Episode 1 – Building Brand Foundations with Martin Sully

a man on a navy background with the words level up podcast written on it

Welcome to the first episode of the Level Up Your Brand Podcast!

Before we go too far. Let me explain, if you are listening to this episode, you’ll note that I refer to it as the Hot Metal Brand Podcast until around Episode 13 - Brandings Dark Past.

On this particular episode though, I dive deeper into the foundations of a great brand.

Taking a closer look at:

  • What branding is
  • Common misconceptions of what a brand is
  • Why you need to carefully think about all the decisions in your business
  • What branding can do for you
  • How to build strong foundations by exploring your brands DNA, your why, unique selling propositions, understanding customers, brand goals and feelings.

The feels finder download is the first task I work through with every single client. Come and grab your free Feels Finder download.

The Podcast Transcript


This is the hot metal brand podcast. I'm your host, Martin Sully, founder of Snapper Studio, a brand strategy and visual design studio in the heart of Newcastle, Australia.


And I'm on a mission to help you gain clarity in your brand and confidence in what you're selling. From thoughtful, empowering brand strategies to defining powerful visual stories. I'll arm you with bite-sized branding tools to help you grow your brand and leave your own unique mark.


Welcome back, we are talking all about brand foundations today. So I want to start by just giving a quick rundown of what branding is to me. And, some of the misconceptions around branding.


For me, branding has always been the collection of small parts that steer people's views. It's how people perceive your business and your reputation that you're growing. It's what customers, your team and your followers all think about you. And it's a mix of all the interactions they have with you. So it's a bit like a gut feeling, I guess when you think about a brand or think about a service or product. So it's that collective feeling that you have about a business. That's what branding is to me. And I guess when you're looking at it from a strategy perspective, you're trying to use visual assets to kind of amplify all the strategy parts of it, your brand. This is like conception, number one, your brand isn't just your logo. It's everything. My favourite examples of this are things like how staff reply to emails and phone calls, it's your verbal and written responses, as well as the visual side of things. It's also things like soaps you use in bathrooms, like your decision on what soap to use, whether you use an economical choice, or you go for a luxurious option. They're gonna be picked up by customers, and they will make their judgments. Okay, so these guys, you know, they go all in, they use the most luxurious things they can or these guys, you know, don't genuinely, they're not bothered whether, you know, you're using an economical one, or Yeah, it's an even crazy things like, your choice of toilet paper, they all those things that you never even thought about, have an impact and need to be thought about carefully.


And that, to me is like yeah, we I say to all my new clients and old clients, just question everything. There is, obviously yeah, that's one of the most important things that I tried to instil is to just think about things carefully before you pull the trigger. Don't just, you know, dive in straight away.


Branding is not just how it looks. Branding is also not the same as advertising or marketing. It's also not just for big companies. So little companies with modest budgets can do amazing things that you would never have been able to 20 or 30 years ago, it was, you know, you have to spend millions and billions of dollars. But with the advent of the internet and websites, you can do huge things. Social media has been a huge game-changer for lots of small businesses. And tools like Canva, love it or hate it, have given people the opportunity to regularly control their content, as opposed to having to rely on a designer or a photographer to come in and yeah, create them some content, but obviously before them the need before social media, the need for photography, videos and graphic design work was not as big and people put far more emphasis into long-lasting products like printed products that would do it work for them through the whole year. Whereas now they're having to weekly generate new content. And yeah, back up what their branding does. But at the same time that's given people so many more opportunities.


Another one that I feel is an often sort of misconceived idea about branding is that your branding will affect your sales, whether it's in a positive or negative way. Obviously, if you nail your branding, you can triple/quadruple your sales. And there's even reports of people doing like 6,000% more from it, there was an interesting thing yesterday, I saw that they had applied a story to an inanimate object and sold it. Now this story had, yeah, they'd basically given a horse's head a backstory. And this was obviously like, you know, how there was a craze 1015 years ago, where people were dressing up in all sorts of wild masks and, and stuff in music videos. And then from there, people started, to put these videos on social media. Now, when you apply a story, you can start embedding feelings and giving this person the personality. And now, that is a huge area of branding. By giving it a story, they affected the sales, they sold another one of the same thing, that didn't give it a story. And it sold for a tiny amount. But this like the one they applied the story to the sales crept up like 6,000%. So it sold for 6,000%. More. So branding gave it that huge growth, which is pretty amazing. Okay, so yeah, going back into what branding can ]do to you and do for your business.


Now, before you switch off, it's really important to audit your brand. I know that sounds terribly boring. But to keep it interesting, see it as more of a bloopers reel. I've had a few good ones in the past myself. So back in 2015 or so. I did a design for a flyer with the word public on it. Unfortunately, there were 20,000 copies printed with the L missing from the public. Just let that sink in. There were 20,000 printed. Yeah. Okay. I think that I think that that's a good blooper to kind of kick things off, but There's gonna be loads of those examples.


And it's not all about what's gone wrong. It's also what you're doing, right? And there's gonna be a ton of stuff, if you've been in branding for, or you've been, you have a brand or you've had a business for one year, two years, 10 years, there's gonna be things that you know, have a big impact, and you're doing so right.


So, analyzing your current brand is super, super important. And one thing I do like to look at is what feelings you're communicating and how well you do it. And then we need to dive into what your why is, or more importantly, how you can find it. But look, it's not a trick question that shouldn't make you squirmy like a worm. Your why has to be there to balance out and reframe the bad experiences that happen. So you need the bad experiences to sort of balance the good ones and learn from them. And yes, building a brand does take time. To master a new skill. It's said to take 10,000 hours, and there will be a bunch of imposter syndrome, frustration and other things that pop up. But when you have a clear why, the negative experiences can be turned into a positive.


If we look at mine, my why to create world-changing brands and educate and inspire businesses to build a stronger, more collaborative world, we can see that to make a positive change to the world and help people, there are going to be hurdles to climb, but long term, we are travelling towards that goal. And it's that journey towards that end goal, that is the driving force, and it's what gets you out of bed to start your work. And, yeah, hopefully, you can then break that giant goal down into lots of little accomplishable tasks that don't feel like I'm just never gonna get this done. It's gonna happen. You are going to make it happen.


We all need to take a little look as well at unique selling propositions or USPs. And write a brief summary of what makes you unique. Why is this important? Okay, so, before you dive into a marketing plan, or making a new website, generating new content, you need to understand your brand's DNA and the psychology of what your audience needs. This can be you maniacally scribbling down thoughts, and then succinctly finishing a sentence starting. We specialize in go. Yeah, moving along swiftly, your USP helps you clear up misconceptions. So like all the misconceptions about branding, branding is not marketing, it's not advertising, it's not just a logo, it's, you know, branding does add value.


And it's not just for big companies, all those things, those, they're like common misconceptions. So you'll have a bunch if you're in health and fitness, you're gonna have lots of people with general problems. And, your job is to work out how to solve the problems and talk to your audience in a way that engages them. From there, you're one thing that's going to be like key to talking to them is your brand's voice and the personality that your brand embodies. It's got to be humanized. It needs to speak to your customers and take in their feelings, quirks, needs and wants. You need to get into their brains and suck out as much useful information as possible. Your brand voice should embody their language and translate it into the problems that you're solving. But before you can humanize it, you need a brief overview of the customer and their problems. And then you can dive deeper into their psychological needs and current world events that might be affecting how they're feeling. These are going to have a huge impact as to whether they're actually in a position where they want to buy. Either way, understanding your audience is the absolute key.


I was in a master class yesterday, where the person leading it said, I bet you've got 30 tabs open on your browser right now, close them all down. And everybody was like, ah, yeah, I've probably got like, I probably had 80 open. It's these little observations that make people feel heard and seen, which is so important for then connecting people to your brand.

The second to last task that I run through is setting goals. I like setting 1 to 3 targets each year that you can actually hit, even though it's midway through the year, my first target of the year, and I do set dates on them, because that's really super important was to launch the podcast to connect to my audience in a whole new way. Then from there, I reverse-engineered how I was going to actually do it and broke it down into bite-sized chunks that I could actually do. It just makes it a whole lot less scary when you're going ah, I'm gonna launch a podcast and you're like, Ah, just frozen from not being able to make any progress. When setting goals. You need to ask yourself questions like what do I want to be known for? What reputation Do you want to have? What branding assets do we want in place? What tone of voice are we striving for? What would fulfilling our vision feel like? What do we want competitors to say about us? What do you want to create? What do you need to do to make your mark, and what would make you more magnetic?


Finally, there's an exercise that I think really helps blow brands up. Not in a bad way. It focuses on a mix of the audience and what they need, and the psychology around that. And the brand's DNA with the brand voice. So it's kind of sucking everything in together. And it's one little simple task.


And this task is actually something I give away on my website. So you can go and get this right now. And within an hour, you, you'll be kind of Yeah, you can easily complete this task. So anyway, whether you're starting a business a couple of years in, or even 30 years in, there's a good chance you've not thought about this, because it's pretty much my one exercise that I do with people that they go, huh, I've never thought about it like that. And that is like is getting you thinking about your brand.


Humans are compelled by emotions, which is why connecting emotions to your brand is one of the keys to standing out and being authentic. Take a recent client of mine, they're a clinical psychologist who is training clinicians in their methods. So it's going super deep. Being a psychologist, they will be working with anxiety and lots of emotions themselves.


But they're working emotions into their brand. And it's being driven by words like access, clarity, community confidence, inspiration, security, safety, support and understanding. And then they've got to narrow it down into three from there and start connecting people to their brand. They're going with things like community because they're using it as a way to talk to new clinicians and facilitators and train them in how they treat patients. So they're building a community around them. They are looking to instil confidence in people, they're looking to instil confidence in patients. They want to make sure people feel supported.


They can then use those emotions to make amazing shifts in their brand. They can start connecting people to their brand, they can shift the direction of their brand. They can speak to customers and make sales more easily. They can excite their customers and engage them in new ways and reinvigorate their brand visuals just by doing this one exercise. So it's crazy, just how much can be changed from one thing. I want to help find those little nuggets that go make people go boom explosive, amazingness.


I think that pretty much wraps up today, although I have one last thing to tell you about. And that is how to pick up the Feels Finder download.


Hopefully, by me explaining just how much one person got from it, you'll be able to see how you can kind of quickly apply it to your brand. It's a super amazing download. If you want to copy, you can just jump on my website, it's Snapper.Studio/download/feelings, and find it simply on the homepage or in the menu. And it takes you through a little quiz. It's a bit of fun, and more importantly, with it, you get an affirmations printout so you can pick your feelings from the list of 30 or 40. Then add those supercharged feelings into the boxes and print them out. Or ideally, you would save the paper and create a screensaver or a desktop background and save them there. The idea of making them visible is that you're held accountable so that you can say "Ah, did I do it that in that little bit of content did I focus on my key feelings? Am I taking into consideration my customers feelings?" From there you can start adding and taking away bits and auditing your brand to make it stand out even more than you already are.


Tata for now!