Branding, or brand marketing as some now call it, is one of
the buzzwords of public relations and marketing.
several dictionaries in vain for a precise definition of
this high profile concept as it is applied in the business
world. The closest I got was the one that explained the verb
"to brand" as "to impress firmly."
On the other hand, perhaps I wasn't so unlucky after all.
Not the whole story, maybe, but this is, after all, the very
essence of what branding in business is.
When you brand something - be it a company, an individual,
a product, a service, a concept or a process - you impress
strongly on people's minds whatever is special and
distinctive about it. You make some kind of lasting impact
that leaves them in no doubt that your special something
stands apart from everything else in the same category.
It sounds simple enough. The problem is that even some
marketing professionals, if they know this at all, have not
yet internalized it. They think of brands in terms of
trademarks. They apparently believe that branding is just a
matter of well designed logos and striking, unforgettable
Not that they're necessarily so far off the mark. We all
know that the right visual symbols do help to create an
impression of distinctiveness. The Coca-Cola people have
exploited this principle to absolute perfection. Smash one
of their familiar bottles, and you can still recognize that
the fragments were once part of a Coca-Cola bottle.
Nor does it have to be confined to the sense of sight.
Occasionally, you just have to hear a few strains of some
melody to immediately associate it with a certain company or
product. And then there's the famous Singapore Airlines
smell. A few years ago, the flight attendant of that
airline began distributing, before and after takeoff, hot
towels that gave off a very distinctive aroma. Once
experienced, it's not easily forgotten.
The truth is, though, that characteristic symbols and
images, whether visual, aural or olfactory, important
though they are, simply not enough. Even mighty Coca-Cola
could not have captured the lion's share of the soft drink
market with the design of its bottles alone.
And if you're just a small guy, well, it's a different ball game
The easiest way to understand this concept is to think of it
like this: if you run a website, what would happen if you
removed your logo and your company name?
Would I still be able to recognize your brand? Or, let's say
you're the owner of a brick-and-mortar outfit.
One day you
move to a new location but you haven't had a chance to put
up your signs yet. Were I to stumble into your store by
chance, would I be able to tell it apart from those of your
Now, what if you publish and email newsletter, and you
remove your masthead, your name and your subscribe
I pose this question because I often read different
newsletters published by different members of the same
profession or trade.
It's clear that all these people are
keenly aware of the pivotal role their newsletters should be
playing in marketing their talents, enhancing client
relationships, or in furthering other personal or business
I'm saddened, however, whenever I see so little to
distinguish one from the other - and I'm not only referring
to visual appearance and actual content, which are important
On the one hand, these publishers are trying very hard to
market themselves as experts or purveyors of services in
fields in which they have quite a lot of competition on the
But on the other, they're doing very little to
show me what makes them stand out from the pack, or even why
they're different from any of their competitors.
Even their publications are undistinguished, very
run-of-the-mill; why should things be different when I use
their professional services?
Here are just a few short tips to help you brand yourself
and your newsletter.
- Study your competitors! Read and research as many other
lists as you can and in particular those on the same topic
or published by other businesses or practitioners in your
field. Look for gaps - see what YOU can offer that they
can't, or just don't!
- Your personality is unique (which means there's nobody
else in the world quite like you!) Don't be afraid to use
that truism to your advantage. The best newsletters on the
Net revolve around their publishers' personalities.
- See how you can "personalize" the physical appearance of
your newsletter, so that your readers will recognize it as
soon as they open it even before they read the words - from
the layout, masthead design, and other visual clues. This,
to be sure, will be easier with HTML newsletters, but even
with plain text there are many possibilities.
Branding yourself may be hard work, but once you achieve
your goal, you'll have a valuable intangible asset that
no-one can easily steal or plagiarize. Good luck!
Azriel Winnett is creator of Hodu.com - Your Communication Skills Portal. This popular website helps you improve your communication and relationship skills in your business or professional life, in the family unit and on the social scene. New articles added almost daily.