Marketing: The 4 R’s of Branding

Repetition, Recognition, Referral, Reliance

These four R’s affect most of us every week when we buy products and services. As authors, we can apply the same branding philosophy in the marketing of our books.

(1) Repetition. Every brand of soda, detergent, television, car, and so on is constantly trying to get us to notice their name, logo, slogan, and image. We see it on television, on billboards, in magazines, and even on hats and t-shirts. The more we see it, the more we’re likely to remember it. This way, we remember brand names for products that we’ve never even tried.

You want people to remember your book and the name of the author – even if they haven’t read it yet. The more often people see your cover, read the title, hear your strapline, and see your author photo, the more likely they are to remember it. You can’t afford to invest millions of dollars in advertisements and commercials, but you can afford free. Your blog, your website, social media, articles that you write, local newspapers and television, every place your book is available for sale, every edition of your book (paperback, eBook, etc.), every book review, every person you interact with and mention your book or writing hobby – anything you do online that includes your cover, title, strapline, and/or author photo (including every little Like and Follow), improves your visibility. The more often people see and read these things, they more likely they will remember them.

Strapline – a single, short sentence used to create interest in your book (kind of like a slogan).

Your title and strapline should be short and easy to remember. Bestselling books often have three words or less for this very reason. Coke. Pepsi. Sony. Levis. The Shining. Wool. The Scarlet Letter. Short, easy to remember, easy to spell. Ideally, the author name should also be short and easy to remember and spell. Your cover and author imagery should also be easy to remember. A very busy cover, or one that doesn’t have one central image, or one that doesn’t use three main colors, or one where the title doesn’t stand out, or one that doesn’t present a unifying theme and signify the genre – such a cover isn’t as easy to remember. The title, author name, and cover are actually important marketing tools.

(2) Recognition. When we shop for a printer, golf club, or laundry detergent, we often prefer a brand that we recognize to one that we’ve never heard of – even if we’ve never used any of the products before. We may recognize the brand name, the logo, or even a catchy slogan.

The same principle applies to books. People often buy a book that they remember seeing, hearing about, or reading about, or has an author they recognize. This is why visibility of the brand of both the book and author is so important – people recognize what they remember.

Don’t change the title, cover, author name, or author image. If you use a much different cover for the paperback and eBook edition, or use a different photo for your FaceBook author page and AuthorCentral, for example, this inhibits recognition. Let all of your online activities reinforce one another with a unified approach.

Create “buzz” for your book prior to and during its release. Get people talking about your book – in person and online – and this will help them recognize it when it becomes available. In the months prior to publication, ask people for input on your cover, title, and blurb – in person and online. Spread the word about your upcoming book. Highlight positive things that will create interest in your book – like spending a year doing research or working on your third revision with an editor. Don’t be a salesman, just naturally get this into conversations. “So, what have you been up to recently?”

Interact with people personally. People recognize authors they’ve actually met. They just need to naturally discover that you’re an author, then remember your face and name plus the title and strapline for your book. Short and easy to remember and spell.

(3) Referral. If a friend or acquaintance recommends a product or service, we’re much more likely to try it. The product or service must be pretty good for it to be recommended by someone who doesn’t have a financial interest in the sales.

This applies to books, too. Word-of-mouth referrals can have a major impact on sales. For this, the book has to be very good. An amazing plot, a memorable character. Great storyline and characterization helps. It also needs to meet standards for editing and formatting; people won’t recommend a product that has obvious problems.

They’re much more apt to refer your book correctly if the title is short, easy to remember, and easy to spell; or the author if the name is easy to remember and spell; or to describe a book that has a simple, memorable cover.

(4) Reliance. People believe that Sony makes great televisions. Sony has established credibility and trust, and because of this, many people prefer to buy Sony electronics.

Readers are similarly more likely to buy products from authors who establish credibility and trust. Part of this comes from creating a highly professional cover, blurb, Look Inside, and author page. Behave professionally online; misbehaving certainly loses credibility. Your author photo, biography, and behavior should give the appearance of a knowledgeable, competent, trustworthy, and credible author. Do you look and sound like someone who would write a book in this genre?

Write content for your blog, website, newspapers, or magazines (in print or online) that demonstrates your expertise. Useful information may even attract newcomers, in addition to helping build your credibility.


At the bottom of your blog (and many other online activities), you can include your name and the title of one to three books. If your titles are very short, you can squeeze three into this space. As you can see below, sadly, I broke my own rule with a very long title. If you have expertise, just imagine how it would look to have your name and title show up at the bottom of an article in a high-traffic area in a magazine, newspaper, or online. Prepare an article relevant for your book and strive to get it published. You may be able to publish it locally or at a lesser traffic site, at least. It won’t go to waste because in the worst-case scenario, you can always add it to your blog.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

10 comments on “Marketing: The 4 R’s of Branding

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