image by Matze_Ott
If you love fashion, you probably already have a strong understanding of the power of branding, afterall image is everything, right? While we're all aware of big fashion houses use of branding, why not apply some of those principles to blogging. Last week we talked about blog names… but developing a brand for your blog will take a bit more time than naming… Branding occurs even when you don't put any work into it (and you'll see why) it also can be managed, improved and more thought out if you look at some branding stragegies.
What's my name?
Your brand's face
In 1967 Muhammed Ali beat down Ernie Terell (like my random historical referece?) yelling ‘What's my name?' in response to Terell, who kept calling Ali ‘Cassius Clay' after he converted to Islam and changed his name to Mohammed Ali. It was certainly a controversial move for the legendary boxer, by taking the name “Muhammed Ali” was important sign of commitment to the man's values, and it was important to him that the world respected his decision. Names are important, they refelct the personality of brand, many times it's the first thing people notice.
There aren't many fashion blogs with taglines, though with the volume of fashion blogs on the web, maybe it's a strategy more should start picking up. Taglines help to give your readers a glimpse of the essence of your message, if they are descriptive. If they are catchy, they'll sure to remember them. Here's a few examples:
Bryan Boy: “I'm so gay I sweat glitter.”
Wendy Brandes Jewelry: “Wear what you want”
Fashion Verbatim: “the fashion blogzine with added salt”
The Coveted:” be lovely ❤ be stylish ❤ be coveted”
Who am I?
Developing your clear message
Ahh, the eternal question. I think I've been asking that most of my life. In all seriousness, when it comes to blogging, it's a question that's bound to pop up. I'm constantly asking myself, ‘What makes my blog stand out from other blogs?', ‘What do I have to offer?', ‘What is my message?', ‘Why should people read my blog?' I used to be afraid of answering those questions, for oddly enough, polarized reasons… like I didn't think I had a unique message, and I didn't want to be cocky. Well, when push came to shove, I had to get over myself. Everyone has a unique message if they take the time to find it. And cocky? Well, with so much to learn, it's impossible to be cocky without extraordinary delusion.
Write a manifesto
When you're finished answering the questions, it might be a good idea to sit down and write down your thoughts. You can really hone down your message by writing a manifesto. A manifesto is just a public declaration of principles and intention, and it doesn't have to be a novel. The one for IFB is relatively short:
Independent Fashion Bloggers Manifesto
IFB is an online community of fashion bloggers looking to build a better blogging experience. IFB is here to help bloggers become familiar with the ins and outs of the industry, by giving the community a place to go for information and access other bloggers to talk to and ask questions.
In the 90's The Gap fostered a bohemian image that was hugely successful landing them on every street corner of America. Then in 2000, word came out that their clothes were produced in sweatshops. At the time, I remember feeling betrayed, and the damage hasn't really been repaired, even though they've been cracking down on sweatshop and child labor usage. Since the labor issues have come to surface, The Gap's bohemian slogans all have a tinge of insincerity.
While it's impossible to be 100% in this complex fashion world, there seems to be a hole in every argument… all one can do is try. When a message is developed, look at the values around the message and try to stick to them. It's actually easier in practice, because a lot of your brand's values will likely be the same as your own. If you write a vegan fashion blog, you wouldn't write about your brand new fur coat. If you write a budget fashion blog, you'd have sales and deals, not what's new on Net-a-Porter, or the latest $10,000 it-bag unless you knew were to get it for 75% off. All in all, consistency makes it easier for the readers to know what to expect, and a reason to come back.
Style by Design
Never underestimate the power of design. And luckily for the blogosphere there are great templates becoming available all the time. Some people avoid doing site makeovers, but I've seen a few older blogs that could use a makeover because they look dated. Some ways to update your site without losing your brand identity is by using elements of your logo (note: I've changed mine four times), color scheme, typography, and photo elements, and integrate them with your new ideas. But keep in mind change confuses your audience so try to make all changes steps towards benefiting them by improving your usability.
Get out there
Ok, so now you have an awesome blog, with consistently great content, fabulous design… now what? Well the final key to branding is getting out there. Make comments on other blogs with your blog address attached.
Establish yourself on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, etc… Some people use their blog name, but over time, I've come to cultivate two blogs with different names, so I just use my real name. When I'm asked how I got my blogs out there, and when I tell them the stories of the hours of finding friends on IQONs, myspace, etc.. they look at me like I am insane, but the fact is establishing a presence in social media takes work, and consistent work.
Connect with other bloggers. Comment on their blogs, send them nice notes about their posts, be follow them on Twitter. Write guest post on other blogs (I am promise to do this more this year).
Find out more about your audience
Many branding articles will say this is the most important thing. I agree, but I do know in the beginning I had an audience of 3 and they were all my friends. If you're getting comments right away, that's great… listen to what they are saying… check the links to the sites they have listed in the comment box (if any). When a blog is more established, then it's time to check Google Blogsearch, Technorati, Alexa, and of course your Google Analytics or other statistic analyser. See where the inbound links are coming from, and look at what posts are getting the most attention. This will give you a clue as to what your audience wants, and how to be more useful to them. While I think it's important to keep true to yourself, it's always good to work with your audience and your community as some kind of partnership, that way it benefits everyone.