"An amazing event" Notes from the Brand Brilliance Workshop, 5&6 October, Surrey


The workshop was so brilliant, I can’t thank you enough, from feeling like I couldn’t see the woods to the trees, I now feel like you’ve made me a little path in the woods that I can trot along now. Catherine Colebrook


How do you fancy a behind the scenes look at the latest workshop? Katie Spicer has once again worked her magic on the photos and I'm so excited to share some of the details, insights and special moments from the Brand Brilliance workshop I held in Surrey a few weeks back.

Early October saw the launch of a very different sort of workshop from The Brand Stylist: an intimate, two day branding workshop hosted at the Blid and Hatton food studio at the gorgeous Medicine Garden in Surrey.


You know me well for the big, party-style workshops I run over one day in London and New York. And it was inspired by the students in New York that I decided to be brave and try something different. I wanted to put on a workshop that better reflected what you know me for (branding) and that gave me the chance to work on a more intimate level with the students. I was a little apprehensive about the change in format. Would the students like the venue? Would I be able to maintain a high level of energy and fun with such a small group? Would the workshop be worth the investment? Would anybody want to book?!!

So many worries launching something new, and I really needn't have worried. We sold out within several weeks of launching the workshop and 70% of the students had attended previous workshops so there were lots of oohs and aaaahs as everyone reconnected again! It was such a lovely group of students and we had an absolute ball. Most importantly, everyone had a great couple of days, worked really, really hard and really moved their brands forwards.

"an inspiring and brilliant couple of days."

Diane Pinchbeck


One of the things I loved the most, was how everyone worked together. I'd designed a range of group, small group and individual exercises to make sure that everyone not only got time to work on their own stuff, but also benefit from an outside perspective. Isn't it always the way that everyone else can see something blindingly obvious that you just can't when you're so close to what you're doing? And so there was lots of laughter and gentle encouragement as well as notes being scribbled furiously and lightbulb moments experienced.


The aim of the workshop was to enable each student to get a better handle on the essence of what makes their brand brilliant. As business owners we operate in such a 'noisy' world that it's hard to clarify exactly what you want to be known for, what you should focus on and who your ideal clients are. On day one we worked immensely hard to define the essence of everyone's brands. It's fair to say we were all pretty exhausted by the end of day one as literally a month's worth of work was crammed into a few short hours!

The focus for day two was to take that clarity and translate it across their communications. So if you know you want your brand to be cool, fun and lighthearted, say, then you can make sure that the imagery you choose, the language you write with, the paper stocks and packaging you use all communicate that. Staying focused once you're back in the 'real world' can be tricky, so each student created a Brand Blueprint to keep them on track and act as a handy reference. There's always time for a Blue Peter moment in my world, however high flying you might be.


We talked at length. About what was possible, about what motivated us and where we hoped to be. Because if your brand is everything your clients expect, experience and remember about your business it makes sense, surely, that your business is something that gives you the freedom, flexibility and fun that you want? We talked about big dreams and big ideas as well as the practicalities of what we could do to get our brands where we wanted them to be.

Huge, huge, HUGE thank you for a great workshop. I knew it would push my creative / business boundaries and I wasn't disappointed. Yet again, my brain is whirring..

Nicola Wilkes, House Envy


We researched, discussed and mood boarded.


And we made sure that the notes the students had made in the workbooks ahead of our time together gave them the focus and perspective to really move forwards.


One of the things I'm really passionate about is having the confidence to have a clear and strong essence to your business. Whether that's a creative style, an approach or an attitude, none of us can be all things to all people and it's essential you understand what you're offering (and what you're not) so that you can communicate effectively.

To illustrate my point, the lovely Gray's Dairy, a client of mine who has just launched a range of artisan gelato donated some samples for a very essential tasting. When we were working on the packaging, I had the immensely difficult job of tasting the flavours - all of which are natural, generous and utterly delicious. The flavours that didn't make the final cull didn't fit within that remit and it was great for the students to be able to do a really hands on (and tasty) practical to discuss that. I must write a separate blog post on this - I'll add to my list as there are so many useful takeaways from the project, and it's something I'm really proud of so I'd love to share another time.


It was so lovely having Maddie cooking away in the background - something the students loved too - along with her incredible food. We kicked off both days with a delicious brunch: avocado on toast, pastries, crumble cake and a fruit platter along with fresh coffee, tea and apple juice (a gorgeous shade of pink from apples from my garden). Lunch was salads on day one and soup and cheese on day two. And to finish the day I'd bought some lovely local sparkling wines to enjoy with nibbles.


We covered so much ground on Day One: customer profiles, they created 'muses' (my slightly nicer word for Customer Archetypes) and defined their message. We talked about brand values, competition and space in the market. It's no surprise we finished the day much in need of a drink and a rest!


On Day Two, refreshed after a much needed night's sleep we started to to think about how to translate that message across the various channels of communication. Starting with how we wanted our brands to look and feel and then moving on to photography and styling. The style of photography you use, the props you pick, the tones of colour, the texture, even the way you choose to edit your images can all send out a message. We wanted to be sure it was an intentional one.


We researched, we brainstormed and we generated plenty of ideas...


And then it was time for a practical styling session. I LOVED how Tamsin brought her family business: a theatrical set design company with a wonderful legacy but with a firm eye on the future to life.


Such lovely props people brought with them!


Finally it was time to think about the Brand Voice and the sort of language that would work before putting together a Brand Blueprint.


The lovely GF Smith sent some beautiful card to make the outsides with and I'd printed up some inners that could be personalised for each student.


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And so with a little more focus, a flurry of laughter and a quick scribbling down of tasks to be completed over the coming weeks it was time to bid farewell to a super, super lovely bunch of inspirational and intelligent women. I can honestly say I loved every moment. I can't wait to do it all over again!


Your formula is so spot on and the venue, Maddie's food, the decor all addded to a special, unique experience:- Thank you!

Nicola Wilkes, House Envy

I will definitely, definitely run another Brand Brilliance workshop, but I've promised myself I won't book in a date until I've sent my next book off to print. Creating a book is such a gargantuan effort and I've learned the hard way not to take on too much. So keep your eyes peeled and make sure you're on the mailing list to hear about the next event.

If you're a Brand Stylist, designer or even a marketer you might be interested in The Brand Stylist retreat which is taking place at a gorgeous holistic retreat (it's super luxe - no hair shirts or mattressless beds here...) in Majorca in May. Places are limited so do book your place sooner rather than later as I'm certain we will sell out...