Why now is the time to better your brand.

I am all too aware of the tragedy COVID-19 has caused the world over. The sheer scale and enormity of this crisis isn’t lost on me for one second.

However, in spite of the human health concerns and economic calamity, it’s important to recognise this crisis as an opportunity for growth and innovation across all aspects of our lives.

By definition, a crisis is caused by a major, temporary change. And as is always the cyclic pattern of life, death gives way to birth and destruction leads to creation. As they say, when something falls apart, that leaves room for a new beginning.

I’m currently reading ‘Simplicity Parenting’, by Kim John Payne. It’s a fascinating approach to parenting which asserts that children need time to be bored, as this is where creativity is bred. And I feel like we can all relate to this concept now as adults amidst a global lockdown. We’ve seen it in our (pre-pandemic) ‘past’ lives – when we’re buried in our own busyness and caught up in the daily chaos, we so often miss the opportunities and moments for ideation, innovation and creation. Just like our kids, us adults need stillness, space and a degree of boredom to be able to think creatively and expansively.

A crisis of this scale – not to mention a degree of boredom felt in self-isolation – presents major opportunity for growth, creativity and innovation. And we’re seeing it already, only weeks in. Brands across the globe traversing all industries are pivoting, reinventing and recalibrating to this new normal with grace, gusto and a strong inclination for long-lasting, well received transformation.

So, let’s talk about the ways in which you could use this time to stop and take stock, adopt a growth mindset and build out your brand for the better.

Get clarity on your mission.

As brand builders, we often get caught up in the day-to-day busyness, meaning the clarity of our brands’ core mission tends to fade into the shadows. Great brands – those building and equipping for longevity – are using this time to thoughtfully and strategically revisit and rethink their long-term trajectory and foundational brand purpose. They are looking to refine and distil their brand DNA and positioning, and tighten up their aligning comms and key messaging.

This crisis is a time for brands to reconnect with their core purpose, focus on what really matters, and embrace the opportunity to pursue business goals in a more meaningful, principle-driven way.

Develop a 3-6 month action plan.

Our brand plans for 2020 will absolutely need to be adjusted to accommodate the turbulence that is COVID-19. If you haven’t already, it’s imperative that you develop a plan for what the next 3-6 months will look like for your brand. This includes an overarching strategy, positioning, promotions, marketing opportunities and considerations for the unknown.

Consider ways you can adapt your offering to the current climate, whilst also anticipating changes in your customer behaviour as we move through the stages of this pandemic and what that means for consumers on a daily basis. Consider ways in which you might expand your offering to cater for what your customer truly needs during this crisis. This is a time for brands to take more risks and play a little outside their comfort zone, saying yes to opportunities they perhaps normally wouldn’t.

At Smack Bang we are building out 3-6month Brand Action Plans with our clients to ensure they survive, thrive and ride the momentum this crisis has to offer. We’re providing key insights, creative and opportunistic ideas to prove their value, ways to do good business that warrants lasting longevity and the ability to outshine their competitive counterparts. It’s about understanding the unique role our clients’ brands play in their consumers’ lives, how that has now changed, and how they can be of utmost value during this crisis.

Build community and connection

As humans, we’re programmed to seek out connection. While social distancing measures are absolutely imperative right now, they come with significant impact on individuals, communities and the world at large. Your audience is looking for alternative ways to fill this void and are connecting in ways they’ve never had to before. It’s a great time for brands to be supporting this notion, extending their reach and building true, genuine and lasting connection with their community.

Think about how you could extend your offerings to reach more people, how you could adapt your services to give deeper and more added value. What comms could you release that show how much you genuinely care and want to support your customer. If there was ever a time to go above and beyond for your customer, it’s during a serious crisis.

It’s important though, to consider ways you can connect on a more meaningful level, not just starting conversation for conversation’s sake. Think about ways you can rally your troops around purposeful concepts or thought-provoking ideas. How could you rally your community together to collectively give back in some way? Remember, how you deal with this crisis and the ways in which you support your customer through this will shape their view of you well beyond the end of this calamity.

Seize the social

There’s no denying social media proved its worth long before this crisis, but now, we’re realising its unparalleled value once again. As people are locked down with more time on their hands than ever, social platforms are seeing a huge increase in usage, engagement and overall growth. Brand engagement has never been higher. Instagram and Facebook have reported a 40% usage increase, with doubled ‘Live’ views and a 20% increase in stories’ impressions (source). The influencer agency (Obvious.ly) which analysed more than 7.5 million Instagram posts and data from 2,152 TikTok influencers, found a 76% increase in daily accumulated likes on Instagram #ad posts over the last two weeks. These stats are staggering, and if they don’t spur you into content action, then I’m not sure what will.

As we know, social is key to gaining and maintaining consumer connection. Make sure your present and pursuing content that creates compelling conversation, giving your brand the best opportunity to connect authentically with your audience.

Elevate your digital experience

Alongside social, there’s been an obvious and expected increase for ecommerce across the board with a reported 32% increase in online shopping, in stark contrast to a 35% decrease in bricks and mortar retail outlet shopping (source: Doyle Dane Bernbach). This acceleration of digitisation, as nations adopt self-isolation policies, shows how rapidly businesses can (and should!) be fulfilling customer demands online. We’ve seen a big shift to brands investing in their online experiences during this crisis, and rightly so.

At Smack Bang, we are adamant that a brand cannot and should not create an ecommerce platform without considering how their brand essence translates into an online experience.

Brand stories should be told, moods should be conveyed, and tone should remain authentic. Your online home should feel unique and relevant to the brand you’ve spent so long create in an offline space. The digital experiences we create are iconic to the brands themselves – a distinctive digital statement if you will.

Let’s face it, the proliferation of e-commerce, digital automation, virtual experiences, teleworking, and www enabled offerings are here to stay. COVID-19 is just the impetus to spring us into making the most of them.

Craft clever content

Use every opportunity of connection to support and serve your community, with your ‘sell’ very much being the secondary and more subtle sentiment.Be thoughtful about tone, sensitive to context and above all, just be human. Ensure you accommodate for the fear and anxiety that is felt by all, and communicate in a way that is not tone deaf to the situation.

As we navigate the intricacies of social distancing, content production may be a little more complex and time-consuming to create, but don’t let this stop you. With more eyeballs on your content than ever, it’s important you continue to develop strong, compelling and clever content. Although our process might be slightly altered, our photography studio is still creating content to ensure our clients don’t lose momentum. So, don’t be afraid to use this time to get creative. Be innovative with your content strategy and do something out of your comfort zone.

Image Credit: Jeff Hahn

My 5 greatest business a-ha moments.

I vividly remember when we moved into our first ‘real’ studio. We upgraded from our quasi-illegal, deeply humbling alleyway warehouse we shared with a family of mice and an abundance of quirky neighbours and moved into a light-filled office above an art gallery in Woollahra. It was beautiful, clean and very on-brand. To our sheer delight, it even had OH&S approved stairs, windows and walls! 

And what’s more, we no longer had a studio that backed onto a lane smelling like a million garbage trucks just had an orgy! (sorry Mum)


I felt like Julia Roberts in the latter half of Pretty Woman.

For me, starting a business at 22 could have been described as a case of insanity. I was a college drop out after four failed attempts, with zero savings and zero experience. It took the next three years of working 70 hour weeks to get Smack Bang off the ground. I said goodbye to weekends, holidays, friends’ birthdays, my own birthday, good health and devastatingly a loaf of Iggy’s sourdough bread on a Sunday morning (if you know, you know).

To outsiders, we’ve always looked primped and polished, but let me tell you, what may look like a well-oiled machine now has certainly had a few burnouts along the way.

This eight-year narrative contains far more ups, downs, and inside outs than I have time to write. We’ve outgrown 4 office spaces over that time, and with that went our Kikki K diaries and our USB sticks. We’ve lost clients, staff members, sleep and unashamedly our dignity (cue Xmas party 2016).

The intensity and the hurdles of the last eight years have truly built me into a bigger and better businesswoman, and woman for that matter. I feel as though I am able to handle more every day and turn each problem into an opportunity that works in my favour.

Fast forward and here we are now with 15 incredibly hard-working and capable employees, over 100 clients under our belt all the while thriving from our very own two-story light-filled studio in Woollahra. It’s been wild, it’s been chaotic, but mostly it’s been incredibly rewarding.

I’m still not entirely sure where I’m heading, and there are still many dark corners of the business. But I do feel that as a business and a collective of individuals, we are proud of the work we’ve done.

I’m still figuring out my definition of success. If you Google “success” you get a lot of trite quotes and corny cliches that feel similar to the positive affirmations hurled at me during that spin class I went to once, (in 1999….)

But when I stop and take a break from the merciless to-do’s, I can see that it’s all worth it. When my staff tell me that they’re happy and when our clients tell me they’ve had a 30% increase in sales, it’s all worth it. The moments when I’m standing in our pokey little staff kitchen making a cuppa and I can hear the team in a mix of hardcore taking-over-the-world brainstorm ideas and intense belly laughs, it’s all worth it. And when I get home to a lifestyle that I love and that I have worked my bloody ass off for, it’s all worth it.

Like most other entrepreneurs, I learned how to build a business whilst building my business. It’s been an on-the-fly, trial-by-fire kinda lesson.

  1. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step up
    Going on maternity leave forced me to take a step back and consequently, a step up. In the months leading up to the birth of my daughter, my General Manager and I were meticulous in planning and implementing systems that meant I could actually have time off.Stepping back allowed me to see the business and its working objectively. I could see the flaws and the parts that needed attention because I wasn’t in it. It also allowed me the freedom to decide how, upon returning, I wanted to step back into it – where I would be of the greatest value and what I wanted to prioritise.
  1. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should
    Everybody knows about the 10,000-hour theory of expertise. What most people forget is that it’s 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” — applying yourself and staying woke — not 10,000 hours of sleepwalking through your job.If I could give you any single piece of advice, this would be it, 10,000%. Continually ask yourself, is this the best way of doing it? Am I the right person to be doing this? Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. Learn the power of delegating, and it will allow you to have far greater impact.
  1. Diversification isn’t always the answer
    Creative genius is literally the ability to give birth to new ideas or solutions. As an entrepreneur, it can be so exciting to have the freedom to explore a million and one fun ideas – but just because you have a million ideas doesn’t mean you should pursue them all. Think about your end goal, and ensure these creative ideas are in complete alignment with your values as a person, and as a business.
  1. Pleasing two of the three P’s to stay in alignment
    At Smack Bang, we work with clients who fit a specific criteria. They must tick two of three boxes; Passion, Profile and/or Profit. Obviously, the trifecta is the goal. It took me years to be able to conceptualise and articulate this criteria. For a long time, I consulted my crystal ball and made decisions about which projects to take on with my gut. And then I heard from a friend of a friend, who was describing his methodology for choosing which projects to work on – Profit, Passion, Profile –  Wham bam, thank you, Ma’am, finally, we had a clear framework to base our clients off.
  1. Word of mouth is the O.G of marketing.
    Gone are the days where simply having a presence and a nice looking website were enough. Building trust with your audience is imperative if you want to remain relevant and memorable. Your brand is your reputation. Prioritise offline over online. You need to connect with your market, and not just collect them.Growing your online presence needs to be organic, and from this will come genuine and real relationships beyond the mere double-tap, and the sense of instant, false reassurance that comes with it. Be kind to everyone, simply because that’s the right thing to do, but also because of who you are and how you treat people is what leads to work and building a good reputation.
  1. You gotta do the work.
    I know I said I’d give you 5 tips, but like my local Indian takeaway joint, I like to under-promise and over-deliver. Consider this last point me throwing in some delicious (and free) samosas with your curry order.I hate to break it to you, but reading a book on how to kick a ball doesn’t qualify you for the World Cup. You need to do the work. Put in the time and build up the practice. You need to show up, with your sleeves roll up and consistently give it your all.

Image credit: Nat Turnbull

A brand name that resonates.

I went to school with a guy named Jackson Jackson. No joke. It’s funny, but it’s no joke.

At the time I thought it was weird, I guessed his parents were either stoners, super lazy, or thought it was funny to make a mockery of their very own spawn. Thinking about it now, in retrospect, however, I actually think they ticked all the boxes… If perhaps their child was a business. Either way, they succeeded with a name that was thought-provoking, memorable, easy to spell, fun to say, and would actually look great as a logo.

Choosing a great name – whether it’s for your baby or your business – is no easy feat, but it sure is important. A brand name is how a company introduces itself, the very first impression.

And how does one go about choosing a business name, you ask?

You could try your luck on a random generator like the following. Or you can dive deep, strategise and end up creating a brand name that not only resonates with your customers but delivers a memorable, meaningful experience that sticks with your company throughout time.

Your name is with you through every step of your business journey. This means coming up with the right name is probably the single most important branding concern for a business.

You’ll first need to figure out what you want your name to communicate. They tend to fall into one of a few categories; based on a founders name, descriptive, experiential names, made-up words and then those that are just downright random. Each of these categories tend to evoke their own unique set of feelings. When you see companies named after their founders – think the likes of Oglivy and Johnson & Johnson – it correlates to a feeling of trust, stability and confidence, right? Compare that to names that you would consider experiential – like Lush and Girlboss – and you are presented with an entirely different set of values.

Your name should reinforce the key elements of your business and reflect the foundational tone you’d like to establish with your customers.

Once a name is out in the world, the meaning of the word itself and the connotations attached to it will evolve based on how people experience the brand. The way you choose to express the visual identity, the brand story and the way you marketing affects how people engage with it. Look at Apple. If you told someone today that you were considering naming your brand after a fruit or create a completely new word as Aesop has done, they’d look at you like poor Jackson Jackson’s mother – complete disbelief in the ludicrously of it all. There will always be exceptions to the rules as all brand names, as most things in life, are subjective.

A brilliant name is the basic core differentiator of your brand. And with 300,000 brand names being registered every year, it’s imperative that your business name makes you the talk of the town, or at least enagaes someone beyond you, your mum and your massage therapist.

Here’s our checklist of 8 characteristics to consider before embarking on the naming process.

  1. Is it thought-provoking?
    Your name should set the tone for your business, think about your brand positioning – will it be disruptive, intellectual, or timid? The company name should be culturally on cue and appropriate for your values and positioning. We don’t want any repeats of Kim Kardashian’s bad taste in brand names. Try avoiding trends and cute puns that only you understand – my money is that most people won’t find them as funny as you.
  2. Is it memorable?
    Like the perfect al-dente pasta, your name should stick. Successful names have the sticky-factor enabling people to quickly bring your brand to mind when talking with friends. Names that are straight forward but also create curiosity encourages your customer to seek out further information. Great names are often short and sweet. Studies have shown that brevity lends itself to memorability.
  3. Is it unique enough?
    Before you start brainstorming or putting pen to paper, the first step is to map out the competitive landscape for your brand. When brainstorming your business name, think outside the box – customers appreciate brave, risk-taking brands that forfeit the safe option to stand out from the competition.
  4. Is it easy to spell?
    Potential customers need to be able to find you easily in a quick Google search. Not everyone was the record-holding spelling bee champion, so choosing a business name such as “Syforollayam” might not be the way to go. You want your customers to be able to find you during their quick search online, so coming up with something unique is great, but difficult spellings can often be a roadblock.
  5. Have you kept it simple?
    Don’t pick a name that is long-winded or confusing. If you need to justify your business name, you’ve failed to make an impact. Take Amazon, for example, they’ve used this name to create a metaphor marrying their business to the largest rainforest in the world. Many people think you need to go descriptive with their titles which often leads to using multiple words like Bob’s Big Bicycle Bananza. You want a short and sweet name that doesn’t leave you tongue-tied.
  6. Is it fun to say?
    Will people enjoy pronouncing it? Names that have a good “mouth-feel” like Google, Oreo, Yahoo, Ketchup and Kleenex, have a headstart on those that don’t. Invented or abstract names come with no preconceived ideas and are therefore a great blank canvas upon which you are able to paint a unique brand image.
  7. Does it sound like it Is?
    Research shows that words hold acoustic representations of their meaning by making our mouths feel a particular way. Brand names often take into consideration what is known as the “Bouba- Kiki Effect” – the non-arbitrary mapping between speech sounds and visual shape. From these studies we can see there is a direct correlation between sound, shape and meaning was obviously apparent.
  8. Does it look good?
    As a branding expert, of course I have to include the aesthetics! The letters that comprise your brand name must look distinctive. Some characters are round and full; others are narrow and slim. When thinking about the name in the context of a logo, it’s important that you marry the appropriate looking letters with your brand image and positioning.

If the cat’s got your tongue or just downright stuck on where to start, we have a team of creatives who are ready and raring. The result? A damn fine name that sets your heart and brand racing. Your brand name sticks to you like glue and will last longer than almost any other investment you make in your business, so choose wisely. No pressure.

Image credit: Ina Jang

The pleasures and perils of scaling a business.

Before I had my daughter, I assumed my life would seamlessly and swiftly fall ‘back’ into place after my baby was born. She would enter the world effortlessly and gracefully in a similar motion to a dollop of ice cream leaving a scalding hot spoon. We’d fall instantly love and then I’d return to my busy schedule and growing business after 4 months of maternity leave. She’d be my trusty and obliging sidekick – happily tagging along to work with me and championing my every move. We’d have a nanny on hand, ‘sort out’ the daycare situation when the time came and I’d be able to return to my normal levels of busy with a beautifully balanced side of baby. 

…I’ll just wait here while all the parents on my list have a good old belly laugh.

Fast forward 10 months and I can tell you that I’m about as close to the above reality as I am to joining NASA and flying to the moon in a zebra spacesuit by 4pm Friday.

The integration of baby and business has been about as smooth as a flying mallet through a pane of glass. It has been crazy, yes, but beyond beautiful and utterly humbling – I speak more about my journey so far on the One Wild Ride Podcast.

But I’m not here to give you the blow by blow, nappy by nappy account of how incredible this journey into motherhood has been. I’m here to talk about how scaling my business early on allowed me the time, space and freedom to become a mother.

Retrospect is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?! When I was 22 I sacrificed travelling, partying and a wardrobe full of Zimmermann frills to get this business off the ground. At the time, it was a lonely journey and most days I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. But looking back today I am utterly and eternally grateful to my younger self. The beauty of starting a business at 22 meant that I got a few runs on the board, built this baby up to a team of 15 very capable staff and put plenty of systems in place before I even started thinking about having a family.

It wasn’t easy. There have been moments of demoralising and debilitating doubt, complete and utter exhaustion and, on multiple occasions, wanting to fake my own death, move to the Bermuda Triangle and never look back.

But the one thing I’ve been continually surprised by is how satisfying it is to grow and scale a business. This feeling of satisfaction, reward and gratification became especially apparent last year when I took maternity leave and Smack Bang continued to grow and thrive without me.

Let it be known, there are still many rough edges at Smack Bang. And dark corners of the business that still scare the pants off me. There are still, and always will be, plenty of mess and mistakes. It’s not glamorous, it’s not easy and most of the time I’m just Googling the answer to simple business equations like how to balance my income with my expenses.

Buckle in folks, this one is a biggy.

Let’s start with the perils.

The perils.

  1. You’re like a hamster on a ferris wheel
    The other day I was watching an episode of the late great Anthony Bourdain (rip my man, can’t wait to eat pasta with you in heaven), and he was in the Philippines watching a makeshift ferris wheel. It was as rickety as an old rotting bridge and dangerous as a red rag to a bull. Forget automation, there were a dozen or so, barefooted guys making this 30ft thing spin. To me, it was not dissimilar to running a growing business. As a founder, you’re both the person on the ride (holding on for dear life, hoping that this precarious thing has at least 10 more minutes of life span in it). But you’re also the guy running, jumping and pulling – you’re exhausted, running on adrenaline, your feet are burnt by the ground beneath you and you’re getting paid VERY little for the output you’re exerting.
  1. There’s a bit (read: a lot) of unpaid overtime
    When I first started Smack Bang we were incredibly lucky, we were Busy, with a capital B. Our workflow felt akin to drinking from a firehose. I would design for seemingly 90 hours straight. Then write for the next 90 hours. And then hustle new clients for 90 hours. Then when I was done that, I’d move onto the next thing for 90hours. Things got messy. When you’re moving at the speed of light, you’re also out-growing your systems just as they’re getting implemented – it’s chaotic, stress-inducing and you feel like your life is one giant game of hot potato.
  1. Growth is a truly scary thing
    The more clients, the more hires. The more hires, the more demand for work and therefore, more clients. It’s easy to start feeling like a G.I Joe being pulled every-which-way with no end in sight. Managing people is no easy feat (which is why I count my lucky stars for my General Manager each and every day) . Let me tell you, there is no worse feeling than letting people down. Whether that’s a member of your staff or one of your clients. You’ll make some crappy decisions along the way that could possibly end in a pile of your salty tears on the floor. You’ll have moments in business of absolute self-doubt and overwhelming anxiety. Moments that will downright make you want to quit.
  1. More money = more problems
    There’s no denying that running a business comes with a fair dose of fear. Particular when it comes to cash flow – every small business owner’s pile of steaming hot mess. In the words of Notorious B.I.G, more money = more problems. More money typically means more clients. More clients mean more staff. More staff means more cash flow issues. And on top of all that, as your business grows, taxes just get more and more complicated. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that Rolex might have to wait a couple more years.
  1. Time is scarce
    Business is hard enough as is, and somehow in between skimming your eyes over important emails, checking your P&L, processing payroll, woofing down another meal at your desk, frantically meeting deadlines all whilst planning the most instagrammable Christmas party for your staff, you’re meant to find room for life. Lack of time is no joke.
  1. You’ll sometimes forget to breathe
    There will be moments of serve burnout where self care feels like it is simply not an option. But when you’re suffering from stress, overwhelm, anxiety it will 100% be reflected in your work. I’m telling you loud and clear that as a business owner, your business depends on your health, happiness and productivity. If you’re tired, there’s a reason. Honour it and address the fatigue.

To this day, I’m still learning on the fly and despite the pitfalls that sometimes come with running a business, I wouldn’t have it any other way. So now, to end on a much lighter note – the pleasures of scaling a business.

The pleasures.

  1. You’re in the driver’s seat
    The liberation that comes with doing what you want, when you want to do it. I’ve always loved the thrill that comes with being in the driver’s seat – the risk and responsibility is all yours, but you get to drive as fast as you like, take the bends how you want and create your own destination. I’m super grateful to get to do that every day.
  1. You can stop doing for the sake of doing
    I believe the worst epidemic that our modern world faces is the disease of being constantly ‘busy’. So, my one piece of advice for you, If it doesn’t exactly spark joy (thanks Marie Kondo) you outsource it. Cut out the stuff you don’t want to do and focus on doing what you’re best at. I love this quote by Beyonce and can 100% relate – “I don’t like too much structure. I like to be free. I’m not alive unless I am creating something. I’m not happy if I’m not creating, if I’m not dreaming, if I’m not creating a dream and making it into something real. I’m not happy if I’m not improving, evolving, moving forward, inspiring, teaching, and learning.” Focus on the tasks that inspire and promote growth and your business will thank you in tenfold.
  1. Play to your strengths and delegate the rest
    Creating an uplifting and thriving culture is 1 part science, 2 parts art. When you get it right though, boy does it feel good. We have a great leadership team in place that inspires everyone (including me) to do beautiful, smart and thoughtful work. I feel constantly inspired because of my team, each member having their own unique skill set. So rather than wasting my time on things I don’t love or tasks I know someone else can do better, I champion our staff to operate in their genius zone. Once you’ve figured this out, you can start delegating and begin narrowing in on the shit you love doing.
  1. You get to keep your curiosity alive
    I am a big believer in being a forever student, and let me tell you, owning and running a business involves SO. MUCH. Learning. You’ll be faced with new challenges on the reg, but each one is an opportunity to learn and grow. Going all the way to the fiery pits of hells and coming back allows you to enforce some serious boundaries in your daily work life. And if I can let you in on a little secret; scaling your business is all about working smarter not harder.
  1. You get to watch your Sea-Monkeys grow
    Watching your team grow is an incredibly rewarding experience. From one kid who loved watching Sea-Monkeys grow to another, you know how satisfying that was. I love knowing each member of my team personally. I love knowing what drives them and what excites them. I love hearing about what they had for breakfast and what their Mum’s cousin’s next-door neighbours favourite song is. Truly, I do. Managing a small army has made me a better person, truly. I’m more compassionate. More empathetic. More resilient. More engaged. More accountable.
  1. Getting to work when it best suits you
    Leave your 9-5 mindset at the door because you get to determine your own hours of work now, and ain’t nobody gonna make you feel guilty about it. Discover when you’re most productive and form your days around a schedule that not only works for your lifestyle but promotes an effective working cycle, meaning you are on the clock when you are at your sharpest.
  1. It’s an empowering challenge
    Launching and running a business is a wild adventure. It’s like the heart monitor you hear in the ER. A blearing signal that lets you know your soul is not just rotting away in some grey cubicle with a hoard of other lifeless robots. The thrill of entrepreneurship is your daily dose of adrenaline. Self expansion and seeing what you’re capable of and unlocking your true limits is one seriously empowering adventure.
  1. You might just change the world
    Call it an ambitious target, but you can create some serious change by harnessing your platforms for the greater good. Your business doesn’t have to be the next Facebook or Patagonia to be an agent of powerful change. It can be as simple as opening the doors to a bigger conversation within your community in order to inspire and provoke change. And this alone is a good enough reason for me.

Image credit: Maria Esme del Rio

How to promote yourself without promoting yourself.

This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.

When I cast my mind back seven big-fat-exhausting years to starting this thing called Smack Bang, I’m instantly awash with nerves, apprehension and the urge to inject a good lashing of valium into my eyeballs. I was 22-years-old and had no idea what I was doing. I should have been scared out of my mind.

The funny thing is though, back then I wasn’t. Not even an incy-wincy-little-bit. I guess I didn’t know what I was in for. I was ballsy, brash and bright with optimism. I was young, dumb and I hadn’t yet worked out what a scary place this world is. I was crazy confident and gave zero F’s about what other people thought of me. The idea of putting myself out there to get new clients came to me just easily as eating 17 Caramello Koalas in one hit. I was capable of blasting my work out into the public, the same way my dog blasts out a wee in the middle of the street – with no shame and a strong dose of #sorrynotsorry.

And let me tell you, it’s a good thing I didn’t care back then. It meant that we got busy, fast. I was building an Instagram audience, writing blogs, perfecting my portfolio, meeting and greeting, and kissing babies. Before I knew it, we were fully booked. It was exciting, and on behalf of my naive, green, younger self, I am forever grateful.

Still, I know as well as every entrepreneur that the ‘Marketing Hat’ isn’t always the comfiest one us business owners have to wear. If the thought of writing an ‘about page’ makes you want to punch yourself in the face, or the thought of getting headshots makes you want to fake your own death and run away to Mexico, then this blog is for you. Putting yourself out there can be terrifying – we all know that visibility triggers vulnerability. Promoting yourself and your work can set off a string of self-doubt, followed by procrastination or paralysis, and a perpetual internal soundtrack of ‘this is lame’, ‘I am lame’, ‘what if people think my work is ugly?’, ‘what if people think that I am ugly?’, ‘who am I to do this?’. The miserable shame spiral continues.

I get it, PROMOTING YOUR WORK TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD IS DAUNTING (caps required). It brings up the most deep-seeded feelings from within your glass-case of emotions. This is particularly apparent in today’s context, as we now communicate on a global scale. We no longer bang up a sign on the front door only visible to those within our postcode, we upload an image that is instantly visible to 7.5 billion people. If that doesn’t fill you with all the dread of bumping into Pennywise the clown in the middle of the night, I don’t know what will. I am going to tell you to pull up your adult pants, take a spoonful of concrete and wrap your laughing gear around it, because if you want to do the work you were set upon this earth to do, and make the impact you were born to make, at some point you’re gonna have to face the music and put yourself out there. You don’t like the word ‘marketing’? Cool, it’s still crucially important. Call it, ‘Sassy reach-out mode’, whatever you will, but if you take anything away from this chapter, let it be this: Marketing is simply reminding people to hire you.

If you’re serious about attracting more dream clients into your life (and I know you are), then cast your weary eyes over these quick hacks to get you in the mood for a little bit of Promotion with a capital P. I’m not going to pretend I have this whole marketing thing figured out, but I’ve certainly come a long way since uploading an exceptionally fluorescent, lime green logo to my website.

  1. Get out of your own way.
    Sometimes we become the biggest roadblock to our greatest vision. When it comes to promoting work, usually, it’s ego and self-doubt that get in the way of kicking major goals. Feel this creeping into your world? Try taking a step back and look at the bigger picture. Often, the vision is far bigger than you are and your purpose far greater than you, so feel free to stop honing in on the granular reasons why people won’t hire you (that mole on your left shoulder, the slightly peculiar sense of humour), and zoom out to see what it is that you’re actually creating! What value are you adding to the world? Focus on that and forget your own stuff. Just do good work.
  1. Stop waiting for perfection.
    Waiting for perfection is like waiting for your children to put two of the correct shoes on in the morning (or so I’ve heard). I used to be a prisoner to perfection and would lose myself in the perfecting of each pixel and every goddamn micro-detail imaginable. But then I slowly began to see that things didn’t need to be perfect to generate epic results. Striving for excellence is all well and good, but striving for perfection is a bit crazy. Obsessive perfectionism is the arch-nemesis of productivity, second only to laying on the couch doing diddly-squat all day. Of course, aim for genuine, brilliant and extremely high value at all times, but don’t aim for perfection. Do what you can, with what you’ve got and put it out there and test the result yourself. If you stress too much-overdoing everything exactly right, you’ll never hit publish on your website, you’ll never send out that blog post, and you’ll certainly never send that ebook you’ve been working on for months on end to market. Fretting and being a perfectionist about everything you do merely keeps those sparkly dreams just out of reach.
  1. Make it about your message, not about you.
    If the bright shiny ‘me’ spotlight feels uncomfortable, feel free to pivot it slightly. Shine the light on your work, your purpose, your process, your brand, your surrounding assets. The key is to get purposeful and focused on promoting your message rather than you as an individual. I’ve found using this approach makes the art of promotion feel eleventy-billion times easier. When I feel like digging a hole and hiding out, I shine the spotlight on my team, our studio, our portfolio, our clients and our ethos. It’s great, because it keeps the momentum, without making you feel like you’ve sold your soul.
  1. Don’t be desperate.
    As a freelancer or small business owner, it’s easy to get panicky when the phone begins to stop ringing. It’s easy to scream to your boyfriend over the phone “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!”. But for the love of all things good and holy, don’t panic. Slice up some cucumbers, pat those babies onto your eyes and take a chill pill. Transcending into an emergency state of panic fuels your sense of desperation… and I hate to break it you, but clients can smell desperation a mile away. Even when you’re drowning in desperation and self-pity, you need to slap on a smile, and pretend like you’ve got everything under control, and your rent isn’t in fact twenty days overdue.
  1. Chew on abundance.
    Without getting too Tony Robbins on yo’ ass, I do believe the idea of manifestation has some merit. If you have a good scroll through Instagram, you’re bound to find at least 17 million inspirational quotes. Ignore the “live, laugh, love” ones and find one that says something along the lines of “what you focus on expands”. This is the shiz. If you focus on constantly having “zero clients, zero money, and zero ways to feed yourself or pay your rent” chances are things aren’t going to improve anytime soon. However, if you shift your perspective to focus on the bright spots, you’ll begin to attract more of that into your life. Even when our bank account begins to dwindle here and there, I always believe that I am 100% abundant. Whether it’s just a simple reminder I tell myself, or within my morning meditation, I focus my drive and my vision on abundance. And abundance is what I get. If you tell yourself for long enough, you’ll eventually convince yourself… and your bank account. Chew on that.

At Smack Bang, we’ve been lucky enough to have a somewhat steady flow of customers for the most part of our existence. But I guess that’s not just luck; we work tirelessly and endlessly to do great work, give our clients a first-class experience and market ourselves silly. Of course, just like any business, there are slower seasons, when we’re racking our brains to come up with new tactics and ideas to get more clients through our doors.

I know the stress of stumbling around trying to come up with new and improved ways of generating new leads all the while losing sleep at night wondering if I might eventually have to jazz up my resume and go get a real job. Whilst it often feels that our amount of leads coming in is out of our control, I can tell you right now, it’s not. That’s just one of the B.S. myths we tell ourselves that keeps us playing small. Generating red-hot leads isn’t rocket science or the exclusive rights of other more established businesses around. Instead, I believe that with a little skill, practice, creativity and persistence with our marketing, we can learn to attract a steady flow of dream clients through our doors quick smart.

Image credit: Gabriel Isak

Why a strong tone of voice is the ultimate Tinder turn on for your brand.

Correct grammar AND a witty tone of voice – The biggest turn on, ever. 

Spare me the six pack, body oil and Al Green tunes, my Tinder profile would be all about Merriam Webster approved lingo and dates who know their shit, as opposed to not knowing they’re shit. If you can spin the keyboard decks like Pandora Sykes or Zoe Foster Blake I’ll happily don a white dress, or should I say, take off a white dress. 

Before I get too Fifty Shades of Grey on you, let me relate this back to branding and business.

The thing is, like me, your customers too, want to read prose as smooth as honey and tasty as treacle. As you know, over the last decade ‘branding’ and all that it encompasses has really come into the spotlight. At first, companies started focusing on the idea of branding by simply jazzing up their logos – cue the millions of makeovers from traditional block serif to sexy sans serif, and a complete exodus of intricate illustrations and literal icons. Then, fast forward a few more years and we see this movement morph as companies start taking all visual aspects of their business up a notch – no longer was it okay to have mis-matched fonts, crappy stock imagery and neon gyrating gifs. And now, in 2019?! It’s all about that clever copy and distinct tone of voice. Straight shooting, heartfelt, emotionally engaging, creative, concise, charming, trust-inducing, share-worthy, SEO-genius copy that converts. Right now, I’d say your copy is the difference between a booming business or a business booing.

But, like, no pressure, or anything.

Since the inception of Smack Bang in 2011, I’ve been writing this here ol’ little blog every two weeks, (that was at least until my daughter came into the world and robbed me of my sleep). It’s been an absolute labour of love, super satisfying and at times hard to keep up with (FYI – sleep deprivation and creativity are a match made in hell). But the one thing that I have loved most about this writing commitment is the practice it has granted me in refining my writing skills.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something. I’ve written almost 220 blogs, and at approximately 4 hours each, that makes me not quite yet a master (juuuuust missed my quota by a mere 9,120 hours). However, I do feel the beauty of writing consistently is that over time you begin to distil your process and whilst the blank paper in front of you never gets any less daunting, the practice of storytelling and articulation becomes all the more easier. In my 880 hours, I’ve had a truck load of practice at refining the Smack Bang tone of voice. So much so, I can no longer discern between it and my own personal tone of voice – which, I believe it just as it should be as a founder.

But why is clever copywriting and nailing your tone of voice so important to your business’ bottom line?

Because simply put, copy converts.

The right copy aligned with the right brand builds trust with the right target market. And we all know that trust means loyalty, and that loyalty is the bedrock of a thriving business.

If you use the right copy to help market your business, it can skyrocket your exposure, clarify your offering, catapult your conversion rate and put you on the fast train to the business hall of fame.

The thought of writing something that strangers, and god-forbid, potential customers might read used to make my spleen shiver in fear. But over time and with a hell of a lot of practice, it has now become second nature to me. I’ve written about how to craft the perfect tone of voice before, and even shared with you a book that I think every copy writing marketer needs to read. But today I want to talk about WHY copywriting is so darn important for your brand.

‘Tis true, design captures your audience’s attention, but it’s your tone of voice that keeps them engaged, communicates your viewpoint and forms a lasting connection. At Smack Bang, we like to say ‘Design turns heads and copy turns minds’. After all, design is the heart of your brand, and your writing is the lungs, you need both to keep your brand alive and thriving.

Having a strategic, strong and clear copy guide in place will keep your brand voice from straying into no-man’s land.

Crafting a unique tone of voice means you’ll be talking to the right people – people who work with you, for you and who champion your every move from the sidelines.

Here’s what I know for sure:

  1. Bad copy is bad for business.

    We have all read copy that makes us cringe. It may be hard to put a finger on exactly what it is that makes the copy so bad but nonetheless, a lack of appeal definitely does not go unnoticed. You might have the most resplendent design to have ever graced the Earth, but if you can’t get your words in order, or if your grammar makes your text read like pig latin, then you’ll reap what you sow. A lack of care in the way you are presenting yourself and your business just shows pure unprofessionalism – just ask Trump.

  1. Good copy gets you noticed.

    Good salesmen (and women) are not verbose. They don’t use unnecessary, fancy, extravagant words for the sake of it. They speak like your loving older sister. Clear, kind and confident. You should be able to communicate your copy without the over-the-top embellishment of sale language that’s about as smooth as a bulldog chewing a wasp. Remember, consumers buy products from brands that they connect with on an emotional level and steer clear from brands that they don’t so make sure your copy conveys empathy rather than hard sells.

  1. Clear copy clarifies what you stand for.

    Words bring your brand to life. Building familiarity and trust is crucial to building a successful brand. To keep your loyal supporters loyal and your hard workers working hard, you’ve got to not only gain their trust but keep it. Therefore, you’ve got to practice what you preach. If you’re always banging on about being an eco-conscious sustainable brand, don’t go wrapping your products in layers of plastic while sipping on your Starbucks-mocha-latte just do your best to uphold your values.

  1. Copy gives your brand a human heart.

    People won’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they will always remember how you made them feel. That’s why it’s so important to give your brand a personality that your ideal customer can not only recognise but can relate to on a human level. People love hearing about people – we are one seriously narcissistic species. We want to know they aren’t alone in our struggles, that someone has suffered the same challenges we have and can tell us how they overcame them.

  1. Meaningful copy makes you memorable.

    In a sea of bland and boring content, a distinctive, grabbing voice can make you easily stand out from your competition. Therefore, you’ve got to make it considered and impactful. To quote the father of advertising, David Ogilvy, himself, “Tell the truth but make truth fascinating. You know, you can’t bore people into buying your project. You can only interest them in buying it”. Think about the way you use your words and the impression it makes on everyone who comes in contact with them – meaningful copy will influence and persuade.

  1. To state the obvious, words sell.

    Words hold the power to tell a story and captivate the hearts of many. Once you understand your audiences’ needs, your copy will then convince them that your solution can alleviate their pain most efficiently. At the end of the day, we are not just using language to list our features, or strategically serve up words to encourage your audience to take further action, we want to use copy to help our customers find reasons to fall in love with us. Because after all, all the best stories have a happily ever after.

Image credit: Jessica Walsh

The creative characteristics that will stand the test of time.

The 2000s were a magical time. And by magical, I mean delightfully cringe-worthy. In hindsight, we probably should have realised that our butterfly clips and Ed Hardy shirts should have been filed along with cargo pants, flip phones and our MySpace profiles.

These statement-making culture trends might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but if we’ve learnt anything from the early 2000s it’s that not much can – actually – stand the test of time. This blog goes out in honour of all those cringy, repulsive and downright offensive trends from our formative years and is to be used as a guide for how you can (hopefully) avoid these trends when it comes to your branding.

When we are creating a visual identity, sure we want your brand to be the cool, new kid on the block but we also want that branding to last. As we see trends come and go, fonts that become extremely dated, buttons that have rounded edges, and rebrand attempts that are forever trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Sure everything does date with time and there’s a huge misconception that good design equals “trendy” design. Design, at its core, is simply pulling various elements together to beautifully execute a concept and add meaning to your brand. Whereas, characteristics of good design are typically inspired and influenced by trends. But as we’ve seen time and time again, these aren’t future-proof.

Here, at Smack Bang, we avoid giving in to short-lived fads like it’s the plague. Our style is current but not trend-specific – adding touches of flair through accompanying elements, not to the core design. Your branding is one of the biggest investments you’ll make when starting a business. So please, for the love of all good things, do not forget that. Too often we have people come to us after being burnt from the likes of 99designs or unaccredited freelancers. If you want to ensure your brand will be looking just as good in 10 years as it does today, you need to ensure there are strategy and purpose behind the aesthetics.

But who am I, a mere marketing simpleton, to be schooling you lot of the scope of design?

Fear not. I thought who better to ask than the ladies living in this crazy designer world day-in and day-out. Read on as our talented design team explain the power of executing timeless design.

  1. A little goes a long way

“Less is more, and we believe ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ as Leonardo da Vinci wisely put it, and along with simplicity, longevity is always at the forefront of our minds as we design. We aim to create clean and simple logos, with a slight quirk adding personality, that will stand the test of time. A unique presence for the brand is created in the form of additional design elements that complement the logo. These generate the feel for the brand and can be a little more ‘out there’, touching on trends (maybe in the form of colour) and creating that initial attraction to the brand. As time goes on and brands evolve, these elements are the first to be considered for an update. The logo sits at the core of the brand and remains timeless due to its considered design and simplicity, allowing the brand’s identity to remain strong and untouched as time passes.” – Katie Shepherd, Art Director

  1. Gotta risk it for the biscuit

“I love the saying, ‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’ Yes, it pays to know your design principles and systems, and subsequently, why we design a certain way. That way you have a solid foundation to get creative and push the boundaries. Graphic design is coming up to 100 years old and over the decade we’ve worked out what appeals to people from a foundational level, whether it’s the rule of thirds, that ‘golden ratio’ or typographic characteristics, so if you learn where the boundaries are, you can be more strategic with how you push those boundaries.” – Kendall Hubbard, Designer and In-House Photographer.

  1. Provoke a connection

“Create with an adventurous spirit and a desire for authentic connection. Digging deep into the why of a brand is how we begin our branding process, ensuring the bare bones of the branding are thoughtful and authentic. Keeping this initial design stage minimal and well thought out ensures a certain level of timelessness, whilst simultaneously providing an exciting canvas ready for building a beautiful, bold brand.” – Maddie Lumley, Designer.

“A brand that connects to the core of a human need or desire tends to stand the test of time, because as humans, while our surroundings are constantly changing, our core needs and desires for connection, support, and understanding tend to stay pretty consistent. A brand that addresses these needs in relation to the product or business at hand transcends trends and prioritises authenticity instead, which in turn creates something that people want to buy into, at a level that feels deeper than the surface”, Kendall adds.

  1. Design with purpose

“Ultimately, a design that is clever can hold a story and significant meaning behind them. Purposeful design never goes out of style and creating something simple and uncomplicated not gimmicky is important when considering design longevity. It’s when people get too caught up on the aesthetic and trying to make a design purely on the basis that it is ‘cool or current’, that dates and fails with trends as trends have a built-in expiry date. But if the creative holds meaning and purpose while telling a story, your brand is bound to be timeless.” – Sophie McNay, Designer.

  1. Create your own lane

And above all else, in a world where imposter syndrome is riding on every creatives’ back, Sophie raises a point we can not fault, “a level of uniqueness needs to be considered with each and every design. If something is truly unique and individual, more often than not it means it’s not moving with a trend and won’t date. If it holds its own and is individual in its own right it also shouldn’t date too much, as long as it’s still clean, legible and not overcomplicated.”

Now, we only got to skim the surface here, so, we are calling on all you creatives out there. Drop us your go-to tip for timeless design in the comment section below.

Image credit: Jacob Reischel

What makes for a successful brand collaboration?

The art of a successful brand collaboration is like a really comprehensive game of match-making.

Sorry to break it to you (especially if you’ve just swiped right for the last time) but if you’re in the business of well, business, then there’s no escaping the constant search for the ideal partner.

We’re big advocates of two heads being better than one and any (decent) offer of collaboration makes us weak at the knees. There’s real magic to what can be produced with an open mind, a little fairy dust, and a good ol’ fashioned creative collab.

The word collaboration, often used as a buzzword, alongside a pretty loose and cringeworthy definition, but ultimately, it’s a mutually beneficial agreement where both brands bring their audiences together and take advantage of the each other’s success. It’s an effective tool to build the business, boost awareness, and break into new markets as well as introducing something new to your own audience. Here at Smack Bang, we believe it’s people who make a house feel like a home, and who make a workplace not feel like work. So for us, partnerships are an instrument to build our community in order for it to grow and thrive.

In the ultra-competitive world of advertising, brands are always looking for an edge that allows their product or service to stand out amongst the noise – that’s where your friendly neighbourhood collab comes into play.

Now, we could dive into the psychology behind the sneaky marketing ploy that is brand collaboration, but we’d be here all day. So, let’s break this down into a delicious bite-sized snack; On Instagram for example, you follow individuals (and brands) because you enjoy their content, right? Over time this turns into trust, which then turns into brand loyalty and authority. You begin to subconsciously value what they are selling – when they offer you their opinion on another brand or product,  you listen and respect that sentiment. Then, within minutes, you’re stuck in an Instagram hole, aimlessly scrolling through an awesome new feed you’ve ‘stumbled’ across because of this funny little thing called collaboration.

But how does one do this, you ask? Well, read on.

  1. Combine complementary services to enhance your customer experience
    Good partnerships, first and foremost, aim to serve society. So ask yourself; how can this collaboration improve the lives of our audience and enable a more personalised and unique experience? If we throwback to 2014, two innovative brands famously did just that – Uber passengers were given the ability to control the music during their commute via their very own Spotify app. Creating one of the most revolutionary, yet at the crux of it, very straightforward collaborations of our decade.
  2. Create a product that is exclusive to the collaboration
    It’s essential to align with other brands who share the same values and therefore similar customers, this will ensure your connection feels genuine and organic. If there’s one piece of advice you take away from all this, let it be the following; you don’t need to reach a massive amount of people—you just need to reach the right people. Take the clever team at Zulu Zephyr, who as part of their strategy, collaborate with a new brand every year. One that fits the ZZ lifestyle and in turn, create a product that is mutually exclusive to both their audiences. Take their collaboration with Lack of Colour, broadening both their audience and product offering to create a range of bespoke headwear.
  3. Reach a new audience
    What better way to reach a new audience than by harnessing the reputation of another brand? Take a leaf out of GoPro and RedBull’s book. Here we have two world-renowned companies that need not an introduction. Both have established themselves as lifestyle brands – a lifestyle that’s action-packed, adventurous, fearless, and typically pretty extreme. Their shared values make them a perfect match for co-branding campaigns, meaning these two brands are constantly pairing up in order to unite their community and audiences – especially those surrounding action sports.
  4. Combine two current trends together
    Here’s another hot tip for you; the consumer owns this world and holds the ultimate power, and reacting and moving at their speed is a fundamental pillar to success. Trends come and go in what seem like fleeting moments, so knowing when to capitalise on them is one mighty hard task. For example, combining the magic and whimsicality of Tess Guinery’s poetic and visual brand with linen brand Dazed but Amazed is genius. Through this collaboration, they were able to create the ultimate bedding experience for their audiences.
  5. Create of a revolutionary idea
    Here, we’re talking about a product or service that can only come to fruition through the means of collaboration. We’ve got a golden example lined up for you. Hint: it’s something you’re using on a daily basis and smaller than a phone, rectangular in shape and most likely sitting in your pocket as we speak. Any takers? No one? Did I see a hand up in the back? Well, folks, we’re talking about ApplePay. A once unimaginable collaboration between Apple and MasterCard that birthed a concept that the majority of us would be lost without – okay that’s a tad hyperbolic, but you get what we’re getting out.
  6. Create work on a different medium that showcases your work and values
    We’re now about to land in a brand paradox – brace yourselves. We’re a creative agency who has a strong focus on digital design. But it’s safe to say we are still print enthusiasts at heart. Typically all our work is displayed and engaged with online with consumers viewing it all via a little black box. Until, last year, we decided to create a print magazine. For us, Baskk is just an extension of the SBD brand, a tangible way in which the team can pour our lifestyle principles of living consciously, creatively and in connection with those around us.
  7. Create a new and memorable experience
    Ahh, Glossier, the beauty brand who can honestly do no wrong. Earlier in the year, the cult brand opened a pop-up within a San Fransisco fried-chicken shop (bear with us here)… Although this doesn’t sound very on brand, this place oozed all things Glossier. From pastel pink walls to old school diner bar stools. If you are looking to capture the famously short attention spans of millennials, take a page from Glossier’s book. Consumers are constantly making the switch to experiences over objects. Why? The best way to trigger your brand in your audience’s minds is to allow them to experience it all first-hand. Plus, who doesn’t love a good ‘gram opp?

Image Credit: Bruna Kazinoti

In conversation with Vert Design.

If you’re anything like us, when you first heard the term industrial design you were a little stumped. And even after some heavy Googling, with the current rate of growth and change within the industry it’s near impossible to get clarity on the definition.

So we thought, who better to answer all your burning questions than Andrew Simpson, the founder and director of Sydney based studio, Vert Designs. Andrew’s approach to design is open and honest. With a heavy emphasis on experimental design, Vert is constantly evolving in their practice, running various self-initiated projects alongside their client work which has resulted in several sustainable materials innovations made from waste.

From a young age, Andrew had a keen eye for design and creation. Throughout school he would spend his spare time creating just about anything; from making boats, surfboards, skateboards, constructing chairs and building various boxes. Nearly 15 years and hundreds of projects later, we sat down to chat to Andrew about the importance of striking a balance between beauty, functionality, sustainability and commerciality in order to create thoughtful designs with intention and purpose.

How do you define industrial design?

There are some many definitions of industrial design and it is probably getting harder to define as the scope of what industrial designers do grows and changes. It used to be that industrial design was designing products for industry hence the name. For a time the best definition of industrial design might have been the intersection of art and engineering. I would say for many industrial designers today that industrial design is a process more than an outcome, I have been hearing the term post artefact to describe the transition of industrial designers into services and design thinking. I describe what we do by saying we design things that are not buildings so I guess in am not yet post artefact.

Can you talk us through your career trajectory – when did you discover there could be a job such as yours, and that you wanted it / were well suited to it?

If I look back I can see that I was a natural industrial designer at  high school, I excelled at woodwork, design and technology and Engineering science but more importantly, I had a love of making, I would (and still do) spend my time after school making boats, surfboards, skateboards and at lunchtime I would get the teachers to let me use the woodwork studios to make boxes and chairs. I was lucky that my parents had been university teachers early in their own career and had ended up touting a group of industrial designers at what in now UTS if it was not for this chance experience I would never have known that Industrial design was a possibility or that it would be such a good fit for me. I started studying at the University of Newcastle and transferred to UTS after a year. I ended up doing a 5-year degree. While I was in first year I got a part-time job at a glass studio first as a cold worker then as a hotshop assistant and finally as a glass designer. Working in the glass studio was one of the best things I ever did it gave me a solid foundation in understanding form and manufacturing processes. Glass is both transparent and reflective and it is often the distortion of the light that lets us read the form, making it a great teacher for a young designer.

Is there one common intention behind all your creations?

I would be dishonest to say there is one common intention behind our design approach but I definitely have a strong philosophy that underpins all my work. One way to view design is as simply the solving of problems. In this view, it is the problems that we choose to solve that become important. The problems that I think are worth solving really form the bases of my design philosophy. In its simplest form, this would be: is it honest, is it sustainable, is it meaningful to people?

How important is it to strike a balance between beauty, functionality, sustainability and commerciality? Are they all equal considerations for Vert?

This is a great question, beauty, function, commercial viability and sustainability are equally important. We are designers, not artists and we operate very much in the commercial world, designs that can not be made or are unaffordable to there audience are just as bad as ugly things that don’t work.

Goods design provides 3 benefits to a user, it has a

  • Functional benefit (allow or perform some action)
  • Emotional benefit (allow for the focus or change in the way we feel)
  • Cognitive benefit (is understandable and explainable)

Is your work just as much about psychology as technology?

Our design process is the is literally the movement between human needs (cultural relevance, ergonomics, product semantics, needs) and industrial requirements (material, engineering, manufacturing systems and processes). We use the two requirements to inform each other.

Do you have a set of criteria to determine whether you do or don’t take something on for a client?

We really only take on projects where we are going to add value. Sometimes industrial design does not bring value or help people with their goals. We also don’t work on single-use plastic products.

What different experts and professionals do you work with to bring a product to life?

We work a lot with makers both at a craft scale and at an industrial scale. We work with glass blowers, woodturners, plaster, injection moulders, toolmakers, carbon fibre experts, universities, photographers, jewellers, cardboard engineers, welders, fitters, turners, boilermakers, boat builders, architects, CNC operators, extruders, physiologists, doctors, surgeons, dentists, polymer chemists, vets, farmers, agronomists, neuroscientists, 3d printers, mechatronic engineers, fluid dynamics engineers , rocket scientists…… it is the most fun part of our job, we get to work with everyone.

Vert work on a 70/30 model of external vs. internal projects. What inspires what you choose to work on for yourselves at any given time?

We really just follow what interests us, lately, we have been working in waste fabrics but also in carbon fibre. When you are interested in something it does not feel like work and you are more open to the opportunities.

It seems most of Vert‘s personal projects are environmentally conscious at their heart. What role do you see industrial design playing in shaping our future?

Most of our internal projects are material based explorations, we use the outcomes from these experiments to derisk client projects. Sustainability nearly always means change and change adds risk to projects. By experimenting we can help reduce the risks and allow for more sustainable outcomes.

Do you feel designers have a special responsibility in what they put out into the world?

This was a leading question and yes, product designers have a huge responsibility. In its simplest form, we have a responsibility to make sure the designs we produce are worth the resources they consume and are better than what preceded them. We claim progress, not perfection and use ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ as a filter to our sustainable practice.

Do you have a favourite medium to work with at the moment?

I am enjoying glass again, Vert Design started in glass but we had been doing less and less glass design and production over the years. In April I completed a 5-week Churchill fellowship researching glass design and production and it has rekindled my love.

Give us your most challenging and best brief to cross your desk as well as one you’re especially proud of.

The hardest brief we ever get goes something along the lines of “we have a new machine/material, what should we make with it”  these briefs are the hardest because they don’t give us a point of empathy. We can produce meaningful outcomes out of these briefs but they take a lot more work for us to get to the good stuff.

The best briefs we get start for a user observation or flesh out more of the why of the product. I guess it is a little overplayed now but Simon Sinek’s ‘Why, How, What’ is a great rule of thumb for a product design brief.

It would have to be the Huskee cups, they represent our practice so well, simple, good design that reduces waste in its use and consumes waist in its production.

What is the key ingredient in creating an object that breaks the mould?

We use moulds in our products so “break the mould” is not an analogy that we often use. To make would class work we need to have an empathetic insight into a real problem that is describable. If we can get this right our process allows the rest to fall into place. Another way of saying the same thing is that innovation comes from asking new questions and the type of questions we ask form the nature of the problems we solve. Having the right vantage point lets us ask the right questions. We are after elegance and simplicity, not novelty

Where will we see Vert’s work out in the world this year?

We have just finished the street furniture for the new Sydney Metro that is rolling out. I am quite proud of the bubblers and the station benches. We also have some experimental glass work that is showing as part of AGM down in Melbourne.

Staying inspired.

This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.

Sometimes, I want to fake my own death and move to The Bahamas. I feel sluggish, lethargic and about as uninspired as a kid in a mortgage broker’s office.

Creativity is a fickle thing. And we often feel the furthest from it at approximately 3:14pm when all our energy has been sucked dry from a lunchtime meeting and a morning spent preparing for it. If your never-ending to-do list is putting the fire out on your creative spirit, you need to have a set of jump-start leads at the ready to ignite your creative process again.

When you work for yourself, there comes a point where you have, in fact, created a job of your own making. You’ve settled down into your routines, settled into the pattern of busy times and not-so-busy times, and you aren’t as freaked that you’ll never get another client again (but sure are grateful when you do!) You’ve systemised things so that you’re ahead of the curve and feeling the flow.

And not only are your responsible for balancing the books, rallying the troops, paying the people and keeping the plants alive (literally), but you’re also responsible for your own wellbeing and ensuring that your mental health is solid enough to keep carrying you forward.

When you’ve got the head-full-of-cotton feeling, it’s always good to find some inspiration to fill you back up again. It’s time to get re-inspired. Get off social media and into something worthwhile. Find a podcast that makes you laugh, pick up an old faithful book that you know does the trick, head to your local newsagent to score a good mag, or wander through the streets to soak up the creative energy floating about.

If you are committed to sticking with your dream through thick and thin, then I have some good news for you: it’s entirely possible to get the fire back.

Here’s my list of top tips to set fire to your biz in the best way possible.

  1. Set some fresh goals, stat.
    Goals are a force to be reckoned with, when we list them out, we start to have a burning vision to see them come to pass. Every few weeks, I take time to sit down and devour inspiration from a number of sources. I read books, I listen to podcasts, I cyber-stalk my idols, I churn through magazines, and I walk along the beach just taking it all in. Taking time to brainstorm and refocus your energy can be incredibly satisfying and inspiring, as well as produce an instant spark. Write them down, say them out loud, meditate on them, and begin to self-actualise all the exciting new goals you’ve set for yourself.If you need to get other people in the room, hold a brainstorming session over lunch with your team. Refresh their dreams, the company goals and point back towards the overarching vision. All while eating donuts.
  2. Create!
    Get off those emails and turn back to your first love: creating! Conduct a photoshoot, listen to a podcast, write something that’s on your mind, paint, draw, douse yourself in glitter. Create a workspace that’s worthy of your best work. Keep it tidy, keep it pretty, make it green, and make sure there’s always epic tunes playing. While you’re at it, have some fun freshening up your copy and your images. Reflect on whether your current website accurately depicts the current you, and evolve accordingly.As you take a creative detour, let your people know that you’re still alive, but are merely taking a form of sabbatical to get those juices flowing again.
  3. Invest in you.
    Check out an event, take a course, see a musical, watch a film, attend a conference, meet with your mentor. Take time out for yourself to immerse yourself in things that will inspire and refresh you!If it’s a holiday you need, then flipping book one! Make sure you’re positioning yourself in the exact right place you need to be in order to bounce back like those tiny bouncy balls that used to drive your mum crazy when you were a child.
  4. Rework your spending.
    Feeling flat? Chuck a Regina George and take the gang shopping. Retail therapy is a wondrous thing, but we’re talking rebranding. Put your money where your mouth is when it comes to your brand, and attract all those magical people you’ve been so passionately chasing.Meanwhile, critically analyse your current spending. Where is all that money going? Pointless subscriptions? Overheads you could eliminate? Where are the holes where your money is bleeding from? Cutting the fat from your spending means more money for exciting things like millennial pink walls and delicious g trees. Make it rain inspiring, beautiful, attractive branding!

To continue reading and get access to another 4 hot tips to get your creative juices flowing, download our ebook and head to chapter 3.

P.s. To encourage some positive new financial year resolutions, for a limited time only, we’re bundling together the ultimate entrepreneurial bundle to offer you a healthy balance of inspiration and practical application. Saving over $50, you’re not going to want to miss out on this!

Image credit: Joost Termeer

Nailing your branding

This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.

We all have that one friend populating our Insta-feed with seriously perfect, immaculate and downright envy-inducing imagery. Whether it’s an Amalfi throwback, a play-by-play of outfit inspo or some snap-happy moments from a sunshine-filled Saturday, you can always count on them to curate a perfectly cohesive and aesthetically-delectable feed.

She’s the gal with the perfect home, the knack for landing the perfect outfit and the always bouncy, always shiny hair. Her entire feed is like a perfectly glazed donut, beautiful both to look at and to ravenously consume. Meanwhile, you watch from your stained couch, hair in a topknot, surrounded by yesterday’s toast crumbs. She somehow manages to pull off the perfect life with not only a smile on her dial, but the most well-dressed toddler in tow. She is a picture of perfection. Her entire look, a carefully crafted brand.

There is no doubt that we’re living in an age of aesthetic, where our success and worthiness is measured on our presentation, both online and IRL. We live in a world where people are moved by looks first and function second. Even people who have no business, or interest in business are building themselves a brand. The very act of sharing our lives, our stories and our selfies is building a personal brand, whether we like it or not.

To say ‘branding’ is the buzzword of the century is a gross understatement. It’s almost as prominent as the phrase ‘fake news’ on Trump’s daily Twitter meltdown.

And there’s good reason for this. Businesses are popping up left right and centre. Nowadays, it’s never been easier to catch yourself an ABN and set up the most basic of business ideas on the internet.

Back when the store only carried one type of flour, brand wasn’t so important. But now, with the utter dominance of the internet in every facet of our lives, we as consumers are exposed to endless choice. The supermarket is an overwhelming place, why? Because we walk in and are instantly hurled with multiple iterations of the exact same product all screaming for our attention. It’s like walking into a room full of cute puppies, only the supermarket products aren’t cute, furry and we don’t even want to take them home.

Creating and building brands is my obsession-slash-divine calling and, joyously, also my daily 9-5. Over the last 6 years of running Smack Bang I have had the honour of building quite literally hundreds of brands. I am so entrenched in the world of branding, I swear to god sometimes I catch myself wondering how to leverage my dog’s name into the world, and all the clever and fun ways I’d go about doing it. Oh, if I had the time.

When you are building a business, no matter if you’re setting out to be the next Amazon or a solo one-man-band, one of the most critical areas of focus is creating a brand identity – that is, who your company is and what it stands for. And I’m not just saying this because I’m biased and currently sitting in a branding studio with 15 other total brand geeks. Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that branding is the single most important thing you can do, outside of figuring out what your business model is. In fact, figuring out your brand DNA should arguably be your first order of business – before any products stock the shelves or Insta stories are shared to the masses. It will bring value to your backend and your bottom line.

Your brand identity is a necessary component to helping your business grow because your business identity encapsulates what your business stands for. It’s the purpose, the mission, the look, the feel, the tone and the voice of your company. It’s the determinant of how the audience will perceive you. So many people make decisions about the name, the logo and the colours they use so casually. They are forgetting that each of these decisions should come from the brand identity. There is a science and an art to it. And without it, you will have a difficult time really building your business.

So, building a brand hey… sounds simple enough, right? But it’s layered with complexities. Your brand is your business, and your business is your brand. It’s an all-encompassing entity and a complete manifestation of your business’s values, goals and mission. It’s the catalyst that sparks the emotions you want your customers to experience. It is your true compass – guiding every decision you make, from what design aesthetics you use to the tone of your Instagram feed to the employees that you bring on to be part of your team.

It’s a gigantic, inconceivably tricky ball of tangled jewellery to unravel. But from my perspective, branding can be boiled down to a simple notion:

Branding is the story you tell and the story you sell.

Your brand is the narrative you weave to show people who you are, what you stand for and how you can improve your customers’ lives. It’s the way you position yourself in the market, the way your customers perceive you and the reputation you create for yourself. Your brand is your way of communicating to the world, and to your customers, who you are and just as importantly, who you are not.

A successful brand knows what it is, knows why it’s different and knows why people want it.

But what does a brand do for a small business like yours? And how is building a brand going to change your bottom line?

Well here’s the thing, a brand story isn’t just a valuable marketing asset, it’s also a brand’s guiding principles and impacts every facet of the organisation. In other words, it’s not just a marketing message, it’s also your sales pitch, your guiding compass and a roadmap for your A Team. Branding provides a platform for connection — both with your customers and your suppliers/employees. It allows them to see you for who you really are and therefore allows you to attract the right people into your biz.

So where do you start? What are the guidelines to this process? How do you know you are doing it effectively?

Building a brand is not something that should be rushed. It takes time, a lot of thought, and a lot of soul searching (hemp pants not compulsory). You need to dig deep to get to know yourself, know your audience, the reason why your brand exists and to think long and hard about your future.

When a client waltzes into our Smack Bang studio ready and raring to brand themselves a new Richard Branson-esque empire, we start with the million dollar question, “Who are you?” This question can be either simple or complex, depending how philosophical you want to get and how in touch you are with your existential side.

So how do you figure out who you are, and blend that with the business you want to be known for, even if you’re the type of quirky human who really enjoys plucking the feathers out of your cushions and planting them in the yard? We put together a few thoughts to get your wheels in motion…

To continue reading and get access to another 12 of our favourite tools of the trade that will save your life, download our ebook and head to chapter 3.

Image credit: Panos Moesis

20 things nobody told me about running a business

The only place busier than a business owner’s calendar is Heathrow airport. And even then I have my doubts.

On any given day, there are meetings to attend, HR issues to deal with, never-ending emails to reply to, taxes to pay, supplies to order, unpaid invoices to follow up and insurances to update. Sorry, I was so bored typing that I just fell asleep.

It’s no secret that running a business is bloody hard work. My partner always tells me that ‘At the rate I’m going, by 30 I’ll either be retired or dead.’ Let’s hope he’s right about the former and not the latter…

Despite the shelves of self-help books, online tutorials, countless Saturdays at the studio, and teaching myself everything I possibly could about HTML, there were just some things that weren’t covered in the 2011 edition of Business for Dummies.

I had to fall flat on my face to procure a ‘PHD in biz survival’.

Being your own boss comes with steep learning curves, and most young, growing businesses don’t offer you the luxury of time to figure it all out. I’d love to tell you that there’s a magical secret to running your own show with ease and grace without you ever needing to lift a finger. How great would it be, to just press a button (so technically you’d have to lift one finger), then just sit back and watch your sole purpose in life come to fruition in front of you. But alas, I don’t have that secret, or the button.

Before you start to slowly back out of the room and into a dark corner armed with Netflix and vino, here’s the deal: I’m just scratching the surface with this whole business ‘thang’, and I don’t claim to know everything. But, in the interest of your sanity, here’s some of what I do know now and what I wished I knew earlier. Experience is the best teacher out there, so my retrospective glance will hopefully deliver some insight for some of you.

    It is far too easy to find yourself doing the hampsterdance on a treadmill, unable to get off. Spend too long on the treadmill and you’ll risk looking 10 years your senior, landing yourself a stomach ulcer and/or quite possibly losing your mind. One lesson I’ve learned the hard way – if you’re tired, there’s a reason. Honour it and address the fatigue.
    Your inbox will explode. Not in a good way. You’ll most likely spend 20% of the time doing what you love and 80% of the time with your head buried inside your inbox replying to emails. I respond to most of my emails in a timely manner, but to be honest, I leave certain non-urgent emails sitting in my inbox for days, even weeks before I send a personal response. Why? Because my time is better spent creating and doing the things I love. Simple really.
    You will have moments of self doubt and overwhelming anxiety. Moments of “What the hell was I thinking?” and “Why didn’t I settle for my cushy job brewing coffee on a weekend?” There’s been times when I’ve wanted to quit, escape to a solitary farm somewhere in the middle of no-where and self-medicate with pot brownies, because hey, that seems way easier than running my own show. But that’s exactly when you need to pull yourself together, mix yourself a stiff drink and remember the bigger picture of why you do what you do.
    I’m actually serious about this point. Skimming your eyes through important emails, checking your Instagram analytics, answering a bazillion questions, woofing down yet another meal at your desk, frantically meeting a deadline whilst planning your best friend’s bloody baby shower… and before you know it you’re blue in the face and your heart is working over time. Just stop. And breathe. You’re allowed to breathe.
    I have a Type A personality and I’m pretty darn organised so for me, writing to-do lists is as easy as colour coordinating my wardrobe or filing the files on my desktop. I consider time management to be up there on my list of defining traits. But for the love of all things good and holy, I cannot and will not ever manage to fit everything I would like to do in a 24 hour day. Full-stop. My main coping mechanism is to accept this fact, break each day down into digestible, bite-sized goals, and celebrate the little wins each and every day.
    It’ll hit you when you least expect it. You go to bed wired, and you wake up tired. Your eyes are glazed over, your shoulders sag under the weight of the world and your brain fogs up like your windshield on a misty morning. No amount of caffeine can bring you out of this harrowing pit of cumbersome lethargy. Sometimes, you’re so tired, even your tired is tired. And coffee just won’t cut it. You need a goddamn holiday. Call the travel agent stat.
    Running your own show is like riding a roller coaster that doesn’t stop. The Devil’s fire pit burns below and pink unicorn clouds float above you. I’ve had some of the highest highs and the happiest moments I can remember whilst running Smack Bang. You eventually learn to ride the ebbs and flows with grace and Zen.
    Back when I was just setting out on this dream, I believed with every fiber of my naive, go-gettin’ heart that my work ethic, talent, skills and unwavering determination would allow me to blast through a couple of years of hard work and come out the other end sipping on Sangria and changing my name to Rancho Relaxo. But the thing about running your own show, or in some people’s case, shows, is that there is always more to do. Nope, you’ll never reach the finish line, but you can employ some tactics to help keep you going on the marathon.
    What?! That statement in itself is enough to make you voyage to Coles on autodrive and pick up a litre of vanilla Connoisseur to wallow in the sadness. But your job is simple: create solutions, and know who you’re creating them for. As Kermie the Frog once said, “Maybe you don’t need the whole world to love you, you know? Maybe you just need one person.” Trying to convert the peeps who aren’t your peeps is a losing battle. Find your clan of peeps and love ‘em sick. Then watch ‘em love ya right back.
    Um, excuse me? It’s a hard pill to swallow, but an important one: you will make crappy decisions. Ones that will end with you in a pile of salty tears on the ground swearing at your loved ones. The best things about epic mistakes? The learning curve they afford you. This constant refinement and sharpening of your skills as you ‘live and learn’ serves to better your processes, your services and your product. Yes, you will fail, but you’ll also get up the next day, you’ll face your staff with a smile, write your next post, create your next offering, and answer your inbox with yet another lesson learned under your belt.
    I know you just want to spend all your days making hipster burnt-sage-scented hair wax, or crocheted baby bloomers for Etsy, or sewing your entire collection of Star Wars costumes for kids parties, or writing your choose your own ending vegan recipe book. Who doesn’t! However, if you don’t spend some serious time marketing yourself, you will not be able to pay your rent. Massive bummer. Become educated in the nuances of marketing; how to promote your brand and sell your product. Take a course, read a book (or ten), talk to everyone, become a student. Your product or service won’t sell itself, no matter how snazzy your design or slogan.
    Your business will require you to grow – to grow up, to grow out, to grow tall. You might find that you outgrow some of the people in your life, and that’s okay. Not everyone is meant to take this journey with you and not everyone will want to. You’ll make new friendships and they’ll be just as amazing for this period of your life.
    People you know will assume you are rich because you run your own show. People will also think that because you run your own show, you have no boss, which is completely wrong – you have many. Your bills are your boss, and your clients are your priority. Their needs are your driving force. That black Range Rover Evoque might have to wait a couple more years.
    Almost every lunch will be gobbled up while sitting in front of your screen, or in the back of an Uber. You’ll sometimes scoff down an entire meal and not even take a moment to consider what it tastes like. Mindful eating has been on my New Year’s resolution list since I started the business in 2011, and I have a slight suspicion it will be making an appearance on 2017s list too. What is life? And what is food? So many questions.
    Next time you pass a mirror, take a moment to stop and tell your reflection that you’re a dead set legend. Sometimes that’s the only affirmation you’ll feel like you’re receiving, and often you won’t even believe the words coming out of your own mouth. Time and time again you’ll run into fears, insecurities, limitations, excuses and inefficiency, and it’s too flipping easy to grovel in a deep well of self-loathing if you don’t snap out of it and get a bloody grip. Channel your mum and become your own biggest fan.
    There’s no such thing as a 4-Hour Work Week. As much as I love the concepts outlined in Tim’s book, if I were to work a 4-hour working week I would have to become a hell of a lot more accustomed to Mi Goreng noodles and tinned spaghetti. Tim, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.
    Yes, even that entrepreneurial dude you know that seems to run such a tight ship – he needs a stiff drink every time he has to lodge his BAS as well, don’t you worry. Please know that you are certainly not the only one muddling through it all and positively sweating bricks on the inside. Find people on the same path as you who are just as simultaneously talented and clueless, and share a laugh over both the struggles and the victories.
    Working from sunup to sundown is sometimes what it takes to get it done. Working 70 hour weeks for two and a half years it what it took to get Smack Bang going. Whilst I don’t condone those kind of work hours forever, I do acknowledge that business requires sheer dedication and a real hunger for action. If you’re young and full of fire, channel it into hard work. If you’ve got a family or other important responsibilities, you will need to juggle accordingly. We all have different capacities at different times in life!
    Notorious B.I.G was right, more money = more problems. As your business grows and you become more profitable, taxes get more complicated and more extreme. And ouchie-mumma it hurts to pay it! The ATO have their hands in your pockets and will eat you alive from the inside out. My one piece of advice here is to hire an accountant who is as boss with money, as Bieber is with bowl cuts.
    Technology is a real bitch sometimes. It will fail on you when you need it most and leave you for dead when all you need to do is send the goddamn file. When Wifi says that it’s connected, it doesn’t always mean that it is (why lie, Wi-fi??). I still swear at my screen daily and I’m cool with that, it just means I care about being productive. People all over the world are hurling insults at their screens, and I figure it’s better to take out my frustrations on inanimate objects rather than living, breathing humans!

Running your own show is hard work. And to be honest, after eight years it hasn’t gotten all that much easier… I’ve just gotten better at dealing with it. And you know what’s funny? I choose to do it all over again, every single day. Here I am eight years into the Smack Bang dream, with a few business babies under my belt and a brand new real life baby in my arms this year. I’m on the precipice of more work than ever, and I’m purely focussing on the bright spots. The wins. The hell yeah’s. The this-is-worth-it’s. Because it’s not all bad right? Out of the bajillion things in the business world that you cannot control, you can control how you perceive things.

Onwards and upwards.

In the words of Kahlil Gibran, “Your work is your love made visible.”
“To students considering joining or creating a startup for the glory, I’d tell them that there are easier ways to make money,” he continues. “If you want to reach new levels of freedom, do it. If you want to truly find out where your breaking point is, do it. If you want to remove the ceiling on your potential, do it. If you want to help change what it means to be a working human being in the 21st century, do it.”

Image credit: María Esme del Río

The single biggest reason why brands flop

When I was in year 6, we were allocated Kindergarten buddies to look after. Before their school year started, we were asked to write them a letter welcoming them. Now, most of my peers typed something up, set it in comic sans, and maybe, if they were feeling creative, added one of those cool palm-tree borders off Microsoft word. Me? I spent a whole Saturday hand-painting envelopes in rainbow watercolours. It took me about 10 goes and hours of work, because the colours kept running into each other, but I would do it over and over again until it was perfect.

My family also used to be puzzle people. We’d do landscapes, animals, you name it. Once, we did an Olympic Games one, that featured 20 of the most popular Olympic posters of all time. When we were finished, it got framed and hung in our lounge room. As a 10-year-old, I would often go down and just look at it, cause I LOVED IT.

It’s things like this that I look back on and think, yeah, I was probably always meant to be a designer. I mean, what 10-year-old likes looking at 70s typography? I don’t think I’d be as successful or as happy if I wasn’t working in a career that stemmed from weird 10-year-old hobbies.

The single biggest reason brands flop? Because their founders don’t start the brand from their heart.

Nike? Started by a track athlete and his coach.

Facebook? A kinda anti-social guy who wanted some friends.

Weight Watchers? “An overweight housewife with a self-confessed obsession for eating cookies,” (Google’s words, not mine).

Seeing a theme? Passion = Success. Apathy = flop.

So, if you want to be the brand that is the un-flop, the un-bomb, the un-fizzleout maybe it’s time to #justdoyouboo

Know who you are, or who you want to be

You’re never gonna be happy if you’re trying to build something that someone else has. Your brand has got to come from you (or in the weight watches ladies case, what you want to be).

“It’s just a job” has got to go

Entrepreneurship is a 24/7 (more like 25/8) job. If you start your brand thinking you’re going to be able to clock off at 5 pm and not think about it until 9 am the next day, you’re kidding yourself. But, if you have passion and heart for what you’re doing this won’t be a burden, it’ll be motivating.

Put some gasoline on the fire

I would put millions of dollars (if I had it) on the fact that no-one wakes up every. Single. Day 100% pumped on life, work and their business. Life happens, and passion waynes. But fires can be re-built, they’ve just gotta be looked after. If you wish you had that just-started-out glint in your eye and unshakeable faith maybe you need some good old inspiration. If Tony Robbins isn’t quite your cup of tea, look to industry events, podcasts, what makes you come alive and get that passion stirred again.

It’s doing things from the heart that means even on the day’s that aren’t great – you still don’t want to quit it all and move to Europe because deep down, at the core of it all, you love what you do and the brand you’ve built. For me, even when clients are being a punish or I wish I just worked at Maccas, I remind myself that I kinda paint rainbow envelopes for a living, and that’s pretty cool.

Image Credit: Brian Khek

How to communicate a rebrand with grace and gusto

Do you ever have those thoughts of ‘Thank GOD I don’t have that haircut anymore?’ Like when I look back at photos from the early 2000s and realise that I had a peroxide blonde mullet? #nojoke

Or looking back at that dreadful 90s outfit you donned as a kid and thank your lucky stars that you’re actually somewhat fashionable now? (Thanks for the polka dot leotard with matching scrunchie mum!)

Or realising that you once drove a 1991 rusty Nissan Pulsar that was rustier than a tin shed and feeling ever so grateful for your sleek new Volkswagen Tiguan.

I love discovering little life hacks like that that fill you with newfound self-confidence.

I get this feeling when I look back at the Smack Bang logo circa 2011.

At the time I had a sickly obsession with bright turquoise green – like the kind of green you need sunnies on to look at. Our logo had a bright green circle behind it that felt like the nightclub lights turning on when it was time to head home and, in retrospect, fills me with the same kind of anxiety.

(Let it also be known that I even painted one of our studio walls this colour. I’m not sure what I thinking, but the creative juices were obviously really starting to fire up.)

When I compare that ‘brand’ to our now slick, sexy and sophisticated brand, I am elated with confidence, clarity and a massive sense of relief.

The power of a rebrand, no matter how big, can be truly business-transforming. 

I recently fell down the rabbit hole that is our rather juicy archive of projects. I got all the way from A to M (and only aged a few years in the process), and stumbled across our designs for one of our most treasured clients, Mukti. Sifting through the files in that folder sure was a trip down memory lane. When Mukti first came to us, her beautiful formulations were trapped inside outdated little bottles that no longer reflected the quality and greatness of where she wanted her brand to be. We’ve worked with Mukti over the last 5 years to reposition and alchemise her brand from bland to grand and have since rebranded almost every aspect of her business. It has been one of the most satisfying projects to date because we’ve seen first-hand what an impact a refresh and repositioning can have on a business’ bottomline.

In Mukti’s case, a rebrand was necessary to encourage growth and clarify their services,

“I wanted our brand to be cleaner and less pigeon-holed as a
hippy-boho-natural-organic brand. I want to be taken seriously
as a global contender – an organic skincare brand that delivers real results.”

The Mukti rebrand and repositioning is just one of many projects where we’ve had the pleasure of playing make-over magic and helping our clients reap the rewards of a refresh.

I’ve written about why to rebrand and how to rebrand before, but I haven’t shared how to communicate a rebrand to your audience. A rebrand, when done for the right reasons, is a surefire way to get positive alignment for your brand, both externally and internally.

Here are my six golden rules to revealing a rebrand to an existing audience without losing your street cred.

    When a company rebrands, there’s always the fear that your existing audience will feel alienated or confused by the change. The biggest fear Mukti had when it came to rebranding was exactly that:

    “I was scared that if it was radically different our customers may not
    recognise the brand. But I believe my approach to business has evolved
    and matured. I do my best not to be attached and to be open to others
    input and advice. Sometimes letting go is hard especially if decisions are taken
    out of your hands but in order to grow you have to take the leap of faith,
    experience a little discomfort and jump into the void.”

    We often find that when our clients are more vocal and transparent about the reasons for their rebrand, their customers aren’t alienated at all, and in many cases step up to offer their encouragement and support. If you’re transparent with your audience about why you’re rebranding, then there’s more potential for them to get behind your mission and support you on your voyage.

    The quickest way to lose customers through a rebrand is to implement your changes overnight, without a word of warning. This is particularly the case if your rebrand is a dramatic change from your old get-up.

    Back in 2010 GAP (or more officially, The Gap) did exactly this. One day they were the familiar old, preppy, GAP, and the next? Customers went to the company’s website expecting to see the familiar dark blue box and white name were met with a logo that left them confused. It was impossible to tell if this was even the same clothing store? It’s safe to say the rebrand was a complete flop, and within a matter of weeks they reverted back to their old branding *Command Z* and see-ya-later $100 million (that was an expensive mistake).

    Ensure you communicate your rebrand to your followers far in advance. Sit down with your team and come up with the a well-thought-out timing strategy to execute the evolution. If it happens too slowly, you’ll lose the impact and rewards of a rebrand. If it happens too fast, your customers will be confused and, most likely, resentful.

    It’s essential to make use of every tool in the communications toolbox to let people know about your new positioning and new brand. Your blog, social media accounts, email and even mailing lists should all be included as you roll out your rebrand.

    Remember, that all of your followers connect with your brand in different ways, some people will learn of your refresh via social, but others will be more inclined to read a newsletter. Check that you cover all bases by getting up on all your different soapboxes to ensure all your party people are kept in the loop and reassured they’re going to get the same great products, services or dedication to mission that they’ve come to expect.

    When we launched our latest brand refresh and spankin’ new website at Smack Bang last year, we also launched an entire new portfolio collection. This was a great plan of action because it gave us a reason to talk to our audience about the rebrand and also gave people a reason to care. Using a double whammy is a great approach – for us, we saw an increase in traffic to our website and greater interest in our studio, because there was a better understanding of what we offered, and our audience weren’t only interested in the new look, but also had an opportunity to view all of our most recent work. Have a think about what kind of double-pronged approach you can use with a rebrand? It might be the release of a new collection, the addition of a new service, a brand spankin’ promo? Whatever it is, remember to articulate it clearly and give your people something to care about.
    Strategies, like being transparent and timely about your rebrand, go a long way toward retaining customers. But the best way to avoid a drop in business is to focus on maintaining excellent service, particularly during this transition time. During and after a rebrand is the best time to really assert your brand values, ensuring that your customer service is next level top-notch! By going the extra mile when you have all these extra eyeballs on you, your customers will feel like the rebrand was the best darn thing you ever did.

    Assert your new brand positioning with confidence and clarity. Your approach should be reliable and genuine, not hand-deliver-a-thousand-cupcakes-level eager to explain every single design decision you made to get there. Ensure you and your team are onboard with the reasons why you’ve rebranded and get super-duper crystal clear on your brand values, mission and vision. By having a strong positioning on the DNA of your brand, you’ll be able to better communicate what the rebrand means for your customer. The more articulate, confident and succinct you are, the better your customers will be able to understand what the rebrand means for them.

Image credit: Joost Termeer

Long distance relationships… Who says they don’t work? (In fact, they happen to be our speciality!)

The single greatest thing about being an adult in the 21st Century would surely have to be the internet. I mean, who wouldn’t agree?

We can now learn how to calculate Pi by throwing frozen hot dogs, buy a life size wall decal of an asian businessman or take a moment to watch someone eat ice cream off their scalp. What a time to be alive.

The internet has fundamentally changed our world. For better or worse, I’m yet to decide. But there’s certainly no denying that it has simultaneously made our lives so much more efficient, and yet so much more convoluted.

Frankly, it’s a love/loathe relationship for most people. But when you get it right, technology can truly be your best friend. Smack Bang would not be the business it is today without technology, in particular our love-to-loathe friend, Zoom.

As it currently stands, we work with over 500 clients worldwide and have birthed 2,000+ projects in over 20 different countries.

Yesterday alone I went to four different countries (through my trusty phone). At 8am I had a meeting in Toronto about a new retail store opening up, at 10am it was a bakery in New Zealand, at 5pm it was a marketing agency in Copenhagen and then, early evening, it was a random 70 year old’s landline in Double Bay because I dialled the wrong number.

There really has never been easier to connect with our fellow globetrotters, so for anyone thinking about embarking on some cross-continental business relations, let us assure you how easy it is:

  1. Remote teams can be even more productive
    These days, the term ‘digital nomad’ gets thrown around like a trolley in a grocery store. As a founder, I actually steer the Smack Bang ship from 90 mins drive away from the majority of the Sydney team since moving to the tranquil South Coast. Meanwhile our Creative Strategist, Holly, plays her part from Bangalow NSW (a 9 hour drive or 1 hour flight away from our Surry Hills HQ). But we are all only ever a G-chat apart and now really think about agendas and outcomes before scheduling meetings, which has made them so much more effective.
  2. Online communities totally transcend borders
    So many of our – and no doubt your – favourite modern brands break down any concept of borders in their customer experience. A great meme, a great product or service, and a great heart can be a common denominator no matter where they come from. We now have direct access to fashion labels in LA, art galleries in Amsterdam, tech in Tel Aviv and pretty much anything/everything you desire through Ali Baba – all from the comfort from our own home, where they arrive on our doorsteps a few days later!
    Australian label, Spell, was born from the (then) small town of Byron Bay. Now its co-founder, Elizabeth, attests 70-80% of their business is purely via online store from every corner of the planet. Swapping local market stalls for blogging their earliest photoshoots catapulted their exposure from just the immediate geographic community to a whole wide web of global eyeballs – and wallets. Big thanks Kevin Systrom – we too owe you a beer!
  3. The creative landscape is well and truly ‘globalised’
    Less than 50% of the SBD audience are in fact based in Australia, the other 50% is made up of a colourful array of other countries around the world. US in second place and old Blightly is number three, followed by NZ, Canada and Germany. Danke schön!
    We recently learnt quite how wide-spread our people are while getting acquainted with the new GDPR changes in the EU. (Shout out to our buddies in Latvia and the lovely Anna who bought Baskk from the tiny island of Symi in Greece.)
  4. Distance makes the heart grow fonder
    There are a number of resources and tools we use to make interstate and international business work like a dream. Zoom aside, our top three must be Calendly, Dropbox and Google docs. All hail the cloud! So much so, many of our all-time favourite projects have been for international brands whose HQs are thousands of kilometres from our own. Namely, Ranavat Botanics (California), Evereden (NYC), One Fine Day (NZ), Mukti (Queensland), One Seed (SA), Fella Villas (Bali) and many more.

It’s safe to say that we are now living in the future, a time when chatting to someone on the other side of the world no longer requires a town crier, a pen and paper, a horse or a freight ship. Technology has advanced the pace of our communications and the sooner our business relationships can use it to our advantage, the better we’ll all be for it.

Chances are you may be reading this from another time zone – and even hemisphere. If so, please let us know where in the comments below. We love to hear from you, and even more, love to work together. You know where to find us!

Image credit: Kelsey McClellan

Good things take time (unfortunately).

I have tried, and failed, god knows how many times to cook sausages for the adult portion of my life.
And I know why.
I rush it.
Every. Single. Sizzling. Time.

I think my partner and I have avoided close calls with salmonella at least eleventy thousand times now. I just can’t stand to wait around for the little logs to toast themselves right through. Personally, I’m all for the simple steak – blast your pan as hot as the devil’s infurnace, chuck them on for literally ten seconds each side and Bob’s your uncle. But sausages? Oh no, put them on, progress from childhood, through to buying a house, popping out a few kids and then by the time you’re ready to pack your bags and move into a retirement home they might be ready. Might being the operative word.

Aside from the key lesson that you should never research what is actually in a sausage, these BBQ favourites have also taught me an important lesson in life – that good things take time.

And they also take a certain mindset. One of perseverance. One of persistence and one of painstaking patience.

If there’s one saying that I hate the most it’s that ‘Patience is a virtue’. I’ve spent the most part of my life trying to prove this theory wrong. I live and die by the motto that impatience is actually more of a virtue. Hell, last time I sat around and waited for something to happen, it just simply, didn’t.

I recently spent a week of solitude down the coast with nothing but my laptop, my dog and great hopes / plans to get a tonne of writing done. Yet, for the first time in my working life, I really struggled to make any headway.

I’m not sure whether the anaesthetised vibe of the area got to me or whether my adrenals had finally called it a day. But I just simply could not get it together.

And I think I know why. It comes back to the sausages. I’d forgotten that good things take time. I’d put all this pressure on myself to take the week off and smash out the most part of a brand new ebook.

Oh girl. Stop right there. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

My last ebook took my contributors and I almost a year to write. And here I was gallivanting down the coast thinking I could smash out the next one in a week. What a big fat LOL!

But really, can you blame me? We live in a world of snack-sized information: the 15 second insta story, the 25 word elevator pitch, even my Dad chooses to leave all conjoining words out of his messages for the sake of word economy, rendering his language a certain kind of broken English.

It’s 2018 and we’ve well and truly come to expect turbo results, quick-fixes and overnight success. And apparently, 40,000 word ebooks in a week.

So here I am, with only a few chapters of my ebook complete. I’m taking a deep breath in, slowing down and reminding myself that good things take time. Here’s how I’m going about it, please join me…

    Whilst I certainly believe that in business, it’s the fast who eat the slow, not the big who eat the small, I do not condone working to the speed of the hampster dance song under any circumstance. If that song doesn’t give you nervous sweats and an increased heart rate then I don’t believe you to be human. Slow down, do one thing at a time and be present with your work.
    Turns out we are all too much of a rush to get to places, do the next thing, tick the boxes and do it all with a smile on our dial, a calm mind and a green juice in our hand. Our standards and the pressures we put on ourselves are so unbelievably high. Right yourself a note, forge your own signature and grant yourself an extension.
    Modern society can be irrationally over-zealous, and trying to persuade someone to only do one thing at a time – rather a bajillion tasks at once – can be like trying to stop a 6 year old from overdosing on Easter Eggs by explaining that the Easter Bunny would prefer him not to have high blood pressure and cavities.
    Taking your time is no longer just a sweet little creed your mum urged you to follow so you could colour neatly between the lines, it’s rapidly becoming the only way to successfully do your job. Taking your time means questioning why you are doing the task in the first place and ensuring that your output is actually of value.
    Technology is great. But don’t use automation to free up your time only to cram that free-time with more things to do. Use automation to rid yourself of unnecessary complexities, protecting your business (and self) from burnout. But be discerning with your new found time.
    Don’t play victim to your own life. Whether it feels like it or not, you are very much in charge of your time. What you do with the hours in your day is entirely up to you! It’s too easy to slip into martyr mode and crack the whip on ourselves for fear of ‘slacking off’.
    You’re allowed to pause from going full throttle every once in a while. Especially if you’re anything like me and you’ve been peddling yourself up a steep-ass hill for so g-damn long. It turns out that if you ease off, you might actually find you’ve still got enough momentum to roll you down the other side. And maybe, just maybe, there is more wisdom in ease than we realise.
    If you get lost in biz-know-how on the internet you’ll soon find yourself wading through the ‘more’ trend that promotes diversification, multiple income streams, and complex business models. It’s the land of plenty. But instead of overextending ourselves, I think we need to shift to a simpler business model. After all, “Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.” — C. W. Ceran

Image credit: Mother Design