For Your Creative Business, Brand Is More Than How You Look

For Your Creative Business, Brand Should Be More Than How You Look

Today I want to talk about how your brand is more than just how you look.

 

We live in an age of the image. Since the development of television, and even since the invention of photography, cultural commentators have been saying some of our societies have increasingly been dominated by images.

But right now it’s hard to escape the feeling of being surrounded by imagery, particularly online.

 

A few years ago, I went to a great lecture about visual representation throughout time. During the talk, one speaker mentioned we see more images in a day than a medieval person would have seen in their lifetime.

The number of pictures, photographs, icons, videos and more we consume is phenomenal. We have more visual culture than ever before, and in some ways of a better quality than before due to technological developments.

We have social media platforms dedicated to the image, which have developed in recent years. Instagram and Pinterest are the two big players, and we’re drawn to them because of the way in which pictures quickly and vividly tell us a story. They’re easy to absorb and feel ‘easier’ to create than a lengthy written article.

 


 

The result for creative business owners is there’s a big focus on how we, and our business, are represented visually.

A lot of information and education online about creating a ‘killer brand’ ends up focusing on images, colour palettes, typography, and all of the visual elements that going into making a brand.

If you run a creative business, this can be very appealing. It’s likely you understand and enjoy communicating in visual language, perhaps more than in written or spoken language, when talking about your business.

But brand is so much more than how you look.

 


 

Here’s a simple analogy. The clothes we wear are important, but they’re an expression of who we are inside. Our clothes can’t necessarily change who we are; they are ultimately just one way of explaining your personality to the outside world in a simple, easily absorbed way.

Yet if someone only paid attention to your clothes, and ignored the person within them, you’d be annoyed. You might think they were superficial, or perhaps weren’t getting the message you were trying to send out.

 


 

So why concentrate on the ‘clothes’ of a business – our visual representation – when we should be thinking about what’s inside those clothes?

I wholeheartedly believe the visual representation of you and your creative business is important to get right. But trying to make it look good without basing this beauty on anything solid is a sure-fire way to attract superficial interest.

Brand is so much more than typography and colour palettes. It includes:

  • The very heart of your business; what you stand for when you do your creative work
  • The purpose of your business and why you exist
  • The future of your business; the vision you have for what you’re going to achieve
  • Your personality traits and vibe that you give off that attracts customers to you
  • Your ‘soul’; who you truly are in life and in your creative work

The visuals you use for your brand are an expression of all this; they are not it. They’re just one way for you to communicate these things to potential customers.

 


 

Let me give you an example from my own creative business.

My website use a few limited colours to communicate the brand of my creative business. I use green because of its association to nature, one of my core values. I use a taupe colour because it’s warm and friendly – like me – but also sophisticated, expressing the high quality of my work. Finally, I use black and white because they are easy to read and classic.

This is a very simple use of colour to express something deeper about my creative business’ brand. On Instagram, it’s slightly more complex.

I include greenery or nature wherever possible in my photograph; again, because it’s one of my core values. But I also show the other values of my brand – love, play, helping and learning – through the colourful, fun and sometimes quirky images I share.

These images are expressions of me, my personal brand and the brand of my creative business. They’re not an empty shell. They’re chosen as expressions of strong foundations: my values, my purpose and my personality.

 


 

It’s difficult sometimes to step away from the reliance on visuals we have in contemporary culture. It’s very easy to be swayed by gorgeous, pretty, cool or fashionable images – because they are nice to look at, and who doesn’t want nice-looking stuff in their lives?

But the best visuals, and the ones you should use for your business, are those which represent something more meaningful. Your creative business’ brand is greater than the pictures or the fonts you use.

 


 

What’s next?

Here are some tips on considering whether the images you use are based on some strong foundations:

  • Do you know what the brand of your creative business is? Do you describe in colours and typography, or as something deeper?
  • Are you selecting images based on their ‘coolness’ or ‘prettiness’? Or are you selecting them because they communicate something about who you are?
  • Do you feel you’re creating images to fit in with some unspoken style of the platform you’re using? How about trying to fit in with current trends, even if they’re not very ‘you’?
  • Where are you getting your images from? Are you creating them, buying them, replicating them from other people or curating them? And how do you feel about what you’re doing?

How we look in a saturated visual culture is important, to help your creative business stand out. But the way your brand looks is an expression of something much deeper – something you might have to spend some time really thinking about to get results you’re proud of.


 

Crystal Clear Brand - A Workbook for Creative Business Owners launching September 28th

A brand that’s more than looks

 

On September 28th I’m launching a do-it-yourself product to help creative business owners like you form a brand that’s more than just pretty pictures.

It’s a workbook guiding you through creating a crystal clear brand in an interactive, friendly and engaging way.

A deep, conscious, clear brand is a huge help in visually representing your business. By understanding what the foundations of your business are, you can select and create images which really express what you’re about. And that is what attracts customers and keeps you enjoying what you’re doing.

If you’re interested in updates about the launch of this new project, sign up below.

To say thank you for signing up, once you’ve confirmed your email address you’ll get a free copy of my guide written specifically for creative business owners: How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird.


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A beautiful Instagram feed is great - but is it all you've got? Your creative business deserves a brand that's about more than how you look.

Here’s Why You’re Scared of Branding Your Creative Business, and Why You Don’t Need to Be

Here’s Why You’re Scared of Branding Your Creative Business, and Why You Don’t Need to Be

Today I wanted to talk to you about why some creative business owners seem to be scared of brand.

 

First, let’s clarify what I mean when I talk about a brand.

I see brand as everything you are as a business. While your business might include you working in different capacities – doing your accounts, making or marketing, for example – brand is everything else; almost like the space between the things in your business.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is quoted as saying brand is “what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. In this way, brand is the feelings and thoughts customers or potential customers have towards you (which you can’t always control).

 

Brand is the big, big picture surrounding your business and it’s what moves a good creative business from everyday into something much more.

 


big bad brands

I’ve seen and talked to many creative business owners who are fearful of building a brand around their business, or building a personal brand around themselves.

They see brand as a bit of a dirty word. “We’re humans,” they shout, “we’re not corporations! You can’t define us and you can’t put a logo on us!”

“We’re not numbers – we are complex, hard to explain, human beings!”

When you think of brand as a dirty word, it’s unsurprising you don’t want to be a brand. We’ve heard so many terrible stories about big brands and big corporations hurting our planet, our people, and our livelihoods, that the idea of being a brand – for some creative people – is unpleasant and something to be avoided.

 

However, I also see these creative business people are a bit scared of what a brand makes you do, even though it can be really positive.

Having a clear brand means you have to decide on who you want to be to your customers. You have to decide how you look and sound, what you talk about and when. You have to commit to being something consistently. This entails a responsibility to yourself, to potential customers, and the people who buy from you.

The right brand sets the bar high for your business; you have to live up to what you want your brand to be. It means you have to believe in yourself, what you’re doing, and not let self-doubt topple you.

 


 

With this in mind, it makes sense that some creative business owners are nervous. They don’t want to pin themselves down or commit to a specific set of ‘rules’ about what they can and can’t do in their business. They might even feel like they’re not ‘good enough’ to have a proper brand for their creative business.

But let’s go back to the quote from Jeff Bezos: brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Think about that carefully. We can’t control what people say about us when we’re not there; we can only influence them to say something positive.

Your brand is created whether you want it to be created or not, because every time you do something you are creating your brand.

 


 

98% say coke

Take the example of a big business like Coca-Cola or Jeff’s business, Amazon. Both of these companies work very hard to create positive brands. They want a brand which people like, use and turn to first. Coca-Cola in particular has worked very hard at creating a brand around refreshment and happiness, where their product = refreshment.

What this means is I can predict the result of an experiment I do with my students. I get students to close their eyes, imagine it’s a hot day and reach for a cold drink. Then they hear me open an aluminium can of pop, and I ask them to tell me what drink it is.

98% of them say Coke. Every single time.

Coca-Cola’s brand efforts are so strong that a generic click-hiss sound of an aluminium can being opened is synonymous with their product.

On the flip side, there are lots of things Coca-Cola can’t control which have helped to create its brand. These include things like:

  • We’re more aware than ever of our health and hidden sugars or salt in our food
  • Many countries where there isn’t a scarcity of food are suffering from food deserts or high junk food diets, which we’ve identified are bad for our health
  • Obesity is an increasing problem for the health care of many countries
  • The unethical activities of big businesses, particularly around the environment, are becoming more transparent

All of this comes together to create Coca-Cola’s brand; one which for many people is fun, refreshing and delicious. For others, it’s tainted with negative associations of poor health and a lack of sustainability.

 


As a creative business, you might not have the resources of someone like Coca-Cola or Amazon. But you’re still creating your brand every time you answer a customer complaint, source new materials, post an Instagram photo, go to a networking event, attend a fair…

You’re constantly creating your brand, and you can either choose to do this consciously or not.

So being frightened of building a brand is like being nervous of breathing; it’s happening – whether you’re happy with that or not isn’t really the question.

Instead of feeling scared of branding your creative business, it’s time to feel the fear and do it anyway.

 


 

What’s next?

Acknowledge that you’re creating a brand in the actions of your creative business and your actions as a creative business owner.

This means you can get excited about it; think about what this allows you to do! Perhaps you could try some new photography to showcase your business’ values, or talk about interesting things which, beforehand, you weren’t sure fitted into your business.

You can start to consider what a brand means for the deepening and growth of your creative business. Where could you go next, knowing you can rely on these foundations?

You are a very important part of your creative business. Your brand is the next most important part, and it’s what will help move your creative business from something everyday to something meaningful, inspirational and sustainable.

It makes sense to be nervous about creating a brand for your creative business, but by your current actions you’re already doing it. That means instead of being scared, you can start to feel excited and conscious about what you can do to create something you’re proud of.

 


Crystal Clear Brand - A Workbook for Creative Business Owners launching September 28th

Fearless, crystal clear branding

On September 28th I’m launching a do-it-yourself product where I guide you through creating a brand that’s crystal clear and completely authentic to who you are.

This workbook will help you move from feeling fearful about developing your creative business’ brand to feeling excited and confident. It’s designed to be friendly and engaging, taking you step-by-step through all the elements of strong brand foundations.

If you’re interested in learning more about the product and launch updates, sign up below.

To say thank you for signing up, once you’ve confirmed your email address you’ll get a free copy of my guide written specifically for creative business owners: How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird.


 


 

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I see a lot of creative businesses who are scared of properly creating their brand - but there's no need. Here's a guide on why you might be scared of creating a brand you're proud of and how to overcome those fears.