talk about all things business, marketing, and entrepreneurship. I’m your host, Calan Breckon, and on today’s episode, I have Nik Varlamov and Benjamin Gibson from Toronto Creatives. Toronto Creatives is a multidisciplinary content creation and marketing agency located in Toronto, Canada that helps their clients internationally achieve their goals through high quality content, storytelling, and strategic marketing campaigns that they custom design and tailor to each client. Nik and Ben are both partners in life and in business and are proud members of the Canadian 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce, also known as the CGLCC. I am also a proud member of the CGLCC.

We ended up taking a left turn through our chat today, but damn, it was a good one. So, if you’re ready to go on a journey with us, jump on in and let’s go.

[00:01:34] Calan Breckon: Welcome to the podcast, Nik and Ben. I am so excited to have you. How are you two doing?

[00:01:39] Benjamin Gibson: Great. Calan, how are you?

[00:01:41] Calan Breckon: I’m doing phenomenal. I’m really excited to dive into the world of Toronto creatives and what you two do and all the amazing things that we get up to. So let’s just jump into it. Can you tell me more about Toronto creatives and what you guys actually get up to?

[00:02:00] Benjamin Gibson: Yeah, sure.

[00:02:01] Nik Varlamov: Yeah, absolutely. Toronto Creatives is a video production and marketing agency in Toronto. Obviously, we do a lot of good stuff, a lot of content creation, a lot of photos, videos. And of course, we help our clients not only capture the content itself, but also help with placement, with promoting. So basically come as a, I would say creative partner to companies and individuals as well and help them create great visuals.

[00:02:37] Calan Breckon: Nice.

There’s a lot of visualization and you guys work a lot in video. So to some extent, everybody is using video these days.

You can’t open your phone and not SEO video. How can companies actually utilize this and do it better than they’re doing it right now?

[00:02:57] Benjamin Gibson: Yes, you’re absolutely right.

I think statistically, like 70% of the Internet right now is video. YouTube is like the number two website in the planet.

[00:03:09] Calan Breckon: We’re making a video right now.

[00:03:11] Benjamin Gibson: We’re making a video right now. You’re watching us on video. This is content. So that is something that we’re all exposed to all the time. How can companies do it better? The thing is, with social media specifically and any kind of entertainment, really, when we’re watching tv or anything like that, what we’re doing actively as human beings is trying to be entertained.

So that’s why Hollywood has so much money. That’s why tv production has so much money, because people pay to be entertained, or they don’t pay to be entertained. In some cases, like Netflix, they actually do pay to be entertained.

But essentially people want to be entertained.

So if you calan interject your commercial, because that’s the worst part about being entertained. It’s always been the worst part about being entertained since tv was invented was the show stops and now you’ve got to watch a commercial. So if you’re scrolling on TikTok, same kind of thing. Oh my God, now I’ve got to watch a commercial. And I know for me, as soon as I see that sort of click here button come up, I’m like, oh, it’s a commercial, skip by. But at some point sometimes when you’re doing that, you kind of want to watch it through because you didn’t realize that it was a commercial right away and you started getting into it. And then even though you know it’s a commercial, you’re like, okay, I’m going to watch this through because it’s actually feeding my entertainment value.

And that’s what companies, those are the companies that are utilizing these platforms and video in a good way because they are taking the end user and saying, you’re the most important thing. We’re going to entertain you. Also, here is our product, rather than here is our product, let me jam it down your face and I will add to that.

[00:05:00] Nik Varlamov: So if we’re talking about video altogether, why we like it, it’s just because the nature of people, we like moving images. We like watching. We would rather watch something than sometimes read or sometimes listen about something. We understand that it’s all like different formats, but statistically, video is much more heavily used everywhere. And that’s why we can see all the trends of different companies that they switch. And that’s why we see the rise of TikTok, but not as well as other platforms who offer maybe just photos or some kind of information or some kind of audio content. What was the other one clubhouse? Yeah, clubhouse. So we saw that become very viral and very interesting because of the feel and the clubbiness of the clubhouse and all this kind of stuff. But it didn’t last for that long because we still go back to the usual content consumption. We do like visuals. Also, video provided something that we can’t really see otherwise is like, a little bit of insight in somebody else’s life. So that’s how we can see what people live. And as people, we actually drawn to people. And that’s a shocker sometimes, but it’s true.

We do like watching people do like talking to people. That’s why even when we. Yes, definitely entertainment is an important part. But also, sometimes we just need to kind of see and connect. We connect with somebody, and we also connect with somebody who we see each other with or in their situation, something like that. So we relate to people by seeing ourselves in that same situation. That’s why video is so representative. So you can totally see yourself in that situation doing exactly that thing, or you want to live that life, or you want to be part of something like that.

[00:07:01] Calan Breckon: That’s why video, we’re drawn to story. And with Clubhouse, it was definitely a flash in the pan, but also, it hit right at the right moment because it was the time frame we all know about. And so people were looking for something more creative to do something interesting, something different. But it didn’t have that extra, like, you couldn’t see the people, you couldn’t engage with them in that regard. And being able to see somebody and those facial cues and those other things are also important. And I want to talk more about the commercial aspect because I’m a huge YouTube user. I have YouTube on my tv, and I would say the most things that I use on my tv are Netflix and YouTube app. For sure, those are the two things that I watch the most. And then I have Amazon and a couple others. But the biggest thing that I hate, and I’ve hated it since this kid commercials, right? But on YouTube, especially when those commercials come on and they’re so bad, I’m just like, oh, my God, this is going to be the longest 30 seconds of my life to wait for this commercial to go by. But what you said, ben, about sometimes you don’t recognize that it is a commercial or that it is an ad. I want to talk a little bit more about that and how people are doing it wrong and how people are doing it right and what you think the people are doing it right. What is that magic sauce in it today.

[00:08:25] Benjamin Gibson: I think there’s a couple of ways to go at that. And just to expand on that actually is an interesting point. So I, for instance, I watch prime. I’m ashamed to say that, but I don’t pay for prime. So I actually watch commercials on prime. And they’re, as now targeted to me locally. They’re not targeted to me as personally as Google is because YouTube is part of Google and they know me inside and out and all of us.

But they now are putting localized commercials on streaming platforms like prime. So sometimes you can watch a show on prime and you’re going to get the latest Estee Lauder commercial and it’s going to look great and it’s going to have that tv style and maybe it’s entertaining, maybe it’s not, but it’ll certainly be quality. And then the next one is like for a lawyer in Richmond Hill, and it’s just absolutely painful to watch because it’s like, wow, this is like I’m watching prime talent. Like I’m watching Prime, Amazon prime right now. And you seem to have produced something on your iPhone six. Like, is everything okay? Can I get a wellness check again? So there’s two kind of schools of thought. To answer your question. I think quality is very important as far as advertising goes. I think it’s very entertaining and easy to watch somebody do something silly in their living room and it’s hilarious and maybe their dog jumps off something. We all love it. We all see that organic content all the time. And then you get to those commercials that are kind of trying to be that, and those are tricky to pull off in a really good way because the video quality is low. You’re not connecting to the person because you know that they’re trying to sell you something. So if you can get somewhere in between those old Ford commercials like that, really, like when commercials had a lot of money behind them, they looked beautiful. And that high level commercial and entertainment and at a sort of personal level, that’s the sweet spot that we found works really well. So we like to see high quality video, high quality sound. It’s incredibly important. Sound is wildly important. If you think about it and you watch streaming services, you’ll notice that the video will always cut out before the sound because people will listen to something prior to kind of being able to see it. They prioritize those things. But if you’re watching something with beautiful video and this sounds like, oh, my God, just get it out of my ears. Turn it off. It’s terrible.

High quality video, high quality sound, a level of entertainment. We like to see people’s faces when we’re dealing with a business.

One of our biggest things we like to talk to a business about, when they’re talking about content is like, why don’t we. First step, why don’t we put you on camera and talk to you about your business? And it’s going to be a nice, beautiful two camera set up. It’s going to be in a nice studio. It’s going to look great, you’re going to look pro, you’re going to be entertaining to watch.

It’s a nicer feel.

I hope I’m being as eloquent as I should be.

[00:11:59] Calan Breckon: Let’s see what Nik has to say.

[00:12:00] Nik Varlamov: Yeah, no, I will even augment. We usually talk like that, but summarize and augment each other. And what Ben is trying to say, definitely, it is a lot about the quality, and the high quality content is actually being prioritized by platforms. If we talk about social media advertising, if we talk about YouTube, even TikTok and Instagram right now, the platforms are straight up, like, high quality content will be prioritized over other content, because that’s what people value the most. And algorithms, they live their own lives and they kind of know what to do. So they analyze. There is an assumption that even algorithms figured out that the higher quality content is ranking better, the retention is better, the watchabilities is better, the rewatchability is better. So that’s another important thing. So, yes, quality, important. The second thing to me personally is very important. What’s very important is the story.

Without the story, basically, it’s nothing. So you can do whatever you want. You can do nice visuals and stuff like that. And if you go to YouTube and type in some kind of cinematic, visual, cinematic film about, I don’t know, bahamas or something, you will see it and it’s going to be great. You will watch it for five minutes and you’ll probably get bored. Even if the visuals are fantastic or incredible or something like that. You need this dynamic. You need this information that’s coming along. The video, why am I watching it? And what’s happening there? This is the very deep in our core. We grew up listening to fairy tales and figuring out how it works and stuff like that, because there is always this formula of heroes journey everywhere that has to be implemented, otherwise it’s not going to work. You have to open the symptom. You have to have a hook. You have to grab the attention. When you have the attention, you have to bring that character that’s going to travel through this little journey and come back with changed, essentially. So that’s kind of the hero journey in a very kind of short way how it works.

And that is something that we can’t stop watching. We just need to know what’s going to happen. We just need to know how it’s going to end.

[00:14:27] Benjamin Gibson: We need that final resolution.

[00:14:30] Nik Varlamov: We need that resolution. Otherwise, it’s just something that is like, oh my God, I’m just going to feel uncomfortable all day without knowing.

That’s how all trailers are put together for movies or whatever. That’s how we get announcements of some kind of upcoming content.

[00:14:54] Benjamin Gibson: I would go as far as to say that’s even how shows hook us season to season. They bring us right up to the point of feeling satisfied, but not quite.

[00:15:04] Calan Breckon: But just, they don’t give you the payoff. I’m glad you brought up story because to equate this for my entrepreneurs out there who are listening, I think of this when I’m putting together a pitch because I’ve seen a ton of pitches and the ones that stick with me weren’t the ones that told me this is my business and this is what I do because everybody always does that when they get up and pitch. When I pitch, I tell my story of why I became an entrepreneur because that is more interesting.

Just personally in my life, I have issues and medical issues and other things, and that kind of drove me to become an entrepreneur. And so in my pitch, I use that story and the amount of people that come up to me afterwards that want to then find out more about what I do because I don’t answer those questions in my pitch as to where that story went.

I’m a medical mystery still. And they are left on that cliffhanger so that afterwards they’re like, okay, they don’t want to ask me about that, but they still want to know about my business because I’ve created that cliffhanger for them of like, I need more from this experience.

And that’s where I found the most success in my pitching, is kind of creating that and telling the story about, yes, what I do, but why I do it. And it’s led to such success. Instead of just being like, hey, this is what I do. Here’s my pitch. Because everybody does that. You need to have that hero’s journey. You need to have that excitement that other people can connect to or connect the dots to. Like, I don’t experience this, but I know somebody who has that creates that emotion and that feeling inside of.

[00:16:54] Benjamin Gibson: Sec. One sec. One sec.

[00:16:58] Calan Breckon: Gazentai.

[00:16:59] Benjamin Gibson: Thank you.

[00:17:02] Calan Breckon: Go ahead, Dick.

[00:17:05] Nik Varlamov: Yeah, no, I was going to say that. Absolutely. And even I find sometimes, even with me, when I start talking with people, people start looking at me and analyzing because they hear the accent, but they can’t figure me out right away. And I’ve been very cautious about. Sorry.

I’ve been very self conscious about that. And kind of sometimes it was a huge Hannah and I wouldn’t go and I wouldn’t talk to people and stuff like that. And now I find it even a little bit advantageous because it creates a floor of mystery around you. And who is this person? Why is he speaking and what is he talking about? This is different. We haven’t heard about that, and it works for me. And this is where we try to do something like that with our clients when we put together videos for them. What is this, that little thing that is SEO much different about you? Because every person is unique, and every person and every story is unique. And sometimes people say, like, well, I don’t have really, like, a fascinating story. You say that sometimes, which I fully disagree. And because everybody does, we just sometimes don’t know how to explore that. We don’t know how to come from it. And this is how it is good to have a coach or let’s say, interviewers. It’s good to have somebody who can interview you and talk to you about it because you need this little kind of path to get to the point where you are ready.

[00:18:40] Benjamin Gibson: Sorry, guys.

[00:18:41] Nik Varlamov: To get to the point when you are ready to answer those questions and to tell that story. And when we see instead of just a person who is talking about their business, because business is great, but also, like, one of our supplier diversity friends, Abokichi, said, business and doing business is, oh, my God.

[00:19:07] Calan Breckon: Are you going to be okay?

[00:19:09] Benjamin Gibson: Yeah, it’s because I’m on camera. As soon as I’m on camera.

[00:19:14] Nik Varlamov: Having.

[00:19:14] Calan Breckon: A giant sneezing attack. Hilarious.

[00:19:17] Nik Varlamov: Okay, I’ll try to wrap my thought. But the idea is this.

We do videos for business, right? And when people talk about business, sometimes it’s not even, like, boring. It’s just not fun. Because it’s capitalism. It’s money.

[00:19:36] Benjamin Gibson: It’s, like, icky.

[00:19:38] Nik Varlamov: We’re just making money. Sure, you can say whatever you want, but you just want money, right? But that’s exactly to support what you just said, Kevin. So when we have a story and the why we do that and where is this passion? Like, where is this passion? What is it coming from? Why is it making us this different human from everybody else? This is where we understand. Oh, that’s why.

[00:20:06] Benjamin Gibson: Because that’s ultimately consumers and everybody. Businesses need something, right? Like, they’re going to go out and they’re going to buy tea or they’re going to buy. There you go.

[00:20:20] Calan Breckon: I’m literally drinking tea right now for anybody listening.

[00:20:23] Benjamin Gibson: Excellent.

I’ll send you some tea. We’ve got a great tea client. Can I plug them?

[00:20:29] Nik Varlamov: Is that okay?

[00:20:29] Calan Breckon: Yes, go ahead.

[00:20:30] Benjamin Gibson: Okay, everyone, check out Tsquared Ca. They’re a canadian tea company and they’re one of our best clients and they’re an awesome friend.

But I will say one of those things, everybody needs tea. Everybody needs toilet paper. Everybody needs all those essentials of life. And businesses need services. Businesses need websites and video and consultation and public relations, and they need all of this kind of stuff.

But how do you so, like, if you know something and if you feel something for somebody and you can be like, I like Calan. I want to support Calan because I like him and I happen to need his service right now. I’m going to go to Calan, and that goes along.

[00:21:17] Nik Varlamov: So let’s say right now we’re working. Just starting to work. Just basically kind of got confirmed, like yesterday and today with our buddies also. Diverse suppliers, level studio. I don’t know if you know them, Luke and Vin.

They haven’t been long, but they have.

[00:21:32] Calan Breckon: Yeah. Luca and Vin. I love Luca and Vin. Luca and Vin. I got to get them on this podcast.

[00:21:37] Nik Varlamov: I’ve been amazing. We’ll send you the video that we just did for them as well with the CGLCC. So that’s one of the diverse suppliers that we, at the same time, they’re great guys. And that’s the most important part because, again, let’s say level studio is a design firm, right?

[00:22:00] Calan Breckon: I just recommended them yesterday.

A friend on Instagram was like, hey, I’m looking for interior designers. And I was just like, oh, have you heard of Luca and level studios? They are amazing. They do great work. And it’s because I like them as human beings and people, and that’s what I do.

Oh, yeah. Do amazing work. But humans do business with humans. And I think a lot of people tend to forget that part.

[00:22:26] Benjamin Gibson: Absolutely.

[00:22:27] Nik Varlamov: And even parts of that kind of idea because we got together and we started talking, they want some video and they had ideas what videos to kind of put together because they want to showcase the business and they want to showcase their services. They have two big services. So they do design consultations and they do basically design projects, right. Interior design as a bigger project. And of course they want to promote those services. And we had to take it back and take a little bit of a creative touch on that. And we decided, you know what, we’re going to do this as a highly produced, fast paced, kind of catchy commercial. When you see a lot of color, you see a lot of action going on because you can show the business. But that particular other part and other video that we’re going to put together, we will take it to a documentary style. We want to walk with you to your design consultation. Sit down, have nothing is super produced, not a lot of cuts, because we need to show you as people. Because essentially that’s the part that a lot of people forget. They need to see who you are as a human. They need to see how you think, how you talk, how you behave, how you take. They need to see your creative change in your eyes the moment you realize, oh, that’s what it’s going to be. I love that. Or something like that. You know what I mean?

That is something that I believe we’re lacking, this humanity. And there’s something, especially commercial work because we are getting entertained a lot. But do we know the stories? Do we know why we need to go with this form? It’s just flashing. We just got used to it.

[00:24:14] Calan Breckon: It’s the veneer of this is the shiny thing that I’m going to show you, but the actual story behind it. I think of this in the context of when I go to mixers and like business mixers and all that kind of stuff. I don’t ever sign up for quick dating or any of that kind of stuff because I don’t feel like that works for me. That’s not how I do business. I do business by being myself and being a human because I am showing people who I am. And if you like this human being who I am, you’re going to be curious as to what I do for business. You’re naturally going to ask about it. And if it’s something you need, you’re already like, well, I already like this person. Why wouldn’t I then think about them or ask to do business with them? And to me that is a lot more enjoyable of an experience to just do business that way as opposed to being like, hey, I’m super excited to do business with you. This is what I can do. And business, it’s like, calm down. It’s a little bit too desperate. And I think about this also in the context of books and book writing, there’s a difference between an author who can tell the story but show you it as it’s going along, as opposed to just telling you what’s happening. You can tell the difference between a well written book and a crap written book because I’m reading a crap one right now, and I’m like, this is awful, but I have to finish it.

[00:25:36] Benjamin Gibson: Is it Brittany’s book?

[00:25:37] Calan Breckon: No. I only read fantasy fiction. But in the book, it’s just like everything is told to me. There’s no mystery. There’s no kind of, like, fuzzy feelings of getting to know these characters and these people. It’s just this is what the story is. And I feel when people pitch their businesses or go to these business mixers, that’s what they do. They tell you the story instead of letting you kind of have a bit of mystery and kind of figure things out for yourself and come along on the journey. Everybody’s just like, here’s all the things I want you to see. And I’m going to hide everything else because I think that that makes me imperfect, but I think that that imperfection is what makes us human, and that’s what humans connect with.

And businesses do business with other humans. People do business with people. If that all made sense.

[00:26:20] Benjamin Gibson: Yeah, absolutely.

Sorry. I just want to put this thought in there, because I’ve worked in advertising for more years than I would personally care to admit.

And it used to be about clever. It used to be about being clever and doing something clever that people would remember. And that’s still a good tactic, and it’s still a tactic that many businesses, many advertising agencies and production companies use. Be clever, and people will remember it. And that’s true. But getting to know somebody and really getting a feeling for that, it goes beyond memory recall. It goes to an emotional level of recall. And that leaves you with this feeling of when you’re confronted with that product. Oh, I remember this feeling that I had, and it was a good feeling, and it was comforting to some extent. So I’m going to go with this service, with this product, because, as you said, I know the person. I know the feeling behind it. I know what it is. It’s not just trying to be clever to sell me something.

[00:27:31] Nik Varlamov: And even to add to that, there is a saying that most of the times, it’s not about when we get services or we work with something, with somebody or the company or something like that. We remember not the actual final product for something that we’re getting. We remember how people make us feel and if they make us feel good and they make us feel heard, which is also extremely important because sometimes. And you do coaching, right?

[00:28:02] Calan Breckon: I do business, yeah. It’s part of what I do. I’m an SEO specialist. That’s my focus. But I do do coaching in regards to right now I’m working with somebody, launching their podcast and a lot of that is the SEO set up, the technical set up. But on the other side of it, there’s the coaching of like, they’re having troubles actually getting to record and how do I do this? How do that? Because they’re up and hear about it. It’s like the human side of it then comes in and it’s just like, hey, it’s going to be totally a mess your first couple of times. You have to go through it in order to learn it. We can’t master something until we get there.

[00:28:34] Nik Varlamov: So, yes, again, in coaching, I’m also a certified coach, so I studied it. I don’t coach myself a lot, but I fully implemented everything that I learned into our interviewing techniques and that’s actually working really amazing.

But what I was going to say is that it is very important to remember that even when you want to give people expertise and help them do something because you have this expertise. Let’s say we have skills in video creation and stuff like that, we still have to listen because if we don’t listen, we’re going to miss out. We’re going to miss out on what people want on that communication, what they are thinking about, what they’re envisioning and why. And you need to really go and walk with them alone instead of just going into like, oh, this is what you have to do, blah, blah, blah. This is what the information is. Right. Because when we do so, and when we listen to people, we make them also feel good about that because we make them feel heard and understood, and it’s much more valuable than the best product possible.

[00:29:53] Benjamin Gibson: And that’s where you get the best sound bites. Like when you listen to somebody and they might just say a little thing in passing and then you’re like, oh, that was a nugget. That was something that we should probably poke at a little bit. And then that’s when you get them to open up as people and that’s when you understand this is a person living their life and this is their business and there’s something to it. There’s meat there.

[00:30:22] Nik Varlamov: Yeah.

[00:30:23] Calan Breckon: I’m sorry. Go ahead, Nik.

[00:30:25] Nik Varlamov: No, sorry. Yeah, no, I was just going to say, because even sometimes you can talk to a person and they say, let’s say, why are you doing this business? You ask that question, right? Why is this business anything to you? And the person would say, well, I don’t know. I just happened to start it. It’s a lot of money, or it’s kind of nice and it’s popular and blah, blah, blah. And then you can be satisfied with this answer, but also you can go, okay, but why? There are, like, a million ways to do the same thing, but why this one? Or if the person like, I don’t know why this one? Okay, but why is it important for you to have a lot of money by doing this business? Why is it important for you? Not for everybody. It is important. And the person will probably go, well, money will give me opportunities, will create me the life that I want and stuff like that. But why do you want this life?

What is this behind that? Because there is always something. And then you will see the actual values, because there will be something about maybe family, maybe security. Maybe there was a story in the person’s life when they weren’t secure in their life, when they weren’t getting what they were going to get. And this is where they remember themselves. Sometimes they don’t even know. They don’t even think about it. They remember, oh, wait a minute. But that’s why I’m doing that. So, essentially, this is important to listen and to get to the bottom of the human story. And what I was going to also augment you with talking about storytelling and stuff like that and how we get to the point when these stories have become so drawn and we get connected. Let’s take a look at the biggest star on the planet right now, Taylor Swift. This is the biggest storyteller ever. And we can hear it through the music, through her videos that she is actually directing and creating, because she is the one who is creating this little world. Every song will be so descriptive of what’s happening. It will be a lot of information, and she will draw this image and picture of what’s happening. And visually, she will tell a very complicated and very interesting story with a lot of mystery, with a lot of Easter eggs everywhere.

And there you have it. That’s why the popularity. It’s not because the music is so gorgeous, because she touched every single person she’s talking to. She’s talking to a gigantic audience, because anyone has experienced something through what she’s saying, through her songs. This situation, that situation. Break up a. Not break up a love or something something or some kind of achievement in their life or something. And because it’s always going to speak to somebody, people like her, and that’s how she became so popular.

[00:33:20] Benjamin Gibson: And again, I’ll add to that, too, she puts, and I’m not one to speak to the genuineness of this, but I fully believe it to be a genuine thing. Is that for Lady Gaga, it’s about art, and she’s making her art, and that’s cool and that’s awesome to look at. Huge fan with Taylor Swift. She puts a piece of herself in every single thing that she touches, whether it’s her artwork, whether it’s her music.

You feel connected to her as a person, which is why I think that’s.

[00:33:59] Nik Varlamov: And that’s the keyword, connected to her as a person. That’s all you need to know. And that’s going to be always in every piece of content that you create. If we can do it, it’s going to be a good one.

[00:34:10] Calan Breckon: I agree. I’m a Taylor Stan. I think that her storytelling capabilities are so magical. And this thought is coming to me about the fact that she did get her start in country style. And country style music tends to be more storytelling music that tends to be the history of it. It’s this rough life or whatever it is in the background. It comes from a genuine story. And so that has now grown into where she is now, where she still has those roots of storytelling through her music, which is what people connect to and what people attach to. And no matter what it is, there’s a song for every kind of experience that you’ve had. And I love Taylor Swift. You guys clearly love Taylor Swift. We’re swifties.

[00:34:54] Benjamin Gibson: Woo.

[00:34:56] Calan Breckon: Because storytelling is one of the biggest things. So to kind of bring things all together and wrap things up, if you were going to guide somebody on their branding today and implementing storytelling into their maybe more short form stuff, if somebody is kind of working on that because TikTok and all these are taking over. Short form is taking over. How does somebody infuse some of this part of storytelling into those shorter forms where you only have split seconds to really connect?

[00:35:27] Benjamin Gibson: So let me say something about short form content quickly before we answer that question. So here’s how short form content is popular.

The algorithm typically will look at the percentage of a video viewed. So if a video is viewed for 80%, it’s going to go above a video that’s been viewed for 30% on average, the amount of time that it’s viewed. Right.

The shorter forms of content, regardless of how good they are, literally don’t you don’t have time to skip by them. So you’re almost always going to get to like an 80, 90% view rate. So yeah, they say, like, short form content can be the future.

We can say that, but also we’ve got to consider the watch rate and the retention rate. And again, it goes right back to the story itself because the best content, in my opinion, is those 32nd 1 minute pieces that keep you around because that’s what’s engaging the interest and that’s what’s getting you through this one huge minute of time while you’re engaging with this story. So, yes, short form content, absolutely. I mean, it can be fun. It can be funny, it can be terrible.

It is what it is.

I would say to focus less on short form per se and more on how do you keep your audience engaged for the full video. How do you produce something that is entertaining, that is touching, that is real, that connects with people?

That would be my kind of advice for social media content or any kind of advertising content.

[00:37:22] Nik Varlamov: I will go here with just kind of a set of tips if you want, like, specifics of how to do that.

So first of all, yes, you’re absolutely right. Shorts, they do tend to have a longer retention rate because it’s just shorter and simpler. And this is how we don’t skip as fast.

But I believe that it goes along with any kind of video. So I’m a big advocate of long form content and I like YouTube and I like my next kind of step and then knows that I want to produce. I want to produce like a sit down, long form interview kind of show. I love those that goes over an hour, which is really sometimes difficult. And north american YouTube, for some reason doesn’t have that a lot. So we have all sorts of Vanity Fair, like 25 questions about nothing. Sure. But this candidate sit down interview about people and basically we don’t have a lot of that.

[00:38:26] Calan Breckon: That’s why Oprah did so well.

[00:38:29] Nik Varlamov: We have Oprah, but Oprah also kind of, we just had a conversation about that. She didn’t come to that immediately. She became like that phenomenon later. And she is so successful because people are drawn to her. She’s powerful.

[00:38:48] Calan Breckon: She built the trust with her audience that they knew when they came to watch that interview that Oprah was going to get them somewhere because they trusted her to guide that journey.

[00:38:58] Nik Varlamov: Exactly. But how does she do that? Because a people come to her show with already established rapport. They want to share, they want to talk about that, they’re ready because they know that this is Oprah. Like, this is who you talk to. However, I believe that you can do it backwards. You can establish rapport, even on spot. You can open up a person, you can talk to them and present them. Everybody is afraid of that because it’s going to be not entertaining, but it will be entertaining. This is gold. This is the key of content. I love that. I love telling people’s stories. I think everybody is really unique and deserves their story to be told. And the bigger the person on the show is, of course, the more attention they’re going to get.

And to say a little bit about the short form content. I would say again, how do you keep people engaged? A study storytelling. So take a look at what hero’s journey is. Just take a look and infuse those key elements in all of this. You open up with a hook, you foreshadow, then you go into the story, and then you wrap the story and basically give this big release what you hooked in the beginning. So that’s kind of easy.

Second tip, don’t have any dead space in between. Nobody needs no information, if you know what I mean. If there is zero, if there is nothing to say, if there is nothing to show, don’t show it.

[00:40:30] Calan Breckon: Cut the fat.

[00:40:31] Nik Varlamov: If it’s boring, just don’t show it. Nobody cares. And of course, short form content, in my opinion, this is where you are not even allowed to do that. That’s why it’s a little harder sometimes to produce that. You need to be really aware and cut exactly at the moment when the action is done, something is done, you cut. Something is done, you cut. And that’s how you compound the storytelling in the short form. It still stays and still kind of goes through the way we consume the content, the way we consume the story out of it, and probably be genuine. Let’s create your own personality. Remember who you’re talking to and remember why. Can’t be somebody else. You can’t be somebody who you’re not. And that’s kind of important to remember because otherwise it’s not going to come across. We sense fake, we sense something that is not real and we click out.

[00:41:35] Calan Breckon: And if you’re not good at your.

[00:41:37] Benjamin Gibson: Storytelling and now we can’t hear you.

[00:41:39] Nik Varlamov: You can’t hear me?

[00:41:43] Calan Breckon: Can you hear me now?

[00:41:44] Benjamin Gibson: No, I think it’s a mic issue of some kind.

[00:41:47] Nik Varlamov: Let me actually see.

That’s a speaker issue. Okay.

[00:41:52] Benjamin Gibson: It’s a speaker issue. Oh, no speaker issue for you?

[00:41:54] Nik Varlamov: Okay, good.

[00:41:54] Calan Breckon: Because I was going to say, I’m pretty sure everything’s fine on mine.

[00:41:59] Nik Varlamov: Yeah, the mic decided to. I’m going to be a headphone now.

[00:42:05] Calan Breckon: Well, you know what? I think this is kind of the perfect ending to wrap things up. Because I was going to say, if you’re not good at storytelling or you don’t know how to tell that, that everybody should go and look up Toronto creatives. The link is going to be in the show notes for everybody so that you too can help people tell these stories. Whether that’s a corporate story or a personal story, personal branding story, all of that good stuff. I know that you two work in there.

What else would you like to leave off with everybody for today?

[00:42:37] Nik Varlamov: Yeah, I would say, don’t forget that content is important. And we always say that content is the name of the game. And right now that’s our reality.

Remember that video content will be always prevalent and be more important than any kind of other form of content. And if you want a bigger audience, if you want fans of your business, if you want real swift of your business, this is where you need to start talking to people. It’s important. So consider that if you’re not doing that, don’t be a polished, no face, kind of very clean and beautiful business. Be human. That’s really important.

[00:43:19] Benjamin Gibson: Absolutely. Be human.

I would like to also just say, like, you know, that phrase of a picture tells 1000 words, a video tells a million.

I think that’s a real thing. I think that’s why people are drawn to video.

It’s easy to consume. It gets us on so many different sensory levels.

And you can say a lot to a potential customer in a very short period of time. And you can give them a lot of emotion and a lot of information when you have their attention. And attention is a rare commodity these days, so go after it in a genuine. Yeah. As Nik said, be yourself. Be a person, because that’s who we all are. We’re just all people living on a rock, hurtling through space.

[00:44:13] Calan Breckon: Right. Trying to do our best.

Exactly. Awesome. This has been such a fantastic interview about storytelling and the power of storytelling, really, I think, has been kind of the overarching theme to today’s interview. So I want to thank you both so much for coming on today and have a great day.

[00:44:33] Nik Varlamov: Yeah, thanks for having us. Yeah, that was really awesome. Yeah.

[00:44:36] Benjamin Gibson: Calan, thank you so much.

[00:44:38] Calan Breckon: There seems to be a trend through a lot of the interviews I do, and it all seems to come back to story, especially when marketing, and I know we say that over and over and over again, but it’s so true. People connect with people, and people connect with story.

I want to thank you so much for tuning in today. Don’t forget to hit that like and subscribe button. And if you really enjoyed today’s episode, please share it with your friends and think about giving me a star rating. It’s good karma and it’s good for the soul. The Business Gay podcast is written, produced, and edited by me, Calan Breckon, and if you’re interested in getting some SEO advice, you can head on over to or just click the link in the show notes.

That’s it for today. Peace, Love, Rainbows.

Calan Breckon
Calan Breckon

Calan Breckon is an SEO Specialist and host of "The Business Gay" podcast. He has worked with companies such as Cohere and Canada Life and has been a guest on the "Online Marketing Made Easy" podcast with Amy Porterfield as well as featured in publications like Authority Magazine and CourseMethod.

More Episodes


Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a paid plan. These are products I’ve personally used and stand behind. This site is not intended to provide financial advice and is for entertainment only. You can read my affiliate disclosure in my privacy policy.

© 2023 Calan Breckon