• Bryan Heathman

Branding for the Big Bucks

Where could your business, your speaking business or book sales go if you released all your limitations? With the right company brand or personal brand behind your business endeavors, you can break through untold barriers and realize your professional dreams.


What exactly is branding? Your branding is the way people perceive you and your mission – whether it’s your company, your personal career branding at work or even your private objectives. Branding distills your ideology into a series of elements that together create the look-and-feel of an ideal.


Branding is the practice of using your business name, logo, slogans, color choices and other assets in your marketing communications so that consumers can easily recognize you. In short, it’s your image.


Your brand communicates the qualities, ideas, emotions (if you’re good) and user experience that your products present to the market place. Using these assets in all of your business communications will reinforce your brand with every consumer touch.


The largest and most successful companies in the world all use these strategies to build their brand equity into billions of dollars. The industry giants of yesterday and today – Google, Apple, Tide, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Xerox, Kodak, Nike, Ford, Disney, Kellogg’s, and many more – all successfully built their brand to household name recognition. Having worked professionally with 6 of these mega-brands personally, there are things we can learn from these best of class brands.


Consumers know these brands by heart and trust the products enough to purchase them without debate. The safety, quality and dependability of the product is assumed – even expected.


Of Rutted Roads and Grizzly Bears

I began my career working for one of these mega-brands – Kodak – and it literally changed the way I perceive my place in the world. At the time, the Kodak brand was the 4th most valuable brand in the world with a value on the balance sheet in the billions of dollars. This brand association also has had a deep and lasting effect on my career success. By associating with a major household name, my employers, clients and colleagues look at me a little differently. Some of the brand’s magic dust brushed off on me, and it influenced the success in my early business career.


Early in my career, I landed one of the largest Sales territories a young guy in Sales could hope for. It was also in one of the most remote areas on the planet. My job was to sell Kodak film throughout the State of Alaska. It may sound prestigious to have a territory that is a third of the land mass of the United States, but before you get overly impressed I’d like to put this data point into perspective.


Now, Alaska is not an easy place to promote a brand. First, there are more bears in Alaska than people. Second, half the state’s population lives in one city, Anchorage, and Alaska is the largest State in the USA – in fact the State is one-third the size of what Alaskans call the “Lower 48.” You just can’t drive across it in a day. In fact, most parts of the state are undriveable. One of the most popular modes of transportation is the float plane. Even these hardy vehicles have trouble reaching vast expanses in the rugged wilderness, largely because there’s just nowhere to land.


Let me put it this way: As a Kodak man, I had a lot of muddy ground to cover in my shiny loafers, and my wide yellow tie was a little hard to miss among the fireweed on the tundra. Even the herds of caribou would roll their eyes when they saw me coming.


I’ll never forget the time when a sales call took me to a gold mine located some half a day’s drive from the big city where I lived. I thought someone at the home office had made a typo on my sales sheet – either that or they were playing a practical joke. I mean, who sells Kodak film in Hope, Alaska? I couldn’t image a gold mine wanting anything to do with my goods.


The road to the mine was a dirt track, now awash in runoff from the spring breakup. The farther away I got from the main highway, the more I was sure there’d been some kind of mistake as my Chevy Celebrity bounced through the potholes.


It was more than 15 rutted miles after I left the pavement before I saw another soul. You can imagine my relief when I turned a corner to find this replica of an old western town – a fly-in tourist attraction, a relic from the days of the Klondike catering to Japanese tourists who wanted a wilderness experience. I wandered into the only open building I could find, a tavern populated with a few of old salts that smelled of smoke, bacon and Jack Daniels.


Yet even in the farthest, most remote corners of the world, the Kodak brand was recognized and I was welcomed to pull-up a stump at the table for a hot cup of coffee in a tin cup. After talking to the bearded mountain man at the end of the table, it seems that tourists to this gold panning paradise preferred Kodak film over Fuji film….all I had to do was show up and write the order.


Branding does more than create recognition. It builds trust and loyalty among the consumers in your market, allowing you to penetrate future markets with new product offerings more successfully – no matter how remote they are. Successful branding carries awareness and trust, even in a land populated with more bears than people.


So as you think through the marketing efforts for your book or speaking business, pay attention to your brand. You’ll discover many unintended benefits by crafting a message that will stick in the minds of your audience.



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