When Abby Allen founded her Los Angeles-based boutique brand development and communications agency in 2011, she chose the name Neon Butterfly with process in mind. Inspired by the insect’s metamorphosis from cocoon to colorful flight, her mission is to facilitate similar growth in her clients. From their early-stage ideas, she works to create something better and more beautiful than the original.
A native New Yorker and big-agency-veteran in the fields of advertising and marketing, Abby has worked with multiple billion-dollar brands. After 15 years in that more traditional setting, she realizes that her current position—as a full-service creative agency founder who is also a woman of color—gives her an edge in helping clients to stand out.
Here’s Abby’s unique take on developing and promoting your own personal brand, rooted in storytelling and strategy. By creating a strong narrative and sharing high-quality content through a well designed website, you'll attract and delight viewers as much as any vibrant caterpillar-turned-butterfly.
Rely on Diverse Voices to Share Your Story
Abby assembles diverse teams of creative freelancers customized for each project at Neon Butterfly. She curates talent aligned with each client’s audience, whether they lack high-caliber branding expertise, or are focused on social impact.
“There’s endless proof that diversity—not just in race and gender, but in opinion and lifestyle—leads to stronger, more salient creative work,” she says. “That means that we produce more relevant and successful work than a less diverse team at a big agency ever could.”
So, if you have the means to customize a diverse team to help you create engaging content, go for it! But don’t worry, you can also connect more casually (through Facebook groups, friends, and social media) with others to discuss your brand and get diverse input.
And Abby suggests keeping these easy-to-remember “Three Cs" in mind.
Connection: Ground your offering in a universal truth or human emotion.
Clarity: Define your brand. Once you’ve identified your audience, get to know it inside and out.
Consistency: Live, breathe and communicate the same message, the same way, at every one of your touch points.
Shine a Spotlight Where it Counts
When you have something to promote or sell, Abby suggests creating a standalone page to highlight it. On her own website, she showcases her Brand Building Workbook—an e-book about crafting your brand story—via this cover page, using the default “Cover” layout. In the backend of her site, she built the simple landing page in less than an hour.
“Many of my clients also use Squarespace for its incredible design and customer service,” she says. “Most small to medium-sized businesses don’t need expensive, custom-developed sites. But they often need multiple employees to quickly update info, so Squarespace, with its email support and instructional videos, makes the most sense."
In advising clients to maximize their own brand's advertising ROI, she teaches them to track sales through their site using Squarespace Analytics. “People often set up tracking without being clear about what they’re trying to measure,” she says. “We help our clients to read the data properly by first setting clear goals around the actions they want people to take.” As part of their conversion and sales funnels, she also has clients link to their cover page in Facebook ads and on other social platforms.
Inquire, Define, Engage, Measure: Repeat
Before obsessing too much about ROI, Abby suggests that you work on defining what the term means to you. “There’s more than one way to measure it,” she says. “If you focus mainly on growing awareness through your brand story, as I do, you need to make sure that at every touch point—on your website, your social channels, etc—you establish a clear foundation of what it stands for. Your message should be clear, differentiated, and consistent before you spend any money to promote it.”
In order to connect with the right audience, she adds, your story must be grounded in insights. To arrive at those, Abby often facilitates focus groups or ethnographic research for her clients. The goal is to find answers to these and other questions: “Do you know exactly who you're trying to reach, and what they want to hear about what? What new products would make sense to develop, and for which consumers? How and where do we reach them?”
Once a brand answers these questions and has a new product, Abby then develops marketing and advertising campaigns around their business objectives. “People often speak to the wrong audience in the wrong way,” Abby says.
“By doing your due diligence, you’ll know that your message is rooted in truths that resonate with your target market.” And once you know how to speak to your audience, curating your content for them becomes a no-brainer.