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Your Brand’s First Impression is the Icing on a Cake | Braid Creative

branding your outer layer

One of the first cakes I can remember eating was a spongy Betty Crocker lemon cake with chocolate icing at my grandma’s house. Today my favorite kind of cake is a cuppie called the Boom Boom Pow from a local cupcake and coffee shop made with vanilla cake, chocolate icing, a dollop of caramel, and flaky sea salt sprinkled on top. For some reason I especially love how the icing doesn’t touch the edges of the paper – it means no trace of icing gets left behind and misses consumption!

I want you to think of your brand as a whole cake. The center of your cake—the sponge-y part—is the core of your brand and business vision and made up of ingredients like:

  • what you want to be known for,
  • your expertise,
  • your purpose,
  • your dream clients,
  • and what you deliver!

The more specific, clear, and intentional you can get about these ingredients, the more you will create these “fully baked” inside layers of your brand. Think of it as the difference between making a moist, fluffy, perfectly layered cake versus an underbaked, messy, collapsing one. Brand clarity and an articulate business vision is essential, but unfortunately, it’s not enough.

your brand is like a cake

What’s a cake without icing? That outer layer, the icing, is how you actually show up with your brand positioning, messaging, voice, style, look, and feel. The icing is how you attract and inspire your dream customers – so it should be consistent, irresistible and sprinkled with clues that let them know what they’re promised to get on the inside if they take a bite.

how to brand your business

Let me put down the cake metaphor for just a moment, but I do want you to keep that mindset of “inside layers / outside impression” as I share some specific ways your cake brand shows up in the world:

how to create a personal brand

YOUR BRAND LIVES ON YOUR WEBSITE

We officially live in a time and place where if you don’t have a website you need one. Think of your website as your online storefront. And it needs to communicate who you are, the work you do, and for whom in an instant. Your brand will show up on your website with things like your name, logo, colors, photography, typography, along with messaging pieces from your tagline to your about me page.

Try this: Look at your website through the lens of your dream customer: Is it clear or maybe a little confusing at first glance who you are and what you offer? And does it feel like you? Does your website reflect who you are and the work you do or does something feel off?

YOUR BRAND HAS A PLACE “IRL” – IN REAL LIFE

Whether you’re a solopreneur, a brick-and-mortar shop owner, or an organization, your brand lives in your personal style, on your business card, stationery, brochures, and building signage. And don’t forget that your team is a reflection of your brand too! Does their style and attitude reflect what you stand for and what you want your business to be known for?

Take stock: grab a pen and paper and list out all the physical places your brand shows up. Is it consistent?

YOUR BRAND SHOWS UP ON SOCIAL MEDIA

From your avatar image, to your short 140 word bio, to the content you share – social media has become a primary entry-point for your potential customers and clients – so you gotta make sure you’re making the first impression you want to have on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

On which social media platforms are you sharing your expertise? Is it consistent from platform to platform? Which social media channels have more traction? Why do you think that is?




Let’s zoom out a little. Between your website, your social media presence, and how your brand shows up in-person does everything feel cohesive and clear? Does it feel like you? Does it articulate what you’re really wanting to say in an instance?

If the answer to any of those seemingly rhetorical questions is “no,” you might be having the opposite of an “aha” moment.

It’s okay. Don’t freak out. You can test out small ways to improve your brand cake inside and out.

Hopefully this is just an icing issue. If the problem is in your core (that would be your business vision – your purpose, what you want to be known for, and how your dream customers hire you) then you’ve got some work to do.*

(*Pssstt… think the problem might be in your cake batter? Check out our free eBook: 7 Ways to Brand You and The Work You Do)

But if the problem is just in your icing here’s what you’ll want to do next:

  1. Identify what you want your brand to look like – hop on Pinterest (you can even use our boards as a starting point for inspiration) and begin pinning images you like the look and feel of. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be logos or branding materials – it can be photography, interiors, magazines, textiles, or even food!
  2. Hire a designer & a copywriter – it’s ideal to hire someone who can strategically design the icing (the outward facing parts of your brand people see online and offline—like your website, business cards, and signage) so it creates a reliable expectation as to what the cake underneath will be. And when it comes to copy, a concise tagline and clear brand story will marry your business vision with the outer layer of your brand into one tasty package.
  3. Be consistent – maintaining a brand reputation takes daily practice and vigilance. In other words, you want to nail your cake recipe and show up to every single party with the cake you’re known for.


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7 Ways to Brand You + What You Do for Creative Business Owners

how to brand yourself

Branding can mean a lot of different things – for us, it’s the foundation of your business. It’s how you blend who you are into the work you do and want to be known for. It’s attracting dream customers by sharing your expertise. It’s having a creative process that you and your customers can rely on. Below are seven ways you can brand you and the work you do. These are excerpts from our 50-page eBook available for free.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK for tips, exercises, scripts, and worksheets

7 ways to establish your personal brand

1. Get clear on what you want to be known for

The word “expert” might conjure up out-of-reach ideals – speaking at a TED talk, impressive certifications, credentials, and awards, never ever ever working from your kitchen table in yoga pants and surrounded by empty mugs. But over here, we believe branding yourself as an expert begins with getting clear on what you want to be known for.

how ot brand yourself

If you’re only branding yourself as a service-for-hire, then you’re only sharing half the picture of the creative expert you are (or want to become).

2. Create the work you actually want to be doing

If you could only sell one thing, what would it be? If you could stop selling one thing, what would you stop? You may offer lots of ways to hire or buy you. However, if you keep selling the stuff that you think will get you hired, but doesn’t exactly float your own creative boat, you could be setting yourself up to create a boring, unfulfilling day job of your own making—except now you have no one to blame but the boss.

3. Narrow in on your dream client

Imagine your dream client. They may be someone you’ve worked with in the past - or just the type you’d like to work with in the future. How real can you make them? The more specific you can get, the more you can narrow in on your tribe, and the more “psychic” you’ll feel when working with their needs and wants.

What job does your dream client work?
What are some of their personality traits and quirks?
What are they stressed out about? What worries them or keeps them stuck?
What are they proud of?
Who do they trust?
What do they value?
How does your work help them? What problem do you solve for them?

4. Define your style and point-of-view

Your process is what’s going to reassure your client they’ll get great work and a great experience. Your process is what gets you the collaborative input you need from your client. Of course, your work is created for them. But as you start sharing more of the work you really love, you’ll attract attention for your aesthetic or approach. Why not own that style of yours and become known for it?

You don’t have to be a creative chameleon, erasing all trace of your own style or point of view, to create, advise, guide, and make – for others.

5. Let your clients in on your process

There comes a point in a ‘hire me’ conversation where you shift from the sparkly and inspiring creative that attracted your dream clients in the first place to the expert who simply explains what you do. How do you ‘close the deal’ and set the stage for working together, without feeling awkward or sounding salesy? YOU SHARE YOUR STEPS.

When you stick to your process, you stay in the driver’s seat – with the flexibility to collaborate and create together with your client along the way.

6. Don’t forget to tell them what they actually get

So, obviously, we love process. We love getting hired for a complete “package,” not just a la carte design pieces. We love helping other designers go from order takers to experts who guide the client engagement. And we love helping coaches and consultants better express the journey they are going to take their clients on, so they trust them from the get-go. But just because you have a process doesn’t mean you aren’t giving your clients concrete deliverables. They get real “stuff.” Don’t forget to tell them what they get.

Don’t undersell what you bring to the table as a smart, strategic, authenticity-seeking creative. But beware of overcomplicating or over-proving your expertise, your specialty, or your steps – with too much talk and not enough show.

7. Blend you into what you do

A personal brand is your outer layer. So yeah, it’s your work style, but it's also your personal style – and even more than that, it’s your voice. It gives clients (and readers) a promise of the layers underneath. Your personal brand is one of the best ways to build your business as a creative expert who shares what they know with others, so they want to learn more – and hire you!

Express your personality in business

Expressing your personality + your deeper purpose will give you the freedom to grow into what’s next for you.




Want to learn more? In our free eBook we tell you how to take these 7 ways of branding yourself as a creative expert in conversations and on your website.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK for tips, exercises, scripts, and worksheets

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Do You Need a Rebrand or Just a Refresh? | Braid Creative & Consulting

You might be surprised to hear that, as a branding agency, we tell a lot of creative entrepreneurs and purposeful businesses that they do not in fact need a total rebrand, but maybe just a refresh. This might be you if you see your brand as boring, dated, or even a barrier to attracting your dream customers. But oftentimes what we see is potential for a refresh without throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. We’re always going to err on the side of a refresh – incorporating what works and evolving what could be working better.

You might feel like you need a new brand if:

  1. You're embarrassed to send anyone to your website.
  2. You can't describe what you offer and why it matters in less than three sentences.
  3. You feel like most of your competition is moving on without you.

But you might be able to get by with a refresh. If you’re not a creative director or a copywriter, it might feel like you’re light years away from having a brand that articulates your true vision, but you may be closer than you think. Here are a few tactics you can try that will take you further than you think:

Refresh your dated logo

A few years ago, the logo trend was to try and replicate the classic Nike mark with an abstract swoosh – but unless you’re Nike, this is a trend that is potentially making your logo look vague, dated, stuffy, or just “not you.” Try this: ask yourself, “What was the intention of that mark in the first place? Was it to look like Nike? What story was I trying to tell?” Retell that story to yourself (or a designer) and see what you’d come up with today. While you’re at it, you can simplify and update your typography and color palette to something more modern.

Feeling resistant? Even if you aren’t in love with your logo, it can be hard to embrace change. Think of the refresh more so as an evolution than as a total rebrand. It’s like cutting bangs or shaving your beard—you might think nobody will ever recognize you ever again, but the truth is the majority of people will only notice whether you’re confident in the change or not.

Refresh your tagline

You know when you’re remodeling your home and procrastinate on putting the baseboards back on until one day you don’t even notice and go years without baseboards? Just me? Anyway, this can happen to your brand too. So go to your website right now and read your tagline out loud. Is it clear what you do? Is it too corporate or cold? Could it be more genuine and specific?

Read more: How to write your tagline >>

Refresh your imagery

If you've been relying on cheesy stock images that have nothing to do with you or your dream client, then this is a barrier that can become an opportunity for a brand refresh:

  • Try more candid, atmospheric imagery, natural light, people not looking right at the camera
  • Use imagery that sets a mood instead of trying to set the stage – in other words, yes, a picture can say a thousand words, but it doesn't have to. You don't have to show the entire literal story of what you're trying to say in one picture with people doing exactly what it is you are selling with big smiley faces. Instead, think of images that suggest the feeling behind what you want to say. Your imagery can be a metaphor or abstraction of a concept to convey the feeling of what it is you want your dream customer to feel.
  • Begin noticing or mood boarding the kind of images you would like to use and use them for your next photo shoot or stock photo search.
  • We always recommend custom photoshoots that make you and your business “real” to your audience or potential customer. Invest in a photographer whose style you like to take “day in the life of” vignettes that you can use on your website.

Start talking to a specific segment of your audience.

The content you share is a great place to dip your toe into getting specific with your brand messaging. For example, let’s say your broad audience is typically “women ages 25-54” for most of your services. You might be afraid to narrow in, but you’ve noticed that you’ve been attracting a following of single moms. Think about how your services can more specifically help them, and look for ways to target this segment with your blog posts, newsletters, and social media. Where are these women spending time—online and in life? How could you meet them where they are at?

Freaking out about alienating the rest of your audience by getting specific? Just think of this as a promotion or experiment you’re trying out seasonally. Also, give the rest of your customers more credit – they won’t necessarily opt-out just because you’re not speaking directly to them, and the audience you are speaking to – they’re going to convert from aware of your brand to totally engaged and ready to buy.


Think your brand needs a refresh? Join our mailing list – we’re sending out branding and visioning advice weekly that will help you clearly articulate who you are, what you do, and for whom.

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THE BRAID BLOG from TARA AND KATHLEEN
Braid Creative & Consulting is branding and visioning for creative entrepreneurs and purposeful businesses. The Braid Blog is where we share weekly insights and resources for getting clear about your vision and voice, sharing content that attracts your dream client, and creating the brand positioning you want to be known for.

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blend who you are & what you do,

share & sell your creative expertise,

attract your dream customers,

& make your business vision real

This ecourse is for creative people like designers, photographers, stylists, lifestyle coaches, wellness professionals, yogis, foodies, writers, bloggers, and creative consultants. Whether you’re just starting out, or have lots of experience, our step-by-step guidance will help you create a brand and business vision that feels more clear, confident, and like the true you.


 


 

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