Fabian Geyrhalter, renowned speaker and two-time bestselling author, is the Founder and Principal of Los Angeles-based brand consultancy, FINIEN. He works hands-on with startups of all sizes on crafting strategic, verbal, and visual brand clarity. He is a columnist for Forbes, and his articles have appeared in Inc, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur. He was also a distinguished Global 100 mentor at the Founder Institute.
Talking about his entrepreneurial journey, Fabian Geyrhalter recollects how his life at the ArtCenter College of Design, where he studied Communication Design, eventually shaped his life and career. Following the European standards of education, the college used the term Communication Design instead of Graphic Design, which was a smart way of implying how graphics can be used to communicate the vision of a brand.
When his college closed down their Switzerland campus, Fabian had to pursue the rest of his degree at their Pasadena campus in California. After college, he went on to work as the Creative Director at Acura Cars, which he later quit to start his own design agency. On gathering more experience and insights into the field, Fabian soon launched his brand, FINIEN, which focused more on developing effective strategies for brands.
FINIEN - The Brand and the Vision
Fabian’s college education had already instilled in him the belief that brands on social media must behave like friends for their target audience. Their presence should be enriching, amicable, and personable. Because any person on social media is more likely to follow and engage with a friend than a company that just tries to sell their products.
FINIEN was born with the vision to help brands turn their customers into friends and make people actually look forward to seeing their content. This starts with putting heart and soul into the marketing strategy. The key is formulating the right blend of verbal and visual communication strategies.
Branding vs. Marketing
Fabian Geyrhalter believes that a brand is more than a company selling a product or a service. A brand has a heart and a soul that it infuses into its messages and actually shares values with their tribe.
When it comes to branding, it is the big question, WHY? Why does a brand exist and why should people care? Why does the brand do what it does and why should that message stick to the minds of the people?
Marketing is the follow-up question, HOW? It is about how to communicate all those why’s to the target audience. What channels to use and how to get that voice out there? How to make people care for the brand? Marketing is all about figuring out the answers to these questions.
While there are a lot of companies out there constantly setting milestones with their innovations, Fabian is more interested in the underdog brands who don’t have much new to offer, but still, people fall in love with them. In his popular book, Bigger Than This, Fabian has studied some of the brands like Everlane, which sell basic products, but they stand for something honest and have really strong values.
Role of Data in Branding
With so much latent data out there, Fabian feels that if every company could correctly tap into that, it would be hugely beneficial for them. However, there is a huge risk of relying too much on data alone. Data is not always right or it does not always show us the actual picture. Because there's still a human that creates the algorithms of how that data is being spat out. Also, a lot of decisions on branding should be based on emotions.
Data cannot simply drive out human intelligence and opinions.
So, Fabian’s advice is to study the data, but not always use it.
Top Branding Tips From Fabian Geyrhalter
Fabian believes to build a successful brand, it is important to understand the entire process. Starting from the basics, a lot of thought must go into deciding even the name of the brand. It cannot be one that pops up in the head while taking a shower. The company’s name must hint at the broader strategy by answering the three important questions. What is the mission? What is the vision? What are the values? So, understanding the basics is absolutely crucial.
For this, a lot of useful materials are available online. Fabian’s book, How to Launch A Brand, is a comprehensive step-by-step guide for launching a brand, from brand positioning to naming and brand identity.
Next, to achieve success, one has to be diligent. One cannot just hope to overlook the smaller details. There can’t be any compromise on the quality of the product or the values of the brand. Also, every brand must show empathy to their audience.
In the end, it is also important to keep pushing your brand language and your brand design. Because people only see one-tenth of what is put out there. Brands should constantly propagate their ideas through all possible channels until the message resonates, and they start to build the trust that they need.
Fabian Geyrhalter’s Tips to Succeed
Over his 25 years of journey and working together with so many successful brand owners, Fabian has formulated his own set of strategies to succeed.
- Entrepreneurs often think that every opportunity is a great opportunity, which is not true. One must be able to say NO to the mediocre opportunities to take up the right ones.
- One should have a narrow focus and an open mind. One can have 50 ideas every day, but the focus should not get diverted. It’s important to keep doing one thing and grind hard till one becomes the best at it.
- Last, but not least, one should not be afraid to ask for favors. Entrepreneurs really love helping out each other and they are always up for sharing some valuable advice. In the entrepreneurship world, sharing knowledge, kindness, and empathy really goes a long way.
Over the years and after saying Yes to all sorts of opportunities, Fabian had learned that saying no to things that don’t have a broader future prospect is essential. While others were caught between deciding whether to scale a business or keep going at the same pace, Fabian chose to reduce the size of his operations. So, when FINIEN was born, it was a much bigger success due to its narrow focus and deep expertise.
Brands in the ’90s vs. Brands in 2020
While the basics of a brand have remained the same, Fabian feels that everything else about a brand has changed dramatically over the years. The biggest changemaker has been the rise of the internet and social media. For instance, with Kickstarter, anyone with a great idea can start a brand in six months. This was not possible in the nineties.
And brands are more transparent today. With social media, every little incident is out there in the public. So the idea of a brand making mistakes and not talking about it or not doing anything about it is gone now. The public sees everything and they won’t forgive.
Breaking Down Fabian Geyrhalter’s Personal Care Routine
When it comes to personal care, Fabian has a unique way of shaping a healthy body and a healthy mind. His daily routine includes a 30-minute hot bath every night, without exception, where he likes to read at least one business magazine. For him, it’s like de-stressing while taking in valuable information simultaneously.
For Fabian, personal care is all about maintaining the right balance between whatever food he consumes, whatever products he uses, and whatever he exposes his mind to. The moisturizer he applies in the morning is made of organic apple juice and his favorite deodorant is made from whiskey, which is basically alcohol and doesn’t have any harmful side effects. This goes a long way in showing how much thought and consideration Fabian puts, and everyone else should put when it comes to personal care.