Branding: It’s More Important than You May Think!
Branding is one of those activities that we usually associate with cattle. Picture the cowboy out on the range with his branding iron in the fire and a calf awaiting the sting of that iron. Now, erase that picture and know that many ranchers prefer to freeze brand their cattle using dry ice and alcohol. (No, we don’t drink the alcohol; it’s part of the branding mixture.) Branding used to and still does help when cattle have been rustled and require identification later. Yes, cattle rustling does still occur. Now, however, branding is largely for identification of specific animals on the ranch site or at a sale. A buyer, who knows the quality of animals carrying a certain brand will look for that brand when it comes time to purchase animals. The identification through branding is required for many other reasons, but I will not digress further from the important topic at hand in this article.
Branding can be just as important for the products we offer as it is in the cattle business; yet, it may be one of the last things we think about when trying to market those wares. When one of the etsy newsletters www.etsy.com prompted me to think about branding, my first thought was that I had enough to worry about without branding myself. I thought time spent on branding would be like getting the proverbial cart before the horse. Good grief, I can’t even get enough products put online to make a tiny ripple in the market and now I’m supposed to stop and think about a brand. What good would a brand do me when I don’t have enough products ready to go? Some designers and store owners are in the opposite position; they have the perfect brand, but no product ready to go. What’s an aspiring entrepreneur to do?
Unfortunately the answer could be . . . we need to do all of it! Yes, we need to have enough product ready so that potential customers will stop at your booth or look at your website or store, but all those products need to speak to the customer about who we are and what we are offering. Otherwise, we are missing a grand opportunity to let people know the value of our product. Our brand can say it all or it can have no meaning.
Just what IS a brand within the context of jewelry design and products? The answer may be found in the explanation offered by Wikipedia. “A brand is the identity of a specific product, service, or business. A brand can take many forms, including a name, sign, symbol, color combination or slogan.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand Based on this definition, most of us can likely accept the idea that we need to think about branding, but where should we start? Several authors suggest the answer.
Sarah Stearns, writing for Etsy asks the following: What does your brand promise? What expectations does your customer have for your shop? Are you the innovator, offering cutting edge products? Are you the eco-friendly business that promises a commitment to renewable materials? Do you promise low-cost, high-value items, an intriguing story, or the friendliest customer service? I read those questions and had to pause to consider the answers. Internally, I thought I heard her asking what is your business and why should I buy from you? I wanted to just scream “I’m a good person!” Realizing, however, that this might not convince someone to purchase my products, I set out on a branding adventure. This adventure reminded me a bit of all those psychological or personality profile tests we used to take in graduate school, but thankfully this is less intrusive. It is, however, an exercise in self-discovery.
Considering a business brand really requires that we focus on what we want to do. If you, like many of us, have strived to create whatever someone else wanted, you may have roamed from one style and medium to another in search of that creative pot of gold. Unfortunately, the result of this practice can be troublesome and customers may be left wondering what to expect from our products. This goes back to finding your own niche, discussed in a previous article http://www.magpiegemstones.com/finding_your_niche.html ……. In order to define our brand, we will need to solidify what we want to produce and to whom we will market that product.
Among other things, the aforementioned Sara Stearns suggests that we determine how our product is unique and beneficial and also determine our target market. She advises us to let the customer know how our product benefits them. For example, do we offer pretty but sturdy jewelry especially designed for little girls who are not necessarily kind to their pieces? Do our bracelets and necklaces have specially designed clasps that work well in the little fingers or those children? Perhaps we make copper tubing bracelets with etched western designs for men. How can we let men know why our bracelets are so comfortable yet ruggedly stylish?
If our target market is the latter, men will want to recognize our brand and we will want to use masculine colors rather than something done in pink that looks cute. Yet, the mother of a little girl is looking for a logo that is charming and fun. Knowing our target market will help us determine how that brand should look.
Everything about the brand, including the packaging, advertising, etc. should be consistent. It usually takes some time for customers to begin to recognize a brand and it can be confusing if our business cards suggest one thing while our advertising says something different. Frankly, we probably wouldn’t want that ad for those men’s bracelets to be done with butterflies flitting about while our brown rustic business card displays a horse. (Am I being too obvious?) Information collected by Sharon Elaine Thompson for and article titled Brand You (Jewelry Artist, July 2010), states that inconsistency can be the fastest way to kill a brand. It appears to me that we are talking about a puzzle wherein all the pieces actually fit together to reveal a clear image. If we try to take a piece from one puzzle and put it in a different puzzle, the result confusing.
As we develop our brand, both the name and the logo for our work is important. A brief internet article found at http://www.articlesbase.com/hobbies-articles/branding-your-design-collection-1486469.html may provide some insight regarding names. The article reminds us to utilize a thesaurus to find just the right words for describing our work. I also believe that the arrangement of those words is important. For example, consider this product description that might be found on a business card, advertisement or used as part of the brand: Rugged men’s copper bracelets with a western flair, handmade on the ranch in Texas. It’s no accident that the word rugged is beside men. The connotation is fairly obvious, but don’t tell the men!
Another article http://ezinearticles.com/?Why-Jewelry-Logos-Should-be-Custom-Made&id=671286 suggests that logos should be custom made and timeless. This source states that logos have at least a ten year life; therefore, we need to get one that we can live with for a long while. We want to stay away from fonts and styles that are current fads and may not be tolerable next year.
In selecting a name for your business/products, I recommend something that can also have a long life. While others may not agree with me, it seems that the name should be wide enough to allow for slight shifts or additions to your product line. If the maker of those men’s bracelets selected The Men’s Copper Bracelet Company for the business name, it would likely preclude the addition of matching women’s bracelets to the line, although some will do this without reservations. Personally, I would prefer The Copper Bracelet Company or Designs in Copper. Then we might question whether a company with that name would also want to carry a sterling silver version of the products. The answer is not clear, but it is something to consider and decide upon. Think through these branding conundrums and make your own decision so the market doesn’t make them for you.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the power of effecting branding. Certainly several large manufacturing companies have been foremost in using branding to attract customers. I still put “Crisco” on my grocery list rather than writing down shortening and some of us ask for a Kleenex rather than a tissue. Wouldn’t it be great if a customer looked for a “xxxxx”, the name of your brand, rather than a bracelet or necklace?
So, if we are convinced that we need to think about our own branding, what’s left to be determined in this exercise? We’ve considering a good name, a timeless logo or symbol and know that our slogan may be a simple well worded sentence. We’ve also thought about an appropriate color that connotes our business idea. Therefore, it must be time to put it all together and get out there. Is there anything we are forgetting? Oh yes, let’s go make some product!
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