Try This Branding Hack

Make buyers get a crush on you.

Written by Clare

Last time I said I’d tell you how we fixed our big branding problem back in the early days of my shop.

The solution turned out to be a cast-iron bath filled with marshmallows which we used to display pillowcases and cushions.

Now, for a lot of new business-owners, us included, branding is easy in theory and excruciating in practice.

You know you need to create a powerful emotional connection with buyers, but the process of actually making that connection seems very complicated and abstract.

So I’ve got a hack for you.

Branding = feeling.

When we talk about branding, we often end up focusing on things like logos and taglines. How your brand looks seems like the obvious place to start.

But…your buyers don’t go around with a pin-sharp memory of your logo inside their head, do they?

When they recommend you to their friends, they don’t write out your tagline on a napkin.

What ARE your buyers going to do?

They’ll remember (and pass on) how you made them feel.

So to create an emotional connection that keeps your buyers coming back, you need to decide how you want them to feel in the first place.

And that feeling must be simple and strong.

When you get this right, your customers get a crush on you.

The feeling they get from you is unexpected and enjoyable. Until now, they didn’t know that shopping for the lovely thing you make could feel that good.

[Read: How to set your minimum order]

This makes you special, maybe even a little magical, to those buyers. When they tell their friends about you (and they will,) your brand feeling will be the first thing they talk about.

Back when Merry + Bright was stuck in the branding bog, we wrote out a list of possible feelings we wanted customers to experience in our store.

The one we kept coming back to was PLAYFUL.

We were opening in less than a week, there was hardly any money left and our shop floor looked like the departure lounge for a no-frills airline.

So we asked ourselves: “What’s the playful way to organise this space?”

At the time, that bath was the answer.

It’s been gone for years now but people still ask about it. And we still use PLAYFUL to make decisions at Merry + Bright every day. We ask ourselves:

What would be a playful window display?

What’s the playful way to design new price labels?

How can we make our Christmas catalogue more playful?

Things are 5000 times easier and faster when you know your angle.

And it makes the experience of buying from you sticky. Not urgh-get-it-off-me sticky, but good sticky. LOYAL sticky.

I’ll-never-go-anywhere-else sticky.

Because when you get customers actively enjoying the feeling of giving you money, they naturally want it to continue.

Examples from my students!

Julie Fountain owns Beach Art Glass. She’s a lampworker and glass designer in Malvern, England. She makes jewellery and homeware inspired by the seaside.

For me, Julie’s brand feeling is METICULOUS.

In the first place, she knows how to do things with flames and incredibly hot glass, and that’s definitely not the kind of process you can freestyle.

But look at the video of Julie at work on her About page. You can see immediately that, as well as being very highly skilled, she takes the most minute care over every detail. That care and attention is infused through every aspect of her business.

As a retailer, I can tell you that there are few things more pleasing than a supplier who gives you a “Relax, I’m here now and I’ve thought of EVERYTHING” kind of feeling.

And that video? If I were stocking Julie’s collection, I’d show it to all my staff. It’s a brilliant way to boost sales by increasing product knowledge.

Stacie and Greg Humpherys own Caboose Spice & Company in Idaho. They make gourmet dry rubs, seasonings and grilling planks for people who love big flavours.

Stacie and Greg’s brand feeling is FEEL-GOOD.

They’re all about simple pleasures and relaxed good times around the dinner table. The packaging for their gift sets even has a wood-grain design right there on the lid.

No edible foam. No plankton risotto. Just the every-day joy of delicious home cooking, shared between friends.

So how do Stacie and Greg use FEEL-GOOD to sell their products to stores?

They talk about their “Friendly terms and accessible minimums.”

They offer easy online ordering with “no more faxed order forms or complicated spreadsheets.”

They even have a Shopkeeper’s Resource Center containing hi-res images, recipes and printable signs. It’s almost like their business is a glorious feast and they’re inviting retailers (and regular customers) to pull up a chair.

Valentina Albæk’s company is called Fabulous Goose and it’s in Hasslarp, Sweden. She makes amazingly soft blankets, cushions and throws.

I think Valentina’s brand feeling is FAMILY.

She takes the best of Scandinavian design and uses it to make daily life gentler, happier and cosier.

Textiles for babies and children are a big part of Valentina’s work. She knows that kids don’t stay little for long and she wants the best for them – which is why she uses the softest organic cottons, toxin free plastics and skin safe dyes.

Valentina’s brand feeling is like a big warm blanket she throws over her buyers.

Her product photos capture magical little moments of family life.

She talks about the heritage of her brand and its Nordic roots.

And on the wholesale side, retailers are invited to stay in touch through her trade-only mailing list. They can even schedule a Skype call where she’ll walk them through her collection.

Valentina’s set things up so her retailers become part of the family.

Here’s how this helps you get more orders from stores.

If you want loyal buyers, give us something to be loyal to.

We’re only going to come back for more if you liked the way you made us feel the first time around.

To the right people, your brand feeling makes you unforgettable. We came up with our bath idea in about fifteen minutes almost ten years ago, and our customers still talk about it.

If you want to be more to your buyers than just another line on their bank statement, pick a brand feeling and run with it.

Your decisions will get easier and the right kind of customers will remember you.

Next time we’ll talk about a simple way to start seeing your products as your buyers do.

Clare Yuille Bio Picture

Hello, I'm Clare Holliday. I'm a shopkeeper who's helped thousands of creative people sell their work to stores, galleries and regular customers all over the world. Now it's your turn.

Worry less. Sell more.