This post, from Blue Horizon Communications, originally appeared on that site on 12/8/10.
Brands are those vague but persuasive associations we conjure up whenever we think of any well-known product. Mac computers. TIDE laundry detergent. Nike running shoes.
Brands are also the far more complex associations that come to mind whenever we think of well-known authors. Often, they’re a flash of images mixed with a dominant feeling, or a scene from a particular book montaged with memory fragments.
Here’s a small demonstration: Does the name Stephen King conjure something different for you than the name J.K. Rowling? What about Dan Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jodi Picoult? Or Malcolm Gladwell, Joan Didion, Seth Godin? What association appears for a second or so when you first see each name?
People Brands Aren’t Product Brands
Whatever that instant of recognition is composed of, it’s there because that author’s brand put it there. Each association is complex and meaningful — unlike the association you’d experience for a brand of laundry detergent.
In fact, it’s that much-ado-about-nothingness which characterizes many product brands that makes it easy to imagine authors rejecting the B word as too schlocky, too commercial, too huckster-esque. So let’s substitute the word “story” instead – the “author-identifier” story, if you will.
Brand: Author-Identifier Story
The author-identifier story (aka brand) refers to the complex messages authors put out into the world about themselves and their books — which we then absorb and retain in a highly individual way.