Is “Go with Your Gut” a Valid Brand Strategy?
If you read my last post, we talked about what brand strategy is and isn't and why you 1,000% need a solid one before you jump into design, copywriting, or a marketing plan.
To recap, the primary focus of brand strategy is this—
What is the central, core idea of your business as we consider the uniqueness of you and the frustrations and dreams of your audience? The right strategy is key to building a brand that gets the right results for YOUR BUSINESS.
Now that I've persuaded you, ;) here's the behind-the-scenes that sparked that previous post.
While the recommendation to "go with your gut" may not sound intentional or strategic, I'd like you to meet a woman who did just that—and changed the trajectory of her brand.
If you've been around here since last year, you may remember Caryn Gillen. When we worked together previously, she was a successful weight loss coach. However, at the beginning of 2019 she did a major pivot in her business, returning to her true passion, and shifting into a leadership coach for entrepreneurs and executives who want to lead better, faster.
She was working with a marketing company during this transition and asked if I could help her with a fresh color palette and fonts that would fit her new direction.
As we looked at her new strategy, here are a handful of her keywords.
Sophisticated, powerful, calm, supportive, intense
Caryn is confident and direct, supportive and sincere, and utterly non-judgmental. She's also not afraid to call you on your crap so that you can become your very best. I know this first-hand because I've had the privilege of meeting with her in-person (best job perk ever!).
Given our strategy, I created two inspiration boards to gauge the exact direction she wanted to go.
Inspiration Board #1
Inspiration Board #2
Her first instinct was to go with Option #1.
Her comments were, "Oh, this is me. This is amazing! #1 feels like where I have been."
Her best-intentioned friends and colleagues also told her to go with Option #1.
But her gut knew that Option #2 was the right one, though she didn't see it at first. She made a small but telling comment that she wanted "to live in that room" in the second board—the one in the bottom left corner. That was my first clue. She meant it literally, but perhaps it was metaphorical too?
I made revisions to the first board. She was happy with the result but her reply was one I honestly didn’t see coming. She said, rather sheepishly, she loved it, but she wanted to go back to Option #2! I was so relieved. It was such a strong, more confident direction, one I knew was totally Caryn.
This was her explanation for her decision: "Everything in my body was a 'yes, please!' My whole body likes it. I love everything about it. #2 feels like where I'm headed."
The key to creating a brand that you don't have to redesign next year is to design for your future, as best as you possibly can. As entrepreneurs, it can be hard to know where we'll be in 3 or 5 years, but the more you can keep "future you" in mind, the better decisions you'll make today. That's part of the strategy—be strategic about your future plans.
A quick note about those friends and experts who also voted for Option #1...
If you haven't read my thoughts on crowdsourcing feedback, you can do that here. Warning: my opinions are strong and deep. In most cases, your friends know where you've been and where you are now. It's difficult for them to know where you're going. Heck, sometimes it's hard for us to know where we're going and we know our business better than anyone. Be very picky about who you ask for feedback. In fact, I tell my clients not to ask anyone's opinion unless it's someone who perfectly fits your ideal client description. Otherwise, it creates way more confusion and second-guessing.
In addition to the colors and fonts, we also did a refresh of her logo. She had an old logo she never used which looked a lot like her actual signature. When she asked me about making her signature into her logo, I knew it was the right fit for her.
Here's our final result.
Office artwork and your brand
A fun bonus I try to work into my inspiration boards is artwork. When I rebranded in 2018, a watercolor by Yao Cheng was central to my final color palette. On my third business anniversary, I purchased the print and it hangs proudly in my office as a reminder of what I love, where I’ve been, and where I’m going.
I try to do this for all my clients when it fits our direction so they have that option too.
So when Caryn asked, "Can I go buy that piece of art? I want to hang it in my office," I was able to give her a hearty “YES!” and send her the link. Unbeknownst to me, she was planning to redecorate her office. She purchased this print in the largest size possible and painted an accent wall in the same navy blue. I love how Caryn goes all in! That's serious brand commitment, and crazy fun too!
Pinterest is great eye candy, but other sites have prints for sale so you can do more than just pin inspiration to a virtual board. Some of my favorites are:
https://www.minted.com/ – US-based but ships to over 200 countries. I love that you can order prints framed or unframed which means you can get a larger size delivered in a cardboard tube which makes shipping costs more budget-friendly.
https://www.art.com/ – Only ships within the US.
https://society6.com/ – Ships internationally.
So how does Caryn feel about her new direction?
"You captured my future!
So much of what I create for myself is where I am NOW, but you captured my aspirations and where I want to go in a way I never could have done on my own. I thought that working with a designer would be difficult, that I'd have to know all the exact words to tell you. I'm so relieved that this really is your zone of genius—taking all my random thoughts, applying the right strategy, and making it into something beautiful and meaningful. It was such an easy process. I love everything about my new brand; it's given me so much clarity and confidence!"
–Caryn Gillen, Leadership Coach at caryngillen.com
Yes, "going with your gut" is absolutely a valid part of your brand strategy. Even more, I believe it's a necessity.
Once you've defined keywords and your creative direction, a gut reaction is what helps you feel excited and inspired over your rebrand. It's the heart-brain connection that ticks the "logical" boxes while also informing you at a deeper level that you're on the right track. And it's so fun to see it all come together!
Is everything in your body a "yes, please!" when you look at your current brand? If not, why not jump on a free call with me and let's brainstorm? I'd love to help you pinpoint the disconnect and get you back on track.