Collette Philip runs multi award-winning brand and strategy consultancy, Brand By Me. Brand by Me help organisations build brands that drive social justice.
In this episode we discuss:
- Knowing when a space isn’t for you
- How divide and conquer works in the workplace
- Importance of language
- Clarity in brand strategy
- Hallmarks of bad brand strategy
- The history of Brand By Me
- Focus and specialisation
Collette started life in advertising, before moving brand-side She has worked with, on and for a breadth of amazing brands for over 20 years, – from household names to amazing charities, including Starburst, Clearasil, McDonald’s, T-Mobile, EE and Barnardo’s children’s charity. It was her love of brands and fire for justice that led her to launch Brand by Me, in 2016. Today Brand by Me are in high demand with clients such as Wellcome Trust, Amnesty International and Santander.
Collette is a celebrated writer and speaker featured in Third Sector, Campaign, Forbes and on BBC Radio 4. Brand by Me was named a “Small Business of 2021” by Lloyds Bank and The Times and this year, Collette was recognised as one of Campaign magazine’s “40 over 40”.
Collette is also Chair of Trustees at Abram Wilson, a music charity that inspires, connects and opens doors for minoritised young talent in the music industry.
You can find out more about Collette at collettephilip.com.
What White People Can Do Next by Emma Dabiri
The Good Ally by Nova Reid
The List by Yomi Adegoke
Black History Month
This is the first in a mini series of podcasts for Black History Month. Throughout October, we’re celebration some of the best black marketing talent from the UK, with episodes of the Strategy Sessions.
Strategy Sessions Host – Andi Jarvis
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This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.
[00:00:00.000] – Collette P
The one thing I wish I’d known 10 years ago, I think I’m going to say is that often as a black woman, it’s the system, not me. There’s always this point, and it’s happened across, it’s happened at work, it’s happened in situations where you’re like, Is it just me? Or I’m like, No, it’s not just you. This is the system you’re operating in. It’s the system that maybe at points you’re in a system or space that’s not built for you, that’s not made for you, that was actually deliberately designed to exclude people of your heritage, background, gender. I think just understanding that would have saved me a lot of pushing and a fair amount of burnout, I guess, as well.
[00:00:59.030] – Andi J
That’s a really interesting point, in that I spoke to Kevin Morovsky, who is Episode Three. Kevin’s brilliant. His new book is called Black Women Always and he describes it as a love letter to Black women. We talked about how Black women have shaped both of us, but also how as a community have been under pressure from several different directions, including from the Black male community as well at certain points through time. And realising that sometimes it’s not you, it’s just the system, does sound like it must be a really liberating experience to be able to take some of the pressure off yourself and to find that freedom to be able to do the things you want to do.
[00:01:44.410] – Collette P
Yeah, taking off pressure without is not advocating responsibility. It doesn’t stop me continuing to learn and grow. It’s just meant that at times where I’ve pushed, where previously maybe I’d have tried to push and push and push and push. I’ve had to look back and go, Do you know what? The system is telling me this opportunity is not for me. I’m going to take a step back. Then that’s cool. You don’t get a in that space then. You don’t get a in that space. And that’s okay. You just don’t get… It’s a reframing, isn’t it, around the, I really need this and I want this, to actually, you don’t get me. You don’t get to me. You don’t get me. You don’t get the value of what I can breathe that space because this space is not built for me and not going to burn myself out trying to enter it. That’s one of the reasons I left hindsight 2020. That’s one of the reasons that I am very pleased that I left my career in advertising. Although I just basically burnt myself out of it, I think actually, as I slowly had this realisation and I’ve slowly gained this realisation and knowledge over the years, it has increasingly helped me just step out of space and step out of career paths and stuff.
[00:03:11.360] – Collette P
But as I’ve got more experience, that process has just got gentler and gentler. Whereas at the beginning it would be a very violent wrench, probably I’d have to be forced out through burnout or just over on whatever. Actually now it’s a very gentle redirection, which I’m really enjoying.
[00:03:29.620] – Andi J
I think one of the things that’s come through in this Black History Month miniseries that I’ve done, and I think I’ve probably said it on every one of the episodes I’ve recorded so far, is that the thing you’re describing, it almost feels like you have to describe it and explain it. It’s a podcast, it’s for people to listen and learn, so I understand that. But anyone who’s been in the situation you’ve been in, the moment you said it, understood exactly what you meant. I’m going to dare to say that every black person in the UK listening to you is just silently nodding along going, I know exactly what you mean. But they knew what you meant the moment you finished the first 10 seconds.
[00:04:07.640] – Collette P
[00:04:08.090] – Andi J
You’ve never experienced that, you do need the explanation, don’t you? You do need to try and bring that along a bit to help people, This happens. I don’t get that. I don’t understand it because it’s never happened to them.
[00:04:21.890] – Collette P
The thing that’s slightly frustrating, I guess, you’re right. I think you’re right on both accounts. I think there is something else. There’s two things I want to say and I’m going to really try and hold them in my head, so I remember to say both of them. The first one is that in the workplace, and I’m not the only person, I’m certainly not claiming this because I’m not the first person to speak to this. David McQuinn on LinkedIn says this all the time, but there is a sense of divide and conquer in the workplace, and that’s the result of white supremacy. The white supremacy tells you that we call it the Highlander thing. I saw it called the Highland, the myth, and I.
[00:05:01.070] – Andi J
Really love the Highlander. It can be only one. -the Highland.
[00:05:02.450] – Collette P
It can only be one, exactly. There’s this thing where there’s one not even black person, just general person of colour, the white supremacy and the false narratives underneath it can be like, Well, that’s your spot done. That person in turn is like, Let me claim and hold on to my spot and oh my God, that’s it. No one else can come in this space. Then everybody else is like, Well, in every space, there might be several of you, but in a specific company, organisation, sector, and everyone’s wary looking around going, Okay, well, it’s my space. Also there’s consequences if you get together as a collective. In particular, I find in very white-supervised environments and hostile spaces and toxic spaces, that the thing you know about that is that when people see two or more Black people or even, well, two or more Black people, I speak from Black experience, gathering, everyone’s looking like, What are they talking about? They’re plotting, they’re bringing… We’re.
[00:06:14.690] – Andi J
Here to steal your soul. That’s what we’re here to do.
[00:06:17.390] – Collette P
We’re here to steal your soul. I remember having it. I remember I was working at an organisation and I had a very good friend who’s Black and worked in finance, worked in a completely different team. We didn’t really to the past did just not overlap on the day to day. If we saw often, we’d sit down and have lunch, or if we saw each other on the corridor, we’d be chatting. I have noticed it’s the parade of people walking past, just having a look. I’m like, But I noted, to be clear, I then would walk past and think in the way that this company was laid out and set up that it had one big corridor. Equally, you’d see people standing in the corridor chatting, and everybody else would just… You’d see people battling fast, and there would be a stop and a look when it was me and my friend chatting and I noted that. I noted that to say that there were two things that happened. There’s this divide and conquer, which means that… And that divide and conquer stops us from collectively describing this stuff. It has historically stopped people from sharing this truth in spaces outside of their nearest and dearest.
[00:07:24.620] – Collette P
In professional spaces, people won’t speak this truth very often. Then the counter, I knew that I would forget the second point. The first point is around the divide and conquer. Then the second point about people recognizing it is that something happened in 2020 and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter movement. But it was very helpful to have a conversation about systemic and structural racism in the public domain for the first time in the of recent years and recent history. That’s super useful. But what wasn’t useful was then that happening without, I guess, I don’t know, that happened and somehow, and I think again, it’s because of work supremacy, where people go, Oh, I don’t understand. Teach me. You’re like, Hang on a minute. I’m experiencing the racism. Now I have to teach you about it too. Oh, and worse. All right, sorry, the SM Blue Network, can you please do it for free? I’m like, Wow. I did not experience this because I’m a consultant. To be clear, when Brandy Me started doing anti-racism work as part of our offer, which we’ve done as part of our social justice work for the time we’ve been set up.
[00:08:50.490] – Collette P
But we’ve always done it. I always talk about it, done it by stealth. When we started being asked to do it openly, of course, no one was asking me to do that for free. No one was asking us, We’re a consultancy. That would be ridiculous. You can’t possibly… But you can’t. You might have tried. But these answers are very simple, though. There’s no expectation. Whereas if it’s your mates or if it’s your team members or if it’s your boss is covering to you and going, But I don’t understand. I’m not experienced this. Or worse, Are you sure? I don’t think it’s that. You’re like, No, I am sure this is my experience. It’s really hard for me to educate you. Last thing I’m going to say on this is that it’s even worse when, of course, to counter to that, some amazing anti-racist thinkers, loads of them, loads of breadth of anti-racist thinkers went to save Black people and maybe people of colour from that effort. They went, Let’s put down our thoughts on socials, on blogs, on books. We’re going to do it. There’s literally a book called What White People Need to Do Next.
[00:09:54.470] – Collette P
You cannot make this up. There’s so much literature. Then still people are going, What do I do? Teach me. You’re like, No, no, no. There’s such a wealth of information out there. I guess you’re absolutely right. There’s this thing about I speak it and people will hear it in 10 seconds. Now I’ve got so used to just explaining that. I mean, of course, we’re a podcast. It would be ridiculous if I just sat here in 10 seconds and.
[00:10:19.850] – Andi J
Then we’re like- One-word answers are a pain for me. I’m like, I need another question.
[00:10:25.400] – Collette P
I know that here. Actually, there’s two arenas. I never mind doing it. Obviously, this is a podcast, of course, we’re going to talk about it and I’m going to explain it. The second thing is also in my day job. It’s my job to explain. Of course, let me be clear about this. Where brand my new clients, I’m literally after this, I’m about to go and do a two-hour anti-racism session for a client. That’s my job. Of course, we’re going to be breaking it down. I’m going to be spending some time going through it. That’s my job. I’m paid to do that, of course. It actually is also what I love to do. I don’t so much love it if at a networking event or at somewhere in my backyard having barbecue or whatever. That’s not when I want to have the conversation. I think there is an acknowledgment there. I’m going to stop there. That was quite a lot.
[00:11:11.710] – Andi J
Eyup and welcome to the Strategy Sessions. My name is Andi Jarvis. I am the host of the show and the founder and strategy director at Eximo Marketing. I am joined today by Collette Philip, who is the founder of Brand by Me , who you heard start the show, and who, let’s just get back to listening to talk about her work, about anti-racism, about brand building, and about how niching is the real superpower when it comes to being a consultant. If you want to get in touch, all the details are in the show notes. I would love to get your feedback to know what you think of the episode. I do love listening to that and reading it. It’s fantastic. The good, the bad, and the ugly as well. I read them all. Thank you very much. Enough of me. Let’s get in and have a listen to what has to say. What a great start to the show there, . Thank you for that. Let’s just pick straight up on some of those themes and keep rolling through. Because I want to pick up from a work perspective, and you mentioned you’re going to do some anti-racism training and things like that.
[00:12:09.800] – Andi J
I want to talk to you about language, about how people react to certain language, because you used the phrase in the beginning, you talked about white supremacist spaces. I know from white people find that language challenging because white supremacy means KKK to people. It means burning crosses and terrible things. So when that’s used in a workspace, how do people react when you talk about workspaces in that way? And how do you counter that reaction?
[00:12:42.560] – Collette P
It’s so funny, isn’t it? Because I realised this. It was about, I realised it was probably in midway through 2022, and very suddenly, and I remember I was in a presentation and I literally was like to an organisation, Right, so here’s how white supremacy shows up in your brand on a slide. I was in my back of my head, obviously, as I’m presenting it, thinking, I never thought I’d be saying those words in a work context, ever, ever. This is what I say at my day job, and now I probably do that like daily, twice daily. I’ll be clear that brand my media is a social justice-focused company. We work with brands who are serious about social justice to help them look at what it means from a brand strategy point of view, tackle injustice, and that’s the lens through which we do everything. That means that if organisations are serious about social justice, one of the things they’ve realised, and for some large organisations that did happen in and around 2020, that realisation, but they realised that you need to lean into the discomfort about talking about this stuff. Discomfort is not the same as harm, and discomfort is not the same as lack of safety, and that prioritising white comfort, it comes at the expense of safety and opportunity for Black people and people of colour.
[00:14:24.860] – Collette P
The organisations I work with, I guess, already have that realisation. Otherwise they would not be paying for a consultant to come in to help work with the brand team, the comms team, the fundraising team, the marketing teams on anti-racism and equity. You’re not going to be paying for that. That’s the first thing, I guess, is that actually there is something just about being clear about audience. When I say that, I have to be clear that my audience means that they may be slightly more receptive to this language, and I’m very clear at that. I guess the second thing about it is that in termsI guess how do I tackle it? I guess I’m going to talk about the reason I tackle it, and I’ll talk about how if people are comfortable with it. The reason I do that is because I realised pretty early on that when you only talk about racism without talking about the main reason why it was created, which was for white supremacy. White supremacy is the objective of racism. They would literally designate people as white and then discriminate against everyone else. When I say discriminate, I don’t mean in a soft sense.
[00:15:30.180] – Collette P
I mean through violence, removing opportunity, resources through violence, through exploitation, all that thing. I realised pretty early on, and when I say I realise this, obviously what I mean by this is… What I realised, because in applying this work to brand strategy, it’s a slightly different arena of anti-racism work that maybe is documented and is the books and the training and stuff. It’s a slightly different lens on it. When I had the realisation that if you only talk about racism, it’s placing the energy in the wrong place. People start to frame it as one of two things. In the spaces that I’m in, people would start to think of it as either an issue that resides with the global majority and Black people and people of colour, like that’s where it resides, and therefore people are looking to our community, therefore, to our communities to find the solution, and I’m like, No. Whereas if it redirects it and you’re talking about the root reason when you’re talking about white supremacy. I had to shift the work. How I talk about people if they’re uncomfortable is we do a bit of thing at the beginning. I’m always a bit like, we always talk about leaning into discomfort and what that means to pre-empt it.
[00:16:52.260] – Collette P
Then when I do, I’m very clear about why we’re talking about it. I’m like, You’re going to have to just keep hearing it. Interestingly, yeah, you do like… It’s not pushback because people, as I said, because I’m in spaces where people, these organisations are set up, meant to be set up to tackle social justice in some form or other, or certainly the programmes that they’re delivering are. The pushback is sometimes insidious and subtle, and it will come from a point of view of, Oh, I’m not sure people understand it, or maybe that’s jargon. Perhaps we should say this because it’s a term that’s widely understood. I just have to push it back. I’ll just push it back. Like, No, we’re not going to do that. But pretty much that. I was going to say I’d say it a bit nicer. I don’t really think I do. I do say it nicer. I say it like this. Okay, no, we’re not going to do that because we need to really name this and name it as the root cause of racism. Of course, we must talk about racism, but we might also talk about white supremacy, and here’s why.
[00:18:05.240] – Collette P
I don’t know if you hear, if that sounds nicer to you or not, it’s the same words, and that’s how we have to deal with it.
[00:18:12.720] – Andi J
It’s interesting that the role language plays in the whole history of racism, but also how it’s tackled now and how it can make people feel and change their perceptions of it. I think sometimes using language as a way to crash into a subject is really important, because it’s hard for some people on the other side of racism, for white people to fully understand sometimes what those feelings are like, those feelings of when you just know what the reason is, but you can’t either put your finger on it because no one’s ever said it out loud, it’s hard to really describe that. But if you can crash into something and say, Let’s have this discussion in the round in a different way and change people’s perception on the discussion, just moves their point of view on what they’re looking at and talking about it. It’s not something I’ve ever done before and talk about it in the roles of white supremacy. But as soon as you said it, I was like, What that does is it moves how you view the problem from where you are here to over here and forces you to look at it in a different way.
[00:19:16.890] – Andi J
So it’s an interesting way how language has that power to be able to change perception with just a phrase. It’s really important.
[00:19:24.240] – Collette P
Also, you have to also the thing you have to also language… Language is incredibly important. It’s really interesting, isn’t it? Because language is at once incredibly important, but also too much of the work gets caught up in language and terminology, which is not useful, then it comes to this debate. Because language also… The systems of oppression like racism and sex, one of the things that we know is that language is very quickly co-opted, weaponized. There’ll be language. Let’s use the word as an example. It was a language that arose out of liberation, designed from black communities in the US to talk about their own awakening to the reality of injustice. That’s what it was used for. It was then co-opted. At its birth, it was co-opted first by liberals to just mean liberal and stuff. Yeah, I get it. Liberals, I get it. I’m liberal. That’s co-opted. Therefore, because it was co-opted, it was then it was able to be weaponised. We have to be really clear about, I guess, that journey, like when we’re thinking about language, because we don’t get hang up on language. I remember all the time being spent debating BAME, BME, et cetera.
[00:20:51.050] – Collette P
Now, of course, those terms are wrong. But once we’ve decided that those terms… Those terms are wrong and we’ve explained why those terms are wrong because they act as a collective umbrella for some very different communities with, of course, shared experience, but also it was allowing institutions and governments to mask the complexity and also hide their white supremacy behind this big umbrella term. We have to be clear about why we’re not using that anymore. But it wasn’t. The debate became about their BME. Then you go, Okay, so because actually what you’ll then do is just replace with another term. There was so much time spent debating the language, not the why, that actually people thought the act of change, stop using BME, that’s their anti-racism work done. You’re like, No, what? Then when the UK government were proudly not using BAME, I’m like, Yeah, but you’re horribly championing institution and racism at every level. I don’t really care what language you’re using. It’s horrendous. I don’t really care about… I do care, to be clear. To be.
[00:22:00.500] – Andi J
Clear, I do care.
[00:22:01.780] – Collette P
But let’s be clear about that. That’s not the work. That’s not the work. Don’t stop. Certainly, we are not applauding you for that. No, that’s just the basics of what you should be doing as government organisations. It’s the basics probably not using harmful language. It’s like the basis of it. So yeah, language is like the basis of it. Language is super important. We need to be careful that it doesn’t become the whole conversation. But actually, it can allow us to have some really brilliant conversations. As you said, particularly sometimes it allows us to… I’m a big one. Obviously, being a brand strategy, I’m a big one about… One of our values is clarity because I’m a big one about clarity. There’s too much words and meaning and blah, blah, blah, and you’re like, No, we just need to… One of my stock phrases of colleagues, my colleagues over the years, anyone that knows me, I say it less now because I’m in my own business. I think it’s because people generally are clearer and it’s my own business. But when I worked, whether it was, particularly when I worked in-house, in brand teams, I used to say that I start everything with, Let’s be clear.
[00:23:05.730] – Collette P
Because I’m like, Can I just get clear on that? Or, Let’s be clear. But, Let’s be clear, but, Let’s be clear was my stock for people like, Let’s be clear. It was like a catchphrase because I’m like, so often there was just so much woolly, vague, just stuff, nonsense and words and stuff, particularly around marketing and brand. I’m like, Everyone’s just getting caught up in all of this sea of words. I’d be like, Let’s be clear. Here’s what we need. We’re all on the same page and we’re clear. I think that clarity is super important.
[00:23:41.720] – Andi J
I do something in workshops with clients sometimes where I tend to try and get people from across the organisation into a workshop at various stages. And you’re like, Okay, so job number one is let’s just everybody take a moment and without sharing, without picking your phone up, without checking anything, write down what the organisation’s mission statement is. I love this. Yeah, and then when you finish that, write down the values. Honestly, I’ve got leadership teams in there and people all the way through. The only people who ever get it right are either the brand team if they’ve just redone it, and new starters because they’ve been all over the website a lot in the last six months trying to get the job sorted. But other than that, nobody ever gets it right. And why? It’s because the mission statement is like three paragraphs long, so no one can remember it. And the values are… Which one of our 22 values are we living today? You’re like, Oh, God. This isn’t even the world. This isn’t about we’re going to change it. That’s not necessarily what I do. But it’s like this is the thing that should be guiding us all in how we’re going.
[00:24:45.010] – Collette P
To do the next thing. It’s the hallmarks of bad brand. I remember doing some work with an organisation. I always talk about it. Now, I’ve forgotten what they’re called. You know when the individual words, the capital letter of each one-.
[00:24:59.680] – Andi J
An acronym of it.
[00:25:01.370] – Collette P
Yeah, but it’s not. They’re called something else.
[00:25:04.610] – Andi J
An accostic. Is it an accostic?
[00:25:06.560] – Collette P
Accostic, yeah. It’s an accostic. An accostic. The values were spelled out on the accostic, except the accostic was like, I think it was like an 8-10- letter word, and the individual values were all… They were rubbish, and three of them were synonyms for the same word. They spent so long thinking about the-.
[00:25:30.550] – Andi J
Across the grid. -across the grid.
[00:25:32.290] – Collette P
That it was nice. People try and do really clever things like that. There’s a lot in that. But it is a hallmark of bad brand, I would go, because I will say that I will give the two examples, while I’ve done many, many brand projects, even before I set up my own consultancy, but I remember I worked for an animal charity called World Animal Protection. Our purpose was… We moved and it was a global organisation, so you couldn’t be… Our purpose was simply we move the world to protect animals, which sounds super obvious, but I was like, Yes, we move the world. There’s tangible shift to protect animals. I think if you’d have asked me we’re going to raise that up, we did a little test. People were all… I remembered it. They were like, Yes, we move the world to protect animals, and it’s like move, and we used it. It was super clear and simple, and that’s what you want. I remember as well when I was at Bernardo’s, we developed… I think this was a new personality. One of the personality traits of it was the one that was super sticky, was terrier-like, and it was the one that the organisation…
[00:26:32.940] – Collette P
Because it was a word of saying to that tenacity and Terrier-like. But it was really, really good in terms of both the brand personality, but also how the organisation showed up in the work that Bernhard’s did at that point. God, 12 years ago, whatever, with vulnerable and the hard to do it children. This Terrier-like thing, it was such a sticky word. Everyone always remembered it, and they loved it. It was one of our personality traits. Even I now, 12 years on, don’t remember any of the others, but the point is that there’s ones that you need to make it really sticky and you need to make the language sticky and it needs to be super simple and clear, especially if you’re in global organisations, it’s really important. I really love that energy of doing it. The other thing I find is that people… This really frustrates me is when I said this is a hallmark. I’m going to say as well, I’m going to be really blunt. I think it’s a hallmark of a… It’s a hallmark of poor consultancy is when you have language, as long as… When you said that, if everybody comes into your organisation, everyone’s saying different things, no one remembers it, that needs to be changed.
[00:27:45.360] – Collette P
But if people understand something, as long as everyone understands it, even if it’s your consultancy, not understanding of what that word technically dictionary means, as long as everybody in the organisation understands what that is and they get it, that’s cool. You don’t then come in and mess with it. I’ve had it on a few occasions where consultants have come in. Consultancy is big and small. No name, it’s big and small. I think it’s a mindset of a, I will say, a specific maybe demographic of a consultant, but anyway, as opposed to actually the size of the organisation they work for. But you come in and go, Well, that’s technically… That’s a verb, so values are meant to be noun, so we need to change it. It’s like, Nope, please don’t, because actually the value is our principal. The principal can be articulated in the way the organisation is going to get. If you have a very staticky, theoretical organisation, you’re going to want them to be active words so that people will actually get up and do stuff. That’s the language of brand, that’s the flexibility. It is not about this ridiculous grammar exercise. I see that also where it’s another way where people are like, Well, the well-activity thing.
[00:28:55.950] – Collette P
Well, actually, values are supposed to be noun. You’re like, Well, that’s not really a thing.
[00:29:02.810] – Andi J
Values are supposed to be lived. That’s it. If people aren’t actively bringing them to life and displaying them every day, verbs or nouns aren’t important. It’s how they are brought to life that’s important. And the most important part to me of those is that they have to be memorable. Because if people can’t remember them, they can’t deliver them. So verbs and nouns completely, it doesn’t matter.
[00:29:26.640] – Collette P
It’s irrelevant, isn’t it? It’s irrelevant, isn’t it? But it’s really great. What they have is… And then… You see people, they’re like, Yes, here’s our 10 values. I’m sorry, that’s never going to work. Then when you look at it, you’re like, Well, now you’ve got three values. People aren’t doing the other seven. There’s three, and there are three that really count here. There are three that are really relevant. The others are just like, I don’t know, that’s just my words.
[00:29:46.330] – Andi J
What’s your view on when you see honesty or trustworthy as part of a value set? I’m not trying to throw you under a bus here or anything like that. It drives me wild when I see it. I’m like, Come on, we have to be this anyway. We shouldn’t have.
[00:30:05.120] – Collette P
To spell it out. Sometimes I do. It depends, I guess. My thought is it depends because I’m not a fan of words, the lowest common denominator words. For example, okay, but it depends on the sector. Because although it should be a given, it often isn’t. If you are in a sector where there is a lot of fraud, you may want to have honesty as one of your values to make sure that people… Because it’s what you said, values have to be lived. If you’re looking to have values to people, so you may want to say, Well, I trustworthy, less so, but because I think it needs to be earned, I think you can put that into a value or personality trip. I think that needs to be earned. I might express the value that sits behind it and then trust is the output, if that makes sense. What is it then about? What do you need to do that need your customers, consumers to trust you, and therefore that is what your value stroke, personality trait, whichever one it sits in. But yeah, that’s what I would do. Probably with that one, I might work it backwards.
[00:31:05.670] – Collette P
But the honesty thing now, I think it depends. You would hope it’s a given, but honestly, it isn’t. For me also, I’ll go personal level. Sometimes as well, I’m like, If it’s founder-led businesses, I’m like, Maybe that belongs in your personal price. My personal value is honesty because it is something that is a hallmark of how I show up. It is actually one of those things that is very much a characteristic, and it’s not a given. When I say honesty, it stretches into stuff like… So honesty is a personal value of mine, but it’s not one of Brand by Me’s values. It’s honestly not one of ours.
[00:31:39.040] – Andi J
Tell us a bit more about Brand by Me. You set it up what, seven, nearly eight years ago now? So 2016? Yeah, exactly. And has it evolved over time? What work? Tell us the story of Brand by Me.
[00:31:56.030] – Collette P
So the story of Brand by Me was… I was… I was working at a global animal charity. That was the last day job I did before. That’s not day job, the last in-house employee job before I set up my own business. I was working as an animal charity and I got to a stage where I hit a ceiling in terms of I wanted to be, I guess, executive leadership team level and I was doing work that would probably put me at that level and I was leading things that would put me at that level. I was there and I was ready to be, but I hit one of those realizations that maybe… The system, not me. This ain’t going to happen here and I need to… I was like, Okay, rather than just go and bounce into another job, I probably need to look at… I just need to take some time, look at my career a bit differently. I was going to take a career break, and I did take a career. It’s maybe three months. I saved up a load of money and I was going to have a really nice time. I was going to go off travel for a bit and I was going to do some things.
[00:33:10.200] – Collette P
Not when I say not travel, not travel extensively, like global travel, but just go and see, makesure I get to meet around the world and stuff and just go and have a nice time and spend some time just doing nice things for three months is what I decided.
[00:33:24.360] – Andi J
I get the feeling that didn’t work out for you.
[00:33:26.850] – Collette P
I spent three weeks and then I woke up and I was like… Literally, I would say this, I woke up and I was like, Oh, yeah, I need to set up my own business.
[00:33:39.440] – Andi J
[00:33:40.390] – Collette P
It’s going to be called Brand Y me, and it’s going to be about brands that do good. That’s what it’s going to be about. Actually, when I was… I realised I was like, God, because I really love… I did a big global rebrand for that charity, World and Protection, and we worked with Warfollins, the brand agency, which I was so… It was so gorgeous. The reason we did was because I had just come from… My previous job had been at EE, and we’d worked with Warfollins on EE. Then Warfollins were like, Oh, my God. When I was leaving, they were like, Okay, if there’s anything we can do to help you out. We really love working with you. If there’s anything we can do to help you as you’re leaving, whatever you could do next, good luck. I was like, Well, actually, my next job is going to be a rebrand. Would you like to come and help me with this rebrand for this tiny animal charity. Oh, and MB, obviously, we’re not E-We haven’t.
[00:34:35.680] – Andi J
Got that budget.
[00:34:37.030] – Collette P
They were going to need us to give us a very significant, massive, massive, massive discount. And they did. That was awesome. It was really great. But what it meant was… I’m not a big fan of pro-Bono work from a brand strategy point of view for charity. If you’re a charity with some resources, even if it’s limited, just because if it’s pro-Bono, you have to get what you’re given. Actually, the power dynamic is off, which is the language I now have for it. At the time I would just say I don’t think that people value stuff they don’t necessarily pay for in this context, and the organisation doesn’t value it either, so people take it for granted. I’m like, Actually, it’s just easier. Even if you’ve got a minimum budget, you use that minimum budget and make it go as far as you can, and that’s weird. For this minimum budget, I was like, Well, I am a brand strategist, but I do need the agency for helping certain things. I was very targeted. I thought at that time, it’s changed now, but at that time, I was looking around and I was like, I just couldn’t see…
[00:35:41.600] – Collette P
Well, that was the dream as well. I just couldn’t see strategic level, big brand level, really strategic, robust support that you’d need as a brand director, but on a microscale that maybe a smaller organisation might need it. I didn’t see it anywhere. I didn’t see it. I saw there were lots of brand and consultancy is heavy on the design side, heavy on the identity side that would do design work, but it wasn’t actually that strategy thinking just wasn’t… You couldn’t afford it. The strategy would always come at a premium. It’s like, well, if you get the basic logo, that’s going to be here. But if you want the strategy thinking, we’re going to charge loads more for that. I was like, It’s going to be another way. It’s going to be another way. That was brand by me. Then has it evolved yet? Because the world’s changed, the language of… I think what I’ve wanted to do is brand by me hasn’t changed, but maybe who, what, and where our support has needed has evolved, and therefore our offer has significantly evolved, our client base has changed. That’s also, I guess, as we’ve got a reputation and stuff, the client base has changed.
[00:36:55.460] – Collette P
We started off… Because I live in Hitchin in Hartfordshire, so I live outside London. I spent five, six years commuting into London, so I don’t want to work in London anymore. At first I was like, I don’t really want to go into London. First of all, I was working with small to medium-sized charities and founder-led businesses was that because I was like, That could drive change. It was really nice for the scale we were at now. But it shifted over time and then I was like, and larger and larger charities and social justice-focused organizations and the world. Then it became it was social justice-focused charities, but it was quite niche because actually people was niche. But then in 2020, not just the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter, but also the very same but different experience of the pandemic. By that, I mean, it’s something that everybody’s experiencing, but injustice means you do… Inequity means you experience it very differently. It was just like this global, big conversation about justice and equity. And then suddenly it’s like, and you’ve got brand teams going, Yeah, we need to do stuff. It can’t just be tick box or the idea or whatever.
[00:38:10.640] – Collette P
We’ve got to actually look at this. Then I was like, Well, actually, I know how to do this because that’s how we build brands. That’s the evidence of it.
[00:38:17.750] – Andi J
So a question I asked Kevin, because Kevin formed PoC, People of Creative Collective. Yes. Anyway, so he started PoC and I asked him a question about when you started, did you just get the black briefs for want of a better phrase? Were people just like, Oh, we can give this one because this is our diverse little bit of budget. And he’s like, Yeah, we used to get that. And you can see them coming and we’d just be like, Yeah, no, take that back. We don’t want to work with you. That’s not how this works. Did you find, as you said, after 2020, did you find that the profile of people coming to you had changed, but maybe not for people looking, Oh, we need to do something, so let’s go and talk to . Or did you find that people are actually just, No, actually, we are open to this. It’s not a box-ticking exercise. We are on the path to do this correctly.
[00:39:10.630] – Collette P
The second one. But that’s because when you put into your brand, we only work with people that are serious about social justice. I think enough of what I put out into the world in terms of content speaking ops is super clear. I am the founder. Remember me isn’t just me, they’re seven of us, but I am the founder. Therefore, it will obviously who I am really shapes the business and how I show up. I think the content we put out, it’s very easy to put off people that aren’t serious really early on. It probably wouldn’t even be a conversation. They’ll be put off by the follow-up email they get. If they approach and it’s something tick-box-y, I’m a bit like, No, that’s not ask that. Normally, to be honest, if they’re approaching something tick-box-y, the budget will be at a level that we can’t work with them on a bill, so you need to do something much more with that budget.
[00:40:17.860] – Andi J
Yeah, bit punch. From a personal perspective with my company, I’m marketing strategy. I do bits of diversity, equity, inclusion work, but it spins out of marketing strategy as opposed to people coming directly to me for that type of thing. I do a few presentations on Black History Month and their personal stories, that type of thing. But I do notice that I speak to companies when I do those training sessions who are on a journey, are already well on that journey and open to listening to it. And there’s a bit of me that thinks, Well, we’re already preaching to the people who want to listen about this. How do we tackle people who are very stage in that. And then I often come around to it’s like, There’s enough problems in the world. I’m going to fight the battles I can fight. But I do think sometimes, should I be working hard to get to people who haven’t started that journey yet? Because that’s where you can have the most impact. But that also sounds really tiring to me. Is that a discussion you’ve had with yourself and with other people in the company?
[00:41:21.840] – Collette P
Not me. No. I was the one who say this, have I had a discussion? It’s not so much a discussion as we’re not doing that. Because as a Black woman, I’m not tiring myself out to work with people. But also it’s interesting, I pick up on something you said about we don’t do DEI work, I’ve got to be clear about that.
[00:41:40.400] – Andi J
[00:41:40.930] – Collette P
Do equity and anti-oppression and what that means for brand strategy and we do anti-racism and what that might mean for our strategy. We don’t do DEI work. That’s important because people have to go, Come to us, and they’re like, Oh, DEI work, and I’m like, We don’t do that. Do you want this? Like you need to find a DEI. I might also sometimes, depending on who it is, I might go, Do you really want DEI work or do you actually want this specific thing? But if you want DEI work, there’s those pressure of consultants that are there to go to. But no, I think that in terms of… I do think… I guess this work, anti-racism work certainly, anti-oppression work is a lifelong journey, but particularly how anti-racism is, because of the systems that we’re dealing and tackling, it is not something you do as a one-off project. It’s not something you start and then you can just leave and then it’s ongoing work. Wherever people are on the journey, there are people to work with them at every stage. There are some excellent resources for organisations that are at the very start of their journey.
[00:42:56.280] – Collette P
That’s not the role for Brand by Me, because the minute you’re needing to look at your brand, your comms, your marketing strategy, your fundraising, and look at it and what it means for what this means, what anti-racism, what it means to be anti-racist in these spaces, but also how this can how these disciplines can support your anti-racism work, you need to have been that done some work already. At the point where we’re coming in is necessary that you as an organisation have done some work. I will argue that it probably isn’t the starting. If the starting phase is look at what can our brand do, are we going to be like, That’s the wrong place to start? Is the wrong place to start? Because what you’re effectively doing is the question you may well find yourself asking is, how can we make our brand look like we’re more anti-racist, which is just not that. That’s not it. That’s not the thing. You might find that. What’s interesting is often when we work with organisations, sometimes internally, my direct clients might get a little bit of pushback to people wider in the organisation like, Why on earth are you starting with the brand?
[00:44:04.250] – Collette P
They’re like, We’re not starting with the brand. We’ve done this work of stuff. But actually, if we don’t look at the brand, and I equip them with this, I guess, is that if you don’t look at the brand, the brand massively just works against you. Because as we know, brand and marketing of disciplines are steeped in oppressive practice. They are built, they are one. It can be. They can at least if they’re not the system, but they are part of that system that is built to exclude. Unless you do some quite things at a strategic level, you’re going to find that’s what that’s going to happen. Often the problem that clients come to me with is, normally we’re on a DEI journey or we’ve been doing anti-racism work, and either our brand is working against us, our comms aren’t working, our comms team don’t understand it, our marketing teams are just not clear what to do next, or the marketing teams come and say, Look, we’ve been doing this work, but we don’t understand how this applies to us. We understand it and we really want to do it, but we just don’t understand how this is going to apply to us, how we make this work.
[00:45:09.820] – Collette P
That’s where we enter.
[00:45:12.330] – Andi J
What I like to go back to something you said earlier is clarity. You know what I mean? If you look there, that’s not for us. If you’re in this bit of your journey, you’re for us. And if you’re there, that’s not for us.
[00:45:24.480] – Collette P
[00:45:24.670] – Andi J
To be clear.
[00:45:26.820] – Collette P
Yeah, it’s really important. The more specific I was… Yeah, the more specific. I think the most specific, it’s the opposite, actually, because I think, again, scarcity mindset tells you do everything, everything you can get your hands on. But in reality, that’s just nonsense. I think focusing and being specific about where and how you can help will just to help you be better. It’s like you’re just better then.
[00:45:53.050] – Andi J
You know the question I started with, I wish what’s the one thing you knew 10 years ago? That last 10 seconds of what you just said is that, right? My career background is quite diverse and has dropped into different jobs. I’ve done B2B, I’ve done B2C, I’ve done this, I’ve done that. This isn’t supposed to sound arrogant. I feel like I could turn my hand to a marketing role in about a dozen different types of company. But take that mindset into running your own company and it’s a fucking disaster. She was like, I think I can do everything for everyone. And you can’t. Well, you can.
[00:46:31.260] – Collette P
[00:46:32.110] – Andi J
To sell that is the most painful thing ever. Every sale is like day one all over again.
[00:46:38.470] – Collette P
When people go… I used to do a lot, as I said, I used to have started life on doing work with small, ambitious businesses. When I started my company, working with small, ambitious businesses, I got to network and everything really. I can’t see how that would work. But yeah, and although you can do many things, and this is why I’ve realised that although you can do many things, it’s better that you just talk about a few of them. You can do many, many things. I have no doubt that people are very skilled, highly skilled, and can do a breadth of. That’s the joy of running your own business. It is that you get to do this breadth of amazing stuff, but you need to funnel it to a really clear vehicle that people understand.
[00:47:23.760] – Andi J
That’s the thing, because when people understand it, the sales cycle shortens. You get that position in mind, people go, You do this thing, we want you to do that. How much does it cost? My sales cycle for the first three to four years of the company, every sales deal took forever because it was all bespoke starting from scratch. This is madness.
[00:47:41.750] – Collette P
Yeah, I agree. I find the same. I think that’s part of the journey to go on now. It’s like exactly what you just said. I love it. It’s like you do this, you did it for that person. Could we do it for us? Good. And how much does it cost? Then that’s done. This is really easy.
[00:47:57.540] – Andi J
I’ve got one more question to ask before you go. Hopefully it’s a short one. Might not be a short one, but hopefully it is. Give us a book recommendation, something people should read or could read about this subject. It might be marketing, it might be about anti-racism. It could be something completely different. It might just been a novel you read yesterday and you thought, Do you know what? I love that. But what book would you recommend to people?
[00:48:17.950] – Collette P
What White People Can Do Next by Emma de Beery is great. Actually, for Black people, people of colour, white people are like, actually, on anti-racism, I think it’s because it’s really practical. It’s like, here, boom, boom, boom. It really stands up. Nova Read The Good Allied is gorgeous, particularly… Actually, when I first looked at it, I was like, Oh, this is very much targeted at white people, and therefore I’m not going to read it. My husband’s white, so I gave it to him to read. Then I came back to it and I was like, Actually, there’s just some gorgeous stuff in here about… When you’re reading it, your lens is different. For me reading it, it’s just very good on reminding me of how to hold compassionate, empathetic, but really gritty conversations about this stuff. And Dova does that beautifully. She holds this amazing compassionate, warm understanding spaces. But where other I feel like sometimes I’ve seen not in books or anybody that’s anti-racism, but certainly in the DEI space, I see people are giving their clients and organisations just a massive out at every stage. Well, it’s this, it’s unconscious, it’s… Well, actually, Manova doesn’t run of that, but she still manages us to hold really compassionate spaces, which is gorgeous.
[00:49:41.790] – Collette P
She does that in person, but equally in her books, it’s just amazing. That’s the second one. The third one is a book I read on holiday by Yomi Adekoke called The List. Yomi Adekoke was one of the co-authors of Slayin’ Yolain, and a number of years ago. And this is her first non-fiction. Sorry, her first fiction, not non-fiction. Her first fiction book, and it’s a brilliant book for our time. It’s brilliant. It’s brilliant. It’s like a page turn and it’s amazing. So they’re my three at the moment. Perfect.
[00:50:18.700] – Andi J
Three books that no one in Four Seasons has mentioned either, so that is fantastic to do. And if you’re listening, the details of all those books are in the show notes with an easy clickable link. So thank you very much for that, . We’ll put your details of brand by me in the show notes as well. And thank you very much for your time. It’s been amazing having you on the strategy sessions.
[00:50:36.190] – Collette P
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been fun.