E15: Sandy is the Founder of Spotted By Humphrey, a dog boutique curating playful dog goods for good dogs. The shop has grown tremendously since its launch in 2018. Sandy and Humphrey were even invited down to Los Angeles for a segment on Shopify's YouTube channel. This was a professional studio set with camera crew, backstage make-up artists, and real actors and actresses on the set. Sandy's secret to growth has been building a strong brand identity. She built an audience over 150k followers across all social media channels and today, she's going to share her framework for building a successful brand.
Definition of Brand (2:38)
A brand is a feeling that consumers get when they're interacting with you. So it's something that's not definable by the company to the extent that a brand is defined by the relationship between the company and its customers.
Framework for Creating a Strong Brand (4:32)
Step 1: Identify your values.
Step 2: Live your values consistently.
Step 3: Be open to adapting your brand values.
Identify Your Brand Values (5:56)
Start with yourself. Think about how you see yourself as a brand, what values you live by, or simply just how your friends might describe you.
Stay Consistent with Your Brand Values (8:53)
Every touchpoint in the customer experience should embody these values. Think of the colors on your website, the tone of your social media posts, or the way that your emails look. So the more consistent they are, the more effective you'll be at reinforcing those values.
Evolve Your Brand Values (13:28)
It's only natural that a brand changes and evolves over time like humans do. It doesn't have to be drastic as a complete rebrand. It's really important to continuously observe the trends within your industry and assess what kind of changes feel appropriate to your brand.
Audit Your Brand Values (17:48)
If you have a business, when was the last time you did an audit on your brand values? Visit them now and update them.
World-class entrepreneurs have one thing in common: they master the art of decision-making. Influential thinkers like Charlie Munger, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk all use mental models and frameworks to simplify complex problems. Join host Yong-Soo Chung as we dive into powerful frameworks covering entrepreneurship, self-improvement, and wealth-building that will unlock hidden growth levers in your business one week at a time. Listen & follow!
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Yong-Soo: What's going on everybody? Welcome to the First Class Founders podcast. My name is Yong-Soo Chung and I'm the Founder of Urban EDC, an e-commerce brand selling everyday carry gear, and GrowthJet, a Climate Neutral Certified third-party logistics company. For the past 7 years, I built an 8-figure business around my passions and now, my goal with this show is to help you scale your creator business to 6-figures and beyond.
Yong-Soo: Today, we have a very special episode. For the first time ever, we have a guest on this show. As some of you may already know, Sandy is both my life partner and business partner. She is the manager for both of our French bulldogs, Humphrey and Pota, who have over 150,000 followers across all social channels under the name Spotted Humphrey.
Yong-Soo: Yup, you heard that right. Our french bulldogs are celebrities. On our walks in the city, people stop us and ask if they could take a photo with Humphrey and Pota. Of course, our dogs love the attention so it's a win-win.
Yong-Soo: So Sandy started her career in accounting and in 2018, she quit her job to pursue a creative business doing what she loves. She is the creative director for all the content for Humphrey and Pota. She is also the Founder of Spotted By Humphrey, a dog boutique curating playful dog goods for good dogs.
Yong-Soo: The shop has grown tremendously since its launch in 2018. Sandy and Humphrey were even invited down to Los Angeles for a segment on Shopify's YouTube channel. This was a professional studio set with camera crew, backstage make-up artists, and real actors and actresses on the set.
Yong-Soo: So what is Sandy's secret to growth?
Sandy's success in growing a personal brand through Spotted Humphrey and a retail shop with Spotted By Humphrey can be attributed largely to a strong brand that she has built over the past 4 years.
Yong-Soo: And today, she's going to share her framework for building a successful brand.
Yong-Soo: Let's dive right in.
Yong-Soo: So I'm really excited to talk to you today because you have Spotted By Humphrey, which is a retail brand along with Spotted Humphrey, which is more of a personal brand, but for your dogs.
Yong-Soo: So I want to ask you first, can you help us define what a brand is at its core?
Sandy: When I think of a brand, it's essentially the feeling that consumers get when they're interacting with you. So it's actually something that's not fully definable by the company to the extent that a brand is defined by the relationship between the company and its customers.
Sandy: I think it's important in today's world now more than ever, to have a strong brand because the average consumer has an overwhelming number of options when it comes to what to buy and where, and so it's powerful to leave a lasting impression so that you can stand out in the sea of options.
Yong-Soo: Sandy defines a brand as emotions or the feelings that you get when you're interacting with a company. This goes deeper than just having the right values. A strong brand evokes emotion. A strong brand stands out from the crowd. Sandy compares having a strong brand to meeting someone interesting at a party.
Sandy: Imagine being at a party and you're meeting a bunch of people for the first time. You're bound to meet a few people who you make small talk with, and the conversation doesn't really go anywhere. You'll likely forget about them the next day. And sometimes you'll meet someone who shares the same interests as you, and you end up, you know, chatting and hitting it off and you realize it's not just about sharing the same interests, but you know, as you get to know this person, you find them funny, smart, nice.
Sandy: And the next day you'll say, oh, you know, I met this really interesting person yesterday, and you don't really need someone to remind you of who they were. So I think the same applies for branding as well.
Yong-Soo: I love that analogy because everybody can relate to meeting new people at a party. But the people we might reach out to after the party are the one that stood out to us. You know, the people that we connected with because our values were either similar or captivating in a good way.
Yong-Soo: So how do you create a strong brand? Let's hear from Sandy.
Sandy: In terms of creating a strong brand, I think that it's a constant work in progress. So I'd like to think of it as a cycle that consists of three steps.
Sandy: So step number one is identify your values. So like in the party example, think about what sets you apart. I think that being sure of who you are will attract the right customers. And step two is to be consistent with these values. The consistency is key because, like I said before, a brand is a feeling that your consumers get, and less so an intellectual understanding.
Sandy: And so it's a constant motion to continue to evoke those feelings. And step three is to be open to changing your brand values. And this can be based on internal or external factors. And I think that it's important to continue to reassess your brand and, you know, change is a good thing.
Yong-Soo: All right, so let's quickly summarize Sandy's 3-step framework to building a strong brand.
Step 1: Identify your values.
Step 2: Live your values consistently.
Step 3: Be open to adapting your brand values.
Yong-Soo: So let's start with Step 1. If you're just starting out, how do you begin identifying your brand values? Here's what Sandy had to say.
Sandy: If you're just starting out and you're a solopreneur, then a good place to start would be with yourself. So think about how you see yourself as a brand, what values you live by, or simply just how your friends might describe you. That's kind of how I started Spotted By Humphrey. I thought about the type of branding that Humphrey had on social media, and I felt that was inclusive, community driven, and playful, so I chose to start from there.
Yong-Soo: So Sandy got her brand identity initially for Spotted Humphrey by being authentic and getting feedback from her own audience. Then, she defined her brand identity as being inclusive, community-driven, and playful.
Yong-Soo: But as you build out your brand identity, should you be concerned about alienating your audience if your brand has very strong viewpoints?
Sandy: That's definitely something to think about. I think that having a strong brand means that you're clear and consistent in your messaging, and it doesn't necessarily have to be polarizing. I think it's also important to accept that it's impossible to cater to everybody. It's way better to have a strong brand loyalty with a smaller group, and grow from there rather than having a mediocre presence in a larger group.
Sandy: For example, when I started the shop Spotted By Humphrey, because my initial group of supporters came from Humphrey's social media, the majority of my customers were also French Bulldog owners. And I remember when sourcing accessories that have sizing, I would get like 75% French bulldog sizes and very little of the other sizes. And I remember thinking back then, how can I even this out?
Sandy: I wanted to have something for everyone, even though I was just starting out. And after a while I realized that French Bulldog owners were recommending our shop to other French bulldog owners saying that we carry the best stuff for French Bulldogs.
Sandy: And I realized how valuable it was to be known as a go-to shop for a specific group of dog owners, rather than being one of many options for all dog owners.
Yong-Soo: For creators, it's important to start with a small group of people and build a strong foundation first. Then, slowly, over time, your tribe will grow naturally beyond your niche. And that's OK. This is how you'll be able to scale your audience without diluting your core group of initial fans.
Yong-Soo: Now, you might be thinking that you're trapping yourself into a specific niche. Sandy felt the same way.
Sandy: Right. I think that where I was getting stuck back then was the idea that I may be caging myself to this one group of dog owners.
Sandy: But what I realized was that actually having that very specific core group of customers was very important and crucial to the early day success.
Yong-Soo: Okay, so now we have brand values. What is the next step to building a strong brand?
Sandy: So once you've identified your brand values, that's step one. Step two is to be consistent in communicating those brand values.
Sandy: So every touchpoint in the customer experience should embody these values. Think of the colors on your website, the tone of your social media posts, or the way that your emails look. So the more consistent they are, the more effective you'll be at reinforcing those values.
Sandy: With Spotted By Humphrey, the feeling of playfulness is communicated throughout the entire experience. In terms of color, we intentionally don't use black or white, and our main color is periwinkle blue. And another example is every product page starts with a one-liner that says Humphrey says, and then, you know, blah, blah, blah. Something that he would like about the product. And our email flow contains a lot of Humphrey gifs, we use emojis in our email subject lines. So little details like that really add up to consistently portray the feeling of playfulness throughout.
Yong-Soo: So to summarize the second step in our framework, it's important to embody those brand values identified in step 1 and really live it. Sprinkle in details throughout your customer journey to add personality showcasing those brand values. Feel free to get pretty creative here.
Yong-Soo: OK, but really. How important is it to live your brand values? Well, as it turns out, one of Sandy's own customers actually brought this up to her directly.
Sandy: Actually one specific incident comes to mind right now is this time that I hired an ad manager who created and managed custom Facebook and Instagram ads for us, and she would develop the image and the copy based on her experience with marketing, which I mean, she was very experienced and very, you know, successful at what she does.
Sandy: And a couple weeks into these ads going live, I got a DM from a good customer saying that she would love to offer feedback. And so we jumped on a call and basically she told me that the ads felt very inconsistent to the tone of communication that she was used to seeing everywhere else from us. And not that the ad copy was bad or offensive in any way, but it was just very inconsistent in her opinion.
Sandy: And that was a huge lesson for me in terms of the importance of consistency in your tone of communication. Because you know, over time the customers, they learn to expect a certain feeling when they're interacting with your brand and when what they see doesn't really align with that, then it just feels off.
Yong-Soo: That takes us to the final step in our 3-step framework in building a strong brand.
Yong-Soo: But before we get into that, if you're enjoying this episode on building a strong brand featuring Sandy of Spotted By Humphrey, please consider sharing it with one friend who might also be interested. Word-of-mouth referral is the best way to grow this show. I really appreciate it! Thank you so much.
Yong-Soo: All right, so today we're talking to Sandy of Spotted by Humphrey.
Yong-Soo: Let's quickly summarize the first two steps in building a strong brand.
Step 1: Identify your brand values.
Step 2: Live those values consistently.
Yong-Soo: Now, we're moving on to step 3, which is to be open to changing your brand values.
Sandy: I think that it's only natural that a brand changes and evolves over time, like, you know, humans do. And it doesn't have to be drastic as a complete rebrand, but for example, as there's increased awareness around climate change, brands may consider how sustainability plays into their brand values.
Sandy: Another trend that I'm seeing is, transparency and educational content, and that's something that brands may consider incorporating. Overall, I think that it's really important to continuously observe the trends within your industry and assess what kind of changes feel appropriate to your brand.
Yong-Soo That's a great tip about observing the trends within your industry and seeing what types of changes might be appropriate for your own brand.
Yong-Soo: I asked Sandy to give us an example of how her brand evolved over time.
Sandy: I remember in the early days, I came across this ramen noodle nose-work toy, and I thought it was super fun, super cute, but I was hesitant to bring it in to the shop thinking that it was very Asian and I wasn't sure if people would get it.
Sandy: And to my surprise, people absolutely loved it. It sold out in a day. And personally, it felt really good to embrace my being Asian and bringing in Asian themed products. So from there I started sourcing more products from Asia, highlighting POC designers in the shop over time. That's another brand identity that we adopted. So yeah, that's, that's an example.
Yong-Soo: For those who aren't familiar, POC stands for people of color. So instead of shying away from her Asian background, Sandy fully embraced it and that became an important part of her brand values. She even started highlighting other designers from different ethnic backgrounds, fully embracing this new brand value.
Yong-Soo: All right, so that's our simple 3-step framework for building a strong brand that can stand the test of time.
Yong-Soo: Before we end, I'll give you one important action item related to branding that you can take with you to help you grow your business right now.
Yong-Soo: Okay, before we wrap up, I want to leave you with one more food for thought.
Yong-Soo: As Sandy mentioned, a brand evokes emotion through its values.
Yong-Soo: That's the core of who you are as a brand.
Yong-Soo: You can think of an e-commerce shop as just a channel to express those values.
Yong-Soo: If you're a creator, think wholistically about your entire brand experience from your newsletter, your podcast, your eBook, to the products that you might be selling, to the community that you're building.
Yong-Soo: Every touchpoint with your audience should be infused with your brand values in whichever medium that might be.
Yong-Soo: Remember that it's all about the types of emotions you want your audience to feel through each channel that you're expressing yourself on.
Yong-Soo: And now, here's a quick action item you can take home with you today.
Yong-Soo: If you have a business, when was the last time you did an audit on your brand values?
Yong-Soo: You might want to revisit them now and update them.
Yong-Soo: Let's say you're just starting out on your entreneurial journey.
Yong-Soo: Here's an easy way to identify your potential brand values right from the start.
Yong-Soo: Ask 3 of your friends to describe your personality.
Yong-Soo: This should give you an idea of what kind of values you already embody, which will make it easier for you to identify the brand values you want to have for your new business.
Yong-Soo: Okay, that's it for today!
Yong-Soo: In the next episode of First Class Founders, we all know how important consistency is to achieving success. But what if I told you that you can automate the process for achieving success through your daily habits? Yup, that's right. We're doing a deep dive into life-changing habits. You don't want to miss this one!
Yong-Soo: If you're a new listener and you enjoyed this episode, you can follow the show by going to FirstClassFounders.com. If you're a repeat listener, I would really appreciate a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. You can head over to FirstClassFounders.com/review to leave us a 5-star review. Thank you so much!
Yong-Soo: If you want to connect with me, I would love to hear from you. You can follow me on Twitter at @YongSooChung and let me know if you enjoyed this episode. I love hearing your feedback to improve the show. You can find links to all my social accounts in the show notes.
Yong-Soo: All right, I’ll see you on the next episode of First Class Founders!