The offensive truth about how to create client attracting branding

And how figuring that out will = sales for your business


This is a blog about branding that creates sales - but to get us there, you'll need to tolerate just a little 'coffee-talk'. (Another coffee blog in the world...can you handle that?)  If you can't, at the very least, make sure you skip to the end and catch the offensive/important bit. And if you can handle just a smidge of coffee chat, read on and I'll teach you how to create engaging branding that attracts your ideal customers, which I think you'll agree, is worth it.


I – probably just like you, and literally everyone I know – love coffee. I figure if there was actually a quantifiable ‘most hating coffee’ to ‘most loving coffee’ scale, I’d probably be about two thirds of the way to the love side. (ahem. Ok, probably three quarters. see below)


My husband and I - who also loves coffee - have a theory. We test it on holidays. We test it in new cafes that pop up in our hometown. A few years ago we drove right across America and into Canada and we tested it there. It has been a surprisingly reliable guide for our coffee purchases over the years.

Here’s the theory: The quality of the coffee is directly proportional to the quality of the coffee shop branding.

I’m gonna say it again.

The quality of the coffee [the thing I am literally racing to hand someone upwards of $5 for, every single day] is directly proportional to the quality of the coffee shop branding [that thing you might want to think twice about creating on 'Microsoft Paint' and slapping on a few word docs].

 See how I expect the quality of the coffee to be high when the quality of the branding is high too? Yeah, maths 'n stuff.

 See how I expect the quality of the coffee to be high when the quality of the branding is high too? Yeah, maths 'n stuff.


What it means is, when we go looking for a new coffee shop, we don’t really research the coffee at all, we just go looking for a coffee shop with great branding. (For what it's worth, we started doing this years before I did branding as my job.)

When we think we’ve found a reliable coffee (that is, a ‘reliable brand’), we have our good choice confirmed to us by a other 'brandy' type indicators. Such as;

  • the industrial/hipster decor
  • the menu with only one decimal value in the prices
  • ample use of chalkboards
  • the absence of the word latte in their puns
  • (And to some extent the facial hair of the barista and the colourful tattoos we can’t decipher)
Every serious business owner needs to understand the difference between a logo and a brand. If you missed it, you can catch up here.

When we first see the trendy logo, we are hoping there is a good coffee in store. All these other visual indicators tell us if the logo actually means what we think it means, or if we’ve made a mistake. It backs it up. And all of these visual indicators are branding decisions to communicate a simple and important message. [The message in this case is: We value quality].

The coffee people who communicate quality with their branding then, are the people who get a sale out of us. They get my $5, my husbands $5 and all the other dollars we spend feeding ourselves and our little people.

They have learned that; Purposeful branding decisions communicate a very specific message. A very specific message that attracts a very specific customer and creates a sale from that customer.  Which leads us to...

The Art of Client Attracting Branding

Just like my husband and I with the unhealthy coffee dependence, your customers have needs.

Your job is to figure out what those needs are and convince them that you can meet those needs before they buy from you. 

Your customers needs (roughly) fall into these categories:

  • The need for connection
  • The need for purpose and meaning
  • The need for quality
  • The need to save time
  • The need for safety
  •  The need for financial security
  • The need to distinguish themselves
  • The need for status
  • The need for adventure and fun
  • or maybe they need something else. (Heck, you might need to ask them)

A really easy need to imagine is my husband and I with the coffee. We need quality. So we drive past all the servo’s and fast food chains (who are meeting the needs of people that are chasing convenience) and wait until we find a place with style. Quality in the style department is a great indication that there will be quality in the cup, and hey presto, a sale.


Temple Coffee, Sacramento communicated quality to us and received many of our dollars. All pics sourced from Temple's (lovely) Instagram. 

Oftentimes, your customers have a tricky combination of needs

Every wedding photographer should be doing their best to communicate quality and beauty (no brainer, right?). But if you're marketing to you’re average hipster millennial, they're also chasing those shots that are inimitably artistic and innovative. And they probably want their actual photographer to be THE funkiest, most independent and chic-est chick around. That means, all your branding decisions need to reflect your ability to be unique and memorable and funky as well as meeting their need for quality when you capture their perfect hipster day. 

In the same vein, when you’re cross-fit coaching that lovely 'not-quite-retired modern history teacher' from your kid's school, so she can survive the pilgrimage she's taking on the Camino during her long service leave - you want to be sending out those “I’ll help you get results, but I won’t scream in your face to drop and give me a thousand” type of trainer vibes in all your branding.

This brings us to the possibly offensive, but definitely true, reality about your branding.

Your branding, is not about you. It definitely represents you, but it's a really bad idea to make it about you.

(let's pause -  I’m just going to let that sink in.)



(still pausing)

The Branding' Not About You. And that goes double for your logo.

Your logo, [you know that thing you love, that has to be so perfect that it encapsulates every single thread of who you are and what you represent] that’s not even about you

If you want your branding to be powerfully effective, it simply has to be about THEM. That's your customers - The ones with all the needs you’re going to meet.

So what does branding that’s all about your customer look like?

If you got this far, you already know it's branding that empathises with and responds to their needs; and as long as you know what those needs are – or can figure them out – I can help you with the rest. (Yes, if one of your customer's needs is ‘not gonna yell insults at you to make you sweat like a professional athlete’ it's possible to communicate that in your branding. In fact, it's kind of what I specialise in.)

It's quite possible these guys make amazing coffee... I wouldn't know.

It's quite possible these guys make amazing coffee... I wouldn't know.


Now, there's too many niches in the world to precisely define what is great branding, particularly since it should be highly customer specific; what we’ll do instead in this segment is just make sure you know exactly what to avoid in your branding

As I said above, you want to make sure your branding is representing you and is not about you. What that means is when you design your logo, you are going to leave out anything that is not relevant to your customer. The number one perpetrator here is your personal story or symbolism. That’s right, I’m saying don’t put 'your' story in 'your' logo. 

Now don’t get me wrong, you can get away with telling stories sometimes. Look at my blogs, all I do is tell stories. And my logo is my name for goodness sake. But there’s stories, and there’s stories.

This is what you can get away with:

You can tell any story in your branding that adds something to the customer’s perception of getting their needs met. As an example, my brand is my name because I want you to know you are dealing with me, and all my ideal customers want to deal with me. In fact, dealing with a design savvy, competent-communicator-type individual is one of their needs.

This is what you can't get away with:

If you grew up on a banana plantation and then had a life changing spiritual experience while drinking peppermint sake in a Winnebago and have realised that your life's journey has been segmented into three distinct , equally significant stanza’s – YOU CAN NOT PUT A WINNEBAGO, A BANANA AND THREE CONCENTRIC CIRCLES ON YOUR LOGO!!!!

[Sorry I started yell-typing there for a minute]

You just can’t. Not if you wan't to attract some decent customers anyway.

That stuffs all about you. It needs an explanation. Your customers don’t want to try to decipher your crazy mixed up (albeit very special) symbolism. I’m not saying it’s not important, I’m just saying it doesn’t belong in your logo.

{If you skipped down and are a bit confused, you can still go back and read the whole thing}

Your branding is your clients dream, not your dream. 

Once you get that straight, you’ll start seeing the customers you want actually get attracted to your brand.

Sorry about the yell-typing.

If you missed part 1 and part 2 of this series you can catch up here and here.


I'm Sarah. I'm a Designer

I like making dreadlocks, making kumbucha and making your business look legit by working with you to create some decent branding. Click me and my macbook to find out more