By Arianne Foulks

Adventures in Branding: What is your brand personality?

My friendly web design studio, Aeolidia, is well-known for creating custom Shopify websites for creative businesses – handmakers, designers, and crafters of all types. It is always thrilling when a client comes to us who really understands what her business is all about and what the personality of her business is, but she hasn’t been able to translate that to a logo and solid brand identity. Then we get to start from the start and make it all make sense – usually to the joy and amazement of our client. No better feeling than learning and understanding the point of view of a brand and making it come to life in just the right way.

What does “branding” mean, anyway?

You can think of your brand as the personality of your business. What does your business offer your customer that no other business can? Your brand should speak directly to your target customer, making you THE only choice for them. There are hundreds of options when someone decides to buy a cup of coffee – why are so many people at Starbucks? Branding.

To create a brand for your business, you don’t start with the logo. You start by brainstorming what’s unique about what you do, and putting together a description of your business’ personality which highlights why a customer will want to choose you over others. Once you know what your business is about, you’ll have an effective starting point for making sure your products, your logo, your marketing materials, and your advertising all make sense with your brand identity.

Excerpted from Branding Your Company on our blog

Brand identity examples

Jessika asked me to share some brand identity examples from our studio, and today I have Posie, a shop selling handmade stuffed animal kits, Little Hip Squeaks, makers of adorable graphic children’s wear, and Umba, who empower artist entrepreneurs.

A delicate, cozy logo for Posie

Alicia writes the Posie Gets Cozy blog, and she designs original patterns for sewing, knitting, embroidery, crochet, and other craft projects, and also manufactures kits to accompany her designs. She also sells a small, curated collection of her favorite supplies that are handpicked specifically to help customers make her projects.

She has been in business since 2000, doing it all herself, and the time finally came this year to work with professionals on a cohesive brand identity.

Posie Gets Cozy Logo by Aeolidia

Before we began, Alicia told us:

I want the logo to feel handmade. Since everything I do is handmade, I think it’s important that it feel sort of painterly and natural but still detailed — in an old-fashioned embroidery-pattern kind of way. I don’t want it to feel computerized. All of my embroidery patterns or sewing patterns, whether self-published or in my books, have been done by hand, by me, in black marker, and I will most likely always do them that way. So I want these drawings to have that simple, clean, black-outlined feel. But I also want the elements themselves to feel a little tangled, a little enchanted, and a bit wild. So I also envision having some elements that are not outlined but are more like circles of color that float a bit (I’m thinking about dandelion puffs and seed pods), and lead off.

It was such a delight to bring Alicia’s world perfectly to life! Mariah DeMarco on our team was her designer, and the brand identity includes some of Alicia’s own illustration work.

Learn more about how Alicia runs her business and how it’s grown on our blog.

Little Hip Squeaks’ graphic & handmade brand

It hasn’t been that long, but Little Hip Squeaks’ identity feels like an Aeolidia “classic” to me already!

Little Hip Squeaks believes that kids are fun, and their clothes should be, too! Our aesthetic is for of bright colors and bold prints, with modern babies, tots and kiddos in mind.

In the winter of 2010, Little Hip Squeaks was started at a kitchen table, in a one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. Originally a side project for founder Amy Richardson, to keep her hands busy during pregnancy — sewing newborn hats for her not-yet-born son, and the new babies of good friends from thrifted t-shirts.

Little Hip Squeaks logo by Aeolidia

Amy came to us with these problems to solve:

The growth of our brand has been pretty major over the last 6 months—although I am a designer myself, I never seem to find the “it” this brand needs to have. Too busy with growing the biz, I can’t focus, or even think of what direction I’d like to take the logo and identity. We are a children’s brand, playful but luxury and sophisticated, so I don’t want to look childish, but I also want to be obviously a brand for children.

We are about to embark on the world of manufacturing, and have a lot of major internal changes for our company—we are also working with several major retailers, and feel that before I invest in tagging/branding I want to REALLY love our logo and brand.

Amy’s designer was Christine Castro Hughes on our team, and she shared,

You gave me great, clear direction: strong typography, curvy, modern, sophisticated, and playful but not childish. Something that appeals to hip, young, modern women.

I created four hand-drawn concepts, each with an accompanying monogram. In order to avoid getting cutesy, I kept the type clean with simple illustrative elements (including one sketch with olive branches, like you requested). I also tried to avoid anything too trendy, like the arrows that I agree are now seen everywhere. I think a logo that “holds back” a little will have a longer life span for you and continue to fit your brand as the seasons change and your business grows.

Learn more about Little Hip Squeaks and see more about this project on our blog.

Umba’s whimsical modern-vintage brand

Founder Lauren Thorp told us:

We started Umba (from a Swahili word meaning “to create”), as a way to better connect makers + consumers in a more dynamic way. As Umbassadors (our team of social-savvy sales reps) gather their network of friends & family in homes across the country at fun and social Trunk Shows, they’re able to effectively share the positive impact that buying handmade has on the makers’ lives.

Umba logo by Aeolidia

Lauren wanted something clean, but with character and unique elements. She was looking for something somewhat vintage, but modern, with a bit of whimsy. She told us that she was a fan of hand-lettering, and her designer, Christine, created this logo with a brush on paper, bringing it into Illustrator to create a vector logo that can be scaled to any size without losing quality.

How do you describe your brand?

If your brand was a person, could you describe her? Can you easily look at a product or design and know if it fits with your brand or does not? Is it time to get clear on what your brand stands for?

We have quite a handful of branding articles on our blog that will be helpful (with more info about the projects above), and I often send people to Why You Need to Start With the Logo when they’re not convinced that their brand identity is worth spending some time on.

I’d love to hear more about the words and images and principles that fit with your own brand in the comments.

Why Mainstream Retail Marketing Tricks Aren’t For You

Why Marketing Tricks Aren't For You

There are a lot of ways to promote a business. I’m sure you’ve seen a big flapping “balloon man” at Jiffy Lube, had a pizza flyer hung on your doorknob, or read about a local business in a coupon pack mailed to CURRENT RESIDENT. These marketing tricks undoubtedly work, or people wouldn’t continue to spend their money on them but are they the right thing for your creative, handcrafted, or design-based business?

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see that I read and post a lot of small business tips and strategies. I do try to post the most relevant and easy-to-adjust advice, but it’s easy to get absorbed in generic business advice and either start following it exactly and wonder why it isn’t working for you, or to feel like you’re doing things wrong because you aren’t doing Marketing Technique X or Social Media Strategy Y.

What works for a flash sale site or a plumber is not going to work for you.

You are an artisan. Your work is different. Your customers know that, and they want to feel special, like part of the small club of smarties that know about you.

Your customer wants to trust you, and know that the quality of your work is more important to you than making some quick sales.

To be honest, your customer is sick of these kinds of tricks, and doesn’t want them. That’s why they’re shopping handmade or directly from the designer!

Here are strategies that may work sometimes for some business types, but may not be right for you:

Casting a too-wide net is a waste of money

Lots of people need an oil change, so if Jiffy Lube flaps a balloon man on the street (which cars are driving down. Cars that need an oil change), then they are speaking directly to their audience. Putting up a billboard or bus ad for a line of stationery is wasting your money on too many people who won’t care. If a boutique shop wants to advertise, they need to be sure they’re only paying to get their advertisement to the people who may buy.

Faking your size or popularity makes you untrustworthy

Chain stores want people to see how popular and far-reaching they are. It’s not an advantage for you to look like an anonymous corporate identity, so keep the “we” off of your About page unless you truly do have a team – and if you do, introduce them to us!

Being too pushy pushes people away

No one wants to come into a booth at a craft fair and be pinned against the wall by a seller listing all the features of the jewelry. High pressure sales tactics can be left to the used car salesmen. Your time is better spent making your products irresistible, so they will sell themselves with just a little assistance. And no, you don’t need a big pop up window over your entire website trying to get people to join your mailing list or telling them about your sale.

Bribery may have unintended consequences

If you make your kid eat green beans to earn dessert, they’re going to feel that the green beans aren’t enjoyable themselves, but a chore to get through. If you find yourself in the position of offering something better to entice people to get the thing you really want them to have, see if there’s another way to do it.

For instance, a popular recommendation for building your mailing list is to have a bribe: a piece of content which people will sign up to get, and then hopefully stay on your mailing list. I think this can have the disadvantage of putting people in the mindset that they’ll join, get the gift, and unsubscribe. Besides that, with this method your list will be made up primarily of people wanting a free gift, not of people who are interested in what you do (and are willing to pay!), so be mindful of this.

Discounts can reflect negatively on your brand

Discounts of any kind should be approached very carefully by creative businesses, especially with handcrafted businesses, businesses where you are the sole designer, or if you sell luxury goods. Besides giving off the vibe that you’re a cut-rate brand, if you put things on sale with any kind of regularity, customers will feel like they should never have to pay full price at your shop, and will wait for the sale.

You are likely to be better off to have no sales or discounts at all, or to save them for special occasions or one-time, rare events. Maybe a “moving our studio” sale or a sale to clear out old stock if you change direction and want to move on to your new look or style.

Be real and keep it clean

Blaze your own trail, measure your own success, build your own tribe. Don’t follow a rulebook that wasn’t written for you. Finding your own tasteful methods of being seen by your ideal customers will get you a long way. We’ve written more about creative business marketing on our blog, if you’d like some ideas! We also discuss marketing tips via our email newsletter.

Find some marketing methods that make you feel good about what you’re doing, and your customers will feel good about it as well.

What thoughtful marketing have you seen lately? What has made you want to buy? What keeps you purchasing from the same sellers multiple times?

A Quick Guide to Storing Files in the Cloud

Storing files in the cloud

At Aeolidia, I work with a team of 21, and we often need to share files, which is what started me using Dropbox and Evernote, both “cloud-based” solutions to storing files and data. My laptop is on its way out, and I’m planning to switch from a PC to a Mac (gasp!). Moving things from a PC to a Mac is not the easiest thing in the world, and this has pushed me to finally be sure that everything I have on my computer is backed up to the cloud.

Okay, fine, what’s the cloud?

This is just a catchy way to talk about storing your files on the internet, instead of on your computer’s hard drive. So, if you use Gmail, your email is “in the cloud,” which means you can access it anywhere you have an internet connection. The same can be done with all of your files.

Ah, got it. So why would I want to do this?

I’m sure you know someone whose computer has died or been attacked by a virus, taking all of their data with it. Family photos? Music library? Important work files? Tragedy! Luckily, this  is now pretty easy to prevent. Storing files in the cloud is the way to go. Losing all your files in a hard drive crash should be an antiquated concept by now.

What else is awesome about cloud-based file storage?

Well, having all your stuff in the cloud means you can:

  • Easily switch to a new computer
  • Access your files from a tablet or smartphone
  • Access your data while traveling
  • More easily locate file contents using tagging and search
  • Share files with others
  • Have one less thing to worry about if your computer is stolen or your office catches on fire

What concerns are there about storing my stuff in the cloud?

  • Privacy/security. If you’re worried about putting personal stuff in others’ hands, be sure to read the privacy policies carefully, and consider more secure ways to store truly private data.
  • Longevity. If the program you decide to use goes out of business, you’ll need a way to save and move your data elsewhere.
  • Availability. If you anticipate needing to access your data without an internet connection, be sure the service you choose offers an offline mode or stores the files on your computer as well.
  • Pricing. You’ll have to pay for most of these programs, but in general, it should be cheaper than purchasing backup hard drives or the like.

Okay, I’m sold. What do I have to do?

There are a lot of different services you can use, but I’m going to focus on the ones I’m most familiar with. These are likely the ones you already use, and they are all quite simple to use. I’m going to throw my affiliate links in, because in most cases, you and I will both get some free storage space or free premium features if you sign up through them.

You’re going to need:

  • a cloud-based place(s) to put your files (ideas below)
  • some time set aside for moving things from your computer
  • an internet connection

fast internet connection is obviously a plus, because you’re going to be backing up all of your files to the internet.

Where can I back my stuff up?

Dropbox

Dropbox works just like the folders on your computer do, with the benefit of also being on the internet. The absolute quickest way to accomplish this cloud-computing stuff would be to sign up for Dropbox, set it up on your computer, and then just move all of your files over from your hard drive to Dropbox in one big dump.

This would keep your same file structure, would save you from needing to sort through everything, and you would then be able to get to these files from your iPad, share them with friends or family, and be reassured that every time you make any change to your files, a backup will be stored on the web.

The files also remain on your computer, so you can continue to access them when you aren’t connected to the internet (and they’ll sync up again the next time you are).

Get 500MB of free bonus space through my link: Check out Dropbox

Google Drive

Google Drive is similar to Dropbox, and if you’re familiar with using Google Docs to create word docs or spreadsheets, you’re already using Drive. You can just adjust how you use it to back up all of your files within your Drive folder.

Start using Google Drive.

(click “Install Drive for your computer” on the sidebar to use the program from your desktop)

Evernote

Evernote is a great place to keep information. Recipes, PDFs, notes about appointments, to-do lists, rough drafts of blog posts, etc. (read how I use Evernote here). The big advantage that Evernote has vs. having a folder full of Word documents is that you can search throughout the text of each “note” you’ve created, as well as sort them into notebooks, tag them with keywords, and add due dates.

If you create your content in Evernote, it’s instantly backed up – saved on your computer and the internet.

Get Premium access to Evernote for free with my link: Check out Evernote

LastPass

I also (finally!) have all of my passwords stored, encrypted, in the cloud, using LastPass, which means that I don’t have to worry about being locked out of any of my cloud data because I lost a password.

Get a month of LastPass Premium for free with my link: Check out LastPass

Other options

You may also want to use specific programs for specific types of files. For instance, uploading all your photos to Flickr or all of your videos to Vimeo.

Doesn’t that feel better?!

Now you know where everything is, and it is redundantly stored in two places, so if one of them blows up, you’ll still have your stuff. My life motto is probably, “a place for everything, and everything in its place” (I know, I’m punk rock). As long as I’ve taken a moment to decide where everything belongs, it’s a simple matter to continue putting it there when I get new stuff.

How do you manage your files?

How and where do you store everything? What questions do you have about moving to the cloud, or the programs I use?