Building an iconic brand—it’s all in the WHY!

Franziska Iseli, Founder, Basic Bananas

Franziska Iseli sat crossed legged on her living room floor eating breakfast after an early morning surf at Narrabeen on Sunday 17 February 2008 when her phone rang. It was her brother Reto calling from Switzerland. He told her their father had suddenly passed away from a heart attack—he was 58. ‘I have no idea how my brother made that call to me,’ Franziska says. ‘It must have been so hard to share such incomprehensible news with his little sister across the other side of the world.’

Franziska’s world broke down for her. She spent a lot of time in the following months walking along a cliff top on the Northern Beaches. She was soul searching, questioning the way she lived her life. ‘If I was to die right now would I be happy with my life?’ was a question that kept coming up. ‘No! I can do better than this, I can make a bigger impact.’ So she quit her career in advertising and started Basic Bananas. 

Identifying a gap in the market

Franziska’s first step in setting up Basic Bananas was to identify a market need. She knew from working in advertising agencies there was a gap in the market for small to medium sized businesses to access marketing and advertising services on a smaller budget. Small businesses are the engine room of our economy and 44 per cent of Australians work in them. But most run on a shoestring and they can’t afford to pay advertising agencies for the marketing advice they need to grow and prosper. Franziska decided to take her knowledge from the corporate sector and a master’s degree in marketing to the small business world by providing entrepreneurs with marketing training and advice.

Building a maverick brand

After identifying a market need and an audience, Franziska set about building the Basic Bananas brand. ‘I wanted a quirky brand that stands out from the crowd,’ she says. ‘Back then I had a really smart business woman as a mentor. When I told her I’d decided on Basic Bananas as the name of my business she grimaced.’

     ‘No! You’ve got to change it,’ her mentor insisted. She wanted Franziska to choose something more normal, less out there.

     ‘No way!’ Franziska replied emphatically. ‘I can’t do that. I may not know how to run a business just yet but the one thing I do know is branding and I know Basic Bananas is the right name. It will take a little longer to take off, but it will go really far and create a loyal following. I am going to build a tattoo-worthy brand.’

‘And now when I see her we laugh because I didn’t take her advice. My advice for other business owners is: Don’t take everyone’s advice—go with your own intuition if you feel strongly that a certain approach is right for your business.’

‘We kind of made up the meaning of Basic Bananas after choosing the name,’ Franziska explains. ‘It means basic—we make marketing simple, bananas are healthy and make you happy, and banana trees grow quickly and that’s what we do with businesses—we make them grow fast. Oh, and a few years later, a few fans got a Basic Bananas tattoo!’

Franziska’s background is in brand strategy, so it wasn’t difficult for her to create a brand, but most business owners struggle with how to build their personal and company brands. Her advice to entrepreneurs is to ensure all touch points are aligned, which means your brand is consistent across different communication platforms: your website, brochures, emails, ads, your team and you.

Basic Bananas is an iconic brand and people remember it because the banana imagery is so visual. Franziska says clever branding and implementing brand strategy enable you to influence the market in the way you want to be perceived. ‘It’s about shaping your customers’ perception of your business or you,’ she explains. ‘As an entrepreneur you actively shape your perception—you don’t want it to be by chance—you want to control it through every touch point. Always ask yourself: “How do I want my business to be perceived?” Then you consciously create that perception visually and psychologically. What behaviours does your company have, what smell or taste? What is the experience you give people? How do you want people to feel? Asking these questions will help you build an awesome brand strategy that will take your business to places you could only have dreamed of in the past.’

According to Franziska, consistency is a vital aspect of brand strategy. She advises her clients to repeatedly check all touch points to ensure their messaging, look and feel are consistent, always reflecting the perception they want to create. ‘You do the same for your personal brand,’ she says. ‘At the beginning of each year I write my values and beliefs in a journal and then I consciously go about living them. I also determine how I want to be perceived. So for example, I want to be perceived as graceful, which means I can’t swear too much. I do like swearing in Swiss—it sounds funny—but when I’m in front of an audience I generally don’t do it.’

Clever Bunch is born

Understanding what business owners need to grow their companies, Franziska set about designing an offering to help small businesses. She knew many entrepreneurs struggled to market their businesses, so she decided Basic Bananas would offer marketing education for entrepreneurs who want to attract more clients, grow their businesses and have fun doing so. This ended up becoming the Clever Bunch program. ‘It started as a three-day marketing workshop but after a while I realised entrepreneurs got excited and inspired at the workshop but when they returned to their businesses, they often didn’t implement what they’d learned—it was all too overwhelming,’ she explains.

Franziska and her team evolved Clever Bunch into an annual program where entrepreneurs spend half a day every month at Basic Bananas to work on their marketing. They learn different marketing strategies, plan how they will implement it then go back to their businesses and put their plan into action. Basic Bananas supports them during the month through online classes, and a Basic Banana adviser is available for them to call if they need help. They then come back four weeks later to learn another strategy and they implement it during the following month. Over the course of the year they build a marketing machine that helps them build a thriving business. After almost a decade the program is now run across Australia, New Zealand, Canada and is launching in Switzerland in early 2019.

Marketing Basic Bananas—the WHY?

After realising how impactful the Clever Bunch program was for business owners, Franziska and her team set about getting the message out to reach and support more entrepreneurs.  The Basic Bananas brand is growing strongly, and it is marketed throughout the world. Franziska says it is critically important to keep building your brand through marketing and to continue evolving. ‘We continuously keep refreshing and innovating the Basic Bananas training program, the brand, our marketing and the team to stay up to date,’ she says.

Basic Bananas now has 33 team members globally and the business is never stagnant. The company supports over 500 entrepreneurs in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA through the Clever Bunch program and thousands with resources available through its YouTube channel, podcast and weekly news. It has also set up several other businesses, including The Business Hood, which is a branding agency; Oceanlovers, which sells swim suits made from recycled plastic bottles, and Yours Socially, a social media agency.

‘I’m a little bit obsessed with understanding what makes customers tick and what makes them feel understood,’ Franziska says. ‘And I’ve come to realise that one of the main things businesses often get wrong is they fail to connect with their customers at a deeper level. They’re so focused on explaining how awesome their product or service is they totally forget the real reasons customers come to them. You need to connect with your customers emotionally by addressing the WHY.’

In his book, ‘Start with Why’, organisational consultant Simon Sinek states: ’People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ Franziska says the same applies to growing a business. ‘How do you inspire your customers to buy from you? How do you inspire your team members to treat your business like their own? How do you inspire yourself even when things get tough? I love pondering these questions.’

Franziska believes most marketing campaigns are focused on the WHAT—the product or service the business offers—which often results in poor returns and disengaging marketing. ‘A good question for business owners to ask is: ‘WHY are people coming to my business? What are the outcomes they’d like to get by working with us?’

‘I am also a little bit obsessed with finding ways to make marketing exciting and attractive,’ Franziska says. ‘I’d love to see more engaging marketing. Sadly, a lot of what’s out there is plain boring. One of the best ways to make your marketing exciting is to focus on the WHY of your product or service—the solution your customers want from you.’

Franziska advises business owners to review all of their marketing pieces directed at each touch point—website, brochures, emails and ads— and check if they are talking about the WHAT or the WHY. ‘The WHY is just one piece of the puzzle in a great marketing strategy and it’s often the toughest one to crack.’

Franziska loves great marketing. She thinks impactful marketing is an art form, and there is no doubt in her mind that business owners can absolutely master it. ‘I love seeing Clever Bunch members trying out innovative ways of marketing their businesses and I love nothing more than seeing their businesses thrive,’ she exclaims.

Franziska’s inspiration

Franziska says the one thing that constantly fuels her soul is travelling. She loves adventures, particularly ones that are unconventional.  She just returned from a six-week motorbike trip through Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, the Balkans, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Turkey and Georgia with her travelling buddies Mike and Christo. ‘Travelling fuels my soul and it inspires me. Experiencing different cultures and ways of living and learning to live in more challenging places energises me,’ she says.  Franziska left her motorbike in Tbilisi, Georgia and will continue to ride around the world, heading East, early next year.

‘Contrast also inspires my creativity. When you put yourself into contrasting situations—one day glammed up at a corporate event and the next day riding around Turkey on a motorbike in the dirt—that’s contrast, and I believe that’s what inspires me. The ocean also inspires me. I’m called by the ocean, so living close to it, walking along the water’s edge, and surfing fuels my creativity.‘

Moments of humanity

Planes provide Franziska’s perfect thinking space as she is usually disconnected from technology and without much room to feed her hyperactivity. She explains that many of her best or best worst ideas are born above the clouds. She recently pondered what it is that makes travelling such a rich experience. Why she always returns home with a full heart and a backpack full of amazing memories.’

‘It suddenly hit me—moments of humanity—those spontaneous moments between strangers that connect us at a deeper level because at the core, we are all the same, no matter if I buy fruit from a street vendor in Bogota and learn about her life story, share a ride with a stranger at New York City airport, dance salsa with a guy in Cartagena, discuss philosophy with a gentleman on a train in Chicago or learn about conspiracy from an Uber driver in Sydney—they are all moments of humanity, she explains. ‘Moments where background, status, religion and ethnicity don’t matter. They are the moments when strangers become friends, when walls are broken down, when there are no borders. They are the moments that unite humans through kindness. They are what enrich our lives. They are the fairy dust of life.’

Franziska felt a deep sense of gratitude and pure joy filled her heart as she thought about moments of humanity. ‘I couldn’t wait to get off the plane and tell my friends about this new concept,’ she recalls. Two of the first people she shared it with are Julia Brun and Martina Piazzoli, who run her branding agency, The Business Hood. They immediately got to work visually translating the idea. They recently launched the website and social media platforms and they’re building an app. You can leave messages on the website for strangers or for someone you know. Franziska and her team want people to have moments of humanity by being kind to each other. ‘The whole purpose around building this social enterprise and movement is you can shift humans by showing more kindness,’ she says. ‘Demonstrating kindness unites people and we need more of that in today’s world. I’m so excited about this project and can’t wait to read the moments of humanity stories. Let’s all celebrate moments of humanity and let them fuel our souls. Let’s create ripple effects everywhere we go.’

Franziska had several moments of humanity on her recent motorbike trip in Europe. One day she walked into a tiny supermarket high up in the mountains in a village in Turkey. No-one spoke English, so she pointed to the things she needed to buy—like bread and olive oil. An older guy wearing baggy brown pants walked in and said something to her in Turkish which she didn’t understand, then he made signs for her to follow him. So she followed him. Mike was outside with the bikes.

     ‘What are you doing Franziska?’ Mike said with a quizzical look on his face.

     ‘I’m following a stranger,’ she replied with a mischievous smile.

     ‘Okay, if you’re not back in 10 minutes I’ll come to find you,’ Mike said as he watched her disappear around a corner.

The man guided Franziska along a narrow dirt road for about 300 metres, then he pointed to a shop—the shelves at the front were overflowing with fragrant fresh bread. A lady wearing a purple smock and pink apron lifted a steaming batch of newly baked bread out of the oven as they walked in. ‘A few older women sat at small wooden tables drinking Chai and when we arrived they all turned to look at us,’ she explains. ‘They didn’t speak English, but we hugged each other, laughed, took selfies and the woman with the pink apron handed me a loaf of soft warm bread. The guy who led me to the bakery insisted on paying for it, then he walked me back to the store. Once inside he pointed to things I should buy then when I reached the checkout and opened my wallet, he leaned forward and paid for my groceries. That is an amazing moment of humanity. We had this moment together that I’ll remember and cherish forever. And those moments were endless on our trip.’

On another day in Turkey Franziska and Mike stopped on the side of a desolate road to eat a snack. They’d only seen two cars on that stretch of road in the whole day, so  were surprised when a blue Fiat slowed down then stopped less than a metre away from them. A young guy with shiny black hair wearing frayed denim jeans and a black T-shirt jumped out, then rummaged around in his bag in the boot. He reached over and handed them three ripe pears. ‘Looking us directly in the eyes, he smiled, said something in Turkish we couldn’t understand, then got back into his car and drove off,’ she says.

These moments were abundant in the road trip. A special one occurred when Franziska and Mike were riding along a highway and Mike noticed a police cordon ahead.

     ‘We’re getting into police control here,’ he said nervously.

     ‘Let’s see how we can play with authority,’ Franziska was excited, wondering how the police would react to them.

One of the policeman was drinking tea.

Franziska pointed at the steaming mugs and smiled. ‘Chai?’

     ‘Yes’, one of the policemen said, offering her a cup.

‘We pulled our bikes over and within three minutes we were sitting with the Turkish police drinking tea by the side of the road. That was a beautiful moment of humanity I’ll remember forever.’

Giving your all

Starting a business, nurturing it through all the ups and downs and watching it grow is exciting, fun and sometimes challenging, although challenges are also opportunities to learn and grow. Franziska believes nothing is impossible. Her advice is if you are faced with challenges, address them one step at a time and hang in there.

She also believes that to succeed in business, you must be prepared to learn new skills, take risks, be courageous. She is currently working on her third book all about tapping into your courage, it’s scheduled to be released in early 2019.

Entrepreneurs often work crazy hours and may not fully connect with the people around them because they are so focused on building businesses. Franziska encourages entrepreneurs to open their heart, consciously be kind to everyone and experience precious moments of humanity every day, with team, customers, friends, family, strangers.

Yesterday Franziska had a meeting with a fellow entrepreneur who mentioned a conversation he had the previous day with a mutual colleague. His colleague said: ‘You know when Franziska dies people are going to say: “This woman really lived all out, with no regrets.”’

‘That’s exactly how I want to live my life,’ Franziska beams. ‘I want to be able to say when I die: “I really gave it my all. I lived a rich life with an open heart.” Hearing it from someone else was so reinforcing because it’s exactly how I want to live my life—I want to give it everything I have . . . and then some more.’

If you would like Share your life story to write your life story for you email: gabriella@shareyourlifestory.com.au or call Gabriella on 0408 256 381.