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Branding and Changing the Rules of the Game

  • When kids put together their lists for Santa this year, do you think they will be asking for “an MP3 player”, or will they ask for “an iPod”?
  • Did Microsoft have the same impact with the Zune?
  • How is the iPhone impacting competitors phone sales?
  • What would you think of a search engine that did not rank Apple for the term?

When you create a powerful brand you not only gain recognition and mind share, you change the rules of the game in your favor. The whole market place has to react, you cause competitors to change strategy, the media to take notice, and prospects to change their demands.

I would argue that creating a lasting brand is your single most important goal. Everything you do, from content to answering emails works towards your brand. Do not think you can rely on tricks and short cuts. As Aaron says, even Social Media has its dangers.

To make maximum impact it is not enough to just improve on the existing status quo, you have to cause a real shift in the way prospects think. It has to be done in a way that makes your brand stand alone as a shining example of what matters. Compare the lame razor market where each year they add a blade (how, um, innovative) to the disruption Dyson caused when he launched a bag-less vacuum cleaner.

Although most consumers see iPod and MP3 player as synonymous, Apples product was not the first and nor was it particularly revolutionary in terms of technology. It had some great features and an innovative interface, but it was the whole strategy in combination that made the difference. The iPod succeeded because it combined the required features in an elegant package. As much fashion as technology, it visibly fit how the prospects thought of themselves, it practically marketed itself. If you went to market with just another MP3 player, what would customers think? Do people think Microsoft’s Zune is something new and fresh? I would argue most people think of it as “an attempt at an iPod killer”, ie. to describe the Zune people compare it to the iPod.

Now Apple is doing the same thing over again with the iPhone. It’s not the first smartphone, not even the best in many ways, but the loyal Apple customer base combined with a radical user interface has won over many USA customers and is likely to succeed in Europe eventually (once some niggles are worked out).

Once you have one success, and a growing base of happy customers, the next success becomes that bit easier.Β 

Another brand that fits the prospects world view is Starbucks. It isn’t just another coffee shop. The stores are decorated and planned more like a theater set than a shop. Your prospects have to think “this suits me”. Starbucks created atmosphere, pricing and product that key into a desire in the prospect for perceived quality and sophistication. Now what would people say if you wanted to open just another coffee shop?
How do you use these ideas in your own marketing and promotion?

  1. Know your prospect – What are the key motivations and self-image of the people you are aiming for?
  2. Know yourself – How do your own attributes overlap with those of your audience?
  3. What can you do differently? – You are looking for something disruptive, not just “better”. What are the conventions and how can you break them?
  4. How can your point of difference benefit? – What will prospects gain by your difference? Different for the sake of it will not work, people need to see how much better your new way is for them.
  5. How can you get the idea to spread? – It is no good being different but isolated, what can you do to make your brand viral?

Look around for examples and learn from them. Who is unique? What are the conventions, how are those conventions changing?

Today I would say the most unique blog is Successful-blog, Liz has changed the rules for how a blog should be. Conventions in blogging are very different to only a few years ago. First Darren made it OK to talk about earning money as a blogger, then John Chow has taken commercialism and made it a virtue.

When we launched Performancing, multi-author blogs were unusual, as were blogs with a forum, now those ideas are so common as to not warrant noticing. That said Performancing has survived unlike some other more unfortunate sites launched at the same time. The key is the community. Being unique is not enough, you have to gain loyalty. Know what is considered radical today will be the minimum standard tomorrow, you have to keep moving forward and keep your audience with you.

Gather your prospects and have them feel part of something. Focus on giving those people the very best experience and they will reward you.

What sort of people does your brand attract and why? How can you serve those particular people better? Is there a word or phrase you can use to describe those people or that activity?

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Comments

  1. I would say that in territory of big blogs (if we stop there) branding and brand recognition is the one of the most important things to keep the blog ranked high. It is a tough job and fortunately we (small blog owners) do not have to worry about it πŸ™‚

    Btw did you notice that your footer is broken (text over the edge). I can refer you to this link http://www.prelovac.com/vladimir/webmaster-essentials-checklist if you want to check your website for more errors.

  2. I would say that in territory of big blogs (if we stop there) branding and brand recognition is the one of the most important things to keep the blog ranked high. It is a tough job and fortunately we (small blog owners) do not have to worry about it πŸ™‚

    Btw did you notice that your footer is broken (text over the edge). I can refer you to this link http://www.prelovac.com/vladimir/webmaster-essentials-checklist if you want to check your website for more errors.

  3. I just posted an article myself on branding on my blog last week, and I would agree it is a very important part of your business, blog, website, anything you want to promote or succeed needs to have its own brand developed.

    I think many “small” companies or blogs do not feel it is important, or even think about it, but that is not big thinking. Thanks for the article. Scott

  4. I just posted an article myself on branding on my blog last week, and I would agree it is a very important part of your business, blog, website, anything you want to promote or succeed needs to have its own brand developed.

    I think many “small” companies or blogs do not feel it is important, or even think about it, but that is not big thinking. Thanks for the article. Scott

  5. @Vladimir – Not sure what you mean about the footer?

    @chipseo – Yes, Small or big, we all have brands to think about πŸ™‚

  6. @Vladimir – Not sure what you mean about the footer?

    @chipseo – Yes, Small or big, we all have brands to think about πŸ™‚

  7. Ok the footer text is going out of the footer div and is wrapped to a new line (words “under English law” are). This in firefox 2.0.09 1280 resolution.

  8. Ok the footer text is going out of the footer div and is wrapped to a new line (words “under English law” are). This in firefox 2.0.09 1280 resolution.

  9. Branding is most important in starting and selling a company. Once your brand is known your main expense drops. advertising. I bet the marketing and advertising expense for the iphone was much less than the ipod.

  10. Branding is most important in starting and selling a company. Once your brand is known your main expense drops. advertising. I bet the marketing and advertising expense for the iphone was much less than the ipod.

  11. Chris,
    I have not commented for a while but I have been reading faithfully. I just wanted to drop in a note her to say that your material is getting much more substantial from your summer fare. I like the change and I hope it means that you are seeing the rewards you sought in blogging such that it allows you more time to write.

    Cheers,
    Roger

  12. Chris,
    I have not commented for a while but I have been reading faithfully. I just wanted to drop in a note her to say that your material is getting much more substantial from your summer fare. I like the change and I hope it means that you are seeing the rewards you sought in blogging such that it allows you more time to write.

    Cheers,
    Roger

  13. Excellent post Chris. I am actually in the process of coming up with a new “brand” for my blog.

    I really like what you said, especially points 1-5. Also, I agree with Roger… it seems like your posts are getting better. They were always excellent, but I think they are getting even better.

  14. Excellent post Chris. I am actually in the process of coming up with a new “brand” for my blog.

    I really like what you said, especially points 1-5. Also, I agree with Roger… it seems like your posts are getting better. They were always excellent, but I think they are getting even better.

  15. this has now become my favourite blog.

    thanks for your insights, with specific examples. questions and more examples!

  16. this has now become my favourite blog.

    thanks for your insights, with specific examples. questions and more examples!

  17. Hi Chris,

    Do you ever sleep?

    Wow

  18. Hi Chris,

    Do you ever sleep?

    Wow

  19. Hey Chris,
    Great work as usual. I’m right with you on every word here. A solid brand is a one-of-a-kind thing that offers new value consistently. That value is measured by the audience/customer not by the product developer.

    You only left this blog off your list. Thanks for including a word about me. πŸ™‚

  20. Hey Chris,
    Great work as usual. I’m right with you on every word here. A solid brand is a one-of-a-kind thing that offers new value consistently. That value is measured by the audience/customer not by the product developer.

    You only left this blog off your list. Thanks for including a word about me. πŸ™‚

  21. The iPod succeeded because it combined the required features in an elegant package

    In fact, seems that most people want an iPod even without knowing options available, they don’t even care about what is available.

    I always joke that apple doesn’t sell iPods, they just give them as a gift when you buy their overpriced white-and-easily-recongnizble headphones that people are proud to show around.

  22. The iPod succeeded because it combined the required features in an elegant package

    In fact, seems that most people want an iPod even without knowing options available, they don’t even care about what is available.

    I always joke that apple doesn’t sell iPods, they just give them as a gift when you buy their overpriced white-and-easily-recongnizble headphones that people are proud to show around.

  23. @Vladimir – Thanks, I will have to check that on a PC, not doing it on my mac …

    @Colbs – Yeah, you have to keep your brand in mind and current but the hardest job is breaking through in the first place

    @Roger – Thanks, much appreciated πŸ™‚

    @George – Aargh, now I feel performance anxiety πŸ˜‰

    @ming – Thanks πŸ™‚

    @Celine – I do but I tend to dream about this stuff πŸ˜‰

    @Liz – Any time, you are a great example πŸ™‚

    @Guilherme – Heh, yeah. It’s kind of like my daughter, she thinks she gets a free burger with her McDonalds toy πŸ˜‰

  24. @Vladimir – Thanks, I will have to check that on a PC, not doing it on my mac …

    @Colbs – Yeah, you have to keep your brand in mind and current but the hardest job is breaking through in the first place

    @Roger – Thanks, much appreciated πŸ™‚

    @George – Aargh, now I feel performance anxiety πŸ˜‰

    @ming – Thanks πŸ™‚

    @Celine – I do but I tend to dream about this stuff πŸ˜‰

    @Liz – Any time, you are a great example πŸ™‚

    @Guilherme – Heh, yeah. It’s kind of like my daughter, she thinks she gets a free burger with her McDonalds toy πŸ˜‰