Thoughts on how wildly grow and sustain your brand through intentional tactics.

A short time ago, I would have put myself in the “black thumb” category when it came to sustaining anything green. I couldn’t keep a cactus alive. But today I find myself at my table writing this as I look out over a thriving garden.

The transformation was slow and unsettling. I relentlessly made my way to the Nashville Farmers Market again and again to make new purchases, only to get home and watch them quickly shrivel under my care. 

My failures in gardening reminded me a lot of the common failures I witness in branding. With my clients, we pay attention to what doesn’t work in order to figure out what does. We have to intentionally figure out how to pick the right things, cultivate an environment for growth, nurture vibrancy and establish strong roots, in order to see wild success.

My business has existed to help brands wildly, yet intentionally, grow into something even more beautiful than before. By teaching each of my clients the practices of sustainable growth (intention, focused attention and energy), I help them create wild growth of their own. 

Gardeners, like brand designers, are obsessed with latent potential and can be known to be pathologically optimistic. I can vividly imagine the bloom and scent of the rose even in the deepest of winter. As Henry David Thoreau once wrote: "I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” 

I’ve found that crazy faith in your business, much like I have in mine, or the gardener has in his seeds, will set you up well for wild growth. 

Years ago, a friend told me about a concept called the “language of flowers,” or floriography. This is essentially the idea of applying meaning to each plant based on its Latin root name. The language of flowers is seen in biblical references and Shakespeare but became incredibly popular in the Victorian era. Victorian women fell in love with this silent language that allowed them to feel meaning and communicate beyond what their strict culture would allow them to in tongue.

I’ve similarly always been drawn to things with meaning, people with stories, places with a history, symbols with depth — which is why I was never content “just designing a logo.” Branding is more than the logo, it is creating something beautiful that has meaning and tells a story, just like the language of flowers. 

My goal with these next couple steps is to help entrepreneurs, like you, begin to apply meaning and tell a contagious story through your branding. Who knows? You might just experience intentionally wild growth.  

VIBRANCE: Create A Brand That Will Turn Heads

Creatives, let me hear you roar. There seems to be something in the water in this generation — and I love it. We are the opposite of passive. Many of us are vibrant, self-reliant, ambitious risk takers when in comes to our craft or cause.

We are the generation whose parents told us “you can grow up to be whatever you want to be” and you know what? We listened. We became a generation of wild dreamers.

So do you represent a brand that reflects a wild dream? One you are passionate about? Do you consider yourself a maker? A doer? A mover? A shaker?

If the answer is yes, my response is “awesome.” The world needs more people like you. 

But here’s the harder question: Does your brand turn heads? Is it memorable?

One of my favorite words to describe companies who understand branding well is “undeniable.” Think about your favorite store or brand. Picture the store, the smells and the way you feel when you walk in the door. Imagine holding the product, thumbing the tags, opening the packaging. The best brands have an undeniable spark that draws you in. What is it that gives them that it factor? 

The truth is, those brands know exactly who they are. They know exactly who they are targeting and they know what it takes to capture your attention.

You know you’re passionate about your brand, but do you know exactly who you are and who you should be speaking to? Are you attracting the right audience of people who share your enthusiasm? 

Seth Godin describes a “brand” as “a euphemism, a shortcut for a whole bunch of expectations, worldview connections, experiences and promises that a product or service makes, and these allow us to work our way through a world that has thirty thousand brands that we have to make decisions about every day.

The best brands convey who they are, what they do, and why they matter. 

When done well, they evoke an emotional response, giving off a vibrance that their audience is drawn to. Imagine you have a friend who grew up with a sunflower garden she loved. If you were to plant a couple seeds outside her window now, paying attention to the needs of the plant during it’s growth, how do you imagine she would feel when she saw the first bloom? Surprised, nostalgic, entranced. 

You knew exactly what you had, what do with it and why it would matter. Great brands are not much different.

THRIVE: Create an Environment for Growth

A real gardener is not a person who cultivates flowers, but a person who cultivates the soil. Don’t just follow your passion, cultivate a healthy environment around it so it can actually grow. 

Most of the people that I work with are passionate dreamers and creatives, yet they lack direction when it comes to establishing disciplines and creating an environment for growth. This can be deadly for your brand, which is why I think it’s an important issue to address early on. 

Here are some easy places to start: 

  1. Create an inspiring space. Whether it’s your office, a desk by a window, or a corner of your bedroom, having a set apart place where you can zone in on your work is important. Put up photos and clippings that pertain to your brand or simply keep your favorite working music and scented candle nearby. Do whatever it takes for you to carve out a place to hone in.
  2. Embrace a daily routine. Developing a rhythm will help you sustain good energy levels so you can focus on building your brand. A daily routine is also a great method to schedule uninterrupted time in your create space. You have to water things consistently for them to grow! This will also help you push through creative blocks. Remember, frequency sparks creativity. Don’t just wait until you’re in the mood to work on your brand. You accomplish nothing if you do that. “Your mind must know it has to get down to work.” - Pearl S. Buck
  3. Nurture your art. Create a beautiful life for yourself that makes you grow in joy and gratefulness. Don’t work to please or impress others. If your garden is only being cared for to win an award, than it will wither rather quickly. Practice consistently, break rules and make time to do the projects you love, even if they don’t immediately yield income. If you keep working at it and believe in the beauty to come, it will grow.

MEANING: Create A Theme For Your Brand

As I shared earlier, the language of flowers resonates with me as a designer because I believe everything you put out as a brand tells your potential consumers a story about who your brand really is. It is never just a logo or an ad or a poster or a website. It is creating a theme that reinforces the meaning and mission of your brand. If all your materials look different or lazily presented, your consumer will be less likely to trust you, or even worse, take you seriously. When you don’t create a theme or decide on a filter for your messaging, people will be led astray and miss what you have to offer.

For example, my brand words are: Craft, Intentional, Positive, Passionate. These four words define my brand and are a filter for the types of content I create and the clients I take. 

So what meaning can you apply to your brand?

What words do you hope will come to mind when people see or think about your brand? What do you value as a brand? What would your favorite clients say about you? Come up with a few words of your own and begin filtering your messaging and design through them. 

Angelica flower - is a flower that conveys the meaning of true and pure intention. Inspiration.

Bouvardia Flower - represents harnessing the power of your dreams with budding joy and enthusiasm.

Daisy - holds the meaning of bubbling over with happiness, having a positive outlook and appreciating the simple things. Hope.

Peach Blossom - symbolizes the sweetness of life, loving life and being captivated with finding sweetness in your world. Captivating.

RESILIENCE: Create From Strong Roots

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”

Building a brand is not easy. You are going to have to take risks, endure some failures and learn from your mistakes. That last part is key. While creating an identity, environment for growth and outward theme will help you to stay on brand and grow, you will still hit some roadblocks. But do not be discouraged, because every brand does. Making the next decision about how you’ll expand or which clients you’ll take can be tough and sometimes misleading, but as long as you come back to your theme words and learn from your choices, you are keeping your brand deeply rooted.

However, strong roots aren’t the result of a strong branding framework, they are the result of having passion and faith in your work. Everything I’ve shared with you is to help dig deeper roots in the work you love so it can sustain you. Remember why you create and let that drive you. Do not look around the room and wonder if you should become someone else’s brand. Build from what you love about your craft, practice resilience and watch your brand grow wildly. 

lauren ledbetter