Tuesday, 18 March 2014

What is a brand?

A brand, at its most basic, is a mark that identifies something. It could be a name, a symbol, a slogan or pretty much anything that distinguishes the thing being identified.

For authors, branding is simple:

· Brand by author

· Brand by series

· Brand by book

Harry Potter is a brand. So is JK Rowling. There can be a degree of overlap in that something can have multiple identifying marks.

Sticking with Harry Potter, that could be

· JK's name

· The Potter name

· The book covers

· The lightning scar

· That music at the start of scenes in the film

All of them are brand because they're unique to Harry Potter, and they distinguish Harry Potter from other books/ films.

So, to carve out your brand you need to know what you're branding. What is YOUR unique selling point? Good books are different from what's gone before. Great books are unique (though we may still draw on past literature in creating that new unique thing).

What you brand is as important as how you brand. People have to want the thing you're offering for that brand to have any value. In law, a brand is the promise of an experience.

My brand is simple - British police procedurals set in London starring an aging cop with an eidetic memory. You pick up a Campbell Bros book, you get a taste of modern London, a look at how and why crimes are committed and what happens when the police investigate.

But I can't stick that statement on every book. So I brand my series - by using similar artwork, keeping the fontwork the same, staying to about the same length.

I can protect my brand - the execution is copyrighted. I could in theory trademark my series name - though that comes with headaches as you have defend a trademark.

The simplest way to brand is to be consistent - unified artwork, same names on all social media, and a domain name that reflects it.

I can't emphasise that last point enough - your domain name is your digital presence. If you're an indie author, your big market is probably eBooks. It might be almost all of your revenue. If you can't be found on search engines, you'll lose business.

There are costs - if you want everything looking the same, you'll be tied to one artistic style if not one artist. Changes are expensive - as you'll be changing everything at once.

And if you choose badly, you can brand in a negative way. Think budget car brands of the 70s - a brand is a promise of an experience. That doesn't say anything about the quality of that experience.

Next time - we'll look at what makes a GOOD brand versus a mediocre one, and give you an idea of what work and costs are involved.

See you next week (back Tuesday).

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