Ideas + Insights

The 10 Branding Commandments I Swear By

Tess Robinson

I like wine. Like, a lot. The guy at the bottle-o up the road is a sweet man, but he doesn’t understand me. Every time I go in there I grab the exact same bottle of Argentinian Malbec. Every time, he tries to sell me something new. Every. Time. He says, “Oh we’ve got this new Malbec in, you really must give it a go” and then he bangs on about fruity aromas, long legs, cherry notes and hints of burnt toast. I say, “No thanks”, as I grab my trusty staple and skip out down the road to enjoy the fruits of my labour and ruby stained teeth. I’m sure he thinks I’m too set in my ways, or perhaps that just like Jane Doe, I’m a little on the snoresville side of town. What he doesn’t know is, I’m a self-confessed hard-to-the-line brand loyalist and if I can’t have my favourite Argentinian drop of glorious red from the exact bottle shape and the gold embossed label that I love, then I don’t want it at all.

What can I say, I live and breathe branding.

Branding isn’t just the product you buy. It’s the way that product makes you feel and who you believe you become when you buy it. It’s the identity, the connection, the badge of honour you give yourself when you engage and interact with it. For me, a winning brand is one that makes me feel at ease, light-hearted and a little more exotic than my everyday.

The secret to building a remarkable brand is building a remarkable story. A remarkable story doesn’t appeal to logic or rationale, but to our emotions and the identity we are seeking to make for ourselves.

So how do you pull on the heartstrings of your customer, breed trust, gain loyalty and have them forever drinking from the fruits of your gold-embossed labour? In an attempt to give reason to Mr Bottle-O up the road as to my sheer stubbornness, I’ve listed my 10 Commandments below. Pour yourself a glass, commit to the tips and before you know, your audience will be cheers-ing their glasses to the full-body of your brand too.

    Shivers run down my recoiling spine when someone uses the word ‘authenticity’, but I do believe that being authentic is truly the only way to brand yourself. It’s no secret that you are your brand, and therefore, it should scream ‘YOU’ at every touch point.
    Your customers are real humans with hearts, souls and peculiar morning coffee orders and they want to connect and interact with real, human people too, not ‘businesses’. To nurture this sense of connection and loyalty, it is crucial to inject your brand with personality and character that your customers can relate to. From your products right through to customer service to the quirky ways you set your holiday autoresponder – be you. If you’re pretending you’re something or someone other than yourself, your audience will soon catch on and in my opinion, your fans deserve transparency.
    The best brands have balls. They find their gap, they own their gap and they do it with unapologetic boldness and brash consideration for what already exists within their market. In this crazy crowded marketplace, new businesses pop-up more often than my mum’s caller ID on my iPhone. It’s becoming more and more apparent that for your brand to survive, you need to bring something new to the game, otherwise, it’s a safe bet that you’ll get overlooked by a hungry, bored market with endless options at their fingertips. Human brains are hardwired to notice what’s different, so building a successful brand means building a drastically different business offering and unique brand personality that sings to its own tune. These days, you’ve got to stand out to sell out and being bold is no longer the risk, being safe is living on the edge.
    To create a standout brand requires everything you produce to clearly speak one key message with one key look. By keeping a tight leash on brand consistency and making conscious decisions about how your brand is represented, you will have more control in determining the way your customer perceives you, feels about you and talks about you. Having brand consistency and continuity will eliminate any brand confusion or misleading ideas, and will indicate to your customers that you know who you are and what you stand for. Without consistency, there is no brand. A brand’s entire raison d’etre is to establish expectations, and therefore build trust. If you aren’t consistent, you under-perform on the expectation, and therefore break the trust.
    The Internet, the smartphone and the world of cat memes have reduced the average person’s attention span to about that of a goldfish. Under these circumstances, the cardinal sin of branding is to be boring. Creating something compelling means using your brand and your business to entertain and enrich your customer and their life. It means capturing the essence of what you do and communicating that through every decision you make for your brand through storytelling. It’s about tapping into the overwhelming majority of customers who buy with their hearts and not their heads and making every effort to be of service in more ways than one. It’s simple really: the stronger the story, the more connected your crowd.
    If there’s one thing I know, it’s that great brands don’t sell. They don’t need to. The best brands solve customer problems in such compelling ways that they don’t need a team of sweaty, sleazy salesman. Of course, brands can create loyalty by being more personable, helpful and likeable. But unfortunately, that’s just not enough. Businesses need to build an offering that people don’t just want, they need. If you solve a problem, no matter how great or small, you’ll create a connection that far outweighs any kind of marketing magic. We’re a selfish bunch, and if the brand isn’t solving a problem for us, we just simply don’t give a damn.
    Your heart on your sleeve is a style that never goes out of fashion. When you are transparent and committed to genuine, real talk, your people will feel all the right ways about you. When your product is phenomenal, and you emotionally connect to your audience, you become unstoppable, baby!
    Loyal customers don’t just buy your product. They buy your story! Just like I buy a beautifully considered, prepared and designed bottle of wine over a flimsy 750ml plastic container of alcohol — the actual product is the sum of many parts. Wearing your heart on your sleeve looks like capturing what you do, why you do it and then communicating that through every single decision you make with your brand.
    Your business needs to break the mould, to go against the grain and quite frankly smash the glass ceiling ­as loudly and as brazenly as possible. The more unique your brand, the more memorable it will be – buck the trends! There’s a lot of noise in this big bad world, getting noticed amid the avalanche of advertising can feel near impossible at times. The only way to stand out is to be unmistakably different. When everyone else is zigging, you’ve just gotta zag!
    Ask any Lululemon customer and they will tell you that you aren’t just buying a product of fantastic stretch and cellulite disguise, you’re buying into the Lululemon community. Show me an almond latte drinking, green smoothie sipping, yogi-loving mum that doesn’t own a pair of Lululemon tights and I’ll eat my own Nike Free Runs. Seriously though, this company and its tribe are growing faster than the activewear trend itself.
    Narrower targeting allows you to be more successful in nailing your concept with an audience who is ready to devour your offering. You can’t be everything to everyone and frankly, I’m 100% sure you don’t want to be. A strong brand can’t appeal to every single potential customer, it’s just not the way the world works. Know your audience, the reason why your brand exists, and customise your brand for maximum appeal to those legends circulating within your target range.
    We live in a world where people are moved by looks first and function second and as much as we hate to admit it, aesthetics are everything. Don’t let your brand become the outdated salmon pink slacks your Grandma dons each day. If your brand makes you cringe when you look at it, that’s probably enough of a warning sign to shift gears. Of course, over time, your businesses will mould, move and adapt to new circumstances and future times. You may find yourself needing to revamp and reinvent, and this is okay. The best brands are those that are constantly updating to remain fresh and relevant. Successful rebrands manage to rejuvenate and inject new life, whilst still celebrating the history and heritage of the business.
    Your brand is more than just a way for your audience to distinguish and recognise you in a sea of same-same. You should engage and share your story. The best part is that it works in vice versa, just like the old, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours worked in seventh grade, if you wear your heart on your sleeve, your customers are going to do just the same. The most successful brands inspire their fans into action, thus turning them into fully fledged advocates. Whether it’s sharing your campaigns on social media, shouting your name from rooftops or repping your logo on the back of the rusty shaggin’-wagon, your loyal customers will become your extended marketing team out there on the ground. The more opportunities you give your customers to connect to you, the greater loyalty they will have to you and your brand.

Related articles


Can someone please just make me feel something?

If you’re a brand builder of any kind, it is your job to redefine the laws of.


7 things great brands do.

If I had a dollar for every time a new client of ours submitted ‘Apple’ as their.


Why building a business in your 20’s is the best idea ever

Building a business in your 20's is the best idea ever. Hear from Tess as she lays.