CREATE YOUR MONEY MAP (Marketing Action Plan) Develop Your Consistent Branding

27 01 2017

All businesses need branding, a set of iconic pieces which through name and graphic design will make a statement about who you are and what you do.


I am reticent to discuss design and branding too much with such a wonderful audience of talented artists, but I know that a few reminder points are always valuable – especially when we so easily lose our perspective in creating logos, designs and icons for and about ourselves.

Keep it simple.  No matter how hard you try, your logo won’t say everything you want to communicate about yourself and your brand.

Appeal to your largest target audience.

Make sure you have decided your mission and objectives before choosing your branding.

Get the opinion of those you value.

And once you have chosen your branding, be consistent.  There is nothing more important as you go forward than keeping your image consistent, because this is how you build exposure and potentially leverage your identity and intrinsic (and generated) value later in the licensing world.


GirlNation Shares How ‘Changing’ and ‘Persistence’ is Important to Brand Building

26 05 2015

Girl Nation logoLast year at the Licensing Expo I met with and interviewed Deb Dittmer and Vicki De Roeck of GirlNation as they embarked on their very first trade event.  I recommend anyone who is interested in attending a trade show or thinking about building a brand from the ground up – READ THIS INTERVIEW.

J’net Q: We first met last year before the Licensing Expo. What was your experience at the show?
GN A: We had an incredible experience at the show and came away with one licensing contract! It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we launched GirlNation at the Licensing Expo! We were so thrilled to have been named one of the “Top Ten Ones to Watch” but it was our first show and we had no idea what to expect. It was great to get feedback from people at the show and also to walk the show and see the art that others were exhibiting. Being at the Licensing Expo definitely gave us an opportunity to meet people that we would never have had access to at this early stage of our business.RevisedBYOGlogo

J’net Q: So tell me again how you came up with your brand concept and which market you are targeting?
GN A: We started GirlNation shortly after our daughters left for college. We were both complaining about the wreckage they left behind in their rooms. Amid the chaos, we both uncovered extensive collections of inspiring words, quotes and images covering walls, notebooks and filling drawers. We realized that what seemed like clutter was really a huge part of who they had become. These independent and confident young women were truly influenced by these strong, empowering messages. We had the proverbial light bulb moment! As partners in our own graphics agency, we decided to take this valuable insight and turn it into a brand that would give all girls the gift of empowerment through positive messages and beautiful designs. We are appealing to girls during those difficult tween and early teen years.

CreedPoster_FullThe empowerment movement for women and girls has been gaining momentum for years. Prominent women and large corporations have been investing in this enterprise with their own campaigns. Dove was one of the first with their “Real Beauty” campaign. Cheryl Sandburg, Facebook COO, launched her Ban Bossy Campaign in 2013 and just recently, we all saw the “Throw Like a Girl” campaign launched during the Superbowl.

We have seen nothing in the commercial marketplace that allows girls to take ownership of their stake in this movement. A GirlNation brand of products would provide girls with a vehicle to express their solidarity to the movement and allow girls to unite in a global sisterhood. Although this demographic has a tendency to be fickle, we think there is longevity in the brand. We intend for this to be a brand that girls grow into and grow up with; we’ve given the empowerment movement for girls a name and an identity.

J’net Q: So I see you have made some changes in your original designs. What was the feedback that you received and how did that influence the changes you made?
GN A: Before the show we were so focused on creating art to fill a portfolio. We never really had the chance to take a step back and look at the body of work objectively to see if it was really going to resonate with our target market. Recently, we’ve been able to take a deep breath, take that step back and take a look at GirlNation with a fresh eye. We had to give the brand a little tough love. First, we realized our Girl “the face of GirlNation” needed to change. We loved her; she was beautiful but not right for the brand. She was too sophisticated and romantic and not consistent with our core message. So, we created a new girl…it still wasn’t right! We realized that there really wasn’t just one face of GirlNation, every girl is the face of GirlNation-every girl of every race, creed and color.WesiteHeaderImage

Secondly, you can see from our new website, that we’ve not only incorporated images of real girls, but have created a stronger looking identity. We have made some subtle changes to our logo, enhanced our graphics and patterns, added a GirlNation crest and revamped our creed to have more appeal to young girls. We found the original creed really resonated with women but for younger girls, the words were too mature and it was just too long. We took the same message and crafted a new creed that more reflects the attitude of tween girls.

Finally, we just took an objective look at all of our artwork and realized that some of the designs were too contrived (our acronym line) and that some of the graphics were too flat, needed more depth and needed more of an edge. We’ve kept the hand drawn doodle feel that we started with but are giving the designs more of an artsy, contemporary edge. We are so excited and energized by this new direction!

TeamJacketFierceOur changes have also been influenced by feedback we have received from buyers and agents. We participated in a workshop offered by Michelle Fifis of Pattern Observer, called “Sharing Your Work.” One of the great advantages of the workshop was the opportunity to have three buyers review and critique your work. We received critiques from a buyer for the tween private label brand at a major department store, an art licensing agent and a fabric manufacturer. They all said that they loved the message, the artwork was on trend and was appropriate for our target market. All good news and very encouraging to know we were on the right track. They had some great constructive criticism for changes to our website and we have used their feedback to make our website easier to navigate and to simplify how we were conveying our message. It was a great way to get honest feedback from knowledgeable people within the industry.

J’net Q: So how are you now planning to monetize your efforts and take your updated material to manufacturers and retailers?
GN A: We have kept in touch with many of our leads from last year’s show and continue to update them with new products and updates to our website. In addition, we have put together targeted lists of manufacturers and retailers that we think are appropriate for our brand. In addition to scouring the internet, we constantly look at tags and labels of products when we are shopping to find new manufacturers that we think would be a good fit. We reach out to them via Linked In and directly via email. We have found some success with this method of “cold calling” and have been pleasantly surprised at the level of response, it expands our contact list and allows us to stay in front of more manufacturers.

We are also taking advantage of every opportunity on the Art Licensing Show website which allows you to reach out to member manufacturers and invite them to review your portfolio. We hope to attend The Licensing Expo again in 2016! This past year we have been working with both our agency clients and working to refine GirlNation and we just knew we would not be prepared in time for the shows. Our mantra this year is persistence, persistence, persistence. You never know when the timing will be right for that perfect match of what manufacturers are looking for and what you have to offer so we feel like we have to just stay in front of them.

J’net Q: So what can we expect to see from GirlNation in the future?NotaPrincessTee
GN A: We will continue to add more pattern collections. We had a great response to our patterns from attendees at the Licensing Expo last year and from some fabric manufacturers since we’ve been back. We have added a new “Team Inspired” line of graphics and will continue to expand the collections to offer more variety to buyers. We are also working on a fun line of greeting cards that really reflects the new direction of the artwork.

J’net Q: Based on your experience over the past year, what advice would you give to other new artists who are thinking about licensing their art or developing a brand?
GN A: Do your research and really understand your target market. We were lucky to have had a strong concept so that the creation of the art was very intuitive. Eventually though, you have to take a leap of faith and get your artwork out there. This is what we did a year ago when we decided to go to Licensing Expo. We were fortunate to have met you in the very beginning and you guided us through the entire process of getting ready for our first show. You gave us concrete advice, objective feedback and were an incredible source of encouragement.Deb & VickiofGirlNation

Another bit of advice, that we have trouble following ourselves (!!), is to be patient! Rome was not built in a day! The licensing cycle is long and it’s important stay committed, keep analyzing, reinventing and adapting. In such a competitive industry, you can’t create your art or brand in a vacuum. You have to keep on top of your market and continue to evolve.

We are so grateful to have stayed in touch with you and to have had this opportunity talk with you on this first year milestone of this crazy journey of ours! Thank you for taking the time to follow-up with us.

J’net NOTE: A BIG ‘Thank you’ to Deb & Vicki for their willingness to be candid about their experiences and share them with us all! See you in Vegas 2016! Also…don’t miss the last FREE ASK J’net Q&A before Licensing Expo, scheduled for Wednesday, June 3rd, 10am PDT. Sign up now to get your questions answered! Register here.

Girl Nation is Top Nominee in ‘One to Watch’ Contest at Licensing Expo 2014

11 06 2014
(c) Girl Nation

(c) Girl Nation

I was thrilled to be able to talk with Vicki DeRoeck and Deb Dittmer, from Running Dog Graphics, this week about how they developed their new brand Girl Nation. Anyone who is striving to create a brand at home and wondering how to get out their and grow a brand from scratch needs to watch this video. These fearless gals have never attended the Licensing Expo before and have a Booth set to launch their new property. I will be talking with them again at Licensing Expo and after the event to see how the whole experience pans out for them.


(c) Girl Nation

(c) Girl Nation

More Trade Show Tips – Presentations & Key Questions

8 05 2014

With Surtex just a couple of weeks away, followed by Book Expo and then Licensing Expo—it’s the peak of trade show season and time to get out and sell yourself, art, brand or characters.

Whether you are in a booth or walking the shows, my best advice is to spend the time preparing.  When you are getting organized, think about making presentations that are very short.  Have your quick 15 and 30 second descriptions of your business and goals well-rehearsed so it’s top-of-mind.  Then expand on them to create a more comprehensive 2-3 minute presentation for those who are interested.

Remember that anyone attending a trade show will be talking to 50, 100 or more people in a day and, in general, you shouldn’t expect long initial meetings. If you try to force them into a 10-20 minute presentation, there is a good chance you will kill the lead.

For art licensing presentations, if possible allow the prospect to turn the pages or click the images on your iPad, so they can pace the presentation themselves.  When presenting a character or story, it’s more important to quickly go through a sequential explanation to set the stage and then give the prospect some concepts to flip through.

Please be courteous if you are an artist walking any of the shows, especially where other artists and brands are exhibiting in the booths.  Agents in the booths are, of course, always interested in learning about new talent. But whether you’re meeting an artist representing themselves or an agent, they have invested a great deal to exhibit. Every year, after the shows, we read about insensitive people who try to usurp the time and energy of those in booths to learn about the industry, while the exhibitors get frustrated and are potentially missing out on viable leads with licensees. Don’t let that be you.

I recently learned that 85% of the impression you will make with potential licensees at a trade show is based on booth staffers.  So remember how critical your role is, as the owner or part of the supporting team.  Make sure you have a list of questions clear in your mind and ready to ask potential prospects. I presented these questions last year in my blog, but they are worth repeating for those of you who are now ready to attend a show or exhibit this year:

  • What does your company do?
  • What exactly do you do at your company?
  • What are you hoping to find at the show?
  • What are you interested in, or caught your eye, in my booth?
  • What products do you produce?
  • Where do you distribute your products?
  • What consumers are you interested in targeting most?
  • How can I help you?

smiley faceAlso, remember not to get discouraged by negative responses. At a trade show, as in life, a general rule is that you “must go through 10 to find the one.” So don’t give up.

Lastly—keep an optimistic attitude; don’t burn bridges; show interest in them; and keep smiling!

Hitting Your Targets

1 10 2012

Fall is in the air and business is growing for those of us who are actively marketing our products and services. Don’t wait until the New Year to assess how your business has done this year. No matter how you want to approach it—dollar revenue, number of deals, number of new and existing clients or products—taking a tally gives you an invaluable perspective on marketing your business.

Marketing your business is absolutely crucial. It also may be simpler than you think if you keep focused.

One of the key marketing factors that I find new, and even experienced, art licensors get wrong or completely overlook is their target audience.

Make sure you always:

  1. Identify your target audience.
  2. Reach out to your target audience and communicate with them effectively.
  3. Learn how you turn the target audience from prospects into sales, customers, fans, etc.
  4. Know if you have reached the audience and have been successful (whatever that is for you).
  5. Repeat 3, 4 & 5.

So, ‘how do you decide your target audience?’ This step will influence how your time is spent and nearly every aspect of your business every day, hereafter. First of all, most entrepreneurs have more than one target audience—a business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) target.

These two questions will determine your B2C target audience:

  • Who does your painting, art, graphic design, cartoon, writing or other creative work appeal to in the marketplace? Be specific as possible.
  • What types of product or media should carry your ‘creative’ to consumers? Your answer will depend on the desires, interests, lifestyles and purchase habits of your audience(s).

Please don’t fall into the ‘everyone loves my art/design/photography/character’ trap. I often hear creators declare that their creation appeals to everyone…but to be honest, it probably doesn’t. So get real. Narrow it down to a primary and secondary, identifiable and reachable, audience segment.

Then to achieve your business goals, and to reach your audience(s), ask yourself whose assistance in the ‘business’ marketplace do you need. This will identify your B2B target audience, and it will vary greatly depending on your goals.

Some B2B targets you probably need to reach are:

  • Licensees—who do you want to license your art, property or brand? These are the manufacturers of all the worlds’ products that could sign a licensing deal to produce your creative on their product and wholesale it to retailers.
  • Agents—if you are looking to sign on with an agent, then they are an important target audience for you to woo. Do you need a licensing agent, literary agent, illustration rep, gallery agent or another specialized kind of manager/salesperson/marketer?
  • Retailers—do you want to go directly to retailers and offer them an exclusive licensing or purchase opportunity with your art, designs or brand?
  • Trade Media (magazines, web sites, newsletters and more)—these are the media channels where you reach the other businesses, the licensees, agents, and retailers, for example, to make them aware of your business.
  • Consumer Press (magazines, television, radio, websites, newsletters, promotions and more)—the media channels to reach your customers and potential customer to make them aware of your creativity and brand.

Now that I’ve got you thinking about the target audiences related to your business, go back and see if your web site, brochures, presentations, logo, trade booths—and all those critical branding elements—are making the impression you want on the businesses you must reach and influence to close sales. And ask yourself if the products that are being licensed or produced are the best designs and quality you can get into the marketplace for your valued customers.

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