Brand is one of those nebulous things—a concept that is hard to define yet so incredibly important to a business. More than a logo and some corporate colours, a brand is the experience customers have with your product, the reputation of your company. It’s why many Toronto travellers prefer to fly Porter. It’s why Apple fans will spend more than twice as much as they need to on a computer. It’s why every fiancÃ©e-to-be hopes her diamond ring will come in a little blue box from Tiffany’s.
Establishing a brand involves everything from your letterhead and website design to your customer service, marketing initiatives and product packaging. It takes time and money to grow a brand. But it’s not something a startup should leave to work on until after the company has become more established—entrepreneurs should think about brand right from the get-go, across all elements of the business.
I’m currently working with a branding expert to help me define my positioning. But I’m not waiting until we’ve completed the process to work on my brand—the business still needs to move forward.
I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my products and services in order to improve my customer’s experience. Recently my focus has been on creating branded and packaged workshop kits.
When I first started offering personal and corporate gift-wrapping workshops, I would show up with a box full of supplies and lay them out in the middle of the table. Students would select their materials as I demonstrated each technique, the whole group sharing rolls of paper and ribbon among them.
This system worked well enough. But after presenting several workshops like this, I realized that the user experience—the brand experience—had lots of room for improvement. Some students would have to wait their turn as others cut the paper they needed; this delay slowed down my demonstration as I tried to ensure that no one fell behind. And while I wanted to offer students a broad choice of materials, too many options just seemed to overwhelm them—they didn’t know where to start and were sometimes disappointed with their end results. Plus, not only did it take time to set up and then clean up all the supplies, but at the end of each class, I also felt as if the students were left with nothing as I packed up the unused materials to take away with me when I left.
I was feeling as though my brand wasn’t very professional at that moment. Certainly there was a better way to do this.
My first improvement was to give each student an individual “kit.” I filled a gift bag with a selection of materials for each person. While this involved more prep time, it meant that it took me only about five minutes to set up for the workshop. More importantly, it improved the user experience: guests had a sense of anticipation as they were excited to see what was inside their kits; they had more ownership over their own materials;the items were coordinated so however students used them, the final result looked good; and everyone was able to take home any unused pieces at the end of the class.
It was a big improvement, but I knew the presentation could be even better.
To take it to the next step, I’ve started to created branded and packaged kits, in some cases including instructions. The packaging features full-colour photos and a listing of the contents. The materials are presented in a visually appealing way, and all are contained in a clear, resealable package. The end result is much more professional and has further improved the customer experience—the brand experience, if you will.
There’s still room for improvement. Once I’ve worked on things more with my brand consultant, I’ll likely redo my logo and hire a designer to redesign the packaging. But I’m happy about where the workshops and my kits are heading. And hopefully, they’ll contribute to a positive brand experience.
These branded and packaged kits are just one little piece of my company’s brand. As I fine-tune my brand positioning and grow the company, I’ll keep an eye out for all the tiny ways to communicate what my brand is. All those small pieces will make up the experience my customers have. Every piece will be part of my brand.
Corinna vanGerwen is a creative gift-wrapping consultant, the sole owner and only employee of her eponymous home-based startup, which provides gift-wrapping services, training and workshops, as well as packaging services for marketing and events.
Read more of Corinna vanGerwen’s adventures in solopreneurship.