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Growth. Maturity. Relationships. These are words we typically use to describe aspects of the life of a human being as they progress from infancy to adulthood. There is a process from their first moments to their last, an ongoing discovery of ability and identity.
A brand goes through a similar process: it begins at a single point in time, it grows and matures, and it develops a means of expressing itself to its audience. A brand is not just an entity, it is something for people to connect to and have a relationship with.
In this episode, we explore a brand’s growth and expression and how your audience and customers will connect better with your brand when you understand its personality. Learn how to leverage the evolution of your brand toward success.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Anything you do to prevent stagnation is growth.
- Your brand is not always going to be what it is right now.
- Brands that don’t connect with humanity are brands that are going to fail and become irrelevant.
- Your brand isn’t about you, it’s about the audience you’re trying to reach.
- Realize that anytime someone comes across any piece of content you put out, it could easily be their first impression.
- People can only perceive you by the way you’re presenting yourself.
- Everything that’s connected to your brand needs to have harmony.
- Filter everything you do through what your brand is doing.
- Brands are created and experienced by humans—if your brand lacks humanity, it will not be taken seriously.
- 02:26 Cory: As we were developing this episode, I was thinking about our own personalities. I’m a very extroverted person and Kyle is a little more introverted, and by “a little more” I mean much more than I am. During the intro music, I was doing a little dance getting ready for the show and Kyle was thinking, mentally preparing. I thought that was an interesting contrast between the two of us. There’s something interesting when you take that back to what a brand is. A brand is moving, evolving, and there’s growth, which is the same for a person. A brand is very much like a person—it starts at one point, there’s learning, relationships are built, etc. A lot of what makes up a brand can be connected back to being a person.
- 03:26 Kyle: There’s a growth time where you start to learn things and mature. It’s like being an infant; you observe the world, learn things, and grow. Back in episode one, we had a question along the lines of, “Do I need to know everything about a brand in order to start a brand (Related: e001 What Is a Brand?)?” No! There’s no way you can because you haven’t experienced any of it, but it’s almost like asking the question, “Do I need to understand everything in life in order to be born?” No, it happens over time. You grow, mature, and the personality of your brand will evolve over time.
- 04:21 Cory: When you’re trying to understand brand as personality and you also think about how a person grows, there are two primary aspects of brand personality: growth and expression. Growth is more about age, maturing, and timeline, while expression is how we communicate who we are to our audience. I have a year and a half year old, named Rylynn.
- 05:15 When she was first born, she just laid there and didn’t have much personality, but as she gets older, I’m watching her personality develop, grow, and expand. As a brand, growing might be continued and increased content output. It could be hiring or creating a new department. It could be global expansion or buying a new domain so you can use smaller links.
Anything you do to prevent stagnation is growth.
- 06:09 Kyle: Thinking as a younger child, you’re not going to just stop trying to figure things out. You’re going to learn new things, you’re going to figure out how to talk to people and how to trade part of your lunch for someone else’s lunch. To let your business stagnate would be very much like a child not trying to grow or further themselves in any way. Trying to grow and making that happen is a big piece of a brand. You don’t have to know all that stuff upfront or be prepared for every little thing that comes your way, because odds are you won’t know what those things are until they’re coming your way. As much planning as we do, there’s always something that will come your way that we won’t know what to do with.
Give Your Brand Room to Grow
- 07:31 Cory: Growth is natural—you can’t stop yourself from aging as a person. Growth doesn’t mean if your brand is only making $5,000 this month, you need to grow it to $10,000 this month. That can be growth, but personality is something that’s deeply engrained in what your brand is. I like to look at it as a parent raising a child. You have to understand certain things about your brand as you would need to understand certain things about your child.
- 08:10 Charla asked, “How do you figure out your brand’s personality when you’re just getting started?” First, you want to start by understanding the basics. Look at your brand’s age and relationships, even if it’s a relationship to yourself. Ask yourself: what do I want this to become? Look at it as raising a child or developing that relationship. It goes back to the question we were asked as kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Kyle, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- 08:48 Kyle: I actually spent a lot of my childhood thinking about what I’d be when I grew up. Around age eight to 10 I started having these ideas and it’s really close to what I’m doing now, actually. It started with CGI work with 3D models and I thought I would eventually work for Pixar. Honestly, I haven’t moved away from that a whole lot. Not that I’m searching to work for Pixar, but that idea of something fun and visual, something people can be engaged with, has stayed with me into adulthood. What about you?
- 09:41 Cory: It’s interesting that you talked about not being too deviated from where you wanted to be and where you are now. For me, I wanted to be a storm trooper or Robin Hood—it was about being the biggest and baddest I could be. When I was about 13 I was getting more into design and I too really enjoyed Pixar, and wanted to do something with 3D. You apply these same principles to your brand. Where do you want to see your brand in two years? What is your mission and purpose (Related: e002 Values, Mission, and Purpose)? What is the end result you want to see? Once you figure that out, you can bake it into your brand a little bit more and say: what is this going to look like in regards to growth? Sometimes people think personality is just how we express ourselves, but first it’s helpful to define what kind of growth you want to see in your brand.
- 11:21 Kyle: You have to be a little careful with that. Much like your example of a parent raising a child, you don’t want to just say, “Here’s how your life is going ot be,” and then force them down that path. You want to instill certain morals, values, and principles that you believe is the best path for them, but there are going to be things that change. For your brand, if you’re really listening to people and you’re willing to change, then there are going to be some things that change along the way. You have to be open to change. Even if you have a mature brand, if you’re not getting into newer things that are happening, your brand is essentially stagnating. If you feel like it’s in that place, you may not be allowing yourself to change or move those goals.
With your brand, make sure you have a path to follow, but be aware that things can change along the way.
- 12:45 If you’re not on social media at all, you might be behind on what’s going on in the marketing world. Be aware of those things. If you have a more mature brand, you may realize you’ve just been doing what you’ve been told and that’s not what you should be doing. Realize you need to have goals and long-term visions, but be aware that, much like a personality, it’s very organic and it will grow.
- 13:27 Cory: I like that word: organic. It’s when things naturally happen and move. There’s power in understanding that your brand is not always going to be what it is right now. You want to hold to your values, keep to your mission, and understand your purpose, but you also have to understand that things are going to evolve and change, just like a person, and that’s ok. I got an email a couple of weeks ago from a mutual friend of ours, Jeff Sheldon, owner of the brand Ugmonk. They recently had their seventh year anniversary of being a company and his email was fantastic. One of the paragraphs was him describing Ugmonk as watching a child grow up. I liked that because it helped to make it more personable and connect with humanity.
Brands that don’t connect with humanity are brands that are going to fail and become irrelevant.
- 14:56 Kyle: I think it’s much more of an organic process than people give it credit for. When people say they’ve rebranded something, a lot of times they’re trying to talk about the visual, but those are the times when you realize you’ve matured to a certain level, you’ve changed, and you’ve shifted to something. You’ve realized that perhaps the target audience you’re approaching from the beginning has shifted a little bit, or maybe they’re a new generation of people and you’re still trying to appeal to a younger audience, but that younger audience isn’t always going to be the same.
- 15:38 The younger audience—20 to 30 year olds—in 10 years aren’t going to be the same as the 20 to 30 year olds now. You have to understand that it’s an organic thing. Human relationships are the same way—we grow and learn from each other. Over time, we may approach people differently than we used to and that doesn’t mean we’re not being true to ourselves, it just means we’ve learned how to adapt and have better communication with people.
- 16:23 Cory: Veronica says, “Rebranding is so rampant right now. I feel like every company is rebranding!”
- 16:29 Kyle: That can be arbitrary or it can be for a reason.
- 16:32 Cory: I think companies are doing that because they’re understanding that people want more, and consumers are understanding that they want more. There’s so much more of an understanding of what a brand is and can be, and there’s so much more information out there because of the internet. People want something more than that. If you want to do a rebrand just because it’s trendy and you want to keep up with the latest stuff, that’s not going to work. You can’t start from the visuals of your brand and say, “This is going to effect our personality.” You have to start from within and say, “This is what our personality is, what our brand is,” and the visuals reflect what’s going on inside.
- 17:23 The second primary aspect of brand as personality is expression. Emily asked, “What are other ways a brand can communicate personality other than with their words? Text can be a hard medium to convey meaning and tone.” There are ways to do that. Kyle and I were talking about this topic yesterday, and Kyle mentioned how we wear clothes to express something about ourselves. How does that connect with a brand and understanding a brand as personality?
- 18:13 Kyle: I want to be very clear here because I’m not saying that what you wear dictates what happens to you. This is more of a scenario between a stranger and you: the things you wear convey a certain message to a complete stranger that doesn’t know you. The likelihood of them approaching you for what you want may be different. That doesn’t mean people won’t approach you. If you’re wearing one of those shirts that says “Free Hugs,” then you’re sending people the message that you want people to come hug you. That’s an advertisement and it’s calling people to come participate with you in a specific way.
- 19:07 If you’re wearing a bright red sweater with puffy letters that says “Free Hugs”, then you look approachable and nice, but if you wear a shirt that’s black with red letters in a horror film typeface that says the same thing, I don’t know if people will approach you. People probably won’t be warm and fuzzy with you because they’re intimidated by that. There’s things people see through what you do that reflect on you and that can be through what you write or what you wear. I have a little bit of a rant on the topic of social media, specifically Twitter, because I see this a lot there. People want to get on there and tell jokes all day. To a degree that’s fine, but understand that your brand is reflected through everything you do.
- 20:28 If you’re trying to build a high-quality company where people are approaching you, you need to be really serious and focused on them so they feel like they can get something of value and substance from you. If you’re sitting in a room with someone and you have a multimillion dollar project on the table, for example, and all you can do is tell bad jokes, how can they trust you with this project? You’re not taking this seriously or reflecting what you want people to think of you. If you’re a comedian or have a kid’s brand or something, you can tell jokes that are relevant to your audience. You could even be too serious for what your brand is. The way I project things on Twitter wouldn’t be appropriate for a kid’s brand or something that’s fun and funny.
A brand isn’t about you, it’s about the audience you’re trying to reach.
- 22:00 Everything you participate in that has any attachment to the brand you’re trying to build will reflect on how that brand is perceived (Related: e003 Defining Your Target Audience). That’s an expression of you.
- 22:34 Cory: Just like with the shirt example, you’re going to attract different kinds of people depending on what your expression is. If you’re all grunged out with the horror film typeface “Free Hugs”, you’re going to attract a certain kind of person. It helps to know who you’re wanting to express your brand to. That can help to define what you’re going to project. Brookes asks, “If your brand is mostly you, is it ever advantageous to establish a personality that’s different with your own, or should you always be honest and genuine, reflecting your own personality?” I’d love for you to answer this question, Kyle, because you have your own personal brand. On your website, your name is there instead of “Icons Plus Incorporated” or something. Is it advantageous to establish a brand personality that doesn’t necessarily reflect your own, or do those always need to be connected?
- 24:01 Kyle: For me, it’s a very genuine process. You need to be a genuine form of yourself, but the way I approach it is in the vein of personality that makes the most sense for my target audience. If I’m speaking to my target audience so that they take me seriously, I need to be very professional and exude quality about what I’m doing. That doesn’t meant there isn’t room for being a person. I’m not saying there aren’t times when you can say something comical, but for me, it’s more heavily weighed on the professional side of me. I’m more weighed on the serious side of myself because I want people to take me seriously.
Realize that anytime someone comes across any piece of content you put out, it could easily be their first impression.
- 25:18 You don’t just grow this audience and suddenly you can deviate into all these other things about yourself because nobody new is coming. There’s always someone new coming. It’s great to give those little glimpses of a deeper sense of the people behind that brand, especially for the people who have been following for a while. At the beginning, and even throughout the process, understand that everything you share is going to reflect a first impression of you. Let’s say a potential client comes across my site and they’re working on a million dollar app project and they say, “I want someone to express this in a visual way,” then I have to be what they would want to hire. I have to show the fact that I can take this seriously and that I want to be invested in their brand. I want to make really high-quality icons and I want other people to make really high-quality icons—those things have to be reflected in everything I’m doing.
- 27:10 What you’re doing is an expression. You have to realize that the person side of things and the business side of things are different. It’s great to have a personal Instagram where you share things that are meaningful to you, but not to any kind of brand you’re trying to build. Make another Twitter for things that are personal to you. Tell your close followers that you share random things there if you want to, but:
When you’re building a brand, you have to reflect on social media what you’re going for.
- 27:54 Cory: I have a personal Instagram account that I don’t advertise to anybody, it’s just another expression of who I am as a person. If I was going to connect that with Invisible Details, that’s where the gears aren’t going to line up. Everything that’s connected to your brand needs to have harmony. If you’re doing a bunch of different things and you’re trying to carry it under one brand, it’s going to feel really fractured. I only know of a few companies that can do that—one overarching entity with different subdivisions—successfully. It does depend on what you do.
- 29:02 Kyle uses his name for his service so it wouldn’t make sense to not be himself or express that part of himself. Let’s say Kyle wanted to start another brand that was all about bounce castles. I would say that bounce castles isn’t an expression of your own personality. That’s not a poor reflection on him, there’s just another personality there. For that brand, you can still develop something because it has it’s own personality. Scott asked earlier, “Can you have the personality of your brand be different from your own?” Absolutely, it just depends on what you want to do. What you need is to be engaging with your target audience—the people you’re trying to reach.
- 30:18 Kyle: This is a tough topic because people want to be themselves, and they should be themselves. We’re not saying not to be yourself, we’re saying to share certain facets of yourself. To build an audience on Instagram, you want people to understand what you’re about and what you’re doing. If you’re sharing your work today and your breakfast and your dog tomorrow, it doesn’t give the impression that you’re focused on something. It doesn’t give the impression that your brand has a clear direction. It looks like you’re all over the place and you’re not completely focused on this thing.
- 31:16 In that same way if you’re curating what you’re outputting, then what you’re saying is what you need to curate as well. I don’t think you could share and not have some of your personality remain. It’s not getting rid of yourself, it’s moving in a direction where you connect with the right people because of how you’re talking. An example of this is Sean McCabe, whose Community and network we’re a part of. Online, Sean is very serious and professional, and shares a lot of value. It’s obvious that he knows what he’s doing and he takes it seriously, but in person he tells jokes and he has a life. He is funny but that’s not what he’s projecting online, because people that come under what he’s doing need to have a certain understanding of him.
- 32:45 I’ve seen people who build a brand up and 80% of what they do are jokes on Twitter just because they want to look active, and that’s the only way they feel like they can be seen as active on social media. When it comes time for them to get in a serious situation, then everyone wants to joke with them because they think this person is the comedian in the group. They might be frustrated by that because they do take it seriously and don’t know why people don’t understand that.
People can only perceive you by the way you’re presenting yourself.
- 03:48 Cory: Moataz had a great question, “What if you post something that’s super off-brand? Should you apologize and bring attention to it, or act like it never happened and be consistent again?” First, analyze why you’re posting something that’s so off-brand. If you’re posting something you feel is off-brand, it means you don’t have a full understanding of what your brand is and how you’re going to express it. The other aspect is to remember: just as a person makes mistakes and is learning, your business is growing in the same way. It’s ok to make mistakes. Even if a mistake isn’t necessarily off-brand, it demands for there to be adjustments in the future.
- 34:55 Filter everything you do through what your brand is doing. Every time you express or post something, filter it through the question, who do I want to be seen as? There’s something about making mistakes that are ok, but you do have to filter what you’re doing. Every time you make a logo change or paint the inside of your brick-and-mortar building, you have to filter it through that.
- 35:44 Kyle: Daniella asks, “Is it possible to project a whole personality, or do you have to pick and choose parts of yourself to express?” Just to be clear here, we’re specifically talking about brands—building a business that could potentially have other people under you in the future. It’s not necessarily always going to be about you, or maybe there’s already a brand with people under it and they’re trying to figure out how to focus. We’re not trying to say, “Here’s how you should conduct yourself online,” we’re trying to say, “Here’s how your brand should conduct itself online.” There’s a pretty significant difference there, because you’re building towards a specific thing that you do and in return, that reflects on you. You’re not necessarily building you as a brand.
- 36:49 Cory: There are certain instances where you are your brand. For instance, in Daniella’s case, she’s a musician—she writes music and performs live—so she is literally what she’s doing. She isn’t representing something else, she’s actually representing herself. There are certain cases where you are your brand, but you have to think about how you want to express yourself as a person to the people you’re trying to reach. In most cases there is some separation there and you can insert parts of your personality into what you’re doing. Maybe for people who are doing specific kinds of art or photography, the work they’re putting out there is a reflection of who they are personally. Evaluate if it’s really you who’s putting stuff out there or if it’s something else.
- 38:12 Kyle: I’d have to disagree a little bit on that, because Daniella’s goal is music. As a brand, she wants people to come under her music. I don’t care to go on Instagram and see the oatmeal and coffee she had this morning, even though that’s her. I’d rather see her in the studio making music, writing her music, her talking about how she writes her music, the process she goes through, the people she meets with, and where she’s going to have concerts. All of those things add up to her brand and I’m not necessarily invested in it specifically because of Daniella, it’s because I like her music. Eventually, as I see her more and more as a professional that understands her craft, then I want to be more invested in her as a person. The reason I come under her brand is not because of Daniella, even though her name is plastered everywhere.
How to Be Taken Seriously
- 39:50 Cory: Brent asks, “As a personal brand, personality is a given, but how can you ensure you’re taken seriously? I guess to clarify, some might look at a personal brand and not take them as seriously as a larger company with employees and culture. Can this type of presence be built for a personal brand and should it?” Here’s the truth:
Brands are created and experienced by humans.
If your brand lacks humanity, it will not be taken seriously.
- 40:26 If you have a personal brand, you have to express your humanity and connect with people. That’s how you’re taken seriously. Everything that you put out is how you become approachable and are taken seriously. Some people might look at a large brand and think, “They’re not going to connect with me because they’re too big,” and they might look at you as a smaller brand and say, “I want you to connect with me.” Especially if you’re a personal brand, you have to be a personable brand.
- 41:09 Kyle: I took part of his question a little differently. He mentioned people not taking you as seriously because you’re a personal brand vs. a larger company. Essentially it’s you doing this thing vs. a big company with things happening, and I think you need to play to your strengths in that case. We say “personal brand” and we mean that you’re putting your name into it. I have a really good understanding of why I made a personal brand. A lot of people feel like they go to a large company and they’re taken through a cycle. My goal with having a personal brand was to say that they’re coming to an individual person and we can have a relationship together.
- 42:31 One of my biggest goals is to fully understand my client’s brand and their project goals. I want to become as knowledgable about that entity as I can. I want to try to project something that fits them perfectly. There are people who would rather go to a big brand because they have a history, but there’s also people who want a one-on-one conversation with a real person and to be taken seriously. There’s a lot of power in having a personal brand vs. a large corporate brand that may or may not be giving you that level of care. Highlighting that level of care is huge for a personal brand.