Connect with us


Thinking Like A Branding Rock Star

Why you need to think like a pro in order to be a successful entrepreneur.

Dylan Kohlstadt




In a crowded market-place, you have to stand to get noticed or make your peace with being invisible and forgotten.

“Branding” might seem like just another marketing term to you, but it could mean the difference between feast or famine for your business.

A few decades ago, someone called Valentino Liberace started playing piano and performing in concerts. Legend has it that he was approached by a critic who said to him, ‘You play piano well son, but you’re not memorable.’

Liberace went away, thought about it and returned wearing a suit made of lights that went on to define his every performance and public persona, shooting him to fame and fortune as the top paid entertainer during the 50s, 60s and 70s.

A modern day example would be Lady Gaga: do you think she dresses in those outlandish outfits because she wants to? No, she wants to stand out in a market filled with thousands of pretty blonde girls with averages voices who sing pop songs.

It’s worked for them but will it work for you? How do you make this type of flashy showmanship relevant to your stationery business or your printing company?

What is branding?

Let’s start at the beginning: what is branding. Branding isn’t something that happens organically or by itself; it is the result of a conscious effort by the business to create a perception and an experience that leads to differentiation from competitors and loyalty with a preselected audience of potential buyers or users.

When I ask you how Samsung is different from Apple, at least five things should flash through your mind; from the presentation to how it makes you feel to use it. This is all a by-product of a successful brand strategy. Mediocre branding leads to a mediocre product perception.

Branding is filled with terms like ‘brand equity’, ‘brand assets’, ‘brand value’, ‘brand promise’, ‘brand pillars’ and so on. In order to be as productive as possible, let’s avoid terms that smack of jargon and just focus on the key things.

1. Get a plan of attack together

Why do you think rock stars have managers? These people know what they’re trying to achieve, which types of songs are right or wrong for their image, where they should sing and what their public image is.

Sit down with a brand strategist who understands what you’re trying to achieve and figure out the roadmap together.

Without a strategy, you’re not going to know whether you’re on the right path or not. You need to know where you are at the moment in order to effect change. Your roadmap should cover the key points below. Remember the goal is to be memorable!

2. How are you different?

Every brand needs an element that will make it stand out from competitors. Is it your location or know-how or your wide product range? It might be your cool brand or the quality of the product or experience.

Just another country singer producing cowboy songs? Do a Dolly Parton and differentiate yourself using assets other than just your voice.

Remember that using price as a key differentiator is fine when you first launch your service but isn’t a sustainable strategy when meeting the potential pricing war it will spark between you and your competitors, where ultimately nobody wins.

3. Who are you competing against?

Sun Tzu, the famous military general, said ‘Know Thy Enemy’ and as in war, it is imperative you have an understanding of the competitive landscape in order to find a gap in the market and position yourself therein.

Know who is closest to you in product offering and what they’re offering that might win your customers over to them.

Competitors make you better at what you do; they’re not to be hated or feared but competed against in order to raise your game and make you better at what you do.

Remember, this is all about standing out, so find that gap and take advantage of it.

4. What do your customers think?

Research is powerful and highly underestimated by many businesses.

Find out what your customers think of your company and service before deciding on your new brand roadmap.

  • Why do they buy from you?
  • Why are they loyal?

This might just be the essence of your brand and a reason for differentiating. You might find that your brand is just fine, and nothing needs to change, or you might realise that you’re about to be overtaken by a competitor.

Research will colour in the landscape you operate in and tell you objectively how you are performing against others.

The other day I walked into a shop and asked the sales rep about their prices, only to have another customer start telling me how great they are and why I should use them. Now that was impressive! You know you’re doing something right when your customers start convincing potential customers to buy from you.

[box style=”grey map rounded shadow”]

How to Get Media Coverage for Your Brand


5. Is your staff living the brand?

Your staff is the most important part of your brand because they are the ones who interact with your customers. If they don’t have the right values and personality you will find your customers shopping elsewhere.

Now that you know what you stand for, the key question is whether your staff has the right personality to match your brand.

Put the right people in the right roles; administrators to deal with tasks and people-oriented staff to deal with humans.

The team at Hirsch’s Home Appliances in Milnerton Cape Town, stand out to me time and time again for their exceptional ‘go-the-extra-mile’ service. Nardo, the head of PR has personally hand-delivered items to me at my offices when they weren’t in stock. This smacks of staff that live the brand.

Ann, the brand manager at Woolworths, Sunset Beach, also drove to my house to drop off items that the checkout clerk failed to pack into my bag, with a bunch of flowers. No wonder she’s won top awards year after year.

6. Barriers to entry

The trick is to make it difficult for competitors to enter the market. Service, friendly staff, product range, brand, all of these things are ways you can wrap up the market so your customers refuse to shop elsewhere.

7. Touchpoint analysis

Assess each point of contact between your company and the client.

  • Does your staff greet customers when they walk in, or are they heads-down, working?
  • Does your cashier thank the shopper for each purchase?
  • Do they go the extra mile to satisfy the customer?
  • How long does it take to answer the phone, reply to emails or get work down?

8. Non-negotiables

Certain elements are ‘non-negotiables’. Typing errors, mistakes on invoices, pricing mistakes, wrong deliveries, breakages, poor quality; if you don’t have these ‘hygiene factors’ in place it won’t matter how funky your brand or brand strategy are, and it won’t matter how amazing your service or staff are, your business won’t stand out and might not even succeed.

Those who excel at every point win the war for a share of wallet. Good luck!

Dylan Kohlstädt is the founder and account director of Shift ONE: outsource marketing for entrepreneurs. She has ten years marketing management experience in insurance, financial and property industries plus six years hands-on experience in online marketing involving web, mobile, SEO, CRM and Social Marketing and is considered a subject matter expert on all things digital. Visit for more information.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply


Brush Up On Your Personal Branding To Cement Your Success As An Entrepreneur

Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge.

Richard Mukheibir




When you run your own business, you are the brand champion and the brand ambassador – in fact, you are the brand. That is why in all the turmoil of start-up or getting a new product launched, you need to spare a moment to step back.

Think about how you are presenting to the world the brand that is so precious to you and that means so much for your future. Your clients certainly want to know and even see evidence that you are deeply committed to your brand. But there is a fine line between living the brand and letting the brand take you over and cloud your better judgement.

This is where personal branding becomes as important as your innovative product solutions or your customer service excellence. Edgy entrepreneur is one thing – but clients might shy away if they think that you have stepped over the edge and are more involved in process than delivery.

Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge:

  1. Time management: Despite traffic problems or transport schedules, getting this right is vital. If you do not make it on time to an initial meeting with a client, this will raise alarm bells. The client’s immediate thought is, “Can I trust this person’s word about delivering on time?” Time is money and not being on time could ultimately cost you money.
  2. Look the part: If you look tired, dishevelled or have poor hygiene, instead of giving you a high five for pulling an all-nighter trying to troubleshoot a new product, clients might simply think that you do not fit with their corporate culture. Ask yourself if you even fit with your own corporate culture? Is this the way you want to present your brand and your business to the world?
  3. Clear the decks: You might just get away with your office or workshop looking like a tip where only you know where to find something. But do not let that attitude spill over into the world outside.

That apparently friendly and innocent courtesy of being escorted to your car by your host when you leave the meeting could cover them checking you out. Many business people judge potential service providers or partners by their car – not the brand but what it looks like.

Is it covered in dust and badly in need of a wash? Is it full of the rubbish of several lunches on the road and a muddle of paperwork? It is likely that they will deduce that this is how you run your business and how you would run your business relationship with them. In other words, the state of your car might get you the thumbs up or put an end to what had been a promising negotiation.

You can be how you like, do what you want when you are off duty. But when you are on your own business’s time, you are your own brand and you need to live up to it if you want to make your mark.

Continue Reading


5 Things You Can Do To ‘Humanise’ Your Brand

Face it: Consumers don’t automatically trust your brand or anyone else’s. Whaddaya gonna do?

Syed Balkhi




Let’s face it, consumers don’t trust brands. Most people view companies like faceless enemies; they’re just out to make money; they’re just telling us what we want to hear. So, if your company wants to win over more customers, you’ve got to get them to trust you.

In fact, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018, more than one in three consumers surveyed ranked “trust in brand” among the top three factors, other than price, influencing their decision to shop at a particular retailer. How do you get consumers to trust your company? You do it by showing them the human side of your brand. That will inspire more trust from consumers and boost your conversions.

To form meaningful relationships with your audience, check out these five ways to humanise your brand.

Show off your funny bone


One easy way is to show off your funny bone. According to researchers from the Turku PET Centre, Oxford and Aalto universities, social laughter leads to an endorphin release in the brain and may promote the establishment of social bonds. So, if laughter can make us feel good and encourage connections between people, you should consider using it to get the same results for your business.

Not a comedian yourself? Don’t worry; you can share popular and funny content that already exists. It’s what Netflix does when the media giant shares funny images from its shows.

Showing your more playful side will help consumers see that you’re not just a business focused on selling a product; you’re a human who can put aside your seriousness and have some fun.

Related: Boutique Branding Consultancy Morake Design House

Put your team members in the spotlight

Letting consumers see the people behind the business is a powerful way to humanise your brand. If consumers are looking at just your logo all the time, they might not see your brand as human. So, put your team members in the spotlight.

Shoot some quality photos of your staff members and display them on your website and your social media platforms. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer; iPhones today can take some pretty stunning shots. You might even share your employee of the month and include a story about what makes that staffer so great. Seeing the amazing people “behind the curtain” will help consumers put a face to the brand name.

Share user-generated content

Sharing user-generated content works to humanise your brand in two ways: First, it’s exciting and flattering to the user who gets his or her photo featured on your website or social media feed. Second, it shows other consumers that you have great relationships with their peers and that those people already enjoy your products.

Instead of being asked to blindly trust a company’s claims, consumers will see real-life people falling in love with your products, which will promote trust in your brand. Example? Airbnb does user-generated content well by sharing with its followers the amazing experiences its customers are having around the world.


If you don’t have any user-generated content, ask your customers for it. Do this in an email marketing campaign; add it to your branded packages for shipping; or create a post on social media encouraging users to take a photo of/with your product and share it in combination with a unique, branded hashtag.

Related: 5 Ways To Make Your Personal Branding Statement Stand Out

Tell authentic stories

Don’t spend all your time online just talking about how great your company is; humanise your brand by telling authentic stories. Sharing real stories about your failures, hardships and lessons that you’ve learned will help customers better relate and sympathise with you. According to Psychological Science, research suggests that shared pain may have positive social consequences; shared pain acts as a “social glue” to promote solidarity and togetherness between groups.

So, tell your target audience members stories that they can relate to, instead of simply presenting your brand as perfect. You could even share stories of your customers who previously struggled but then achieved success with help from your company/product. This will not only humanise your brand, but boost sales too.

Show appreciation for your customers

Letting your customers know that you care about and appreciate them is one of the best ways to humanise your brand. So, show appreciation for your best customers by sending them company swag or offering special discounts with a personalised message.

Buffer thanked one of its stand-out customers with not only company swag, but a personalised gift. I’m sure that those customers then became lifelong fans.


Not every company can afford to send out swag to all of their best customers, but sending a gift to just a few of your rockstar fans can go a long way. For a less costly strategy, show appreciation to new customers by simply sending a welcome/thank you email. Not only will such appreciation for your customers humanise your brand, it’ll turn those customers into brand ambassadors.

Related: How A Branded Car Can Boost Your Business

Over to you

Be prepared for your business to have a lot more die-hard customers. With these tips for humanising your brand, consumers will be able to connect with your business, relate to you on a deeper level and want to have a relationship with your company for the long term.

This article was originally posted here on

Continue Reading


How A Strong Brand Protects Your Business

Brand enthusiasts are welcome to follow Kyle Rolfe’s latest thoughts on brand building in South Africa and his analysis on relevant global trends and issues via Twitter @kylerolfeSA.

Kyle Rolfe




It is all too easy for small businesses to become victims of intellectual property theft and seeing their products and services copied by unscrupulous competitors. A clear case in point is that of Woolworths, which was recently accused of copying a baby carrier made by Ubuntu Baba, having a cheaper version made in China and selling it as its own in-house product.

Woolworths eventually apologised and withdrew its product, after Cape Town entrepreneur Shannon McLaughlin exposed similarities between the retailer’s baby carrier and that made by her company, Ubuntu Baba.

Small business owners can protect themselves from having their products or services copied by developing a strong and unique brand.

Brand uniqueness and an authentically developed product will give you a level of protection in the market, as it will be more difficult for a competitor to copy your offering.

What small business owners should avoid is the “white label solution”. This is taking any product, even one manufactured overseas, and putting your own branding and packaging on it and reselling it as your own.

There is nothing stopping your competitor from sourcing that same product and putting their branding on it and selling it as their own. In this case, as a small business owner, you would have no recourse.

Ubuntu Baba’s unique brand and authentically developed product, designed and manufactured locally, is what helped the small business successfully take on a giant retailer like Woolworths. They didn’t simply take someone else’s product and rebrand it as their own, they actually designed and built their own product.

A unique brand and product will position you as more than just a reseller and will give you a certain level of strength and protection in the market. It allows clients to differentiate you from your competitors and can also positively affect their purchasing decisions, directly impacting your profitability.

Effective branding, that is well defined and distinct, will not only help build your reputation, but it will also make you stand out from the competition.

Ultimately, your brand is your business identity. It is the image that you show to your client, making it one of your company’s most valuable assets. Effective branding portrays a company’s values and attracts the right client.

A strong brand identity also has the benefit of making your company appear bigger and stronger than your competition and consumers are generally attracted to well-established companies. So, ask yourself whether your branding conveys professionalism, reliability and trust.

Continue Reading



Recent Posts

Follow Us

We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.