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What No-One Tells You About Branding

This month: Lead Designer Vicky Porter talks BRANDING like a boss

I am the chocolate lady.

Around these parts, I do a lot more (hey, I’m Vicky, Lead Designer at Hot Mess), but at the age of six, my reputation as the chocolate lady was well established.

Being raised by a single mom who always had a plan to provide an income, I quickly learned the fine art of marketing (I got it from my mamma). Mom used to make beautifully crafted and painted chocolate which I would sell at school as a side hustle.

The biz grew and soon I was sporting a decent tog bag filled with more than just chocolate (I diversified). I would go as far as to put a small markup on mom’s pricing to snag some chocolate for myself (eating the profit was frowned upon) but made more than I could eat.

At this stage, I realized that I could gain more customers by giving away a free sample or two (not to mention the popularity points). My chocolate hustle soon ended when my competition (the school tuck shop) put an end to my pop up shop. (Fist bump, 6-year-old me - bada**!)

(Disclaimer: my mom never forced me to do this, I genuinely enjoyed it 😂)

Without realizing it at the time, six-year-old me was building a solid brand (also a possible sugar addiction, but that’s another topic for another day).

I have since gained a degree in marketing, have 13 years of experience as a photographer, 8 years as a marketing manager, and 3 years as a graphic designer. Marketing is in my blood!

Branding has been around since 350 A.D. Derived from the word “Brandr”, which means to burn (omg I’m Afrikaans and was today years old when I realized that brand literally means burn in my home language… wtf?!). Cattle owners would burn a mark onto their cattle to represent ownership… and alas, the first form of the logo was born. An emblem that represents ownership.

Fast forward to today and we are literally marking everything.

Take a minute to look around you right now, wherever you are, and I guarantee you that you can identify at least 5 brands. If you consider any of your personal property, you will soon realize that you actually have a reason for supporting certain brands.

What branding is NOT  


Before I elaborate on branding, let’s first consider what branding is not:

Branding is NOT just a logo

You have a kickass logo, yay! But nobody knows about it because you haven’t set up the correct channels to reach your target audience.

Branding is NOT just a symbol

Unless you have reached Nike or McDonalds status, relying on a symbol ain’t gonna get you far.  

Branding is NOT just a promise

We start a biz, we do the things, our mission, vision and values are drafted (we need something on the wall and website, right?) but what are we doing to materialize this vision?

Branding is NOT just a website

Hot Mess has designed your website, it looks ahhhmazing, and you are soooo geared to make ALL the sales. Turns out your service levels don’t support the classy message your pretty graphics communicate… and your customers are left in doubt.

Branding is NOT just advertising

Sure, advertising is very important! But spending a few bucks on a facebook advert without having all your ducks in a row ain’t gonna produce the desired results.

Branding is NOT just graphic design

I mean, graphic design is a BIG part of it. Logos and graphics are almost synonymous with branding, but even so - it still forms part of a bigger picture.

At this point you might be thinking, “Hold up Vicky, what are you even on about, graphic design is what you do every day!” Yes, I do, but I’ll let you in on a secret. I spend more time stalking your ass than I do actually designing your graphics…

Branding is the sum of your efforts


Branding is the sum of all of the symbols, products, services, activities, and connections with your customers.

Branding is the customer’s gut feel of your business – their perception of you.

Branding is your business reputation. If you are very personally involved in your biz - your brand often becomes YOUR reputation! (Ask Angela about this one😂)

Everyone in your business affects your brand. This is why consistency is so very important (brand schizo is a thing).

Who your business is by day, is who your business is by night. Who your business is in store, is who your business is at a pop-up market.

Now listen closely: WHO YOUR BUSINESS IS IN STORE, IS WHO YOUR BUSINESS IS ONLINE (they are one and the same….) This is your BRAND.

Today branding starts with the customer

Back in the day, the old school biz model would go something like this: Create product, name it, slap a logo on, advertise, sell and repeat. This model is outdated. People hate being sold to, but they love to buy. Say that out loud! In fact, print it and stick it in your pretty journal.

People hate being sold to, but they love to buy.


Nowadays, the brand starts with the customer. It starts by identifying a need, then creating a product and service that satisfies that need. The current model works as follows:

  1. Company creates customers
  2. Customer help to build brand
  3. Brand sustains the company.

Let’s create a real-life scenario: If I were to open a clothing boutique in South Africa, would I start by thinking about a cool name, designing a pretty logo, and putting a fabulous website together?

No. I would start by researching my market. Only once I clearly define who it is that I am selling to can I create a brand personality that would appeal to them.

Need help optimizing your website to increase your revenue?
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Brands last longer than products or customers do. You cannot be all things to all people. The spray and pray method SIMPLY does not work. This basically means selling to anyone willing to buy from you. It is a recipe for failure and will leave you as a brand owner feeling less than fulfilled.

Identifying your ideal customer (which is a delicate balance between what the market needs vs what would make you happy) is possibly the most important step to take when crafting your brand.

Are you building a bold and sassy brand who lives out loud and cusses without blinking (cough cough, Angela)?

Are you building a conservative and sophisticated brand?

Are you building a sporty brand that promotes an active and healthy lifestyle?

Does your brand invoke feelings of crystal chandeliers and a live violinist?

All of these factors will determine all of the elements needed to build your unique brand.

One of the reasons why the Hot Mess team asks you so many questions is to get you thinking outside the box about your brand… and if you aren’t able to put it all together, our questions are uniquely designed to help us read your mind and interpret your vision digitally. We get inside your head. We get a gut feel for you. We also stalk you online. Borderline criminally.

A business has ONE VALID PURPOSE: To Create a Customer – Peter Drucker

What intentional branding can do for you


Establishing a consistent, loyal, and trusted brand means that you will build a loyal following which leads to return business and valuable word-of-mouth. The modern consumer trusts the opinions of other consumers more so than any of your advertising claims.

The only way to build that perfect brand is to ensure that your business culture and values become a way of life throughout every aspect of your business.

Customers help build brands, without a brand you don’t have a business.

28 years later and I am now eating all the chocolate…

Colorfully yours,


Branding is exciting - but we know it can be pretty nerve wracking too!

If you need some help getting started or even making over your store, hit us up!

You can also check out our done for you packages - or our DIY website workshop if that’s more your style!

Meet the Hot Mess Team:



Vicky is amazing at just NAILING your brand. She will be helping you with your logo, brand color scheme and aesthetic, designing your for-print materials and your website and social media graphics. And as a bonus, she's a photographer, so she'll even share some DIY photography tips for those managing their own shoots! Yep, we think she's pretty bad-ass!

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  • Hot Mess Consulting

    Hey @Kimberly! Glad you enjoyed the article!! Branding can be a BEAST – so happy this helps to give you more focus!

  • Kimberly

    What a well-written and insightful article! You clarified so much for me. This was definitely an area I was struggling with. I’ve had two website reviews and received great feedback on the concept, but both professionals said the message was confusing, so I have been tirelessly working on my brand image and message. This article takes me back to the drawing board, but a little more focused. Thank you!

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