Studying good branding? Start here…

good branding

Can I be honest for a moment?

 

There’s a lot of really mediocre branding out there. 

 

I’ve spent some time meditating on why that is and I think it boils down to two essential things:

 

1. Many of us sort of fell backwards into our business, which means we skipped some of the critical work of brand development: thinking critically about our target audience, understanding where we fall within the marketplace, cultivating meaningful differentiation.

 

2. Resources are limited and we’re cobbling together our brand development on a shoestring budget.

 

Does that feel familiar? I imagine that it might. One of the most important things I think that we can do as brand owners is to immerse ourselves in the study of extraordinary branding. It widens our scope, helps us step into a new mindset, and raises our personal bar. All good things…

 

If you’re in search of creative brands who are hitting it out of the park, then I’d like to introduce you to 36 of my personal favorites. These brands- many of whom are small + mighty with artisan roots- offer fertile ground for inspiration. I’m drawn to them for four primary reasons:

  • They know who they are as brands.
  • They have a deep understanding of their target audience.
  • They’re not afraid to let their personalities shine.
  • They bring the heat when it comes to presentation, putting their best foot forward with stellar graphic design + outstanding photography.

 

I encourage you to carefully study brands both inside and outside your product category. Instead of looking exclusively at brands which share an aesthetic that resonates with you, explore new brands and see if you can ascertain, simply by looking at their websites:

 

Who is this brand trying to attract?

 

Dig deeper: what clues (text, images, packaging, price, product design) lead you to that conclusion?

 

How do all of the pieces mentioned in question #2 come together to create a cohesive whole? Does anything feel out of step?

 

What can you learn by watching these brands in action?

 

 

APOTHECARY

Laurel Whole Plant Organics

May Lindstrom

Juniper Ridge

S.W. Basics

Madame Scodioli

Tata Harper

 

 

PAPER + GIFT

Rifle Paper Co.

Emily McDowell

Lovelane Designs

Freaker USA

Cards Against Humanity

Poopourri

 

 

JEWELRY

Betsy & Iya

31 Bits

The Giving Keys

Upper Metal Class

The Brave Collection

Figs & Ginger

 

 

FOOD + SPIRITS

Wondermade

Big Spoon Roasters

Sugarfina

Jeni’s Ice Cream

Fat Toad Farm

Bittermilk

 

 

HOUSEWARES

The Wooden Palate

American Heirloom

Hedley & Bennett

Farmhouse Pottery

Coral & Tusk

Byrd & Belle

 

 

 APPAREL + ACCESSORIES

Shinola

Primary

So Worth Loving

Thinx

Johnny Cupcakes

Heart of Gold Apparel

 

 

I’d love to hear from you! Which brands resonated deeply with you? What stood out for you about them? I hope you’ll drop a comment below so we can chat about it.

 

If you’d like to build a stronger, smart brand in 2017, then I also hope that you’ll consider joining me in the spring semester of Brick House Branding. This 8-week brand development incubator dissects awesome brands and then helps you build your own, brick by brick, with me working right alongside you to cheer you on and ensure that you’re on the right track. Enrollment is closing in just a few days, but there’s still time to grab a seat… I’d welcome an opportunity to work with you!

 

Thinking about hiring a designer through Fiverr or 99designs? Please think again…

Fiverr or 99designs

Fiverr or 99designs

 

When I first started my business, I was a severely resource-constrained single mother, which is a gentle way of communicating to you that I was horrifically broke. Launching a brand is an expensive endeavor, and I often hear from my clients that they’re feeling the financial squeeze that frequently becomes the hallmark of the first few years of the entrepreneurial journey. While I’m all for bootstrapping and pinching pennies where possible, I’ve learned that the graphic design that represents your brand is not an area that’s well-served by cutting financial corners.

 

Many of the brands that I work alongside are consumer packaged goods. Think: beauty products, candles, gourmet foods, etc. The graphic design that surrounds all of our brands- regardless of product category- plays a significant role in both the efficacy of our marketing efforts and the determination of value that consumers attach to our products. That perception is critical for every brand (I’m looking at you stationers, jewelers, ceramicists, apparel designers…), but it’s especially important for these packaged goods.

 

As they shop online or in-stores, consumers have no way of ascertaining how delicious that granola will taste, how restorative that eye cream will be, or how strongly that candle will smell. They actually take all of their cues from the packaging design. Design influences the kinds of fans the product will attract, in what stores it will be sold, and how much you can charge for it. These are critical facets of your brand, and they shouldn’t be left to chance. But that’s precisely what you do when you hire designers through 99designs or Fiverr.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Pause that thought for a moment…

 

Fiverr is a platform where you can hire anyone to do almost anything starting at just $5. It’s ripe with peeps in search of design work. 99designs is a bit different: it’s a graphic design marketplace where you can post a project, host a contest, and attach a pot of money as the prize. Designers submit work, you pick the winner, and they score the sum of money you offered as bounty. The higher that sum, the more interest your project will illicit and (theoretically), the more submissions you’ll have.

 

DANGER, WILL ROBINSON…

 

Lucky Break clients often share that they’re planning to pursue design through these platforms and- when they do- I immediately flip the switch on my blinking neon “danger” sign and caution them against proceeding in that fashion. Here’s why…

 

(more…)

A peek inside a cosmetics manufacturing facility

cosmetics manufacturing

I love it when the Universe does me a solid.

 

My oldest daughter is studying Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Butler University in Indianapolis (Go Bulldogs!) and I recently flew up for a long weekend visit. She called a few days before my arrival to bemoan that her business class had tacked on an unexpected, mandatory field trip that she’d need to attend on Friday afternoon, which necessitated that we change our plans. But guess what, friends? That field trip was a trek to Gilchrist & Soames, a cosmetics manufacturing facility that is one of the largest hotel amenity manufacturers in the United States! Which proves – once and for all – that Jesus is real and he loves me.

 

I sweet-talked myself onto that tour and I wanted to share a peek inside a large-scale cosmetic manufacturing facility with you, gentle readers. But I know that what you *really* want to see if big machines and fancy labs, no? Alright… on with it then!

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

This manufacturing facility opened in 2015 in Plainfield, Indiana. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from Indianapolis. The building spans 250,000 square feet and more than 100 people are employed through G&S at this location. They run two 10-hour shifts per day and reserve Fridays for overtime as needed. This singular facility houses the research + development arm, design, compounding, filling, marketing, and distribution.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

Gilchrist & Soames manufactures several lines of bodycare products under its own brand name, but they’re also a major force in the hotel amenity business worldwide. If you’ve cracked open a tiny bottle of shampoo in a hotel in the U.S., then you’ve probably used their products without even knowing it. Though the company does offer a retail website for direct-to-consumer sales, the vast majority of their business is B2B in the hospitality industry. They also handle some private label work for smaller bath + body brands.

 

The company was founded in London in 1975, though the U.S. operations have been bought and sold several times. In September of 2015, the company was acquired by Sysco Guest Supply, a subsidiary of Sysco.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

The Plainfield manufacturing facility is responsible for more than 3,000 unique SKUs. The facility manufactures an average of more than 350,000 bottles + tubes per day in a GMP-compliant facility (huzzah!). As you can imagine, I was like a kid-in-a-candy-shop as we wound through their filling area, led by the production manager. We donned googles and hair nets as we breezed past whirring machines and vibrating tables.

 

 

I was impressed by the hourly counts of products and the dry erase boards that tracked everything that was happening on the filling room floor in near-real time. Putting everything there in black + white helps the company understand where they are in the production cycle, quickly identifying any problems that are slowing their roll, and celebrating teams that are pulling especially hard. Everything is carefully counted and tracked. Daily production meetings help keep everyone on the same page.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

The smallest batch Gilchrist & Soames runs is 150 pounds and the largest batch they can run in 8,000 pounds(!). The average fill size is 1/10 of a pound (remember: we’re talking about amenities here) and the average batch size is 2,500 pounds. They routinely execute fills of 100,000+ pieces and smaller runs often mean changing the fill lines 3-4 times in a single shift, making them much less efficient.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

The warehouse was a thing of beauty. The uber-tall ceilings allow for flexible storage that can be reconfigured with relative ease as the company grows. Yellow tape on the floors outlined safe paths for walking as a half-dozen forklifts skirted around the facility, carrying pallets to and fro. Everything is bar coded for easier tracking. Think for a moment about the logistics of managing the raw materials, custom packaging, and finished products for 3,000 unique products. That necessitates a carefully orchestrated production theater.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

Raw materials receive bar codes as they’re received, finished pallets receive bar codes once their packed, and things are constantly scanned as they move about all 250,000 square feet.  Fork lifts scoot down aisles that are just a few inches wider than the fork lifts are themselves, and each fork lift “buckles” into a main line that runs down the aisle, keeping in on track and avoiding collisions.

 

I’ve never before been excited by a forklift until I saw this one. No, seriously… watch this thing pull out a pallet, spin it around, and put it back, in the narrowest of aisles. *swoon*

 

 

 

G&S maintains an R+D lab for new product development and for continued testing of each raw material into their facility and each finished product coming out of their facility. They perform accelerated aging tests (aka “challenge testing”) to confirm the stability of each product and that testing is twelve-weeks in duration. Even the bar soaps that are delivered to Gilchrist & Soames from a third party are carefully tested.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

Many thanks to Gilchrist & Soames, who have gracious partnered with Butler University to sponsor this semester’s business class. They’ve sent representatives from their marketing and accounting departments to speak to students throughout the last few months. They’re offering support and hosting tours and doing a myriad of other things to support the next generation of business leaders and I’m deeply grateful.

 

I hope you enjoyed this peek inside a large-scale manufacturing facility. Also, childhood flashback: remember that segment of Mr. Rogers where his large, framed picture would turn into a video screen that showed you how something was made in a factory? That’s sort of how it felt to be in Gilchrist & Soames. Though I’ve been a bath and body manufacturers for 14 years now, my artisan process is so removed from this type of manufacturing that it made for a fascinating experience. Watching how they managed such complex logistics was particularly interesting and my hat is off to them for such a brilliant implementation of technology!

 

Three Innovative Funding Sources for Creative Brands

Innovative Funding Sources for Creative Brands

Funding Options for Creative Brands

 

Raise your hand if you need dollah, dollah bills to invest in your business?

 

Yea, I thought so.

 

One of the advantages of engaging in daily conversations with makers + products designers is that I’m able to keep a finger firmly on the pulse of the daily struggles that we all face as creative entrepreneurs. If there’s one struggle that I hear more often than any other, it’s that we have a long to-do list of things we need: graphic design, product photography, professionally executed packaging, well-designed websites, trade show appearances, business classes, and more. And we typically have less cash in the bank than we need to tackle that to-do list. I feel you, friend.

 

For too long, securing funding for your business growth meant sitting through snooze-fest classes for drafting elaborate business plans, schmoozing with your local banker, laying your personal finances bare, and spending weeks-to-months jumping through hoops and praying for a loan. The times are a’changing, and I’m thrilled to say that those days are officially behind us. The maker revival and entrepreneurial renaissance have ushered in a variety of non-traditional funding options, and they’ve arrived none too soon.

 

Deciding to take on debt for your business is a deeply personal choice, and I’m keenly aware that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But the reality is that we can’t DIY everything about our brand while simultaneously steering its strategic path. While I’m certain that you look dashing in a leotard and red patent leather boots, you’re not Wonder Woman and neither am I. We’re not Jills-of-all-trades, and there are a finite number of hours in the day. Which means we need help. And that help usually has a price tag attached.

 

At some point, each of us will eventually need to hire staff, delegate specific tasks to the professionals, and invest in our business. Ideally, you have a trust fund from a wealthy grandmother or a cushy day job that’s enabled you to stockpile money for a few years as you transition to full-time entrepreneurship. Wait… no? Then we’ll just have to get a wee bit more creative. Here’s a quick snapshot of three innovative funding sources you can tag in to help grow your brand!

 

KIVA ZIP

 

You might be familiar with Kiva as the microlending agency that serves people in developing countries around the world. And while that’s the backstory of this non-profit organization, there’s been a significant evolution in Kiva’s model of which you might not be aware. Since 2005, Kiva has been on a mission to alleviate poverty through microloans. A farmer in Peru or a shopkeeper in Uganda could apply for a loan to improve their home, send a child to school, or grow their business. Their story is profiled on the Kiva site and peeps like you and I can each pitch in $25 until the loan is fully funded. Over time, the recipient pays the loan back, and the funders receive the initial amount without interest.

 

A few years ago, Kiva launched a separate “Zip” crowdfunding program which is designed to support American entrepreneurs. Now businesses like yours and mine can apply to receive loans between $25-$10,000. The process begins with a simple online application which collects information about you, your business, and your plans for the moolah.

 

Once approved, Kiva asks you to make a loan of at least $25 to another entrepreneur. You then appeal to your own community (private fundraising), asking them to fund a portion of the loan, $25 at a time. You have 15 days to secure a certain percentage of the loan through your own channels. Once you’ve crossed that threshold, Kiva posts the loan on its larger platform (public fundraising), effectively opening it up worldwide to lenders. You then have 30 days on the public platform in which to raise the balance.

 

PROS
Kiva’s process often taken 30-60 days from initial application to eventual disbursement. But if you move quickly through that initial fundraising stage, then it’s often quicker than a traditional bank loan. And funds are typically available 48 hours after successfully funding the loan, so the cash is in your hot little hands pretty quickly.

 

Did I mention that the loans are at 0% interest? My hand to God’s… I would never deceive you! Interest-free loans are a thing of rare wonder and beauty, but Kiva Zip makes that happen. And there are no hidden fees. They leverage a network of millions of everyday lenders and corporate sponsors to offset program expenses. A $10,000 loan paid back over 36 months would carry a payment of just $278 a month… pretty damn reasonable.

 

The loans aren’t based on your personal credit history, and the debt doesn’t appear on your personal credit record. Kiva does use, however, publicly-available information about you and your business to verify your identity and determine creditworthiness.

 

CONS
You’re going to have to gather the chutzpah to ask people you know for money. There’s absolutely no shame in that game, but some people get squeamish about money chats. Heads up: as an entrepreneur, you have a lot of “money chats” ahead of you, so the sooner you can overcome this inner hurdle, the better off you’ll be. Thankfully, this is low-pressure asking: simply post on social media that you’re fundraising and link to your private page at Kiva. No need to arm wrestle your peeps into submission. And Kiva has a full suite of email template and helpful resources to help you fundraise more quickly and with ease.

 

Loans which aren’t fully funded within the time allocation are moot. Your backers won’t be charged, and you won’t be collecting a check, so it’s a wash in the end. Partial loan disbursements aren’t possible, so you’ll need to raise the full amount of your goal to enjoy any benefit from the loan.

 

You won’t qualify for a loan if you’re currently in foreclosure, bankruptcy, or the subject of any liens. While Kiva doesn’t check your personal credit record, those precarious situations are searchable through public records and Kiva can’t extend a loan to you if they apply.

 

EXAMPLES
There are handfuls of Lucky Break clients who have successfully raised between $5,000-10,000 through the Kiva Zip program, including Zandra Beauty, Todos Organics, Outlaw Soaps, and Etta + Billie.

 

Have more questions? Kiva has answers.

 

PAYPAL WORKING CAPITAL

 

PayPal has developed one of the most accessible funding platforms on the planet. Their “Working Capital” service was launched in 2013, providing lightning-fast small business loans with heaps of flexibility. Here’s how it works…

 

You complete a quick online application and PayPal makes a decision in 90-seconds-or-less. Your borrowing power is tied to the sales from your business which are routed through PayPal as a payment processor, so the lender has instant access to a snapshot of your company’s revenue history. An offer is made, and you can elect to tap all or a specific portion of the available loan amount. Fees are charged based on the speed at which you choose to repay the loan… the quicker you pay it back, the lower the fees.

 

For instance: Let’s say that your PayPal sales over the last 12 months totaled $150,000. You would easily qualify for a $20,000 loan. You could earmark 30% of your daily sales to loan repayment and pay just $1,221 over the life of the loan. If you choose to set aside 20% of your daily sales to loan payback, then fees jump to $1,907. A 10% daily payback rate jacks those fees up to $4,393. The total payback amount for that $20,000 loan would be between $21,221 and $24,393.

 

You can tap as much as 18% of the total amount of sales you’ve processed through PayPal over the last 12 months, to a maximum of $97,000. And payments are automatic, too. If you tell PayPal that you’ll pay the loan back at 10% and you make $150 in sales tomorrow, then PayPal will deduct 10% (or $15) as a loan payment. No sales tomorrow? That’s a $0 loan payment. Have a ridiculously good day with $1,000 in sales? $150 of that slides over to PayPal.

 

Assuming you made sales of $365,000 last year and you take the full $65,700 (18%) loan with a payback rate of 20% of your sales, then there would be an $8,857 fee associated with the loan. Assuming your sales were flat over the next twelve months (no growth), then that 20% payback rate works out to an approximate 13.48% annual interest rate. That’s more attractive than many credit cards, less attractive than some others. Swing by the PayPal Working Capital FAQ to get the 411 on their program.

 

PROS
Approvals are shockingly quick… by the time you can saunter into the kitchen for another cup of hot tea, the decision has been made, and a final answer is displayed on your screen. Funds are instantly available in your PayPal account and- at your request- they can transfer over to your bank account for full availability within 48 hours.

 

I appreciate that payments expand or shrink in correlation to sales. Suffering from the Summer Retail Draught? No worries… since your revenue is lower, your payments are, too. And because payments are automatic, the system is pretty seamless. Three cheers for having one less thing to think about during a busy week!

 

The loan doesn’t depend on (nor impact) your personal credit score. Many users appreciate the autonomy which surrounds this kind of lending.

 

CONS
You must be a PayPal Business or Premier member for at least three months to qualify. You also need to process at least $20,000 in sales annual (Premier account) or $15,000 annually (Business account). Anemic PayPal sales? You may qualify for several relatively comparable options (keep reading!).

 

You can only have one “loan” at a time. Borrowed $15k and now you need an additional $5 grand? You’ll need to pay that first $15k back before you can have another bite of the apple.
Is there such a thing as a borrowing process that’s too easy? If not, then PayPal has likely invented it. With loans this quick and painless, it’s easy to borrow impulsively without crunching the numbers and understanding how the setting aside of a fixed percentage of daily sales will impact your cash flow.

 

EXAMPLES
I know a good bit about this program because I’ve used it myself. Lucky Break took a $46,000 loan in June, and we’ve repaid $39,000 of that in just four months. As a user, I find the platform to be deliciously simple to understand and I appreciate that I can log in at any time for a clear explanation of current loan stats.

 

KICKSTARTER

 

Since its launch in 2009, Kickstarter has collected more than $2 billion (billion, with a b!) to fund 100,000 creative projects. The crowdfunding platform invites makers and product designers of all stripes to showcase products in development. Those projects are pitched to interested “backers” who might throw anywhere from $1-10,000 towards a single project. Brand owners create a rewards system in appreciation of the support. Those rewards range from simple social media shout-outs to early access to the products they’ve helped fund and innovative experiences reserved exclusively for backers.

 

PROS
Kickstarter is a public-facing platform, so it has the potential to spread news of your brand far and wide. This is easily the biggest benefit of the platform: the exposure brings with it significant opportunities. Campaigns sometimes go viral and are often featured in blogs, newspapers, and magazines. Unlock the secret to getting featured by Kickstarter staff, and you’re well on your way to not only raising dollars but growing an email list and attracting the attention of editors as well.

 

You can raise serious bank on Kickstarter if you play your cards right. I’ve seen campaigns raise as little as $2,500 and as much as many-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars.  It’s wise to think of Kickstarter along the lines of a pre-sales platform rather than a lending platform, but the amount you can raise is essentially limited only by time, your imagination, and your ability to produce all those rewards.

 

CONS
Kickstarter fundraising totals may look impressive, but the campaign totals can be deceiving. Kickstarter claims 5% of each pledge in fees, in addition to 3% and $.20 per pledge in credit card processing fees. So that’s an 8%+ haircut right off the top! You’ll also need to produce and ship those tangible rewards, and those costs add up quite quickly.

 

The platform is dense with projects and you’ll need to do lots of outreach to rally the troops. Prepare for a media blitz with proactive pitching to editors and plenty of messaging to your own community. Frequent newsletter reminders, social media blasts, and FB ads are typically needed to help projects gain traction. If you haven’t yet amassed a significant number of email subscribers or social media followers, then getting that project seen is likely an uphill battle.

 

You’ll need strong product imagery, a well-designed video, and solid storytelling chops to cut through the noise and capture attention. Many brands spend months putting together their campaigns and the best campaigns represent significant investments of strategic thought… and often dollars, too.

 

Kickstarter is an “all or nothing” platform. You’ll set a goal for the amount of money needed, and you’ll have a limited amount of time in which to raise those funds. Projects which aren’t fully funded by the deadline receive none of their pledged funding, so time is of the essence, and smart fundraising targets are a must.
Makers should be planning to either launch their brand on Kickstarter or significantly expand their current product offerings. Projects along the lines of “We need money for rent/ to hire someone/ to attend a conference” tend to go nowhere fast.

 

EXAMPLES
The projects which traditionally perform best on Kickstarter are tech gadgets, games, creative projects such as films, and problem-solving products like this multi-purpose cooler. My personal favorite Kickstart campaign of all time? Organic kid’s clothes from Lucky Break client The Smallest Tribe. Kathryn raised $10,575 in 2015!

 

NEED MORE FUNDING OPTIONS?

You’re spoilt for choice, my friend!

 

• Along the lines of PayPal’s Working Capital program, Square and Shopify have recently launched funding programs. Think: instant funding based on your sales history and automatic paybacks that flex with your gross revenue.

 

Kabbage is another option worth exploring. They provide quickly-dispersed lines of credit that range between $2,000-to $100,000. But beware: Fees range between 1.5%-12% per month, which is pretty rich for my blood!

 

Indiegogo is similar in nature to Kickstarter, with a similar pricing structure as well. The predominant difference is that Indiegogo isn’t all-or-nothing. If your campaign is at 72% of your fundraising goal on the day it expires, you still earn that 72%.

 

Have you found an innovative funding source for your business? Have a positive or negative experience to share about one of the funding source mentioned in this article? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts below… I’d love to hear them!

 

It’s time for a “Come to Jesus” meeting about your branding

brand development

brand development

 

You’ve likely heard the expression that “beauty isn’t skin deep,” yes? It’s meant to convey that what we value about an individual is deeper than superficial beauty. I believe that’s true not just for people, but for brands, too.

 

Through my work with makers and product designers, I’m introduced to new product-based brands virtually every day. Through the years, I’ve honed my ability to look at a product and get to the heart of it in very short order. And I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that I feel compelled to address head-on. The following may be hard to read, but I assure you that it’s offered in love.

 

Many-to-most of the brands that roll across my wires these days fall into one of two categories:

 

a) Not yet well branded. The owner is likely early in their entrepreneurial journey and somewhat “resource constrained” (which is my gentle way of saying “broke”… I’ve been there, promise!). They’ve done a lot of the work themselves, though they’re not graphic designers, copywriters, or photographers by trade. The idea is that they’ll “make do” until they secure enough market traction and dollars to tag in the professionals. This category of entrepreneurs is aware that they need further brand development but have yet to access it.

 

b) Believe they’re well branded, but that branding is only skin deep. This second category of creative businesses mistakenly believes that their brand development work is complete because they’re either design-handy themselves and DIY’ed their logo or because they tagged in a professional to create the logo. Regrettably, a pretty logo can easily lull you into a false sense of security. After all, things look good, and that’s what branding is all about, right?

 

Well, yes and no. Branding is much more than skin deep. It’s more than aesthetics. Brand development- at its core- is the process of creating a consistent emotional connection to a product, person, or service. It’s a way of creating meaningful differentiation between your product and everyone else in the today’s densely crowded marketplace. A pretty face is a great start, but it’s hardly the complete story. A beautiful logo in the absence of a strong core of branding is a hollow shell of a company that will perpetually struggle to get traction and fulfill its potential.

 

So how do you know if you’ve done the challenging work of creating not just a pretty face, but a brand with depth and soul? Ask yourself these questions…

1. Is your product collection tightly edited and developed around a singular idea that’s easy to understand and easy for others to repeat?

2. Can you express to others- in a single sentence- who your product is designed for and what makes it different than all the others currently on the market?

3. Does your brand have a distinct personality and a consistent voice?

4. Do you have clarity about the nature of the content you’re developing for your blog, email newsletter, and social media?

5. Have you created visual brand standards so that consistent colors, fonts, icons, and logo marks are used across all iterations of the brand?

6. Do you highlight your customers as the hero of your brand?

7. Is your brand developed to the degree that you can delegate some responsibilities that revolve around the communication and support of that brand as the company grows, in confidence that those souls can support the brand, carry the banner, and stay on-message?

8. Have you enriched the customer experience in a way that creates loyalty among your target audience and spawns an energizing effect that encourages the sharing of your brand?

9. Do you have confidence that your customers will stick with you even if a new brand launches with similar products at a lower price point?

10. Do you have a deep level of awareness about the brands you’d like to sit on the shelf beside, as well as the brands that you’re engaged in direct hand-to-hand combat?

 

Here’s the brutal truth that’s becoming increasingly challenging for me to deny: we often set a low threshold for ourselves when it comes to brand development, and that painfully low threshold isn’t serving us well.

 

Most of my clients stumbled backward into their businesses, and their passion is the fuel in the engine that’s driving the company. And that’s both a deliciously beautiful and crazy dangerous thing. Because a business without strategy, systems, and direction is almost certainly doomed to fail. Passion alone is demanding, exhausting, and blinding. The good news? Blending that passion with strategy is a potent recipe for success. And I trust that you’re one hell of a chef when you have access to the right ingredients and a solid recipe to follow.

 

Brand development isn’t simply about pretty logos.

 

Brand development isn’t simply for new companies who are just now coming into the marketplace.

 

Brand development is the very core of everything your business will do. It’s the north star of your company, the roadmap to success, the guiding compass that sees you through the hills and the valleys while keeping you true to yourself and your audience.

 

Look again at those ten questions. If your gut is churning as you read them, if doubt and uncertainty are creeping into your mind as you move down that list to take a mental inventory of your own business, then I encourage you to double-back, double-down, and raise the bar on your brand development. I happen to teach one hell of a branding class, but I’m far from the only brand strategist out there helping creative entrepreneurs find the way forward. Whether you enlist my help or the help of someone else, I hope you’ll spend some time reflecting on whether further brand development work is necessary to move your ball forward.

 

If you know that there’s work to be done to fortify your brand and you’d like to work with me to solidify your core, narrow your focus, and build a brand that matters, then circle September 14th on your calendar in red pen. That’s when I’ll throw open the doors on enrollment for the first semester of 2017 in Brick House Branding. Enrollment closes up tight on September 23, or sooner if all 25 spots are claimed (and they’re typically claimed before the regular enrollment window closes). I invite you to learn more about my branding class for makers and product designers… I’d be honored to work with you!