Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Importance of Branding

Hello blogging friends.

In my last post I mentioned that I was reading some interesting articles and that I hoped to be able to post on a few of them soon.  Well, it would seem that I’ve come to a point of inspiration.  Not that it’s a point that hasn’t been covered well before by other writers, but I want to write about this particular point now because of the fact that for independent companies as well as aspiring authors and artists by themselves, this is a most important subject.

It is the subject of branding.

Look around you.  Check out your favorite websites or blogs online.  Look into your most well-known local businesses.  Everywhere you turn you will see an example of branding.  Every entrepreneurial spirit, every college kid out trying to make a name for themselves, and every person looking for a job in this economy is actually trying to sell themselves off of some type of brand… their own.
Their names.  Their records.  Their accomplishments.

They put these into a bundle of information that they present to the public.  And it would seem that the more the public sees the good in that information and the more people look into that person’s or company’s accomplishments and decide to buy from them or follow them, the better known their “branding” becomes.

Think of it this way: consider your favorite brand of clothing, or your favorite type of cereal, or even your favorite publishing company.  Now ask yourselves the question, why is it your favorite?  Chances are that for the reason you buy that particular product from that particular company, other people are buying the same product for the same reasons from the same company.

Branding.  The company is making its mark.  People notice them because of their products.  They are getting seen, they are getting attention, and they are growing a reputation as they sell their products.

That’s why I think that one of the hardest parts of starting a new company is creating and marketing a brand for your company.  Whether you are starting out as an independent author, as many people have (consider Joe Konrath or Rachael Starr Thompson) or you are creating a brand spankin’ new company (Like Marcher Lord Press, Flaming Pen Press, and the Spearhead Guild), good branding becomes the life blood of your establishment.  Good branding comes with/from a good reputation, which means people looking at your product, which means people buying your product.  On the other hand branding that comes with/from a bad reputation means people passing over a product and the company ultimately drowning.

You’ll notice I mention reputation a lot.  It’s true that reputation and branding walk hand in hand in this world of business. People trust brands because of good reputations, and likewise, they shun brands because of bad ones.  If you wanted to get technical, you could say that reputation is everything… it’s even more important than branding is, which is true to a degree.  However, one has to think of how they present their reputation to the public, and that’s where branding comes in. 

Let’s look up the definition of branding, shall we?  The very definition of branding is:

1) commerce product or manufacturer: a name, usually a trademark, of a product or manufacturer, or the product identified by this name

2.  recognizable type of something: a distinctive type of something.

So there you go.  A lot is said within the definition of a word.  A brand is ultimately a product or company that is identified (for good or ill) by its name.

Now, as far as building a brand that people trust… that’s the hard part.  That’s the trouble that most companies have when they first get started.  And that’s where most companies either succeed at the beginning of their journey and thrive, or fail, struggle, and possibly drown in the end.

Consider Marcher Lord Press, now a company whose list is large and still growing, and whose books have won awards in the past.  By the time Jeff Gerke decided to take on his project, he already had some experience in the market.  His brand was there as his name and his reputation as an editor was already solid.  All he had to do was get the word out and his company thrived.  Now, I’m sure that’s not exactly what he felt would happen at the time of opening.  I’m sure he had his doubts, and I’m sure MLP might have struggled right up front.  But main point to consider is the fact that MLP is no longer struggling like they might have been at the beginning.  They’ve gone from being an idea, to being a small company, to growing into the premier Indie Christian Speculative Fiction company out there.  

Why?  How has this happened?

It all came about through persistence, growing a good reputation, and marketing a solid and trust worthy brand.

Now we have Spearhead coming out: a collaborative project put together by Christian Authors whom many Christian readers already know, trust, and love.  Spearhead plans to bring its own brand into the mix by combining author brands that have been made and have thrived over the years.  The Guild will draw in readers through the four separate brands of their founders’ names, and in return, readers will be introduced to Spearhead as its own brand or publisher.

Branding is everything.

But, you say, these are all examples taken from people who have already been in the publishing business for several years at the very least.  How does this apply to authors who have not been published, or who have not worked in the publishing industry before?  How does this apply to those High-schoolers and college students just starting into their careers who want to make a name for themselves?  How does it all come together? 

Well, first of all, I’m not going to say that giving Magpie Publications a good reputation and brand won’t take work.  It will.  Whether you want to be published traditionally, self publish, start your own company, or be hired on by an established company as an intern or editor, it’s always going to take work and lots of it.  It will take research.  It will take time.  It will take persistence when the going gets tough, because I can assure you, the going WILL get tough… there will be times when you think that your dream will never find wings and will sit in a desk drawer and gather dust for the rest of your life.  I guarantee there will be moments when you want to quit… but you can’t.  Not if you want to see your dream actually fly.  It’s going to take studying and interviews and passion.  Oh, but it will be well worth it in the end!!!  If you are determined not to see your dream fall and fail, then you will find ways to make it thrive.

You want an example?

The first one that comes to mind is Flaming Pen Press.  As I understand it, Scott Appleton had been a writer for several years and had some of his short stories published in online magazines.  He’d been working on the Song of the Dragon series for several years as well, and had tried to sub it to several different publishers, all of which answered his query with rejections.  He kept seeking advice, he kept working to improve, and he kept trying.  At long last he decided that it was time to take his book public, and he created Flaming Pen Press… a small company on which to establish a big dream.  With persistence and drive, he managed to sell over 3,000 copies of his book in one year, and the first book in his series, “Swords of the Six”, was picked up and published through AMG publishers.  Now AMG has contracted him for the rest of his series.  And as far as Flaming Pen Press goes, it went on to sell over 3,000 copies of 19 year old Jacob Parker’s award winning book, “Kestrel’s Midnight Song” since its release date in September of 2010.  Now it’s taking on another young author’s project, “Out of Darkness Rising” by Gillian Adams, and I have no doubt that it will continue to succeed with this book as well as with others.

Other examples of note within the Christian Fiction field are Port Yonder Press and Splashdown Books.  As this post is getting rather long, I won’t go into a whole lot of detail about them here and now, but those presses and brands have similar stories… starting out small and unknown, slowly growing into a brand recognized by a few, and their recognition is spreading.  Hopefully in future days I will be able to do blog posts on these as well as other small companies as my research progresses.

Why am I talking about brands today?

Well, with the work and research I’m doing for Magpie Publications, I started to realize the influence that branding has on people and how it affects the market.  Good branding could make the company into a success, while bad branding could plunge the company to its death.  However, because I am a relative “unknown”, and because my foundation is not based on past work records in the industry but instead is based on a dream, ambitions, some passion, and the college degree and career choice that I’m currently still working towards, what Magpie really needs at its starting point is a solid (if small) foundation to launch from.  With God’s help, I plan to give this company everything I have.  I absolutely plan to pour myself into it, and I know that, with help, it will be a success.  And if it’s going to succeed, it’s going to need a good brand name and a good preceding reputation that moves it forward.

My good friend and writing buddy, Adele Treskillard and I were talking about how this might be accomplished in a community sort of fashion.  Since nothing is set in stone as of yet, I won’t go into detail about our ideas at this moment.  When things become more clear and solid, then I might write an informative post on the matter.  For right now, continue to keep this idea in your prayers.  It won’t drown, by God’s grace.  He doesn’t just put an idea or thought on someone’s heart to have it fall apart entirely.  I’m just so grateful to Him that He has given me the opportunity to meet and get to know so many young writers out there whose ambitions and dreams parallel my own.  Honestly, it’s a pleasure and an honor to know you all, even it’s only online.  Without your support in this idea, it might never have gone beyond the dream stage to the stage of ambition.  It might never have become a goal.  I thank you all!  Thank you so much! ^_^

(Stay tuned for a Guest Post by Janice Hardy to be up within the next week. :D)

1 comment:

Philip Nelson said...

Aye, a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches... :)