Dating back centuries, the skull and cross bone image has long been symbolic of death across all cultures, which is why it was a logical design choice in the 1850's to label poison and other harmful substances to protect people.

But in the 1970's, Dr. Richard Moriarty with the National Poison control center made an amazing discovery: children were actually attracted to the skull and cross bones labeled substances, reminding them of fun things like pirates and adventure. While effective for adults, skull and cross bones had the opposite association to children, who are more at risk of ingesting harmful chemicals and substances. 

After lots of research and testing, Dr. Moriarty discovered that children found a certain sickly shade of green to be the most repulsive, and after one child called it "yucky," the Mr. Yuk sticker was born. The popular skull and cross bones was changed to a yucky face, like the one you'd make if you were to drink something gross. While something that "makes sense" like the skull and crossbones might be an obvious idea, researching and understanding your entire audience on a deeper level is how you make design decisions that people may not "like" or enjoy, but that is acutely effective. And that's what matters.



If the Mr. Yuk sticker was supposed to be the the epitome of disgust, of course Worstofall was drawn to it as a representation of our philosophy on design: don't be "good", be right. The Worstofall version uses a diamond, referencing that the most valuable assets to a brand might be something most people overlook.

Why would you want to associate with something that is meant to be disliked? Because if you are going to be Worstofall Design, then you have to go all the way. THAT is the definition of badass branding. Embrace what defines you no matter what it looks like.

Mr. Yuk is the perfect representation of our brand because he is meant to stand out, both by his color and stink face, and nobody else is going to use him. Mr. Yuk wouldn't work for everyone, but there is an equivalent Mr. Yuk out there for every single business. You might just need help finding it!


What the national bird can teach us about Badass Branding...

Its 1770-something, and the founding fathers are trying to decide how to symbolically represent this great nation they are starting...


That night, Ben Franklin goes home and writes a grumbling letter to his daughter:

"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him... the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Oh Ben. How very practical you are, but you're missing the point!

While the turkey might have some qualities you'd like to represent the country, the turkey doesn't exactly inspire action or excitement

In contrast, remember the last time you saw a bald eagle soaring through the sky? You can't help but watch it, looking up above you with your mouth open in awe, and tapping whomever is near you to do the same. Have you ever looked at a turkey waddling around, pecking at the ground with the same level of amazement? 

What Ben failed to understand is that when coming up with a brand, sometimes it's more important to be aspirational than accurate. Sometimes creating the emotion you want buyers to feel is more important than explaining all the details behind a symbol that hits all the points.

The turkey is the "what."

It has characteristics that are noble and tell an accurate story. But it's no match for the majestic personality of a bald eagle soaring through the sky. 

The turkey is like listing the services you offer on your homepage. Or like calling your marketing company "Effective Marketing USA." Accurate, but lame.

The bald eagle is the "why."

It's hitting your clients in the gut with a statement, or a feeling, that makes them tingle. It's naming your company Uber or Google because it feels right, not because you need to explain what you do. 

So Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your turkey this week. At least the poor bastard is good for something. 


You’re at lunch with a new networking contact. It’s a Tuesday. Or a Wednesday. Okay, it doesn’t matter what day it is, or what you order. Following an hour-long discussion and meal, you head your separate ways and what matters is this: Even after that hour conversation, you still don’t have a clear idea of what that person does.


You have every intention of sending business their way, but you can’t put your finger on who or when would be an appropriate introduction.

Now imagine this networking friend having the same experience with you. After an hour-long discussion about your business, she walks away unclear about your value proposition--or with a complete misunderstanding of it.

From a business perspective, that lunch would be a complete waste of time. Why? Because if people don’t understand what you door don’t rememberit’s like you never even told them.

This is why you need a ready-to-go elevator pitch for your brand--one that contacts will listen, understand, remember, and act upon.

Make Sure the Right Idea Sticks

With every new person you meet, you have a tiny window of time, focus, and/or attention span. Too many details increase the chances that the idea(s) that sticks won’t be helpful for your business.

For example, if you have coffee with someone who tells you he collects Godzilla dolls and likes to swim with sharks, you may only remember him as “Jim, the thrill-seeking Godzilla collector.” But maybe Jim’s a big data wiz, and you come away knowing zero about that. You won’t be likely to refer business to him.

Best to pick a focal pointand carve your inroad there!

By narrowing your brand down to a simple concept, you frame the conversation as it benefits you, answering questions, giving examples, and even floating a few referral phrases. This way, you increase your chances that your name will pop up at the right time, and in the right conversation. After that, you can still touch on sharks--and feel confident that your central point will stick.

How to Determine Your “One Thing”

Finding your brand’s focal point can be difficult. As part of our Brandup Bootcamp, we’ve devised a formula that we teach to Badass-Brands-in-training.

Your “one thing” can come in a variety of forms, and you can also have multiple “one things”--your focus may shift depending on your audience. But it must always adhere to one major rule: It has to be something your competitors can’t and won’t say.

For example, we branded a financial plan for Stash Wealth, a wealth management company called Stash Wealth. We productized the “Stash Plan,” a flat-rate plan designed as the first step of any client relationship, which dives deep into a client’s goals, cash flow, and future. Now, when Stash speaks to potential clients, the Stash Plan is the only thing they want people to remember--it’s different, unique, cool, and shareable.

So, even though there are a lot of interesting things about Stash Wealth--like the fact that they work exclusively with 20- and 30-something HENRYs (High Earners Not Rich Yet)--they understand that everyone who leaves a conversation knowing the benefits of a Stash Plan is well on their way to becoming a client.

We Know Our Focus. Let Us Help Find Yours!

At Worstofall Design, our “one thing” is building Badass Brands in less than three days. We call this “without the bullshit.” For specific audiences, we may shift focus to our Brandshrink--a 90-minute deep-dive interview, where we identify a brand’s badassery and create a plan for how to unmask it.

Depending on who we’re talking to, we strategically plot out our approach. Both ideas are clear, branded, and unique to Worstofall--so when we frame a conversation around Brandshrinks or “no BS” branding, we know people will walk away with a distinct differentiator.

What’s your “one thing”?

Explore your material, nail that phrase, and watch your business grow.


Apple is the most Badass Brand out there... right???

One of the biggest mistakes small business ownersand even brand strategistsmake is emulating the branding of companies like Apple, Ralph Lauren, Starbucks, Coke, and Nike. These household names appear over and over in articles about becoming a powerful brand, and yet... 

_22.jpg’s why they shouldn’t:

Your small service business is nothing like these behemoths. Your goals are different, your offering is different, your challenges are different. And you don’t sell products. Being the next Apple, even if you could, would be a mistake. 

Large Brands vs. Your Small Business

Companies like Coca-Cola and Nike are looking for market share. You? You should be looking for a sweet spot niche: a specific segment of well-paying clients that need what you offer, precisely the way you offer it.

Big-name brands also have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on their advertising campaign. Do you?

Consumers buy Starbucks lattes, Nike baseball hats, and Apple, well, everything largely because each paid for placement over and over again to build brand recognition and trust in your mind. (Not to mention millions in R&D to formulate and test the products to begin with.)

People pay for your services because of trust, too--but instead of traditional advertising, you establish consumer confidence in your brand through more focused channels. Maybe you steer your efforts toward owning social media or creating a killer website--and directing traffic there. Or perhaps you work on an integrated plan to make your brand undeniably badass. Great! In your corner of the world, you are Coke or Pepsi. 

The Opportunity to Stand Out

Household brands want to separate themselves from the competition, just like you. But these brands need to stay conservative for the most part, so as not to alienate their universal fans.

Your service brand is liberated from this problem. Since you’re targeting a select few, you can play an entirely different game. Think about it: Your business can thrive off of very few customers. So, if you can reach these people and hit them with a message that sticks, you’ll position your brand as a major player among your target. 

Research tells us the average person needs to see a brand seven times before recognizing it. Without a colossal marketing and branding budget, you’d better start by making a memorable first impression.

Narrow Your Focus & Sharpen Your Message

With the right message, you can distinguish your brand from the competition. Remember: your brand doesn’t need to appeal to everyone--it just needs to appeal to someone. So, don’t cast a wide net just to see what you can catch. Find people who love what you do and get their attention.

Branding that resonates with your target audience will drive consumers to notice you, remember who you are, and tell their friends all about it.

Want a brand like that?
ake our upcoming free online training Badass Your Brand

Remember, none of the biggest brands started out selling everything to everyone. They were all badass. Nike spoke to performance athletes. Apple was for nerds that wanted to be hip. Ralph Lauren Polo appealed only to equestrian types. Once they made a name for themselves and became known for something, they expanded their consumer base and appeal.


To a business strategist like me, it’s infuriating—and puzzling—that so many service companies try to be everything to everyone. If only they knew what we know: specializing is the most powerful branding play. By far.

When you narrow your focal point, you are suddenly seen as an expert in a focused area.

(Now I'm trusting you with this valuable info! Because narrowing will elevate your brand and your perceived expertise, regardless of whether or not you are actually an expert. So please use these powers for good.)

What else can narrowing do for you? Make your company instantaneously memorable, increase the likelihood of referrals—and even help you command premium pricing.


Sounds pretty Badass, huh? But how do you figure out what to focus on?

Well... don't just pick something out of a hat! #worstideaever

Specializing for specializing’s sake is weak—we’re looking for what gets you jazzed to get out of bed in the morning. What keeps you going, with or without a caffeine fix? It has to be a skill you love, for clients you enjoy being around, or else... seriously what’s the point?.

Once you nab it, and commit to it, it's like pouring jet fuel on the engine. 

Start Here: Focus on the Winners

To find your niche, look back at your favorite projects, clients, and experiences. Who have been the best clients to work with? Why did you enjoy those projects and people? Once you understand what makes a client ideal, you’ll have a clear direction for your specialization.

Usually, I use these benchmarks to evaluate and identify “ideal” past clients:

  • They had problems your background, expertise and experience made you ideally qualified to fix

  • The project scope, budget, and timeframe allowed you to fulfill on your promises to the best of your abilities

  • You’re proud of the value you delivered, and they were impressed and excited about the final result

  • They understood your value and were willing to pay your premium price without blinking, bargaining, or bartering (Also, they paid you on-time!)

If you've had clients like this, start there. If you’ve never had such a magical experience, choose the project that runs closest—then figure out how to make it magical.

Be Master of Your Domain

As a small business owner, you’re in a unique position: You have the power to build your business exactly how you’d like.  <<click to tweet>>

If you feel like you need $5,000 to deliver your best value, then you need to charge $5,000 for your services. And if you don’t think anyone out there will pay $5,000 for your services, you’re either hanging around the wrong crowd, or need to revamp your offering and messaging. 

Present and polish your brand so that the price tag makes sense. With a crisp, clear, sophisticated brand and message you will be attractive to the clients you actually want to work with.

Case in Point: The Wedding Industrial Complex

I recently spoke with a woman who creates custom paintings of weddings as beautiful mementos for the happy couple. Charging about $1,500 per painting, she worried about the future of her business because people were haggling.

But she’s in the wedding business—an industry where price sensitivity goes out the window.

What an opportunity!

If you’re running into consistent bartering like her, you’re talking to the wrong people. Once you acknowledge and accept that, you can adjust your strategy and course. For our wedding artist, the money and market most certainly exist, she just has to own that positioning in the market. Be a higher end service, stick to what she wants from the deal (i.e. her price), and then only put effort into marketing to the people who have the right budget.

If she identifies potential referral partners that cater to $250,000+ weddings, and then only puts energy into connecting with them, she will build a reputation with a higher-end market. She may have to polish up her website and process. She may need to invest in nicer boxes in which to deliver the paintings (presentation goes a long way with premium priced services.) She probably needs to dress the part (can't show up to a million dollar wedding in discount clothing.) Plus, with $1,500 prices on her site, she’ll never sell a painting for $5,000 or $10,000. But with the right messaging and targeting, she can reinvent her brand and position herself specifically in that $5-10,000 price range (or much higher.) 

Cause you might as well...

You don't need to be in the wedding industry to charge a premium. There is a premium version of any service in every industry. Why shouldn't it be you? 

Specializing bestows enormous power in your space. To pick your focus effectively, identify your ideal process, clients, and price point, and build your brand's positioning around that. It’s difficult enough to build and manage a successful business, in general, so you may as well center it around something you truly love (and that's profitable!)

In fact, if you enjoy it, you’ll have a better shot at success, and the benefits will extend much further than your company’s bank account--inspiring you to commit fully to each project and deliver the highest value possible.

To truly find your powerful niche takes digging deeper than you might otherwise go. It’s a process I put all my clients through in my Brandshrink and you can download some of my best questions in my Minishrink here.


We are constantly preaching about how you must be different, and say "no" to business outside your niche, if you want a profitable business that attracts clients. We also talk about how this takes guts. And we know because we almost didn't have the guts to do it either!


Clients may not come easy at first.

For the first 3 years of our business, I was constantly pounding the pavement, hoping I’d find new work in the rubble. I networked every day, so I met a lot of people. As a personable, amicable female, people wanted to refer me to their colleagues and bosses.

But many of them seemed to have the same problem:

I just can’t refer “Worstofall Design” to my boss.

What I didn't know then that I know now? They just weren't our clients.

Don’t Get Defensive

When I did get referrals, people often introduced my company with an immediate qualifier, like: “Worstofall Design is named after the creative director Steve Wasterval, but they’re actually really good!” C’mon! I did not need or want a defensive intro right out of the gate. That type of introduction lacked confidence, and it didn’t set my company up to knock it out of the park.

After hearing about people’s hesitance to refer us, I spoke to Steve. If we created another company called “WOA Design”--with a website that showed off only our corporate work--we could easily market our services to these BNI/networking clients. With a more corporate arm of our company, we could effectively appeal to the people who just didn’t get “Worstofall.”

Let Your Brand Speak for Itself

At first, Steve humored me. We put it on our to-do list, but that’s the furthest we got. As I recall, we became too busy to develop a new corporate brand--and, thankfully, the idea fizzled out. 

But what if it hadn’t? Had we built “WOA Design,” I’m not sure we ever would’ve developed into the Badass Brand we are today. We wouldn’t have given the brand the time and attention to get it there, because we would have had a trickle of corporate clients to placate us into settling for a generic brand that brought us just enough business (instead of a badass brand that brought us tons of business!)

Being different is scary, and we get it. It’s hard to put yourself out there, then hear people say they want to refer your business, but can’t. Most people would just change their business right then and there.

But what many don’t understand is that this is where the power lies:

having the guts to commit to what makes you different when some people tell you it’s wrong or that they don’t like it. If you build a brand that’s authentic and unique to you, and stick with it, you can establish a reputation that precedes you.

And that’s when you get to attract clients and charge more than your competitors.

To be loved by some, you must accept being disliked (or even misunderstood) by others.

So ask yourself:

What kind of business do you really want?


So you want to be different, huh? Yeah, we’ve heard that once or twice. We’ve also known clients that want their brands to be edgy, standout, truly badass

We all know "be different" is good advice. What nobody seems to be talking about is why getting to "different" is so damn hard to achieve.. and what you can do to get there.



1. Because sometimes the world can seem like one long, bad, judge-y first date

Different isn’t difficult because you don’t have it. You’re different. Even if we don’t know you, we already know that. 

Different is difficult because it’s hard to stick your neck out, and risk being JUDGED.

At their core, badass brands are different, and that can feel scary.

People instinctively want to fit in, are driven to belong. It’s how we create the human connections we need to survive. Standing out from the crowd makes us vulnerable to being noticed, ostracized, and rejected.

That’s why being a Badass Brand requires guts. You have to be ready for some people to not like you, or even to actively dislike you--even while others proclaim their devotion! 

Because the only things that most people like is generic stuff, like Q-tips and famous paintings of pretty flowers (and even then, there are plenty of people who hate these things.)

Point is: there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like what you are about or what you have to say. So if you get really comfortable with that idea you can start to actually embrace something that your people will love. 


2. Because we are naturally prone to feeling like there is scarcity

Badass Brands understand the power of "no" (another scary word in business). Whether by rejecting less than ideal project, or pricing yourself out of a budget, or because the project isn't exciting to you, “no” commands respect. Most business owners can’t say no to a sale because they are in a mindset of constant desperation. But successful business owners know that “no” is their best friend.
Saying no is hard. 


3. Because when we say “I don’t care” what we really mean is I care A LOT

Badass Brands “give no fucks.”  I had a speaking coach who told me the best speakers “give no fucks” about audience judgement. You are up there for a reason, so deliver your speech with "no fucks given" and people will listen. Confidence is attractive, and confidence comes from being comfortable being yourself. But to give no fucks about what anyone else thinks about you, it's a skill that's hard to master.

(Even as I write this, I am somewhat uncomfortable with my jarring use of the word “fuck,” which even I agree is a little uncouth for a business article. The irony is not lost on me, hence I will continue to fucking write it, if only to illustrate the fucking point.)

Self doubt and fear of judgement are the main reasons most people will never have a badass brand. But having that doubt and doing it anyway? 


That’s called guts, and it's badass.

So, when you say you want to be different, what you really need to ask yourself is- do I have the balls to be different?



Stash Wealth was terrified at first to charge for their Stash Plan. Nobody else in their industry did it, and therefore they thought it meant they couldn’t do it. But that’s exactly why they should have done it!

I want you to take a minute right now and think about all the value you give your clients before they even hire you. That’s all those free conversations where you’re giving them loads of information trying to get them to sign up to work with you.

Now come up with a way to package that so you can sell that time instead of just give it away for free.

Price it at whatever feels comfortable, honestly it doesn’t even matter at first. The point is you need to get used to charging for your information and telling people that it’s valuable.

Now I want you to call up a former lead, someone who was interested in working with you but didn’t sign on, and I want you to sell them this product. Price it so that it’s a no brainer. They were interested enough in working with you to speak with you, so they are already half way to the sale. This is a low cost way to pick your brain, so give it a try!

And don’t feel defeated if they don’t bite, just call someone else. Keep doing this until you sell one.

Here’s a recent email I got from someone who heard me speak about this method:

“I wanted you to know I implemented your lead product strategy 3 times and have had 2 people go for it. So that’s an additional $990 I can directly attribute to your advice!

Also, this was (2 hours of) work I used to do for free before sales calls so my life is much easier… With one move I’m added a new revenue stream, saved time, and can better scale my business = )

Here’s a big, heartfelt THANK YOU!”

I have had so many clients send me emails like that. IT WORKS! But badasses only- it’s not easy charging for something you’re used to doing for free.

See the article above on why that is.

Then stare it down and do it anyway.


"What's your mission? Why do you do this? What do you stand for?" wah wah....


These are the questions that most branding companies will ask you when trying to get to the heart of the "why" about your company. Unfortunately, generic questions like that tend to produce generic answers. Want to avoid the generic fluff your competitors are pumping out in their brands? 

Instead, ask yourself: What do you stand against? 

What pisses you off about your industry? What do you hate about your industry that you want to improve?

What are others in your industry doing that YOU do better?

By finding out what you are against, you will get a much clearer picture of what separates you from the rest. It’s even better if you find you are against things your competitors are for. This means your message will resonate with clients who think similarly, and it can help potential clients make a clear distinction between you and your competitors. That’s the goal, right?

Identify a problem you care about

We worked with a speaking coach who just hated dull speakers who put their audiences to sleep. Her homepage now reads: “On a mission to rid the world of boredom, one speaker at a time.” This copy is fun and entertaining—not corporate and stodgy like her competitors’ sites. Once she realized she was against boring speeches, she embraced her spunky, entertaining side.

Another client of ours, Moderna Capital, came to us because they had a nice looking website and tons of experience in their field, but they couldn’t get clients. They were a boutique wealth management firm started by a pair of ex-Merrill Lynch advisors, and they wanted to give “young professionals” financial advice. 

When we Brandshrinked them, I asked them what pissed them off about their industry, and they got really heated. They told us they were fed up that Merrill Lynch only worked with people who had a minimum of $500,000 in liquid assets. They believed people who were still BUILDING their businesses and careers—people who might not have had that kind of money yet—should still have access to reliable, financial advisors and advice. 

They were against the big corporate Merrill Lynch way, yet they had built a brand that still looked a lot like Merrill Lynch. The copy was a little more hip, but it didn’t reflect the passion they expressed when they spoke about their disagreement with Merrill Lynch’ values.

Distinguish yourself through your passion

By truly understanding what they were AGAINST, we could build a brand that sounds and looks like it stands for something that’s actually different from Moderna Capital’s competitors. 

Rather than say they “break from the mold,” their brand now actually breaks from the Merrill Lynch mold through its fresh look, copy, and vibe. Their target market of young professionals wants bite-sized info—or “financial cliffnotes,” as we called them—and so we expanded their services to include fun seminars and products that are accessible for smaller budgets. Moderna Capital eventually gave in and renamed their company to “Stash Wealth” with our full support. They are now killing it as a highly coveted financial voice for the millennial generation.

Maybe you’re a therapist who hates the touchy-feely image that therapy has. Or a personal trainer who is so annoyed at all these quick-fix gimmicks like 5-minute abs. Or a marketing company that thinks it’s wasteful for small businesses to advertise to get new clients when they haven’t fully mined their current and past clients for more business, which are 70% cheaper to close.

Whatever the industry, most people go into business for themselves because they worked in a company and thought, “I could do it better.”

Take a few minutes to jot down the first things that come to mind when you ask yourself, “What am I against?” It’s a hack that helps cut through the crap of standing for generic fluff.


It's not just about working for yourself...

There's a big different between working for yourself and being a #BOSS and a lot of it has to do with which direction the business flows in. Being a #BOSS means business flows to you, and it has very similar characteristics to what we define as a Badass Brand.


It’s about elevating your service above the ceiling most businesses operate under, free of the usual constraints. 

Think about it like this: What’s the main reason people go into business for themselves? Freedom.

I don’t think I’ve ever met an entrepreneur who wasn’t looking for freedom. Freedom to express themselves. Freedom from a boss. Freedom from a salary that forces you to stay at a job you might not love. Freedom to spend time with your friends/family/kids when you want. Freedom to travel, eat at nice restaurants, buy things without feeling like you’re breaking the bank.

So when we say “badass brands,” what we really mean is being a badass in life. People who have control over their time and are not at the mercy of anyone else.

But why do we think badass brands create that kind of freedom? Well, these brands have two distinct characteristics.

First, they are able to charge a premium price.

This alone creates a ton of freedom. When you can charge a premium price, it means you take home more money than competitors for the same amount of time. So, you can either work less to make the same amount, or put in more time to make more.

In other words, you have the freedom (and luxury) to choose.

By making more than the average person doing a similar job, you are freeing yourself up in all kinds of ways! You are able to be selective about who you work with, because you don’t need nearly as many clients to make a living.

If you choose to free up time, you can use it to make your business and services even more valuable—by learning, reading, and brainstorming new ideas—or you can spend it doing something you love that is not business-related. Ideally, you do a little bit of both, continue to increase your pricing, AND enjoy your life in the meantime.

When you dedicate time to improving skills related to your craft, you will only increase the value of your offerings moving forward—in turn increasing your potential price point. You’re free to make more! YOU decide if you want to take on an extra client or two this month or next, and pocket the profit.

Second, badass brands attract clients.

They don’t have to sell (in the traditional sense), and marketing efforts are energizing rather than frustrating.

Badass brands know what they are selling, & they know how to talk about it in a way that immediately clicks with other people. Their message resonates. This means that every attempt to get the brand out there has supercharged results compared to what most companies get out of marketing.

Many brands are hard to understand and easy to forget. No wonder marketing is so draining! You’re spinning your wheels trying to get people to understand and remember something that is neither clear nor memorable! That’s why it’s so important to have a brand that sells on its own. People want it. It speaks to them, so you barely have to. Now that’s badass.

And that's how you go from working for yourself, so being a #BOSS. Your service must be clear, the benefits must be defined, the sales process must be easy, and you’ve got to position or package your stuff in a way that sets it apart from the competition. Do this an work will flow in your direction.

How do you do this?

Watch my masterclass on finding freedom in your freelance business:

4 Shocking Mistakes Killing Your Brand



If you’re still striving to create a badass brand, there’s undoubtedly something holding you back.

I’m willing to bet it’s some BS assumption based on what others have told you, or what you’ve read on the Internet. And it's definitely tying your hands behind your back as you work toward your goals.

Are you ready to let all of these misconceptions go?

MISTAKE #1 - Thinking everyone is doing better than you.

F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out) is a real thing. It often manifests when you see someone’s pictures on Facebook, and imagine they’re having a great life. For business, it’s kind of similar. 

It may seem like your fellow small business owners are all killing it, but remember that social media posts are only a small, highly-edited version of the truth. Social media allows everyone to brag while hiding what’s really going on.

THE TRUTH - If it’s hard for you, it’s hard for them, too.

Nobody is going to post a selfie on Instagram if they’re having a bad day. Building your own business takes serious chops, so you are definitely not the only one struggling to get your business off the ground. YOU can do this if you get your head in the game and persevere.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Reroute your energy where it's needed most!

Don’t compare yourself to people who have been at it longer than you, it's a complete waste of time that is actually hurting your business. 

Instead, focus on building your knowledge and value. Trust that the more committed you are to building something that you can be proud of, the more real (and not just instagram-worthy) success you will experience. Ignore what you see online, 95% of success posts are aspirational. 

MISTAKE #2 - Thinking your brand is all about what you do.

The biggest mistake people make when building their brand is confusing their BRAND and what they ACTUALLY DO. They think everything they know is important, and they try to include all of it.

THE TRUTH - Your brand is only an outward expression of what you do.

Your brand is the ONE THING people remember. It should be specific and clear, evoking particular feelings when someone thinks or speaks about your company.

And that one thing is usually pretty different from what you actually do. The details of what you do—your expertise, your full process—influence your brand. But your brand should simplify it into one clean package, minus the fat.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Let go of trying to explain details- we don't care.

Focus on finding the main one or two points that really pop, and only talk about that. It will resonate better and leave listeners curious and wanting more. It will also position you as an expert. When business owners overwhelm you with details the underlying feeling is desperation and overcompensation, whether the customer realizes or not. (This will help)

MISTAKE #3 - Thinking that if you want a successful brand, you should copy Apple, Nike, & Starbucks

Ask yourself...

  • Are you spending millions of dollars on advertising each year?

  • Is one of your challenges to make sure your stores all look the same?

  • Are you competing with Fortune 100 companies for market share?

THE TRUTH - It’s like comparing Apple... and oranges

No. Just no. Your goals are completely different from these companies, and the way you are going to operate your business and deliver your service is also totally different. So why would the strategy to launch be the same? It wouldn’t, and it’s not.

If you want to learn something from the big guys, read about how they got started—not what they are doing now. You’ll find they all have a badass brand story in their beginning.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Read books by business owners who started out a lot like you.

Take a hint from other small business owners selling services. Learn from successful peers. Hang out with business owners who are slightly ahead of you, and take note of what they do. Those lessons will take you way farther than anything you observe Nike doing.

MISTAKE #4 - Believing Badass Brands are created.

Being badass is not about creating a brand outside of yourself.

THE TRUTH - Badass Brands are discovered.

This process is about identifying what already exists in you and what you do that is badass, and then making your entire business about that. You’re not changing, you’re evolving. If you create an identity for your brand that doesn’t feel true to you, you will fail miserably. 

You can’t build a successful brand if you’re always listening to what others say. Sure, be open-minded and accept constructive criticism. But if you accept everything people say as fact, what are you going to do when somebody tells you that you’re going to fail? You’re going to prove them wrong.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Dig deep, the answer is within.

Sometimes your most badass opportunity might not look like one. I've always wanted to brand a business owner by embracing a typically "bad" quality, like a super anal-retentive accountant or something. Reminds me of the classic Seinfeld episode about the Soup Nazi- NO SOUP FOR YOU! Based on a true story about a phenomenal soup maker in NYC whose owner was kind of an a-hole, it actually added to the mystique of the product. BADASS!


We just signed up for Oscar. And we're so excited about it!


For the past year, we’ve seen their simple, easy ads plastered all over the NYC subways. I don’t know about you, but when I look at them, I assume I will get good customer service and my needs will be met.

Why do we feel like that? Because they have a Badass Brand, one that practices what it preaches. Their tagline doesn’t say they’re simple and easy; it is simple and easy: "Hi, we're Oscar.” In the healthcare world, a friendly face and a warm introduction are Badass. 

After Health Republic, our former health insurance company, told us they were shutting down at the end of November, we had to find a replacement. Oscar came to mind immediately because their messaging stuck out in the clutter of boring, corporate health insurance ads.


Valued at about $1.5 billion, Oscar has almost tripled its New York market share in the past year. And what can they thank for that? Badass company branding. Oscar’s clean, uncomplicated pitch is music to millennial ears: a generation that lacks the attention span for anything longer than 140 characters.  

Oscar’s website continues their concise, clean experience. They promise simplicity—and they deliver. (Seriously, check it out. They almost make filling out a healthcare form fun.)

Have you ever called the NY State of Health before? It's worse than calling Verizon. I know, how could anything be worse than calling Verizon!? But it is.

But not Oscar. I've spoken to several people there who are polite, knowledgeable, and anxious to make my experience pleasant and simple. We signed up on the spot.


As Maya Angelou said: People will forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. Similarly, Oscar’s ads make you feel taken care of; like things are going to be simple. Our actual experience with Oscar built on those feelings and backed up their promise. Customers get excited about brands who can pull that off.

Oscar is a Badass Brand in the health insurance world because it dares to be truly different—not just say it. What can you learn from them?

1. Don't say you’re different; BE different in your messaging

Oscar's tagline isn't "the simplest, easiest health insurance to deal with, with smart people answering the phone." They just say "Hi, We're Oscar" alongside simple imagery. You can feel their simplicity and smartness from their ads.

2. Back it up

If I called Oscar and got a Verizon-style employee on the other end, I'd be disappointed. In fact, I'd be more disappointed than if I called NY State of Health, because I expect Oscar to be different. They would actually fall farther from grace in my mind, because my expectations weren't met.

3. Make sure the pieces line up

If I went to Oscar’s website and it was tired and outdated, again the experience wouldn't match up to my expectations. If your brand is a smarter alternative to an older way of doing things, make sure your online presence matches up with a smart, clean look and feel.

Inspired as we are by Oscar? Sign up to get more tips like these in your inbox, or book a Brandshrink.


If you think your logo is the most important part of your brand, you're not alone. Most people focus on creating a cool logo and miss what’s actually needed to turn it into a badass logo that people recognize and love.

logo versus brand worstofall design

Most people focus on creating a cool logo and miss what’s actually needed to turn it into a badass logo that people recognize and love. In the small business space, it has everything to do with how you communicate what you have to offer in a clear and meaningful way.
It has almost nothing to do with your logo!!
The problem is we small business owners are looking up at huge companies for ideas of what we need to succeed.
But we are not them, and they are not us. And we aren't even headed in the direction to be them! Because most of those example brands you are looking at are products.
But you are a service.
And even for the huge badass brands of companies that sell products- even their logos aren't the reason they are successful. It's the brand that made the logo what it is. For example:


Case in point: Nike. When we think of Nike, we think of the swoosh. So it’s no surprise that most people equate the power of a brand with the power of the logo.

I mean, what a brilliant logo, right?


Sure, there’s a story behind the shape of the logo, but people don’t buy Nike because of the swoosh.

The logo is brilliant only because of the behemoth brand that backs it up. Apparently a student designed the swoosh for $35 in 1971—what a steal! But it wasn’t really a steal. Nike made that logo brilliant by positioning the company in the market, and then pumping cash into smart advertising campaigns over decades.

The swoosh might as well be some weirdo abstract creature that has nothing to do with what it’s selling, like the mermaid on the Starbucks logo. It’s iconic because the brand made it iconic.

The logo is only one small part of the brand. Yes, a bad logo can hurt your business. And a brilliant logo that makes people stop and think, “Hey, that’s cool,” will have customers think about you for an extra millisecond.

But a logo does not a brand make. On the other hand, a great brand can make a plain logo seem absolutely brilliant.

Too harsh?

Why are we being so harsh on logos? After all, we love designing badass logos, and it’s fun to come up with a smart logo that encapsulates the brand’s essence into a single mark that, over time, the consumers will recognize sans the company name. That’s pretty cool, and that’s what all businesses want.

We’re being harsh because we don’t want you to spin your wheels on getting the perfect logo in lieu of building the brand that’s actually going to make that logo sing. Yes it's important that the logo is in line with your brand's positioning (a nice luxury font logo for a premium priced brand makes sense while a childish font would not) but once it's in the right vicinity, we find no "perfect" logo is going to make your company successful.

10:1 RULE

So what makes a good logo? The brand behind it. Go ahead: Put effort into a logo you can be proud of. But don’t do it if you’re not going to put ten times the effort into a brand that’s going to make it work for you. Stop spending time on your logo, and start spending time on your brand: your logo will thank you.

Most people think if they have a badass logo, they also have a badass brand! And while a cool logo can take you far, it is most certainly not a brand, and understanding the difference can open your eyes to new opportunities for growing your business.

Below are 4 key differences that can help you determine if you have a brand or not, and when you need one.  


What’s a logo? A mark that represents your company.

What’s a brand? The reason your logo has any meaning at all. It’s the value, feeling, and personality of your company that your logo will come to represent if you market the brand consistently over time.

A logo without a brand is just another mark.


A logo is the mark that identifies your company whenever it’s presented.  It’s the mark that goes on top of your website, your business cards, and your products and packaging. A logo is one very important part of your brand.

A brand is how consumers perceive you. It's the sum of your company’s touch points and includes everything your customers come into contact with. It's the main message and idea that influences everything you say and do, how and where you market it, and of course, all the visual elements of your business (website, business cards, marketing materials...)

An important point most people miss is that a brand is not about what you are selling, but why people care about what you’re selling. It’s about the emotional need you are fulfilling. 

Think about your brand as a story. Who are you, and why should people care?



You can start and build a business with a logo, and as a solopreneur just by operating you are your default brand because you are your business, and people can’t help being themselves pretty consistently. If you’re a reliable, hardworking person with a great product, you’ll probably do alright! Although if you rely on your personal awesomeness to develop your business, it will mean that you need to spend quite a bit of time with each lead for them to fully understand why you’re great.

When you start hiring employees and outside vendors who will also be selling your services (social media marketers, for example), a brand is crucial to making sure that everyone is selling the same thing, with the same message. Even if it continues to just be you, if you are utilizing online marketing techniques (social media, blogging, webinars, newsletters, etc…) a brand will make sure that all the content you put out there is consistently telling the right story, reinforcing the main overall message of your business. That consistency is what develops relationships with people overtime, be they current or potential clients. The longer you reinforce your message, the more awareness you bring to your business and that awareness multiplies overtime and translates into sales.



Since the logo is the sum of the brand's visuals, we usually start by developing the perfect logo mark and then build the entire visual brand around it. But that visual brand does not directly reference company culture or messaging. Again, when you have a brand message, it influences every decision you make as a company (For example your pitch; your homepage copy; how and where you market. A few less obvious ones might be; how you structure your work days; where you have a company holiday party or host promotional events; what kinds of events you sponsor; what charities you support; the kinds of gifts you give...)



Unless you have an investment with which you are starting your business, developing a brand before you’ve actually set up shop is usually not possible given your limited resources. When we help growing businesses create a brand, we have a lot of information on which to base that brand message; past experiences can shed light on the actual needs of the consumer (as opposed to the needs you think they have.) 

That said, having a brand is powerful.  If you have a clear and strong message, and brand elements that strengthen that message (i.e. a badass website, super professional business cards, eye catching mailers…) selling is much easier.  Many industries sell their good based almost completely on their brand. Clothing and jewelry, for example, are a dime a dozen, are non-essentials, and consumers in these verticals buy  based on the brand equity more so then in service-based businesses. The whole buying experience needs to make consumers feel great because they don't need to buy this item. And that experience is shaped by the brand. 

But out of the gate, when you are starting a business, there are so many other things that need your time and money. So when boot strapping the business, it’s usually not feasible or the best use of your limited resources.  After all, a great brand without a great business has nothing to sell. Here's an article about how much branding costs, and you're just starting out, check out our Brandshrink or  Brandup, an affordable way to get everything you need, including a responsive website if you're not ready for the full shabang.

In the end you will need both, but when you are a small business, doing a full branding project is often not affordable.  If you use a logo designer that knows about branding, elements of your overall brand message will still be discussed and explored to achieve the right logo anyway. A brand will always be more powerful, but companies don’t usually have the resources to develop one when first starting out.  When you’re ready though, a brand is necessary and will help take you where you want to go!


Boring is probably the worst insult you can get. I think most people would rather be mean or rude than boring. Boring means nobody cares to think of you because there's not much to think.

So why do so many businesses settle for being boring? 

Here are three common things businesses do that make them boring and bland, and what to do instead if you want to titillate your audience


1. Use superlatives

Unless a reputable source said it’s so (and you can cite them), saying you are The Best at anything is pretty lame. How do we know you’re the best-- because you said so? Of course you’re going to say that, you’ve got a pretty obvious agenda.

Give some specifics. Whether it’s Geiko saying they will save you 10% or more on car insurance (instead of saying they are “the cheapest”), or Dominos saying they will deliver your pizza in 30 minutes or less or it’s free (instead of saying they have fast delivery), Specifics are more believable and will go much farther than some generic claim with nothing to back it up or compare it to.

You can also say something entirely different and badass- but that’s a different article.


2. Write too many words

Unless we are sitting down to read a book we actually want to read, we don’t want to read. So if you can’t sum up your point in a few sentences or less, don’t bother writing it.

And break up your points with paragraphs.

And use headlines.

Because they are easier to read, and lots of words are boring.


3. Talk about yourself

It’s hard not to talk about ourselves, after all we are the inspiration and the reason for our business' existence. Maybe compare it to being ones child, an extension of ourselves. We are the center of our own universes, and it’s a habit that’s hard to shake.

So it’s no wonder that everyone has their bio, their story, and their history all over their website. It’s the story we know, and it feels important.

But you know what is interesting and important to me, the customer? What you’re going to do for me. How looking at your website, or learning about your company, is going to benefit me.

Us customers are not just self-centered a-holes, and it's not as cold and sad as it sounds. It’s actually quite wonderful! It’s the reason businesses exist: to create and give value to others. It’s a noble cause that comes with a perk of being able to support yourself monetarily.

So do us a solid and talk more about the value you created for us, and how it’s going to help us, and stop telling us about your hobbies and pets and how long you’ve been in business (I don’t want the oldest company, I want the most effective company for solving my problem.)

Your customers, and your bank account, will thank you handsomely.



A lot of companies talk about being authentic because we all gravitate to organizations that feel honest; it’s refreshing and builds trust. But today the guy who says “trust me, we're honest” has the opposite of the intended affect.

Being Real Isn't as Easy as it Sounds


In branding, authenticity is defined as delivering on your brand promise. Say what you are, and relentlessly back it up. Of course you must have a brand promise to begin with, which means standing for something in everything that you do. It's actually the opposite of being exactly who you are, because if you show all the different aspects of your company, you will confuse your customers who won't understand what you "authentically" stand for. As a person, you're complex and hard to define simply and quickly, but your brand message should not be.


3 Obvious/Not Obvious Ways to be Authentic

1. Don't Say You're Honest, BE Honest

Not because you are dishonest, but because everyone says they are honest (and nobody says they are dishonest). This white-washed message carries little weight in the eye of the consumer. To be authentic, you must instead demonstrate your honesty through the actions and behavior of your brand. Don’t say anything you aren’t 100% confident you can back up.


"You Above All"

All airlines say they are about the customers, but JetBlue does an amazing job of making all of their company decisions in line with their brand promise. Fewer rows in each plane for more legroom, first bag checked for free, unlimited free snacks and Direct TV. This is a brand that you really believe puts “you above all” and the success of their company is not unrelated to their badass authenticity.

Those authentic actions become stories told to friends, increasing the people in your sales pipeline over time. Conversely, not fulfilling your brand promise through actions makes that an even more fun story to share, and not in your favor. And that means lasting damage to your image and business.


2. Owning a Negative Has Just as Much Potential

Since everyone says they have great customer service, their product is the best, yadda yadda... these messages can start to feel trite and, at times, even dishonest. 

In the last few years, Dominos has been playing up their less-than-gourmet pizza in an ad campaign, inviting, and then showing off, all the brutal criticisms. This vulnerability and honesty about their product worked, the campaign (and new recipe) catapulted the chain’s stock price from $12 per share to more than $75 in 4 years.

Being authentic in this way very badass. It takes guts to show your flaws and being unapologetic about what it is your company really cares about and what it doesn't care about, which are equally important. This approach to branding inherently makes your business stand out as different in the face of a sea of corporate jargon and bland sameness. Keep it up and don't fall into the vacuum of status quo; that continued effort will build your authenticity over time.

3. Terrible Situations Are Your Chance To Be “Authentic”

You don’t have to be perfect, quite the opposite! When hiccups do happen (and they do for everyone), look at it as an opportunity to flex those muscles and show customers those benefits you have been selling. By handling the situation in line with your brand promises, you'll get everyone raving about your great customer service before you have a chance to brag about yourself (*note: bragging sucks, other people bragging about you is delicious)


Authenticity is built by how a company acts everyday with every client interaction, not by saying it's so. Be it a luxury company whose touch points are always dressed to the nines, or a service company who always responds to email within 30 minutes (even if just to say you will get back to your customer with an answer shortly). Being yourself, or "authentic", takes direction, planning, and consistent effort.



Almost every business that walks into our studio mentions how they aspire to be a brand much like the 4 listed above. We always appreciate our client's ambitious branding goals, but take the time to remind them that these companies did not become universally loved by selling to everyone when they started. 

Instead, they started by selling a very specific product and idea to a very specific group of people and, more importantly, that product or idea was something bold and different: Badass.

If you really want to own a brand like Ralph Lauren, then don't be like Ralph Lauren.




Most people aspiring to have a brand like Ralph Lauren's don’t know that he started out as Ralph Lifshitz selling ties out of the back of his car. His angle? He wanted to allow men to make a statement with their ties. And unlike the skinny plain ties of the time, Ralph Lauren’s wide ties were colorful and made of luxurious materials. Being bold and different lead to being recognized and remembered, the foundation of a badass brand.


Apple had decades of almost going bankrupt. It’s rise to Brand Superstardom came after almost 30 years in the business, staying true to their mission to simplify the complex so that everyone will be part of the future with computers. They dug in as the more intuitive, creative computer choice, which feels obvious now but was a bold, risky stance to take at the time. Apple's current success eclipses how difficult it is to take a stand as something different or other, but illustrates how big the payoff can be.


Nike was known as Blue Ribbon Sports for the first 7 years of business, and only sold running shoes for more than 2 decades, and Starbucks sold coffee beans for their first 10 years in business.



When starting or rebranding a new company, don't look at the biggest, oldest, most successful brands as they are today as your model. When you look at how they started and what they did to become the recognized, global brand, you will find lots of boldness and badassery.

These companies all started with a simple badass mission and narrow focus rife with game changing vision.


Do you want to own something that people will remember? Are you ready to think about WHY people will think about you above all others? Think about a Brand Shrink to get some insights into what makes your company Badass.


“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art” -Andy Warhol

warhol dollar bill is brooklyn brand.jpg

There is perhaps no better industry to look at when trying to understand the power of a brand than the fine art world. That might seem a bit counter intuitive since when one pursues an art career, they don’t usually start with a business plan, marketing plan, and brand conversation, they start with the art (or product) itself.

But it’s possibly the best example because the art world sells a product that has no inherent value in it. Though some artists are certainly more talented than others, no artist is millions of dollars more talented than their colleagues. Art is a product that exclusively sells on the basis of its brand.

roy-lichtenstein perfect brooklyn brand example.jpg

Pollock is not the only painter to drip paint on a canvas, Lichenstein is not the only artist to make cartoons fine art, and Picasso is not the only cubist painter. Nor were they the first or arguably even the most skilled. But when you see a painting in one of those styles, you immediately think of those artists and those artists alone. And those paintings sell for millions more than their similar counterparts.

Are they better paintings? Not millions of dollars better! You’re not paying millions because there was more skill involved, or more inherent value.

Jeff Koons ballong dog badass brand.jpg


The reason they are so valuable is because those painters in particular OWN that brand of painting. If you are even mildly familiar with the masters, the association is so strong that anything that even closely resembles their work will conjure up that artists’ name in your brain automatically. Jeff Koons occupies the image of balloon animal dogs. I mean he OWNS that space in your mind, because he has such a dominating brand.

And that brand is incredibly valuable. The person who dropped almost $60 million on a Jeff Koons Balloon Dog could have had a custom made sculpture for much less. But then you would just have a piece of art (product), not a Jeff Koons (brand).



If you’re like most companies, you try to make a better product than your competitors, and sell it at a competitive price. The equivalent of that in the art world would be to drip a bunch of paint on a canvas and sell it for a couple hundred dollars. Last year a Pollack sold for $58.4 million, so you can definitely undercut that price! You should be golden, right?

Like most companies that do this, you could probably sell some product. You might even sell TONS of product. Maybe your drip paintings would be flying off the shelves at that price! But here’s the bigger question: would you rather sell 1,000 $100 paintings, or one, $58.4 million painting?

We use this extreme case to illustrate the point, but it applies at all levels of art, as well as to your business' brand. Owning space in people's minds is the holy grail, and a brand is what gets you that space. It allows you to sell fewer products at a higher price with a higher profit margin. Investment in branding will pay off every single time you make a sale and will actually increase in value over time. The better the brand (i.e. the more badass the brand), the higher the payoff.


Inevitably, after each art show we host at our other company #SELLOUT, the number one question we got was "How much art did you sell?" 

Well, we sold a bunch of art, if that's what you're wondering, but that question shows that the real value of the show isn't obvious to most people. It's not about the immediate sales (though they are a nice bonus!) it's about brand awareness, this buzz word that is easy to define but difficult to put into action. It's about sales that will be made for years to come. So without further adieu-

I've heard of brand awareness.... Now what?

In this Article:

1. Brand Awareness- insight into the buzzword

2. #SELLOUT- how & why we did it (hint: brand awareness)

3. Applying the big business examples of brand awareness to your small business


brooklyn branding uses art.jpeg



Having a badass brand is important, but if your brand is the best-kept secret, it's not really working for you like it should be.

Brand awareness, created by being visible to your target on a consistent basis, ideally strengthened with badass visuals and press-worthy experiences, translates your "brand" into "more people knowing and buying your stuff."

Most branding articles will use examples like the Nike swoosh, or the Apple experience, to demonstrate the strong relationship we have with those brands because of incredibly powerful and consistent brand-awareness campaigns we've experienced over time. But how does this relate to your small business? 



We created #SELLOUT, an experiential art event, as a brand awareness campaign for artists and sponsors. The goal isn't direct sales, but to create awareness for all parties involved, increasing their value and Brooklyn cool-points by being associated with a scene.


  • Plan shows with artists who are into the idea of shameless self-promotion

  • Pitch the idea to brands who want to be associated with a cool Brooklyn art scene

  • Develop a badass brand that inspires curiosity and has a clear message

  • Design all the materials to reinforce the simple message that everyone can understand

  • Be really clear about the event's message in all press outreach

  • Host events, this past one being a badass, week-long event in Brooklyn with 2 opening parties, interactive art and lots of ways for people to #SELLOUT



  • All the people who were aware of the events, viewing the marketing campaign, reading the articles, and coming to the parties, have a specific association when they see the logo for #SELLOUT.

  • As we continue to host these events, the people who are currently aware of it will continue to strengthen that association and understanding of the brand, and new people will join that awareness.

Have you ever seen an event with a bunch of "unknown" artists garner that much attention? That's the power of a brand awareness campaign with a badass brand. 



The disconnect for many when they read about brand awareness is that it seems like something only large companies can afford because we usually talk about brand awareness in terms of the corporate companies building awareness nationally and worldwide.

But the exact same principles apply to you and YOUR PERSONAL WORLD. Think about all the people in your immediate network: colleagues, friends & family. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that just because they know you and what you do, that they are walking around with you top of mind, referring you whenever the opportunity arises.

What Nike does in brand awareness for the world is exactly what you need to do for the people in your world. Smaller scale, same power.

There are many ways to do it, but the overarching theme is that it must be done consistently and with a consistent message. It's why we are going to take #SELLOUT to SWSX this spring, then Chicago this fall, and then back to Brooklyn in the winter. Repetition is a crucial ingredient.

So whether it's valuable newsletters, or informative seminars, badass parties or fabulous cocktail hours, book clubs or poker nights... find outlets that make sense for your brand and then make sure you do it consistently and over time. This type of effort will create brand awareness, it will pay you back in spades as you become more and more top of mind to everyone who knows you, and it will create exponential value for you the longer you do it.


“Why should I hire you over the competition? It's THE question that everyone is trying to answer.

"Saying you are unique, or that you think outside the box, is the surest way to let people know you don't think outside the box."&nbsp;-   Badass People

"Saying you are unique, or that you think outside the box, is the surest way to let people know you don't think outside the box." - Badass People

Below we've broken it down in to clear, tactical ways you can set yourself apart, with some fun real world examples. 



Badass brands utilizes new language, language not often used in their industry, as a means of differentiation. It allows them to take something that already exists, put their own spin and personality on it (ahem, brand) and then own it like it's new (because in many ways, it is!)

Starbucks is a great example as it is the only place you can order a Venti Frappuccino and, for a company whose product is 90% water, charge quite a premium on those caffeinated cocktails. Their unique naming system is one of many ways they set themselves apart from their competitors.

Indeed I know many loyal customers that use that terminology when ordering in a non-Starbucks coffeehouse (whoops).

Example amazing brand starbucks


Nespresso created a new category by repackaging an old idea in a new way. Instant espresso had a low-end connotation, so they made up a new word and developed a high-end, high quality image associated with a quality, European espresso. While there are lots of pod coffee machines out there, Nespresso is in a category all on its own.

(To further demonstrate the power of branding did you know that Nestlé owns the company? Not a brand you would associate with European quality espresso, which is probably why they don't advertise that!)


Using different words than your competitors is a great opportunity to set yourself apart. Often, in an attempt to be loved by everyone, companies often use generic words like “quality leadership, delighting customers, great customer service” to express what makes them great to work with.

As a small business owner, what one thing do you do better than everyone else? Large or small, what pieces of your process, your personality or your products are different enough that there is opportunity to highlight, package, and own them as yours? How can you explain it using sepcific, unique words? (Unique not being one of them!)

Instead of saying we are faster and cheaperGeiko say "15 minutes will save you 15% or more on car insurance," a great example of using similar language, but in a differentiated way to be memorable. 


You can use new words, you can use the same words in a new way, or you can use made-up words to set yourself apart from your competitors. But when you use language that everyone else is using, no matter how much better you are it will be impossible for the world to see it. 


Read the copy on your competitors’ websites. Is your copy interchangeable with theirs? If it wouldn't feel out of place on your competitors' website then you aren't pushing yourself far enough to show your true colors. Try explaining and defining the generic words that you use, so instead of saying that you are 'innovative,' explain what you mean by the word "innovative."



Most companies understand that to be successful, a brand needs to stand for something. And we understand that you really do mean it when you say that your company stands for “integrity,” “customer service,” “innovative solutions,” etc… But unfortunately, you’re not the only “honest,” “hardworking” business out there. Those declarations lose meaning when your competitors, especially more established ones, also say they are honest and hardworking. When you all say the same thing, the big guys will always win.




So how do you find something to stand for that is bold, different, badass? There’s a simple way to find out how you are different, and if not, how you can be.  

Ask yourself "what do you stand against?" 

What pisses you off about your industry? If you stand for something bold, you also stand against something real. For example, no company offers "Bad Customer Service," so offering "Good Customer Service" is not very bold, exciting, or even believable. 



Mini Cooper is against "Normal", because in their words, “Normal can never be amazing”. In-N-Out Burger uses local produce and ingredients so they are against rapid growth and franchising. Chick-Fil-A's owner is a devout southern baptist whose beliefs have strongly influenced the company culture in that they are not open on Sundays, and recently even made public statements in opposition to same-sex marriage. And most people are aware of Ben & Jerry's liberal activism: for example their release of the flavor Hubby Hubby in support of Gay Marriage. 

What offends one person inspires and excites another in every case.


While we all might not agree with what these examples stand against, rest assure these brands are all loved by their loyal customers in a way that Toyota, Burger King, & Breyer’s are not. 

And they can charge a premium price because of it, which is part of Worstofall Design's definition of a badass brand. 

On the other hand, though Toyota et. al. are huge, successful companies, they are forced to compete on price and market share.

A brand that actually stands for something different develops devout followers that will pay more for their product, meaning these brands do not have to compete on price. This equates to higher profit margins, which means as the business grows, the profits grow even more than their price-competitive counterparts.

Those are the kind of badass businesses we admire!

Investing in and building on a bold brand message now will garner a loyal following that will shout your brand from the rooftops as you grow! This translates into greater and greater profits in the future. So think about what you stand against, and use that to help find that badass value you stand for. Without a contrary opinion to your stand, you can be pretty sure that big bold statement you’ve been making probably isn’t exciting enough to get your customers moving.

Part III:


You've heard it before: you've got to narrow your target market to be successful. But after encountering business owners time and again who will sell to anyone who will buy, it seems clear many people aren't buying it. Here are 3 short explanations about why narrowing your focus will increase sales, and why being for everyone can be the number one reason your business isn't growing.



If your target market is “anyone with the money to pay” you are doing yourself a disservice. When you hire someone to redecorate your new three bedroom condo, would you prefer to work with someone who “works with all budgets, from small studios to large condos to retail stores and office space” or would you prefer to work with someone who specializes in decorating high-end Manhattan real estate? You might even be willing to pay a premium to work with a specialist. (And even if you're not there are plenty of people who are. Plus when people pay you a premium you don't need nearly as many of them to make the same, or more money!)


Specialize now, and your reputation will grow around you. As you become known for your specialty while your business simultaneously grows, your competitive advantage will only be strengthened as you win client after client, strengthening your reputation and increasing the number of happy clients talking about you in that niche. Your speciality continuously feeds your business more strength and power, a power boost your generalist competitors will never feel. 

Though you might feel, especially at first, like you’re leaving money on the table when you turn down jobs that you could certainly execute, the value you will be creating in your business will pay you back in spades.  


Just because you are for a specific group, don’t think you are limited to that group. We’ve found that declaring a niche doesn’t discourage people from asking you if you would do work for clients outside of that niche. Why? Because they like what you have to sell, and they see you more as an expert over your generalist competitors.  Nasty Gal is a great example of a online fashion company that plays to a very specific kind of customer, but many of their customers don’t fall into that category. Their brand is rocker and rebellious targeting a certain kind of female. But that just means they are the go-to for super edgy, rebel style, and even the teachers pet will buy from them when looking for something in that category. They have become the go-to for their style, and that’s powerful across all target markets.
Litmus test
What kind of clients do you say “no” to? Do you target clients that other competitors in your space don’t? Do you say no to clients your comeptitors do work with?


Unless you’re Apple, Coke, or Walmart, you don’t have the resources to just beeverywhere, which is how these huge successful companies stay successful.

The rest of us are fighting for a piece of the pie against many other smaller brands. Building a Badass Brand is essential to being successful in the long run because it guarantees you will be known, liked, loved by customers, which will keep them coming back for more, and bringing their friends to boot.


Badass brands are memorable. They stand for something specific or, even better, stand against something that people might even like. They might be very narrow in their target audience, be it the age group, gender, location, size of company, or better yet, a mix of a few. They are willing to sacrifice in the name of their brand. They are authentic. They are valuable. And because they are so well defined, they have little or no competition. 

You can't and shouldn't use all the techniques in this series for your business. Instead, see which ones are most applicable, and then commit! Committing is the hardest part for most because it seems to require sacrifice, but it's truly the strongest way to set your business apart and build a company with unlimited potential.


3 Things Badass Designers Must Think About to Achieve Impressively Simple Designs

Simplicity is an art. Distilling complex ideas into few words is surprisingly difficult. Business owners know this more than anyone when they start developing their elevator pitch. 

Similarly, a logo at its best should convey a multitude of ideas in the simplest mark possible.  It's not just the mark itself, but the way it is executed. And it's the training and knowledge behind the scenes that makes something simple, powerful.  

Here are 3 things badass designers must think about to achieve that simplicity

KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid

KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid


What is your company about? Sometimes creating a mark that is representative of what you sell is powerful, especially when executed properly.  Sometimes, something less literal that presents an a-ha moment is more powerful.



Every aspect of your logo adds to the personality of your brand, and  color is a big one as it affects mood and comes with intrinsict meaning. We all have associations with colors that are connected to our daily lives, and there lies an opportunity to tap into people's memory to create a connection with their personal experiences. Basic examples like STOP signs being red, plants being green, etc... are ideas that can be utilized to add to the depth and should be taken into account when creating a visual message.



Matching your brand to your price point is critical to a professional and polished brand, and anything off the mark can create unrealistic expectations that will lose sales when they are about to close. The font used and finishing touches go a long way to tell a consumer what they can expect to pay, and when they are ready to buy, it will be a seamless process if the price is in the ballpark they were expecting.


Let's take a look at a brilliantly simple example, the FedEx logo.  

The font is clean and bold because the personality of the company is straight forward: they will simply always deliver your package on time. 

The colors are meant to address a key company goal: to utilize the fact that there are FedEx trucks everywhere and that the CEO wanted to "be able to see a FedEx truck loud and clear from five blocks away." 


Finally, the mark.   An arrow is such a simple, obvious and not terribly interesting representation of movement. Yet its brilliance lies in its execution. This is a great example of an a-ha moment, because the arrow isn't immediately apparent, but when you see it, it feels extremely smart (which, not coincidentally is a major personality trait of FedEx.)

Lindon Leader the designer, had this to say about it: I tell people this all the time. Henny Youngman, the comedian, had this whole signature to his act around ‘Take my wife. Please.’ What the PR folks wanted to do was the equivalent of changing his shtick to ‘Please, take my wife.’ If you have to call attention to your punch line, to explain it, it’s no longer a punch line. It doesn’t work, it isn’t funny, and no one will remember it.”

By utilizing the right font and appropriate colors, matched with great execution, FedEx has achieved a powerful and appropriate logo that has stood the test of time. Each element is very simple, but the power lies knowing to bring them together.