We all know those brands that seem to sparkle with a three-dimensionality. They’re more than brands — they almost feel like people. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, once said that “too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealized, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence, their brands acquire no texture, no character, and no public trust.” That texture and character, which leads to a public sense of trust, can admittedly feel elusive to create. But it isn’t impossible.
I caught up with Dani Evans, the founder of Monrowe, which is a line of custom-made, unisex, ready-to-wear hats. Each hat is reminiscent of the 1940’s and 1950’s Jazz eras, with a hint of Western in the shapes and elements. As far as tangible brands go, Monrowe’s is top of the charts — so I had to ask Evans how others can follow in her footsteps to create their own powerful and tangible brands. Here’s what she shared with me.
1. Model Your Brand After A Person
If you’re trying to create a brand-feel that’s as real as a person, try modeling it after a person! For Evans, Monrowe was both named and modeled after her late grandfather. “I never met my grandfather, but we had a photo of him in our house while I was growing up. I was told that he was a jazz player who was always wearing a wide brim hat, dressed to the nines, always heading off to a speakeasy to perform,” Evans shared.
Monrowe’s brand is reminiscent of her grandfather’s powerful presence — and it’s an extension of Evans, too. “While I was growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas, I always loved to wear wide brim hats, and people always made fun of me for wearing them because many in Little Rock didn’t. When I moved to New York City, I finally felt comfortable expressing my style, and would always throw on a wide brim hat to complete the look,” Evans told me. “However, I would always want to change something about the hat – make the crown taller, brim longer, brim stiffer, etc.” When a friend visiting from L.A. told Evans, “You’re going to be an old lady in hats,” Evans realized she was called to start her own hat company.
How can you model your product’s brand after another person? They can be an imaginary person, but make sure to understand them in the same color and dimension as you would a real person. Then, carry details about this person into details in your business. Evans never knew her grandfather, but imagined that she did. Imagination can carry you the rest of the way.
2. Do The “What Would It Be?” Challenge.
One way to connect details of a person with details of a brand is to ask yourself a series of questions, rooted in, ‘What would my brand be if it were a (blank)?’ Evans knows all the answers to hers. “Monrowe is a nuance of jazzy, earthy tones. If it were an instrument, it would be the saxophone. If it were a drink, it would be bourbon. If it were a sound, it would be the bass in a jazz band.” All of these details were connected to her grandfather.
Create the same understanding of your brand’s metaphors by following these prompts. What would your brand do on a Saturday night? What type of jeans would your brand wear? If it were a type of car, what would it be? These tangible aspects all together create a tangible brand feel.
3. Free Write When You Get Stuck
Of course, this is a deeply creative process — and it’s easy to feel a bit of a blockage, or get stuck on the details. This happens most commonly when there’s pressure behind creating the brand, or a desire for it to be perfect. To combat this frequently experienced feeling, Evans recommends free writing. “Use writing to hone in on what you’re feeling, because creativity is not always an easy flow. Forcing it just jams it up,” she reflected.
Evans said she will sit down with light music in the background or silence, then just let her hand move across the page. “It usually starts off as gibberish, but midway through, a thought actually gets out that was previously jammed up. Then, I’ll go back and read it all, and realize that I was onto something.” She begins with prompts and self-reflective questions, such as, ‘What is it that I want to achieve?’ and ‘Why do I want to create this?’
4. Trust The Vision That’s Given To You
Finally, trust is a major component — and that’s trust in yourself and the vision that was placed into your head and heart. The vision for Monrowe and its very tangible brand have carried Evans through, even at times when she felt she was on too sharp of a learning curve or considered giving up. “When the vision of what you are meant to create comes through, it’s important to stick to it,” she advised. “Getting off course from that vision is like getting off course from what your mind conjured.”