Branding. It’s the most important word in marketing and promotion these days and – thankfully – has nothing to do with a hot iron. Your “brand” is your calling card. It’s who you are and what you do. It’s even how you do it. And the relative success with which you market your brand can mean the difference between success and failure, especially if you’re a business start-up. The Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that 50-75% of new businesses fail because they haven’t established an identity with their customers. In the fiercely competitive world in which we live (and buy), “branding” isn’t a fringe activity — it’s absolutely fundamental in terms of putting it out there and making it sell.
Successful corporations get this. They spend millions of marketing dollars developing, supporting and maintaining corporate brands. Why? Because branding helps customers identify the products and services they like and induces them to buy. Consider Nordstrom and their reputation for outstanding customer service. This is no accident. It’s part of the Nordstrom brand. What about Home Depot’s “You can do it, we can help,” slogan? Carefully crafted to not only appeal to consumers on a personal level, but consistent with the products and services they offer – it’s part and parcel of the Home Depot brand. And branding works.
Reducing the business size without reducing the “brand”
The importance of branding for businesses far smaller than Nordstrom and Home Depot is no less significant. Successful entrepreneurs must also develop and maintain a distinctive brand identity; it’s core to their success. And that brand identity often begins with the entrepreneur himself or herself.
“Self-branding” recognizes that a brand runs throughout every aspect of the business, including the person running it. And self-branding is an art form. Peggy M. Parks, Image Consultant for the Parks Image Group, emphasizes, “Carefully studied and mastered, your personal brand can radically propel your business forward or relegate your product to the back shelf, last column…or the final-sale rack.”