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.
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.
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?
I’m SO excited to announce that my ridiculously talented friend Nora is launching a wonderful new not-your-average stock photo site – The Photo Forest.
Nora first came up with the idea when searching around for good stock photos and yet again being disheartened by the lack of quality, REAL-looking photos. Stock photos seemed to be always too slick, or too bland, or… something. And the good ones were being used by EVERYONE.
Nora is a photographer herself (besides being a totally kick-ass graphic designer at norawendel.com), and went out in search of real scenes and real people doing real things to fill that gap. But as many photos as she could take herself, she wanted to build something bigger and create a community at the same time. So, she dreamed up the fab idea of creating a membership site where other photographers could contribute, and visitors could put in requests for whatever photo they wanted! So, if you want a picture of a teddy bear sipping a pina colada next to a swimming pool – request it, and someone will take that photo for you. How good is that!? It’s a fantastic concept, and nothing like it anywhere else.
Here’s what Nora has to say –
“I’m on a mission to revolutionize the stock photography industry by providing custom on demand stock photos to lifestyle, wellness and smaller niche businesses that are underrepresented in big name stock photo sites.
At The Photo Forest we are about DIVERSITY -in all forms of the word! Race, size, economics and more! Our aim is to provide Real Life Stock Photos through our platform so that every business can have beautiful imagery to market themselves with.
The other important aspect of The Photo Forest is the community that I want to build and engage with – there will be a members only community where we can share what we are looking for, how we have used the stock photos, ask for advice and also talk to me and my team on how to make The Photo Forest better in terms of design, functionality and usability! I will be open and honest with all members about the inner workings of The Photo Forest so that everyone can understand how it works and feel included in some big decisions. It’s totally going to be community over competition.
So far there is no other stock photography site like this out there and that makes it even more exciting as I and all our members get to decided on how we want this to work!
What started your interest in photography?
I have a passion for photography – when I lived in India I used to do real life situational photoshoots for travelling yoga teachers and I really loved that – but that was location dependent and I have since moved to Cape Town in South Africa – so for the last year I have been trying to come up with a way to still be a photographer but be able to work from anywhere. Yep a total digital nomad 🙂
I started making some photo packs and sold them through my website norawendel.com. As part of that I did some market research into what type of photos people where looking for and couldn’t find. I called it #RealLifePhotography as that was my style – shooting situations as they were in life. – When I started to get more and more feedback from my market research about the struggles people were having finding niche photos or photos that represented diversity like coloured women, or women over 50, or photos of plus size people – I knew I was onto something.
How does it work?
The whole idea of the platform is that members get to request the themes of the photos they really need and can’t find anywhere else. Since this has never been done before I can’t say exactly how long it will take from request till download of the photo to your computer- however I am estimating that it can take anywhere between a week to three weeks – it really depends on the photographers and how many photographers pick up the request! Each photographer can choose which request they want to go out and photograph and every photograph is reviewed before it is released to the members. As much as possible will be automated but we will still be reviewing each photo submission form the photographers to make sure they align with what we represent – reality and diversity!
How soon are you launching and what have you got already?
Keep in mind though that there will already be more than 1000 photos ready to be downloaded when we do launch in October, and this number will be increasing as the requests come in and the photos get taken. It will be a continuous cycle of new content on a monthly basis, likely even a weekly basis depending on the amount of request that come in and the amount of photographs our carefully selected photographers submit to the platform.
Overall it’s going to be one juicy platform!”
Want to find out more? Check out The Photo Forest here! ->
Surviving a PR Nightmare
Guest post by Matthew Quinn
All businesses work hard to build their brands; often startups work tirelessly just to get noticed when they are starting out.
Despite all of the measures that businesses take in order to protect their company’s name, mistakes do happen. And, in the digital age and social media revolution, a simple tweet or Facebook update could be detrimental to the company’s image.
Public Relation nightmares come in varying degrees. For example, in February 2016, McDonald’s faced a lawsuit over their “deceptive” mozzarella sticks that lacked cheese, and this was extremely damaging to their brand. On the other hand, some companies experience small controversies whenever their employees say something damning on social media, which usually leads to said employees’ termination.
Regardless of the degree of a PR nightmare, here are some things that you may want to keep in mind in case your business, no matter how small it is, faces adversity in the future.
This may seem like something rather trivial but this is quite possibly the most important piece of advice documented in this list. When you see something unfolding before your eyes, compose yourself. Don’t respond immediately – think about how you need to provide constructive feedback.
For instance, if it is a review from a journalist or another industry expert, take the criticism on board and thank them for their feedback while looking to resolve the issue professionally.
Responding quickly will help to minimize the damage. A day without responding is too long, and people, specifically consumers and the industry on a whole, want to hear your side to the story. By not replying quickly, you might as well as admit liability. After all, if you’re not at fault, and you haven’t done anything wrong, why would it take so long to respond? In short, you should prioritize matters such as these.
You can use social media to respond to customer feedback. Most companies use Twitter in order to provide quick responses to issues. Oil and gas construction firm Unaoil, for example, used Twitter to respond to the biggest scandal that the firm has faced since its inception. They even left the tweet a pinned tweet at the top of their wall so people could see it. Using social media to respond to controversy is a good way to get the message across to the world from your company’s point of view.
Launch a positive campaign
Bad PR doesn’t stick around forever especially if you try and counter it with something positive. Try doing something for the community or supporting causes that benefit the world. Remember the Coca Cola ad that was under fire last year because many saw it as “white people handing out soda to poor Mexicans?” Coca Cola didn’t intend for the ad to be interpreted, so they needed to act quickly to turn a negative into a positive. So, they launched a positive campaign about wellness titled ‘Coming Together’.
It’s important to make sure that you always take into consideration the feedback you receive from your consumer base as it could affect future business. Your target audience is your business’ lifeline, so make sure to always keep them happy and reply in a polite manner, and use the feedback to improve the way you do business.
Disclaimer : tractorgirl collaborated with Matthew Quinn to bring you this post. But rest assured I only ever share things I genuinely believe in, and that I think will be useful for you!
Customer service is part of your branding too.
You know all those pretty visuals you’ve got for your branding? It ain’t worth a scrap if you don’t treat your customers right. Yeah yeah nup; in the last few days I’ve been witness to some fairly unpleasant interactions.
Like at the takeaway counter when a customer queried his change, and the embarrassed sales assistant spent a silly amount of time fluffing over a calculator, then finally and hurriedly shoved the money into his hand and simply looked away.
He was polite, she was SO not. Not even a quick “sorry”.
Whaaaat!? Seriously, good manners cost nothing, and will vastly improve your chances of repeat business. (I doubt that customer will be back, even though the food is excellent.)
Like when I was at another business waiting for something to be finished, and they kept telling me, “won’t be much longer” and it ended up taking HOURS. (At least I got a brief apology.)
I mean, let me know how long it’s actually going to take and I will happily organise my life around that – I have plenty of things to do. Don’t coddle me along with a vague half-truth (because of course, hours are less than days and in that sense, no it’s not a long time). But now, I’m peeved because they weren’t straight with me, and made me late.
Always, always, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think what they’re thinking.
And yes, the same goes for me.
I had an unhappy customer a short while ago. I was mortified. I wrote to her, explaining what we’d done and what she’d achieved, offered a couple of ways to rectify the problem, and sent her a copy of my e-book. But she was dismissive and fairly ungracious about the situation, and demanded a refund.
Ouch. That REALLY hurt. Not the refund of course, but the fact that I had disappointed someone so badly. Was I really so hopeless at delivering the service?
But after going through some angst and thinking about what the actual problem was, I realised that it boiled down to the fact that her expectations of what she was getting didn’t match with what I was offering. And so in that sense, yes it’s my fault because I didn’t make it clear what she would get. When I delivered something different to what she was expecting, she got cranky.
(And just a sidenote here: Always be gracious. Whether you’re a customer or a business owner, good manners work both ways.)
Now, I’m re-writing my sales copy so that there’s no mistaking what’s on offer. I’ve already re-written my intro to this service so everyone’s clear from the get-go. Everybody wins from this – I get the right customers, and they get exactly the service they’re wanting and expecting.
So the moral of these stories is, at EVERY interaction with your customer, try and think what they’re thinking. Because if you don’t… unhappy customers. They won’t come back. And they’ll tell their friends about their bad experiences.
And these interactions start early – not when they’re actually putting money on the counter, but when they first clap eyes on you. When they first see your website. When they see your happy, smilin’ face in your profile shot. When they read your About page. When they read your sales copy. When they read your testimonials.
Those interactions continue throughout the transaction.
How easy is it it for them to contact you and ask questions? How clear are you about what exactly it is that you’re offering (is there anything you’re specifically not offering?) How easy is it to buy something from you (what’s your cart system like?) How long do they have to wait for delivery? What should they have at the end of the transaction? (This last one’s especially important for service-based businesses.)
And at the end – how can you delight your customer, so that they become repeat customers and raving fans? So that they talk about you with a happy face, and recommend you to their friends?
To know what’s in their heads at every turn of the transaction might seem like an impossible task.
But it’s so much easier if you know exactly who your ideal customer is.
Who are they? What are they looking for? What are they aspiring to, and how can you help them achieve that?
Talk to them. Ask them.
And remember, every unhappy customer is a chance to learn, to improve, so that your next customer experience is a wonderful one.
Spread the love.