by Holly MarshMueller
There’s a special place in my heart for entrepreneurs with indie craft businesses. Not just because I’m one of them, but they tend to be incredibly creative and artistic individuals.
I am lucky enough to have actual-on-the-day-job experience in buying, merchandising and branding for a national retailer to help me through the mucky, scary elements of running a business. But I’ve encountered countless artists who, instead of mastering the concept of branding their business and themselves, they run the other way.
Regardless of what business you’re in, your brand is often the first thing your customer encounters, and it can leave a lasting impression. It’s up to you to make it a good and memorable impression versus a so-so and forgettable one.
Your branding may be a little daunting, but I’ve got five tips for building your brand:
1. Check out your competition. To the Googles (or Etsy search)! What elements stand out? Fonts? Color combinations? An icon? Write down items that you like and don’t like, and then…
2. Do something completely different than your competition. Are they using cutesy icons? Flowery fonts? Bold colors? Do the opposite, but also stay true to you and your product. You need points of difference from your competition, and you can really up the ante with better branding. I found a plethora of cutesy fonts and cutesy icons from my competition on Etsy, so naturally, I went for the opposite: a minimalist approach, a super simple logo (that I initially created in Word (!) because I was too poor for the Adobe Creative Suite), and yet it matches the aesthetic of my items.
3. Look within. You’re not only selling your product, but also selling yourself. Many people flock to Etsy or craft fairs to buy not just a piece of handmade goodness, but to support an individual and their story: YOU.
Be sure to inject yourself into your branding (this is the hardest step, I know). It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and it shouldn’t take you very long.
I didn’t put a lot of thought into my branding; the “m2” logo comes from a nickname I had on a writer’s collective, and the colors (magenta, grey, and white) were chosen for the following reasons:
- Pink is my favorite color
- Pink and black were my wedding colors. Why did I choose my wedding colors? Long story short: married name is Marsh, maiden name Mueller, and together they sound like MarshMallow, which my husband and I thought hilarious. We did not discover this gem until two years after we were married, and we are too cheap to get our names legally changed, so I thought it fitting for a shop of non-fluffy, practical items. Full circle. Whew! Back to black and pink branding….or why I altered my wedding colors a bit.
- I changed the pink from a slightly outdated bubblegum pink (think Pantone 1915 C) to a hot magenta, and I changed the harsh black to a cool grey. I included white to add to the modern, simplistic aesthetic for my brand and my products. No marshmallows, indeed.
- I chose colors that might be easy to find in the marketplace, in case I ever wanted to participate in a craft fair (check), revamp my studio using my brand colors (check), or have local printers implement my branding easily for professional-looking packaging (working on it!). While I love me some Sea Foam Green, unless it’s trending, it’s going to be hard to find a table cover or a storage bin in the color.
If you have trouble with this, here’s an uber quick questionnaire you can answer yourself right now. Don’t think about these questions–go with your gut instinct:
- If I were a color, what color would that be?
- When I think about my style, I think (circle one or two):
Boho Classic Preppy Elegant Punk Bold/Colorful Vintage Retro
When it comes to “your style,” it doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re wearing these days. It means what style are you drawn to? Chances are, that style is reflected in your product.
If you cannot answer those questions yourself, ask family and friends. If you sell on Etsy, join a team (I highly, highly recommend this!), and ask the questions above.
Even if you end up hiring someone to do your branding, this exercise will help you narrow down your branding vision and will also make it easier for the person working on your brand identity as well!
4. Don’t blow off taking the time to choose some solid fonts… but don’t go crazy with too many—stick to three fonts, MAX. Don’t use Comic Sans or Papyrus for any of your fonts! Just don’t.
5. Once you’ve got your basic concept down, run with it. Splash it everywhere: business cards, packaging, your own website, etsy shop banner, store front/craft fair marketing materials (banner, shopping bags, tissue paper colors…I’m not kidding), everywhere. In the sea of handmade entrepreneurs, you need to stand out. Consistent branding offers repetition to make you more memorable in a competitive marketplace. At just about every craft fair I’ve attended, people have approached me and mentioned they remember my shop from Etsy. It probably wasn’t my products they remember: it’s my branding.
Tell us about your branding story!
Holly MarshMueller has two–no, three, jobs: 1:: She’s the Owner of MarshMueller, where she designs and sews pretty + practical items for mamas + babies, 2:: She still works for The Man (a national retailer) in their Corporate Brands + Packaging Division, and 3:: She is a mama to one adorable little boy (although she is very biased). How does she juggle it all?
“Five hours of sleep a night, lots of coffee, an amazingly supportive husband, and a drive to make life (and necessities) better for all mamas out there.” Holly lives in a 900-square-foot house with her husband, son, two Pomeranians, and one cat in Portland, Oregon.
Holly’s items have been featured on Disney baby, StyleList, and Baby Plus You Wellness For Two. In addition to selling her items on Etsy, she also sells wholesale to small, independent boutiques, and participates in as many craft shows as she can (barring they don’t conflict with a Portland Timbers match, as she is a proud member of the Timbers Army supporter group). Holly is also one of the Leaders of the PDX Etsy Team.
Holly is on many social media platforms; connect with her below! Fair warning about her Twitter account: she Tweets about the Portland Timbers (soccer) quite a bit, and she is too stubborn to open two Twitter accounts.