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Branding: You are the Brand

What's in a brand name? Everything! Think of these brands: Coke, Barbie, Hershey, McDonalds, Madonna, Pepsi, Bono, Microsoft, Kleenex, Xerox, Steven Spielberg, Dell and GM. Did you notice that brands can be things, replicas of people and actual people? Brands are the public perception of a thing or person. Companies work very hard to establish their brand, sometimes failing when they attempt to tie a secondary product into the popular brand name. Does anyone even remember A1 chicken sauce?

The people and companies behind the above brand names are well known. They are established. They have earned the right to be positioned where they are in the public's eye. Are you or your product clearly associated with the solution you seek to provide? What about your product? What about your name? How are you positioned in the marketplace? As an entrepreneur, a small businessperson, you have to be ever so keenly aware of every minute detail and opportunity to brand yourself. You need to be the expert. Your product must solve the problem, and the world needs to know about it. Branding therefore, may be the most important marketing challenge you face as your business plan unfolds.

It's all about public perception. Is Coke the real thing? Does Hershey make the finest chocolate? Does McDonald's offer the best tasting, most nutritious hamburger? Does GM make the finest cars? We have been trained by skilled marketers to make the above associations. We have been conditioned over time to accept the advertising as real, whether we actually believe it or not. Very clever indeed, these markers have been. You cannot afford to be any less convincing in your efforts.

As CEO of your own organization, you will most likely not have the extensive resources that a major company or big name star has. You probably are the marketing department, the advertising department, the sales team, the accountant and so on. As such, you must remain acutely aware of your image, the perception of each and every customer, and to a great extent, the marketplace as a whole. Your position in the marketplace, often dictated by the perceived quality of your products, your celebrity, your reputation for service, your leadership in your field and your consistency will certainly have a great deal to do with the effectiveness of your brand. You are the brand.

As the brand, you must take the position that you will always be under scrutiny, under the microscope. Assume leadership. You may not be the biggest guy in your field, but through leadership you can establish a market presence that will help you to become positioned along with the major players in your market. Take the lead on local issues or take a stand on a national issue that relates to your product, service and market. Through association, you will be perceived as a market leader, regardless of your size. Attempt to resolve a small problem and associate it with a greater one and you will achieve a level of notoriety, one that you can leverage to increase your brand awareness.

Your company must be credible. That is to say that your products and services must do what you say they will. You must also be credible personally. If you cannot be rightfully associated with your product or service offering, it will be difficult for the public to be receptive to such a contradiction. Honesty and integrity will be assets of great value to you as your marketplace gets to know you.

You must be consistent. You must find your niche, take your stance, establish some position and build from it. If you change every week or every time a new wind blows, people will not take you seriously. They will begin to doubt your leadership and find it difficult to perceive you as a credible source for your goods and services. You will lose whatever market position you have gained and whatever leadership position that you have achieved by wobbling among various directions. The public sees consistency as strength and strength as character. When you are a small company, struggling to grow, the perception of you in the marketplace is a critical factor.

Your marketing plan should certainly include these concerns as well as the incredible importance of the awareness of your market image. Since you are the brand, few components within your business plan should receive more of your attention than the development of the public's perception of you, your evolving position in the marketplace and the development of your brand image.

Daniel Sitter is the author of the breakthrough e-book, Learning For Profit, the revolutionary how-to book providing simple, step-by-step instructions to teach people exactly how to learn new skills faster than ever before. It's currently available from c|net's download.com, the author's web site http://www.learningforprofit.com/ and a variety of online book merchants. Mr. Sitter is a contributing writer for several online and traditional publications. His expertise include sales, marketing, effective learning techniques, self-improvement and general business interests.

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