How to Be a Brand Within a Brand

As a marketer I look for gaps where opportunities lurk. It took me 20 years to find a glaring gap.

As a brand strategist, (although the most endearing title I was given was brand therapist!) I have built many strong, insightful and actionable brand strategies. Most met or exceeded the goals and objectives set.

And those are the best of times!!!

Some failed miserably.

That broke my heart.

Why would some thrive and some flop? The work was sound. Sometimes it was resource based, or commitment, or leadership. Maybe they just weren’t ready, or was that an excuse not an answer.  I had this gnawing feeling that there was something else at play. 

I dug deep into research, read, and listened to podcast after podcast. I surveyed clients, and talked to business owners. It wasn’t until I came across the work being done on personal branding that it all came together. The missing link: unless you understand your own personal value proposition, you can’t further along the corporate value proposition. 

Unless you can confidently stand up and say, “here is what I do best and this is why you need me on this project” and conversely be able to say, “this is not what I do best and I will likely not be successful on this project.” Personal branding is not for the faint of heart and has nothing to do with the car you drive. It has everything to do with the engine that drives you forward and the values of your personal dashboard .

Challenging times can result in businesses wanting to be all things to all people. Suddenly that means employees have to be a jack-of-all-trades too. Blending in becomes a much safer option than standing out; and as we all know, safe is never where success thrives.

However, when people connect and stand up for their unique personal attributes it is a game-changer. Engagement is real. Morale skyrockets, strategies that flopped became strategies that sail.

Finding, defining, and communicating your personal brand will transform you, your work, and how others see you.

Want to create your personal brand? Click here.

Millenials + Brands

The Story Co markting and branding regina Emily Brenner Collaborator

As a millennial I’ve always recognized that my generation is “different” than those who came before us. These differences have made us unique in terms of the business world, and especially in regards to marketing. Forbes says that 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising. We have left marketing departments scratching their heads, wondering “how do we reach them!?”

I actually don’t think it’s that complicated!

According to Forbes, millennials value authenticity over anything else. Adage says that millennials want a personal connection with brands, they want to be spoken with, not to. says nearly a third of millennials are more likely to buy a product if the brand feels less “sales-y” and feels more authentic and truthful.

This all makes sense to me! We are a generation that has grown up bombarded with advertising. In a sea of companies trying to make us loyal customers, of course we are going to look for a brand that is authentic.

We are looking for a company that allows us to make a personal connection, even if “personal connection” has been redefined to include twitter conversations and Facebook likes.

So how does one keep a brand authentic in the eyes of a millennial? Well, simply put, don’t try to be something you’re not! Communicate with us, tell us your story and your beliefs, and embody those beliefs. We want to believe you!

The Story Co. helps companies communicate their authentic selves to their community through the power of story. There is a universal truth to this approach that resonates with all age groups – millennials included. This is why I could not be more excited to have the opportunity to help companies communicate their authentic selves.

Hello world! My name is Emily Brenner, and I am a Story Co. co-collaborator!

Arthouse+The Story Co.


How to Create the Right Visual Identity for your Brand

It has more to do with a clear business strategy than you think!

A fine artist wants to start a business . . . sounds like a good start to a story doesn’t it?  Some might even roll their eyes thinking that they know how the story will end.  And those who are thinking that way have not met Brianne Urzada.

A formally trained fine artist and teacher, Bri was ready to share her talents with the world by creating her own business. She had a vibrant commission-based business and was now going to add a new dimension and create a place for others to find their artist within. Her goal was to make art social and fun, whether it was for corporate team building, book clubs, date night or kids’ parties. Not to mention that all this is taking place in a breathtaking studio and usually with wine!

Building the Arthouse Brand

We started working together one on one creating her Big Brave Brand and Business Plan. ©

And wow she was ready! She was clear on her why, her what, and her when. And the “when” was like right away. Maybe it was her teacher roots kicking in but any homework she needed to do – done, well done, and on time! Gold star!

I just could not hide my excitement for her discipline and my respect for her sparkling clarity.  She was not going to be blinded by her passion, but instead used her passion and her own life experiences as her fuel.

So what was the magic in making this all come together?

Pragmatism was part of it. Bri is very self aware and she knew very clearly that success would mean running the business on her terms and not the reverse. (Trust me that is a harder to do than you think!) That pragmatism opened the door for simplicity and passion to collide, the sweet spot of success.

Brand defined, ideal customer firmly in mind, the business plan was complete- and it was both lean and muscular. The next step was translating her brand into a visual identity.

We had all the brand-building blocks we needed to create something that reflected her authentic, striking simplicity as well as her gift for clarity, and of course it needed to be beautiful! Using her business location as inspiration simple thin fonts were interwoven to build a strong icon. Various print materials were then designed with the same brand mark.

If you are looking for the right visual identity for your brand stop looking at Pinterest until you have answered these four questions:

  1. Know yourself and “to your own self be true” – yes Shakespeare is a brand expert!
  2. Know your why – Your Simon Sinek “why”- get the book and see the YouTube video.
  3. Define the core of your brand values.  What do you stand up for and what makes you impossible to resist?
  4. Who do you want to serve? (If it is money this is the wrong blog for you ☺)

Check out our designs below!

Arthouse Print Arthouse Print2

Finding Your Story



When I first started to say out loud  that my new business would be called The Story co. I got some sideways glances. I would need to further explain what that would mean and then I would get a weak smile and a hesitant nod. (Note to self work on 30 second pitch) And I still get those glances, but not as often. Now all aspects of story marketing is becoming mainstay and it has become  the “go to strategy”.

There are courses, schools conferences, blogs all about strategic story telling. It’s thrilling and I could eat it up with a spoon. But there are times when I think we are taking the simple, and making it complex. Most of us were brought up on stories. We know a good story when we hear it and of course the opposite of that is also true. There are some tricks to the trade but formalizing story telling too much can remove it’s magic and perhaps misses the point.

Here is a GREAT STORY … about a company that I have enjoyed watching and supporting over the years. They have recently written THIS BOOK which of course I am going to buy. They were one of the first to jump on the “be happy, not grumpy band wagon”. Being first to market is a valued position – is that why they are such a success? They also had great designers, on trend product and you could find their merchandise where you wanted to buy it. All really, really, important ingredients to their success.  Others have done this too, but have had short runs and success has been fleeting. A t-shirt is still a t-shirt right?

So how come it works for them?  I believe it comes down to finding the power of their story and unleashing it consistently. Their  “life is good, but not always easy” philosophy  resonates.  And it has resonated for 11 years. Their story is rooted in their reality making it undeniably authentic. It also makes us want to buy their product and give their product to others. And most of all it  makes us want to cheer them on, and be part of their story. Boom. That’s the power of story.

Maybe their story strategy is well crafted –  narrative structure perfect, character development flawless, story structure supreme and the controlling idea nailed. But I think they just wanted to share their reason for being. Sell some product. Spread a message that we needed to hear. Authentically live their brand.

So please, do find your story. The one that means something to you, and to me, and be sure it’s the story that only you can tell.  Put the formula aside, let the heart and soul of your business sing and run wild – that’s where you will find your story. Then own it. Own it big.

When you find it be sure to tell us about it. We can’t resist sharing a good story.

PS I just happen to think Life is Good is a cool story no endorsements received.

Building the Story Co Brand

When you are in the business of building brands – building your own can be quite daunting. It’s a measure by which others will determine whether or not you are good at what you do – so that’s kind of scary. It’s also your very own, and you want it to be so perfectly right – yup, pile on more of the palm sweating scary. And you want it to vibrate, resonate, engage, sizzle and shine while telling your story (the one you keep a little too close to the vest). Tall order.

But … an irresistibly, expansive tall order!

One of the nicest compliments I have ever received was from a client, after presenting her with a snazzy new business name, visual identity and tagline she said “you listen on a whole different level”.

So I listened …

What could this little company of mine offer the world?

Clarity, beauty, and growth was the answer that roared out loud.

What do I believe the world needs more of?

Businesses who understand how powerful their story is. And people who know how to own their story. Combining the two? Well, that’s where the irresistibly, expansive bit comes in.

Who did I want to work with?

Difference makers.

What could only the Story co do?

Listen on a whole new level. Hear the story, and find its power. Connect the dots.

(And if you know me at all just the mention of the word dots gets my visual senses tingling. So of course dots were going to part of this wonderful adventure but I digress)

So I flushed out a business plan all the while keeping these statements near and dear. And only when the strategic process was complete did we start the visual identity and naming process.

The name the Story co and the tagline: live your story, love your brand. That came naturally.  Live+love,  hell yes I want to spend my life doing exactly that.

Story + brand – well that was me in a nutshell.

Next up …

Fonts – oh for the love of fonts!! So many, many, many beautiful fonts! The ever brilliant Kelly Hogan, Story co font wizard and design guru said “hmmm how about something that hints back to days gone by to the place where we first got the story – the newspaper. Bam! Font selected. And all encased in a circle – well you know now that I love circles. Playful, unending, inclusive, strong. Yup – needed that!

Colours –  I’ve got some really deep love for colour!  But those old newspapers were just black and white. The starkness, clarity and simple beauty reflected the brand. Wanted that.

And the finishing touch – the yellow dot. (just one – showed I am capable of some restraint). Yellow dot thinking has become our philosophy, our framework, our trademark. That little dot is the hero of your story. It is the best of you, it is what makes you stand out in a crowd,  shine like the sun, and smile silly.

And so that’s how the he Story co brand was born and each day it is a whole lot of fun to find ways to live my story, and love my brand. Always comes back to love, doesn’t it?


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