How Do You Brand Yourself? Don't.

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As entrepreneurs, we’re brilliant, we’re unstoppable, we’re badass and we know it. But what I learned recently is sometimes, we’re also wrong.

 After a decade in advertising and design, I decided to start my own creative studio. As a creative, myself, it was only natural that I came up with ideas for my brand. And because of my past experience and new founder excitement, I didn’t consider for a moment that my ideas could be off the mark. So I crafted them, sent them on to colleagues, and waited for the praise to flood my inbox.

But then, I got something in addition to the compliments I expected: criticism. It was only when I spoke with people who had an outside perspective that I realized I had been too close to my brand—too in love with my ideas—to see that it could be done differently. I did the very thing that I watched every overeager client and founder do: I got in my own way.

Now that I realize this is something every entrepreneur struggles with, I created a guide for how to avoid the all-too-common obstacles in branding your company.

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Step 1: Understand the Importance of Building a Brand

A strong brand is the difference between a pair of shoes and a pair of Nikes. And in today’s oversaturated marketplace, good branding and design are required to build any business. When you have a strong brand, customers are more likely to stay. In fact, customers who feel connected to a brand emotionally are 52% more valuable to a brand than an unattached customer.

Step 2: Hire an Expert

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Even if you’re in a creative field, it’s all too easy to let personal preferences override brand strategy and insights. Let’s say you’re the founder of an insurance app, and you love puppies. Does it make sense to have a puppy as your logo? Probably not. It’s important to remember, you are not your brand, and in a lot of cases, you’re not your brand’s target audience, either. Keep your opinions, but also keep an open mind.

Step 3: Watch out for "The Cyclops Syndrome"

Hold two pieces of paper out in front of you and slowly move them toward your face, trying to focus on both at once. They blur together, and your eyes cross into one out-of-focus lens. This is what I call “The Cyclops Syndrome,” and it’s common for entrepreneurs who care too much. When you get too close to your brand, the lines blur between what’s right for it, and what you personally want for it. To avoid this, take a step back, ask advice from people on the outside, and be open to new perspectives that could change the way you see things.

Step 4: Control Less, Trust More, and Accept That You Could Be Wrong

This is the hard part. Listening to outside perspectives could mean changing things you’ve spent weeks on, or maybe even starting over. But now is the time. First impressions matter. And putting the time in to get your brand right from the start is what makes Nike Nike, Apple Apple, and Warby Parker Warby Parker.

Step 5: Remember, You Hired People for a Reason

You don’t work with people you don’t trust, and you’re smart enough to know who to hire. So trust your judgment and the branding experts you hire, and know they have good intentions, great abilities, and want you to succeed as much as you do.

As entrepreneurs, we’re brilliant, we’re unstoppable, we’re badass and we know it. But what I learned recently is sometimes, we’re also wrong.

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This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have strong opinions and thoughts about where your brand should go. You started your company, and know it better than anyone else. Ultimately, you decide where to take your brand. But like me, you may discover that being too close to it could get in the way. And when you realize that and change your approach, it makes all the difference.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katie Steward:

Founder and Creative Director at SHION studio.

Katie founded SHION in 2017 after serving as a Design Director in advertising and design. She’s worked on Google, Apple, Asics, Under Armour and more, and has the rare blend of being a big thinker and a detailed designer.