Well first of all, what the hell is a brand? How do you define it?
This is what dictionary.com has to say on the subject…
Verb: Mark with a branding iron.
Synonyms: stigmatize – stamp – mark
Noun: A type of product manufactured by a company under a particular name.
Synonyms: mark – stamp – sort – kind – make – trademark
Wikipedia says: The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
Well I’m not talking about slapping my name on the arse of a cow with a hot iron, so I can safely say that its the noun I’m talking about and that the American Marketing Association has a pretty good grip on what I’m trying to do. Not that I need a logo particularly (though if someone could redesign the bat-signal for me that would be AWESOME!!!), or a symbol, but I need to establish my work and my name as something that I can sell.
At first that sounds terrible – even to me! – but everyone working towards ‘success’ has done the same in some form or another. The examples I would use are Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling. I know I talk about these guys a lot, but surely its obvious why? JK Rowling is a brand in her own right, slap Harry Potter onto that and 1) everybody knows who and what you’re talking about, 2) everyone knows what to expect and 3) everyone knows where to go to get books/films/cheesy kid’s merchandise. Its the same with Stephanie Meyer and the Twilight franchise. No longer are they just the names of people, but they are brands and, going forward both women, for good or ill, will depend on what they have built, to continue their way forward.
I don’t for a second assume that I will become as successful as these two. Of course reaching for the stars, positivity and all that junk are all well and good, but realistic expectations also need to be considered. So… I can hope for a loyal cluster of followers/readers who may read whatever I publish and tell their friends about it. And, frankly put, that’s more than awesome in my eyes.
The point of this post is to pose the following question; how does one create/build/grow a brand? There are lots (seriously, lots! I’ve been researching) websites and ‘how tos’ on the subject, but most of my searches seem to bring up information designed for up and coming companies. Not that the same principles can’t be applied here.
Josh Dunlop says a good brand will:
- Deliver your companies message in a clear and concise manner
- Connect you with the customer and motivate them to revisit you
- Increase your credibility
From the bottom up, credibility is very important for a writer. Nobody who spends hours of their lives slaving away with their words and murdering their darlings wants to be passed over as a time waster or a fake. They certainly don’t want to be clumped with those who believe that writing a book is something they can do on the side, knocked up in a month or two because it would be a ‘cool thing to do.’ Writers want to be taken seriously, so one needs their brand to be associated with high quality work.
…Okay, makes sense.
Connecting to the customer, or in my case, my readers, is incredibly important too. I want to show people how much they want want to come back and see what I might do next. Pick up my next novel or that anthology I might have a short story written in. Not only that, but when these people come back, its likely that they’ll bring friends with them. What more do I need to say? That can only be a good thing.
My message is something that’s a bit harder. I don’t think I have a ‘message’ as such, rather I have a very strong desire to share my stories with people who will enjoy them. That’s all. Oh, and I happen to like writing them. So I think this point, from a writer’s perspective, is far more about learning who I am, why I do as I do and then being able to express that in a manner that people can understand. Its important to show, for instance, that its not about money, or fame, but about release. Writing is therapeutic to me; its pulled me through some difficult times and began in early school when I was less than happy with what was happening around me. Writing stories, in whatever form is a part of who I am as a person; someone who recounts a trip to Tescos with verve and relish because there is a tale in it.
Hmm… I think I’ve hit the babbling stage now, but hopefully, rather than just confusing you, I’ve been able to highlight what I think makes a writer’s brand. What about you? Is this a question you’ve tackled for yourselves yet? Or is it not important to you at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts.