Equestrian & Rural Business Branding

Branding can make a massive difference to a small business, whether it’s connected to equestrian, country and canine, or a different industry.

There’s a whole art to branding and how it makes a customer feel. What does it say about your company? How does it engage? What experience does it give the customer? In this section, you’ll find hints and tips about branding, and some real life case studies too.

The case studies you’ll see connect to a range of businesses, but most will have an equestrian, canine or country link. It’s essential for any budget, and the great thing is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. More than that, there are some exceptional examples around, in our industry, that we can learn from.

In addition to agencies, there are also some exceptional books on this subject, that can help guide you in the right direction and inspire you too.

How to...hire a graphic designerAh- graphic design. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? I have a real thing about design. I’ve worked with graphic designers for years with clients. I’ve worked with in house graphic designers when I was a marketing manager. I have huge admiration for people who can master InDesign… a skill I tried to learn a long time ago… and something I was not good at. In addition to this, I have taken part in branding courses, read a whole load of books on, listened to podcasts on it… and I do also do a fair amount of graphic design myself. Why do I do this? Because if I want something for my own platforms, I usually have a really clear vision for what I want. But here’s the thing. The graphic design work I undertake myself is really, really basic. I put text over images I’ve cropped and resized. I use font families I know are on brand – I don’t stray. I use colours I know work but stick to a really tight colour palette. Because I know it works.

I really lack the confidence, experience and, let’s be honest, skill to make serious graphic design changes. I can use the assets developed by a professional really well. I can work with a professional to develop these assets and guides… I enjoy it to be honest. And I can see when something is on or off brand from 50 paces. And I know when something isn’t right. But when it comes to creating a fresh brand identity, making new templates, POS, etc etc… I need assistance. And you know what? That’s fine- because I am not a graphic designer. I also know enough to know what I don’t know.

Time for a brand tweak

It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I had a big brand refresh. This involved a new site and a new logo. And at the time I loved it. The fonts selected were fairly new (at the time!), the colour was on brand (and consistent with the colours I’ve always used), and the strapline described my business’s new direction, which was more towards coaching. All the boxes ticked.

Then I was in that awkward hovering phase. I flipping hate that stage. You know when you like it but you’re wondering if it could be better and that stops you doing anything? Yeah. That was happening. So I got it out there and was happy with it.

Then what happened?

Brands, in my opinion, should ALWAYS be looking at when they’re going to upgrade their look. Not if, when. Big brands do this all the time, but you might not be aware. There are many, many subtle tweaks that happen in big branding all the time. It helps keep a brand more current as fonts, styles and colour trends change. These changes are rarely dramatic, but maybe the colours get tweaked, the font gets ‘upgraded’ or an element is dropped. Fonts go through trends and styles… and the Lobster font that I used on my logo was a lot more ‘unusual’ when I started using it. I was actually looking for a handwritten font when I found it, but couldn’t find one I liked enough, that was still legible and felt right. It did a good job… but over the last few months I have started to see it everywhere. I ordered something online and the ‘next day delivery’ text on the side of the box was Lobster. Yep. Its days were numbered.

So how did you find a graphic designer?

A word of warning here. Not everyone who says they are a graphic designer actually is. Sounds cryptic, but it isn’t. I do graphic design (I use Canva a lot – I like Canva) so, therefore, I am a graphic designer? No, I don’t think so either. To me, graphic designers are not people who use ‘Clipart’ style graphics, who don’t understand how colours, fonts and layout styles work together. They’re just like me. I have nothing against these people – I do it, but when I am looking for graphic design work, I need someone who has a much higher knowledge level than I do.. and a much higher skill level too. Otherwise I would save my money and do it myself. Do you know what I mean?

I’m not saying this is everyone’s view… and I blame this view on being ‘spoilt’ by working with some really talented people now and historically. It does spoil you, because you appreciate the process and how amazingly creative true graphic designers are. They’re artists, but have a whole load of marketing and branding considerations too. It’s a real skill.

How did I find the graphic designer I’m working with?

Well, the answer was actually under my nose… which would have saved me a whole lot of time and stress if I’d realised! There’s one designer I have worked with for years whose work I have always loved. She really gets the brands she works with and creates stunning work for them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an email, piece of POS or graphic that has made me think ‘oh… not quite’ or ‘not on brand’, far from it. What’s more, she produces work with aspects that I would not have thought of because I am not a graphic designer. I know how she works, I have seen examples of her work, she’s super efficient… and she gets me… which makes explaining my brand a whole lot easier. I mean, I don’t have to, she already knows me!

I’ve just launched my new brands and I LOOVVVEEE it. The process was much faster than I anticipated (completely due to the designer’s efficiency!), so it’s out there in the world. And I’m so pleased and have already had some lovely comments.

I can’t wait to share the detail behind the process, the branding, fonts and colours with you. I’m hoping it’ll inspire you to get excited about being on brand. I honestly feel it’s SO important, creates more cohesion and professionalism and is easy to implement when you get your eye in too…

If you saw the word Canva and wondered what on earth I was talking about, make sure you check out this blog here…

When should you say 'yes' to being a brand ambassadorWhen should you say yes to being a brand ambassador… and when should you run for the hills?

As brand ambassadorships (let’s pretend that’s a term) continue to increase, I think it’s a question that needs addressing. There are lots of different ways that brands recruit ambassadors. Some ways make complete sense. Some of the attributes they look for, to me at least, are bang on. Some brands… well, not so much. I asked my Small & Supercharged Facebook group members who ran businesses what attributes they looked for in a brand ambassador. And they answered… and those answers are in my ‘what should you look for in a brand ambassador‘ blog. But to give a balanced argument (and to help both sides!), I also asked brand ambassadors in my group what they looked for when it came to representing a brand and being a brand ambassador for it. Now, I must stress that the people in my Small & Supercharged group are very switched on. Many are not ‘just’ riders, they have created brands and businesses around their sport and passion. These are not the kind of people that will send a DM to an account they have never heard of. Because I am sure that you, like I, have had this too.

When should you say yes to being a brand ambassador?

So, to help give brands a bit more information, to help them woo their dream brand ambassador, I asked a few more questions, and here’s what they said…

Laura Szuca from WannaBe In The Ribbons said: From being a brand ambassador for a couple of brands I would say it has to be a brand I know, use and rate highly! I think any endorsement needs to be genuine and authentic so you can’t just put your name to something you know nothing about.

Katie Lawrence from Deciphering Dressage said: I like to be a brand ambassador for a company who wants to know me, my horse, my story and form a team.

The first few companies I worked with didn’t even recognise me when I went and said hello to them… I changed my stance and what I wanted and love the companies I now work with. Many have become good friends! And in turn I’m happy to work really bloody hard to represent them.

Gaelann East from The Orchard Holding and Wacky Racers Adventures said: I guess it’s a brand/item that is in my top ten must haves that I have a passion for and also need. That way content comes easily and the content is real and honest from my soul. I never run out of things to say about the lovely companies that support me. Maybe not number 1 on my list of qualities but I guess for me to be there for them, it’s an important one so I can do my best

Nicki Strong from Headstrong Equestrian said: As a brand ambassador – synergy!

“The combined power of a group of things when they are working together that is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately” So I guess that’s a way of saying that we both have something to offer one another; before applying for a brand ambassador role I’d always ask myself whether I’m a good fit for the brand / product / customer base, so I can genuinely add value and effectively demonstrate and market their products to help build brand awareness and drive sales – and also whether it’s a brand whose product / service / ethos I believe in and would like to be associated with and could benefit from partnering with.

Tina Wallace from Life On The Left Rein said: I would only ever work alongside/represent/promote a brand that I would willingly spend money on their products myself… far too many people purely want to be a BA just to get “free stuff”, not to enable them to actively promote a brand that they are genuinely passionate about and feel other “equestrians” would benefit from/enjoy using said product/s!!

Wiola Grabowska from Aspire Equestrian said: I’m in a process of working with a brand as their ambassador and my number 1 priority is shared values. I personally see working with brands as an extension of my PR as well as interesting collaboration to create something of value. My coaching business is strongly certain values oriented so I’m very happy to be able to work with a business that see this as equally important

Beth Eckley said:  I try to ask/apply to brands that I already use or rate highly, or if a new brand, one that I think would work well mutually for both of us and is something I would feel I could strongly recommend on its principles and products. I’m sponsored or a brand ambassador for four brands that I love and I hope we all work well for each other

Victoria Brant from Wimpy Eventer said: I would only represent a brand that respected the value of my content and its creation. Posting all the time about products is not what I want, loyalty is paramount but I’m not an advertising board.

 

Can you be an ambassador for too many brandsCan you be an ambassador for too many brands? I was asked this question for a recent Facebook and Instagram Live. Not only was I very. very sure of the answer (yes), but there was a lot of support for this from business owners too. There are, however, variables on the number. Being a brand ambassador can be great for brand and ambassador, but it’s not always. And, as a brand ambassador, if you’re overstretched and underdelivering, it won’t end well.

Can you be an ambassador for too many brands?

You might have noticed a surge in the use of the term brand ambassador. It used to be a fairly rare ‘thing’ but, with the rise of social media, it’s become a lot more popular. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it’s a grey area. Having a lot of anything can reduce its kudos and can make what should feel like a rare opportunity a lot less ‘special’. But that’s a different subject.

People who are active on social media, who produce good content and engage with their audience are more likely to be asked to be brand ambassadors. When you apply for this accolade or are asked, the chances that any brand worth their salt will have done a little research into you and what you do. Now, these people (who are active on social media, have good engagement, etc) are not all that common… and that means that they can find themselves on the receiving end of a lot of requests. Yep, it’s really flattering and yes, you will probably get lots of lovely free things… but let’s just take a breath and have a little think…

If you are a brand ambassador, the brand will expect something from you

It doesn’t have to be a kidney or your first born, but there will be some pay back. If you’re supplied with products, the brand will expect to see these appear on your social media feeds, on your blog or vlog… and they will expect you to use the items. All of these things take time. Yes, you get the free stuff, but it all comes with an expectation. And so it should… giving stuff away for free is REALLY easy. But if that were the objective, you might not have been picked and the ‘contest’ would have been very different.

So. Yes. You get free things. But they’re not free. You’re expected to give something back and that will take time.

Some brands are flexible

Some brands give brand ambassadors a free rein and don’t give strict criteria. I personally think this is a good policy and you get to see who ‘gets’ it and who really doesn’t. It can be quite eye opening from the other side of the fence. This does not mean that every single post has to include a brand’s product, but it should feature organically in the content because. Wait for it. YOU SHOULD WANT TO WEAR OR USE IT. If a brand is flexible on the content you create, nurture this and support them. But be aware that just because they aren’t kicking off, they will be watching and waiting.

Lots of brands = no time

If you are looking to create content for lots of different brands, be aware of how much time this will take. You might find that, very quickly, you run out of time because of what you should be doing for others. This might mean your own social media suffers, or worst still, that your real life does! This is a real, genuine issue. Being a brand ambassador should not take away from your enjoyment of what you do. And having too many could well do this.

Conflicts

Lordy… this is a big one. Many brands have more than one type of product, and some have MANY. If you’re the brand ambassador for a retailer, they will carry lots of products. So what does this mean in terms of who else you can be an ambassador for? You need to find out. If you’re saying that ‘this x is the best ever’ on one post, and your next post states that something else is… what does that prove? You’re fickle? You can be bought? Your advice can’t be trusted? No one wants this… and you certainly don’t. If you work with people who have very specific products, you can take on more brand ambassadorships, if you work for people who have a range of products, this becomes a lot more challenging…

 

So, yes, you can become an ambassador for too many brands, but the actual number depends on a lot of factors. Being clear on what is expected from each party is crucial from the get-go, and from then you can work out whether or not they fit in with your current constraints and other brand ambassadorships.

If you’d like more hints and tips connected to PR, marketing, influencers, business development and more, don’t forget to join my newsletter– you can subscribe here

Absolute Horse MagazineIt’s always nice to see your name in print – picture, not so much- but name is good. So you can imagine my delight when I saw my new column in Absolute Horse Magazine all printed up in the May issue. With the June issue out now, I thought I should share a bit more about this column, and how excited I am to be involved with this fab magazine.

Introducing my new column in Absolute Horse Magazine

Yep – as the title suggests – I have a new column in Absolute Horse Magazine. Each month I’ll be giving an opinion on a subject. First up, we had about buying British. I love this subject as it’s something I think about more than your average person because some of my clients manufacture in the UK, and many don’t. Each has its reasons, and I can see reasons for both. But where the product is made has so many potential issues or benefits. And these need to be considered. Generally, if you want cheap and cheerful, UK made is not for you because labour and materials cost more. Want something quickly? UK made is probably a better option. Want something personalised? The UK is probably your place to go there too… you can read the full article in Absolute Horse, or by picking up a printed copy…

What’s Absolute Horse Magazine?

Absolute Horse Magazine is a regional, covering a large region, that covers East Anglia and some of the South East. Emma and the team who run, edit and publish the magazine are absolutely lovely. I’ve had the pleasure of working with them for years through my clients. I tend to work with Emma more than anyone else there at the moment and love our chats too. When the opportunity came to write a regular column for them, I was beyond thrilled… and when I saw it in print, even more so. As expected, the team were absolutely lovely to deal with, and I LOVE the way that my column has been deigned too.

What else can you find in Absolute Horse?

Well, quite a lot! This handbag sized magazine is PACKED with equestrian news, features, expert advice and more.It’s a really great read. In addition to my column, you’ll also find superstar photographer Sophie Callahan’s monthly column too. I love this. I love seeing a collection of pics she’s taken in the last month. Sophie’s been writing for Absolute Horse for about a year now and her column delivers month on month. In addition, there are fab news and products section… and I’m lucky enough to (usually) enjoy some client coverage in these areas too..

So, in summary, pick up a copy of Absolute Horse! I really hope you like it!

Badminton Trot Up

Image by Sweet Images/Rachel Bragg

I think I’ve JUST recovered from Badminton – but what a week it was! Badminton Horse Trials week is always a busy one for me (as are the weeks leading up to it with all the prep) BUT when you see it all come together so beautifully it makes every moment worth it. And that’s why, today, we’re going behind the Hiho sponsored best dressed at the Badminton Trot Up.

The Hiho Silver sponsored best dressed at the Badminton Trot Up

For the second year running, Hiho Silver sponsored the best dressed at the Badminton Horse Trials Trot Up. Last year they did it for the first time (and the first time the best dressed had been awarded at Badminton too!). And this year, well, it was the sequel!

Last year, Hiho’s Andrew Ransford judged the best dressed with sponsored rider Emily King and eventer Dani Evans. This year, Andrew judged the trot up style stakes with brand ambassador Alice Plunkett and stylist, socialite and columnist, Lady Alice Manners.

The Hiho Silver team – trot up side

Now, you might think that Andrew, Alice and Lady Alice were the only people involved in the Badminton trot up and Hiho’s sponsorship. But you’d be wrong. Because behind the vast majority of ‘things’ like this, there’s a lot of work. And this was no different…

Also on the ‘house side’, we had…

Badminton Trot Up - Emma Warren

Emma Warren – image by Sweet Images/Rachel Bragg

Emma Warren- Hiho’s Queen Bee/MD. Emma went up for the trot up to take pics for social media, which she sent over to me (before they were showing on the trot up Live stream – talk about fast fingers!!) to help keep Hiho’s Instagram and Facebook following up to date with who was running down the trot up and what they were wearing.

Sophie Callahan- brand ambassador. Sophie was on Radio Badminton with Rupert Bell and Matt Ryan discussing trot up style. She did this last year too and was absolutely amazing. After the trot up, she also wrote a news item for the Badminton website about it – you can read Sophie’s take on the trot up here – along with who won the Hiho best dressed female and male prizes…

And then we had Rachel Bragg- Sweet Images/photographer. Rachel was also house side and was taking pics of the presentation, the judges and the horses and their stylish rider too. These have already been used on Hiho’s social media but will also appear online and on other content soon and in the run up to next year’s event too.

And, in addition to this…

There was the Badminton team who helped to bring it together from their side. And I had the joy of working with them and they were incredible.

And that’s before we dig into the ‘home team’ who helped keep the home fires going (Michelle and Amanda at Hiho Towers), the show team who kept the stand going during the trot up and the HUGE amount of planning something like this takes.

So that’s how it all works. It’s great to be a small cog in this kind of event, and when you see it all come together and work exactly how you want, well, it’s something else!

Royal Wedding What’s lip balm got to do with a Royal Wedding? This was the exact question I asked myself when an ad for a very well known brand of lip balm popped up in my Instagram feed. Oh- did I forget to mention- it was a special edition Harry and Meghan wedding edition one? Yep- I thought it was a bit strange too… and even though the angle is clear, it still feels odd to me. As a long game strategy, what does it bring to the table?

Has lip balm got anything to do with a Royal Wedding?

In my opinion? Nope. But then I don’t think that half the wedding themed stuff I’ve see has either. I completely 100% understand why people have brought out Royal Wedding themed things, I really do, but for me it’s got to fit the brand. It always has to feel on brand and not like the company is clutching at straws. An attempt to grab a bit of the spotlight when it’s shining a long way away from them and their brand. Do you know what I mean? Capitalising on the things that your brand is doing, that match the values of your brand – absolutely – but when it’s random? It just feels odd. Like a vegan friend eating a steak because it’s now on trend and popular.

But it gets even weirder than lip balm…

Yep… after that Royal Wedding edition of lip balm popped up, I kept seeing everything connected to the Royal Wedding. And don’t think I’m anti that either – I really hope they make each other very happy and live happily ever after. I have no issue with weddings, or marriage, or the Royals, or businesses trying to capitalise on a current event – newsjack if you will – it can have huge value. Note the use of the word can. I think when done well, and in a way that is reflective of the brand’s values, target market, etc. etc, it can be a very valuable tool. Shall we explore some of the other fun wedding themed products I’ve found? Just for kicks… I’m not going to name brands because I am sure there’s more than one doing the same thing… but here we go…

Wedding sausages. The one I found did amuse me as it combined sweet ginger and American mustard, but a wedding sausage still seems a bit of a stretch,

Crisps. I’ve seen ones combining ginger with edible glitter

Swimming costumes. These are very, very special and Harry’s chin groove falls in a really awkward place…

Dog neckerchiefs… because all dogs are pro the Royal family, aren’t they?

Specially designed deep fried chicken buckets. No other words needed 

Wooden spoons. So you can see Meghan or Harry’s face when you’re cooking.

There are more – plenty more… just have a Google.

 

So, why do I object to these? On one hand, I don’t. All of these have attained many column inches online which has, no doubt, raised the profile of the brands involved. It’s probably generated significant sales too. So that’s gone well…

But long term… will it make a difference to the brand, to loyalty, to product development and reputation? Will it make people become raving fans of the brand… or fans at all? For some, it might do. If someone tries one of the wedding themed sausages or crisps and really likes it, they might be tempted to buy more from that brand. Maybe. Or maybe they make a ‘serious’ company that prides itself on a range of values appear more flippant and frivolous?

What do you think? What Royal Wedding themed products have you seen?

Do you think they’re a stroke of marketing genius or a bit tacky?

Small and Supercharged Giveaway

The Small and Supercharged giveaway bundle

Have you seen the Small & Supercharged giveaway? This AMAZING competition has recently launched on my Facebook page and the prize bundle is INCREDIBLE. I want to say a ginormous thank you to all the businesses who have donated prizes (I’m going to walk you through them all below) – the winner is going to have a very good day when this bundle of joy arrives!

What’s the Small & Supercharged giveaway?

The Small & Supercharged giveaway is a simple competition with a few purposes. First of all, it’s to celebrate my Small & Supercharged Facebook group getting over 1000 members. To me, that’s just plain crazy. It’s such a fab group and I am SO proud of it, but I didn’t imagine it would grow at such a rate and do so much good. To get to over 1000 fabulous members is amazing to me. And I wanted to celebrate.

So – I posted in the group and asked if anyone would be interested in donating a prize to the prize bundle. The idea would be to promote S&S and this milestone, of course, but it would also be to promote some of the amazing members inside the group. The remit was that anyone could donate a prize as long as it didn’t cross over the path of someone else who had already agreed. I didn’t want have a prize bundle made up of, I don’t know, 20 saddle pads, for example. As great as saddle pads are, that wouldn’t work as a prize. But luckily the diversity of the group shone through and an amazing bundle was created. Here are the prizes in the bundle – in alphabetical order by company name for fairness!

Hiho Silver Friendship Bracelet

Hiho Silver Friendship Bracelet

Who has donated to the Small & Supercharged 1k giveaway bundle?

Black Nova Designs has given a USB stick and a year’s hosting

Bling in the Show Ring has given a stock pin with pink, pearl and white elements

Doris & Co has given a lovely British creamware ‘Hold Fast’ Half Pint Mug

Equestriman has given a branded baseball cap

EvoEquine has given a tub of natural leather balm

Haynet has donated a lovely branded mug and pen

Hettie Company has donated a beautiful tweed iPad case. Made in Britain and soooo pretty!

Hiho Silver has given a stunning Exclusive Sterling Silver Horseshoe Friendship Bracelet

Hoofprints has donated a Small & Supercharged branded mug and coaster

Mackenzie and George

Mackenzie and George

Horse Riding With Confidence Scotland has donated a gift voucher for a session

Horsemanship Magazine has donated a magazine subscription

Horseshoe Hearts & Gifts has given Linked Horseshoe Hearts

Huf Designs has given a beautiful turquoise SKUP

Inkpot & Press has donated a Kikki K Goals Journal – ideal for stationery lovers!

Loch Leven Equine Practice has given an extensive equine first aid kit. Not only are first aid items included, but it comes in a great bag with a handy guide.

Lois Rose Fine Art has given one colouring book

Lotte Simons Photography has donated a stunning equine photo print

Mackenzie & George has given a handmade feather brooch by Wendy Goode, and a new leather keyring with branded brass rivet

Mother Bee has given a bundle of goodies for horse (Soothe & Protect), human (Soothing Lip Balm & Yard Hand Rescue) and tack (Leather Balm)

NKC Equestrian has given TWO places on an equine first aid course

My Dogs Deli has donated a box of canine goodies

Rowan & Ruby has donated a gorgeous tweed keyring

Safe Care Equine has donated two bottles of Total Body Wash

Super X Country has given a pink bobble hat from its current collection

Safe-Care Equine, The Herbal Horse, and Lotte Simons Photography

Safe-Care Equine, The Herbal Horse, and Lotte Simons Photography

Tail End Jewellery has given a £40 gift voucher

The Collar Club has give a subscription box for dogs

Tidy Tack Rooms Ltd has donated two saddlepad storage bags

The Equine Business Assistant has donated a pen, horse paperclips and a voucher for a hour of services

21st Century Rider has donated a Back On Track saddlepad

White Horse Leather has donated a leather headcollar

Wimpy Eventer has given two books: How To Get Your Leg Over and How To Stay On Top

 

I’ve added Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive, and a Project Book notebook

How can you enter AND find out about all the amazing prizes above?

Well, that’s simple! In order to enter, just pop on over to my Facebook page. The post is pinned to the top of the page and you can find out more about ALL the companies involved and tagged there too. Please give them a little social media love and support. Without their generosity, this giveaway would be, well, non-existent, if you can show them a little love that would be fab.

And what if you want to join Small & Supercharged?

Wimpy Eventer, Haynet, and Hoofprints

Wimpy Eventer, Haynet, and Hoofprints

Then be my guest – just come on over and ask to join the Small & Supercharged group on Facebook. Just one thing, PLEASE answer the questions. At time of writing this blog, I have 94 requests pending approval. Why? Because most of them didn’t answer the questions and I can not see from their profile if they’re a good fit for the group. I know. I take my role of creator and admin a *bit* too seriously.

Anyway, a HUGE thank you to the Small & Supercharged group for their help with the giveaway. And best of luck to you if you enter… entries close at the end of May ’18.

With Badminton very much here, I wanted to share with you some of my top tips, to help you make the most of your time at Badminton Horse Trials. This is a truly AMAZING event and I can’t wait to go this year, but trust me on this, prior planning prevents poor performance. Sounds like a military operation, doesn’t it? It isn’t, but I have found my enjoyment for events has been increased 10 fold by following the advice below. It’s a bit like like advice your mum would give. But I’m doing it clad in Hiho Silver, my Mackenzie & George Fedora and my Fairfax & Favor Explorers. Horse Trials uniform if you will… so here goes…

How to make the most of your time at Badminton Horse Trials…

1. Organise. I know, I know, it’s such a boring tip, but it’s a big one. Get all your clothes organised the night before. Locate your purse/bag/car keys/ticket THE NIGHT BEFORE. Do everything the night before. Make a list of stuff you need and put as much of it in a heap by the door or even in the car. This might mean poo bags and leads if you’re taking a dog, waterproofs and umbrellas or sunscreen. Give yourself a little time to think and plan… it’ll save you running around in the morning and increasing stress levels before you get into the car.

2. Maps. Ah. Another piece of parental advice. If you have stands you HAVE to see, print off a map of the tradestands from the Badminton website and get them marked on with a pen. When you’re there, you’ll thank me. You’ll move around in a much more efficient manner, saving miles on your boots and also saving you lots of time.

** Make sure you add Hiho Silver on stand 188 – you can see the Official Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Jewellery Collection there, Mackenzie & George in Rural Crafts, Super X Country and Eqclusive to your list of must visits!!**

3. Drinks. Drinks matter. And not the alcoholic kind. I’m notorious for the amount of water I drink (as in, nowhere near enough), but when you’re at an event and you’re running around, it’s really easy to get dehydrated. Add in some tea, coffee or alcohol and you’ll find you have a banging headache and a bad mood way too early in the day. My best bit of advice is bottled water. Get a bottle or two and pop them in your bag and drink them. I hate having headaches and find they make me feel really rubbish and definitely hinder my enjoyment of the day. This changes the game. Obviously get other drinks too when you’re there, but you know you have a supply!

4. Food. Food is a must. Make a plan to eat. There are amazing stands there but I tend to buy some food to take (almost a picnic!) and also buy something delicious there as a treat. The last few years I have found myself eating on the move, and having a sandwich and some crisps in my bag has been a big plus. It doesn’t mean I’m not visiting the amazing stands there, but it stops me having a low when I get super hungry and I’m in the middle of something.

5. Footwear. PLEASE PLEASE wear good footwear. I’m wearing my Fairfax & Favor Explorers but will also take my Rudds in case its really wet. Both of these boots are comfy, robust and durable. Please PLEASE don’t go for flip flops or heels if you’re planning to walk the XC course. Please. Come on. That’s crazy bananas.

6. Weather. Take everything you need for all the seasons. Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, wellies, waterproofs, coat, etc. You don’t want to get burnt or soaked.

7. Cars. Remember where you left your car. I now take a picture of where I’ve parked the damn thing with something obvious that I can find again in the background. You’re speaking to someone who lost their car for an hour at the NEC. Always take a pic or something else that will help you find it again.

8. Bags. Take a good bag. Backpacks are great, but I’m taking my Fairfax & Favor Windsor because it has plenty of space, it’s comfortable to carry and I love it. Take something with lots of room for your essentials.

What tips did I miss? What stands are on your must-see list? I’d love to know!

 

the filters we applyThis ‘behind…’ is a bit different to normal. I usually go behind the scenes of a campaign, competition or product launch. Now, fear not, I’ll be going back there next week, but today I want to talk about the filters we apply. No, not to our social media pics. The filters we apply to our lives and the events that happen to us.

Filters?

Yes. Filters. You can call them frames if you like – lots of people do. Basically, it’s the way you view something. Exciting or scary? Hard work or challenging? Get it? Now, if we explore the filters idea (because, you know, I like social media!), then I think it becomes clear…

Let’s talk about filters

Imagine you take a picture (well, no need to imagine, I’m sure you take a lot of pictures!) and now let’s think of the filter you apply before you show the world.

Let’s look at Instagram’s filters… I’m just going to pick a few to illustrate. Don’t be a filter snob here. I might not mention the ones you like… it’s OK… and if I mention the ones below and you disagree with my assessment, that’s fine too. I’m all about the metaphor!

So, we start with no filter. In Instagram terms (and real life), this is what it is. There’s nothing added or taken away to give a different feel, thought, look or opinion. The picture here is a dandelion.

Now, Clarendon… this makes everything pop, makes it all more vibrant (well, on the image I’m messing around with it does). This has made the image brighter – it looks sunnier than before, everything looks lush, green, rosy and spring like. So maybe, if we flip around to our own filters, Clarendon is an optimistic filter than makes everything look a little ‘better’ than it is.

Reyes… the image I’m using now has lost its vibrancy. The yellow dandelions, the green grass… they feel less than they should be in this context. It’s almost like the image has been subdued in some way. Flipping to the life filter, this could be a filter that makes things look less ‘shiny’. Maybe a really exciting opportunity becomes great or ‘ok’.

X-Pro II… the drama! The colours have become deeper, so has the road surface in the image… it feels dramatic and exaggerated. I don’t dislike what it’s done to the dandelion image, but if you have your X-Pro II filter on in real life, it could be good or bad.

See where I’m going with this?

So, what do filters have to do with anything? How do the filters we apply change anything?

They change how we view things. The filter doesn’t have to change the thing we’re seeing, but it’ll change how we feel about it all. The story we create around it. The picture here, the one of dandelions. What do you see? A weed? A flower? Something yellow? Food? A life line for bees? It’s all of these things, depending on how you view it.

Take a situation. I’m going to use public speaking. So, you get invited to speak somewhere. Now what. Are you scared? Excited? Fearing ridicule? What are you thinking? It’s actually completely up to us BUT it can also change the outcome of this kind of event. It’s a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy. My amazing friend, Emma Warren, made me think about this the other day. She asked me how I was feeling about my TEDx talk. I said I was nervous. That I was not good at public speaking. She suggested that each time that thought entered my head I did a physical thing and repeated a basic mantra to change how I viewed it. To change my filter. To switch nerves into excitement. I only did this a couple of times and I felt the worry lift. And then I didn’t think of the disaster scenario again, that was connected to my anxiety. I was still a little anxious – I mean – public speaking is not something I do lots of – but I wasn’t scared. I was kind of excited. If I’d had the wrong filter in place, I wouldn’t have been.

I like the filter analogy. I’m sure it’s been used before (so I’m not saying it’s my idea, I just haven’t seen it myself), but I usually see it referred to as framing. I always understood the concept, but when I was walking the dog, pondering life, listening to an audiobook and saw that the verges were lined with dandelions, everything started to fit together. Weed or flower? Food or decoration? It depends what filter you apply. This depends on your pre-sets (you can tell I work with a lot of photographers, can’t you?!), but it also means that YOU CAN CHANGE IT.

I hasten to add that I am no mindset coach and I’m no expert in psychology, far from it, this is very much my take on it, based on my own thoughts.

Do you apply filters to certain scenarios? Are you aware of the filters you’re applying? I’d love to know.

The Brand Stylist - Brand BrillianceIf you’ve seen my Instagram in particular, you will have noticed that a book is a regular feature in my pictures. And this book is Brand Brilliance. It’s by the very talented Fiona Humberstone, also known at The Brand Stylist. But saying I just loved the book wasn’t enough… because I’m also taking Fiona’s fabulous online course, Design for Go Getters, and loving the whole process.

How did I find The Brand Stylist?

I actually can’t remember with complete certainty(!) but I think that I first found Fiona and The Brand Stylist on Amazon. I mean, that’s where I find a lot of people… either that or through podcasts I listen to. But I’m fairly sure that my first ‘meeting’ with Fiona was on Amazon, when I bought ‘How To Style Your Brand’. I have a HUGE thing about branding and being on brand. Having worked with so many business over the years, ‘on brand’ is a phrase I have used a lot. It’s something that any and every business owner needs to be concerned with and something I continually assess. And I don’t always get it right – far from it – but I am constantly trying. Over the years I have picked up a huge amount from the talented graphic designers I have worked with, but Fiona’s take was a little different. She clearly is bursting with technical knowledge, but she brings as slightly ‘softer’ side to it. Fiona talks about what ‘season’ your business is and the colours and style of these. It’s something that (in my experience at least) has taken a while to kind of marinade and develop in my head. I did enjoy ‘How To Style Your Brand’, but it left me with a lot of questions (I tend to think about things a lot!) that swilled about in my head.

Then Brand Brilliance came along

I was listening to a Me and Orla podcast where Sara Tasker interviewed Fiona. She was LOVELY. Approachable, jolly, insightful and passionate. I listened to the podcast a number of times and felt inspired after each listen. Fiona spoke about her new book, Brand Brilliance, and it sounded incredible. I trundled off to Amazon again and bought it. It’s not a cheap book (it’s around the £20 mark), but it is worth every single penny. I’ve paid £5 for books and felt ripped off, but I felt that Brand Brilliance was exceptional value. Before we even get to the content, the book is a work of art. It’s a lesson in layout and font, style, imagery… and that’s just how the book is, rather than what it contains. The content blew me away. It’s superb and I have recommended it to SO many people. When I meet up with people, I regularly take it along for them to see… and I think that everyone I have shown it to has purchased it! I loved the book and will be re-reading it again very, very soon.

But it didn’t stop there…

See, when you have a positive (I mean, really positive) ‘experience’ with someone, you find out more about them. I related to the book and Fiona’s philosophy and wanted to find out more about her and what made her tick, so I signed up to her newsletter and followed Fiona on social media (she’s usually found under her brand The Brand Stylist) and adored her content. And then she announced a course… Design for Go Getters. The course was run online and, again, not exactly cheap but, because of the book, I was quietly confident I would get exceptional value… and I was right.

What’s Design for Go Getters?

Design for Go Getters is The Brand Stylist’s online course that sheds a lot more light on design, its impact, how it works and what it says (and how to achieve it too!). As I said, I have a huge interest in design and have seen first hand the impact of good design vs. poor design and the impact this has on every area of a business and the perception of a brand. So I was keen to get some ‘proper’ education under my belt, that built on what I had learnt and loved from Brand Brilliance. I’m yet to finish the course (but when I do I intend to revisit, review and expect I’ll get more and more from it each time I look at it!), but I am enjoying every second. Combining mixed media, examples, information and challenges, I am lapping up the experience, the course… and have taken huge inspiration from it in terms of in terms of branding and design… but a whole lot more too.

So, that’s why I love The Brand Stylist. If you have even the slightest interest in branding and design, I would suggest ou follow Fiona on social media and have a good read of her blogs, they’re inspiring too. You don’t have to buy any of the above at all (and I haven’t been asked to write this, just FYI, I just want to share things with you that I love that I think you might like too!), but I wanted to share it with you, just in case.

Find Fiona here, at her online home The Brand Stylist