Are you wondering what happens to my Brick House Branding alumni post-graduation? What they do with the momentum and new-found knowledge? Curious about where they take their businesses in the year following all that hard work?
I’m back with another installment in my “Where Are They Now?” blog series and I’m doing-cartwheels-excited to show you the serious waves my BHB graduates are making!
SAY HELLO TO IYANLA OF MASTERPEACE.
I’m wrapping up this BHB Case Study series with the amazing Iyanla Vanzant of MasterPeace. You may recognize Iyanla from her frequent appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, her own show on the OWN network, or from one of her best-selling books. It was a special honor to work alongside Iyanla. We collaborated on several fronts: Iyanlya is a BHB graduate, we’ve worked through several private strategy sessions together, and I had the honor of writing much of the copy from her new website. And I can share that she is every bit as warm-hearted and lovely in person as she is on TV!
LBC: Why and when did you originally launch your company?
Iyanla: I originally launched MasterPeace in 2006 to continue my daughter’s legacy. A master aromatherapist, she passed away in 2003. She started the line in 2001 after creating her own hair care products. Gemmia wholeheartedly believed that essential oils and herbs were vital in creating and shifting energy on and around the body.
LBC: At what point did you know it was time for a rebrand?
Iyanla: I was invited to pitch my products to QVC in 2014 after one of the buyers attended a workshop that I facilitated. She purchased and loved the products. I attended the pitch meeting, and while they loved the product they felt that the packaging was “too rustic” for the QVC customer. I laughed because I loved the rustic look but also realized that in order to appeal to the mass market, I would need to consider the feedback seriously.
LBC: Please share a significant realization about the brand development process that you discovered while in Brick House Branding.
Iyanla: Module 2, Developing Brand Personality and Emotional Resonance did it for me. I knew the name of the line was perfect. I knew that the product features and benefits of African Black Soap were on point. But when I began to examine the psychological benefits, I knew that I had to up my game. I knew that I could win the hearts and minds of my customers because of the name recognition, but I didn’t want to be hanging out in the minds of people when they were in the shower! I want my customer to want my product and love my product because they believed in it, and because it holds a benefit to them personally.
LBC: What professionals did you tag in to help with the process, and what pieces of the branding puzzle did you DIY?
Iyanla: I handmade the products for the first 10 years. However, after my visit to QVC I realized that it was not feasible for me to attempt to produce the products on my own if I wanted to grow into the mass consumer market. Because I was concerned about the integrity of the products, I searched long and hard for a manufacturer who was willing to follow a strict protocol in the making of the products. That company is LiquidTek, a small semi-organic manufacturer in Chino, CA.
I then hired a 5th Avenue advertising firm to re-design my packaging. That almost broke the bank. I eventually asked my long-time graphic artist if she could duplicate some of the ideas they offered in a more economical way. When it came time to re-design my website, I leaned on the support and recommendations of my masterful teacher, Lela Barker. She directed me to a web designer and a photographer. Here is my secret: For the first 8 or 9 years of producing the product by hand, whatever money I made that I did not spend on supplies, I saved. That is why I had a few coins to invest in the re-design and re-branding of the product line. Because of my schedule, I knew that I needed help.
LBC: What was the biggest obstacle you encountered during the rebranding process?
Iyanla: My two biggest obstacles were letting go of the old ideas and being willing to invest time and money into the process. I am a Virgo personality and I resist change because . . . no one can do it as well as I can. I had to be willing to invite and welcome in the process of up-leveling my brand. I had to become willing to do things in a new way for the good of the line. I had to become willing to let some things go and embrace the ideas and concepts of others. And finally, I had to be willing to spend money without knowing (although believing that in the long run) I will have a magnificent and abundant return on my investment. As a “home grown” product maker, it was hard for me to let go.
LBC: How has your own perception of your brand evolved since graduating from Brick House Branding?
Iyanla: Module 3, the Brand Manifesto helped me to see my products in a totally new light. Before Brick House Branding, I was making soap. By the time I reached Module 3, I was the owner of a branded product line, a brand that I believed in and wanted to share with the world. I no longer make soap. I am the owner of a collection of Body Therapy products that offer a solution to a national problem, specifically for women: how to manage stress, while building a better relationship with your body. Somebody slap me! Where in the world did that come from? Brick House Branding! That’s where. My concept of the products has evolved. The language I use to describe the products has evolved. And, the image I hold and project for and about the products has evolved.
LBC: Are your products are being received differently by others since the rebrand? How has their reaction evolved?
Iyanla: I have an army of family and friends that I call my product lab rats. While a few of them are still stuck on the rustic look and feel, most of the others simply love the packaging. In fact, they haven’t noticed if the products have changed. They say that they look like they will make you feel better. I won’t know until May if the general public feels the same way.
LBC: Can you share a recent win that you’ve realized because of the rebrand?
Iyanla: My products have been accepted and will be presented on HSN beginning in May 2018!
LBC: How did Brick House Branding experience help shape your branding process?
Iyanla: Clarity. Focus. Intention. Brick House Branding helped me get clear about my own thoughts and feeling about my products. Was I invested in my products or not? Did I believe in my products or not? Did I want to sell my products or not? Did I really believe that I could be successful selling my products or not? In this regard, that MVP assignment, although it kicked my butt was worth the entire fee for the course. As I mentioned Modules 2 and 3 helped me focus in on what really matters when you have a product line and how to present what you feel about the line to the consumer. This is how I developed my intention for the product line. I also think the Expert Interview videos of the other brand owners helped me to put many things into a broader, wider, higher perspective.
LBC: What do you wish you had known at the beginning of the brand development process? What advice would you give to someone who’s getting ready to start the brand development process?
Iyanla: What I wish I had known was that branding is serious business. Not only is it serious business, it is a business you must take seriously. I never even thought of my products as a brand. I made them because I liked them, and I wanted to continue my daughter’s work. I sold them because I spent too much money on supplies to give them away for free. That is how I felt about the “soap” I was making. Brick House Branding moved me into a brand consciousness which I now believe you must begin with. A brand is a living, breathing entity that needs care, nurturing and focused attention if you want it to grow.
I would advise anyone who is ready to start a brand to get clear about what the brand is, what it does, why it does that and why your brand does it better than any other brand. I would also encourage a new brand owner or those re-branding to have a clear intention about what they want to achieve with, for, and as a brand. Finally, I would say, drop the word “product” from your vocabulary until you are clear about the energy and direction of the brand.
Thanks for catching up with us, Iyanla. The Lucky Break team will be watching (with cocktails and popcorn in-hand) as you make your big debut on HSN next month!
If you’d like to build a stronger, smart brand in 2018, then I also hope that you’ll consider joining me in the spring semester of Brick House Branding. This 9-week brand development mentorship dissects awesome brands and then helps you build your own, brick by brick, with me working right alongside you to cheer you on and ensure that you’re on the right track. Enrollment is now open, but we’re closing things up tight on April 27!