A brand is a name that people in the target audience recognize. It’s not necessarily the name of the product, like Levi’s. Names of people can be branded, too, like Michael Jackson. Even an image can be branded, such as a logo or cover art.
Sometimes, branding the person’s name is more effective than branding the name of the product. This is especially true for singers, writers, and artists of all kinds. For example, it’s much easier to remember Stephen King than it is to remember the titles of all of his books.
Branding occurs when members of the target audience see or hear the name of the product or person or see the image repeatedly over a period of time.
Companies that have money to invest and products or services for which there is a wide target audience may achieve this, in part, through advertisements on television, radio, magazines, billboards, websites, etc.
Advertisements aren’t always effective for all products. For example, a book at first seems to have a wide possible audience because millions of people read. However, there are twenty million books to choose from; even in a specific genre, there are thousands of competitors. Compare this to toilet paper: There are a dozen or so brands of toilet paper in a store, not millions to choose from. Compared to artistic works like books, products like toilet paper have a much large target audience and much less competition.
Fortunately, advertising isn’t the only way to brand a name or image. There are many ways to market a name, product, or image through branding. The goal is to have the name, product, or image seen or heard among the target audience.
For artistic goods and services, such as books, cd’s, editing, and cover art design, getting discovered or providing valuable content is often far more effective than self-promotion. The idea of self-promotion is like shouting, “Here I am! Look at me!” Discovery is about getting noticed through personal interaction. For example, a potential customer may discover that a person is a singer or real estate agent when asking, “What do you do for a living?” The self-promotion equivalent is walking into a room and saying, “I just released a new album.” For online interactions, discovery can occur by posting information in an online profile, whereas self-promotion posts this information clearly out in the open.
How the information is conveyed is also important. It should relate to the target audience and make it clear what the product or service is. It should convey this in a way that the target audience will respond positively. Generally, it should generate interest, convey passion, and sound confident, but should not seem boastful.
Providing valuable content geared toward the target audience, especially for free, is another way to get discovered. Sending a press release package to local media can help with this, too. Creating buzz for a newly released product is another common tactic.
Another way for branding to occur is through reviews, such as in magazines or on websites, and word-of-mouth recommendations. Companies sometimes give away free samples or accessories, hold contests, or mail out advance review copies with the hope that some customers who appreciate the product or service will tell their friends and family members.
These are some ways that a product, name, or image can become branded. Branding occurs in various stages. It can take several months for branding efforts to achieve a full effect. First, people in the target audience must be exposed to the branding efforts. This must occur not just once, but on multiple occasions (but not so frequently that it gets tuned out) over an extended period of time. Once they buy the product or service, it may be a while before it is used, and used enough for them to judge the quality. If they are pleased with it, it takes even more time to recommend it to others.
Branding isn’t about achieving instant sales. It’s about the potential for long-term success. Branding requires patience.
Stage 1: Recognition
When people in the target audience see the name or image, they recognize it. People tend to favor products that they have heard of before.
Stage 2: Awareness
People think of the name of the brand when they consider shopping for that product or service. At this stage, people search for the product or service, rather than simply recognizing it in a store or directory.
Stage 3: Backing
People have heard good things about a product or service. This may have come from a recommendation or a review, for example. At this stage, the prospective customer feels some measure of confidence about the purchase decision.
Stage 4: Association
Potential customers associate the brand with a favorable attribute. For example, Wal-Mart is regarded for low prices and Sony is regarded for high quality. At this stage, customers have a particular expectation for a product or service. In some cases, such as high quality, customers may be willing to pay extra for this distinction.
Stage 5: Experience
Customers have used the product or service and they enjoyed it. At this stage, they are likely to invest in the same brand in the future.
Stage 6: Charm
A personal interaction with an artist, agent, or representative, for example, made the customer feel special. The personal touch can go a long way beyond just the product or service.
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Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers