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Seven Secrets to a Successful Brand

If you think about the most recognizable brands in the world, some of the first things that may come to mind are the logos of Coke, McDonald’s, Google, BMW, etc. Contrary to popular belief, branding is not a logo. Although the logo is the most visible symbol of a brand, it takes much more than just one graphic to build a sustainable brand. The simplest way to define branding is: YOUR REPUTATION. Branding is not what you say you are, it’s what your clients and customers say you are. And it’s not just for the Big Boys. If you’re a small business or an individual building your personal brand, the following principles apply to you too:

1. Be Authentic. I first learned about Jai Stone when I saw an interview she did with Bishop T.D. Jakes. Jai is an accomplished brand consultant, speaker, and blogger, who, before that interview, had avoided live television appearances because of her issues with her weight. In a post-interview video, she admitted that she had to come to terms with being real about her weight loss challenges in order for her to practice what she was preaching, which she calls “Emotional Nudity.” Being “real” has garnered her a fast-growing following. Decide you’re going to make authenticity and transparency part of your reputation and watch how it translates into long-term success.

2. Be clear: Nike has become known for its clear, compelling message: Just Do It. Swoosh. With all the choices your audience has—especially with globalization and technology making competition more accessible to the masses—it’s even more important that your message is simple, but compelling; as well as clear, and aligned with your mission. A whole bunch of technical jargon doesn’t make you sound smarter, it makes you sound confused and…boring. Take the time to craft a simple message that speaks clearly to your brand’s mission. Just do it.

3. Be passionate: In this age of technology where bad reviews of your brand spread like wildfire, it’s critical that your passion shines through in everything you do. Zappos has built a solid reputation as a company that is passionate about the customer experience. Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh was so passionate about serving his customers, he entitled his 2010 book: Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. Passion is at the heart of his company’s brand. And it’s paid off: in a span of less than 15 years, the company has grossed $2 billion/year and is heralded for its obsession with great customer service. How is your brand demonstrating what you’re most passionate about?

4. Be different: We could all take a page from Apple’s book of branding. I remember when the first Apple computer came out. The company quickly established their product as the innovative alternative to DOS computers. Then Apple came on the brink of bankruptcy in the 1990’s when a series of bad decisions and internal power struggles threatened the company's profitability. Innovation once again saved the day when the now-iconic iMac was released in 1998. And the rest, they say, is history. When I posted the following on my TwitterThe world needs you to stop being boring, according to . A pep talk you need to watch: http://t.co/Z1i9e5htn9”, I received the following response from a follower: “Really?” My response back: “Boring = Extinction. Innovation + business are moving at such a fast pace, you have to be in constant motion.” Be bold. Be different. Be you.

5. Be engaged: I read an article about how New Jersey Senator, Cory Booker, won his historical seat in 2013 partly due to his extensive use of social media to engage with his constituents. He’s quick to address issues that come up on his Twitter channel and is a master at communicating with his “customers.” He’s made engagement a core brand value: something that helped him make history as New Jersey’s first African American U.S. Senator. We’ve all heard horror stories of brands gone bad when they’ve either ignored customer complaints or decided (unwisely) to be disrespectful in the online space. Don’t be one of them.

6. Be in the know: Successful brands keep their finger on the pulse of what's happening in their industry—and even outside of it. They study global trends, pay attention to demographic shifts and observe changes in their customers' tastes to stay current. Brands that ignore trends risk becoming irrelevant very quickly. With social media sites like Twitter, it makes it easy to see what's trending —allowing you to adjust your products and services to meet current demand.

7. Be consistent: Of all of the secrets to successful brands, this is probably the one I find folks violating the most. How do you have a business card that has one logo and a different set of colors and fonts than your web site or your brochure? We underestimate the importance of consistency when building a brand. Take Target for example: anytime you see a Target ad, before you see the logo or the name, you know who it’s for. There’s a reason companies spend so much money building and protecting their brands: it has a direct impact on the bottom line.
At the end of the day, smart branding is about investing time and resources into all the above over a prolonged period of time. Think of it as an investment that will pay dividends in the long run. Your bottom line will thank you!

This post originally appeared on the Bold & Fearless blog by Julian B. K. : www.boldandfearless.me

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