Do you love or loathe LinkedIn ‘anniversaries’? 

Recently, the platform highlighted to me that it was the 4th anniversary of B is for Brand.

It can’t really be four years.  In April 2016, I was still happily the Head Fairy at Lossiemouth Cleaning Fairies Ltd (and I have the Emma Bridgewater mug to prove it).

So I thought I’d explain how it was that four years ago, I came to document B is for Brand in LinkedIn history.

The story of B is for Brand is one that begins with a knock at the door and a cup of coffee… 

The husband of a friend had recently set up a brewery.  He’d been wrestling with a few branding issues.  When a colleague of mine got to hear about this, she immediately mentioned my name.  ‘You want to talk to Ailsa about that, she knows all about brand!’ the conversation went…

And so came the knock at my door, the invitation to share a cup of coffee as she chatted, I listened carefully.  At the end of that session, a further cup of coffee was arranged. 

Whilst I was happily occupying myself as Head Fairy, I was also still passionately interested in the world of branding.  The poor Cleaning Fairies (who were never, ever, not even ONCE referred to as cleaners, cleaning ladies or domestic cleaners) used to benefit from the full brand treatment, from initial interview and on boarding process right through to our ‘Feedback Friday’ WhatsApp group. Over the years, the staff Christmas pantomime (which was performed as a drinking game at the party) became a highlight of the Cleaning Fairies annual social calendar.

I digress.  The point, was that I was always happy to spare some time to talk about branding. I discovered that the brewery had a great visual identity that had been developed by a London based design consultant.  They also had a strong proposition in place.  But I felt there was something I could do to help them capture a clear strategy and fill in a few missing pieces. I usually find that the best way to do this, when there is more than one stakeholder, is to hold a creative workshop.  One was duly arranged.  The team really enjoyed the first workshop and shortly afterwards, another followed. By the end of that one, we had everything agreed and written down.

After both workshops, the directors had fed back that they found the sessions useful not only for thinking about ‘brand’ but also, the wider direction of the business. Over more coffee, we discussed why I wasn’t doing this full time.  I didn’t really have an answer.  Lack of professional confidence? Imposter syndrome? The fate of an RAF wife? All of the above? In short, an underlying feeling that I wasn’t either ‘good enough’ or ‘experienced enough’ to go it alone.

 I advised them that the next step was to choose a creative agency to support them. 

‘Would you run the pitch process for us?’ they asked.  ‘Of course!’ I replied, maybe a wee bit too enthusiastically.  It was a Friday and that evening, over a glass of wine, I sat there mulling over how I was going to introduce myself.  

‘Hi, I’m Ailsa, the Head Cleaning Fairy at Lossiemouth Cleaning Fairies.  Mr Creative Director, it’s me you’ve got to convince that you’re the right agency to support this business that’s clearly going places. Your pitch better be squeaky clean!’

Probably pretty confusing.

Or maybe going undercover would work better:

‘Don’t worry about who I am.  I don’t work for the business, I’m not even in the industry.  I’m just here to lead the pitch. I’m nobody.’

Not good for my own confidence. What about the honest approach?

‘Hey, I used to do what you do, back in the days before my husband’s career took precedence over mine and I had a couple of kids in tow. So I know my business card says I run a cleaning company, but in fact I consider myself to be Scotland’s only Branding Consultant/Cleaning Fairy.’

I could see a brand mismatch with that one.  

Hmmm. one brand, damaging the other.  Now there’s a problem I do know how to solve. What would I advise a client to do in those circumstances? Create a House of Brands! The Proctor and Gamble approach.  Nobody need ever know.  In a ‘Mr Ben’ style, I could be one person one day and somebody completely different the next.  The ultimate targeted approach.

So it was, that over the rest of the bottle of wine that weekend and with the trusted advice of my closest advisor and key stakeholder, I gave myself the full brand strategy treatment.  A new brand was born. 

At that time, B is for Brand only had one purpose: to give me confidence to run that pitch.  I guess I must have known deep down that it might eventually become more than that.  Why else would I create a strategy, a visual identity, website and LinkedIn profile if I didn’t really hope (or was it dream) that I would one day be compelled to do something more with it? If you have a dream and you write it down, anything is possible.

However, it took TWO MORE YEARS of positive feedback from the brewery (I still popped in regularly for cups of coffee) plus six or seven unpaid, or ‘payment in kind’ (wine or flowers) jobs, before the penny really began to drop. 

By February 2018, I had decided to sell Lossiemouth Cleaning Fairies Ltd and focus my attention fully on B is for Brand. The most exciting moment came in the Spring of that year, when I was offered the chance to take Moray Chamber of Commerce through the whole re-branding process.  We held a workshop, created a strategy, wrote key messages, brand story, ran a pitch and eventually, with the help of local graphic designer Clare Lock of Clock Studios, developed a new visual identity. I finally felt ‘back in business’ as a Branding Consultant (intellectually, if not financially) and by the following summer, I had achieved my first financial goal too.

So right now, I think it’s really just past my second anniversary. I date the beginning of B is for Brand from the day when that very same friend (the wife of the brewer – who is a successful self-employed business woman in her own right) knocked at the door again.  This time we went out.  She was there to take me to my very first Moray Business Women meeting…

As for how I got involved with running my old company, Lossiemouth Cleaning Fairies? That’s a whole other story (one that involves a bottle of wine). Perhaps when a future LinkedIn reminder prompts me, I’ll share it with you one day…