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Crowdfunding: Use Your Brand + Community to Illuminate Your Campaign

Brown Hound Bistro Kickstarter

On July 12th, my good friend and inspiring business owner Trish Aser took a bold step forward: she began a 15-day Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 in an effort to move her bustling business from South Bristol to Canandaigua. Her goal? Serve up her next course: expand her restaurant, Brown Hound Bistro, to bring even more local Finger Lakes ingredients to the table for a greater number of diners, year round.

I call this a bold move because Trish is stepping outside her close-knit neighborhood. She’s asking for help. And she’s going after a dream. But perhaps it isn’t such a bold move. After all, Trish has two key allies on her side in this campaign: her brand and her community.

How your brand can boost your crowdfunding campaign

Trish (and yes, her dog) opened the Brown Hound Bistro in 2005 and immediately became a pioneer in sourcing local ingredients. She works with local farmers, dairy producers, winemakers, brewers, and more, to bring her diners the best that the Finger Lakes has to offer. (Seriously — I might be a bit biased, but have just one meal at the Brown Hound and you’ll be shouting it from the rooftops yourself!)

Ten years later, Trish hasn’t strayed from her mission to keep things local and has been incredibly consistent in maintaining her relaxed, approachable, Earth-inspired brand. It shines through in the Brown Hound’s ambiance, in the local art on the walls, in the presentation of the menu, in the tone of her servers, and even as she takes Brown Hound on the road via her catering services.

How does this help her when it comes to crowdfunding? Sites like Kickstarter are flooded with campaigns on a daily basis. Like any crowded marketplace, the businesses that stand out are the ones that use their brand to tell a story.

Trish’s brand is doing just that: it’s telling a story of humble beginnings, an exuberant passion for food, and a dedication to supporting local producers.

What story is your brand telling?

The importance of community in crowdfunding

In any major venture — especially for business owners — community is key. Crowdfunding is no different — in fact, at its core, it’s all about community. Fortunately, Trish has been busy at work cultivating a strong one over the last decade.

In building her restaurant, Trish has built community in the following ways:

1. Delighting customers. From her regular visitors to seasonal tourists and everything in between, Trish has served thousands of customers who’ve visited the Brown Hound to savor a meal. But beyond serving them, she’s gone out of her way to delight them with unique tastes, fresh ingredients, and impeccable service.

2. Building a family. Speaking of impeccable service, Trish has built a family at Brown Hound. Her team — in the kitchen, behind the bar, and on the floor — is a crucial part of her community and especially important to both living her brand and advocating for her mission.

3. Supporting local producers. In sourcing and supporting local, Trish has extended her reach well beyond just farmers. She works with local winemakers, brewers, and distillers to offer an impressive, local beverage menu, and she’s cultivated relationships with local artists to adorn the walls with Finger Lakes-inspired art. (I’ve been fortunate enough to have my paintings hanging there!)

Your customers are your community. Your partners and producers are your community. Your staff is your community. Catch my drift? Community is everywhere. Cultivating yours now can and will be the difference maker as you continue making your dreams come to life.

Build your brand, cultivate your community, and go after your dreams

It takes years of hard work and exploration to solidify your brand and build a loyal community. But with both at your side as a business owner, anything is possible.

Will you join me in supporting Trish in her quest for the next course? Act now! Head on over to her Kickstarter page and remember, every dollar counts!

Three Branding Myths We Need to Debunk Right Now

business branding myths

There’s a lot of buzz about branding. From one-person solo businesses to large corporations, the importance of a strong brand has only gotten more prominent as time goes on and companies rely on exceptional experiences and word of mouth to boost their sales. Your brand, quite simply, has to be on point.

But with all the buzz, there’s a lot out there to read and learn — and not everything you’re hearing is true — or necessary — for your business.

Three branding myths worth debunking

1 – Your brand can be created in no time. (Actually, that your brand can be created, at all.)

If there’s one thing you need to know right now, it’s this: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your brand won’t be, either. Branding requires research, time, and strong doses of intuition. The most important aspect of branding is authenticity, and because of that, it requires the patience to figure out what your business is, what your business stands for, and who your business serves. And all of that means you need time.

What should be done in this time?

Observation. Watch your clients, documenting how they interact with your business and current brand.

Research. Survey clients to gather stories. Get the lay of the competitive landscape. Create benchmarks and identify gaps.

Mission evaluation. Decide who you most want to serve and how you can best serve them.

Branding isn’t about creation. It’s about discovering what’s already there, and knowing it will evolve. When you allow for intentional and productive time to evaluate your business and where your brand stands, you and your branding strategist will naturally uncover your brand.

2 – Your brand is all about you.

The second most important thing to know is this: while your brand is a reflection of you and your business, it is not all about you. Your brand is the key that opens the gate to connect with your ideal customers, and because of that, your brand has to speak directly to them.

While you’re in the discovery process, take the observations of how people are interacting with your business and where that intersects with your mission, and note what speaks to them most. What do they come to you for? What desire or need does your business fulfill? Your brand has to be uncovered with the customer in mind — because it’s what connects with them that will ultimately dictate what your brand is all about.

3 – Your logo = your brand

Finally, this is perhaps my favorite branding myth to debunk: there are many people out there who will equate your logo with your brand. While your logo is a crucial piece of your brand, your brand is so much more than just the logo: your brand is a portfolio of the colors, type, tone, and ethos of your business.

So where do elements like your logo come in? Your logo, website, and marketing materials are vehicles to carry your brand, as are you, your team, and your ambassadors. Powerful, intentional branding is about activating and empowering those vehicles to tell your story.

The truth about branding

With three strong myths debunked, let’s get to one truth: your business is your brand. And a powerful, relatable brand is imperative for your success as a business.

I want to help you uncover where your current brand stands. Check out my free ebook, What Does Your Brand Say? and when you’re ready to level up in your branding and feel its impact on your business, book a complimentary (yes, free!) Brand Clarity Call with me.

To debunking myths + celebrating strong brands!

Destination Branding Can’t Happen in a Day

Destination Branding

In many places in the northern hemisphere, we’re in the midst of what the travel + tourism industry will label as “peak season” — at least, if your prime activities require being outdoors, your destination comes to life when green, and you’re kid-friendly.

Peak season is fun: It’s easy to sell; it’s easy to put a smile on travelers’ faces; and it’s all too easy to kick back and relax while accommodations fill up and activities sell out.

I am all for sunshine, relaxation, and celebration — but let me share a little secret: When your destination is a brand in and of itself, you can make it peak season all year round.

Destination branding: Not just a trend

In 2010, still in the throes of an economic downturn, many destinations in the US turned to re-branding campaigns to revive their image while families and meeting planners worked with limited travel and planning budgets. Yet what one expert referred to as a temporary “branding bug” has stuck around well beyond the downturn — because destinations see the impact a strong brand can have on its image, its influence, and its ability to satisfy.

It’s about learning, not fabrication

The first mistake destinations make in building out their brand is that they begin by thinking it’s something they need to create. But the truth is, unless you’ve just built your city, theme park, ski mountain, etc. from the ground up, your brand already exists. It’s up to you, destination marketer, to dig in and discover it.

Step away from the drawing board and get out and about. Survey past and current visitors, monitor social media — including blogs — to see what’s being said, and get in touch with locals. Research is the name of the game. Ask questions to get to the bottom of what makes your destination unique and what gives it its personality.

Gather a solid idea of what it is that draws people to your destination, what it is that makes them happy there, and what it is that they talk about to others. Pay attention to the words they use, the feelings they express, and the stories they tell. With that pool of research in hand, you’ll be set up to properly package what’s already being emanated, rather than trying to create something from nothing.

Key elements of a destination’s brand

Like any brand, a destination’s brand includes key elements. Here are a few:

Messaging: The taglines, phrases, and stories told. A few great examples: Visit Finger Lakes’ “Taste the Life”, Explore Asheville’s “Discovery, Inside and Out”, or Visit Philly’s “With Love.”

Design: From logos to typefaces and graphics to the style of photography, design plays an incredible role in embodying the feeling of a destination.

The goal of hitting the message and design nail on the head in tourism branding? To evoke a feeling. How do you want visitors to feel upon seeing or interacting with your destination’s marketing — whether in print, on the web, or even on a phone call? (Hint: The feeling you’re encouraging through your marketing needs to match how they’ll feel once they actually arrive!)

What destination branding achieves

Branding a destination doesn’t just equate to sales — though, yes, with the upfront investment and cohesive marketing built around your brand, you’ll be amazed at the potential it holds. Building a strong brand also leads to the following:

Increased pride amongst locals: Giving a destination a brand — so long as it is authentic — gives the people who live and work there a sense of pride to be associated with it. Locals can be your best advocates. Use that to your advantage!

Self-selection: When your brand is true to the experience your destination holds, you’ll find that visitors will naturally be attracted to the places that best suit them, and will therefore be more satisfied with their decisions and experiences.

Destination branding can’t happen in a day

Your destination’s brand will naturally evolve over time. While you can design the messaging and the imagery that will accompany the brand, the personality and characteristics that serve as the foundation already exist. It’s up to you to uncover and amplify them.

Because when your destination embodies a brand — a personality, a feeling, a story — travelers will want to experience it all year round, not just in June, July, and August.

Want to get it a better idea of where your current brand stands? Get my free e-book, What Does Your Brand Say? and sign up for a complimentary Brand Clarity Call today!

Destination marketers: What stories do you tell about your brand?

PS – Research serves as the basis for my design process. Get the behind the scenes here!

BRANCH: A Behind-the-Scenes of My Design Discovery Process

BRANCH design discovery process

While I’d love to say that all of my ideas as a graphic designer and artist come to me while lying in a hammock under the trees in my backyard, I’d simply be dreaming. (That’s only true for some.)

The truth, in fact, is that a good portion of my job as a graphic designer is to get to the bottom of your brand — from the history of your business to the market you’re catering to and everything in between. Intelligent design that connects with your ideal audience is more than just creative ideas based on aesthetics you’re partial to. Intelligent design requires research. That’s where BRANCH comes in here at Harris Studios.

BRANCH: design discovery

My process for working with clients includes three distinct steps before we get into the actual design: a 30-minute Brand Clarity Call to discover where your brand is at and where it needs to be, a package proposal that can make that happen, and, finally, the kick off: BRANCH.

What is BRANCH, exactly? I’m glad you asked.

BRANCH is a research process that gives me true insight into your business and your current brand by analyzing what’s in and around it.

BRANCH is all about qualitative research, through which I’m able to tune in to the foundation of your business, your potential customers’ perceptions of your brand, and how that compares to the competitors in your environment. It’s broken down as follows:

Brand discovery through:

Research

Authentic design

Necessity

Competitive analysis

History

To look a bit closer:

Research: I engage in qualitative research to uncover perceptions regarding your brand from current and potential customers.

Authentic design: based on what I learn, I begin the process of creating a brand and design elements that are authentic to your business.

Necessity: a good graphic designer understands how your brand fits into your overall business goals. It’s at this step that I dig into your needs to be sure to meet them.

Competitive analysis: to get an accurate feel for the landscape, I evaluate both your direct competitors as well as like-minded businesses that you wish to emulate.

History: your business’ future should be informed by the best pieces of its past. I dig into the history of your business and brand to understand what’s influential and important to keep around as we amplify your brand forward.

Why BRANCH?

Though the letters describe the process out of order, it all comes together under one umbrella: a holistic view of where your business and brand have been, and where it’s going. I love referring to the process as BRANCH because your brand truly begins with your roots, but grows and spreads over time through the branches.

BRANCH builds the foundation needed to inspire creative ideas in intelligent brand design; design that ignites true growth in your business.

Is your brand in need of a boost? Let’s get to know each other. Sign up for a complimentary Brand Clarity Call to get the gears in motion. We’ll figure out what’s holding your brand back, and kickstart the process to get you where you want to be.

The Spring Effect: Brighten Up Your Brand

Spring Brand RefreshDriving down the roads of the Finger Lakes region lately, it’s tough not to notice the shift taking place. At first, the thought goes something like this: “boy, does it look pretty out here.” Then, you think, “well, this area is always pretty.” So, what’s changed?

Spring has sprung. Leaves have returned to the trees. Lilacs are in full blossom. Cardinals, blue jays, and other colorful birds adorn the trees and fill the air with music.

While spring may have “officially” began in March, it’s only now that we’re seeing what makes it so glorious.

Infusing spring into your brand

Each turn of the season reminds us of how colorful the world really is, no matter where you might be. Winter shows us how blue things can get, while spring is all about a fresh start, signified by the sudden sprouts of green everywhere that mark the coming of brighter, longer days. It’s in the trees, the lawns, and nearly every plant that surrounds us, inspiring joy as we walk or drive amongst it.

So, with the turn to spring, it’s only right that we take some of that energy and infuse it into our brand.

What green can do for your brand

As a general reminder, color is complex. To make one blanket statement about what green signifies or stands for would be over-simplifying a color that can evoke a variety of emotions.

Let’s start by exploring general associations we make with different shades of green:

Green: Standard green (think: grass) is reminiscent of health, freshness, serenity, growth, environment, and vitality.

Dark greens: Darker shades of green (think olive green; money) often denote wealth, prestige, or envy, but can also signify an environmental aspect.

Light greens: Finally, lighter green tones often promote a calming effect, evoking feelings of balance and harmony.

There’s a lot going on when it comes to green. Which is why you’ll see it in so many brands that span a variety of industries, attempting to portray a diverse set of emotions and, in return, evoke different responses among various target markets.

Consider Garnier. The brand uses a lighter, brighter green that practically shouts fresh, vibrant, and healthy for hair and skin products.

Then there’s Starbucks. Its brand is of a more sophisticated note, using the darker green that can also be representative of its devotion to environmentally-friendly sourcing.

The epitome of “going back to the Earth”, John Deere uses a more standard green tone to establish itself as a tool for growth and environment.

Oh — and one final fun fact about the color green? Many argue that it’s the easiest color on the eyes. (So, visitors to your brand can feast their eyes for even longer.)

Spring doesn’t stop at green

The freshness of spring most certainly comes from the abundance of green, but it’s even more rejuvenating when dotted with sudden, intense pops of color, like the vibrant purple of the lilacs. After all, the real potential of using color to evoke emotions requires knowing how to use colors together, seamlessly, to create just the right amount of contrast and lead your viewer’s eyes where you want them to take action.

I’ve said it before (and I’ll keep repeating for reinforcement!): color is one of the most important and powerful aspects of your brand. It’s fascinating, really. Research shows that it takes just 90 seconds for a customer to form an opinion about a product — and 62-90% of that interaction is determined by color, alone.

Powerful to say the least, right?

The spring effect

For me, spring is all about rejuvenation, growth, and vitality. For you, it might mean fresh air and serene nights.

While spring looks a little different for everyone, one thing’s for certain: it can play an important role in setting the tone of your brand.

Want to learn more about how color affects your brand’s impact? Download my handy What Does Your Brand Say? workbook, and when you’re ready, get in touch to set up a complimentary Brand Clarity Call so we can really dig in.

In the meantime, stop and smell the flowers, and enjoy the ever-lengthening days!

Harris Studios spring        Harris Studios spring        Harris Studios spring