Sweet Tea's Branding Guide: Defining Your Brand
I'll be the first one to admit that when I first started blogging, I didn't know what a brand was, much less how to define one. But over the years, I've developed not only an understanding of what it means to have a brand, but learned how to define my brand and stretch it across every aspect of my business.
Bloggers who don't have a clear definition of their brand may feel inclined to create a brand based off of a cute blog theme or a stock logo design, but there are problems with that approach. Your brand is so much more than a color palette, fonts, and imagery - it's meant to be an authentic representation of what your blog or business represents.
Over the next few weeks, we're going to spend time breaking down various aspects of branding to help you define your brand and put all the pieces together to bring it to life. Today, we're going to start by talking about what a brand actually is, and I want to share my own branding journey with you. We're also going to look at a few blogs who have a solid grasp on their branding to get the ideas flowing.
Before we get too far into this branding discussion, let's be clear: even if you've been blogging for years, your brand might be stale and no longer represent you. Don't be afraid to consider a rebrand to freshen things up!
Alright, let's dive in.
WHAT IS A BRAND?
A brand, as it relates to blogging, is essentially YOU - the blogger behind the blog. Your blog's brand is a combination of your content, your voice, and your expertise or experience with a pretty color palette, fonts, and logos sprinkled on top.
If you're just staring your blog, it can be difficult to define your brand because you don't have any content to lean on, and you may not have found your writing voice. You'll have to rely heavily on your personal experience or expertise. Don't be discouraged, however. The best brands are those that develop organically over time, not those that are forced. Your goal is to remain authentic.
DEFINE YOUR BRAND
Whether starting from scratch or cleaning up an existing brand, answering the following questions honestly and thoroughly can get you on the right track to defining your brand.
What are you passionate about?
When writing for a blog, you may feel like you can write about anything, but the truth is, you're probably only truly passionate about a few things. For example, I like cute clothes, but I don't like writing about fashion.
What are you known for?
Maybe it's a phrase you say often, or, in my case, my favorite drink of choice. Remember, YOU are your brand, so consider things that people already associate with you.
What is your story?
Everyone has a story, including you. Our past - business experience, life experience, education, and so on - can help determine our brand and what we represent. Take some time to determine exactly who you are, and get detailed.
If you want to take it a step further, you can write a brand statement. Brand statements are a great way to put words to your brand, but it also serves as a way for you to make decisions for your blog or business. Your brand statement should do 2 main things: (1) Tell your readers/customers who you are and what you can do for them. (2) Give you a reference point for everything you do. You'll be able to gauge if sponsored posts, guest posting opportunities, specific brands, or even client work align with your brand and your core mission. For help crafting your brand statement, I can't do any better than Regina of byRegina.com and her post HERE.
SWEET TEA BRANDING STORY
Six years ago, I created a blog called "One Tough Mother", a lifestyle and DIY blog. I was blogging as a distraction from a custody case with my ex-husband years after our divorce, and trying to build a home for me & my husband of two years.
Three years after first picking up my proverbial blogging pen, I faced overwhelm and burnout and took a giant step away from blogging to reassess my priorities, and when I came back in May 2014, I completely rebranded to Sweet Tea & Saving Grace.
The name of my blog is an accurate representation of who I am, what I love, and what my values are. Without ever setting foot on my blog, it's pretty obvious that I'm Southern and a Christian, and that's precisely what I focus on with my blog posts - my life in the South and my faith.
Here's the problem: I found a Wordpress theme that I loved and, because I could only choose from a few color palettes, I adapted my header image to coordinate with one of them, rather than choosing a color palette I loved.
My readers began to recognize the mason jar of sweet tea and my unique voice and perspective. I would do Periscope broadcasts and viewers would ask to be sure I had my sweet tea close at hand. (You see where this is going?)
After the launch of my ebook, I decided to start building a website to keep all of my blog-related posts separate from my lifestyle blog posts. I knew that the name of this website would essentially be the name of my overall brand, under which everything else I do would fall. Sweet Tea, LLC was an obvious choice.
I wanted everything I created, including my blogs, to have a cohesive and branded feel without being identical. The first step to create this brand was to choose my own color palette. I chose things I love - vintage blue mason jars & sunflowers - and sent them to my go-to graphic designer, Tori Grant. The result:
In order to keep things branded across both of my sites, I chose to keep the fonts consistent, and use similar colors for Sweet Tea, LLC.
Whether on Sweet Tea & Saving Grace or here on Sweet Tea, LLC, my branding is easily recognizable because it's consistent - from page headers to social media images and everything in between.
My voice is also consistent. Everything I write is conversational, I say "y'all", and don't mind getting on my soapbox to make a point. It's authentically me.
OTHER BRANDS WHO DO IT WELL
Branding is so much more than a logo or color palette. These bloggers have a solid grasp on their brand and are easily recognizable across all platforms.
Erika has created a brand at Olyvia.co that is very recognizable in both style and voice. Her sweetness and genuine desire to help entrepreneurs "be delightful online" is evident in each of her blog posts and her ebooks. Her imagery, fonts and color palette are visually appealing while maintaining both professionalism and personality.
Bread Booze Bacon
Julie from Bread Booze Bacon has a genuine love for bread, booze, and bacon and her branding is spot-on. She creates and shares recipes with her signature ingredients in them, and her slight but lovable sarcasm comes across in her writing style. She keeps it simple with a black and white palette and simple font combination, allowing her delicious recipe photos to tell the story.
Jones Design Company
Emily Jones of Jones Design Co. is a graphic designer and has amazing style. She creates a lot of fun collages for blog posts that are recognizably Emily, and, like Julie, she keeps the colors simple with black and white. Her photos, and the way she styles both her wardrobe and her home, have also become part of her brand.
The Branded Solopreneur
I would be doing y'all a disservice if I didn't mention Dre from The Branded Solopreneur. I mean, her entire business is built on branding and helping bloggers and entrepreneurs achieve their unique branding. Her images scream "Dre" on Pinterest and her writing style is uniquely her. She's snarky and bossy in the best way possible, kicking your butt in gear to get sh*t done.
YOUR HOMEWORK: Assess your current branding and decide if it fits you and what you want for your blog. If not, take some time to define your brand.