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Inspiration sometimes strikes at the strangest times. The concept for my business was inspired as I bathed my 6-month-old son. I was watching him coo and splash in the tub, when suddenly like a bolt of lightening the name hit me: Little Box of Rocks.
I knew right then that we would send crystals the way flowers are typically sent, and that if done correctly, it would be a huge hit. Knowing very little about brand imaging, this, of course, sent me on a year-long journey of zeroing in on the specific components of my products, while figuring out how exactly they would be positioned in the eyes and hearts of the consumers.
One of the most important elements to any successful company is great branding. With a clever and sophisticated brand identity, I believe that anything, including rocks, can sell. What’s more, is that I believe that we don’t have to spend thousands of dollars hiring “experts” to craft our brand imagery. In fact, it is my belief that branding is an extremely personal thing that should be a reflection of YOU, the creator. This is what I call “inspired branding.”
What is inspired branding?
Inspired branding happens when an outstanding brand is born out of the highest and most authentic parts of you. It is a mirror image of the heart and soul who created it, and because of this, it has the power to resonate at a profound level with the consumer.
6 Steps to Building Your Inspired Brand
1- Answer 2 Key Questions
Think of some of the most successful brands on the market. Apple, Starbucks, Spanx. What do they have in common? They each have creators that were at the core of the brand story. Many of us have heard of Steve Job’s passion for excellence, Howard Schultz’s dedication to community, and Sara Blakely’s determination and ingenuity at cutting the bottoms off of her pantyhose, and as a result, developing a brand that made her a billionaire.
Notice at the beginning of this article I mentioned my own personal story of bathing my 6-month-old baby? Sharing this real life moment in the media and with our customers has helped to build a personal connection and element of human interest to our brand.
So the first question is what’s your story? Knowing this will show you the heart and soul of your brand. How did you come up with the idea for your product? Why are you passionate about what you do? What were the struggles you faced that led you to where you are now? Take time to get to the core of why, how and what you do.
The second question is who are you? What is your own unique style? Are you formal? Laid back? Creative? Spiritual? Pragmatic? An introvert? Outgoing? Whatever the answers are, your brand should model them. In other words, everything from your logo, to your packaging, to your Instagram page should convey the very essence of YOU.
An amazing book to read on this is “How The World Sees You,” by Sally Hogshead. This book shaped my brand and I highly recommend taking the time to read it.
2- Pick a Brand Role Model
After you’ve determined exactly who you are, the next step is to pick one or two brand role models. These are brands that you feel could easily reflect you and your personal style had you created them yourself. What you will be doing is using these brands as a roadmap to success. You will study everything from their website structure, web copy, logo, packaging, and social media accounts to see what is working for them and what you can implement in your own brand.
A very important note to remember is that this does not give you permission to copy. If you do this, you will most certainly lose the authenticity of your own brand identity. The key is to see what is working and to find a way to allow it to inspire the direction of your own unique brand.
3- Pinterest is Your BFF
I should start by saying that I am the worst pinner in the world. Through the process of building my business, I have had to become an expert in the various forms of social media. Pinterest just isn’t one of them. I will say, however, that every single time I have developed a new product, I have gone to Pinterest for inspiration.
Take your time on this step and gather as much imagery as possible. Look for pictures of logos, websites, headshots, packaging, blog layout – anything and everything that reflects the style and look you are going for.
4- Learn Photoshop
When I first started to develop my brand, I knew next to nothing about photography and how to use Photoshop. I quickly learned, however, that unless I wanted to shell out thousands of dollars to a design firm, this was a piece of software that I simply had to learn.
To begin, download a Photoshop trail version, and start using it. When you get stuck, Google is your best friend. There are also thousands of Photoshop tutorials on YouTube. Or head over to one of my favorite DIY resources, Udemy, and find a quick crash course. Trust me, this is time well spent and money well saved.
5- Map Out Your Website and Instagram
Now that you’ve learned a bit about Photoshop, you can start playing around with your web design. I’ve personally found that even when I am hiring a developer to build my site, it can be very helpful for them and for you if you can layout the general design of your website beforehand. Doing this can not only save your developer time (and you money) but it will ensure that the look of your brand doesn’t take on a whole new direction once it’s in the hands of someone else.
Take time to look at your role model brands and layout your website in Photoshop. As far as your Instagram goes, there are some great apps that will layout your page for you, so you can take time to move things around and get the right aesthetic, before it’s ever publicly posted. The app I use is called Preview.
6- Harness the Power of Prototyping
As you are making key decisions about the direction of your brand, it’s important to see what your ideas look like in physical form, before you commit to buying large amounts of stock.
As far as packaging goes, this can be done relatively easily by hitting up your local craft retailer where you will be able to experiment with box sizes, paper thickness, ribbon color if it applies, and all the other various elements of your brand’s style and packaging.
Finally, remember to take your time with this process. Give yourself as much time as you need. It took me a full year from the time I dreamed up my idea for Little Box of Rocks, to the time it hit the market.
And most importantly, have fun!