This post, I’ll address a question I get confronted with a lot, about “branding” – the tough guys pointing out that I rail against branding yet obviously engage in brand-building myself.
Actually I’m not “anti-brand” at all, and as you can observe, have diligently turned myself into a personality brand (go ahead, Google ‘Dan Kennedy’ and see what turns up. Be sure you’ve packed a lunch. You’ll be there a while.), and have “NO B.S.” as a brand extending over books, newsletters, products; “RENEGADE MILLIONAIRE” to a lesser extent.
I do counsel AGAINST investing directly into brand-building, especially with large-company style ‘image’ advertising that cannot be accurately and ruthlessly held accountable. So here are a few principles and tips about your brand identity:
- By all means, work at creating name-brand identity and recognition for yourself and your small business – but do it where it counts, with a carefully selected target, niche or subculture market small enough that you can have impact with whatever resources you have, defined narrowly enough you can create compelling messages for it.A giant market is only useful to someone with a giant wallet. You do not want to waste your life peeing into the ocean. (For example, I have aimed myself at “entrepreneurs” pretty successfully, but “corporate America” has been sacrificed. Stephen Covey may have 10,000 copies of one of his books bought by American Airlines or Citibank. I most assuredly will not.) Whatever your business, nationally or locally, there is a PRIME market, a PRIME audience: build brand identity with them.
- A brand or brand identity is, essentially, a recognized symbol that represents and calls to mind WHAT you and your business is about. I maintain it should also be designed to resonate with a very specific WHO that your business is for. Many marketers are reasonably clear about their WHAT but woefully unclear about their WHO, thus their WHAT is often wrong.
- By all means, work at creating name-brand identity and recognition for yourself and your business – but do it as a by-product and bonus of solid, accountable, profitable direct-response advertising and marketing….avoid buying it outright, such as with image advertising. Refer to the “Direct Marketing DIET” on pages 20 and 21 of my No B.S. DIRECT Marketing for NON-Direct Marketing Businesses book. If you are a new Member, new to this kind of marketing, this book is MANDATORY reading, and your makeover of your business should begin with this ‘Diet.’
- Do not confuse ‘brand identity’ with logos and slogans. Logos, slogans, color schemes and other imagery are simply devices used to convey or support brand identity, just as typefaces are a means of conveying words. Brand identity is about ideas, first – representations of ideas second. If you’re up for an interesting book germane to this point (not written by me!), get Made To Stick. Also, do not confuse ordinary slogans with Unique Selling Propositions: a USP answers my copyrighted question, THE most important question you’ll ever answer: “why should I choose to do business with you vs. any and every other option available to me?”
- If you do develop brand identity, develop a ‘customer culture’ with it, so your brand is theirs. Think Starbucks or Disney. The customers are part of something, not just people being sold to. But, whatever you do, don’t blindly copy big companies’ advertising practices. Very, very, very carefully learn from the very few smart ones, like Disney. But remember they are playing in a different league with different rules and different means of keeping score…..as example, you may keep score by profit while they must keep score by stock price (which rarely, formulaically reflects profit). And they have more resources than you do.
- For most small businesses, personal branding is far superior to corporate/business branding. People prefer dealing with people, than with nameless, faceless, soulless institutions. Put yourself out there! For advanced strategies on this, get my CUSTOMERS FOR LIFE/PERSONALITY IN COPY Program from the Glazer-Kennedy webstore.
- Most basic, starting-point summary: begin with WHO is your business for? + WHAT do you want to be known for, by that WHO?, then HOW can you represent, symbolize, summarize that in a memorable way.