I started investigating Branding and found it would be a relevant angle to bring in people I admire and look up to for their work and eye ethic towards Branding. My goal is to demystify the word Branding so that anyone can fully understand its paradoxes and implement their version of Branding.
By collecting an eclectic panel of definitions and visions of what Branding is and implies from those who do Branding, use Branding, expand Branding: Brand makers.
I discovered the work and mastery of Sunita in 2020 while testing the platform "Hi Right Now" we had a lovely talk, and I have been following her work so far. Her joy in sharing Branding strategies and inputs is inspiring and sheds light on a process beyond fancy results. Genuine brand makers start with real people at the centre.
It was such a fun and enlightening talk; it motivates everyone to improve their understanding of how Branding works.
Hello it's great to see you again.
Good so far. It's getting quite busy again this time of year with Branding actually and people kickstarting new projects for 2022, so it's always a good time of the year. As we're heading down to Christmas, everyone is already starting to panic with the seabird. What about you? Did you have a good day?
Good Good. Today I'm not working, so I can focus on my project and relax a little more, so it's cool.
Let's start, what is your definition of Branding?
For me, Branding is really what the consumer thinks about the Brand. You have all the aesthetics, things like the logo, the tone of voice, the brand colours, all the nice imagery you see about the Brand.
It results in the feeling a person gets when they engage with your Brand.
You know you have mastered the art of creating the Brand; when your Brand means something to your audience, they make their perception around it, and that's when it starts to get exciting.
I suppose what we find these days is a lot of brands trying to define what their Brand is without really talking to the customers and the people engaging with it. So I think there is some disconnect there.
For 20 years, it has been the push of marketing, but more Brands are shifting into connecting more with their audience.
There are also more brands starting to see more brands taking that up for sure, but I think you know, in the last 20 years, it's been very pushed marketing, I would say.
That's true. I totally agree with you: the aftermath, remembering, and souvenir.
Like "Oh my god, when I was a child, I used to watch these amazing ads", and it stays with you.
Especially as a child, those ads do stay with you. I always laugh at the ToysRus one at Christmas; it's like every kid's dream, and that like was such great Branding back then, but now, well, there are so many ads directed at kids. More so, I think.
So do you think marketing is like that super ingredient to reach the customers and equally transmit that feel?
It's a way to connect with them, so you're using all your different marketing channels; whatever that might be, you're trying to find out what channels they're actually using and how they like to digest information about a brand.
There are great tools, and I supposed that the Brand is the strategy and that vision and the mission and all that kind of stuff that goes with it where someone might read that within the tone of voice and resonate with it, so it kind of like there's two, there's always kind of this battle between Branding and marketing, I'd say.
Because they are really different, but they sound like the same thing. You can't say that Branding is the beginning and marketing is the end because they are continually feeding each other in this loop. And that's where we get to remember that it's always a feedback loop.
Branding shouldn't stay the same.
You should get some excellent feedback about your Brand through marketing channels; whether it's not resonating or if it is, it should help you edit your Brand a little more. Your Branding should constantly evolve like you are as a person.
That's the best way I describe it. It's like you are as an individual; it grows, expands, changes, and sometimes you will connect with some people, and sometimes you won't, and that will always change.
Yeah, I totally agree. Branding is more than just changing the logo, changing the copyrighting, and it's really about the message. How do you speak about it and approach a new and fresh client?
We tend to ask many questions; we are super curious as an agency.
I love that you did loads of preparations to ask loads of questions because we're the same. We have 20 to 30 questions that we ask a new client because we want to find the root problem.
Some people might think: ''I just need to be on social media, help me on social media'', but the problem might be a branding problem. Like the imagery, the way they're putting themselves across in the messaging.
So we try to diagnose through a lot of different questions.
By the end of it, that client has usually come up with the solution themselves, and they get an understanding: ''that it's the way I'm putting myself across''.
It's not that I need to be on social media and do loads of activity because if you put that message out there and nobody can make sense of it, it's just going to fall on its face.
So that's always where we first start, and then we encourage them to see how you can solve that problem with Branding.
Yeah. What are your steps if you can share? Do you focus on the brand image, the brand voice? What are the different steps if you could break them down?
Yeah, exactly. We tend to run a brand workshop, ask our questions, deep dive into their goals and ambition as a company, and look through their competitors.
We then run a new workshop where we go deep into some of these challenges and find out where the problems exist.
For example, it could be that the target audience is not quite right or they haven't quite understood who they are, and that can be quite a fundamental problem.
They could be creating a marketing message with a specific audience that they think would resonate with their Brand. Still, it should be for a whole different demographic audience, so we go through all these kinds of steps.
We're always looking at the tone of voice, messaging, overall look and feel, and vision as well. Customers' understanding is also fundamental.
''Why did that company even begin, and are they still on track with that?''
Sometimes they can lose sight, and as soon as they get out of that start-up phase, it can be quite a chaotic time for a business because they're growing and changing so much. They lose sight of why they started in the first place as well.
It is a tough time in the start-up phase. Super exciting one but in terms of Branding, you can sometimes go off centre a bit and get exciting by lots of ideas and forget why you started in the first place.
I totally agree. I witnessed it within start-ups; they go through many changes; some rebrand and grow a new visual identity.
It's easy to dilute the message because so many people get involved.
So how do you keep the feeling alive after the Branding or the rebranding? How do you check that what you're creating is what really matters?
Yes, so it's all about the company culture. Internal marketing is vital: your HR managers and your teams.
If it is a small business, building a solid set of brand guidelines will be helpful. It will have things like your values and what you want to infuse into your Brand.
You can compare it to a family.
What are your values and ethoses? They are fundamentals; you always come back to them.
The goal is to implement them all the time in everything you do.
So it's the same thing with a business, and you've got to keep instilling it.
For example, let's say that's one of your brand values is ''fun'', you will have to make sure that you're doing things regularly that are fun, and people can express themselves in that thoughtful way.
You always have to come back to it and make sure that you're doing the right things, and anyone who comes in contact with the business, like an external stakeholder, wants to bring them along on the journey.
You have a strong company culture. Could you tell me more about your six brand values? I saw how you break them down on your website, and I thought it was interesting for everyone: clients, employees, and founders.
It's really like a manifesto; it's playful and straight to the point.
How did you get to it, and how do you share it with your collaborators?
Yes, our brand values! We did our rebranding ourselves, but some agencies like to outsource it because it's a challenging task to do when looking at yourself.
It's the same reason you know coaches and doctors go to other people because putting a microscope on yourself is very difficult. So it took us about two years to do a rebrand.
We got the values quite quickly because it's been what we always had cemented, but when we did do the rebrand, probably about two years as well, it took a little time because we were looking at ourselves so closely.
So we got to them.
We had all our stakeholders together, and we were looking at each part of the business focusing on what we really felt was essential to us all—finding balance in all the processes.
• Balance is crucial for us because we have been at the remit of burning ourselves out. As managers, we wanted to instil in the rest of the team. ''Look, we're not going to have that reality where our team and our managers are getting burned out''. So we had balance as one of our fundamental values, for example.
• Curious, as I mentioned to you, we are very curious as creatives, so we're always asking questions; we're always trying to get to the bottom of problems and finding solutions to as much as we can. That was a significant one as well. And
• Our craft, you know we've had so many years of experience training and getting fined tuned in our crafts.
Yes, you have an eye for detail.
Yes, we have an eye for detail! Which isn't always coming from me, and it's from our creative director. It runs very deep in TEA; we like to help each other and collaborate.
So that's how it came about, and I think I would encourage everybody who has a Brand, who've got a few key stakeholders at the top, to start to ask them, ask the teams, ''what do you think we stand for?''.
Asking them these questions was our eye-opener.
That's how we came up with the big six.
With the accumulation or saturation of content and everyone being a designer and having access to that knowledge. How do you see Branding evolving in the next five to ten years? Things are shifting so quickly we see that Facebook is rebranding for example.
I think the primary basis of Branding won't change, but the channels it's going to be present on will change dramatically.
Obviously, with the Facebook announcement of meta, there's lots of talk going on with metaverses and things like that. I think that's the main change that's going to happen.
We're going to start seeing brand positioning with different realities, different worlds. We're already seeing it in the gaming world quite a lot. That was the first test for people, whatever game it might be like Grand theft auto; they've got different brand placements DJs, which is interesting for us working in the music industry.
So there are subtle little placements of Branding, and I think that will be the main thing.
Let's see how things change after the pandemic. This year, we've already seen placements like outdoor marketing, which haven't been so successful because people are generally at home.
I think it brings Branding into the household will be huge.
I guess that's where these realities, whatever kind of platforms, gaming, will be a big one for sure.
I think it's interesting you said there are many people learning design 100%, but I think in terms of the aesthetic of a brand, they will always be down to the graphic designer, and I believe in really bringing that alive.
We can tell when a brand is made quickly, I don't want to say on camera, but if you've used templates and things like that compared to an established designer who has created something super unique, it will be visible. I think that's super important.
We also see many brands following trends and many agencies and design studios do the same. What do you think about Branding and uniqueness? The strategy of being focused solely on uniqueness? Do you think it's relevant enough?
It has to be authentic, so I wouldn't say unique.
It has to be fully authentic, and if that means that you are unique, you know as a consequence, then definitely go for it.
The brands that work the best are the ones that say, do and act precisely in a way that's so authentic. It's then effortless for people to create relationships with them. And that makes a difference between good and bad branding, and I don't want to say bad, but I would say that's the main difference.
If your core branding is unique and stands out, then definitely try to be bold, try to be different.
At the same time, it's interesting to see trends in various industries.
For example, high-end luxury beauty is very stripped back and has intense colours, and corporate, you know, is a little more reserved—always looking at those blue kind of tones. Not always, but you know there are specific brands' colours that go with different industries.
I'd say that it doesn't matter if you go against the curve or go against trends. I think it's good to be bold and stand out.
Yes definitely. It's funny to see the diversity of brands in different industries yet the same challenges.
Your work with the cultural sector like art, music, cinema, dance. Why did you decide to focus on these sectors only?
Is this something you thought of or acknowledged after a lot of different career moves?
When I first set up the agency with my other partner Matt. I had been working in the financial services, so it was very rigid, and it wasn't very soul-nourishing, I would say.
We always both had a passion for creative arts, so whether it was art, dance music, in particular, music, that was really why I decided to go into it. It was a pure passion, and Matt, the other partner in the agency, got a lot of experience within the music industry, from setting up labels and things like that to being an artist.
So we had that insider knowledge; it was pure passion and expertise that set us up, to begin with, I would say.
Cool! and music is so inspiring; no project is the same.
Exactly and that's what we love about it; the ability through music, art or dancing to bring people together with events is such a powerful thing. I know we've missed quite a lot of that in the past few years with the pandemic, but I think things are starting to get back to normal, and we're going back to having events again, which is Brilliant.
Yes, that's true. Patience and pretty soon, things will come back to normal.
Yeah, I think so.
You were talking about artists. Well, not every artist has the luxury to hire an agency or be under a label, so what advice do you have for unsigned artists?
An artist? a musician artist?
Yes, a musician
I would say try and create some consistency as you do a lot on your own.
Just do whatever you can but consistently.
If it's putting a release out, make sure you're putting it out regularly within like once every couple of months or something like that.
And if you're doing social media posts trying to be consistent with all your Branding, make sure that it all looks the same uses the same kind of colour tones.
I think that would be the first important thing to implement.
The second thing is more marketing than Branding, and I suppose it starts with aligning yourself with various partners or people who might be able to help in certain ways. For example, collaborating with record labels participating in events that could help amplify your message further than your organic reach.
You just shed light on the difference between Branding and Marketing. Marketing spreads the message.
''I didn't hear about this person'' Now I know who this person is''.
We've learned that creatives don't like pushing themselves out there. It's quite rare that you meet somebody who's like: ''I'm going to go for it''.
They don't like being the centre of the spotlight.; they want to focus on their art and craft. It's very unnatural for these people to put themselves out there, and it's uncomfortable. But it starts to get more accessible and easier for sure once you get through.
It is so uncomfortable, but it starts to get more accessible and easier for sure once you get through.
I'll just jump on what you said, the fact that it's not an easy place to start speaking. But Branding also implies speaking of your Brand and how effectively you communicate?
So you, as a founder, how would you quantify the effort you had to make to be an ambassador of TEA? Was it easy for you?
No. I wouldn't say it was easy. I like being in the background as much as most people, most creatives, so I think it started to happen quite organically. Thanks to the good work, we have been asked to speak.
It's started to happen three years into the business. People started inviting us to talk, do Instagram lives all these kinds of things. I think you just have to get used to the uncomfortable and put yourself out there. The thing is, everyone's got something unique and different to say and contribute, no matter what kind of industry you're in or skillset you might have. There is always something unique to each one of us.
So for anyone out there, we recommend digging deep and start finding out what your passion is. What is that extra something that you can contribute to, share that message, educate people, and inspire people as much as possible?
I agree. It's not an easy task, but you have to do your part at some point.
Yeah, exactly and be proud of your work as well. I think that's a lot of it. You know it has a lot to do with standing up for your work and being proud of it, allowing people to be in ''awe'' as a creative or an artist. You know they always deserve it because they find it hard to put themselves out there.
True. There is momentum, and the more you do, the more it happens. You grow enough in this kind of shift, and your work just shows that.
Let's Talk about female founders. I'm always happy to have female founders in front of me because many head thinkers or decision-makers are male, especially in the creative industry, so I'm always happy to witness and shed light on female founders who express their voices. Showing that it's possible, and we should all just be empowered by who we are.
So as a female founder, what have you found challenging in your path? And how have you overcome, as far as creating your agency, speaking and directing strategies for various clients?
I mean, it's been difficult just being a female within marketing, even when I first started.
Nearly 15 to 20 years ago, I was one of the first managers in this business, so it has always been hard at the top level.
I think that's where most of the struggle came in when I first started.
As we developed the agency further, there were very few females in some industries like the music industry, which is very male orientated.
I suppose it's now changing so much.
When I look back, I suppose it comes down to being listened to and heard. To understand your authority, I think it's essential.
In the early days, that would be a problem to be listened to by certain men, but now I find it not a problem at all. The playing field is levelled up.
Great women are standing for that as well. So they're forging you forward, leading the way, and adding a different touch on things, so we've spent many years in this kind of masculine throw.
Now we need female leaders to have more empathy bring in that vulnerability, like Brene Brown says, into discussion rooms, and that's what's missing. We don't need females to be very masculine and come into board rooms and businesses and meetings.
You need that softer nurturing approach that has been missing since the beginning of time businesses have been running, so that's what I think is refreshing now.
Cool! It gives balance and trust, and it bubbles up.
What are three tips you would give to any female founder in their Branding to build up their confidence and capacity to be themselves and share their knowledge?
Because confidence is pretty essential in Branding?
Yeah. It is, and confidence is a big thing for female founders.
I think it comes down to self-worth, and you have to dig deep on that.
• Address your limiting beliefs would be number one on there
It's looking at your limiting beliefs as an individual; also looking into coaching. So if it is something they're interested in, I would definitely try to find a coach to help shed some light on these limiting beliefs. We've had generations and generations of females not being heard, so a lot of that will come up with that.
• number two is to put yourself out there.
By moving towards something uncomfortable and something, you don't like to do.
So follow your passion, but if it's like, ''Oh I don't like public speaking or something'', or ''I don't like writing blogs'', just do it because there's probably some gold lesson there as well that you can find. Sometimes doing those things means you break down those fear barriers as well.
• Then number three is really like celebrating your success.
I think we can create milestones that are so far away and so hard to reach that we forget to celebrate those little wins every day. And they are important.
For myself, I start my day by writing down my wins.
I like waking up every morning, thinking about the last 24 hours, and focusing on the little good things that happened all the time helps set up your day. And think, wow, I've smashed it because you need to build that confidence, and you know you should do it daily, not just before you're going to do something you don't like to do, for example.
Yeah, I totally agree. I feel that we are so connected.
Two or three years ago, I shared one of my first articles on medium celebrating small wins. A friend of mine told me: ''you know, just by saying that you already have won''.
Yeah. I know it makes such a big difference.
Otherwise, we put things so far out of reach; and feel demotivated. We can lose confidence because running your own business and being creative especially; tend to feel worse more times than you feel good.
I guess you remember them a little more, so you need to celebrate as much as you possibly can.
Yeah, and have a lot of things to help you remind them, like vision boards if you need them or even mantras...
Whatever works. Whatever gets you into a positive mindset, and I encourage it all. Absolutely.
Do you have one last thing about Branding that you want to share with me?
Yeah, make a brand that inspires people. It's our tagline, ''inspire brand culture''.
We want to see more inspiring brands that make people think differently and act in a better way—bettering people's lives at the end of the day. I think that's what Branding should be all about in the future.
That's the one thing we probably didn't touch on.
What should Branding be in the future? I would just love it to be more about people and less about businesses.
What makes people happy in the end! Branding and happiness are super interesting to explore; that could be something we could also talk about more.
I would love to talk about that, and that's one of my passions as well.
Thank you so much.
Such a pleasure. Thank you so so much. Speak to you soon.
Okay, bye, have a lovely afternoon.
Special thanks to Ashwa, for the detailed transcription of the talk.
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