What is it about branding these days? I will argue that before radio, tv, and now the Internet, what you had to say was more important than what you represented or how the masses “felt” about you. I’m sure there were stars in their midsts but without the power of satellites and jet planes, the number of people in your fan club was probably pretty small.
Enter radio and all of a sudden there are dozens of voices out there, perhaps talking about the same thing. Add tv and its not just what they are saying, but how they look on screen. Add the Internet and now part of the game is about how many people can be entertained in 140 characters or less.
Recap: We used to be invested in the ideas and information we consumed because we had to DO something to get it– either actively listen or read it. Now, we are bombarded with hundreds of thousands of images and sound bites. Our attention spans are limited and our loyalties shift rapidly.
For these reasons, I think the “brand” has become king. In order to cut through all of the chatter, you need to know your audience, attract as many of them as possible, speak to them in a language they can appreciate, and look the part you’re playing.
Without trying to explain how branding works for each and every scenario, product, and person, I’ll list a few examples of good branding that may help illustrate how it works:
Political Activist/Author: I once worked with an author who wrote a book about the rise of brands that was very controversial and sold a lot of copies. I guess it made sense that she would know all about branding herself, and she was super specific. There were some media outlets she absolutely had to do because they related to her message and kept her close to her core audience. She had a uniform consisting of jeans and short black boots with a blazer. She did not go anywhere publicly without a professional blowout for her hair.
James Patterson: From jackets to a crew neck sweater, this former advertising guru knew how to brand his books and make a lot of money doing it. See the Harvard Business Review article on his success and what he did to get there. (This article has 16 pages and the HBR does charge for the download unfortunately, but the gist is in the abstract.)
The President: Our current President led a campaign with a logo (utilizing the “O” in Obama) and taglines that captured enough votes to win two elections. Check out when he wears a suit and when you see him in rolled up shirt sleeves. Even the vocal inflections are part of his package. He and his campaign became a brand representing change at a time when the audience desperately wanted to have it.
Amazon: What do you think of when you hear the name Amazon? That’s what the brand has become. For me it represents a retail outlet where I can get almost anything I want with two-day, prepaid (I’m a Prime member) shipping. Practically instant gratification, which is a cultural norm these days. They started with books, shipping boxes that show up with a “smile” in the logo, and a certain kind of shopping experience that has carried on and angered nearly every publisher and book retailer.