Sunday, August 18, 2013

Branding! A story of who we are?

A recent discussion occurred on the Storytellers Facebook page.  It seems may people have different reactions to 'branding'.  My colleague Karen Chace (a professional storyteller and researcher whom I have a huge amount of respect for) and I created a workshop on branding called: "Branding, It Doesn't Have to Hurt!"  Some people do not like the word brand and I can identify with that! Was that pun intentional?

I think what most people don't realize is that everything has a 'brand' of some kind.  Even some people have a 'brand' - who do you know is known for whacky socks, or strange hats, or braces/suspenders, or tie dye shirts, or wears the same type of clothes all the time (other than Tomm Wolf)? That can all be a form of branding.  Even the glasses some of us wear! And brands change over time.  A lot of change has to do with perception, fashion, management, needs, or personal choice!

However, branding usually tells people who we are as a business, product, or organization.  It's about our image, what we do, and how we present ourselves and act in the world.  A brand can incorporate our ethics and sometimes brands change because of our business.  WorldCom (who began as LDDS for Long Distance Discount Services) were a fabulous company that bought MCI and became MCI WorldCom.  The MCI was dropped and the company reverted to WorldCom, but kept the MCI star, although reversed in direction. Certain accounting practices pretty much destroyed the company, which then went back to MCI, trying to hide the WorldCom negative past history, and is now owned by  Verizon! WorldCom crashed from being a major contender rivaling AT&T, almost overnight.

You can look at Jason Mraz and know him by his now almost iconic pork pie hats.  We know Nike by the 'swoosh', and Coke by it's swish!  Although Starbucks has changed its logo over the years, we still recognize it, from the brown, twin-tailed siren, to pretty much just her face and hair (the twin tails looking like something she is holding, almost off camera, as it were) - now in green.  We can see these 'things' and know what they are and where they come from.  There is an app available where you can guess the company from the brand or logo image! Go and try it out.  It's free!

Be aware, though, that Brand and Logo are not the same thing.  A logo is part of the brand.  The brand, as I see it, is the overall image a company, product or person (small business) has. The logo is part of that.  Other things make up a brand: type face, colour schemes, design styles, sometimes a brand includes 'the copy line' or 'by-line', the mission statement or organizations culture etc..  Take for example: "Just Do It" or "Lovin' It"!  Yeah, I know! But all those things come together to make a 'brand'.  My CDs have their own separate 'brand' with the circle image and type face: the style they have.

Originally, my letterhead, which was part of my brand, was a watercolour picture I had painted.  I moved from performing primarily at libraries for kids and families, to also working in colleges and for adult audiences and with businesses; I had to change my letterhead to reflect that additional business focus.

So the watercolour was dropped and I adopted a more serious black panel with my name in white letters (see top).  This is now used across all my stationary, and is part of my 'brand'. Another part of my 'brand' is what I have with me when I show up to perform or teach, whether at a school, college or business - my apple crate!  This became 'part of me' (the storyteller), and fits the 'storytelling image' I have in my mind.  It began as a simple way to cart all my gear around and have something to put my glasses and other 'bits' on:- a small table and carrying tool.  It carries everything I need, so I do not have to bother my host with requests for this and that. My bodhrán and backdrop are also part of my 'brand'! In some ways, I suppose even the little notebook/journal I always have - seen in the picture here - is also part of my 'brand'.  One of my patrons said they loved the apple crate as it felt like I was bringing part of my home with me!

When we look at these things across the board of our business or organization, we might see that we already have a brand without knowing it.  Some storytellers are known for the shoes they wear, or the way they paint their nails, a certain shawl, shirt, or hat they always wear when telling tales, or are known for their harp.  That is all part of their brand, knowingly or otherwise. Karen Chace is known and uses her ladybird (ladybug).

You could say that your brand is your schtick!  Your brand is YOU!  A brand, your brand is telling people the story of who you are, and what you do, and sometimes how you do it!

Some people don't like the word 'brand'. It comes from the tag, or logo, used for identifying livestock, usually burned or painted onto the skin, hair or fleece of the creature.  Some people feel that companies use their brand to present a false image, but those false images are usually found out and uncovered. Some companies use brand to sell things by brainwashing people, but we can only blame ourselves for letting that happen.

Neither the watercolour or the 'name black banner' are or were my my logo,
but are part of my brand! You might recognize my logo, however - it goes everywhere with me!
And that word - Brand!
Is there another word we could use?
Moniker? Not really, a moniker is a nick name.
Identifier? Maybe! The Collins Dictionary describes
an identifier as: "a person or thing that establishes the identity of someone or something." It's a bunch of 'things' which make up a brand!

So take a look at yourself and what you do, look at what others think you do, and see if you have a brand or identifier! And, if you need or want some help, the workshop Karen and I created can help you focus or fine tune your public and/or professional persona.  Contact us!  We are just a click away!