How To Build a Great Brand

Russ reflects on the first 8 years of his professional life as the owner and partner of two creative agencies. He suffered a terrible name (NSB/KEANE) during this stint and it made him realize just how important branding was. Not only for your business but for your personal brand too.

He unveils his process for naming Design Pickle and the importance of picking a name that can be remembered and is fun. And how all brands start from humble beginnings with a vision for something greater.

Watch the episode below to take your personal branding skills to the next level and download the corresponding Action Guide to drill into the specifics.

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Each week we release an Action Guide filled with relevant exercises from the latest Russ Perry Show episode to help you expand your sobriety across all core areas of your life: body, being, balance, and business.

This week’s Action Guide is designed to help you evaluate your personal brand, what it says about your values, and how it aligns with the value you want to create.

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BONUS: No need to take notes – we transcribed the episode for you!

I love pickles. Like seriously. Most of my life I have been a huge fan of pickles, ranging from the common pickled cucumber to foods with pickled components.

  • Reuben sandwiches topped with sauerkraut.
  • Pickled eggs.
  • And I’ve never met a kimchee I didn’t love.

Today, I mainly wear pickles.

My love for pickles matured in late December 2014 with the initial concept and eventual naming of my graphic design company, Design Pickle.

So what does any of this have to do with personal branding? Just hang on, I promise we’ll get there eventually. But first, I get asked A TON on how the name and brand came to be. So let’s start there…

For the first 8.5 years of my professional life, I was the owner, and partner inside of two creative agencies.

The last few years of this stint, we suffered through a terrible name, which just so happened to be the name of our upstart branding and creative firm I was trying to sell services to anyone who would listen.

So the name was: NSB/KEANE. Or – as I would have to spell out over and over again: N-S-B-/-K-E-A-N-E.

This was a nightmare considering I did a lot of sales face to face and over the phone.

NSB / KEAME? NFB KING? MSG? CLEAN?

So, back to Design Pickle. After my agency career, I needed a name that you could say and people would hear correctly. Priority #1.

Next, it needed to be fun.

Want in on a secret I’ve been harboring most of my adult life?

I have quite the seasoned career as a professional mascot. In my high school years, you could find me on Saturday, dressed up at local grocery store grand openings as an M&M, Captain Crunch, Tony the Tiger, and the whole gamut of cereal box heroes.

My big break came my Senior year of high school when I entered the minor leagues. Through a friend of a friend, I became the backup Magpie, repping Magpies pizza and handing out free pies at the Tucson Sidewinders AAA baseball games.

Sadly, my career ended there. One could only imagine a life where I took this to the pros.

Ever since I’ve had a soft spot for cartoon-ish characters attempting to marketing food products.

What were we talking about? Oh yeah – how I named my company.

Step 1: I needed a name that worked and could be understood, hell, even remembered.
Step 2: I needed a name that was fun.

So, I just really love pickles, and DesignPickle.com was available.

That’s it!

Now that I had a name, and a website domain, it was time to create the fun, mascot inspired logo.

So… I hired an NYC firm and we worked for three months on the logo. Concept after conce….. haha, just kidding. I made a few drawings after dinner, showed it to my kids, and finally, someone shouted, “IT’S A PICKLE.” That’s the one we went with.

Three years and TWO, yes TWO United States registered trademarks later, our brand is internationally known and leads the pack for world-class, flat-rate graphic design.

Why the hell should you care?

Why am I spending all this time and bandwidth going down memory lane?

It’s important to realize any great brand, product, or service isn’t automatically great. The greatness and the love come from years of hard work, sometimes even decades but there is a very real commonality to all brands.

They started with a person believing in it first.

Look at brands like Southwest Airlines or Away Suitcases (both brands I rep and love). These brands are backed with a long history of people and decisions to create the affiliation and affliction I reflect.

Herb Keller, the Co-Founder of Southwest Airlines is a legend for his vision of what an airline should be.

A smaller, but still epic brand is Away Suitcases. Who would have thought suitcases could be cool? But – Away has done it. Through heavy influencer marketing coupled with truly great suitcases that are strong, light and well designed, it’s a roundhouse kick to a stale and stagnant industry.

Their product alone rocks, but recently there’s been new rules around suitcases with built-in batteries. Away has USB chargers built in, and on a few carriers, this is a no-no unless the batteries are removable and can be inspected.

Away rolled out a free upgrade program to convert an older suitcase, so it’s easy to remove and store your charging battery. I guess this is akin to a voluntary recall, but I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything. Everything is online and automated.

A true class act, but I’m not surprised.

What you may not know is Away’s co-founders – Steph Korey and Jen Rubio are no rookies to great brands. They honed their careers at Casper mattresses, Warby Parker and AllSaints.

Their decisions are purposeful, powerful, and consistent through the years.

Everyone and everything has a brand associated with it, driven by intention.

So what about a personal brand? The same rules apply. From the pope to Pharrell, their brand shapes the way we think and how they can influence. This past week I caught up with my (soon-to-be) great friend, Justin Timberlake.

This guy is elite at managing his personal brand to be real and approachable, notwithstanding creating a mega commercial operation around anything he does.

At his concert, I was mesmerized by the attention to detail put into his brand. Granted he operates on a global scale, but I feel like there’s so much more I could improve on.

Today – my brand has had a heavy side of pickles, there’s no question about that.

I don’t see that changing anytime soon, but I am in the works on a new brand, called Sobr spelled S-O-B-R.

You may catch the tagline of this show is Sobr is a Lifestyle. What the heck does that even mean?

My intent for the Russ Perry brand is to create a vision of what life can be like, balanced and growing in ALL areas, all while living sober. Clean, clear, and focused, day in and day out. This weekly show is a snapshot into that life, and where I’m at, what’s working and what’s not.

Episode 26 was fresh off of my private EXPAND experience. Three men, 26 hours, total transformation. If you missed the insanely cool drone and slow-mo montage, here it is again

Sobr is the larger brand roll everything up into and support my life’s vision to change lives through creativity.

I am intentionally building products, content, and experiences to support my vision – driven my personal brand decisions.

So – As we wrap up this episode, look at the brands in your life and even your personal brand.

One could argue brands are a reflection of our values. So I leave you with these questions:

  1. What brands do you love and respect?
  2. How would you evaluate your personal brand?
  3. What is your personal brand saying about your values?
  4. Is living sober part of your brand strategy?
  5. And finally, how can you improve your brand to better align with the value you want to create?

Thanks as always, and we’ll see you next week on the Russ Perry Show.

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