Unlock the Secrets of Branding with Kristin Lawton
That’s how I feel about the word “brand”. What IS a brand? What does it REALLY mean? How do you create your brand?
And…how does your brand play with your content & copy?
These are questions it’s time to get clear answers to!
Since words are MY superpower but visual branding is my Kryptonite, I brought in an expert to talk about this topic!
Meet Kristin Lawton, branding & marketing expert, aka the Marketing Mixologist.
Kristin & I talk openly about how many online business owners & service providers overlook the foundational elements of branding because they simply don’t know what to look for or focus on!
Kristin generously takes us through her process of defining brand foundations, from everything to logos, colors, & visuals to content pillars and yes…EMOJIS!
You’ll learn helpful tips on what the hell it means to FIND your brand voice, how to use visual elements effectively, and ways to make confident decisions about brand colors.
If branding is an area you need to examine more closely, give a listen!
What Kristin shares will not only help you create more impact via your marketing, it will also create a powerful experience for your audience...
Which means you can can deliver content that connects….so it can convert!
Thanks to Kristin for sharing her actionable tips, expert advice, and inspiring stories to help you create content that truly captivates your audience!
Discover your Signature Brand Marketing Style with Kristin’s quick quiz at https://districtbrandbar.com/
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Hey, I'm really glad you're here for today's episode of Content Creation Made Easy. I'm your host Jen Liddy. Today I'm talking to Kristin Lawton.
Kristin is a brand and marketing expert. She calls herself a ‘marketing mixologist’, which you'll hear as part of her brand and we are talking about branding today.
Now, I'm as you know, a super big word nerd but visuals, branding colors, all of those things completely elude me.
Which is why I was really excited to talk to Kristin because she's going to bring in how to weave branding cohesively through your content, no matter what kind of content you do.
She's actually gonna unpack for us her system that she brings her clients through and we're gonna talk all about how to get a handle on your marketing once and for all in terms of the content and the branding without overwhelm.
Kristin's business is called District Brand Bar and she has decades of experience working with solopreneurs just like you to craft your brand voice, your brand sense, your brand vibe, and getting the foundation in place so that you can mix up your best marketing cocktail, if you will.
Welcome, Kristin, thank you for being here and for agreeing to do this. I know you had a very busy morning, so I'm really glad you're here.
Thank you so much. I'm very excited about the conversation. I love all things branding.
Okay. First of all, tell us a little bit about your business and how you came to be in your business.
Yeah, so my business is a pandemic baby. I feel like a lot of people's businesses are, especially solopreneurs.
I did branded marketing and I'm based in Washington DC for nonprofits and small businesses and corporations and you name it for 20 plus years. And I really wanted to shift.
It worked out that I was let go from my job right at the start of the pandemic. So I started it, coming up on three years. And I really wanted to help.
I led a massive rebranding project for my last organization. From there, I started consulting with other organizations going through rebrands.
And I just loved the coaching aspect of helping the small businesses, organizations, solopreneurs, whoever, figure out their brand and marketing strategies.
And then I have always been very into productivity tips and having a really strong work-life balance, finding joy in everything that you do.
So I really focus on making sure that your strategies and routines are efficient, effective and effortless. And then when I started my business, I'm like, “You know, I love cocktails.” I love crafting cocktails.
There's so many similarities between mixology and marketing. So I have a whole brand's name, which is cocktails and mixology. And so that's why I am the marketing mixologist.
Okay, the question that came up while you were sharing all of that is, I don't think I have a good definition for what brand means.
So what the hell is ‘brand’ and how is it different from or woven into marketing in general?
The way I see ‘brand’ is anything someone experiences that's external to your brand.
So anything that's front facing of your business and that as someone might go through the journey with you – like they're experiencing different parts of your brand.
So I think people think about branding and brand identity as just your logo or your color scheme, or maybe you might extend it to your website, but it stops there.
To me, your brand and your brand identity goes well into your marketing. It covers your messaging, your brand values, your brand positioning, certainly the look and feel, but I think it also covers who your target audience is, your client journey, and your content pillars.
And it is really when you think about your brands, what kind of experience are you giving to your audience? And it's all of those touch points for me.
Okay, so it's a lot of touch points and I think, I have definitely in my past made the mistake of brand equals a color palette, a logo.
I've also eked out that it's also your voice. But you're saying it is woven in through everything.
Yeah, certainly your brand voice, your personality, your tone. So I think a brand is like the step right below your business, right?
Your business to me, when I'm thinking business strategies, it's that internal stuff, like how the wheels are moving.
And then the brand is everything external. Now, then your branding is what helps create the assets of your brand. And then the marketing is how you're getting people to see your brand.
Yeah, that's really clear. What do you think are some mistakes that people make with their brand, the brand piece of their marketing, or the brand piece of their business?
I think a lot of it is that you don't think about it as much, right? And I think, you're honing the aspects of your business, the services, your offerings.
When you start out, you're so focused on, “Okay, I'm just going to get a business name, a logo, a website up, and I'm just going to start on social media. I'm going to start marketing things.” but you're not really thinking about who you really are, how you want to present yourself to your audience.
So you're really talking about a personality brand and because they're usually the face of it. So what's different between you and your business and how do you wanna represent that?
I do think a lot of it is just, you skipping a lot of those foundational steps of creating your brand and you go to specific points of the brand identity, look, and feel maybe some messaging, but you're not looking holistically.
Is that important because it sets you apart online? Is there another reason it's important besides setting you apart?
Yeah, I think it sets you apart. For me, I think it's also all about consistency.
So when you show up online, not only are you a little more authentic because you know who you are and it's easy to represent, but, and we're gonna talk about consistency because I think when you are on brand and every piece of content you put out screams you and your brand, you are consistent.
And people are like, “Oh, I know that's Jen Liddy.”
Right, even before they hear what you have to say, they can sense that, “Oh, this is Jen's brand or this is Kristin's brand.”
You know what this reminds me of? My mother was very moody when I was growing up and I never knew which mother I was going to get when I walked in the door.
I'm like, “Do I have happy mom today? Do I have crabby mom? Do I have angry mom? Do I have, ‘we're doing chores today’ mom?” I never knew.
But I get the sense that the consistent brand helps people know always what to expect from you as your business face.
Exactly. They know what to expect. If they're scrolling their feed, they should be able to recognize it once they get to know you.
So they're going to stop and pause. It also makes your job so much easier marketing your business because you have these set of principles when it comes to a brand and we're going to get into all these brand ingredients.
But again, I'm all about marketing effortlessly and just making things feel so much easier. And when you know your brand really well and you laid those foundations, it's very easy to do that.
You know, when I'm writing content, I feel like knowing my brand really well helps me.
I was just writing an email this morning, and I was like, “I wouldn't really use that word. I was gonna say prob instead of probably”, and I'm like, “I never say that in real life. I'm not going to say that just to save a few moments in my email” and so having that brand voice, it helps me know what I can write and like you said, write it easier.
The other thing that I think it does is it builds trust with your audience because if you say something that seems completely off-brand for you, for example…
My god I don't know if I've told you this but I got my Facebook ads account hacked and they started selling fourteen thousand dollars worth of ads to a Jesus loves you blanket.
And I was like, “I am not religious. I literally never talk about religion. I never talk about Jesus. That is not my brand at all.”
And so I was shocked when there were so many comments on it, when this hacker had overtaken my Facebook, and I was like, “Don't people get this isn't me? This is not me.”
So I feel like that's all really helpful stuff to know why a brand is super important. So our biggest mistake is we're just not thinking about it.
I think so. And I think it's… you haven't put in the time and it's not a lot of time, but to just really understand it.
Then you're wasting time also at the back end too, as you go through the marketing.
So I just think understanding your brand really well and thinking about how someone is experiencing your brand also makes marketing and creating content and everything else so much easier and effective.
Yeah, okay. So today you're gonna break down for us your system, I can't wait to hear.
By the end of it, we're gonna be able to feel like we can be more consistent, we understand what branding is, we can start to take the time to implement it in our businesses.
Yeah, exactly. Basically I want to break down my recipe for staying on brand, so that anytime you're creating a piece of content or updating your website or whatever it is, think about anything that's an online presence for you or lead magnet, whatnot, you can just quickly scan it and say, ‘Yup, I'm on brand.’
Creating the brand is a whole different thing and it's certainly something that I would love to help your listeners out with.
I walk through it in my membership, but that is a different story. But we're gonna walk through all the elements so you know what you need to create so that you can stay on brand.
So it is super simple and essentially there's five ingredients. We're calling it ingredients because I'm all about mixology and crafting a cocktail. So let's say you have five different bottles on the bar.
All you have to do is make sure that three of them are in your cocktail and three of them are in your piece, your content, and then you're good. And it's pretty simple.
So I'll just tell them really fast and then we can break them down. One is brand colors, two is design elements. So think of specific fonts, imagery, graphics.
Three is your brand voice, tone, personality, that vibe check that you're writing yourself. Four is your content pillars. And then five, is your messaging, word bank.
I also consider emojis in this, but those are the five. So if you can scroll through a piece of your content, a social media post, and say, ‘Yep, I have three brand elements in that piece,’ then to me, you're good.
It's super simple, just check to say ‘Okay, this piece is on brand. I'm consistent with my audience.’
All right, so break the first one down for us.
So brand colors.This is something we usually pick out, our brand colors right at the beginning when you do your logo. I will say your brand colors are allowed to evolve.
I like to have three main colors and two accent colors. You should pick colors that you enjoy because you're gonna be creating content.
You are the one looking at this all of the time. People are going to see maybe a tenth of your content. Sometimes it's even 3% of your content.
So when you're creating your colors, you're coming up with your colors, think about colors you like, that you will be happy designing with.
Maybe go in your closet, see what colors you wear most often, what pieces of jewelry you're drawn to. I picked my brand colors. They're orange and red based on my two favorite cocktails, which are a Negroni and an Aperol Spritz.
Aperol Spritz is what I consider my business’ cocktail. So, I picked those, but then I added in a couple other fun colors like blue and green that complement and I like thinking about making people's life easier when it comes to marketing so that they can enjoy vacations, they can have the mojito, that's the green, they can be outside the blue, so you have your idea of your colors.
Those are the colors, but stay consistent. Don't add in too many colors. I think colors are an easy way to create a cohesive brand.
I think from when I used to work with beginner entrepreneurs, it is also a place where they can spend a lot of time and get distracted and do that procrastination thing where they're like, “Oh, my colors need to be perfect before I can move on.”
So it's a place for you to waste a lot of time, I think.
A hundred percent. And I am a quick decision maker so I was just like, “Boom, those are the colors.” But then, they've evolved, right?
So I went with a brighter red over time or I've added in the blue and the green, I've added in a lighter yellow.
So anything with branding can evolve. Now you don't want to totally switch things up every other month.
Right? Because then you are definitely not staying consistent and having this cohesive brands that we want.
But if over time you realize, “You know what, it would be really nice to have this type of accent color on my website or to be able to play with a different color in Canva,” add that in, stay consistent with it.
But yes, anything that you do just launch. Those things can work themselves out because no matter what, like when you launch, trust me your business is going to change and evolve within the first year to 100%.
So nothing needs to be set in stone at the beginning.
Right. So then what's the next thing after that?
So design elements, some people may really be into polka dots or whatever.
For a while I went through a phase with my grandma, I had a lot of neon signs, or was using the neon font in Canva with the bar sign. Staying consistent with fonts.
One, it just makes it really easy. If you know in Instagram stories what font you use every single time, you don't have to go through and try everything. You can just \ put it up, right?
So if there's just any kind of design elements that you do, maybe you really like suns and you're using suns a lot or you know, whatever it is, but specific graphics.
I've gone through a big branding shoot at the end of last year. And so if I'm using one of those images, cause we went through a lot to make sure those images were on brand, I'm good. That's a big check for me.
Okay. What's the third one? This is, I think, more nuanced.
Kristin Lawton (15:48.514)
Brand voice. It is more nuanced and probably where you can speak a lot to this as well. But I think, my easy check for knowing your brand voice…
Well, my old one was to open up Grammarly and type in a piece in Grammarly and it will tell you what your tone of voice is.
My new trick is to go into Chat GPT and put in, maybe the first email of your welcome series or your lead magnet or something that you feel is well written to your brand, your voice and ask it, what is my brand voice?
What vibe am I giving off? What's the tone? And it will tell you what it is. ‘Cause sometimes you don't know, we think we're friendly.
We think we're relatable or empathetic or cheerful or professional. And then you really need to have a sense of what it is.
And I love using those tools because once you know specifically what Grammarly says your tone is, then every time if you have the Grammarly extension when you write the piece of content, you can just check ‘Is my tone in there’ and you're like, ‘Okay, I'm good. I'm on brand.’
I literally never thought about using AI for this, although I know it's a huge thing that people are talking about. I think that people get confused between using an AI tool as, “Oh, this is going to reduce my voice,” rather than asking it to define my voice or express, not express, but reflect my voice back to me, really.
So if you can just make that tweak in your head, it's not gonna take away your voice, it actually can reflect it for you.
100%. And if you do it, because then I will say, “I need to write a blog post today. Here's the outline. Will you draft it and put it in my brand voice?” Here's what you said my brand voice is.
And I literally copy what it told me, my brand voice is, the paragraph it gave me. And certainly there's tweaking, right?
Because I will ask it to put in mixology terms and it will just load it in. And I was like, “Okay, that does not sound like me.” Everyone will be like, ‘Someone else wrote that for you.’
But it certainly is a shortcut that I am loving these days to just get something on paper.
That's a really cool suggestion. Thank you for getting specific on that. And you're not saying these are in any particular order, or are they in order?
Oh no, definitely not. Nope. It was just how I wrote them on my notes for you. You know, it's really just you on fire.
Okay, okay, okay. Beautiful. So we're focused on our voice, the elements, whether that's our font, yes, design elements, and then colors. Okay, so those are the first three. What's next?
So next are your main content pillars. I know you talk about content pillars too. So the way that I teach is I think you have three main content pillars and then two more fun ones or things that you will talk about on occasion.
Cocktail is one for me. So for those, I think it's much more your main. Like people know that I'm gonna talk about branding, they're gonna talk about marketing.
And I'm going to be talking about systems and routines to make all of that more effortless. So as long as I'm talking about one of those, then I'm good, I can check it off.
And again, this is where you only have to choose three or five, because not every time am I going to talk about my main content pillar, but then I need to make sure that I still have two-three other things in that piece of content that I can check off.
As a content specialist from my experience, people tend to get really jammed up about their content pillars and they overcomplicate it.
And I love the examples that you just gave because you super simplified it. So under each one of those pillars, branding, marketing, and systems, those are your three top ones, you probably have a bajillion or infinite number of things that you can talk about.
You don't have to get jammed up about your content pillars. I actually told one of my clients when we were working on her pillars, “Let's not get precious with your content pillars. It's gonna be fine. We don't have to be precious about it.” She laughed. She knew, she laughed.
I love that. I was working with a client recently and she listed off all these pillars and I'm like, “Those are topics within a pillar.” And I was like, “Let's combine these into these insides. Like these are these groupings.” And so she realized like, “Yes, ‘cause they get very granular.”
Yeah, so think of buckets, pillars, like big, big containers. I love that we covered that. And then what would the last thing be to consider?
OK, so the last one is also probably a newer house. And this is your messaging and your word bank.
So if you've gone through the work to have your key messages in your brand story, then as long as you're always tying those back in, you have your word bank or your personal library or language library, whatever people have a lot of words, they call it. But those words that you use a lot, right?
So for me, because again, I have the mixology cocktail theme, I use cheers a lot, or different things, different ways that I say, I've got you or different types of words that I just use naturally as I talk.
And then I also think that everyone has three emojis that they use regularly in their business or that they should have three if you're someone that has a brand voice that is less professional tone and more in the friendly casual tone like me.
I think using a well-placed emoji is great. But consider what your brand emojis are and so you can use those too.
I think one of my brand emojis is the eye roll. It's my number one emoji every time I go to use emojis. It's right there.
Question about messaging and your word bank. How do you differentiate that for your clients between voice and the content pillars?
So when I think about messaging, when I work with my clients on messaging, we're really working on their full brand story. And a lot of it is around the stages of awareness.
So you're defining what the problem is, the solution that you're solving for them, why you're the right person to do this, what the transformation is, and giving them their general statement, their unique positioning.
And so we have crafted true key messages that you can just plug and play that then we're putting in your brand voice.
And they relate to your content pillars because likely you're helping them solve a problem they're experiencing in one of your content pillars.
So I'm helping people work on their brand. I'm helping people work on their marketing and solve the pain point of feeling overwhelmed by creating them systems.
And I think the word bank goes back to the brand voice a little bit, but not every time are you going to copy in a key message or pull from a key message?
And that's where having your brand voice in there is good because you may be a little off topic or just telling a story.
And so if your brand voice and personality is about being relatable or being a cheerleader, supportive, then your storytelling is gonna come through with those personality points. So it can be a little different from those.
I get the sense that each of these is very foundational and they do take time. For some people three of these things will be very easy, two will be very hard, but I want people to walk away from today feeling like if you're struggling with these, you don't have to struggle by yourself.
I think you've outlined the basics for what people need to be thinking about. And I love how you differentiated the messaging piece from content pillars and voice because that message is baked in goodness.
And if your message is not clear, it just makes everything else very messy.
Yes, certainly. A little message won't sell anything, right? And I think, as an example, I do think you should go through these once a year, twice every year.
I'm working through this with my membership right now. We're reworking on everyone's foundations. And we've done all five of these or four of these within a month, in about an hour to a week.
So it's not a lot of time if you have the right guidance, I don't think it takes much effort and time to craft these and feel confident in them.
But it is something that if you can't say that you can immediately name your content pillars or your colors or your three emoji, whatever it is, then it is time to take a step back, do a little homework.
It doesn't take too long to figure these out, but once you have them, you'll feel really confident in your brand and be able to create content easier.
Yeah, there was something I wanted to add in about one of my content pillars is you have to know yourself, your strengths and your challenges so that marketing actually works for you.
And a lot of times we're trying to do things that we've seen somebody like who's a mentor, somebody who's out there successful or perhaps like an internet guru doing or who has taught us, but it doesn't feel right to us.
And I think a really easy place to check in here with our conversation is are you a word person? If so, messaging might be easier for you. Content pillars might be easier for you.
Are you a visual person? If so, those first two that you talked about are gonna be way easier for you, all of those visual branding things.
Now for me, that is absolutely my kryptonite. So the person I hired to constantly help me is my right arm, Jessica, who always does all of my visual branding and stuff.
But if I had to do that by myself, and even when I do that by myself, so even when she's created something for me and I mess with it a little bit, I don't know how she hasn't killed me yet, but she kind of is like, “Oh my God, I have to fix this.”
And so just knowing your own proclivities and strengths, just lean into that. So you might not need a whole overhaul, but you might need to focus on the parts of your branding that are not your strength, and which is totally okay. We all can't be strong in everything.
100%. I mean, certainly not. I love the design stuff. I'm definitely more of a visual person. If you send me a long email, I'm skimming that type of a thing.
You know, I'm not reading all of the words. I'm good with messaging, but personally, I'm visual first. And that's where I think when you're a little weaker in or don't feel as confident in, that's when you lean into the system.
So for you, I would say you set up in Canva, for instance, your brand kit, so you can just click on the template that you're using, click on the design thing and it puts it in your brand colors, it puts it in your brand fonts and you don't even have to do anything else.
It just does it for you, right? You just choose one color or two colors and the two fonts and Instagram that you're going to use or whatever it is.
Yeah, you don't have to recreate the wheel. The other thing that I like about identifying your own strengths and your own challenges is you know where you need feedback from.
So if people are in your membership and they're like, “Oh my god, I suck at the visual stuff, Kristin, can you please look at this thing?” You're not doing it in a silo anymore going, “I don't know, this feels kinda good.” And you're like, “Oh my god, and this sucks so bad and here's why, let me help you shift that.”
And I think that's a really powerful thing when we know we don't have to figure it out on our own.
No, absolutely not. And sometimes you just need the confidence or the boost, right? Send it to some person and if you're questioning something, put it in a poll in a story and say, ‘Which colors are you more drawn to?’
Or this messaging versus this messaging and just ask people. No one's gonna criticize that, they're just gonna vote. And then sometimes I think so much of it is, even though you have the skills yourself and it's your brand, sometimes you just need someone else to say, yes.
That's true, and also, is that where you should be spending your time? Is that worth it for you? Because sometimes just because we can do something doesn't mean we should do it ourselves.
So I know that you have lots of resources for people in your content, how can people get into your orbit?
Yes. Well, you're talking about really understanding yourself. So I have this quiz that helps you understand how to really market your brand based on your personality and what feels really natural to you.
So I would definitely say start there. You really discover your signature brand marketing style. The results are all cocktail based.
I think, Jen, you might be on the rocks which is you're very confident, bold, you're very focused on your goals and checking tasks off your list. Super focused on strategy.
I am shaken. I like to infuse my personality into a lot of things and it's very social. So I give specific tips on how to market your brand based on your cocktail type.
And so you can go to MarketingStyleQuiz.com. So that is a great way to start. Everyone loves quiz and that leads you into my membership, The Marketing Bar, where I help you build your foundations of your brand marketing and systems.
So if you're like, “I need help on this,” I've got you covered. It's a whole course, plus one-on-one coaching with me, with the membership.
That's amazing. I really do think that the memberships and courses are so much more successful for people when there's a live person involved. I really believe strongly in that.
So I love hearing that you have that element built into your membership. Kristin, thank you so much for all of these gems today.
I feel like you've made it really palatable and consumable and really broke it down so that it's just not this amorphous idea of what branding is. It's just so clear. You did such a great job.
Right. It's very clear. You're welcome. Thank you for having me.
Thank you so much. Thank you. Listener, I appreciate you being here because I know how many freaking podcasts are out there. And I just appreciate that you've listened to this one.
If you've gotten this far, would you leave a review for us to let other people know that they can find Content Creation Made Easy to help them make content easier? I'll see you next week. Bye.