G'day everyone and welcome back to another episode of Grow Your Brand, the podcast show that provides you with your step-by-step guide to unlock your potential so you can get more out of your life and change the world for the better. I'm your host Lauren Kress, The Business scientist and today on the show we're talking about how to develop your style.
Some great questions from the audience this week and the ones I'll be answering on the show come from the two submitted questions that got the most likes on LinkedIn. Just so you know, if you don't submit your question to me on LinkedIn I submit them in the comments myself which is how Joshua Siktar's question got chosen.
Joshua asks ‘What are some examples of bizarre but effective personal brands you've seen?’ The other comes from Lyndall Farley who asks: 'I find that my brands style has come from my personal style and way of communicating. It’s intuitive to me but how do I translate that into words when I bring people on to work on my brand marketing?' We'll explore the answers to each of these questions at the Q&A segment at the end of the show but first, let's talk a little about style.
What is style? When we talk about style where talking about a manner for doing things. Some of my favourite quotes on what style is come from fashion designers. You may have already noticed that I don't like to stick to a single area of discipline or industry for inspiration.
Actually a couple of times people have challenged me on the science perspective, they've asked me things like "but what about art and design? And I'm like, yeah, art and design are hugely important, just because I talk about the importance of science doesn't mean I don't think art and design are important.
In fact the only scholarship I got was for this little mini summer course I got into while in highschool at the whitehouse instute of design. My masters degree was in something called cross-disciplinary art and design where we explored the way that disciplines informed one another to take creative thinking and problem solving to a whole new level.
Anyway so, yes to begin the show with some inspiration I want to borrow some words from former princess of Furstenberg, Diane von Furstenberg, best known for inventing the wrap dress who says quote "Style is something each of us already has, all we need to do is find it." end quote. I love that. I love that because that's the same way I think about brand, and it's inspirational right.
This idea that we have something to discover within us, something to untap, to explore and bring to life. Now to tie this back in with the last couple of weeks and our focus on brand personality what you might be feeling right now is this sense of "wait but, I'm a little bit of all of these brand personalities", you may be feeling like there's a bit of a barnum effect at play here.
Just quickly in case you don't know what the barnum effect is, the barnum effect describes this cognitive bias where statements that are vague and general enough to apply to anyone are rated as highly accurate and specific to them. Now obviously with the 12 archetypes the cat's already out of the bag because they are called archetypes - meaning something typical and universal to human nature.
But the idea what that this gets us to the point where we can gain enough insight about what appeals to us and to others about how we want to exist in market before we do the fine-tuning work that we're about to embark on. This is where we officially move onto pillar 2 where we define your distinct and salient brand assets and this first lesson is about developing your style.
I like to think of style as having three different parts. There's the fundamentals of style - these are the fundamental principles that allow others to quickly and easily understand what you are communicating. You know when they say first you have to know the rules before you break them? Well in that case these would be those rules.
Rules and the conventions like when you write in English, your sentence should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop. Rules, like checklists, give us a long list of things to remember of do's and dont's The second part is style schemas or the frameworks that underpin these conventions and rules. By understanding the schemas that account for best practice principles observed we learn how we can play with it and how we can make it our own.
In photography for instance there are 7 elements of composition that the photographer needs to learn how to work with. As an aside, in case you are interested, these are line, shape, form, texture, pattern, colour and space. The third part is developing your unique you-ness, adding your flavour. Using the example of the elements of photography, at the beginning, it's important to learn how each of these elements work in order to achieve a certain look-and-feel for the end result.
Often at this stage photographers are looking at who's work they admire and with their learnings and developing perspective for what is going on in each of the compositions in relation to the schema they will look at what they've done with each of these elements. This methodology I just described is an example of how someone might approach their creative process.
The creative process is the way someone looks out into the world at what already exists in order to generate a new idea. So just to recap: Part 1 is everyday conventions for how we do things. Part 2 is the style schemas that provide us with best practice frameworks used. Part 3 is what emerges when you have found your own way to navigate these frameworks.
So when it comes to developing your style for your brand it's important to make sure you understand the conventions and schemas that are relevant to what your brand will be making it's mark on. Now just quickly I want to pause there, because this podcast show is about brand growth and right now you might be wondering - OK sure, that's how you develop your style but how important is that really for me to actually build my reputation in market?
Like is this really worth investing all this time and money and energy into, just so what, we have our own style? Big whoop? What's that got to do with making people want to buy my product or service? So I just want to address this right here, right now, because I see this objection come up all the time. So let me be perfectly clear. Your style, or to put it another way, your manner by which your business does things, is what sits at the very foundation of how people will perceive and remember you.
In order to build your brand equity which is the commercial value placed on your business based on how your customers perceive you, you need to ensure you have made some very important and intentional decisions about how you go about presenting yourself to the world. Now coming back to what is relevant to what is relevant in terms of making your mark - let me illustrate what I mean with an example.
Let's say you're vision is to build a world-renowned fine-dining restaurant in the tourist part of your town. A critically important aspect of style you will need to consider is your menu design and food presentation. But if you're an accountant, this isn't an area of style that you would ever need to worry about, maybe the closest thing you would come to needing to make a decision about this is what sort of restaurants do we take our clients to.
So how about you? What areas of style are going to be important for you to consider? I think this highlights again that connection between the internal aspect of the business and the external perception of the business because in order to systematically work through decisions about your style, you need to think about what activities your business undertakes.
If you take that step to consider this, you are doing something that a lot of your competitors aren't doing, and it will give you that opportunity to really get that one-up on your competitors, something that we're constantly working on doing with our clients here in my business as well.
Now if you're listening to this and you're like, but I already have a brand, and I already know what my style is, but I don't know how to articulate that, stay tuned, because if you remember at the beginning of this episode, Lyndall asked a question about this so we'll cover this off in the Q&A section. So onto that in a minute.
You'll also notice that this episode is part 1 - there's going to be a couple more episodes on this where we look at how to turn your style into something that others can follow. So part 2 and 3 of this episode is going to be on finding your creative process building your style guide. Full confession I did intend on doing all of this in one episode, but as I was writing the episode I realised I couldn't fit it all in and I'd feel like I was doing you a disservice if I just skipped over these other important areas.
Also, I've been pretty sick and I'm actually still recovering, so I am sorry this episode is a little late to publish. One of the things I've discovered with doing this series, is there is a lot of value in recording the episode once a week, rather than just recording a whole heap of episodes in one go. It gives me a chance to see what questions and conversations pop up between episodes and build my shows in response to this. I'm also going to build some templates off the back of this series, so when I'm feeling a bit better I'll make sure you can find it in these show notes and in the next episodes show notes as well.
Ok so time for our Q&A segment and just as a reminder, the first question comes from Joshua Siktar who is from Knoxville Tennessee and he asks ‘What are some examples of bizarre but effective personal brands you've seen?’
So I had to have a think about this for a while and at first I was thinking about some of the eccentric characters that people have built like some of Sacha Baren Cohen's Borat and Bruno characters and then that got me thinking about Nathan Fielder, co-creator and star of Nathan for you.
Whilst Borat, for example is clearly bizarre he is also clearly a character, so less personal brand, more of an out-of-context charicature. English comedian Josephine Brand is also quite interesting in how she has approached and straddled these two worlds - the way she portrays herself when she's playing her character by the same name and when she is more of herself behind-the-scenes in interviews.
But then thinking about Nathan for you, and if you're not familiar with Nathan Fielder, I highly recommend checking him out, he's kind of taken an extra step. Like Sacha Baren Cohen he plays with that line between excrutiatingly uncomfortable and and fascinatingly bizarre and because it's so hard to know what's really him and what is his character it starts to work it's way more towards being a bizarre personal brand. And then that got me thinking - ah! Karl Pilkington. Karl Pilkington to me is the best example I can think of in this space. If you've been living under a rock and you don't know who Karl Pilkington is, do yourself a favour and google.
No one has quite worked out how much of who Karl presents in the public eye is him, he is puzzling, he often says things that are complete no-no's in terms of being prejudice or otherwise interpreted as discriminatory, racist and sexist and yet he has completely captured so many people's hearts. For some reason we forgive him even though we're not sure whether or not he's joking.
Other example that I'll just throw out there whilst I'm on this question is Bob Dylan. The persona Bob Dylan's has put out there as part of his image has been humanly inconsistent but also seemingly fabricated. Now they are two difficult worlds to straddle right. On the one hand, if you're being authentic and human, we'll forgive a bit of incosistency, sure, people change, the late David Bowie did, Madonna has countless times, sure that's fine, no problems. But the inconsistency goes beyond that.
Bob Dylan's brand is built on being authentic in the sense of "I don't care what the media and fans think" but also completely inauthentic in that he gets caught out in lying or in making stuff up and changing his story. This is a dangerous place for a brand to sit, one of the biggest threats to a brand that portrays themselves as being authentic is to be found to be inauthentic. And yet, well, has it been effective? It's Bob Dylan, need I say more? What comes to mind for you guys? I'll run a post on LinkedIn this week to ask for your thoughts on this as well because it's a great question. Thanks again Joshua!
OK second question comes from Lyndall Farley. Lyndall Farley is a wellbeing consultant, sabbatical coach and organisational change consultant who has founded Beyond a break to help people discover the power of time off and she asks: 'I find that my brands style has come from my personal style and way of communicating. It’s intuitive to me but how do I translate that into words when I bring people on to work on my brand marketing?'
Fantastic question Lyndall and very relevant to this style series on Grow Your Brand. By the way just quickly if you want a shout on the show about your business and brand, make sure you submit your question via LinkedIn. If you don't want to miss out on the LinkedIn post, get in touch with me and I'd be happy to tag you in the post as well to make sure it comes up for you in your feed.
So back to Lyndall's question, if this resonates for you, basically what you need to do is go back and find out more about these intuitive decisions you're making without even necessarily realising it. I often talk about branding and particularly personal branding as being this process of self-discovery and this is part of the reason why.
To work out what it is you're doing we need to bring your decision making process into conscious awareness. I find for a lot of consultants because what we do is a lot of well consulting, right, we're practiced at making a lot of decisions about how we deal with a client, the language we use and how we take people on this journey with us whilst we're talking to them either in person or over the phone.
That means a lot of the data about our mannerisms aren't documented and aren't recorded anywhere because we aren't really forced to. Versus say as with the restaurant example I gave before, you have to have a menu and the recipes for preparing the food. So we need to reverse engineer a little. But unlike figuring this out for other internal operations for your business, we can have quite a bit of fun when it comes to style.
When I'm working with a client on articulating their style so we can go ahead and put a style guide together, I'm asking them to do things like put a mood board together. To tell me who inspires them and what about them inspires them. I'm asking for reactions to what they like and what they don't like and if they can give me some insight into why this is the case what we want to do is get very concrete.
We'll explore this concept more in the episodes to follow, but for now basically there's steps to articulate the style of the brand so that others can follow it. One is to understand firstly what decisions you're making about style - where and when these take place. Two is to look at how you go about making the decision, understanding what conscious and subconscious forces are at play in leading you towards a decision.
Just as with the photography example there are elements like line and space, we need to look at the concrete elements that are behind the reason why we like or dislike something. I hope that's helpful Lyndall and Joshua. As always feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions and same goes to you listening to this as well. To reach out, links are in the show notes.
Next week we'll continue with part 2 of developing your style, until then, remember that sharing your talents with the world will make it a better place.