How to Be Unique

I gave a talk at the Global Speakers Summit in Noordwijk in the Netherlands in April entitled, ‘Unique’. It was essentially about finding out who you are by looking at what you’ve always done. Below is 12 minute edited version. I discussed my realisation that what I do now with my work is exactly what I was doing when I was last given the choice, when I was aged 7 to 15. To find out what and how, you’ll have to watch the film.

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Don’t be modest or ashamed – always vote for your own brand

Ayd Instone and Joel Roberts

Ayd Instone and Joel Roberts

I was an attendee (and sponsor) of The Business Wealth Club networking group Open Day in Oxford last week. 150 business owners had gathered to see Joel Roberts, one of America’s top media coaches, give a talk about how to sell and present yourself to an audience.

To start the event and to have something to discuss over breakfast, our host Dave Griffin said we should all get out business cards out and vote on our tables for the best one. These will then be passed to the front and Joel will choose his favourite from those 15.

Business cards were distributed to everyone on our table and we held up our favourite. I help up my own. All but one other of the ten people held up mine too. One lady said, “but you’ve voted for your own?”. “Of course” I said. “I’m voting for the best one.” She then put mine down and held up her own. I still won of course by 8 votes to 2.

What would you do in a similar situation? Assuming there’s not an amazingly good card around like mine, would you hold up your own? If not, why not?

Are you too modest to vote for your own brand? If you feel unable to push forward your own marketing materials without feeling a bit immodest you clearly haven’t externalised your business brand: we need to talk.

Are you too ashamed to hold up your cheap, flimsy embarrassing cards that you’ve invested not time and effort in or that still has the old logo on, or are those free ones with the generic stock image every plumber uses? If so we REALLY need to talk.

You wouldn’t go out to a business meeting to see potential clients in a big bag, or still dressed in your pyjamas so why send your business’s brand out there dressed as a buffoon?

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My New Website: Part 5 – My crazy design idea

From the starting point of wanting my website to look like a magazine, I thought about how I could take that idea further. I wanted to come across as unique so what approach would be unique? What if I made it look like a comic rather than a magazine? What if I found a way of breaking down the ‘grid’ structure that every website uses? The comic strips I love the most are by illustrators like Dave Gibbons (Marvel), Frank Bellamy (Dan Dare) and Chris Achilleos (Target Books). But the one that struck me most for inspiration was the work of Ron Turner in the 1960s TV21 comic. The way he broke up the panels to make them non-linear was the perfect visual metaphor for my message, to be reflected on my website.

I plotted out the essential content and started to work out the shapes that I’d use to display the various clickable areas that would visually show the visitor what the website was about.

You can see the sketches below.

The next phase was to get new photography. I wanted photos of me (after all, it’s me the website is selling) but since there was to be so many panels, the photos had to look interesting and dynamic, almost like shots from panels of a photo strip. Working with Haddon Davies at his studio, we came up with a large variety of shots that could be matched up with the uses I had in mind. What I didn’t want is a generic portrait shot, that would have been no use to me. We shot the images on white and black backgrounds to make it easier for me to cut the images out and apply them to a variety of backgrounds. We were also keen to avoid clichés where possible and yet get the balance right between interest, irreverence and professionalism. Everything about my brand needs to capture my uniqueness, and that obviously has to include the photography.

See what you make of the result:

My New Website: Part 2 – Website fashions

The new Doctor Who website impressed me. In many ways I found it refreshing and groundbreaking. The main reason, and the idea that I’d become besotted with implementing on my own site was this: it should no longer looked like a website. It should look more like a magazine.

BBC doctor who website

There are fashions in website of course, as there are in anything. Just a few years ago the trend was to have two or three columns of text, full of hot links to various pages. The classic and perfect version of this is the BBC news website. A great many new websites today are built with the pre-fab templates provided by sites such as WordPress. They follow this approach of blocks of text and navigation.

I watched with interest how the BBC would handle the re-branded television programme Doctor Who in March this year. That brand makes almost as much money from sales of the programme abroad and merchandise of every description as the rest of the BBCs output put together. They couldn’t afford to mess it up. The same was true of the new Doctor Who website.

It didn’t disappoint. Apart from the obvious changes of the new logo and the corporate colour changing from orange to blue, the changes on the website were actually quite dramatic. It ceased to follow the common ‘blocks of text’ format and instead used blocks of images and video. Here was something that you could take in at a glance and navigate without having to read much text until you were where you wanted to be. I loved that idea.

My own website revamp was long overdue. How did I know? Some key trusted individuals had pointed out that what I do onstage, how I behave in person and the essence of who I am is clear and strong. That part of my branding was good. But when they saw my website (the structure of which was now three years old) was underwhelming. The excitement and uniqueness just wasn’t present. That’s not to say there was anything wrong with it. And that’s the point. It was, ok. It was ‘good enough’. It ‘did the job’. But it wasn’t me. I’d moved on and left it behind. Something had to be done. Fast.

Find out what here.

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Speaker on Design and Branding at the AEO Conference

Ayd Instone AEO conference speaker creativity branding design

I spoke on Visual Intelligence – the secrets of creative design at the Association of Exhibition Organisers at London Olympia in January. The talk was about how businesses need to understand and commission creative design. As usual I encapsulated part of the message in a new song.

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