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The VERY Basics of Branding

I often get statements along the lines of: “I am so passionate about (fill in the blank with the awesome thing you make/do/offer” but I have NO idea how to get the word out.” It is fairly typical for the artist personality to be paralyzed by the thought of marketing their work – or even more scary – building a personal brand. “What the heck is a brand? Do I need a brand name? I just like to paint, and everybody should be able to see that, right?!” Well…not quite.

A Forbes article from 2011 differentiates between the old idea of brand name, and the idea in contemporary marketing of a living brand:

It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic).  Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it.  It’s fixed.  But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.

In a recent networking meeting with a group of artists, I heard a woman who serves as a marketing director at Google use the phrase, “As an artist, you are your brand.” What? That’s kinda scary. I am my brand? … You know what? I agree with her.

Especially with the rise of social media marketing, consumers love the idea of knowing the daily in’s and out’s of the person who made the item they have purchased, or are considering purchasing. Buyers want to connect with you! You may not realize it, but you have already begun building your personal brand when you sit down with someone in a coffee shop and talk about your art with her. And even when you segue into a conversation about tacos. Do you LOVE tacos? Then that is still branding. Ok, before you give up on me because you think I am crazy, here are my top five VERY basics of branding.

  1. You Do You
    Back to that taco thing – but less tasty. Sit down with a trusted friend and ask her to brainstorm the top three adjectives that describe you and/or your art or product. Then, you do the same. How do you perceive what you do? How does your friend? Decide which of these “work” for your business and emblazon them on your mind as you move forward. For example, The Story Shop brand could be described as: Bright, Quirky, Truthful, or Approachable (I hope that last one is true! I’m working hard on it!)
  2. IRL (In Real Life)
    One of the best things you can do is practice articulating your brand with other people. Get together with a group of friends or family and talk about what you do, and why you care about it. It is important to practice this in real life before you go digital. This brings more authenticity to your digital presence, and more confidence to you as you interact with folks you don’t know online.
  3. The Bold and the Beautiful
    AKA, get on social media, and get comfortable with feeling awkward. Many folks say that everything you post on social should be beautiful. I agree that on particular platforms like Instagram, beautiful images are extremely important. But here’s a little secret – people love real stuff. They want to see the outtakes from your life, and this will feel a little strange at first. Curate beauty, but be bold about being awkward.
  4. The Interwebs
    Simply stated, if you don’t have a website, you are not in the game. Get a website. I don’t care if you only have two paintings made, you need a website. If this feels overwhelming, check out Squarespace – they provide gorgeous templates that are very user-friendly.
  5. Face It
    Face it, you need to spend money on a professional headshot or five. I know it seems frivilous or vain; but you really do need a clean, professional photograph of yourself. It’s even better if it captures some element of your personality. Have photos taken in your studio or another favorite place.

Hopefully these five tips make branding seem less intimidating. Colors and logos and such will come later, but it all starts with understanding yourself, and what you care about. You’ve got this. Feel free to shoot us an email if you have other questions about branding, or consider applying for coaching to go deeper.

With gratitude for your creativity,

Shannon

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