Branding is one of those words we tend to hear a lot these days — whether it's in respect to well known cult brands we love, like Glossier or Ban.do, or we're being told how essential it is for our own businesses or personal digital presences. And though a brand does often include a suite of brand assets such as a logo, a signature color palette or an icon design, for example, a brand is so much more than that. With that in mind — and knowing that the whole branding conversation can feel a little overwhelming when you're attempting to tackle it yourself — we've decided to bring you a three part blog series focused on the ins and outs of branding, starting today with a branding overview and some tips on how to get clear on what your own brand is all about by filling out an abbreviated version of my signature Brand Styling Brief. Not surprisingly, marketing genius Seth Godin has one of my favorite definitions of a brand:"A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one service [or product] over another."
A brand is more than a set of brand collateral. It's an experience that you offer your audience and the value that they gain, and by getting clear on what your brand story and style are, you're able to communicate that through your brand voice and visuals. Resonating at an emotional and instinctual level, a powerful brand communicates your values subconsciously, resonating directly with your dream clients and attracting the right audience. Sounds pretty dreamy, right?
The 4 V's — Vision, Values, Voice and Visuals
When I'm working with clients to develop their brand, we start with a series of conversations which I like to think of as the "discovery phase". One of the purposes here is to get to the bottom of what your brand is all about and how you'll communicate and showcase that to the outside world. Throughout these conversations, I'm listening to what adjectives are being used, where there's excitement and energy around the brand, and how we can start to define a language around your brand. To do this with the highest amount of impact requires asking the right questions and doing a bit of a deep dive as we want to identify what your vision and values are through a series of questions that are outlined in my Brand Styling Brief. We're narrowing in on what the non-negotiables of your brand are, why you do what you do and what sets you apart. We also start to get a sense of what we want your brand to look and feel like, which will start to show up in your brand visuals down the line, and which we'll build out further through visual references, color choices, and style notes. And then the final piece is your brand voice, which is essentially what your brand sounds like, or what your unique point of view is. Once we're able to narrow in on these four pieces — vision, values, voice and visuals — we're able to get into the specifics of how that might actually show up through our various brand touchpoints and content — and thus on social media as well. So basically we're determining what our story is, how that shows up in our brand style, and then the strategy we're going to use to piece it all together and share it with our audience. Simple enough?
"Narrow in on what the non-negotiables of your brand are, why you do what you do and what sets you apart."
Filling Out the Brand Styling Brief
If you haven't already, take a moment to download the Brand Styling Brief, as we're going to take a quick minute to walk through this before I leave you to fill it out yourself. I've organized the questionnaire into six different sections: The Basics, Defining Your Values, Finding Your Magic, Attracting Your Dream Clients, Capturing Your Style and Telling Your Story. There are 15 questions that will dive into your brand and get you started in answering some important questions that are necessary as we work towards building your own brand. Fill it out digitally, print it off and write in your answers by hand, or simply use the questions as a jumping off point in your own notebook or program of choice. Give yourself some time to spend with it, as this is an important part of the process and one that you won't want to miss. After you've answered the questions outlined in the brief, we want to start looking for patterns within the information. This means we'll be going back through the document and highlighting words or phrases that really stand out to us because they feel especially relevant to our brand and true to the brand style we're trying to achieve, and also those that are repeated multiple times throughout the content. If I've printed the Brand Styling Brief out, I like to actually take a highlighter to my document and highlight those words and phrases as I go back over what I've filled out, but another way to do this would be to jot them down in your notebook, in the notes section of the Brand Styling Brief document, or even on post-it notes. These will play an important role later on and help you to start to define your brand language, so we want to make sure we have this information easily accessible. So spend some time on that, and then in the next post we'll start to explore the visual side of your brand as we build a moodboard, develop your content pillars and start to bring your brand story to life visually. If you want to work ahead a little bit, you can also start pulling inspiration on Pinterest. Start a new board for this project (probably keeping it secret for now!), and pin anything that stands out to you, whether it's a color palette you're drawn to, a feeling that an image evokes, or a styling detail that resonates with your brand. You can do the same offline, keeping your eyes out for visual references, color samples, texture references (fabric swatches or ribbons are a favorite of mine), or anything else that feels like it could translate into part of your brand. I'll leave you to it since I've given you lots of work to get started on, and we'll see you in the next post!
About our Guest Contributor
Paige is the owner and creative director of Studio Bicyclette, a lifestyle blog and creative studio that aims to inspire and help brands and businesses find their magic, style their brand and tell their story. Her wanderlust and ability to find and create beauty in the unlikeliest places comes from a belief in fairy tales that started at an early age, a place where imagination is a tool that can be used to tell a story, spark creativity and solve any problem. When she's not styling a photoshoot or helping clients implement a social media strategy, you can usually find her dreaming up fancy cocktail creations, planning her next adventure or hunting for the perfect shade of pink lipstick.