This week I’m excited to have Ali Mapletoft to talk about visual identity and the impact it can have on your brand. Ali is a coach, director, and multidisciplinary artist who has helped several women stand out visually and step out of their “Good girl” conditioning.
Today we explore the power of visual identity and representation and look at a few ways you can use it to shape your business and pivot.
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Welcome to Make More Money without Selling Your Soul with me Polly Lavarello, evergreen marketing expert. This podcast is for you if you are an online entrepreneur who is looking to simplify their business to scale. On this podcast you can expect to hear regular talk about wealth, about selling and about wellbeing. Because I believe these three core fundamental things are pivotal to your growth moving forward.
Welcome to Make More Money Without Selling Your Soul. I’m Polly Lavarello evergreen marketing expert and cushy business pioneer. And this week I’m so excited to be inviting on Ali Mapletoft. Ali Mapletoft is a creative director, consultant and coach and was named the embodiment of the prosperous Creatrix by leading business guru Marie Forleo. She’s got over 20 years experience wreaking havoc as a creative director with the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Rough Trade Records, Coco Dima, Channel Four and Universal. As a coach, she’s the queen of pivots having helped over 3000 visionaries to tap into elevated visibility and prosperity by uncovering their unique seal of distinction. Ali and myself have been working together over the past few months. And you’re going to see the fruits of that Labour on Boxing Day as we unbox my brand new brand. But as you will hear in the conversation with Ali today, it is so much more than that. How we represent ourselves visually, is 100%. A reflection of so much more than how we wish to be perceived as a brand. It often has a ripple effect that reaches everything we do from how we communicate with our clients, to how we how to package up and price offers. So, without further ado, have a listen to my wonderful conversation with Ali. Welcome, Ali. I’m so excited to have you on the podcast today.
Ali and I have been working together really closely for the past few months now. And it has been months, isn’t it few months on my visual identity. And we’ve been having the juiciest, richest conversations around brand photography and visual identity to the extent that I was like these conversations need to be heard by more people. Because it’s such a relevant one. And that’s why this episode has been called the girl next door. Brand is dead.
And Ali has really opened my eyes to this. So, Ali, welcome, firstly to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining me. Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about brand photography. And let’s talk about this concept of the girl next door. I mean, firstly, I guess what are we talking about when we say the girl next door brand?
Thank you, Polly, I’m really excited to be here. So, you know, for me, it’s not that I have something against the girl next door brand. It’s just that I feel really, really focused on people being able to express themselves in ways that are fun and audacious and playful. And sometimes that’s not the girl next door like that, that’s just not the girl next door for everybody. I think that, like I’m super excited about releasing your photos, right, because they are just really fun, really playful.
There’s an audacity to them that we haven’t seen before in you and your visual identity. And for me that feels really exciting and really important right now because ultimately, what I’ve observed because I am a coach and a creative director and a filmmaker is that a lot of the time women especially, are holding themselves back because they are trying to be the good girl all of the time. And trying to be the good girl all of the time is something that seeps into the way that we do business, it seeps into the way that we do family, it seeps into the way that we make our offers, it kind of creeps into everything and it can, it can come creeping into our visual identity in a way that’s actually just there as self-protection because we don’t want to be judged. And in my opinion, the whole time that we’re doing that we’re actually hiding in plain sight and we are missing such a massive opportunity to let this good girl thing go and actually be bigger, be brighter, be more visible and actually make more impact in the world and probably more money as well. Yeah, yeah, no, I really hear that I think there’s that tendency to kind of want to be digestible to be that kind of around pleaser and
and it’s really hard I mean, I guess when I when I hear what you’re saying, I’m thinking that you know a lot of us have kind of got that kind of girl next door energy because we are some kind of girl next door but there’s also the kind of freak within us. And when the online space be way more exciting if we saw a bit more of everyone’s in a freak and we got to kind of learn more about their eccentricities. And yeah, yeah, but you are right that it’s one of those things that it’s so much more than your visual identity. It’s there’s something about how it kind of seeps through into absolutely everything you do. So why do you think it’s so important? You know, obviously there’s a lot of people getting by with that girl next door energy so why do you think it’s so important that we stop having this good girl conditioning? Well, okay, there’s two things here for me really, I think the first thing is like if if we’re coming at our decision making from a place of people pleasing energy or
If we’re coming at our decision making from a place of trying to keep ourselves safe, what that means is we’re going to make decisions that probably don’t put us in, in the best places that we could be, we’re going to make decisions that curtail our visibility, we’re probably going to make decisions that curtail our income, because essentially, we’re playing it safe, right? So, there’s that there’s that element of it. If we’re hiding in plain sight in our visual identity, there just ain’t no way that that’s the only place we’re doing it there that there’s no way that’s the only place we’re doing it, we will be doing it in other places, too, we’ll probably be keeping our prices lower than we think we should, we’ll probably be a little bit shaky in our boundaries. Because that hiding thing that people pleasing thing, all comes from this desire to be to be loved and accepted, right, which is lovely, and it’s part of the human condition. There’s nothing so terribly wrong with that. But I think if we let it go too far, and we’re so focused on never offending, never upsetting anybody never rocking the boat, you can, it doesn’t take a genius to see how that’s going to affect your business and how that’s going to keep the visibility of your business and the impact of your business, kind of under a ceiling. Right. So that’s the first piece for me. The second piece is that business is competitive, right? Business is really, really competitive. And I think in the past, say three years, that online space has ballooned and exploded as more and more people have given up the rat race, and more and more people have decided to pivot and change and do something online. So, it’s just so chock full of gifted people, it’s chock full of people with a lot of skills. And we’ve got to stand out in that space is absolutely imperative that we stand out in that space. Because otherwise people won’t remember us it really as simple as that they will not remember you, if you blend in.
No, so true. So true. And it was really interesting, from my own personal experience working with you, or actually more along the lines of my journey that led to me choosing to work with you, because I’ll be honest, and I felt like I was, I didn’t feel like, you know, creative direction was something that my business needed. And at the same time, I was kind of floundering. Because I you know, I verbally figured out what made my business unique through the word cushy. But in terms of visually, all I knew was I just couldn’t bring myself to schedule another brand photography session. And I kept on hiring incredible photographers. So it was nothing about the photographer per se. And I knew a lot of it came down to me I’m not used to posing, I’m not used to thinking about what clothes to wear. And so I’ve only ever realised after I’d had the brand photography session that I’m like, Oh, why did I choose that colour to wear or wearing that top all the way up to the top of my neck makes me look stifled or kind of like I’m not you know that there were certain things that I could only understand after I’d done the photography session. And more importantly, I just felt so tired of every photographer directing me to smile at my coffee cup or smile, you know, it reminds me this stock images of the women laughing at a salad and it’s like nobody laughs at the salad. And similarly, you know, I knew that while my business is an online business, the least interesting part of my business is, well, it’s not very inspiring, looking at an image of me smiling at my laptop, either, you know, yeah, that’s what you see so often in the online business space. And so you know, when I when I was working with you, it just became so apparent to me that really, I’d reached a stage where I felt suffocated by my old kind of brand identity. And it was impacting everything. I was struggling to find clarity with my messaging because I was bored of my own messaging. There was so much that just wasn’t coming through. And so it reached a stage where it really it wasn’t a choice to work with you. I had to come work with you because I knew that it was really holding everything back like nothing was making sense. Nothing was feeling exciting or inspiring. And now that I’ve done this work with you, oh my gosh, I’ve been like ploughing lots of time and energy into my you know, I then realised I needed to update my brand colours. I needed to update I do an entirely new website, I’ve overhauled my entire office suite and none of those things were on the agenda when I chose to work with you. I was just signing up for some nice photos. And like you say it’s opened up so much more because, you know, I like to say it made me realise actually through being bold or visually taking like bolder moves with how I visually represent myself also helped me to recognise
As other areas of my business where I had not been as bold, so thank you. Oh, yeah, well, you know, that’s music to my ears. Because, you know, first of all, nobody needs another picture of a woman drinking a latte or laughing at her laptop, like, please, the gods of creativity deliver us from that, because I never need to see that ever again in my life. And if you have photos like that, welcome to the club, I have photos like that in my Dropbox as well. I’m not here to shame you about it. But seriously, we don’t need to see it anymore, because we’ve seen it right. And for me, what I’ve found so exciting about this process is that you were able to really recognise and I say this all the time to my clients, that vision and vibes create value. So the vision that you have in your head, even if you think it’s ridiculous, even if you don’t think that it’s possible to create it probably is, and the vibes that come across when people are working with you, when they think of you the feeling that they get when they interact with you the vibe that comes across from your social media, or your website, or those little details that they associate with you, whether it’s a particular lipstick that you wear, or a picture that you have on the wall behind you, when you’re in your live streams, or the way that you dress or a colour, those things really do matter. And then you in Li create value. You know, my daughter and I were walking past the Apple store in the shopping centre about a week ago. And she just pointed out that it doesn’t even say, apple on the front of that store, there’s just the logo, there’s just that picture that we can’t get out of our heads of that logo, because they don’t even need to say like, this is an Apple computer shop where we sell, don’t need to say any of that. And so we can see that this has always been a thing. This is nothing new, that actually having that visual seal of distinction where people just know it’s you straight away, is really, really important.
And I think for a lot of people, particularly women in the online space, the service that they have been given when they’re doing a photography, photo shoot, or video photoshoot, it just isn’t adequate for their needs. Because what usually happens is, you find a photographer, you have a little chat with them, you see if you vibe together, and if you do you go, Oh, what should we do? Where should we shoot or maybe we’ll shoot in that cafe, or maybe we’ll shoot on that beach or my friends got a nice house that we can shoot in or we could hire an Airbnb, you have a little chat like that. Then you choose three or four outfits that you feel that you look good in maybe in your brand colours, or maybe things that you just feel good in. And then off you go, and you try and take some photos. Sometimes that can work brilliantly. But more often than not, I think the result is that you end up looking at those pictures afterwards. And feeling a number of things. First of all, you feel like oh, I look a bit awkward. I look like a bit of a lemon. Why do I look like a bit of a lemon in these pictures? I seem to be sort of like smiling awkward, or clasping my hands in a weird way or kind of like just kind of stiffly looking around me. And the reason is that there’s no story to those pictures. No story has been worked out in advance. So genuinely, when you get to a shoot, you do not know what to do with yourself at all. More often than not, you haven’t really been spoken to in depth about what I call your seal of distinction. So for you, Polly Cushie is your seal of distinction. It’s not just a word. It’s an entire concept that encapsulates what you want people to experience in your business. And when that has only been touched upon on really surface way. And there’s no narrative and no story. There’s no training on how to pose. There’s no direction there on how to use props and things like that. You can just end up smiling at your laptop, and, you know, trying to look not nervous over your latte because genuinely there isn’t very much for you to go on on the shoot. And I know that loads of people will have experienced this. Yeah, no. 100% Like you said, I don’t I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t. But me I recorded an episode recently where I talked about the evolution of my brand photoshoots and how the first time I ever went to one and someone said what’s your brand colour and I was like, oh like turquoise. So I think you know and it is it is I kind of feel like you know visibility is one of the most challenging elements
To a lot of online business owners, because it’s not something that many of us are used to like anyone who comes into the online business space who’s got a background in speaking, and presenting or anything like that, that’s super transferable, they’re already at a great advantage, because, because that’s not going to be such a kind of stumbling block for them. So I do feel like there’s almost a rite of passage when it comes to visibility, and hiring that first brand photographer that that in and of itself is a big leap of, you know, like kind of taking that trust in yourself and committing to being more visible. So I kind of feel like there’s certain hoops that various entrepreneurs will jump through. But one of my regrets is that I didn’t jump through this hoop of hiring you sooner, because it has unleashed a whole wave of, you know, confidence and enthusiasm. And what it is that I’m doing that I spent probably the last year floundering if I’m being entirely honest, because I got bored of my own opinions, I got bored of, you know, my own things that I had to share. And it was because they were lacking context. They were lacking that story. I didn’t really and so funnily enough, this this journey we’ve gone through in terms of what’s the story behind Cushy, what’s the story visually, and that has trickled into everything that you say, when you talk about vibe for me, the word I use is feeling like I really care now about the feeling people have. And knowing how I feel when I look at the images you’ve helped create, and the videos, I now like that now is reflected in the words that I use and how I position my messaging so that everything now carries much more of a punch. But yeah, I’m excited to work with you ally. And I think the work you do is so important, because when I look at what I think is really important for anyone who’s, I mean, obviously, you can do this before you’ve hit six figures. But I also think if you are at the stage where you’re thinking about scaling your business, and you’re looking at what you can leverage in your business, and you’re looking at things like advertising, you know, ultimately, obviously, you know, I’m an advertising buff, so stuffs gonna come up. But for me, it’s a total no brainer to invest in your visual identity. Because when you are paying, even if you’re even if you’re not paying, you know, even organic marketing, it’s not like that’s free. Anytime you’re putting any effort to put your visual identity out there to any of your marketing, making it memorable. Making it create a feeling means that impact is going to go so much further than like you say another copy paste could be a stock image version of yourself.
But it’s so if anyone’s listening to this and going oh, that all sounds really good. Ali and Polly, good for you. But you women are much braver than me. I can bridge by the way just to be totally transparent. I’m not braver, have you supported me a lot on this journey. But this is also why I wanted to ask you this question. But if anyone’s thinking, that’s good for you, but actually, that kind of terrifies me. I’m scared of being disliked. I’m scared of doing things that maybe family members may laugh at. I’m scared of losing clients that have liked the digestible version of me. And what if they don’t like my inner freak? Like, what do you have to say to that person who would like to be bolder, but is also scared of the ramifications of that?
Okay, so just going backwards a little bit, but to try and answer that question.
My background before I did this was music video. And I worked with people like Alicia Dixon, I worked with people like Yukimi Nagano, from Little Dragon, I worked on a music video for Alison Goldfrapp. And guess what these people are just people as well, right? And what you learn working in that context, you know, I’ve worked for Vivienne Westwood, you learn that they are fallible human beings, with doubts and triggers and insecurities and all if any of you are listening, sorry, but it’s true. You know, and this is the, this is human. So if you have these doubts, and these thoughts about all, you know, maybe I’m not audacious enough to do this, you know, you can bet that Lady Gaga or Doja Cat or anybody will have had these thoughts as well. It’s very, very normal to feel like that. And I would be thinking about, well, how much does this mean to me? How important is this to me? And where am I willing to find my edge? It does feel edgy. It does feel edgy when you start saying, okay, you know what, I’m no longer available to be a wallflower. And to kind of blend in with all the other people in my industry. I’m actually going to try and do the exact opposite of what other people in my industry are doing with things like my visual identity, so that I can make a name for myself so that I can stand out and that will be
That will be a scary thing to do. So I’m not here to say to anybody, look, it’s not going to be scary in any way. It’s all going to be lovely. You will never feel terrified. Because I know that that’s not true. There will be moments where you do feel terrified. But the really important thing is having people there who know how to hold you and hold space for you through that terror, like I can remember Polly on the morning of our shoot, you just being like, I am absolutely wetting myself. I am terrified, right? That’s how it is. Yeah, no, totally, totally. And I love how you normalise that for me, because I was like, I was like, I think I need to be really transparent with your ally. Like, I need to be really transparent because I’m the first person in the history of photoshoots has ever felt nervous? No, you’re really not. You know, I’ve worked with big stars, you know, and they get nervous, they get nervous too. And for a lot of people, it doesn’t go away. They get nervous too. And I think for me, it’s about really understanding that
I’m going to need to be brave. There is there is such an important piece here around courage around having the courage to stand up and stand out for yourself and for your business. And you’ll notice I think if you’re not utilising that courage to its edges, if you are feeling things like why do I need to over explain my work? Or why do I feel like I need to justify my work, or why does something about the way that I’m presenting myself just feel a little bit off. Like it’s not really as brave as that brave women that I know I have inside me. And like for me for so many years, I know when I was a kid, I was the little girl who wanted to play the villain in the play. Like I wanted to be Maleficent way more than I wanted to be sleeping beauty. I wanted to do the fun stuff, right. And it’s that even now it’s that part of me that I know is there that I know wants to be bigger and more exciting and do like the big sexy, crazy mad things that is allowed to come out and play on a photo shoot. And really, for me, seeing is believing. And when you see yourself in those videos, and in those photos in this new light, the fear is always oh my god, what if it feels too audacious? What if I get massive impostor syndrome. And there will be moments when you do. But actually, what I’ve always found without fail, is that when people see themselves in those photos and videos, they actually begin to believe much more in what they are doing. Because they can see it right in front of their eyes, they can see a visual representation of their identity of a part of themselves that they’ve been hiding. And of their unique seal of distinction. That is what we work on throughout the shoot to bring that out. And as I said, for you, it’s cushy. So actually doing work like this can support you to really see yourself and develop the self belief that you need. Yeah, no, I really felt that it was funny. Actually, when I first saw the images, I almost wondered if I could be big enough for them, which was really interesting. With all of this, I’ve just kind of had to be compassionate and curious and allow for these kind of like waves to kind of go over me. But what was interesting is I recently shared some of the images with one of my best friends and she hadn’t seen anything up to this point. And her response was, I’ve just never seen you looking more you, which was just so lovely. And I realised that was part of the vulnerability is like you say, this side of me doesn’t not exist. It’s there, like it’s been captured. But it’s a side of me that I had never shared previously. And it is noticeable. And it is unforgettable. And it does give you a feeling. And nothing I’ve done up until now was done that before. But actually, that’s why it needed to be done.
So I’m so excited. I’m so excited for this new evolution that’s coming out. Like I know the word brand photography, rebrand brand. Like none of it feels strong enough even visual identity like you say this is for me, like the only word I can really think of is like evolution. It’s an evolution of everything. And it’s felt really potent to be stepping into the new year with this evolution. And yeah, it’s been really hard to focus on anything else in the business in the meantime, because I’m just so excited to share it with the world and it’s such a big evolution that it didn’t feel right not to on
are at by not making a lot of fanfare alongside it. So that’s happening. So Ali, now that people have heard this and learned how important visual identity is, and learned that even if you’re catching yourself listening to this, but also kind of excited, maybe slightly moist to that, you know, this is something that they should be contemplating. What would be the next step? How could they learn more about this from you? Like, where would they go to learn more about all your magic? Okay, well, first of all, I’m so glad you called this an evolution like that word just feels really, really on point for this.
I’ve called this revolution of you, like it feels to me. Like this is a groundbreaking visual narrative adventure. And this is for luminaries and leaders who feel like they genuinely are poised to take their industry by storm. And this is not for the person who’s just like, um, I think I might like to have some nice photos, no, that like, I don’t even want that for myself to do that kind of work. I want to work with trailblazers who are ready for a visionary takeover. And they really want to craft that language visually, so that they can absolutely explode into their industry. So that’s the first thing and you know, if any of that fills you with horror, that could just be fear. But if you’re excited by that, like, let’s chat.
And I think like, for me, it’s those people who are already, they’re already gifted, they’re already adored. But there’s a double edged sword there, they’re starting to suspect that they’re holding back, and they are leader. And they do command attention on that industry stage. But you know, you could be doing it way more powerfully. And you’re, you know, what’s the funniest thing is, you feel like I’m way too experienced and mature in my business to be having this problem. So you little bit embarrassed about it, like, why am I even having this problem? Because I should be way further ahead than this. Because I know all the brands stuff. I know all that you know, how to talk about how unique my businesses, my USP. So it’s for that person who’s just like, why am I even still here, because I absolutely should be at the top of my game by now. And I’m ready for it really, really ready for it. For me right now, because I’ve gone through a big evolution myself in the past couple of years. It’s really, really exciting to work with people who are in that place, you can find me through my Instagram, if you want to come and check that out. And I hope to soon be sharing some of Polly’s pictures, which will be super, super exciting. So I’m Ali Mapletoft underscore artist on Instagram. Because I do consider myself first and foremost, to be an artist like that there is an art to creative direction that is really, really important to me. And when I do this, I’m taking over 23 years of experience in the creative industries, in music videos in professional filmmaking, in fashion design. And I’m blending that together with my consultancy and my coaching skills. And I think that that’s what makes me different is not that I can just say, Oh, I think you should wear this, like, I was a fashion designer. So we do actually know, you know what’s going to work on you. If you want to talk to me about revolution of you, because you feel that you’re ready to come and have that whole creative identity reintroduction, let’s chat about it. And I also want you to know that this is not like let’s have one consultation, do a little moodboard and then jump straight into a shoot. It will be deeper work than that. You know, it definitely will be deeper work than that you will uncover layers of yourself that you hadn’t spoken to for a very long time. And some of it is vulnerable. But if you’re ready for that, if you’re actually ready to take that journey, you are going to get results that are actually going to translate into impact and income in your business. I just know you will. Yeah. 100% I mean, it’s inevitable.
Oh, Ali. I’m so excited. And yeah, if you’re listening to this, now this is coming out on Friday the 22nd or whatever, whatever the Friday is,
or 23rd. And Boxing Day Boxing Day is where my brand can’t becomes unboxed. So keep your eyes and ears peeled. There will be an email going out. So if you’re not already on my mailing list, do check the links below there will also be a link attached to Ali’s account so you can go check out amazing Ali and oh my gosh, I cannot wait for
everyone to see the magic we’ve created together and everything Ali just said about her eye when it comes to style, I have to say, as a curvy woman, I was really I always feel anxious around what I wear for brand shoots. And Ali chose the most incredible outfits for me to wear, which looked phenomenal. And you know, the whole experience has been amazing. So do I mean, just for that reason alone, it’s been worth it. No, and so much more, so much more. But do go and check out ally. As you will know, if you are regular listeners, this podcast, I don’t invite people on here very often. And when I give anyone a shout out, it’s because they’re the real deal. And Ali is definitely the real deal. So and like I say, I cannot wait for you to see what we’ve done. So thank you, Ali, so much for your time today. Oh, thank you for Lou. I love this conversation. I could talk about this all day long. You know, this is the stuff that gets me really really excited and it’s been so much fun to work with you just to see the energy that you brought to the table that your shoot you know you did that and it’s absolutely awesome. Oh yeah, like you say we could be here like gushing gushing for hours.
Fabulous. Well, that’s a wrap.
Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation with Ali I know I certainly did. And if you are listening to this on the day it’s come out then I wish you a very Merry Christmas if you are celebrating and I will be back in your ears next Friday talking about new year new you. What do you want to be bringing into 2024 with you? I’ll see you then. Bye
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