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How Compound Studio Builds Successful Brands From Scratch

How Compound Studio Builds Successful Brands From Scratch

This episode of Shopify Masters is part of our collaborative series with the Learn with Shopify YouTube channel. Over the next few months, we’ll release a bonus Shopify Masters podcast each week, focused on specific tips and trends for entrepreneurs.

Shane Vitaly began his entrepreneurial journey on a backpacking trip in Bali. During it, he would start designing and selling rings that would eventually lead him to found Vitaly, his namesake futuristic jewelry brand. Today, Vitaly is the co-founder and CEO of Compound Studio, where he has become a master of brand building. 

Over the past 12 years, he and his team have gone on to conceptualize and launch two other jewelry brands—Clocks and Colours and Etah Love—and has plans to launch another, Every Heart, in August 2022. These four distinct brands live under Compound Studio, a Toronto-based accessory design studio growing DTC future-focused brands. Developing each individual brand has led to endless lessons on the art of brand-building.

Greyscale photo of a man standing in the dessert behind a caravan rolling up his jacket sleeve to reveal Clocks and Colours rings and bracelets, plus a tattoo.
The Clocks and Colours brand embodies wild ruggedness and incorporates brand imagery of dessert landscapes and back roads.

“Every sequential launch has gotten better than the prior,” says Vitaly. “And it's because we take everything we've learned and we make sure that it's applied right from the jump. There's definitely a formula, but that formula is always evolving and improving. ”

In this episode of the Shopify Masters podcast, we sit down with Shane Vitaly to discuss the pillars of brand building he’s used to bring Vitaly, Clocks and Colours, Etah Love, and Every Heart to life. From building a distinct brand identity to seeking brand inspiration from unlikely places, his advice is essential for entrepreneurs seeking to build brands that stand out. 

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Focus on creating a distinct and targeted brand identity

Vitaly suggests that some brands aren’t doing branding at all. Instead, they’re “blanding”—creating a visual identity and brand experience that attempts to appeal to everyone. In most cases, this means appealing to nobody at all. 

“When we start thinking about a brand, we really hyper focus on the identity,” says Vitaly. “I find that a lot of people, they go out, and they just want to reach everybody.”

Across all four of their brands, Compound Studio has created distinct brands with a specific target market in mind. For instance, the Vitaly brand appeals to electronic music lovers while the Clocks and Colours brand is distinctly rock and roll. 

Greyscale photo of three men standing in the desert in front of a caravan with Clocks and Colours rings and bracelets on their hands.
The Clocks and Colours Foundation collection draws inspiration from the Earth, including barren landscapes and jagged rock faces.

Here’s what Vitaly had to say about creating a brand that resonates:

  • Don’t try to reach everyone: “There's a lot of brands out there right now…they go, ‘we're going to sell to everyone.’ We've never taken that approach. Our approach has always been to really define who our audience is going to be, and then go after them.”
  • Think through an archetype: “If this was our customer, let's call them Amy, what would Amy wear? What does she do? Does she wake up and go to SoulCycle? Get her Starbucks? If so, what would that person wear? That's literally how we build it out. We start building out a product line, to speak to that person.” 
  • Design for your dream icon: “With Clocks and Colours early on, we had a couple of people that we were referencing. One of them, interestingly enough, was Travis Barker…Eight years ago, I said, ‘this is somebody that I really look up to, and I think we could build a brand that would speak to somebody like him.’ And so we started designing products that we thought he would look good in.”
  • Ignore the competition: “If I start to see that the market is really saturated, I know that by the time I can bring out a product that looks like that, I've already missed the window anyway.”

Seek brand inspiration from unlikely places

While Compound Studio’s brands all have a robust online presence and community, social media is not where they turn for brand and product inspiration. When searching for the next trend, Vitaly turns away from existing trends and competitors and towards the novel and interesting. 

A woman with elaborate eye makeup and hippy attire looks upward with Etah Love rings and bracelets on her hands.
Etah Love, the sister brand of Clocks and Colours, is distinctly bold and fearless.

“To figure out trends. I honestly just spend time walking around the city,” says Vitaly. “I find that it's kind of the most authentic representation of what's happening in the world right now. And so that's kind of my market research.”

Vitaly looks to three unlikely sources for brand inspiration: architecture, the outdoors, and music. The tendency to search for offline ideas is evident throughout their branding and products—a piece from Vitaly’s jewelry collection is inspired by the suspension cables that hold up bridges while an Etah Love piece features dancing mushrooms as an ode to fungi. 

Three women lie head-to-head in the grass surrounded by daisies wearing long-flowing dresses and donning Etah Love necklaces, rings, and bracelets.
Crafted from sterling silver, Etah Love jewellery features imaginary inspired by the struggle between love and hate.

Music too is a current that runs through all their products. “I find music is a huge indication of what's going to happen in fashion,” says Vitaly. “If I started to hear that grunge is trending a little bit, it's a pretty good indicator of what's gonna trend in terms of product taste.”

💡Articles and advice for building a brand customers love

Building a strong and recognizable brand extends from your brand’s voice, visual identity, and values. Learn how to build a brand from the ground up—even if you’re on a budget. 

Build a brand team with people-fit in mind 

In the earlier days of Compound Studio, the entire team worked across all four brands. However, this became increasingly challenging as the team scaled. Team members felt stretched across various priorities and wanted to focus. Plus, people naturally gravitated towards their favorite brands. 

An eclectic group of six models pose in a white and grey studio wearing Vitaly rings, bracelets, earrings, and sunglasses.
The Vitaly brand is future-focused, with early collections drawing inspiration from clean architectural lines.

“Certain people identify more with one than the other,” says Vitaly. “And so we started to try to silo them a little bit.” Today, Compound Studio embraces the divide, and has separate creative teams for each of their four brands. Their forthcoming brand, Every Heart, was conceptualized with its own team from the start. 

“...[Every Heart] is the first time where we're actually rolling out a brand from the jump that's completely siloed in terms of the team,” says Vitaly. “We brought in a president, we brought in a separate creative director, we've never done this.”

Finding the right people to shepherd and work on different brands has strengthened each one. “We have all the different brands, and they all have their own identities. And even if you look at the teams, it's pretty crystal clear,” says Vitaly. “There's a big difference team to team.”

***

Building a brand from the ground up is just one of many subjects covered in this week’s Shopify Masters episode with Shane Vitaly. Tune in to learn more about the following topics:

  • Building out a network of influencers and stylists to partner with organically. 
  • Taking a data-driven approach to building out a retail expansion plan for their brands. 
  • Choosing a business partner with complementary strengths and weaknesses. 

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