Whether you're a business owner, an entrepreneur or an artist, your brand is the first interaction a potential customer is going to have with you. I would argue it's just as important as the product or service you're offering - your brand is the first impression, the hand-shake, and it sets the tone for what your business is all about.
Before I started the Social Motion Packs, I worked as a freelance videographer and creative director creating marketing content for brands, entrepreneurs and businesses. My experience during those years, combined with the experience of being an independent recording artist, gave me an in-depth education on the importance of branding. If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that brands have to start from a place of truth.
Here's the thing, most people can inherently tell when you're not being genuine. Have you ever gotten that feeling with someone? Maybe they're a new acquaintance, someone you work with, or someone you just met at a bar. You don't know why, but they put you off. They rub you the wrong way. Maybe they were perfectly nice, saying all the right things, but you just got the feeling they were being...fake?
"The most successful brands are authentic representations of the people creating them."
Well, the same thing applies to brands. In my experience, the most successful brands are authentic representations of the people creating them. Your branding should feel like an extension of you - of what you believe in, your passions, and how you want to serve. So, I put together some thoughts to consider when working on your own branding and some exercises that have helped me.
First of all, what is a "brand"?
For me, a brand is two things: 1. It is a representation of a person or a business, it's how you put yourself out into the world. 2. It's the emotional reaction of your viewer. It's how your content makes others feel.
Not sure what your branding should look like? The answer is probably right in front of you.
Many people seem to think that branding is kind of like going to a buffet - the options are laid out for you and all you have to do is pick one, right? Those are what we call "cookie-cutter" brands. We've all seen them - businesses or people who's posts, websites, or products all seem to look eerily similar.
"If you want to stand out, my best advice is to build a brand out of who you already are."
If you want to stand out, my best advice is to build a brand out of who you already are. What's important to you? What kind of images are you already drawn to? What color schemes do you love? What does your home look like? What's your personal style? Choose a few of those things, whatever feels relevant to you, and infuse them into your branding.
Building your brand is not about choosing a "costume" to wear, it's about amplifying the best parts of yourself so that they are undoubtedly recognizable. The goal is to get to a place where making decisions for your brand doesn't feel hard, it feels obvious.
Define your visual blueprint.
I'm sure you're thinking - but wait, what if I like a lot of different things that don't match? Am I supposed to implement all of that into my branding? Well, no, the last thing you want to do is confuse people - but it is important to narrow it down. Here's how I have done it in the past:
Make a list of 3-8 adjectives that describe you or your business. I call these "tone" words, and you'll find yourself coming back to them a lot. While you're writing these, think about how you want others to describe you or your business. Some examples might be loud, disruptive, or in-your-face. Or maybe you're more casual, laidback & natural. Or maybe you want to be thought of as luxurious, pristine or exclusive. Take a moment and think about what kind of descriptors resonate with you.
Create a visual brainstorm (or moodboard) based on your tone words. Scroll through Pinterest or Instagram and save/screenshot/pin any image that meets these two criteria: 1. You have to love it, and 2. It matches your tone words.
Once you have all your images together, look for consistencies. Maybe you saved a number of images that were shot outdoors in the mountains. Or maybe a few have really contrasty studio lighting. Or maybe a bunch of them are edited with vintage grain or scratches. Or maybe there is a common color palette. Or maybe all the models in the images are wearing similar style clothing. Look closely, these images have clues in them.
Incorporate those consistencies into your brand. Take your tone words and the clues you found from your brainstorm and turn the volume up. Infuse those pieces into your website, packaging, social media and any other assets you're producing.
Pay attention to who you're representing - and who you're excluding.
It's 2021 and let's be real, if we're talking about branding and how you make your customers feel, we have to talk about inclusion. Take a look at your visual brainstorm. Which demographic (if any) are you representing the most in your branding images? Which demographic are you not representing? Is there room for including other types of people? If there is, I highly recommend you do so.
Of course, sometimes excluding a certain demographic of people is part of the brand. For example, if your business makes tampons, there's a good chance you won't be using any men in your branding & marketing images. This obviously aligns with your mission and purpose, so it makes sense. However, if you own a tampon business, that means you're marketing to women of all colors and shapes. Be sure to keep that in mind when planning and creating your branding.
It's not all about the visuals, messaging is crucial.
How you speak to your customers is everything - your captions, your copy, your tone of voice, and your customer service. Define your purpose and mission and infuse it into every piece of output you have. Those "tone" words you listed earlier? You can also use them to inform how you interact with your audience. How do you want to make your customers feel? How do you want to serve them?
Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools you have - and it's free.
Psychology tells us that, aside from having our basic survival needs met, all humans really want is to be seen, understood, and loved. Telling stories - both your stories and your customer's stories, breaks down barriers and allows people to feel connected to you or your brand. The more vulnerable you are willing to be, the more connection a viewer will feel - and it can be simple. Instead of just posting a photo of a new product with the caption saying "NEW PRODUCT OUT NOW" (yawn), let us in a little more. Tell us a story about it, why should we care? Why did you make it? How did you make it? What was the process like? Who helped you? What's amazing about it? What challenges did you face?
Storytelling can also be visual. It's why so many people and businesses take the time to film the behind-the-scenes process of their products, service, or art. Not only does it makes their customers feel included, but it will only heighten their value of your product because they've (literally) seen how much went into creating it.
Branding is an art, not a science.
Here's the thing. Your brand will most likely be ever-changing and evolving - because you will be ever-changing and evolving. What you're drawn to today will probably be different than what you're drawn to 5 years from now, and that's ok. Brands change, even the biggest ones. The most important thing to remember is your brand should never feel like a costume, and if it starts to, then it might be time to shake things up.