What is a brand? And why you need one.

What is a brand? And why you need one.

In this video blog post, I go over what is a brand, how is it different from “branding,” and finally what is brand management. And of course, why you essentially want to get hands on in the process as early as possible.

You know the inevitable things that happen to all of us? …whether we’re prepared for it or not. Things like your kids getting older (didn’t I just yesterday lug the carseat home from the hospital??) or the Tax Day (how is it possible that April 15 comes sooner every year???)

There just are some things that are like force of nature​​. And while some of them are deeply entangled with our personal lives… some affect our businesses. (No worries, I’m not going to be talking about taxes  😂)

One of these “forces of nature” for our businesses​​ is the Birth of Your Brand. The thing is… you brand can have a life of it’s own. Yup. That’s right. 

Your brand is not waiting until your are ready to start building it. Instead, your brand begins to form the day your business starts to operate. 

​​This is because ​​a brand is like a reputation: it’s essentially what your customers say about your business behind your back. What do your customers say about you when you’re not in the room?

And just like your reputation​​, your brand is formed by the experience people have with your business. And people talk.. boy, do they talk these days. 

So, if you own a business of basically any kind, you’re ALREADY involved in the process of creating and managing a brand — whether you’re prepared to do it or not. And I’m guessing, since you’re reading this email, you’d rather be prepared.

To make sure you understand what brands are made of (so that you know what you’ve gotten into), I made a super quick video (13 min 49 s) on “What is a brand? And why you might want to build one…”

The video in a nutshell:​​

  • ​Essentially your brand is like your reputation — it’s what people say about your and your business when you’re not in the room.
  • Your brand is also an experience, it’s a sum of all the thing that make up your business and the experience your customer has with it.
  • Branding then is the process and effort you put into build a brand — it’s the strategy and visual manifestation you build around it.
  • And finally, brand management is your best effort to influence the impression your customers have about your business on an on going basis. ​​
How does your brand bring you more customers?

How does your brand bring you more customers?

I often talk about focusing on your customer when you’re building your brand. That is a solid advice and applies really to almost anything that your business does. One part of the branding process is to define your ideal customer with enough detail that you can bring them to life in your mind whenever you need a reminder of who it is your serving and who’s the target of your marketing efforts.

What doesn’t get talked about as much is the different mindsets of that customer — your ideal customer. Before they become your actual customer, they are a prospect; someone potentially considering to buy your services or products. Sometimes you catch their attention before they even know they need your product.

In marketing, they talk about “cold audience” and “warm audience.” Someone who hasn’t “warmed up” to your brand yet, someone coming into contact with your content or an ad for the first time, is considered cold audience. Warm audience on the other hand, is the people who are agreeable to your messaging, they love your content, they are interested in your products and services, and they like and trust you and your business. 

Needless to say that warm audiences are easier to sell and market your products to because they are already eagerly looking forward to hearing from you. So, one strategy for your business should be trying to convert as much cold audience into warm audience as possible. Your marketing efforts, your valuable content, and you showing up to serve your customers are all important parts of your “warming up” your audience. But also your branding plays a big role. Maybe bigger than you’re aware of. Let’s take a look at this a bit closer.

First impressions are huge in branding and marketing. And it only takes about 10 seconds for your potential customers to form an opinion about your business. This means that you have 10 seconds to quickly convince them that yes, you’re business and product are interesting and important and they should keep listening to you, reading your blog or email, stay on your website, stay with you ad… or whatever the first touch point you have with them.

That split second decisions they are about to make for either staying with your and your marketing or leaving, is part of a micro conversion. What is a micro conversion? Traditionally in marketing, micro conversions are small-ish actions your customer takes towards your bigger conversion goal. Let’s say your conversion goal is to sell your coaching program. In that case, and in a traditional sense, a micro conversion could be someone subscribing to your email list. 

They didn’t buy from you yet… But do you remember the cold and warm audience stuff above? They just took a step towards becoming part of your warm audience. This means in the future, it’s going to be much easier to sell and market to them. 

So, that’s a traditional explanation of micro conversions. But when it comes to branding, I like to take it a bit further… Before that prospective customer has subscribed to your email or freebie a lot has to have happened. Most of it subconscious. 

So, I mentioned it takes about 10 seconds to your potential customers to form an opinion about your business and brand. In reality, it takes only 2 seconds to lose that customer because on average they’ll spend less than 2 seconds with your marketing if they don’t immediately feel drawn to it. Facebook reports that depending on the device, people spend on average 1.7-2.5 seconds with Facebook ads. Logically, after that ~2 seconds, they either click on your ad …or keep scrolling. 

These numbers are similar to what I saw reported on people spending time with magazine ads about 15 years ago when I was working on designing and creating ads for printed media. At the time, 1.7 seconds was reported as the average time people spend with printed ads (large, full page magazine and newspaper ads). So, I think we can conclude that roughly 2 seconds is the time you need to convince someone to keep reading your ad copy or watching your ad video. 

So, let’s assume you use Facebook ads to attract customers. First, you have ten seconds to convince your potential customer that they should stay with your ad. Then, on top of that 2 seconds, you have another 8 seconds to give them a great first impression and convince them that your business or your offering is worth getting to know better, that you have something valuable they need or want.

“In News Feed on Facebook, we’re seeing people spend, on average, 1.7 seconds with a piece of content on mobile compared to 2.5 seconds on desktop.” (Facebook IQ: Digital Research and Insights April 21, 2016 Capturing Attention in Feed: The Science Behind Effective Video Creative)

Another critical thing to understand is that people make decisions almost entirely based on their feelings. Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman states in his book How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market (2003) that 95% of customers’ decision making happens subconsciously and based on emotions. According to Zaltman, tapping into customer’s emotions can result into major boost in sales. 

Essentially, our decision-making is subconscious and driven by emotions. Customer make judgements in a fraction of a second about whether they should stay with your ad or not, and it’s almost entirely based on a gut feeling they get in that time. So, we need to capitalize on that first two seconds. Before anything else can happen, we need a tiny micro conversion (nano conversion?) where our prospective customer decides to give us the next 8 seconds — and more.

Thank goodness for branding! There’s A LOT we can do. First of all, using the right color can increase the likelihood that your ideal customer will stop scrolling and read your message by 40%. So, we need to urgently figure out what is the right color for your customer, what color do they feel drawn to.

Color also helps people to remember things associated with the color they saw, e.g. Starbucks and green. And since your prospective customer needs on average 5-7 impressions on your branding before they remember and associate it with your business and offering, you need all the help you can get. (And you need to stay consistent… think about what happens if each time of those 5-7 impressions your brand looks and feels different. How do you think that might affect the process?)

Secondly, our brain processes visual information, like colors, shapes, and images, 60 000 times faster than words. Talk about making the most of that 2 to 10 seconds you have for making a great first impression! So, we need to make sure that your marketing communication uses visual cues to reinforce the message. And that the visuals that you use are the ones that speak to your ideal customer. 

Thirdly, we know that colors and imagery can evoke (sometimes strong) feelings. And we just learned that 95% of our decision making is subconscious and emotionally driven. You get where I’m going with this…? We should urgently make sure your business uses the kind of visual identity that gets your potential customers to first stop scrolling, then feel positive reinforcement and that this is definitely meant for them, and finally feel an emotional connection to your brand. 

Think of successful branding as a signage system that guides the right people to you giving them little hints along the way showing which way to go. And confirming that they’re going in the right direction: to you and your offering. When built right, this signage system guides only the right people to you: your ideal customers. And rest will follow someone else’s signs.

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.

How to build a “branding mindset?”

How to build a “branding mindset?”

If you’re a small business owner and you’re building your brand, you may bump into mindset challenges. How to keep moving forward without feeling stuck? How to stay motivated in the process? What to focus on throughout the branding process? And how to feel confident you’re moving in the right direction?

All the above are questions I get from solopreneurs I work with. When you’re working on something that is as close to your heart as your business is, making branding decisions may feel daunting if you’re afraid of making a mistake or taking a step in the wrong direction.

Your brand is an experience

Many entrepreneurs feel that stakes are high when it comes to their branding. And you can’t blame them. We often associate branding as the face of our business, the visible frontend that represents who you are and what you do. 

In a way, that is true. A big part of the branding is visual and visible, and defines the look and feel of your business. But I’d like to challenge you to think about your brand differently. What if, instead of thinking about your brand as the face of your business, you’d start thinking about it as the heart of your business?

The visual identity is only one aspect of your brand. At the end of the day, your brand is so much more than just the visual part. Your brand is an experience your customers get when they interact with your business — and you. This means each and every interaction they have with you and your business forms a part of the brand. 

It’s the way you answer customer questions, the way you send their invoices, the way they interact with your products, the way your website looks and functions, the way your digital services work (or don’t work), how quickly you answer customer emails, how you handle customer feedback, what people say about your and your business behind your back, and yes, how your visual identity looks and feels like. All these are parts of the experience that is your brand.

This info should be reassuring. While it’s many more touch points you need to manage, it also takes the pressure off of any individual element to form your branding alone. A classic example of this is your logo. Many business owners are very nervous about their logo, and want it to be just right. But your logo is not your brand. Yes, you want it to look professional and represent your brand personality, and all that good stuff. But you shouldn’t put the burden of shaping your entire brand on any one individual element, like your logo. It’s not realistic and it won’t be successful.

Focus on your customers

Another significant mindset shift when it comes to your brand should happen early on: you need to focus on your customers throughout the branding process. To me, this is maybe the single most important aspect of your branding — well, of your entire business really, if you ask me.

This is maybe the most common misunderstanding that I’ve witnessed in the branding process. And it goes for big corporations and small one person shops. People want the branding to be attractive to themselves. They want to pick something that’s pleasing to them, not to their customers. But at the end of the day, who are you trying to appeal to with your branding: your ideal customer or yourself? Who needs to click on your Facebook ad? Who should opt in to your email list? Who needs to buy your products and services? Let me give you a hint: it’s not you.

Our businesses are so dear to us that it’s near impossible task to stay objective and remember who the look and feel are for. But let me ask you this: if you knew for certain that there was a specific look and feel that attracts paying customers to you, would you use it? Or would you use something else that you like, but doesn’t bring you more business? 

Anyone that I’ve ever asked this question answered that they’d of course choose the look and feel that brings them more business. And that makes sense 100%: you didn’t start a business to sell things to yourself. 

But what if you don’t know what the specific look and feel is? To me, that is a symptom of you not knowing who your customers are. Quite often this is the case in the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey. If you’ve just started your business, and you’re building what I call a “starter brand,” you might not know your customer by experience yet. That’s ok, you can still build a brand and keep moving forward. But you’re going to have to do some research and make some assumptions. Typically within a year or two, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of who your customers are. And you can refine your branding then.

So, how do you focus on your customers during your branding process? For one, you have to have a good definition of your ideal customer, who they are and what they think, feel, and struggle with. It can be based on assumption that you then validate later on. But you need to draft one. 

Secondly, you need to build a link between your ideal customer and your brand personality. In the branding process I teach, we do an exercise where you imagine your brand as a person. And the best friend of that person is your ideal customer. What kind of person would be best friends with your ideal customer?

Thirdly, you need to ask yourself “What would my ideal customer think about this?” when you’re making decisions on your brand strategy and visual identity. When you’re having a hard time choosing between options or elements for your branding, think about your ideal customer. Which one would they choose? Which one would they feel more drawn to?

Keeping the momentum

As discussed above, your brand is a sum of many elements. Any individual element shouldn’t get such a heavy weighting that it’s keeping you stuck if you can’t figure it out. Especially, if you’re in the very early stages of your business, it really is better to keep moving forward than try to perfect something. 

Branding process — when you do it right — has many steps that build on top of each other. When you start from the beginning and move forward one step at a time, the process won’t feel overwhelming. And you’ll gain more and more clarity as you keep moving forward. The biggest problem with being stuck is that, well… you’re stuck. When you feel extra stuck and no inspiration will get you moving, I recommend you just make a hypothesis and keep moving forward. With momentum, you’ll gain clarity and new ideas, and you’ll find the solution eventually. If you follow my branding process, the likelihood that your hypothesis is at least 80% in the right is high.

If you’re further along with your business journey, you probably know your customers well. And you have a good idea what resonates with them. You might be thinking that it’s time to rebrand now that you know your business and customers better. It’s likely that you won’t get stuck as easily, since you have more clarity. But in case you do, you want to have a good roadmap to your ideal rebranded state. Breaking things into bite-sized steps will help make a project that feels overwhelming more doable.

Another benefit of being a bit further along with your business journey is having access to your real customers, actual customers who paid money for your products and services. Now, you can survey them, interview them, to find out what they think and feel, what their biggest pain points and needs are, and what kinds of things appeal to them. You have access to a wealth of information that will help you make decisions and keep moving in the right direction.

Adopt the branding mindset

Branding mindset is about understanding the connections between brand strategy and the elements that build your brand. It’s about putting your customer in the center of the process, and understanding that you’re not really building your brand for yourself but for someone else. 

Understanding that brand strategy is business strategy will help you get motivated to finally get your branding in order. Many of the steps in the brand strategy process are also critical steps with a successful business strategy. It’s important to stop thinking about branding as “a necessary evil” that you just have to get out of the way. And start seeing how integral it is for running your business successfully.

Branding mindset is also about keeping your mind and eyes open. Learn from serving your customers and course correct when the need be. Your branding will require management and smaller (or bigger) updates and upgrades over the years to stay fresh. Accepting early on that your brand will require both quick sprints and an on-going marathon to stay consistent and with-it will help you prepare for the bigger and smaller projects that come along the way.

And let’s face it, your brand doesn’t wait for you to start building it. It’s already forming as we speak. With the words of Jezz Bezos of Amazon: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” And branding and brand management is your attempt at influencing that conversation. 

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.

What does it take to DIY your branding?

What does it take to DIY your branding?

The fact that you can actually DIY your branding and have successful and professional looking outcomes often comes as a surprise to most entrepreneurs. The part about doing the process yourself is not the surprise here: many business owners are forced to DIY their branding due to lack of budget or resources. The surprise is the success and professional looking outcome. 

The reason for this is that we are accustomed to thinking that especially the visual identity — the design part of the process — requires special expertise. And go back 10-15 years, the resources we have available online these days didn’t exist yet, or were mostly unknown. Today, there are so many design tools online and ready made design elements for sale (or available for free) that building a visual branding is more doable than ever before.

Embed from Getty Images

Don’t let the process intimidate you

So, while I tell people that “yes, you can DIY your branding AND make it successful,” I understand that it can feel intimidating — just like learning anything new does. And I will admit that the branding process does take time, and sometimes you really  have to work to get everything just right. While the process is fairly simple, it’s not always easy. But just like any other big project, breaking your branding project into bite sized pieces will help you get through it. 

Also, no one says you have to do EVERYTHING yourself. Well, to be honest, no one says you have to do any of it yourself, if you don’t want to. Although, I do think it’s a good idea for all entrepreneurs to learn branding. In any case, I wanted to give you a quick idea of which parts of the branding process are easier to DIY and which ones might give you a bit more challenge.

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Most of it is “brain work”

Another relatively unknown aspect of the branding process is that it is actually more brain and thought work rather than crazy artistic creativity and designing a bunch of visual stuff. But because of the visual nature of one of the final outcomes, the visual identity, our first assumption about the branding process is that it is mostly about drawing logo sketches.

I would even go as far as to say that all the thought work and introspection that goes into the branding process is much more important than the visual identity part. Let me explain a bit further…

I like to divide the branding process in two major phases: the foundational strategy phase and the visual identity phase. Most people skip the strategy part almost entirely when they’re DIYing their branding. This is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to unsuccessful branding projects. The problem is that your visual identity is based on your brand strategy. If you skip the strategy phase, you don’t have all the right tools for making decisions during the design phase.

Furthermore, most people will find the visual identity work more challenging than the foundational strategy part. Yet, most people skip the strategy and jump directly to the hardest part without realizing that had they started with the strategy the rest of the branding would be much easier to tackle. Getting curious yet?

To show you what each step of the branding process takes to accomplish and why it’s important to do all of those steps, I created the handy table below. The last column will detail the actual actions it takes to accomplish that step in the process. And I promise that you will see that all of it is doable.

The table is optimized for wider screens. Rotate your phone to landscape for a better reading experience.

Process and actions table

Process stepWhat you do (or produce/create)?Why you need this part?What does it take to accomplish?
Your “Why”Mission, VisionConnecting with your tribe, communicate the values of your businessRequires introspection and thinking, writing mission & vision statements 
Value PropositionDefine and polish your offering, find the unique value you provideDefining the transformation you offer, communicating the value of your offerRequires analyzing your products and services, writing down your value proposition
Your Target AudienceDefine you ideal customerTo find a fiercely loyal tribeIf you’ve been in business for a while, then it requires researching and analyzing the existing customers to define who you most want to serve and who most needs your services.

If you haven’t served customers yet, you still need to create an ideal customer avatar. In this case, it requires some research and introspection.

Writing down your ideal customer definition.
Brand PersonalityDefine the characteristics for describing your brand  To start forming the look & feel, use as a tool throughout the process to evaluate brand elementsRequires some researching your ideal customer, visualizing with mood boards, writing down description, and coming up with keywords.
Brand PositioningDefining your desired position in the marketplaceTo map a path to where you want to be in future, to understand where you are now, and to see if there are implications to your visual identityAnalyzing your competition, defining where your business is now and where you want it to be in future
Mood boardsStart clarifying your look & feelTo find inspiration for your visual identity, to start visualizing the brand attributesFinding inspiring imagery that reflects the attributes of your brand
Brand Tone of VoiceDefining the speaking and writing style for your businessTo define the tone of your marketing communications, ensure you’re connecting with your ideal customerAnalyzing your brand personality and your ideal customer, doing some introspection, and writing exercises
LogoLogo or a creative brief documentation to hire a designer To create a visual symbol that represents your businessUnderstanding your unique needs for the logo, buy a ready icon/symbol, combine the symbol with text or play with text only, hire an illustrator to create a custom symbol that you then combine with text, or hire a designer to do all of it for you 
Brand Color LibraryDefine the color palette for your brandTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personality, to help recognizability and memorability of your brandAnalyze your brand personality, analyze your ideal customer, understand what color communicate, choosing the colors 
Brand FontsChoose fonts for your brandingTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personalityAnalyze your brand personality, understand what different font styles communicate, choose 1-2 brand fonts
Brand Photography StylesDefine the style of your brand photosTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personality, to help recognizability and memorability of your brandAnalyze your brand personality, define verbally and with examples how the photos for your brand should look like (a consistent style), 
Illustrations, Icons, Textures, Gradients, etc. Define the style of these elementsTo create consistency in your branding, to emphasize your brand personality, to help recognizability and memorability of your brandAnalyze your brand personality, find examples of the kind of design elements  and styles you want to use
NOTE: This step can be optional, not all brands use these elements, but if you do, then you should define these
Brand Identity SystemPull all the elements of your visual identity into one documentTo use as a reminder of yourself to stay consistent, to hand over to a designer with the creative brief documentation so they can follow your brand guidelinesPutting all of the elements of your visual identity into one document

What do you think? Does it seem doable? I think so. And if you agree with me and are interested in getting a head start with all the introspection and thought work, download my free Ultimate Brand Strategy Blueprint and start your branding process today.

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.

Why you need to learn branding, even if you’re going to hire someone to do it for you?

Why you need to learn branding, even if you’re going to hire someone to do it for you?

When you understand how branding works and what the process is, you have much easier time finding the right people to hire for the process and directing and guiding you consultant or designer. Knowing your way through the branding process can also help you save quite a bit of money because you know exactly what to ask from your consultant/designer, and you can make their work easier and quicker. The branding process itself can also be helpful in supporting or guiding your entire business strategy, so learning branding is useful whichever way you look at it.

If you’re going to hire out, you have a few options available. You can hire an agency to do the work for you. You could hire a freelance consultant to either do all the work or help you with just some aspects. Or you could DIY your branding yourself partially or entirely. During my 15+ years of experience, I’ve been involved in helping clients and individuals with each of these options, and I’ve seen the pros and cons of all of them.

The most common scenario with solopreneurs is that you hire someone to simply create your visual identity (logo, colors, fonts, etc.). Depending on your budget, you might hire someone who can build your entire identity, or you might just hire someone to design your logo. In some cases, folks buy 100% pre-made visual identity template — if they can find one that resonates with them. 

The most affordable options (and therefore very popular ones) are buying a pre-made logo or hiring someone on Fiverr do make one for you. And then finishing up the rest of your visual identity yourself. While this approach is the most financially feasible, it’s also the one I hear most complaints about. Typically the complaints are about the logo not representing the business or offering in the right way. Sometimes we can even quantify why we’re not happy with the end result. We just know it doesn’t look or feel right.

Below you can find a few reasons why learning branding is so important and beneficial for your business — even if you’re going to hire someone eventually to do your visual identity for you.

1. Brand strategy supports your business strategy

Branding your business can be a process that helps you uncover and surface things about yourself and your business that weren’t on your radar before. This is something I’ve seen firsthand working in branding agencies, managing branding in the corporate world, and also working with individuals. 

What happens is sometimes folks embark on the branding journey without first thinking about the building blocks that make their brand. They overlook some very critical foundational pieces that would not only guide their branding but their overall business strategy as well. This happens across the board in big businesses as well as with one person shops. 

One example of this would be ignoring who your ideal customer is. Sometimes we are so eager to get our offering out there that we neglect to dig deep into who we are serving. The most common misconception is the idea that “my product/service is useful for everyone.” While this actually might be the case, everyone is not attracted to and inspired by same things. You would have very difficult time in building something that attracts everyone and anyone. And it would be equally difficult to create marketing for something that should speak for everyone.

When you build your brand strategy you deep dive into things like what is the value you bring to your customers, how you compare to your competition, and what is the unique competitive advantage you have. All these things are central not only to your brand strategy but also to your overall business strategy. 

I’ve seen branding projects where the “a-ha moment” was so fundamental and groundbreaking that the business owner ended up shifting their entire business model and offering as a result. While it meant that they returned to the drawing board and it took a bit longer for them to launch their new brand, they were much happier not only with the branding but also with the business they now had.

2. Your visual identity needs to be based on something

One of the most common complaints I hear about having hired a designer to do the logo and maybe other visual identity elements as well is that “ t just doesn’t look or feel right.” This one is tough to even fix because quite often the business owner can’t clearly quantify what it is that bothers them. It just doesn’t feel like them or their business. 

And the thing is, if they were able to explain what it is about the logo or visual identity that they dislike, they wouldn’t be in this pickle. If they were able to describe what bothers them and what they’d like to see instead, they would’ve been able to direct the designer to the right direction.

To me, this is a sign that they don’t know what their visual identity is based on. Do you know why Coca Cola brand color is red? Or why Nike’s tagline is “Just Do It?” They’re not accidents or co-incidences. All these decisions were based on a thorough brain work on what the brand personality is like and why? What do these elements communicate and what kind of position in the marketplace does it imply? Who are they meant to attract? And who do they speak to?

When you hash out the strategy part of your branding, the visual identity part is much easier to tackle. The strategy gives you explanation and reasoning for why the designer should use specific colors, illustration style, fonts, and so on. And it makes evaluating designs ten times easier because your brand strategy gives you a checklist you can compare the designs against: do the colors reflect the desired personality keywords, do the logo elements support the desired positioning, does the logo metaphor represent the mission, vision, or offering, and do the fonts communicate and support the brand personality.

3. Good foundation will save money in the process

When you hire a consultant or a freelance designer, you need to be able to communicate clearly what it that you’re expecting from them. The more open you leave the scope of work because you don’t have any brand strategy thought out before hand, the more expensive the project will be simply because the person you hire will have to use more time to figuring out what would be the right solution for your business. 

Or they don’t use the time to figure out the right solution and instead you hate the outcome and end up hiring someone else or having the same person rework everything. And again you pay more. Knowing exactly what you’d like your visual identity to reflect and what tone of voice your copy should be makes working with consultants / designers / copywriters / etc. much easier, quicker, and cheaper.

To combat the project nightmare that comes from getting less than ideal outcome repeatedly, I suggest you draft a thorough creative brief. It’s a document that outlines some pieces in your brand strategy and project expectations and deliverables. To learn more about creative brief documentation read my blog post about the topic.

4. You need to commit to consistency

Consistent branding is critical for a successful business. When you see a businesses whose branding is all over the place, and they never use same colors twice, you know they’re having difficult time committing to their brand identity system. To me, this is a clear sign of not knowing your ideal customer well enough and not having defined the key parts of brand strategy. 

Think of it this way: if you knew exactly what kind of branding and visual identity would appeal to paying customers (your ideal customer), wouldn’t you repeatedly and consistently use it? If you knew what attracts more customers to you, wouldn’t you keep doing it? When businesses don’t know what appeals to their ideal customer, when they don’t have a clear vision of their positioning in the marketplace, they end up changing the visual identity and design elements constantly with the hopes of finding something that works.

It’s also critical to remember that while we ourselves may be bored with our branding, our colors and fonts, our customers are not. We look at our marketing and communications every day, multiple times a day evaluating and rebuilding. But our customers see just a glimpse here and there. It takes the customer on average 7 interactions with your business before they make the buying decision. If each interaction looks, feels, and sounds different, they fail to reinforce the core message and the customer is quite likely to bee confused rather than wow’ed.

And while I’d like to tell you that you only have to do this branding thing once, and then you’re done for the rest of the lifecycle of your business, I can’t. Because it doesn’t work that way.Your business has different lifecycles: infancy, adolescence, maturity, and retirement. Depending on how your business grows, each of these stages may have specific branding needs. 

While your business moves from adolescence to maturity, you may start to scale up. In that case, your offering may change, your positioning may change, and you may want to adjust the definition of your ideal customer — or any other part of your brand strategy for that matter. So, learning branding skills early on will benefit you and your business through all of its life cycles. 

5. Know yourself, know your business

While foundational key ingredients of a brand are nearly always the same, there are many point of views and approaches to the branding process. I advocate for so called human-centered branding. It means we put a human — or in fact two humans —  in the center of the branding process. The two humans I’m talking about here are: you and your ideal customer.

The process I use is specifically well-suited for solopreneur service providers, folks making things (makers and “craftpreneurs”), and anyone who wants to build a personal brand. That’s because my process starts by introspection. We take a good look at who are you, what motivates you to be in business, and why do get up every morning to serve others. From there we build towards your ideal customer, who they are, and how we can build a bridge between these two people. 

The benefit of this type of process is that when you really know your motivation, when you deeply understand why you’re in the business, you can start infusing that into your brand and business strategy. It doesn’t only create an authentic branding, it also produces more satisfying business owners.

Another added benefit of approaching your branding this way is that it’s easier to commit to something that was born from you. If you stay genuine throughout the process, the result will be true to your mission and vision. And you can’t but nod in agreement every time you see your branding. 

And when we define our branding through who we are, what our passion is, what our mission is, and what is the change we want to see in the world, suddenly our marketing is not “sales-y.” Even when we’re selling, we’re not “sales-y.” This is because we are speaking from the heart. And we’re reaching people who need what we’re offering, rather than desperately turning to anyone in hopes to make a sale.

So, learn some branding. Regardless of whether you’re going to hire someone else to build your business identity. It will pay back the time you used and the money you may have invested in it. With words of Rick Mulready from the podcast Art of Paid Traffic “At least make yourself dangerous — meaning have a basic understanding before you go and hire out.”

If you feel like you might be ready to take a stab your brand strategy, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand today.

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.

Where and How to start branding?

Where and How to start branding?

“Where and how to start building a brand?” This is — hands down — the most common question I get from small business owners and solopreneurs.

But while many feel overwhelmed, this one is actually easy to answer, because you start with YOU. Your goal is to attract paying customers — a fiercely loyal tribe, if you will —  to you. And you do that by creating an authentic brand voice that starts with you, your values, your passion, and WHY are you in your industry. If you follow me, you know I talk about this quite a bit.

When you can attract an audience that shares the same values and same passion as you do, you’ve struck gold. So, look no further than inside yourself.

Start with yourself

Starting your branding with yourself may feel intimidating. “This was supposed to be about my business, not about me!” Right? But the thing is, for small businesses and solopreneurs, especially if you are a service provider, that there is little difference between you and your business. Your customers want to relate to a person, not to a corporation.

This is the very reason big corporations and huge brands like Nike hire celebrities to be the face of the business, the brand ambassador. Because they’ve become so huge that there is no human touch, no single person to relate to in the business. They hire someone their customers can relate to and look up to.

So, unless you can hire Colin Kaepernick to be your brand ambassador, I suggest you get comfortable about the idea of being your own brand ambassador. And it may require you shift your mindset from “I’m nobody interesting” to “I’m unique and amazing and people are lucky to get to work with me.”

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The second step is about formulating all that awesomeness and unique point of views to something you can directly use in your marketing and communications: your mission and your vision. The goal is to consistently reflect throughout your marketing and brand communications to communicate why you are in your industry and why anyone should care.

“Why anyone should care” sounds harsh, right? But it actually is a super critical question you need to ask yourself whenever you’re creating any communications (marketing, branding, informational, transactional, etc.) for your business.

This question implies that a) you are putting your customer in the center of your communication and your business and b) you’re only offering them information they need and care about, no fluff. If you can always answer this question, you know you’re bringing value.

Who are you serving?

Of course, you cannot put your customer in the center unless you know who they are. I am a huge proponent of human centered branding. And the humans in the center of your branding should be: your customer and you. We already covered why you are in the center. But what about your customer?

You simply cannot develop effective branding — or a business for that matter — if you don’t know your customers. What do they need? What do they like? What are their biggest pain points? What are they attracted to? Who do they look up to? What are their values? Where are they from? And why would they buy your products and/or services?

Different people will have different tastes and different needs. You will never be able to serve and attract everyone. Nor should you try. The more closely you can tailor your offering, branding, and marketing to a specific ideal customer, the more successful it will be.

Because when your customers come across any communication from your business they need to be able to feel that you are speaking directly to them. That your offering was made for them. That your tastes are similar. That you know how they are and what they need.

When your customer comes across your brand, they should feel like they’re bumping into their best friend.

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Brand Personality

Next you need to define your brand personality. Brand personality are the characteristics that describe your brand and inspire your look and feel. Sometimes in the branding industry we tease out your brand personality by asking questions like “if your brand was a car what car would it be and why?” Or “ if your brand was an animal what animal would it be and why?” The idea is to get you start attaching describing attributes to the brand image you want to build. 

Now, brand archetypes are a super popular tool for DIY branding today. Do I recommend them? I actually don’t. I don’t use brand archetypes in branding. And none of the branding agencies or design studios I worked in in the past 15+ yeas ever used archetypes.

The thing is, you are not an archetype. Your business is not an archetype. And there are much better processes out there to tease out the look and feel and the brand voice of your of branding than using a predefined archetype. 

It’s true that you can find commonalities between brands and characteristics they share. Creating archetypes is a common process in writing scripts and stories. But when it comes to branding, and especially DIY branding, I don’t recommend it.

I would rather have you focus on finding what is unique (and important for your customer) about you and your offering than trying to figure out which of the predefined cookie cutters you should use.

And only when you have your mission, vision and brand personality, you can move to creating the visual identity for your branding. That is the logo, the colors, the fonts, and so forth. 

This is because your mission, vision, and brand personality should direct your visual identity. They should be reflected in the colors and fonts you choose and in the logo you (or your designer) create.

Ok, so the things you need to figure out in the following order are:

  1. Why are you in business?
  2. What do you offer and why should anyone care?
  3. What makes you unique?
  4. Who is your offering for?
  5. How do you describe it? What are the defining characteristics?
  6. What does it look like?
  7. What does it sound and feel like?

Ready start building your brand?

In my free 7 step brand strategy framework, I walk you through all the steps mentioned above. The free PDF workbook you get is full of guiding questions for your to start forming a holistic understanding of what makes your brand unique and how you can tackle the entire branding process step-by-step — without the overwhelm or investing big bucks.

Download today and get started!

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.

How to design a logo — the ultimate guide for creating a stellar logo for your business

How to design a logo — the ultimate guide for creating a stellar logo for your business

Why you need a logo?

Regardless of the type of business you have, you’re going to need a logo. Why, you may ask. After all, I do bring up so often that your logo is not your brand. It ay not be your brand, but it is a critical part of it.

Why do you need a logo? Well, I’m glad you asked. One reason is simply to prevent confusion in the marketplace. Your logo is your signature so to speak. It helps people remember and recognize your business.

But a good logo is much more than that. A great logo supports your brand strategy by visually hinting to your product, service, overall offering, the transformation your customers go through, or the mission or vision for your business.

A lot of that can be accomplished by selecting visual styles that support your brand look and feel, or using a symbol or graphic to add more meaning. In this blog post, I walk you through the exact steps it takes to create a successful logo. And of course, you can find the same information as a three part video series in my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs.

Designing a logo

Designing a logo can feel like a time consuming, expensive, or stressful project. Most of us fear that the logo is something our customers judge our company by. So many of the most successful companies in the world have amazing and unique logos, making it slightly more daunting when you feel your designs are just not up to scratch.

But there’s no need to feel discouraged. Your logo is not your entire brand, so you can take some of the pressure off from your logo design project. That said, while an awesome logo alone won’t bring you new business, an unprofessional looking one might cost you some. That’s why you most definitely want to create a professional and designed looking logo for your business.

Designing a logo is not just about selecting a graphic and writing the name of your business next to it. There are some key steps that can make the design process much more easier — simply because it can help you clarify what look and feel you are going for. Keeping your logo aligned with all the other brand elements is important in order to create a business a consistent and memorable business identity.

Let’s dive right in.

How to pick a name for your business?

Ideally, your business name should be descriptive enough to convey eitherthe service you provide, the outcome your customers will get, or the transformation your customers will achieve. At least an element of these should be demonstrated in the business name.

Sometimes, the business name can be a little abstract. Let’s take Apple as an example. It doesn’t exactly say what the company does, right? Apple’s name choice is widely believed to be a metaphor for knowledge. To make that connection, you need to know something about Isaac Newton and the Bible.

In their very first logo, Apple had Isaac Newton leaning on an apple tree. According to the story, an apple fell on Newton’s head, and he discovered the concept of gravity. In the Bible, Adam and Eve take a bite from a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. That fruit is often depicted in art as being an apple.

As long as there is a connection with the name candidate and your business idea, the service, the outcome of the service, or the transformation then it can still work as a name for your business.

Should you use your own name for your business?

Keep in mind, if you decide to include your own name as a part of the business name, it could limit your scalability later. For example, in 10 years, if you want to sell your business, it can be more challenging to do so — especially if the brand equity has accumulated around your personal brand.

This being said, a business branding that is built around the founder and their persona can take off much easier. Why? People love to know the face behind a company, and it can create an instant know, like, and trust factor.

Brand personality

Having yourbrand personality, positioning, and audience defined makes it easier to determine the look and feel of the logo. Let’s break this up into steps:


These are the characteristics you describe your brand with. Think happy and energetic versus calm and mindful.


How do you want your brand to be positioned in the marketplace. Is your brand a luxury type of brand with a sleek and high end finish? Or perhaps it is more of an everyday brand? The answers to these questions will ultimately affect the look and feel.


Your ideal audience will have a significant impact on the general style of anything you’ll create for your brand. What attracts a 25 year old woman who’s interested in fashion will necessarily appeal to male executives over 50. Have your audience defined early on.

These three elements will have an impact on what kind of typeface and colors you use in your logo. If you are going to use an icon, graphic or illustration, the personality, positioning, and audience will influence that, as well.

Let’s go back to the Apple logo again. The style of the graphic they use is clean and simple. Imagine they used an apple that was drawn with watercolors. Would that convey a different look and feel? Of course.

Should you include a symbol in your logo?

Now you need to decide whether you want to use an icon, graphic, or illustration in your logo. This decision will affect the rest of the process.

If you are starting out, you don’t necessarily need to use a graphic element — also called a logomark. Many people think they need one, but actually many successful logos out there don’t have a logomarks. For example, Marie Forleo has an amazing business, but doesn’t have a graphic in her logo — and never had.

Logomarks can make a nice visual element to the brand. If done right, it communicates immediately what your brand personality is like, and can highlight what your services are, too. However, adding a logomark (a graphic, an icon, or an illustration) adds to the challenge quite ab bit. The next two parts of this logo design post will focus on creating a logo with and without a logomark. So, whatever you’ll choose, you’ll have guidance.

To find this training on a three part video series, join my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs. You can also download my super easy DIY Logo Design Step-by-step guide here.

How to design a text only logo? (Aka a logotype)

Let’s face it, the easier route to take when designing your logo is to choose NOT to have a graphic. Including a symbol or a graphic element (also known as a logomark) add a layer of challenge that designing a text only logo doesn’t have. 

Don’t get me wrong, you still need to put quite a bit thought into it to make it reflect you brand personality correctly. So, what are the important factors you need to remember in a designing a text only logo?

Pick the right font

Did you know there are different font styles? Yes! When designing your text based logo, you need to understand that different fonts are perceived differently. As a general rule, lightweight fonts that are thinner are considered more feminine. Italics would seem more feminine, though this isn’t always the case. Masculine fonts tend to be bold and more heavyweight. And it’s always dependent on how you use the typefaces, as well. 

In addition to different styles like bold or italic, there are also different font classifications. Let’s look at this a bit further.

Serif typeface

Serif fonts 

 A serif font is a font that has smaller strokes attached to larger strokes. The smaller strokes are referred to as serifs.

These fonts are considered more formal, mature, and traditional. And as you can imagine, there is a sense of class and heritage that comes with the more traditional style and outlook. Certain serif fonts are also considered more feminine than the sans-serif font types.

San-serif typeface

Sans-serif fonts

A sans-serif font does not include the small strokes. Common examples are Helvetica and Arial. These are fonts that appear to be more modern, clean, and straightforward. Though, this is highly dependent on the individual font in questions, as some sans-serif fonts can also have a retro vibe to them.  

Slab-serif typeface

Slab serif fonts

These are fonts that have block-like serifs: slabs. The slabs can be rounded or sharp. Slab serif fonts can look either friendly and easily approachable (rounded slab) or impactful and innovative (sharp slab). Examples of this font include Archer, Rockwell and Memphis. 


Script fonts

These fonts tend to resemble handwritten and calligraphic lettering styles. They can appear formal and elegant, but can also have the versatility of appearing informal and playful. Examples include Alex brush and Allura. 

Modern typeface

Modern fonts

Modern fonts are a variation of serif or sans-serif fonts. The defining feature of modern fonts is combining thin hairlines with thicker lines. The name “modern” is misleading as some of the fonts classified as modern are a couple hundred years old.

Examples of decorative fonts

Decorative fonts

“Decorative” is a catch-all name describing all fonts that have more decorative — even illustrative qualities. These fonts are often playful and fun-looking. At first, they may seem like a fun idea for a logo. But I’d advise you to consider the use of these fonts carefully as their legibility is often compromised in smaller sizes. And what today looks fun, tomorrow might just look goofy. In other words, they don’t necessarily stand time too well.

How to combine fonts?

You don’t need to limit yourself to one single font. You can combine two fonts to create the appearance you are after. Be mindful, however, how the two typefaces pair together. There are lots of resources available that will help you choose a pairing that has already been tested together. Simply search Pinterest with “font pairing” and you’ll get lot’s of results! This saves you the time and effort of finding a pair that works for you.

Pinterest search with “font pairing” brings lots of results for inspiration.

When combining fonts there are two good reminders: 1. Not every font will look good together and 2. Your logo needs to match you brand personality. And the font you choose has a big impact on this. 

Where to find typefaces?

My favorite resources for finding typefaces include:

DaFont is also an online resource for free fonts. There are some good fonts available there,  but there are many unprofessional looking fonts, as well. Google fonts are better vetted and have a good variety of suitable options to choose from. 

Visual ideas for your logo

So, you have chosen your fonts and decided to go with a text based logo. What different visual ideas are there to include in your logotype?

  • Script font mimicking your signature  — if you want to use your actual signature in our logo, you will need to fin a way to convert your script into a vector shape. 
  • Monogram — this combines one or more letters in a larger logo element. It can be very simple yet powerful in creating visual interest. One letter could be highlighted in a different color. 
  • Using simple shapes — combining simple graphic shapes like lines or rules, squares, rectangles or circles can be used around your logo or part of it. This can put emphasis on certain aspects of the logo.

Now, its important to highlight that you’re probably going to have to explore and create multiple versions before you find something you like. Don’t be discouraged as ultimately you want the best logo that speaks to your audience. 

How to design a logo with a symbol?

This type of logo can feel slightly overwhelming to DIY, because you need to think about a font and an image. And a logo with a symbol is more work than a text only logo. However, with the process outlined here, you will find it is condensed down into bitesize steps. 

Selecting an icon or symbol

One of the most important thing with this type of logo is that the icon or symbol you choose represents your brand and the offering you have accurately. That’s why it’s critical to define the right metaphor in the beginning of this process.

What does that mean? A successful metaphor represents your offering or the transformation you bring to your customer. For example, a delivery service may use a delivery truck in their logo. Sometimes the metaphor can also refer directly to your business name. Think about the Puma logo, what does it have on it? A puma. 

Your metaphor could be more abstract that these. For example, the Nike swoosh doesn’t directly depict the product of service they deliver. A logo symbol can be literal, but it doesn’t have to be. Though, there must always be a connection to your business — whether it be the name, offering, transformation, or even the mission.

Finding the right metaphor 

Struggling with finding a metaphor? Try this mind mapping exercise to help you come up with the right metaphor for the logo:

  • Come up with 2-3 keywords that describe your brand’s mission, offering (your product/service), or the transformation you bring to your customers. Some things to keep in mind
  • If you are focusing on your mission, you need to think about what change your business is creating in the world or people’s lives. You can literally think of this as “I’m on a mission to….”
  • When thinking about your offering, you are going to have to think about your service and product. What value does it bring people? What does it allow them to do that they could not do before?
  • Choose 2-3 keywords that describe your brand personality. Your brand personality is the characteristics you’d describe your brand with. For example, energetic, joyful, creative. In total, you will have anywhere between 4-6 words that will describe your brand offering or mission, as well as your brand personality. 
  • Next, take a large plain paper and write the name of your business in the middle. Draw out 4-6 branches, representing your keywords.  Write down whatever comes to mind about each of the branches. Let your creativity run free for 20-30 minutes, and write down anything that comes to mind: items, animals, objects, adjectives. 

After completing the steps above, take a break from the work and come back to it the next day. Can you come up with any more ideas? If you are not in a hurry to create your logo, come back to it regularly for a week. The more time you spend on it, the more ideas you are likely to come up with.

Finding the icon or symbol

Now with your metaphor selected, you can search for different stock services for your icons. I personally like to use The Noun Project, but there are others. Finding the right icon doesn’t have to be pricy, but there may be some investment. 

If you want a custom symbol, you can draw one yourself if you know how to use Adobe illustrator or any other vector graphics software. You could also hire a designed to draw this icon for you. You could even bring a pencil sketch of your own design to a freelance designer, and they could work on it from there.

Hiring a junior talent could help you do this on a budget, but you probably will want to give them the metaphor for your logo symbol, any sketches you’ve drawn, and the brand personality keywords you developed. Remember to give the designer instructions on the colors you want them to use to stay in line with your brand.

Once you have your logomark, either from the stock icon service or from a designed, you need to combine it with your business name. Of course, if you hired a designer they could do this for you, too. 

To find this training on a three part video series, join my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs. You can also download my super easy DIY Logo Design Step-by-step guide here.

Size and layout

As a general rule of thumb, you need a landscape and portrait version of your logo. Landscape is perfect for your website header, document headers and footers. The portrait version will look great on social media, business cards and postcards. By creating both types, you can use your logo on a variety of different projects.

Depending on the icon graphic you have, you might need different versions for various sizes. Some details may become illegible or look unclear in smaller sized documents. Experiment by reducing the size of your logo to 0.5 inches – is it still legible? If no, you may need to tweak something.

You will need a smaller sized logo on your website header, especially for mobile versions of the website. This is important as website traffic from mobile devices has increased exponentially in recent years. More than 50% of ALL web traffic in the world today comes from mobile devices.

And the number increases, if you use Facebook advertising to drive traffic to your website as most people use Facebook on the mobile app. Imagine all these people visiting your site and not being able to read what your logo says!

File types

Finally, let’s just quickly talk about the different file types there are and where you might need them. This is dependent on the use you have for the logo.

.eps file: This is a vector format that can be resized and scaled without compromising the quality of the logo file. You will need this format if your logo will be printed on a physical object like books, t-shirts, or business cards.

PNG file: This type of file allows for your image to have a transparent background. If you are a digital business with a website or social media presence and most or all of your communications and products are digital, you can probably get away with just having your logo as a PNG file.

JPG file: In some web formats or emails, this file size could be preferred as it is smaller compared to the PNG. JPG files are, however, not transparent like PNG or EPS.

The last thing I just want to highlight to you is that if you decide to work with a designer at any point of the logo design process, make sure you get them to transfer the copyright over to you. This is important to ensure you have the copyright to use your logo whichever way you please. And can make any amount of changes and updates to it in future.

Stop procrastinating with your logo design by getting started with these three steps. Each one is pivotal in helping you to create a logo you are happy with and supports your brand message. It’s ok if each step takes a bit of time. By taking time, care and attention in each step you are much more likely to come up with a brand look and feel that you can see going the long haul.

And remember: your logo is not your brand. It’s simply a part of the story. Experiment and see what you come up with!

Download my FREE and super easy DIY Logo Design Step-by-step guide here.

Building a brand that converts in 7 steps

Building a brand that converts in 7 steps

Your brand strategy is a key element when it comes to building a brand that attracts raving fans. It outlines things like:

  • What is the valuable offering you make to your customers?
  • What makes you unique?
  • What are the core values your brand reflects?
  • What does your brand look and feel like?
  • What kind of tone of voice does your brand use?

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

There are a couple of very fundamental key ingredients when it comes to your brand strategy. One of these is you and the other is your customer. As a solopreneur service provider, your point of view, your process, and your values form a big part of your brand foundation. 

And your customer, of course, should be in the heart of your brand. Any communication, any marketing from your brand that your customer might come across with should give them an immediate “this is meant for me” feeling. So, in every turn, you should be asking: “does this resonate with my customer?” 

Defining the building blocks of your brand

What are these amazingly attractive brands made of then? What makes a brand so delicious that people don’t only buy from them, they become advocates?

Most people will associate a brand with its visual look and feel — or its logo. A marketer will tell you your brand is in the stories your business tells through marketing. And they’re not wrong. But a successful brand is much more than that.

In fact, the visual branding is just a representation of your brand personality and positioning. And the stories reflect what your brand stands for. But where does it all come from? The answerI already gave away in the beginning: it’s a magical combination of you, your offering, and your ideal customer. And throw a meaningful brand strategy framework into that mix, and you have yourself a recipe for success.

As the founder of your business, you actually have all the information you need to start building your winning brand strategy. You’re set to start working on it right now because your business was born from your heart and is a reflection of your vision and values. Let me walk you through some of the key concepts of my 7 step brand strategy framework..

Your “Why”

Every entrepreneur has a “why” — a reason they’re doing what they’re doing. Sometimes the reason is grand and inspirational. But it can as easily be down to earth and relatable. Only you will know what your “why” is. 

This is a core element in building a purposeful brand. Yes, you can build a brand without defining your “why.” But in order to have a truly authentic brand voice and reach the customers that will turn into your advocates, you need to find and surface your passion.

Your “why” is effective in creating you an attractive brand, because deep inside we all have a “why.” Each and everyone in your target audience will have something they are passionate about and inspired by. And when you find a group of people whose “why” is aligned with your “why,” you’ve found a group of fiercely loyal customers.

In my 7 step brand strategy framework, I help solopreneurs to find out why they are in business. I’ve put together a list of questions that will help you figure this out, if it’s not immediately clear.

Your Ideal Customer

Your ideal customer is in a key role in many aspects when it comes to your business. Your branding is no exception. Think of it this way: in order to know how you want to talk, you need to know who you are talking to.

When you’re defining your target audience, the key things to think about in addition to demographics are their behaviour, attitudes, and values. These will guide you to create  brand assets and content that attracts and interests your audience. Remember: while your brand should reflect your “why,” it should be communicating to your audience, not to you.

If you want to take your customer definition to the next level, you can find and define your niche audience. Your niche audience is a selective group of people who have very specific wants, needs and interests. It’s a super valuable to have as  niche audience is easier to target. They’re more engaged and more responsive to your messaging and offering. If you are successful in defining a niche audience and communicating with them, they might even feel as though you’re reading their minds. And you’re able to earn their trust because you seem to understand their wants, needs, and struggles.

If you want to find out what in your business attracts a niche audience, and who they might be, read more here and download my quick guide on defining your niche audience.

Brand Personality

Your brand’s personality are the characteristics you describe your brand with. It’s what starts to define the look and feel of your brand. Brand personality is sometimes described as if your brand was an actual person. For example, “easily approachable” or “friendly.”

It’s easy to come up with two or three adjectives to describe your brand personality. But just like with your target audience: the better you know your brand, the easier it is to communicate. And any communication from your business is a reflection of your brand — even the stuff you didn’t mean as brand related. 

Other questions for exploring your brand personality are:

  • If your brand was an animal, what animal would it be and why?
  • If your brand was a car, what kind of car would it be and why?
  • If your brand was a color, what color would it be and why?

If you really want to dive deep into your brand’s personality, you could build a brand personality grid. This is a nine square grid where each square has an image in it. In the center, you’ll place an image of a person. That will be your brand if it were a human being. It is not your ideal customer. It is your brand as a person.

And in the eight squares that circle your brand as a person, you’ll start collecting imagery that describes the life of this person. For example, if this person lived in a house, what would the house be like (find that house and put in one of the squares).

Defining your brand personality will also help you define the tone of voice your brand uses in its communications. Think of the brand personality grid and the personification of your brand: how would this person talk? What kind of things would they talk about? Where would they publish their message?

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

Unique Point of View

What makes your brand different? This might be immediately clear for you. Maybe your business fills a void and provides something that didn’t exist before. That would automatically give you a unique point of view.

Or maybe you are like most of the entrepreneurs out there: offering a product or service that competes with other similar products and services. In this super common situation, developing a unique point of view helps a lot.

Your unique point of view has to come from a place of authenticity. You shouldn’t try to be different just for the sake of being different. Don’t come up with artificial qualities to add to your brand for the sake of being unique. You will only end up looking disingenuous and fake.

“What if I have nothing unique” you might panic. Calm down my friend. Everyone has something that makes them unique. There is no other business owner exactly like you. You and your values — and your “why” — are what makes your brand unique.

If you feel like you could use a little help in figuring out what truly makes you and your offering unique, download my 7 step brand strategy framework. It has guiding questions for figuring out what makes you unique.

Customer Perception

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, said it best: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Your company’s brand is it’s reputation. And people definitely talk behind you back. You should treat your brand reputation as you treat your own: don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t want people to talk about in public. The word will always get out.  

This is painfully true when it comes to your customer experience. How do you treat your customers? Do you answer their emails quickly? Do return their direct messages or phone calls? When you do, how do you talk to them? Are you helpful, respectful, and friendly? One offhanded comment can turn away a customer.

You may remember the customer support scandals Comcast went through in 2014 when some of their customers recorded phone calls with Comcast support agent. Needless to say, these phone calls didn’t provide a good customer experience, and resulted in a viral storm for Comcast.

So, what can you do? Well for one, you should try and study your audience’s perception of your brand. How do your customers see your business? If there’s room for improvement, listen to your audience. What are they telling you to change?

You can’t fix serious issues in customer experience just by changing your brand. You need to fix the issues first. But you need to be aware that each and every customer interaction with your business will affect your brand — either positively or negatively.

Value Proposition

What is the value your brand offers? And how is it better than other brands in the marketplace? The value proposition can be both emotional and rational. Here we again list things that differentiate your brand from other brands. But unlike your unique point of view (which is the lens you reflect all your brand communication through) value proposition should list actual tangible benefits — either rational or emotional.

When you put together your value proposition, you should be genuine in what you promise. If you’ve defined your “why” and your unique point of view, know your audience, and studied the customer perception, putting together your value proposition should not be difficult.

As you’re drafting the brand benefits, make sure they are relevant to your audience, compelling, and believable. Don’t list more than a couple benefits as people typically have difficult time associating more than one or two benefits per brand.

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

Brand Positioning

How does your brand compare to the competition? What is your unique position in the marketplace? To define this you will need to know who your biggest competitors are and how they are positioned in the marketplace. 

Comparison table
If you have a complex product or service with lots of features and benefits, I like to build a comparison table to identify the table stakes and opportunity gaps. In the table, each column is an existing and desired benefit or feature and each row is your competitor. And of course, include your business to the matrix. Add a checkmark etc. to identify the benefits/features your competitors (and yourself) have. The columns (benefit/feature) that are full of checkmarks are your table stakes. The columns that have only one or two checkmarks (or are empty) are your opportunity gaps to differentiate and position yourself in the marketplace. 

Competitor matrix
Quicker and easier way to define your position in the marketplace is to build a simple four square competitor matrix. Draw x and y axes (like a big plus sign). Define qualities you’re measuring on the axes. For example, high touch vs low touch and ordinary vs luxury. Position all your competitors in the matrix based on their brand and products/services. Empty (or emptier) squares become potential positioning opportunities for your brand as they are less saturated with your competitors’ offerings. If you choose to position yourself in a more saturated square in your matrix, you will need to have more unique differentiators to stand out. In the competitor matrix exercise, it is critically important that you choose the right qualities for the comparison. Otherwise you might end up with unattractive or inefficient positioning.

If you’re in the process of building a brand, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.


Having these key pieces of your brand strategy well-defined makes the rest of your branding — and the brand management — much easier, smoother, and way more successful. Having all the things above defined will give a firm ground for the other brand building activities. Especially when it comes to building your visual identity.

Have you ever hired a designer to work on your visual brand and been disappointed with the results because it looks nothing like you wanted? Or does not feel like your brand? Brand designers should work based on the things defined above. If your brand personality is not defined, or if the value your brand offers isn’t clear, the visual identity won’t meet your expectations. And will lack a cohesive, well-thought-out brand look and feel.

Ready to start the design work?

If you’ve got all the above things in order, and you’re ready to start building your visual identity, check out my FREE super simple DIY logo guide and share your work on Daily Creative Facebook page.

If you feel like you could still use some help with your brand strategy, download my easy-to-follow 7 step brand strategy framework and start building your brand strategy today.

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out our free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.

How to build a brand both you and your customers love?

How to build a brand both you and your customers love?

Do you unconditionally love your brand? And also feel comfortable showing it: your brand and your love for it? And I don’t mean, are you comfortable speaking in front of camera or on a Facebook live. I mean, do you get lit up just by talking about your business, your mission, and the value you bring to people?

I really really hope you do. Because you are the most important ambassador of your business. When you’re representing your brand, it better be pure authentic love fest. Because people can smell insincerity miles away.

If you’re embarrassed by your branding (visuals, messaging, etc.) you should fix that ASAP. I understand it feel overwhelming just to think about the project. But it’s much easier than you think. The part that can be a bit of a challenge is the brand strategy. 

By “challenge” I don’t mean that it’s super difficult to nail down or anything. In fact, you as the soulpreneur service provider have all the information you need for brand strategy. You just need to know what to surface.

The process is very thoughtful and deep. It focuses on your reasons for being an entrepreneur, your passions and values in life, and — of course — how you want to serve people. So, if you’re not clear on those, the entire branding process may feel uncomfortable — or even intimidating.

The intimidation often comes from the misunderstanding people have that there must be some “correct answers” when drafting brand strategy. And that it is so thoroughly specialized field and dominated by experts, that an average Jane possibly can’t have anything intelligent to add to their own brand strategy.

I assure you: it’s the opposite. Yes, there’s some thought work you need to do, and maybe some research into your competitors and your ideal customer. But for a business founder and a soulpreneur like you, many of the brand strategy exercises are interesting, eye-opening, and thought-provoking. They offer an opportunity for deepening you bond with your business and brand.

So, as long as you do this ground work well and have the brand strategy nailed down, all the pieces will fall in place easily. And you can fall in LOVE with your brand again. And have your customers do the same thing.

Enough with the chitchat! How do to build a brand both YOU and YOUR CUSTOMERS absolutely love?⁣ The steps are below in a nutshell. You can also get my more comprehensive 7-step brand strategy framework now for free.

How to build a brand both you and your ideal customer love?

Step 1: Get clear on who you are, what you represent, and why you’re in business.

Step 2: Get clear on who you want to serve, who is your ideal customer. Define the demographics, but most importantly their needs, pain points, desires, and beliefs.⁣

Step 3: Define the personality of your brand. How would you describe your brand if it was an actual human being? How does that person talk? What do they look like? And so on… ⁣

Step 4: Discover the aesthetic preferences of your ideal customer⁣. What do they like? Pink and floral patterns? Or conservative gray and pinstripes? 

Step 5: Build a brand story that reflects who you are, what your mission is, how you’re unique, and how you bring value to your customers. Wrap that story in a visual identity that represents all the above and reflects your brand personality.⁣

As always, let me know if you have any questions, or if I missed something in this post.  ️❤️

Happy Branding!

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs. 

How to build a brand when you don’t know who your ideal customer is?

How to build a brand when you don’t know who your ideal customer is?

You know how in the beginning of your business, for marketing purposes and for anything else, you develop an ideal customer avatar (ICA)? This is a critical process for being able to build a successful business model and offering. And it happens in the very beginning of your business when knowing your ideal customer is the most challenging. After you’ve worked with your customer for a while, the ICA becomes crystal clear. But in the beginning, it can still be a bit unclear. Yet, in the very beginning, you already have to start making important decisions regarding your business — such as creating your branding.

Along comes a starter brand. What is a starter brand and why do you need one? A starter brand is a brand specifically created for a solopreneur service provider who doesn’t have intimate understanding who their ideal customer is. But more about this later. Let’s get back to the ICA…

Quite often entrepreneurs develop a clear understanding of their ideal customer after having worked with them for 1 to 3 years. Recently, I interviewed female entrepreneurs — all service providers —  about their branding process and brand development. All of them explained to me, in one form or another, that working with customers during these first years of their business has been critical for really getting to know who their ideal customer is.

Some of them even lamented having developed a particular style of branding in the beginning. Only to now, a couple years later, having to change their branding significantly as they have come to know their true ideal customer. That’s a big investment of either time or money — or both — that they have to make again.

In reality, it’s a really good thing to know your ideal customer intimately. So, at the end of the day, these women are lucky to have the experience and understanding, because now they can build the branding that truly attracts their ideal customer.

But how do you prevent from having to build your branding twice within such a short period of time? Even a new solopreneur — a business just starting out — needs branding to look professional. And if you haven’t worked with customers yet, and haven’t been able to gain that knowledge, what can you do?

I often recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting out — especially if they are solopreneur service providers — to create a starter brand. A starter brand is a professional looking branding that is less specific than a mature brand. A starter brand will make your business look clean and nice. And you can still have some personality attributes associated with it. But it’s not so specific, it’s not so focused that it prevents you from changing your ICA during those 1-3 first years of your business.

NOTE: I want to emphasize that I am not against niching down with your ICA — or your offering. In fact, as they say riches are in niches. So, you definitely have to find your niche. And you definitely have to find your ICA. But when it comes to branding you can’t keep changing it constantly. Your branding has to stay consistent.

And when it comes to your branding, you need to understand that your branding is not your logo. It’s not your color library. It’s not the font you choose for your website. Yes, all these things are part of your visual branding, but those things alone don’t make your branding.

Your brand is an experience. It’s a sum of all the things you do and say in the context of your business. It’s all the communication your business puts out there. It’s the experience your customers get when they interact with you, or when they call your customer service. It’s the Facebook Live you do once a week. It’s the newsletter you sent every now and then. Your brand is an experience and you’re in the center of it. Your logo, colors, fonts, and other visual elements are an important part of your brand, but still just one part.

So, I recommend that new entrepreneurs build a starter brand. It’s much easier to achieve. And you can even do it yourself. And like said before, you can already associate some personality characteristics to it. Like, is your ideal customer a woman of a certain age in a certain industry? Just don’t make it so specific that you’re gonna be stuck on creating it for weeks or months, and it’s preventing you from moving forward.

Just create a starter brand, and keep moving forward. During the first years of your business you will get clarity over who your ideal customer is. And when you do that, you are ready to create an amazing mature branding. Until then you can get away with your own personality and looking professional.

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs. 

How to create consistent branding without brand guidelines?

How to create consistent branding without brand guidelines?

One of the reasons we create visual guidelines (logo, colors, fonts, etc.) is to ensure that any marketing and visual communication we put out there is always aligned to our brand. We want everything to be consistent. If you have well-crafted brand guidelines and a design system, you’re in a good place. And this may not be a concern for you. But if you’re still trying to figure out your branding, you might struggle a bit trying to keep the cohesive and consistent look and feel.

You know, your brand doesn’t wait for you to build it. It starts building itself the moment you start representing your business and interacting with people. And there are few tips you want to be aware of in order to avoid inconsistency and misleading branding.

Before you have a stellar design system for your brand, you can still affect your brand look and feel — big time. If you know me, you know that I encourage people to keep moving forward whether they have a fully fleshed out branding or not.

Your brand is not your logo

Number one thing I want people to understand is: your brand is not one single thing but an experience. This includes your customers’ interactions with you. This includes the impression they get when they come across your marketing. This includes the vibe you give out in your Facebook lives or Instagram stories. This includes what people talk about your business. And yes, this also includes your logo, colors, fonts, and how well those are used together. Your brand is the experience your customers get when they come across with anything related to your business.

This might sound overwhelming, but it’s actually good news. One of the most common complaint I get from solopreneurs who are just starting is: I can’t move forward with my plans because I don’t have a logo. And by this they typically mean a professionally designed logo. But the good news is: your logo is just one small piece of your branding.

Yes, you will need to have a logo. But no, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive investment. Have you ever heard anyone say “I bought this service or product because the. company had such a great logo. I don’t know anything else about them, but the logo sure was great?”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a designer, I love nothing more than beautifully designed business identity. But I would never want someone to feel stuck because one piece of their branding is not perfect. If this gets you excited and ready to move forward with your logo design, I have a quick logo creation guide that you can use to design something for yourself. You can get it here. And I’ve created a check list to help you decide whether your logo is ready to be published.

Brand personality & keywords

The second thing I’d like people without fully fleshed brand guidelines and design system to do is to define 1-3 brand personality keywords to help them make decisions related to their branding.

You brand personality is all the adjectives and characteristics you want people to associate with your branding. For some people, this is super clear and they immediately have a couple of characteristics in their mind. For others, it’s tough to grasp this concept. So, let me help you figure this one out because I have a fun exercise for my clients to help them figure out the brand personality.

What often helps with brand personality is to try to imagine who your brand was if they were a person. A living and breathing person. And then you start describing this person. Are they a man or a woman? How old are they? Where do they live? In what kind of house? What kind of music do they listen to? What kind of clothes do they wear? What is their personal style? How are they as a person (social, introverted, deep, cheerful, etc.)? Are they married? Do they have kids? Do they have pets? If they do, what kind of pets? Who do they hang out with? And who is their best friend? So, you build an image in your head about what kind of person your brand would be if they were a person.

You might think that “how many descriptions of people you need to create” because maybe you’re just done describing you ideal customer avatar (your target audience). But you should not mix your brand personality with the personality of your ideal customer. They are not the same. Your brand as a person should be your ideal customer’s best friend or someone they admire and aspire to be. Let me explain a bit further.

If your ideal customer is a shy introvert who you want to coach to make their dreams come true, it wouldn’t help if your brand as a person was also shy and introverted. Now, would it? So, one more time, your brand as a person should be your ideal customer’s best friend or someone they admire and aspire to be. They should be someone your ideal customer feels drawn to, someone they can relate to or look up to.

It often helps to understand how this will affect your branding to first visualize that person. Find imagery of a person you imagine your brand would be as a person. Find images of the house they’d live in and the clothes they are wearing. Are you building an image of a person who wears colorful dresses and flower reefs or a serious business man who always wears the best-fitting expensive tailored suits?

When you have a good idea how your brand would be if it were a person, list 1-3 keywords or adjectives that describe that person. The more specific these words are, the better guidance you’ll get for your branding. For example, if your keyword is simply “happy,” it is too broad to bring up a certain look and feel. And you’d be better off trying to either define more accurately what you mean by happy. Or at least, add two more specific keywords to go with it.

But let’s say your keywords are cheerful, easily approachable, and light-hearted. That will already give you an idea what kind of language, imagery, or colors you’d associate with those keywords.

When you have your keywords down, start using them with everything you do in regards your branding until you have a fully fleshed design system for your brand. And in many ways, after that, too.

When you’re choosing what photos to use on your website or on your Instagram feed, you’d ask yourself “are these photos cheerful, easily approachable, and light-hearted” (or insert whatever keywords you’d be using). And same you’d ask for your messaging and tone of voice, how you’d present yourself during a live performance, what kind of colors you’d choose for your color library, etc.

Is it necessary to always include all your keywords? Not always, but the more you include all of them the more consistent your branding will be.

Color has a big impact

After you’ve nailed down your personality keywords, you can use them to help you define your initial color library. What colors communicate and represent the keywords you’ve chosen? You can use a photo to help you further refine your color library. I’ve collected some examples of color libraries built with the help of a single image here.

Colors have a strong impact on our experiences and memory of things. So, one powerful trick to keep the brand feeling consistent is to always use the brand colors consistently. Colors also help to catch attention and communicate your brand personality.

I’ve written about the impact of brand colors more in detail in the blogpost Color me branded: How to choose the right colors for your brand.

Branding can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. And you don’t have to wait until you have everything figured out. Many entrepreneurs will create a “starter brand” which is less specific because they are still figuring out who their customer is and what their offering will be. This starter brand doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy, but it does have to be professional to evoke trust.

And many will end up re-branding few years into their business journey when all the details are clear. Once you have those amazing brand guidelines and design system established, you’ll start using those components and instructions to always have 100% consistent look and feel. But until then follow the advice in this post to make sure your brand won’t be all over the place.

Happy branding!

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs. 

How to stand out in a crowded marketplace

How to stand out in a crowded marketplace

Are you intimidated by the competition in your industry? Do you feel like the marketplace is already crowded with folks offering the exact same services or products as you are? If you are, you’re not alone. All entrepreneurs face competition. Even if you’re offering a new and innovative service or product, you’re still competing for the attention of your audience with other businesses, entertainment, or just about anything your audience has going on in their life.

There’s no reason to be intimidated by the competition. It has existed forever. If the complete lack of competition was the defining factor for starting a new business, there would never be new restaurants, cafes, shops, or really any new businesses popping up. And yet there are. And some are thriving.

Competition or not, you need to stand out to succeed. Easier said than done,eh? Sometimes we feel like there’s absolutely nothing unique about you or your business to stand out. Well, everyone’s got something. And branding can help you find that something. Read on to find out how.

How unique are you?

One important goal of the branding process is to find a unique point of view that your business — or you as the founder — has. The unique point of view is valuable when you’re trying to differentiate yourself from the competition. Sometimes this uniqueness comes from the service or product that you’re selling. Maybe it is a completely new solution that didn’t exist before you created it. In that case, you probably already are aware of your unique approach to that particular problem. But most often, the service or product we’re selling is not completely new and there are plenty of competition in the marketplace.

Know your competition

If you’re struggling to understand how your business is unique, and what your unique point of view is, it helps to look at your competition. If you don’t know who and how your competitors are, how would you know if you’re different from them? I personally find this part very reassuring. Every time I analyze my competitors, I find something that I do differently. Or I realize the outcome would look very different, had I done it. Analyzing your competition can be very eye opening and I highly recommend you start there.

Your background

There’s always a unique point of view to be found, because there’s something unique about everyone. Maybe you have a new approach — even if your service isn’t new. You might have a slightly different way of doing parts of the process or the product itself. Or maybe you just think differently about your industry.

Sometimes your uniqueness comes from your background. Maybe you have a unique mix of professional experience that most people in your marketplace don’t have. In my case, part of my unique point of view comes from having professional expertise in both branding and experience design. Typically designers and strategists focus and specialize in one of those areas. But I’ve worked extensively in both, and can bring my knowledge of both areas to client projects. Do you have a unique combination of professional expertise or skills that you apply to your offering?

Your values

Your core values can also be part of your unique point of view. Especially, if they’re idealistic, and you’re passionate about them. For example, Autodesk designs and develops 3D software for architects, engineers, and designers. Some of their core values are sustainability, as well as diversity and inclusion. Their corporate vision is  “to help imagine, design, and create a better world.” They’ve adopted their idealistic values as part of their vision. And that brand messaging is reflected through their communications to set them apart from other 3d software manufacturers. Their messaging resonates strongly with anyone who has the same core values and feels passionate about them.

Your life experiences

Your uniqueness can also stem from life experiences. Did you overcome challenges? Can you inspire others do same through your messaging? Do you have an unusual outlook that helps you get through anything life throws you way? Your unique point of view does not have to be a huge differentiator that sticks out super obviously. It can be combination of multiple small things that each set you apart from others slightly.

Be authentic

When you’re developing your unique point of view, it is critical to be authentic. First of all, it is so much easier — and takes less energy — if you don’t have to pretend. But also, people have an uncanny way of spotting out impostors. So, take your time with this step, look inside, and develop something that truly comes from within.

Sometimes being authentic can make you feel vulnerable. Especially if you are very shy or introverted — or if you have a bad case of impostor syndrome. You might quickly think that “there is nothing interesting about me.” So, you rather create an image that is not genuine. However, you should know that vulnerability, especially when it comes to personal branding, is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be very disarming. Be authentic, be genuine — even if it feels uncomfortable.

How to use your unique point of view in branding?

Your unique point of view helps your business through messaging. You can leverage your unique point of view as you would one of your key differentiators: separating you from competition. The idea is that you will catch your ideal customer’s attention by communicating “I have this unique approach and a point of view that I’ve gained through x-y-z. It has allowed me to develop this particular process/product. No one else has this quite same point of view, so no one else can offer you exactly the same thing.” Of course, your messaging can (and maybe should) be more subtle than that — and certainly not with that exact wording.

Your unique point of view also attracts your ideal customer through shared values and relatability. In Autodesk’s case, anyone who finds sustainability, diversity, and inclusion important, feels like they’re part of the same tribe and find Autodesk’s messaging attractive. Even if your unique point of view does not include grand idealistic values, it will help likeminded people relate to your brand.  

Get to work and start thinking how your unique point of view can set you apart from competition. And as always, let me know if I’ve missed something. Or if you have any questions about this topic.

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, come check out my free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.