If you asked yourself to name one thing that all successful companies have in common, you might answer, “marketing”. But even before that, they spent a great deal of time on their branding. Branding – in essence – is developing an image, with the results to back it up. And this certainly doesn’t just apply to businesses, there are plenty of personal brands making their mark in the world as well.
Unfortunately, all too often not enough time is spent on branding before the marketing starts. But to truly have a successful marketing strategy, you need to have a solid foundation in place with your branding, and that’s more than just a cool logo. By following five key elements to build and define your brand platform, you will have a strong foundation to work with.
Adrion Porter is a leading authority on brand building and personal brand development. His popular podcast, Gen X Amplified, empowers and inspires people to be leaders both in business and in life.
Rich: Adrion Porter is a brand builder, podcaster, speaker and former marketing executive at several top tier television networks. As the leading voice on personal brand development for the Gen X community, Adrion is the founder and host of Gen X Amplified, the premier podcast dedicated to the powerful generation between the boomers and millennials. The show’s main mission is to empower and inspire people currently in the power phase of their lives to create massive impact as leaders in business and life, especially in this new media marketplace.
Adrion is also the founder and CEO of FusionFlow Media, a mobile first digital media company focused on brand strategy and audio storytelling – for example – podcasting. Prior to his entrepreneurial journey, Adrion led market and branding efforts for Cartoon Network, HBO, Cinemax and Citigroup. Introducing the man who’s got a face for television and a voice for radio, welcome Adrion.
Adrion: Hey Rich, how’s it going? Glad to be here.
Rich: It’s going well, good to hear your voice again.
Adrion: I don’t know about that “face for television”, but I’ll take the “voice for radio.”
Rich: I’m looking at your picture right now and you are one handsome fella.
Adrion: Thank you so much, you’re making me blush.
Rich: So you and I were chatting before the show and trading some emails, and while we were banding around ideas for the episode we landed on the idea of brand building. Now that’s a popular phrase these days, but what does it really mean?
Adrion: That’s a great question, and it definitely is a popular phrase, everyone’s a brand builder, but for me it’s something that I’ve learned throughout my journey professionally working for those companies you named – and even recently doing my own thing – is that I think it’s really important to separate marketing from branding. A lot of times – and I’ve been guilty of this as well – I’ve combined those two terms and interchanged them as well, and they do not mean the same thing.
If you have a business, you’re a digital marketing leader or an entrepreneur or even if you are working within a company in a marketing field, the way you should approach your product or service or your brand is think about what exactly does it mean to have a brand or branding and what is marketing. To me, marketing is really about communication of your message to your target audience that you’ve already established. Actually, if you separate it even more, advertising is more frequent communication of information. If you think about ads, television, Facebook, that’s advertising. Marketing is a little bit more direct. It’s understanding strategically who is it that you’re targeting, what are their needs, and really sending that message to that person.
So after you’ve done frequent communication and after you’ve understood who your audience is, what is the message that you want to tell, what is the story? That is your brand. A lot of times we push ahead and really focus on marketing, marketing, marketing, before we’ve even understood what it is that we’re marketing. What is the story that we’re telling, what is the message, what is your purpose? And that essentially is branding.
So to build your brand is to first understand the core of your existence, your story, your purpose, your why. And then once you have a solid foundation of that, then you’re in a better position to market that story. That’s marketing.
Rich: Ok, alright. So marketing seems more like the connection that we have with our customers. Branding starts about us – and not in a selfish sort of way – but really understanding who we are and what we want to be.
Adrion: Exactly. Because again, too many times – and I’ve been guilty of this in the past – when we begin a project or start a business or want to build that business and build it further, we focus so much initially on marketing. And marketing is extremely important to say the least, but before you can effectively tell that story and really figure out what it is you want to place in that Facebook ad, how are you going to market via video, you have to really have a clear strategic understanding of your brand and the story that you want to tell so you can make your messaging more effective, you can make your communication more powerful, you can make your artwork and your text more succinct and congruent with your story. And it starts with understanding your brand.
Rich: So a lot of people talk about personal brands or personal branding, is brand building just for the entrepreneurs or is it also what we’re going to be talking about appropriate for the businesses that they run? Like, I’m Rich Brooks and maybe I figure out what my brand is, does flyte new media or Agents Of Change also need a brand building exercise?
Adrion: Yes they do, I think that they’re all important and I would actually say that it also depends upon the structure of the business. So for you, you have the Agents of Change brand, you have the flyte new media brand – which is the digital agency – but you, Rich, you are a brand because as people you really, really, really in this day and age enjoy doing business with people, not just businesses.
Now your business has equity and cache in them because flyte new media delivers the digital solutions to your customers. But a lot of times when they hear a lot of what you say on this podcast and you’re out speaking at the different events or launching your conference, they see you as the face of flyte new media, they see you as the face of Agents Of Change. So I think it’s very important for you to spend some time not only crafting and understanding what is the brand story of Agents Of Change, what is the brand positioning of flyte new media, but also as Rich Brooks. What do you stand for, what is your story. And I think you probably will see your business even skyrocket even more. I think it’s really important.
So for people that have personal brands or small businesses or entrepreneurs, spend some time not only thinking about how close they are to their business. So for example if you are the face of your small business, if you’re out doing blogs and doing videos and you’re the face or voice of it, then it makes sense to really make sure that your personality and personal brand is congruent with the brand of your business as well.
Rich: Alright, Well if we’ve just been floundering around this whole time and this brand building exercise sounds like what we’ve been missing, what do we do first, how do we get started with this? I’m listening to this podcast and what Adrion is saying is resonating with me, I’ve done nothing like this before, how do I get started?
Adrion: Great question. So for me, the way I approach it – even in my own personal brand building, because I’ve actually focused the last year or so on building my personal brand – when I meet with people and consult with businesses and individuals and we talk about a brand development exercise, I’ll always start with defining what is your brand platform. The way I define it is I break it down into five key elements.
The first thing you need to do is understand what is your brand purpose. So your purpose is essentially taking a step back, doing an inventory and understanding what is your “why”. Why do you matter, why do you exist, why do you wake up in the morning, what is your business mission. Really understanding what is your “why”. Are you in the business of selling widgets or are you in the business of making a change in the world. Howard Schultz and Starbucks are in the business of selling coffee, but they’re “why” is all about creating and living the ultimate brand experience. So you start with your purpose.
Number two is you really need to understand what is your brand positioning in the marketplace. That is the unique space that’s in the minds and hearts of your audience. Compared to the competitors in your space, really be able to write down and articulate – have your team members even understand – what is your brand positioning. How are you different in the marketplace.
Number three is that once you understand your positioning, then you need to really have a full grasp of your promise, what is it that you’re promising to your customers and to your audience. What is the extension of your positioning, what are you guaranteeing to your audience. Whether it’s fast and quick digital solutions, whether it’s having you save money, what is that one thing that people will walk away from to understand how you are different in the marketplace.
And number four – this is a little bit more intangible – what is your brand personality. If you could describe your business as a person what kind of characteristics would you describe. Is it fun, happy, silly, serious, fast, slow. It’s really important and it leads into the last element.
The last element is your brand identity/brand expression, and that’s where you get into the visceral elements such as your logo, your colors, your copy. How are you expressing and how will people identify you in the marketplace at first glance or first listen. Sound is important as well.
So once you have an understanding of your purpose, your brand positioning, your promise, what is your personality, and how will you express those other four elements in the marketplace – visually, audio, video – with your brand identity. I take people through that exercise, it’s a very in depth and strategic exercise. Once you have that, then you have a really great brand platform and foundation and that’s where you start. Once you have those elements, then you can do more effective marketing in digital media.
Rich: Wait, so the last one is ”platform”? Because I wrote down four P’s and then the last one I come up with “identity”, and I’m like, how could you not come up with a 5th P?
Adrion: I know, I tried.
Rich: Platform works. If the audience playing at home has a better answer, please submit it into the comments section or let Adrion and I know on Twitter.
Adrion: I know Rich, I was working with the P’s and it was going so well. So the last one again is really about how you’re expressing your brand. It’s really the low hanging fruit that more people really associate with branding like logos and names. But that’s really not just your brand, and too many people when they think of branding think what is their logo.
Rich: That’s almost like the outside of the fruit, that’s like the last piece in the puzzle after you’ve figured out everything else.
Adrion: Exactly, and it is important I don’t want to belittle the importance of a logo or a tagline and all that, but you need to really start first with those intangible, strategic elements like your why, your purpose, your positioning. And then you start thinking about your hex codes and your colors and your hues and taglines.
Brand identity and brand expression is important because what it does is it triggers immediate recall and recognition. So once you have those elements and once you really understand those 5 key elements of your brand, then you’re in a better position to do a creative brief, to do marketing, to think about ads, to really get into these new media tools, because your story would be more concrete and have more meat to it. And then you can market more effectively.
Sometimes we put the cart before the horse and we go out there and think about ads and platforms and social media, and we don’t even know our own story, we don’t know why we’re doing what we’re doing, we don’t know how we’re positioned differently in the marketplace. And then you’re just shooting at the wind and you wonder why your business isn’t growing.
Rich: Right. And I think that anybody who’s started their own business – especially for the first time – at the beginning you’re just trying to make sales. So I can understand why if this is your first time out you didn’t go through this brand building exercise. God knows I didn’t when I started my company. I had the dumbest name before I camy up with flyte new media, I had no idea what I was doing, I was just like, “Hey, I want to play on the internet.”
Luckily I survived long enough to start thinking more creatively and more purposefully about our own brand. And I’ll second what you’re saying about the logo and the visual branding elements. I know that with our creative director when he’s designing a logo for a client, it’s not like he just says these colors go well together. He has very in depth conversations with the client about how they see themselves in the marketplace, how they want to be seen, who their competitors are, and only then does he start working on the logo. So that makes a lot of sense.
Adrion: I was going to say, too, think about your company and your brands. You may have just mentioned when you started, Rich, you were just trying to make money, and trust me I’ve been there that’s part of the journey. But when you got yourself in a better position you became more aware of the best way to approach this. You’ve taken some great steps, you think about your brand, so you understand your why, your purpose, why you do what you do. And then you can look at the brand and the brand identity element of Agents Of Change, you think about the name, you think about the elements of flyte new media, it’s all congruent with flight, flying, taking flight, even the Agents Of Change logo with the wings.
So you have done a great job at making sure that those different brand elements are different businesses but they’re all under one umbrella company and congruent. So once again, that’s a great example of thinking about these visual elements but you understood what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, what is the consistent message and the position that you want to have in the marketplace. And then once you understood that, you’ve done a great job – as an example for your listeners – to making sure that those brand identity elements are congruent.
Rich: Thanks. And I just want to make sure that people know that sometimes these things happen purposefully like the way Adrion’s describing them, and other times, I mean, I started with the company that’s now called flyte new media and I just wanted to design websites. Over time that evolved. And one of the other things is I started to tell my story at different events and different opportunities and different networking situations and I noticed that certain parts of my story were resonating more with people.
There’s a story I tell – which I won’t go into now – about how I decided to leave the company I was with to start my own entrepreneurial journey and people love that story. So that became more of my origin story and I think that also helps you start to figure out what is your brand. Part of your brand is not just what you mention, but how people are going to respond to that, too.
Adrion: Great, great, great point.
Rich: When I was looking through some of your material and I wanted to put together some questions for you, one of the questions I came up with, what are some of the essential elements a brand platform needs to define. Are those the 5 things that we just went through right now?
Adrion: Yes, they were, and I’m glad you brought it back up, it’s worth really underscoring. So yeah, those 5 elements again. Those are my elements that I’ve kind of defined and lived by that I’ve felt worked for me. I’m not saying these are the bible by any means but they worked for me, and I think it’s better than just going out and thinking about your brand as a logo.
So again, your purpose, your positioning, your promise, your personality, and last but not least, how will you express that visually, sonically, video-wise, taglines, photos. How will you express that with your brand identity. So those are the 5 elements of the brand.
Rich: It also brings me back to an interview I did with John Lee Dumas – who you and I were talking about before we jumped on the line – I’ve done a couple of interviews with John but my favorite was all about unleashing your business avatar. Once you really know who your ideal customer is, you don’t have to make tough decisions anymore you just have to ask yourself – in his case – “What would Jimmy do?”
I find that the way you outline this on the brand building is a very similar model for helping us make better business decisions. Once we figured all this out, then we know what the answers are. So now I know how I want to explain the purpose behind – or make some of the decisions around – Agents Of Change or flyte new media, because I know who those entities are. So a lot of things about should we do this or should we do that become much more easier decisions to make.
Adrion: Yes. And it’s all about in this world of constant 24/7 accessibility. If you’re owning a business, the easier it is to do something, the better it is. So I’m glad you brought that up.
Rich: Now I know that you spent a lot of time on developing your own brand as well as working with others, what are some of the mistakes that you see entrepreneurs making when they’re trying to establish or build their own brand?
Adrion: Wow, where do I start, man. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, that’s part of the journey. I think not having a clear understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing, why you want to build a brand. When I first started – and I’ve gone through different iterations – even launching the podcast, I launched that last year and I had the idea and I was going back and forth numerous times on the audience, the subject matter, the color hues. And I spent a lot of times – even on my personal brand – what type of logo I want. I spent a lot of time ideating – which is important – but not enough time taking action and not enough time getting to that minimal viable product.
I think it’s really important when you think about starting to building your personal brand, understanding what is the story you want to tell. I also encourage people to embrace not all the pleasant elements of their story. Too many times we want to put our best foot forward and make that the only foot that’s walking, but sometimes people associate and really become fans of you because they want to hear some of the pitfalls that you’ve gone through.
So when you’re building a brand, make sure you really take a deep inventory of what makes you you right now and why is it that you want to tell your story. I think we really need to spend more time on that.
Rich: Alright, that makes a lot of sense. Can you give me some concrete examples of how I might implement my brand into different marketing channels? So obviously you’re on the podcast, we talk about search, social and mobile marketing – there’s so many channels in social – once I know who I am or who my business is, how does that translate into maybe doing some of this digital marketing or communicating through these different channels? Do you have any examples you could share with us?
Adrion: Yeah, sure. So I can use maybe some of my experiences. So for me, when I thought about my brand before I launched a podcast I knew that I wanted to build a brand of Adrion Porter, I want to be out in the marketplace, I have a lot of great experience working with some great companies and I thought about, how do I translate that into the marketplace. And what I did is first understood what is it that drives me, and I have these 3 principles that I think are applicable in this new media marketplace that drove me.
Number one, every business and person is a brand. That is a fact, and I truly believe that. Number two, every brand has a story to tell. And number three, every brand is now a media company. You know this better than anyone. Right now with all these tools at our disposal, the platforms wifi accessibility, we all are storytellers now.
So for me when I started off thinking about what I want to do, I thought about what drives me, what are my passions and what are my skillsets. I’m an audio guy, I love the medium. I was a big podcast consumer before I launched the show so I knew that when I went out and established my brand, I had to figure out what medium I really want to embrace and focus on. And when you’re building a brand, if you’re thinking about how do I tell my story and what main platform do I want to utilize, whether it’s blogging, podcasting, YouTube channel, think about what you’re passionate about and what you feel that you’re good at. So for me it was podcasting.
Then number two, how would I market that. So I thought about my audience and my main target audience for the podcast are Gen X’ers, people who are in their mid 30’s to mid 50’s, because right now people in my generation are now at the point of leadership where we’re influencing a lot of millennials and Gen Z’s, and we’re also in a transition in our careers and our lives and I wanted that platform to be the platform for that.
So when I start thinking about how do I communicate that, I knew that many Gen X’ers are on Facebook, so I utilized Facebook as a primary marketing medium because you have to think about your audience. Too many times we hear a lot of messaging about these new tools that are coming out in the marketplace and the ones that are evolving like Snapchat and Instagram and we want to check all of the boxes – but – we don’t spend enough time thinking about what’s best for my audience and the communication journey as far as my brand.
So for me, I thought about focusing initially on 1-2 social media platforms to market Gen X Amplified, to market my brand, and I knew that Gen X’ers were on Facebook, I knew they read blogs, so I focused on that. So that’s an example of when you’re starting to build a brand. Think about the marketing medium that is best for your audience, and it goes back to what you said earlier that John Lee Dumas emphasized as far as your avatar, you really have to understand where they are, what platforms they spend time on, and then use that to build your brand.
Rich: I think that’s great, and one thing I would just add to that is so much of this comes down to voice. Voice can be auditory, but it can also be written word. I know that I have a certain writing style. I love having either obscure references in my writing or some real one-off jokes that people might not find in other people’s writing. I’ve always been a little bit irreverent in my writing style and that goes a long way towards the personalities that drive flyte and Agents Of Change – even though they’re slightly different personalities – so I think that’s really important.
What I would say is the more often you do it – like you’re really comfortable with podcasting – the more often you do it, the more natural your voice becomes. So I definitely think you want to think about your brand as you’re writing and as you’re recording new content, because that can definitely help really solidify that brand.
Adrion: That is an excellent point. Practice, the more you do it, my first couple of episodes I thought were good but trust me, I’ve stumbled and learned and grown in my craft. I used and went to the medium that I felt most comfortable with initially and that I was passionate about. I didn’t start with video. I knew that I loved podcasting the best. That’s not to say that I haven’t implemented video – I’ve done a few Scopes and I’ve participated in Blabs and I still will use that in my toolbox – but my main platform that I have embraced is podcasting.
So to your point, first figure it out and make sure that it is aligned with your comfort level, make sure that it is aligned with your target avatar, and then be consistent. Keep doing it, chug away, it will get better with time.
Rich: This has been great. Adrion, thank you very much for your time today. If people want to learn more about you, where can we find you online?
Adrion: Speaking of personal brand, you can go to adrionporter.com, that’s my online home, that’s where I blog, that’s where even you can find the podcast. You can join and subscribe to the podcast, you can join my mailing list – I’m giving away a toolkit for personal brand building – but you can find me there, man.
Rich: Great stuff. Alright, thanks again, Adrion, I appreciate the time today.
Adrion: Thank you, I so appreciate it.
- You can find Adrion online at his website, follow him on Twitter and check out his popular podcast.
- Rich recommended a past interview with John Lee Dumas where they discussed unleashing your business avatar – which ties in nicely to this episode’s topic.
- If you loved today’s topic and want to spend an entire day hearing more great speakers on the topics of search, social and mobile marketing, then grab your ticket to the Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference – September 23, 2016!