Crafters: 3 steps for building your lifestyle brand

Written by Megan Auman

I think it’s no secret that a lot of crafters harbor dreams of becoming the next great lifestyle brand. I know it’s a dream held by many over at The Creative Empire. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be the next Amy Butler? Or the next Jonathan Adler. Or even the next Martha, minus the prison stint.

Building the lifestyle brand of your dreams is possible, but it takes commitment and time. Especially time. Give it 5 to 15 years, because building a lifestyle brand is a marathon, not a sprint. But if you’re goal is to build that brand, it’s important to start with a strong foundation.  Here are three steps to help you build your lifestyle brand right.

1. Build your brand one category at a time. I know this first one seems counterintuitive. After all, a lifestyle brand is all about offering lots of goods for many aspects of someone’s life. But if you want to build a rock-solid lifestyle brand, you need to look at what your favorite lifestyle branders did to start, not what they’re doing now. Remember when Kate Spade used to only make handbags? And believe it or not, Jonathan Adler started his career as a potter.

The lifestyle brands you aspire to be like can make lots of products now because they’ve got a slew of employees, a ton of working capitol, and a great reputation. And how do you build that reputation?

By making a great product well.

And when you’re just starting out, trying to focus on too many categories at once can have a negative impact on the success of any one category. So focus on one thing that you love and do well. As your reputation and company grow, then you can start to add in that new product category you’ve been dreaming about.

2. Create content to solidify your brand and create raving fans. You can bet that if Martha was starting her business today, she’d be writing a blog. But instead, she wrote a book. And then more books. And then added a magazine.

Creating a good lifestyle brand isn’t just about designing and making products. It’s about positioning yourself as THE voice in your niche. And to do that, you need to create content that your ideal customer wants.

If you have dreams of building a lifestyle brand, and you aren’t blogging, I’d start. NOW. Write articles and provide tips that your ideal customer will find useful.

But if writing isn’t your thing, that’s ok. There’s lots of other ways to produce content. Amy Butler built her career with her sewing patterns. (And remember that all content doesn’t have to be free – you still have to buy many of Amy’s best patterns.)

Brainstorm all the ways you can create content that can be used and shared by your followers.  Then focus on getting that content out there in as many forms as possible. Blogs, e-books, traditional books, magazine articles. The more content quality content you produce, the more you’ll have people coming back to your brand time and time again.

3. Create a style all your own. Ultimately, having a lifestyle brand does mean creating products across a variety of categories. And the only way this really works is to establish a strong visual identity.

Amy Butler has Midwest Modern. Jonathan Adler has Happy Chic. It doesn’t matter what your style is, as long as it’s clearly defined as your own.

This is actually what makes the first step so critical. When you spend time focusing on one product category, it gives you time to develop a distinct voice and style that you can roll out into other product lines.

So as you’re laying the foundation for your lifestyle brand, focus on developing a style all your own. Preferably one you can quantify with a great little tag line.

Running a great lifestyle brand takes commitment and time, and more often than not, manpower and capitol. If you dream of creating the next great lifestyle brand, using these three steps can help you lay the foundation for a brand that can grow and thrive well into the future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you dream of creating the next great lifestyle brand? And what are you doing to lay the foundation for it?

{image via thinkretail – a flickr stream filled with fantastic images of store interiors and displays)

About Megan Auman

megan aumanMegan Auman is a designer, maker, educator, and entrepreneur who has built a multi-faceted business around her passion for great design and sustainable business. Her eponymous jewelry line is sold in stores across the US and online. In 2009, Megan founded Designing an MBA to help designers and makers develop their business skills.

Follow Megan on Twitter.

Crafters: 3 steps for building your lifestyle brand

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