#3 / Assessing your creative business and defining your brand

Every time I meet with a new client or when I am having a conversation with a prospective client, the first thing we discuss is their business, what they are about, what do they offer that is different than everyone else. We look at their numbers, who is buying their products or services and what sets them apart from the competition. 

"More businesses would fare better if they did this analysis before working on all the visual elements that seem so urgent at the beginning."

I call this part of my consulting process: the business analysis phase. I want that both my client and I are clear on exactly what is that the business is about. Without this business understanding it is effectively impossible to work on the brand definition and it all the elements that belong here: the message, the brand colours, the typography and yes the website. 

For this I work through a set of questions with them. I call this the Business Analysis Consultation Questionnaire, you can access the published online version here anytime. In this analysis I have grouped the different sections I like to analyze to get a better idea of the business I am working with. The sections are 5: Goals, Business & Customer, Industry & Competition, Marketing and Skills & Resources.

For many of my creative clients this process is completely new to them but they soon realize the great benefits it has.

Why do I do this? I do it because Brand Direction is not about a logo design, or a colour  or choosing an typography. It is about a coherent, specific, clear and engaging message. A message that takes many forms: visual (images, logo, colours, fonts), verbal (content, wording, themes), and behavioral (interactions, service, relationships) and that cannot be defined successfully without doing all this prior work. 

And believe me, despite the fact that it sounds tedious (business analysis!) it is actually fascinating to work through it. When I talk to my clients about their business, when they answer these questions and when we brainstorm, I see how their energy lifts up and they are excited about it all over again. New ideas pop up and it becomes clear and easier to define their brand. 

More businesses would fare better if they did this analysis before working on all the visual elements that seem so urgent at the beginning. In fact, in most cases, all the elements of a good brand strategy stem from understanding the business and defining you mission statement or anchor statement as the brand expert Karen Tiber Leland calls it. 

I plan to guide you through this process using a number of steps that I use and that other strategic branding experts use and that include: 

  1. Defining your Mission 
  2. Brand Proposition
  3. Brand Elements and Energy
  4. Brand Story

Follow along and send me any questions you have on this topic and feel free to use my questionnaire to analyze your business.

Thanks for reading!


links for thought

Sharing resources with the creative community

  • Can you differentiate between branding and brand strategy? Read on


  • An interview about the process of defining your brand strategy - for creatives.


  • The book I am reading.


  • Finally, this airline is doing great at customer experience and it shows. 



#2 / the business landscape for creatives

I was just reading Marketing 4.0 by Philip Kotler and thinking about the basic marketing books the same author wrote and that was a staple for any business & marketing students back in the 90’s and early 2000s. It talked about about the 4 P’s (Product, Price, Place and Promotion), the Marketing Mix and the Segmentation, Positioning and Targeting.

I will explain these very useful and still relevant concepts in another post, but for now I was looking at how this book has adapted to the changes in the marketing world where digital technology has been the major factor of change.

Today the whole landscape has changed, with new and diverse ways to produce, sell, market and distribute a variety of products and services that did not even exist 5-10 years ago.

Many creatives had to rely on having a store or a friend with a local store to show and sell their products. In many cases, starting costs were too high. Today, the digital world has allowed them to reduce the many start-up barriers and reach their customer directly.  I love hearing about those stories. The small maker who is now selling internationally and who gets picked up by a big store to show their products. I love what Anthropologie and West Elm are doing to promote local and small creatives. (Although I truly dislike that today it is West-Barn-Sonoma-Nation as all these brands are all owned by the same group … ughh)

I want to share with you today how the landscape for you and every creative entrepreneur has changed and why this is a good time for you to be doing what you are doing:

  • Our digital lives have exploded: Did you know that there are about 1.6 - 2bn people on Facebook every  month? And about 700 million on Instagram? Oh yeah.

  • Youtube is the reference guide for celebrities for kids between 13-18 years old. That is Youtube celebrities. Not Hollywood.

  • Because of the additional digital exposure and the sharing of “finds” by regular people, the market is shifting from high volume mainstream brands to low volume niche ones.

  • Social groups have the power. Customer communities have a voice and are not afraid of sharing their thoughts and opinions about brands. In fact random conversations about brands are now more credible than advertising.

  • The online world has redefined the way people interact, enabling new ways to establish relationships independent of geographic locations or demographic connections. It allows for collaboration, which is key for creatives. How many of you have found a talented friend / collaborator online?

  • Trust is a big factor. Many of these smaller brands have created a circle of friends amongst their clients. Customers know that they can contact the brand if there is a problem with the product or the service and they usually work together to find a solution.

  • When buying, customers are driven today by both individual preference and a desire for social acceptance or conformity. Even if we do not want to admit it, most of us like that other people like what we have chosen to purchase. The sharing aspect of our digital connectivity has strengthen this need.

  • Finally, the connected customer today is young, urban and moves around a lot. They are used to things being instant and time efficient. They search for products on their phones constantly, comparing and researching. And despite their internet savvy, they love to experience things physically  - think Casper mattresses)

What does this mean to you? As a creative entrepreneur you'll want to:

1) Understand your market: who is your client? Where do they shop? Who are they influenced by? So you and more effectively and efficiently use your time and resources.

2) Ensure that you build relationships with your existing customers as they are both the source of referrals and repeat purchases. Your clients are your best ambassadors. Ask them, research with them and build your network that way.

 3) Use your social digital and offline platforms according to where your clients are. Not everybody needs to be on Instagram. Maybe your clients are more Facebook users, or like receiving emails or like face to face interactions. Find out and use that channel. 

links for thought

Sharing resources with the creative community

  • This article tells you that there is more to Marketing than Social Media.



  • Some basic but interesting insights on how to define your ideal customer.



  • Seek out one of your local communities. I am truly enjoying meeting many talented people here.

#1 / the creative entrepreneur

In a world where we often find ourselves surrounded by big corporate brands and chain stores, franchises and products that look the same,  I thank the creatives and small businesses for their presence, their tenacity and their uniqueness. 

The bread maker in your neighborhood, the pottery maker who takes the leap and starts selling her work, the florist who offers unique arrangements. The minimalist jewelry maker, the perfume maker, the graphic designer who launches a line of wallpaper

What all of these people have in common is their desire to create, their conviction and hard work. These creatives focus on an art form that they have cultivated or learned and from where they interact with the world , usually offering us all a different perspective and a different take on things.

     “Their goal is not consumerism or to see their product in every store but to bring a sense of satisfaction and joy to those who interact with their creations.”

Most of them are not looking for world or market domination, they are looking to be able to provide a more beautiful, more functional or more interesting product or service to the market and to their community. They usually want to source it responsibly, enjoy the process of creating and make a living.

What I love about true creative entrepreneurs is their desire to always be creating, but not to necessarily create more waste. Their goal is not consumerism or to see their product in every store but to bring a sense of satisfaction and joy to those who interact with their creations. 

These individuals are changing the physical and digital landscape, reclaiming them from big corporations. They have the support of society, because people have started to notice that good products and services come from people who are passionate about their art; think of Eileen Fisher and Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia but also the multi-disciplinary artist, the illustrators making cards and murals, the letterpress artist; all of them work hard to bring their art to us and they do it following their instinct and their passion. 

My line of work today means that I am surrounded by creatives who have ideals and who believe in different ways of doing this. I admire them and want to see them grow and achieve their goals. I also want to be able to contribute to the development and creation of smaller and meaningful enterprises because it makes our life and our world richer and more interesting.  

Are you a creative entrepreneur? Have you decided to go with your art and your passion to create a product or services that satisfy a need in a different way? If you are, or if you are thinking of doing that, thank you for the work you do.  I will be posting here once a month highlighting the work you do and sharing ideas and tips that may help you along the way.  


links for thought

Sharing resources with the creative community