Well, let’s start with what branding isn’t. Branding is not your logo and branding is not marketing. A lot of my coaching clients think branding is simply marketing, but in reality, your branding should be done WAY before you even begin to think about marketing. If you don’t have a sold brand, marketing your goods is like trying to sell a ghost.

Branding is the most powerful form of design (I know, I am biased). Shopping in stores, getting
pedicures or even working out in places that have been branded well creates a quality
experience because of the perception we have of a certain brand. Brands make us feel more
attractive, smarter, special…and everybody wants to feel those things.

For instance, the everyday act of getting a pastry becomes absolutely charming when you are
getting it at Mr. Holmes Bake Shop in San Francisco, where one of the taglines is: “I got baked
in San Francisco”. Mr. Holmes creates a fun, eccentric, playful and even edgy energy with their
offerings. They sell something called a “Cruffin”. I had to delve in to check out this Cruffin
concept since Mr. Holmes has an actual “Cruffin Count Down” on their website (see how that
hooked me?) The Cruffin Countdown is a timer that lets the world know when the next fresh and
tasty Cruffins will be poppin’ out the oven. The timer engages and adds hype and excitement to
the Mr. Holmes brand (and if you were wondering, a Cruffin is a croissant-like muffin with pastry
filling on the inside).

Mr. Holmes

Mr. Holmes Bakeshop is a perfect example of a cohesive brand identity that creates an emotion
for the consumer. What emotions might we feel when perusing the pastries? Feelings like
comfort, delight and just plain ol’ “yum”, like these big, warm and cozy pastry arms are giving us
a big (and probably much needed) hug.

Aron Tzimas the identity designer for Mr. Holmes said
“For the baked goods box, the idea was simple: make everyone who bought or received baked
goods from Mr. Holmes feel special. We wanted our packaging to represent the quality that was
inside. Too often you see bakeries just stamp a plain craft paper box, and even though we know
this was the (much) more expensive option, we knew that we wanted it to feel like you were
receiving a birthday present.” Aron wanted the customer to feel special, and create a quality

Maybe you aren’t into delicious baked goods. Maybe you are more into burning Cruffin calories
and would rather cycle your buns off…

Introducing: Monster Cycle

Where the soul cycle gets a little more soulless- Monster Cycle is branded in a way that makes
me feel like I am immersed in a metal album. The brand uses a lot of black and white imagery,
bold typography and edgy decor. Monster Cycle has a pentagram in their yoga room and the
cycle room is decked out with matte black bikes, a DJ booth and the occasional bondage decor.
Monster cycle is gym meets club, with a parental advisory at the start of each class. The brand
works to create a specific experience and Michael, the owner, wanted the feel of rock show
energy while exercising. His idea evolved into a 45-minute sweat-out session in a dark room,
while music videos play to motivate and inspire you.

Michael says what sets monster cycle apart from others studios is that they embrace all types of
music styles with special rides like Metal Monday, Goth Pop, Punk and Trap week.

Monster Cycle

How about Blackbeard, the dreadfully scary pirate? Blackbeard was a pirate active in
1716–1718. He was a violent pirate that prepared for the exact moment when other pirates
would see him coming in. He would light fuses and attach them to his beard so all you would
see was were his eyes surrounded by smoke. He was a performer, and wanted to control the
way people perceived him. Blackbeard’s mission was to terrify the other sailors and pirates in
order to have you give up the ship.

Blackbeard Pirate

So what the hell is it?!

Branding is how all of the parts of a company work together to create an image.

  • A brand is an idea, a gut feeling and a story that lives in your customers’ mind.
  • A brand is a promise your customer believes in.
  • A brand is an emotional experience that your customer has when they interact with you on any level.

Your brand will start out as a concept.
Mr. Holmes Bakeshop, Monster Cycle, and even Blackbeard all used visual design to create their compelling brand. While effective branding uses a lot of design, effective branding is not all design. Effective branding starts out as a concept, also known as a brand strategy. The creation of the brand strategy begins with a lot of research. To create a solid brand strategy, you need to know who you are selling to and what makes you different.

Your strategy should include:

  • Audience Research
  • Competitor Research
  • Creation of a Brand Matrix
  • Creation of the Unique Selling Proposition (coming up in part 2)
  • Discovering your brand story
  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Values
  • Creation of your Tone words (coming up in part 3)

Brand Concept and Design

So, why do you need branding if you are a small solopreneur?

1. Over communicated society
Today we live in an over-communicated society, There are millions of brands alone in the USA.
I’ve seen different numbers ranging from 18 million to 27 million businesses.
We are bombarded daily by thousands of messages and ads. Just throwing another brand or
logo out into the world will not do your business any favors and a logo alone will never
differentiate your brand from the others. There are SO many advertisements thrown in our faces
daily from the apps we use and on our favorite websites, in newspapers, on flyers and bulletin
boards ad nauseum. It becomes overwhelming.

2. Our defense is a simple mind.
The only defense our brain has against this oversaturation and constant stimulation is to simplify
and categorize. Our brains go into sensory overload which is defined by Wikipedia as “occurring
when one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment.
There are many environmental elements that impact an individual”. Examples of these elements
are urbanization, crowding, noise, mass media, technology, and the explosive growth of
information. Psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote a book called the “Paradox of Choice” where he
makes an observation about free choice and argues that eliminating consumer choices can
greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers. Customers will end up choosing and paying more for the
products they have heard of. Big brands are recognizable and give the consumer an easy and
simple choice. The well-branded product or service will not get lost in a sea of similar products
because they will have differentiated themselves in the customer’s mind with a simple message.

3. Our Approach is to oversimplify the message to get through to the customer.
Less is more! We create a simple and direct message through creating a brand identity and concept that will outlast all the noise.

To oversimplify the message you must create your #1 unique and compelling difference. Do
you know why a customer or client would choose you over your competitors? Most people do
not know, the question actually stumps them… Check back in next week to learn how to create
your USP.