In business we all have the same aim - to become fabulously famous within our niche for what it is that we do. We want to be thought of as the ‘go-to’ experts… those lucky, lucky, prize-winning bunnies who spring into the minds of our target customers as soon as they have even a whisper of a need for something in our field. This is called ‘Top of Mind Association’ or TOMA.


Differentiation is KING in business, but also in life itself. Here’s why it means so much to me...


Is your brand still a perfect fit for your business? Or do you have a corporate muffin top - squeezing into an identity that’s no longer fit for purpose? Counting down from 10 to 1, here are our most significant indicators that it’s high time to rebrand and we’ll also take a realistic look at when not to. Does your bum look big in this? Let’s dip in and find out...


"My name is Mickey Wilson and I am a Firestarter!" I've said this line countless times at networking events and it never fails to get a raised-eyebrow 'what is a Firestarter?' response. Just what I wanted. So I tell them. After all, I've been practising my 30-second elevator pitch and believe me, I still need every chance I can get to perfect it. Sometimes I get a cheeky 'Are you a twisted firestarter?' to which I excitedly reply 'Yes! I'm creative with a business twist'. When they find out that I'm in branding some try to pigeon-hole me... 'Ah so you're a designer, or are you a writer?' to which I answer, 'Kinda but there's more to it than that'. These days it would be wrong to label myself as a designer or a writer. Not that there's anything wrong with being those things. Hell my husband, my mother and my brother are designers, and my father was a copywriter. It's clearly in the blood. But I needed a new name for what I do best and how I love to help my clients. And I have this big, crazy, awe-inspiring vision... Firestarter isn't just a new company, it's a whole new category! Let me explain… I've been working in the creative industry since 1993. Many of those years were spent running an agency. We had great clients - Tesco, CIMA, Sodexo to namedrop only a few. But working with large established companies leaves little room for real origination. I craved the creative freedom we had when we worked with entrepreneurs and smaller companies. The thing is I've always been a big concept girl. Addicted to the ‘aha’ moment… the point I realise we have come up with an inspired and ingenious idea which has the power to transform the success of a brand or a business. It's like solving the greatest kind of puzzle. Add to this an obsession for differentiation (you'll hear me talk a lot about authentic differentiation), our differences are the making of us, they should be hung from the rooftops… etcetera, etcetera. But way too often many of the smaller companies we worked with were confused on HOW to differentiate themselves. They had no idea how they were different or what set them apart and they'd often go round and round in circles trying to find something they could stake claim to. 9 times out of 10 a business owner would end up skipping this crucial step and go straight to briefing us on the tools they needed. But without this vital positioning it's impossible to have any real, impactful message to attract customers, it's impossible to tell prospects why they should choose your company over your competitors and therefore it’s impossible to have any meaningful brand identity!  So I set up Firestarter to fill this gap. We work closely with entrepreneurs, investors and business owners to help them differentiate and position their brands. To identify and align their vision and values with their unique value proposition. To discover their ideal customer type and then carefully plan how best to engage them. And then we bring all of this together to create one irresistible, authentic, highly differentiated brand identity.  This stuff is right up my street. It keeps me awake at night... in a gooood way! Bridging the divide between business and creative... that's me. Helping our clients to build businesses that enable them to achieve whatever means freedom for them. That's Firestarter.  I'm not sure I'll ever get to say this much at a networking event. And actually that doesn't matter, I can't get enough of hearing other people's stories either, and finding out what they are best at and why they do what they do. And then thinking.... hmmmm, now how would a Firestarter position this company? 😉


       What is a brand? And what makes a good one? These are the type of questions that everyone thinks they can answer until they actually try! And I think every designer in the world has their own take on it! Let's start by reading some definitions from the experts...    " A particular identity or image regarded as an asset. A trademark whether m ade by burning or otherwise."  Oxford English Dictionary Definition    “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes - it’s name, packaging, price and history. It’s reputation and the way it is advertised."  D avid Ogilvy “It’s all about values - we have to be really clear about whatwe want people to know about us."St eve Jobs “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organisation.”Marty Neumeier  “It’s about bringing everything together with a purpose, kn owing whatyou want to say, having a sense of the story and finding anoriginal compelling way to get it across.”  Jane Wentworth   “It’s about belonging to a tribe, a religion, a family. Branding demonstrates a sense of belongin g.”  Wally Olins    Now let’s take a moment to look back to where it all began…We know where the term came from - branding is to burn a symbol into something, such as livestock, with a hot iron to mark possession. History also reveals how high ranking families 'branded' themselves with coats of arms. Tribes with warpaint. And countries, armies and naval fleets with flags and emblems. Haha even pirates had their own branding!   But when did commercial logos as we know them come about?To begin with logos were purely text based, and very often in a hand-drawn script. Some of the most established brands - the CocaCola's, Boots' and Ford's of the world - have simply tweaked and retained their original logotypes. Then interestingly, the very first symbol to be trademarked in the UK was the Bass red triangle in 1876. Just take a look at how the artist, Manet, featured this in his painting in the cover picture... what an amazing advertising scoop for Bass!     But it wasn’t really until the middle of the last century that companies started to 'design' their logos. In truth, until the industrial revolution they didn’t have to. People did business face to face. Back then you knew the lady that made your bread. The old guy that mended your boots. The friendly family that brewed your beer. Aside from location, purchase decisions came down to who you knew, liked and trusted. People were their own brands. And personal relationships. likability and clear connected values were the keys to winning business.  Hmmmm interesting... when you think about this not much has changed. And yet it's taken us over 100 years of corporate gloss to realise how important the personal brand is and how effective an entrepreneur's own story is in promoting his or her business. I think most people now recognise that a brand goes far, FAR beyond design. That's not to say that the visual side isn't important but it's just packaging for the REALLY crucial things... a company’s vision, mission/purpose and true values and beliefs. Together they are the things that truly separate one company from the next. How to Differentiate Your BrandPeople need to understand exactly how your company, products and services differ to give them the ability to make a clear choice. And to give you the best possible chance they need to get a sense of this in matter of seconds! This is where authentic differentiation and positioning comes in. And it stems right back to those values and beliefs...    At this point it's important to understand that the choices we make actually depend on what we ‘believe' about ourselves. For example, I have to confess that I'm a bit of a food snob... and I believe quality and choice are way more important than convenience and price so I'm a Waitrose/Ocado girl all the way. A company's value set alone is unlikely to win over customers who don't relate to those values. After all, people don't just swap out their values for yours - no matter how clearly expressed they are in your snazzy brochure. But with good branding and intelligent positioning you can make your values and differences known in an instant. This is awesome because it means that your PERFECT CUSTOMERS, (those with the same values) NATURALLY CONNECT with you.   Connecting with customers whose values are different to yours is a hard-fought battle. It means manipulating through discounting and give-aways and therefore at great cost. And even if you do entice them with a cool offer, these guys are not truly connected, or committed. They're fickle. Eager to jump ship as soon as there’s a better offer. If, however, your values resonate deeply with them, and your qualities match what they believe about themselves then they'll be fiercely loyal… often to the point of advocacy! Think Apple or Harley Davidson. Think John Lewis or Google. And if we get this bit right, the beauty is that it almost doesn’t matter about our price point! People will pay extra for a brand that speaks volumes to them. As brands go, we just ‘feel right’ to them.    My Definition of Branding  B rands are multi-layered and multi-faceted. They are visual, verbal and kinaesthetic. Tangible and intangible. Your brand is the sum of everything everyone sees, hears, reads, knows, thinks and feels about your company. And you need to lay your soul bare to get it right. Your brand values should emanate with every breath and from every pore! And when they do... that’s when you build your tribe! 


We love looking at fellow designer's work. The world is full of incredibly talented creatives who never cease to be an inspiration! We particularly admire designers that find new and ingenious ways to work with letter forms and negative space in their art. Congratulations to the designers who have created these amazingly clever logos...​


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Firestarter Collective LLP  .  Brands fuelled by ingenuity  .  .  0207 073 2665

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Firestarter Collective  LLP is registered In England and Wales  .  Company Registration Number OC439226  .  Copyright Firestarter Creative Ltd 2019


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