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Welcome back to my marketing series on Branding (for Indie Authors). Over the course of this series, I'm helping you understand what branding is (and that it's not a book cover). We're discussing how to choose that one word that best describes your brand in that special, unique way that makes you you instead of like every other one of the millions of Indie Authors trying to break out of the pack.
Today, we're focusing on the credentials, or collateral, you bring to the table to support your brand's claim to existence. Click through the jump-break to get started.
Immutable Law of Branding 6 (for Indie Authors): the Law of Credentials is what will make sense of your one word in the customer's mind. It states "The crucial ingredient in the success of any brand is its claim to authenticity." Your credentials make your words ring true in your customers' minds instead of just being buzzy-marketingspeak or sales-pitchy. This is the important point to take away as you start trying to compose the slogan or catch-phrase that will become your brand's credentials.
Credentials are what your publicity efforts build so that your marketing materials can establish your brand's position in the customer's mind. Credentials are what makes your one word yours and not mine. It's the connection between your product and your brand. Branding credentials are your own claim to your own fame. Declare yourself and then make it true.
So what are credentials? In short, a slogan, a catch phrase, a saying that immediately makes me think of your one word that is your brand. Some examples:
- Coca-Cola is "the real thing" in a customer's mind; everyone else is an imitation.
- A Polaroid is an "instant photo" in a customer's mind; every other photo is created by some other method.
- A pair of Levi's are "American jeans" in everyone's minds; every other pair of denim slacks are just trousers, not Levi's.
Leadership is the most direct way to claim a brand's credentials. You can be the "leading .... [fill in your category here]" but what if you don't already have leadership? What if there's already a leader in your category? If you write horror, you're not really likely to displace (or even reposition) the likes of Stephen King, right?
Not a problem. I kid you not - it is not a problem. Why? Because the best way to claim leadership is to create a new category, as discussed here. In the process of doing so, you'll be creating your new credentials. As the legendary Ron Popeil said (creating his own credentials by saying it 10,000 times over) But wait, there's more! Don't go running off to create your snappy new slogan just yet. For the same low price, you'll also get to consider this: authenticity can make or break you.
Meaningless slogans and over-used catch-phrases are not going to build your brand's credentials. "Gripping!" or "Suspenseful!" or "Unputdownable!" are what pretty much any and all of us who want to think we write "page-turners" are going to claim. These words are so over-used, they are now meaningless to consumers who just think "Yeah, sure. That's what they all say!"
Using a set of credentials every other thriller or suspense writer uses won't differentiate you from every other thriller or suspense writer out there. You have to actually do something different to get different results ^)^
Even the truth about your book won't authenticate your credentials. Yeah, read, that again. It's not about your book. It doesn't matter what the truth is or what your book is or isn't. What matters is what your customers perceive about your book and ultimately, your brand. Even if your book is, in fact, unputdownable, what matters is how the consumer perceives your brand. The consumer determines how--or whether--they assign authenticity to your claimed credentials. Remember, perception is everything.
You deal with the power of perception and authenticity of credentials every day. Think about the last time you were walking around on one of those streets where there are a lot of little restaurants, sidewalk cafes, eateries. Every city all over the world has little areas where places to eat seem to congregate. You tend to walk past the one that's empty and consider waiting in line at the one that's busy because, in your mind, your perception is that the busy one has better credentials. All those people can't be wrong!
The one time there's a difference is when you are first, when you're the leader. Then no one has judged, no one perceives you as anything at all. No one has sat down in your restaurant yet but you don't have to be the roomful of empty tables either. You can claim your own credentials and then let your branding, publicity and ultimately, your products, validate your authenticity. You can only do that when you're first. Leadership has its privileges.
Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip - I'll dare to tackle that much-loathed idea of Writer's Block again. And yeah, sorry, I still have no clue what that is. Maybe that's why I'm trying to blog about it again, to figure it out?