Brand Management for Writers Part 1: What is Branding?

Recently, about a month ago, fellow author and blogger T.S. Bazelli mulled over the question of author-branding.  Her post was in response to one by author Nathan Bransford on the subject, in which Nathan contended that “there’s no such thing as a brand” when it comes to authors on the internet.

It occurred to me, after reading these two posts, that it had been a long time since I talked about branding on my blog – in fact, it has been over a year.  So perhaps it might not be remiss for me to address this topic.

To start, then, let me state my credentials and qualifications on the topic.  I do not, nor have I ever worked directly in a capacity to influence the branding of any company – though I have been on the very peripherals of rebranding campaigns.  However, this past May I completed my Masters of Business Administration from one of the top business schools in the country.  As part of my course of study in my MBA, I studied Marketing, and specifically I studied Brand Management.  I took a class in Product and Brand Management specifically because I felt that the topic would prove important in my career.  I found that the topic was not intuitive for me like some topics – but I learned enough from that class to come away fairly well-equipped to discuss the generalities of brand management – and as a writer I feel equally well-equipped to discuss those generalities as they relate to a writer’s career.

So, given all that, it probably comes as no surprise that I disagree with Nathan Bransford’s central premise.  You might find it interesting, then, that in my estimation Bransford goes on to spend much of the rest of his article discussing the importance of branding – apparently without realizing that’s what he’s doing, given his central premise.  A lot of authors, especially in this social-media-saturated climate, have developed a deathly paralyzing fear of the idea of self-branding, and to such as these, Bransford’s article offers a lot of comfort.  It’s probably easier to swallow a pill about branding – if you hate the idea of branding – when you’re first told how unimportant branding is.

Bransford, for instance, starts by saying this:

To me, a brand is a cultivated fiction, it’s an image spun from a grain of truth.

But by the end, he’s saying this:

The only brand you’ve got is you.

The central conceit of Bransford’s article is based on a mistaken assumption about branding and marketing, namely, this equation:

Branding = Lies

If this is your starting point, then yes, Bransford’s article will be a breath of fresh air.  If, however, you approach branding from a different direction – if you understand that “brand = image”,  you’ll reach very different conclusions. Continue reading