Nicola Barron says that perfecting the Homemade London brand early on was key to its success
Last month, we had a record-breaking week at Homemade London, with eight events taking place on one day alone. For me, it’s a test to see how far the business has come – I can’t possibly be in eight places at once – so everything depends on my team and the quality of the service we deliver.
We’ll do anything to predispose our customers towards us, so this week we’ve been stuffing a lot of goody bags. Along with our ever-increasing workload, we do sometimes find ourselves wondering whether we really need to go to the effort of making our own notebooks, pocket mirrors and paper-flower kits for each of our customers. But with a growing number of events taking place outside our venue, we’re finding that the more we can do to remind everyone that it’s a Homemade London event rather than one run by an anonymous company, the greater the chance of repeat business. And with more than 50% of our new customers currently coming through personal recommendation, the extra handmade touches make more and more sense. It helps reinforce our brand values and hopefully makes us more memorable to our customers. So where did the brand come from?
My husband and business partner Nick is a corporate PR and marketing expert and no sooner had we had the idea for the business than he insisted that we choose a name, as we had no time to waste.
Deciding to become a business owner seemed like a mammoth decision in itself and I wanted to mull things over for a while, but being forced to make a decision on a name helped us hone our brand and our values quite quickly. Our checklist read as follows:
• It had to suggest what we do – we’re too niche to choose an obscure name
• It had to differentiate us from other, similar businesses
• It had to be flexible
We needed to buy the URL. I remember getting quite cross with one business advisor who told me that I really should think of changing the name of the business to ‘The Workshop’. In many ways, it is a great name but far too generic to stand out, and a quick Google search listed many variations on the name ‘workshop’, meaning it would be very difficult for customers to find you.
Originally, the business was going to be called Homemade, but ‘London’ was added partly to make it easier to secure the right website address.
When starting a business, money is tight and, if you’re vaguely creative, it’s very tempting to whip up a logo and website yourself with a cheap off-the shelf package. I could probably have gone down this route but felt very strongly that in order to create a brand, I needed to hand the idea over to a third party to reinterpret my ideas. The problem was that I was too close to the project and as a result I could only think of the most obvious things to incorporate into our design and logo – buttons, scissors, London icons – and I was afraid that not only would it look messy and obvious, it would also look cheap. Luckily, I had a brilliant designer who took my fears on board and we worked through all the obvious craft and London references to come up with a logo and look that fits our business perfectly.
During my first meeting with the creatives who worked on our brand, they asked me whether I had any buzzwords or phrases associated with the business. At this stage, all I had was a slightly too lengthy elevator pitch on what the business was, what we weren’t and, of course, lots of speculations on the nature of our prospective customers. I quickly realised that we needed a maxim that succinctly summed up the business and our tag line – ‘Create the things you love’ – was born.
Above all, ‘love’ is at the heart of our brand. It expresses the fact that every experience we create has been put together with passion, and designed to delight.
Word of mouth (backed up with some good old Google advertising) has been our most important marketing tool, and we try to give our customers little excuses to tell their friends about the experience they’ve had with us.
I saw Jo Malone talk about marketing once. She recalled how, upon the opening of her first shop, her husband would often tell her that it was time to take the dogs out for a walk. The dogs in question were the luxury-looking Jo Malone bags that she would carry up and down the streets of Knightsbridge to get her brand noticed.
Swanky carrier bags don’t really seem to make a difference to us, but those goody bags with their quirky and creative treats always go down a storm. In fact, we’ve just placed a bulk order for Homemade London tattoos – we’re hoping this means our brand will stick with our customers.