About the Episode
Welcome to today’s episode, I’m so excited to introduce you to Zuzana Zapletal of MedleyThink. She’s a brand strategist, web designer and creative problem solver. Zuzana approaches branding and web design using creative thinking to promote a bit of “brand therapy.” Her work is packed with knowledge, collaboration, and fun. Zuzana and I met online in early 2020 and she’s helped me understand my brand on a deeper level so that I can show up with confidence online – plus this work was the catalyst for the origin of Entrepreneurial Outlaws.
Today we’re going to address common brand misconceptions, why branding is more important than marketing, and some really great action steps you can take today so that you can fall in love with your brand (maybe for the first time). Grab your notebook and enjoy!
Topics discussed in episode #43
- Why confidence has to be the cornerstone of your branding
- What exactly branding is and how it supports the growth of your business
- What you should be focus on instead of colors, fonts, and patterns
- Zuzana’s advice if you’re struggling with forming your brand
- How understanding your own brand and branding will make outsourcing a social media manager or content writer so much more successful
- Allowing yourself to choose what feels right for you and to do business on your terms
Zuzana is not your usual logo designer. She’s a creative problem solver.
She loves being artistic, but what she loves even more is coming up with creative solutions to people’s problems. And while she has a Master’s Degree in Industrial Design (and was taught the right thinking to design anything from a kettle to a car), she missed something in that career path.
With some time and self analyzing, she found out this “something” that she was missing, was helping individual humans succeed. She found out she loved seeing how the work that we do together makes people excited & full of joy, and she enjoys the partnership she builds along the way.
When she thinks about my approach to branding & web design, she would call it a brand therapy. She helps my clients analyze their vision, the problems they & their audience face, and she uses her creative thinking to find the solutions.
Connect with Melanie here:
Speaker 1 (00:04):
Welcome to entrepreneurial Outlaws Zuzana. I'm really looking forward to chatting with you today.
Speaker 2 (00:11):
Hi Melanie. Thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited about talking to you too.
Speaker 1 (00:16):
Yay. So before this, I introduced to a little bit, but I would love for you to take a moment just to tell all the outlets, listening, who you are and what you do in your own words.
Speaker 2 (00:30):
So I am a brand strategist and designer who strongly believes that the confidence you have in your brand and business is a little bit more important than the brand aesthetic. And I don't know that it's a very controversial statement, but when you think about it, the confidence you have in your brand is really the first step on the journey to have a successful business. If you are not confident in whatever you're sharing, you will have a hard time sharing it, no matter how beautiful it is, but if it does, I'm sorry, if it doesn't feel right you won't be so eager to tell the world about it.
Speaker 1 (01:11):
Yeah. I love that. And I think that's, so it's such an interesting way of thinking about branding as well, because I think there's a lot of misconceptions and we're going to chat about some of those today. And I know there's a lot of mistakes that we all probably make. And when you and I have spoken about this before, because when we connected, we talked about some of the mistakes that I was making. So let's dive into, I guess the biggest question that I probably have for you. And I think everyone listening is probably really wanting to understand what is branding and how can, how does it support a brand's growth?
Speaker 2 (01:49):
Yes, that is a really interesting question. And when you go to Google, there's going to be so many different theories and explanations of what branding is. In my eyes, I, I can tell you the difference between brand and branding, because these two are not the same things. Your brand is how people perceive you on the outside. But branding is all the actions you take to build this perception. So branding is a verb. It is an action. It is something that in theory, as long as you have a business, it never ends. And that's a good thing. It, that shouldn't be scary to you. It should actually be a little bit relieving that it's not something that you have to set in stone when you're starting, but it is something you should start with. It is something that you should kind of ponder about.
Speaker 2 (02:46):
You should make sure that whatever the definition is for you, that you want to be doing feels right. And then it can evolve with you the same way as you, as a person evolve in your business. So to answer how it can support the brand's growth while it sets the direction for your growth, right? The branding is the action. That is the website. It is a logo that is the foundations, the values that you have people you want to work with. So that alone should set the direction in what do you want to grow? And it should also help you transform the one-time buyer into a loyal fan, into someone that's going to want to brag about your brand that will tell their friends, their clients that, you know, they will be really like cheerleaders for you. So that's branding, the action of branding can help you do
Speaker 1 (03:41):
That is okay. I just feel like my mind was blown in so many different ways. Then one of the things that you just said was how branding is an action. And that was, I was like, oh my God, we need to, we need to keep that, that either it has to be a quote, but also the fact that it's not something you do and then it's done. And I think that is huge because that's definitely a, a mistake that I made in the beginning because, and we'll get into this. I know, but like I was like, oh, it's, it's a logo and it's your colors and it's your fonts. And, you know, and then that's it. And you're done. And it never has to be anything that you focused on ever again. But by the sounds of it, that's not the case. And actually it's an ongoing process.
Speaker 2 (04:27):
Yes, exactly. Your logo and forms and colors and patterns and textures and everything that you can see visually that is your visual identity. Okay. It is like, you're a person that does the clothes that you're wearing. That's the hairstyle that you currently have, but it is not who you are as a person. It is just the interpretation of how you currently feel as a person. And that may evolve with you as you grow, as you change surroundings, you know, you move somewhere, you meet new people that may change. But the important thing is that it is changing intentionally and that you do know the reasons why it is changing so that why branding is knowing what your foundations are and how you want to spread them to the world. You know, what your values are and how you want to actually action them. You know, how are they actually present in your business?
Speaker 2 (05:26):
It is about knowing who your ideal client is and why these people are the ones that you will love interacting with as opposed to someone else who maybe is not the perfect person for you. So it is really like them, like a little person, you know, the insides of a head of a, of a person and how you want that to show to the world. And that's what people connect with. Again, the same as with connecting with humans, they don't connect with your quotes or your hairstyle. That may be the first thing they see. And did they kind of, that's the starting point to talk about, but it is not why they become your best friends.
Speaker 1 (06:08):
That, that is, that is really, that's really powerful because I can see you use the word intent. You used the word intentional. And I can see from my own experience with what I thought was branding and how it was actually very kind of chaotic and not intentional at all. You know, I was changing my logos, my color palettes. I was picking new fonts, like the whole thing. And I was constantly attracted to changing these visuals, but it didn't, it didn't solve a problem. And it definitely caused me to overthink what I was doing. So why are we so attracted to changing the logo, the color palette, the fonts, all that kind of stuff, which isn't really what people come to you for. Like, it's what they see, but not how they become your friend. I loved that way, that way of describing it. Why are we so attracted to changing these visuals and overthinking our branding?
Speaker 2 (07:18):
I think, and you touched on that. I think it's happening because we focus on the wrong problems or in a better word. You focus on wrong solutions to the problem that you have. Cause the problem that you probably have is like, you don't feel comfortable. There's the feeling of something doesn't feel right, but you can't put a finger on what it is like something's missing, but you have no idea what it is. So the first thing you focus on is what everyone can see. So the visuals, you know, that's like the, the first focus point of, of everybody you included. So you start playing with that, you start tweaking it, you tweak it over and over again, but because you don't have any understanding of what the problem actually was, why it didn't feel right? You will end up doing just that, just tweaking it over and over without any agenda, without any reasoning, without any plan.
Speaker 2 (08:20):
And you won't most likely feel any more comfortable with the final result or than you felt before. And if you do, it's going to be a very short term solution because you will feel like, okay, I fixed something. It feels a little bit better. You're going to be using that for a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months, but then it's going to come back to you and it's going to be like, yeah, I mean, I changed it. It is timing better, but it still doesn't feel right. And honestly, so many entrepreneurs do that. And especially solopreneurs and me down that in the past, because you know, the saying shoemaker's wife goes barefoot. It definitely applies to, and I can say confidentially, it applies to most designers. It applies to copywriters and their copy, their own copy sucks. And it's just because we tend to focus on the outside world. We tend to focus on what people think about us and how it looks like, but we are not good when we're alone with our own brain. So the minute we are along with our own brain, we keep over thinking things. We keep changing our mind. We keep having so many different ideas and so many potential directions we could go with and options that it just overwhelms us. So we tend to not go there. And that's the biggest problem.
Speaker 1 (09:50):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, for sure will attest to the fact that it's, you know, we have this all the time where we're great at solving other people's problems, but not so good at doing the same stuff for ourselves. Like I think, yeah, I think that's the same across the board. And I think it's really interesting because something, you said that you had talked about the, the idea of like your branding being like the clothes you add and not being something that somebody sees, but not necessarily why they become friends with you. And it made me think, you know, it's, it's almost like fiddling about with an outfit before you go out and constantly being unhappy with maybe the clothes you're wearing it, because actually you're really, self-conscious because of some other reason. So you're constantly changing the outfit to hopefully, you know, boost that confidence when really that's not going to solve the problem.
Speaker 1 (10:42):
And I think that's so interesting. I think it's, you know, and I say that now, knowing that it's okay, right. It's like a permission slip. Like we've all been there, we've all done it. And it's interesting because when I started my business few years ago, I really felt like there were some things I needed in place to be taken seriously and a logo like a brand was one of those things, but I saw, I didn't understand branding. And so for me, it was, you know, again, it was like just the sun particular visuals. And I was trying to put on this like outfit to really help me feel like a proper business owner. It was like trying to put on a power suit when really I was probably in my pajamas and I was really, really uncomfortable being in the online space. And now that I know that a logo is not going to be a deciding factor for a client, it's not going to be a reason why they choose to work with us or not. There's going to be Outlaws listening to this who are just saying out in their business or have been doing business for a little while and maybe are still feeling struggle with branding and really understanding about that foundation. What advice would you give to them?
Speaker 2 (12:02):
That's an interesting question. So I think I would give them the advice that especially if your idea of the business and of the product and whatever it is that you want to be doing, be doing, if there is still forming, if it's not a done deal, focusing too much on the perfect visual identity will not help you get there, it will help you feel just a little bit more legit because there's going to be the comparison factor. You're going to be comparing yourself with everybody and their mom. And the sad thing is that if you compare yourself, your brain will always make it sound like you come out short. You're always going to be the first one. You know, you're never going to be the better one. So the comparison is going to be a big one. And yes a really cool visual identity will make you feel a little bit better, but it is not something that's going to sell your products.
Speaker 2 (13:09):
It's not going to be something that's going to build a loyal fans. As I said, people may like your head or your jacket, but they're not going to become your best friends because of it. You know, it will be the conversation starting point. And from, for dead reason, I think you should not have completely sucky visual identity. You know, I would, I would focus on like a mediocre is fine. So it doesn't offend like eyes of anybody in a sense of like, they would say, this is terrible. I do not want to interact with that. So for mediocre, that's fine. And figure out the foundations of what you want to be doing, what your passions are, what you're really comfortable offering people and helping people with, because you do know that you can deliver these solutions and it will become really easy, easy, Dan, to kind of figure out what the personality of your business is, how you want to be perceived. Is it going to be calm or fun or bold or rebellious? What is it? And then step by step, you will be going to, you will go to the right visual direction as well. So it's going to become much easier, easier to craft something that really feels right. And it is a long run. I realize that, but I do think it's better to focus on the foundations with mediocre visuals rather than the other way around having perfect visuals, but just mediocre in size.
Speaker 1 (14:44):
Yeah. Well, I really appreciate hearing that. I think that's a really, again, a really great permission slip for listening. If anyone feels that way, you know, it's, I see that to me, it's like a huge lesson that perhaps I didn't learn quick enough or didn't learn fast enough in my business. I learned it eventually, but I mean, after I spoke to you, that's, that's what I actually learned the lessons. But it's, it's so true that we put these band-aids on these kind of bullet wounds and our businesses, the things that we're really feeling or the things that we're really struggling with. And I love the way you explained that, you know, it, it's more, it's a long game and it takes more than just those visual identities. And I know that a lot of the time when we're navigating our entrepreneurial journey, as we kind of go through those first few years of business, we kind of get to the point where maybe we're looking to invest in some way.
Speaker 1 (15:46):
And a lot of the time we hear very standard suggestions or recommendations of like who you should hire and what you should invest in. And one of the things that I've seen working in marketing and in social media is a lot of businesses who think they are ready to hire a content writer or a social media manager, but they find it really hard to get the results they want. And I know you have some thoughts on Brandon, Brandon, Brandon branding, thus is marketing. So can you go through that with us? Cause I think it's really, really important conversation to have.
Speaker 2 (16:23):
Yes, I can definitely do that because I have a strong opinion about this one. And that is no matter how you look at it, you cannot market something that has no depth that you don't know what you're marketing. How can you, how can you sell? How can you market something that you have no idea what it is? You know, you don't know who you're talking to. You don't know the tone of voice that you should be using. You don't know how you want to make them feel. You don't know exactly what the solutions that you're providing are, you just don't know the foundations of your business. And that is the branding, right? There is the, that is the foundation that you ideally should have that will make you feel much more confident about everything. And once you have debts, then you can take it and hire a content creator or Facebook ad manager or anybody that, you know, you want to work with.
Speaker 2 (17:25):
And you can really focus on spreading the message to the world, but you know, not having the message and trying to spread it. How do you think that's going to go? Obviously nobody's going to listen because there's nothing to listen to. Or if you, if you still craft something, it's going to be so vague. It's going to be speaking to everybody. It's going to be trying to all the problems out there. It's not going to be specific or unique enough for anybody to really take their time and listen. So I do really think that branding is the foundation part of marketing. It is not, those are not two completely different words and completely different directions because of my initial explanation of branding being the action of building your brand. Right? And one of the action is obviously actionable marketing. So you can, you know, when you take a branding and the way you're trying to shout about your brand to the world, it can be having a website. It can be having social media, it can be running ads to both of these places. It can be having a person that is creating content for either of these places. It can be hiring a designer, it can be all different things. And that all falls under branding action of creating brand. So marketing is one of them.
Speaker 1 (18:51):
And then I think when I heard you say that, I was like, that's really interesting because so often again, I think it comes back a little bit to this kind of bandaid. This band-aid practice that we have kind of come up against in all my business, which is that we see the biggest problem, for example, as being like, let's just say Instagram. So we're like, well, my Instagram isn't growing. And we assume that that has to be because of our content. Now it might be, it might be that it's the content, but I do agree that a really solid understanding of your branding and who that person is, it makes it's going to make the content writer and social media manager's job a hell of a lot easier, please, because it is that much harder to write for other people or craft captions and content that is going to engage with people when you don't know who you're speaking to.
Speaker 1 (19:54):
And I think that just by, you know, oversee, we've already spoken, create, you know, prior to this we've, we've tried for, you know, for a year now, but just by hearing you say this today, what I'm understanding is that we have an entire misunderstanding of what branding is. Right. I think for so many of us, we think of, we don't understand that branding is actually all those foundational pieces. And so I'm really glad that we've had this conversation because I think it's so important to understand that actually branding is the foundation and then it leads to all of those other pieces and, you know, having the permission slip that we can have media commercials, the on an eyesore is really nice too. Yeah,
Speaker 2 (20:36):
For sure. And you know, you said one thing and it is the, the fact that if your Instagram isn't working Instagram specifically, it's probably because of the content marketing and that's right. That's 100%, right. I mean, with Instagram, that's probably the only reason that you can see, but the problem is that you cannot crop the content. If you don't have something to speak about, if you don't have the content pillars, if you don't know what you are really strongly passionate about, and you can teach it to others and you can solve the solutions for others and who those others are, you know, so it is the problem is content marketing. That's the problem that you can see on the outside, but there is a much bigger iceberg kind of problem on the inside.
Speaker 1 (21:22):
Yeah. It's like, it's like the personal development phase for entre, you know, for marketing, it's like this, this deeper in a wound that we have to like work through and really understand. And I think so many of us, I mean, for myself included in so many of the people listening who have said this to me, is that like the ideal client exercises and things like that, they can be really, really hard to, to work through when you're first starting out because of that lack of certainty or lack of understanding of who we're speaking to. And I think this is why so many businesses and brands kind of start accidentally, right? You kind of, you're talking about something you're really good at and people start asking about it and that happens more than we realize. And I think that happens a lot because you're talking about something you're passionate about and you're talking and you happen to be talking about it to the right people.
Speaker 1 (22:10):
And it's definitely not the norm, but it's, you know, it still happens. And I think that's where we see those differences between, you know, starting a business and being uncertain of who we're speaking to and then seeing businesses who are really solid in their messaging, but it doesn't always mean that it was easy. And you know, again, it's like take it with a pinch of salt, you know, we don't know everything that's going on, but yeah, I think it's, it's so important that we, we understand these pieces and that I think the way you've explained it is so different to the way let's say business coaches explain it. And I think that's another thing that's really important is like hearing it from somebody who does this for a living is very different to hearing it from someone who maybe this is like one very teeny piece of their knowledge about business. And so that's really important as well to point out.
Speaker 2 (23:02):
Yeah, thank you so much for saying that. And I'm also still learning, right? I'm in this business doing what I do for the past, let's say five years. But even during that time, I evolved from a quote unquote, just a logo designer to a brand strategist and designer. And it also took me a while to really understand the foundational pieces about myself and what I am good at and what I love teaching and what I can really help people with. So that's why I'm saying, I know it personally, it is not a one-time job. It is not a decision that you make. It is like a journey that you're on and that keeps evolving, but having the foundations will help you stirred the journey in the right direction as opposed to going to a completely opposite direction. So that, that's what it means. And you can always kind of change even the foundation pieces.
Speaker 2 (23:58):
If, if three years from now, it doesn't feel right anymore. Maybe your values changed a little bit, something evolved. You can also rewrite that. But what is important is that for the time being, whether it's a year, 2, 3, 5, 10, you do have the foundations written down. So you can always come back to it. You can, whatever you do in your business is a reflection of these foundations. So it's not at the moment decision, you know, it's not, you're not going to be tweaking the colors anymore. Maybe just like a little shade, if you need like a tiny bit darker because of contrast something like that. It's, you know, you can do that. And if you need to please do, but you won't be changing the color palette altogether because it will have the feel that you wanted it to have. It does speak to your audience. So why would you change that?
Speaker 1 (24:51):
Mm, yeah, I think that's, that's really interesting as well. The idea that, you know, as we evolve things will shift. You know, I think we can have more than, you know, despite everyone saying, oh, like, what are your five core values? We can have many more core values. And actually it's more about what are your, what are your core values right now? You know, I think what are your values in this kind of season of your business? And it's not to say that you don't find other things valuable, but you know, it's going to depend on the work you're doing. And so many businesses do evolve over time from, you know, service-based work or coaching in a one-on-one capacity to then developing programs or courses and memberships. That is the way we tend to see businesses evolve. So it makes sense that over time you might be speaking to a slightly different audience and even, even a slightly different niche within that audience as well.
Speaker 1 (25:44):
A good example of that is when I first started in health and fitness, as I saw certain women that I was working alongside become moms, that business men ended up gearing towards maybe prenatal or postnatal, they weren't changing their entire business, but they were maybe changing who they were speaking to. And I didn't change the colors. It just probably changed the conversation. And that's, again, their mission and reason for starting their business was the same, which is, I think really important to, to understand that the reason you start your business is probably going to mean it's going to be the same throughout. It's just, what's important in that moment or that season of your business.
Speaker 2 (26:22):
Yeah, absolutely. I so agree with that. And it's, it's really important for you as a business owner to kind of realize this, you know, because it's going to be so much less pressure, you're going to be putting so much pressure on yourself when you realize this, that it is something that is supposed to evolve. It is not supposed to be set in stone. And the only important thing is that you do feel comfortable with whatever you define for yourself and you keep executing it until it doesn't feel right anymore, then it changes.
Speaker 1 (26:58):
Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I love that. Thank you so much for that. I really appreciate this conversation. I think it's so, so important. So we are almost at the end of today's episode, but first I have to ask you the question, the question, what does being an entrepreneurial outlaw mean to you?
Speaker 2 (27:21):
Hmm. Okay. So to me it comes back to the feelings because it is like a permission slip to choose what feels right, as opposed to how it should be. And that can go for many different areas of running a business or even living your life. Right. It's just, but obviously it is an entrepreneurial also. So let's talk about the business portion. You talk a lot about marketing and marketing techniques that are taught by certain people and that don't feel right. And that's exactly what it means to me to, I wanna, I wanna feel comfortable. I wanna feel like I'm not doing something wrong. I'm not being a bad person. That's how I want to feel when I'm doing marketing. And when I'm talking about my business. So just choosing what feels right to me again, having the reasons why it does feel right to me, it's really important that that's what entrepreneurial outlaw means to me.
Speaker 1 (28:26):
Yay. Thank you. And yes. Yeah. We're definitely here for doing it on our terms and what feels right. And I think that's so important and you know, I think everything you've said today really feeds into that as well. So I know that you have a new, I don't, I was going to say product, but I know it's not really a product, but you have a new offer, the confident brand in a day session. And I was wondering if you could tell everybody just a little bit about this so that we can learn more and of course we'll link to it over in the show notes as well.
Speaker 2 (29:01):
Yes, absolutely. It is a new offer that I crafted because of this need of people. Not really knowing what their foundations are and focusing too much on the visuals. And while I do want them to focus on the visuals later on, I wanted to kind of bridge the gap and not force them to work with me. Full-Time on their brand identity, if they're not feeling ready to do so, maybe they still want to DIY their brand or their visual identity. And that's completely fine. So confident brand in a day is a three and a half hour session where we really deep into the foundations into brand personality, which is how it feels like, looks like, sounds like, you know, what your brand really is. And then I will even touch on the direction for the visual identity that will feel the most aligned with everything you want to be doing and who you are. So essentially it's like what we did together, Melanie, just on steroids.
Speaker 1 (30:06):
Okay. Yeah. And that the sounds of New York in the background, I did hear you. Yeah. So, so what Susanna was referencing is, and I mentioned earlier on that, that is this con, so this session is, is like the conversation her and I had back in early 2020, but on steroids. So it's, it's really a case of helping you maybe I'm, I wanna make sure I'm saying this correctly, but helping you really build a confidence, you know, understand your brand competently so that you can then go out and do these things and have this confidence in your foundational piece, right?
Speaker 2 (30:47):
Yes. It is defining what your values are and how you actually want to execute them. It is talking about your audience where their problems are. I know you hate the word pinpoints and I, I am kind of inclined not to use that anymore too, because I do feel like it's more about what they struggle with. You don't want to exploit that, but you do want to help them, right? You don't want to crowd the solution and approach the solution in the best way possible. So it really speaks to them and they understand as opposed to them just skipping over and, you know, not looking at your offer at all when it could actually help them. So it is really about understanding the struggles and how they feel about the struggles and how you want them to feel after working with you. That's really important.
Speaker 2 (31:35):
And so all these little foundational pieces together with what the personality of your brand would be. So would it be again, bold, fun, rebellious luxurious, and how that would be actually done in the visual elements. So in this session, it's just 3m train half hour. So obviously I won't be able to design the full visual identity for you, but we would at the end, create a extensive Pinterest board with the visual direction that I suggest for you with some examples of logos and forms and patterns. We could even link some resources that you can actually purchase if you want to DIY. So that, that way you can actually craft something that is aligned with everything that we defined together. And it feels right.
Speaker 1 (32:29):
This is such an amazing offer. I think this is, so this is just so powerful and so support people who aren't ready to go like fully into having someone craft everything for them. And I can attest to how powerful the session is because you and I had a conversation in early 2020, and it really helped define my brand. And I stopped. And literally I had already been inclined to the type of brand I wanted to create or the branding and who my audience was. And we had that conversation. I went in my direction and I have a look at, and I think that really speaks to the power of this and what you do and the confidence you can give people as well, because, you know, I still had my Pinterest board, which has all of those kind of, it has everything from your quiz. And then it has all of the different visuals and things that I wanted to really bring to my brand as I, as I evolved. And that's the thing we still continue to evolve and it's okay, but I'm not tweaking those colors. They stay the same. That's amazing.
Speaker 2 (33:36):
Thank you so much for that price. That's so nice to hear
Speaker 1 (33:42):
No problem. Well, we will link to all of Susanna's and information in the show email@example.com forward slash podcast. So make sure you go and check her out on Instagram because this, none of your commitment to reels always makes me giggle. I absolutely love the ways in which you use, like the sounds. And you're just, I feel like you were an actress in another life. It's so funny. And make sure you take a quiz, check out the competent branding in a day session, but thank you so much for being here. So is a thank you for sitting down with me today.
Speaker 2 (34:17):
Thank you so much for inviting me. I have a great time, Melanie. Thank you.