Branding 101: Why you need to start with a mood board
mood board

 

I confess: if someone were to tell me I should put together a mood board for my business a couple of years ago, I would have rolled my eyes and ever-so-politely ignored them. Pfffft. I already KNEW what I liked; I had a strong sense of design, I had some colours and fonts sorted for my brand and I figured I was good to go. Well of course, how totally arrogant of me.

A mood board does a whole bunch more than help you choose your colours and fonts – it sets the complete tone of your brand, and will guide you for every piece of content you put out in the world. Think carefully about your current collection of images for social media and web – does everything all look like it comes from one place? Does it all carry your brand ‘voice’? Just using whatever takes your fancy on the day and then stamping your logo over the top of everything certainly doesn’t make it all hang together, and even when you use the same fonts and colours throughout, you can still have an awful lot of variation.

If you’re in a creative business, if you’re running things on your own, YOU are a brand, and you need to project something cohesive.

To help you figure out just what that ‘thing’ is, mood boards are ace.

 

Mood boards help you create a visual language.

 

Your visual language includes colours, fonts and image style, as well as projecting the overall vibe of your brand.

And they’re not just for when you’re starting out – they continue to be useful throughout the life of your brand! They’re your starting point for when you’re pulling together your branding elements for sure, but they also double as inspiration and focus every time you go to put out something new for your brand – a new social media graphic, a new blogpost, designing you new business card or packaging – your brand mood board keeps you focused and gives you plenty of clues on how to do that.

Putting a great mood board together is a scavenger hunt, and it’s just about the best fun scavenger hunt there is I reckon! Because it’s all about you, and you can spend lots of extended time on it. You don’t need to put it all together in one hit; there’s always more you can add in. Take your time, do it as you go about your day to day business; add in bits and pieces as they appear – it’s a work in progress.

So where do you start?

 

1. What’s the purpose of your board?

What’s your mood board for, specifically? Is this board about your business brand and what you want to project? Is it to help you identify your ideal customer/audience and what their expectations are? Is it to share with your designer, so they can interpret it to put your website together? Or to share with others on a collaborative project so they get a sense on where YOUR ideas are headed (which can save a whole lot of angst further down the track when you present a finished ‘thing’ and they say they don’t like it…)?

The more specific you are about your purpose, the easier it will be to choose elements that relate to that.

 

2. Get some keywords.

Keywords will help you drive the direction of your mood board and keep you focused (and not disappearing down the pinterest rabbit hole).  These should be chosen VERY carefully, as each impacts on the other (context is everything). For instance, “sexy” can mean very different things to different people; combining it with “whimsical” or “electric” will point it in different directions, and adding in “cool” or “vibrant” will shift and define its meaning even further.

 

3. Where can you find the best source material?

If you’re making a mood board for your brand, sure it’s useful to look to your competitors to see what they’re doing, and see what your target audience is responding to. But take what you find as a springboard – you don’t want to copy, because that just means you’ll end up looking like everyone else. Use your personality, especially if you’re a solopreneur – you are what sets you apart from others in your field.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Don’t limit yourself to Pinterest (and I KNOW there’s oodles of fabulousness on there so it’s definitely one important avenue to investigate). But inspiration can come from many other places too – use images from magazines and books, and old photos (just scan ’em in if you’re making a digital mood board; print out your scan if you’re working with scissors and paper).

And PLEASE don’t forget to look around you in the real world. Pick up things that interest you, write down ideas that capture your imagination, keep your fingers ready for gorgeous textures, and always take your phone camera with you.

 

4. What do you need to include?

Well, inspirational imagery of course. You don’t have to stick to your niche for imagery either. If a sad clown pic expresses what you want even if you’re in the tech industry, go for it. If a cute puppy does it for you even though you’re in the wellness industry, stick it in. Don’t limit yourself, especially when you’re in collecting mode – you can always cull it later.

 

Collate, then curate.

 

There’s lots of other things you can include as well that are evocative of the mood you’re after. Examples of fonts you like would be great for your branding mood board; and especially if you include your keywords in some of the fonts you’ve chosen.

Textures are fabulous too – a crinkly leaf, a gorgeous bit of velvet or brocade, a piece of bark from a tree, a scrap of leather, a pretty carved button, a fragment of patterned ceramic, a shell from the beach…

 

Colour is one of the most important factors in tying a mood board together – you might have to work at getting a cohesive colour scheme, so keep searching and adding in more things that speak to the style you’re after, and culling out things that don’t fit – you’ll get there eventually!

And when you’ve got a harmoniously colourful board happening, then you can start pulling out particular hues – if it’s for your branding, I would recommend including your palette somewhere in your mood board, and don’t forget their hex codes. Also, if particular colour combinations are going to be a key element of your brand, emphasise them.

 

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Inspired? Get onto it! If you’re still a teensy bit unsure about what/how, check out what google brings up.

But wait, I’ve got more!! Next week, I’ll write about the different tools you can use to create your mood board (believe me, a real-life one that you can touch has a different feel to it than a digital one) – including a bunch of tech and styling tips to make yours sing.

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Got any questions about mood boards? Pop ’em below.
Do you have one for your brand? Are you happy with it? Share it on my FB page – I’d love to see! If you’re not happy, what specific aspect are you struggling with?

J x

Small biz how-to : make a great “About” page

 

your-about-page

 

The Number One rule about your About page is – it’s not about you. It’s about your AUDIENCE. They want to know why you’re right for them – so make it easy for them to decide! And of course, there’s a heap of different ways to create a standout About page – videos, graphics, animations… but whatever the format, here’s my checklist of things to remember.

Don’t ever underestimate your ‘About’ page’s importance – next to your home page, your About page is the 2nd most looked-at page on your site. Don’t believe me? Think about what YOU do when you’re checking out a new site. Ha! We ALL do it.

Let me say it again: it’s about your audience, not you. Especially when you’re a small business, and ESPECIALLY when you’re a solopreneur. And your audience want to make a personal connection – so don’t write in the third person; it’s stiff and formal. Always be a human, and always write in the first person – it’s about you and me. See?

Your audience wants to see you. Speaking of being human – we connect to faces, so show yours! Make sure your image is well-lit and crisp. You don’t have to use a professional photographer (although a good one can be ace!) – just no blurry late-night snaps taken at that friend’s BBQ 5 years ago PLEASE.

So who’s it for? Think very clearly about this – who exactly is your audience? What’s their exact problem? ALWAYS keep this in the back of your mind when you’re writing.

What value do you give your readers? There’s a point to the about page – it’s about what you can do for your audience.

People are looking for specific information. What sorts of questions do people ask when they get to your about page? They want to know if you’re a big company or small; and is it just you, or are there other people involved? How long have you been in business? Where are you based? What are your core values? Why should they buy from you and not from your competitor?

Social proof is awesome. Because your potential customers not only want to get to know you, they need some kind of guarantee that you can actually solve their problem for them. Include some testimonials from happy customers! They’re most effective when the happy customer talks about how they were struggling, what they were looking for, how you helped them, and what the result is.
There’s lots of other ways to include social proof too. Press mentions (Remember that article in the local paper with the great photo? Include that magazine article too!) and mentioning that you’ve guest posted on that high profile blog are always good.

Visuals are important, but they’re not the only thing. Visuals are your first-line defence seduction. They’re there to grab your audience’s attention; they’re there to set the mood; they’re there to support what you have to say. Make them count, but remember that the words add substance.

How to write? The tone of your Brand Personality will be your guide when you write your About page, so you can be as down to earth or as quirky as your brand suggests. Branding is all about conveying a consistent message in everything you do – so how you write when your brand is whimsical or ethereal will be quite different to how you write if your brand is boisterous and fun.

Think about the About pages you’ve read. The ones that really grab you are not the factual ones, the ones that simply list qualifications, or the ultra brief ones that say “I’ve got three kids and in my spare time I like cooking and listening to music.” It’s the ones that tell a story about that person – what they think about and how they got to where they are now.

For instance, my About page includes “I live on a farm in the middle of NSW, and I love this space. But I’m not just a farmer – because the world is a place full of endless ideas and things to investigate.  If I disappear for a moment, it might be because I’m researching the latest tech-gadgety-thingy that I’ve seen on the interwebs; or it might be that I’m admiring the tiniest flower bud at my feet; or I might just be curled up in a chair with my nose in a book.”

Tell a relevant story – snippets from your life can ground a sense of who you are and what you’re like to work with. It could be a story about your humble beginnings, and about your dream. Bring your readers into the story of your vision for the future. And yes you CAN include the odd random fact about you – shows you’re a real person and just as weird as the rest of us (psst: Don’t include your whole life story – it’s too long, and the vast majority of it’s probably not relevant to what you’re doing in your business. Save it for your autobiography when you’re a squillionaire.

Include your call to action on the page – if people like what they read, they’ll want to maintain the connection. Don’t get them all interested and them leave them hanging for more… because chances are once they click away, they’ll get distracted by the next shiny interweb thingy and forget all about you. Once they’ve given you their email addy, you can maintain the connection and build on the sense of expertise, familiarity and trust by sharing beautiful, relevant and useful information.

Break your text up. We’re a culture of skimmers. ONLY if something grabs our attention will we be bothered to stop and read the whole damn thing. Break your text up with headings, highlighted text etc. And add images – photos of you!

Don’t include everything and the kitchen sink. Include your social connections here if you like, but ensure they’re secondary to your call to action. And don’t include EVERYTHING unless you intend to regularly check on everything…

Check and update regularly. Don’t use that 5 year old photo of you. Don’t include your Blab connection or your Periscope or any of your other out-of-date-social-media-that’s-disappeared-into-a-black-hole.  And of course, make damn sure that what you say in your About page is still aligned with who and what you are, and what you have to offer.

 

Have I convinced you how important this page is? Good! Now, go back and plan out your About page, and get writing.

 

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Sooooo, if you thought this was great food for thought, I’m actually running a free webinar next week (31st October), covering ten things you can do to your website yourself to strengthen your brand.
AND THERE’S PRIZES – like some 1:1 coaching with me to work on YOUR website!

All the deets are here, and I’d love for you to join me!

 

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