One of the things we really love about Thailand is the amazing food. Eating is a way of life here and there are so many fresh dishes to try, of course you wish you could replicate them at home.
There are lots of Thai cooking classes you can attend. We found one nearby called Aroy-Aroy which means “delicious” - literally it translates as “I like-I like” (you can say this to the chef after a meal and it means “It was delicious, I liked it a lot”). I highly recommend this class if you are in Chiang Mai, it’s so much more than a cooking school.
The most interesting thing about Thai cuisine is that they make such a small amount go a long way. A simple selection of spices, fresh vegetables and tiny portion of meat, quickly mixed, cooked and served with noodles or rice is so satisfying and nutritious. A healthy eating tip we learned from the Buddhist monks was that they eat breakfast and lunch but only a meal, no bigger than the size of a fist, for dinner. No meat, just easy to digest fruit or broth. Makes it easy for the body to digest at night-time.
It’s similar with personal branding. The real benefit of a good personal brand is having a clear message that perfect prospects can easily engage and connect with. You don’t need to create some huge feast that makes it hard of them to work out where to get started with you. You can create massive impact just by using authentic ingredients, spice up your brand story and serve it in small, bite-sized pieces for people to taste what you have to offer.
So how can cooking classes teach you how to create a personal brand your tribe will like, and like a lot?
Here are six personal branding lessons I learned from Thai cooking class to help you cook up something good:
Lesson 1: Try Something New
Don’t let ‘I don’t know how’ stop you. I actually like cooking, but had never felt confident with Thai food because it seemed so delicate and exotic. I also decided not to cook while we lived in Thailand as it’s far too easy to eat out at the street markets and get fresh, wholesome and cheap meals.
Cooking class for me was an exciting challenge and that’s the way you should consider marketing for your business. Once you have defined your personal brand, go and get stuff done. Never mind that you will have to learn how to and yes, you might make a mess of it at first, but just like cooking, the more you do it the more natural it becomes. When you get the hang of video blogging, Facebook posting, writing articles, recording a podcast, or anything you do that’s new, you will look back and wonder why you put it off for so long.
The saying goes ‘surround your customer’ and trying something new is a great way to do that.
Once you have defined your personal brand, go and get stuff done
Lesson 2: Make It Easy
On the way to the market our guide pointed out the different coloured buses or Songthaews (means ‘two seats’ as they have two bench seats in the back, no windows or seat belts though of course, this is Thailand!). He told us the colours identified the different urban areas, red buses only in the city, orange for the north, white to go east, yellow to the southwest, blue goes south, green goes northeast.
So how does this help with personal branding? Well once you know the colour code for the buses, it’s really easy to get around and to know which one to jump into. It’s the same with your brand. How can you make it totally clear what you do, where you can take people and what the destination is so they instantly choose you without giving it a second thought?
Use colours and Neurobranding to subconsciously appeal to the right clients
Lesson 3: You Be The Judge
The bustling Wororot Market is where all the locals buy their household and restaurant produce and it’s a hive of activity. You can get everything you need here and it’s much cheaper than the tourist markets. There is all kinds of raw and cooked ingredients you need to make delicious Thai food including fruit and vegetables, spices, meats and sweet treats. When we arrived in Chiang Mai, we went to the markets on our own but this time, having a guide with us from the cooking school, helped us identify items we didn’t recognise and clear up something we got very wrong.
We thought that the market also sold live animals to cook. Fish, eels, toads, snails, crabs and even little birds. But they don’t. It’s Thai tradition of ‘Tham Bun’ or merit making. You buy them and then set them free for good luck. They are not for eating. Authors Note: The practice of merit making is slowly being banned by Buddhist temples and replaced with buying food for the fish and birds instead.
The personal branding lesson here is that it’s easy to judge a book by it’s cover and to ask yourself the question…does my brand clearly explain what it is that I do for people, or does it waffle? Does your brand send out a message that is inconsistent with what you really deliver? Is it instantly clear for your audience or are you making them second guess? Does your brand over promise and under deliver?
Make sure what’s inside your brand is that same as what’s on offer.
Does your brand clearly explain what it is that I do for people?
Lesson 4: What Can You Add?
Almost the same as ‘try’ something new is ‘add’ something new. As long as you have your single minded purpose and your brand strategy, you should always be looking to spice things up with new flavours, treats and special offers for your tribe. Watching what others in your industry are doing, keeping up with social media comments and what topics are trending is vital to keep your personal brand out there in front of prospects.
And don’t take too long considering what to add. It’s best to implement now, don’t wait till it’s perfect, you can always improve the taste. Just like in cooking class, we were encouraged to taste and add more of the palm sugar, fish sauce or other spices to get it right, you should always test and measure. The best thing about marketing your brand in the digital world is that you get immediate feedback and you can change something really quickly.
What new taste sensation could you cook up right now that will have your prospects watering at the mouth?
What new taste sensation could you cook up right now that will have your prospects watering at the mouth?
Lesson 5: Uniqueness
I wasn’t alone at the cooking classes, my daughter also came along and we met some fabulous travellers who each had their own personal brand stories. It was interesting to see everyone had different levels of spice they liked in their food. Thai cooking makes it easy to achieve the extent of heat you want, from “Thai spicy” to “Mai Pet” (meaning “not hot”) based on how much spice you add as you create and even after you finish making your dish.
The lesson is that each and every one of us is unique. We have our own journey to follow and will go through stages at different times. Some love the heat, happily standing on stage and seem to rise to the occasion, while others are best behind the scenes making sure everything is bubbling along nicely.
Don’t compare your progress to others, you may never reach the same temperature and that’s OK. We can’t all like it spicy. Celebrate your own unique flavour and embrace what makes you different.
Celebrate your own unique flavour and embrace what makes you different
Lesson 6: Secret Ingredient
Thai food has always been one of my favourites and I always wondered what that special ingredient was that gave it such a distinctive flavour. It’s so different from Indian, Chinese or Vietnamese food. At the Aroy Aroy cooking school I learned what it was.
It’s Tamarind. A deliciously tangy fruit that grows on a big tree and looks a bit like a brown bean. It contains lots of small brown seeds surrounded by pulp which tastes sweet and zesty. Originating in Africa, Tamarind is a Persian word meaning “date of India”. Not only does it taste amazing but it’s also incredibly healthy, with lots of Vitamin B, iron and magnesium and it helps with digestive and inflammatory problems.
It’s the base of many Thai dishes and gives it that unique tangy flavour.
So what’s your secret ingredient? What gives your brand that special zing? What is it that you do so effectively that your core essence flavours everything you do? It can be a colour, sound, shape, message, process, approach, language, ideal or even actual flavour (many recall the brand boo boo when Coca Cola introduced New Coke).
With personal branding it is something that should come naturally to you so you can easily apply it to your brand and marketing, giving it a distinct flavour that is quickly recognisable. Then it becomes a trademark for you that is very difficult for others to duplicate.
What’s your secret ingredient? What gives your brand that special zing?
Bonus Lesson - yes I always give more than I promise so here’s a cherry on top!
Lesson 7: Cook up a storm with your brand
At the end of our amazing cooking class (which, as you can tell included way more than just cooking) an afternoon storm rolled in and got everyone began excitedly talking about storms they had experienced.
The lesson being that if you want to get people really excited to start talking about your brand you're going to have to create a cyclone of excitement to stir things up a bit.
Much like this blog post you can choose interesting topics, start conversations on social media, use Facebook Live or Periscope to interact with your followers, post exciting images and Memes. There is so much you can do to create thrilling content that gets people talking. One idea is to check what’s trending on Google or Facebook and ‘hijack’ the topic by posting your opinion on it. Or be slightly controversial, prompt discussion and pose a thought provoking question.
The biggest thing is to take note of what’s going on all around you. As a SME or professional service provider, it’s really easy to get drawn into daily work and tedium. Sometimes all it takes is for you to lift you head up from you usual routine, visit somewhere interesting or doing something new to give you promotional ideas.
When we worked in advertising agencies, on a regular basis the creative teams would leave the agency and go visit a museum, cool cafe, park, gallery or exhibition. They would just let their brains be creative and free flowing with ideas. I encourage you to try something new and take time to apply what you learn to your personal brand.
Cooking school was a great way to be creative and learn new things. I had zero expectations and some of these personal branding lessons really surprised me. I hope you’ve enjoyed them.
Which was your favourite?