Your Brand is Your Promise
Heather DeMonte and Stacy Amoo-Mensah have one of those magical partnerships that functions so smoothly it seems like they share a brain. Between Heather’s skill with words and Stacy’s talent for graphic design, their brand consultancy Klique Creative has gained a reputation for deceptively simple branding that tells complex and compelling stories. Working together over the past four years, they have perfected their creative process and gained powerful insights on the connections between storytelling and value.
“Mantra: may our gifts be shared and treasured”
Before Heather and Stacy met, both were underway on their own “journey of value.” They explain that women in the business world are often encouraged to “share” their gifts while someone else capitalizes on the value of the work. The “journey of value” is how entrepreneurs discover the value of their gifts in the business world and how they can make their own profit.
According to Stacy, “you do end up getting what you demand, but it’s uncomfortable stepping into that space...it’s important for women in business.” Their reward isn’t validation from others saying their designs are good. It’s the freedom to charge what their work is worth and take credit for it. Even four years into their work as a successful branding agency, Klique uses the mantra “may our gifts be shared and treasured” to stay connected to their sense of value and insist on being paid what their work is worth.
I Feel So Seen
Both women found clarity when they realized they had to take control of their own story. Heather received a very important piece of advice from a mentor while working at an ad agency in San Francisco: “you make what you do look so easy. You need to broadcast your skills more because I can’t always do that for you.” Heather was in fact being promoted, but she would have to start advocating for herself to continue to grow. This sponsorship was important for Heather because she saw that she could be lifted up by another woman rather than stepped on.
Stacy’s business changed when she shifted the way she was telling her own story. Just like Heather, she had to learn to get comfortable with her accomplishments. But for her it was less about being “seen” and more about seeing herself in her best light. At first, Stacy told herself she wasn’t a “real designer” because she was self-taught, using Microsoft Publisher; she revised that story to focus on the fact that companies were making millions of dollars from her designs, regardless of how she created them, and began to take pride in making her own success.
Klique Creative’s philosophy on branding is as value-oriented as their approach to business. What many of their clients don’t understand in the beginning is that a brand is an investment with no immediate return, but telling a well-crafted brand story consistently for a year or two will pay back in huge dividends. (Many past clients have returned to tell them as much.) Likewise, companies that start out well because they are filling a need but don’t develop strong branding lose their steam after about ten years.
So what is branding to Klique Creative? It’s not just the look or the logo; it’s the promise that humanizes a business for its customers, the shortcut of the business to its customers. It’s emotional, and not at all about what you like or don’t like: it’s about the customers you don’t have yet and what motivates you to reach them. If your brand were a person, would your client want to do tequila shots with it?
“If someone says that emotion has nothing to do with the value of your business and the power of your brand, they are wrong.”
Klique does competitor reviews to study branding trends in their clients’ industries, and very often they find other companies staying within literal, safe parameters with the same color palette and fonts. They take this as proof that risk and differentiation are essential to building a strong brand: if everyone is doing the same thing, chances are good that the audience wants something different.
The first stages of Klique Creative’s process involve some “ESP marketing,” when they ask, Where is their heart coming from? What does their mind see? They recognize how hard it is to tell your own story, which makes empathy an essential ingredient. The interview process is personal and emotional, so some of their clients resist it in favor of “keeping it simple.” Some think they can just come up with a quick logo and be done with it, but it doesn’t work that way. What they learn by sticking with the process is that simplicity is really hard work.
“I used to think that process sounds so boring, especially for a creative person. It is essential...that you have a process that works for you and you stand by it.”
Here’s the part where they share a brain: Heather articulates the story and ignites a vision for Stacy with pictures, images and colors that fit. Ultimately, Klique Creative strives to understand what their clients are trying to achieve and what their customers care about, drilling down to a key emotion, then find the synergy to get everything going in the same direction.
Heather and Stacy talk about each other in a heartwarming, uplifting way. They plan to stay in business together long into the future; they will always keep Klique as a branding consultancy, but they have some other exciting ideas brewing!
Hear the full interview or learn more about Klique Creative on their website.