Feature

Creating your Brand: Tips from some of NB’s Savvy, Colourful Entrepreneurs

coffee, notebook, phone

Whether you’re an independent consultant or run a full-blown business with employees or storefront, it’s no secret that all successful businesses need to have a brand.

Your brand anchors everything you do and guides every business decision you make. It also makes you stand out from the crowd and attract the kind of attention and clientele you want.

Yet, defining exactly what your brand is, whether for you personally or for your business, isn’t always an easy task.

So we decided to ask some New Brunswick business folks with strong personal or business brands about how they realized them, and how it has impacted their business.

Dan Martell: Entrepreneur,  DanMartell.com

Image: Submitted

It all started when I was 26 and my company Spheric at the time was featured. I realized that having a public persona could help people learn about your company and be interested to help increase the speed of business.

Business is all about: know, like, trust, buy – and if you do things right – refer.

So the more people who can easily discover you (by publishing content), learn about your background – your Why (from your blog) – and what drives you (your social media) then it just makes the whole process faster.

RELATED: Dan Martell: From Moncton to Silicon Valley (And Back)

Because of my online brand I’ve been able to reach out and connect with almost anyone (investors, successful entrepreneurs) and build a community of 1M+ entrepreneurs that I direct towards a new business idea or a cause I’m involved in.

Having an online brand makes it easy for them to see I’m someone who loves what they do, gives openly and freely and am serious about life.

Business has gone from B2B (Business to Business) to H2H (Human to Human) and the new business card is your search results from Google for your name.

Judith Mackin, Tuck Studio and Tuck Interiors

Image: Submitted

It’s funny but, when I started to think about opening up a store, I didn’t really think about a brand per se. Well, only to the degree that a name is a brand, I suppose. And in terms of the inspiration for the name, what I wanted to do was suggest the warmth and charm of summer camp. Every day after lunch we would line up and go to the tuck shop. Typically, you had about a dollar or so to buy something. It was an enormous treat, something very special.  

Additionally, the name also suggests, at least to me, my connection to my parents, two of the strongest supporters I’ve ever had in my life. So, for me, the word “tuck” is very much associated with a certain informality; it’s approachable (in this regard, it probably doesn’t hurt that it rhymes with another fairly informal, much more adult word, one that starts with ‘f’).  

So often with design stores or decor stores, there’s a tendency toward a certain pretension; store names can easily put people on the defensive. I wanted to generate completely the opposite feeling: I wanted a welcoming vibe and environment, a place that you could casually buy everything from a $20 vase to a beautiful, well-designed sofa manufactured in Canada.

I really wanted the focus to be on the customers, so much so that, for the first three years, it was very important that I photographed customers in my space as part of a general thanks for being there. I also encouraged them to post pics of their items in their homes because we genuinely wanted to know what the life of the product would be after it left our store.

RELATED: What’s On My Desk: Judith Mackin

I have to confess that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our brand. I am much more focused on the means to create, and constantly update, an experience that’s essentially the same for the 13-year-old accompanying a parent looking for a quick gift purchase as for someone in the market for a complete home makeover.

A brand is only as strong as the company’s commitment to service and quality, the degree of effort and energy they’re willing to put into and behind it.  And it’s only as strong as the community it subsequently creates. You may be responsible for creating your brand, but it’s the community that has to keep it vibrant, alive and growing.”

Sean Dunbar, Picaroons Traditional Ales

Image: Picaroons

“I wish [our brand]  had all been intentional. Our brand sort of evolved through the efforts of a series of great artists and creators who all contributed to the visual definition of Picaroons Traditional Ales. I suppose I played the role of ‘spiritual advisor,’ using my gut to keep all the branding in sync with the beer. It didn’t always work perfectly but since our current marketing director, Dennis Goodwin, promoted himself from keg washer to marketing director, it’s been a much smoother path.   

I think it’s great to have a brand established. It does smooth things out a bit. However, the branding process never ends. You need to adapt to the market. We’re now an “old” brand in an emerging sector and those two things don’t necessarily match up well so we are constantly working on branding to match market expectations. In that sense, I don’t think a brand is ever completed.”

James Mullinger, Comedian

Image: Sean McGrath

I don’t really don’t know if I have one. I really do just try to be funny wherever I perform in the world, and then locally I just try to do what I can for the community. I’m busy but there is always time to volunteer for local charities and I will always do that. It’s not about branding though. I just do the things I want to do and I hope that people like it. It’s not strategic. I just do what I do and hope to keep doing it. The only thing that is planned out in what I do is the jokes. If people laugh, I keep doing them. If they don’t, I change them.

And this is kind of true for a lot of the people I look up to and admire here. People like Judith Mackin and Kelly Lawson. Their brands (Tuck and Ella respectively) are hugely successful due to them. They represent their brands perfectly because they are stylish, smart and brilliant – like their products. That’s why people keep going back to them. It’s the same with Jason Crouse. Everyone loves Jason, they know he is the best personal trainer and his company Jason’s Functional Training Studio is his brand but so is he. People flock to his classes because of what he does, but they stay loyal because of him. That’s his brand.

And I don’t know how strategic that is – I suspect it is more to do with the fact that they work extremely hard and are great at what they do. Even when you look at people who own franchises here in Atlantic Canada, they take huge pride in what they do. Someone who owns a Tim’s or a McDonalds or a Second Cup, they take huge pride in being the best representation of those stores.

That attention to detail is an intrinsically Atlantic Canadian thing. Steven Barnes, for instance, owns Yuk Yuk’s in Saint John. People like Yuk Yuk’s the brand and that’s what brings them out. But the reason they keep coming back again and again is Steven Barnes. Yuk Yuk’s is the brand, but the personal brand is Steve. Comedians want to play his club because of his, audiences flock there because Steve is there to greet them and they know he will take good care of them. That’s what it’s all about and that’s how you succeed as a business person on the East Coast.

Cait Milberry, Marketing and Content Strategy Specialist

Image: Submitted

I recognized I had a personal brand after going through a few workshops with like-minded people who elevated my skillset and passion. I personally enjoy bringing energy to the table and being a proud storyteller and content creator in the community.

That being said, by being present and giving time, organically my brand was created. Working at a marketing agency, and freelancing has had a great impact on my career in this field. I am able to see every aspect of how people collaborate, what inspires them and how it is brought to life. This impacts my life most of all because I sincerely care about the business I do with others and am 100 per cent humbled to be given the opportunity to work with great people and brands. When you are present and fully enthralled great things can really take place.

Jared Goodman, Freelance Startup Marketing Consultant

Image: Submitted

I believe branding is complex. I would even go as far to say that a personal brand can be even more complex than a corporate brand or branding for a product because… Well it’s you. In a personal brand you have to convey your personality as well as what it is you offer, who your target market is, etc. There are so many things that need to be taken into consideration.

Branding can also be very simple. For me, I had an idea for a brand that literally came to me in the middle of the night and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I just wanted to get it on paper. So I played around with some online design tools and put something together that I was very happy with. But, it didn’t work. It didn’t get the results that I wanted it to.

So I sat on it for a while and did a lot of reflecting and for me as a young entrepreneur and a young freelancer one of my most valuable resources is my network. I’m fortunate enough to have quite a few branding professionals in my network that I get to ask for advice.

If you’re going to follow this strategy I would definitely recommend always taking outside input with a grain of salt, because at the end of the day no one knows you better than you! But definitely be open-minded to implementing it. When I did that, I basically reconstructed my brand from the ground up, and I now have something that I’m over the moon happy about and I’m seeing very positive feedback and it’s something I feel very confident I’m going to be able to grow with which is something I think anyone would want from a personal brand.

For me, it started out as simple but grew more complex, and the number one thing I think I learned was to never settle with your first version. Always wait with it for at least a few weeks, and if you’re still happy with it then you know you’ve captured yourself very accurately.”