Zoom Dive Recordings | How to develop a strong brand identity for your creative business

Pink umbrella standing out in a sea of white umbrellas.

Developing a brand identity for your creative business involves much more than designing a logo and other visual elements. It includes every interaction your business makes with your target audience.

We quizzed branding and strategy expert Anne Bourgeois-Vignon in what turned out to be an immensely popular Zoom Dive event to learn how to get brand creation right. Anne has been instrumental in shaping countless brands, from travel and tech platforms such as trivago and culture trip to cultural and media platforms such as Nowness and Magnum Photos.  

If you missed this Zoom Dive live, don’t worry. We captured the key insights Anne shared with us during this valuable conversation…

Anne’s journey to where she is today

“I started life as a creative. I was a photographer and photo director, but I soon realised I was a better leader and collaborator than an artist! I became very interested in what makes brands work and how they acquire audiences. That was pivotal for me, and my role transitioned into strategy. I now juggle creative direction with strategy and consultancy.

I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum in terms of brands, having worked with startups and very large corporations. Recently, I was fractional CMO for a brand called Road.Travel. I’ve worked with a startup inside a heritage brand, for example, Nowness, part-owned by LVMH. I also started off a new B2C division inside of Magnum Photos, another heritage brand. My role as a branding strategist involves helping clients like these leverage culture and creativity to create something new.”

What a brand actually is

“A brand is every single manifestation and touchpoint that an organisation has with its customers, employees and other partners. And how that interaction or touchpoint feels and looks to the person receiving it.

A brand isn’t just a set of logos, colours and photographic guidelines. It’s much more than that. It includes all the stuff that’s not touchable – the fabric of your organisation, how a brand makes you feel. The work is in figuring out what comes before these more tangible things.”

Branding for creative businesses

“What’s interesting about creative brands is that they leverage contemporary culture in a unique way to distinguish themselves from potential competitors. They have to have a deep understanding about where they operate, in terms of contemporary culture, to be able to have a point of view. A good example is Hotel Il Pellicano (in Italy).

Also, creative brands can be very intertwined with their founders – sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between what’s part of the makeup of the founder and what are the essential components of the brand.”

The starting point for creating a brand

“Usually, I start to unpick and decipher where a business is ‘now’ and where it wants to be in the future. Also, who the brand is for and what the audience should feel after interacting with it.

That forms the basis of a simple structure of deciding what you believe in, why you’re in business and what informs how you will conduct your business. Those three things can then answer a multitude of questions, like ‘Should I invest in this?’, ‘How should I write my employee handbook?’ and ‘Who should I collaborate with?’ 

All these types of decisions can be simplified once you have a clear understanding of your brand, and why it’s like that. Having a strong brand for your creative business is like having a friend to help you make a decision – a clear set of guidelines that enables you to steer your ship.”

Tips on the brand-building process

“My best tip is Post-its! My phone is full of pictures, like mind maps of boards made with Post-its. It’s about emptying your brain and thinking logically about those exploratory questions: ‘What is this?’ ‘Where do I want to go?’ ‘Who’s it for?’ and ‘How will they feel about it?’ Then, you can start to build a mind map. With Post-its, you can move your ideas around easily.

When doing this process, be true to yourself and really think about the value you’re adding to the people you’re interacting with. Say you want to write a book about how to make a positive impact on sustainability in the world. Ask yourself, what are the other books out there that have been written about this subject? What will your book be adding that’s new and relevant? If you know who’ll be reading this book, what have they read before? And what is your book going to create in terms of knowledge?

Being honest with yourself is an important part of brand building because you can’t just build a brand because it feels nice. A brand is essentially a mode of communication, a vehicle through which you communicate. A brand is an objective, a set of feelings, a view on the world, that must be differentiated. Because otherwise, why would anyone choose your brand?”

Involving employees in brand building

“If you have more than one employee, you’ve got to get them involved because people have an opinion and they can also sense check. That conversation between a founder and their employee – or a sample of people across the business – brings a much richer dimensionality to the exercise of brand building.

Sense checking is key. It’s all well and good, for example, writing out a set of values but you’ve got to validate it with your team. Because if they don’t feel that your business currently embodies those values, then that’s a really important conversation to have.”

Other elements crucial to brand building

“Once you’ve got your brand beliefs, vision, mission and values – maybe your positioning statement too – you can start to work on delivering a visual and stylistic way of interpreting your brand (your brand identity). That means deciding on your business name, logo, trademark, typeface, colour palette, tone of voice and visual direction for imagery, illustration, animation and photography. This is your core set of brand guidelines.

Then, you must understand how those guidelines manifest on different touchpoints, such as your digital channels, a business card, tote bag or brochure. Your brand needs to be implemented across the entirety of your output to really work.”

Putting together a good brand brief for a creative agency

“For a good brand brief, you need to have your brand fundamentals ready, like who you are, what you’re doing, where you want to be, what your values are, etc. It’s also worth noting your competitors and which other brands inspire you. And which markets you’re trying to penetrate.

I always like to include a mood board with imagery that I find striking. Before the briefing process, it’s essential to pick someone whose work you love and who’s done interesting things in your space. Have a conversation with them and see what they think about your business. Get their view on design, and make sure that what they do is something you feel good about.”

Defining tone of voice

“Deciding on the right tone of voice is really about thinking who the brand is for and what role it will play in their life. So, is the brand aimed at a 40-year-old bachelor? Is it trying to be their mate? Or is the brand for an 18-year-old university student, and is it trying to be their mentor?

Online, you’ll find information about creating brand archetypes, which is a good way of understanding the brand’s personality. Also, thinking about the brand as a person or a friend gives you an excellent insight into how they might interact with you.

Are they someone with a lot of expertise and knowledge? Are they friendly and helpful? Or are they someone who’s more formal and doesn’t give things away too easily? That might inform, for example, how they start their emails. If it’s a friendly brand, the newsletter might begin with ‘Hey’. If it’s very formal, it might start with ‘Hello’ or ‘Dear…’.

It’s about imagining all the attributes your brand will inhabit, which are derived from your values. And it’s about giving yourself time to distil them into a way of being formal, informal, friendly, distant, chatty, reserved, playful, witty, humorous, straight talking, etc.”

The best time for rebranding

“The industry modus operandi is to refresh your brand every three to five years. With a refresh, it might be that your logotype isn’t fit for purpose anymore, so you need to tweak it and ensure you’ve got different orientations for it. Or you might need a simplified version of your marque because you’re launching some new products. Or you might be creating a bigger set of guidelines or cutting down on things you’ve found haven’t been useful over time.

An example of a full rebrand is when you completely change the logo, colours and fonts. That’s a huge deal, especially in a bigger organisation where you have to implement it through every single possible channel. It’s so much work. You don’t want to do that very often!

When you start applying your brand against a more contemporary feel of photography or imagery, for instance, and you find it looks bad, then you know it’s time to refresh or rebrand. Equally, if you’re finding that what you’re communicating isn’t hitting home, you might want to test your brand and just make sure that it’s not the brand itself that’s stopping you from being able to communicate with your audience. So, is the brand fit for purpose? Is it suitable for your audience?”


We’d like to thank Anne for participating in our Zoom Dive event and sharing a whole host of tips and insights on branding for creative entrepreneurs. Connect with Anne on LinkedIn to learn more about her work.

Creative Entrepreneurs Zoom Dives are free, virtual one-to-one conversations between a creative industry expert and our founder, Carolyn Dailey. Discover our upcoming events.