Why do we love the things we love? Why do we fall in love with people and brands and stuff, and feel like our lives are better for having them in it? It’s all because of the way they make us feel, all about emotion, all about aspirations and identity. How we feel about things is the way dominant way we make decisions - once we’ve used our logic to decipher our choices, it’s the way we feel that makes us pull the trigger.
So what’s that got to do with branding and style? You know I’m going to say it … everything.
A friend of mine is a lawyer who has her own practice. She was working really hard to establish an on and offline presence & reputation, but she got really stuck and felt totally burnt out. The reason? She created a brand that made ‘sense’ and which she thought was really ‘clever’, but it wasn’t truly her.
You see, she’s a sweet, pretty girl, softly spoken, fairly spiritual, loves pink, heels, nails, hair, fashion and flowers … and is SUPER smart. But her brand was all serious, lawyer-like, almost masculine and, well, bloody boring. It was nothing like who she really is. She wanted swirly pink fonts and flowers in her web imagery. She wanted to talk to her clients about how they felt first and what the law said second, and she wanted to help women with the legalities of setting up their businesses for free. But she thought all that would compromise people’s perception of her as a capable and professional legal practitioner.
Not only was she not standing out when she totally should have been, but she was attracting clients and work that she didn’t love, and most of all, none it was sustainable. Through desperation, she gave in. She gave in to the swirly pink fonts, she rocked her floral skirts and pink heels, she said no to the clients she didn’t love and she bloomed. The more she gave in to expressing who she really was, the more stylised her brand became and the more her business boomed. Her clients find her and love her because she stands out and because her brand represents what you get when you work with her, exactly.
Your brand’s the thing, or collection of things, that identify you, what you do, and how you’re different to your competitors. It’s a recognisable representation of a whole heap of things that say that’s you and not someone else.
Your brand style then, is like the personality of your brand - all the ways you express that brand, including your values. It’s in what you say and how you say it, it’s in the colours, fonts and imagery you use, it’s in the way you interact with people, the way you run your business, the causes you support, the stories you tell - the complete package.
It’s a way of saying who you are and what you stand for without having to necessarily speak the words and spell it out. It’s all the things that come to mind when people think about and experience your brand. It’s the bit that shows off your personality, expressing it in everything you do. It’s the thing that helps you stand out. The more stylised your brand is, the more recognisable, loveable and engage-able it is. The more personality you can give your brand and the more consistent you are with it, the more strongly people will be drawn to it … And that’s where feelings come into it.
A strong brand is one that people recognise, are familiar with, that makes sense, whose message is clear and, of course, one that people are emotionally connected to. People love certain brands because they feel an affinity and identify with the brand’s values. I think that’s easier to understand in terms of personal brands where the brand is the person, but it’s exactly true for other brands too. Personal or not, great brands have managed to mean something far more to the people that love them than just a symbol or design. Those ‘meanings’ are the feelings, the emotions and that’s why they’ve earned trust and loyalty.
If you ask me, the feeling is the most important bit. Yes, there’s science and art and design and theory and tech and bla bla bla involved, but at the end of the day, all of those things are used to convey a feeling, an emotion. And that feeling starts with you. If you want your brand to make people feel a certain way, the answers for achieving that begin with how it makes YOU feel.
When your style resonates and truly reflects who you are and what you stand for, you'll feel good and that'll come through in your brand and in the work you do. When you choose colours and fonts and images for your style guide that genuinely reflect you and which you feel good about, you’ll feel great about using them and being on-brand will suddenly become easy. When you feel like that, it’s easy to repeat it, to flow with it and, hey guess what. Now you’ve got consistency down so people see you enough and in the same way to develop those emotions. BOOM.
I love that lawyer story, and in the end, for all the markety, businessy things you can say about branding and brand style, creating a great brand style is not as much about design as it is about feelings. How you feel about the way you express your brand will have a huge impact on the feelings other people have about it. Start there and nail it, and when you do, your brand will become your greatest business asset.
Is your brand and style something that’s bugging you? Why don’t you email me so we can set up a time to chat? Chances are, I can help you find some clarity and offer a new perspective to help you move forward. Perhaps a monthly coaching package of intense brand and styling work would really sort you out, so if you’re interested, pop your email address in the form below and I’ll send you all the good details. If you’re ready to jump on a call, or have a coffee together, email me direct at andrea@pepperstreetsocial, tell me when and how I can call you and I will!
Let’s get your brand style aligned with who you really are.
Looking forward to hearing from you,