When I first started Karen Tracey Design back in 2000, the predecessor to The Image Shoppe, I knew I wanted to do something different—something that made us stand apart from typical ad agencies and design studios. There are so many great firms out there, and I knew that we needed to differentiate and offer something that would help us stand apart.
The old TIS Crew, circa 2009
A simple, yet significant question
I started with a simple question. Why do I want to do this? That simple little word: Why? It seems innocent enough, yet it’s packed with so much significance. You don’t even realize it until you begin to answer the question.
For me, the answer was: I wanted to help good people who were doing good things with their organizations, to do better and reach more people who, in turn, could help them do even more and ultimately, make our community stronger.
Doing the right thing
At that time, just prior to working with Guy Bazzani, Rob McCarty and Rachel Hood to brand Local First, I was just beginning to flirt with an understanding of the power of local businesses on our economy. I had adopted a mantra of doing the right thing, which guided many of my decisions both in my personal life and in business. Having worked for large corporations and nonprofits over the previous 11 years, I knew that I wanted to coach people and businesses so that they could continue to impact our community in positive ways. I saw smaller, local businesses and smaller nonprofits as a place to start on this mission.
Local First’s very first directory, circa 2005
Creating an authentic brand
The goal was to help these companies create authentic brands—to be honest about who they are, what they can offer, and, most importantly, be able to deliver on their promises. As much as every business wants to cast a large net and be all things to all people, it’s impossible. It degrades the brand when a company tries to be who they aren’t or be all things to all people.
At that time, I had to admit to myself that as a creative, my capacity to accomplish this was limited. I, too, needed to be authentic and seek the support of a more business-minded partner who would help me accomplish this goal. It was at that time, that I reached out to my husband Rob McCarty who was doing marketing and financial consulting for companies including fortune 500 companies. It was the perfect marriage ; ) Rob had what it would take to accomplish my goals and he shared and amplified my passions. Together we built a team to carry out our vision.
If you’re ready to do some deep soul-searching to improve and maybe even better understand your brand, ask yourself Why? And keep peeling the layers away to get to the core of why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s easy to shirk the question with a pithy answer, but challenge yourself to dig deeper. I’ve listed some questions that will help you get to an authentic answer to why and help begin the process of shaping an authentic brand.
Questions to get to your why
- Why did you start your business? (Or if you’re not an entrepreneur, why are you working for your current company?
- Ok. Now really, why? Go deeper.
- Why are you still in it (or working there) today?
- Why do you care about the future of your company?
- Why do you do what you do?
- Deeper… why? Peel the layers, over and over until you get to the TRUE answer.
- Why does it matter?
- Might there be a better path or changes to your path to accomplishing your true purpose… your why?
Once you’ve answered these questions, and you know what is driving you, I promise you’ll be in touch with your true motivations and passions. If that leads you to a desire to learn more and to move your brand forward, give me a shout. I’d be happy to meet up and talk more with you about how to make your brand as successful as it can be. I have some talented partners in Rob McCarty and Greg Smith who lead brand strategy for TIS. They would love to meet up as well. Why? Because we want to help you create an authentic brand that makes a difference for you, your stakeholders, and who knows, maybe the broader community.