Developing a Winning Brand: Reflections on Poketti's ICON HONOR for Branding

We had a wonderful start to our summer. On July 9, Poketti received the honor for Branding at AmericasMart Atlanta's ICON HONORS, an annual event that celebrates innovation in the gift industry. It was a world-class event with 900 people in attendance, and an experience Poketti's young entrepreneurs will never forget. 

It started one day in April when I received an email from AmericasMart Atlanta, calling for entries for the 6th annual ICON HONORS. AmericasMart Atlanta is a thriving mecca for the gift and home industry, with three enormous buildings housing both permanent and temporary showrooms. It's also host to 14 annual trade shows featuring everything from gift and home products to bridal, apparel and children's products. Believe me, it's huge.

The application was surprisingly involved, and it took some time to complete. It asked to describe what makes our brand unique, how it was conceived, and how we execute on it. The application forced me to really think about what makes Poketti "Poketti," and as I wrote, I discovered that what we've done with Poketti is pretty special. In this post, I'll share my key takeaways of developing a successful brand. But first, I'll finish my story...

Mike Turnbull, Senior Vice President/Strategic Relations at AmericasMart, called in May to tell us that Poketti was a finalist, and the executive team was coming for a site visit. I panicked. "We work from home," I explained, "Poketti consists of myself, my two daughters, a home office and a few storage lockers." He laughed and scheduled a visit in early June.

The team, with a professional video production crew, showed up in two shiny black limos (to a thoroughly scrubbed house and neatly arranged office). As intimidating as that sounds, they were the most kind, encouraging and supportive group of men I have ever met. Their Southern charm had us relaxed and excited all at once. Mike and George Kacic, another executive and gift industry veteran, pulled me aside to tell us that we had won. We were going to Atlanta!

This video begins with the piece they shot at our home which was shown on huge screens at the event. The video end with Sydney's acceptance speech. I am infinitely proud of everything this represents —for Poketti and for my hard working girls.


Hall and Oates played a set after the honorees were announced, which made the night even more memorable. The girls were surrounded by well-wishers and people with years of industry experience willing to help them with their business. The entire night was magical, and gave us new insight, contacts, and direction for Poketti's growth. Thank you to everyone at ICON HONORS and the wonderful community at AmericasMart Atlanta.

As promised, here are a few tips on developing a successful brand.

A "brand" is a collection of equally important things. A "brand" is not just a logo, or message, or "look and feel." It's a company's visual voice, its personality, and how the company and its products come across in the marketplace. It can also be how your customers feel about you. A successful brand is built on consistency — in color, style, font, character, message, imagery, customer experience, and delivery of products or services. Poketti Plushies with a Pocket are highly graphical, and work consistently as plush toys and illustrated icons. The products work as a family with unifying points, such as the pocket design with its signature tab and the embroidered, two-toned eyes. In print, point of sale, and online marketing materials, we use consistent colors, fonts, and logo placement. We wrap our products in blue tissue and include extra treats in our boxes to express our appreciation to our customers for supporting us. And because our materials and accessories are all sized to fit inside the pocket, they also serve to reiterate the value proposition of our products: Poketti are cute and functional.

TIP: Arrange all of your packaging and marketing materials randomly on a table. You should be able to recognize similar attributes across all of the pieces, and tell at a glance that everything came from the same company. Be sure that your online presence shares the same attributes.

Everyone must be on board with the brand. With my background in design, and Sydney's product vision, we had a good start developing a strong brand for Poketti, but our secret weapon is Toni. She makes sure we stay creative, but that we also maintain consistency. Once your brand is established in the marketplace, it's really important that no one deviates from it. As a graphic designer developing corporate identities for companies, I also produce a "Style Guide" that outlines colors, fonts and "rules" for the brand so the company can "own it" going forward. As well meaning as that may be, it only takes one or two mavericks to get "creative," and the brand can fall apart quickly. At Poketti, we have the benefit of working very closely together, and Toni is not shy about letting us know if we're straying too far.

Be unique and different. By virtue of being founded by young entrepreneurs, Poketti is already "different," but we have to work really hard to stand out in the overly crowded world of plush. We provide point-of-sale signage to tell the story of our young entrepreneurs, and our accessories for the pocket help bring the Poketti characters to life. Extra touches help solidify our brand — and reward our customers. We hope that with each purchase, customers realize they are supporting a small business, run by enthusiastic teens, and that the products they are purchasing have been thoughtfully designed and developed. We've given each Poketti character a name and distinct personality, which gives our products a special quality, and provides endless opportunities for Sydney and Toni as they develop their company.

TIP: Examine your messaging to see if you are truly conveying how and why your company or product is different. Finding specific key differentiators for your business can help drive your marketing and convert your audience into valued, loyal customers.

We're excited about this incredible achievement, and for the next steps for Poketti. Thank you for joining us as we learn and grow! 

-Kris (one very proud mama)

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