Today we continue with part three of our blog series about building a brand foundation. I’ve found that there are four key factors that determine whether or not a branding project is successful. When these factors are established before the design work begins, the process runs smoothly and naturally.
Those four factors are:
Whether you’re just starting out, or a few months or years into your business, it’s always a good idea to revisit these four factors and see if your business or brand has changed.
So let’s talk about product development. Even if you offer a similar product or service to your competitors, your unique take on the idea will set you apart. This is why I’ve placed product development as the third step – because having a foundational vision and a clear idea of who you are trying to serve will make it much easier to build a compelling product to offer them.
Now, this process is a bit more involved than just opening up shop. Landing on a signature product or offering takes some trial and error. Just like Steve Rogers says, it’s about designing a relationship with your audience through your solution to their pain point.
Today I’m going to walk you through the process.
For today’s post, I’ll be highlighting my project with Rocky of Wiser Sons and Courtney of Always Coco as examples of clients who really understood their product offering before beginning the branding process.
To begin, you must become reacquainted with curiosity. And to spark curiosity and imagination, it’s important to remember to play – see the world with new eyes, go down the rabbit hole, and brainstorm wild ideas. When your mind is free to roam, you’ll begin to notice the tell-tale sign that an idea is about to take form.
I find it helpful to try to picture myself in the life of my target audience. Where would she read a book, kill time, spend a Saturday, or go on a date? What does her life look like?
If you’re still unclear about your target audience, start to take note of your own life experiences. What lights you up and inspires you to take action?
Rocky Garza began his journey in ministry. As a camp counselor, he spent time in the outdoors, motivating high school and college students to want more out of life. Though his entrepreneurial path wound its way through photography, values-based coaching, and the speaker circuit, he found himself presenting at a women’s retreat one weekend when he encountered the spark of an idea.
Courtney Newell began her journey as a fashion and lifestyle blogger. Courtney spent her days curating inspiration and showing little glimpses of her life. However, a bit into her experience as a blogger, Courtney began to take her mental health more seriously, and noticed how frequently she was influenced by others. She took a break from social media to hit reset, and began to use her platform to talk about what she was discovering. Suddenly, the idea to merge her love of fashion with her passion for mental health and growth sparked an idea.
Drop Cap Design
Two and a half years ago, I had built my branding studio up to what I thought was a dream scenario. I had an art director, junior designers, and a project manager – all the pieces were working like clockwork (so I thought!) In a turn of events, my team fell apart and I reached burn out right around the holidays. I picked up a personal development book about the Enneagram and began to understand my personality and how it was affecting my business in unexpected ways. I became so fascinated that I bought every single book I could find. I began to think about how I could apply this new information about the Enneagram and my personality to rebuild my dream, and suddenly I had an idea.
Once your curiosity has sparked a hint of an idea, it’s time to start talking. Set up meetings with people who fit the description of your target audience and get their thoughts. Be ruthless about validating whether or not your idea is a good one – whether it meets a true need and is an inspired solution to your target market’s pain point.
Rocky came back from this retreat inspired to take action. I remember sitting in our neighborhood coffee shop (I’ve been friends with Rocky and Sara Garza for several years now!) and hearing him talk about this realization that men do not have the kind of community resources and retreat experiences that women do. He bounced his idea among our group of friends, saw our excitement, and knew he was on to something special.
When Courtney and I first started working together, she had already validated the idea for her jewelry line. But through conversations between her friends and family, the concept behind each piece began to take shape. During the design process, we saw more opportunities for symbolism and meaning through every decision. Courtney was never afraid to bring in a new idea as the process began, and it helped us to refine and perfect her Always Coco jewelry line.
Drop Cap Design
I was nervous to tell the first few people about my idea for the Enneagram for Entrepreneurs program. I had tried creating an online course in the past and found the process to be tedious and unrewarding – losing steam and inspiration by the end. But this time I just couldn’t stop the compulsion to create. I first began introducing the Enneagram to my clients during branding projects and slowly started talking about it on Instagram. I was so encouraged by the positive response and the results my clients were getting from using the tool to better understand themselves (an in doing so, better understand their brand!)
Once you’ve validated your product idea, it’s time to start testing out different ways to develop and deliver it. Remember how I told you a good product is all about trial and error? Well, you’re probably going to put out a few not-so-great versions until you land on the one that sticks. It’s important to get prototype versions of your project or service out so you can test its viability and whether it’s solving the primary problem in the way you want it to.
Rocky was already leading a men’s group through our church, coaching male clients through his values-based curriculum, and teaching through his speaking engagements, so experimenting with his concept of a men’s retreat wasn’t very hard. He began to cultivate strong networks of men who were seeking more out of life and testing out which retreat framework would work best.
Courtney began to work on prototypes of her first piece of jewelry – the Da Vinci necklace. In line with her philosophy on simplicity and balance, she only focused on developing one product at a time, and refining it to its best form. She let friends test out initial casts and got the opinions of her community for pricing and development, until we all gave her a resounding YES! that we absolutely loved her versatile, and meaningful, necklace.
Drop Cap Design
I first began to test my idea one-on-one with clients during the branding process. I learned so much about the potential of the Enneagram in messaging and communication, and quickly went into content creation mode. With the first iteration of the course, I did a soft reveal and only “launched” the course to my email list and let it be available for someone to stumble upon. I began speaking at conferences about the Enneagram and teaching workshops to small groups. Through the feedback from my initial students and attendees, I’ve gained a library of knowledge and insights that I’m using this summer to revamp and officially launch the course later this year!
Once you’ve landed on an inspired product idea, testing it out among your community, and experimented with its development and delivery, it’s time to think about how to best tell the story of its creation.
During the branding process, Rocky wanted to give the Wiser Sons brand a masculine and rugged look that still felt modern. His retreat would be filled with leather bound notebooks, time spent in the outdoors, and campfires with whiskey. We went for an old-school, textured typographic approach that allowed him to share his story about what it means to become a good man.
In the conceptual phase, Courtney communicated her desire to see the brand reflect balance and openness. We used the A and C to create a monogram emblem that would allow her to talk about her personal journey with mental health, but also allude to the shape and contour of her jewelry line. The Da Vinci necklace holds so much meaning in each of its versatile positions, and the intention she put into its development has allowed her the opportunity to share a deeper story with her audience.
Drop Cap Design
As I’ve developed the story of Enneagram for Entrepreneurs, I’ve kept the program aligned with the design studio, but leaned into my natural (and often suppressed) love of editorial illustrations. I saw so many memes and repurposed lists online, and wanted to begin creating content that felt editorial, relevant, and story-driven. I’m in the process of further developing this narrative approach to the program, and I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on!
Before deciding whether or not you’re ready for a brand (or rebrand), start to think about your inspired product. Even if these factors change and evolve over time, knowing what you’ve set out to do will result in a brand and message that feels perfectly aligned with your goals and dreams of the future. Here are a few ideas for tapping into curiosity and sparking an idea:
Take up a new hobby or go outside and get out of your comfort zone. Allow yourself to play and explore, sparking creativity along the way.
Get together with your business friends to talk about your ideas. Make a point to offer insight and encouragement (as well as additional ideas) to each other to see what develops.
If you’re really struggling to answer these questions for yourself and your business, consider setting up a Mentor Session to find more clarity and test out a few ideas to see what feels right for your brand.
As you work through these pillars of clarity over the next month, take advantage of our free Brand Scratch Pad that will ask further prompting questions to help you develop a compelling brand product.
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