Sam Caron is a strategic brand identity designer. He runs Splash, a branding and design agency based in Meise, Belgium. In addition to his client work through Splash, Sam manages one of the most popular branding-related accounts on Instagram, where he’s known as @thesamcaron (previously (@thebrandingsam). Engaging posts, useful content, and a sense of humor have all contributed to his explosive growth on Instagram—from zero to 30,000 followers in less than six months (!).
Sam and I first got in touch with each other through Instagram back in mid-May (back when he “only” had about 7,000 followers). Since then, we’ve collaborated on two carousel posts (see here and here) and I’ll be featured in an upcoming episode of his hilarious “15-second podcast.”
I wanted to catch up with Sam and ask a few questions about his views on branding, his agency, and, of course, his incredible success on Instagram. Read on for his responses to my questions.
You just hit 30k followers on Instagram with a profile all about branding. How’d you manage that?
Honestly, I never expected anything like this. I started this channel mainly to learn and build valuable connections on [Instagram]. Little did I know, building valuable connections is how you grow on this platform. I noticed a lot of fluff on the channel around branding, which is why I decided my brand’s purpose on Instagram would be to try and make branding as practical as possible. On top of that, I like to entertain people through immersive storytelling and fun experiments. Maybe it’s a little bit of everything. But what would I know—I’m not an IG guru.
Looks like you’ve been having a lot of fun with Reels on Instagram. What’s your opinion of the new feature so far?
I have mixed feelings with Reels. You can feel that they rushed the feature to combat the TikTok hype and it can be very glitchy at times. But if you realize that Instagram’s main goal is to take over TikTok, you know they’ll prioritize Reels over any other type of content right now. I’ve made about seven Reels so far and one of them was ranked #1 out of 23 million using the hashtag “#branding.” My top three most-reached posts are now Reels…so if you are not on Reels yet, you have to start. Also, for me, it was a perfect opportunity to transition into more video content and get my face and voice out there.
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Your “podcast” episodes are only 15 seconds long. What’s the deal?
Haha, that’s one of those things I mentioned before about wanting to experiment with new types of content. I came up with the idea because I was thinking about how limiting Reels can be, being only 15 seconds long. It was just another opportunity to be one step ahead of the rest. The idea is to have one (often controversial or trending) topic explained in 15 seconds. More like five seconds, since my intro and ending take about 10 seconds…
You run a branding agency called “Splash.” What’s the backstory?
I have a degree in marketing from Francis Marion University in South Carolina and started a job as a marketing manager for a travel agency in Belgium in 2014. I was the only person in charge of marketing and the business was just going to start a rebrand. I went through the whole rebranding process with them and loved it. I saw the amazing results the business was getting by combining this new rebrand with efficient marketing. The business doubled their revenue in two years, and that’s when I knew branding was what I wanted to do. So for the last six years, I have done nothing but reading, listening, and experimenting with everything branding-related.
So that’s when Splash Agency was born. I pretty much do everything myself for now but have a team of freelancers around me specialized in anything my clients look for. The name of the agency comes from the fact that I believe every business (small or big) has the right to make a splash within their industry. (Side note: It’s also what people say when somebody hits a 3-pointer in basketball, which is another one of my passions.)
It’s still a very young agency, as I started it last November. It has honestly been everything I’d hoped for. When I started the agency, I had three clients lined up to work with me, and ever since, most of my clients have come through referrals. I’m working with all kinds of clients right now: Wedding photographers, restaurants, B2B consultancy, hairdressers, software packages, charities… It’s been so diverse and I love it.
Where do you get your creative inspiration?
My mind works in mysterious ways. I always have my eureka moments when I least suspect them. While taking a shower, going for a run, or just about to fall asleep is when I seem to be the most creative. Then it’s just a matter of writing down the idea so I don’t forget it.
Q&A BONUS ROUND
What’s a brand or something in the branding/design world that you believe is making a positive impact on the world?
The biggest one for me (and the reason I decided to take the leap to make this my job) would be The Futur, for sure. They were the first podcast I started listening to, and they encouraged me to take the leap. Besides that, I love what Mike Janda is doing for the community, as well. He takes all those things creatives suck at (invoicing, proposals, negotiating) and makes practical courses and content about it.
Any book recommendations?
Depends on where you are in your process. But if I had to give my top three, must-read books within branding it would be: Start With Why, The Brand Gap, and Zag. (Yes, I’m a Marty fan.)
Any advice for junior people or people interested in getting into branding?
Take it one step at a time. Think about what kind of “brandingeer” (sure, that’s a word) you want to be. Do you want to be more design-oriented or strategy-oriented? Know that learning branding is a long-term process and you’ll make hundreds of mistakes along the way. When you don’t have a lot of experience, start helping out people around you for free. That experience will be the best learning school.
What are you listening to in the studio while you work?
The sweet sounds of a two-year old full of energy, screaming and playing, combined with the sounds of a three-month-old baby. (Thank you, quarantine.)
What’s a hobby you have that no one would expect?
Well, I was once a pro basketball player; now I play semi-professionally in second division in Belgium.
Rob Meyerson is a brand consultant, professional namer, and host of the How Brands Are Built podcast. He is also principal and founder of Heirloom, an independent brand strategy and identity firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.