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How to create an inspiring brand within a small, remote team

Sarah Turner, Brand Manager for start-up wine distributor, Beyond Wines, explains how to remain creative and inspired when working remotely

A creative role within a small or start-up business is incredibly exciting but demands continuous inspiration, imagination and persistence experimenting with new ideas. Entrepreneurs and brand managers within small businesses juggle multiple roles – marketing, social media, public relations etc. – and it is easy to be short of time and inspiration.

Furthermore, creativity is not easy to control, inspiration can strike at any time, which can lead to creatives working on ideas both during and outside of working hours. Even during leisure time, brand professionals find themselves reviewing content ideas, reading up on trends and developing strategies. This can lead to burn out or even creative block.

Equally, the pandemic sparked more remote working for creatives, as roles were seen as less tied to the office environment and better suited to the flexibility offered by virtual working environments. However, this introduces new challenges. Researchers at Columbia University found that people produce more creative ideas during face-to-face meetings than in video calls. This could inhibit opportunities for home-based workers to be creative, which could critically affect development especially when a brand is in its infancy. So, can remote teams create an inspiring brand?

Environment is everything

Designing a workspace that fuels creativity is a must if you work from home. Too often, we fail to invest in our surrounding environment – unsurprisingly, blank walls and stacks of paperwork can limit our creativity. If you have the luxury, create a designated workspace or bubble separate from your living area, or from where you enjoy socialising in your home. Whether it is a dedicated office room or a small nook, dividing living space from your work will foster an environment which is strictly associated with productivity. Good lighting, working near a window, and vibrant artwork can transform a workspace into a place that ignites inspiration and energises.

Your environment will further help to establish a routine which not only enriches your work, but also helps you to maintain a good work-life balance. A change of scenery can remedy creative block, which can be as simple as going outside. Scheduling a lunchtime walk in your diary and marking this strictly as ‘do not disturb’ time encourages fresh thinking and motivation.

Connect with your industry colleagues

Whether you are a lone wolf entrepreneur, a fully remote worker, or a sole specialist in a small business, it is easy to feel isolated. Whatever the context, independent creatives often find themselves lacking ideas, missing trends, and even experiencing loneliness. Creativity doesn’t develop in a vacuum. Never underestimate the power of reaching out to other industry experts and don’t let lack of time or geography prevent opportunities to socialise with other professionals. Social media sites such as LinkedIn can be useful networking tools to find new contacts. Whereas virtual call platforms including Zoom provide a digital space to enjoy a coffee together and talk business, enabling you to develop relationships further.

In-person industry events are certainly worth attending if the invitation arises. However, if you are constrained by time and resources, there are plenty of online communities that provide hubs to hone skills and connect with other creatives. Through marketing platforms such as Copy Club, I have become involved with daily Slack conversations, coffee mornings and various online and ‘IRL’ events that have helped me to develop new skills and meet useful contacts. The real benefit has been finding people who share similar passions and experiences. There is no denying that connecting with other creatives through communities is a sociable and effortless way to keep up to date with industry trends, collaborate with like-minded people and brands, and share new ideas. It’s also a way for individuals to gain valuable insider tips and tricks that are exclusively accessed through one-to-one conversations.

…And your desired audience

Creating your own community and developing connections with desired audiences is not as simple as it might appear. Generating audience engagement is time consuming, yet it is essential for building a brand with a loyal following. Mapping out time in your day to respond to messages and comments and share user-generated content helps your audiences feel closer to your brand and cultivates trust towards and a sense of community.

As a smaller brand, you have the scope to be more personal and to redefine how you connect with your audience. Hosting dedicated events is a good way to concentrate on groups of people and maximise your time. For Liquid Diamond, our premium wine brand, which was created in lockdown, we hosted Prosecco Zoom Nights. Inviting social media followers and brand advocates to join the founders, ask questions about their favourite tipple and access behind-the-scenes anecdotes. Virtual, in-person and pop-up events can be a cost-effective way to manage similar interactions. Equally Instagram and TikTok Lives can prove valuable brand-building exercises.

The opinions and personal insights you will gather from directly communicating with customers will provide greater understanding of the values and interests of your followers and can inform future brand strategies. This can then be translated into more aligned brand messaging and broaden your reach or tap into new groups. It can also help to choose other brands who share your values and inform collaborations with influencers, celebrities to solidify your brand identity and develop credibility.

Past experiences are your superpower

Creative roles don’t always originate from a rigid set of skills or career path. Draw on previous experiences from other industries and personal hobbies to inform creative activity. This will enrich your brand with a unique offering, strengthening your brand’s position and differentiating it within a crowded market.

I’ve seen this first-hand in the wine industry. This once traditional, expert-led market has followed other sectors to become one which demands strong branding, aesthetics and celebrity linkups, likely due to a rise in competition. You need only take a stroll down the supermarket wine aisle to understand how many wine brands are attempting to be innovative and original.

In targeting the 25-45-year-old female demographic, I’ve been able to use my own background in fashion design to bring something different to the brand. Skills including directing photoshoots, creating aesthetic content, and working with influencers and celebrities have translated across to my role with Beyond Wines. Following pop culture and consumer trends – whether they are related to wine or not – has helped me to inject a modern and fun outlook into activity for Liquid Diamond, which is aimed at the social media generation. This helps us to steer away from the traditional look and feel of wine and how it is marketed, making it more accessible for people who like to drink nice wine but can feel overwhelmed by technical language. Understanding how our audience lives and shops led us to become the first brand in the world to use emoji icons to signal the tasting notes of our wine.

Final thoughts

Overall, finding inspiration when working independently or from home requires a proactive approach. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others in the same industry, connect with other creatives or attend networking events. Creativity is rarely the product of just one person working alone at home. It takes idea sharing, external prompts to stimulate inspiration and creating a productive space for you to build a creative flow and unique brand identity.

About Beyond Wines

Beyond Wines is a UK-based distributor founded by Alex Green and Matt Johnson. It is run by them as well as director Stuart Bond. They are three members of the senior team behind i heart wines and Freixenet and have over 60 years’ combined experience in the wine trade. Beyond Wines’ portfolio includes pillar brand Liquid Diamond, created to make wine more accessible to the social media generation, and they also act as the UK agent to several internationally acclaimed wineries around the world.

Sarah Turner