You may or may not be aware of this, but as an author, constantly in the public view, YOU are a BRAND. That’s right! Just like NIKE, APPLE, FACEBOOK etc.– although maybe not worldwide famous like these big companies– your name is your brand.
As I’m sure you are aware, each of these brands have a few notable elements that are universally recognized. NIKE makes great shoes for sports, they are known for their durability and comfort, they have their catch phrase,”Just do it”, and that little checkmark logo that distinguishes them without even seeing their company name. Then there is APPLE who is known for making awesome phones and other high-quality computer products, they are known for their advanced technology and product reliability, they also have that little apple logo that everyone knows on the spot. Likewise, FACEBOOK is well-known as a huge social platform, they are known for use in social media marketing as well as connecting families and friends worldwide, they also have a recognizable logo. This same branding recognition applies to authors. When you hear names like Steven King, R.L. Stein, Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer etc. You see the name and you know what they are all about. That’s a brand! Whether it is with a recognizable logo, or just a face and name– this is your brand .
So, what have we learned from these examples? Well, for 1) we need a name that stands out as uniquely YOU, whether it is your given name, pen name or a company name. And 2) We need to define the product or purpose that people will find value in through you. Then 3) You need a logo that is unique to you– this can be a design logo or just a great headshot photograph. The logo simply has to be something that people recognize instantly and associate with you and your work. And 4) You need a “brand statement”. This is sort of like the “hook” in a novel. Three short sentences that describe what you do and what makes it unique, in a way that hooks the listener or reader. (I’m still working on this one for myself!)
So, let’s get started creating our brand!
If you don’t already have your brand ironed out, the best way to start is by brainstorming. Follow the list below to get the ball rolling, and then we will narrow it down in the end.
1.Let’s start with the name. Do you plan to use your given name, a company name, a pen name or more than one name? This can be a tough one. For myself, I choose to use my real name as my main brand as an author, but I also tag it onto my other projects like, “Notes From the Writer’s Desk- with Davina Rush”. Now, I am very fortunate to have a unique name that stands out, but that is not always the case. So, what if your name is John Smith? You can still stand out! This is where you may want to add an extra letter, a middle name, a tag, or some other unique variation that makes you stand out for searching purposes, or even consider a pen name (I personally think that sticking with your real name is best though) — If you have this common-name-dilemma, visit the page link here for more advice http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20140815-common-name-how-to-stand-out . If you are still undecided, ask yourself a few questions– How do you want to be viewed? As a person with a face, as a big corporation with a logo, or as a small company with a store front photo etc. Try visualizing your “business” or “famous” self… what do you see? Do people remember you by name or by product? Think it over and then write down a list of possible names at the top of your paper.
2. Write down what field you are in. What do you do, what service or product of value do you offer your customers? What are you known for in the business world? For me, this brainstorming list would look something like this: Writer, illustrator, my blog articles, my coloring book publications. I would narrow this down to simply, “Writer & Illustrator”, which encompasses the main idea of what I do– short and sweet.
3. Ask yourself, “What makes me stand out in my work?” List everything that comes to mind. Then narrow that list down by asking a friend what THEY think makes you stand out. You can also read your reviews and see what stands out in those. I really liked that one of my reviewers said how much they enjoyed that my coloring books were hand-drawn and more detailed, unlike other coloring books. I really hadn’t thought about it as something that would stand out, until I read that review, but now I use “hand-drawn” in my “hook”. So my answer to, “What makes me stand out in my work?” would be– My illustrations are hand drawn and inked, and my coloring books are educational with pages of information to accompany the art.
4. Who is your audience? Writers, gardeners, children, mothers, fathers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, crafters? What are you selling and to WHO? Who do you picture as your audience– or by reading your reviews, who is your main audience. My audience, through my blog, would be fellow writers and entrepreneurs in the publishing world. However, my audience through my books would be much wider and different– men, women, teens, horror fans, mythology fans, coloring book enthusiasts etc.
5. What are you passionate about? This is a question for those who still aren’t sure what their business will be, but know that they want to work for themselves and are trying to discover what avenue to take. If this is the case, then ask yourself, “what is my biggest interests in life? What am I happiest doing?” Make a list! This list doesn’t have to make much sense, by the way, just write down everything that comes to mind. My list would be all over the place, looking something like this: Nature, gardening, family, cooking, drawing, writing, camping, hiking, photography, wildlife etc. Once you really look at your main interests, you can start to brainstorm about how those passions could be used to serve others in a business form. Using my personal list here, I could conclude that I would love to start a business as a “Hiking coordinator and guide”, “A camp training course director”, “An urban farmer working the market” (which I actually am lol), “An event photographer”, “A writer” (which I also am lol)etc. You get the idea! The possibilities are as boundless as your mind. Post your Passion in the comments below and I will message you back with lists of ideas, if you are having trouble coming up with your own.
6. What are some qualities that you pride yourself on? This is another question for those still trying to figure out what their brand content actually is, as in #5. What is your character, your core, your principle? For me, this answer would be; Patience, dedication, honesty, loyalty, leadership and teamwork, compassion, creativity, intelligence, family oriented, adventurous etc.. This list will come in handy when you are trying to come up with a “branding statement” or hook. For example, using the list of businesses in #5– If I were to combine the “Hiking coordinator and guide” idea with a few of the qualities listed above, our statement might look something like this: “Open Sky Hiking Services – guided tours and planning for the adventurous family!”.
7. You can also ask your friends what 3 qualities they recognize in you. What do people remember most about you and how would they describe how they feel when they are around you? You can use these in the same way as discussed in #6.
8. Now make a list of things you like that are either pertinent or neutral to your brand. Make a crazy list of your favorite animals, favorite colors, shapes, numbers etc. This will help in designing your logo– or at least, it worked for me. When I originally made my list, it was a page-long list full of variety (trees, owls, green, circle, ink, books, plants, coffee etc etc. A crazy list!) When I went back over this list, trying to figure out a logo for my publishing imprint, two items really grabbed me, and I had it! Oddly it was owls and ink lol Which is where my imprint, “Inky Owl Publishing”, came from. I thought I would never figure out an imprint name or logo that I liked, but after making my list it just came to me. I created a computer graphic version of this idea, BUT going with step #3 and my hand-drawn theme, I do plan to create a hand-drawn version very soon.
When you finish your list making, sit back and look over them. Look at your lists as the puzzle pieces of you and your business and let those pieces move around, falling into place. You might even try writing each individual thing on separate post-it notes, like a real puzzle to work out. It may or may not come to you right away. You may have to think on it for a few days or more, but your answer to a business that fits you and the branding for it is all right there.
And that’s pretty much it! With these lists, you should have most or all of the tools that you need to map out a general business idea, brand theme and logo. I am no expert and still learning for myself, but you can find so much more information and video seminars online to continue learning and honing your brand. Full Sail University has a great discussion panel posted on youtube for this subject.
Learn more every day and Stay inspired!