Saturday, November 22, 2008

Curious about Brands and Branding: Do We Need Them? And, if so, What Should They Say and Do for Us?

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” - Jeff Bezos, American businessman

You now have to decide what 'image' you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.” - David Ogilvy, American businessman

I chose brand and branding for this week’s blog, because it popped up several times.

First, Dan Kennedy wrote about the strength of brands from the past. And, to me, they actually sounded more like taglines and/or slogans. For example, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

Then, I will be helping one of my subscribers with her signature story, and the reason she wants to work on it is that she feels it will lead her to defining her brand. It is true that we all have a story that defines us and our personality. The interesting part of that belief is that the story we live by may not actually be the truth and may be hurting us and our future. It creates our mindset. If we have always believed that we aren’t good at something – like the accumulation of money – we will fulfill that belief.

Do you have a brand that defines you, your business and your life? Don't think you can escape it. Seth Godin firmly believes that in the age of Google, MySpace, YouTube, and blogging, everyone is a brand. Marketers brand you. Politicians brand you. Your colleagues brand you, and so does your boss. So where were you when all of this happened? "You have to take control of your brand," says Godin. "Many of us are taught to do our best and then let the world decide how to judge us. I think it's better to do your best and decide how you want to be judged. And act that way."

If you are a small business or even a solo-preneur, how do you “take control of your brand?” One way I suggest is to determine your USP. This is your Unique Selling Proposition. What makes you unique in your industry? Why would someone hire you over another? Determining this will lead you to your brand and/or tagline.

Here are some of the interesting quotations I found when visiting the experts:
  • The world is changing. Networks without a specific branding strategy will be killed. I envision a world of highly niched services and tightly run companies without room for all the overhead the established networks carry.” - Barry Diller, American businessman
  • When people use your brand name as a verb, that is remarkable.” - Meg Whitman, American business woman (have you “googled” lately?)
  • My greatest strength is common sense. I'm really a standard brand - like Campbell's tomato soup or Baker's chocolate.” - Katharine Hepburn, American actress
  • Positioning the brand and regaining trust are all smart things for us to do and those are the litmus tests for any decisions we make.” - John McKinley, American politician
  • It is the around-the-corner brand of hope that prompts people to action, while the distant hope acts as an opiate.” - Eric Hoffer, American writer
  • And what we did with this new company in 1985 is we did start focusing on PCs instead of video game machines, because we learned the hard lesson about bringing a product to market in a consumer world where it's very expensive to build a brand and get distribution and so forth.” - Steve Case, American businessman

I feel that the whole challenge is summed up by American businessman, Jay Chiat “It's hard to build a brand, competitively, and tell people what you do as well.”

And a scary thought is expressed by Warren Buffett, “Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it's not going to get the business.”

So, what do you think? I would love to read your comments.