Branding: Spotting Mistakes

November 19, 2012

I have a logo. I have a blog. I have a banner and a button for sharing. I have great business cards. What I don’t have is consistent business. Branding has been a thorn in my side since I learned it existed, and after seeing no Etsy business born of my presence at the JLT Holiday Market I’m pretty sure that branding is to blame. I thought I was prepared for the aftermath of handing a potential customer a business card. However, I recently spotted some branding mistakes that are and will continue to cost me business if I don’t correct them.

The first problem that I identified was that there was no evidence that I was anything special on Etsy. I didn’t have a logo or a banner to set me apart from the thousands of other hopefuls on the shopping megalith. Thanks to my good friend Liz I solved that problem back in September. Additionally, I’ve added sections to this site to make it clear that I make and sell jewelry, and that I’m not a one-trick pony. Check out the Collections and Custom pages for proof.

Nevertheless, the inconsistent sales remain a problem. Recently I read that cohesiveness is just as important for branding as any other element. The blog post warned against the kind of shop that reads like a virtual yard sale, a mess of items with no obvious connection other than being made by the same person. Oops. There’s problem number two. While I do have collections that are based on particular materials like sea glass, the majority of my Etsy shop is a tangled jumble of things that I made because I liked them. Is there a brand somewhere in there?

That article also advised designers to brand themselves by finding a way to creatively reproduce only a few different items. My favorite Etsy shops, like Laura Galic, LilaRubyKing, and HandyMaiden have all done that successfully. It’s very clear from looking at them what you will and won’t find in their stores. Another Tulsa jewelry designer, Bohemian Romance, makes all kinds of accessories that form a cohesive style: steampunk.

As for me and my shop, we have nothing of the sort. What’s my style? I defined it in my Alliday Artist interview (which you can read here), but does my booth reflect that? Does my shop reflect that? You can see where I started with different styles—I just changed my shop’s sections for clearer navigation—but there are some items that just don’t fit. Should the watermelon jewelry go with the Fruit Juice Collection, the Multi-Strand necklaces, or is it okay by itself? Should I separate the fringed necklaces from the felt even if I only have two of each? When I finally finish the Modern Art Collection, should I put it online or just hope it sells at craft shows? Should I even bother finishing it? If I’m asking myself all these questions I need to pare down my range. I can’t fill all the niches in the handmade jewelry industry and expect a casual browser to understand my style.

Thirdly, I’ve recognized that I need to change up my website a little. What does my “About” page tell anyone? It certainly doesn’t make me appear to be the dedicated and determined jewelry designer that I feel I can be. When I composed it I was afraid of pigeonholing myself into writing about jewelry all day, all the time. “I’m more than necklaces!” I think I was trying to say. Now it just looks like an application for Match.com. You don’t need to know that I have a black belt. You’ll find out when you try to sneak up on me.

My most glaring branding mistake is lack of focus. The moral of this story is that I clearly need to step back and look at what I make and at what actually sells.