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An arrow to a photo of Rob Self-Pierson

I help brands to know themselves better, articulate their strategy, develop their verbal identity, and write effectively.


I do it through The Brand Language Studio, which I formed in 2015. I also inspire founders, leaders and teams around the world through creative, language-based workshops.


I’ve written three books – two travel memoirs and the A-Z of better brand language – and I write for newspapers, websites and magazines.


But it hasn’t been as smooth as it sounds.


Before consulting, running studios and writing for a living came countless failures. Both at getting published and breaking into branding.


I’d started to think the post-grad writing degree that had promised to lead me to a good income (but actually cost me a relationship) was a money-making ruse. Then, late in 2008, I joined a small brand agency north of London.


It began well, writing ads for VW. But it quickly turned sour when my creative director took me to one side on a stress-packed afternoon and gave me this advice:


‘Stop fussing, Rob, and get it done. It’s just words.’


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Not long after that pep talk, aged 24, I left the agency and went freelance – little experience, no network, no personal brand, and a poor online presence. All I had was a lot of determination to prove doubters wrong.


I entered writing competitions – and lost. I phoned brand agencies for work experience – and got told I needed more experience. I emailed publishers with my travel blog and book proposals – and heard nothing back. I even created a jigsaw puzzle to impress Michael Wolff after meeting him at an event. His silence said everything.


Failures dogged me for weeks, months, a year. Doubt crept in, silent and poisonous. But then, in 2010, three exciting things happened to me.


I joined the writers' organisation 26 and pitched an idea called ‘Copy Is Art’ to co-founder John Simmons. By September, we’d turned it into 26 Treasures, part of the London Design Festival at the V&A Museum.


The blog I’d been writing about my ‘moonwalking’ journeys attracted a literary agent, who loved the idea and helped me pitch it properly to leading publishers. Still none took it. But Susan’s support boosted me and my confidence.


And thanks to taking part in Dark Angels courses, I’d started to develop my own writing network – and learn from its brilliant members that brands pay serious money for good thinking, good writing and good people.


I worked tirelessly, often voluntarily, days and nights and weekends and holidays, to get as good as I could. I was falling in love with what might be.


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Moonwalking - the story of losing the love of my life and trying to find myself on 13 full-moon adventures – got published. As did Twinned with, the tale of my 10,000-mile European roadtrip.


I published them myself – with the help of a crack team. People I’d met since going freelance. Sam, Karina, Dan, Becca, Tim, Alex, Frankie – joyful creatives who shared my vision. Who believed with me. I conducted them like an orchestra towards one of my finest moments.


One day I walked into Hatchards, St Pancras, with a copy of Twinned with in my backpack. I gave it to the store manager, who’d met me reluctantly. (Her colleague had told me she hated authors who pitched like this.)


Silence, slow flick through, then: ‘This is the best example of a self-published book I’ve seen. Where can I order it?’


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Seeing my books for sale with Hatchards, Waterstones and other bookshops reminds me of the backpack story. And what’s possible with hard work and serendipity.


Everything’s possible really. Even when Misfortune and Frustration confront you. The Table is an unfortunate story. I’d created that agency, won Gumtree and carwow with it, built a small team of excellent writers to support me, spent thousands forming the brand. Then, in 2020, a cease-and-desist order made The Table fold.


But The Brand Language Studio (TBLS) rose from where The Table fell down. And I now see that TBLS is a sharper proposition, clearer in its intention, livelier, more refreshing for me and others. So, I hope, am I.



I’ve learned that failure, persistence, hard work, finding ways to adapt, taking life creatively and sifting experiences for opportunities almost always pays off.


Co-developing Verb language workshops with Tim Rich and leading them across Australia supports that. As does giving a talk on storytelling to hundreds of people around the world with Future London Academy. And running A-Z workshops with my clients. And being invited to join the jury for the AGDA Awards. And today supporting brands I once could only dream of working with.


So no, my story hasn’t been smooth. Whose is? Every new chapter has brought new challenges. But I’ve learned it’s what we do in response to challenges that helps us learn. And that when we learn, we grow.

Oh. And it's never just words.

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