MY TOP TAKEAWAYS FROM MY COURSE IN BRAND BUILDING
When my team and I set out to create my course on personal brand building for the JAN Innovation Academy, I had no idea what an eye-opener it would be. Although I’d lived it – saw the letters J-A-N become so much more than I could ever dream – it was like someone was holding up a mirror, asking me to reveal my secrets to building a successful brand, on my own name no less. The truth is I had no idea, but by investigating what we did right (and what we did wrong), I suddenly understood my own brand a lot better, and it gave me so much clarity. This is what I learnt.
SELF-AWARENESS IS A BUSINESS ASSET
Building a personal brand will require a lot of self-knowledge and self-awareness. Be ready to get really (and perhaps uncomfortably) honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, about what excites you and what bores you. What do you dream about and what gives you nightmares?
There are many resources you can consult to help you gain insight into your personality and how you might be able to build a brand around it. Going through this process, I learnt that I’m an idealist (but rational), principled, purposeful, and perfectionistic. For better or for worse, these are all personal characteristics that have all helped me build a brand that I consider to be successful – with a unique identity and offering, high standards and a clear mission; as well as gathering and guiding the team around me to help carry out my vision.
LET YOUR BRAND REFLECT YOUR AUDIENCE’S STORY
I believe that much of the JAN brand’s success can be attributed to the delicate balance it maintains between celebrating heritage and inspiring innovation. By telling my personal story through a multi-dimensional brand, those who engage with JAN are offered multiple chapters to relate to emotionally. For example, some might experience a deep sense of nostalgia through the recipes of my childhood, because they grew up enjoying the same dishes. Others may relate to my dream of opening my own restaurant on the French Riviera that reimagines traditional South African cuisine. Then, there’s also my work as a photographer and stylist, which explores a whole other world. The more chapters of your story you share that reflect your audience’s own experience, the more opportunities you give them to connect with what you are doing.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS COMPETITION
It’s normal to see others who do the same things we do as our competition. A burger joint won’t, for example, be competition for the boutique next door, because they don’t have the same mission. Instead of seeing those who are on a mission similar to yours as competition, it may be rewarding to see them as collaborators who are trying to change the world in the same way that you are. If you’re being authentic and staying true to the essence of your brand, then they can’t do what you do, they can just do what they do, alongside you. This way, you will also make more friends in your industry, which is an asset to your brand, and this is a topic that Sarah Graham and I touch on in the last session of our conversation in this course.
LIVE A LIFE THAT SHAPES YOUR BRAND
In the video below, Sarah shares how her life experiences have shaped her creative voice. To refine your own creative voice, try to have as many life experiences as you can. Say yes to adventure, change and discovery — even when it’s scary. Fill your time, mind, and heart with as much of what you love as possible and allow it to shape what you create. Venture out of your comfort zone — far out — to be exposed to opinions, philosophies, and ways of being that oppose or challenge your own. Always be open to learning and never, ever, be too proud to change your ways when an epiphany demands it. Learning from those who do it differently to you is a great way to enrich your understanding of your own modus operandi, but also to understand the broader environment that you are operating in as a person, and as a brand.