Saturday, June 23, 2007

More Synchronicity

A few weeks ago I wrote here about writers needing a platform. Last week I attended a SITE-SoCal meeting at the Four Seasons Resort Aviara and heard a talk from branding specialist and author Sandra Sellani. Sandra gave an hour packed punch from her brand new book, What's your BQ.

BQ: Branding Quotient. Anyone with any marketing experience knows that branding is the lifeblood of selling a product. Think Kleenex, Band-Aid, Clorox, Evian. Branding is creating a proprietary, visual, emotional, rational, and cultural image of your product. Buyers don't perceive the above five elements of branding when they reach for a bottle of Evian water, yet the subconcious effect has grabbed them.

Sandra said anyone who sells commodities must have a strategy to survive in this cluttered marketplace. My mind engaged to her talk on two levels: 1) as a business person with a company of my own, and 2) as an author competing for dwindling publishing slots in a market glutted with submissions.

When we hear commodity, most people think of a tangible product, like widgets, flankels, and jigs. Sandra pointed to the crowd and said, "You are a commodity." It's true. We may sell a product or service, but in terms of personal branding, we are the product. Successful salespeople understand they are not only promoting their product or service, they are selling themselves.

Authors hear about platform in all of the publishing circles. I wrote about platform here. As Sandra spoke about branding, it clicked. Branding in the marketing world is the same as platform in the publishing world. Authors are a commodity; not just their books, stories, or articles. Authors who understand this early in their career: Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Tom Clancy, JK Rowling, become name brands, household words, the icon to which all their competition seeks to compare.

So we know that we are commodities. What then is our strategy for success? Here are a few of the notes I took away from Sandra's talk, peppered with my own insights:
  • Create competitive differentiation. Prove why you are different.
  • Go for the gut. Target the emotions and go for the gut reactions. Emotions connect.
  • Be a Vulcan. Statistics impress. Look for logical points for those who identify with a purely rational approach.
  • Gossip, heresay, and reputation. What do people say about you when you're not around.
  • The eye of the beholder: You are what the consumer thinks you are.

Sandra gave us a peek at the VRIO model she covers in her book:

  • V--Valuable. Are you valuable to your clients, readers, employers?
  • R--Rare. Worker bees and hacks are a dime a dozen (so are cliches--but it works so well here). Be the diamond in a field of rhinestones.
  • I--Imitate. Identify the best in your field and do what they do better.
  • O--Organizational leverage. Make sure everyone in your company/team/agency understands your model and builds their strategy around it.
The Four Seasons Resort Aviara was the perfect setting for a talk about branding. This chain of luxury hotels and resorts has positioned itself at the top of its market. Four Seasons has city hotels all over the world, but this brand understands what travelers want in a resort away from the buzz and bang of a big city. Aviara is north of San Diego, set in a wetlands and wildlife conclave with spectacular views of the hills and lagoons. My room was spacious and overlooked the gorgeous Aviara gardens with a balcony and outdoor sitting area. I switched on the Bose wave radio, nibbled the chocolate-dipped strawberries delivered complimentary to my room, and worked in perfect serenity on my first draft revisions to THE SWORD SWALLOWER'S DAUGHTER. Chris DeVito and the staff at Aviara have a high Brand Quotient in my book.


Dan Schawbel said...

If you're interested in Branding that is more closely aligned with an individual and not a brand you should view my blog.

TR said...

Good post, and thanks for your email. Having been in business most of my life as an entrepreneur of one sort or another, I know the marketing values you are writing about are solid. The trick may be to keep learning and be persisent.