The Single Biggest Mistake in Branding Yourself

I learnt a lesson from my three year old today (Emily), it’ll likely save you thousands, if not more, and it reminded me of how I got started with my own business, so I thought I’d share it…

I was picking her up from school, and as we walked out, she pointed at the front of my car and said “Your car’s got Swirly Whirlys Daddy!”


“Swirly Whirly’s. Look Daddy, here.” (she points)

“And this car’s got swirly whirly’s too” (as she points to the car parked next to me).

I peered over to see what she was fingering at, as she balanced her lunchbox and daily paintings in the other hand.

Three Year Old Translation

Three year old translation: Swirly Whirly’s = The Four Audi Rings …and it reminded me of what I like to call “The Brand Trap.”

The Brand Trap is something I see business owners, time and time again, falling into the same trap: spending big bucks at the start of their business to “look the part” in branding themselves, usually thousands of their valuable start-up cash, to look like a Swirly Whirly.

The Brand Trap

Do you know someone who’s done that?

Maybe you’ve fallen into that trap too?

In his article, Your Logo Doesn’t Matter (, my friend and mentor Michael Port talked about it when he said “Close your eyes, point at the paper, pick one, and get on with getting clients.” I very much agree.

Exhibit A: My Own Journey

There are two reasons why I agree with Michael:

  1. My own journey and
  2. What I teach others today

In my own journey, I’d acquired two high paying consulting clients within the first 6 days of starting my business. On the same day of receiving $10K in advance fees, I was still to setup my bank account and register my company (though it was all done on the same day!) I was nowhere close to getting cards printed and websites built, and the lack of those didn’t stop me winning business.

And You’re Always Evolving

As I teach others today, you’re going to evolve. Whether it’s your business, yourself, or what your target audience wants from you – it’s always changing, so you’ll want – actually, I’m going to say: “You NEED to be…” nimble with your marketing and your branding. Be able to change quickly – don’t saddle yourself with thousands of dollars worth of branding, which could turn into Concrete Branded Boots which drag you down even before you’ve started because you’re spending valuable cash where it could be spent smarter – to acquire clients.

Seth Godin talks about being ready for and embracing change in Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change ( It’s a good heads up whether you’re at the start of your journey, or about to make a change. Just keep reminding yourself: “I will evolve”.

Do You Really Want Concrete Boots?

I doubt you want to make yourself a pair of Concrete Brand Boots…No. Instead, stay agile. Spend more of your time invested in listening to your intended audience so you can deliver exceptional results.

Spend money on over delivering to your current clients. They’ll tell others about the great service you give them, and guess what? You’ll get more clients…

A Foundation Is Key

Make sure you have a solid foundation so when people do visit you, they’re wowed by what you say because what you share with them gives them answers to their problems, not because you have an animated bear playing basketball on your website (yes, that’s out there).

I’m not saying go without business cards, websites, logos and the like, you do need them; there’s a checklist of standard credibility builders within Book Yourself Solid. Just don’t spend huge amounts, when you could be spending that time and money instead on your customers, or acquiring customers through measurable marketing.

I talk about the how-to’s of measurable marketing in an upcoming Teleseries dedicated to Branding, the Brand Bazaar . You can sign up for it here: Brand Bazaar from the Land of Brand.

Avoid the Swirly Whirly’s

To finish off : Don’t try and make your business a Swirly Whirly business.  You’ll never live long enough to build a brand like Audi that’s instantly recognizable by its Swirly Whirly’s.

Concentrate instead on tactics in your business that brings people to you today, this week, or at least this month.

Try new things, test it, measure it, repeat it if it works, tweak or ditch it if it doesn’t.

Stay nimble.

Feel free though, when you find out what works, to drive a Swirly Whirly (or one with a horsey, a big cat or whatever does it for you…).

I’m off now to see what else my daughter can teach me, I think she gets her smarts from her mother…

Bye for now,

Reader’s Toolbox:

Michael Ports Article: Your Logo Doesn’t Matter –

Seth Godins Book: Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change –

Jamie’s interview on the Brand Bazaar: Brand Bazaar from the Land of Brand –

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