Thursday, January 29, 2009

Branding, Unique Selling Propositions, & Positioning

How Everyone is Battling for a Share of Your Mind

If you have a deep interest in author branding, it might be useful to consider that branding originally was designed to make your product identifiable to the illiterate population. Consider the barber’s pole. The basic idea is identification.

Modern branding got a major boost from Rosser Reeves’s book: “Reality in Advertising”. Reeves outlined the USP, Unique Selling Proposition. Example: Ivory soap is pure. (It’s 99 and 44/100% pure”). Dove soap is one quarter cleansing cream. To stand out it was thought that a product had to have a USP.

The USP concept dominated much advertising thinking until Ries and Trout came out with my favorite advertising book: “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind”. Both these books are very short and written so clearly that they were best sellers even outside the advertising industry.

The big idea behind ‘Positioning’ is that there is only room for one or two brands-- in any one category -- in a customer’s mind. It is also very difficult for a new product to break into the prospect’s mind after the first one or two get established.

Example: we may remember who was the first man on the moon, but how many can remember the second man? Some remember the first man to break the four minute mile, but who was second? Some remember the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic, but who was second? You get the idea.

This is serious business. It is very hard to break into a prospect’s mind unless you position your product in a category that is empty or you spend hundreds of millions of dollars. Therefore create a new category! Gatorade created a new category of drink. OK, now, tell me, how many other brands can you name in this sport’s drink category?

I consider ‘author branding’ to be a subset of the USP and Positioning approaches.

When you are doing author branding several decisions need to be made:

1) are you ready to be branded? Do you really know yourself as an author? Think of branding as getting a tattoo. It can come off but it is difficult and costly to do.

2) is your work ready for a large audience? Nothing kills a product faster than effective marketing because it gets more people to sample your product and they remember who you are. If they don’t like what they’ve read, you may have lost them for good. They may also tell a lot of other people that you are no good. It might be better if some readers actually don’t remember your name. (I just read a very bad romance and the best thing for that author would be if I didn’t remember her name.)

4) if you are ready to go ahead with branding yourself then you need to position yourself in a way to win a place in the prospect’s mind that is not already occupied. (I would tell real estate agents in my marketing classes to ask the infrastructure questions before branding themselves. For example, “Who is the best condominium expert in town. If two or three names keep coming up, then the position is taken. If no names come up or a lot of different names but no leader, then the position is open. (The infrastructure is made up of people in the business: real estate agents, appraisers, lenders, inspectors, real estate reporters, insurance agents, and so on.)

5) you need to develop a USP which is compatible with your positioning. “Let Our Condominium Specialists sell you unit quicker and for more money.”

6) you need to practice ‘fusion’ by making sure all your contacts with the public are consistent. That is, all your avenues of outreach should have the same ‘look and feel’ and support your USP and positioning.

One last thing: marketing is great and can be very powerful but it will not improve your writing. The very best marketing tool is to produce the best “reading experience” for your readers and leave them at the end of the book with a strong desire to run right out and buy your next book.

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