Laura Bull is currently the president of Laura Bull Branding LLC. A consultant and speaker, Bull has been an adjunct professor for six years teaching disciplines in marketing and music business at multiple colleges and universities including SMU’s Temerlin Advertising Institute. Bull is the author of the book From Individual to Empire: A Guide to Building an Authentic and Powerful Brand.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Dallas suburbia and was raised under two main principles – I could do anything I wanted in life and education is not just important, it’s demanded. The first was so ingrained that I had no awareness of sexism in the workplace until my twenties and actually experienced it. The latter saved me from running away to Nashville, living in my car, and following my dream of becoming a musician. Haha! Instead, I ran away to Nashville, lived in the dorm, and got a music business degree. Close, but practical.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Oh, man…SO many things! However, if I had to choose, one would have to be the respect of work/life balance. I was a slave to my job, working 60+ hour weeks, for more than a decade. I put too much value on the job itself and not the experience of having the job. I don’t make that mistake anymore.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Again, so so many. Ha! My biggest issue would be when people say “I know my brand” and really have no idea what that entails. For one, they confuse branding and marketing every time. Marketing is what you want to say for the next 20 days, branding is what you want to say for the next 20 years. They are not the same, and neither are the metrics to measure success.
Secondly, they don’t understand the complexities of a focused and clear brand, and how to communicate that brand effectively through image, product, and narrative. The consumer must understand a brand in milliseconds to react. They must grasp the uniqueness for it to stand out as a competitive brand in the marketplace.
Finally, they need to actually have a short and long term strategy in place to develop and sustain that brand. Instead, they tell me about a partnership they just landed or a Facebook advertising campaign. These are marketing strategies…what’s the brand strategy?
Put me in a room with that person for 5 minutes and they will come out looking at the world in an entirely different light.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I was laid off from a job that I felt deeply connected to after a decade (see Question #4). I did not know who I was without that specific job title. It took me a while, but the key was stepping out of the bubble I had created. I traveled to Europe, I moved, I became friends with those in other industries, I went back to school to get a Master’s degree in a different field. All of these things helped remove me from the job itself, and helped me view the world with a much bigger lens. That in turn led me to realize my branding techniques actually apply to so many more people than just musicians. Politicians, artists, authors, CEOs, even clergy, and realtors have to build a brand around themselves in order to influence consumers. So, I wrote a book about it. 🙂
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I would say that my ability to speak, in what I call, “artist language.” Most of my clients are creatives, thought leaders, visionaries. These folks are notoriously big picture thinkers and feel very emotionally tied to their ideas and creations. I understand that creative mind and can speak their language. At the same time, I have a typical “business” brain and can speak the language of the boardroom just as easy. This has allowed me to move up in ranks in corporate America and also broker successful business deals on behalf of clients. So, my ability to communicate in both languages allows the creatives to trust me, let me into their world, and help them make those ideas a reality.
What is your morning routine?
Well, I have a 3-month-old and a 3-year-old at home, and my husband does the morning shift while I take the late shift. So I get up around 7 and immediately help get the toddler off to school. Then put the baby down for a nap while I spend the next hour cleaning up the tornado, eating breakfast (thanks to my husband’s cooking skills), reading TheSKIMM, and checking emails before my daily conference calls begin. I usually don’t get a workout in until late morning/lunch hour, so I just spend the morning trying to get as much work done as possible before the mayhem hits again. Oh, and I always make my bed.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Perseverance. I’ve always had this trait, but in recent years I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything without it. It took me 5 years to write From Individual to Empire: A Guide to Building an Authentic and Powerful Brand between a Masters degree, teaching at the university level, running my business, getting married, moving homes, and having babies. If I didn’t make myself write something each week, it never would have been finished. It has improved my life, because my purpose is helping others build their dream business, and now I get to help SO many more people than just my clients.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I actually get depressed if I’m not productive. I tend to get the short term items off my plate, then concentrate on long term projects, ideas, etc. Then, I like to spend time learning, reading, and creating. With two kids under five, it’s not hard to stay busy, but I try to make sure the tasks at hand are important and meaningful. Think of it this way, if you could either hold your baby and cuddle or clean the house…I’m hiring a maid.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Hmmm, I guess I would have to say The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor as I was really able to see clearly the psychological tribulations that were affecting my clients. I could see the issues for years, but could finally help clients overcome them by incorporating positive psychology into my work. When people are also the product they are selling, the pressure is enormous and the criticism is direct. I wish I would have been able to hand this book out 20 years ago. You can see a lot of his influence in my book From Individual to Empire: A Guide to Building an Authentic and Powerful Brand.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Super cliché but – “Everything happens for a reason.”