Expert Branding Guru, Ashley Nicole Johnson, Talks Building a Brand

Authored by: Christine Thomasos

In 2022, it seems like everyone has a brand or wants to create one. The key is knowing what to do with it. How is the world seeing you? Do you want to make a difference in growing your business or social impact? MVEMNT chatted with Branding extraordinaire Ashley Nicole Johnson who shared what it takes to build a successful brand.

WHAT IS BRANDING?

Ashley runs a branding, pr, and event planning agency called ANJPR consulting. Over the past decade, she’s worked with BET, Essence, Black Enterprise, and SXSW. When it comes to branding, she knows what she’s talking about. Before dropping some gems, Ashley gave us a practical definition of branding.

“Branding is what you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room. Whether it be your business, a product, or a service – at the end of the day, your brand is the spokesperson,” she said. “How do you serve? How do you make people feel connected to what you’re offering?”

Creating the right logo, aesthetic, and website are all important. But, Ashley advises people to look deeper than the surface when they focus on branding. She suggests that people pay attention to how their product, service, or social media page makes others feel. A successful brand doesn’t just come together. It takes the right strategy and execution to be great.

HOW DO YOU START BUILDING A BRAND?

If you don’t want to waste time, money, or energy, Ashley says you need good research and data. If you don’t have the resources to hire a consulting agency like ANJPR, you can conduct a survey or one-on-one interview to understand your target audience and their needs.

“The first step is really understanding your audience, and you’ve got to understand the research and data. You want to show up in the right way in order to bring yourself appropriately to market,” she said. “The primary research really allows you to ground yourself in what is going to entice your target audience. Then you can start to invest in high-quality research to better understand your audience.”

BRANDING WHILE BLACK

When you’re building a brand, it’s also important that you don’t neglect your mental health. This is a challenge that so many Black entrepreneurs face, which Ashley knows about firsthand. Mental health isn’t just a buzzword for Ashley, it’s something she had to work on to be successful in her business.

“Two or three years ago, I was dealing with a whole lot, and I was stuck. Right before the pandemic, I wasn’t passionate about my business anymore,” she said. “I was doing it to grow my business, and that was not the genesis of entrepreneurship for me. So I had to really dial it back and understand how to uplevel my spiritual development by tapping into these resources.”

In order to show up as your best self, emotional and spiritual development should be a part of your brand strategy. So many of us are dealing with health crises, economic disparities, and generational trauma which can easily affect our business.

“It’s hard when you have all the external factors of being Black in America. That really is a struggle,” Ashley said. “Sometimes we overcompensate to prove our value in our business. You also have to be mindful of the type of relationships that you build within the Black community because it’s so competitive.”

The level of competition that exists in the Black community is real. Instead of seeing each other as allies, so many Black brands don’t offer to help each other because they view each other as competition. This is deeper than one business owner not wanting to see another win.  Ashley believes economic disadvantages in the Black community affect the way we build our businesses.

“It goes back to those economic disparities that we as a Black community have, and that is why we can’t work together sometimes. We don’t trust each other, because it’s so competitive to get opportunities, “ she said. “When you have to take care of your babies, parents, and all of these responsibilities, it’s challenging. That’s why I love to amplify the business owners and the brands that are talking about social impact, services, and solutions.”

IT’S DEEPER THAN BRANDING

So, how do you deal with all of these challenges when building your brand? Ashley leans on her spirituality. As a Christian woman, she says making her relationship with God a priority helps her balance the business side of things.

“I would not be able to be at peace and show up as an entrepreneur the way I can without my spiritual connection with God. Every day when I wake up, I have devotional time, I pray, read the word of God, and listen to the music that reminds me of the power of God,” she said. “If I don’t have that, I’m literally moving in desperation and scarcity. Starting my day with God allows me to conquer it.”

Ashley also encourages people to connect with resources that will help them work through emotional and spiritual development. For some people, that looks like coaching, while others call it therapy or counseling. Whatever that looks like for you, the brand extraordinaire says it’s important to have business and personal counsel.

“Whether you’re alleviating the mental issues that you’re going through, some of the pain points that you’re going through as a business owner or exhibiting some issues as you maintain adult relationships – Invest in yourself and make sure that you have external accountability to get things done,” she said.

Do you want to know more about how to get a consultation with Ashley or ANJPR? Click here.

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