BTW, what IS a brand?

9 Oct

By Dixie Laite

In this column, we talk a lot about brands and branding. (And shoes. We seem to talk an awful lot about shoes.) We toss around these words under the assumption that everyone knows what we mean by brand.

Brand = Promise

It’s simple, really.

A brand is a promise. It’s an expectation of experience. A brand is really just consistent perception, and when we talk about branding, we are talking about creating and crafting that perception. All that other stuff—logos, taglines, spokespeople—can help shape a brand’s perception, but mostly they exist as a sort of shorthand to bring that perception to mind.

For example, if I go to Times Square and ask 100 folks to describe Sandra Bullock—or Kim Kardashian—all different kinds of people will give me fairly consistent adjectives. The same would happen if I asked folks about Apple, Disney, Fox News or the Wonderbra. (If they remember the Wonderbra. Anyway, I do.)

These companies, products and celebrities are all strong brands. Some may love and some may hate Fox News, but everyone knows what to expect from them. They know nothing too terribly Kumbaya is ever going to come out of anyone’s mouth on Fox News, and that’s either thrilling or disturbing, depending on your politics.

The same for Kim Kardashian—she’s both popular and despised, but how ever one may feel about her, we all know what she represents, what she likes to do with her time and that her behind is preternaturally round.

Quick: What words come to your mind when you see this woman? (Photo courtesy of People)

When building your own brand, it’s often tempting to focus on colors and fonts and how many sections your website should include, but those things should really be outgrowths of the essence of your brand. And just what is your brand’s essence, you might ask? (You did ask, didn’t you?)

Your Brand’s Verbal Essence

What is your brand meaning?

What is at the core of your brand?

All the bells and whistles, animated GIFs and paid celebrity endorsements won’t give you—or  your audience—the answers to these questions.

You can have the schoolchildren of Australia line up to spell out your product’s name with candles and photograph it from space, and you’ll still be nowhere. (Well, you’ll be in space, which is still nowhere in my book.)

You arrive at your brand’s essence by thinking about it, a lot, and you can best communicate that essence through words. To be more precise, through stories.

Words and the stories they tell are essential to building, conveying and spreading your brand. People in offices like to call these stories “content marketing,” but really, it’s about stories.

We’ll talk more about what kinds of stories you need to tell—and how to best tell them—in my next column. Until then, please feel free to email me your thoughts, suggestions and over-the-top complements.

Now go jump in a big pile of autumn leaves and utter a loud “Whoopee!” or something of that ilk, and I’ll see you in two weeks!

This is the eighth episode of “15 Minutes of Dame,” a column to help you create, develop and promote the living crap out of your personal brand. Dixie Laite has been putting the “broad” in broadcasting for over 20 years, working in television, online, print and marketing for a variety of household name brands. She’s currently Senior Editorial Director for TeenNick and also freelances as a writer, speaker and digital content strategist. Dixie’s column is published every other Wednesday on Follow Dixie @DameStyle and on Pinterest, and email her at Oh, and post your questions and suggestions in Comments below.

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