Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Branding...where to begin

So, at BookExpo America, Dragoncon, and other writer's events I've been to lately all the experts are saying the same thing...branding...branding...branding. But I think many people don't know what means or where to start.

If you want to understand branding - you should be listening to Simon Sinek. (Go to the video page of this blog to see some great things from him. He's really got it right.

Simon points out that many companies or people decide their brand by looking at the marketplace and seeing what is hot or what people are looking for and then they build their brand around that to maximize income...WRONG....buzzer goes off thank you for playing.

Simon's key is that you don't make a brand and try to attract people to it. You find what you believe in, expose your own beliefs, find what gets you excited and what you are passionate about and tell others...this then IS your brand. It's not something you create it is something that you are. Then...and here's the magic...the people you attract will already be aligned with you and you don't need to convince them to do business with you...they'll want to because they belief what you believe.

Sounds simple right? Yes it is but trust me, I've been in business for 30+ years and I can't tell you how many people don't understand this very simple concept. I've worked for many companies that have paid thousands of dollars to bring in consultants to help them create a brand. I've had to pass by posters of "mission statements" that all sound the same...basically a pumped up variation of:

"To be the preeminent supplier of xyz by providing exceptional customer service".


This is not a mission. A mission is something that drives you from your toes to your head. What gets you excited about getting out of bed everyday. It's what you enjoy doing more than anything else and devote your whole heart and soul to.

Anyone who had read this blog can see pretty quickly what my passion is:

"To help authors navigate the changes in publishing such that they can quit their day jobs and do what they want to do most ... write for a living and provide inspiration and entertainment for the people who love reading their creations"

So...today's assignment....think long and hard what gets you fired up and make this the cornerstone of your brand. I'll be posting more on brand building over the next few posts.


K.C. Neal said...

Love your statement, and looking forward to more posts on branding. Thanks, Robin!

Unknown said...

Great thoughts on brand, Robin. I find that much of the discussion on branding turns to talk of some ethereal or nebulous concept, like finding your chi or harnessing your inner horse spirit or something. :-) It's nice to read something a little more concrete in concept.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Perfect! I sort of backed into understanding this, when trying to figure out what my "brand" was...but then I realized it was ME and that was incredibly freeing. Now I post what I love, write what I love, and it all works (at least so far). Thanks for pulling it together in such a succinct way. Now, off to watch the video... :)

David Alastair Hayden said...

Great post. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, after reading John Locke's book on self-publishing. (A fantastic book, though some people seem to miss the brilliance of it.) And I've read enough Seth Godin that I should get it already. But when you start trying to apply branding to yourself instead of an outside entity, it seems to get tricky.

Probably doesn't help that I may need two brands: one for my adult sword & sorcery (that's easy enough) and one for my young adult/middle grade work.

Sharper13x said...

Great topic, Robin. My day job is actually as one of those brand consultants you spoke of. I agree with everything you said, here, and would even add a little bit.

Marketing yourself on the internet is so much about finding your community, as you were saying, and one of the best ways to find those folks and let them find you, is to be aware of who you are NOT for.

This is something our clients often need coaching on - learning how to let go of possible (but unlikely) customers by saying "you know, we probably aren't really for you." It's a hard thing to say because the instinct is to cast a wide net, trying to appeal to the most people you can. But the truth is, the more you try to cast a wide net to appeal to everyone, the more you dilute what it is you really do. There's no passion in casting a wide net.

I can't think of a product for which that notion is more true than books, and no medium more than the internet. Zoom in on what you love, on what makes you unique, and use all your online interactions to show it.

It's not an easy thing to do, by the way. I'm still working on mine for sure.

Rex Jameson said...

Looking forward to the next posts in the branding series. Thanks, Robin!

David Alastair Hayden said...

An excellent point, Stephen. It really goes against common wisdom to not continuously strive to broaden your market. But depth and loyalty are much more important. A strong niche market is always more valuable to a creator.

John Locke stressed a lot in his book that he wants a deep market for his fiction and not a broad market. A core audience that will read all his books.

Author Scott Nicholson said...

Brilliant, Robin--and also worth noting that a brand evolves, just as you evolve. Coca-Cola isn't the same as when they were touting the medicinal benefits of the refreshing coca leaf a century ago...yet there's coca right in the brand name.

I've always tried to move away from the crowd--last year, my brand was "indie writer." This year, that is exceedingly blah since everyone ont he planet is an indie writer. Now I am jumping to the next thing(s), which of course I don't a thing about, only that they are not today's things.

The conventional wisdom dispensed at writers' convention is worthless precisely because it's conventional. How many conventional people actually succeed? They are all stuck in mediocrity, if they are lucky enough to achieve even that.

What I think people miss about Godin, Locke, Konrath, and even palpable crap like The Secret is that you MUST NOT FOLLOW. Yet millions try to follow them, and wonder what went wrong.

My brand is compassionate self-reliance. Embracing the mystery. Daring to dream. And being willing to change completely.

Robin Sullivan said...

@k.C. - you are very welcome

@E.J - yes branding is tough to get your head around - hopefully I'll help.

@susan - good for you - many people don't come to it so easily - the Simon Sinek Video is WELL worth the time.

@david - I agree that many people miss just how remarkable John Locke's book is - I was hugely surprised when I read it. Seth Godin is also another Giant in this whole industy - as is Geoffrey Moore (most known for Crossing the Chasm - a MUST read)- To be honest branding yourself rather than an entity should be "easier" but I'll explain more in the comming months.

@stephen - thanks for reconfirming my take on branding - and you are so right - about the 'not for' sometimes we spend too much effort too broadly - the low hanging fruit is easier to gather.

@Rex - you are very welcome

@Scott - great points!!

jesse said...

No, this won't do. Here I am, in my suit, with an ironic briefcase (full of research based on months of following the twitter and market trends), and you're trying to tell me that all my efforts are for nought and my clients should just be themselves? No, this won't do at all ;)

CoachBrad said...

Yes, Yes, YES! Finally something about 'branding' that resonates with me. You really don't need to get your head around this idea as much as your heart.

It's about first figuring out who you are -- your true and authentic self then taking a stand for being that in all areas of your life -- All areas including in your work and business life. Thanks for this post.

Our 'brand/mission' at Life On Purpose Institute is to enhance life through purpose. But if I don't know my own purpose and am not doing my best to live true to it every day...well, then it's all a sham.

Looking forward to your next post on branding as well.

Robert Bidinotto said...

Fabulous post. I set off bells and whistles here while reading it, because it conforms exactly to everything I've read -- and tried to practice -- about branding.

Yes, it must grow out of who you really are. In my case, my writing has always grown from my values. The marketing/branding challenge is to come up with ways of symbolizing the essence of those values in a short, memorable way. And of course that's what I'm doing with my blog.

Now, to read Part II....

Tim Dodge said...

Tom Peters wrote a series of short books in the late 1990's titled Reinventing Work. One of the books is titled The Brand You 50, and it's full of nuggets of useful tips for building a personal brand. I listened to the audiobook and eventually bought a hardcover copy. I still keep it at my day job desk. Highly recommended!

Barbara Sissel said...

I have been reading your blog for quite a while now, Robin, and I have learned so much! I haven't commented before, but this does just resonate and it is so simple ... be who you are! When I read this today, for the first time I thought, I can do this. I can market this way. Thank you for this and I'm off to read the rest!

mike said...

Thanks for the article. I have been looking for the right brand consultants but didnt know how to go about it til now. Thanks again