Studying good branding? Start here…

Lela Barker

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?




Laurel Whole Plant Organics

May Lindstrom

Juniper Ridge

S.W. Basics

Madame Scodioli

Tata Harper




Rifle Paper Co.

Emily McDowell

Lovelane Designs

Freaker USA

Cards Against Humanity





Betsy & Iya

31 Bits

The Giving Keys

Upper Metal Class

The Brave Collection

Figs & Ginger





Big Spoon Roasters


Jeni’s Ice Cream

Fat Toad Farm





The Wooden Palate

American Heirloom

Hedley & Bennett

Farmhouse Pottery

Coral & Tusk

Byrd & Belle






So Worth Loving


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!


About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

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