You’re great at art and design. You love doing it, and you always receive great feedback from your clients.
But now that it’s a new year, you want to take your business to the next level and start building your personal brand. That means when businesses in your niche need a designer, you automatically come to mind.
While you are excellent at your craft, you don’t know too much about marketing. How exactly do you go about branding yourself and making your work stand out from others?
You can take advice from those who have done it successfully.
Here are a few tips from accomplished entrepreneurs and designers who have created and cultivated well-known brands.
Debbie Millman, author of “Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits,” host of the podcast, “Design Matters” and CreativeLive teacher, says that when branding, you need to think about cultural anthropology, behavioral psychology, economics and design.
You have to be cognizant of the society in which you’re living, how your products look, what your audience is thinking and why they are thinking that, how the marketplace functions and what your customers will receive in return for buying your products.
In addition, always be aware of the audience you are trying to target and don’t go too big. Instead, stay in your niche. Millman says, “Creating brands isn’t about ‘branding.’ There is no more ‘mass market’ in which to target a product.”
Danielle McWaters, who owns the boutique design studio Designsake Studio, collaborates with established and up and coming companies on their packaging and branding projects. She also teaches the CreativeLive course, “Branding 101: The Complete Toolkit.”
In the course, she discusses what encompasses your brand identity. You will need to come up with your logo, typefaces, visual language rules, tagline, color palette, photo style and tone of voice. Though it may take a long time to think of all these elements, you can start by compiling inspiration in the form of compositions, pull tones, content, patterns, colors and typefaces, and visit GoMoodBoard and Pinterest for ideas.
Then, decide upon your brand essence, list five ethos and core values of your company and figure out how you will translate the values visually. For example, you may choose the word “calm,” and use whites and soft blues in your packaging to communicate that. You may come up with “elegant,” and choose a cursive typeface that looks high-end.
Branding expert Carolina Rogoll wrote the book, “Star Brands: A Brand Manager’s Guide to Build, Manage and Market Brands,” and teaches the CreativeLive class “How to Build a Memorable Brand.”
To set yourself apart from the competition and show that you are a standout brand, you must be honest with yourself and know who you are as a designer. She says the best brands “know what drives their success, what limited them in the past, as well as how to grow and thrive in the future. This includes understanding their customers’ needs, the insights to connect with them and the right marketing mix for effective communication.”
The star brands are also consistent. Use the same logo, colors, text, message, etc. in all your branding and marketing materials because it will help potential clients actually remember you. Rogoll says, “Frequent exposure to the same brand identity and message helps increase brand recognition and awareness.”
Hainsworth says that in order for a brand to work, it has to share an emotional story that consumers can rally around. “Every brand has a story, whether it’s the founder’s story or the brand’s reason for being.”
If you feel like you’ve lost your way or your passion for design, go back to your core. Think about why you started your design business in the first place, the pure reason, and demonstrate that in your branding. After coming up with your story, see how you can relate it to your clients.
“You develop a story, and then you start to identify who the consumers are,” says Hainsworth. “Who are you talking to? How are you going to talk to them? How are you going to tell your story to them? What are your opportunities or your channels through which you can tell that story? Do we need to design some new products, or do we need to redesign our existing products because they aren’t true to our story? Or maybe you determine that your products are fine, but you haven’t been talking to your consumers in the right way, so it’s a communication issue. Examine every touchpoint and look at how you can tell one clear, consistent story.”