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Branding 101: The Complete Toolkit

Lesson 2 of 9

Define Your Brand

Danielle McWaters

Branding 101: The Complete Toolkit

Danielle McWaters

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Lesson Info

2. Define Your Brand

Lesson Info

Define Your Brand

So, let's dive in, right? Okay, so part one is actually defining your brand, okay? So, there are a few key con steps here that we have to identify at the beginning stages of building a brand. And each of them are very different and they're sometimes stand along concepts that we really could have an entire class on (laughs) you know per concept but you know we're gonna give you the basics and tell you how they all need to work together to create a sense of harmony. So, first we're gonna define our mission, our vision, our ethos, our core values, our unique selling proposition, and our position, right? So this is really the thing that's gonna set your foundation for your brand. So, your mission right. So your mission statement, have you guys have heard of this term before? Yes, okay. So your mission statement is really just what are you doing right now? So whether you're in a product or a service, what is the thing that you're doing right now. Or if you haven't started yet what is the th...

ing that you will be doing? It's the actual tangible thing. So, so like I said we're gonna use a case study throughout today to basically show you how mission would be applied using you know a made up company. So I've made up a company for you guys today it's a candle company and it's called Slow Candle Company, okay? And Slow Candle Company is an aroma therapy candle company. And they use pure and natural ingredients to create their candles, and you know their whole kind of core values and ethos behind their brand is that they really love this slow living movement, right? In this world of fast fashion and fast food we wanna create candles that help you slow down and take time and cause for for rest and relaxation, okay? So, here's our mission statement as it applies to our case study. Slow Candle Company produces aroma therapy candles from pure ingredients and essential oils. So that is what we are doing, the exact thing that we are doing, okay? So then, right so that's like what we're gonna be launching with, so then you wanna think about your vision, right? So that's the 5-10 years down the road when you become incredible successful and you blow up, and you're in all the retailers and all the places that you wanna be. You know your vision is the thing that is going to it's the idea that's gonna drive your organization, right. It's gonna be the thing that informs all of your decision making, including your marketing, including your strategies, and including your position, right so you wanna remember like, like I said, what you're doing now but you do have to think long term, you know? And it's like almost thinking about this in you know it's in the most ideal sense, it's like what do you wanna be doing 5 years down the road, how do you wanna be spending your time, and your days, and your energy, and your effort? That's what your vision is, right? And then you take your vision and you basically see how that supports your mission, and then how does it go out and affect all these other elements of your business, like the marketing strategy and your position, right? So, how does this apply to our case study? So Slow Candle Company will be a leader in the slow living movement, right? So we wanna like catch on, we wanna almost partner with different you know different flow living brands so whether that's food or whether that's fashion we wanna become a part of this slow living lifestyle. And create the best quality aromatherapy candles using the purest ingredients from nature to nourish our minds and our bodies to obtain an inner sense of balance and harmony, right? So it's very much you know focused on the slow living movement but also about you know, how do we wanna feel when we're using this, how do we see this kind of again, living in our lives. So then we go into, our unique selling proposition, so this is the thing that essentially makes your product or service different, right? What is, and this can't be like a hypothetical thing, right? It's not like what you think makes a difference, it's what actually makes your product or service different. So, or if you're a person, right, if you're somebody who is you know starting your own brand and your own company that's about what you do as a product or service it's basically what you want to be know for, right? So you know with our design studio we want to be known for packaging and for branding, it's what we do but it's what we wanna be known for, okay? So, how does this relate to the case study? So Slow candles are produced using ingredients from ethically sourced farms from various parts of Indonesia, right? And they also use like traditional cold-pressing processes to yield the purest and highest quality ingredients. So we have two things working for us here, as our unique selling proposition. So the first is that we get our ingredients from ethically sourced organic farms in Indonesia. So there's this sustainability aspect and there's also a little bit of this travel aspirational aspect, right? Because we're getting our ingredients from Indonesia, and then also it's about how we're actually getting our ingredients, right? So we're saying we're gonna not you know use whatever is the fastest or quickest way to get pure ingredients, we're gonna take traditional methods and take the time and basically do it right. So that's our unique selling proposition. Makes sense? Yeah, okay. So, then we go into ethos. Ethos and core values are somewhat similar, but ethos is really the spirit behind your brand. It's like the spirit in how you do what you do and how you interact with people and the spirit that people feel when they're interacting with your brand, okay? So, and again same thing applies if you're you know, you're just yourself and you're starting your own business, this is basically the spirit that you want people to feel when working with you. So for our case study, we're saying that the Slow Candle Company is relaxing, and it's cozy, and believes that there's always time to stop and pause. So it's more about creating this warm to relaxing environment and that we're always gonna say, why not? Take time, slow down, right? Okay, so then, right? That's your ethos so then we're going into core values. So core values are the things that you actually believe. So these are the values that shine through and basically how you produce your product, how you work with people both internally and externally. It's all the things that you actually believe and support what you're doing, okay? So how this, again relates to the case study. So, Slow Candle Co, their core values are nourishing, clean and warm, okay? So they're nourishing in the sense of what these aroma therapy candles are providing to our bodies, to out minds, right? So, they're clean in the processes that we're using to actually yield our purest ingredients, right? And then warm, warm one because they're candles, right? And then also thou that they're providing warmth within our home, or wherever we're allowing this candles to be in our space, right? So there's a little bit of that spirit there, but these are the actual tangible things that we can say and justify to our consumers and to our audience to say, no but these are true, these really are our values and these are the things that are gonna affect how we make our decisions, and always keep in mind we're making sure we're aligned with our core values as we grow, okay? So then there's your position, right? So your position is actually the sum of all of these things that we just talked about. It's the sum of your mission, and your vision, and your ethos, and your core values, and your unique selling proposition, right? It's all of these things together basically yield your position for you. So your position is the thing that's gonna help boldly differentiate you in the minds of your customer, right? And a great position is you know, it's demanded, it's yearned for by by your customer, and deliberately differentiates you from your competition. So you're always thinking about you know how do you be true to yourself and what you're producing, but also like how are you gonna use that, and like match up against your competition, right? So so this goes into a really great quote from a man named Austin McGhie he wrote this fabulous book called BRAND, A Four Letter Word I highly highly highly recommend it, and in this whole book he actually says no no to the name branding, and says that actually you can't brand something you can only position it, right? So, basically what he's saying is it's going back to that original kind of concept of like you can't just put a logo, make a pretty design, give it a tag line and throw it out there and call it a brand. It's actually the position that you're fighting for and the position that's gonna give you the chance to make that brand sticky, right? So, your company's position has to shine through everything that you do, both internally and externally, right? So it's again, it's how you do your business? What makes you different? How do you stay true to your values? What kind of customer service do you wanna provide people? It's all the things, right? And a unique educated, 'cause you should inform yourself about who you're going up against. And intentional right? You wanna be intentional, you wanna be authentic in your position. Well, keep your mission focused right. It will make sure that as you grow that you're always on track with the thing that you said you would always do. It will focus and inspire your team and your audience right? So if you have a solid position it should like bleed through your team internally, you know how you wanna act and feel, and do and show up every day in what you do. And lastly it will protect and defend your position in the marketplace. If you have a really thoughtful intentional position you can sit next to that competition you know boxing gloves on and you're ready to go, you know that you have made a sound educated decision on why you were there, and why you're doing what you're doing, and why it's different, why people want to choose you over your competition. So Austin continues and he says, "A name is just a name, "until it earns the right to be called a brand name. "And a logo is just a pretty design 'until it comes to represent something to its audience, "both intellectually and emotionally." That's what you're striving for you want to be in the minds of your customer and to let them in and let them see what you have to offer from a quality standpoint, and also emotionally bring them into your lives. So, the big question is, how do you know you have the right position, right? And this can be really overwhelming you know it's a big question but again you know if you go back and you spend some time with this questionnaire where all of these concepts are outlined right from the mission, the vision, ethos, values, et cetera. This should help you feel good about your position because it's all there all the information is already there you're just organizing it essentially, okay? So how do you know you have the right position? It's deliberately different, right? So basically what are your unique points of difference and how are you gonna share them, how are you gonna highlight them, how are you gonna make your audience say, "Wow that is different." It creates like competitive advantage, so you're saying all right, now we know basically what the battlefield looks like, so how how do we feel good and confident knowing who we're going up against and why we're going up against them, and basically what our differences is actually gonna give us the fighting chance, right? And it provides guidance, right? So this is what we we're talking before in terms of you know it should inspire your team, it should inspire your audience, it should guide them in terms of like almost best practices it's how do you again, how do you wanna show up every day? How do you wanna do your job? How do you wanna create your product or service? And it should have longevity right? So your position is something you have to think about it should work with you at launch, but it should also work with your vision that long term 5-10 years down the road how is it wanna work with you and grow with you. It also should cause a ruckus, right? So, basically thinking about what's happening in your marketplace, what's the status quo, how do you like ruffle its feathers a little bit, right? Because there are a lot of really solid brand out there today, you know people are taking notice of you know of all the details. And also, you know consumers have so much more access to information, right? So you really have to be you really have to own what you do, and the moment that a consumer or your audience you know, senses something that's false or inauthentic then they're out, they're onto the next brand. So thinking about how you be true to what you do but also how do you kinda give someone something to talk about you know? And then lastly it has to be consistent. So what your position is at your launch should still match your vision down the road. And just thinking about, even as you even as you shift, and even as you pivot based on the market or you know things that are happening because that's gonna happen, right? Like the beginning is not gonna be the same, right? Your business isn't gonna be the same 10 years down the road so you will have to shift, but how do you make sure that your position is still consistent, right? So it's still keeping your mission on track, right? Okay, so some other things that I really want you guys to consider is your target market. Really what this means is who is your ideal customer? And why? What is their behavior? And how are they influenced? How do they make purchasing decisions? You should spend some time and do the research, right? I mean, market research is out there, it's available, it's web you know, big agencies use all the time, but you can do it yourself you know whether you are a product or service you kinda know who your competition is. Figure out who their customers are, why? And see, do you share those similar customers or actually are you going after kind of a different audience and how would you get there, right? So thinking about what other behaviors basically how do they spend their money? Where do they spend their money? When do they spend their money? Or how are they influenced? Do they have a huge social media following and they have a really big community that they're engaging with all the time. How are you gonna create something similar to that? If that's what your goal is. So again, market research is really important, but I also feel like it's something where it shouldn't tell you what to do in the sense of like don't do whatever anyone else is doing, we have to be authentic. So it's good to know what's happening, but again, don't let that be the thing that gets you off track of your mission, and your vision, and your values, make sure that your always being true to what you originally set out to do, okay? Danielle. Yeah. Couple of questions that came in here I think this is a good time. You know you mentioned causing a ruckus (laughs) and that kind of got people on the chat room talking, like okay what exactly does that mean? Maybe you could clarify a little bit. You have any examples of ruckuses that some companies have done? I mean is this something about being like disruptive, controversial, like what makes a good ruckus? Yeah, it could be a lot of things. It could be controversial, it could just be boldly different, I think a really great example is actually Axe, their body spray. So okay, so this is like a General Goods brand, right? This is under, you know like if you go into a store right, and you're like all right well here's like Axe or Old Spice right? Either of those, right? They've created something that's like so kind of typical and mundane and they've created these incredible add campaigns around around deodorant (laughs) you know, I mean it's like what? But there's like a guy you know, who's like walking around with half a horse, and you're like I don't know but it's kind of cool and I sure as heck remember that. Or the Axe Body Spray it's like gets a little you know out there at sometimes, but again, they're taking something that's so ordinary, they are clearly understanding who their audience is and they're going right after them, and not in a traditional way, right? So, I would say that's a good one and also kind of think about Dove, right? When Dove did the Beautiful campaign, I mean again, we're talking about body wash but it's also we're not talking about body wash at all any more we're talking about like what it is to be a woman and to be bold and beautiful no matter you know your age, your race, your whatever, right? It's about like this is me as a woman and I don't need to be this certain person, this is actually what it means to be a woman. So it's taking the mundane and saying like, how do I totally flip this? And again, and it's almost like using this what kind of emotional reaction can I get? How can I change something that's again, mundane but how do I create a movement, right? That Dove campaign changed everybody's mind in terms of how you position body wash. Yeah. Great. So, another thing to consider is competitive research, right? So, you should be doing this. Like I said, you would know who your competition is probably, but you know you should figure out who do you see as your direct competition? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? What is unique about them? And also who are the other kind of key players in your industry. You know maybe you don't see them as your direct competition, but what are they doing really well? Or what are they doing that's really interesting? And how could that kind of make you think about some of the decisions that you're making with your business a little bit differently? And basically, you know at the end of that you should also figure out what your competitive advantage is, and how that's basically gonna work for your product or service, right? Like how are you taking all of those things that we kind of just talked about and how are you, again, I mean really what you're doing is you're sizing yourself up next to your competition. And again, it's similar to market research in your target audience where you should you know, consider what they're doing and educate yourself but don't let it tell you what to do, right? That brand already exists, so don't make that same exact brand. And I feel like that is a common inclination because maybe they're really successful and of course you're like well of course I wanna be that brand. But you won't have success unless you're authentic to what you originally set out to do, okay? So, this leads to your brand strategy, right? So basically your strategy is the execution of your position. So it's you will execute your mission, and your vision, and your core values, and your ethos, and your unique selling proposition to maintain your position in the marketplace. So basically your strategy is the central unifying idea that all behavior, and actions, and communications align to, okay? And it should work across both products or services and it should last with you, it should be effective over time, okay? So, again your launch strategy when you're starting your business will probably be a little bit different than again, 10 years at your vision. But there should be some central unifying things that you can essentially grow with, and see opportunity for as you continue to grow. So your strategy basically build on a vision, is aligned with business strategy, emerges from a company's values and culture, and reflects an in-depth understanding of your costumer's needs and perceptions. So this from a great book it's called Designing Brand Identity. I think I also put that in the resources guide but it's a really really great book to reference as you're going thorough this process, but I really liked the way she kind of just summed it all up for us here. So again, right we're starting with this mission and our vision, and how you know obviously your strategy has to be aligned with your business strategy right? It's like okay what are your products, if you're selling a product you know, what is your price point? How much does it cost to make? What do you need to sell it for? Right, so there's that part of it that you kinda have to think about. But it's more of like, okay so knowing that then how do we bring it into the marketplace and create this sense of promise and trust and create this connection for people that we want them to engage in. So, how does this relate so I'm gonna bring us back to strategy as it relates to our case study the Slow Candle Co, right? So, here's our strategy for SLOW. So we're gonna have a knockout and cohesive brand identity that will grow with you, right? It's gonna grow with us. And when I mean brand identity this means like all the visual elements so we're gonna get into this in the second part but it's all the visual elements that you're gonna create for your brand. We're also gonna offer a unique and irresistible packaging that captures the attention of your audience, right? So, we're selling a product, right? So and if we're going into the candle market there's a lot of candles out there, packaging has to be one of your key ways that you can grab peoples attention. So inspire a healthy and balanced lifestyle around aromatherapy, right? So our vision is to be a part of this slow living movement. So this means that we actually have to buy in and cultivate this lifestyle around slow living, and create ways of engagement, and education to our audience, to our community, to make sure that they feel inspired to come with us, right? Then we're also gonna create a nurturing voice that can be shared, right? So this kind of goes into tone and voice which again we're gonna go into in the second part, but it's basically saying like, how are you gonna talk about your product? What's that tone gonna be? What's that voice gonna be? And we want it to be nurturing, we want people to feel taken care of. So then we go into the highlight the exotic locations of the natural ingredients and essential oils, so this goes into the inspirational aspect of our brand. So, it's like okay do we get to go to Bali? Or do we get to word or do we get to go in Indonesia? Tell us more about these beautiful places that you're sourcing these really pure natural ingredients from. And then lastly, we're gonna connect consumers to the feel good behind the slow brand, right? You see this a lot in new businesses, but we're gonna have an ethical brand touch point for us where we give back to our farms that we're working with in Indonesia. So that way we know we're actually having this like feel good about, we're giving back to the people who are allowing us to pursue our passions. So I think this is the most voted on question, we had a couple of different variations to this question. The gist of it is we have a lot of people out there watching who are trying to build brands for themselves, personal brands, and it seems like a lot of people here are multi passionate they have a couple of different things that they do and they're having some trouble defining their brand because it is so varied, they do so many different things. So in your case study here, you're talking about a specific candle company. Yes. Like do these same principles apply if you are a creative person who maybe is a painter, and a photographer, and they do multiple things. Is this same thing go into effect? Like how do you brand yourself if you are multi passionate? Sure, absolutely. So the answer is yes. Absolutely all of these principles do apply to you. And the first thing I can say is if you are you know, you're starting your own personal brand you have to remember that the brand isn't about you, and I know that sounds kind of weird, right? Because there's so much of it that actually is about you, but you have to step back and say you know, building a brand is building a business, it's not just about like what your passions are and how do you continue to explore them, it's about organizing them and structuring them. So you can be you know, a photographer and a painter and all these other things, but you have to think of that as like, okay those are the services that you're gonna provide, I'm gonna be in the service industry, these are some of the services I'm gonna provide but you do need to think about what are my core values and how I do my work, and how do those core values apply to how I get new customers, how I provide you know, what's my communication gonna be with my customers, right? That should have a specific tone, that aligns with your core values and that supports the ethos, right? The spirit of what you do. And you should think about whether if you are a photographer or a painter or whatever it is right? You have to think about if you're really what you're taking is your passion and you turn it into a business. So you have to make that switch mentally to say, of course you can still do all things you love but it's monetizing it. How do you take you know okay I want x number of clients a month, great well let's talk about that. How does that relate to your mission, right? So you wanna be a photographer that is well known in the in the wedding industry and you know you have to think about okay so what is your style, how do you wanna deliver those services, and then basically you're gonna build this strategy of like, okay so who am I going after, but how am I gonna go after them? What kind of promotions am I going to create? What kind of website am I gonna design for people to engage with and see my portfolio work? And also you know, almost thinking about like, okay so what's your about page gonna say? Why? Like what do you want people to know about you not only about the quality of your product or service that you're offering, but about the ethos right? About the core values? Of what makes you different and what makes you successful at your creative passion, right? So, does that help? Absolutely does. Yeah, okay. Yeah, I think a lot of people had different versions to this question. I'll ask one more before we wrap up. Yeah, absolutely. This one comes from Wendy and I think this is a good way to-- Hi Wendy. To sum up this first session, but Wendy wants to know what are the most common missteps people make when their defining your brand. You know, now we've kind of gone through these steps. You map things out, but you know you do this day-in and day-out, you see people make mistakes, like what is the biggest mistake people make when they go through this process? So I do think the biggest mistake people make is that they aren't authentic to what they really do. They blur the lines between what they want to be doing versus what they're actually doing, and then they also kind of let some of that influence of other brands they really love seep in. You have to be tough with yourself you have to kinda give yourself some tough love and say, "Okay this is what I'm doing right now. "Don't loose sight of your vision, "you know where you wanna be 5-10 years down the road." But give yourself the opportunity to grow with it. Don't push yourself to be like, I have to be here by now, it's gonna happen organically if you set yourself up with a good position that's gonna grow with you that you know your strategy is supporting, you're gonna get there. And again, you know it's always good you know of course you're gonna be influenced by other brands it's impossible we're surrounded by all of the things, everyday, visuals, brand, et cetera. But it's again taking the good things that they do and recognizing it, but saying like, okay there can be some crossover they do this really well, well so do we. But again it goes into but how am I gonna make that same quality how do I present it differently? How do I still manage to capture that same audience but you know I have to capture it a different way because they're already doing it. So, you kinda have to just again, that's the point of like take the time, spend the time to do it right because when you do that you're giving yourself the guidelines, the roadmap, and then when you get to start doing what you actually wanna be doing you don't have to worry about the other stuff, right? It's already done, you did the labe work now you can focus on actually doing what you love to do or dive in into the business. And then you can always go back and change and adjust, as you change and adjust your business right? 'Cause most likely what you're doing right now again, maybe you're a photographer, and a painter, and a calligrapher and you do all these things all at the same time, and then a year from now you're like, actually, I actually just wanna do photography that's the only thing I wanna focus my attention on. Great, just go back to the road map we already have pivot it a little bit, keep going.

Class Description


What does it take to create a successful brand? A strong, clear message and visual consistency is what builds trust, and this course will help you define this. Danielle runs her own successful design studio, specializing in branding. 

She’ll guide you through the process of branding your business from start to finish, including how to:

  • Establish a point of view through tone, messaging and voice 
  • Define your vision, core values and how you position yourself in the market 
  • Create a visual style guide that provides a reference for color, typography, and image styling
This class will teach you how to effectively articulate and communicate your brand to your audience visually, creating cohesion through every touch-point. From how you talk about yourself, to what typeface you use, creating cohesion and clarity builds trust. Position your brand to stand out from the crowd!

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Brand Questionnaire

Branding 101 - Companion

Branding 101 - Resources

Style Guide Templates

Style Guide Example - Slow Candle Co

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


- Emma -

Just finished watching the course. Absolutely loved it! I have no experience in branding at all and this course has given me so much information that will help me a lot. I am so excited to get started and creating my brand style sheet. Thank you so much Danielle you were brilliant! Constructive criticism: If would be better if you knew the information rather than reading off the screen in front of you. Paraphrasing would help, too. But very good job nonetheless!


Amazing class! I've been looking for something like this on Creative Live for a long time. It taught me all I needed to know about creating my brand's visual identity and I finally got that needed push to formulate a brand strategy and assemble the visual elements for my brand. Very simple and straight to the point. Thank you, Danielle!

Vivian Bustamante

Great information with handy resources to use after and apply into our own project. The concepts explained made it more clear and I loved the quotes Danielle used to explain this words we heard a lot when talking about branding, the mission, vision, etc. These weren't clear to me up until this point. Thanks so much!