Erin Alexander (00:00):
I am so excited about today’s episode today, we are having our first ever guest interview with Shaina Longstreet of Your Ampersand Studio. And I am just so excited to have Shaina on the show. I am a little bit spoiled because Shaina is my business bestie, and she’s also one of my real-life besties. We actually live in the same town. Well, we used to she moved a few miles away, but we were neighbors and now we share an office. So here’s the back story. I always kind of knew who Shaina was. Just because we live in a small town, everyone kinda knows everyone. I used to work at a coffee stand that was across from the office she worked in. When I started my business, a friend of mine said, “Oh, you should talk to Shaina, she does the same thing”.
I didn’t know this. So, I searched for Shaina on Instagram and I found her. And then I realized that we lived on the same street and all of this. So, you know, about a year later, Shaina and her husband were having a yard sale. And, I went up to her and I said you don’t know me, but I kind of had been stalking you. And I think we would be really good friends. We did the same thing and then I totally admitted it. And then a few days later, she invited me down for coffee. Let’s say the rest is history. We became friends very quickly and now we share an office and she’s just really incredible. She and I have collaborated on a few projects. She’s incredibly talented when it comes to brand strategy. What I love about working with her is that she can pick out the details of a brand and tell you exactly how they’re going to work within the brand story.
And all of those pieces come together so beautifully. She has helped me with my own brand, has worked with me on the client brand and she even took brand photos for me. I’m very, very fortunate to have her in my life and as my business bestie and my brand strategist. She’s incredible. So this episode is amazing. We had such a great time recording it. She has so much insight for shop owners and how you can really build your brand in a way that’s strategic for you. And not just something that looks pretty, not just something that’s, you know, made to your tastes or made to your client’s tastes. She really has some great insight on how to create a brand that really works for you and how to bring together the pieces of you that are valuable to your brand and the pieces of your ideal client that are valuable to your brand and mesh them together.
And she goes into detail with all of that, even talking about photography and packaging and how it all works together. This episode is it’s definitely going to be one of my all-time favorites. So I’m so excited for you to take a listen.
Welcome, Shaina. Thanks for being the first guest on the Product Powerhouse Podcast.
Shaina Longstreet (03:30):
Thank you so much for having me, Erin.
Erin Alexander (03:31):
I would love to start by having you tell our listeners a little bit about you and your business.
Shaina Longstreet (03:36):
I’m Shaina. My business is your ampersand studio and I’m a branding and Squarespace website designer. I help visionary female entrepreneurs unlock the power of a beautiful and strategic website so that they can grow profitable and sustainable businesses online, allowing them to be of service beyond just the service they offer.
Erin Alexander (03:55):
I just love that. I knew I had to have you on after our last collaboration and just how much your brand strategy transformed our client’s branding. So for the backstory, for the listeners, I was working with a client to design and build out her Shopify website. But once I started, I could tell that the existing branding didn’t really match the direction this client was going. So I hired you to update the brand strategy and the visuals, and you just knocked it out of the park. The feedback we got from the client was that she was literally in tears and could feel her story coming out of the branding. Can you tell us about your process to create a compelling brand strategy?
Shaina Longstreet (04:32):
Yeah. I loved working on this project with you and her feedback was so sweet. It just like touched my heart too. So when I do a project like this, I start with what I call a brand clarity board. It’s like a mood board on steroids because it’s not just about like what colors you’re using or what fonts you’re using. It’s a complete tool for you to have in your back pocket, moving forward to use as like a benchmark for your brand and all of the visuals. So you can share consistently moving forward.
Shaina Longstreet (05:02):
So what I like to do is I have a really comprehensive questionnaire that I have people go through that details out who they are, what their business is, what their core values are, as a person and as a business. And then we dive deep into who their ideal client is because I think the magic and branding happens when the things that you love and your aesthetic and your values overlap with what you find is true of your ideal client, that magic is in the overlap. And so that’s what we’re able to harness as we go through this process. So you fill out the questionnaire. I have you do a little bit of a deep dive on Pinterest, and I always tell people do not pin other people’s logos or brand boards or anything like that. I want you to just scroll Pinterest thinking about the type of life you want your ideal client to have.
Shaina Longstreet (05:53):
And whenever you see something that jumps out at you while you’re scrolling like, oh, yup, my ideal client would totally love that. That’s the stuff I want you to pin. And so I want them to go into this process without any preconceived notions about what they think their branding should be, because it’s really a natural process. And then once I have that questionnaire and their Pinterest board, I can’t explain the next part. It’s really intuitive for me. But I’m able to pull parts and pieces and bring it together in this brand clarity board. And so I like to include elements like text quotes and words that are, you know, linked to you and your business and your client textures. I will also look for images, that captures moments that are important to you and your business and your ideal client.
Shaina Longstreet (06:47):
And then that all combines into this, this brand clarity board. Once I send it, I ask for feedback about specific things like how does this make you feel? Because the goal of a brand is to impact the heart of your ideal client to motivate them, to take action. Usually, it’s to make a purchase with shop owners. It absolutely makes a purchase. So that’s what we’re capturing here is that thing that’s gonna make them do what you want them to do, that motivating piece, but it always has to come back to the emotion and the heart of it. That really is at the core of my brand new design process.
Erin Alexander (07:24):
That’s so cool. I’ve heard you say before that creating a brand clarity board is your superpower. And I can attest to this. I actually worked with you to do my own brand clarity board for my business. Last year when I did a rebrand, my personal struggle is that as a designer myself, I like everything. And I was taking my branding too personally, making it all about me, which it’s really not. And so in my experience, this is really common when businesses start their business and haven’t really fleshed out the strategy behind the brand. And what do you think?
Shaina Longstreet (07:56):
Yeah, that’s absolutely a common mistake that people make as they’re starting out is they think that it’s like, well, I like pink. So my business colors should be pink. It absolutely has to be something that you like, you have to like it to use it. I’m not going to say like, it’s not that it’s not about you, but it’s not for you.
Erin Alexander (08:17):
I really love how you’ve used this step in your process to give business owners a tool for using their brand. Tell us about how this works.
Shaina Longstreet (08:25):
Okay. So I recently sent an email to my list using a personal example and to how this is powerful. And I was talking about doing a renovation on my fifth wheel. My husband and I have lived over a year now in our fifth wheel. And we’re wanting to turn it into more of like a homey feel, renovate it more to our style. And so I was like, you know what I need to do. I need to create a brand clarity board for this renovation project because what that allows me to do is whenever we need to make a decision on something we’re going to put into the renovation. So floor, what drawer poles we’re going to pick, what color we’re going to paint the walls, a what pillow I want to buy. All of those decisions have been made ahead of time through the process of this brand clarity board.
Shaina Longstreet (09:13):
So when it comes time to actually making the purchase, I already know the answer. There is no decision fatigue whatsoever. So that’s, that’s why this is such a powerful tool because so many people, when they get into the nitty-gritty and the every day of using their brand, they get stuck when it comes to like, okay, I need to do another quote graphic on Instagram. Where am I going to find the parts and pieces for that? Do I go to Canva and use the exact same one? What is everybody else in my industry is using? Or, you know, what fonts am I supposed to use on it? What colors am I supposed to use on it? All of those decisions are made for you with this brand clarity board. When I turn these over to my clients, I say the question I want you to ask yourself the next time you’re going to post something on Instagram, is, would this image graphic, whatever that I’m about to post on Instagram seamlessly transfer and replace an image on my brand clarity board or not. If the answer is no pick a different image.
Erin Alexander (10:15):
Yeah, I totally agree. I love that. I actually had the brand clarity board you created for my business, turned into a mouse pad so that I’m able to refer to it all the time. And it really helps guide the way I create things in my business because like I said, I like everything and I could go a little bit crazy with my own brand. I wonder, at what point in their business, do you feel like people need to invest in these steps of creating their brand?
Shaina Longstreet (10:39):
Well, it absolutely is critical when you’re just starting out. Because to have a solid foundation, knowing those key parts and pieces of what your values are, what is attractive to your ideal client, what’s going to touch their heart to motivate them. You need to know those pieces from the get-go.
Shaina Longstreet (10:58):
But that isn’t to say that, you know, two years down the road, you aren’t going to have a chance to refine it because you’re going to learn more about your ideal client. You’re going to actually discover what types of products you actually like making and selling and what the market is saying. You know what trends are saying. So it’s moving, it’s an ever-evolving process, but to have something like this in place from the get-go is really gonna set the foundation for you and allow you to move forward in your business with confidence and purpose.
Erin Alexander (11:31):
Yes, I totally agree. I think that this process that you walk your clients through really does help to create that solid foundation for a brand that lasts a long time, rather than creating something that’s on-trend or in the moment, because you really do help them dig deep into the essence of their brand and what it’s about beyond that thing they sell. But brands are always evolving and changing. I mean, we see this in big retailers all the time where they make minor changes or giant changes, and that’s just because of the way business works. Yeah. Okay. So after they have this beautiful brand clarity board, what’s the next step? What else do they need to finalize their brand?
Shaina Longstreet (12:08):
Right. Well, they need me in their back pocket. Yeah, they do. Because even though that tool is something that they’re going to have moving forward, I’m able to then take that tool and interpret it into all of the various parts and pieces that make up your quote-unquote brand. So logo, design, icon, design, pattern, design colors, with exact hex codes to use. And then from that inspiration, I’m able to pull out font styles and then begin to gather and create inspiration for what the logos are gonna look like.
Shaina Longstreet (12:42):
Then I, you know, just kind of brain dump it all into my design platform and see how the parts and pieces begin to fit together to cohesively create the elements that then you can use on your website, on your business cards, on graphics for Instagram or the, you know, header image on your Facebook page, all of those parts and pieces is what comes together to create a cohesive brand. It’s not your brand is not just your logo, the logo, the logo is a very key part, but your brand encompasses so much more than that. It really has to do with all of the intricate touchpoints that your clients and potential customers have with your brand. So, you know, maybe they discover you through a hashtag on Instagram. And so they just see one in one of your Instagram posts, then they click over to your feed and you’ll see, Oh, I see, look at how cohesive this looks like consistent with their fonts and the colors look good. And that it scrolls really easy. Invites me to keep scrolling. I love this, oh, let’s click the link and see how their website looks. So if, if you’re using your branding tools correctly, once they click to their website, that cohesion continues. And it, what that does is it builds trust in the customer’s eyes, because then it establishes your legitimacy as a business. And that you take things like that seriously. And it, that, that trust piece really is so key.
Erin Alexander (14:10):
Yeah. And then you can even take it one step further with like the packaging that they receive in their house. And when they unbox this thing that they’ve just purchased from you, it goes so far. I know I just recently purchased something. Then the packaging is so pristine. I’m like carefully opening the box. Cause I love it so much, but it all goes back to that core of their brand and who they are. It’s more than just the logo. It’s about all of those parts and pieces. One of the things that my clients often struggle with is that like a lot of them have brick and mortar shops or they have boutiques or galleries and they don’t know how to capture the feeling and the atmosphere of their store on their website. One of the examples, I always get, people love anthropology. And funny enough, I have never been to Anthropology because I live in the middle of nowhere, but they always send me the website and they talk about how when they walk into anthropology, you know, they love the way it feels, the atmosphere, the music playing, the smells, and then they go to their website and they try to capture all of that. So it really boils down to how does their brand work with all of these pieces.
Shaina Longstreet (15:16):
Yeah. It’s like, it’s an interpretation, right? Because they can’t touch something that’s online, but it can still touch your heart. Okay. So one of the ways you helped me after you created my brand clarity board was through brand photography.
Erin Alexander (15:32):
Okay. Let’s talk about that a little bit. How do you use the brand clarity board to inspire and plan out a brand photoshoot to capture your products online, but also still incorporate all of those brand pieces?
Shaina Longstreet (15:44):
Yeah. Great question. And it’s especially hard, I’m sure for shop owners who have different products full of different colors, you know, that aren’t necessarily your quote-unquote brand colors. So one of the great things you can use is pulling out the moments that you captured on the brand clarity board. So for instance, with you, we had some, like moments of people working together at a desk.
Shaina Longstreet (16:10):
So, you know, like the service provider and the client partnering together to create something. So in my mind, I thought, yes, let’s see if we can recreate that moment of you sitting next to someone, working on a computer, creating something together. So we were able to do that with your brand photoshoot, bringing in somebody as a standing client to recreate that moment of you partnering with your client. Another way we were able to use your brand clarity board to inspire the elements we used at your brand photoshoot is just those colors. So you have some really vibrant colors with your brand. And so I wanted those to be pops throughout the scene. So we set it up like a pseudo desk scape with, you know, a, a shelf unit behind you with some books and some pictures and a plant of course. And so on that shelf, there were some pops of bright yellow.
Shaina Longstreet (17:04):
We had this really great pineapple planter and then a tiny little yellow VW bug. And then there was yellow pens and things on the table. So that like theme of yellow kept pulling through. And then when you turn around and use images like that on your website, it’s a subconscious thing that your clients will see like, oh, there’s her yellow color. Again, they aren’t going to like, say it out loud, like, oh, I see she was using the same yellow, but they’re subconsciously going to grasp onto that familiarity and begin to associate those brand colors with your brand and you as a person. So that’s really special. Then as far as like, if your products have things that aren’t necessarily your brand colors, it’s really important to make sure that the, if you’re doing like a flat lay, for instance, shooting from above down, that the background’s all up consistent, it’s really important. Especially on a website, as people are scrolling, that it looks cohesive and like all of the things came from the same place in the same shoot. So try your best to keep your settings consistent, try and keep the setup consistent so that you can, again, establish that trust and familiarity, their clients become, be able to recognize your PR your so that your clients will then become able to recognize your product photography as they’re scrolling on Instagram, for instance.
Erin Alexander (18:32):
Yeah. And you know, you were talking about those pops of yellow. And I was thinking back to I’ve taken color theory in college. And one of the things is that people start to associate the subconscious meanings of colors with you. So people will think, oh, she’s bright and cheerful. Cause she has yellow in her brand or however, you know, whatever color you’re using, but that’s something that they start to associate with you also. And they don’t even realize they’re doing it. It’s just how our brain is wired to work.
Shaina Longstreet (18:59):
Well, I was thinking like, think of Target. The first thing that comes to your mind is that bright red color. And then you start thinking about the cute little Target dog. Yeah. You know, so those are things that are part of Target’s branding that we’ve become familiar with. And we associate with the brand Target. So if you were on Target’s website, shopping and added some things to your cart, and when you click to go to the cart, and then all of a sudden there was, you know, soft pastel pink and flowery little elements that you’d be like, wait, what did target get hacked? Yes. So that same experience is true for you. All of the touchpoints, again, need to be consistent so that your clients can feel confident putting in their credit card numbers and purchasing something from you.
Erin Alexander (19:46):
Yeah. That’s one of my pet peeves, which we are going to be talking about later on this podcast, but that like the confidence that comes from having consistency across the board is so vital for having a successful store. And then if we talk about that second key piece that you mentioned is capturing the moments of your brand clarity or the moments within your business. That is something that’s so important in like a lifestyle photoshoot for a product-based business. You know, I work with a lot of jewelers and like clothing stores and a lot of that isn’t necessarily like solving a problem, but it’s the way they’re making people feel when they put on their jewelry. When they get dressed in the morning and you can capture those moments and that confidence and that level of, you know, like inner peace and inner beauty from the person wearing the jewelry within a photoshoot based around those moments in your brand.
Shaina Longstreet (20:41):
Yeah. So when you’re planning out your brand photoshoot, be sure to link back to those moments again and again, because that’s that overlap that we talked about earlier, where it’s the thing you want your clients to feel overlapping with the thing your clients want to feel.
Erin Alexander (20:55):
That’s where the magic happens. It’s not just about taking a picture of the ring on the person’s finger, or maybe it’s the picture where the woman is like grinning to herself and tucking her hair behind her ear. And you can tell, she feels confident and beautiful in that moment, but you’re still focused on the product shot. And that’s the key piece that store owners need when they’re planning out their brand photoshoots that they can get from their brand.
Shaina Longstreet (21:20):
Another thing that those, like, lifestyle type photo shoots can be really helpful for is planning out your Instagram content because it can be, you know, I’m going to use the word monotonous to see ring after ring, after ring, after ring on an Instagram feed. Nobody is going to want to follow that. But if you can capture like, you know, the moment when a guy proposes with the ring or when, you know, a mom gifts and a gorgeous keepsake necklace to her daughter, you know, those sorts of moments.
Shaina Longstreet (21:50):
I mean, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it because, and that’s what people are gonna want to see, picture themselves, having a moment like that of their own. And that’s going to be what touches their heart to make the purchase, to go to your website, click, buy, enter their details. And then, and then on the end of it, you get to surprise and delight them again with your packaging, which is again, one of those touchpoints we talked about where you can incorporate colors, fonts, patterns, like, tissue paper with your brand pattern on it. How amazing would that be? Right. So it just, it’s such a powerful tool to have something to check back in with. Whenever you go to create something for your brand, whether it’s, you know, a graphic or planning photos or thinking about your social media, this is a benchmark it’s going to be such a powerful tool for you.
Erin Alexander (22:39):
Yes. I, I think I strongly believe I’ve worked on so many stores, those lifestyle pictures make or break a website behind your brand. It’s going to make it so much easier. And so more thoughtful when you’re doing the shoot, when you’re planning it out. When you’re working with a photographer, like a photographer is going to be able to look at the pieces of your brand and the brand clarity board and know what steps they need to take in order to make this happen. And in fact, we actually had this happen with the client we talked about at the beginning of this episode, we did the brand clarity board and she took that to her photographer in a completely different state. And they created the pictures and I was so ecstatic because it was exactly matching the vision we had for her brand to take her to the next level. And it’s just so cool how it all works together.
Erin Alexander (23:31):
Okay. Shaina, this has been the greatest conversation ever. I always love talking to you. We’re going to have to have you back to talk more in-depth about photography because there’s so much that we could talk about there, but I would love to tell the listeners where they can find you where’s the best place to hang out with you online.
Shaina Longstreet (23:49):
Yeah. So Instagram is my favorite place to connect my handle over there is @yourampersandstudio. So come follow me, shoot me a DM. And we can talk more about branding for your shop. I would love to partner with you and create not just a brand clarity board, but all of the parts and pieces that you can then use on all the touch points for your business moving forward.
Awesome. Thank you so much for being here today.
Thanks for having me.
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