...Or in the case of yoga - survival of the hottest... Or the sexist... Or the most photogenic?
We’ve all seen the images of Insta-yogis: beautiful, toned, flexible young devotees effortlessly turning out their pinchas on exotic beaches. Much like entertainment industry icons, these yogis have cottoned on to the fact that they, themselves, are their greatest asset.
These teachers realised early on, that they’re in the business of inspiration and aspiration.
Many of us dedicated teachers will admit to it - we’ve all stood in awe and envy of “yoga stars”, the Kinos, Briohnys, Patricks... Similarly, our students want to emulate their teaching idols: capable, strong, graceful, effortless, peaceful... or any number of yogic traits that instructors are encouraged to project.
These “yoga icons” operate like high-net-worth commodities in a competitive market. They are their own brands - and they’re maneuvering with the same ease and grace in the commercial sector, as they do on their mat.
As consumers we are buying into it: we attach hope and aspiration to brands because they represent something beyond where we are, and give us the tools to get there.
In the same way we anticipate that a certain shampoo brand gives us shinier hair, we anticipate that a workshop with Dylan Werner will give us the confidence to nail a handstand.
In the Personal Branding module of Hom Teacher Training we take students through the process of branding themselves. In an industry which is so emotional and “anti-commercial’, the realisation that teachers are, in fact, a valuable business asset can be disappointing for many young teachers. But, as studio owners and experienced freelancers know, mainstream yoga is business, and a fiercely competitive one at that. The more distinctive a teacher’s personality and teaching style, the more students they attract... and the more business they drive.
Back on the Insta-yogi trend: celeb yogis’ personal branding can seem like smoke and mirrors, with very little substance behind the persona. There is, however, a soul to the art of branding which ensures desirability and ultimately longevity...
What the most successfully branded teachers have in common, is that they embody a unique yoga philosophy. It might be a philosophy of physical strength and agility, a purist respect for yogic classicism, or embodying the spirit of a traditional school of practice. This philosophy is articulated meticulously in every image, quote, piece of clothing and studio space, as well as in their sponsors and business partners.
For ambitious individuals or studio owners, a strong exercise in branding is essential to business success. The first step is understanding and establishing your truth, your own philosophy of yoga teaching and how that translates into a realistic, unique, accessible offering that excites consumers. This is often the most difficult step, but one which demands the most investment: grounding a beautiful, cerebral philosophy in a hardcore business reality.
Communicating this philosophy and business reality is the next step, which incorporates a number of marketing specialities - target market understanding, visual design, tone of voice, communication channels and more.
For those teachers and entrepreneurs who are just starting out: a word of encouragement. Realise that whenever you step into yoga class to teach, you are embodying your own personal brand: your verbal and physical expressions, your presence, your style of teaching: they combine to create a unique experience for your students.
And, if you have even a handful of returning students - then your brand has inspired your audience... well done!
Floydd has more than 10 years experience working on global brand strategy and design. He is also a devoted yoga practitioner and teacher.
By Floydd Patric Wood