Why values ?
One sunny afternoon in August a long time ago (like two months or so) I decided I would go out there, rent a space at a trade fair, pull my crafting projects together, make a decent amount of products, different in prices, hence affordable to a lot of people and call myself an emerging designer. I would sell it all out in a weekend, have a successful online shop in under a week and certainly a homepage within a week or two, my followers’ numbers would explode as people see what awesome goodies I have to offer. I would live happily ever after in that peaceful world producing the unique handmade „stuff“. It will fly off the shelves, I shall drink coffee and count my blessings. And money. I was too naive.
But don’t blame the naives: some decent amount of naivety and courage and faith are good ingredients in the starter mixture, right?
I’ve had some sales at the trade fair, though I felt a bit misplaced there, and that’s another story. This story begins as I start asking questions how to grow bigger and get visible, because being emerging is not enough. I see many fellow crafters and entrepreneurs mentioning values, vision, brand message, branding: all common features to give structure and help create clear visible outlines for a business for better communication.
Let me ask you: what do you think of values? If you’ve read until here, that’s because you probably want to find them too. And there’re some helpful questions to get you into the right state of mind, so let’s move on.
I’m not an expert and I am hustling to define my own business values too. They didn’t open up accidentally, and feeling like I was lacking them made my communication difficult and not focused. Drawing helps me sometimes get my ideas out of the unconscious into the realm of words, like this one:
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So why make a brand?
Look at the tree. Values are placed at the bottom. And above there’s a lot of attributes that could apply to my business, a.k.a the „leaves“. They get nurtured by the values, and yes, in a certain way represent them. The „leaves“ will shape a brand, give it visibility, but you still need values deep down so that the mechanics work properly.
Ever tried to sum up and write down what your business is about? Has it helped you? I hope it did, it didn’t help me though. Making mind maps and waiting for useful connections and the eagle perspective to miraculously open up and that we all get wiser and see beyond what’s visible can sometimes work and sometimes not. Where and how should we look for values?
Values are about why you do what you do. Are you in a crafting business? Are you blogging? Are you working hard to create a beautiful and inspiring Instagram feed? Why do you do this? For instance: „Because I love this technique, and support that attitude, and appreciate some other cultural trend etc“. Looks more like summing up of what’s visible („leaves“), but not quite that substantial, so let’s change the question.
What gives a meaning to your business?
E.g.: „I create my awesome stuff because I want people to look at it and smile, and feel happy, and feel joy“ – that may apply for makers of all things tangible. Because you certainly make beautiful products, and we normally feel better when we see something beautiful, don’t we? Or, another example – „I create/write/spread my other stuff because I want people to connect, to get inspired to (e.g.: craft and dive into handmade), and feel better“ – that may apply for creators of a not so tangible content. When we feel inspired we feel like there’s a purpose and a meaning, and that makes us feel better. This could be an idea of how to explain a meaning of your business and why it’s important to you.
Visual vs. emotional
Is your business about handcrafting? Some of your friends surely like what you do. Now watch closer. Each of our friends may need some emotional support. Some of us bake cakes to help, others write songs, and others grow flowers, buy a book or a card. Making something for others means sending a message, a message with positive emotions. You wouldn’t describe a product that you buy/make in visual terms, you would rather pull it together emotionally – not „that’s a cute card with gorgeous flowers painted by X“, but „I hope that looking at it helps you to X and makes you think of Y, etc“.
Now if there’s an abstract stranger/customer looking at what you have on your brand’s virtual plate, ask yourself: would your product help him/her feel better, or more joyful, less stressed, get connected, happier, inspired, make him/her smile, sparkle an idea?
We see things differently. Scandinavian can be too muted (interior) and white washed, or colorful (take Marimekko), or pattern crazy (retro). All visible attributes. So are your products, so are mines – they get lots of opinions, based on how they look like. „White washed“ is visual, but „calming“ is emotional. „Colorful“ is visual, „energizing“ is emotional. Seeing those emotional relationships between your brand and your customers can help to better understand what is special about what you do and why you are doing it, and that’s what values are about. What’s next? Knowing values is good for communication.
Make values work: open tabs
Lets look at how to use values. Remember that abstract customer? And the products that make him/her smile or make him happy, inspired, or whatsoever? And that your products should carry that emotional message? How to better present this message so that people feel more or less the way you want them to feel? That’s where the communication enters the game. Remember the positive emotions? The communication needs to base on them, on making our lives better, making us think and maybe first motivate us to change something to live better. Making us laugh, making us smile, share with others, making us feel good and keep going.
I said I’m not an expert. And my values are somewhere on their way. On their way to me, because working on them helps me better shape my brand and focus the creative process. On their way to others, because I adapt the products, see the deeper stories around them, stories that arise differently than visually. All that helps me to work to improve the communication and make connections.
Sometimes I think in a more buddhistic way of „values“ being a road, not a destination. Just keep walking, you’re already doing an awesome job, one step at a time!
What do you now think of values? I hope this small piece of advice has been helpful and brought some insights into the mechanics of branding/values.
I would greatly appreciate your feedback and suggestions. Please comment in the section below.
Next scheduled posts:
(up on blog once a week, scheduled for November 2016):
2/5 Learning from others
4/5 Making mistakes, making progress
5/5 Building a place to call home