Branding 101

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From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Does the idea of “branding” yourself or your work make you cringe? (I’m an artist, dammit—not a corporate sleaze bag!) Are you confused by what “branding” for novelists, essayists, poets, or even general non-fiction writers even means? Or, conversely, are you sold on the necessity of branding your writing and excited about the opportunity, but completely intimidated by how exactly to go about it? 

I confess I was solidly in the cringe camp for much of my early writing life when discussing authors as brands. But that’s because I was (as my above “corporate sleaze bag” comment might have hinted!) operating under misconceptions about what branding is (and possibly being unkind to sleaze bags too . . . but I digress).

. . . .

In a nutshell, [James Patterson] says to think of “brand” as a relationship you have with your readers. What can readers turn to your books for—and never be disappointed? What can they depend on you for that you will always deliver?

I also really benefited from Mike Loomis’ take that “personal branding does not mean a fake façade.” Rather it’s “the public expression of your calling.”

Thinking of brand that way—as a promise and a commitment rather than a hard sell—eased my concerns about seeming overly “salesy” or gimmicky.

. . . .

Why YOU (and every author) needs a brand

First and foremost, having a clear brand finds you readers—who then, hopefully, become loyal, voracious fans.

Regardless of genre or form, Trad published or Indie, the biggest struggle authors face is getting noticed and not having their book(s) fall into obscurity.

Knowing precisely what your brand is (what you offer readers!) gives you an action plan to attract readers, gain visibility, and stand out in a very crowded marketplace.

A strong, clear, consistent brand is:

  • a magnet to new readers (Ooooh, this looks and sounds like my kind of book!)
  • a reassurance to return readers (I really liked his last book—and this one is awesome too!)
  • a comfort to true fans (Insert YOUR name never disappoints!) that keeps them coming back to you book after book

Two side benefits of knowing your brand:

1. It makes almost all aspects of marketing and promotion easier.

. . . .

2. It is a map for deciding future projects. 

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

Regarding James Patterson, PG will note that the first 25 years of his career was spent working at a very large New York advertising agency. One of the things ad agencies do for their clients is to help the client to create a high-quality and memorable brand.

A good brand is worth a lot of money, whether it’s Coca-Cola (what’s the price difference at your local grocery store between a 2 liter bottle of Coca-Cola and a 2 liter bottle of generic cola that may taste pretty much the same?) or James Patterson or JK Rowling?

How much did JK make on her first book during the first six months after its release? How much does she make now when she releases a new book of almost any sort? What about the difference in the advance she received then and receives now?

You’ll also note that Ms. Rowling is very picky about what products are associated with Harry Potter and friends. Has anyone seen a Harry Potter drag strip? A line of heavy construction equipment named after Harry?

One way to receive a strong letter from a large law firm is to use Apple’s or Coca-Cola’s brand without permission.

Should you ignore the letter and go ahead regardless, you’ll want to have a very good group of attorneys lined up ahead of time. They won’t work for free. A great many top-quality attorneys will turn you down flat absent a huge retainer fee paid upfront because they know how hard Apple or Coca-Cola will work to not only slap you down, but to make an example of you that will intimidate anyone who thinks about following in your footsteps.

On a regular basis Forbes magazine publishes a detailed evaluation of The World’s Most Valuable Brands. The article includes a description of the methodology they use to separate brand value from the overall value of the corporation that owns the brand. It’s definitely a quantitative process.

Here are the top ten on Forbes’ latest list:

RankBrandBrand Value1-Yr Value ChangeBrand RevenueIndustry
1Apple$241.2 B17%$260.2 BTechnology
2Google$207.5 B24%$145.6 BTechnology
3Microsoft$162.9 B30%$125.8 BTechnology
4Amazon$135.4 B40%$260.5 BTechnology
5Facebook$70.3 B-21%$49.7 BTechnology
6Coca-Cola$64.4 B9%$25.2 BBeverages
7Disney$61.3 B18%$38.7 BLeisure
8Samsung$50.4 B-5%$209.5 BTechnology
9Louis Vuitton$47.2 B20%$15 BLuxury
10McDonald’s$46.1 B5%$100.2 BRestaurants

2 thoughts on “Branding 101”

  1. The primary reason to have a brand as an author (or songwriter, or artist, or any other creative) is simple to state and nonetheless very difficult; slightly mangling a pre-debate note from nearly three decades ago:

    It’s the business identification, stupid.

    There’s both positive and negative baggage associated with every brand. To pick one, “J.K. Rowling” has positive baggage of a distinct, well-selling, generally respected children’s book series about A Certain Wizard and His Friends (and Enemies). It has negative baggage relating to her recent comments about transsexual individuals (and I’m specifically not taking sides, just noting that the baggage itself is negative). A creative’s branding is about baggage-handling.

    Dark thoughts about deceptive conduct in choosing pseudonyms (= alternative brands) to avoid some baggage; and demands by others — especially, but not only, publishers (right, Ms Herschlag?) — because the baggage of an existing brand doesn’t match the baggage expectations of that third party; and attempts to outright deceive on the origin of goods, services, and artistic materials (Ace, Roc, New American Library, and DAW are all the same source… and that’s just an easy one!), will all remain for another time. Because one can’t even state in simple terms the relationship between “ethics” and “business,” let alone in any creative field, and being able to state the difficulties is right out.

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