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Welcome to my new series on Branding for Indie Authors. Over the course of the next several weeks, I'll help you figure out just who you are and what one word best describes your brand.
In case you haven't read through my previous series, 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (for Indie Authors), you may want to read through the series now. I'm currently editing that series into an eBook you'll be able to buy soon for offline reading and easy reference.
In the meantime, at least review the Law of Focus (Law 5) and the Law of the Mind (Law 3) because they are at the heart of the branding activity.
Branding, in turn, is the most important objective of the entire marketing process, which gives us the first definition of the series Marketing is the building of a brand in the mind of the prospect.
How? Through focus, through limiting yourself to one unique, defineable concept (one word) that speaks for who you are as an Indie Author. Click through the jump-break now to learn more.
If you cannot focus your marketing activity, if you cannot narrow yourself down to one unique concept, then all of the advertising in the world, all of the fancy packaging and sales promotion, will still fail to achieve your objective. If all you can do is focus, you can (almost) succeed without any of the rest. Almost. Immutable Law of Marketing 3 (Law of the Mind) tells us that you cannot change a person's mind; they must change it for themselves. The more focused your brand is, the more easily they can internalize it. The "over-simplified mind" of today's consumer needs you to be focused. Your message will be one among millions of noisy sound-bites consumers have to filter in order to make up their own minds about what to buy. K.I.S.S. is not a just your grandfather's rock band. It stands for "Keep It Simple, Stupid" and is a strategy that's worked for effective communications experts for over 50 years.
In the weeks to come, I'll discuss how advertising, promotion and packaging affect your book and its associated sales rank (the publishing equivalent of "widget market share") but how branding affects your ability to gain sales rank without spending the same huge dollars on advertising, promotion and packaging that the Big Six spend. You're an Indie Author. Unless you're independly wealthy already, you don't have millions to spend like they do. Don't worry, branding costs brain power, not dollars. You have the advantage. You control your own mind. You are not run by a committee.
Be Bought, Not Sold
It's not common knowledge in publishing, even today, that products are not sold. That's right, books are never sold. Books are bought. Even the multi-national Big Six publishers cannot sell a book, not even one book. They can pay inordinate amounts of money to package a book and hope that the kewel packaging will make a potential customer (prospect) pick up the book to examine the kewel packaging, but that won't sell the book. Just look at the extravagant the packaging Harper Collins wrapped around "I am Number Four" and yet notice that even after the Dreamworks movie came out, the book plumeted and worse, its sequel (one of 6 planned books) never even hit the radar. What happened? The book did not deliver what the great packaging attempted to promise. The brand was never clearly defined--and was immediately diluted by the co-release with Dreamworks.
Dreamworks coorindated a flashy, sexy movie release with that book. The TV commercials were everywhere in the USA and UK simultaneously and yet.... the book was an overnight, momentary blip that died just as quickly. It was a fad, not a trend, because the branding was entirely unfocused--or absent in lieu of packaging and promotion. The biggest issue of branding that book suffered from was the fact the author was changed mid-stream. The "voice" of the book suffered a sharp change halfway through, like a young boy whose voice cracks a the age of fourteen. Harper Collins ignored this problem and packaged and promoted away!
The book needed to be bought by readers not sold by Harper Collins. In fact, this was one of those sad cases where the movie was far better than the book (especially after the scriptwriters repaired all of the damage done to James Frey's unfinished story when Jobie Hughes was hired by HC to finish writing it.)
And now here's our second definition of the series: A brand is an idea in the mind of the consumer, not a book cover design or fancy printing on the page edges to make the side view spell out alien hieroglyphics. The brand isn't in the story, itself, but in the sound of the story, the Authorial Voice of the book. A brand name is a noun, with a capital letter, that the consumer uses in their thoughts in place of the actual thing. A strong brand is the thing.
Brands are not the 1.2 million trademarks registered or the millions of names and logotypes and iconic symbols that we associate with brand names--those are the visual queues, but not the brands.
When you see the Nike checkmark you don't think of checkmarks; you think of Nike. You think of sports. You think of how to "Just Do it." You think of highly-motivated, over-achievers. You think of the opposite of a couch potato. You think that if you have Nike sneakers on your feet, you might be able to become someone who is not a couch potato. Do you associate all of these attributes with a picture of a check mark or a slogan? No, you associate the attributes with the brand. Nike simply is all of that in your mind.
The power of a brand lies in its ability to influence purchasing decisions. You can build a brand in any category but your best approach is to build a brand that defines a new category, a brand that is so narrowed and focused, it becomes the new category (or the first brand in the new category) and invites others brands to affiliate themselves with the new category. Does this seem counter-intuitive to you? As though you're creating a space for others to take your market share? If it does, then you've bought into those same forces that try to increase a company's market share by destroying the brand. Do not undermine the power of the brand. Your brand is your power. Your brand is you.
Next Monday, I'll dive into Immutable Law of Branding 1: Expansion. I might even combine that discussion with Immutable Law of Branding 2: Contraction. Make sure you don't miss any entries of this new series by subscribing to this blog on your Kindle (works for both devices and apps, all platforms). It's just 99c a month and you can try before you buy: free for the first 14 days. Subscribe here and this new marketing series will be delivered to your Home Screen as soon as it's posted.
Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip will be my advice on how to "stockpile" a set of tweets you can feed into Hootsuite's Publisher for auto-tweeting.