In a nutshell, Hillary France is a branding boss. As CEO and Co-Founder of Brand Assembly, France spends her days helping nurture emerging fashion designers by giving them guidance and tools to help them grow and elevate their businesses. In other words, France knows what’s up when it comes to the ins and outs of how to build a kick-ass brand. Read on for some of her pure gold #startuplife advice.
1. Build a strong brand identity and personality before launch
It’s “easy” to build a brand, right? Not at all! It takes a lot of work behind the scenes before going live. Before showing your brand to the world, you need to build a strong visual and cultural identity. This means really perfecting what your brand stands for, as you can’t be everything to everyone. Create a vision board that includes pictures, words, colors, fonts, slogans, shapes, etc. It’s important you live with it for a while and go through multiple edits before the big reveal.
2. Start by identifying your mission and core values
Decide what makes your product or service unique and special and how it fits in the market. Summing up your business's mission helps you focus on the steps you need to take to succeed. Questions you should ask include: Why do you exist? What is the level of service you will provide? What is your company’s cultural currency? You should also think about the underlying philosophies that help guide the answers to these questions.
3. Determine your core customer and your place in the market
In order to effectively target your audience, you must know who they are. To build your core customer, it is important to note which customer-set might be the easiest to sell to. What competitors do they use or shop most frequently? What are their interests and how do they express themselves?
4. Research the competition
Know who else is in your space. Learn from their successes and mistakes and be able to articulate what makes you different and better. Study companies who just entered the market, but also companies of the size you want to be. Use the data gathered to not only determine how much volume you could do but also how you will adapt to the marketplace.
Your brand positioning should be aligned across all messaging and communication. Don’t leave your brand open to a variety of interpretations and always stay the course. Starting a brand takes time, and you need to build awareness in order to develop trust and loyalty with your customers. A constantly changing or inconsistent brand personality can be confusing to your core customers.
6. Leverage your network
Rely on those you trust and respect for advice, feedback, candidate recommendations and product testing. Have them be a part of your market research as well. What brands do they go to and why? What makes them a loyal customer to a certain brand?
7. Build a strong team
Surround yourself with people who understand your brand, are passionate about its mission and are willing to work hard. When there is a disconnect internally, it becomes harder to connect with customers or acquire new ones. When there is alignment within the team and everyone understands and is devoted to the company values, customers can feel the energy and that will show in sales.
Hillary France is the CEO and Co-Founder of Brand Assembly, a community created to nurture and elevate fashion brands through trade shows, co-working spaces, back office services and community programming. Hillary founded Brand Assembly in 2013 because she was passionate about emerging fashion brands, and saw too many amazing brands and designers struggle to get their feet off the ground. She also noticed the beginning of a shift into a more collaborative fashion industry, and started Brand Assembly as a way to leverage resources to help breakdown antiquated barriers that have been in the industry for years. Today, Brand Assembly works with and represents over 200+ brands and has a network of thousands through its various divisions. Before Brand Assembly, Hillary’s experience was in wholesale and retail buying working for brands such as Rachel Zoe, Kate Spade, DVF, Guess? and Kimberly Ovitz. Hillary was a junior national tennis champion and NCAA All-American at Duke University, and briefly played on the pro tour.