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Jul 28, 2021

Welcome back to another episode with Dr. Leigh George. In the last episode, we discussed what branding is, why it’s important, and some of the benefits along with Leigh’s career, failure, and value-based pricing. In today’s episode, we’ll discuss the steps for creating a successful brand along with knowing when our brand is working, being in control of our brand, mistaking branding for visual identity, and some examples of successful brands.


Steps for Creating a Successful Brand


Here are two steps to create a successful brand.



  • Know Our Audience and Brand Narrative



The audience is arguably the most important part of having a successful brand. Leigh recently met with a startup that needed branding help. She asked them some questions and learned that they didn’t have a problem they were solving for. They had a business idea, something they thought would be cool and useful, but they didn’t know how it was going to make their audience's life easier.


“To be a successful brand, there has to be something at stake for your audience, some challenge that they're faced with that you can help them overcome,” Leigh said. We have to find the intersection between what is motivating the founders and what the audience cares about. That intersection is the brand narrative; it is the story of how our business can help our audience.



  • Create a Brand Manifesto



Once we know the narrative of how our business will help our audience, it is time to do our brand manifesto. A brand manifesto, purpose, or mission statement acts as an emotional representation of our brand purpose. It’s a rallying cry that crystalizes why we’re here and what we’re here to do. 


Nike has a great example of a brand manifesto. It reads, “Nike exists to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. Our purpose is to move the world forward through the power of sport—breaking barriers and building community to change the game for all. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.” (Source:


Anyone who works at Nike could read this and be excited about what their company is doing. They likely feel like they are helping bring inspiration and innovation and are helping break barriers and build community.


Our manifesto should unify our company and our brand, so we’re all working towards the same purpose. It should bring us together to accomplish the same goals. It should also resonate with our audience and be something they want to support.


How do we know if our branding is working?


To know if our branding is successful, we have to talk to people, customers, and non-customers alike. We need to survey them to learn what they think of when they hear our name. We need to ask them to tell us about their last experience with our company. 


Through getting out there and talking to people, we’ll be able to learn about the general perception of our brand. What do people think of us? How do we come off? What are we known for?


Once they answer these questions for us, we can determine if their answers are in line with the vision we had for our brand. Are we aligned with our manifesto? Do our customers see us working towards our purpose?


If their answers match the vision of our brand, great; we can keep doing what we’re doing. If not, we likely need to do some rebranding. Rebranding must happen when there is a disconnect between how the company sees itself and how the world sees it. It usually happens when there is new leadership or a new vision for the company.


Do we want to be in control of our brand?


There are some people out there who think that branding doesn’t matter. They think we can just throw some text up on our website without creating a real logo or thinking about the company’s image. They think we can make just as much money without worrying about any of that.


Perhaps we can make just as much money, but that isn’t the important part. Leigh said, “Even if you commit no resources to a logo or colors or messaging, you will have a brand. Because if you don't create it, the public will.”


The question then is do we want to be in control of the brand? It will be created regardless of what we do, so do we want to have a say in how our company is perceived? Do we want our brand to just be black text on a white background? If we’re going for a minimalist image, then that might be a good option, but if we want to be known for something else such as creativity, it won’t be a good option.


Our branding and our design choices create expectations in our audience’s minds. If we don’t control our branding, we don’t control what our audience expects from us. We want to take charge of those expectations and tell our audience through our image and communication what to expect from us.


Mistaking Branding for Visual Identity


One of the biggest mistakes Leigh sees companies make is treating their branding like a cosmetic exercise. In 2021 many companies such as Pfizer, GM, and Burger King have come out with new logos, colors, typography, etc. This can make it feel like a fashion trend or a seasonal look.


To Leigh, branding is more about what you stand for. It can be expressed in visuals, but Leigh said, “You shouldn't reduce your company to a look and feel because then that sort of cheapens your value to a certain extent.” Instead, we should focus on the narrative behind our business and manifest that story in our design. 


Examples of Well-Done Branding


Here are a couple of brands Leigh and I discussed that do their branding very well.


Uncle Terry Smells


Leigh recently got a candle from a company called Uncle Terry Smells. She usually doesn’t buy candles because she isn’t really a candle person. She doesn’t like clutter, and she isn’t sure what the point of candles is. However, when she saw Uncle Terry Smells’ social media posts, she became obsessed.


The company has a blue and orange color palette and they curate images from pop culture, kitsch culture, and high and low culture with the same color palette. Leigh said, “The brand was so much about identity and appealing to a certain kind of person. And I was clearly that kind of person because I was just totally drawn to that imagery. . . . This brand ostensibly sells candles, but they could sell anything because the brand is so clear and so strong.”


This brand speaks to a very particular audience. They're not trying to appeal to everyone. Their voice is very specific, and it's like a beacon to their people. You either get it or you don't. We don’t have to try to attract everyone into our audience. In fact, it is better if we focus on a specific group of people who we know will love our products or services.




Apple is all about creativity and innovation, and they just happen to sell computers. The strongest brands have a very distinct point of view and we’re never going to confuse them with another brand. Apple is very distinct; they aren’t afraid of being different. Just like Uncle Terry Smells, they’ve committed to who they are and they are never going to waver. They don’t care that there’s a whole group of PC buyers out there because they know who their audience is.


When Leigh was in college as soon as she could save enough money, she bought a Performa Apple computer. She’s bought Apple computers ever since. To write her dissertation, she bought the Apple Cube computer, which she still has because she thinks it’s beautiful even though it doesn’t work anymore.


Apple has created an audience that may even be loyal to a fault. We’re counting down the days until the next MacBook Pro comes out. We’re willing to pay more even though we could probably get better computing power for a cheaper price somewhere else. Leigh said the number one reason to have a brand is that we can charge more. People are willing to pay more for the brand they love.


Key Takeaways


Thank you so much Leigh for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:


  1. The first step to creating a successful brand is knowing our audience.
  2. A brand manifesto should unify our company and resonate with our audience.
  3. If our audience’s perception of us doesn’t line up with our vision then we may need to rebrand.
  4. If we don’t actively create our own brand, it will be created for us and may not line up with what we want it to be.
  5. Branding is more than visual identity, but it can be expressed visually. We should focus on the narrative behind our business and manifest that story in our design.
  6. Many successful brands don’t try to appeal to everyone. They pick a specific audience and focus on them.


Connect with Leigh


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