Personal Branding 


"I'm not a businessman                         I'm a business, man."                   

Recently I was working with a start up software company where the lead developer wouldn't pick up the phone to answer his first (and to date, only) paying customer.

You may say that "user experience" is not branding.  You can be sure the "brand identity," "mission statement" or "company values" got back to the client, loud and clear.

Brand Identity

We all have an idea what branding is...but how does it work?

If someone pays 140 dollars for Nike, when a similar thing from another Chinese sweatshop with a different name on it costs 20 dollars, with no 7x performance improvement for the user, then something else is being purchased - identifying yourself with the attributes of the product - even if you've never played basketball.

But what are the attributes - an attribute is something conferred upon rather than intrinsic to something. An attribute is not quite a property "of" something. The locus of evaluation is external. What I mean here is that the sneakers didn't make Michael Jordan, "Jordan," When you wear Air Jordans, you "represent."

Note: In the UK "Jordan" is someone else entirely; less basket, more balls  (equally well branded). 

I'm not so sure the people who buy these sneakers make logical distinctions, so I'm not going to either...which means the "purchase decision" is not entirely logical. Branding is a heuristic - a mental shortcut or shorthand.

Lets say I buy an i phone. Is it really a better phone? The people who shell out 700 dollars for one, swear blind it is! Camera, internet, phone - all debatable whether the overall quality validates the purchase price.  Maybe they're buying into something?  

  "It used to be a better meal. Now its a better life!" Jerry Maguire (1996)

I would call this "crowdthink," - accepting external group values, sublimating one's choices to the will of a consensus that comes from outside. A similar term "groupthink" (Janis 1972) refers to how members of a group tend to rationally conform to the group norm. Crowdthink dispenses with initial rationality.

We go a step further here, my crowdthinker will justify values that have an external locus as his or her own, first emoting and then rationalizing a supporting argument. 

You're getting the drift here, McDonalds, Coke, all the rest  - "the household names," market themselves as "being of a consistent quality, *whether that be bad or good in comparison with competiton is not the point.  I'm not saying that company advertising is accepted carte blanche, but that "perception" meets customer "expectation." Expectation is malleable. Advertising shapes it.

*Ryanair had the customer service of warm doggie doo do for many years, until some brightspark at the company decided, there was no cost/benefit in shrieking at people like cattle - very catholic Ireland though. The point here is customers accepted groundstaff going batshit at "extra baggage" as a "cost" of the cheap airfare.

I'm getting a bit deep with this topic, so we will parachute out :) for today.

Here is a nice link.

Key point...

In a world of unlimited choices - decisions are often made in advance of the thinking.

Branding is a tool you use to deliver the kind of consistent experience your customer expects. You build the "expectation" through advertising "consistent quality."