When you’re setting up or rebranding your business, it can be tempting to go right ahead and start thinking about your logo and order packaging; making everything looking ‘on-brand’ can be an expensive mistake. In this article Brand Stylist, Meg Harrop shares the three questions you need to ask yourself before branding or rebranding your business.
When you’re setting up or rebranding your business it can be tempting to go right ahead and start thinking about your logo and order packaging; you just want to get going and start selling your gorgeous products, right? The beginning of the journey is often the most exciting part; I remember that feeling when I began Lemon & Birch back in 2016 as a product-based business selling illustrated prints and cards.
I whipped up a logo and colour palette and ordered all manner of stickers, business cards, and packaging for my products, I was so excited at the prospect of my first sale and felt like I needed to be ready right from the beginning, looking perfectly polished and professional. Fast forward to the present day and my business has changed so much it’s unrecognisable.
After the first few months, once I’d grown into my business a little and I’d had my first sale, I started to feel that the fonts I’d chosen and the logo I’d designed didn’t quite suit the audience that was interested in my products. Everything was a little too bold, a bit too playful, a little too ‘loud’. I had never considered who I wanted to serve with my products before I started selling them, or thought about the vision for my business. None of that had even crossed my mind; I was just going with the flow!
Before starting Lemon & Birch I had been working full-time as a graphic-designer on branding for corporate businesses, and we always asked about their target audience and their vision and values first before designing anything. I knew that for these big businesses it was important for their branding to speak to their ideal clients, it was always more about what those clients would respond to rather than what the owners of the company liked.
Why did I completely skip this part out when branding my own business? I think I thought that because I was a small, one person business, it was different. I was naive in thinking it was all about me and that I could pull anything together that I thought looked nice and it wouldn’t matter as long as my products were beautiful.
I realised that although I’d made a few sales and it hadn’t hurt me so far, it might hamper my growth in the long-run if my branding didn’t speak to the people I was trying to reach and didn’t represent my business and my values well enough.
After so much time wasted on half-finished websites, and way too many business cards and leaflets that had to go in the recycling bin, I finally put the work in up front before rebranding, and I want to share those steps with you that I now know are so valuable no matter what size or how old your business is.
These are the exact questions I ask my branding clients to work through before we even begin thinking about what their branding should look like.
Let’s get a fresh notebook out and start working through it shall we?
This might seem like such a basic question, but the answer isn’t always obvious to anyone else but you. When you’re a small business, people are partly buying from you because you have a story they can connect with.
You need to be able to articulate well the reasons why you’ve created your business or your products, and what your vision is.
Why this is important for your visual brand identity: Once you know your ‘why’ and what your story is you can start to pull out some core values from that narrative. The ‘feel’ or mood of your branding can be based upon these.
Having a clear picture of who your product is for makes it easier to speak directly to those people to show them what you can do for them, rather than talking to everyone and hoping someone will listen.
It’s ok to generalise here and pick out a core customer who is most important to your business. It doesn’t mean this is the only type of person that will buy from you, but when you clarify who you’re targeting with your branding, you become much more compelling to that group of people.
If you’re a slightly larger business with perhaps more than one product line, or you’re a brick and mortar shop that sells many product lines, you will likely have more than one core customer.
Let’s call them your muses. Give them each a name to make them feel more real and make it your mission to get to know them and what makes them tick. What’s important to them in life? It’s likely to be the same things that are important to you. What other places do they shop at, what are their homes like and how do they dress? Where do they work?
Either use your creativity or base your muses on people you know in real life. You’re not going to share these profiles with anyone (unless you work closely with someone else on your business), so they can be as close or as different to people you know in real life.
If you have more than one muse, each one might be in a different age-group with slightly different things that they value, but once you have a vivid picture of each, you can begin to see where the profiles overlap and what things these people have in common.
Why this is important for your visual brand identity: When you understand your target customers and know where else they shop, and how they furnish their homes, you can begin to pull inspiration for the visual identity of your own business from these places.
Rather than looking at the branding of other businesses in your marketplace, you can look at the inspiration your people provide you with. This makes for a much more unique and compelling visual identity.
No matter what your product or product line is, you will always be solving a problem or fulfilling a need for your customer. Take some time to think deeper about this and make sure there’s nothing you’re missing.
Even luxury products fulfil a need; humans are hard-wired to identify with that sense of abundance and prestige that helps us feel good about ourselves. When we own luxury products there’s that small sense of wonder that brings us joy, we feel like successful people.
If you’re a luxury brand with a conscience, then even better, you’re fulfilling two needs. For example, a luxury candle, hand-mixed with essential oils and sustainable wax in a reusable vessel; do you see how there are more facets and needs that are being answered here?
Think of other aspects of your business over and above the actual product, perhaps that better version of the world you’re helping to create, or a sense of the past you’re helping people to re-connect with.
Why this is important for your visual brand identity: This again feeds into the core values that form the foundation and ‘mood’ of your branding. When your values are infused into your branding, it becomes easy for like-minded people to feel a connection to you and fall in love with your business. It becomes a simple decision for them to choose you.
Now you can pull those core values, and inspiration points out of all these things you’ve thought about and start to create a mood board for your visual branding.
Your values can be single words, like ‘sustainability’ or ‘creativity’, or they can be phrases like ‘intentional living’. Anything you’ve identified that both you and your consumers’ value would go in your list of core values.
Your inspiration points could be things like ‘minimal design’, or ‘autumnal colours’, or ‘wildflower garden’ and these will have come from thinking about your muses and how they dress, furnish their homes, the places they shop etc.
Try searching for these keywords or variations around the themes of these keywords on Pinterest, or free stock photo sites like unsplash.com. Look through magazines or collect things that remind you of your words and phrases when you’re out and about. Take pictures on your travels when you see inspiration that you identify with.
Put these things together in a collage on paper or make a digital mood board on Pinterest. Keep editing and distilling down, you don’t need to keep all the imagery you gather.
Make a note of colours or design styles that feature in lots of your imagery. The idea is that you’ll begin to get a feel for what your brand should look like visually and you or a designer you hire will have a fantastic foundation to build your brand identity on.
Take your time with it and most importantly, have fun!
If you’re launching a new business or considering a rebrand, read more here about how Meg can help.
Meg is a brand stylist and designer for small businesses. She’s passionate about helping people build their business dreams into a reality with intentional, thoughtfully crafted brand identities.
After working on branding with corporate clients, Meg longed for a more fulfilling way of life. She set up her design studio, Lemon & Birch, in 2016 to bring her branding design skills to the small business community.