What is Brand?Marketing is about the Four P’s (Product, Price, Place and Promotion). It’s tactical, tangible, and may be specific to one book or series.
In contrast, brand is about what customers expect. Think of some of the world’s best-known brands. Regardless of whether you love or hate their products, you know what to expect. McDonalds might not be your first choice of meal, but when you’re in a foreign country and the local food hygiene standards are making you ill—or you are travelling with small children who need a break in the middle of a long drive— those Golden Arches will be a welcome sight (yes, I speak from personal experience).
Brand marketing is defined by the American Marketing Association as:
“a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers”.
Put simply, your brand is your promise to customers.
It’s how you are seen by others—by industry professionals (such as agents, editors and publishers), how you are seen by fellow writers, and how you are seen by customers (readers). Your brand is the professional writer version of you, the ‘you’ you want other people to see. This makes it an edited version of you, not the warts-and-all version your husband sees in the morning, or the kids hear after a particularly bad day. You want a brand your target readers will engage with.
You have an author brand, whether you know it or not. Your job is to manage that brand, to manage the image you are projecting in public to ensure it is consistent with your brand. Note that what you do in private is separate, so you do need to ensure you have clear boundaries between what you say and do in public versus what you say and do in private.
Your brand is intangible, and your job as an author/marketer is to take that intangible brand and try and make it tangible through your physical marketing: your books and your website.
Your author brand includes:
- Author name
- Author Photo
- Author tagline
- Author bio
- Social Media
- Reader Communities
- Retail Sites
I'm not going to go into detail about any of these today, but will be in future posts.
One of the key aspects of branding is consistency. Again, think of McDonalds. You might not like the Big Mac, but you have to acknowledge it looks (and tastes) pretty much the same no matter where you buy it. It will be prepared to the same standards in terms of hygiene, and the restaurant will look familiar. Consistent.
Author NameYour author name is central to your brand, because readers buy books from authors they “know”. Your aim in marketing yourself and your books is to build a positive connection with the reader that goes beyond one book.
You don’t just want the reader to buy your book—you want them to become a fan who will buy your next book (and the next, and all your previous books if they haven’t already), and who will recommend your books to their friends. It's called brand loyalty.
The importance of author name is why most author websites are built on the author name (www.iolagoulton.com), not a book title. It’s long-term strategic thinking (it’s hard enough to attract readers to a website. Don’t make it difficult by having several). Plan for the future, and don’t brand yourself into a rut you don’t want to be in long-term.
Target ReaderOne central part of marketing is knowing and understanding your reader. Think of:
- Where they live
- Education level
- Marital status
- Children (and age of children)
- Income level
You need to understand your target reader in order to target your marketing to that reader.
If you don’t know who your target reader is, how can you know where to find them? And how can you target your marketing (i.e. get the best bang for your buck).
What is your target reader expecting to see? This will partially be based on the type of marketing popular in your genre, but don’t just follow the crowd. Experiment, and remember the old marketing adage:
We know 50% of marketing works, but we don’t know which 50%.
Your target reader will also influence your passive marketing and social media presence, because the different readers use different forms of social media. Where are your target readers? Twitter or Instagram? Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+? Tumblr or Pinterest? Goodreads, BookLikes, Riffle, Shelfari? WattPad? Somewhere else?
Your branding will depend on your genre, and I'll be back next week to discuss the importance of genre when it comes to website design. Meanwhile, do you have any questions? Can you articulate your author brand?