A Chat with Copper Kettle Co: How to Design a Successful Brand
This month, we interviewed the lovely + amazing Kyrsten Sherwood of Copper Kettle Co. all about how to design a successful brand. The wisdom she threw down is much-needed and oh-so-brilliant!
1. How do you define a "successful brand"? What are the elements that make up a success?
I love this question! I know often times, we think a brand is a pretty board with a beautiful logo and a color palette, etc.
But in my opinion—and I’d guess many brand designer and strategists’ would agree with me— the meaning of a successful brand is so much more than any of the design aesthetics. It’s not just about how your logo resonates with your audience, but how your VOICE (through your copywriting, Instagram stories, email newsletters, etc) resonates with your audience.
It’s about how you make people feel on a level that’s more than the color psychology of your palette can communicate. It’s about the message behind your brand - how are you trying to improve peoples’ lives through your craft, but also as a human being.
What kinds of feelings are you hoping to evoke in your audience? What messages do you have that will divide people - things that will make people LOVE you and things that will make people never want to work with you. Are you religious? Do you swear in your brand? Are you a progressive?
Your brand is more than your visuals. It’s about your true 1:1 connection with the people in your tribe. It’s more than attracting potential clients or booking sales or selling products. It’s about the impact that you’re making on individual peoples’ lives.
2. What is the very first step you'd recommend a business owner take on their branding journey, where should they start?
Okay, so my family is a little weird, haha. In 2017, we got rid of 90% of our belongings and traveled around the United States in our minivan and Airbnbs. Also, we're minimalists.
And I don’t think everyone needs to take a trip around the states to appreciate the freedom of minimalism (though, if it’s on your bucket list, then I absolutely think you should pursue it and make it happen!), but I do think that the power of minimizing is super helpful when figuring out where to start with your brand.
As creatives and entrepreneurs, we tend to get super tied up in trends, fashions, things that give us all the heart eyes and grabby hands - but when it comes down to it, what do you love today that you’ll love in five years? What trends have you always been drawn to?
It feels stereotypical, but it’s crazy how deeply ingrained our core values and sense of fashion is. The girl you went to high school with who was kind of a punk rocker back then? How does she dress now? The one I’m thinking of still dresses the same. The jock is a PE teacher. The preppiest of us in now in the makeup industry.
And while it’s difficult to see ourselves from an outside perspective, I highly suggest minimizing. Pick up a copy of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Read it in an afternoon and start tidying up your life, your wardrobe, your desk, etc. Soon you’ll start to notice what really sparks joy in your life versus what you’ve bought and hoarded simply because it was on sale or trendy or an impulse buy at the time.
Your natural trends will start shining through and this, my friend, is a great place to start your brand. In a way that’s felt natural to you your entire life.
3. What are the things a business owner needs to nail down before they begin their branding journey?
Other than honing into your inner brand, it’s important to identify who your audience is. For a lot of people in our field, this might look something like this:
“My ideal clients are women aged 20-35”
But the problem with this audience? It’s too vague. And while you may have a better picture of who she REALLY is in your head, it’s wonderful to have for copywriting to actually flesh this character out.
I encourage you to play the devil’s advocate and to try to contradict yourself when it comes to identifying your audience. Something like this:
Yourself as the Devil’s Advocate: Okay, your audience is women aged 20-35. So you’re targeting women who work in corporate, then yeah? They’re typically that age, too.
You: No, not corporate. They’re typically entrepreneurs
Devil’s Advocate: Oh! Okay, so they have their own business. Businesses like real estate, direct sales, accounting businesses
You: No, none of those - they have more like photography, cupcake shops, wedding planning services. It’s more for women in creative fields.
DA: Ah, okay, then! So creative fields got it - a lot of creatives really like watercolor logos. Do you do those?
You: Oh! No, I’m definitely more of a modern designer - I don’t work with watercolor. But I do like modern calligraphy
DA: Super. And you just help them by making pretty designs, huh?
You: Well, it’s more about the strategy behind their brand. They’re ready to build their businesses beyond the scope that they’re currently at, so they’re really looking for something more substantial than just something that’s pretty to look at.
DA: Right. And you ONLY work with women, right? What about men or non-binary people?
You: Well of course I wouldn’t run someone down just because of their gender or what they identify as. I guess it’s more about their values in branding and they kind of business that they have.
DA: So is your target audience really just “women aged 20-35?"
You: I guess it’s actually something more like, “creative entrepreneurs who are looking for modern, high end brand design and strategy to effectively attract and connect with their ideal clients.”
The reason why we want to dig SO deep into who exactly your audience is is because (in this example) accountants will respond to design differently than wedding planners will. Entrepreneurs will respond to your brand’s story differently than those in corporate jobs. If you’re only catering to women, how will others who you’d LOVE to work with feel about being excluded? It doesn’t only have to be about demographics (sex, age, etc). It can be about their frame of mind, or what they’re most passionate about.
Creating an effective brand story to cater to and connect specifically with your audience is one of the most important parts of branding.
4. In your opinion, do you believe business owners should hire out for brand design services (logo, etc.) or DIY it?
I think there are a lot of ways that you can bootstrap your business’s brand together. A lot of these things are actually better done on your own or with a little guidance and instruction and will simply develop over time. Things like what we’ve talked about above :)
That said, when it comes to the design - leave it to the professionals! You’re an amazing photographer, blogger, crafter, baker, manager, etc. and you KNOW the value of your work. You understand that your client’s DIY’d version is never as effective or will last as long or is as high quality as your professional work. You also know that often times, your clients may even waste a ton of money DIYing rather than hiring someone to do it right the first time.
And design is exactly the same. A great brand designer will understand things like the strategy behind all of the tiny details. They’ll understand composition and creating your brand in a way that fits all of the pieces together without leaving anything out. They’ll understand the importance of a vector or why a certain website platform will work best for you, how your copywriting and your color palette clash and how to fix it, etc.
I will say, however, that you can very easily create a starter brand for yourself. Creative Market has some wonderful resources (I urge you to not go crazy!), and even a simple Google Font will make for an impactful logo when done correctly. Some of my favorite Google fonts for logos are Playfair or Lora for the classic brand, Oswald (what we use!) or Montserrat for the modern and impactful brand, and there are a lot of inexpensive fonts on Creative Market that work really well for those pretty calligraphy logos.
High quality stock photos also go a long way! Some of my favorite photographers are TwigyPosts, Atelier21, HauteStock and Rosemary Watson Productions.
5. Aside from the oh-so-coveted pretty logo and color palette, what are some out-of-the-box methods business owners can utilize to make sure their brands stand out from the rest?
Okay, so here’s where I part from the typical brand designer crowd! I’m actually a fan of less is more when it comes to design, which is why we rarely design logos anymore.
If you compare Anthropologie’s and Kate Spade’s logos side by side, less the icons, you’ll see that they’re actually very similar. They’re both serif fonts - Kate’s is more polished, Anthropologie’s is a bit more rough around the edges (literally). But they’re both a simple font. And that’s it.
And I think that that’s honestly all you need. Because the rest of your brand should be where the good content is. If you’re relying on your logo to steer your ship, you’re not going to get very far! (I’m terrible with anecdotes, hahaha).
Which is why I’m a much bigger advocate of create your brand as a whole, coherent piece. Not just a brand board - that’s a very tiny, very insignificant part of your brand. Your brand is, again, the way you connect with people. It’s your voice, your wardrobe, who you network with, the messages you’re putting out to your people. What kind of impact are you making on people? And yes, the aesthetics of it all.
That said, something that I especially love designing with our clients is client gifts. Sending a client gift is impactful. It creates an experience with your clients that can set you apart from your competitors. And an on-brand client gift can speak SO loudly about your brand, your ethics, your reliability and your excitement about working with your clients. Plus, who doesn’t love getting pretty snail mail?!
6. How does a brand best gain and retain client/customer trust and loyalty?
THE best way that I’ve found to gain and retain clients is seriously just being there. For us, it was all about Facebook groups in the beginning. We connected with people, we answered questions about branding, we offered help in the “in search of” posts and they were always more than just “We do this!” kinds of answers.
Give people value before they’ve paid you. Connect with people individually. Offer your voice and how much you enjoy working with your clients on these kinds of projects. Never sound like you’re fishing for more - simply stay grateful and helpful and people will remember your name.
And then, once you’ve booked them - continue to be grateful. Show just how grateful you are. Continue to connect with them on a deeper level. Support them even after you’re done working together. Really, just be a nice human being.
7. Is there anything you wish more people knew about branding that is often not talked about?
I think everything I’ve written up to this point is a bit odd as far as the typical branding talk goes, haha! Mainly that your brand is more than the design. I do 100% believe that a brand with a solid strategy, coherent design and an impactful mission goes a LONG way and because of that, is worth a LOT of money.
However, I also believe that your brand isn’t just about the design. If you want to get ahead in your industry and be treated like an expert and a professional, then professional branding is important.
If you want to make an impact on people’s lives, though, then a polished brand isn’t necessarily necessary. You just need to have (and/or develop) a coherent idea of how you’d like to make a difference that goes farther than, “I want to help people to book more clients” or “I want to capture memories for people to cherish forever.” All designers and photographers want to do that - how are you any different? That’s how you make an impact.
8. What are your favorite branding resources you'd recommend to business owners dipping their toes in the branding world?
I will swear forever by Fiona Humberstone’s books - How to Style Your Brand and Brand Brilliance! They’re AMAZING resources for brand designers and DIYers alike, and they really help to better understand your business and brand as a whole. She also has a couple different courses that we haven’t taken, but have heard amazing things about and I wouldn’t doubt that they’re incredibly helpful. You can access those here: Colour Psychology for Creatives and Design for Go-Getters!
I also love Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up book, even though it’s an odd one for “branding.” As far as a life resource and a business resource, though, I think it’s invaluable to shed the emotional, mental and physical weight of items, systems, services, etc that don’t bring you joy. Apply this book to your business often.
Creative Market is a wonderful resource, but use it sparingly!! A solid few icons, colors, fonts, etc go MUCH farther than a whole bunch of things that don’t make sense together. If you choose to DIY your brand and use Creative Market, make sure you have a strategy first!
Pinterest is also an amazing way to fill out the idea of your brand before you put the pen to paper, so to speak. Create a brand board that is NOT full of logos, brands, color palettes, etc (don’t pin these!), but is actually filled with clothes, office inspiration, interior design, etc that inspires you. I have a free checklist on Pinteresting Your Brand that you can grab right here!
And of course, if you have any questions, need help, want additional free resources or want to read through our blog, we have tons of branding and small business resources available all the time. My door is always open <3
the author: kyrsten sherwood
Kyrsten and Kelly Sherwood are a wife and husband team who help creative entrepreneurs to start and scale their small businesses. Their Launch Brand Grow Community offers accountability and education for creatives and infopreneurs with Hot Seats, Masterminds, Courses, Book Club, Workshops, Monthly Goal Setting and more! Copper Kettle Co's new 1:1 Accelerator program takes creative businesses from bootstrapped to looking, functioning and converting like one that's been in the business for years through brand and web development, copywriting, blogging, Pinterest and social media management and more! Kyrsten, Kelly and their 3 (going on 4!) kids currently live in Scottsdale, AZ and serve creative business owners all over the world.