How To Build A Brand…

PART 1:

Typically I’d jump in with a nice little quip about current events and how they apply to everyday life, but this time I’m stripping down to the bare bones of my expertise and hopefully it’ll help you in all that you go to do. In truth its a writing exercise for me as I begin to document the thoughts in my mind, but I figure why not let the world benefit from what I do…

Intro.

Branding. Its the hot button topic that everyone talks about, swears they know about, feel they can build one in their sleep, but the harsh reality is that very few have any clue on how to create one, protect one and even maintain one. Personally, there is so much more about branding that I still have yet to learn. I don’t know what I don’t know, but I’m just willing to be a student and share what I do know as I am constantly asked by many people for advice and insight into what I do and have done and even how take it to greater heights. Besides, I don’t think its appropriate to charge my Grandmother a consulting fee…

I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the best brands and minds in the world in their specific arenas of influence and over the next few weeks I’m going to share insight into how to build one from the ground up. As a heads up, this can be a business brand or a personal brand, but all relates to having a effective foothold in the market. To be honest, over the past 10 years I’ve been through the ups and downs of a brand/brand building and have the battle scars to prove it. I have received award-winning, international recognition on my projects and I’ve even had to battle back from the black hole of obscurity to further establish placement and positioning. I will aim to keep these post short, but as a warning sign… this rabbit hole is deeper than we all know. A common misconception is that a brand is simply a logo, made up of only marketing and or just a word/title… While all of these components are accurate to a point, as a stand-alone they completely miss so much of the additional complexities that lie within the branding matrix… I’ll explain more in detail in the coming weeks, but for now let’s just start with the basics. So first things first…

1.) Define It.

“If you don’t know what it is/who you are… neither do we.”

Sounds simple, but this is your critical and crucial first step. The onset is created by a direct, 4-word question that you have to be ready for, “What do you do?”, but I choose to take this a step further and see it as what is really being asked in a much clearer 6-step mantra… “What do you do for me?”

Here’s the thing… like stated many times before… people could really care less about you because when it comes down to it… it is a question of who you are/what are you able to do for me? The most valuable resource on this planet is time because it is the one thing you cannot get back. (For a deeper dive in the reference on time, see: I Want My MTV.) The most important part about definition is that it is in essence the entire substance and fabric of who you are/what you represent. Basically it is authenticity wrapped up into every fiber of you or your brands’ presence. And when you can get to the very point of what you do… you can save time with other people trying to figure out what this looks like for them. I will give you a heads up… the simplest things can sometimes be the most complex only because you have to strip down all what you do/who you are into a clear, defined metric. (Example: The Tony Rouse brand is described by 5 things/words: Creative, Energetic, Bold, Custom and Defined. These are the five things that are at the very essence of who I am and what I do. Yes… it took a few “mirror moments” to get there, but when it comes down to it, this is Tony Rouse as a person, persona and a brand. It is my authentic self.) And this is the key to step one of branding… Authenticity. Whatever it is, “Define It.” and most importantly be true to yourself. When you are honest: Who you are IS what you do.

PART 2:

Las Vegas, NV — August 2007 — The Venetian Hotel

“… I rap.” These were the words I heard from my co-worker as we were engaged in a get to know you conversation amidst the sights and sounds of one the best hotels on the Las Vegas strip (the other being the Wynn) and immediately my thoughts were that of “What…Gifts?!?” As he began to explain his affinity for hip-hop in some Sperry’s and some ‘Oakleys on Croakies’… I thought, “I am being punk’d.” …But I did learn that you can’t fully judge a book by its cover or first impression because this Raleigh-raised (Burlington, NC) gentleman known on the microphone as Tab-One, was about to gain one of his biggest fans. I’ll be honest, it was immediate by no means. We were friends, but I wasn’t a full-fledged fan at that time. That actually took 2 years for us to really connect on music (This was all before he released his critically-acclaimed recording, The Tabloids), but I will say that I’m glad he laced me with that mixtape out in the desert because it was the foundation for a bond of family that still stands to this day. Its also kinda cool to know that I am friends with an internationally recognized individual living out his dreams. With his group Kooley High and band Inflowential, Tab has seen millions+ of views on YouTube, toured with MTV and even headlined my award-winning experience The Food Rave (Yep… that was a plug for Tony Rouse!). He’s just an all-around good dude that is authentic to his message of feel-good hip-hop and summertime vibes. Check at the end of this post to hear how dope he actually is…

Greetings!

This is your host Tony Rouse and welcome to another edition of Takeover Tuesday and today we are continuing our topic of conversation on “How to Build a Brand.” It was important to lead with that story of push and promotion because it relates to last weeks’ initiation of authenticity and leads us into the next step along this journey of construction. Let’s get started…

Design It.

“See It. So We Can See It…”

Many people skip steps in life and even in the construction of a project. It takes vision to have vision. I remember my time as a kid where I would always work on jigsaw puzzles. I would look at the picture on the top of the box and spend time re-creating what I saw. (The real challenge came later when I began to complete them print-side down…) But until I had an understanding of the process of putting together the pieces of the puzzle I had to depend on that picture to get me to the final result. What happens when building a brand is that you must design what you defined. The definition is the words that frame the idea, but the design is what truly brings it to life. Think of somewhat like the human body. If the definition is the skeletal and nervous system with internal organs, the design is the muscular system that makes it all works together and attract people from far and wide.

As far as design goes, graphics and interaction is everything. From the very first interaction that people have with you or your product relies on that how did you function and or make me feel. A great example is Apple. Its not the fact that Apple functions so differently from other products… its the fact that their design is intuitive and that’s what people take note of and why they have overnight lines year after year for a release of an updated iphone or new product introduction. So as you go to further establish your business and brand, remember that your design is critical to the expectation of performance. If you look cheap, customers and consumers will treat you as such.

*Check Out Tab-One’s video for Thomas Lawrence or if you prefer, here is aSoundcloud stream. As a heads up, I will say this track has 1.5 expletives and is not 100% clean so be mindful as you may want to play it at a higher volume… but it is an amazing record about living life and going after your dreams which is something I definitely co-sign. Tab is the guy in the flatscreen on the video as he is featured alongside Australian MC Coin Banks, Anders and The Ruby Horn with this record being produced by 20SYL.

PART 3:

A couple of weeks ago we began dissecting the step-by-step process of How to Build A Brand and for today’s discussion for Part 3 we are going to take a little R&R…

“R&R… As in rest and relaxation?!?” Nope. R&R as it relates to your next two steps: Rehearse It & Rewind It.

After definition and design, you must rehearse and rewind. This is the time where we explore and push it to the limits to “break the brand”. My typical approach to this is that I play a game of Worst Case Scenarios… Meaning I poke as many holes into the project or product as much as I can so that I can eliminate all points of weakness before I release it to the public. It is better for the experiment to happen in a controlled environment rather than a public display as its first introduction and possible catastrophic failure. The importance of this step of a dress rehearsal if you will is that so you can properly prepare for opening night. And if nothing else the one thing that I learned a long time ago… Practice makes Permanent.

PART 4:

As it stands today, Straight Outta Compton, the movie that depicts the storied life of rap pioneers, N.W.A., is holding the top spot for a second week in a row. It has become the second highest grossing music-biopic of all time (Walk the Line — The Story of Johnny Cash is #1) and will most likely take that #1 position this upcoming weekend since it is only $8 million dollars from that top spot. Now… I’ll be the first to say that this post is not a co-sign to lyrics and content that depict a negative reflection of law enforcement and or positions of women in society, etc. I will say, however, that hip-hop/rap at its core is a story about life as people see it and live it. It started as rhythmic poetry of honest truth used to channel emotions and feelings of a certain time and scenario. Besides, when that beat drop…

What we are looking at is how Straight Outta Compton relates to our discussion on How to Build a Brand. Not that we are even going to discuss the movie (because everyone hates spoilers), but we can look back and see how a movement was built by 5 guys from Cali.

Embrace It and Exchange It.

As you may recall in Parts 1–3 we talked definition, design, rehearse and rewind. The next steps in the process are the embrace and exchange. The embrace is likened to definition in a sense that it is all about authenticity, but this particular step takes it a bit further only because there is no doubt that this is the establishment of identity. Identity is what you do without thinking about it. It is that random quirk that is uniquely all your own. Identity is who you are with the full acceptance and complete understanding of that embodies. In a sense… identity is everything. It is that reality that my product or personal brand is the best of the best or whatever position I’ve assigned to it.

After the embrace… finally comes the exchange. Now I can take who and/or what I am and share it with the world. From a reference to N.W.A., it was an opportunity for them to share their everyday struggles and frustrations of the life that was around them through their music. The exchange is important because this is how you move into the arenas of commerce. As with everything in life, an exchange of some sort must always take place. From information to goods and services, there is always an exchange. Many times referred to as The Law of Reciprocity, in every interaction an exchange takes places that will either set you up for success or potentially shut you down and place you on a path to failure. If nothing else, remember that once you know who you are, its easy to share it with others because you no longer have to practice who or what you innately are.