by Andi Mints Gilreath
GRCC presents a guest post from one of our members, Andi Mints Gilreath. In the second of this two-part piece (view Pt.1), Andi explores when it’s time for a business or entrepreneur to hire a brand designer.
Last time we “talked,” I discussed why you should hold your horses on diving in(1) with a logo when you’re new in your business. We discussed that fashion is like branding and why growing up is about learning to trust yourself (in business and life). Continuing to grow is about learning to ask for help. Depending on others to help you can be a scary part of a small business. So today, we’re going to discuss when and why you DO need a brand designer and why that person should not just draw you a logo and peace out (are we still saying peace out?).
Building a strong brand is about cultivating credibility and trust. A strong brand creates a cohesive experience for your clients and potential clients, reflecting your mission and values. A brand can and should encompass everything from how your potential customers find you, to your website, and yes, your logo. But what does that mean, practically? That’s the question people hire brand designers to answer! The power of a brand is that it can build trust with customers, collaborators, and potential partners beyond what a single person can do.
Outgrowing Your Existing Brand
While I made things personal on the last post, today, I will talk about a client of mine, and what happened with they outgrew their existing branding. I mentioned last time that product-based businesses DO need branding from the get-go, and Aged & Infused was no exception. Aged & Infused creates alcohol infusion mixes for the home bar. They grew from popping up at farmers’ markets and craft fairs to pursuing wholesale and needing all kinds of print materials. A&I kept their branding minimal and easy to maintain while validating their ideas and products (great job, guys!). The business was experiencing organic growth, but it needed more cohesive messaging and packaging presentation for the change to bubble over. To be seen in the more competitive wholesale space, they knew they needed outside help.
I want to emphasize here that the situation was a positive one. No business or organization should feel bad for what got them to where they are. Each phase of growth is an essential piece of the story we want to continue to tell. There was nothing inherently wrong with the materials Aged & Infused had. Their logo only needed some technical changes. But the greater identity, the mood we wanted to create, the feeling we wanted people to have when they interacted with the product, those things needed development. There was a high degree of clarity inside the business, their product was in demand, and they knew who their customers were. I was thrilled to have something tangible to work with! This was indeed the ideal situation for me (and perhaps for most designers).
In the beginning, their product offering had been for a narrow audience, mostly whiskey-drinkers. Their packaging and other collateral were aimed at those folks—dark navy and red, flannel patterns, and brown craft paper. As they grew, they attracted other spirit drinkers, and it made sense to meet the desires of a wider audience because it didn’t abandon the core of the business. But they could feel a disconnect between the original products and newer lines, and chances are their newer audience could too. So, we got rid of the craft paper. I created a complete color palette to help denote flavor profiles and help with way-finding. We freshened up the font choices and started capturing custom product and lifestyle photography for print and digital work. The end result is something the client is crazy proud of, and I am too, and their business has continued to grow!
Nice Branding Alone Cannot Save Your Business
A brand identity, done well, is a core asset of your business. It’s a crucial part of what builds a connection between your customers and your products, so before you hire a designer, make sure you know who your customers are and what your product or service can do for them. What made the Aged & Infused rebrand successful was everything they had learned by doing their work imperfectly. Branding cannot save a business that doesn’t have traction, and it cannot make up for a lack of clarity or too few customers. I feel I should repeat that. Nice-looking branding cannot save your business. What branding can do is amplify your strengths, values, and mission so that you can take advantage of growth and help make your business truly sustainable over the long term.
So what does this mean for you? How do you grow without a brand designer and without looking like an amateur? You do what Aged & Infused did. You do the work imperfectly. Get to know your customers as clearly and completely as you can, understand the value that your product or service offers your people. Write your learnings down! This is the foundation you will build your brand on. Hone in on your mission, vision, and values. Experiment, start small, get feedback, refine, keep the long view in mind. The more clearly you understand the intersection of your customers’ needs with your products or services, your business will become more clearly defined. The more clearly defined your business is, the stronger your brand will be. And when you have some things figured out, I recommend hiring a brand designer.
1. It’s OK if I mix metaphors. I’m a designer, not a copywriter.
About our Guest Author
I inherited both my mom’s attention to detail and my dad’s willingness to learn. I credit my big imagination to the 7,000 acres of my childhood backyard. Growing up in Texas, I learned to love working with my hands and to always say “yes ma’am.”
After working for ad agencies and in-house design teams, I started my own studio to serve fellow small business owners. Brand design isn’t just for the big box brands. My business fully exists to help you in yours—it is my joy to help you achieve the visual brand you’ve been dreaming of.