Niran Vinod and Damola Timeyin have spent their careers so far working with huge brands such as Nike, Tesco, Weetabix and Clarks, and both work as creative strategists for Facebook and Instagram. This more than qualifies them as experts in brand building, but rather than keep that insider knowledge to themselves, the duo wants to decode the mystical world of marketing so that everyone can benefit. Damola moonlights as head of strategy for creative network POCC (People of Culture Collective), which itself has a goal to accelerate equality in the industry, and mentors young people looking for their break. And in their new book, How to Build It, published through the Stormzy-curated Penguin imprint #Merky Books, the duo want to continue this mission to make industry knowledge accessible to all. The book offers advice on how fledgeling business owners can turn a side hustle into their day job, through jargon-free exercises, hints and tips for defining and building their own brand. Here, they give us a sneaky snippet to the book, out later this week.
“We wrote How To Build It for young people with ambitions to build a brand, who don’t have access to the experts we’ve met or meeting rooms that we’ve sat in for 20 years, collectively. It’s not a brand-building bible, as there are more qualified people out there writing those; but it is a well-informed point of view on some of the things we wish we’d known when we started turning our side hustles into brands.”
Starting the journey
“We both navigated the system without a metaphorical map. As the children of first-generation immigrants, who had worked hard to create a good life for their families in the UK, our parents’ objective had been for us to build on their success, which, as many will recognise, mainly meant: nail your education and settle into a stable, traditional job.
“While we largely followed this pre-ordained path, there were lots of occasions where we’d intuitively try to navigate the system in a different way to what our families had envisaged – whether that was setting up a production company with a friend at school or a lifestyle brand after university. We mainly used these ‘side hustles’ to demonstrate to potential employers that we had what it took to be a top-tier employee, instead of continuing to build these brands into something that could last. Yet, in hindsight, none of them actually had to be deviations off the main path. They could have been the path. If you have a side-hustle, don’t delay, today is the day you can start turning the side hustle, into the hustle.”
Laying the foundations
“No matter how good you think your business idea is, it can only be successful if you can convince people of its merits. ‘Brand’ is an elusive concept to some, but one that has the power to convince people that your ‘idea’ is something they need. To convince someone, you need to understand them first.
“The people you’re building for don’t exist in a vacuum, so a shortcut to understanding them is understanding the culture and communities they exist in. You can then weave this understanding, respectfully, into how your brand behaves and communicates with them.”
Reflecting on the journey
“If you’re someone further down the road of setting up your own brand, there is no doubt you understand the long-term potential in taking the path less trodden, and will have learned more than your fair share of lessons.
“Help others navigate the system, with the knowledge and experience you have acquired. You may think you don’t have the time or energy, but there are two very good reasons why you should seriously consider it: You’ll learn new lessons. And discover different ways to solve problems.
“Whenever we’ve mentored someone, the experience has always been a two-way street: yes, you give a lot, but you get back much more. Building a brand is an opportunity to throw down the ladder, which is what we hope we’ve done by writing this book.”
How To Build It by Niran Vinod and Damola Timeyin is published on 15 October as part of the #Merky Books How To series.