What's Your Brand Story?

Once Upon a Time…

A girl tired of her 9-5 had an idea. She was going to go into business for herself with an online store! *que super hero theme music*
But wait…the vast internet market place was already heavily saturated with the product she wants to sell. womp womp wompppp.

"HAVE NO FEAR MY DEAR"…she heard a voice say, “The best is yet to come and I’m going to show you the way”. There may be a lot of boutiques this is true but the universe is abundant and there are enough customers for you. Knowing your story is what it’s about keep your eyes on the prize and you will win no doubt."

A few posts back I spoke about how the Best Brands Tell Stories. Well I’m back to dive into how you can create your brand’s story.

Whatever type of online boutique you open it should represent a distinct personality and promote a specific lifestyle around the products you are selling. It may be a personality that is romantic, rebellious, or cynical living a lifestyle that is coveted (jet setting, vacations, red carpets). Once you know the type of personality and lifestyle you want your brand to be you must be intentional in all that you do. From the models you use to your captions and the look of your IG feed all of it should work together in harmony telling a part of your story. Stick to it and it will begin to unfold organically into an online brand that is recognizable and most importantly resonates with the hearts and minds of your ideal customers. In just a few sentences below I tell a short story for my product line:

"A city girl who is a fan of Beyoncé and Trap Music, she lives for mixing designer wears with affordable fashions. Her hair and nails are always done and she can be glamorous but also doesn’t mind being chill. She works hard and plays harder. She has a “bae” sometimes, and is in-tune with her sexuality and the universe. She’s down to earth with a slick mouth but can also be sensitive AF. “

From those few lines I can already begin to think about the types of posts I should do on my social media pages. Each one will some how relate back to the story of this girl.

Now your turn! In the comments below tell me your short story for your brand.

3 Quick Tips to Find Your Unique Brand Style

Everyone has their own unique essence about them. When it comes to building your online presence that essence is what separates you from your competition. You must loose your fear of opening yourself up to criticism and being wrong in order to tap into your UBS (Unique Brand Style). Others may have a similar style or taste, but no one can do it exactly the same as you. Allow yourself to create without abandon. You stand out and make a difference by taking risk. You have little to loose and much to gain. Here are 3 things you can do to start tapping into your UBS:

1. Tone of Voice:

Speak like a human. Whether you are selling clothes or business courses a robotic voice will not attract your ideal customer. The passion you feel about your product or service needs to be reflected when you speak about it. Write from your heart and let your unique personality shine through. Don't be "sell-sy" orrigid in tone, it comes across as inauthentic.

2. Stop the Comparison Game:

We have been conditioned to do what others do in order to reach success. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Everyone has their own journey and someone else's journey is not yours to behold. Learn from the success of others but never expect to follow some magical blueprint that is going to give you exact results. One of the biggest mistakes of new business owners is seeing a brand they like and copying it. When you copy you always stay 2 steps behind. Pick 3 brands that resonate with you and the reasons why. Once you know take those reasons and put your unique spin on them. Building a business from the ground up requires a living breathing vision. You can't live and breath someone else's dreams.

3. Find Your Audience:

Do this be first defining who your customer is. Don't just know the basic stuff like their age and gender, but know things like where they shop (Forever 21 vs. Barney's), shows they watch, socio-economic status, books/magazines they may read. Get specific! The more detailed the better. The more you know the easier it is for you to tap into their needs and market in a way that resonates with them. Once you know figure out which social media platform they frequent and nurture it. Nurture it like a baby. It's not necessary to try and concur every social platform at once. Stick to one succeed at it, then move to the next.


written & illustrated by Tiffani Nicole

INSTAGRAM GROWTH HACKS

These growth hacks are straight and to the point. Use them consistently and there is no reason at least one of them shouldn't work out really well for you.


THE INSPIRATION EFFECT

Gotta love those social media posts with the dreamy pictures and quotes that always some how seem to make you feel a bit braver, more ambitious and INSPIRED.

"Go out there & get what you deserve."

Hell yea! That's me, you say to yourself as you take a screenshot or hit the share button and post it to your page.

The above quote has the ability to resonate with a variety of people, and how you display it determines if it is reaching the RIGHT people. The Inspiration Effect is an inspirational quote placed in context of your brand. Whether the quote is your own personal words or famous quotes you can take those words and turn them into posts that your target audience will not only be inspired by, but want to share. Below are 3 examples of the above quote, but in different situations depending on who the brand is speaking to.

You will notice some where on all of the images is a hashtag and/or link back to the page where the image originates from. That is where you put your own hashtag and/or brand name. Doing this helps the sharer find their way back to your page. People almost naturally share posts that touches them in some way.

FOLLOW FOR FOLLOW

Ewww you say! That sounds SPAMMY. Yea maybe you didn't really say that out loud but you probably frowned.  Following others in order for them to find you is in no way SPAMMY. Instagram is a social network let's not forget. Your goal is to let people know you exist, but not just any and everybody but people who could potentially be interested in your product or service.

You will want to identify 5-10 IG pages for competitors within your market. Look for those with both high and low follower counts. Once you have found them take a scroll through their followers.

You can use the drop down arrow next to the follow button to find accounts that are similar to one another.

Go through their follower lists and begin following the accounts. You may also checkout followers in the comment sections. If you don't want your follower count to become astronomically higher than your amount of followers give yourself a cap (stop at 1000 follows). I'm not saying follow a 1000 people in one day! No way, actually that's not allowed. Instagram allows you to follow/unfollow 160 people per hour without flagging your account. So this is something done over time. You can do it once or even twice each day. Set a goal for a follower count you want to reach and give yourself a date of making it. (ex: 1000k new followers by July). Don't worry yourself about who follows back and who doesn't. You can go through your list later after you've built your following up some and unfollow.

POST ABOUT A CURRENT EVENT/POP CULTURE

We all love a good news story, maybe it's a risqué dress Rihanna wore on the red carpet or the tragic tale of Harambe the gorilla, people can't get enough of current events. The key is to make the current event relevant to your brand story. This tactic only works if you are able to do so. Posting a current event just to post it and it not being relevant to your audience may go unnoticed. Same goes for posting about celebrities or television shows. Figure out a way to relate it to your brand's audience.

A 30 DAY CHALLENGE

A challenge can force you to post something everyday. Building a following on Instagram is all about maintaining consistency and quality. Choose something others can participate in and create a hashtag for it. Stick with it! Don't quit 10 days in, you want to keep your word to your audience and most importantly yourself.

HASHTAGS

Yes good ole hashtags are on this list. Hashtags themselves are no secret, the secret is in knowing how to use them effectively. There are 3 types of hashtags; general, specific, popular.

1. General Hashtags: Are ones that are broad yet relevant to your business. Example: #goldnecklace #nameplates #accessories #shine #bling.

2. Specific Hashtags: will either connect directly to your image or your audience. You may create a special tag for a particular product or campaign (like with the 30 day challenge) or ones that have to do directly with your niche. Scout hashtags from your competitors or others with posts relevant to your business.

3. Popular: Trending tags that can be found on the Instagram explorer page only work if they are relevant to your brand and/or what you are posting. Randomly hashtagging#beyoncé on your IG post if it has nothing to do with your business is what not to do.

Keep your tags in note pad on your phone so they are handy whenever you post. Always post them in the comment section and not directly in your caption.


written and illustrated by Tiffani Nicole

20 Tools Every Digital #LadyBoss Needs in her tool box

The following tools are a must if you are on your way to digital dominance. Some are apps and some are tools you can simply use from online. Most are free but some require a small fee or subscription to use the service. Some of them I use quite frequently, while others I am looking forward to trying, including Spy Fu and Holler.

  1. Namecheckr.com (www.namecheckr.com): Use this to check and see if a name is available before you get attached to it. See if the domain is available and all the social media platforms that would be associated with it.
  2. Trademarkia (http://www.trademarkia.com/): Find out if the name or slogan you’ve chosen has been trademarked.
  3. Wayback Machine (http://archive.org/web/ ): Ever wondered what an online brand might have looked liked in it’s early stages? Hey everyone starts somewhere. Type in a url and be taken back in time to what a website looked like in it’s earlier years.
  4. Wordswag (app): For those who aren’t Photoshop savvy and want to create some appealing text graphics for their brand.
  5. Uber Conference (https://www.uberconference.com/): Got a meeting of the minds? How about a free conference call?
  6. Haro (https://www.helpareporter.com): Is a mailing list where small businesses can come across some pretty cool opportunities, like a list of upcoming events that need items for their gift bags.
  7. When to Gram (app): An app that does just what it says. Tells you the perfect times to post on IG according to your account.
  8. Color Story (app): Bright, bold, color photos is what you can get with these amazing filters curated by the girls over at @abeautifulmess
  9. Planoly (app): Plan your instagram, one post at a time. Set up a schedule, see what posts will look like next to each other before they go live, and create those cool photo grids that span your feed with the click of a button. This is a paid app where you can do a 14 day free trial.
  10. Mail Chimp (http://mailchimp.com/): Email marketing is still an essential part to any business. MC allows the first 2000 subbies free, after that you may choose from paid subscription plans.
  11. Zen Desk (https://www.zendesk.com/): Keep your customers happy and complaints to a minimum with subscription service. Zen Desk offers a wide range of customer service tools for businesses at any stage.
  12. AdRoll (https://www.adroll.com/product/web-retargeting): Re-target customers who may have abandoned their cart on your site through strategically placed ads during their internet browsing.
  13. Google Calendar: Success does not come without planning and defining your goal. Utilize this free calendar to set your goals for your business each week.
  14. Moz (https://moz.com/): This site teaches and offers services in the all important realm of SEO (search engine optimization). Find out how to rank your site better in the search results and stay ahead of the competition.
  15. Spy Fu: ( http://www.spyfu.com/ ) Download your competitors most profitable keywords and ads. Search for any domain and see every place they've shown up on Google: every keyword they've bought on Adwords, every organic rank, and every ad variation in the last 9 years.
  16. Pinterest (www.pinterest.com): If you aren’t already using it then you should! Pinterest can be a very valuable tool when it comes to reaching your audience. Post the right pin and get it reposted and seen many times over. (I think Pinterest deserves an expanded post. Stay tuned).
  17. Holler (app): I’m a big advocate of not ignoring your local market. This cool app lets small businesses create and send postcards to targeted areas right from your phone.
  18. Bit.ly (https://bitly.com/): Use Bit.ly to shorten long urls. It also tracks the amount of traffic the link has received. This definitely comes in handy when posting direct links to your product or service.
  19. Scanner Pro (app): I use this so much! I will actually wip this out and use it to scan things instead of using my printer.
  20. Repost (app): Get the paid version only about $2 bucks if I can remember and you can repost your favorite videos easily and without a watermark.

written and illustrated by Tiffani Nicole

Are You a Cheater Brand?

On last week’s episode of the Real Housewives of NYC, Bethenny Frankel called out frenemy Sonja Morgan for naming her wine venture something that sounds dangerously similar to her highly successful brand Skinny Girl. Sonja had announced that she would be calling her line of Prosecco “Tipsy Girl”.
(que serious eye roll)

Well of course there was a catty sit down in which Bethenny told Sonja the name for her wine was what is called a CHEATER BRAND. Defined as a brand that rides the coattails of a more well known brand, by either blatantly stealing product ideas or doing things too similar to be a coincidence. Sonja refuted those claims, however I’m going to have to agree with Bethenny here. Skinny Girl coined by Frankel in 2009 originally started as a line of books, and an exercise DVD. Eventually Bethenny would take the name and brand it as a line of spirits called Skinny Girl Cocktails, a line of more calorie conscious spirits. Bethenny later sold the brand to Fortune Brands’ Beam Global for an estimated $120 million. The name really became known and synonymous with being a chosen spirit for women counting calories in their alcohol beverages. It is very obvious here that the name “Tipsy Girl” being given to a wine is a play on the "Skinny Girl” branded line of cocktails.

I’ve seen this happen a few times with established brands as well as up and coming brands have ideas blatantly stolen from them. Be inspired but not a copier. What usually occurs when you try and imitate someone else is you do exactly that…look like an IMITATION. If you want longevity in your brand and for people to take it seriously be yourself, and figure out a way to do it differently. The market place can be crowded, but those who stand out do it by finding their OWN VOICE.

“First there are the originators, then there are the imitators, then there are the fools.”

 

4 Ways You Are Committing Branding Suicide

The idea is there and you have a great product or service, but if you are lacking in any of these areas when it comes to your business, you are committing BRANDING SUICIDE. With so many people selling and offering the same products and services, having a clear brand message can mean the difference between you being chosen over your competition. Here are 4 ways you are committing brand suicide right now:

1. Lack of Consistency

This is the single biggest factor in creating a recognizable brand and successful business. It is also the hardest. Last week your logo was purple, this week it's pink. You posted daily last week on your social media, this week you completely slacked off and posted nothing. You started out selling jewelry but now you've also started selling t-shirts. Your tone of voice was funny and casual now it's authoritative and bland. These types of things create a lack of consistency and consistency is key when it comes to branding and being successful in your industry. It can be hard sticking to one thing, I know that first hand! Being creative can be both a gift and a curse. I've had so many ideas and things that I want to do, but they remain stagnant due to lack of consistency. Avoid this by harnessing those ideas and sticking to one thing! I promise you the outcome of being consistent will be rewarding.

2. NO CLEAR MESSAGE OF WHO YOU ARE

Who is your business at it's core. What does it sell? and Who needs what you are selling? If you can answer these questions then you are being clear on who you are. Without that clarity your business will run-a-muck! Be able to explain what you do or have to offer at the drop of a dime. Consistently (there's that word again!) communicate about your core product or service and your unique selling proposition.

3. THINKING YOU CAN SELL ANYTHING TO ANYBODY

The other day I was just perusing Instagram and came across a store that sold hair extensions, fat wraps, eyelashes and waist shapers. If you could see me right now I am rolling my eyes as I typed that! Try to avoid integrating things in your brand simply because it is trendy or someone else is doing well selling it. If you sell jewelry don't let me see you selling waist shapers in your store. Remember branding is about creating recognition. People who are well known and successful in their industry know that you can't sell anything to anybody. They have a clear understanding of their product or service and anything they add on to it fits into that understanding. Never add services or products to your brand that take you away from your core brand message. If you are a make-up artist adding eyelashes as a product you sell to your consumer is a good idea, adding necklaces and earrings is NOT a good idea. 

4. POOR VISUALS

Yes I know everyone is not an artist or a designer, but you KNOW when something doesn't look good visually. People really do judge a book by it's cover. If you are posting blurry images and pictures of your products with bad lighting, you have ads popping up all over your website, mixed matched fonts and colors every where you could potentially be tarnishing your brand image. Give your audience the experience they crave with clear clean photos. If you must design your website on your own keep it simple and easy with by only choosing 2 fonts and 2 colors. As I mentioned above with your logo be consistent (and there that word is yet again!), don't constantly change it's color or place it against colors that change it's feeling and appearance. When it comes to your visuals if you are not a professional designer simplicity is best. 

WRITTEN & ILLUSTRATED BY TIFFANI INK.

 

The B! True Branding Story: Lime Crime

 

"This is the story of a girl with a dream and a few hundred bucks to create true-to-color cruelty-free cosmetics for those not afraid to express themselves. This is the story of LIME CRIME. The B! True Branding Story."

Am I the only one that read that in that narrator's voice? The B! True Branding Story will give you an analysis of how recognizable names and businesses in the fashion, beauty, entertainment and food industry are using branding as a key to their success. Each story will answer questions that you yourself can answer on your journey towards branding brilliance. First up is Indie cosmetic line Lime Crime.


STATS

Business Name: LIME CRIME
Founder/CEO: Doe Deere 
Year Founded: 2008

INSTAGRAM FOLLOWING: 1.4 million
FACEBOOK FOLLOWING: 690,000

FOUNDER/CEO BIO

Doe Deere (né Xenia Vorotova ) is a self taught make-up artist and former fashion DIY-er who use to sell clothes on eBay under the same Lime Crime name.  Always a lover of make up she ended up starting the make-up line after she couldn't find make-up that expressed her colorful taste. She wanted bold, unique shades that were just not available at the time. She began doing make-up tutorials in 2004 and became known for using bright colored make-up in her videos. Doe sought to redefine what was beautiful and acceptable when it came to make-up in the beauty industry.


BRAND NAME: It is unique, memorable and edgy just like it's products. Two words that have nothing to do with each other but form the perfect name for a brand. Lime Crime represents color-revolution doing things your own way and getting away with it! Lime is also Doe's favorite color. 

TARGET AUDIENCE: Lime Crime's core customers are women ages 18-35 who aren't afraid to make a bold statement when it comes to not only their make-up, but for some their hair and clothes as well. It is for the make-up artist who enjoys creating unique faces that feel whimsical and fantastical. Lime Crime has also introduced more subdued colors to appeal to a broader audience, however the subdued colors are still true to Lime Crime's brand by being deep pigmented colors. 

SERVICE/PRODUCT OFFERED: High pigmented lipsticks, lip gloss, eye shadow and nail polish. 

TONE OF VOICE: Whimsical, fantasy, free spirited and fun. Doe was not afraid to integrate her unique personality and kitschy style into her brand. This personality can be seen through out their branding on everything from their packaging to their website to the names they give their products. Lime Crime is unicorns, glitter and goddesses. 

WHAT VOID ARE THEY FILLING IN THE MARKET?: At the time of it's conception there was a void in the make-up market for high pigmented Crayola colored make-up. Now high pigmented make-up can be found in other brands. You may start out first in a category but then there will be others and what is left is YOUR BRAND IDENTITY. Which is why I stress building brands and not companies. 

HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT FROM THEIR COMPETITORS: Lime Crime definitely has a style all their own and they have stayed true to it. They know who their customer is and maintain a young rebellious image. 

PRIMARY SOURCE OF SELLS: Online. Lime Crime has maintained a sort of cult like following by keeping the majority of sells online and not venturing into mass department stores like Nordstroms or Macy's where their core audience most likely does not shop.

OTHER NOTABLE SOURCES OF SELLS: Urban Outfitters, Nasty Gal.

SOCIAL MEDIA IMAGE: Lime Crime's Instagram and Facebook is filled primarily with inspiration images for their make-up and photos of fans using their products.

BRAND EXTENSION: Lime Crime is developing a line of hair dyes. This brand extension totally fits into who they are and the products they already sell. 

FOUNDER/CEO QUOTE: "Stay true to your vision, no matter how odd it might be! Don't be afraid to be different and stick out and you'll succeed."

Editor's Note: I am well aware of some of the scandal that has been a part of Lime Crime's history, however it doesn't change their branding brilliance and me giving you some insight on how she (Doe Deere) did it! Every business may at one point and time experience a low point or an issue with a customer. The lesson to be learned from Lime Crime's story is all in how you handle it. I won't go into detail of what has occurred here but you can read up about it by doing a simple Google search of their name. 

written and illustrated by Tiffani Ink. | sources: Buzznet, Thank You Magazine, LimeCrime.com, Instagram.com/limecrime

 

 

How to Create the Perfect Brand Name

What's in a name? When it comes to a brand, everything. In the long term a brand is nothing more than a name. In the short term it needs a unique concept or idea to survive, but in the long term that unique idea or concept will disappear and what is left is your brand name and the brand names of your competitors. A brand's name can be it's most valuable asset.

Unless you are the 1st in a category, a unique name is detrimental to your brand's survival. When I say first in a category brands that come to mind with generic names are: General Electric, National Broadcasting Company, International Business Machines, National Biscuit Company, and American Express. All of these companies were first in their business category, so a generic name has not really harmed their place in the mind of the consumer. However one must note that each one of them made a shift to using an acronym that made their names unique: GE, NBC, IBM, NABISCO, AMEX.

The process in picking a name should be communicated first verbally and then visually. Because the mind processes sound, it is not going to differentiate "Mom's Bakery" from "mom's bakery".  Of course in your mind you want to think of yourself as THE Mom's Bakery, but with such a common name you just become a bakery. Generic names in the long run make it tough to stand out from the competition. "Sprinkles" is a great name for a bakery that produces gourmet cupcakes, "Gourmet Cupcakes" is not. "Pinkberry" is a great name for a place that sells frozen yogurt and fruit, "Yougurtland" is not. The success of the Pinkberry brand has caused a slew of copycats, however their unique name is what will give their brand long term success.

So you are ready to start your business, but what will you name it?

This Week's Assignment:

Get a notebook and paper and list as many words as possible that describe your brand and it's personality. Those words could be anything (colors, verbs, adjectives) don't be afraid to think outside of the box. Some may not even have a meaning (ie: Xerox, Kodak). Once you have listed the words start putting them together to see which ones have a ring to them. Say the names out loud and send the list to your friends and family and ask which one resonates with them. Also feel free to drop what you come up with in the comments section for some feed back!

"Brand U" is a weekly Tiffani Ink series giving tips on branding your business with a weekly assignment to complete to help take your business to the next level.