What Color is Your Brand?

by Luann Udell

Courtesy of Handmade Business

Years ago, I wrote about creating my brand. Or rather, not creating it. Neutral colors, simple packaging, my name in Times New Roman--still works for me!--became my "look." But this month, I'm learning what my real brand is.

I've held a series of online/in-home "tag sales" for our move to California. First, it was my eclectic "home stash," which meant McCoy Pottery, vintage furniture, old school globes. (For the rap-loving members of my readership, please note I mean old globes from academic institutions. I don't mean old-school globes, geographical orbs that might have been owned by Snoop Doggy Dogg or Ice T.) Currently on the sales block, it's my extensive yarn stash. Next will be my studio de-acquisition.

As I write this, I'm sitting in a carefully staged living room where every single thing is for sale. I kid you not. There are price tags hanging everywhere. Each sale has been unbelievably successful. There's the appeal of online shopping. Many people bought items ahead of the actual sale from a website gallery we created. Many, many things--and I mean, many, many, many, many things--sold for fair-market value. (Not yard-sale prices.) Customers actually thanked me for letting them buy my former home d├ęcor.

Why? I'm not a globe dealer or a home decorator. I'm not a yarn dealer, though you might think that, considering my ... er ... rather obsessive extensive collection.

It's because of my brand.

A hint lies in the word "de-acquisition." The appeal of my various collections is exactly that: It's not a haphazard ready-for-Hoarders-TV-show home, but rather it's a curated collection.

I chose items for color, shape, texture, and charm--qualities often overlooked by the average observer until gathered into a collection.

The second clue is "charm," which is their story.

Take my small doll collection. (Actually, don't, because it's going with me. And the collection isn't small, but the dolls are. It's my small-doll collection. Hyphens matter!) They're worn and tattered by a child's love. A child who's now probably older than I am! They reflect many countries and cultures, reminding us that we were all once children. And in my care, these fragile yet resilient toys will outlast me, too.

And so my brand has spilled over from my art into my life. I've discovered the true nature of branding, which Seth Godin describes as a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that make your customer choose you. "A brand is a story," he says, "but it's a story about you (the consumer), not about the brand."

When we remember a brand item from our youth, we don't think about the company. We think about what that item meant to us, what part it played in our life. Branding is not teaching our customers the story of our product. It's our product becoming part of their story. Each craftsperson and collector has the potential for this give-and-take. Look at your past and present creations and transactions, then decide, "What color is my brand?" (It's like the famous job-search mantra of the 1970s and 1980s: "What color is your parachute?") Figure out where your crafts fit in and enhance the lives of your customers, and that's your brand. After all, isn't it our dream, as craftspeople, that the things we make will not only enrich the lives of our customers, but also the lives of those who come after us?

To those who ridiculed my various collections throughout the years, I can say they've paid for themselves over the last few weeks. (Take that, critical mother-in-law!) To those who say they can't understand why I'd give it all up, I say, "Oh, I intend to buy different stuff in California!" And to those who admonished me about the picture of my cat with a price tag stuck to her butt, listen up: "I was kidding, people!"