Developing a Brand Statement

I should have written about this topic sometime ago, but it is something that you do not think about unless you are making a conscious effort to create, evaluate, or develop/expand your brand. Whether you are an author, artist, entrepreneur … or are starting to create a brand, eventually, you will have to develop a statement. In this case, I will refer to your statement as a branded author.

What is a brand statement? To make it easy, compare it to your novel’s elevator pitch. I have read in several sources about many variations of expressing it, but it can be easily explained as the sum of what you/your product is, plus the type of customer/reader that is your target, plus what you/your product offers/does for them (your intention). Once you put that into words, in a short sentence, you have developed your brand statement. For example, my brand statement is: “Inspirational fiction author Maria Antonia Diaz delights readers of fiction and non-fiction by offering works that combine adventure with the supernatural and the divine.”

If you look at that statement it tells who I am/my product as an author, it mentions my target market, and what the product (books) offers the readers. The reason that I include the non-fiction sector, is because my novels have an inspirational tone to them, which might be of interest to that sector. If you think about it in those simple terms, you can develop a simple brand statement that you can sum up in a sentence.  It is an easy way to keep the focus of your brand in front of you, and make it clear to others. Think about who you are as an author and who your readers are, and what you want to do for them through your work. That should lead you to express your brand statement.

Building Your Brand – Author Nameplate Design

Yesterday, I set on a mission – to create an author logo/nameplate for my book covers. This may be a bit unconventional, but I wanted to create a cohesive way to identify my author name with future book covers. I’ve noticed that most authors, except  a few, use a free style when it comes to have their names printed on a book cover.  I never understood this, and while I agree that a book’s title is more important and the first thing you notice, besides the art cover, I like the idea of matching an author’s name to a style/logo that you can recognize.  I’ve noticed that Nicholas Sparks has a cohesive flow to his name on the covers of the books, and just by catching a glimpse at one of his covers, I already recognize the image and associate it with his work.  He is one of the few that I’ve noticed doing this, although not in all his books.  If you check out a few book covers from different authors you will see what I mean.

I came up with a nameplate that I will include in future book covers. I had fun designing it and think that it fits my personality as well as the essence of my stories – that author’s persona that leaks throughout the story. I will not include it in Moonlit Valley, since the cover is already set to go – a scene from the book. However, since I am planning to write for the long run, it will become part of my brand. To me, branding is important, as it becomes as essence, with time.

For authors, branding includes many things besides a pen name, but I think that details are important, even when you are a first time author trying to build your brand slowly, which is what I am trying to do now.  I have thought about many examples of branding from well-known authors and will use two examples to illustrate my point.  When you think of branding, you can visualize Stephen King, (who is the king) and see how he has built his brand around his name.  Or, you can think of J.K. Rowling and see how she built her brand around the Harry Potter series.  For her, publishing another book outside the series, got her harsh criticism because her brand grew and developed around this character.  On the other hand, Mr. King may publish anything he wants, and his name becomes stronger.  I am not sure if you follow my point, but what I mean is that branding for authors goes beyond the product.  This got me thinking about creating a way in which I can start building an author’s brand as I continue in my writing journey – a lifetime journey.

Here is the design I came up with, and so far, I think that I am happy with it.  I like it because it is different and simple enough that it will not compete with other details going on the cover – it can cohabit, but at the same time, starts building visual recognition – over time, that is.  I believe that it is never too early to start building your brand.

Design by Maria Antonia Diaz

Design by Maria Antonia Diaz

Have you thought of branding your pen name/author’s name?  What do you think, as far as creating name recognition in future publications?

Building Your Brand – the Rewards

Line art representation of a Quill

Line art representation of a Quill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a follow-up to the previous post, I thought that I would mention the benefits or rewards of building your brand.  The rewards go beyond the monetary gratification, as brand building touches the entrepreneur’s “soul” (for lack of a better word).  When you set out to build your brand, you are strenghtening the process of reaffirming your commitment to your business or craft.  To outsiders, it serves as mere recognition of a brand, to the entrepreneur/artist/writer it plays an important part in building not only the business, but the perception in which the endeavor is seen from the entrepreneur’s side, deepening the commitment, inspiration, and serving as a refreshing fountain of energy (fuel) to keep it going.

Branding builds in professionalism, setting you apart from many other similar endeavors, for example, the author that just produces the book, lists it for sale, but never worries about building a brand around it – an author’s website, page, networking, and plenty of marketing, among other things.  It doesn’t matter if you self-publish or go the traditional way, brand building is important if you are planning to become a lifetime writer.

The financial rewards will eventually increase with brand recognition, if done right, but it should never be the main goal of building your brand.  It goes deeper than that, and if you are serious about your product (whatever that may be), you will understand that while everyone needs to make a living (preferably doing something that you love), it is when you give something back to the reader/customer/client that your brand will become stronger and your endeavor/business will grow.  This principle is old and you may have heard of it in the scriptures, popular wisdom … “What goes around comes around,” “You get what you give,” “Give and you shall receive,” and many other variations of it.

If you become serious about building your brand, do it with love, passion, and generosity and the rewards will eventually show up.

 

Building Your Brand – The Challenges

This post is a follow-up to the earlier – Building Your Brand.  It is a challenging task that never ceases; however, most difficulties are encountered at the beginning.  These challenges may be concrete or emotional, but they are present during the process of discovery and even after you had set out to build your brand.  The more you ignore dealing with these challenges, the slower the process will become, and it may even affect your own “emotional branding” – the way you perceive your brand.

YOU – The Biggest Challenge

The biggest challenge that you may meet building your brand is YOU.  Even after you have figured out where you are headed, your belief system (in yourself) may be shaken after the journey of self-discovery.  There will be the moment when you might say “nonsense” and doubt the entire process.  In addition, there is always the negative little voice that tells you to “be careful,” “wait,” “can’t,” “too difficult,” “too expensive,” … you know it.  Training yourself to bypass YOU (your fears and doubts) will take some effort, but will make you stronger and give you clarity of perception.

Emotional Challenge

This challenge is tied to YOU, as depending on the process of self-discovery, which is different for everyone, the array of emotions/feelings set free are the challenge in itself.  Dealing with those is important to continue building your brand.

Motivation

At one point or another, motivation may get stale, especially when instant gratification is nowhere to be found.  In an instant society like ours, we are cued to get results and get them fast.  In most cases, building your brand will not yield instant results.  So patience and perseverance most be found inside your motivational briefcase.

Family, Friends, and Critics

This is a huge challenge, second to the YOU challenge.  Most of us pay great attention to the opinion of our closed circle first, and to the outside circle later.  Wether we want to admit it or not, their opinion has an effect in our emotions.  This is why it is so important to take a hold of YOU and understand that for them, a process of self-discovery may have not happened yet, and most likely, they may not be able to understand where you are coming from or your perception.  I have found that entrepreneurs are more likely to cheer you up, because at some point, they have gone through the process, than people with a job/paycheck mentality.  The later group will not be able to understand what you are doing or where you are headed, least how you are doing it.  They have not learned the value of a true dollar (or your country’s currency) and they may not understand your true efforts.  For this group, time spent = money in the strict sense of the phrase.  For you, payment for your efforts have come in many other ways.  A healthy dose of criticism is good, but beware of where it comes from and how YOU deal with it.

Time

This is a personal issue and everyone must work with time differently to build a brand.  This applies to anything in life, as your perception of time may be different to mine.  Timing and time to work on something must be understood separately.  Emotional time spent is also important when building your brand.

Money and Knowledge

I linked these two challenges because many times, if you don’t have money to hire someone to do something you don’t know how to do yet, you can always spend time learning it and do it yourself.  It is a personal issue, sometimes tied to physical time, but not let lack of finances stop you in building your brand.  Today, there are many free social networks, platforms, and online features which are of help when money is tight.  Learning is a process that takes time.

Change and Setbacks

This is something that you must be able to accept as part of growing your endeavor and building your brand.  Things move different for everyone; it is the cycle of living, and part of the decision-making (past, present, future); however, don’t let that stop your progress.  Change may be positive or carry some setbacks with it.  It may speed the process or slow you down.  It can come in the form of total devastation as in a natural disaster, financial loss, divorce, moving to another state or country, illness …  It is up to you to set the emotional pace for dealing with change/setbacks.

These are a few challenges, which may be present when building your brand; however, it is your journey, and your own challenges will appear along the way, of course.  There is no growth without challenge; so welcome these.

 

Building Your Brand

When you are self-employed, you become your business and vice versa.  It is very easy to get tangled in your work, and become one with the brand.  At the same time, it is easy to absorb your brand, and under develop it, as it happens when there is lack of discipline and personal issues absorb valuable work time – your efforts may get lost.  Balance is key; however, it is important to develop your brand, and keep evolving with it.

Developing and building your brand starts as soon as you get in business for yourself, and it continues throughout ( I think it never stops); however, branding your business whether it is a shop or your writing career, will help you stand apart, and create visual impact with your customers – or be remembered/associated with something.  Large companies do it all the time, so why not develop your own brand?

If you want to do it right, you must spend time and effort (lots of it) as well as be willing to tweak and change things around as needed, or evolve keeping the integrity of your brand – the essence of it.  For some people, depending on the line of work and resources (time – physical and emotional – and money), it will take less time than for others, especially if you are doing everything yourself.  Of course, you can always hire someone to do it for you, if you have the financial resources.

Over the past couple of years, I left my job, starting a soul-searching journey, with the support of my angel husband (thank the heavens for him), and came across the realization of the things I truly love – Real Estate (which sucks right now), writing, and creating with my hands, whether art or handcrafted pieces.  Slowly (more due to the morass in my heart and slow self rescue and discovery) a brand started to emerge, which I called THE OWL, BOOK & CANDLE.

I am by nature a do-it-yourselfer, so I started thinking about it and creating a business and slowly working the details.  Still, there is much work to be done, as well as evolution.  The purpose of this post is not to promote my brand, but to make you think about your own branding and how you can work towards its development/growth, even when resources are low, even when you can only take small steps.

What I don’t know, I try to learn; that has always been my motto.  The first thing I did, once I was sure of where I was headed, was to make my business a legal entity by registering it and taking all the necessary steps.  To me, that step made the commitment more real.  To give you an idea of the things that I did to grow my brand, here are a few pictures.  The entire process continues to be an affirmation to my commitment, as well as self-focus.

I learned to design my logo and business cards.  In addition, I learned to create my business flyers and promotional materials.  I could have hired someone or use an online service, which is not expensive at all; however, from beginning to end, I needed to do it all, as it was about finding my true call, and about self-rescue.  If in the midst of it all, something did not sound quite right, I would change it or redirect my efforts.

 I took my logo/brand to my everyday life by placing it on my car – wherever I go, so does my brand.  It is about advertising, however at this stage, it is more about brand recognition and self-commitment.  This was not an expensive process neither.  An online presence was very important, as this would become my modus operandi.  I decided to create and umbrella corporation that would house the writing and e-commerce parts of my endeavor, instead of building separate entities.  Part of the reason, you guessed it – the need for reaffirmation and self-focus at this stage (scattering efforts was counterproductive).

THE CUSTOMER/CLIENT

This is the most important part of any business as without it, a business cannot exist, and this is where I try to focus my best effort – offering top customer service, communication, and excellent work performance.  Branding without top customer service is useless.  Branding translates to the e-commerce area on developing a packaging that is cohesive so when the customer receives the product, it associates your brand with it.  From wrapping, labeling, packaging, flyers, stationery (electronic or hardcopy), and free tokens of appreciation, your efforts should mirror your brand.

There are many other steps and things to do to build your brand, but in keeping with my usual way of not making posts too long, I will leave you to ponder this – how can you make your brand a bit stronger and how does it play into your true passion?  Do you need to redirect your efforts?

Clothes Shopping – An Eye Opener

Illustration depicting thought.

Image via Wikipedia

I consider myself observant, and many times I look for clues on my daily living – I believe that messages are everywhere, as well as inspiration.  While wandering at a few stores, I decided to check out the clothes section, I’ve always been fond of fashion.  When I started touching the many fabrics, I noticed how thin the articles of clothing have gotten over the past year.  I compared inexpensive brands to expensive designer brands and found that this was not related to price, as the more expensive brands were also lacking in fabric thickness and even quality.  Then I wonder, why is this?

I had to ponder this some more, so once at home, I thought about it some more.  I came up with a few possible issues that may be influencing this trend.

  • Signs of the current economy – My first thought was that it is probably a reflection on the overall worldwide economy and the need for cutting costs and save on materials and manufacturing costs.
  • Signs of conservation – Then I thought that it could also mean that we are being more sparse with resources and conserving on materials, as the Earth may be lacking, due to the many climate changes that have been felt worldwide.  This has also affected production, import/export of material, and of course, money.
  • Signs of a new world order – My last thought on the issue hovered on the planet’s resources and the need for using less raw materials and the need for recycling materials, which may probably end up in products being less dense and a bit lighter, thin …  At least, if this is the case, it is a good thing that manufacturers are using less material and recycling what they can – it helps the planet.

I did not ponder the issue much more than that, most likely, it is due to a combination of factors – resources, climate, economy, production/manufacturing issues …. however, it is certainly a sign of the times.