Branding for creative professionals
My husband and I are currently working with some architects. We first reached out to a firm who have done some wonderful work in our neck of the wood, but were unable to take on our project as it was too small in scope. Instead, they recommended a duo of talented girls who used to work for them, but have gone out on their own and are a good fit for our scope and budget.
I asked if they had a website that I could check out. ‘Ah, nope’ the gentlemen said, before giving me their telephone numbers.
Slightly bemused, I dialled the number and off we went. We’ve been working together for about six months now, and we recently had occasion to look them up on the internet to check their phone number only to find nothing. Zilch – except for (sadly for the girls) one poor review from a former disgruntled customer. Not exactly encouraging.
Luckily for them we've had the benefit of getting to know them, however, I’m not so sure I’d have picked up the phone had I seen this review first. In the absence of any other marketing – paid, hosted or otherwise – when it comes to the internet, people will make their own assessments, and this sort of thing could be really damaging for a fledgling business.
Creative professionals - our own worst enemies
I did ask them about this initially, only to receive a slightly embarrassed reply that they had strong views on what they wanted and they simply hadn’t gotten around to doing it. Business for them seems to be going well; they have a schedule of interesting and varied projects, but I can’t help but wonder what a simple brand presence would do for their business (Edit: in a rather serendipitous twist, they developed a simple landing page for their business as I was writing this very post!).
I also recently discovered an agency, or person (I’m not actually sure) who has some 21K+ posts of work and inspiration collated on Pinterest (which is kind of impressive!). His or her bio said Northern Beaches, Sydney, and I was excited to stumble across a creative professional who shared a similar aesthetic in my own city. I was quickly disappointed after checking out their website only to find a landing page that consisted only of a large image and contact details. It was well laid out and the imagery was good, but I closed the browser none-the-wiser as to the type of work they did, or the sorts of clients that they liked to work with. I can't help but wonder what a client’s impression would be? First snoops around the internet for a creative service, or service provider, needs to build credibility quick-smart, or they'll quickly shift focus to someone else. Non-existent, or overly simplistic websites which fail to tell a story, unfortunately, run the risk of this very thing happening.
Creative professional branding done well
When we first moved into our house we had an initial consultation with Brett Mickan - an Interior Designer whose work I absolutely loved. I’d seen a house of his turn up in a quick Google search and fell in love with his use of colour and ability to mix the old and the new so effortlessly.
A quick visit to his website only enhanced my perception, and to this day it sticks in my mind as creative professional branding done well. It's nothing overly fancy in its structure, but the imagery is what really sets it apart. The site does a wonderful job of showcasing his work, as well as building credibility through his many media mentions, which made me pick up the phone immediately. In person, he was as delightful as his website, and I’m still holding out some hope (once the architects/builders have finished!) that we’ll be able to work with him. In the meantime I enjoy reading about him in my many, many home magazines, and stalking him on Instagram.
On this note, I’ve been Insta-stalking a designer (she’s now grown into a small agency) for a few years now, coveting her branding. Being a graphic designer, she’s obviously got skills and some decent Squarespace nous (notch up another for Squarespace), but it goes further than that.
Dropcap is both a creative enterprise as well as a Business-to-Business (B2B) entity, which creates some unique challenges. Buyer behaviour is quite different to that of other creative fields, such as interior designers, artists or photographers, who may sell a service or product to consumers for their own private use. The B2B creative service provider is selling to other businesses, and needs to do two things, and fast: build credibility, and build relationships. Dropcap's branding does this really well through thoughtful and intentional branding and clear, concise website design, including relevant and insightful blog posts.
Here's what else I like:
- Her positioning and messaging is clear and concise: It’s a 'branding studio for the creatively inclined'. Good start – is your business venture creative? Do you like her aesthetic? Answer yes and yes and it would seem like a good fit for you.
- Her copy is simple: clear to the eye, quick to read and easy to digest.
- Her aesthetics are great – the tone of her imagery is the workhorse for her brand, with the colours and type supporting this wonderfully.
For non-visual creative professionals, branding and web design may seem like a challenge. Without native, glossy imagery to drive your branding, considerations such as the written word, and clear, simple web design must lead the charge.
Mathew Chandler is an old colleague of mine, and director of Acutmentum Communications - one of the very talented microbusinesses that Amadeus collaborates with. He's an almost unparalleled master of the written word, having been in the game for some 20+ years as a journalist and communications specialist. He's now established an agency and specialises in property related marketing and communications, and is a trusted advisor to an enviable client list.
What I like about his website is that the written word really does shine with absolute clarity. Obviously he plays to his strengths here, but there are a few things that we can take away from this:
- A clear tagline 'Content to grow' does exactly what it says on the tin. His potential clients can read on with confidence that they are in the right place.
- He shows some personality. Little touches like "Some nice words from our clients" and "Superb brands. Wonderful clients" make a nice change from 'Testimonials" and "Our clients".
- The recent work section is padded out nicely with evidence of high-quality engagements, which instantly builds credibility. Creative B2B professionals need to demonstrate two things - can you do the work your clients need and can you minimise their headaches?
Creative professionals can benefit as much as any business from a polished brand. Both B2B and B2C creatives need to present their work as proudly and clearly as possible and make it as easy as possible for your audience to answer the question: can this persons 'art' solve my problem? Will this painting bring my house to life? Will this person's services help create a warm and inviting home for my family? Will this copywriter be able to bring my own business brand to life, enabling me to win a greater share of business in my market?
When your clients and customers can glean this as simply and confidently as possible, you're well on your way to sharing your craft with the world and building a successful creative enterprise.