Good ol’ Polaris (aka The North Star) holds still in our sky while the entire Northern sky moves around it, helping “guide us home” whenever we’re lost. In marketing, a North Star is a frame of reference that you keep in the back of your mind as you’re creating your marketing materials or developing your brand assets. It keeps you on-brand by inspiring and steering your designs in the right (consistent) direction. So, how exactly do you discover your North Star?
ONE | RESEARCH (PINTEREST, SOCIAL MEDIA, MAGAZINES)
Chances are you already have North Stars – you’re just not labeling them as such! Think of all the people (or brands or celebs) you cyber stalk on social media or gravitate toward while watching TV or flipping through magazines. Here at Fourth Street, we have a bunch of designers we look up to, and like to check in with them from time to time to see how their aesthetic evolves. We follow them on Instagram and Pinterest so that we don’t even have to go searching for their stuff – it just pops up on our feed! When we have “designer’s block” (totally a thing…), we look to them to remind us of what we value and what makes us excited about design. We aren’t COPYING what they’re doing – we simply look to them for direction when we’re feeling a little uninspired or lost!
TWO | COMPILE THE INSPIRATION YOU FIND IN A FOLDER OR PINTEREST BOARD
Once you’ve identified your North Star(s), create a folder or Pinterest board of inspiration – essentially, anything your North Star(s) put out into the world that inspires and energizes you. Refer to this whenever you’re feeling stuck or beginning to stray from your core branding.
THREE | USE PROMPTS TO HELP YOU DEFINE YOUR NORTH STAR’S BRAND
Let’s say your North Star is a brand. If they were a celeb, who would they be? If they were a cocktail, what flavour would they be? Are they a luxury penthouse or a coastal cottage? This step is important because it will help you figure out what it is you like about them! Maybe you have 3 to 5 North Stars – what are the similarities between these brands, people, or accounts? This is a great way to start understanding what you value. And if you don’t understand what you value, you won’t be able to convey it! It’s not enough to look at someone’s marketing and say you like it because it’s pretty – 10 totally different styles could all be “pretty!” You want to get to the root of what drives your obsession, errr, admiration.
FOUR | REFER BACK TO YOUR NORTH STAR FREQUENTLY
Refer to your North Star any time you’re designing something. Or if your designer has created something, try asking “Would my North Star do this?” Do this as often as you need, especially in the beginning when it’s easy to be led astray! We repeat – do not simply copy your North Star(s). Remember what you admire about them and then find your own unique way of incorporating that into your marketing…in a consistent way!
There you go – a fun and totally useful exercise that, when done thoughtfully, can guide your marketing for years to come!