August 23, 2021
In this episode Emma speaks to Gabrielle Blades of Blades Creative Design Studio about visual branding, when to rebrand, and her epic brand relaunch earlier this year. We talk about not skipping a step, alignment, community and celebrating milestones.
In this episode Emma speaks to Gabrielle Blades of Blades Creative Design Studio about visual branding, when to rebrand, and her epic brand relaunch earlier this year. We talk about not skipping a step, alignment, community and celebrating milestones.
Blades Creative Design Studio serves as an advocate and designer for creative, lifestyle, and wellness brands, bringing their purpose and potential out into the world.
02:33 Before you hire a brand designer
11:16 Amplifying brand through packaging
18:47 The right time for a rebrand
30:30 Gabby’s launch and party
1:00:34 Website traffic
1:01:16 Favourite place on the internet
1:01:47 What are you looking forward to most?
1:02:27 What to do next
Find Blades Creative Design Studio
Gabrielle Blades 0:00
It felt like a party for me. From the moment the invitations went out to the end of the launch party because everything was exciting all the time.
Emma Peacock 0:14
Welcome to the Digital Hive Podcast where we talk all things digital marketing for small businesses. On this episode, I spoke with Gabby of Blades Creative Design Studio about visual branding, when to rebrand, and her epic brand relaunch earlier this year, we talked about not skipping a step, alignment community and celebrating milestones. Blades Creative Design Studio serves as an advocate and designer for creative, lifestyle and wellness brands, bringing your purpose and potential out into the world. Gabby and I met in the Being Boss Community and have regular chats with two of our other business friends to chat all things business. So I had a front row seat to how she went through this branding process. I hope you enjoy listening to this chat about branding and the brand design process and that we can spark some ideas for your own business. Welcome to the podcast, Gabby, to get us started. Tell us about you and your business.
Gabrielle Blades 1:04
Hey, I'm Gabrielle blades, and I own Blades Creative Design Studio, which is a branding and packaging design company here in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It specializes in working with creative, lifestyle and wellness brands. And I just love what I do.
Emma Peacock 1:23
So maybe I wonder before we dive into fully like, how does this work for business owners, maybe if you can explain for us what a brand designer does.
Gabrielle Blades 1:36
No, that makes sense. So a brand designer such as myself will get to know a small business or existing business, do the research about their audience, how they're going to connect with their clients, the history of their business, and what you know what makes that business meaningful. And they take all of that information and they create a beautiful visual image and visual style for a business in order for them to market themselves. So that can mean logo design, the colors that go with it, the typography or fonts that go with it. And then overall, sometimes we'll even explore the general voice but not like a copywriter would. So sometimes the research that I do as a brand designer can be passed on to your copywriter, or your photographer or your web designer, and they can take that research and build the brand out even more so than I can.
Emma Peacock 2:33
Awesome. So what can a business owner do to prepare on their own before they hire a brand designer?
Gabrielle Blades 2:42
So this is something that I just had to do for myself, again, kind of, but I highly recommend having all of your services ready to go and doing the research that only you can do. So there are sometimes people that come to me and they say, okay, I've had this business for six months, I don't know what my services are just yet, I'm still putting my packages together. Or they just, they're just so new, they don't even have a name yet, or they're like considering different names. So before you approach a professional brand expert, I recommend going all out with their research and like working with a coach or joining a community like both of us have, and like working through all of your services, working through your pricing, figuring out who your audience is. And it might surprise you once you do that research like who your actual audience is. Like for myself, I've really niched down into creative entrepreneurs, lifestyle businesses and wellness businesses. When before I like, I had no idea that that would be the case, until I started realizing like, oh, those are the clients I really enjoy working with, I'm going to keep working with them. So definitely figure out what your actual services are. I would also figure out how you like to work with people. So whether you have a retail shop or a services based business, I would figure out what your boundaries are, how you communicate with your clients, like figure out what your processes are, because that's going to say a lot about who you are, and how you talk to your audience. And it might completely change what kind of brand you have. You might be somebody who brands yourself as 24 hour service. Or you might be somebody who like myself brands herself as like, don't email me past 6pm or you're not going to hear from me in that, that I think that can go those two things are like luxury brand. Like I think luxury brands are like less accessible in a way and I don't mean that in an exclusive way but like you need to know how available you're going to be because that is going to inform what your brand looks like and what you're talking about and how you're communicating with people.
Emma Peacock 5:05
Yeah, for sure. I feel like if you were to, like hire someone and pay someone to create a brand for you, but they're creating it based on how much you know about your business, if you don't know very much about your business, you could end up with a brand that doesn't maybe jive with what you had in your head? Because you don't have that information to actually share with the brand designer.
Gabrielle Blades 5:25
Yes, yes, exactly.
Emma Peacock 5:28
Yeah, I see how that would be like, super important.
Gabrielle Blades 5:30
Right, the brand designer can only read your mind so much. And they can only pull out so much information from the history and the information you provide for them. I can do a lot of deep diving, but I always recommend that people who approach me, like even make a 10 word word list, like put 10 words down that represent your business. I mean I recommend doing more. But 10 is usually like about where my clients get in. And they're like, I don't know. And I'm like, that's a great exercise in general. And I know that Being Boss has like the values test that you can take, like figure out your values, like, are you somebody who you know, values spirituality in your business, whatever that may mean, you might have a crystal shop. And that might be a part of that. Or maybe you're a crystal shop that doesn't have that involved at all. So the values go into what your brand is so much as well. And there are often the cases where you have some set of values and boundaries and the kind of audience for the first three years and then you recognize it's not working, and then you shift at some point. And so a lot of times, I recommend people doing something a little simpler for their brand for the first few years until they really like feel into the business and recognize what's going to stick and what's not going to stick and then really going through a serious, more serious and like in depth process a little later on in the business.
Emma Peacock 7:03
Yeah. And I also feel like if you don't say have like gone through that process of figuring out some of the stuff, your brand designer is going to need to like do some of that time with you. So it kind of like makes the project a little bigger than it would be if you had figured it out. Like, all on your own, atleast to a point.
Gabrielle Blades 7:20
I completely agree. And the fact that they might lead you to another resource. So you might approach your brand designer and feel like you're ready, go through their questionnaire or go through like the first part of their process. And then you might realize, or they might realize, like, Oh, you need to read this specific book, or maybe you should go talk to this person first, in order to be ready for this process and really commit to it. So for me, and I'm my best client at this point, to give an example of, like I had to go through the StoryBrand process in order to actually move forward with my services. And I had to hire a copywriter in order to actually move forward with what I like, thought my brand was going to be, I needed more resources in order to say like, Oh, my brand is going in the direction of this like magical, intuitive realm. But it took having an outsider, besides myself, besides a visual brand designer to take those words and take my language and figure that out for me. So it's so much more than just that visual brand.
Emma Peacock 8:34
This comes up in marketing too. So like, if I'm, I have a similar questionnaire that clients fill out once they're onboarding with me. And a lot of the questions are about their brand. Because if I don't understand your brand, it makes it really hard for me to market it. And what makes it doubly hard is when the people either the business owner, or maybe if they have a team, like if the team who are approving the content, don't know what the brand is, then we're gonna like, not conflict, but like we just have more rounds of changes because like, we're not looking at the same thing on paper.
Gabrielle Blades 9:11
Yeah, I could see how that would complicate things.
Emma Peacock 9:15
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Gabrielle Blades 9:16
You're, you're using the tools of the brand and putting it on everything. So if it's inconsistent, and no, and everybody's using a different thing, which I've witnessed so many times, like it becomes so it becomes a bad work environment in general. So making sure that everything's consistent for you. I mean, that's what, I'm turning it around now where I'm like, Okay, well, if somebody were looking for marketing services, what do they have to do first? They would have to talk to me first, and then I'd be like, here's Emma.
Emma Peacock 9:49
And then also, like, if a brand is inconsistent, as it exists before, say a marketing person comes in and starts working with it, it will only become more inconsistent, if that makes sense. Unless they just like, take it like and mold it to what they want. They're gonna have to work with the business owner on that, because it's already not like a tiptoe, but like, it's already a thing to make a brand seem consistent, but slightly different on like, website, social, email. So then if everything was like, I dunno, like, some of the messaging was inconsistent, or the messaging was inconsistent with the brand visuals then? Who knows what that would end up looking like? That's what we're trying to avoid.
Gabrielle Blades 10:47
Totally, totally, there just are so many steps that I always recommend, like listening to podcasts like this, and like making your checklist and making sure that you're taking all the steps and not skipping them. Because otherwise, you're just gonna have to go back and redo it again. Or you're not going to find the right designer for you, or the right marketing person for you.
Emma Peacock 11:08
I feel like we could summarize that whole thing into like, Don't skip a step.
Gabrielle Blades 11:12
Don't skip a step, period. Do the work.
Emma Peacock 11:16
Exactly. Yes. So when it comes to thinking about packaging design, for businesses who have, you know, products and like tangible stuff, what are some of the elements that can help to define the brand and amplify the feeling of the brand in their packaging?
Gabrielle Blades 11:37
I'm pretty sure you're talking about physically, right, like when you're looking at it when you're feeling it. Okay. So this is one of my favorite things, and I get a little nerdy about it. But one of my favorite ways to emphasize a brand and packaging is the kind of paper or the kind of label paper that you use, and then also the kind of ink that you're using. So I'm super lucky and have an amazing printer here in Chattanooga, and he will experiment with ink and paper with me all day, it's so nice. So I'm a big fan of like a textured paper or a colored paper with white ink, or you know, using some foil or gold ink. But I have to say, if your branding does not call for these special things, and you're more of like a minimalistic brand. Don't fall for it just because you think it's cool, I think that can be an easy thing to fall into. So a good example is The Bitter Bottle, she has several different products. And her her brand is very illustrative. And so we worked really hard to get nice and illustrative and beautiful and custom. And we wanted to use gold ink on some of them. But it never made sense until a special edition came out. And so it was worth us waiting until the special edition came out. And then the the there's another one it's like the single tinctures so those two designs have gold ink on them. But the original bitters do not have gold ink on them. And I look back and I'm really glad that we were patient, and didn't add the special ink ahead of time. So we could have those opportunities later for something more special. So great ways to emphasize your packaging are so like, let's say you had different colored paper for each product too so you could use the paper color instead of the ink color to emphasize different things. This is another place where different logo types that you have are going to be really important. So I'm going to use The Bitter Bottle as an example a lot. But she uses her emblem or her logo mark on her packaging on the front of it and then uses her horizontal typographic logo on the back. So packaging is a really fun place where you can experiment with how you're using your actual logos and like what works where and where do you actually need to have your full business name and where can you use the imagery that comes with it comes with your business. And The Herbiary is another one that I did that for so we took Maia Toll's Herbiary logo which was like very illustrative and detailed. And the whole goal of that project was to take that and make a more simplified version of her logo for these very tiny packages. And her packaging ended up having like, I think it was maybe three different versions of the original logo for the packaging for different sized products. So the larger products had a specific version of the logo, and then like the tiny essential oils had the most simplified version, but you know that all of it is coming from the same company in the same business. So packaging can be a really fun place to experiment with your brand and not not stray away from your consistency but add to it in a really interesting way.
And then what else? I mean, of course, I'm gonna I'm like a huge fan of copywriting right now. Ask me a year ago if I felt that way, but like, what are what did copywriters do, which sounds silly, but the copywriting for packaging says so much because think about when you go to a store and you pick something up and you start to read, like we read packaging, because we need to know what it is. So if it says if it's funny and quirky, like, you're gonna get that person who's looking for a funny and quirky product, or like they're attracted to comedy, if it's super serious and informative, you're going to get the person who's looking for, you know, maybe something really logistical and like, what if they're looking for a bitters for their immune health, and they want to know the facts, like you're gonna attract those people. So I think packaging can, you can say so much on one tiny little package. And then the last thing I want to say is the way that it sits on the shelf. So when you think about how you're presenting your products to people, this might be online, but it also might be at a retail shop. And so how do these packages look next to each other? Do they create one big image? Are they individual images on their own? And does it look consistent with your brand across the board? Like do these products each look like they're supposed to be next to each other? And that they're from the same brand? So I think that's so important, is it even visible and different from the other things that are going to be sitting next to it? So are Kaleena's Bitters (The Bitter Bottle) going to stand out on the shelf at their liquor store compared to Dr. Thatcher's, which I think is another Chattanooga company. So like doing your audience comparison or your competitor comparison and seeing like, Oh, well, how am I standing out from them? And how am I talking to my audience differently using visuals? And more?
Emma Peacock 17:00
Yeah, I have never noticed a paper texture more than when I picked up that like Bitter Bottle. I was like, Oh my god, so many different cool things on it.
Gabrielle Blades 17:11
Emma Peacock 17:12
I mean, we have cool brands in New Zealand, but I feel like so often I'm like going to the supermarket and everything kind of like blends in together. But when you think about it, so much of stuff that's at the supermarket is from like five big brands. And then they just have little brands below it. So like when you can see an independent thing. It sticks out on purpose. And it's like, look at me. So you can do that in like all aspects of packaging, not just when it comes to the supermarket.
Gabrielle Blades 17:43
Yes. But the supermarkets such a good example of that. Because there's usually like one specific local brand that might get in the grocery store. And you notice it because I don't know what I guess they're not doing things in bulk as much so they have to go with like maybe the less special stuff. I'm not really sure.
Emma Peacock 18:02
Yeah, I think they just launched in the States. But we have a New Zealand they are one of their like bigger brands, like umbrella companies. But it's Monday Haircare. And the packaging and all of their brand everywhere is pink. So you walk down the supermarket aisle, and there's all this like jumble of colors. And then there's just like a block of pink. And I wonder if that's like, the key to their success. I mean, like hopefully their product is good.
Gabrielle Blades 18:27
It might be like I would be attracted to it. I love that so much.
Emma Peacock 18:32
But that's brand for you.
Gabrielle Blades 18:33
Yeah, they were thinking about what they were looking like on the shelf, and I can highly appreciate that.
Emma Peacock 18:40
Yeah, for sure. So you went through a rebrand this year.
Gabrielle Blades 18:46
I did. Yeah.
Emma Peacock 18:47
So I would love to know, for businesses who have a brand already. But maybe they're not feeling aligned with it anymore. Or they just want something new. Maybe they DIY'd their first brand. When do you think is the right time for them to consider an actual rebrand visually?
Gabrielle Blades 19:09
So a big part of your rebrand is going to be noticing are your logos that you have even usable? So a lot of the time when somebody approaches me, that's one of the first questions I ask is, if they have one, if they have a brand already. And if they do, did they work with a designer? And if they worked with the designer or not, what kind of logo file so they have, what do they actually have? Do they have a color scheme? Do they have a brand guide? Did they go through a strategy session all of this stuff? Oftentimes, when they approach me the answer is no. But if they did work with a designer, the other option is that they do have a logo but they got it from an online source and they only have a JPEG. That's like low resolution and they don't know how to use it. And it comes in only black and white. So those are some big factors there a lot of red flags, like if you're frustrated using the branding that you have, you probably need a new brand. If you're Yeah, if people are complaining that your branding isn't readable, or they don't understand it, let's let's remove understand it because I'll get to that in a second. But if they can't read the business name, that's a problem. If it's like too busy or jumbly, and just not made well, and it doesn't look like a logo, it looks more like a sticker design, or like a cool tattoo. I would say that maybe you need to rethink it. Like there were, there are so many versions of this that I could give you like, when do you need to rebrand. If your values change, like that's more deep. But if your services change, or your values change, you probably need a rebrand. I had someone recently that I talked to, she's a bookkeeper. And we're about to start working together. And she was debating whether or not to be. And I guess hopefully she's okay with me saying this out loud. But like, whether it's going to be Master Bookkeeping Solutions or Master Business Solutions, and I was like, that's a pretty big difference. And the word is in the middle of the name. Before we go through this rebrand, you need to make a final decision on what your business name is. And she was like, can't we just fix it later? And I was like, No, especially because bookkeeping is in the middle of the name. I was like, if it were something such as Master Solutions, and then it said bookkeeping services underneath, or business services underneath, we could work with that. But you can't just you can't just change everything you do in the middle of everything you're trying to do, which this is all very vague, but you can't just change your entire business and what your services are, if that's exactly what your logo is telling people you do, because that's going to be so confusing. And then you're going to have to rebrand everything. So that goes to like the first question that you asked of? What, what was the first question? How do you prepare? before you use it was the question about how to prepare? Yeah, like, even your business name, that's a huge part of your brand. It's like the main part of your brand. Like, if your business name doesn't match or describe what you're doing, that's a problem. So that might be the first part of your rebrand is figuring out what your new name is. And we talk about that on being boss a lot. I feel like a lot of us come to come to the group, and we're like, should I rename my business? And most of the time, we say no, but there are times when it makes sense.
Emma Peacock 22:57
There's also the great debate of do I name the business my name? Or the business name? Sometimes, yes, a rebrand too is like, I wanna make this bigger than myself. And I've only been a freelancer. So that's the thing, too.
Gabrielle Blades 23:11
We talk about that a lot. So much. And it's it is, it can be hard, a hard question to answer. I think sometimes, it feels like the easy way out to choose your name. But if people are working directly with you, that's how I felt when I was naming my business. I was like, yeah, that's cool. That's cool. Last name, it works out. I got lucky and kind of relates to design in a way not really. But when people are working directly with you, your name makes sense. Or if you're doing a coaching service, or if you're consulting, like all of those things make sense with your name. And a designer can take you and your business and create this really awesome suite for you to use. And yeah, it just I don't know. I don't know.
Emma Peacock 24:03
I guess it's kind of like, the things that are at odds with each other. So like, if you say, if you were, you know, the businesses named after you personally. And then you grew the business to a size where the clients didn't maybe necessarily work with you one on one at any point in the process. And it was getting to a point where people were like, Oh, I thought I was signing up to work with you. Like, I mean, this is kind of like a big company example. But like VaynerMedia, for example. Yeah, people don't like it's not like Gary Vaynerchuk services, like, right, as much as their name is in there. And as much as it's in Blades Creative Design Studio. It's not like Emma Peacock, the freelancer, like, you know. There's a difference there. And so sometimes, I guess you people must like graduate at some point. Occasionally, when they go from one to the other so that's another time too.
Gabrielle Blades 24:57
I love that point. I completely agree. There's a, there's a shift that happens, the more employees you take on, and the less the more you step out of your business. I feel like I'm making that transition, sort of because I started at Blades Creative. And now in order to continue to grow into the business, I added Design Studio. I don't know how much of a difference it really makes, but I'll let you know.
Emma Peacock 25:22
If it makes a difference to you, I feel like it also like, I guess a big thing would be like, if you don't like showing people your branding anymore, it's probably time for a rebrand. Yeah, but like, that's probably a decision people are going to be able to make on their own. But like, if you're on the fence, I guess let's just like look at whether it encompasses what, what you actually do, and is it time for a shift, because that initial decision you make at the start of your business doesn't have to define the entire lifespan of your business. It can. And if it works, it works. But like, a rebrand is possible.
Gabrielle Blades 26:02
Totally possible. I yeah, there have been circumstances at networking events, pre COVID, where people would approach me, especially as a designer, and they would give me their business card and be like, Here's my card. It's not very good. And my branding kind of sucks. And I'm not sure about the name yet. It might change. But like, maybe we can go have coffee soon. And I'm like, Oh my God, if you're, if this is how you feel about your business overall, basically, you hate the business name, or you're on the fence about it. You think your business card is lame, and you don't like your branding, like that says so much. And then they don't want to like invest back into it. I'm like, well, you are like, that says so much about the confidence that a great brand can bring you so if you're feeling that way, it's like an emotional experience. You, you probably need to get a rebrand. I feel like there should be a button. There's a button that I need to carry around. That's like you probably need to get a rebrand. Yeah.
Emma Peacock 27:01
Yeah, I feel like, yeah, like, there's got to be a level of confidence there. I mean, if they literally leading I mean, whether they say this to people who aren't in branding, but it's kind of like you literally lead with my business does this but I kind of don't like it. It's like, yeah, I really want to work with you. I would, I would love to hire you to be my like bookkeeper or accountant, whatever. Because you have so much trust in yourself. Like,
Gabrielle Blades 27:28
yeah, it directly affects, yes, it affects how people view what you do. Even if you're brand new, if you're not a brand designer, if you're an accountant who hates their branding, and you're introducing yourself that way. That's how people are going to read into it. And it might not it might be completely subconscious.
Emma Peacock 27:51
Yeah. Yeah, that thing of like, I don't know, like, everyone's, as much as they want to make sure that your brand like aligns with them in a second when they land on your website. Everyone's kind of thinking about themselves. Like, your brand needs to like connect with people, but they're not going to be like super hyper critical of it.
Gabrielle Blades 28:11
Emma Peacock 28:11
In a like, let's have a 45 minute conversation about your branding before I decide whether I work with you. But it needs to like draw in the right people for you to enjoy your business. Yeah.
Gabrielle Blades 28:21
Yes. Just make sure it doesn't look like shit.
Emma Peacock 28:24
Yeah, yeah, if it looks like shit you think it looks like shit, get a rebrand.
Gabrielle Blades 28:28
Get a rebrand it's time for a rebrand
Emma Peacock 28:33
Or if you're like turning away the right people, I guess but like, a lot of it comes down to like confidence. Yeah, yeah.
Gabrielle Blades 28:40
Yeah. Yeah. I never thought about it that way.
Emma Peacock 28:43
Gabrielle Blades 28:44
But too when people do go through a rebrand with me or get a brand in general, there is a definite difference of the before and after. Like if we took before and after pictures of the actual client on how happy they were, it would be a cheesy, like, TV commercial of a before and after, where somebody looks completely distraught compared to somebody who's like so excited about their business and like so ready and smiling. There's a huge difference.
Emma Peacock 29:15
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I feel like maybe that's like a new thing. Take the before and after of like, the frazzed version and the like, I'm not gonna cover it to go outside. Like, share this with everyone.
Gabrielle Blades 29:26
Yes. That's my favorite part about the end of the process is like seeing how much more confident the clients look.
Emma Peacock 29:34
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So when I got a new logo (and brand visuals) last year, I shared it on social media. And I like put it in all of the different places. But I didn't make a big deal about it. I'm launching a new website in the next couple months. So I'll probably make a bigger deal about that one. But when you rebranded you went to a whole other level. So, walk us through what you did.
Gabrielle Blades 31:00
Okay, how much time do you have? Um, so first off, I have to say, thank you. For you, I think it makes so much sense to make a big deal about the new website, than like the logo, because you are so web involved, like, so digital, everything. And for me, because I don't do web design I like had I like wanted to do everything at one time and like make it a print experience as well. And also, it's just how the timeline ended up working out. I How did I even begin that process. So the whole reason I rebranded was because like I said earlier, my values kind of changed, like I changed as a person and the people that I work with work directly with me. And I was finding myself working with basically anyone, just to like continue to grow the business rather than work with a specific kind of client or on a specific kind of project. And I think it took a lot of like self reflection and working with other bosses and talking to other bosses and, you know, reading a lot of books, to realize I don't have to do everything, in order to be successful, I might actually be more successful if I just chose the very specific things I really enjoy doing and like charged the right amount. And like put those boundaries in place, I might feel better, you know, work better enjoy the people I'm working with, feel less stressed out. So that was the that was a really big part of the process was the emotional and the mental part of it. And then I had to start implementing those boundaries. So like the implementation of me only taking on specific clients happened before the visual rebrand happened. And that helped guide me to know I was in the right direction. So I was kind of like testing things out here and there to see if like a temperature check basically like, Okay, this is working, this isn't working in like super safe ways. And I was talking to you and Colleen and like, Celia, we were all talking about these things when all of this was happening. And every time I would test it out. And I would it would go well, things like good things were happening on the things I felt intuitively good about. And so once my side of the mental process was done and like start I started implementing these boundaries, I started to have to put more work into like, Okay, what are my actual processes? Is my audience actually different? Who are those people I'm working with right now that I want to continue to work with? And what did my packages look like? And how can those like mold and shift if they need to, but not for the clients? I don't want to take on for the specific clients I do. So like how can I make everything like really process based and really tight, but also flexible if they need to be for myself and for my client. So I went through the story brand process, I took a lot of notes. I talked to a bunch of other bosses talked to Emily (Being Boss) about it. And it took many months for me to like really narrow down on everything. And it also took me hiring my copywriter because it made it forced me into figuring things out, because she sat down with me. And I knew that I at that point I knew I wanted to work with wellness, creative and lifestyle entrepreneurs and businesses. I knew that I was working with product based businesses and service based businesses depending. And I knew that my process was very intuition based. And I knew I wanted to talk about that but Not in like too freaky of a way. I wasn't towards the like the magical side of Blades Creative just yet. So like, it really took me talking to Latasha from Uncanny Content to process where I was going, and then be able to apply it to my actual thumbnails and the concepts I was coming up with for Blades Creative's actual visual design. So I highly recommend just talking it's I mean, it might have been a counselor that I could have talked to I like I just talked through so much stuff for for like nine months, until I was actually able to, like, communicate to myself what I visually wanted to see. And then with the launch, I made it a really big deal, because the brand and the re-brand has been like a really big part of my coming of age. And when I first started the business in 2015, I was really young, and I honestly didn't know what I was doing. And I just put one of my first logos together, which was for myself and used the same process that I use now. But my values were different, and like the goal was different, like for me back then I truly just needed a job. And five years later, I realized I am not a totally different person. But the way I approach communication and business in my relationships is so different because I've I've taken on a lot more like healthy habits of like taking care of myself, and it goes directly into the business. And I want to work with people who feel the same way. So I took all of that and put it into this launch, because I wanted my family and friends and the people who have been on this five year journey with Blades Creative with me to celebrate and to have a good time, and especially during a time when the pandemic was happening. So my five year anniversary for the business happened mid pandemic, and I really had big plans for that. And I just at that point, I needed the space, because I that's actually when all of these thoughts were coming up were like, oh, okay, I was supposed to be celebrating my five year anniversary with the business. What am I actually doing? How am I moving forward with this? Do I like what I'm doing. So that was a huge part of, of the shift. And so six months later, I was able to launch the brand, a little little after six months. But it was a transition from me being like young and not knowing what knowing what I'm doing and not having knowing how to take care of myself and showing up for other people. To me being able to say this is what Blades Creative Design Studio is. These are the people we work with. These are the offerings we have. And this is how we talk to you. We do intuitive graphic design work for lifestyle, wellness and creative entrepreneurs. And sometimes it might feel a little magical. And I'm able to like I built the brand in a way that I can connect with my clients and the people online as myself, rather than it has to be this buttoned up persona, that I feel like a lot of us as business owners feel like we have to put out there. And like it doesn't have to be that way. This was huge for me to feel like, Oh, I can talk about my yoga practice. Or I can talk about riding my bike. I can talk about the meditations that I do, and still talk about business. And it's all very much in alignment. But it was really hard for me to break down the difference between what I was doing. And what I wanted to do. Like it felt really alternative to that. I don't know why it feels alternative now because now it's so natural. Like when I was considering the transition of being like more casual in my brand and more wellness based. I was like, Well, how does that relate to graphic design? How does that relate to branding? How does that relate to packaging design? But once I actually started doing it and talking about it next to each other, the two lifestyles. I mean, it's my life, it's what I do every day. And so it actually is it's very natural now and it makes a lot of sense. If you look, if you look at my branding, my website, my Instagram, all of those things are in alignment now. And it feels really good to me. And it allows me to feel like a healthier person because I'm like, able to live what I'm putting out there even though I was doing that before but now it's just very out there.
Emma Peacock 39:53
Yeah, your are the sum of all of your parts, not just the parts, like are business related and like yes Just the same as like the branding process is more than just the end result. It's the process through as you like, figure everything out as well. Yeah. And it was kind of like for me from the outside. Over time, there was like this evolution of you being more in your brand, as you simultaneously like, adjusted the brand name, so that it could become more than you? Like, it was the thing of like sharing more of yourself to get more back, like sharing that you do all these things in your free time to show that you are a human who like exists outside of the workplace. So after 6pm I'm not going to reply to your emails because I'm off doing something else. Yeah. Yeah, the more you like actually shows that you're not gonna be like, you know, 24/7 available.
Gabrielle Blades 40:56
Right? Yeah, I feel like you put that really well, too. I don't I can't remember exactly what you said. But when you listen back to this, you described what I said in five minutes within like one sentence, and it was perfect.
Emma Peacock 41:07
I just had a realisation while you were talking.
Gabrielle Blades 41:10
No, it was great. I really appreciate it. And I don't even know if I answered your original question.
Emma Peacock 41:17
I mean, you did. Yeah. Um, but let's talk about like the party celebration, like when you got to the point of, okay, I've kind of got my brand. And we're bringing this all together. And we're building my website. Walk us through everything you did on like social media, and with your, you know, your big rebrand party.
Gabrielle Blades 41:37
Yeah, so I, I love to celebrate milestones. And so this was super important, especially because it really the branding itself, and the rebranding itself was not the biggest part, or the biggest thing that I've ever done, the launch party was, was definitely the biggest project that I put on myself. So like, the launch party on top of the rebrand because the photography part was like, really, that was not a nightmare. But it was like the most fun high pressure short term, to do list thing that I had to do. And it all, like everything relied on the photography at some point, which was very stressful. But how I ended up doing the launch party was via Zoom. And I wanted to include the people that have, you know, been there for me and watched the business grow. And I love print. And I've always been passionate about print. And so I knew I wanted to send out a physical invitation to the people that I invited. And the next step was like, Who am I inviting? What's the point of this, and I decided to invite the people who are my cheerleaders, the the people who I might want to work with in the future that fit into my new audience. And then who else, the people that I've already worked with as well, that I want to continue to work with, or that have just been like, huge support. So also cheerleaders, but the way I feel I will say, I feel like some of my friends were a little hurt that they didn't get invited. But I had to explain like, this is this is strictly business like this, I hope that your your feelings aren't hurt, but I want to keep every I want to let people know that in order to inform that it is okay to have a party celebrating things and like invite a very specific group of people because it, it works for your business. It was like now I'm starting to see what is coming of it. And it's really neat. So I got this physical invitation together, and I wanted it to be something people would really react to. And I wanted to have that recorded in some way I wanted and I didn't really think about how intense this would look online until it started happening and I was like wow, people actually really loved this. So the invitation itself was very thick and like very well prepared and I had like special paper and had gold stars in it and the copywriter put some really cool copy together for me and we put a sticker on the outside before people opened it to say record your or, post your opening of this on Instagram we want to give people some major FOMO which also sounds pretty shitty when now that I think about it, but it was supposed to be cheeky and fun. So again, hopefully nobody's feelings got hurt. But I like we sent them out in different like waves and this was Celia from Celia Rose Creative Consulting. This was her idea. I hired her to help me because I was drowning. And we talked about the launch from like beginning to end and then like made a reverse to do list on like everything we had to get done at a specific time when the invitations had to go out when the MailChimp had to go out. So many so many things, there were so many things. But with the physical invitations Celia had the idea of sending it out to these different audiences at different times. And that was to be able to start traction online. Before the people that I was hoping to work with and didn't really know super well got their invitation so that they could look me up on Instagram and see that I was a real person and see that this was a real party. And hopefully, they would attend the party and maybe hire me later on. So I will say, I don't think I've gotten any clients from it. But I have made some new friends or like people that are like, more interactive with me. And I think that means a lot. Like I think that's exciting, because not many people get physical invitations in the mail. And I feel like when you get something like that, it's like, oh, okay, they took a lot of time to put this out here. They like looked me up, they they know my work. So it's special for them, too. So once the invitations went out, and all the all the opening posts started to happen, we started to get RSVPs. And the whole goal of the launch party was to make it feel like a, an event that they were actually at where they could interact with each other interact with me meet my parents meet my sister, like something I would do here in Chattanooga in person, but online. And so I recruited a few different clients of mine to help out with the event. And that was advertised in the invitation. It was all very like happening at once like everything was working together. So the three clients that I chose were The Bitter Bottle, so she could do a cocktail performance. That's not the word for it a cocktail, a demonstration, performance, and then Lodge Cast Iron so they could do a cast iron demonstration. And then Michael McCallie from Guitar Chattanooga, so he could do a musical performance. And so it was kind of like dinner and a show, but minus the dinner because there weren't, there weren't any snacks, it was just cast iron. But the whole point was to be able to advertise like these are the clients I've worked with, we support each other. Every moment of the party was a little bit different. But once I got all of the RSVPs in for the actual party, we were able to start getting our cocktail boxes together. So the whole, like The Bitter Bottle, she was helping plan what kind of cocktail it was, it was a custom cocktail that was designed based on the brand. So it had like the same kind of color scheme to the to it as the brand did, the same kind of flavoring that I would want my brand to kind of taste like used a herbal tea. So all of those things got put into a cocktail box using her branding that we worked on together. And that we added a special recipe card and made and sent those out on time to get to everybody before the party. Hopefully, I don't know if yours may have made it in time unnecessarily, but
Emma Peacock 48:08
I think mine was like, a few days late, but like I mean, I was surprised it arrived like anywhere close because you know pandemic shipping situations across the world.
Gabrielle Blades 48:20
Yes, yes, we had to, like manage you and Colleens a little bit differently to with the actual packaging. So that was an experiment. But once all of that went out, and we had our RSVPs we actually send out coupons too for large cast iron. So if people wanted to, you know, use their cast iron for the day of the party they could. So there were so many things that went into it. And we used like a MailChimp survey to gather all that information and send things out. And I'm trying to think if I'm forgetting anything, it's been a little while now. So I have to rethink about it. But we got all over RSVPs in, sent out the boxes. And then I was able to relax for a second I think. I think that was like two weeks out. And then I just had to be excited about the party. And we put like a little itinerary together for the party, did everything over Zoom, it was the coolest opportunity to be able to invite everybody digitally and know that they were going to show up because they didn't have anywhere else to go. And I was able to invite people from all over the world instead of it just being here here in Chattanooga. So it was like a very special opportunity to be able to celebrate with other people on the internet and make this experience for them and let them know that they could talk in the chat and meet each other in the chat and then also like see each other on the video and that it was encouraged to you know, be conversational instead of it be them just sitting and watching me talk for an hour. It was super, I like wanted it to be interactive. And so Kaleena with The Bitter Bottle did her cocktail demonstration which was super cool, where she was just standing there with us telling us how to make this cocktail with all these ingredients that she sent to us. And there were a few ingredients that y'all had to purchase on your own. That were non perishable, or perishable, perishable, or liquor because we can't ship liquor. Um, so there were some like grocery list items, which is kind of fun. But overall, the party went so well. And like I had a really good time, it went by really fast. And I felt like people actually had a lot of fun. And you can tell in the chat, because they were actually talking to each other and interacting with the things that I was saying. And it was just a really special special time, I felt, I felt like it was a success.
Emma Peacock 50:47
Yeah, it was like a classic example of like, what a really cool, mid pandemic online Zoom like actual party could be without it just being like, show up at this time. And we'll do fun stuff. It was like, see, all these things have this cocktail, like the anticipation was like, not just as exciting, but like pretty much it was really cool to like, see everything roll through. And it was like, for me from the outside, it was really cool to see this physical, and entertainment, kind of, like example of what your brand shift was, rather than it just being like, Yay, new brand. Like, maybe a quick cheers over zoom. And then like, done, it was like this thing that was super cool and fun and interactive and like brought people together. And was also a chance for you to get in front of new people.
Gabrielle Blades 51:46
Yeah, yeah, thanks. Those are all really nice things to say. I appreciate hearing that. It was, I think, saying that it was like a physical representation of the rebrand itself.
Emma Peacock 51:59
It sounds funny because it was online. But yeah, I got physical stuff and physically gotten involved. Like I got involved in some way by like, showing up at a certain time and doing all this stuff.
Gabrielle Blades 52:12
Yes, and the interacting. So the anticipation through the interacting that happened online. I'm like remembering now. I really forget sometimes like the things that happen. But like it was such a, it was such a whirlwind for me, on my end, I literally felt like, if I like if I missed one deadline, like it was, it wasn't gonna work at all. So I have to look back and like remember how exciting it was to see everybody posting and being excited with me. That was so cool. And it really did create so much anticipation where people were so excited to show up and be there. And I don't know, I think when people spend time doing things with you to celebrate with you, it's so meaningful because they could choose to do anything else. I think John Mulaney actually has a comedy sketch about this. He's my favorite comedian. But he says in the beginning of one of his specials, like thank you for being here, it is so much harder to be places than it is to not be places and like it means a lot for people to choose to show up and spend their time with you. Rather than like any other possible 1 billion things they could be doing. And I thought that was that's how I felt it felt just so special.
Emma Peacock 53:28
Yeah, yeah, for sure. And then, let's talk about like the social media side. So for everyone who wasn't actually invited to the party, sorry not sorry. Everything that you did, from my perspective, everything that you did on social, where you were able to, like engage people who weren't coming to the party was quite cool. So like, you did that whole like grid on Instagram, is that the rightway of explaining it?
Gabrielle Blades 53:55
Emma Peacock 53:57
If I get super techy, I'll show it on the screen for people. Otherwise, you can go and look on Instagram, and scroll down. Like it was this really cool thing and then right at the end, you put your logo in, but it was like before that it was like all the aspects of you. And you know, brand colors, the, you know, like shapes then if that's really a good way to explain it, but you know, rather than like harsh lines, it was like the organic shapes and kind of saw the brand evolve through Instagram, which is like, really cool. Was there like major strategy behind that or were you just like, this will look cool?
Gabrielle Blades 54:39
I think, so it's funny to think about this. It's funny to think about a lot of things, but with the grid, it was like me putting myself back into my college art self in like a totally different medium than I would have used back then. And before I go into that, I will say when it comes to like interacting with everybody and like sharing the rebrand with everybody. It was definitely. So yeah, we had our people who were invited to the launch, we had the people who were watching. And then we had the people who were like really involved in on the background, which is like you like our little group, people who I would send my logo to for like feedback, local business owners here that knew that that change was happening. So there were different versions of like, where people were viewing the rebrand. And the Instagram grid was a really great way to let everybody be a part of the rebrand and know that this was happening. And it was something super fun for me to make. So Celia was really like, I think, I think it was originally Celia's idea to push me to create this grid. And I was really, really hesitant. I was like, I can't do it, I don't want to do it, I don't have the time to do it, can't we just do like a bunch of pictures like normal. And like, say something new every day. And she was like, I don't, I don't we can. But I highly encourage you to do this grid. And I was like, Okay. And it turned out that my web designer needed a little more design inspiration for my side, too. So it ended up being me, I think I might have had a glass of wine. And I don't know, probably, but I had to do some client work. And but I wasn't feeling it. So that day, I was like, You know what, I will just be behind on my client work, I know that I have to get this grid done, I'm gonna like little do a little whoosah like, and shut the world out and design this grid as if I'm designing a collage from when I was like 22 years old. And so I used to do a lot of collage work when I was younger, it was like my main form of design, actually. And it was, I didn't intentionally make it that way. But I just let myself intuitively be with it and like, figure out what the content was for each day. And how we were that's not even how it happened. That's how I do my stuff. Now. That's so funny. Now I'm like doing it backwards. When I designed the grid, I didn't have any kind of content in mind besides like, the small story of this is where it started. And this is where we are now. And so I took the very bottom right with the old logo and the very top left with the new logo, and kind of built this story in between of like, Well, here's me riding a bike, here's my cat, like follow us on this journey. And then like including some testimonials here and there, and including my client and including my projects that I like want to show off. And like really showing the development of the journey from beginning to end and in my head, and I'm being vague about this for a reason, because it was vague. I like didn't really know what I was designing, I just knew I was designing a journey based on my new branding, and based on my new photography, and based on like mild information that I knew I needed to put out there like, like a testimonial here, or, you know, a project piece there. And so once that grid was done, I was like, Whoa, how's this happen, like, you know, when you just black out a little. And not like alcohol based blackout, but like a literal creative blackout where you like, get into the zone, and then you step away, you're like, Ah, man, I haven't made something like that in so long, like that was really enjoyable. And I really like what I made. So I like I'm very emotionally connected to the grid, which is so weird to say about a digital piece for me, because I'm so print and paper based, but it felt like I was cutting and pasting with scissor and paper and photographs and like creating this little scrapbook for Blades Creative. And then we handed that grid off to the copywriter gave her the proposed dates. And she took that grid and made it into what it needed to be by like saying like, this is what we used to do. This is what I like to do. These are the services we're about to offer. These are the services we used to offer. This is our client who said this, and this is how it connects to the new brand. And so by the time we got to the top of the grid, where we put in the new tagline, which was like let us make some magic, I should know my own tagline but it's about magic. We like were really teasing the brand. And it was really cool to like build that anticipation and say like, well, tomorrow is the big day we're having our launch party and the new website's gonna launch and like, the website itself ended up looking so much like the grid in such a beautiful way like Kristin, who was my web designer did such a fabulous job of taking the inspiration and then like leveling it up a bit. But it all really like worked out together. And that grid brought a lot of interaction like the grid, plus people posting about the boxes that were coming in and the invitations that were coming in created so much traction, and so much community. I mean, it was, I think I said this on the Being Boss podcast, but I'll repeat it again. Like it felt like a party for me from the moment the invitations went out to the end of the launch party, because everything was exciting all the time.
Emma Peacock 1:00:21
Best party ever!
Gabrielle Blades 1:00:22
Thank you, where you didn't even have to travel across the ocean and across the world.
Emma Peacock 1:00:28
I literally just walked into my office, it was good.
Gabrielle Blades 1:00:31
I like it. That makes me happy.
Emma Peacock 1:00:34
Where do you get the most of your website traffic from?
Gabrielle Blades 1:00:38
Okay, I think it's it's always been from word of mouth. like somebody's just recommending me. Right now, I feel I don't know these actual facts, actually. But I can tell you where my clients are coming from at the moment. I've gotten three or four people come to me from Instagram at this point. So Instagram is huge at the moment, which is, as I've heard, it's like not as easy to do. But I think, you know, we've just really set a really good foundation. We keep building on it. So Instagram. And then right now we're working on my SEO and putting that foundation in place. So hopefully, I guess that means they will be coming from Google. But right now the answer is Instagram.
Emma Peacock 1:01:16
So what's your favorite place on the internet right now?
Gabrielle Blades 1:01:18
Okay, this was a really hard question for me, because I honestly don't love the internet that much. I would like I like try to not be on my screen as much as possible. So I don't, but my favorite place on the internet right now is probably like HBO Go or Netflix? Which is I don't think that counts.
Emma Peacock 1:01:36
Nice I mean whatever works, you know?
Gabrielle Blades 1:01:39
Yes. Life Lifetime movie app.
Emma Peacock 1:01:47
So what are you looking forward to the most in the next year of business?
Gabrielle Blades 1:01:52
Oh, man, you know why this is my official announcement on like a podcast. But the next year, I'm moving to Austin, Texas, unless something goes terribly wrong. And so I'm like, thank you for the little dance. I love it. So I think in the next year of business, I'm really excited to move the business to Austin, Texas, and like, meet new people and make a whole new business network. And I don't know, I feel like I've really set the business up to move to Texas, even though I didn't know I was going to move to Texas until after the rebrand. But it feels very much in alignment with Austin. So I'm super excited about that.
Emma Peacock 1:02:27
Nice. And then finally, if someone is listening to this episode, and they want to grow their own online brand, what is the one thing you recommend they do next?
Gabrielle Blades 1:02:38
Whoo. That's a really solid question. So they're building an online business. I know serious. This is one that I probably should have looked at ahead of time. What do they do next?
Emma Peacock 1:02:53
I mean, I guess maybe we just loop it straight back to the start, which is don't skip a step.
Gabrielle Blades 1:02:57
Don't skip a step. I mean, I wanted to say do the work, but that just seems like such the obvious answer. It's like, where are they in their business? Now? I'm taking this very seriously. So they they're listening to this episode?
Emma Peacock 1:03:13
You're like me, I'm like, Well, it depends.
Gabrielle Blades 1:03:15
It does depend. It depends on what phase you're in. But I would say, you know, find a community that resonates with you. Make sure that you have your steps written down and what you need to do. And then don't skip your steps, like do the work and make sure you're implementing things the way that you need to the first time and then you won't have to redo things over and over again.
Emma Peacock 1:03:38
Gabrielle Blades 1:03:39
Emma Peacock 1:03:40
Thank you so much for joining me.
Gabrielle Blades 1:03:42
Thank you for having me. I'm so honored to be your first podcast guest even though I may or may not be the first one that comes out if that makes sense.
Emma Peacock 1:03:51
We'll see how it rolls out. Who knows.
Gabrielle Blades 1:03:53
Okay. Well, I'm proud of you. I'm excited for you. And I hope it thrives and grows. And I'm just really I'm very grateful for the opportunity.
Emma Peacock 1:04:09
Thank you for listening to this episode of the Digital Hive Podcast. I'm your host Emma Peacock, and today our guest was Gabrielle Blades of Blades Creative Design Studio. If you're a creative, wellness or lifestyle business in need of branding and packaging design, head to bladescreative.com to find out more about Gabby and her amazing work. If you're enjoying the podcast, I'd love it if you could rate it and review it on the listening platform of your choice. To find out more about Honey Pot Digital and the work we do or to find more episodes of the podcast and handy tips for small businesses marketing online head to honeypotdigital.com