Monday, May 11, 2015

Naming a Business: Branding

I am a project driven person. I approach each new {big} idea with single minded purpose - throwing myself into my work to the exclusion of everything else, including sleep. Some might call this a form of OCD. Whatever. It's what I do and I've been this way for so long, I'm barely aware of how insane I may look to others. Just get out of my way and let me get this thing done. Once I'm done, my interest, energy and adrenaline are depleted. I'm cooked.

After completing the launch of our new Sketchbook Collection last month, I found myself in my usual directionless, post-project funk. My desk and work table are littered with the remains of that project - piles of sample plates, brochure rejects and a growing stack of unanswered, un-dealt-with correspondence. Which includes my 2014 taxes and worker's comp insurance. I know. I publicly promise to deal with them Monday morning before I do one single other thing. Pinky swear.

What's been keeping me up these days is our new line of art prints. When I first got the art print idea, it seemed like such a simple thing. Design some prints. Put them up for sale on our site. Ya. No. That was before my Number One, Nicole questioned my un-thought-out decision to sell them under the Museware Pottery brand name.

She pointed out that because we are known as Museware Pottery, some might be confused by the new offering. Kind of like Coke all of a sudden deciding to sell batteries. Or that they might choose a print over pottery wedding gift - effectively causing us to cannibalize ourselves. While I did not agree with the latter, her observation combined with My Guido's relentless insistence that Art Print Company be a completely separate entity - gave me pause. Thoughtful Sheree is a student. Don't tell me what to do Sheree barrels ahead and does whatever the hell she feels like doing. Because she knows everything. Just for the record, I don't. I just act like I do, which explains why self employment suits me better than getting fired from yet another job.

Student Sheree recognized that she needed to understand branding before she made any more decisions. One of my first Google searches led me to Iowa State University's Building Your Brand page. I have to tell you, I fricken love the internet. Everything in the whole wide world, the good, the bad, the sacred and profane - all of it - right at my fingertips. And me, in my bathrobe. Anyway, the post helped me to define, from a business perspective, what a brand represents to the consumer mind, and why I should care.

Recognizing the importance of branding led me back to my go-to place for learning creative and business stuff, Skillshare. In the last months, I've taken dozens of classes through Skillshare and almost without exception, have come away learning really important stuff for refining and developing my business. My last two classes - Branding Your Creative Business and Branding the Logo - Crafting a Brand Identity made me realize that Art Print Company needed its own identity. Possibly even its own website. Which meant I wasn't just selling art prints. I was starting a whole new business.

Once I got over the enormity of this revelation, I realized that Art Print Company needed a name. Naming a business may be one of the most challenging tasks an entrepreneur faces. Names are permanent. And people respond to them as if they matter, which means they do. My first inclination was to name it after myself. I've been in this business for 10 years and a quick Google search reveals pages of stuff associated with my moniker - none of which I'm ashamed of. Thank God the internet did not exist in the 70s. Since I have at least some name recognition, it seemed like a good - if uninspired idea. Armed with direction and resolve, I grabbed my reserved shereeburlington.com domain name and applied it to my new, unbuilt Squarespace site and called it done.


Then, like a bop on the head from The Universe, I found the blog post Naming A Business After Yourself: When Is It A Good Idea? by the practically famous Emily McDowell. She did exactly that. She also made a credible case for not doing the same. Since her entire fan base finds her by her name (or by Googling "the Emily that makes cards") she had to find a way to transform her one-woman-show self into the growing, staff supported, product producing powerhouse she and her brand has become.

Once I read Emily's argument, my whole running with scissors momentum ground to a slow, disappointing WTF halt. Once I got over myself, I enrolled in another Skillshare class called Naming Your Product in 60 Minutes. In spite of being poorly organized (videos uploaded in reverse order) and difficult to follow (sorry, Sorin) it did contain enough useful information to get me all excited about finding a real, lasting name for my new ... stuff.

Sorin introduced me to the concept of mind dumping - brainstorming ideas by drawing them out rather than linear list making. While my efforts were not nearly as clever as this one, they were a useful way to organize a ton of random information. I spent the entire week brainstorming - writing out pages and pages of ideas in a form known on the interwebs as MindMapping. In some ways, it was the same kind of fun as giving birth - an analogy I regularly apply to the creative process. In other ways, it was a creative project just begging to be developed. What I eventually came up with makes me so happy, I can't wait to share it.

TTYL


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