It is one of corporate America’s major clichés. One of my clients Neal Lemlein, a premier entertainment executive and consultant over the last 20 years even begged the question as a professor at USC is Branding B.S? Well Mr. Lemlein, when it’s a word symbolically thrown around as jargon and doesn’t come with a strategy the answer is indeed yes. However, at Ascendant Strategy Group http://www.ascendantstrategy.net we have created a branding firm that builds a comprehensive strategy. Many of our most successful clients are public speakers, CEO’s and corporations.
So what is branding? We think of it through the lens of brand enhancement, defined as identifying and analyzing brands for undiscovered or underdeveloped opportunities that will translate to consistent messaging, increased image and profitability. Brand enhancement assumes all individuals have a personal brand and corporations have a corporate brand, whether they have identified it or it is undiscovered. Another way to think about branding is what you are best known for. Speakers for instance need to spend serious time thinking about developing their brand before they begin marketing, developing their speaking topics, editing professional videos, developing a personal style and their overall image in the industry. I often find too many speakers motivated purely to make a profit or passionate about speaking but lacking focus. Creating a brand strategy helps generate that focus and it allows others to see a consistent message and get a grasp for who the speaker is and what they offer.
So how does an individual come up with a personal brand? How does a corporation come up with a corporate brand? Our answer is by creating a brand portfolio that identifies different areas for branding with corresponding imaging and marketing strategy, public relations implementation packaging, product funnel and revenue portfolio. For example, let’s take Toyota. Toyota has an overarching brand then additionally they have Corolla, Camry and Rav-4 amongst others, all with separate brands and related strategies. Additionally, Toyota is the owner of Lexus, though you would almost never know it. Toyota wanting to reach into a higher-end clientele realized that their brand was associated with affordable cars, entering a vertical market where retail prices go $40,000 and up required generating a prestigious brand. Think about the market relevance here of what Toyota has done over the year. Whether you are a college student looking to purchase a cost-effective high gas mileage first car or a multimillionaire looking to purchase a 3rd car that screams prestige; purchasing a member of the Toyota family is a practical option. Toyota utilizes very different strategies to brand their vehicles and additionally the cars often feature very different options and accessories. A purchaser of a Corolla may see cruise control as a nice option while a Lexus purchaser would consider it as mandatory.
Okay that’s cars; let’s talk about a striking example of a successful personal brand. One of the best brand builders over the 200+ years of the speaker industry is that of the recently deceased Dottie Walters. Her Speak and Grow Rich brand is brilliant. The very name of it creates a crystal clear image. Walters brand promises to teach you to speak and grow rich. Additionally, Walters has had the seminar series of the same name traveling across the country and she always carried herself with conviction and credibility. Walters approach was to have a stand alone name, “Speak and Grow Rich”, which draws excitement by itself and has simultaneously been able to create an experience memorable enough to create lifetime consumers that not only attend seminars and purchase books but also become invested in her product funnel and became top targets for major symposiums and additional product offering.
So you have an approach and its not working. Or you’re attempting to create your initial brand. Think about some of the most powerful brands in the marketplace over the past 20 years. Nike “Just Do it” when you hear this it makes you just want to do it, it speaks especially well to the athletic demographic. Snickers promises to “satisfy your hunger” and when you’re in the candy section after a work out or in between meals or at the gas station on a long road trip, those words come to your mind consciously and subconsciously as you believe Snickers has an answer for your hunger.
So is that what branding is about, simply coming up with a hot phrase? Absolutely not, let’s look at Starbucks; the coffee chain doesn’t rely on a phrase but rather an experience. When you think about Starbucks it is about more then the coffee it is a place to meet friends, a place to study or a place to just relax. Starbucks has been the sight many a time for meetings, dates and breaks from the hectic pace of the day. This is what effective brands do they create experiences.
For one of our clients at Ascendant Strategy Group, Jeff Johnson we created two brands, Social Architect and Bridge Builder. The Social Architect brand speaks to Johnson’s ambition to create stable institutions that help people, additionally it captures the spirit of his keynote addresses, Johnson doesn’t simply speak on issues he provides tangible solutions and creates an environment where creative energies flow and the crowd is challenged to make their own solutions. The bridge builder brand encompasses his ability to work with people of very different backgrounds and in his speeches he talks about the importance of people with different views working together. So his brand speaks to his background and the experience that is created by his speeches, when you have this sort of synergy it begins to make you a highly desirable and memorable speaker.
To create your brand think about the things you are best at and what people compliment you the most on. Create a simple message that will stick well. Then think about the products that can be generated including web site, book, and CD’s etcetera. Make sure the phrasing generates an emotional image. Unless you are an already extremely successful speaker the phrasing is critical. If you don’t feel like walking through this process yourself, consider hiring one of the many industry consultants or consider ASG. We place a full team around you; we are an ideas firm in the truest sense and specialize in personal branding. Our service has a strong track record in more then doubling and tripling performance within a 12 month period. We have helped corporations improve their stock performance over 700% and stand ready to help CEO’s and public speakers “ascend to greatness.” If you have any questions please contact me at email@example.com or go visit us at our web site www.ascendantstrategy.net