Fiona Humberstone is the founder of The Brand Stylist, and an expert on all things branding. Today on the blog, she’s sharing all of her insight on how branding affects brands, what to do when it’s time for a rebrand, and the many lessons she’s learned along the way of her career.
Tell us a bit about the work you do, and why you do it!
Like most of us these days, I do a bit of everything! I write books, run workshops and retreats, create online courses, and I’m a brand consultant.
I guess what drives everything is a passion for working with entrepreneurs and helping them create brands that they can be truly proud of.
My official bio says that I empower entrepreneurs to create incredible brands, which I think sums me up nicely!
I’m perhaps best known for my bestselling books: How to Style your Brand and Brand Brilliance, which changed the face of what was possible for business books. I felt strongly that I could create a business book that was both impactful and beautiful, and I couldn’t understand why no one had done it before. I love the impact they’ve had on so many entrepreneurs.
Much of my time now goes into developing online courses: I love that process of creating something new and exciting that’ll solve a problem for my clients. And it’s a good blend of writing, styling, designing and presenting - so perfect for me!
Alongside that, I’ll help clients solve their branding challenges on A Day with The Brand Stylist, which is so fun. And my retreat in Mallorca is one of the highlights of my year. I love creating a really special experience.
How have you seen both great branding and weak branding impact companies?
Massively. And I’ve experienced it firsthand on my own entrepreneurial journey.
I think one thing we forget is that branding is first and foremost about focus.
It’s about working out what you want to be known for, what sets you apart, and how you want your clients to see you. Once you know that, you can create an identity that helps your clients see you in the way that you want. It’s pretty straightforward really. Work out how you’d like your company to come across, and then make sure that everything you communicate sends out the right signals.
Part of it is about getting your clients to take you seriously, to see you in the way that you’d like to be seen. The other (much more exciting) side to it is around really setting your business apart, captivating your clients, and creating a brand that creates some incredible opportunities for you. Commercially that’s going to have a huge impact on your business.
How can a business decide when it is time for them to have their branding redesigned?
I think you tend to just know. For me, it’s always been about there being a sense that people aren’t “getting it”. Maybe you’re missing opportunities. Maybe a competitor’s getting more of the work you should have won. Maybe it’s the knowledge that your business has evolved, moved on, and that you need to update your image to reflect that. As entrepreneurs we tend to know when it’s time to rebrand, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel scary - especially when it’s an established business. The stakes are high. You want to get it right and you don’t want to alienate your loyal clients.
Do you think it is important to carry over any “familiar” brand design elements when a business is going through a rebranding? Or is it not necessary?
It really depends on your motivation for rebranding. Personally, I like to start with a clean slate. I’ll think about what a brand needs to own their space in the market, and I’ll create a vision for the brand that reflects the aesthetic that will help them do that. If it so happens that an element of their old identity can work, then great. Realistically though, it probably won’t.
The important thing is to focus on what your business needs moving forwards, rather than holding onto baggage for the sake of it.
For any entrepreneurs out there looking for a designer to create their visual identity, what should they look for to make sure the designer is a good fit with their brand?
Such a great question! You have to pick your designer based on their work. Find someone whose style fits with the aesthetic you need for your brand, otherwise, however great your relationship at the start, you will find it immensely hard work.
For me, it starts with creating a clear vision for the brand. Once we have that, we’ll look for a designer whose portfolio reflects the sort of things we have on the mood board. Of course, they have to be affordable, and of course I’m looking for someone professional that my client has chemistry with, but ultimately, aesthetics come first.
Can you share about your Forty Brilliant Brand Designers project and your purpose behind creating it?
Well, I turned 40 in February and was thinking of how I might celebrate on my blog. The idea of a curated list of brand designers seemed like the perfect gift. It was a great way to showcase and discover talented brand stylists as well as a fabulous resource for my clients.
As an entrepreneur yourself, what is one struggle or failure you endured that taught you something valuable?
I’m pretty lucky that now I run a business I adore, my work inspires me, and I’m well paid for what I do. I think it would be easy to assume that I’ve always had it easy, but it’s hard graft and experience that have brought me to this point and given me a focus that drive what I do now.
We had our first daughter when we were just 25 and 26. Without the financial cushion many of our contemporaries had, we were under a lot of pressure. My first business was a pile it high, sell it cheap print franchise that taught me a lot. I hustled hard and the business was successful, but it wasn’t sustainable. Slowly I learned how to build value in our design work, find clients who valued our creativity, and would allow us to do a great job. We went on a massive learning curve and by the time I sold the company seven years later we were attracting work from all over the world on the basis of our portfolio and our creative talent. That doesn’t sound so earth shattering now, but in 2012 it was pretty unheard of.
I learned so much. That you can never do a good job quickly. That you need to work with clients who value and respect your creativity, and are prepared to invest in what you do.
That only by streamlining your portfolio and celebrating your creative style do you win the work you really want. That you don’t need to say yes to everything. So much!
What are a few of your favorite resources to share with fellow female entrepreneurs and/or creatives?
My friend Elizabeth has just published a book, The Empowered Entrepreneur, which is brilliant. Read it! It will change your business and your life.
Photos courtesy of The Brand Stylist