Find Your Brand Focus: A Brand First Workshop | Chris Fredricks | Skillshare

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Find Your Brand Focus: A Brand First Workshop

teacher avatar Chris Fredricks, Brand Strategy & Content Creation

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      20 Year Roadmap


    • 3.

      Start With Why


    • 4.

      Top 3 Values


    • 5.

      Top 3 Audiences


    • 6.

      Brand Promise / Differentiation


    • 7.

      Brand Positioning Statement


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About This Class

A workshop format class to figure out your focus as a brand. Download the worksheets and let's go!

In this class I will take you through content gathered from the Google Venture's 3 Hour Brand Sprint, as well as tools I use when leading Branding workshops in real life. The goal is to brainstorm the things that really matter to you as a brand, and in the end figure out what makes you REALLY different from your competition. 

I will lead you through a real world example and use my design studio as an example. Follow along as the video plays, pause when you need a minute to brainstorm and hop back in when you are ready. 

This process is used by me on a daily basis when working with my clients. It also uses a design sprint format of Note & Vote, which is used in design thinking exercises. At the very least you can figure out your personal brand, and if you work with clients you can apply it to their brands as well. 

Let's get started!

This class is part of a series covering the Branding process. They do not need to be taken in order, but I'd obviously recommend them all. 

1 / Find Your Focus

2 / Find Your Voice 

3 / Keep it Consistent

4 / Tell Your Brand Story

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Chris Fredricks

Brand Strategy & Content Creation


Hi there! I've worked as a designer for over a decade in a bunch of different roles. I focus on building and managing brands. I've helped a variety of clients develop a brand strategy, and then apply that strategy to the design of their website, catalog, or whatever they needed to share with the world. Designing eventually led me to teaching design both online and at the the University level. In 2019, I was super pumped to join the team at InVision University, where I learn a ton every day while applying my background in design and education. 


When I'm not doing all that stuff, I create illustrations for my apparel brand, Grow Up Awesome. Everything I make is inspired by my weird family, and many pets. I live and work in Grand Rapids, Michig... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Hello!: Hi, my name is Chris Fredericks. I'm the founder of the Design Studio open coherent Grand Rapids, Michigan. Muscle currently a visiting Professor of graphic design at Grand Valley State University and an adjunct at Kendall College of Art and Design. I've been teaching and researching branding for about four years now. About a year ago I took those things that I was learning and I started to apply that to personal branding for myself. I was having an identity crisis about who I was as a professional, I always consider myself a jack of all trades. But if you start listing off the things that you do. One, it's boring usually, then two when someone asks that person that you listed it off to, What is it that Chris does? Let me remember one of those ten things and then they say random one that they remember. In my example, being a jack of all trades made my position in the market really confusing. A big part about figuring out your brand positioning is going to involve a lot of brainstorming. That's pretty much what we're going to do today. We're going to go through multiple exercises. You're going to brainstorm as many ideas as you can, and then you're going to narrow it down. This is also done in the same style that the Google Ventures through our brand sprint is done. You can apply this to a single person if you're doing this for yourself for one client, or you can do this with a group of people. If you're going to do this with a group, I recommend a small group of about three to five people. You're going to need a decision maker in the room to make a final call of what his or her favorite answers are, is what makes you the most different. Why should someone choose you over someone else. The goal of this whole thing is to help you find your focus and then start to figure out how you frame that message for your customer and understand. 2. 20 Year Roadmap: For all of these exercises, I'm going to use my own business as an example. It's something I've been doing over and over again, fortunately and unfortunately, and it's something that is fresh in my mind. The first exercise that we're going to do is the 20-year roadmap and I'll admit, the first time I came across this, I thought it was kind of dumb. But as I've seen, other people do it and as I've thought about it on my own, for my own business, I see some value into looking far out into the future. The point of it is, if a brand is successful, it usually lasts a long time. Even if you only hang out for a couple of years and you sell your company to somebody else, it's still might last beyond you. The framework you build for it might go along with it. Thinking 20 years out, isn't that big of a stretch. You'll have a board that lists out five years, 10 years, 15 years, and 20 years. Then on that, you're just going to start brainstorming things that you might be doing at those points, your goals that you have or things that you'd like to be doing by those points. It gets harder, I found, to get out there the further you get. I'm just going to start with some of the ideas I have. I'm going to start with employees. I'm thinking about five years, I would like to have 5-10 employees. I plan to have a staff of all contractors that work about 20-30 hours a week and then the rest of their time is devoted to their personal side projects. I would like to have an incubator fund. Basically, a portion of all profits from client work would go to a savings account that would be used to launch employee's side projects. Eventually, I'd like to have a coworking space as a way for a small agency like ours to collaborate with other freelancers and designers, maybe outside of our specific area of expertise. I really like to have a retail shop someday. I don't know if it's part of this business or if it is a way to launch some of the products we might launch with our employee's side projects from our incubator fund or we'll launch other brands that sell things. I don't know what, but I like the idea. I like the idea of having an art studio. I have an art studio now, a screen printing studio shop, but it's not necessarily ideal for working out of, so something a little nicer or maybe a space that is separated between the two. I like to devote a large percentage of time to pro bono work. But right now, I'm not really putting anything on a certain year. I'm just writing out anything that I want to do. At some point, I'd like to have maybe 10-20 employees. I mean, in an ideal world, I would also have a cafe in the space that I work out off, like a real cafe that serves the public, open to public. Part of that is the neighborhood, my current studio is in, does not have a decent coffee shop, which is kind of weird. I think purchasing a building to house all these things, ideally, I would have all of these businesses in my design studio launched in one large, maybe old factory or warehouse. You could also list out sales, so in five years, maybe I want to do 500K in client work, then in 10 years, I want to do one million to five million in client work, then maybe, one million in pro bono work. Obviously, of the value of $1 million worth of client hours. I don't know. I haven't done the accounting on that. You don't have to worry about whether the numbers are realistic. Just write something down, just to make you feel good about yourself. I'm going to start. I just wrote down a bunch of things and started grouping them together. Let's start placing them. In five years, I would like to have 5-10 employees. I would like to have 500,000 to a million in client work. Incubator fund, I think that could happen in five years. Coworking space is probably in the 10 year's spot. Maybe in five years, I have a few people that work in my space that don't necessarily work with me. Ten years, I'm going to need 10-20 employees. Maybe at 15 years, that's when I actually purchase a building, open a cafe. We'll put that in 20 years. It's pretty lofty. Have an art studio and then maybe at 20 years is when we launch the retail shop and open a cafe in that same building that we purchased. If you're doing this to a group of people, you might have a lot more answers and you might have to narrow it down. What you do is pause everyone and vote on their favorite ones. They would just make notes to themselves and then they would pick their favorite one. Just make a little tally mark, if someone voted for that one and then the ones that have the most votes. We start discussing why that is, why we pick the ones we picked, and then the decider would choose their favorite answer. He's going to take a quick picture of that board. That is your 20-year roadmap. No one expects you to stick to your 20-year roadmap. The whole idea of it, is it builds into the next thing, which is figuring out your why. 3. Start With Why: The next exercise is the Start With Why exercise. You're going to figure out your what, your how, and your why. Why is the most important and we'll talk about that. There is a TED Talk by Simon Sinek. You've probably heard of this guy. It is the third most watched TED Talk ever. In it he says, people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Figuring out your why leads to figuring out a lot of other things. Sometimes that helps you figure out your overall focus and your differentiation and it often helps you figure out your values as a brand. We start with the easy ones, the what and the how. These answers should be really straightforward and sometimes just a few words for each one. Then last thing we're going to do is dive into why we do what we do. When you're thinking about this, don't think about what does the customer want to hear about why you do what you do. Think about actually why you get out of bed in the morning and why you want to do this job. Why you want to run this business. Why you care about any of these things, because it's really important. I'm assuming you know why. Hopefully, you like what you do and there's something that drew you to it. You don't always know why when you're starting out or your why sometimes changes. So what is your current why? Like why do you still do this? If you don't know then you can just stop this video and maybe go get a new job. In the Start with why videos, Simon Sinek draws his golden circle, which starts with What, How, and Why. What he'll tell you in his video that most people, most companies, most brands start with the what and end up with the why or they never even get there to telling you their why. But what the best brands do, companies like Apple, Patagonia, they start with their why and then they tell you the what, or at that point the what doesn't really matter, you just believe them. In this part we're breaking down the What, the How and the Why, and by what is pretty easy. It's pretty much graphic design and brand strategy. That is what I do. Then my how, some of my thoughts are starting with brand strategy and then designing. I have an open process, which means I share my process in videos like this and in a blog post. Also, I'm always trying to educate, educating and empowering my clients and other people, other designers. Then my Why. Some of the simple ones are the ones that I've always felt like all my Why's, I like making things look good. I like telling stories and I want to create value for those that deserve the help. So I want to help out with mom and pop shops that don't know how to tell her story. I want to help people who've been at it for a long time, but aren't really getting anywhere. I want to help those people. I already narrowed down my graphic designer brand strategy. That was an easy one. The What is usually pretty easy, and again, keep this short so it's easier to remember. Then the How. These are all true. I think the most important one though is this one. I started with brand strategy and then I design, and that's always my process. Like I said, I've done this a few times, so my Why has been refined, I would say. I started with, I like making things look good and telling stories. That was my Why. But more recently, I've decided that this one, I like to add value, creating and adding value for those that deserve it. So I like helping people out. I like helping people tell their stories. All of it's true, but that's the main one. Then take these off because they're lost. Then again, when you're all done, take a picture. That is that page of your brand book, the rough draft, at least. 4. Top 3 Values: Next up we're going to rank your top three values, but just start like in the other ones. We're going to brainstorm a whole lot. We need a lot more than three. You're going to get some that sound very similar and overlap and you just stack those on top of each other. But we'll figure it out. A lot of times values don't sound that important. They might be something like trustworthy, hardworking, customer service driven. Really think about what you value as a business or as a person. You'll start to figure out that all of these things are a step to figuring out your differentiation, and that's why I do it in this order. We're starting with these simpler exercises to get to the hard won. You started brainstorming individually. Everyone can just write on a piece of paper what they're thinking and then when they're done, they just shout them out and you put them on a board started by putting everything up, everything anyone thinks of? You can also just write these in a way where you don't need to use Post-It Notes. I'm doing it for ease of presentation. I have things like straight forward, sharing knowledge, listener, always listening. Those are the same thing. Accessible, empowering. I like to empower people to be able to do things on their own. Accepting, and I'm a simplifier, I like to simplify things. If you're with a group of people, this is where everyone quietly makes a note of which ones are their favorites, and then you all share what your favorites are and you make tally marks. I'm just me voting for myself. So that makes it pretty easy, though for me. I'm definitely straight forward, I like that. I love simplifying things. I want to go sharing knowledge. But I think it's being accessible. Goes with that. I like sharing knowledge because I like to be accessible. I think accessible is the bigger story there. I'm going to say I'm very straight forward. I'm going to call that number 1. Sensibility is number 2, and simplifier is number 3. It's probably better way than simplifier, but that's what's coming to mind right now. Again, when you're all done, take a picture. Those are your top three values. Piece of cake. 5. Top 3 Audiences: All right, next up is audiences. This is where it starts to get a little trickier because people don't really like defining their audience. I found not just students, but also clients, scares them. They're scared that they're going to leave somebody out. They're scared that if they define it too tightly, they will lose other customers, and that's not how it works, so don't worry about any of that. What figuring out your audience is about is, it's narrowing your focus, and that's what all this is really about. You are trying to figure out like what really is the most important thing. What I'm asking you to figure out what your target market is, for example, when you picture your ideal customer, who is that person that walks in the door? But recommend for number one, try to think of that ideal customer. Who's the main person that is currently your customer or your client who keeps coming back, who wants what you're doing, who connects with the reasons why you do it, who is that person? Try to pick an age range as tight as possible, 18-35, 35-65, and then you have two more. You want to brainstorm those. You don't want to just get three and be done with it. You want to think about anyone whose opinion you might care about. That could be your competition. That could be bloggers that might write about your industry. It can be related industries that may be looking for you. It could be secondary customers, maybe that second customer that walks in the door. Who is viewing the content that you are putting out in the world? Think about all of those people. Again, don't be afraid of limiting yourself because it's really not what you're doing and I'm going to give you a real-world example in just a second. I brainstorm like pretty much everyone I can think of that's an audience. Startup companies, tech companies, digital products in service companies, contractors and freelancers, other agencies and studios, so people that do the same thing as me, my competition, local small business owners, and then just to practice what I preach, I did an age range which I haven't really done for myself because I think of my clients as companies. I'm going to say 25-45 year-olds though, are typically who I'd expect to be hiring me. In this case, I used to always say startups or in small businesses were my top audience or my target market, and top audience like, I think your number one audience is also, you can call it your target market. I'm going to change it up on myself, I'm going to say small business owners, probably local small business owners. Sometimes those are startups. Sometimes they're not, sometimes your company's been there for a while, and I'm going to throw in there 25-45 year-olds. Twenty-five to 45 year-olds, I have a connection to small businesses who can land the job. Next up, I'm going to say contract is in freelancers because I need a workforce, and those people also refer work to me. That's cool, and then I care what other agencies and studios think, and sometimes agencies and studios share work. I'm thinking that's it. Again, same process, you would compile all of those things that everyone thought of if you're working with a group, vote on your favorite ones, talk about it, and then the decider picks his favorite one. I just picked my favorite ones. My example though, this is my number one customer, 25-45 year-olds local small business owners. Right now one of my clients is a couple that is in their sixties and they're local small business owners. But to prove my point that this is still my target market, one, it doesn't limit those people just because they're not in that specific age range, but the person that referred me to that client was totally in that age range because that's how they found out about me. Again, I think the people that are getting me work are 25-45 year-olds, and have some connection to local small business owners, whether or not they are that both small business owner. Then the last step again, once you get them all take a picture, and that is your top three audiences page in you brand book. 6. Brand Promise / Differentiation : Now that you've gone through your 20 year road map, you figured out your what, your how, and your why. You've figured out your top three values. You figured out your top three audiences. Now it's time to figure out what actually makes you different. Hopefully, those previous exercises have gotten you in the right mindset to figure this out. If it's overwhelming, take a break, come back, do it all again. Come back, review what you had done previously and jump back into it. There's nothing wrong with taking breaks. I think actually taking a break in-between is a good way to get your brain thinking about all of these things might actually help you come up with better answers later on. But if you leave, please come back. This is the most important part. This is the narrowing your focus. This is figuring out what makes you radically different. It's part, it might sound like I'm hyping up too much, but I'm really not. It's really important. What makes you the most different? What is your brand promise? What are you promising to your customers? What is your value proposition? What are you offering your customers that your competition can't offer them? What makes you the most different? What is your focus as a brand, as a company? That's what we're trying to figure out. We're going to ask ourselves a bunch of these questions, and we're going to brainstorm everything we can think of. A lot of times, I've had this happen multiple times. A lot of times through those previous exercises, it's pretty clear what you're focuses, and I really hope that's what happened to you, so you don't have to spend too much time on this next part. But if it's not clear, really think about it. Think about what your customer wants from you. Think about what you are currently offering them. Think about if those things match. If they don't match, then you need to re-evaluate what you're focuses as a company. Because if you're trying to offer too many different things and your customers don't really care about some of those, then get rid of them, like you don't need them anymore. Because your focus will draw in the customers and then you can start offering them other things. But you don't need to talk about those other things, those are add-ons later on. It's like magic, almost like magic. If you are stuck, I recommend digging into your competition. Go to their social media pages, go to their website, what are their headlines look like? What did they say they do? Do they say anything of value? Do they say anything that would actually convince anyone who use them? Then look at yourself, look at what your social media says. Look at what your website says. Is it intriguing? Is it interesting? Is it different? Or does it look just like your competition? If you swapped out the logos and the imagery from your websites, would anyone know the difference? These are all things to consider. Let's start brainstorming these for open con and you can follow along, and see my train of thought and how I get to where I'm going. These are just some prompts and you can say this in a bunch of different ways, but just some ideas to get things go in and get everyone brainstorming. What makes us the most different? What can we do better than the competition? What does our customers actually want from us? I'm just going to start a brainstorm a few ideas and start posting them. These are just things that I do. Design with education, like a combo design and education, brand videos, I do a lot of that's, a lot of con, just general content creation, so for websites, social media, etc. If there's something that I can't do, I can definitely connect people to other services as well, so I'm like bridging that gap. Then brand focus design, spoiler alert already know the answer, and you probably know it too based on everything I've told you about. But again, if you're with a group, this is where everyone votes, and we tally it up, and then we discuss, and then the decider picks their favorite. For me, I think actually two these can be combined. My main thing is brand focused design. That is honestly over the past year, that's why people come to me because I talk about design a lot. That is my current message, and that is why people come to me for it. I know that's my focus. But I think I could combine with that. I could combine with that content creation. Brand focused design in content creation. That is going to be my focus. I'm going to put these to the side. I can do those things, but they're not my focus. Sometimes things that aren't your focus he's still talking about because they helped push you focus. By talking about design and education, obviously I'm still pushing that brand focus design thing. Again, when you have that, you just going to snap a picture and then that is your focus. 7. Brand Positioning Statement: To finalize your focus in as a takeaway from this whole exercise, I want you to have a brand positioning statement and I want you to write that out with me. I'm going to break it down for you. It starts with your audience. For this group of people and then you just state the name of your company. For this group of people, my company. Then you state that differentiation. What are you offering that no one else is offering? What makes you the most different? For this group of people, my company is giving something awesome. Then you finish it up with your reason to believe, which is, why should they believe you? Usually its credentials, sometimes it's how long you've been in business if it's for a long time. It's really facts. Any the facts that backup your brand promise or your differentiation. Here's where I'm currently at with my brand positioning statement. For small business owners, 25 to 45 years old OPENco brand focused design and content creation. We educate by holding local workshops on brand positioning and demonstrate our process by starting every project with a conversation about brand. I just wanted to leave you with a few takeaways, just some things to keep in mind. This brand book and this brand positioning statement is an internal document. You don't have to share it with the outside world. What it is is a guide for everything that you put out into the world, reference first before you make anything, give it to graphic designers that you work with, give it to marketing people that you work with. Everyone needs to be on the same page when you start putting things out into the world. Narrowing the focus is always better. Have a narrow target market. You can't talk to everybody. Your target market and your audience can't be everybody. When you try to make it everybody, typically, your message is so bland that no one is interested in it. You want to have a narrow audience and you want to have a narrow focus so your message can be focused. The last thing is, sometimes things just need to change or be refined. Don't feel like this book is permanent. It changes as your business changes, it changes as technology changes, as people's tastes change. Everything changes so don't expect your brand or your company to be any different. Thanks so much for following along. If you haven't already check out the project sheets, try to fill them out, ask questions along the way and keep going until you find your focus. If you want to talk more, you can find me at Thanks again.