The Death of Branding and the advent of the Personal Brand – by a Branding Agency

Yes, it’s true. Branding has been in ill-health for a while and now we have finally seen it’s demise. You probably thought that this was some sort of click-bait title but I truly think we are coming to an end to corporate branding. Here’s why.

With the introduction of Instagram, we’ve seen an influx of “influencers”. The entrepreneurs of the 21st century otherwise known as “solopreneurs“. These individuals have remarkable power to engage, entertain and ultimately influence the behaviours of hundreds of thousands of people with a single post and zero budget. More specifically, they influence the buying behaviours of those hundreds of thousands of people. It’s marketing in its finest form, something we could have only dreamed of 15 years ago but how do they achieve this? Personal branding.

Personal branding is something we’ve only really recognised in the last five years or so although (if that) although, It’s existed for many more. Take for example your favourite band when you were young. Didn’t you find yourself wanting the same clothes as them? The same hairstyle? Didn’t you find yourself wanting the same PERSONALITY as them?! This may have largely had to do with the music they were producing but It was also the narrow view of their personalites that were presented to you on MTV. They are, of course, very complex individuals but the behaviours they were best known for were always captured and this, unbeknown to them, led to their own personal brand being developed and scripted by their observers and people struck a chord with that… Pun not intended.

Fast forward to now and the same idea that a person can convince you to buy the same things they buy, wear the same things they wear and do the same things they do has been stripped away from any sort of talent and laid bare on social media leaving essentially just a personality. The impact of this has naturally made its way to the mainstream who are trying to harness the secrets of the power that it possesses.

I’m not really sure this was intentional though. I think these people did what they loved. They reviewed technology, they travelled the world, they gave an insight into their lives. It was the platforms that glamorised this stuff and made it feel somewhat special or unique. I think this stuff as always happened. It was just never possible to broadcast it so freely and easily. Granted, the first of these sorts of channels were early adopters of the technology and probably didn’t see it coming but after the impact took wind, we couldn’t help but dissect the formula of why it was so powerful.

Branding is the ability to enter the hearts and minds of a consumer. This results in price-insensitivity and a faith that is only seen in religion and cults. It’s only fair to compare this when individuals behave in the same way when it comes to the Instagram accounts of individuals and because this brand-like behaviour is seen to revolve around just a person, personal branding is born.

Interestingly, the techniques are exactly the same to establish and present a personal brand as it is to establish a corporate brand. The first being positioning. You need to occupy a space in the market where no-one else can. There are many ways to do this but you need to your own twist on things. Let’s take tech reviews as an example. There are many many tech reviewers in existence but what do you bring that’s different. Is it the manner in which you present it? Is it the particular things you focus on? The good thing is that whatever you think is different is actually pretty common, it’s just that you need to make sure no-one in the marketplace is doing that same thing in the way you do it. You need to apply that same concept to your ‘personality’. It’s important to remember though, this isn’t your whole personality, it’s just a narrow sub-set that you promote.

Once you’ve positioned yourself, you then need a set of values that you can express. Again, you are a very complex individual but it’s the values that you keep consistent in your output that is going to further position you in a unique field but also and build that brand awareness, that loyalty through consistency. As long as what you produce aligns with these values, you dig deeper into the hearts and minds of those that stumble across your output.

These are the same excercises we run in our brand strategy workshops. You can read about many ways you can build a brand but when it’s when you combine this with your product or service is when this becomes financially rewarding.

I know what you will think, “but I don’t want to be a social influencer!”. Maybe you don’t, but it’s these concepts and ideas we can harness and apply to our selves that will make the difference. We’ve started to realise, people don’t buy what you do, they buy other people so if you can build a personality that is consistent and accessible, then those followers will inevitably buy whatever you are making money from (hopefully your product or service). They also build trust in you and what you do, so as with any brand, it’s the long-term effects that see ROI. When was the last time you made a sale over the telephone? It’s much more effective to make a sale face-to-face and if they already have access to your personality you’re already lowering buyer resistance and they already feel like they know you.

In summary, I think we need to focus on producing content for our business less and produce content on ourselves more. Give people a subset of your personality that’s relevant to your product or service using the platforms available and do it in a way where you are providing value to them. Present it on the platform that your customer is most likely to be on (another aspect of building a brand), but keep it consistent. It doesn’t need to lie. It just needs to be consistent. This will naturally grow a following and will, in time, convert as you will attract people that are into what you do. Their perceived value of your services will grow because social-proof is a thing and you can inevitably end up charging more as you have price-insensitivity on your side.

I honestly can see a future where more emphasis and marketing money is spent on the individuals and employees of a company to promote and do things based on their personal brand rather than traditional methods. As long as what they are doing are in some way linked to the business.

How we moved from hourly to fixed pricing

Jupiter and the Giraffe established itself in 2016. Since then, we priced ourselves at an hourly rate. A rate for development and a separate rate for design. We were convinced that it offered the best of both worlds; low prices that the client loved because they only paid for the work we produced and (for us) a reduction of trigger-happy requests from the client – they only asked for what they believed was necessary. One of the reasons we were wary of using fixed pricing when we first started out was that we knew we needed to accommodate the many unknowns in a project. This meant we often had to quadruple what we thought it would cost if we charged at an hourly rate. That felt very uncomfortable at the time so we would often use this as an argument to the client of why we felt hourly rates worked best.

Two years in and with the experience gained from working on many varied projects within a diverse client portfolio, we soon began to realise the downside to charging hourly. We came to the conclusion that although our original inclination to charging hourly had its positives, it also severely undermined us as experts in our field and punished us for our efficiency. Here’s why.

The simplest way to describe this is that if we were feeling particularly productive one day, we have been known to set up a WordPress website in just four hours. If someone charging the same rate did not have the expertise or efficiency to do this in this amount of time, but took two days, they would be paid a lot more, whereas we would just charge for two hours. “But why don’t you just charge more per hour”, I hear you ask? To illustrate this, let’s take a website design. With a few workshops under our belt with a client, we could spend weeks perfecting the design; the right font choice, the perfect complimentary colours, the perfect layout. We could easily charge tens of thousands for a website with that amount of work and that’s just for the design alone. On the flip side, we’ve been in an initial one hour preliminary meeting where in this meeting, we have scribbled what became the final design for Boombocs’ website. We still have that initial sketch somewhere! Although, on this piece of work, we did do many iterations to come to the final design, this is indeed an occasion where our experience really can allow us to create great work in just a short amount of time. Should we really be punished for this for when it takes so little time? It takes years of experience to hone this skill, the education, the tireless hours of study and craftsmanship to get to this point and we need to factor that into our rate. We began to see a hole in our hourly logic.

Since then, we charge with what we believe to be ‘value based’. This means we tailor our prices to how much value our work is likely to bring the client. Nike is likely willing to pay millions for their branding because they are a world recognisable brand and will gain a lot of exposure for their campaigns. This doesn’t mean the campaign is any better than what someone else could produce. The branding agency is also not likely to charge this sort of money to their other clients. Here, it’s priced on value.

We also believe setting a fixed rate means we can offer a process and a promise that the work we produce is of the best calibre. We’ve experimented with a tier system that offers the client different options at different price brackets that will result in the same product but with shortcuts made so that we can offer it for less and more advanced features can be added at a cost. We found the client often doesn’t have the reasonable amount of technical expertise to understand what paying more will get them and the lower tiers will of course get them what they desire so will choose the cheaper option. During the production of work, working to this lower tier, we felt like we were cheating them. That we KNEW they had made the wrong choice. We were transparent in why they should pay for certain features but they opted out so this is something we had to reconcile with. We WANT to produce the best work we possibly can but when we want to go that extra mile, we often thought “the client hasn’t paid for that service” so would hold back. We’re proud of every piece of work we’ve done but sometimes we’ve had to restrict our output for financial reasons given the client chose not to receive that service.

One last point is that we hate saying “no” to things. We never want to let the client down and we want to be as accommodating as possible. This means if a new request comes in or a change at the last-minute needs to be made, we should always answer “yes” with a smile on our face. The only way we can guarantee this is by pricing ourselves and our expertise at a reasonable rate. This promise, along with our guarantee for the best means we now price ourselves at a fixed fee whereby we follow a formula in the way we produce work. We scope out what the client needs based on our findings and we decide what we need to do to get them there and we give them a price.

We’ve made a few mistakes along the way but it’s all in the name of experimentation and discovery and it’s through these learnings we were able to establish how we work and what we need to do to make our clients happy and produce the best work possible. Hopefully, this will serve as a lesson to agencies first starting out and get them pricing themselves efficiently from the start.

Check out our portfolio and follow our journey so far!