How to use mockups to convey the right message for your brand

8:22 AM


Product mockups play a big role in how your brand is perceived

Here come another blog post geared toward content creation for your brand! 
I am feeling compelled to write a bit more on this topic because in the past few weeks I have been asked a lot about it and at this point, I also realised that with some of the people contacting me via Instagram for tips, I was spending entirely too much time dispensing tips (for free no less) on how to have a cohesive look for your brand on social media. I came to the realisation that while I am all for helping others, I also realistically can't spend anymore time doing that via DMs, so whenever questions arise, I will write blog posts about it and direct people to go read them. 

So, one of the person who contacted me and got a lot of my free time on DM (if you read this you'll know who you are) kept asking about how to create content that would convert into sales. They had read my Quora answers about not lifting Redbubble product pictures "as is" and use them constantly as content for their Instagram feed. In the name of original content and the power of authenticity in social media marketing, I recommend going with more custom mockups. There are plenty of free psd mockups one can find online, and if you are already well versed with Photoshop, it's also very easy to create your own from scratch. 
That person, kind of interpreted my advice not to use product image straight from Redbubble as a "ONLY use other mockups", yet their feed still looked awfully like a product catalogue, and one that was not even really conveying WHAT the brand was about. Which is exactly why I am going to go a bit more into this right now. 

Branding is paramount

The first thing you need to be absolutely crystal clear about is what your brand is all about, what it stands for, what it's unique selling point is and what is the product your are selling and to what audience. 

This is the part where you really can't just wing it. So if you haven't sat down to think about it yet, do it right away, before you do anything else. 

I've been asked a couple of times why I am not promoting a shop more than another, or spend more time promoting the physical end product. My answer is that I am NOT a coffee mug/whatever product seller. I am a DESIGNER who uses several physical items as a medium to sell my art. 

Art is the product I sell. Home Cyn Home is not a coffee mug or t-shirt brand, it's a lifestyle design aesthetic brand with the tag line "Be bold and colorful". I as a designer introduce myself as : 

"I'm a designer, artist and illustrator who loves colors and get inspiration from my daily life in India" 

This elevator pitch above is my unique selling point, and everything I do fits that pitch. It's not that I don't doodle things that are in black and white, or explore other art techniques, I just don't share them if they don't fit the brand I created because that would end up confusing the crap out of my audience.

Think about the message your content conveys

Once you've figured out your branding, your unique selling point and what it is you are really selling and what to bring to your audience, you can move to the next step : Content creation

On social media this means creating visual content that attract people's attention and ideally drive them to your page and engage further with what you create. 
Typically,  you have about 2-3 seconds at the most to catch a potential follower's attention in any given hashtag feed on Instagram, so you want your image to really grab their attention fast. If they chose to open it based on the thumbnail in order to like it,  and possibly read the caption, there is also a chance they will visit your page.
What you have on your own feed should not make them wonder what you are all about, so stick to a theme and aesthetic.

Here I'll tell you what I look for when I consider following a person on Instagram : 

- Are their feeds looking nice and engaging? 
- Do I feel inspired by the content? 
- Does the content make me smile or make me feel happy?
- Is it the kind of content I would enjoy seeing in my feed? 
- Is the person someone I can see myself engaging with? 

Notice that at this point, none of my criteria are "Do I want to buy something", Instagram or social media for that matter is not the place were you will drive sales, it's the place where you build an audience out of which a small percentage might at one point make a purchase.

People who engage actively with my brand on Instagram love my content, and yes some bought products, but the reason they follow me and engage with my content is that the love colors, they love happy patterns and designs and they love how I post fun Instagram stories and share how my life is going in the image captions on my feed. 

If I suddenly went to just post black and white pictures of my daily life, or decide to only do black and white illustration work, I would probably loose the majority of my audience over a few days. 

Use mockups wisely

In my power of authenticity blog post, I pointed out how you want to avoid lifting product pictures "as is" from whatever site you are selling them on, mostly because too many people are doing just that and then because your Instagram feed should not feel like a gift shop catalogue when you are an artist and designer. 
As I said above, the product an artist should be selling is their art, not the medium on which it is printed. 

But even with custom product mockups, there is a risk to look a bit too "product catlogue-ish", if you aren't sure if your Instagram feed are giving the right message, my advice is show them to a friend who knows little about your brand or business and ask them to guess what it's all about and tell it to you right away...on the spot. 

I actually did that with that person who contacted me. I showed their feed to my husband and asked him to tell me right away what he thought that brand was about. His answer was "It's a t-shirt brand" and I asked him "What about the designs?" and here is what my husband said : 

"What designs? I only see black and white t-shirts" 

He could not tell from just looking at thumbnail images that it was a Redbubble artist selling designs that can go on product, because the first thing he noticed about the general look of the feed was that it was just plain old t-shirts.  

This means, that what was the real product : the artwork, was NOT standing out, and neither was what the brand was about. 
I found out from them that they themselves had no idea what their brand identity was like...and it shows in their feed. 

Whatever image, or product mockup you use in your Instagram content must reflect EXACTLY what you intent to project for your brand. 

The right mockup photo speaks louder that words.

I'll say it again, make sure that your feed, if you are a surface designer or artist, reflects what the art is about on top of the versatility of products it can go on. 
Take the picture above, someone who loves bold pastel tones and pink will notice this picture, then they might notice it's a design collection that looks good on water bottles, but the bottle might not be what they noticed instantly. 
Bright, happy pink...definitely what got noticed in that first second while scrolling a hashtag I featured it in. I do lifestyle and color hashtag feed because that's where the audience that is more likely to connect with my brand goes. 
If they don't like pink, pastels, or retro flowers, they will scroll past it and it's fine, they are not my targeted audience. 

My feed are a mix of work in progress, printable stickers photos, product mockups, finished artwork, pattern tiles, and bullet journal spreads, all high in color, all fitting the same aesthetic that define my brand. And nothing is done by accident when it comes to how post or feature a product. Too many mockup posts in a row and I take the risk of looking very catalogue-ish, too little and my audience might miss on the fact that the cool art I do can indeed be bought on different products. It's all about balance. 

When I plan for a mockup image, I put a LOT of thought into it. Yes, I use free psd mockups, but I am very selective about the general vibe and how it can be customised to reflect "Be bold and colorful". The theme of the mockup and the artwork also do have to match. If I'm showcasing a Christmas design on Instagram, this is the last mockup image I would use : 

This picture is from a product from my Society6 shop, because, YES, I sell my Christmas designs on beach gear. I know not everybody lives in a snowy climate and for some Christmas is a beach thing. 

But, let's face it, no matter were we grew up, we all see Christmas as a winter event, and winter = Snow. Trust me I live in a tropical area and we still see malls decorated with snowflakes and Santas wearing a winter coat and boots. 

The first thing people see in that picture if they are scrolling down a feed is that it's a beach picture. If they came here to find some festive inspiration, their mind is very unlikely to ever associate it with Christmas. In the first second of them looking at the picture they could not even notice the Christmas tree pattern on it. It's a great product mockup to look at on the site where the item is actually on sale, but it's not something that is going to grab anybody's attention unless it has a tropical motif slapped on it and is featured in something like #beachready or #summerhereicome. The same mockup is more likely to attract attention if used with the right featured design : 

Notice the difference? Beach, sun and turquoise and pink floral pattern are more of a match made in heaven than beach, sun and Christmas trees. 
It doesn't mean that people won't buy a Christmas lounge chair or beach towel, it just mean that on my Instagram feed it is more likely to confuse my audience than it is to inspire them. 

Instagram is not where you make sales

People don't go browse Instagram feed to go shopping, they go there to find inspiration for their home decor, gift ideas, craft projects and put a smile on their face. So leverage that power, sell them inspiration, dream and showcase your creative side and designs rather than try to make them buy a t-shirt or a mug. It doesn't mean you can showcase your design on one in your feed, it just mean that they need to convey a message other than "Buy this". The message should be more along the line of "Look how cool my brand is" 

You also need to remember to be social, Instagram is all about engagement and building a relationship with your audience. So do make sure you focus on that by writing cool, fun captions with your photos, and take time in your day to comment on posts by others that you really like. 

Marketing is the art of telling a story

The biggest misconception is that marketing is all about making a sale, and yes ultimately that is what you want to achieve. 
But what marketing is really all about is telling a story to people, making them feel something, trigger emotions that will in turn get them to want to connect with your brand without necessarily making a purchase immediately. You want your audience to remember you and your brand so that if one day a friend of them ask them where they can find let's say a couple of cute colorful mugs, or some specific art prints for their home, that person can say "Hey I follow this cool artist on Instagram that you could check out". 

Good marketing is the art of selling something in a way that is anything but spammy, tacky or pushy, you want people to make the decision to buy or not buy their own decision. Nobody like the feeling of having been pushed into buying something. 

This means that all the content you create, must contribute to that brand identity story narrative and engage people's emotions so that they remember you.  

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