Branding… we hear about it all the time right? In some ways its kinda frowned upon, ‘branding’ is often viewed as something utterly commercial, you pay for the name on the product, buying into the image associated with the ‘brand’, which is often considered a bit, well, shallow, and a waste of money when you can get the same thing for half the price ‘without’ that well known logo on it.. Thats one side of branding. Serious commercialism. Major advertising campaigns, the realm of big business.
The other side of it, is one that is growing massively, the online world of ‘small’ business, of indie fibre sellers, creative individuals on their Facebook pages and blogs. Branding is how we present ourselves on the internet and the image we create for ourselves online. That can sound a bit fake, a bit manufactured, but the reality is, if your ‘online image’, your brand, is not actually totally genuine, you’re not going to last long, simply because you just can’t keep up a pretence if its not really you!
This is the first post of two, and contains information I have shared before in my ebook ‘Photographing the Yarn’ (available in the Fiberygoodness estore free with any purchase!). I am posting it here on the blog because I think it could be useful to anyone just starting out in the fiber arts as a business, and or setting up an Etsy shop or a Facebook page to sell their wonderful yarns and fibers. If you are wondering where to even begin with your own branding, I hope this blogpost is helpful 🙂
Here is the key: what you are branding online is not a ‘product’ or a yarn, its not a page, or a blog, or a shop, it’s YOU. You are your business, you are the artist, and you are the unique creator. This is the basis for really understanding how you can set yourself and your brand apart from anything ‘big business’ does, and from anything anyone else does, because it brings it to the level of the personal, even the intimate, the interpersonal. Your brand image online exchanges and communicates with other individuals, at this very personal level. Thats the beauty of the internet, it makes us all neighbours popping by for a chat and a cup of sugar! So the key is to find your own style, motivations, interests, and tastes, ask yourself what kind of neighbour you are, and build those discoveries into the unique online presence that is identifiable as yours, not just to others, but also (and most importantly) to yourself.
Finding Your Own Style
I know, it can be really hard to be objective about yourself and to focus on your best and brightest bits, its like being in a job interview when you’re asked the dreaded question ‘what are your strengths?’ and your heart sinks through the bottom of your best pair of heels and you start to stammer something about punctuality while kicking yourself for finding the most boring characteristic in the universe and not being prepared with a good answer! Its strange to think about ourselves and look for those positive things and then go on to show them to other people, it kind of goes against our social training, our cultural values, it seems too much like showing off or somehow thinking ‘too’ highly of ourselves. If you look at it objectively though, it becomes obvious that we only apply this barrier to ourselves! We fully expect that other people have talents, strengths, uniquenesses (hope thats a word) and we wouldn’t consider it strange or conceited of them to recognize those things in themselves and highlight them, in fact we would encourage them to do so and support them in reaching their own potentials and self expression.
So, apply this to yourself! Be your own best mate, make yourself a little list of the things that make you who you are; what do you love doing the most? Favourite colours? What are you best at doing in the whole wide world? What are your skills? What is important to you and why? Are you serious or humorous? Are details your thing or do you like spontaneous expression? What books and movies make you laugh or cry? Are you a morning or a night person? A minimalist or a clutter queen/king? The trick is to find what makes you, you, because you are unique, there is no one else like you in the whole world! If you are struggling with how to make ‘your’ online shop stand out from all the others selling similar products, you only need to look inside to find the style that sets you apart from everyone else.
Also look closely at your products, and look at all the others out there, where are yours different? I know its easy to feel totally intimidated by all the stunning yarns and amazing dyed fibre out there, and feel like you can never find a way to stand out amongst all that beauty! But then really look at your work, what are your own specific colour combo’s? The fibers you use and combine? The thickness, the texture, the plying? You will probably find that there are things in your work that are like themes, the things you really like to do, that hold your collection together, maybe you find the same colour appearing in lots of different colourways, or a particular plying method or twist that you use often, or a texture that you love so much you keep coming back to it with your spinning. Make a note of these things, because these are some of the ways you are expressing your style and individuality! Even if you see some of those same elements in the work of other people, remember, they are not you, so the combination of your own personal style AND that technique or colourway, thats what makes your work unique!
Once you have pinpointed (and yes write it down!) all the things that make you the person you are, and have found some common themes that run through your products, you can start to think about how to express that visually, in a photograph of your work. Because if you are, like so many of us fibre artists. selling your work online, the ONLY thing that will set you apart from anyone else is the photographs you have to show off your yarn. In the next blogpost on this topic I will cover ways you can create your own brand in a visual way using your camera. I think this is really important when you want to sell online because you are competing with a brick and mortar store in which the customer can touch, feel, smell and hold yarns. Online they can only look at a photo of it, and that needs to come as close to the actual experience of touching your yarn as you can get it!
The last thing I have to add here is a little ‘thing’ about myself. In my life I have had only two things ever engraved, one is a ring that I wear all the time, it is engraved with the words ‘Trust Yourself’. The other is my ipad, which is etched with the Seuss quote ‘There is no one alive who is youer than you!” My goal is always to keep those two notions together, and then be the best that I can be. Trust yourself! No one else can ever be you!