Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Branding - Part 2 - The basics

So, based on some emails from my last post on branding (Branding...where to begin) as well as comments in that post it seems that people struggle with "branding" so let's take a step back.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers."

The important part here is distinct. Let's break that down a bit...

Adjective: distinct

  1. (often followed by 'from') not alike; different in nature or quality
  2. Easy to perceive; especially clearly outlined
  3. Constituting a separate entity or part
  4. Recognizable; marked
  5. Clearly or sharply defined to the mind
Starting out this way shows a few things that really resonate with me.

Just like snowflakes no two people are alike. We are all different from one another. Some conventional wisdom says "align yourself with something people already know". You've heard people pitch their books this way:
  • It's like Mad Max meets Jaws
  • A combination of Aliens, Driving Ms Daisy and Benji.
  • and so on.
While I understand the need to "classify" yourself I think it's better to stand out to spend your limited words on letting people know what about you is different. If we try to brand ourselves by following the brands of others we are "followers" not "leaders.

Easy to perceive; especially clearly outlined
Have you ever watched a television commercial and said to yourself .... I have no idea what they were selling (was it the jeans of the hot guy, the car, his glasses?) This is an example of a message working against what you are attempting. Does it meet the first requirement (unique) probably - but to me this is marketing gone astray. It's done so some big ad exec can put it in their portfolio - look how cutting edge I was...but ultimately did was it effective. Which means did people embrace the product or the idea...nope because they had no idea what you were talking about.

Recognizable; marked's a nice concept. You want to be easy to recognize. You want people to immediately - go - Hey that's from Robin or Michael or whoever. Once you start to become "known" then people will gravitate to you when they see (recognize you).

Clearly or sharply defined in your mind.
This is the final goal...(not sales btw - those are results not goals - thank you Simon Sinek). Your brand is going to give people an impression about you (and later your work). Your goal is to show them what you are.

Some people shudder at the concept of branding...."I don't want to brand I just want to be me" they wail. Well guess're way ahead of the game because that's what branding is ... showing the world who you are and what you're about.

Branding should be effortless. Because all you have to do is be yourself. Since you are here reading this blog we can use me as an example. If I were to think of words that I "hope" people would think about me they would be.

  • Intelligent
  • Passionate
  • Supportive
Did I do market research to determine if these words "resonate with people"? Then carefully craft this blog to showcase this? Nope. I'm simply doing what I do and trying to be self-aware as to my strengths.

But then again - I may be completely delusional. (I've been accused of this in the past). So tell me some of your impressions of me (good and bad) as it will help me to know if I'm on the right track or not and can be used as a baseline for as we go on to the next post on branding.


Suzanne said...


I recommend your blog to someone at least once a week now. I have an MBA in Marketing, and I enjoy seeing another Marketing person bring the concepts down to earth and connect the dots for others. You're an excellent coach, and I look forward to reading your blog posts.

One problem that authors have in identifying and vocalizing their brand is that they're it, thus they're subjective, deep inside it. But authors can get help from readers in articulating what differentiates their writing from that of other authors (ie. branding). This is a win-win situation. Readers love being selected by an author to help out. They feel closer to the author, part of the author's process.

Here are two ways that I've employed this principle:

o When a reader writes me, having just finished reading one of my books, I ask him/her a few specific feedback questions that are open-ended and based on comments that they made. Just the other day, one advance reader for my new historical thriller, Regulated for Murder (14 October 2011), answered one of my questions with, "What I like most about your writing is that without ever appearing pedantic, you weave the history in so skillful the reader doesn't find it intrusive, yet it enriches the book tremendously. I know you research endlessly, and it shows." So my capacity to sprinkle in historical details on a need-to-know basis vs. an expository lump is part of my brand.

o In the summer of 2010, I conducted an informal survey among several readers, asking them what they'd like to see more of on my blog, what would bring them back to read the blog again and again. Every one of them said that they wanted to learn something fun or salient about history. So in February of this year, I launched the "Relevant History" feature on my blog. (There's a Relevant History post on my blog right now about Vestal Virgins in Ancient Rome.) My blog traffic has gone into orbit since February, and I have so many new readers that I'm launching a newsletter to give them even more. "Relevant History" is also part of my brand.

As you and Simon Sinek point out, branding is about being you, enjoying yourself, and touching others in the process. You have to be interactive with your customers.

Suzanne Adair

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I completely loved that video by Simon. It speaks to me, but I'm still trying to distill what it's saying. But I loved this part: "What you do proves what you believe." #awesome

As for this post, here's where you hooked me: "Your goal is to show them what you are." HOW to do that is something I hope you'll talk about more, but I'm with you, and I want to go there (and I think I am, in small steps).

As for your brand, those words (intelligent, passionate, supportive) all resonate with how I feel about your blog and your message, so I think you're doing mighty fine on that front. :)

Bob Collins said...

Thanks for the series on branding. I had a lot a trouble with it myself until I realized I am my brand.

Robert Bidinotto said...

Once again, great stuff!

When I think of you, Robin, the word that comes to mind is nurturing. You nurture your writers and the writers you encounter. Yes, you do it with impressive intelligence and passion, but those strike me as the means. The nurturing at least appears to be the end.

When you have a moment (ha!), I'd love you to cruise on over to "The Vigilante Author" blog and see my latest post there, through the prism of "branding." Because that post tells you who I am, and why I write what I do. It will be interesting to learn from a real pro if she thinks I'm doing it effectively.

Thanks for this series. I'm loving it.

Hunter F. Goss said...

Great post, Robin. I can really see how the notion of ‘being yourself’ is critical to establishing a brand. In fact, it makes a lot of sense. I just wish it weren’t so scary for me. I can do it, but it’s like pulling teeth.

Am I the only one who gets the heebie-jeebies over revealing themselves online?