The Next Chapter

A brand makeover helps move a bookstore's story forward.

Stressed out and the owner of a newly diagnosed ulcer, Stephanie Chandler realized that her high-pressure job as a software salesperson wasn't worth sacrificing her health. She had always loved books, so she decided to pursue that passion, launching Book Lovers Bookstore, which specializes in gently used paperbacks, hardcover books and audiobooks, in 2003.

Since the beginning, Chandler, 33, has done things on a shoestring budget, from bribing friends with pizza and beer to help her clean and organize her initial inventory of 23,000 books to designing her own website. Admitting that graphic design isn't her strongest suit, she finally forked over $400 to a professional to create a logo for her store.

"Having never had a logo commissioned before, I didn't know [what] questions to ask," Chandler says. "After spending quite a bit of money on the logo, the results were disappointing."

The logo was not reflective of her store, and her tag line was written in script that could not be read when the logo was used in a small format. Her website was functional, but it didn't reflect the warm, inviting environment of her store. As her Sacramento, California, business continued to grow, Chandler found herself wanting to improve the design of her website and logo. So when Entrepreneur magazine and VistaPrint, an online graphic design and print company based in Lexington, Massachusetts, announced the "Extreme Brand Makeover" contest in 2005, Chandler didn't hesitate to log on and enter.

"The logo redesign was a real motivator," Chandler says. "It's not like it was breaking my business, but I'd love to increase my image any way that I can."

Turning a Page
Selected from a pool of more than 4,600 entrants, Chandler won the contest in January after a panel of judges from Entrepreneur and VistaPrint reviewed her application. As the winner, she received a prize package valued at almost $5,000, including a complete logo redesign by VistaPrint; 1,000 each of premium business cards, business card magnets, large magnets, standard postcards, envelopes for standard postcards, oversize postcards, brochures, letterhead and notecards; 500 presentation folders; and 840 return-address labels. In addition, she received a full website redesign from Website Pros, a Jacksonville, Florida, web services and online marketing company, and a year's subscription to Entrepreneur.

"We wanted someone who could represent everyone, and your local bookstore [owner] is someone everyone can relate to," says Janet Holian, chief marketing officer of VistaPrint.

A team of marketers and designers at VistaPrint promptly went to work on the Book Lovers makeover, conducting extensive interviews with Chandler. They found that, from the beginning, she tried to set her store apart. Used-book stores have an image of being disorganized and even dirty. Chandler's store, on the other hand, was meticulously neat, clean and organized. The staff is outgoing and enthusiastic. And two resident cats--Sugar and Sweetie, both adopted from a local animal shelter--have become wildly popular with customers, filling the positions of unofficial store mascots. After learning about the personality and unique elements of the store, the team whittled down Chandler's key brand messages into three words: neat, organized and friendly. They took a little extra time revamping Book Lovers' brand image, and 10 days later, they presented a logo and design package that reflected the unique elements of Chandler's shop.

The new logo features neatly stacked books and a friendly cat, uses warm colors, and has a polished, stylish look. Book Lovers Bookstore is written in a fun and funky script that is easy to read, and by separating the name of the store and the tag line, the print portion of the made-over image can be scaled differently to work in a variety of formats while remaining perfectly legible.

It's critical that entrepreneurs ensure their logos work well for their business needs. According to Melissa Crowe, senior director of marketing services at VistaPrint, "A lot of creative people [commission an] intricate logo [but] don't ask whether it can be used [on media] as big as a billboard and as small as a Coke can. [Chandler] may need to use a small version in the Yellow Pages, or she may need a billboard. You want to make sure the size [and] color of the mark work."

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Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the April 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Next Chapter.

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