Where does Branding and Brand Marketing intersect?
A conversation with Jen Cloes of Jen Cloes Designs and Abby Combs of E-studios Marketing
Ever wonder where Branding and Marketing begin? End? Or Intersect? Or when you may need to hire a Brand Designer? You are not alone! Lots of good info in this conversation!!
I had a chat with Abby of E-studios Marketing (@e_studiosmarketing) and we discussed the Intersection of Marketing and Branding. Most importantly we discussed the journey that is business ownership.
Read the transcript below. I would love to hear any further questions you have!
For the video version on Instagram, click here: Video Version
Transcript of the Instagram Live interview here:
Jen: Hi nice to meet you. I am super, super excited to talk with you on the misconceptions about marketing and branding and where they intersect.
Abby: I’m so excited too!
J: I think that it is so important for everybody to understand the difference and the intersection of the two.
A: Yeah. I get people [requesting our marketing services] who are like, oh, you’re in marketing so you do X, Y, and Z. And we’re like, no, I don’t do that… Or they’ll be like, oh, so you can create a brand for me. And I’m like, well, I can do part of it.
But if you go tell a branding designer, you can create a brand for me. They’ll [also] say I can do part of it. And there’s just so many bits and pieces. And like you said, there’s an intersection right. Where we kind of have to have both. And we’re trying to build an online [brand] or any kind of brand, [basically] if you’re trying to sell something, you have to have both.
I’m excited to learn from you too, because I think I realized people live in their own specialties and I love kind of capitalizing on that, where I can’t live in the branding world all the time, unless I’m going to stay there, right. And you can’t live in the marketing world all the time, unless you’re going to stay there. I’m super excited to learn from you as well.
J: I think that’s amazing. It’s awesome because when I first started going to conferences like Alt summit, I was really intimidated by people like you that were in marketing because I come from the opposite background, the art/artist side of branding. I felt a little bit uncomfortable [because] I didn’t know the marketing side of things.
And I had to learn that side of branding and then I felt a lot more comfortable with that. And I’ve noticed people coming from your side, the marketing side, can sometimes feel uncomfortable or get imposter syndrome when it comes to branding and the brand visual design.
I think it’s great to have these conversations because they are truly two different niches and they do intersect. I think that it’s super important for us to have more open conversations about this.
A: I totally agree. And I always say, I’m not an artist. My creative outlet is not what people would typically consider creative, right? My creative outlet is to-do lists and calendars and spreadsheets. That is fulfilling to me. It’s why I’m in the business that I am in.
I do get intimidated by people who are of the art background, but what I’ve realized is let’s live in these lands that we love and then work together. So, I think it’s going to be great just chatting a little bit on the importance of goals and how they work together. Because I do have a lot of clients that come to me that don’t have an established brand. Established, meaning it’s cohesive or it’s put together right, creatively.
And they don’t see that that’s an issue. I can put together what I think is cute or great or what I would respond to, but that might not land well with you [as the client]. I think it’s really important to kind of establish both [branding and brand marketing].
J: My first [official] question for you is: What does the perfect client have in place (brand-wise) when they come to you?
A: Great question. I’ve heard this and maybe you can educate me a little bit if there’s a difference, but I’ve heard it called several different things. We [can] call it a brand guide, a brand kit, a mini brand, something like that. And most people understand that [it] is some sort of creative asset.
We don’t need things created. We don’t need a website banner created for us. We need to know what your logo is.
There are also varying stages, and maybe we could talk about this later too, because I’ve had some come to me and present to me [with] a 37-page long brand guide. Do this, don’t do this. Here’s how to use it. Here’s how much you can tilt it. And here’s how much you can’t tilt it. And then I’ve had some come with one sheet [with a] logo, font, four colors. We can work with both. I think that there’s a time and a place for both.
Where a more established or seasoned brand might need a bigger brand guide, especially if we’re doing multiple platforms, multiple avenues. We might need to understand all the do’s and don’ts from a designer.
But I can definitely work with a very basic brand guide where I [need] to just understand the creative vision initially. And then my team, because we have some designers on our staff, can take it and run with it and help guide it. But they at least have a logo. And probably two. Two ways. I have who have a circle logo, but I need to have some sort of horizontal logo as well. So maybe one or two types or formats of their logo. And then some colors and some thoughts. When I go to create [marketing] for an Instagram story or a reel cover or an email or a website banner, I need to know what we’re starting with. I don’t know if you like pink or purple or green or black. I’ve got to know [where] we’re starting. [The client] would have to have some foundation elements to start working with us.
J: That is so awesome. That is exactly what I wanted you to say to my clients. That’s exactly what I would have asked for. That’s where I want my clients to end up. Most of my clients come to me and they say, oh, I want a logo. [But] I don’t want them to just get a logo. I want them to have a brand style guide because I know that that’s where marketing can begin. Because brand style guides give you, [the marketer], the foundation that you need to move forward with their marketing based on what industry they’re in, where their marketing is going or where it needs to go. That foundational brand style guide gives [the client] that. That launching point.
A: I totally agree. And I think anyone who’s been in business longer than maybe six months knows that their brand is going to evolve all the time. And I didn’t know that at the beginning. I just thought I needed a logo. I’ve got to have something to put up on a website.
But [at that time] I didn’t actually have a website or a social media to grow my business. I just wanted something [to use] if I wanted to print something or if I wanted to have a [business] card, I knew that I needed a logo. And [then] as I went down the road, I realized, [that] I’m trying to create a business card, [but] I don’t even know what color to start with.
I think there’s a couple of ways of doing it, and I think done is better than perfect. [Here’s] the one thing I would caution clients, [on] your side or mine is that you’re going to have people that say you have to spend a million and a half dollars on this ginormous thing before you can take one step forward. Anyone who’s been an entrepreneur longer than maybe six weeks or six months knows that you just kind of take a step forward. So, if that is starting with a basic essential brand kit [with] a logo, maybe a thought or two, and a couple of colors, that’s going to take you to the next best step.
And then down the road, [as] I realized even in my own business, it’s time to evolve. It’s time to build this out a little bit more. What are our core [elements]? I have a logo and it’s black and it looks blue and I [need to] be cohesive. So, there’s a time and a place to evolve.
And I think that’s where you come in so greatly, and even the kind of vibe and energy that I get from you is I just want to help my clients get started. And then I would love for them to come back [to our marketing agency] and evolve. I do think we have to allow for change. It’s just so hard for me because I don’t like change!
But as a business owner, things change all the time. When you can lean into it and know that you can evolve, that’s where innovation comes in.
J: That honestly is the biggest challenge I have with my clients; most of them are tied to their initial logos or identity and getting them to change because most of the time it’s an emotional connection that they have to it and it maybe isn’t serving them anymore, or serving their industry anymore. So, getting them to break away from that and grow is hard for them, and for me, [too]. It’s kind of an emotional journey.
A: Totally. And I think it’s important for clients to remember that, we are both business owners, so we get it. I had an emotional connection to that logo that has navy blue in it [and] doesn’t look good against black. I don’t want to let it go, but I know that it will be better for all the other things if I do. I get that. I fit in those shoes and I think you have as well. You’ve seen [it] in your own business, the evolution and growth that has come [from change] and the benefit of letting it grow. We empathize with that emotional connection. I empathize with clients [asking] how do I let somebody else help grow my business? I get it. I’ve had to hire. I’ve had to outsource. I’ve had to do all the things.
There’s a level of empathy that I think comes with the way that we run our businesses and I think [that] can really be a benefit to our clients if they can remember that we’ve been in their shoes before and we’ll be again, and we can work really well together.
J: Absolutely. It is interesting to me to hear you say that. Where branding for me, steps in is when that change is needed. And it is a bit of a precarious spot, you know, when they need to grow, when they need to rebrand, when they need to change.
A: I totally agree. And it’s uncomfortable, even for me too. I think people, especially when they hire us. Starting with you [as phase one], the let’s-get-it-going phase. Phase two is starting with me. And then phase three is coming back to you, right? A lot of my clients think, okay, I’ll work with Abby, or an agency like mine, and then that’s it. Then [you as a client are] just going to keep growing, and you’re going to be where [you] want it to be, and [you’re] going to sell all the products that [you] want to sell, [and] build it all in community that I want to build, and [you’re] going to make money. I can only take you so far.
Then we get where evolution comes, or growth happens and maybe your online community changes or it evolves in some way, your products change, the industry changes, COVID happens, pandemics happen [and] you can’t get products, you can’t ship [at] the right pricing. We have to move and evolve and grow with it. And that’s where we can come back to you and say, I’ve got to really grow. And we can [then] move into the next phase. I see it happen.
J: It’s like a pivot point. When that pivot point happens, you need to reevaluate and, and just re-establish. If it does create [a pivot where] change is needed, then you go back to marketing again. Once you get that brand rebranded and re-established and grow your branding. Then you can launch again and it’s like these little growths. That for me is when I think of the intersection between branding and marketing; that’s where it happens and that’s how it happens. And that’s how you grow your business.
A: Yes. I totally agree. I did a Goldman Sachs program last fall, and it was awesome. They give you a business advisor while you’re in the program. He, or she, meets with you several times throughout the program. So [my business advisor] would come over to my office and visit every once in a while. And there was a time that we just talked about my growth and how there’s this scale that we think we’re going to [climb]. That we think we’re going to just get on the cart and just keep going [up]. [There may be] challenges along the way, but it’s going to be generally [up at an incline in growth]. We were at a point where I was kind of going this way [up] and then it’s going to go [down]. And eventually you’ll see that your profit margin gets to be a little bit healthier and your growth gets to keep going [up].
I think about that a lot as we talked about the evolution of branding. In marketing there [are] times where you get to really grow with what you currently have, and then you kind of hit a little bit of a bump or a plateau or something. And then we evolve and then we continue to grow up. And that seems to be what [the] entrepreneurship journey looks like; it’s more of a staircase, right? It’s so exciting, but actually to get to the next step, we’ve got to do a little bit more, and that happens within marketing too. We start with [the idea that] I’m going to start my Instagram. [Then, it] is growing. This is fine.
And then it’s not good. What do we do? We have to maybe pay for some ads or we’ve got to really optimize our following and send them emails and texts, and you keep taking these steps on the ladder to help [your] growth [climb to] where you want [it] to go.
J: You have such great insight. I’m so glad we did this.
A: It was so fun! I think I get online and I’m like, what are we talking about? Then [we] ended up chatting with people in this same realm and world of entrepreneurship and we have so much in common, even if we work in totally separate industries.
I thought about what you do and how I’ve had clients, specifically recently, [where], we built a website for a real estate agent and we could only take it so far because there wasn’t an established brand. And so now we’re helping him to establish a brand and we can now really work together to establish something that he really wants to establish.
I’ve had those clients over the past four years where I realized that they have to have a visual [to understand the concept]. I used the analogy of GPS. You can’t utilize GPS to get somewhere, unless you have a destination. We have to know where we’re going, and that is true even in branding. We have to know what this is going to look like, feel like, and sure there’s psychology behind it, and there’s your industry’s [way] to communicate visually [and] correctly to your audience, but knowing what you have as a business owner, it’s really in your power to establish, what do you want this to look like, feel like, sound like, move like, breathe like, and once you know that, at least beginning [to] understanding that, then you can go to someone like you [to] help make sense of what’s in your brain visually. Then [the client] comes to me and we’ll make sense of it [on how to] communicate [this] to an audience so they can really attach to your brand and then buy something from you.
J: Yes. When I first started, after I graduated from design school, I started with just doing logos and then I very quickly learned that brand strategy was important, and the marketing side was important because otherwise you’re shooting at a target that doesn’t make sense.
And that’s when I started reading all the marketing books and all the brand strategy, and really understanding the different markets that I was helping my clients broach and understanding where the gaps in their markets were, and trying to help them to get into those [areas]. So, I do a little bit of that brand strategy, but at the same time, I’m from the artist side; I’m from the visual side of it. My job is to look into their mind’s eye and really meet them where they see their business. Visually. And then I try to do my very best to land them in a good strategic position for that.
A: That’s great. I love referring clients to someone like you. [Alternatively] You can find a lot of very inexpensive artists or graphic designers that could whip together a logo and, like we talked about, maybe just do something to take the next step.
But when you’re really ready to invest in your brand and do it maybe “the right way” (even though there’s probably not one right way to do anything), I love referring to someone like you that gets both sides [of branding and marketing]. Because you can hire someone on Upwork or some sort of outsourced platform for $25 and get a little bit.
But if you’re really wanting to have that branding design, take your brand somewhere, you have to have somebody that understands some of the marketing strategies [as well as branding]. Again, you don’t live in that world all the time so you need to know enough to help get them started and then let that really let the brand carry into the overall strategy.
So that’s great [for me] as a marketer, to send people to you that [I know you’re] going to get part of it; to at least get [the branding] started.
J: Yeah. Because obviously I don’t want to waste my time or their money giving them a brand identity that gets them nowhere.
I’m all about efficiency. I’m enough [of a mix] of right and left brain to know [and] understand that I don’t want to waste their time or money and just be artsy. Funny enough. I did start in marketing. When I was right out of high school, I worked in a marketing department for an insurance company, [which was] so very different than [marketing] today.
A: I love that! Look, marketing is different than it was six weeks ago. Nobody told me that I would have whiplash all the time. [You’ve got to] kind of ride the wave.
J: At least brand identity design stays pretty similar. But the brand strategy side of it has definitely changed and evolved. And when you talked about brand style guides [earlier] that is where I’ve noticed the biggest change lately.
A: Oh, really?
J: It’s just that I would’ve never thought that I would embrace Canva. Never in a million years, would I think [that] I would embrace Canva.
A: I actually wondered about that because we build most of our stuff in Canva and I never know if people are like, eww, [about Canva]. I think it’s a really powerful tool and it’s helped so many people be able to create things better than they could even three years ago.
A: From a designer’s perspective, do you have a preference? I guess you’re embracing Canva, but do you do most things in Canva or do you use other platforms as well?
J: Adobe illustrator is the backbone of what I do. Adobe products [are] what I live for. As a designer, I [use] Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign. That’s what I use.
I’ve embraced Canva because enough of my clients have embraced Canva. I actually signed up for the professional version of [Canva] and embraced the brand kit. [I was] absolutely amazed with it because [of the] consistency part of it. [In the past], I’d given my clients enough brand style guides [from programs other than Canva] that literally get stored away in their computers and never get pulled out. And that does nobody any good.
A: Right. They have to search their email to find it again.
J: Yeah. They just don’t use them. And that was frustrating as a designer. They’ve spent money. I’ve spent time. And, that’s just not efficient. So, the efficiency side of me was very frustrated with that.
I’ve seen my clients not use the assets that I created and researched and [went] over [with the clients] and a lot of time. And so Canva’s brand kit [Note: I’m not affiliated with Canva at all] really engages [the client] and makes it super easy for them and for their web designers to go [into the Canva program] and use the assets that I’ve created for them.
A: When somebody sends the link to their brand guide via Canva, we’re like awesome, plug and play. Let’s go. And then we can take what they do have and make their own brand kit within Canva so we can make sure everything’s cohesive, but it does make it so user-friendly, and there are so many tools out there that can help you run your business more efficiently and that’s what it’s all about, right? Time is money.
J: It is! Time is money. I’m all about efficiency. I’m an artist; I’m a creative, but I’m about efficiency as well. It’s important.
I’m looking at Adobe Express now because of all these factors. I’m starting to look there and there’s a couple other new software that are coming out that have brand kits, but Canva is by far is the one that is taking precedence.
A: I think it’s great that you are staying at the forefront of your technology as well. I think that’s helpful not only for me as a marketer, but I think for all business owners that work with you. I think that’s a really strong representation of your brand that you’re trying to stay on top of everything so that you can be the expert in your field and people can trust you.
And we’ve tried to do that as well. It’s really hard to stay on top of everything going on in the marketing world, but because we’re in it every day, all day, it becomes easier and more fluid. We can then be the experts for our clients so they can go and live the life they want to and be the business owner that they want to. I think that’s really, really amazing that you’re saying the top of all of that.
J: Thank you. My passion, honestly, is women-owned businesses. I want them to succeed and I want women to be able to take their super powers and start a business and be able to grow it with confidence and the most amount of efficiency [rather than] wasting money and time that we don’t have. I know you’re a mother and I’m a mother and we don’t have time to waste.
A: Yeah, I totally agree and I love that too. That’s a huge part of our business as well. We have mostly female clients that want to just be more than just this, [or] just that, and not fit into one box. When you can create efficiencies by hiring out, by outsourcing, by creating processes, you really get to fulfill your life the way that you want to and [how] you have envisioned it.
J: Yeah, definitely. So that’s why I embraced Canva. I would’ve never thought that I would have as a designer, but [I did].
A: I love that. And I appreciate that too. It helps us feel a little bit better about ourselves too. Sometimes I think [Canva] initially got the stigma [that] it’s just, it’s not Adobe Photoshop or an Adobe product, but it’s really come so far and it’s allowed a lot of businesses to really grow. There are some amazing tools out there. And I think, especially with the AI stuff going on right now, we’ve got to maybe lean into it and embrace it as much as they can, to help stay at the forefront and keep growing.
I think the theme of this whole conversation has been evolution and growth and just riding this wave of entrepreneurship [because] there’s really no manual. We’re just figuring it out together. It can be beautiful sometimes, and it can be challenging at others, but I think leaning into all of it is really, really great.
J: I agree, 100%. I had tried a different software first before Canva that was more traditional brand style guide based and it was going to be thousands for my client.
Why would a client want to pay thousands of dollars for this? And it [included] just the same basics of primary polar palette, primary fonts; just the basics.
A: There are some tools out there that are not efficient and not worth it for sure. There’s a lot of trial and error.
J: It was the timing and everything that helped me to get to that point with Canva. Just for my other designers out there, Jen didn’t just succumb to Canva. I didn’t just succumb to the Canva bandwagon. It’s a process, but yeah [I use Canva].
This has been so great talking to you and we should do this again sometime!
A: Thank you for joining me! This was so fun!