My most difficult client to date? Hmm. Well, she's about 5'3" tall, has brown hair and brown eyes and is.....me. The rebrand I recently went through was in many ways hard and in many ways awesome. For a living, I develop identities for companies, products, people and services. For me to experience first-hand what I do—as a client—was fascinating and a great chance to be reminded of what my clients go through. You see, the biggest difficulty in the rebrand was myself. I fell into the same tendencies my clients do. We all want to pick things that we personally, individually like. But is your 'brand' for you? Or is it for the people you are trying to reach? I'd venture to say that my rebrand isn't really for me at all. I'm not the end user. It's for current and future clients, colleagues and other professionals in my industry. The purpose isn't to create something I think just looks cool but rather to implement something that communicates me to others. The purpose is to communicate myself and what I do to others in a way that will encourage them to connect with me.
I'm pretty sure combining some of my personal favorite elements just wouldn't do the trick. Giraffe print, sequins, gold, bright red and warthogs probably wouldn't have worked out so well. But that's OK, I've worked these favorites into a set of personal stationery which I'll share with you later. But for now? I thought I'd share my brand guide with you and share with you the opinions of the two people I worked most closely with on this rebrand; Kate and Victor.
First, here's my identity guide. This is what I will reference from here on out as I do new things and create new visual pieces. This is what will help me stay consistent with my messages. Please download it and take a look. It's very similar to what we produce at Doth Brands for clients, but it's not nearly as in depth. Plus, for our purposes, I've left out a lot of the content so you all can see the parts that I'll most often reference.
Second, I thought it might be interesting to hear from two people I worked with on the identity. We work together in real life developing identities for clients and a slough of other things so it was definitely a new experience for us to work together on something for one of us. I'm pretty sure they learned some things too.
Here's what Kate had to say:
I know Cole as both a friend and co-worker so branding her presented a unique challenge. Much as Cole had trouble separating herself personally from her brand, I had trouble viewing her as a client initially. I know too much, in a way. With clients we can get a feel for who they are, what their business is about, and do the research, but we're not taking their dogs on a walk when they're out of town or going to weddings together. Cole is so many things, and boiling it down to one concise message took time. We took a stab at it a few weeks ago. We didn't get very far. And, I think that's okay. We had other priorities at the time, and I believe we all needed to marinate on it. When we came back to it fresh, her brand came together in a matter of days. Some emails back and forth, a chat over coffee with Cole, Victor and myself spouting ideas and a lot of manpower on Cole's end... and we're here!
Here's what Victor had to say:
The reality is that Cole is just like everybody else. She needed the same advice that we give to our other clients and she had a difficult time accepting what we all knew was right for her. If it were me in her position I'm sure I would go through the same things. Defining an identity is something that is deeply personal but requires you to be impersonal. That is a difficult balance to strike.
Finally, I just want to add a note about the process of 'branding' yourself. I hear a lot of positive about it and a lot of negative about it, especially when we're talking about personal brands. Here's my two cents:
You have a brand whether you like it or not. People make judgements about who you are regardless of how well they know you. Heck, if they've only seen your Facebook profile they have already made assumptions about who you are. 'Personal Branding' does not mean you are manipulating others or are being fake. When you do it thoughtfully (which requires needing to understand what you are trying to achieve) you are simply being consistent.
Let me tell you this, people that send a consistent message are typically consistent people. And we know from demographics research and behavioral psychology that people who are consistent are more successful, are happier and are more likely to achieve their dreams.
What was most difficult about this process was that I had to look from the outside in when my whole life I've been looking from the inside out. And my clients go through this same thing; they're used to looking at their business from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Identity is all about perspective.
Please don't hesitate to send me an email sometime, especially if you want to talk branding!