Gurrrl done gone and did it again! Our good friend and kindred spirit, Fiona Humberstone (AKA The Brand Stylist) has knocked it out of the damn park. Her newest book Brand Brilliance has just released and it’s nothing short of brilliant. Ashley had the opportunity to have a sneak peak of Fiona’s latest masterpiece. You know what that means?!? We get to be part of the official Brand Brilliance blog tour!
While we loved Fi’s previous book, How to Style Your Brand, this one really drove home what we are trying to achieve here at Braizen. It’s all about what drives a brand identity – how you get to the core of your brand and business. It will help designers and business owners find their story and tell it that story with design, copy, photography and more.
Let’s take a moment to hear from Fiona about her motivation for the book and what she hopes this latest work does for her readers.
Who or what inspired you to write Brand Brilliance?
My clients! All of my books are inspired by the conversations I have with entrepreneurs. It might be a student in one of my workshops, someone I’m working one to one with or a mum at the school gate. I’m constantly listening for what people need help with and weaving that into what I do.
In the case of Brand Brilliance, it was a number of things. A fundamental desire to help people create better websites and better communications. As a designer, you must understand that heart-crushing moment when your beautifully crafted brand identity you’ve just created for a client is, shall we say, translated differently! I wanted to share some of the absolute essentials every entrepreneur needs to know: how to write powerful copy, how to design like a pro, how to style in a way that reflects your brand.
More than that, I want Brand Brilliance to be a manifesto for a better way of doing business. I hear a lot of chat, especially in workshops, around the frustration of not quite getting the work you want. Of not being valued by a client or being paid what you’re worth. I wanted to inspire people to feel more confident in their offering. To cut down on the number of services they sell and focus on being the very best in their unique category of one.
How is your target audience different from How to Style Your Brand to Brand Brilliance?
I’d like to think that they are the same. They are written with the same reader in mind, but I guess Brand Brilliance asks more of you than How to Style your Brand, so it’s not going to be for everyone. Brand Brilliance is encouraging you to truly elevate your offering, to be brave and to ask yourself some tough questions. That’s going to have a huge impact on your business.
It feels like Brand Brilliance is a prequel to How to Style Your Brand. Do you wish you’d written Brand Brilliance before How to Style Your Brand?
Yes! That’s exactly how I feel. Thank you for noticing.
I don’t think I do regret writing How to Style your Brand first because that was the book that was in me at the time. I don’t think Brand Brilliance would be the book it is today if I hadn’t had all the positive experiences with How to Style your Brand.
I mean, logically, yes, it’s kind of annoying that the book you should read first has only just come out, but I guess even I didn’t know that you needed Brand Brilliance first until I wrote it.
Some of the things I do are pretty intuitive and it’s only by reading the questions that come up on my blog that I learn where people need the most help. When I wrote How to Style your Brand, I felt that people knew where they wanted their businesses to be, they just needed a little help in creating the right brand identity. But the more I listened, the more I realised that actually, many entrepreneurs need help in defining their business direction, understanding what their brand values are and discerning what’s really important about what they do. And so Brand Brilliance was born.
How important is finding your brand essence before you begin the brand styling?
Goodness, it’s so important isn’t it? I mean, you and I both know the challenges as a designer and as a client of trying to create a brilliant, robust and unique brand identity when you’re not really sure what the business is all about. It can start out well, but unless you are disciplined in your approach, it’s often not long before the brief changes or u-turns are made because one isn’t sure of what’s ‘right’.
Focus is absolutely essential. And for many, the process in How to Style your Brand is enough to get you focused on what you really want to communicate. But if you want to elevate your offering, refine what you do and create a business that truly plays to your strengths, then you need more than a gorgeous brand identity. You need the right mindset.
Roger Lewis often talk about the difference their rebrand has made. The iconic identity you created for them has given them confidence, it’s created the right impression with an impressive client list and it’s helped established clients see them in a whole new light. But what’s really made a difference is their own value of themselves and what they have to offer.
They’ve been able to let go of being all things to all people. They can hold their heads up high when they’re asked to compete on price. And because they value what they do, they can easily communicate that to their clients.
How long do you think someone has to be in business before they understand all the details of their brand, target demographic, etc?
I think that this is something that’s constantly changing. There’s no reason you can’t plan much of this before you even launch your business. You can know who you’re aiming at, why they’ll want to work with you and so on. But it’s only by listening – to your clients and also to your gut that you’ll truly understand this.
Listen to why people choose you. What’s motivating them? And do you like their reasoning? Listen to your instincts. Where are the projects that don’t fit? Why? What can you do about it? How can you refine your offering to reflect where you want to take your business next? This is something that’s likely to constantly evolve, and that’s ok. It’s likely to stay true to your core message but that evolution keeps things fresh and keeps on developing you.
Do you recommend hiring a coach, stylist, designer, copywriter etc to help refine your message before you start moodboarding or designing?
I think it can really help. I’d suggest that the copywriter comes later as generally they will be focused on communicating your message in the best way possible. A coach, strategist, consultant can be invaluable in helping you ascertain where you want to be headed next and creating a path that aligns with your personal goals.
Create a business that plays to your strengths, opens doors, puts you in a category of one and that you can be proud to call your own and you’re on to an absolute winner.
How will Brand Brilliance help business owners?
Brand Brilliance is about getting your head in the right space, getting focused and finding your niche. It’s about distilling the essence of your business down, creating a clear and compelling message and communicating that through everything you do.
Once you’ve identified that, it’s time to pick up How to Style your Brand and, erm, style your brand. Or better still, work with someone brilliant like Braizen to style your brand. I still recommend you to most of my clients because I know that you’ll nail it.
Once you’ve nailed it, as you always do, pick Brand Brilliance back up for a walk through on commucating with flair. I’ll show you how to plan your website, create proposals that win you work and create the right impact at every level.
How long did this book take you to write?
Two years, start to finish. And that includes design and print time.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It totally energises me. Writing is a huge commitment: time, resources, energy, emotions, money. It’s huge. But I love it and can’t think of anything I’d rather do.
If you could tell your younger writing/designer self anything, what would it be?
Trust yourself. You’ve got this. Don’t compare yourself to others on the internet. Everyone has something unique to bring. You will be able to explain things in a way that inspires people to create better brands.
As a writer/brand stylist, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal/emoji?
Oh my goodness! Well, I know yours is a unicorn. Honestly, I’ve never thought about it. Is that crazy? The first thing that springs to mind is one of those palm leaves with the holes in it. Does that count?
What do you do to relax after a big book launch?
I’m off out for lunch with my sister and my daughter tomorrow and there will be champagne! Then it’s the Brand Stylist Retreat (which I imagine won’t be overly relaxing for me) and then a week long holiday in Majorca where we will be able to totally relax.
We all know you’re a kick ass brand stylist, but what secret talents do you have?
I can bake a mean chocolate cake and delicious meringues. I can cook Persian food and homemade pasta. I can make most things actually, but I can’t boil an egg. My children despair of me.
Any idea brewing for the next installment if branding mastery?
There are some ideas bubbling at the back of my mind for sure but I need a lot more conversations with people first to work out what’s needed next. I’ll keep you posted…
Fiona Humberstone has been styling brands, running workshops and creating websites since 2000. An exacting Creative Director and commercially minded entrepreneur, Fiona brings clarity and possibility to every project she works on. Having founded, grown and sold one of the UK’s most successful brand styling companies, Fiona now works as a freelance Creative Director for branding projects and consults for design agencies who want to sell more creative work. Fiona partners with leading industry experts to run game-changing courses both online and around the world and is available for speaking engagements.