Sarah is a branding expert who helps soul-preneurs & creative businesses grow their brands with intention. She’s an award-winning graphic designer, illustrator, licensed artist, creative director, and creative strategist who has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world including Target, Best Buy, General Mills, Purina and MillerCoors.
She’s a self-proclaimed “wellness junkie”, and in her current business, Brand Spanking You, she brings her creative experience behind the lens to create stunning custom branded images and styled stock photos. She also regularly creates free resources and tools to help entrepreneurs up-level their brands which can be found here.
Where to Start?
When it comes to branding, a lot of people jump straight to logos, colors & fonts taking only their own preferences into consideration. And while of course it’s important you love your own branding, the better place to start is with your ideal client.
I always suggest people take some time mapping out who their dream client is before starting anything. Really get to know her! What’s her name; How old is she; Where does she live; What are her hobbies, greatest joys, and deepest fears as they relate to your offerings. This is called creating your Ideal Customer Avatar.
Most people resist this exercise because they feel it’s excluding potential clients. It actually has the opposite effect- when you create branding & content directed at one specific person (your avatar), suddenly all the people who resonate with your brand feel you’re talking directly to them. So- when you’re branding for the first time or going through a rebrand, stop and think- Is this going to resonate with my ideal client?
I actually have a name for my ideal client- Renee.
Anytime I’m creating something new for my brand (including when I was doing my brand identity) I ask myself “will Renee love this?” It takes the pressure off of me because suddenly, it’s not about whether I like it or not- it’s about whether or not RENEE will.
And before you get all worried that having an avatar will mean you’re suddenly creating stuff YOU won’t like, let me put your mind at ease. Most solo-preneurs- especially those in the health & wellness space- have similar tastes to their avatars. I mean- you most likely started your business or blog because once upon a time you were standing in the exact same shoes as your ideal client!
Creating a Brand Identity
When creating a new brand identity, a great place to start is with a private Pinterest board. Collect images there that you feel resonate with both your Ideal Customer Avatar and your specific business/ blog. Themes will start to emerge- like colors or font styles. You’ll also start to see similar types of photography. For instance, maybe everything tends to be white, minimalist and bright with pops of yellow. Or, maybe you start to see more images that are slightly moody and grounded with earthy brown and green tones.
Your visuals can help you find your brand tone of voice too. Most likely, your brand “voice” will be similar or exactly the same as your own, but some people struggle with this. If it is a struggle for you, are there elements from your pinboard or from your avatar that can start to inform your brand voice? If you see lots of vibrant colors and patterns, maybe that means you communicate with a happy, zany, or more upbeat vibe. Lots of neutrals, or calm minimal images? Perhaps your voice is more like a soothing, grounded best friend.
Using all of this as inspiration for your blog, website, and social media posts, your content will immediately feel more cohesive- even if you’re mostly curating your visuals with stock photography or by reposting other users’ content.
When you create this consistency with your visuals & voice, you become familiar to your audience. They know what to expect from you and it builds kinship. This consistency is what encourages them to follow along with you on your journey. After all, branding is all about becoming knowable, likable and trustable.
When it comes to adding branded graphics to the mix, that’s easier than ever now too, and I have a couple of favorites. First is Canva. It’s an amazing tool non-designers can use to create all sorts of content. The templates are even pre-sized to fit Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. And guess what? Armed with your Pinterest Moodboard, you’ll be able to quickly narrow down which templates will resonate with your avatar + fit your brand the best. Or, if you’re really adventurous, you can even create your own custom graphics in Canva. It is seriously an amazing, super intuitive, easy to use tool!
The other tool is an app called “Word Swag.” It’s a great way to add typography to images for Instagram. There’s a huge variety of (really well done) pre-set designs, but my suggestion is to stick to 1-2 you use on a regular basis- trying to create that brand consistency, right??
I’m also a big fan of Creative Market. It’s a treasure trove of resources for your brand: Stock photography, icons, social media templates… the list goes on and on. One caveat is that most graphics on there require you to have some knowledge of photoshop or illustrator to edit. They almost always come with instructions though, AND I have noticed more and more accounts adding templates that can be customized with Canva.
Keep It Fresh
As far as inspiration for keeping brand visuals fresh, I actually like to look to brands or accounts that are in an outside category. Ever feel like you’re looking around at others in your niche and everybody seems to look and act the same? Yeah, well, that’s because they’re all looking around at everyone else in the same niche too, and suddenly you end up with a big ol’ pot of same old, same old.
This is another time when you’re Customer Avatar can really help you out. Say you’re a health coach and you share recipes on your blog. But you also (now) know that your ideal follower loves listening to hip-hop when she’s working out. Are there influences and inspiration from hip-hop that world you can draw upon to set you apart from others sharing healthy recipes? These little nuances create magnetic brands and fiercely loyal followers.
Whew! I know that’s a lot to take in, but hopefully, it gets you thinking about ways to both set your brand apart and start incorporating more brand consistency into your business!