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Episode 124: Define Your Brand and Tell your Story With Beth Taubner

In episode 124 we talk with Beth Taubner, of Mercurylab, who talks to us about the importance of defining your brand.

We cover information about how to define your brand in an authentic way, exercises you can dig into today to help you understand your brand and how to tell your story through motion!

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Guest Details

Connect with Mercurylab
Website | Instagram | Facebook

Founder of Mercurylab, Beth Taubner has been a Transformational Brand Strategist and Creative Director working with strategy and creative communications for over twenty years. Beth has developed a proprietary approach to the branding process, using a combination of psychological, visual and analytic processes. She is well-known for her expertise in creating branding programs and distinctive concepts, visuals and language communications for businesses large and small, for hospitality, luxury travel, retailers, food, agencies, photographers, directors and creative professionals in the US, UK and worldwide.

Takeaways

  • An artist touches the world in so many ways, so you need to confidently know who you are.
  • Artist’s tend to be reactive vs analytical and this doesn’t work. Styles come and go. You need to know where you stand to be successful because then you understand how to use your resources.
  • Brands are constructed -they are a mixture of attributes. An attribute is a trait. We need to get to the point within ourselves where we can reach that kind of identification.
  • Dig into the attributes of your family so you can push that detailed information to the surface for yourself and your business.
  • People have to communicate visually and with words too.
  • Put yourself in your listener’s shoes. What do you want them to glean about you? How would you be described by a listener?
  • It’s important to produce better photography because there’s a language of photography. Emotion comes from photography. What are you portraying in your images?
  • Food bloggers are in the business of sharing a narrative and do so with all these elements.
  • Work from the inside out of ourselves.
  • Once you learn to become analytical, you’ll learn how to identify the marketplace better.

Resources Mentioned

The Art & Business of You episode 1

The Art & Business of You episode 2

Showreel + Public Speaking Events:

Speaker Q&A – Lunch! The Contemporary Food to Go Show:

Food Blog Examples

Sally’s Baking Addiction

Eat Lit Food

Canelle et Vanille

Edible Living

Patricia Niven – Photographer

Matthew Jordan Smith – Photographer

Special offer: visit mercurylab.com and scroll to Brand Tools. There’s a tip sheet for food bloggers available.

Special offer 2: Gain a complimentary brand review to the first 3 listeners who sign on between 8/20-8/25. Register for this on Beth’s website. They’ll get those scheduled in 90 days.

More on Branding

Head over to hear Laura Scherb in episode 016 to talk about visual branding.

Transcript

Click for full text.

Intro:

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. And we’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself, because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan Porta:

Food bloggers. Hey, if you have not yet joined the new, amazing community that we just launched, go and do it. You will find so much value inside, including connecting with other food bloggers in a much deeper way, and having access to all kinds of exclusive value, such as bonus podcast episodes and mastermind groups and our Resources and Service Provider Directory and so much more. If you sign up by the end of August, you can be a part of the first batch of mastermind groups that we’re setting up. So this is not something that you will want to put off. Go to eatblogtalk.com for more information, and we can’t wait to see you inside.

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What’s up food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, the podcast made for you. Food bloggers seeking value for your businesses and your lives. Today I have Beth Taubner from mercurylab.com with me, and we are going to discuss how to define your brand and tell your story. We’re going to talk about creating an authentic point of view with photography in motion. Founder of Mercurylab, Beth Taubner has been a transformational brand strategist and creative director working with strategy and creative communications for over 20 years. Beth has developed a proprietary approach to the branding process, using a combination of psychological, visual and analytic processes. She is well known for her expertise in creating branding programs and distinctive concepts, visuals and language communications for businesses, both large and small, for hospitality, luxury travel retailers, food agencies, photographers, directors, and creative professionals in the US, UK and worldwide. Beth, I love this profile, this bio, um, it just says so much about you, but before we dive into our chat, I would just love it if you gave us a quick fun fact about yourself.

Beth Taubner:

A quick fun fact about myself is that I’m a psychological astrologer and I use it in my work. It was something that I was interested in for a long time and after 9/11, my office was very near the world trade center. I literally sat up one morning and I thought, I have to go to England and study with this woman who had the most prominent Institute for psychological astrology in the world. So I started going there and then she closed the Institute and they took the program online, kind of a salon style learning. I was in the second group of people who went through. So I’m certified as a psychological astrologer.

Megan:

I have never even heard of that, but that sounds…

Beth:

It’s incredible. It’s using astrology, not in a day-to-day way, but kind of understanding the map of the psyche. I find in particular with working with creative people, it’s a really interesting way to look at both kind of their family history, which really drives what their brand is about, and also to look at how they relate to the world out there in a real snapshot world out there being, what people are dreaming about, what their ideals are, what they find beautiful aesthetically, all of that is in a snapshot in the chart.

Megan:

I find that super interesting. I love stuff like that. Very interesting to learn that about you, but not really relating to our topic. So we’re here to talk about branding and as you know, branding is so huge for food bloggers. I feel like it’s a piece of the puzzle that we don’t always understand, especially just starting out. It’s kind of a process, right? I do think it’s such a big part of the equation, especially when we are trying to be authentic and successful. So to start out, I know that you have so much to share because you have such an expansive background with this, but I would just love to hear about the foundation of what it means to be a brand.

Beth:

I’m going to take just a second to talk about why I feel I can really help your audience.

Megan:

Absolutely. Let’s hear that.

Beth:

I have worked as a designing person for most of my career. I’ve worked in advertising, book packaging, editorial, in the film world. So all of these things, it helped me to have a very rounded view of how the artists can come to market. I knew how to do that before I became a brand strategist. So the brand strategists I came out of that place, that hyper visual place and the language place. I thought, what does this actually mean? I decided to go to graduate school and I thought, I’m going to learn here. Then in fact, as has happened to me many times in my career, my professor just plunked me out of the class and he said, no, I’ve got a gourmet food business, just work on that with me and I’ll teach you how to become a brand strategist. So that was great. Because I think that artists now touch the world in so many ways, you have to know in a very essential way who you are. But I work with my own clients because I work with so many photographers and photo agencies and we’ll work with the top food stylist in the country, working into what the real core brand meaning is, helps them not only understand how to shape their creative voice and what parts of themselves they’re using. That’s where the psychology comes in. But also helps them to work strategically. That’s really important because I find, frequently, when I speak and I speak a lot for trade shows, symposiums, conferences, podcasts, I find that the artist is working in a very reactive way. Not really looking analytically at themselves and analytically at the marketplace.

So that doesn’t work. That doesn’t work, because when people talk to me about their style, I say, style comes and goes. You have to know where you stand in order to be successful. Then you understand how to use your resources, time and your money and if you have anyone working with you. These are a couple of things that I want to cover; working from the inside out, being analytical and learning how to identify the market place. I’m going to give your audience two exercises to raise their inner awareness and market awareness, which they’ll be able to use continually, which would be fabulous for them. We’re going to talk about some other brands and that’s what we call in the branding business, the brand landscape. I thought that what we should start by talking about is what it means to be a brand.

Now brands are constructed in various specific ways. There are a mixture of attributes that are traits and facts. Those are capabilities. Now I’ve found in all the years of my working, that this attribute word, which is a key word in the branding business. People always say, I don’t really understand what an attribute is. Sometimes even after I’ve been working with someone for a couple of years, they say what’s an attribute, but they know who they are. So if you think that an attribute is a trait, that trait you might use to describe, I always say, describe your best friends. So if you were to describe your best friends and I’ll describe my best friends, she’s been my best friend since I’ve been 15. She’s like a fierce warrior. She has an incredible sense of humor. She is the most loyal person in the world and underneath her tough exterior , she’s like a marshmallow. She’s very kind hearted. So I’ve just described her attributes. You’re shaking your head. That’s right, because you could describe someone in your life, maybe not that exact way. So that’s a distillation of what the attributes are.

We want to be able to get to the point within ourselves, where we can reach that kind of identification. Now, what I’ve found with photographers is they like to lead with their capabilities. So they want to talk about their technical stuff or what hammer they’re shooting with or the worst one, which is, I’m a good problem solver. I always say, if you’re not a good problem solver, you just cannot be in any part of the photo world. So I kind of train that out of them. But what we do look at, is what are the patterns in the shooting? And we’re going to talk more about that today, because one thing about learning about your attributes is that it can push you out of your comfort zone. That’s really important.

Megan:

So can I ask you a question quickly? So, the attributes. So we find it easy to describe, say our best friends or somebody else, like you just did. How do we get to that place where we can do that about ourselves? Do we ask other people? Because I don’t think everyone would be able to sit down and give a clear description of themselves. Like you just said about your best friend.

Beth:

That’s right. I agree with you. That’s true. Asking other people is not helpful because other people tend to see your persona. They don’t see the essence. They might feel the essence, but they have an idea about you because of kind of the way you go forth in the world. I find that starting by analyzing what other brands are about, that it starts to give you the tools because it teaches you to become more analytical. But what I do when I’m working with my own photographer clients, or with photo agencies, whoever I’m working with, is that where we first start is by digging into the family background. That’s kind of the psychological piece. You sit down and you really think about the attributes and traits of the people in your family. Then you start to push that to the surface. You start to get an incredible amount of information. People always say, well, who cares about what’s back there? The reason it’s important to push forward what’s back there, is because that’s the part of your brand and your brand attributes that you’re normally not in touch with. What I’ve found is that’s the piece, that’s the real driver for you, visually.

Megan:

Wow. That’s really interesting. Not somewhere that most people start when they think of figuring out what their brand is. I mean, not even on the radar, I don’t think. This is a really interesting new concept that I think is going to really help people figure out who they are and where they need to go. I kind of interrupted you. So I apologize, but that’s really helpful. So did you have more to say about the facts because you talked about the mixture of attributes and facts, so I’ll let you continue.

Beth:

Yes. Because you can’t unhinge the attribute from the capability. They work together to be what your brand is about. One exercise that I give my clients to do, which I would like to share with your audience, is a writing exercise.

Megan:

Let’s hear that.

Beth:

Ask them to get a journal. In other words, a book that they can’t rip pages out of. I want them to do a free association writing exercise. Because one thing, I don’t want you to do it on your computer. I want you to do it by hand, because yes, because that pulls the information straight out of your subconscious. Now, you sit down and you write with no judgment. That’s the important part. You’re going to write about what I call the good, the bad and the ugly. You’re not writing for match.com. You’re writing to kind of start to get all of that layer of worry and chatter that we all have at the top of our brain. So we want to make space for you to start to be more analytical about who you are. So that’s the first exercise that we do.

Megan:

For how long? Because I could write forever.

Beth:

An hour. Write for an hour. A therapeutic hour. I want you to put yourself in a place where you’re not going to get interrupted. It’s the summer, go outside and do it in a park, do it in your garden. You need to do this exercise in a place where you’re not being stimulated by anything that disturbs you and where you can really tunnel into yourself. It doesn’t matter if you keep repeating yourself. If you do it as a list, if you write in a narrative way, it doesn’t matter. Some people write about themselves in the third person. It really doesn’t matter. The most important thing is to do the exercise. That’s an important takeaway from our session today.

Megan:

I love what you said about making space. So doing this makes space for some other things, right? It opens up the door for other things that are supposed to come out. So once you do the hour, are you at a place where you can kind of dive more deeply into another facet of your subconscious? Or how does that work?

Beth:

Then you do the next part of it.

Megan:

I’m sorry.

Beth:

That’s all right. You’re way ahead.

Megan:

I’m so excited. This is great stuff. Okay.

Beth:

Well, I work very sequentially in this work. It’s a process and that’s the important thing about learning about yourself as a brand is that if you think of it as a destination, that’s okay. But the goal is to know this deep part of yourself, which is a mixture of your attributes and capabilities, so that you can then apply it to everything you do. I’ve found over the years that artists tend to fall apart at certain parts in their brand communication. Maybe they don’t know how to edit their work. That’s very typical. That causes them a lot of problems. Maybe they don’t know how to talk about their work, or they don’t know how to write from a brand perspective. They are not good at constructing a website like some bloggers, their website seems really out of sync with what they’re talking about.

So it gives you the guideline. It gives you the North star for making decisions about what we call all the brand touch points. Okay? So that is where you start. Now, another thing that comes in is what are your goals? That’s the strategy. So, in some of the sites and Instagram accounts that I follow, sometimes I can’t tell what the goal is of the food blogger. That has to be part of the story, because if you’re just doing it for yourself, that’s fine. If you’re doing it because you want to publish a book, that’s fine. If you’re doing it because you want to be seen as a consultant in a certain part of the brand world and you have a lot of authority and cupcakes, that’s fantastic. So you really need, as part of your writing, as the next part of your writing, to write about your goals and your hopes and dreams for what you might do.

Megan:

And how long do you write about that? Is that like another hour?

Beth:

What I call a therapeutic hour, a real hour without judging yourself. Nothing is out of reach. I could tell you so many stories about people I have started working with. Food people, all kinds of photographers, and they start with a dream. I had one photographer, a Still Life photographer, I worked with for a long time. He had a really dark studio and it made him really depressed. He said, I just want to be a travel photographer. Now he had no skills as a travel photographer, but what we realized is that he had a lot to say as a fine artist. He moved into doing different kinds of fine artwork based on the same attributes. That’s the important piece of the discussion, is that once you understand your attributes, you apply them to any output. Whether it’s part of your food blog or you decide you want to apply it to the fashion world, do you want to apply it to the travel world? Because a lot of people who are interested in food, end up getting involved in the travel world. Look at someone like Anthony Bordain, starts as a chef and then ends up with this incredible series that takes us into the foods of the world and the excitement of being involved in other cultures through food.

Megan:

Isn’t that interesting how they’re tired so often and food bloggers do the same. I think a lot of food bloggers like to travel and they post about their travels. So it’s really interesting to me that they’re tied and this is really kind of an equation. So you’re talking about, it’s kind of clear you find your attributes, you figure that out and then you’ve got this process of writing. So the journal writing an hour, just getting rid of all that nonsense, getting the chatter out of your mind and then talking about your goals and not holding anything back.

Beth:

Right. Don’t hold anything back. Let it go because you have enough ambitions in your head. We all have that. You want to make space for this other information to come through to you. It works really well. Now I want to also talk about, which I’m going to talk about later on in our chat about using photo and video as tools and language, as tools that are there to express your point of view and your brand attributes. They’re not disconnected from that. They are you, they are you combined with your strategy and where you want to go so that you have to understand the marketplace. Now that’s the other exercise. The other exercise is going to be about analyzing brands. So I’m going to talk about that a little bit now.

Megan:

Yeah, that’d be great.

Beth:

Whenever I give my artists this exercise to do, in the beginning, they find it very difficult and they say, why do I have to torture myself by doing this? You need to understand this because a well-managed brand gives you an incredible amount of information and educates you about how brand attributes and capabilities are deployed. The whole thing about being a brand strategist is that you have to come at it with no judgment. People used to analyze Starbucks for me. I’d have a client who would do that and then they would become very incensed about how Starbucks had put local cafes out of business. I would say, as a strategist, you kind of have to view it as you’re putting water through a colander, just let it flow through. Look at it, analyze it, write it down, which is really important so that you see if you’re pushing far enough into what the brand is about. That’s going to help you understand your relationship to the marketplace. So it all starts to come together. The inner world of you. The outer world of where you might actually point your arrow, point your star, in terms of making connections with the world out there. So that’s how it works. That’s how the process works.

Megan:

Okay. That is so intriguing. And I’m kind of excited because I’m going to do this exercise because I love writing and there’s such power in the subconscious mind and there’s so much in there. I mean, everything’s in there and it’s so cool to think that. I absolutely love that concept of using that power to tap into who we are as a brand and a business.

Beth:

Well, an artist, a brand and a business. I think the artist part is that you have to digest, right? I’ve worked with photographers who don’t see themselves in those terms. But I feel it’s essential that you see. Because artists come into the commercial world and the editorial world and the brand world, and they’re bringing their artistry to bear on what they do. So why you are interested in working with, for me, an assigning person, one artist over another, is because I understand their attributes. I understand their capabilities, I understand how they are in alignment with what I’m assigning, and then we can have a good experience together. For a long time, I’ve found that every fashion photographer I’ve worked with, wanted to work for Anthropologie. It didn’t matter whether their work had anything to do with it. It was like the Holy grail of fashion. And this is something where I had to unhinge a lot of people from that fixation because Anthropologie is not the right brand for everyone to go after.

Beth:

It’s right if your brand maybe is very feminine, very romantic, really rooted in the past. Understanding that that’s a faux, a fake heritage brand. And what does that mean? And how do you click into that? So I thought I would, I would analyze two brands for the audience today.

Megan:

That would be amazing. Yes.

Beth:

So remembering that we’re not going to approach it from a judgemental or goals stance, right. We’re not going to say, Oh, you know, they’re not treating their workers correctly. Although it’s good to look at what I call the light and the shadow of the brands, because brands are not perfect. So one brand that I’m very interested in is Nike. Do you have any idea what that name is about? Do you know what Nike means?

Megan:

Do you want me to try to describe what I think?

Beth:

First, tell me about the name. Does the name have any meaning?

Megan:

I don’t know about the name.

Beth:

So this is the Greek goddess of victory.

Megan:

I did not know that.

Beth:

This was the first really major brand to encourage women to be athletic. So they named it after a woman and they went directly to the women’s market to empower and help women to just do it.

Megan:

I didn’t know that. I love that though.

Beth:

So when I think about this brand, alright you tell me what you think about it, and then, and then I’ll tell you what I think.

Megan:

Um, so I didn’t know the women aspect of it, but yeah, I think power, ability, capability, just determination. Those are the three words that I would say.

Beth:

I think determination is great. One thing that Nike really brought to the table was the idea of everyday athleticism. So, you’re too young to know, when this brand really started, but they were really there to help people kind of funnel athleticism into their lives, to be their personal best. It’s what I call a call to action brand. That’s their tagline. So it’s a call to action. It says, you can do it. You can do it at any level. It’s incredible. You know, Nike has established running clubs and races for women all over the world. They do this in Africa. It helps build confidence. It’s incredible. At the same time, it’s a style element. You know, you can look at the cover of Vogue magazine and there is someone wearing something from Chanel, with a pair of Nike’s. It also became a fashion brand. So they do collaborations with other artists, incredible stuff. So I think it’s a very clear brand and it’s a good brand to study.

Megan:

And I love how simple the advertising and the logo is too. But, despite it being so simple, there’s such a clear meaning to it. There’s so much packed into that simplicity. You can look at just a solid background and the Nike swoop, is what it’s called swoop. You feel that you feel so much. I think that’s a great brand to study because they’ve managed to pack so much meaning into such a simple look.

Beth:

I wanted to address what you’re saying because that swoop used to always be married with the tagline, Just Do It. After so many years, they were able to unlock it because there was so much brand identification with clothes that they could just apply the logo. So you don’t need to see anything but the logo anymore. That’s what an uber brand does. You know, if you look at Starbucks, you don’t need to see Starbucks. You understand that logo, you see it, someone carries their coffee cup around and it doesn’t even say Starbucks on one side, you just see the logo.

Megan:

And you know exactly what it’s about.

Beth:

It’s important. I’m glad that you brought that up, Megan, because for our listeners, it’s no different for them. One thing I do work on with my clients is we work on a lot of graphic design, because graphic design is the symbolic language for expressing your attributes. So you want to be able to have a visual consistency, it’s not literal, when people give me their business card and there’s a camera on it, I want to kill myself. Or a camera in the logo. It needs to be resonant of your attributes. Right? So I thought another brand we would talk about, because I know we don’t have that much time, is I want to talk about Apple. One of the brands that is very clear. Now, what do you think their attributes are?

Megan:

Oh, you’re putting me on the spot. So I would say Apple, they’re known for their ease of use and their simplicity, and anyone can do it. Anyone can go into any of their products and just figure it out.

Beth:

Perfect. That is the first one I have written down here is easy to use. It’s also become  a very democratic brand once they released a phone for $99. It changed the company completely because everyone could have something from that company. It’s also visionary because they kind of always figure out what the next thing is in terms of the technology. They’re design wizards. Everything is very streamlined. Here I am talking to you on my MacBook Air. It’s perceived as a luxury, although it’s price, like the phone, there’s no barrier to entry. And weirdly the other thing that I notice and many people have said to me when I asked this kind of question about Apple, is that you feel like you’re an insider, like you’re in an insider club.

How many millions of people have iPhones? So that brand is unbelievable and unbelievably well not managed. So what I would like the listeners to do is to continue to look at these brands. I want them to do an exercise. So I’m going to give them an outer world exercise. This is the big groaner exercise. It’s not as much about writing about yourself. I want them to, in their journal, analyze two brands, every day for three months. Get to their attributes. Now it could be in any area. It doesn’t have to be something they buy. It doesn’t have to be a famous brand. It could be a local coffee shop. It could be the local market. It could be the farm stand that you go to, your favorite city, a city you’d like to go to. An artist you love. A painter you love. You can be very, very broad in your analysis in doing this exercise, but doing the exercise will sharpen your understanding of attributes and capabilities.

So I’ve given you an exercise for the inner life, and I’m giving you an exercise for the outer world. So that you, in your strategy, wherever your strategy is as a food blogger, it will help you understand what the path should be. How to develop a strategy, because that’s the other thing, that as a brand strategist, I am going through this process so that I can create both a short-term and a long-term strategy for my clients. For one of my clients, I’ve worked with one of my agencies where we’ve expanded her brands to many different countries. Then I have another, an illustration agency based in the UK. Now he’s in four other countries. I’m working right now with an incredible how we live brand to launch a new division, which I can’t talk about. But even at this moment in time, people are still expanding, but very, very strategically.

So I think that this is very important for your audience to think about, so that they feel that they’re getting the benefit of all the energy it takes to do this kind of work. As pleasurable as food blogging can be, you’ll have to really think about every single thing you’re doing and what are your goals? So that’s not always clear to me when I looked at people’s blogs. I’m not sure what they’re up to. I think in the beginning, that’s true for all of us. You know, my photo teacher, when I was studying photography in college, he was very arrogant. He had a lot of work in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He would say the first two years, you’re taking pictures, garbage in, garbage out. It’s not until you make the space, after two years that you can really start to drill into. I was so upset by that, when I was studying with him. But you know, it turned out that, cause I used to do a lot of workshops for young photographers. I found that to be the case.

Megan:

I love that term, make the space because I think that’s so true for so many aspects of our lives and our businesses. You do. If you don’t have the space there, you’re not going to be able to put stuff in it. You’ve got to have that space.

Beth:

I remember someone came to me, when I first started my consulting business and they’d only photograph pictures of doors. This is a very typical thing for a young photographer to do, I just think, that’s so amazing. All those different colors, but there’s no point of view in that. You really have to think about what you are trying to say? What I’m struck by in the food blogging world, is that it’s not just visual. You have language as well. That’s a whole other topic that we could talk about at another time. This is a fixation of mine, is to learn, to communicate from a language perspective, based on your brand attributes and do a lot of training in that area. So that’s something that I want your listeners to really think about and to drill into.

Megan:

That’s good food for thought.

Beth:

The next piece I want to talk about is, understanding the brand landscape. The landscape is the landscape of the other people, who are doing the same thing that you do. So we call that the brand landscape in the brand world. So I thought that I would talk about some people who I’ve been following. Is that good?

Megan:

Let’s hear that. Yes. That sounds great.

Beth:

I don’t know if you will have been following any of these same people that I’ve been looking at. So I’ll just give you the name and then if the listeners want to either follow along or look at them after our very exciting talk is over, that will be good. First, I wanted to talk a little bit about Sally’s Bake Blog. Do you know her, Megan?

Megan:

I love her so much. She’s not only got an amazing brand and beautiful everything, but she’s the sweetest person in the world. So I love it. I’m so glad you picked her.

Beth:

What is her brand about?

Megan:

Obviously 100% desserts. Desserts that are made with love and you know, they’re tried and true tested. They’re pretty, they’re beautiful. She just represents sweetness all around.

Beth:

Sweetness all around. That’s the key thing that you said. What I found, a hundred percent desserts made with love. I like that very much. What I found so interesting about her are things like her baking challenges. She’s very engaged with her audience. It’s not just about her. She wants to empower other people as well. I like her tutorials. I think she’s very savvy. That’s the other part. It’s not just all sweetness. There’s an incredible clarity. I think she’s very, very strategic in what she’s doing. I like that about her. But the place where I feel that she is less strong is in her shooting. I think that how she’s approaching her photography has the power of her idea. So it’s interesting. She’s been doing this for a long time, nine years. She started in 2011. Another thing she does that’s very smart is when you look at her Cookie Addiction cookbook, it connects you back to her blog. So she’s using every element to keep you inside her world. She’s created a very good world, but I do think that from a visual perspective, she needs to sharpen it up. It needs to have that same sense. It’s so feminine and seductive, that she needs to move more into those attributes. Do you see what I’m saying?

Megan:

I do see what you’re saying, but I agree 100% with all of those good things you said. I just love that. She is very smart. Even as someone who doesn’t necessarily scope out the branding side, I’m not looking for people’s brands, but I do follow her work consistently. And I agree. I think she’s so smart. I think she approaches business in such a smart way. You can see that you can sense that right away,

Beth:

Because she brings you into her world. What I would call and I like to say is very circular. So that she keeps you inside the world. Like one thing that I come across frequently with photographers who are working professionally, is that they want to show videos on their site, but they don’t embed them on the site. You have to go to Vimeo and then you’re taken off the site. You don’t want that. So she has solved that. She keeps you in a circular universe, her universe, this pretty lovely universe. So I’m glad that you liked her. I liked her as well. Now another person I looked at is, Eat Lit Food. Do you know him? Albert Cho?

Megan:

I do not. Eat Lit Food.

Beth:

Yes. L I T food.

Megan:

I’ll look it up right now.

Beth:

Now, he also is not a good photographer. So that, I felt disturbed by. Every image is shot centered. It’s kind of messy. What he’s trying to do is create what we call hero shots for the world. But because there’s such a repetition of the way that he’s shooting, it kind of cancels out how you can’t really delve into it. Where I feel he’s stronger as a writer, than he is as a visual person. And where I also was very curious about, he seems he’s stating what he wants for inquiries and collaborations. So he’s putting that right out front, but I don’t feel compelled to do that. I felt that it was important to talk about one that I don’t feel is working. There’s a little bit of a harshness to it. It’s kind of too cute. I don’t like cute. Hello Kitty. I don’t mean that kind of cute. I mean, it’s kind of an arrogance. I’d have to think about the right word. So if he listens to this, he’s going to hate me.

But I don’t want the listeners to go down that kind of road. I feel like that may be his voice, but it needs to be married with something else because we have a group of attributes, right? We don’t have one attribute and he’s playing into one attribute. So that’s a place of understanding how one attribute won’t get you all the way there. Now, another person that I’ve been following for quite some time, who I adore, is and I’m going to not be able to say the name right. It’s Canelle. Do you know her? Oh my God. She is incredible. She has been in the best of the New York Times, Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, Food 52. She comes from the Basque region of France and her grandparents had a bakery. So here we are getting into the family history and she puts that right out there.

She learned to bake, by baking and working in her grandparents bakery. So the Basque region, I believe, sits right between France and Spain. So what happened is in the course of her life as a pastry chef, as a very major pastry chef, working in restaurants, she developed a gluten allergy. She became a specialist in the gluten-free baking world. She teaches people to do the most unbelievable gluten-free baking artisan baking. That is her position. She is an artisan. She is, as a pastry chef, she has an incredible authority for understanding, at the most perfectionistic level, how things should look, how they should taste, what the texture is. Beautiful, beautiful. She just published her first cookbook and it’s doing very well. So, she’s taking a break from her blog, but I think that this is someone that your listeners should look at.

Megan:

Can you spell her now? You said her name and it was very..

Beth:

Aran. Her last name is G O Y O A G A. Let me spell her site. It’s Canelle, C A N N E L L E space E T, and then V A N I L L E, which means, it’s cinnamon and vanilla. So there, by giving you that name, she’s talking about the sweetness and the clarity and the traditionalism of the vanilla, and then the warmth of the cinnamon and that you can feel the color and the density and the history. Think about that. That’s from the spice route, going through Africa, in the spice markets, it feels fragrance. She’s giving you a big story with her name.

Megan:

It feels fragrant. I like that. You just said that. It feels fragrant, which is, you know, it feels, but then another sense, fragrant. That’s just the coolest thing. I love those words. You can get that just from looking at her brand.

Beth:

Yes. You get that from the name. You can see how thoughtful she was. That’s why we as brand strategists always work on naming. You get hired to name a company because you do it based on the attribute, the inner world of the business. The name is not a throw away. If we have time, maybe I should talk about one more. Do you know Sarah Copeland’s and Edible Living?

Megan:

That sounds familiar. Hold on.

Beth:

Very beautiful.

Megan:

Okay. So what about her? Do you think this is a good example?

Beth:

I think she’s fantastic.

Megan:

What do you like about her?

Beth:

Her background is a nutritionist. She’s a culinary educator and a recipe developer. She’s stating the facts. Those are her capabilities. Her capabilities give her the authority to talk about food in a different way, right? She’s not just a person who’s interested in food. She’s an authority on what is good for you. So this is a place where stating the facts again is very, very powerful, but she’s interested in a bigger idea. She’s not calling it edible food. She’s calling it edible living. It’s a different position. She’s talking about it as it’s part of your whole life. What you put into your body is good for you, and it can still be amazing and beautiful. She calls it simple luxuries. And again, this is not something that I see food bloggers talking about very much because simple luxury might be identified with buying yourself a candle.

But she’s talking about that in terms of the things that you do for yourself, what you eat, what you feed your family. So it’s very beautiful. It’s very, very serene. It’s a beautiful kind of white, glowy world. I’d find it to be very self-assured. I feel that she comes across not just as an authority, but with authority. That you can come into this world and do something good for yourself in a very beautiful way. Not in the traditional kind of a nutritionist, a hospital nutritionist that tells you to eat jello or an applesauce and all of the kinds of things. Do you know what I’m saying?

Megan:

The way you just described her brand, it was beautiful. Oh my goodness. I’m sure she would be honored to hear that, but I mean, I just peeked at her site and then clicked off and listened to you talk through it and wow. That’s just like yes, please. Don’t you all want to be a part of that world now?

Beth:

I would like, again, for your listeners to be studying. We have to become good students. Without doing that and having the patience for that, it’s very hard to develop our own brands. Because another, I just have a note here, which I wanted to share. It helps you to understand the clients, whoever the client may be. Maybe your client is that you want to get a book published, or you’re going to do your own book. You’re going to be printing one at a time and selling it through Amazon. That’s fine too. One of the interesting things is that in the book world. So now I’m going to give you a little trends piece, because this is something that strategists think about, is that when epublishing came in, people were buying less physical books and more eBooks. Then what has happened in the past few years, and I have to say before COVID, that this was happening, is that people started to buy less eBooks and more physical books, but the same amount of books were being sold.

The numbers in essence of who was involved with wanting books remain the same. But one part of the industry that has stayed very, very solid, is the cookbook world. Now you’re not going to make a lot of money from publishing a cookbook, and I want your listeners to understand that. But in terms of being seen as an authority, this is a very good thing to do. One thing I’ve talked about, I spoke at the artists and food show in Ireland last year. I wanted to talk about different ways of kind of getting your brand out there. You don’t always just have to do your own cookbook. For example, you can be part of a collective. People do regional cookbooks.

Megan:

That’s a good idea.

Beth:

I would like yourself to put yourself in the audience shoes. That’s one thing that your listener has to do. What would you like them to know about you? What would you like them to glean and understand at a very visceral level? How to describe you. Now, I do want to talk a little bit about the actual photography. What I have seen is that a lot of bloggers and also people who are posting on Instagram and doing their blog that way tend to shoot in a very similar way from above, because it’s very easy. I want them to question, why are you putting the camera in that position? Why? It’s a very convenient thing to do. It organizes the picture. I realized that it looks good on Instagram, but it’s hard to engage with the monotony. That’s one thing that I was saying about Eat Lit Food, is there’s no variation. There’s no depth in the photography. I also have found that there’s very, very little motion.

Why is that? Why are the food bloggers and the food Instagram people not using video. It’s because people are afraid of doing motion. It’s very easy to bake your cookie, stand on a step ladder, put your iPhone above and take a picture. But you have to be able to do more than that because there’s a language of what photography is. So the language of photography is how you work with light. What does light mean to you? Whether you’re working in black and white or color, what is the interior scale of the image? What’s the positive space? What’s the negative space? How are you using the edges of the frame? What’s the perspective? Where are you actually putting the camera? What do you want to see? What do you want to see in the environment? Are you shooting slightly up, slightly down, in front of it, behind it? You have to learn how to move the camera. It’s essential to move the camera. Then the other part of the language of photography is about emotion. So what are you talking about emotionally? What are you showing? Now, ideally you want there to be a mixture of those things in your photography, so that you start to create a more of a visual meaning and a visual texture. When someone is looking at your Instagram so that you are directing them to look at different things.

Megan:

Visual texture. I just have to say that what a great phrase. I just wrote it down and circled it. I love that. Okay. You can go on.

Beth:

Making me so happy because you are. Then there’s the language of film, which is a different language because there’s all these different elements. Again, there’s light and most critically there’s framing. So you know that classically, if you put one person at one edge of the frame facing another person at the other edge of the frame, they’re not getting along. That’s a very classic thing to understand in the language of film. Where there’s this very activated frame, there’s a lot of space between them and they’re facing each other. That’s a conflict, for instance. So where are you placing things in your video? Light? What is the sound? Is there music? Are there any sound effects? Is there a voiceover? Is someone speaking on camera? This is a whole other language. I always have said for years, my lifestyle photographers, when they start doing motion, they think if they put a girl in a bathing suit, running on the beach, with a perfect piece of music, they think that’s the emotion piece, but it is not. An emotion piece is narrative.

And that’s one point that I want to make, is that you, in the area and you’re in and the food blogging area, are in the business of narrative. You’re there to tell the story. That’s why we liked Sally’s Bake Blog so much. That’s why we like Aran Goyoaga and Sarah Copeland, because they’re telling a big story, a big narrative. Because you’re working on a very regular basis, you have the opportunity to tell the narrative of who you are, and also to tell the narrative about who you want to reach, who are you trying to engage with? What is your goal? Is your goal to be hired as a working photographer for magazines? There’s not so many outlets, but maybe what you want is to be shooting for people’s websites. Maybe you love your food blog, but what you’d really like to be doing is working with someone who has a test kitchen, working as a blogger slash stylist. There’s so many different things that you might be doing.

I work with an incredible food photographer, Patrician Nivon in the UK. She shoots for the Sunday times magazine and the Telegraph. She works with one of the most prominent restaurants, not just one restaurant, but restaurant brands in the UK. What started to happen is she started to do videos and then they started to put her on camera, because she is so telegenic. I always tell her, you’re a superstar. I don’t need to teach you to be on camera. But it’s something we’re pushing into in her work because she really, really understands the language of motion. She’s very self-assured and sparkly on camera, in the best kind of way and the most authentic kind of way. Because you started talking about authenticity. Authenticity is what we’ve been talking about for the entire time. I do want to add one other thing about shooting, because I passed over this very quickly.

I do want your listeners to really get some basic tech skills. Not just depending on their iPhone to organize everything for them visually. Maybe they can take a little class once things are open, at a local community college or they can study with my friend Matthew Jordan Smith, who does, it’s not about food, but he teaches an incredibly amazing class online about lighting. There’s so many resources out there. Another thing that you can do is buy a lens kit for your iPhone. That is going to help you to take much, much more, gives you a much bigger vocabulary going back to the vocabulary of photography. So I want your audience to think about that. Let’s see. Here’s a couple of my last notes. Don’t be afraid of motion. Practice. Get used to working with a crew. This is really great for bloggers and storytelling. Stay very focused on your strategic goals so that you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. So I have given you a program today about really, dare I say, soup to nuts, on how to understand what your brand is, how to discover it, how to analyze the world out there, how to understand your visuals better, how to understand the brand landscape, to think about your hopes, your dreams, your strategy, to hold that together so that it guides, it’s the touchstone. It guides every decision that you make.

Megan:

I love all of that. I could probably just sit here and listen to you for a couple of hours, Beth. But you’ve given us some really good places to start. If anyone listening is thinking that, maybe they’ve been doing this for a while and they haven’t established what their branding is. You gave us some journal exercises to work through, and then also some strategy about analyzing other people, other food blogs, other brands in general. I think I’m actually going to take you up on all of this, because I am all over this. My ten-year anniversary is coming up next month. I didn’t focus on any of this for the first eight years. I didn’t do much of anything besides Pinterest for the first eight years. Now it’s kind of embarrassing because I’ve been doing it for so long, but I’m to that point where I I need to figure all of this out. So I am going to take you up on this, on your examples here, and I’m just going to do it and dig into it. So thank you. I really appreciate everything you’ve shared.

Beth:

Let’s move into our special offer.

Megan:

So yes, you have some special offers for us. So tell us about that. So for Eat Blog Talk listeners, what do you have?

Beth:

The first thing is they can go to our website, which is mercurylab.com. Scroll down on the homepage to brand tools for you and download a tip sheet that we’ve written for food bloggers. Then the next offer is even more, much more exciting, I have to say. It was just something, maybe Megan, you can jump on.

Megan:

Am I allowed?

Beth:

I think that’s between you and yourself. We’re going to be giving a complimentary 30 minute brand review and recommendations to the first three listeners who sign-on between August 20th and 25th. The first three listeners who go to our site and register for the competition, will receive a complimentary 30 minute brand review and recommendations. Then we’ll have 90 days to schedule. So this is something that I’m very excited to offer your listeners.

If you want to work with me directly, of course, inquire about that as well. Because I’m sure that this work done in a very, very concentrated waym will pop you into the next level of your career. It will set you on your road for the rest of your working life. This work that we’re talking about. So I would love to work with anyone who feels they’re ready, or maybe not so ready. I’d love to work with you, Megan, because I think also when you’re running a blog, you can also kind of put all your energy out there for other people, and it’s important to hold onto some of that for yourself.

Megan:

I love that. And what a great offer, thank you for offering that. I think if you are listening and this sounds interesting to you, go take advantage of that right now. Starting on August 20th, right? So I thank you, Beth. Unfortunately, we are out of time. I feel like we could discuss so much more, but we have to say goodbye. So thanks for being here, taking the time toda., Food bloggers are going to find this really valuable and branding is everything. I feel like it’s such a big piece that we miss out on so often. I really appreciate all of this incredible value you’ve shared with us today. Before you go, I like to ask all of my guests, if they have either a favorite quote, some people aren’t quote people, or just words of inspiration for food bloggers, because you’ve already shared enough.

Beth:

My favorite quote is from Oscar Wilde and he says, “be yourself, everybody else is taken.” And that is really what this work is about. So I love that. It’s very, very clear and wittier than I could ever be.

Megan:

I love that quote and it fits into this talk perfectly. So you already mentioned where we can find you mercurylab.com, correct?

Beth:

Yes, that’s right.

Megan:

And then are you on Instagram at mercurylab?

Beth:

It’s @mercurylabbranding.

Megan:

Mercury lab branding on Instagram. We will put together show notes. So we’ll have all of this information, everything we’ve talked about today, and also we will have the information about Beth’s special offers. So go there. You can find that at eatblogtalk.com/mercurylab. That is it. So thanks again for being here, Beth.

Beth:

It’s been great.

Megan:

I know it’s been so fun. Thanks for listening, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Intro:

We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


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Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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