Thursday, March 1, 2012

Branding - no, not moo cows

Your "brand" is what makes you stand out.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm an author as well as a jewelry maker. My publisher provides professional assistance through informative webinars, and I've found that some of this information can also apply to the business of selling handmade jewelry. With permission from Jenny Bullough, manager of digital content at Harlequin Enterprises (the parent company of my publisher, Carina Press), here's some information about personal brand -- rewritten to apply to jewelry selling, with additional information based on my own experience and the input of the Gem Gypsy and the Triangle Jewelry Makers.

Your brand is your public presence, the professional, creative you that is facing the world. It's a combination of your personality, logo, style, and reputation.

I was skeptical when first confronted with the concept of branding myself. It sounded like corporate advertising buzzword BS. But if you are a handmade jewelry seller, you are not just selling jewelry, you really are selling yourself -- your skills, quality, and passion.

People have ample opportunity to buy jewelry from department stores, gift shops, friends, family, Etsy, flea markets and craft shows, right? So, how do you stand out? That's where your "brand" is important. Or to put it another way...


I'm not suggesting you be something you aren't. In fact, the more honest and authentic you are -- with your customers and yourself -- the better.

Here are a few things you can do to get started building your brand.

Offer a quality product

This should be a no-brainer. Constantly strive to improve your jewelry-making skills. Offer dependable, consistent quality and customer service. This will build your positive reputation.

Develop your own unique vision

When you started making jewelry, you were probably taking lessons, using kits, following YouTube tutorials, using magazine instructions and copying someone else's style. When you grow as an artist and begin selling your work, you'll be developing a style all your own -- you'll have to, or it's copyright infringement.

You may not do it on purpose, but you probably already have a style of your own (or one emerging). As the founder of a jewelry artists group, I've had the opportunity to see the work of many jewelry makers, of all skill levels. Every single one of them has a different style. Show me a piece of jewelry from someone in our group, and I'll tell you who made it, based on the materials, the subject matter, and the way it's put together.

No one else can be you. You have your own unique experiences, preferences, abilities, interests, and those should come through your work. This is what sets you apart from everyone else. It's why customers will choose to shop with you, and it's what they will expect when they return.

Choose a focus

You might be in the early stages of developing your style, experimenting with several different materials, and that's fine. But if you are selling your work, you should have some consistency. No artist wants to be limited, and it is okay to evolve and change. But if people are buying what you do, that means they want you to continue doing it -- and they will come back to you expecting more of the same.

This should not be a narrow, specific category, like "red rosaries" or "glass pendants." You are looking for a general direction. For authors, we would use the word genre. Just as it's difficult to build a readership if one jumps from children's books to erotica to crime drama, it's difficult to build a following of repeat jewelry customers if you are jumping back and forth from metals to clay to beads, or from inexpensive to high-end, or from pink cutesy girlish to black Goth to conservative bank teller.

If you're not sure how to define yourself, look over your body of work. Themes will emerge.

I'm known for creating jewelry that embodies a unique combination of imagination and history, with Victorian, Celtic and science fiction elements. If I try to list anything else on my website -- say, hippy woven hemp necklaces, pet charm bracelets, rosaries, birthstone gifts for moms, etc. -- it does not sell as well. Because my customers are looking for the style they've come to associate with Jen Hilton.

Craft your brand statement

This is also called a tagline or slogan. Some very well-known jewelery slogans include A diamond is forever or Every kiss begins with... Whatever it is, use it on all platforms: Etsy, website, blogs, Facebook, Twitter profile, business cards, etc.

Like your logo, it should be associated with you and it should communicate who you are to your customers. Why? Because in our modern, digital world, potential customers will only spend seconds -- or fractions of seconds -- looking at your ad, website, logo, or listing. They need something that tells them all about you, in ten words or less.

If you're having trouble with this, look at your design elements. What can you say that encompasses the bulk of your work? What feeling does it evoke? What imagery? Here are a few examples:

"Fun, fresh and flirty."
"Dark jewels, deep secrets."
"Strong women, bold jewelry."

The Gem Gypsy, owner and operator of Earth Traditions, uses "Gifts from legends, lore, and fantasy."

The Gem Gypsy says... "An important factor with marketing you and your merchandise is your NAME and the LOOK of your logo, website, emails, letterheads, business cards, social media, even the way you dress and present yourself. Your look needs to have a common theme to set yourself apart. Find a common thread and be consistent. I have been using the same signs, logo, name for 12 years now. I've had all kinds of people tell me, when they see my logo that they've 'seen this before' and that makes me feel great! My branding is working."

My tagline is Embellish your adventure with unique handmade jewelry. I liked the idea that "embellish" could apply to writing and jewelry, as I consider myself a storyteller in both areas. Because I make so much jewelry for cosplay, costuming, science fiction and fantasy, I felt that I was creating more than just something pretty -- I was helping people live out their own adventures. So, we have "Embellish your adventure..."

"OK, I'm working on my brand. Now what?" 

That's the subject of my next post!

Jen Hilton makes one-of-a-kind jewelry sold through her website She is the founder of the Triangle Jewelry Makers and is featured in the books "Steampunk Style Jewelry: Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Necklaces, Bracelets, and Earrings" and "1000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art" available at Amazon and other booksellers.

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