Branding – not a red hot poker in sight!

Branding Iron by Hunter Gatherer (http://www.huntergatherer.info)

Building a brand takes time and the art of branding is more than sticking your logo on everything from business cards to packaging.

Listening to the radio a few weeks back there was a discussion about what a brand is. To help people understand the full meaning of branding it was said to consider branding as synomous with the word reputation. How do you wish your business to be known? What style, ethos and message do you want to be associated with your brand or business? What reputation do you want for your brand? Branding is conveying that reputation in all that you do. To create a reputation for quality, quality needs to be evident in all aspects of your business.

Branding encompasses every aspect of your customer’s experience of your business. Each and every interaction and point of contact contributes to the reputation you have. Every facet of your business needs to reflect the style, ethos and message you want your customers to associate with you and your product.

A great logo is a start and I’m going to assume that you already know the benefits of a good logo. From experience, I know that from the time I had a professionally produced logo designed for me there was shift in the confidence I had in my business, but also in how others perceived me – it spoke volumes about how much my business was worth to me. I valued it enough to invest in a professionally designed logo. And yes, I’ve ‘branded’ a variety of things with my logo, from my website header to business cards and soon crisp white jewellery boxes will bear the Poppy Sparkles logo. But, there are a number of more subtle things I’ve done and you can do too.

Through everything you do, the style and voice of your brand needs to be evident. Establishing a brand takes time and is a cumulative effort across each and every interface with the public.

Fonts
Whether you’re a typography geek, or not, you will most likely have realised that there are associations with particular fonts. Comic Sans is one to avoid – great for teachers for being child-friendly, but not so good for conveying a professional image. Choose a font that reflects your company, but also bear in mind readability for customers. For logos, headings and taglines, it is worth investing in a more unique font, rather than relying on those that come ready installed on word or similar packages, find one that matches your business for style and personality.

Colours
When designing your logo you will have thought about colour and no doubt discarded some colours purely based on the associations or personalities they have. Whatever colours you have selected these need to be carried through and complimented throughout your business image. To provide a stylish, cohesive look to my website and all other business items, I use colours picked from my logo, along with grey for the wordy bits for ease of reading and to avoid an attack of the pinks. Matching colours exactly, rather than a near-match, throughout your website and business items is subtle, but often style is.

Voice
Every piece of writing has a voice or narrative style. It can take time to develop your own writing voice for your business. As your confidence develops, your voice will develop. I’ve found blogging a great way to develop my written style and as I’ve gained confidence I’ve found it easier to write in a more natural, chatty manner. As a start, try to write as you would talk – without the ‘ums’ and ‘ahhs!’ – and imagine addressing your target audience in a way which connects with them.

Packaging
Despite what we may say about packaging not being essential, it plays a valuable part in creating a good impression and is likely to be needed in some form whether it’s a mailing bag or a protective wrapping on your product. I will not be the only person who upon seeing some gorgeous packaging eye-candy, such as the Boux Avenue gift bags above, feel jealousy wash over me and wish it was me that was carrying a luxurious gift bag – that’s the power of well branded packaging. It evokes positive emotions in the recipient and makes others covet it.

Choose your packaging to reflect your company, so if you promote your green credentials make sure this is reflected, perhaps with recycled papers and a more rustic feel or biodegradable items . Simple gift wrap such as tissue paper and ribbon in colours to coordinate with your business colours helps your customer feel special and a handwritten note is a lovely touch guaranteed to make your customer feel positive towards your business. Packaging doesn’t have to be expensive, but some careful thought in this area can have a really positive effect on your customer’s experience.

You
When representing your brand, consider the image you convey. Whilst I may love my comfy jeans and relaxed tees, it’s not particularly a look that others would strive to attain. When attending Handmade Fairs or meeting with customers or stockists, I present the smarter version of me; the kind of look and style that goes with the jewellery I design and how I picture my target market dressing – which isn’t all that far removed from how I’d like to dress daily if I didn’t have two young children messing up my outfits! A crisp white shirt with some smart trousers is easy to dress up with a pair of kitten heels or smart flats and, of course, I accessorise with some of my own jewellery.

On a similar note, with the increased use of social media and the public nature of what we say online, it is worth spending time considering what you say and how that affects the brand you are striving to build. Some things are just not professional to say whilst using your business’ media outlets.

From return address stickers to business cards and hand-punched heart confetti, the Poppy Sparkles brand is carried throughout everything.

Each and every point of contact with your customer or potential customers, needs to be a reflection of your brand and the reputation you wish to establish in people’s minds. Attention to detail will pay dividends. You make feel like those little touches go un-noticed, but remember that cumulative affect – letting your style and ethos permeate through all that you do adds up to a strong brand, which is like a metaphorical branding iron imprinting your business and all that it stands for in the minds’ of your consumers. Ensuring that a consumer’s experience of your business is pleasurable, and a reflection of the reputation you wish to build, is key to creating a desirable brand that translates into sales from people who want to be part of the experience your business offers.

In summary, rather than just sticking your logo on everything, you need to carry your style and ethos through everything that your target market will experience.

Extra credit reading:
The Flourishing Blog by Flourish
The Academy Blog from Noisette Marketing

Viv Smith is the designer and owner of Poppy Sparkles, creating handcrafted jewellery. She also indulges her love of independent makers and retailers on her blog www.poppysparkles.blogspot.com and welcomes submissions from those who either make their own items to sell or are small, independent retailers.

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