Valev Laube talks about breaking into brand management

Valev Laube is an Estonian-born brand manager and multimedia designer-producer currently based in New York City. He’s an enthusiastic creative mind whose digital designs have been the cornerstone of many event productions, company brand campaigns, and personal brands worldwide.

His proven talent for aligning strategy and objectives with established digital media development and multimedia design management paradigms has proven to be successful across many industries from art and music to technology. This growth-focused thought leader with expertise spanning creative design administration, social media management, branding, and marketing campaigns, is looking forward to what the future holds for the online brand building.

How did you first become involved in brand management and multimedia production?

It has been an ongoing process for me, I’ve gone from playing music and doing graphic design on a side, to becoming a full-time corporate and personal brand manager, which involves so many different things such as graphic design, web design, online brand building, SEO, sometimes even 3D design and music production. It’s been an exciting journey, yet I feel there’s still so much to conquer.

Born in Estonia, I became increasingly involved in technology and at around the age of twelve, I assisted my sister’s production company in graphic design and promotional design. We worked together on various festival promotions, CD album cover design and merchandising designs for shirts and tote bags.

Throughout my studies in Italy and the United States, this passion of mine, accompanied by my music studies and interest in music production, only grew and led me to new opportunities helping artists with their visual designs and digital music distribution. As the time went on and my clients diversified, so did my skillset.

More clients of mine needed their visual content to align with their web presence, web design and social media, which made me expand my knowledge in the field of web design, and search engine optimization.

Now years later I’m still grateful to have been surrounded by so many creatively minded people who saw potential in my talent and exposed me to a variety of projects. I’m grateful to say that I’ve worked with people from arts, technology, medicine, fashion, finance, and so much more, but this initial start made me experiment and search for solutions to situations that were visually and logistically complex.

What is your approach to new brands or start-ups?
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I love working with all kinds of clients, learning the ins and outs of their industry, familiarizing myself with the industry-specific aesthetic and sometimes breaking the rules to make their brand stand out.

I like building healthy collaborative relationships with each and every client of mine, so we can collaboratively find the essence of their brand, what it feels to them and how we could make our audience feel the same – for this process to work I need to build an honest relationship as opposed to simply doing work based on what’s demanded.

With each client of mine, I try to get to the root of their purpose, their business model, and brand expectations to identify the core values that they stand for. There have been many times when a client comes to me with a very specific project in mind, such as producing a specific poster, flyer, promotional video or anything alike, but later-on realized how their brand priorities might be different when analyzed from a holistic branding and long-term brand building perspective.

I remember once being on a client call and asking them, why do you want to make a video, what is the problem, why now – they simply couldn’t answer the question, they thought it was cool and would visually help. After a little bit of talking, I noticed that their website visitors get a wrong first impression of their company. Instead of seeing the company as delivering a very niche service and software product, the current brand content curation communicated the company as a software company that develops multiple apps for various people. This was the main issue, people simply from the first glimpse did not understand that the company itself has a strong message and valuable software to offer.

A lot of this is listening to what the client wants, why they want it and how to solve a problem that they might currently have. Sometimes the problem might be financial, sometimes it is to do with lack of clients or traffic. It’s rare for a client to simply approach me out of the blue for an entertaining visual, most of the times they need a visual to support company business goals and help them to deliver a message.

Specifically, start-ups need to think about where they are currently located in the business pyramid. Just because there’s another company that does a similar thing and operates in the same industry, does not mean that what they are doing will work for you, they might have a totally different following or they might not have to pitch their idea to investors with similar interests in mind.

Another aspect that many small businesses and start-ups overlook is the power of personal branding in relation to their company brand. Once a company brand is developed and dynamically communicates with its audience, I always talk to my clients about personal branding and using their own team as influencers to promote their company. This will help a small company in many ways. Firstly, by showcasing that there is a healthy company culture that the customer can relate to, and secondly, it will attach a face to your brand which will create links between their circle of influence and yours.

Think of applying the same marketing techniques that you already use for influencer marketing to your team. Sometimes it can be as simple as featuring your team members in a non-professional context on your website. As opposed to having official headshots in a grid layout, make them each tell a short story about the company, or put quotes next to them, or have them take over your Instagram to provide a more personable approach to your social media marketing, there are so many ways to make your company more personable and bring together various communities.

Studies have shown that humans tend to spend more time looking at video thumbnails on Youtube, that feature a human face as opposed to an abstract visual of the product, so next time you laugh a product in addition to product launch video bring also someone on board and produce a video that gives us an idea how one of your team members was involved in making this magical launch happen.

One more advice that I always give to new companies is to stop obsessing about logos, especially if you’re working on a limited budget. Logos alone don’t make or break your company, they don’t immediately make your brand memorable, they are just a small part of a bigger picture.

It’s about setting priorities and in this highly saturated market of various logos, the value of a logo is not built by its design but by the impact that your company has. A logo can communicate a lot, and by no means don’t get me wrong, they are important, but so is visual consistency, content quality, and most of all customer experience. My advice always is thinking bigger, let’s think about what the company represents, whom it communicates to, what it communicates, and where? Often a color scheme, developing a visual language of decorative visual elements or a grid structure for social media posts can build more brand recognition that an uneven and random brand content design accompanied by a perfectly designed logo.

Sometimes if you have only one part of your branding done well, companies tend to put it everywhere and overbrand themselves leading to more annoyance than brand recognition.

In the world, we see hundreds of logos a day, which different people react to differently, while a visual language gives users not only a recognizable user interface and brand recognition, but it also communicates a lot about the company itself and produces better user experience.

How your video series and social media campaigns help personal branding?

Valev Laube
Valev Laube. Photo: Supplied

It was the rising importance of personal branding that made me think how my own virtual presence affects my relationships with other people, and how personal branding has outgrown the impact that corporate brands have in people’s daily lives. How many CEOs, life couches, Youtubers do we follow on Youtube, Facebook or Twitter, and how many corporations? What are the different expectations we set for these brands?

Modern technologies and social media platforms have changed the way we interact with people around us, which has raised many concerns amongst large company branding experts, afraid of being left out or forgotten especially in the social landscape of Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and WhatsUp. While this might be true, marketing experts have seen an increasing trend in influencer marketing, which to me communicates only one thing.

People care about other people and they’re looking to be inspired by faces we can relate to. The time of looking up to big corporate brands has diminished, we’re looking for inspiration from other places, young people value personal communication and genuinely.

In my upcoming video series, I will be giving some tips and discuss topics related to this, but also occasionally expanding to also discuss the changing nature of technology and entrepreneurship.

Together we will be covering intriguing topics such as how and why certain companies and personal brands have started taking a more political stance in social media? how brands have changed themselves to keep up with the growing importance of social media, and the internet? Why branding tends to be so different across various industries?

I decided to become more active on social media and start pushing my own brand in order to build the same type of credibility that we discussed above. While a list of past clients communicates credibility and professional experience, it is also important to build personal and up-to-date relationships with my followers to establish myself as a thought leader as opposed to just a designer or producer.

What are some of the aspects of building strong brands that every business may not know about?

I would say especially today, the top-down marketing does not resonate well with younger people. Consumers are willing to pay to not see ads, and in general, the positive resonance with ads has dramatically decreased.

It’s become a lot more about telling a story, what does your brand stand for, do you deliver high-quality products, and how do you keep your customers engaged? Branding is not about slamming your logo on all your content but making the brand visible even when the logo isn’t present either through a unique use of language, engaging design language, or personable influencer campaigns. Use of language is another important aspect, how do you make your tweet sound like your company even when the visual isn’t there?

Young people want to be engaged, entertained, and see a consistent familiarity across platforms. Technologies such as Snapchat or Instagram stories has definitely made that possible while also raising new challenges to companies that are used to seeing brands as stagnant entities, while today brands will live their life and grow together with their consumer base.

Is there a single case or achievement that you are most proud of in your time?

While there are many projects I feel proud of within the realm of branding, multimedia productions, and promotion, I feel very keep on two of my recent projects.

One is my most recent client, a luxury handbag and accessories design company Janet Gordon Style, about to launch her new website and social media campaign. Her experiences in the industry with my understanding of multimedia has really made us great partners and I cannot wait to see the campaign take off.

While many luxury design companies tend to stay relatively conservative due to their well-established following, there’s a lot we can learn from the way that fashion designers are branded and bring some of it also to the company brand. This is going to be a very exciting journey, so stay tuned.

Another recent production of mine was the Augmented Reality Art Exhibition “Rochester Subway” put together by four artists. The project brought an abandoned subway and forty graffiti art pieces located in Rochester, NY, to thousands of people through the use of modern technology in an art exhibition form and online educational materials. Often children and even adults are not able to experience history first-hand and so much of it is lost due to inaccessibility.

This project brought graffiti artworks above the ground to a new audience while also exposing people to historic materials about the history of transportation in Rochester and the US. It was so rewarding to be involved in the promotion and development and I’m so glad that the partnerships we created continue to be used for educational purposes across the city, making teaching graffiti as an art form and history of the subway easier, more accessible, and engaging.

How are you planning on expanding your business in the future?

Valev Laube brand manager
Valev Laube. Photo: Supplied

Honestly, I look forward to building more relationships with companies and individuals who need my services. Since the current technological space is so much reshaping various industries I think it will never get boring to stay involved and expand my horizons.

Through past years I’ve grown from a graphic designer to do 3D design, sound design, 3D printing, prototyping, web design, search engine optimization and much more. Not it’s all finally coming together in the form of holistic branding and brand consulting.

So, the challenge for the future will be keeping up with new trends and technologies and never stop learning.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Executive Editor at Best in Australia. Mike has spent over a decade covering news related to business leaders and entrepreneurs around Australia and across the world. You can contact Mike here.
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