When you think about your favourite brands, you can probably picture their logos. Their products. Their overall ‘look’. But how do they make you feel?
If you’ve ever thought about setting up your own business, whether as a full-fledged entrepreneur or for a casual side hustle, your branding can’t be an afterthought. We’ve covered building your personal brand before, but we decided to go a step further.
We went to Virgin Media Pioneers’ Global Entrepreneurship Week’s ‘Are you ready to build your brand’ session last week to get to grips with brand-building. Led by serial entrepreneur and all-round bad-ass Emma Sexton, we arrived at The Trampery in Old Street, notebook at the ready, to get our fill of entrepreneurship advice.
— Brenda Wong 💁🏻 (@brendaisarebel) November 16, 2016
1. Building a brand is more than just about the product. It’s about the ‘why’.
We had the pleasure of hearing from five incredible entrepreneurs that morning,
- Olly Bolton – VOOM 2015 Crowdfunder winner and founder of What a Melon
- Irene Agbontaen – founder of TTYA London
- Ernestina Potts – founder of Milktooth London and Head of Campaigns at Virgin
- Founder of Morning Gloryville, Samantha Moyo
And our masterclass speaker, Emma Sexton, who we mentioned earlier. During the panel, each panelist was asked to briefly introduce themselves and their business.
What struck me was that each entrepreneur saw their product or business as a ‘why’. They saw a need, sought to fill that need, and focused on visually representing how they could do so.
2. Know who your audience is, and learn how to speak their language.
Irene Agbontean’s business, TTYA London (TTYA stands for ‘Taller Than Your Average’) was apparently “born out of necessity.” She had started a clothing line for taller women because she is one herself. Noticing a gap in the market, she took advantage of that niche and has now found international success.
“I knew who my audience was,” she reflected. “I was talking to a girl, like me, who’s always had to ‘make do’ with the clothes that were available. My brand was born out of necessity.”
3. Start with your vision, and make sure it’s absolutely clear
Ernestina Potts gave us a a little bit of insight into what was like working for a big, strongly-branded corporation like Virgin.
“The core fundamental values of our brand include values such as the entrepreneurial spirit. We will only bringing that ‘Virgin-ness’ to the market when we think it’ll add value.”
“Instead of selling products, think of what drives you.”
4. Don’t be afraid to hack your business to reflect the values you hold dear
Emma Sexton was adamant about creating a strong company culture. She suggested that when you start your own business, you have to start it with strong foundations. There is no right or wrong way to kick-start company culture, so we shouldn’t be afraid of forging our own path towards our company vision and values.
5. Your one-liner is the most important tool in your networking arsenal
A fundamental networking tool, according to Emma Sexton, is the business ‘one-liner’. It’s the one line people use to succinctly describe your business – and apparently, something that’s hard to get right.
“Keep practicing. Say your one-liner to people until you get it right. See how other people explain what your one-liner is to their peers. That’s the best test to see if you’ve communicated your brand clearly enough to be understood.”
6. Don’t wait to re-brand if you have to. Make the leap!
Uh-oh. Sometimes brands come across obstacles. They can be legal ones, they can be clarification ones, or maybe you just want a branding refresh.
It’s natural to be scared of a re-brand, apparently. But the panelists felt that people should take the leap more often. “People change brands and logos all the time,” Olly Bolton commented. “If it’s a great product, you’ll be absolutely fine.” Samantha Moyo agreed, saying “Changing your brand when you need to is better in the long run.”
Emma Sexton added some more practical advice. “Expect a disconnect if you have a lot of brand equity (awareness of the brand). That can be a challenge, but anything visually you can do to keep it the same, OR completely relaunch, could be a massive opportunity.”
7. Building your brand community has to come from the heart.
Samantha Moyo reflected on her journey with her morning rave business, Morning Glory. She advised that we should send out any communications “from the heart.”
“Everyone gets lots of shiny, happy messages in their inbox. Sending your newsletters with your business journey, personal news and the things you’re struggling with will make people feel more part of your brand.”
8. Adding personality to your brand will increase engagement
Ultimately, “making something look pretty” isn’t enough. Brand is about personality, and if you don’t have that your brand won’t fly. Olly Bolton had some more advice for us:
“Be honest, and be transparent. It builds trust, and loyal fans and consumers.”
Overall, it was a fantastic morning full of great advice. Nothing like some entrepreneurial spirit to get us going on a Wednesday morning!
P.S. If you attended one of the masterclasses for Global Entrepreneur Week and made a pledge, you’re in with a chance to win £2000 for your business! Simply upload a video of the results to Virgin Media Pioneers’ community forum. All instructions to do so can be found here.
Images © Virgin Media Pioneers, Brenda Wong for Debut