Why A Strong Visual Brand Strategy Can Get You Press (+ How to Start Yours)
If you’re struggling to get press attention, the problem might not be, well, the press.
It might be that you aren’t clear about where your brand fits, or it might be hard for publications to see that you fit with them. Say, for example, you know that your brand’s apparel is perfect for creative 28-year-olds with flair, but when journalists click on your web site link, they find a staid website and a logo that’s more Phoebe Buffay than Carrie Bradshaw. You don’t have a press problem.
You have a branding problem.
Whether you DIY your branding, spend $2,000 or invest $20,000 to get it right, the final result needs to look like you’ve taken the process seriously and have a plan.
Why branding is crucial to getting press coverage
Establishing trust: When it looks like you are invested in your business, media (and customers) are more likely to trust that you’re in it for the long haul and won’t disappear by next Thursday. That makes them more willing to take a risk and feature you – basically giving you their stamp of approval.
Showing you have a plan: Great branding also shows that you are thinking about growing your business – and who doesn’t like saying, “Oh yes, I knew they were going to be big from the start.”
Making the right connections: Having really clear visual branding and a strong brand voice also helps you define what publications are a good fit so you can connect with the right ones and weed out the wrong ones. When you know that your brand leans modern and urban, you don’t need to pitch to the earthy, boho magazine. Even though there might be some customer overlap, the publication will notice the disconnect and be less likely to approve your pitch.
How to start developing your brand strategy
It’s all well and good to say you should have a good brand strategy, but what if you don’t? How do you get one? Here are a few ways to start thinking through your brand strategy.
Pick 5 brand adjectives
This is one of my favorite exercises to do with my visual branding clients because it gets them to boil their brand down to its essentials. Once they have it done, they can apply it to all aspects of their branding! It’s hard to come up with brand-worthy adjectives out of the blue, so I made a great big list.
When picking your five adjectives, think about the garments you sell. Pack as much meaning as you can into each word, and avoid words like “unique.” You can be unique in many different ways, so instead ask yourself “why is my brand unique?”
Picking more than five words doesn’t make you an overachiever; it means you’re indecisive. Keep working on it until you feel that your five words encapsulate your whole brand personality. If you feel the need to use seven words, head back to the drawing board. Chances are that a few of your adjectives aren’t pulling their weight.
Once you have decided on five adjectives, keep them at the centre of your decision-making. Post them above your desk. Refer back to them often. This way you can always do a quick check to make sure you’re staying true to your brand.
Write a short paragraph describing your brand’s personality
In a few sentences, describe your brand’s identity. Here are a couple of paragraphs I have written for brands I’ve worked with:
The X brand is an outfit covered in paint from a morning art session, then sent through the laundry and put back on to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s for dinner. It is beautiful without being fussy, and is built for kids to learn by playing.
In college, brand Y wore trendy, daring clothes, but now they are at least a few years into their career and want to look more sophisticated. They still want to be excited by their clothes and they want to make a statement, but now with more comfort and slightly higher necklines. They want to feel professional at the office and glamorous after work, without having to change clothes.
Brainstorm ways to visually communicate your brand personality
Then write short paragraphs describing how that could play out in visual branding, written voice, photography, merchandising, etc. This doesn’t have to be exactly how it ends up – sometimes things change as you flesh them out – but this starts to give shape to what a brand strategy could look like for your business.
For the brands above, I wrote this about their visual branding:
The visual identity for X will be almost entirely white and black, with occasional pops of mustard yellow. Modern patterns (stripes!) will mix with organic shapes. The lowercase ‘g’ can be a very fun character, so I will look for typefaces that exploit that; a sleek font with a jolly ‘g’ is a great way to mix classic and playful elements. Part of X’s mission is for clothes to have a long life in the hand-me-down chain. Similarly, the logo shouldn’t be tied to any current strong trends.
The visual identity for Y will explore feminine, modern serif typography and have a monogram-style submark. An abstract tropical leaf print will add flare to this glamorous brand and connect with its sustainable mission.
If writing’s not your thing, talk it through with a business partner, mentor, or a supportive friend. Record your conversation, then listen back and take notes!
How to develop a strategy for an established brand
If your business has been around for awhile, chances are you have grown out of at least part of your branding and need to make a shift. This is normal! Most brands make little and big changes to their branding over time.
To help you figure out what has changed, use the same Five Adjectives exercise from above, but this time make two lists. Start with where your business is now and focus on your current garments. Choose five adjectives that represent your current products and the vibe you would like your brand to convey. Set that list aside, and maybe even walk away for a moment. Now create another list for the image your brand is projecting currently: your website, hang tags, logo, everything. Compare these two lists. What’s the same? What is different?
Next, write down what’s working for your branding and what isn’t. Consider each element of your brand and if it fits with the updated list of adjectives. Think about your: logo, packaging, color palette, brand patterns or graphics, signage, hang tags, business cards, e-newsletters (writing and design), website (writing and design), social media (writing and design), photography, and more. Your color palette might be great, but your logo might need a change. Or maybe you have your visuals figured out but you don’t know how to translate your brand voice into social media.
A professional graphic designer, copywriter, or brand strategist can help you make those decisions and shift your branding without losing recognition, but having some of this work already done will help you decide exactly what kind of help you need.
Once you’ve updated your branding, stick with it! Order new packaging with your new branding. Use sew-in labels with your new logo. Use your new brand font in your Instagram graphics.
Good branding WORKS
Good branding doesn’t just look nice. Good branding reflects the heart of your business to attract the right people – you know, the ones who are going to buy from you. Good branding also attracts the right press attention, or perhaps more accurately, reflects the right kind of attention back on the publication that has decided to feature you.
Your branding tells people a lot about your business, from “does this give off the right image?” to “can I trust this business?” And when you’re pursuing press coverage, you want those answers to be an easy “yes.”
Elise Epp designs visual branding and websites for fashion startups, boutiques, and makers. With a mission to “show, don’t tell,” Elise clears the clutter to connect brands with the right customers. She has been pursuing an ethical wardrobe since 2015 and loves cats, feminism, and ice cream.