Branding is Bullshit and Other Myths Female Entrepreneurs Need to Know
by Kalika Yap, author of Little Brand Book
Branding is B.S.
That’s what I thought when I started my first company. Four businesses and 35 million dollars later, I realized Branding isn’t B.S. — it’s the code for being a real BOSS. When you unlock your brand boss code, (or who you are) it also unlocks with it, a vast vault of unlimited wealth, abundance and yes, even joy.
In 1999 I was in the business of building web sites. It was something tangible, just like the pots and pans, encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, plumbing services that my dad sold door to door when I was growing up. Branding? I didn’t understand it. Whenever someone talked about branding I would roll my eyes, shake my head and rationalize — how could a logo decide whether or not someone would do business with you?
The truth was: I didn’t understand branding. I didn’t want to understand it. I also didn’t want to pay for it. I was too overwhelmed making payroll, being the janitor, making ends meet. I thought brand strategists were total bullshitters. Snarky and sneaky — trying to get you to spend your hard earned money. Girl, was I wrong.
Who could blame me? I grew up in a small business family where you learned to put your head down and work very, very hard. Every single day of your life. As years passed in my business, I started noticing patterns among my entrepreneur friends, peers, clients. The one entrepreneur that stood out to me was Michael Dubin, the Founder of the Dollar Shave Club… My company Citrus Studios helped him with his initial branding. The company name used to be: The Ninja Dollar Shave Club. He got 50,000 free blades from China and his idea was to sell these shavers for a $1/each. The name of the blades was called Ninja. I suggested he drop the word Ninja to simplify it. Michael Dubin was in branding archetype speak: the ultimate regular guy. He also knew he wanted to sell to regular guys. He knew exactly who he was and who he wanted to sell to. He knew his brand archetype.
A few years earlier, I started venturing out of my own bubble and joined the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. I was sick and tired of working my ass off every single day. There must be something better than this. The more I learned about entrepreneurship, the more I learned that branding was the code to unlock more business.
Branding wasn’t B.S., it was the key framework around which you can build loyalty, grow your clientele and actually make some money. When I started paying strong attention to branding, I focused on my uniqueness, attracted the clientele I wanted to work with and catapulted my business. Years later, I’m not only a serial entrepreneur, I am also the author of the Little Brand Book.
Go figure. From B.S. to the author of the Little Brand Book.
This is the book that I wish I had when I started out. When I got interested in branding, I realized that it wasn’t about merely creating a logo or an identity. It was anthropology, the study of human behavior.
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What they say: The little brand book encapsulates the idea of brand archetypes in a thoughtful, encouraging, joyful and optimistic way. – Stephanie Flynt (female founder) . . . . . . . . . #reading #booksbooksbooks #igreads #bookstagram #flowers #tbrpile #currentlyreading #books #bookish #booklover #bibliophile #amreading #goodreads #greatreads #bookworld #whattoread #bookaddict #socialdistancing #spring #design #littlebrandbook #womeninbusiness #brandboss #kalika #kalikayap #booksareessential #bookstagram #booklover #bookworm #indiebookstores #indiebookstoreday
I became curious about what drives people — including myself — and how our innate personalities influence that drive. And when I say curious, I mean deep-dive curious. Some of the archetype frameworks I’ve explored:
True Color Code
I leveraged these frameworks to better understand myself, my family, my employees, my clients and the world. Through frameworks, I’ve discovered more about myself and what drives me personally. The twist? I believe you belong within two archetypes, not one.
My father was an entrepreneur, my mother and grandparents were teachers. As a result of both nature and nurture, I identify as a Leader (like my dad) with strong influences of what I call the Maven (like my mom and grandparents) – two of the 12 major archetypes in Little Brand Book. My Leader-Maven archetype means that I’m an achiever who gets things done, but I also enjoy learning, sharing and teaching others the knowledge I’ve gained.
Archetypes are universal; they recognize all of the different types of people. I find that it’s incredibly valuable to know your own archetype and also those of your business partner, employees, children, siblings and significant other. Through applying insights around how various archetypes interact and best communicate, life and business become more productive and enjoyable. As a Maven who loves to share information that aligns with my legacy, Little Brand Book was born. It explores the 12 major archetypes we all fit under. And — because you never fit neatly into just one of the 12–it makes room for your minor archetype too. I cross-reference the 12 major and 12 minor archetypes to provide a complete description of the 144 possibilities for your brand mastery.
The book offers insights into why your unique archetypical combination is powerful, ways to gain inspiration, and how to amplify your strengths. (I feel like I’ve gotten too detailed here).
Since a lot of existing frameworks are male-based, Little Brand Book’s archetypes are all female-driven. I think of it as The Girl Brand Boss book. Because once you understand your archetype and those around you, you’re positioned to discern the archetypes of your clients and understand how best to communicate and interact with them. And—with grit, talent and a lot of heart and hustle— voila!! You’re building a successful business. That’s the reason I wrote the book: To decode your relationships so you can better sell your incredible products or services. And, to encourage every woman who is waiting in the wings—waiting for that sign, waiting for permission—to dive in and become an entrepreneur. My goal is to help 1M female entrepreneurs change the world, help them make 1M in revenue and create 1M jobs.
The first lesson? Find Your Inner InfluenceHer and work it, own it and bring it — with branding. Here are a few shortcuts I’ve learned in 21+ years of branding to help you as you embark on building your brand.
1. The world is not your oyster customer.
When I ask someone who they sell to, they usually say “It’s everyone!”. Worst answer ever. Look, even CocaCola doesn’t sell to Whole Foods. Believing that the whole world is your potential customer is a rookie mistake.
So who’s your customer? Focus on who you actually want to work with. (I had no idea you could actually do that?) I thought if someone could afford my services they were my clients.
Branding is all about focus. Narrow it.
2. Little details count.
When you’re starting your business, details are critical building blocks for your brand. Here are just a few:
Own one URL, 15 characters or less, easy to spell, straightforward and reasonably easy to remember. In the past, everyone would buy every adaptation of their name. My recommendation, it’s hard enough to get people to remember one url let alone many.
Include your contact information in your email signature line and make sure it goes out with every communication you share, so that clients can easily get in touch and even recommend you to others.
Add your social media icons to every communication. And double-check your links! I can’t count how many times I’ve clicked on email signature links and they go to a 404 error page!
Never use Gmail as your business email account. Another rookie mistake is to put your company name @gmail.com – Your email address is an opportunity to tell the world what your web site address is. Take the time to redirect your emails to a domain name / web site that you actually own.
It’s problematic to use an underscore in your email address. You want to make it as easy as possible for potential clients to communicate with you. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be, or you risk driving away strong prospects.
3. Timing is everything.
Luck, in its most basic form, is the intersection of opportunity and preparation. Don’t leave your business to chance. Consider the timing of social media posts, client proposals and contact communications. Don’t just check off a box to get a task completed. When is often more important than what. When you send out a proposal or newsletter late in the day just to get it off of your plate, you’re missing the point. If clients never see your message, it’s not effective. Analyze the optimal times and channels for your unique audience and work within those parameters to maximize reach. Marketing is about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. Take the time to observe your clients’ behaviors and enlist them in helping you by asking them how often they want to hear from you!
4. Don’t Do it Yourself.
Look you don’t need a $100K website but also, don’t do it yourself through GoDaddy. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury to spend a ton of money on marketing at the outset, but the biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs make is to scrimp where it’s needed the most. The lowest cost isn’t necessarily the lowest overall cost.
You need someone who is experienced to guide your branding and web presence, but doesn’t break the bank. Spend the minimum you can to procure a responsive, informative, engaging web presence that meets your company’s needs. The average cost for a decent small business web site? $6K-$10K
5. Start with you.
Who are you? What drives you? Why are you doing this? How do you see the world, and most importantly: How do you and the people surrounding you fit within that world?
If you don’t know who you are, you’ll end up going in circles, hiring the wrong people, getting into bed with the worst clients. Women don’t like to ask for help, and often don’t accept praise for their accomplishments. But when you align yourself and your work with your overall archetype and goals, that’s your golden ticket to success.
To all of the women out there, languishing in a job that’s not a career, dreaming of their higher purpose in creating a company where they do what they love and help others achieve that same satisfaction: I see you. I can see you in the marketplace. I can see you landing big clients, executing on big projects, and achieving glorious goals.
I believe Oprah put it best: “As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what’s best for you — the first time around.” Are you ready?
Branding is all about shortcuts.
Everyone unknowingly judges people immediately. If you’re clear about what kind of brand you are, then you know who you are, and you know who your clients are. For example, CocaCola is an Idealist brand. Ellen Degeneres is a Charismatic brand. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a Brilliant brand – so when you text with her, avoid using emojis, because that’s not how people with her brand archetype communicate. However, Ellen would definitely appreciate a clever emoticon.
About Kalika Yap
Kalika Yap is a serial entrepreneur, inventor, and author. She’s best known for inventing the Luxe Link purse hook. Kalika has spent the past two decades empowering entrepreneurs to change the world by providing them with business and branding services as well as through her work with the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
Her creative agency, Orange & Bergamot, focuses on female founders to help one million female entrepreneurs make $1 million in revenue. She’s a wife and mother of two entrepreneurial girls.
Find out more at Kalika.com.