Business Basics: making the brand

A great brand communicates far more than just your business name. How can you make branding decisions now that will serve your ultimate vision? Beyond just choosing a logo and brand colors, this episode covers developing a visual identity that attracts clients and contributes to your success.

Show Notes

Resources:

Canva design resources

Coolors to generate possible color palettes

Pinterest to explore and organize your inspiration

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Edited for length and clarity.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

ASHLEY: Welcome to Outgrowth: A Slice of Pro Beauty with your hosts Ashley Gregory Hackett.

JAIME: And Jaime Schrabeck. Whether you’re launching your beauty business or refreshing something established, branding can make the difference between being just another beauty pro and being recognized as an industry leader.

ASHLEY: When done thoughtfully, branding decisions can help drive every business decision you make, all while serving your vision and evolution. Let’s grow together.

JAIME: As we continue our Business Basics series, it’s important to discuss branding and the role it plays in beauty business success.

ASHLEY: Definitely, and I would make sure that if you’re listening to this series, that you listen to our episode on business naming before you get into this episode on branding. There’s some very important points there that we’ll build off of everything you need to know when starting your beauty business or refreshing your beauty business. Naming is where you should start before you move on to branding.

JAIME: Unfortunately, I think a lot of people think of all of this at once and not necessarily as a sequence.

ASHLEY: It’s one of those decisions that like we referred to back in the naming episode, it seems like we’re so excited to get started, but these are the decisions that we rush,  and you and I both know these are some of the most important decisions you can make in your business’s life.

JAIME: I think it gets back to the idea that some of us might envision how something will look rather than how it will function.

ASHLEY: Absolutely. We are very much an industry based on visuals and the naming of our business, the branding decisions that we make, are somehow built upon this “what is everybody else doing?” kind of idea. And that can actually end up being pretty harmful.

JAIME: So much of it can be built around what appeals to us personally that it leads me to the first question I want to have when I thought about this episode was: are we branding our business or are we branding ourselves as an individual?

ASHLEY: Or both. I think that that’s a conversation that we each need to have with ourselves, but I think you make a really good point. Branding decisions are often made about our own personal style and taste, which of course your brand should reflect you, and your aesthetic, and what you’re about. But we need to actually flip the focus to our audience and our clients, what’s going to appeal to them and how we can inject parts of ourself and our personality into our eventual brand. Instead of using that as our cornerstone, which is, well, I like pink and I like flowers, so therefore everyone else will too.

JAIME: Is that where we have to have a conversation also about authenticity?

ASHLEY: Maybe. I mean branding is something that you’re going to be, not stuck with, but it’s something that will be around for a while so it should be something that stands the test of time. So when it comes to whether you’re going to brand your business or yourself, or both, you have to really look out five or 10 years and think about what’s going to serve you in the long run so that you don’t have to constantly rebrand yourself and your beauty business like once a year.

JAIME: Oh, that sounds painful.

ASHLEY: But it happens. We see it all the time. I think that the conversation right now that a lot of beauty professionals are having with themselves is, I’m a suite renter. I am a solo practitioner. I do my own thing. Therefore, my brand is pretty much Nails by Ashley in my suite. I had somebody make me a logo on Fiverr and I’m ready to hit the ground running versus well, how do you expand from there? And we touched on that in our naming episode, but the branding decisions here really go hand in hand with those questions.

JAIME: I’d like to think that perhaps some experience and maturity will help you make these decisions, but we don’t have that luxury if you’re just getting started in the industry, in particular. We’re only going to get older. We’re only going to get more experienced. So how do you avoid making some of these mistakes at the very beginning? I’m concerned that people will invest money in branding themselves, as we talked about in naming themselves, and either get off on the wrong foot or just realize yet, you know, as much as I like my branding, no one else seems to like it.

ASHLEY: I don’t, I’m not sure there’s a way around that to be quite honest. I mean I’ve had several brands under my belt in my evolution as a beauty professional, and I think they kind of go hand in hand with narrowing your focus and really learning as you go in your career what you really love to do. And that gets, I think, more and more clear as you evolve. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have your brand evolve, but it is something you want to avoid when it’s a total tear down and rebuild every year where now you’re known as this and you have to keep making these announcements. It can be hard to keep track of, and it can alienate clients because they may think if they’re not clear on what you’re about, and you’re not clear on what you’re about, how can they really buy in?

JAIME: It may alienate clients, but it proves endlessly entertaining to your colleagues.

ASHLEY: Well, and we discussed in our last episode on naming that there is a lot of crowdsourcing going on and these very public switches that are happening can seem a little bit exhausting, honestly. Maybe you need to just pick something, and stick with it, and then make little tweaks here and there as opposed to completely rebranding, totally different style. And so let’s talk about some of the ways that we can hone in on what our actual brand is. So I like to start with a logo and there are some certain things that really make a great business logo. First of all, can you read it? Which sounds so basic and silly, but really there’s a lot of logos out there that are using these really swirly, scripty fonts, where from a hundred yards on a sign I would not be able to read it. Or something really trendy, colors of the moment, you know, the Pantone color of the year, whatever that might be. Also, is it unique? Can you trademark it? Is that a road you want to go down? Or would the logo really look nice on a piece of retail or a private label product? That’s one of the things I thought about when I was branding myself, But really set yourself up for success and think about something that is going to serve you and wherever your career may go in the next five to 10 years.

JAIME: When I look at logos that I admire, I admire their simplicity. And tell me if this is true, Ashley, that even if you are choosing to use color in your logo, that a really good logo is going to look good even just in black and white.

ASHLEY: Right, or in any color, really. Because if the design is strong and the branding makes sense, it can be very flexible for you. But I know like your logo, it’s something that you use on your website. It’s something that you have printed on nail files. It’s something that has served you very well and I don’t think you’ve had to change it very much over the course of its use, but you made those decisions, I think, very thoughtfully in the beginning.

JAIME: I have not changed my logo the entire time I’ve used it and I’m embarrassed to say that I created it on, I can’t even remember which platform it was, or what application, I believe it was an Adobe application, using different fonts. And I was just playing around and wanted to create something that I thought would stand the test of time. And I can’t really think of anything that would better represent my brand and that’s why I have not changed it. I haven’t thought about it in terms of what would I like better. I haven’t come up with a good answer for that. So that’s why it hasn’t changed. And it has served me well over the years. So thanks for pointing that out, but I know that not everyone feels confident doing that kind of thing. So is there something that you would recommend in terms of developing a logo?

ASHLEY: Well, there are so many great tools available now that are free or very economically priced, canva.com being one of my favorite resources. I’m not a graphic designer. I know what I like when I see it, but getting to that point is the place where that’s difficult for me. Canva can be a double-edged sword, which I don’t get that expression. Every sword has two edges, but one side of it is there’s a lot of possibility there. So what you can do is create something or have someone help you create something that speaks to your vision and you can tweak it, like you did, by using different fonts, putting different elements behind it. You’re not necessarily married to your logo. There are alternate wordmarks. You can have there’s things that are your actual brand name with your logo or just the logo itself. There’s so many different ways to have that flexibility, but this way you can kind of see everything and sit with it a while.

But then you can also put it onto mock-ups. Canva now has the ability to mock up products, or t-shirts, or whatever to help you see what that would look like in real life.  But the other part of Canva is that there are some pre-made logos available on the platform, and I would just advise everyone to steer clear of those or use them as a jumping off point. Don’t just slap your beauty business name onto one of those pre-made logos because you’re going to have issues down the road with finding your point of difference when everyone else is using the same thing.

JAIME: Do you suggest creating like a portfolio of the kinds of things that you like to help, sort of almost like a, a board, to help you make those decisions, and then perhaps if you enlist someone else to share what your vision is with someone?

ASHLEY: Absolutely. I mean that’s what professional graphic designers and branding specialists do. They’ll create something for you where there will be several logo options, wordmarks, brandmarks and the inspiration. They’ll use photos to help better illustrate what the brand is about, the colors they’ve chosen, more on that later. But that’s their process so I think the more we can mirror that process, maybe as amateurs or non-professional graphic designers, the better. That’s something we can borrow from them in order to make our lives a little bit easier. I love this idea especially if you are using a professional graphic designer or you have someone who has graphic design knowledge assisting you with this exercise. I would say just don’t be afraid to tweak this and give this decision the proper consideration. You don’t have to have a finalized logo and brand the moment you open your doors. This is something that can come within the first few months. We feel like there’s this, these dominoes that have to fall and I have to get the name and then I have to get the logo. And while that may be true in some circumstances for things like signage or printed materials, if you just do a small opening investment in those things, you still then open the door to creating the final product once you know it’s right. So I think we put this pressure on ourselves to have these things done the moment we open and I don’t necessarily think that’s something you have to do.

JAIME: That’s why it was so important that we did the naming episode first as part of our series because that has many more legal implications than a logo does, unless of course, you’re blatantly just ripping off someone else’s logo. Then there are going to be legal implications for you down the line, but you’re not signing your logo to a license application or anything else that’s required of us in terms of operating our business. So  you’re right. The naming comes first. The logo can come later and I do think it’s something that you have to sit with for a while because you have to come back and like it again and again. You can’t just look at it once and say, oh yeah, that looks great because you may feel differently the next day. You may feel differently if you’re having a bad day, and your, your logo has to be something that you feel proud of, and want to use because it really represents you as a brand. It becomes the thing that when someone sees your logo, they should connect you as the individual to that logo. And I think that’s why I asked that question at the beginning is, are we branding ourselves as individuals and then also trying to create this business brand, and we’re trying to promote two things at once individually, or do we combine them together? Do we tie them together so they reinforce each other?

ASHLEY: That’s a great point. Everybody’s going to have a different answer to that question just based on their own circumstances, but what you said about tying them together really makes a lot of sense. They shouldn’t be so diametrically opposed they don’t even seem like they’re on the same planet if you’re branding yourself and you’re branding your business. Like really the only times I’m going to point to influencers in our industry is about branding. Influencers are, in general, very good at branding and they’re also very good at walking that line between their personal brand and their professional beauty business, salon, whatever it might be, brand. You’ll see that they’re often very related, whether it be just the style, the fonts, use the colors, whatever that might be. They sort of build off of each other and kind of catapult each other to a more elevated status when they’re together. So they’re not fighting each other, they’re not taking away from each other, and they’re really helping create a more clear vision between the person and the actual business. 

JAIME: When you mention influencers, I think if someone who is branding themselves as an individual and then whatever products they produce might be a secondary thing. And then whatever brands they are affiliated with are a secondary thing. But all part of that revenue stream, I mean, revolving around the individual who may or may not be using their actual name. You know it could be a name that’s not even their legal name. It gets infinitely complicated when that happens. And I just think somehow there’s a way to make it simpler because if you are going to have multiple projects in the beauty industry, which is something you and I both have, how do you distinguish that? It’s, for you, it’s Ashley Gregory Hackett, but it’s Ashley who does session manicuring, and it’s Ashley who’s the co-host of Outgrowth podcast, and it’s Ashley of the Nailscape, and there may be other things that you haven’t told me about yet that you’re doing that you haven’t announced. But I think that’s part of this whole branding exercise is, when do you need to develop something new for a side project?

ASHLEY: Yeah, and that’s a very individual decision. For me, it is difficult to walk the line between all of those different brands that I have. And sometimes it’s easier than other times, for sure. I want to be totally open and honest about that. I think, for me, I always enter into branding decisions and starting new businesses as, how would this work or operate if I wasn’t there? And so I always think about creating brands that I could literally like reach down, pick myself up out of, and remove myself, and still have it be something that stands on its own. And so with something like my session manicuring or my coaching, those I made the decision to infuse myself into because they’re me as opposed to the Nailscape, which is a brand that is its own thing. And if I were to sell it or if I were to shut it down, either way, it doesn’t affect the other parts of my portfolio, if that makes sense.

JAIME: Well, it does make sense because when I look at how you represent yourself with these different brands, I see that they, it’s not just you changing the name and everything stays the same. The brand colors, the fonts that you use, everything changes from entity to entity. So let’s talk more about the decision making around the colors and the things that you think reflect best what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. I suppose that gets into the reason to have the brand in the first place and then also who the intended audience is.

ASHLEY: Absolutely. I mean those two things are really the pillars of any kind of branding exercise, especially when it comes to choosing the colors, and how you’re going to actually make or bring this logo to life, and make it something more than just like a stamp on a piece of paper or something that actually stands for something. And the great thing about a logo is when we think about some of the most iconic brands like the Nike swoosh or the McDonald’s arches, those are things that are tied to your personal experience with those brands, and they make you think about something, and they also make you feel something. And so that’s obviously branding at its highest level, but it’s not something that we are exempt from because we aren’t Fortune 100 companies. And so a great logo will serve your beauty business along with all of the other parts that feed that brand like the colors and the way that you use it to help people have a reaction, whether it’s visceral. Like the Nailscape is black and white, because I wanted it to be about honesty, no spin, just facts. And for me, black and white fed that narrative with an accent color of a very bright kind of tomato red, because again, to me, it’s like facts are black and white and if something needs to be corrected, then you use your red pen, right? And so those just kind of iconically fit together. There was also a character in the Baby-sitters Club books who always wore red, black, and white and that just stuck out to me as, could you imagine branding yourself as like a 12 year old? But that’s what she was doing, this character, she always wore some mixture of red, black, and white. And I know we can look at some of the icons in our industry and you can just see how they’ve branded themselves, whether it’s that they are really into high fashion or they wear yellow glasses because that’s their brand color. Like you can see these branding decisions if you kind of zoom out. You can see them happening in real time and you can see how they fit their brand, and their narrative, and the audience they’re trying to reach. So think about when you’re choosing your brand colors, don’t just choose something that looks pretty, but really think about all of the different ways you’re going to apply these, whether it be on your printed materials, on your website, on a sign outside, on social media, like what’s going to pop, but also what is going to last. ou know. If you’re picking millennial pink every time, unfortunately, that might be looking a little outdated in two years. So look on Pinterest. Look at some color palettes. We’ll put some links, of course, in the show notes to some really good color palette tools, but be very thoughtful about this because your logo, your brand name, the colors you use should all feed into the customer experience.

JAIME: And as easy as it may be to swap out a color that isn’t working for you in a logo or on a website, it’s not nearly as easy if you’ve painted the walls of your business or have invested in furniture that matches those colors.

ASHLEY: Oh, my gosh, yes.

JAIME: But those are things that we see, right? We see the colors of the logo flow through the entire business. It’s not just a matter of you showing up to an event wearing your colors. It’s that you’ll see the entire brand be, and it should really, I mean, if you are committed to this as your palette, I would expect to see that in your business. What I would not expect to see is something the exact opposite or something that muddies your branding message if your physical representation is somehow different from the sort of logo, marketing type of representation that we see digitally.

ASHLEY: Yes. Yeah, and it should all just fit. You know, these are puzzle pieces that should fit together. And I think branding is such an amorphous kind of high level like, ooh. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it’s one of those things that when it fits and it makes sense, you feel it. It’s a gut feeling and reaction like, yes, this makes sense. This is exactly what it should be. And that’s a feeling I think a lot of us struggle with because we get spoiled by choice and we continue to like take in so many options until it can be hard to hear that gut saying, yes, this is it. Stop, stop looking. And that also can lend itself to your brand voice. And are you, this refers to like anything written, whether it be your rack cards, your brochures, your menu on your website, the captions you put on Instagram. They should all sound like they’re coming from the same person and this is really important, too, if you do expand and you bring on employees or you have someone doing your social media for you. This is another conversation you need to have with yourself about, do I say we? Do I say I? But really the most important thing here that I think it boils down to is just consistency. So there’s another conversation and decision you need to make beyond logo and colors, but also how do I speak? How do I speak to potential clientele in a way that they’re going to take it on board and listen?

JAIME: That’s such a difficult thing to do when you’re an individual because we all have to start somewhere, right? And there was a point where I used “I” a lot. In fact, if you look at my logo. I know we had this conversation before and you notice that the “I” in precision in the middle lines up with the “I” in nails and it’s the center of my logo, but I had to make that transition to referring to “we” when I took on employees it made sense. But even before then, I thought, a way to sort of establish that I do have intentions growing the business and having it be more than just myself. But this idea of brand voice gets to even subtleties like humor. Like what kind of humor, if you’re going to use any at all, what kind of humor are you going to use? And what may or may not be offensive to people is a consideration. These are really, really hard conversations because you don’t want to have to circle back and then all of a sudden have to make some sort of statement that makes it sound like that’s not you talking. It’s someone who you’ve hired to handle some sort of crisis PR.

ASHLEY: Well, and we’re seeing that play out right now with some self-help gurus and  the brand voice exercise, while difficult if you’re the only person wearing all of the hats.  And you’re like, well, of course, it’s going to be my voice. Again, thinking about what if someone were to lift you up and pluck you out of your business, would it still be able to stand on its own? And so yes, you are the marketer. You’re the accountant. You’re the customer service manager. But also if you were to be in that situation, and literally part of the firebrand, and have to stand the test of some type of controversy or what have you, then knowing what your brand voice is and what it stands for will just make those decisions that much easier to make.

JAIME: Going back to the mention of the target audience or the intended audience, do you feel that oftentimes when we’re doing this branding exercise, which is an ongoing process, that we are too narrow in targeting an audience?

ASHLEY: Well, I think the first part of what we may do wrong or where we may go astray is just focusing on something that we ourselves like and are drawn to, whether it be your favorite color, or your favorite kind of font that you use in everything. It’s a very narrow window where we are creating just for ourselves. Like, yes, you want to like your brand and you want to feel like it represents you, but if you’re the only one who likes it, or is drawn to it, or feels served by it, then you’re going to be very lonely in your business. And I think for some reason our branding as beauty professionals and the way we approach it is very feminine. It is slightly exclusive. So if we’re focusing on the aesthetics of our space and the aesthetics of our logo, but we’re not focusing on making everyone feel comfortable and welcome, or we’re gendering things to the point where you’ll never have any male clientele because your logo is covered in cherry blossoms. It’s difficult to kind of peel that onion and think about okay, would this appeal to other people? And I think that’s why, how we fall into that Facebook crowdsourcing trap of I have this idea, and I’m not really sure, and what do you think? And you just get positive reinforcement because everyone else is part of the beauty industry, and likes the aesthetic of things, and we all kind of tend to gravitate towards some of the same things. So that I think is something we’re going to see change, hopefully, starting now in this reset we’re experiencing as an industry where we are being more inclusive. We are understanding that beauty is not gendered, and opening it up to multi-discipline, if possible, beyond just our own narrow scope.

JAIME: And while we’re trying to appeal to a broader audience, we still are needing to differentiate ourselves as a business and as a professional. So it’s not that our clients are different necessarily. It’s that we’re trying to bring something different and perhaps more elevated to the potential audience.

ASHLEY: Great brands speak without saying anything, whether it’s the synergy between the colors you’re choosing, the logo, the name, the way it’s presented, the design of your website, the things you post on social media, the sign on the top of the door. Whatever that is, it should answer a lot of client questions about their experience before they even speak to you. So that’s what a great brand can do for you. And the opposite side of that coin, that’s what a bad brand can also do to your detriment and hopefully, through what we’re doing in Outgrowth and what the Dresscode Project is doing, and definitely go back and listen to that episode, if you haven’t yet. We’re realizing that our audiences aren’t as narrow as we maybe once thought.

JAIME: And that’s a wonderful thing because it just means that there are that many more potential clients for our business.

ASHLEY: Exactly. So don’t limit your market by picking something only you like, and that will serve you for years and years to come.

JAIME: These decisions about branding, as important as they are, I’m grateful that we’re having this conversation now, Because even if you have an established brand, I think it’s worthwhile to rethink what it means to you and what it means to your existing clients, and what it could mean to potential clients. And if it’s no longer serving your needs, it’s time to go through this exercise again.

ASHLEY: It’s something that maybe if you don’t revisit it yearly, every couple years and decide, does this still serve me? You can kind of Marie Kondo it a little bit and does it still spark joy? Does it still serve me? Does it serve the audience I’m trying to reach? And if not, switch it up.

JAIME: Great advice.

ASHLEY: Well, thanks for having this conversation with me about branding. I love talking about it, but it’s just I think maybe something we as an industry tend to gloss over and I’m hopeful that it will be helpful to our audience, whether they’re just starting out or they’re starting to do that revisit that we mentioned.

JAIME: If you’re enjoying  Outgrowth, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts with just one click. Visit bit.ly/outgrowthpodcast.

ASHLEY: And as always, you can follow us and comment on recent episodes on Instagram at @outgrowthpodcast.

JAIME: Ashley, thanks for having another conversation about business basics.

ASHLEY: I love these and there’s much more to come in this series. So until next week,  be smart.

JAIME: Be safe.

ASHLEY: Be branded. 

JAIME: Ooh.

ASHLEY: Bye.

JAIME: Bye.

Described as the best beauty podcast in 2020, Outgrowth Podcast is for hairstylists, nail techs, estheticians, massage therapists and lash technicians. Hosted by beauty industry experts Ashley Gregory Hackett and Jaime Schrabeck, PhD, this salon industry podcast has helpful  interviews with guests that teach topics from increasing salon clientele, salon marketing, covid guidelines, beauty industry insights, starting a salon, renting a salon suite, salon Instagram tips, and how to run a successful salon. Join us for weekly episodes of hair podcasts, nail podcasts, esty podcast, and more.

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