A recent post I created for House of Collaboration on the importance of branding and visual identity, primarily in the hair industry
The most common question I get from my clients is: “what is a brand identity?” and the ever popular “isn’t this something I can create myself?” As a professional graphic designer specializing in all-encompassing Brand identity and design I’m here to explain what all this stuff means, and why it’s so important for you as an industry professional.
Brand Identity – What does that even mean?
Your brand identity is the framework and strategy for how you represent yourself and your brand visually. It is a clear style that is reflected in your physical and digital presence as well as a clear understanding of who you are and what you offer. A successful brand identity not only has a pretty logo with a few nice Canva layouts on Instagram, it is a cohesive brand language that follows a clear path in terms of marketing strategies, product partnerships, client outreach, education, etc. It communicates a very clear ideal of who you, what you do, and what your values are as a solo stylist or salon. It shows in your social media presence, business cards, website and online presence, and any other method in which you market yourself and your business.
Why is a clear brand identity important?
As stated above, a clear brand identity is something that sets you apart from your competitors and helps convey that you are unique with a unique style and set of values. It shows that you are worth investing in by showcasing that you bring something special to the table. This holds great value specifically for those who work in the beauty industry, an extremely visual field by nature. It also helps you target the type of client you would like to serve. Another way to think about a well designed Brand identity is visual calling card which appeals to the needs and wants of a target demographic, not only the owner of the business. The need for strong brand identity has become more necessary for those in the beauty industry as well following the boom in social media and how it’s changed the game for beauty professionals as a whole.
Having a clear language behind how you display your work is what helps to set apart from the sea of instagrammable hair images floating around the digital world. It helps open the door for people to see your work and the talent behind it. Look at your brand identity as that first foot in the door that pulls people in to actually see what you do and see the value behind your skills. I have worked with so many incredibly talented hair stylists who noticed a huge increase in clientele after taking on a clear brand identity and overhauling their visual presence. Their work was always high quality and worth investing in, but the absence of a cohesive message about who they are and what they do caused their work to be overlooked or unnoticed.
Is being good at what I do enough?
While having the shear talent (pun intended haha) is a huge factor in being successful as a stylist or salon owner, it’s not enough to push your business to that next level. Too many times I’ve had clients come to me who explain that they aren’t seeing any growth in their business which I can see has nothing to do with their quality of work or talent as a stylist, it’s because they have zero brand identity or clear message as to who they are and what they offer. Into today's hyper visual age it’s so important to represent yourself the best way that you can. You remember that old saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”? Well that saying applies to your visual identity, think of your branding as your hypothetical outfit that showcases your goals and values, that represents the bad-ass that you are! Talent without any way of successfully showcasing it will end in a dying business, branding is what helps to elevate your incredible work!
Where do I start when trying to establish a brand identity?
It can often feel overwhelming or scary to try to establish a brand identity on your own, especially if that doesn’t fall within your typical skill set. This is why it’s so important to hire a designer to take on the task of creating your brand identity, someone you feel comfortable with who has a style you feel melds well with your style. Think of it this way, you have those clients who try to dye (or heaven forbid, bleach) their hair at home, use drug store shampoos and root touch ups, etc. and end up in your chair puzzled by why their hair is a mess. It’s the same with trying to DIY your brand identity. Branding design is a specialized skill in itself and requires the help of those who have experience, knowledge, and training in the field.
How do I find a brand designer?
The first step is researching branding designers, I highly recommend reaching out to your community for recommendations (especially people who have brand identities you like and have noticed created an increase for that persons business) Referrals are great as it cuts out the fear of whether the designer is reliable to produce the quality of work you are looking for. Another way to find recommendations is to reach out to any social media groups you are apart of, brands or people who you admire, etc. Another great trick is to check the footer credits on websites of brands you love, usually the designer responsible with list a credit linking you directly back to their website where you can get in touch.
Once you’ve found a designer reach out, be sure to include what services you’re interested in and request a call. I always recommend at least one introductory call prior to signing contracts or starting work so that we can discuss your brand and get a feel for each other. It’s important your personalities jive well and that you are both on the same page in terms of what you’re looking for and what the designers process is.
Another important thing is to look for designers who have experience branding people/companies in your industry. You want someone who has at least some basic knowledge about the beauty industry, what’s trendy, what doesn’t work, etc.
A word of caution, we all have to stay within a budget that works for us meaning we want to find a designer whose prices we can afford, which is totally a reasonable factor when choosing a designer. However, be wary of suspiciously low pricing as it’s almost always too good to be true. It’s easy to find designers who offer huge branding packages at an insanely low price, this is a huge red flag. Either that person does not have enough experience to deliver the quality of product you are looking to invest in, or they aren’t going to invest the time and effort needed to create a successful brand identity. When going with a suspiciously low quote you always get what you pay for (which in some cases can be not much/a scam).
The general rule which applies to all areas of business: don’t put large efforts into small yields and don't expect small efforts to create large change.
If you are reading this and worrying about the fact that you haven’t considered a brand strategy yet, don’t panic! Growing a business takes time and I always recommend people figure out a business plan outline before trying to do everything all at once. Set aside a budget that you can invest into your branding after researching pricing, etc. and take it one step at a time.