Peanut butter toast & the art of successful brand building

This post is dedicated to those individuals who influenced us as young creative professionals, and helped established the foundation for our dedication to growing the influence of and talent in Indy’s fashion industry.

I was quite the stylish little one. It was common to see me dressed up in knickers, sailor outfits, and suits. My mom adopted me from Mexico and I experienced a quintessential Indiana childhood.

Starting in kindergarten, I began to spend a lot of time at my grandparents’ house in southern Indiana. They lived on farmland similar to the pictures you see on “Welcome to Indiana” postcards at truck stops. Those were my summers: riding tractors, eating well, and playing outside. I LOVE the city life but there are times when I long to travel back to that farm. To this day I miss the sound of the Bobwhite Quails, the smell of the hog farm across the street, and Hegg’s, the general store that supplied my weekly ice cream and Mountain Dew date with grandma.

My grandma was a great cook. It was normal to see her making noodles in the morning for that night’s dinner, or picking blackberries for pie. Her angel food cake was heaven!

I remember finding out she had cancer and seeing her with no hair for the first time, which was really weird for a young kid, but that didn’t stop us from playing candy land, picking strawberries, or hunting fire flies.

Then late one evening, I was listening to voicemails with my mom. My dad had left a message that “… it is over.”  Grandma had succumbed to her battle with cancer. My little heart was broken, and my world shattered.

I don’t remember most of the funeral, but I remember people talking about my grandma and her cooking.

My grandma was known for her baking — her pies, her cakes, and her noodles. But what I remember best is her peanut butter toast. I know in theory there are only two ingredients: peanut butter and bread, which seems difficult to mess up. But whenever I make peanut butter toast for myself, I am disappointed because it never stands up to hers. My grandma knew the perfect moment to add the peanut butter to the toast.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THE LESSON IN ALL OF THIS? The lesson is that your clients (existing and potential) can’t live off sweet cakes and pies – they need some good solid meals as well! As a self-employed creative trying to build my brand, my biggest challenge is quality content creation. I see others struggling with the same. It’s easy to get sidetracked by promoting yourself using gimmicky tactics: fancy websites, flashy events, celebrity name dropping, and the like. Mind you there’s nothing wrong with being associated with celebrity clients – they generate good publicity and website traffic – or putting on large-scale events – they help you reach new audiences – but make sure that at the end of the day, your brand message is clear, your portfolio kicks ass and your content is strong. And don’t forget that your content needs to be consistent both in frequency and quality – otherwise people will tune out and forget about you.

I know the above is a tall order – I admit to struggling with it myself, but I believe it’s worth the investment of time and energy. In the end, it’s the one thing that can really differentiate you from your direct competitors.

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