What My First Year In Business Taught Me About Branding

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Just a year and a half in business and I have had three very different brand aesthetics. (Yes, three!) At first I was trying to be unique. Then I wanted something I thought would stand out in my space. Finally, I just decided to ditch all the pretense and go with something that felt good to me.

Are you ready for a roller coaster ride? Here’s my journey and what I learned about branding along the way.

Don’t let the branding slow your start

We all get excited at the beginning and we want to figure out the branding piece because it’s fun. We want to develop that visual presence. I was no different.

I was trying to create a brand and honestly just winged it with a logo and color scheme that felt unique. The honest truth: I spent way too much time figuring it out. I think I was a bit at a loss for what activities I was actually supposed to be engaging in, as I had never been the owner of the business before. So I got caught up on the look.

But in the beginning, the branding isn’t important. No one knows who you are. That’s not to say that branding is futile, because it’s a very important piece of the puzzle in the long run. But one big mistake new business owners make—myself included—is getting so wrapped up in the visuals that they’re not spending their time on activities that actually bring revenue.

Don’t go overboard

You can start with a logo on Fiverr. You can put together a quick website on Squarespace. You can make your business cards simple with a photo of yourself and no big branding elements. The key is not to overdo it because not only will the branding change, it’s not helping your ability to start taking action toward your goal.

Get involved

I can be a pretty aggressive person in business. I know what I like, and I expect results. I’ve found that this is an asset when you’re working on branding because the designer can’t read your mind. Only with clear feedback are they able to make adjustments to develop an aesthetic you love.

You can’t be afraid to let your voice be heard if you want your brand to be seen.

Get feedback

I pretty much winged it in the beginning, and that was a mistake. While you never want the development of your branding to slow you down (i.e. drain your attention so you can’t rightly focus on other things) you need to understand that the brand visuals aren’t just for you—they’re supposed to speak to your audience.

The original branding scheme I chose was “unique”. Yes, I did stand out, but it literally appealed to no one. Not women. Not men. No one saw my branding and was like, “Yes, this is my tribe.”

That’s a problem. Start by talking to the customers you serve. If you don’t have any yet, start by getting honest feedback from friends and family. This is an important step in ensuring that your shiny new branding isn’t a complete flop.

Make it uniquely you

Feedback is important with EVERYTHING you do in marketing. (Let’s be clear about that.) But as with just about everything else in life, your branding absolutely will appeal to everyone—so make it uniquely you.

When I was doing my third round of branding, I absolutely did not want pink. Hard stop. It seems like any brand or influencer that wants to speak to women goes all in on some shade of pink. I’m not soft or fluffy. (Well, maybe a little fluffy.) And while I wanted to appeal to women, I still needed my branding to be a representation of me.

So I went for red. It’s strong, it’s bold, and it’s my favorite color. But ultimately, the vision never came together. I couldn’t get the designs to look clean. I made a complete 180 and shifted to blue. This allowed me to keep things minimal, yet impactful. It allowed me to focus on the content, not the color. And you know what? I wear a lot of blue.

I wanted to create a brand aesthetic that would appeal to both men and women, that would have a feminine vibe, but still feel strong and authoritative.

What do you think? Did I accomplish it?

Takeaways

I won’t be rebranding for quite some time, thankfully! But that first year in business taught me a lot about who I was personally and a business owner. I needed those failures, I need those wins to tell me what kind of company I was actually building. If you can get started without going too deep on branding, I suggest you start with sales and then loop back around to the aesthetic once you know more about who you serve and what you want to achieve.

Unless you’re Coca-Cola (I LOVE THEM) your branding will evolve. Be open to feedback and make it feel good for both you and the people you serve.


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Meet the Author: Shauna Armitage

Shauna is a Marketing Director or Fractional CMO helping early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.

As a vocal advocate for women in business, Shauna is on a mission to redefine what it looks like to be a working woman and to support other women doing the same. She spends her free time traveling with her husband and four kids while drinking Coca-Colas. Connect with her on Instagram at @shauna.armitage.


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