What is “branding?”

brandingBranding – what the heck is it?

An “expert” came to me with a proposed guest blog about branding. I looked at her site, Twitter, Fan Page. Her site had a rheumy picture and bland copy. Her Twitter had five tweets (still has five tweets months later), and her Fan Page had four posts in six months. Each site looked different. There was no consistent message. What kind of branding is that?

Why would I follow her advice (or feature her on my blog) when she can’t brand herself out of a paper bag? Couldn’t brand herself with two hands and a map.

In proper Word Shark fashion, I started to research. I Googled “branding.” I read a bunch of blogs and articles. And I asked my connections what they thought.

April Michelle Davis Editorial Inspirations – “My website, business card, print materials, and everything about my company has the same colors, fonts, look, and feel.”

I think the theme/scheme is important. You don’t want to be pastels and floral on one page, and dark and gruesome skulls on another page. You want your colors and your feel to translate from one page to the next.

Shark and bluek

If you look at my Fan Page, you see a shark in blue water. If you look at my Twitter profile, you see a shark in blue water. My website – shark and blue. My blog – shark, blue.

Published writer Ilil Arbel – “Personal branding is positively grabbing someone’s attention by creating a unique, unforgettable image. Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others. Each one of us has to develop their own USP – Unique Selling Proposition – to communicate our brand, as the big corporations do.”

Ilil digs deeper – “Yes, I think branding goes deeper than a logo and a color scheme. It has to create an image that is strong enough to be remembered by concept, not just shape.”

Going deeper

I like what Ilil said about going deeper. Branding is not just a color scheme or font. It’s what you stand for, it’s what you deliver; it’s following through on promises and conducting oneself with professional integrity.

Public identification

Elizabeth H. Cottrell of Heartspoken and Riverwood Writer says, “Branding is the development of a public identification through marketing, imagery, logo, and consistent messaging. In includes everything related to social media activity, advertising, etc. In a nutshell, it’s what pops into people’s minds when you or your company name is mentioned.”

k 2Consistent messaging

I try to put forth a consistent message about the importance of editing and proofreading. I like to introduce new writers, bloggers, poets, musicians, and artists in my special monthly features. I am a bit (a bit?) sarcastic at times, but try to present it in a humorous fashion. I share what I’ve learned and pay it forward.

Consistent message

Artist and illustrator, Janice Phelps Williams – “Good branding is nothing more than knowing who you are, who you want to be, what you are good at, what people will respond to, and how to live your personal and professional life in a consistent manner. It is being consistent in words, in graphics, in subject. It is being focused and knowing where the boundaries are. These are the only rules I focus on. I don’t really think of my brand, but I know when something ‘doesn’t feel like me.’”

Doesn’t feel like me   

There are certain bloggy features that don’t feel like me, i.e., book reviews, interviews, or constantly hawking myself or my services. So, I just don’t do any of those things.


What is “branding” to you? What is your consistent message?

“Become someone worth knowing. Then your book will become something worth buying.” – C. Hope Clark


Filed under Branding & Platform

31 responses to “What is “branding?”

  1. Hi Karen,

    Branding for me is my “voice” as well as a feel my readers will get when they visit one of my platforms…blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. They will get a sense of the type of person I am, the style of writer I want to be and hopefully that translates into an interest of wanting to hear what I have to say…;~)

    Lovely post!

    Donna L Martin

  2. Since I am not trying to sell anything and am writing for my own pleasure, I have not been concerned with “branding”. But in my personal life I’ve tried to follow my mother’s example when she said “If you are what you say you are, you don’t have to say it. People will know.”
    I think branding definitely needs to be consistent but not monotonous.

  3. What a great article, Karen! Reminds me of the story of the blind men and the elephant – each grabbed a different part of the elephant and used it as their sole basis for what they thought the elephant looked like. The reality was a combination of their different perspectives.

    I think Esther comes closest to describing what’s important, especially as individuals and small business owners. When we’re consistent, honest, and trustworthy—when we seek to serve before we seek to sell—then the solid reputation we build is the foundation for everything else.

  4. The “seek to serve before we seek to sell.” Well said! We all have a little different take on “branding,” but as long as each of us sticks to what we believe, the foundation is set.

  5. This was a great post, Karen! The main thing I am taking away from your post and the comments is consistency and honesty. It made me think about the blogs I enjoy visiting the most, and they definitely are strong in those 2 categories. Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

  6. These are all great replies! I hired someone to re-brand my company, and the first thing she did was have me complete a questionnaire and then meet me. She wanted to get to know me so that when she branded the company and then people met me, I would have the company/branding aura.

    • What a great idea, the questionnaire! So many marketing and design people just start pointing you this way or that without knowing you. My website designer asked a bunch of questions too, wanted to know what I wanted to “put out there.”

  7. What a cringe worthy example you share at the beginning? Having said this, I haven’t branded myself yet. Working on that right now and it’s an interesting task to think about images, fonts, colors, etc.

  8. Great article and good points in the comments. My wife is the marketing expert in our family, so she insists on consistency in colors and font, etc, for my websites. One thing I have going for me is genre. My association with historical fantasy is somewhat of a unifying theme. I really like Esther’s and Elizabeth’s comments about being the image you want to project, and serving rather than selling.

    • I think consistency is the best way to go – colors and what you stand for, represent. Historical fantasy, or fantasy…most sites I see are somewhat dark, leather, metal. Is that correct? Or could you inject something else that might make it unique? I saw a color graphic today for colors and what they represent – it’s on my Fan Page. Very interesting!

  9. Great post Karen thank you. In my opinion, as highlighted above, branding above all is the heart and soul of your company or person. Once you’ve identified exactly who or what you are that will come across in visuals and in copy…but first dig deep and know who you are. I call it ‘brand essence’. Also, if you don’t deliver on what your brand promise is and what sets you apart…you will be doomed.

  10. Great points, everyone! (You can thank April Michelle Davis for directing me here from the Christian PEN loop.) I have a tendency to get interested in every topic and a limited ability to comprehend the “feel” of graphics, so I am only just coming to the point of finding my brand essence. I would sum up what I know so far as a core passion for RICH faith-based writing–RICH standing for Radiant (or perhaps Refreshing) Inspiration for the Challenges of Happiness, i. e., empathetic words of encouragement for those to whom a flippant “cheer up, things aren’t so bad” only adds guilt or anger to discouragement.

    • Happy to meet you, Katherine, and I’m glad April directed you to the blog. I think a person’s essence – as well as their online persona – have to jive. And I feel, sooner or later, if you are putting on a fake face, people are going to figure it out. Thank you for visiting!

  11. Great article on an important topic.With my first novel Spider Woman’s Daughter due out in October, I hope to put some of your great points to goo use.

  12. Thought provoking article Karen, I love it. Branding stems from a sense of self, of identity. For some this is rock solid, even brittle, and for others, diffuse. The public persona a writer aims for may differ from the private one they live. Sharing who we really are, with writing and our brand, is a destination worth the bumpy ride. Coming to Wordshark I always know what to expect – perfection and wit.

    • Sharing who we really are – I think you hit the nail on the head! I started out blogging being completely polite and nice and demure. That wasn’t me. Once I let my snarky, sarcastic side out, I felt better, I started to write better. It’s best to just be oneself, yes?
      How kind your comment about The Shark – I appreciate that very much.

  13. This is such important ‘Stuff’ to think about, and I admit I haven’t much. I agree that good branding is knowing who you are and what you’re all about. And I definitely agree about using my instinct on what feels right (or not right). Thanks for an excellent post -makes me realize I need to work on branding more thoughtfully.

    • Honestly, I never really thought about it much myself. Though, about five years ago, I went to a conference and one of the speakers talked about “platform.” Basically, the same stuff, like what you stand for, paying it forward, being consistent. Then the branding taught me consistency in name and colors and such. So I guess I was doing it, just didn’t know what to call it.

  14. This was a very timely and interesting read. I’m in the process of setting myself up as a freelance writer, workshop facilitator and…well what? I’m an EFL teacher, I enjoy proofing other people’s work, I love getting creative with kids and I love performing and presenting. There’s a lot I both enjoy and am competent in, and I thrive on variety. Do do I create two business cards?! It’s a process at the moment…and an interesting one:-)

  15. Thanks, “Harula.” About the biz cards – hmmm. What is your main focus? Are you going to be offering workshops…and if yes, on what, writing and proofing? I would say, determine your primary focus, then get the cards.

  16. Pingback: EI on the Importance of Branding « Editorial Inspirations: Editing, Indexing, Proofreading

  17. Pingback: April Michelle Davis » Blog Archive » EI on the Importance of Branding

  18. Pingback: Will you be remembered after the writers’ conference? | Karen R. Sanderson's Blog

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