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Episode 102: Brand Versus Branding (minisode)

Lisa chats about the responsibility we have as creatives and what the difference is between brand and branding. This minisode dives into the possibilites that lie in store for creative folks and how we can have a bigger impact with our work.

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Episode Transcript

Lisa: Welcome back to Outside by Design. Today it is me, Lisa, the owner and founder of WHEELIE and coming along for the ride with you. Whatever you're doing, sitting in your office or riding a bike or running, walking… it's an honor to be between your ears. So thanks for bringing me along.

And today is a mini-sode. So it is me talking to you about things relevant to living a life of creativity within the outdoors or in the outdoor industry. And that can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but I decided that we should start doing more minisodes on the podcast. Sometimes it'll be me. Sometimes it will be Iris. Because I think that we were sort of negating the impact that we can have as WHEELIE and also explaining what WHEELIE is, which is a creative agency, which was still like, well, what is that? Because all people have agency, how can a business have agency? Or be called an agency? Which I think is hilarious and ironic. But I thought it was a great opportunity to provide our listeners like you with more thought leadership straight from a creative agency who works with tons of brands in the outdoor industry.

So for those of you who don't know... I tend to gloss over it very quickly. Oftentimes if you meet me in public or when I'm traveling, it always cracks Jessica, our Operations Director, up when I meet people and sometimes they ask what we do and I'll say, “Oh, I work at a creative agency.” And I don't really talk about the fact that I own it or started it or that path. And so super fast - it's weird for me to talk about, but - I started this agency when I was 22 from a laptop. Thinking that I wanted to snowboard all day. I had just graduated college. I was doing the ski bum thing. And then, and I thought, well, I might as well use my design degree.

So I was living in Crested Butte and I would snowboard all day, work at night, hand out business cards on chairlifts and just hustle my face off. I snowboarded like 120 days a year, every year. And I worked all night and I didn't party. And I just hustled a lot. And that was, like, me throughout my early, mid, late twenties. Started hiring people. So that was an interesting journey. And now we are stationed in Whitefish, Montana, and have been around for 11 years. And we get to work with brands all over the country and people all over the country. And it's amazing. And our crew is awesome.

I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of being a business owner instead of an entrepreneur. That is advice from a friend, Dave, who says to be a business owner, not an entrepreneur because entrepreneurs need to be needed and business owners can take vacations and their business grows while they're gone. So food for thought around that.

But what I want to talk to you about today is not me or my journey or leadership. It is this idea of sort of the responsibility that you have as a creative. And I think that creative work often gets under mined. People are like, “Oh, pitch to me, prove to me, tell me your ideas for free. And then if I like them, I'll pay for them.” And it's like such a distorted situation when that happens.

But I think that creatives often - myself included - often undervalue the big picture of your purpose in the world and that the beauty of creativity… there are a few different things, first of all… well, there are lots of things. But the beauty of creativity is that you have this gift of visual communication or verbal communication or video communication, and you can change the world. You really, really, really can.

And graphic design solves problems, fine art raises questions. And so if you're a fine artist, you're like, why is the world this way? What if we looked at it this way? Like, fine art is beautiful. And it's made to instigate thinking and questioning. And graphic design is made to solve communication problems or help people navigate through a city or, you know, with maps or signs or logos, help people identify what a business is and what they do and what it feels like to interact with that business.

And so those two things as a creative, you get to honor both of those things. And I think the most powerful work is when you as a commercial creative or doing commercial work, bring some of that fine art questioning into it and that thinking. And then you kind of raise the question and solve the problem at the same time. Which can be lofty, but it also is a really big deal because as you work with bigger and bigger brands, as we work with bigger and bigger brands, the realization that these brands have impact and reach that is so much larger than that of a smaller brand to be honest.

Zooming way the fuck out, like, let's just talk about Oprah for a second. Oprah can do more in her life with like one social post or give a car, you know, like Oprah has such a huge audience that she can do more in one post than I probably could in my entire career at this point, or that we have at WHEELIE to this point, right? Like, that's where you go huge. Like, the impact can be massive.

And so if you are a marketing manager at a company like Nike or Solomon, North Face, any of our amazing companies, any company whatsoever, even if it's small - you get to think about... what is my responsibility in this role? And what is my impact? And what does it mean if I post this particular photo? What does this symbolize? What do these people look like? Who is this representing? What is the difference between the lyrics and the music? You need to be able to communicate the music and the lyrics, because if you're just throwing out captions, you're throwing out lyrics and you're not really looking at what the song is about, what the music sounds like.

And that is kind of a heady thing to think about, but it is a massive responsibility. And so when you think about sort of the weight of your role as a creative, it's exciting, right? It might be intimidating, but I hope that it's exciting. And you get to think about, well, what, what am I saying? And what does this brand stand for? And how does different music sound different to different people, right? Everybody at work makes fun of me because I pretty much am obsessed with the Lumineers still. I love them so much and so much. Not everyone loves the Lumineers, but they just sound good to me. And their words and their music resonates with me as a person and that's going to be different for everyone. And so you kind of have to think about too, if I'm making a social media post on behalf of a company, how is this going to land with a lot of different people? And it's hard to predict that, but you just try to encourage lots of voices and lots of lenses, lots of people behind and in front of the lens and get educated and be thoughtful and mindful. You can always call us. We do consultations on that for marketing managers all the time. So go to if you're interested in contacting us around that, because it's a huge conversation and kind of a personal one most of the time. But we're happy to go on that journey with you.

The other thing I want to talk to you about is the difference between brand and branding. Brand and branding. And recently we were interviewing for an open position here at WHEELIE and that was one of the interview questions. What's the difference between brand and branding. And, like everything in life, there's a million ways to do something, a million ways to approach it. A million beautiful answers to that.

The way that I answer that question is that your brand is what someone says about your business when you're not in the room to explain it or defend it. So your brand is how people describe it when no one else from the company is around to be like, “Oh, okay, actually that's missing, you know, you're missing this huge aspect of the business.” Your brand is essentially this living, breathing thing out in the world that people are interacting with and talking about putting their lens of the world onto it. And so their perception of your brand, their perception of your business totally in its habitat and in their interactions, that is your brand. And branding is the intention. It's a verb. Branding is when you intentionally craft messaging to help support the brand that you want people to experience. And branding is so fun.

I think branding, the act of mindfully crafting things from a creative standpoint to assist a company and its business goals to help people find the gear that they need or the service that they need. You're connecting people. You're explaining things. It’s a beautiful, beautiful, very difficult job. And that's why creative work is hard and expensive because it's a lot to wrap your head around.

And also everyone is their own lens of the world into your brand. So the branding is putting a hell of an amount of thought and effort and consciousness into that work, to support the brand that you want to put out into the world. Think about that, think about how you work with your brands and what type of branding you do to actively support that brand that you want to exist.

Think about your role as a creative and the platform that the brands have that you work for or work at, or work with, like that you can do so much good. That ripple effect begins on a platter handed to you by a brand and with a large audience. And how are you going to use that? How are you going to create meaning and thought and intention in everything that you do from a creative standpoint?

So. It's some heavy shit. Welcome to twelve minutes of my thoughts.

Next week on the podcast, you get to hear a conversation with Dawn Rae Knoth. She is so cool. We already had this conversation. That's one of my favorites of the season. She is a trend, color, and merchandising director, and she helps clients build brand impact by being that critical link between creative direction and business goals through color. So she's responsible for why certain objects in the outdoor industry is the color that it is. And why your jacket is yellow or orange or blue. That's largely a decision that Dawn Rae has guided. How cool is that?

So next week, make sure you tune in for that, because it’s one of my favorite episodes of all time.

Anyway, thank you for being here. Have a wonderful day and feel free to reach out as always via Instagram, the website, email, and I'd love to talk to you and nerd out on all this brand and creative stuff.

Alright, have a good day. Bye.

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