Try Googling “branding for small businesses” and you’ll be ready to quit branding for small businesses.
I’m not joking, not only do you get an actual 66 million results in an actual .95 seconds, but the entire first page you scroll down has listing after listing of blog posts with all similar information, slightly different titles, blah blah blah blah. I didn’t go to page 2.
first: what is a brand?
"A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another." - Seth Godin
According to one of those 66 million results,
“Ultimately, a brand identity is a way to communicate with the world, differentiate yourself from your competition, and create a brand experience that encourages people to engage with you.” - https://www.columnfivemedia.com/how-to-create-a-brand-identity
The point is that your brand is the face, the attitude, the reactions of your company. The style of your company. Who your company is, if it were a person. If you’re working on personal branding, instead of business branding, it’s even easier, your brand is based off parts of you.
Building a brand takes time, it is a process. If you are expecting to “do your branding” in a few weeks, or months even, don’t bother reading the rest of this blog post because branding is the details. It’s the dirt specs in the grout. It’s every single little detail. Okay no panicking - it’s simpler than it sounds, and I’m going to break it all down for you, but I just want you to understand what you’re actually committing to when you decide to build / focus on your brand.
second: the different elements of your brand
So what are those little details that add up to make your brand?
Look and Feel, Visual Style - honestly the only part we truly enjoy about branding
Business Values & Professionalism - the part your followers/customers will connect with
Your Product / Services / Money Making Avenue - you’d better know what these are
The look and feel, visual style, that is the easy part. And its not the first part, either. I just put it first so it would catch your eye and you’d keep reading. The first part is both your business values and your products/services, as they inform each other.
Your business values are what your customers/viewers/followers connect with. This has to be the genuine shit, if you half-ass it everyone knows and that will determine your brand’s reputation, and not in a good way. I’m not talking the bullshit corporate values like Customer Focus, Ownership, and there is always good, ‘ole Integrity.
If you feel like you’re blanking on what your values are start with your business story. Why did you start your business? What was your inspiration? What was it about the way the world currently is that you had to change, or leave your mark on?
For me - when I look at my industry I don’t like what I see. There is so much me vs. you, so little support and encouragement. So little coming together for the good of our industry, or craft. I know I’m so idealistic but I just think that is all bullshit and I want people to know that they don’t have to be that way.
Products / Services
If you haven’t started your business yet and are trying to learn everything first I salute you. You’re doing this the right way, and I don’t know a single soul who has done it the right way. So I’m going to assume you already have products or services (I feel so grossly corporate when I say it like that).
The key for this part is knowing what sets your products and services apart. What makes your work unique? What is it that you have that the others don’t?
For a lot of people, this is the why behind their business - why they started doing what they do in the first place. As a photographer it’s more about the experience and service than it is the products, or images. Making people feel comfortable in their skin when there is a camera in the mix, how to pose and look good, and about light and how even stuff like this - sharing what I know about branding.
The Look and Feel, or Brand Identity
This is where it finally gets good. Colors, fonts, and logos! Finally! So the point of all that boring work above was to get to the point where you know what it is you need to communicate. The values of your business, what it is that sets you apart, that is what your colors, fonts, logo, the style and design of everything will be communicating.
Your brand is more than your colors, logo, and fonts.
Seriously it’s about who you / your company is. Colors, logo and fonts are just the makeup, jewelry and clothing of your brand. They’re just communicating the style, the personality, of your brand with the rest of the world. If you’re a creative, visual arts kind of person this will be the fun easy part for you. The part that I started with years ago. The part you’re not supposed to start with. If you are NOT a visual / creative person then you need help.
third: tying it all together into your brand identity
I’ll go more in depth on how to communicate different things with the look and feel of your brand, how to represent your brand identity visually, but for now here are two quick different real brands for you to study. Bexar Goods is a local (San Antonio) company making physical products they’re selling, and they use the lifestyle their products are geared around for marketing. Ann Street Studio is the brand of Jamie Beck, a fashion photographer.
brand 1 - Bexar Goods
Products: Leather goods (wallets, camera straps, bags, watch straps, etc.), canvas backpacks
Values: Ruggedness, simplicity, durability, and timelessness.
Brand Identity: Their social media is full of professional images of their gear in action, styled shots of their products, and behind the scenes photos. They have a section of their website dedicated to different trips they’ve taken with their goods, these are a group of guys who live and breathe their brand. Their products and values are clearly visible from the images they share to the design of their logo.
Brand 2 - Ann Street Studio (jamie beck)
Services: Fashion / Editorial Photographer turned Social Media Influencer
Values: Creativity, traditional photography, fashion, and beauty.
Brand Identity: One look at Jamie’s online presence and you instantly get what she is about. I mean, she’s a NYC photographer who moved to the French countryside and just gave birth to her daughter. From the products she uses (she posts more IG stories than anyone I know) to the scenes she photographs to the stories she shares on her blog. Her personal life and her jobs are all one very specific look and feel - she’s found herself and she is following her passion.
If you aren’t an artist, or if you aren’t experienced with visual arts in general, you can totally hire a branding strategist, branding stylist, etc. You don’t have to do it all yourself and for most people and small businesses, it isn’t possible to do it yourself. You can even hire people to manage your social media for you. Your brand is your business’s face and social media, personalized 1 on 1 marketing, is the future of business. You can do it yourself with enough of a time investment, or you can do part of it yourself and just hire a photographer to create the images you need, or you can outsource all of it. There are several ways to market yourself as a modern business, you just have to find what your brand is first.
ABOUT THE IMAGES IN THIS POST
This was a styled shoot specifically for The Vintage Bouquet Bar as they launch The Vintage Bouquet, their design and wedding/event services. All images in this post were taken by me, however the shoot was organized and hosted by May Carlson Photography. We did this photoshoot in May’s studio and her work from this shoot was featured on Style Me Pretty! It’s gorgeous and totally worth checking out.