Can branding ever be a once-and-done activity?

If I didn’t love writing so much this could have been a really short blog post.

It would simple read, ‘Is branding a once-and-done activity?’

Followed by a blunt ‘No.’

And then a link to this image.

But, for me, writing is fun… when I’m caffeinated that is. So lucky you, dear reader, you get to enjoy another rant and ramble from the inner workings of Tess’ coffee-fuelled brain.

Today, I’m talking branding and how I’m never going to let you get away with putting this aspect of your business in the ‘finished’ pile.

As the Apple example above deomnstrates, your brand is an ever evolving task and should continually be refreshed, reinvented and just like those toenails of yours, treated to some TLC every once in a while.

After wrapping up a branding project for a new startup recently, our client exclaimed, ‘Phewww, I’m glad that’s done.’ Which sent the hairs on the back of my neck up like little soldiers standing to attention.

‘Done?’ Oh hell no, sweetheart. This is jusssst the beginning. Your branding is never done.’ If it were as easy as a quick; find something you like doing, create a logo and make money, we’d all be filthy rich. But you’re smart enough to know that that’s not how business works.

Instead, no matter how many style guides, brand formulas, clever logos, or sexy fonts you string together, there’s still work to be done. Yes, even if you’re the cool, of-the-moment, gotta-have-it and tell-all-my-friends-about-it ‘people’s’ brand nipping at the big dogs’ heels and stealing market share, (Hi Glossier!), you’ll still have to constantly evolve your brand.

There is no bringing a note from Mum to get outta this one, I’m sorry friends!

Why you ask? Because the only way a brand is successful is if it resonates at an emotional and instinctual level with its dream customers, day-in, day-out. BUT, your dream customers evolve and change too. Nothing is stagnant. Well, actually the only thing that is stagnant is a brand that hasn’t evolved, and if that’s the case it’s probably 6 feet under.

Branding is, for the most part, an intangible entity. It’s not your epic new logo, your flashy new business card or your shiny Instagram feed. It’s not even your website or your products or your services. Your ‘brand’ is what other people perceive your business to be or to represent. And as Seth Godin, the king of all things good and holy puts it, branding is “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. Your logo is a referent, a symbol, a reminder of your brand. But your ‘brand’ is a story, a set of emotions and expectations and a stand-in for how we think and feel about what you do.”

He took the words right out of my mouth. As Seth implies, when branding is done right, it has power. Power to shape perception, power to influence choice and power to spark a new conversation.

BUT.

(And there’s always a but, you should know that by now.) Your brand is only as powerful as it is relevant. A brand that evolves over time, continues to win over hearts and satisfy the ever changing and evolving needs of its community is a powerful brand.

The reason you need to evolve your brand comes back to the definition of a brand itself. As we know, a ‘brand’ is not your logo, your product or latest Instagram picture – despite how great the lighting was. No, a brand is the ethos and the community of people that surround your product or service. So if brand is about creating community then it’s about belonging.

But the only way to truly belong, is to stay connected. Which means you need to evolve at the same pace as your community.

Seth backs me up when he says, you should “spend 10,000 times as much time and money on your brand as you spend on your logo.”

Kareene Koh, partner at, Deloitte Digital, agrees failing to evolve your brand comes at a cost to your business, “Our survey found that businesses whose brands stagnated over the past year also saw their revenues fall by 13% on average over this period,” she said. “For a business with annual revenue of $1 billion, this represents a potential fall of $130 million in revenue.”

Both Kareene and Seth are my virtual homies. They get why I’m utterly obsessed with brand evolution and continuing to update and reinvent both our own brand and the brand’s of our clients. I’m sure I drive my team bonkers – I don’t think there has been a single week in the history of Smack Bang when we haven’t reviewed, edited or tweaked our website or an aspect of our brand.

Let me be clear though, when I talk about brand evolution, I don’t mean a rebrand. Heck – if I were doing that every week I’d have a gold star membership to my local psych ward. What I mean is a gradual, organic, you’d-barely-notice-it update of each aspect of your brand. Continually. So that over time, you ensure that you remain relevant and in touch with your community.

Re-branding can be an invaluable exercise and it can certainly do wonders for your bottom line. But it’s not something I recommend doing often. Instead, allow your brand to change slowly and gradually in relationship to its context. Let it evolve with relevance to your values, your products and your people. Make small changes at a time and evaluate them as you do. Maybe you’ve always used cursive type for your headings, but you’re starting to realise that that font is so 2017 or a little too Disney-like for your customers. It’s not going to spark an unimaginable natural disaster if you slowly introduce a new heading font. And, if a few months down the track, you feel like the new replacement font doesn’t work, you can easily and efficiently switch it back, without creating a brand disaster. That’s the beauty of doing things slowly and gradually, with caution and care. You preserve the brand equity you’ve created, whilst tweaking pieces of your identity to stay relevant and connected to your audience.

But before you get all tweenager-at-a-Tay-Tay-concert, jacked up on red frogs and a cocktail of enthusiasm, don’t go transforming every aspect of your brand so that it ends up looking like a patchwork quilt created at Burning Man. Steady on, Tiger. I said make small changes at a time. You don’t want to tempt yourself into a completely new look without a solid strategy and method to your madness.

Image credit: Souffle

The keys to killer confidence

If your name is Kanye West or Tony Robbins you probably don’t need to be reading this article, (but thank you for subscribing to my blog anyways, I’m truly honoured but puh-lease, the last thing you guys need is more confidence).

If you aren’t Kanye or Tony, then this post is for you. And, for me, if I’m really honest with you.

It’s been a weird week. I think I’m going to blame it on pregnancy hormones or this full moon eclipse, or the combination of the two!

I’ve been feeling a bit out of character. Not, in the sell-everything-I-own-on-eBay and move to Greenland kinda way, just in the ‘something’s odd and I can’t quite put my finger on it’ kinda way.

It’s more just like someone scooped out a little spoonful from my self-confidence jar whilst I wasn’t looking and left me feeling just a tiny bit deflated and doubtful.

The thing is, we live in a world that is designed to make us feel uneasy about ourselves a lot of the time, (ahem, Instagram I’m looking at you). We’re reminded multiple times a day that we’re not smart enough, not rich enough, not beautiful enough, not achieving enough, not #goals, #extra or double tapped enough.

And I think this last week, I’ve been listening to the world and that pesky little voice inside my head a little too much. It happens to all of us, most likely even Kanye and Tony… once every few years I’m sure.

Recently, a new buzzword appeared on the scene that made everybody cringe but also bonded us together in wholehearted ‘yes-ness’: imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome refers to the feelings of inadequacy that lurk our thoughts with self-doubt and persist despite evidence of our success and adequacy. I know you know the feels.

It might speak to you just as you’re about to have an important conversation. It might wake you in the middle of the night to tell you how lame you really are. It might surprise you when you’re stuck in traffic with backhanded compliments about your new job title that you clearly don’t deserve. It might slap you across the face in the middle of a meeting. It might spring on you when you’re minding your own g-damn business. Maybe in a couple of minutes from now, when you return back to your inbox and notice an email from someone asking something of you, you read it, the pit of your stomach zings with anxiety, and you know that whatever this task is, you’re the last person in the room capable of doing it.

Imposter syndrome is a real bitch.

We all know that it’s a bitch and that it’s purely a figure of our imaginations, and yet we all struggle to free ourselves of it and get on with being the best boss/designer/partner/writer/editor/backgammon player we can. We all know that confidence plays a huge role in success, but how exactly do we foster enough of it to get through and show the world how capable we really are?

I’ve written about looking like a pro, even when you’re not before, but I’m about to drop my fave ten tips to cultivating confidence so y’all can get a little Kanye in your step.

 

  1. Stay in control of your destiny.

(I’m well aware that the above phrase conjures up images of Tony Robbins fist pumping and yelling positive affirmations at an audience of thousands, but I’m going with it anyways.)

So much of life creeps up on you without you noticing. If you’re not paying attention and taking control of your destiny, life can take over and lead you on a journey you’re not entirely comfortable with or excited by. One day, you’re a well-paid, sassy marketing manager at the hippest farrshion label around, and the next you’re the 3IC at your local Video-Ezy. Which is actually still a thing by the way.

Life happens when you least expect it. By staying in control of your destiny, you remain in the driver’s seat, making informed decisions about the direction you wish to go and therefore in control of what fills your happiness and confidence buckets each and every day.

 

  1. Use haters as fuel to your fire.

There will always be people in the world who think you’re not the bees knees. And if there’s not, there’s always your imposter syndrome to fill that void. If I don’t keep my I.S in check she can make my confidence levels drop like a fat kid on a see-saw. But I do my best to not let her get me down, instead I use the negative criticism (whether from others, or myself), as kindling for my inner fire. Whenever I feel a sense of inadequacy or doubt creep in from negative feedback or self-criticism, I do my very best to convert that into energy to prove the theory wrong. If you tell me I suck at making my bed, you better believe that the next day I will have watched at least 20 YouTube videos on the perfect pillow plump and will have nailed my 5* hotel corners before the sun’s even up.

 

  1. Do work you love, that magnifies your skills.

It’s a simple equation really – get good at things, feel good about things. Confidence is built on accomplishment. My confidence in my own abilities comes from practice, persistence and hard-bloody-work, not sitting there chanting positive affirmations and cleansing my chakras. If you’re working in a field that accentuates your skills and you work hard, soon enough you’re bound to become reasonably good at it. It sounds pretty straightforward, right?! But I get it, sometimes even the path that we were unmistakably destined for can scare the bejeebers out of us. Just remember, every single wildly successful person has been afraid, and they’ve kept working anyway. As our old buddy Tony would say, feel the fear and do it anyways.

 

  1. Don’t credit luck.

There are entrepreneurs and there are accidental entrepreneurs. I’m part of the latter. I ‘fell’ into this world and whilst I’m certainly grateful I did, falling into my career means that I’ve had to deal with a lot of self-doubt around deserving what this position entails. Because of my far-from-traditional career trajectory, it’s easy for me to cast the word ‘lucky’ as a blanket cover for all that I have achieved, “Oh, I was just lucky. In the right place at the right time, rah, rah, rah.”

But what I’ve learnt, is that calling yourself lucky strips you of your worthiness, and therefore your confidence. Why? Because luck is synonymous with randomness. To label yourself or your achievements as ‘lucky’ is to deny the impact of your hard work, persistence and skills. I’m a big believer in the fact that we all create our own luck and that nothing on our journey is an accident. Jamila Rivzi’s book, Not Just Lucky is a brilliant read for anyone struggling with this.

 

  1. You take with the good with the bad and accept there will always be bad.

One of the keys to confidence is being happy with where you’re at, regardless of where you’re at. The older I get, the more I learn that there will always be work to be done and things I could do better. My businesses are still very much full of rough edges and dark corners that wake me up at ungodly hours of the night. There are still, and always will be, plenty of mess and mistakes. There are F-ups and days where I wonder if I’d be better to flush the whole thing down the drain, spruce up my CV and log on to Seek. Most of my daily work is not glamorous, it’s not easy and most of the time I’m just Googling the answer to simple business equations how like to balance my income with my expenses. But I’ve learnt to look at the bright spots, the daily wins and the achievements. I accept the bad and celebrate the good, with this comes a sense of ease and confidence in the things that you are doing well.

 

  1. Find a fan club that builds you up.

One the easiest ways to cultivate confidence is to outsource it! Surround yourself with people who are more supportive than your bestie after 5 rosés and a shot of tequila (baaaabe, you look grrreaaaat!). Confidence comes with having a support crew who celebrate your wins and remind you of your achievements every day. My team, my friends, my family and my dog (in her own special way) are my biggest fans and greatest groupies. And of course my partner, he’s my emotional rock and loyal cheerleader through thick and thin, and probably the reason I’m still in business.

 

  1. Stick to your strengths.

When it comes to life admin I am an imbecile. Seriously, an imbecile. Oh sure I can conjure up an outlandish creative concept at the drop of a hat, describe with the most sincere adjectives what my morning smoothie tasted like, colour coordinate my wardrobe better than Marie Kondo herself, or brew the most perfectly delicious, day-changing chai – but put me in a room and ask me to renew my rego or consolidate my super and I’m Screwed with a capital S. By sticking to your strengths you’re bound to accomplish more, and by accomplishing more, you’re bound to feed the confidence appetite within.

 

  1. Get over yourself.

A huge amount of self-doubt stems from us worrying about what other people may think of us. It’s like Judge Judy haunting us with a feedback loop of all these nasty comments people are saying about us, but aren’t actually saying, or even thinking. The problem with this is that it’s all make believe! Our ego likes to tell us that other people think about us more often than they actually do. Have a think about how many times a day you think about people who aren’t in your immediate circle of daily interactions. Like those old school friends, work acquaintances, and all those so-called ‘friends’ on Facebook. Unless they text you, call you or poke you on Facebook (is that still a thing?), I’ll bet my left kidney that you can go quite a few days without thinking of them. Now consider how often people are thinking about you. Pretty much never. Isn’t that the most liberating feeling?

 

  1. Make your decision and then stick to it. Back yourself.

I’m one of those people who finds making decisions really easy. I’ll go out for lunch with friends and whilst they’re to-ing and fro-ing between menu items for a cool 40 minutes, I’ll have planned out the next 20 years of my life… I made my lunch decision before I walked in the door. One the best ways to build your confidence is to wear it like your favourite sweater. If you ooze confidence then eventually, by osmosis, you’ll end up being more confident – it’s the fake it til you make it theory, and it has power! Next time you make a decision, don’t question yourself, just stick to it and watch your whole energy shift.

 

  1. Like yourself.

At a certain point in your life, you have to decide to like yourself. Yeah, I know – shock horror, how-the-F-am-I-EVER-going-to-do-that?! But it’s true. Most of us, if we’re lucky, get to spend many years alive on this earth… with the company of one person – ourselves. If you spend your entire lifetime disliking yourself, that’s a long bloody time wound up with someone disliking you. Get comfy with yourself, present your real self, full strength and just simply own it. You will never find killer confidence living in someone else’s shoes.

Image credit: Kelsey McClellan