Do you like leaps of faith? Enjoy stepping blindly into the great unknown? Get a kick out of running full speed into the darkness? No? Didn’t think so. I mean, I think life, a life truly lived, necessitates a certain degree of “adventure,” but there is such a thing as calculated risk. It’s one thing to take a chance on a new dining experience or giving the latest rollercoaster a try, but there are decisions that really should be thought through. Bet you can guess what I’m going to say next … yep, your branding is one of those decisions.
Here are the essential elements of the branding process:
- communicating clearly with designers
- maintaining a reciprocal relationship with your designers
- embracing your name
- embracing your brand
These are all good tips if you are already engaged in the process; however, there are branding decisions you need to make before hiring someone to take the reins. In fact, these decisions may even lead you in another direction, involving some do-it-yourself branding that will not only save you money, but help you better understand what you want and what, exactly, you need in regard to your branding.
The first step in this process is meditation. No, I’m not getting all “new age” on you (does anyone use that term anymore?), but some introspection is integral to the process. The means for meditation are different for everyone, but some universal constants include finding a comfortable space for thinking, surrounding yourself with things you find inspirational (this can be music, images, food … beverages, ahem) – something to put you in a relaxed state and just taking a moment to shut out the distractions in your life. This may be harder than it sounds, but even 30 minutes of “clear’ time is helpful. Once you achieve “clarity” (I feel like such a shaman), reflect on your business and what you hope to achieve.
At this point, try to envision your greatest aspirations for you and your business. At the same time, look closely at your craft/business. What is your style? How do you like to work? What do you hope to do for your customers and clients? Who are they (better yet, who do you hope they are)? Create a sketch of the who, what, why and how of your business. You may find that during this time you are able to create a business philosophy or mission with real depth. Make this philosophy the driving force behind how you create your business identity. You don’t need a designer to tell you who YOU are. If you do eventually decide to go to a designer for your branding, then go in with a clear vision of what you want. This makes everyone’s job easier (and will make the experience all the more enriching). What you may come to discover, however, is that you aren’t ready for a designer or that, at the moment, you don’t need one.
Yes, that’s the second time I’ve mentioned the idea that you don’t need a designer. Maybe I’m crazy (ha ha ha, bless your soul). But, really what I’m saying is come prepared, complete with a vision of your identity and ready to do some work. By not doing so, you’re setting yourself up for a costly failure. There are so many clients who come to Braizen with a new brand that was just paid for and is NOT working. These clients have just paid an inordinate sum of money for a brand that was never suited to them in the first place or that is already dated and no longer in sync with the direction of the business. These are mistakes of both designer and client. On one hand, the designer doesn’t take the time to listen to what his or her client is saying. On the other, the client doesn’t clearly articulate his or her wants/needs and winds up stuck with something that kinda-sorta-almost-but-not-really-works. In the worst cases, clients with limited budgets pay for cheap branding solutions that look, well, cheap, and now these struggling businesses are broke and left with an ineffective brand. Poorly executed branding can be such a trap.
The main question any businessperson needs to ask is, “Am I ready? Am I fiscally, mentally and philosophically ready for a new branding strategy?” The question is especially relevant in these economic times and it’s that fiscal element of the question that may take precedence over any other issues. Certainly, if one is not mentally prepared, complete with a clear branding philosophy, then that business owner need not apply. Don’t spend the money (there I go again with my crazy talk). There are other options that can buy you time before taking the financial and mental plunge into the branding process. One that is rarely talked about (because many designers consider this an absolute aberration – utter blasphemy) is to go with a DIY approach …
(Let us pause for a moment of silence to remember all of the designers who just dropped dead)
No, it’s not as scary as it sounds. Play it smart, and some DIY branding can give you time to think, reflect, plan and raise the capital for a major branding overhaul without negatively impacting your business’s image or breaking you. Just remember the words of Thoreau: Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity! Think simple, clean fonts , clean lines, good use of white space. Make it clean. If you don’t have a name in mind, use your own name with a single word that describes your business, such as Tom Foolery Photography or Betsy Ross Tailoring. Don’t go wild with color. Go with two, three tops and choose colors that aren’t “out there.” If you’re not good with that sort of thing, ask a few friends to give you some critiques. Just keep it simple. You want something you can use on a business card and something that can transfer easily to a blog template. Focus on your product and making it better. As business improves and your identity takes shape, you can then turn your focus to branding. It’s smart business sense.
However you decide to proceed, know that this process is a journey of self-discovery. Business is not just business. Business is meaningful, organic, reciprocal and enriching. It shouldn’t be a pain. It shouldn’t be overly stressful. Likewise, creating an identity for your business is meaningful, organic, reciprocal and enriching. Take your time and plan carefully. A little foresight and caution on your end and the process will take a natural path towards a brand that will work for you and for your company, without unnecessary setbacks. Yes, Grasshopper, it will all come with time.