[Podcast] Brand Strategy Workshops with Melinda Livsey

[Podcast] Brand Strategy Workshops with Melinda Livsey

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Tune in to episode 8 of the JUST Branding Podcast with Melinda Livsey, a brand strategist & online educator, shares her journey of going from a designer to brand strategist, sharing her definitions of brand & brand strategy, how she “sells” strategy, her onboarding process, life without design, how to conduct a brand strategy workshop, step-by-step, including deliverables. Listen in with Jacob Cass, Matt Davies & Melinda Livsey, if you want to go from being an “order taker” to brand expert.

 

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Show Notes

Melinda Livsey is a brand strategist and online educator based in sunny Southern California. She currently helps graphic designers get paid to think by teaching them how to go from being seen as an “order taker” to brand expert. She’s been featured on online education platforms and blogs such as The Futur, The Logo Creative and This Design Life, as well as podcasts such as Let’s Talk Branding, The Logo Geek, and The Honest Designers Podcast just to name a few.

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Show Transcript

Matt Davies:
Hello everybody and welcome to Episode Eight of Just Branding. We’re really excited today because we have the wonderful Melinda Livsey with us on the show. If you don’t know Melinda, where have you been? But seriously, she is a fantastic person to have around. I think she became… came to my attention when she appeared with Chris Do on The Futur.

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Matt Davies:
But she’s got an amazing background. She was a designer at Oakley, a graphic designer and then she went fully freelance. And then she’s sort of broken out from that and she’s now playing in the strategy space. And so today’s theme is life without design. She’s perfect to have on for that theme. Hello, Melinda. Say hello to everybody.

Melinda Livsey:
Hello. Thank you for having me.

Matt Davies:
Not at all. What I think we were probably like to do, as listeners will know, is to start off with a definition. We often find it’s hard to talk about things without getting this kind of clear. For the sake of our users, how would you define first of all brand?

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah, yeah. I use Marty Neumeier’s definition of brand that it’s the gut feeling of what people say we, our companies are, our brands are. What they say it is, not what we say it is because they can see it so much clearer than we can. It lives in the guts of other people. And so I use that definition of a brand.

Matt Davies:
I love it. Love it. Big fan of Marty, me and Jacob.

Jacob Cass:
You’re Matt’s biggest fan now.

Matt Davies:
Yeah. We’re going to get on very well. I can tell.

Melinda Livsey:
I have a feeling.

Melinda Livsey’s Back Story

Matt Davies:
We sort of talked about… In the intro, I sort of mentioned that you’d been an in-house designer, you’d broken out to freelance and then finally, you’ve started playing now in the strategy space. I think what would be really helpful for our audience is to perhaps get a bit of a flavor about the different stages, just a rough overview and perhaps what made you jump between each area. What made you sort of move from stage to stage. That would be really interesting for us to sort of start off with please.

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah. I started off I would say as the generalist graphic designer doing everything and that was at Oakley. So working on everything from marketing campaigns, to catalogs, to helping the art directors direct the photoshoots, retail displays and just the whole gamut. Anything that the company needed as far as graphics, that was me. That was what I also did on the side as freelance. I just took anything and everything that was designed. That’s where I started the journey. I then…

Melinda Livsey:
I had quit to freelance a few years into my journey at Oakley and then just to explore the world. Then I got hired back but in the branding department. Then it went from me being a generalist to getting a little more focused on branding. And all we did on that team was branding and product graphics, anything to do with a brand. Logos, packaging, in-store displays, outer facades of stores, trade show booths, less marketing, less catalogs and things. It got a little more narrow at that time.

Melinda Livsey:
They dissolved the creative department in 2015. And so I got laid off during that time along with all the other designers as well. And that’s when I thought, “Okay, I got to start my own thing. I’ve always wanted to. That would be wonderful.” So I then started off as a brand identity designer. Then I kept getting more specific, more specific.

Melinda Livsey:
I met Chris Do like you had mentioned. He introduced to me to the world of brand strategy, and then I thought, “Okay, this is it. This is what I want to do.” I did a hybrid of design, of identity and brand strategy and then later I ditched the design and just worked on brand strategy and now I’m teaching it. That’s the overview, the journey.

Matt Davies:
That’s awesome. And what made you sort of start moving into teaching it because that’s kind of a level above. I’ve never really sort of headed in that direction. What kind of made you step into that sort of role as a coach or teacher?

Melinda Livsey:
I think I’ve always had teaching in me. I taught piano lessons when I was 16 to 22. All through college, I taught piano lessons. So I think I’ve always had it in me to know the joys of teaching and that when you teach something, you actually learn it even better when you’re teaching other people how to do it. It solidifies those concepts in your mind and if you’re able to clearly articulate and help transfer that knowledge from yourself to someone else, then you must understand it even more and I realized that teaching does help me understand things that I’m teaching.

Melinda Livsey:
I noticed that a theme throughout my life and I’ve also noticed that once I learn something, I naturally end up wanting to teach someone and say, “Look at what I’m able to do and I’ve had so much joy in it and it’s brought me so much value to my life. I want to teach you how to do that too.” And it’s just a natural thing I’m noticing in my life how I learned how to freelance and then I taught people how to freelance and then I learned brand strategy and then I teach people how to do brand strategy.

Melinda Livsey:
So I’m noticing it’s just my natural way of being and it helps me learn what I’m teaching even more.

Matt Davies:
Awesome, awesome. What I think would be really interesting is because a lot of our audience are designers looking to dabble and make the transition into strategy if not fully, than kind of in a hybrid position like Jacob is. And so I guess the thing for me would be to ask you well, first of all, why would a graphic designer want to begin to kind of make such a journey to dabble in such a mystical artist in strategy?

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah, yeah. I’d love to hear Jacob’s experience with this too. And I’ll start off with sharing my own. I was hitting walls with being a brand identity designer working for clients. I was hitting a lot of walls. Things like the client said, “I’ll know it when I see it.” And me just shooting in the dark throwing out things that I think would work for the company but then not really connecting with what the client actually wanted. So then that means tons of revisions. It means I didn’t really… We just had a weird, awkward connection me and the client.

Melinda Livsey:
And I realized that I wasn’t bringing as much value as I wanted to my client, but I had no idea how. And I thought, “Well, me as a graphic designer, what can I do to bring more value?” And that’s when Chris Do had introduced me to the idea that I need to also shift my lens into helping my client, whatever they’re requesting of me, to make sure that it’s helping my client achieve some type of goal. And I didn’t… It’s that consultant mindset and I had no clue. But I had to think like that or that I should think like that if I was going to be of more value to my client.

Melinda Livsey:
So there were some issues there. That, I wanted to charge more, I wanted to help with bigger problems and solve bigger problems and I realized at that time, I was only able to do so much in how I was offering things, my process and doing just design alone. I wanted to solve big problems. I wanted to have a huge impact in someone’s business and I just felt like I wasn’t.

Design to Strategy

Jacob Cass:
I totally agree and that’s why I also got into it. I just want to say thank you for coming on the show. It was a pleasure speaking to you last time. I think it was maybe a year ago or so. And I’m just following your footsteps and you’re in the very enviable position of being, I guess, Chris’ protege.

Jacob Cass:
And yeah, it’s been crazy to see your journey going from design to strategist and now educator. It’s really admirable to be honest. And like you, I came across strategies, and I was like, “Wow, this is amazing. How have I not known about this more?”

Jacob Cass:
I’ve always had a very thorough design process to allow me to design in a way that actually solves the business’ problem. But it was only pretty much surface level. So once you actually dig deeper into I guess the strategy of the brand and where they’re trying to go, it’s just a whole different journey and you can actually provide more value to the client. That’s what I found. And I still love design and that’s why I continue to do that, but I kind of…

Jacob Cass:
My position is I’m two-in-one kind of guy and that helps me when I’m talking to clients and like, “You don’t have to go somewhere else you. You can stick with me.” But like you, I also gravitate to education or helping others and I thrive on that as well. And one quick thing came to mind, when one teaches, two learn. It’s really, really powerful when you can actually talk about what you’re learning and teach others, it’s really great. So thank you for sharing that.

Jacob Cass:
I was going to ask about how do you feel not doing design anymore? That you’re doing just strategy and teaching? Do you ever come back to design? Because you’ve got some great work in your portfolio and there’s one that always comes to mind and it’s that Cat-Hater Survival Kit, which is… It’s a promotional piece. I know it’s a fictional for anyone that hasn’t seen it. It was just pretty much this kit that you open and it has all this paraphernalia in it too. You just have to check it out. But it’s great. There’s like a cat hair thing and a water gun and all this stuff. You have to check that out.

Jacob Cass:
But I can see that you’re very passionate about design and for designers out there who may be like, they have this passion as well and they may just not want to let it go. So I think they’d be very curious to hear what it’s like without design and how you’re living without it.

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah. And specifically going to that Cat-Hater Survival Kit, that was a collaboration with me and another designer and we both were finding our way in what we wanted to do there. And he’s an illustrator and designer and I found myself going more towards planning the art direction of it. And so we naturally gravitated towards these two things and I realized that if I did have my hand in design, it most likely would be more art direction and just the general direction of this is where it should go, but not actually hands-on doing it.

Melinda Livsey:
And I still don’t mind doing that. I don’t mind doing creative direction or art direction. Not necessarily for hire, but for my own projects, my own side things. Like the Cat-Hater Kit, I will do that all day long. But actually the hands-on part of creating, I don’t miss it. I really don’t miss it. I would rather hire someone that’s 10 times better than me to execute on a vision that I had and that I wanted to direct than me trying to do it. So that’s where I’m finding that that’s where I live best.

Jacob Cass:
Yeah. I think you also touched on a great point there, even if you’re not loving doing the design as much now, you can still have your own side projects. When you said side project, I was like, “Yeah. Well, there’s the answer.” You don’t have to give up design. If you’re passionate about it, then it’s not going anywhere. Yeah. Matt.

Matt Davies:
Well, I was just going to say it’s really interesting to hear you talk because I have this philosophy where basically I view very much design as hard work. To craft something, to go through all the phases, to kind of shape something. It is like a work of art. And that’s a lot of hard work right that I could rather do without personally. My strategy, being frank, is to do hardly any work at all. But the truth is, is the stuff that I do, other people might find kind of hard work.

Matt Davies:
So the research in the room, doing workshops, facilitating now, I don’t find that hard. I love that but other people struggle with that. So I think when you’re talking about transition, you do have to look inside you and you have to think, “Well, what am I good at? What am I comfortable with?” Because playing in the strategy space is not always for everybody and I think you’d probably agree with that. But just one other small point and by the way, disagree if you need to, I don’t mind.

Matt Davies:
One other small point, I think though once you’re a designer, your brain is wired in a way that is incredibly valuable in the age that we live in and will be more valuable in the future. Because as a designer, what you are training your brain to do is to imagine a better future and then figure out a way to get there.

Brand Purpose

Matt Davies:
And so, this is how I see it anyway, I don’t know if you’d agree, and so therefore, even though I’m not doing graphic design, when I go in with a leadership team and I’m talking to a team about where they want to go in the future and why they exist and their purpose and who they exist to serve and how best we’re going to serve them, I’m really using design thinking a lot to kind of get them to think outside of their comfort zone and imagine that future and imagine the way to get there with me even though technically it’s not graphic design. I submit to the world, it is design. What do you think about that?

Melinda Livsey:
I 100% agree with everything you just said. Everything. And I love how beautiful you put it, where… How simply you put it. That we’re imagining this beautiful future and this goal, this epic vision and we’re helping people plot a way to get there. And it’s this vision that’s different than everyone else’s too and that’s what’s so great about it is that we can come up with a new plan and no two businesses are alike, no two goals are alike, no two visions or futures, anything.

Melinda Livsey:
They’re all different. And so we can plot a new way of getting there. And that, yes, is 100% using design thinking. I still feel like I’m using the same type of thinking just like you were saying, it’s just not graphic specific but it is design thinking. I completely agree with that. Yeah.

Matt Davies:
Can I ask a followup question to you? When you’re coaching people and you’re trying to help them figure out perhaps this beautiful new future that we’re talking about, how frequently do you come across kind of like a challenge whereby it’s the person themselves that is putting blockers in their own way, yet they don’t even kind of realize it? A bit like what you were saying with Chris in a way, like you were saying you wanted to change, you wanted to do something, you just didn’t know. So something made you put the effort in to get there, to make that adjustment, but that thing, that spark might not be in everybody or they might not know they need it. So how often do you come across that and how do you overcome that for people?

Melinda Livsey:
It’s hard. It’s really hard. I have definitely come across that. I see it in myself too, when I’m giving too many objections to a suggested thing that I should do, especially from Chris and we joke about this off camera a lot. He’s like, “You’re full of yeah, buts.” And he goes, “You need a shirt that just says, ‘Yeah, but…'” Because I’m always like, “Yeah, but it’s not going to work because of this.” Or, “I can’t wrap my head around why that’s true.”

Melinda Livsey:
I’ve ran into a lot of people who feel that too. It’s when they give too many excuses, myself included, when I say, “Just can’t work because of X, Y, Z.” And it’s usually things that are outside of my control, I think. It’s out there in the world, I can’t change it. And look, “I can’t do it, I can’t change because everything’s going wrong out there.” And not taking responsibility of what I can change.

Melinda Livsey:
I find when I do that or when I coach people and all they’re giving me are objections to every single solution that comes up, I notice we have to just zero in on that and figure out what’s the limiting belief there? Why did they feel that way? Do they need just a different perspective or is it a personality trait where they’re just not willing to change at all?

Melinda Livsey:
So it’s on me to figure out and ask questions to uncover where are they and are they ready to change, are they not? Do we need to spend time in just talking about the excuses of the objections and why they have those? And so it really depends on the people too and just, are they ready? Are they ready to risk being wrong? Are they ready to try something new and outside of their comfort zone? It’s hard though. It’s hard to coach-

Matt Davies:
A bit of a psychologist in there, aren’t you?

Melinda Livsey:
Oh, yeah. I think brand therapy.

Matt Davies:
Peering into the people’s brains, “What is it there? Come on let’s change.”

Jacob Cass:
Yeah, I have to say that you do keep your cool when you’re getting attacked by Chris or not attack but just like… You’re very composed. It’s very… It’s crazy. I couldn’t do that. My limited belief couldn’t do that.

Matt Davies:
One time I just want to see you get up and head butt him. I kind of love that. Just go do that next time. Don’t tell him I said. But just on camera, just so that we can say, “He’s done. He pushed you too far, you finally snapped.”

Jacob Cass:
The ratings soared.

Benefits of Brand Thinking

Matt Davies:
Sorry, seriously. Just going back to going back to the kind of the coaching and helping designers move into this space of strategy, in terms of the benefits to a designer to do that, maybe could you talk to us about how you see the benefits that a designer might get out of that kind of thinking with that kind of training?

Melinda Livsey:
Oh, yeah. There’s so many. I’m thinking back of just the benefits to myself and the freedom that I felt from switching from design to… The way I was doing design and going about it with my clients to the way I’m doing it now, there is so much more of a connection with my client, so much more trust, so much more. It’s beyond any amount that I could have tried to gain beforehand, they feel that I understand them and they’ve said this to me multiple times. Almost every single strategy workshop that I have, the client turns around and says, “You completely understand. You know where I’m going.” I can tell by their comments, their facial expressions, their body language, that they’re just like, “Thank you,” but somebody is finally listening and understanding me and hearing me and helping me get clarity on something that felt kind of fuzzy before.

Melinda Livsey:
And that is huge. And I would say a big difference for myself was going from feeling as though my client was part directing me and then I was just taking orders and then I was always frustrated like, “Whoa, I know what’s really best for your business and you’re just not listening.” And it was always this attitude of, “Okay, you don’t even know what you’re talking about.” And, “I know better,” and I just felt like I was this monkey that they were just telling to… They were ordering me around. But it wasn’t their fault. It was the position. I had assumed that position.

Melinda Livsey:
I said, “Hey, treat me like this, because this is all I know how to do.” And that’s all I knew. And so when I learned how to do strategy, I realized that I had the ability to lead the conversation, I had the ability to guide them in this design thinking and they were on board, and they were excited about it. And then finally, we come to these decisions together and it ends up that the work that I ended up doing was so much better than it used to be too. And all those times where I was fighting internally thinking, “Oh, I just wish they would go with this idea.” Now, we come up with these ideas and everybody’s happy and it’s amazing. And we all go, “Yeah, it should be this.” Because we went through all this work to plan and uncover what things it should be. And we look at the design at the end we’re like, “Yeah, that’s what it is.”

Melinda Livsey:
The other huge difference for me was that I didn’t have to show 20 different options. I actually ended up showing one for the entire brand and then they’re like, “Yeah, that’s what it should be.” Because I scaffolded it to the idea with them in the process and they felt like they were along for the ride. They felt like they were also a part of it and a part of the decision making and that I was listening to them the whole way. They felt understood. So it just ended up that we were able to do one design option and not have to do tons.

Jacob Cass:
Well, you touched on a few things there and I think onboarding is a huge one as well as how you actually go about conducting a brand strategy session. Can you let us know how you actually onboard a client and how you go through these sessions?

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah, yeah. And I know that… Jacob, I think we talked a little bit about on how to sell strategy and onboarding them even in the sales meeting of positioning yourself as more of the consultant and helping them get to some kind of clarity even in the sales meetings.

“Selling” Brand Strategy

Melinda Livsey:
It’s not about pitching at all, it’s about helping them get clarity in what they’re trying to do on that desired future and seeing if you’re a good fit for them. If you’re good personality fit, if the project is high risk, high value and really something that you can sink your teeth into that it’s a big problem to solve.

Melinda Livsey:
So the first part is positioning yourself in the sales meeting, if not beforehand in your marketing. That and then going into the process. It’s an in-person or Zoom like this, it’s an in-person workshop versus what I used to do previously, which was just send them a questionnaire. Just to ask them, “Who’s your target audience? What brands do you feel you resonate with? Describe your company in three to five adjectives.”

Melinda Livsey:
That’s what I used to send and then now, it’s a very intensive two-day workshop, where we meet every week after that for about three to four weeks to check in with brand strategy document and get closer to the clarity that we needed. So it’s a huge difference.

Jacob Cass:
Anyway, thank you. Thank you for sharing that. Matt, you had a question?

Matt Davies:
Well, it was more just sort of to add to that. I think the consultancy mindset is far more rewarding I find. To go in and also to be known as a consultant rather than as a commoditized kind of designer. You’ve picked up on a load of things. For example, people can buy hours of design. I think as designers, we… Or at least… I don’t know. There must be some mystical school out there. I was kind of taught this.

Matt Davies:
You go, “How experienced am I? Well, I’m kind of experienced. Okay, so I have an hourly fee, which is…” And then a client comes and says, “I need a brochure.” And you go, “Okay, so…” How long will this take? The ideation stage? Bear in mind you hardly know anything about that client, but you kind of go… And then you add it all together and then you do the next phase, which is the artworking and then the extensive print or whatever, you do whatever process you’ve got and then you come up with your fee. And then you submit that to the client.

Matt Davies:
And in the back of your head as designer, you’ve got all these hours behind it. And even if you put that down on paper for the client, what I found in my career, I’ve ran agencies and stuff in the past, is that the client does not care. The client doesn’t care it’s going to take you 10 hours. The client just wants the result. Immediately, oftentimes the way designers go about business and meeting the clients need is almost kind of wrong. It’s misaligned.

Matt Davies:
And so what then happens is when you come up with your stuff and you send it to the client and they don’t like it and you have to do iteration after iteration, now everybody’s getting annoyed. The client’s thinking, “What the heck is this? I’m paying this money. I want my result.” And the designer is going, “But I’m trying to deliver against this brief and it’s awesome.” And it’s just, “Why does no one love me?”

Matt Davies:
And so you get this kind of problem. Whereas as you say, you go in with the mindset of openness, of learning, of coaching, of guiding, of listening to the context as you said before, Melinda, every client’s different, every business is different. And also I found often every leadership team is very different. There’s different mindsets. As you grow in your career, and you start working with bigger and bigger businesses like I’ve worked with corporates over here in the UK, and man, they’re still just people with problems and challenges and kind of going in with brand thinking and better design thinking can really help them overcome that core challenge.

Matt Davies:
But yeah, add value off the bat. I think you’re absolutely right, ask the right questions. And they’re thinking, “Hey, this person could really solve my problem here.” And it’s very different to perhaps to some of the other designers I’m talking to are saying. That’s been super helpful, I think, from learning that.

Brand Strategy Workshop Process & Deliverables

Matt Davies:
When you start to go through, Jacob mentioned at the start in terms of deliverables, so you go in and you have this two-day initial kind of workshop and then you check in on the brand strategy document. Can you talk us a little bit through what is a brand strategy document for the sake of our users, first of all? And secondly, do you deliver anything after that or do you kind of step off? How do you play it?

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah. I used to include brand identity like we had talked about. So that was a little bit longer process. But if we’re just talking about the strategy, I call it a roadmap. People have different terms for it. Some people just do a one sheet just a one paper with the positioning target audience and a couple other things, but I have a… It’s usually a PDF document. It includes the goal of why did they even come to me in the first place? What were they dealing with? What was the problem? What’s the vision? What’s that beautiful future that they’re thinking of that they want to get to? Where are we headed?

Melinda Livsey:
So I outline that. Other things are positioning. So what’s the company’s positioning in the marketplace? How will they to be perceived in the minds of their market? What makes them different? That’s the positioning. And the other thing is everything about the brand, what makes them unique. I also include brand attributes. There’s an ideal client or customer persona.

Melinda Livsey:
So it’s the most ideal customer and it’s more to do with mindset than anything. Of if your brand, I kind of talk about it like this, if your brand had a best friend, that was the evangelist, that would talk about your brand to everyone, that would share it all on their platforms, that that is just your ideal person, that if you had every single customer be that person, you would be happy. Who is that? We make a persona out of that.

Melinda Livsey:
So we pick photos that represent their day, that represent their life. So we know that when we see those people out on the streets, we’re like, “Oh, that’s Suzy,” but we usually give them a name and so we can identify them. And I’ve had clients even tell me, they say, “Oh, man, I went to this conference and there were Justins everywhere.” Justin the connector, it’s who we called him. He’s like, “I met so many Justin the connectors.”

Melinda Livsey:
So he was able to have this focus or what he was looking for. It’s kind of like, “Go look for a red car.” And now every single… Or you buy a red car and now every single car that you see out there is a red car. It’s so your mind is now looking for that and that’s what we do with the persona. So we describe that person in photos, in a list of hobbies and people they’re following, what they’re reading, what they’re into, what their problems are, what their goals are and how is the company or brand helping them either solve a problem or get to their desired outcome, the ideal client’s desired outcome.

Melinda Livsey:
So that’s something we do. We also do… Sometimes we’ll do a customer journey. What’s the relationship look like between the customer and the brand? All the different touch points. And we’ll do a broad overview of that. And then the last part is the action plan. So within the next three months, what needs to be done to connect the brand with the ideal customer? So really, it’s three main parts. If you just wanted a simplified version, it’s the brand, it’s the ideal customer and it’s the action plan. And those are the three main sections I would say that go into the roadmaps.

Matt Davies:
And after that, when you’ve delivered that… Yeah, wow. Yeah. But after you’ve delivered that, do you then step off or do you hang around or do you kind of… Just is it dependent on the client? What’s your sort of view on how far you go down that roadmap, the action plan road with the client?

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah, it depends. It definitely depends on the client. Some of them I refer them to people to implement the document. If there’s things like designing a website, designing brand identity, doing content, strategy, marketing, I have a lot of connections and I usually will refer them out to those people. Sometimes I stay on-

Matt Davies:
You may have a few more now. You’ve mentioned that by the way.

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah.

Matt Davies:
Just to warn you, you should not have said that, but hey, yeah.

Melinda Livsey:
Well, the beauty of this too is that we work out a referral fee. So I have these trusted people that I have on my list that I will refer work to and then we worked out a 10% referral fee and so if I send a client to them, then I would get that referral fee.

Strategy to Design

Melinda Livsey:
That has been amazing and I will stay on as a consultant depending on what their needs are. If they’re worried that their in-house team… I’ve had this before where a client was worried that their in-house team and designer that they hired would not necessarily… They needed direction, let’s just say that. They were a junior designer, they were worried that they wouldn’t be able to execute very well. They wanted to make sure that everything was on brand and so they had me come in and consult with them. I think I was on a retainer monthly for that.

Melinda Livsey:
Other clients, they would just call me up when they needed it. Some I do every quarter. It all depends on what does the client already have within their resources, within their team and then how can I fill the gap if needed? Again, all custom.

Matt Davies:
Brilliant. I think that persona piece that you talk on is super powerful. I like to use alliteration. I think I learned it or stole it from HubSpot, the idea you kind of just use like corporate Clive or something like that. And why it’s super powerful, like you were saying, people switch on to that and they look for it. But also, I found when they’re talking amongst themselves, it gives them a language that simplifies that ideal persona that they’re all aligned around and it allows them to articulate that together, like “Oh, would simple Suzy understand this?” Kind of thing or whatever it might be. And so that’s absolutely crucial, I think in terms of setting that course of direction, like you were saying and also designing their business around it.

Matt Davies:
So some of the work that I do kind of keeps going down that road. You talk about the action plan, but it also works along kind of using design thinking around experiences and customer journey and all that stuff that you’ve sort of touched on, creating culture and interaction. And then as soon as a brand… You talk about how, say for example, they’ve got a physical space or there’s a touch point with a person, then suddenly you’ve now got to instill brand thinking into training into HR systems.

Matt Davies:
So this is what… Brand strategy and brand consulting can take you to really weird places. It really can. And it can be so powerful like you’ve said for businesses to really grow them and to really help them become meaningful. That’s super. Jacob, did you have any other questions for Melinda on this?

Jacob Cass:
Yes. We’ve talked a lot about design and strategy and that kind of process. But I want to jump into your bootcamp because you’re now teaching people brand strategy. And I think there may be some strategists listening to this and this could actually be their next step. And how have you transitioned from, I guess, doing strategy and now education? How have you structured your boot camps? What do you teach in it? Could you just give some insights into what you’re doing at the moment?

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah, yeah. I’m literally just teaching my process. And I am not only teaching my process, I’m trying to reenact but in a better way how I learned strategy, because it wasn’t like, “Oh, I learned it in a day. I looked at the videos and turned around and…” No, no, no. This was a huge mindset shift from what Matt, I think you were talking about earlier, from that mindset I had previously to the kind that just puts the hourly rate on your work and it’s all focused on me to focusing on the client.

Melinda Livsey:
That was a huge mindset shift. And I needed that mindset shift to be able to do brand strategy and be the consultant. It took me, I want to say six months. It was four months before I landed the client after I was first learning strategy, but it took me six months to really feel like I was getting my footing and how I conducted the workshops and whatnot. But I was working with a group of people that also were trying to become strategists and we were all in a similar plane and position in our business that we were designers wanting to switch to strategy and we had a study group together.

Melinda Livsey:
And we had learned from the same source, from The Futur, that they saw CORE and we learned that. We still had a bunch of questions, so we formed study groups and we would work together anywhere between two and four hours a week. We’d meet at night after we all were done with work and we would run strategy on each other. And then we would also do it for clients, we would come back to our group and say, “Hey, this is what I learned with my client. This is the new document that I’m doing. This is how I’ve changed things.”

Melinda Livsey:
I wanted that experience for other people too that were learning strategy. Because I’m sure there’s some people who learned from CORE, learned from other brand strategy courses and immediately were able to implement and run with it and that’s awesome. It’s not my experience. I found that having that study group to move in with it and to learn from each other, to bounce ideas off of each other. That was so valuable to me and so I wanted to recreate that for other people.

Matt Davies:
That sounds wonderful. I wish I had that. It took you four months? It took me like 15 years, seriously to kind of figure this stuff out. And when I was sort of learning it, there was no… Well, there probably was but I didn’t really think that I needed that. But looking back, I could have cut so many corners if you can use that phrase. I could have made a much better progress much quicker.

Coaching, Masterminds & Bootcamps

Matt Davies:
And I know Jacob, you run a coaching group as well and I know people have seen comments that people get huge value out of the support you can get from that. And I kind of tread a lonely road and learned from failing loads, but I would definitely say to the listeners, like check out Melinda’s course, check out Jacob’s Inner Triangle, I think you call it Jacob?

Jacob Cass:
Yeah.

Matt Davies:
And get that support because… Don’t do what I did, which was to plough on like some sort of Frank Sinatra, I did it my way kind of thing going on because you can learn more from other people. And having that kind of open mindset and that support I think is super helpful.

Matt Davies:
How do people get into your course Melinda? What’s the process? Say there’s a designer saying, “Do you know what? I could do with that support.” How would they connect with you?

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah. Currently where it’s at now is that I only have opened it up to my email subscribers. Those who’ve been following along, those who resonate with how I talk about strategy because I really didn’t want someone just cold off the street. I wanted someone who understood and aligned with how I look at branding, how I talk about strategy and really feel like, “Yes, I can connect with what you’re saying,” and already have been following me for a while, because I feel like you have to really be invested. The person that you want, as your mentor your teacher, I hope that you can connect with them pretty well, like I do with Chris Do and I wanted that type of class.

Melinda Livsey:
And so first, they had to be on the email list. And then second, I did open up an application. And so I asked people just a few questions on why do they feel that they’d like to switch to brand strategy, like why brand strategy? Why not just stick with what you’re doing? And then why is right now a good time to be doing that for you specifically in your career and then why this specific boot camp?

Melinda Livsey:
Because I want to make sure that this specific boot camp, that they understand that this one in particular is for them because there are ones to choose from which I say learn from as many as you can or pick one that you resonate really well with and go for it. But I wanted to make sure that I curated the class very well, because I know that that makes a difference, because I’ve experienced that, that the group dynamic makes a huge difference in the learning process.

Melinda Livsey:
This round, I only have 12 people that I have in a group, and I’m probably going to only keep it to 12. And it’s eight weeks long. The group is fantastic. Everyone is amazing. Everyone shows up. That’s the other thing. If you have an application process, you’re going to have dedicated people that are in it.

Melinda Livsey:
And then I’m thinking about how can I break off smaller things from this big brand strategy boot camp, if someone is unable to invest the time or money to take it? How can I make it easier for people to get started? So I’m looking at how to do that potentially in the summer. But I’m going to run this about two to three times a year for just a small, small group of people.

Matt Davies:
Awesome, that sounds absolutely fantastic. And I’m sure people will get loads of value out of what you’re offering there. I don’t know. I kind of think that we sort of coming to the end of our questions. Jacob, have you’ve got any last ones you just want to ping at Melinda just before we close up?

Jacob Cass:
No, that was actually the last question about the bootcamp, so thank you so much. I do want to just touch on what you were saying about learning from multiple sources and adapting what you learn from different places and making it your own.

Brand Strategy Tools

Jacob Cass:
Because Matt learned from books and over 15 years experience, I’ve been learning over the past few years just from different courses and books and people like yourself and there’s no right or wrong way to do brand strategy. So it’s really about learning what fits you, your process and what you want to do with it. So I just want to close out with that. Didn’t have any other questions unless you had anything else to add Melinda?

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah, I think just the last thing… Just to expand on what you just said, I see it as when we learn more and more about brand strategy, it’s like we’re filling our bag with a bunch of tools. And we learn possibly Design Sprint, we might learn the… What is it? The Lightning Decision Jam from Jonathan Courtney, that there’s all these different ways of doing design thinking and the more that we can put in our bag and know like, “Oh, something Marty Neumeier said in a workshop, I can use that. Something I read in this one book, I can use that.”

Melinda Livsey:
So the more and more we learn about it, we just keep putting it in our bag of tricks so that we can just be present with the client, ask them what their problem is, where are they trying to go and then sift through our bag of tools and pull out what it is that we need. I don’t think there’s one. Like you said Jacob perfectly, there’s not one right way to do it that we can start forming, we can just take out all the tools in our bag and say, “Okay, what can I use to help the client get to where they’re going?” And that’s really fun. It’s so fun to be able to do that.

Matt Davies:
I totally agree with that. And I think that approaches is so good, because like you said before earlier in the podcast, it’s a mindset shift because what you’re doing is you’re really shifting from where you are into the shoes of the customer. What I’m trying to say there is you’ve got a client, they need to make a change. If you rigidly go and you’re too rigid, how do they know that your process is correct?

Matt Davies:
You’ve got to learn to embrace small pivots and flexibility within your process. And that’s where having a wealth of tools in your backpack that you can bring out as and when you face a situation. And as you go on, like I found, as I go on in my career, I can turn around and say, “Do you know what Mr. Client, Mrs. Client? I came across this two years ago with a business similar to yours and we did this and this is how it turned out and it was awesome. And do you know what? You can go speak to the managing director there to see how it went but it was radical, but it really worked. What do you think about us trying that for you guys?”

Matt Davies:
And suddenly the value you can add is huge. And so I think that’s absolutely fantastic. Listen, it’s been brilliant to have you on. Absolutely fantastic. I don’t know. Did you drop your website? Because I’m sure loads of people want to connect with you or your Instagram. Drop it now and then we’ll finish up.

Melinda Livsey:
Yeah, yeah. The website is marksandmaker.com and then my Instagram, I’m on there a lot, Melinda Livsey, as well as Twitter and The Futur, you can could find me on The Futur, LinkedIn. Yeah.

Matt Davies:
Brilliant. Brilliant. Thank you so much for coming on. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that with the audience. Take care and have a great day.

Melinda Livsey:
Thank you.

Matt Davies:
That was such a cheesy ending. Thank you and have a great day. I don’t even know where that came from. It is 11 o’clock at night here guys, seriously.

 

2 thoughts on “[Podcast] Brand Strategy Workshops with Melinda Livsey”

  1. Wow! What a lovely podcast. It is quite informative and insightful. It is definitely useful to increase the knowledge and see what can be implemented. Thank you so much for sharing this. Great work! Keep it up.

  2. This is so convenient. Definitely plan to listen to this podcast. But reading about it was awesome as well. Thank you for sharing these brand strategy crash courses.

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