Evolution Of Branding (Design, Strategy, Web3, NFT’s)

So this one is a little bit different. It’s just a little bit of a chat about 


Brand Strategy

The Evolution Of Branding 

And the journey that we’ve both been on to get to where we are today, the mistakes that we’ve made along the way, the challenge that we found out. 

if you want to learn how to avoid the major challenges within the branding industry, if you’re becoming a brand strategist, and if you want to learn what’s in the future for branding and the world of brand strategy, as we move into Web3 and NFTs, 

Then join us for this article, where we get a bit casual and just talk about where we’ve been and where are we going.

Evolution Of Branding (Design, Strategy, Web3, NFT’s)

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How Jacob Found Branding and Brand Strategy

Stephen Houraghan

A lot of our listeners will know who you are and they’ll have heard about your journey before, but plenty of them probably will have not as well.

So why don’t you kind of give us a bit of a background as to where you came from?

Where you started within the industry?

How you got into the industry?

And then how you found branding specifically, and even more specifically then brand strategy?

Jacob Cass

So 2007 is when I really, first read this of my business, which was called Just Creative Design at the time. 

So just to give you a quick understanding.

I’m a brand strategist, I’m a brand designer. I run a podcast myself and I also run a community and upload for Just Creative

So that’s what I do now but going back to 2007, what my business was back then was literally a blog. It was a way for me to document my studies at university.

That was when I got thrown into this world of blogging and Branding, I didn’t know at the time what I was doing, but I had this attraction to logo, design and typography. 

I repelled from art and drawing, but I knew that I, loved logo, design and typography. So that’s where I focused my efforts.

I was riding them out logo design all the time.

That got me into the world of branding and that kind of evolved into becoming a brand identity designer and then many moons later into a brand strategist when it came across folks like yourself and the future ton of other strategists out there.

And that’s really the journey to now a very condensed version. 

So Logo designer, identity designer, strategist, and now I’m a business coach as well. So that’s it in a nutshell of the many ups and downs along those ways.

The Challenges In Branding and Brand Strategy

Stephen Houraghan

So why don’t we jump into a few of those challenges that you mentioned? 

I know that probably like me, there were a few key points along the road that made you reconsider what you were doing or how you were doing it. 

Why don’t you talk to us a little bit about the challenges that you’ve faced along the way?

Jacob Cass

So there are always different challenges along each stage of the journey and suddenly really in hindsight, you can realize that there are actually challenges and at the time you thought you were doing things the right way, and that was what your skill level was at the time and you didn’t know better.

In particular, when I first started, I didn’t have any assistance or processes.

You’re trying to get your business sorted trying to find your niche and your positioning in the market

I didn’t even know what those things were back then. There’s no wonder it’s a struggle when you really trying to figure that all out on your own.

To be honest, back then, there was not many resources online about at all. So it’s all, books and trying to learn from your lecturers and your teachers. 

So it was a bit of a different game now is too much information now, who do you know, who to trust and who to learn from and who has the right solution, and so forth.

So the problem back then was business problems, like how do you position yourself?

How do you send the right message and how do you attract

So once you learned that and you got the systems in place. It’s like at that time I was focusing on brand identity with the focus on logo design.

So I set up my niche in terms of logo design, and my positioning was all about logo design and that kind of stemmed.

I guess that was a top of my funnel, if you will, and which stemmed into brand identity and so forth. 

So the challenges then were business and attracting clients.

It was actually too much work. It’s like it was the positioning had to change because it was too much work and I couldn’t fit it all in. 

So that was a good sign to like raise rates and to learn something and so forth. 

Then, you know, once I was aware of strategy or brand strategy and how deep branding actually goes, I realized, I didn’t know shit about branding or what I thought because there’s so many different assets and that’s easy to say in hindsight, but so many different lenses that you can look through brand from.

I see more and more every week, the more people I interviewed, the more people I speak to, there’s a, so many different ways that you can approach brand, whether it be from the comms or could the customer or operation. 

So there’s so many different ways.

In a nutshell, just to summarize it was business in the beginning, then it was positioning and then it was like

How do you sell strategy? 

How do you talk about strategy? 

How to communicate the value of strategy?

So that was some of the issues that I’ve faced to face along the way.

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How To Have Too Much Work

Stephen Houraghan

I remember having a chat with that with Chris Do, just name dropping there he said the same thing that in the beginning he didn’t know what running was but he was building relationships. 

He was getting out there making connections and treating people the right way that would want to interact with him again. If you nurture relationships, then you’re going to get that back.

It doesn’t mean that you need to look at the ROI of  what you’re going to get from a friend, if you help them to move or just nurturing that relationship that’s what branding is.

You mentioned before, earlier you had too much work now. There’s probably a lot of listeners going, I would love that problem.

How do you believe that that came about to a point where you had too much work on and what were you doing to have too much work?

Jacob Cass

So this was earlier probably mid-2010s and my niece that I fixed on was logo design. So I was cranking out logos while I was traveling the world.

So I was like, I say too much work because I was only working four hours a day and traveling.

That’s the big aspects on that one, but the reason for that was because I knew SEO very well. I was earning the SCA game in terms of logo design, and those best competition at the time, these days is Cameron Fiverr.

Every man and the dog on the internet when I was really owning the blogging space and SEO game back then, and, I was getting so many inquiries assistance. 

I had in place was I didn’t talk to people on the phone. I was all like in a questionnaire, people filled out a form, email them back, I’d get a brief, I’d sent them a little grit, perhaps an identity. 

That’s what I did for several years and it worked really well.

Things change, the marketplace has popped up, designs was getting commoditized.

The value was being perceived to be less in terms of actual production work.

More people come into the space and SEO was getting more difficult and more competitive algorithms changing. So there were some of the problems that came about that.

So it was a good problem to have, and it was also a wake-up call to raise rates or implants. 

I guess raise rates or re-look at your business in ways to improve profitability and your systems and everything. 

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Have You Seen The Branding Industry Evolve?

Stephen Houraghan

So we chatted offline about what should the theme of this be and we settled on evolution and that is what has catapulted me to get up off my backside and kind of look at the landscape and the industry and analyze what has actually changed. 

Do you remember when that all started to happen when those marketplaces came in and, and you noticed a change?

Talk to me a little bit about that particular transition, the change in the market?

Jacob Cass

Be hard to say the exact year, but the writing was on the Wolf and there were marketplaces popping up. I don’t know what was first like Upwork or Fiverr

I was living that digital nomad life and that remote lifestyle and I saw that as the future, right.

If anyone’s familiar with the Four Hour workweek by Tim Ferriss, like it just opens your mind to about that possibility, that mindset that you can just work X amount of time a day or week or whatever it may be, and be comfortable with that and live for a lifestyle.

So it’s, you’re working with to live and not the other way around. That’s was key for me, but it’s really hard to say the exact time, but it’s getting more and more commoditized even as we go on now. 

So designers what used to work for them especially print designers and production designers and, people that have been working in that space, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to stand out and to communicate the value.

Savvy business owners can go to an online platform or hire someone very easily offshore to crank out something that they don’t necessarily see perceive as a high value piece of design or part of business. 

So that’s kind of leads into where we are today now as strategists and I’m not sure if you felt the same way as to, but when did you feel like this was a problem.

Do You Educate Your Clients On Branding?

Stephen Houraghan

When you consider what people think branding is and the danger that that represents to them and their future success and anybody who’s in branding and they take it upon themselves to help their clients close that gap.

There’s a massive education gap there. Is that what you find as well to you? 

Like when you talk to clients, even at your level now where you’re getting clients who are a little bit savvier than the first time startup or first-time solopreneur, are you finding that there’s still a big education gap there that needs to be filled?

Jacob Cass

Well, let’s put it this way we’ve both been in the industry for over a decade or more, and we’re still learning every single day. 

There’s so much we know, and so much we don’t know, and different lenses to look at. So education is a 100% part of the process every time.

Folks like Marty Neumeier, he says every single time he works with a new client, that’s part of the process.

It’s also an opportunity to just show that, you know, your shit and that they can trust and that we will them along that process. 

I literally just did a brand story video and a custom testimony video. I’m recording with some of my customers and a lot of them mentioned like why, what did you enjoy about the process?

They often mentioned the educator. Right. We got them through the process. So education is a huge part of it. 

So if you want to educate yourself, you’re going to struggle in terms of how to communicate your value and that trust may not be communicated or may not be built up and you don’t have that rapport, which makes it harder to sell through strategy.

As a strategist, In hindsight, you know what I did before brand identity design, where I just used a questionnaire, I didn’t even need to talk to them on the phone or anything. 

That process, that system worked very well for identity design.

However, if you’re trying to separate your thing, your thinking or strategy from your exceptional design pieces or any other touchpoints or whatever you do as a service.

That is where education comes in is it’s paramount. Education is paramount to answer your question. 

So a 100%, the more, you can pass on the more the client will trust you and the more perceived value have, which will make it easier for you to sell through your services as well.

Have Your Processes Changed?

Stephen Houraghan

So this is just my philosophy. 

It’s your job to give them that information so that they can go away, not only with a better outcome for their business and a better opportunity for success, but a better understanding of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it so that they can go and make a success of their brand.

At the end of the day, that is your job. as a branding professional is to simply hold your client’s hand and be their guide and arm them with the tools that you are able to arm them with so that they can go out and make a success of their brands. 

So it’s definitely a philosophy that I’ve initially adopted, but it’s now become a bit of a mantra of mine in terms of the importance of education.

If you’re able to embrace that and package up what you d and pass your knowledge on through that package, your value perception is going to skyrocket and that’s, it’s definitely what I’ve found. 

How did your processes change along the way? Because obviously, you went from doing these questionnaires and, and having very little client interaction to involving them in the process.

How did your process has changed from then to what they are now? What does that look like?

Jacob Cass

So there was something you said earlier about struggle and education was number one, like knowing more initiate so you can pass it on.

Then number two is structured knowing how to package, as you said, package up your services and how you do that is first understanding the client’s problem and how you understand the client’s problem is by asking the right questions. 

So, first, you have to learn a little bit about what questions to ask to uncover the right answers to help with your selling your package more or less.

To do that. The system has to change, right? To get more information, you have to spend longer time, more time with the individual, right? Not just a questionnaire. 

So you get on the call and you have a conversation and you just ask questions and they should be pretty much 80% of the talking. 

So understanding what their goals are, who they’re trying to serve, what they’re offering, how they do it, what makes them different and why should someone choose you. 

So big fundamental questions that clients often have a hard, very hard time struggling and I didn’t ask many of these questions that way early in my career. 

That was the difference, right? I wasn’t truly solving that business problem. I was just cranking out an identity for them.

I don’t want to say just cause it’s a very important part and I do that for many, many years. When you realize how much more there is to grow in a thriving brand that things have to change and you can go deeper and we’re gonna say go deeper, but understanding the root cause of what they’re trying to solve.

That’s when the structure came into play well, how do you bring structure to these questions and the process and getting the right output to help achieve their goals. 

So the structure changed and how I created structure was from taking courses like brand lots of secrets, and I’ve taken probably 10 other courses.

I’ve interviewed dozens and dozens o branding professionals getting bits and pieces from all over the joint and creating. 

I always remember this metaphor about you have a backpack on and you have tools in your backpack and he grabbed them out. 

That’s what is possible when you get information from multiple different sources and you put them into your backpack and when you’re like, okay, well that client has that problem. Let me get this tool out and then you work on it. 

So it’s number one about education and then structure in terms of interviewing them, understanding, clarifying the problem, getting approval on that and then selling through the solution to that and if you’ve spent enough time with them to uncover that you’ve already created that bridging the gap for them.

So the structure and education is really what has changed in my career.

Going from questionnaires to spending more time and putting in a more customized approach to their business problem, as well as the customers.

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What Does The Future Of Branding Look Like (with Jacob Cass)

Stephen Houraghan

That’s the real value that I get from what I do and kind of evolving that process is something I always want to do. 

As I said evolving all the time. 

That’s how I see things going in the immediate future and who knows what’s beyond that. 

Where do you see where we’re going at the moment? I know that you’ve got a lot of, uh, a lot of moving targets that you’re looking at at the moment. 

We’ve never been in a time that’s changing as fast as we are. You’re looking at some stuff with NFTs and things like that.

Where are things going in the world of just creative and Jacob Cass? Where do you see branding in the near and the distant future?

Jacob Cass

Brand strategy is trending. It’s is very popular and there’s no wonder because designers started to feel the clench, right. 

So everyone’s becoming a strategist and it runs provided they have to shift, right.

They can’t just compete with the rest of the world anymore, in terms of just during design, there are people doing it, but it’s getting increasingly more difficult, especially for students and people just coming out. It’s very challenging. 

So there’s a lot of opportunities there and I’m very excited about it. 

I have a project launching very soon, probably. It’s probably out by the time this goes live. 

So it’s called the so any designers or strategists or creators that have wanting to enter the Web3 go to the forest, which is the fo.rest. that’s the domain. 

You can sign up there and its all about helping creatives and to web3. So you can earn learn how to make money from it If you’re not sure what that is.

That’s we guide you on that. So we have an education. We have a committee with folks like myself and we have 10 other members who’ve part of this community that had ended up.

We also have a pathway, a roadmap to build this over the next number of years. So it’s, it’s early days now, but it is for everyone, but this is what’s coming.

So it’s the writings on the wall, just like it was many years ago about, you know, strategy and design being commoditized. We’re not entering web entering Web3. 

There are the NFTs that you can tie to your work. That’s a whole other topic, but, uh, that’s what we’re there for.

Imagine walking into your own branded world or some other world in the future it’s already happening, but it’s just going to get more and more as things go.

So there’s a lot of buzz words that are mentioned here, but now we’re talking about the future now and that’s where things are going.

So it’s time to educate yourself.


Are you into crypto?

Are you into, do you know what entities are?

Do you know how they work in Irby utilities behind them?

Do you know the opportunities?

Can you use them in your work? 

Yeah, there’s a royalty is that you can make from NFTs. So there’s so much opportunity and it’s so new right now that people were kind of ignoring it and laughing it off.

When in 5, 10 years, is this going to be normal? Right? Just like the internet, when it first came out, it was like people laughed at it. 

Or when the first iPhone apps came out, like you literally could, you could light a candle on it and blow it out. 

That’s how crappy the utilities of apps were but now it’s so part of our everyday life.

You know, it’s here we don’t know how to use them properly yet, but we’re learning every day, but they’re going to be here to stay as well as crypto. So that’s kind of where I’ve been spending some time learning, educating myself, to empower other creatives, to enter that space.

That’s really, my purpose is to empower creators, to do what they love.

There’s many different ways but this is a new opportunity.

I love staying on that edge of digital innovation. 

So that’s kind of what, where I’m going. I’m also doing a brand strategy for clients. I run a blog, I run a brand new podcast and I run a community for creatives as well.

So keeping busy, but that’s what we’re at spending time now. 

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