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“Opportunity for growth and learning” With Fotis Georgiadis & Leena Alsulaiman

All experiences in life are an opportunity for growth and learning. The gift here I believe is that of opportunity, an opportunity in which we learn to see beyond the surface because buried deep inside this box, deeper than the darkness itself, is a wealth of insight, compassion, and self-awareness. The person you are today […]

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All experiences in life are an opportunity for growth and learning. The gift here I believe is that of opportunity, an opportunity in which we learn to see beyond the surface because buried deep inside this box, deeper than the darkness itself, is a wealth of insight, compassion, and self-awareness. The person you are today has been built brick by brick from the things that you have gone through both good and bad.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Leena Alsulaiman of Leena Alsulaiman Fashion Consultancy.

Drawing from her Middle Eastern and American heritage, fashion stylist and brand consultant Leena Alsulaiman is empowering women worldwide with her newly launched consultancy.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always loved fashion, but when I was younger and growing up in the Middle East, I never had an example of how you could make a living in this industry. So alternatively for many years I took the path of the creative entrepreneur but somehow unconsciously always brought a sprinkling of styling to my roles. I love working with people, but I also love working creatively with clothing, accessories, and shoes. So for me, fashion styling is a way to bring all of that together.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There are no mistakes, only lessons. And oh boy have there been quite a few lessons along the way, but one that stands out most was earlier in my career I partnered with a friend to start an event company in Dubai and the name we chose was Pow Wow Events! At the time we had no branding experience and well…we thought it was cute. Needless to say, that name was short lived because we needed to be taken seriously, and having to explain the name to every prospective client became tedious as we went along.

The lesson from that was to identify to your audience and their core values and understandings, because if you want to be taken seriously, then you need to reflect that through your branding and that all begins with the name of your business.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

My personal tipping point came back in 2015 when I decided to take my passion for styling and fashion seriously and not just view it as a hobby. To do that I jumped into retail and became fully immersed in learning the process of service and selling in a retail environment, learning the ropes as I went along.

My biggest take away from that is to get comfortable with being a beginner, being awkward, and even uncoordinated. Yes it can be a hard hit to the ego, but it’s just a stage you have to go through in order to learn and gain confidence and competence.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! Quite a few in fact, but the latest is that on my recently launched website I have adapted my styling and consulting services and offerings to include virtual offerings. In adapting to the new retail climate as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, retail is turning its focus online and over the last few months I have been approached by clients to offer my services virtually, so I adapted and created a platform that speaks to that need.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

As cliche as it may sound, find something you love to do and the work won’t seem as heavy. Now, when you are a business owner the hours can turn into 24/7 real quick, so drawing boundaries and having processes in place for your workflow are a must. Reading the ‘5 Second Rule’ and ‘Work it out’ by Mel Robbins have been instrumental in improving my time management and managing my boundaries. But aside for all this the most important thing is to allow yourself the space to simply rest and enjoy life.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

In my current business, my branding is about me, it is who I am. How I strategically market or advertise is how I build awareness of my brand.

So, through my branding I reveal who I am as a fashion stylist, what I stand for, what my values are and why you would want to work with me. Marketing/advertising is how I create awareness for my brand, and how I can find and activate new business.

To use a fashion/style analogy here: If you think of advertising as viewing my instagram style stories that brings attention to my latest offerings and insights… my branding then makes sure that those featured styles and insights align with my core values and style.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

While both components are important, if your branding. isn’t strong and doesn’t communicate your values and mission clearly, then no amount of advertising or marketing will get you clients that will stick around. Advertising will bring you clients, but branding is how you keep them loyal.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Rebranding is never an easy feat but in certain cases it can be a necessity, Some of the reasons to consider rebranding would be if your services have evolved and changed, your audience has changed, and as your business has grown you are seeing a disconnect in the optics and visual elements of your branding vs the actual services and core values.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

Yes most definitely. In my humble opinion I don’t think that for the most part, well known and established older companies, or even fashion houses should ever do a full brand makeover, because they can undo years, sometimes even decades of history and momentum. And the cases of how rebrands have failed overshadows the successes.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

Due to the extensive time and money that can go into a ‘rebrand’ I prefer to go the more conservative route of a brand ‘refresh’ as a first step. This is the same thought process I use when approaching a client’s Closet Audit for example. So let’s take a step back and before taking it all to Goodwill let’s evaluate what we can alter, wear differently or even accessorize to give it a refresh.

Similarly a brand refresh can be implemented easily and cost effectively for the most part, and if a true rebrand is needed the refresh has then brought you a few steps closer. while testing out the theory of change with your client base.

Some ideas for the Refresh:

Website Refresh — Take some time to update your testimonials, press page, and update your meta tags and searchability. These are small changes that can make a big impact.

Tag Line Refresh — Revisit your copy and make sure it is aligned with your growing and evolving business and clientele.

Update/change in services — If your services have evolved and what your clients are asking for has to, so make sure that is reflected in your menu of services

Outsourcing the refresh to a new set of eyes — It’s a tale as old as time but having a second/new set of eyes can give valuable insight to a refresh or rebrand.

Imagery refresh — Maybe you currently are using stock photos for social media and your website, why not hire a brand photographer to work with you on images that truly represent your band and its messaging.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

I think the Brand Logo makeover at the fashion house of Gucci was a huge success. In 2016 the new creative director Alessandro Michele was able to bring back the Gucci ’80s logo back from the dead, and since then the double ‘GG ‘has become iconic in its utilization on belts and bags.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am actively advocating for a return to vintage and the heirloom mindset. Today’s world is filled to the brim with fast fashion and there isn’t much room for vintage or items that can be passed down over generations, and that is something I would like to see come back. If you look at your closet today, most probably you will find that 90% or more are items that will not pass the test of time nor will they be items that you could pass down to your children and grandchildren and I think that’s causing a huge missing link from our stories and histories within our families and generations.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift. — Mary Jane Oliver

All experiences in life are an opportunity for growth and learning. The gift here I believe is that of opportunity, an opportunity in which we learn to see beyond the surface because buried deep inside this box, deeper than the darkness itself, is a wealth of insight, compassion, and self-awareness. The person you are today has been built brick by brick from the things that you have gone through both good and bad.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me online at www.leenaalsulaiman.com

And on social media on Instagram @leena.alsulaiman

Pinterest: LeenaAlsulaiman

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.

Thank you so much I appreciate the opportunity, it’s been fun!

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