Brand management for creative businesses

When I worked at big organisations, I was trained to think about brand risk with every decision I made. Was this post or photo going to reflect badly on our organisation? Was this glaring bug or problem going to affect our reputation?
The skills I learned working in the corporate world have come very handy in my creative business. This includes the way I think about and protect my brand and what I created.
I am notoriously picky in the partnerships I go into and what I choose to give my time to. Every activity takes my time and my energy, and I have worked way too hard on building a business and a brand, for it to be devalued in small or big ways.
Most importantly though, this is something I see a lot of people struggle with. Especially newer businesses.
When we start out, we think we need to jump at every opportunity, be everywhere, say yes to everything. It's not the case. While being open to opportunities is very important, it's essential to manage our time and energy and protect our brand so that it stands out.
I put together a few things I learned and practice below.

What is brand risk?

Brand risk can have many definitions but I use it to define something (a partnership, activity, product), that may devalue my brand.

Examples of brand risk for a small business

  • Partnering with a brand that is not aligned with our values. This can be in the form of simply selling our products on a site, offering free product in exchange for visibility, collaboration...

  • Engaging in practices that diminish our standing, like shady SEO practices, "like chains", etc

  • Dilution of brand by being present in many places at once

Things to consider when evaluating a partnership

  1. Brand feel

  2. Values

  3. How the brand engages with its customers

  4. Engagement level

  5. Long term impact

It's important to be selective

It can be tempting to say yes to every single offer out there, especially at the beginning of a business. It's natural to think: the more exposure the better. It's however not the case.

Every partnership or activity is a demand on your time, so it should be worth it. Protect your time and your creativity.

Ask yourself


  • Is the short term potential advantage worth the medium term effect?
  • Do you have a good feeling when talking to this person/organisation? Are they being respectful about your work?
  • Do they have a track record of success? For instance, influencers who ask you for free stuff should be showing more than mere high follower numbers. Do their post have high engagement (likes and comments)?
  • Does their brand go well with yours?Is their web presence polished? Do you share similar values?
  • Do they use artists' work without credit? This is a big flag for me and an immediate no.
  • Everywhere is not better

    An ubiquitous brand is not necessarily a stronger brand. You do not want to be a brand of dishwasher, right?

    For creative businesses, for artists, our brand is very much a reflection of us and our work and it's essential we remain in control.

    Also, we very much handle in lifestyle goods and these should not be available everywhere at once.

    Other brand risks

    • Engaging in shady practices like SEO link spamming (we all get the emails don't we?), bad deliverability practices (like not having double opt in or having bad privacy policies)
    • Endless sales and discounts
    • Using lots of stock imagery
    • Not having policies around returns, cancellations, etc


    Be selective. It's OK to say no. Do not let FOMO get the better of you.

    Do not undervalue yourself and your brand. It doesn't matter how small or how new it is.

    Focus on the things that nurture your creative practice and protect your time.