If you missed it: Part 1 of 5 (Branding Yourself), Part 2 of 5 (9-part Branding Strategy), Part 3 of 5 (A Strong Branding Foundation) Branding is like SHOWCASING yourself. With all the emphasis the past couple of weeks on the political conventions, consider this quote from the Republican National Commitee:

“The convention will showcase Sen. John McCain and his vision for America to the 45,000 convention participants joining us from around the country and the millions more participating from home.”

Branding is a necessary effort in the marketing process. Alone, however, it is incomplete without more substance and specific invitations (these political conventions can be viewed only as “fluff” by alot of people but they are intended to launch the candidates into a season of specifics and strategic moves that will compel voters in Novemeber). But coupled with an effective plan for closing the sale, branding can incorporate a gallery of your values, your history and your personality into a coherent and magnificent display that makes potential customers take notice! Thus all the fanfare at these conventions!

PACKAGING – While my political leanings lean away from Obama yet not completely toward McCain, I would cast my vote for the former in terms of packaging their brand. His brand is the subject of many critics (some say it’s just hype), but there is no doubt that his brand has resonated with millions. But I’m not even talking so much about his message which is open for debate and likely to cause some of you ulcers if we spend too much time talking about either side! I just think his packaging is crisp and clear and consistent. Even though I’m not an Obama supporter, I signed up to receive all his materials (and McCain’s too) because I like political marketing. I would cast my own vote for Obama in terms of marketing materials. There’s a consistent look and that is important in branding. The way that all of your marketing collateral fits together is essential in branding. Keep consistent!

Another critical element of branding might bring some of you back into this conversation. Just as logos speak volumes about your brand, nothing resonates more clearly with people than your STORY. John McCain wins this one. While the other side might think the RNC is over-using the POW angle, there is no doubt that McCain’s story resonates with many voters. It’s who he is AND it tells alot about his values! If people were to go to your website, or look around your store, do they get to hear your story anywhere? Do they hear what’s important to you, and the importance of your journey? Stories invoke emotional responses with customers and it’s an effective part of your branding. The use of audio and video clips to showcase your story is essentially essential!

You can also showcase yourself in the way your email signature reads, the way your voicemail sounds, or the way your Facebook profile page is arranged. While politics often get a bad name for manipulating voters or simply offering superficial imagery or lame rhetoric, take notice of how most of what politicians are doing can be considered branding. We can learn from how they operate (and then maybe do it without as much partisan among your prospective customers!)

ONLINE PRESENCE – We can’t even begin to give this section the time it deserves. But hopefully, if you are a regularly reader of this blog (or other marketing blogs), you’ll know well the importance of blogging, podcasting, email marketing, and so much more. Do you have a Facebook or Myspace profile? Do you Twitter or have a Linkedin page? What about local online profiles or other social media and social networking sites? Got any videos out on YouTube or some other video networking site? There is no doubt that one key to enjoying a strong Search Engine Optimization success is to having a strong online presence.

TRADITIONAL “OFFLINE” PRESENCE – Back before there was the internet, businesses would employ a number of effective paths toward positively branding themselves. In this category: sponsoring a Little League baseball team, hosting a charity event or being one its major sponsors, participating in civic organizations, conducting workshops, speaking a luncheons and special events, writing articles for industry publications or local papers, appearing on radio or TV shows, and so much more.

PUBLIC RELATIONS – Certainly some of the above can be lumped into a category most people call “PR” – and those rules are changing (see David Meerman Scott’s best-selling book for more details on how the rules are changing). In the old days, you created press releases and begged your local journalist to include it in their paper. Now, sophisticated readers are wanting news more often and certainly faster, so journalists are often searching for news . . . and for the most part, Google is their modern day informant! Electronic media allow companies to publish their own press releases to the web and if done right, the ones writing articles find them! The old “buy-beg” strategy for advertising and PR is gone: we now have so much more control. And because of the internet, our PR strategy can be much more limber and flexible to include so much more (without having to worry so much about expensive the 1/2 page ad space is!) With an effective website and corresponding blog, companies can brand themselves from a variety of angles. And they can make changes on a consistent basis to keep the content fresh and relevant.

This is of course another important area to highlight the importance of Search Engine Optimization. If prospects or journalists are interested in finding out about YOU, then if you are not getting top search results when someone Googles your name, then you are virtually hidden on the web – out of sight, out of mind! SEO is not magically achieved in an instant. If you think to yourself, “I need to get online so that when someone Googles me, they find me” and you think that’s going to happen overnight, then you need to better understand SEO and what John Jantsch calls “earned press” (this is a new terms for the inappropriate “free press” term – the former obviously indicating that a business can be rewarded for the hard work it takes in creating a strong online presence). We all enjoy “free press” – but let’s not fool ourselves . . . if we get top search results (in the Top 10 listings), we can pat ourselves on the back for the work it took to achieve such success.

David Meerman Scott recently likened this “online presence” to being a regular at the local pub or coffee shop. While some public relations is about promotion and announcements, having an effective online strategy may just be as low-key as hanging out at the local hangout. Simply participating in the conversation and community. You’re not necessarily overtly promoting yourself, but you are building credibility because you give people a window into who you are. As you regularly participate in the fellowship of the community, you increase awareness of your values and your personality (KNOW), you’ll engage in developing relationships that bring positive experiences (LIKE) and you’ll eventually achieve that level of loyalty where people put their complete confidence in you and what you offer (TRUST). If you don’t want to get to this level, simply walk into the coffee shop, don’t greet anyone, pin your business card or flyer to the community bulletin board and walk out. The community around you is happening – are you engaged in it? Or are you just concerned about telling people about what you have to offer?

So what’s going on in your community? Do you know? Do you participate? Or are you too busy promoting yourself in the name of PR that you don’t hear what’s going on?

Stay tuned on Friday for my FINAL installment in this branding series.  I’ll be returning from Benin, West Africa next week.

Part 5 of 5 (Managing Your Brand & Planning Your Brand Strategy)


2008 Beijing Olympics

p.s.  Did you hear the exciting news from the Double Take LIVE Broadcast yesterday?  If not, here it is:  On Wednesday, October 8th at NOON CST, the Marketing Twins will be interviewing for it’s 3rd Double Take LIVE Broadcast a Gold Medal winner from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Stephanie Brown Trafton won GOLD in the women’s discus as part of the Track & Field competition.  Stephanie’s faith will inspire us all as she pulls back the curtain on what life is like as an Olympic athlete and how her faith rescued her Olympic dream!  You may have even seen Stephanie on the Oprah Winfrey Show earlier this week.  Mark your calendars for these two key dates:  Friday, September 19th when registration begins and Wednesday, October 8th for the actual call !!  Go to our UPCOMING EVENTS page for more details!