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January 8, 2018

MWH3 – What is a brand and how can branding help you make money?



If you’re in business, whether you realise it or not, you have (or you are) a brand.

But what is a brand? And does branding really matter? 

I believe yes, branding does matter, and I’m going to answer these questions and help you understand why in this episode today.

As a personal branding photographer and self-confessed brand nerd, I’m always looking for ways to learn more about branding. Brand identity was my first role at IBM after I graduated from uni and throughout the years in business it’s remained something I’m really interested in and passionate about. 

Recently I went to a personal branding workshop at General Assembly, which is an adult education company in London that runs nighttime workshops (they also have offices in Australia, the US, Hong Kong and Singapore). It was a really fun night where we talked about the basics of personal branding and what goes into building one. 

The workshop facilitator, who’s name is Howard Kingston, described personal branding as ‘a desired perception’. A desired perception – think about that and what that means for a second. How do you desire to be perceived? 

I loved that description, and I agree that distilled right down, that’s exactly what a brand is. And as a result, the process of brand-building is therefore all about proactively shaping the way you and your business are perceived in the marketplace.

Yep, you heard me right – “proactively shaping”. That means we get to influence how people perceive us. Because ultimately it’s your customers who perceive your brand as the sum of your customer service, identity, logo, value, and reputation – and when you’re intentional and thoughtful about what you’re putting out there for your customers to experience, you get to shape the perception that they form.

Which brings me back to what I said at the start of the episode, which is that whether you realise or not, and whether you care or not, you have a brand. We can’t escape it, much as we might like to try! As humans, we’re wired to organise our thoughts into categories, and we need to classify everything we experience into categories so we can better understand them. 

Whether that be distinguishing species of animals apart from one another and deciding which one we’d want as a pet, or differentiating certain colours from each other and choosing our favourite based on how each colours makes us feel – the same principles apply to people and brands. Even if we like to think we don’t make judgements or perceptions of people, on a subconscious level we do – it’s just our way of mentally processing and organising our experiences so we can better understand and evaluate different options against one another.

And so what does that mean for you? Well, it means that, right now, in whatever way shape or form you’ve been showing up in your business, you already have a brand – planned or not – because people perceive you in a certain way. 

Seth Godin defined a brand as a set of “expectations, memories, stories and relationships” that together drive the decision to choose a particular company, product or service.

If you think about it now – including everything from the communication of your purpose and values, your visual identity to the experience people get from all aspects of interacting with you on and offline – are you happy with the way you are perceived? 

If you’re not sure how to answer that, let’s dig a little deeper into the implications of perception: 

  • Are you happy with the type of customers you’re attracting? 
  • Are you attracting people who are your ideal customers? 
  • Who are happy to pay you what you’re worth without question? 
  • Who sing your praises and tell other people about their experience with you? 
  • Do you get approached with opportunities from other people and organisations within your industry? 
  • Are you seen as proficient or even expert at what you do?

A strong and intentional brand can help you excel in your industry in all of these areas and more.

So here’s what intentional Branding can help you to do:

  • Establish and strengthen your desired position in your market – whether that be a leader, trustworthy, a provider of excellent service, personable and friendly or middle of the road
  • Raise your prices and charge rates that not only allow you to get by, but to thrive in your business and your personal life. When you have elevated positioning, identity and service all working together, people will be happy to pay you higher rates.
  • Attract opportunities as a guest on interviews and podcasts, 
  • Sell out your programs and offers – if your customers know that you deliver a product or service that’s consistent with the experience you’ve been giving them through your brand presence, they’re going to have a level of trust that makes it easier for them to buy from you
  • Lift your perceived value (also known as brand equity) – because value is all about perception.

Okay, so now that we know what intentional branding can do for your business, let’s break down the elements of a brand so you can understand exactly what components are involved in a 360 degree complete brand.

  1. Purpose and Values: What’s your reason for being in business? Why did you start in the first place and who do you want to help? and What parts of business and showing up in general are really important to you and your business? Your business purpose and values, when communicated often and effectively help people to understand who you are, why you’re here and what you stand for so that they can decide whether or not you’re for them – which is important in business! People love doing business with brands and people they see as similar or likeminded to them because we want our choices in products and services to help reinforce our own self-perception and others’ perception of who we are (yup, even as regular people we’re perceiving and being perceived!). In fact, 64% of people cite ‘shared values’ as a reason why they have a relationship with a brand, which is quite significant, huh – considering that could even come down to influencing the brand of toothpaste we use?!
  2. Character and personality: If purpose and values are the ‘Why’ behind us showing up in the world, out brand character and personality are the ‘how’. Do we want to be perceived as rebellious, romantic, posh, studios, relatable or highly creative? Just like human personalities, a brand’s personality is a set of human traits that are applied to a business to help brands appear more relatable to the types of customers it wants to attract. I’ll be doing a whole episode on brand personalities – both based on Jungian archetypes and seasonal archetypes because these are like magic to your business and help to provide a framework for you to show up in your business in the most consistent and meaningful way.
  3. Visual identity: Which includes your logo, typography, colours which help to visually reinforce your brand personality. And that brings me to a sub-point within this point, which is that the visual identity is so often mistaken as the whole sum of branding. People think that designing a logo and deciding on a group of colours is the extent of branding, which is really not true. A strong visual identity is important yes, however it’s build upon a foundation of purpose, character, personality and more.
  4. Experience: This can include your customer service like responses to emails, speed of reply, delivery of service, social media replies. It can include your free material like blog posts, social media posts, podcasts, videos and the ways that people get to experience and know you on a day to day, potential buyer basis basis. It can also be your website, and the complete experience your customers get when browsing for your products and services.


Now, what’s the process of building a brand?

Once you understand how your intentional brand (or lack thereof) influences your business’ place in the market and ultimate success, you can use the parameters of brand building to create a plan that helps you and your business be seen in the exact way you want to be seen. the moire you act out on your plan, and consistency show up in all aspects in a way that supports your brand, the way your potential customers see you will change and grow for the better. 

To do this, it’s a really good idea to create a brand plan that outlines all the aspects that we’ve covered today. Determine your purpose, your values, who your customers are and how you want to be seen first. Then flesh out your character and personality – the way your brand will express itself in the market. Once you’re clear on these steps, you can start to craft your visual identity, which is your logo, colours, typography, patterns and icons, to visually support and reinforce your purpose, promise, and personality. And when all those elements are determined, you can use this intel to help you show up and deliver an experience that’s consistent and in line with your brand!

You can either create a brand plan by yourself, or you can work with a brand strategist and consultant like myself 1:1 for a professional and objective view (and advice). Either way, I’ve created a free template resource for you to help you write down your own responses to everything we’ve covered today, and you’ll be able to download that right below.


Thank you so much for tuning in today guys! Have you found this episode helpful? If you have, come on over to Instagram @hayleyrichardsonphotography and share your thoughts on today’s episode with me! Thanks for tuning in, and I’m excited to bring you another episode next week.

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