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How Much Would You Pay For a Cup of Coffee?


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#1 BillSlawski

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 02:20 PM

What is in a brand, and how can it make such a difference?

Dirk Knemeyer points out Starbucks as folks who took a brand, and built it so that people would pay a couple of dollars for a cup of coffee, and their stores would be doing that on street corners all over the US.

But he goes beyond that. He looks at brands and the web, and how the web can be an integral part of a brand experience:

Brand Experience and the Web

How important is interaction to the building of a brand online?

#2 Grumpus

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 03:07 PM

Pretty important. But it can come back and bite you in the butt, too. For example, when I see a Starbucks (or, more common in the Northeast, a Dunkin' Donuts) I'll glance around and see if there's another coffee shop in my line of vision because I'd prefer not to pay that extra dollar for the brand.

To me, the brand "Starbucks" or "Dunkin' Donuts" means "a lot more money for a slightly, if at all, better product."

Obviously, I'm an exception to the rule, but...

G.

#3 DCrx

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 03:46 PM

What is a brand?

It would be interesting to give a fictional company to one hundred designers and ask them "how would you brand this?" A rough guess would be ninety-five would come back with a logo, a tagline, and a custom built web site which looks like just about every other web site. Most brandable interaction is going to have a tough go of it. Two examples illustrating the range of the problem: Amazon's One Click and Flash sites.

More examples...

Fair/needs improvement: Cannon Product Selector
Took me a while to figure how this one worked. Two lines of instruction or a simple visual diagram could have fixed this, so points off for this interaction. To gain a Very Good rating from me they should have done something like this camera comparometer.

Good: Moen design your own kitchen. Why? Design within context. Set the walls, countertop, cabinets to your own colors -- and then select your faucet and sink.

The point is branding requires a different kind of design. Flash isn't required, and neither is fancy code or rampant creativity. One reason I cite J. Peterman is because they don't use product photos, but illustrations. This sets a tone, a design theme if you will. And, as I think differentiation is also a key element for building a brand, it differentiates the site design.

"A brand is a living entity - and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures." 

--Michael Eisner,
CEO, Disney via AdCracker


If Eisner is right, many of the sites which think they are "branding" really are not. The logo/tagline thing is simply the easy route.

With Starbucks, you are not just getting the coffee, but a place to drink it. But think also about this -- you are also taking that branded cup around with you. You are saying something to the mall goers, or the people you work with. As a consumer "you are what you consume." You are the brands you associate with and as such take on some of that in the quest for branding "you."

It isn't as far-fetched as it seems. These people are crafting personas.

#4 Caissa

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 06:00 PM

Great article bill! I am looking forward to the conclusion. I am praying it will help me.

I struggle with branding. I have read nunerous books and articles on the subject, but still can not quite understand how to get from a "name" to a "brand".

Does one first conceive of what you brand's attributes are, then imbue the brand with these attributes? Is there a step by step process one can go through that will lead to the branding of a company/product?

When Amazon branded itself as the world's biggest bookstore did Bezos decise that "big" was the attribute he wanted oor did that just happen? Why did he choose big? Why not cheapest or sophisticated? Starbuck's took upscale (their coffee is ICK so they couldn't choose the best!).

BTW, who stold my picture?

#5 Grumpus

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 07:35 PM

Your "brand" is really nothing more than "the perception of or feeling about your company, it's products, and its services the public takes away after having an interaction with you in some way." (I just made that up, but it's pretty close to a good description as I can get in a single sentence).

Your brand isn't your logo or company name (as is a common misconception in people that I talk to). The Golden Arches aren't McDonald's brand. Google isn't Google's brand. The swish isn't Nike's brand. No, these are associative symbols designed for people to quickly and easily associate with a brand.

When a customer has a good experience on your site, and they tell someone about it - whatever they tell that person about the experience (assuming that they've never heard of you before) will be the initial brand in that person's mind. I tell Joe Surfer that they got the 10th Edition of Chessmaster at ChessCentral (to use Caissa's site as an example). The product was a bit more expensive up front, but shipping was good, it was fast, and it was sent the same day I ordered it. I had a question when I got it and e-mailed Caissa. She replied that same day and all was good.

Now, Joe Surfer has an image of what "ChessCentral" (the name we are trying to brand here) is all about and that image is all good. The price was a few dollars higher than others, but you get support and assurance in what you're getting for that extra dollar.

Everything you do helps develop your brand. Putting up that FAQ with all the shipping questions on it.... Answering your e-mails on the same business day or first thing the next morning (and having your brand name in the "From Line" and also in your signature)... Taking a horrible situation (UPS ran over the package and it came broken) and fixing it in a timely and efficient manner - taking responsibility without placing blame on yourself, nor on anyone else (because if someone needs to be blamed then something is wrong and that's not good for your brand)... All of these things that you do every day builds your brand.

Your images and presentation on your site (or whatever) affect your brand. If Caissa had a bunch of pictures on her site and everyone depicted on it was a pimply kid with a cowlick, zits, a striped shirt, and coke bottle glasses, then it won't be so good for her brand because it insunuates that you're a nerd like these people if you like the product.

You use your web site - at least portions of it - to help shape your brand into what you want the perception to be. It's the same with TV commercials - they are shaping your image or building their brand. Back to Nike for this example, they aren't selling the "swish", rather, they are telling you what that swish stands for - that doing things that are difficult like climbing a mountain or running a marathon have great rewards. Don't think about it or your chicken out. Just Do It - and, of course, that it's a little less difficult to do it if you are wearing Nike shoes.

The first examples I gave are things that once you've set them up, you don't really have direct control over anymore. You just do your best to make sure that the system is in place to make sure that the person ends up feeling good about their purchase once they finally have it in their hands.

In the end, every experience a person has with your company will have some good points and bad points. If the good points outweigh the bad points, then you've got a good brand. If the bad is winning, then you've got to do a whole lot of mountain climbing commercials to overcome it. So, if your shipping company is dropping the ball 10% of the time - you've got to get a new one, because your brand is going to suffer. If people just can't seem to get past the idea that you charge a dollar more for coffee, then you can't charge that much (and if you waited to long, you may have to make a big deal about how little you're now charging).

It's not necessary to do anything to build your brand. If someone is exposed to you in some way (whether they bought something or not) then your brand is being built. The trick is to understand that everything you do and everything the public experiences is building upon your brand. So, the trick to building a good brand is to make sure that every "point of contact" delivers as positive an experience as possible (for as many people as possible - you can't please everyone).

It, of course, also helps to have a nice short name or a swish or a golden arch or whatever that you put out there for people to "attach" their impression of you to. Remember, most of the time, a brand is built over multiple experiences. I may buy something from JoesWidgets.com and have a great experience, but a news article about how the president is under investigation by the feds and a friend telling me his widget came broken, and another person telling me that they got double billed and, my "impression" of them is now going to be "Whew - I got lucky!"

There's a lot more to this, but this thread is getting pretty long. I pretty much suck at explaining things succinctly. My first paragraph and that sentence up there is they key to it all. Everything builds your brand. Just make sure it's good and that there's a name or something easy to remember for them to attach that good impression to. And then, one day, you'll suddenly have a brand that is recognized by many.

G.

#6 DCrx

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 07:53 PM

Does one first conceive of what you brand's attributes are, then imbue the brand with these attributes? Is there a step by step process one can go through that will lead to the branding of a company/product?

While there are probably many ways, I'd suggest to look for gaps out in the marketplace when looking at the category. This means if Starbucks is upscale and high tone, I would suggest anything but high tone upscale coffee. Of course, this assumes Starbucks will remain focussed on coffee -- and the evidence is they're thinking about expanding into unrelated products. My guess is this will dilute the brand, opening up a position for a focussed competitor true to what Starbucks once was.

Brands may not play by the same rules as positioning, but I sense certain similarities. Long story short, unless you're a branding genius, stick to a narrow focus. I think Starbucks thinks they control the brand, but the whole point is for the brand to exist in the mind of customers. It would be a better perspective to have an ingrained understanding among Starbucks employees that brands are shared with customers. And once "niched" in the customer's mind, it's hard or impossible to break out.

I suggest Starbucks is on the verge of finding out what brand dilution is.

One: Gap analysis. Who's got "big" "upscale" and so on in the customer's mind. Which gaps are open? Starbucks branding creates a counter position which I'll term "plain honest coffee." This is different from the obvious choice of cheap downscale coffee. The focus you choose gives you some control. Call this the cola/uncola position.

Two: From this, you can flesh it out into "The real thing" and older generation. And "The choice of a new generation." This slices demographically and suggests a set of attributes. In other words you're looking at who holds the idea of the brand in their mind. What words are associated (young, sporty, fresh, traditional, trend setting) from which you can construct an attribute map.

Again, this means nothing to many designers. Unfortunately they're building the stuff that has to back up the brand. Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini gets get it...

»Since the year A.D. 618 the Japanese have been creating beautiful Zen gardens, environments of harmony designed to instill in their users a sense of serenity and peace. (…) Every rock and tree is thoughtfully placed in patterns that are at once random and yet teeming with order. Rocks are not just strewn about; they are carefully arranged in odd-numbered groupings and sunk into the ground to give the illusion of age and stability. Waterfalls are not simply lined with interesting rocks; they are tuned to create just the right burble and plop. (…)
Kansei speakes to a totality of experience: colors, sounds, shapes, tactile sensations, and kinesthesia, as well as the personality and consistency of interactions.«

[Tog96, pp. 171]

Then Tog comes to software design:

»Where does kansei start? Not with the hardware. Not with the software either. Kansei starts with attitude, as does quality. The original Xerox Star team had it. So did the Lisa team, and the Mac team after. All were dedicated to building a single, tightly integrated environment – a totality of experience. (…)
KPT Convolver (…) is a marvelous example of kansei design. It replaces the extensive lineup offilters that graphic designers traditionally grapple with when using such tools as Photoshop with a simple, integrated, harmonious environment.
In the past, designers have followed a process of picturing their desired end result in their mind, then applying a series of filters sequentially, without benefit of undo beyond the last-applied filter. Convolver lets users play, trying any combination offilters at will, either on their own or with the computer’s aid and advice. (…) Both time and space lie at the user’s complete control.« [Tog on Software Design, pp. 174]

Kansei is branding compatible, where the norm is for technologists to throw the product over the firewall to marketing, which then "makes people buy it." This is a critical flaw as 1) Marketing can't make people buy stuff. 2) Branding isn't slapped onto a product, service, web design or anything else. There isn't even an English word for it, but maybe saying the product has to embody the brand comes close.

Remember the thread topic is Not Branding. It is having the brand come through in customer interaction with the web site. This means interaction furthers branding efforts. ...it isn't neutral or indifferent to branding, but embodies and carries out the branding process.

#7 BillSlawski

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 07:57 PM

BTW, who stold my picture?


I haven't had a chance to read Stock's response, or to look at DCrx's links yet, but i can give you an idea on the picture.

It is showing up in your profile, but it's a little on the big side. I think that if it's bigger than 100x100 pixels, it might not show up. Right now, your's is 100x116.

I can resize it for you if you want, unless you want to do so. :)

#8 Caissa

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 08:51 PM

Wow!

G you are so wrong (you rock)! By jove I think I understand!

Between G and DCrx I think I have this staightened out, I have been mixing branding and positioning. Branding is more controllable. You take care of your customers and they build you as a brand of good experience.

Positioning is the "upscale" and "big" and "sophisticates". Correct? This is the niche within your niche that you decide is your unique selling position.

Am I there yet?

PS. Bill I will take care of the image. I don't look like that any more (actually I never did !). Ah the hard decisions, should I be a blonde, redhead, or green spiked :?:

#9 Ron Carnell

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 09:05 PM

From a writer's perspective, I think a brand is a bit like a stereotype. My villains may be villainous and my heroes heroic, but each needs to be recognizable to the reader. If I put my villain in a black hat and my hero in a white hat, I have essentially branded them with something readers have long been trained to recognize. In writing, that's not necessarily a good thing because readers like to be surprised. In business, however, it often is because shopper do NOT want to be surprised.

Brand, I think, is developed through consistency.

To again use Caissa's site as an example, her brand is currently centered around chess. Good and bad are irrelevant, I think, or at least difficult to define, as demonstrated by Stock's reference to McDonald's. We've learned we'll find clean restrooms and consistent quality at McDonald's (good), but the jokes about the size of the burgers are nearly legion (bad). Good or bad, we know what to expect. That's brand.

If Caissa starts selling Monopoly games next week, she may have to rebrand her image. It will no longer be centered on chess, but rather on games. If she starts selling gardening equipment next month, she'll likely dilute her brand beyond easy repair. Her policies and service may remain the same as they've always been, but she will no longer be easily recognizable. Without a hat, she'll get lost in the crowd.

Stereotypes, such as black hats and white hats, are built through long exposure and consistency. If the cowboy shows of the Fifties and Sixties had been broadcast in color, we might have had a different signal to differentiate the good guys from the bad, but you can be darn sure there would have been such a signal. One that would have been very consistently invoked. :)

#10 DCrx

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 10:07 PM

Personally I think it's less like a sterotype black hat than your favorite villain. This would (?) be like brand preference. I think the mix is 90% or more brand consistency. The remainder is brand innovation. (perhaps what gets you to buy the next book. You know who the villain is. You know you like the villain -- but's what's he up to this time.)

Cutting Edge Chess. I note you sell go and other "chess like" games. Maybe there are others, like Omega Chess, speed chess, and Strategic Chess. This would be for an association cutting edge = innovation in play. The goal is to understand this idea to the point you can at least suggest options customers can select from.

But the question is understanding what the customers mean when thinking about cutting edge chess. And how in the heck is this going to translate into interaction with the web site? There may be attributes mentioned which can influence the look and feel of the site, without interfering with more traditional ideas like usability.

#11 Caissa

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 08:38 PM

I guess most of you know, I kinda made up cutting-edge chess. The #1 site in chess information relies on mostly historical and stuffy chess. So I took the other side of the coin. To me it meant the latest in software and chess innovations (computers mostly). I try to make sure that any great software product in chess is available on my site and I let people know weekly about the new products.

But I thought from this thread that what I did was positioning, not branding? Am I getting confused again?

#12 Grumpus

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 09:26 PM

Yep. You've positioned yourself to handle the cutting edge market.

People need to associate you with cutting edge chess, though. When they do, they've been branded with that image. Basically, think of branding as branding a cow. You basically burn in image into their hide and it's there, unforgetable. When you develop your brand in business, it's the image you both chose to project and come off projecting through the person's experience with you that is "branded in their minds."

And, I hate to tell ya - you ain't cutting edge chess. I looked over there several months ago for a 3D chess set (a la Star Trek) and didn't see one. Get one some of those in your catalog and, not only will ya be cutting edge, but I can guarantee you at least one new customer next Christmas. ;)

Seriously, though, you are getting the difference. You can position yourself in a market almost instantly. You say, "I want to be here and cater to this audience." Then you do it and you've positioned yourself. A brand though is something that can only be built over time. Sure, you can speed up the process by advertising (so the message you are trying to get out reaches more people more quickly) but branding takes recognition.

This is why I always suggest that people do their page titles in the following format:

<brand name> - <Page Subject> - <Any extra keywords that may or may not fit depending upon how long the subject is>

We do that here and in the cre8asite library. Every page title on every page starts with the word "Cre8asite" (And here in the forums, it says "forums" too). Then we give the subject of the thread or page. And then there are some common kicker words that sometimes don't appear on the search engine titles, but sometimes they do.

Why Cre8asite first? For brand recognition and reinforcement. A person in the web industry tends to do searches that will bring pages from this site up over and over again. Sure, they may be 6th or 8th or 3rd place. Sure, the person may go a year with seeing our pages come up in the results and never make a click - but they see our name over and over again, for all different types of searches related to this business. Eventually, they are going to suddenly start noticing the "cre8asite" and even if they still don't click it - they'll notice that it keeps coming up. Finally, one day, they say "I see them all over the place - I wonder if they are any good?" So, they'll click it and, hopefully, the page they click on has the answer to the question they had in mind (or at least the answer is somewhere in the thread).

Now, the next day, they do another search and there we are again. They spot our name 8th on the list and skip over all the rest. Why? Because "they see us all the time" and "we helped them before". Why try the other 7 results ahead of us, when they have a good idea that we'll be able to help?

The same is true with just about anything. Just seeing it repeatedly (and on a search engine, you are repeatedly seeing it in context of something you are interested in) makes the "brand name" stick. It doesn't mean anything to them yet, but they know the name - they've got in their head the object we've chosen to attach our brand to - in this case, the word "Cre8asite". Now, when they finally have an experience with us, they will automatically attach their response to their experience here to our chosen object.

G.

#13 projectphp

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 10:41 PM

This is why I always suggest that people do their page titles in the following format: 

<brand name> - <Page Subject> - <Any extra keywords that may or may not fit depending upon how long the subject is>

I recommend the opposite, Grumpus. The branding benefit of a title is negligible, at best. How many people:
A. Notice it.
B. Remember it when they see it?
IMHO, Agnostic users (those that don't want a specific vendor) want a solution first, followed by a company. Those that want a specific vendor find them, irrespective of the position in the title of a company / entity name.

Titles are a traffic attractors, the attention grabber, in SE results. Titles that give the agnostics specifics up front, with the solution prominantly focussed upon, look better, nranking benefit disconsidered. The real branding is done with those successfully delivered visitors, via the copy they read and images they see. Titles should, I believe, be solution not brand driven.

Although, having said that, I have absolutely no proof ;)

#14 Grumpus

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 10:56 PM

How many people:
A. Notice it.


More people will notice it when I put it up front than if I put it on the back end.

B. Remember it when they see it?


Seeing it once? None. But someone interested in the things my site offers (for business or for a hobby) will see it again and again. They may ask different questions each time, but the answer is the same:

<Cre8asite>: <The Answer To Your Question>

Remember, a huge part of branding is developed over repetitive exposure to whatever message you are sending. But, the person needs to have something to attach the various messages to. So, if you don't give them something to attach it to, then the message is wasted.

G.

#15 projectphp

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 11:40 PM

Yes, all true. Thing is, Coke don't use the same image to re-enforce their brand. Not all Press releases go out with the title / heading: Coke is it: <Press release> (or maybe they do!!) Nope, checked and they don't.

HTML page titles, as a branding tool, are a waste of an opportunity to talk to customers about them, not about you. Your message may be coke is it, but the problem coke solves is thirst.

Cre8asite is a better example. A specific article solves a specific problem, or provides information about a specific thing. That is what that article sells. If I knew nought about Cre8, I would be more interested in the information than in the supplier of that information.

Repeating a message is certainly important for Branding purposes. I juct think that the place to re-enforce brand messages is not in titles, that are the attention grabbers on SERPs, but rather on the actual site, in copy, in graphics etc.

I guess my view is best summed up as get eyeballs first, brand later.

#16 Respree

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 12:08 AM

Interesting discussion.

This article suggests you're both right.

<Company name - Keywords/Answer to your Question>
when the company is recognizable (i.e. Nike, Sears, Amazon)

<Keywords/Answer to your Question - Company name >
in all other situations

Shall we call it a draw? :wink:

#17 projectphp

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 12:43 AM

LOL. Nope, lets fight to the death!!!

While Shari Thurow is somewhat of a well known industry figure, I very much doubt that her opinion, like Stock's and mine, is based upon much more than personal opinion, and "gut feeling". I have no proof that "my way" is better, right or even effective, and I would seriously like to know.

Researching this sort of thing is something I wish someone did more of. There is very little financial benefit for any individual SEO/SEM vendor to research this sort of thing, but it would be very helpful knowledge to have for the greater SEM community.

IMHO, this sort of lack of basic understanding of the way users interact with SERPs is a problem for the SEM community in talking to established Marketing people who, because they lack the internets precise tracking capabilities, have developed a body of kowledge around predicting user behaviour.

I am not sure that is precisely SEMPO's charter, but it certainly would be good to have a few more surveys / studies done on SEM that marketting people can relate to, with statistics and the like. That sort of thing would surely help promote SEM to the SEMPO target audience, marketing Managers, and no doubt be a positive thing from a SEMPO marketing perspective (links, old fashioned PR and the like).

Just my $0.02.

#18 BillSlawski

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:16 AM

Here's one that I like:

Customized and corporate color M&Ms

Hallmark's Hall of Fame did great things with television. Will a company attempt to achieve something similar online? Maybe BMW did with their BMWFilms series. (My favorite is the one with Clive Owens driving around Madonna.)

This PDF page, The key to effective CRM: Building an interactive dialog discusses Phillips' forays into the Beauty market and their customer relations management and brandbuilding efforts in creating a dialogue with customers using personalized emails and newsletters. Some interesting "lessons learned" and suggestions in there.

How many benefits are there to cross media efforts like the web sites of the UK Big Brother or the US Big Brother, or the Big Brother from Oz? I'm going to have to poke around the websites for all three and figure out if one is doing a better job than the others (to satisfy my own curiosity). Companies can point at their web site while on TV or the radio. The Web site is always on.

Some great comments above. I liked the talk of what a brand is, and how it differs from positioning within a niche.

The difference between carrying around a Starbucks cup, and a Dunkin' Donuts cup isn't lost upon me, and I have both stores within a short walking distance of me. It's kind of fun to carry around one or the other and see if people behave slightly differently.

The camera sites that DCrx posted were interesting. I like how you could spend half the day comparing cameras from the same company. They've made it easy to see the differences, and they've also created an impression that there really is one set of choices, and that's amongst the cameras that they sell.

I like Company Name first and then keywords/descriptive phrase in a page title. The thought of being just another page that starts out with the keyword phrase and description bugs me, especially in the context of search engine results. I like being the one company showing up in the top ten that starts with a company name, and then has the keyword phrase. It really made no difference in page ranks. I guess too many other factors were just too strong for it to harm us by making the change.

<added - like the new avatar, Caissa ;) >

#19 Grumpus

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 07:31 AM

<Company name - Keywords/Answer to your Question>
when the company is recognizable (i.e. Nike, Sears, Amazon)

<Keywords/Answer to your Question - Company name >
in all other situations


I disagree. My job as a marketer is to "make the brand recognizable." Period. The only way I'm going to do that is to get my brand name out there in front of as many eyes as possible as many times as possible. Get it out there - and make them see it - even if it doesn't really mean anything to them right now. The idea is that when they do need something that I offer and they start to look around, when they spot my brand name, they'll say, "Oh, I've heard of them... Let's check it out."

The trick is in consistency. And, it's almost impossible to place your brand consistently on a page if you do it after the page subject portion of the title - that subject line isn't a fixed width.

----------------------<brand>
--------<brand>
------------------------------------<brand>

It's all over the place.

<brand>--------------------
<brand>-------
<brand>----------------------------------

Here's a fun little game. It'll take a few nights and it deals with a different medium, but the concept is the same. Next time you watch TV, bring a pen and a piece of paper. When a commercial comes on, make note of what company the ad is for, and then make a note of where the logo appears on the screen and what size it is. (It may appear several times in the commercial. We're also not looking for "where in time" but "where on the screen" or the "page" the logo appears. This will work with "where in time" but our experiment is exploring physical page location, not timing at this point).

Do this for several commercials - preferably ones that you know run different commercials frequently rather than a small local company that has just one stock ad that they run over and over.

Next time you're watching TV (or possibly even in the same night if it's a high profile ights, sweeps week or whatever) keep an eye out for a different commercial to run from one of the companies you have on your notepaper. Again, make notes of all the places on the screen that the logo appears.

When you're done, you'll notice that the logo appears in the same place on the screen every single time. It'll vary from company to company, but it'll always be in the same place.

You could carry it one step further and take screen grabs every time the logo appears. If you were to collect a half dozen or so screen grabs, set them to partially transparent in photoshop and have a look, most everything would be blurred, but the logo would be crisp and clear because it's always in exactly the same place.

With a search engine, you are limited in your ability to control where your logo (or actually, brand name) appears on the screen. It may or may not appear in the snippet - it depends upon the search term. You also have no control of where it appears vertically on the page because sometimes you may be first and sometimes you may be 8th. But, horizontally - you can - so long as it's the first word in the line. If it's not, the varying subject lengths will scatter it horizontally as well.

Again - I disagree with Shari in that I don't care if they've ever heard of my brand before. My objective is to make them aware of it. The only way I can do that (in a search engine) is to "brand" it. And to brand it, it needs to have some consistency - whatever consistency I can give it. With repeated viewing, people will start to recognize the brand.

This is why those ads at the top of Google's listings are so valuable. The person doesn't need to even click it, but if I've got my brand in there, they'll see it - and in that case, I've got some control of where it is vertically positioned on the page as well - right near the top.

Too many people, I think, are tyring to reinvent the wheel when it comes to internet marketing. They, for some reason, think that they have to come up with new and clever tricks. Fact of the matter is, though, that the same old marketing techniques apply - it's just that the methods of implementation vary slightly.

Now, with all that said, there are many web sites on the web who don't feel that their brand is important. I don't know if it's because they don't understand it, or because they are just out for the quick buck. It probably varies from person to person. But, let me ask you this - if developing a good brand (based upon the definition I gave in an earlier post) isn't your primary objective, then why bother starting a business in the first place?

G.

#20 bwelford

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 07:41 AM

Wow, another one of those 'blind men standing around an elephant' type of threads. Some great contributions so far.

Let me tell you what I'm seeing from where I stand.

First of all I think the most useful definition of brand is akin to what defines any person's personality. Most often if you really know someone there is no single thing that defines them, it's a whole package of things associated with different senses and parts of your brain. So it's the totality of the perceptions of that person that exists in your brain. In other words, two different people might have two different perceptions of what the Sony brand is. There is no right answer.

So Caissa the name Cutting Edge Chess is only one of the elements that attaches to your business and helps to define your brand. If you are consistent in the way you are sending out different signals about your brand, then a given person will develop a strong sense of what your brand is for them. Probably different people's perceptions of the brand will also be somewhat similar. This is a great advantage since then, any new branding initiatives can be more effective as you send the same message in some simple, direct way.

If this definition of brand is accepted, then it becomes more than just the sum of the parts. Cre8asite is not just a brand name that can be quoted and instantly everyone picks up the same association. I always feel that Cre8asite is like my local pub. If you say 'My local' or 'the mucky duck' or whatever it's called, there's a whole set of associations (synaptic circuits in my brain) that are instantly 'warmed up'.

I think most people's senses are very acute. So see the word Cre8asite anywhere in a sentence and your conscious or perhaps even your subconscious is triggered and ready. I don't think it needs to be at the start.

I'm therefore very strongly with projectphp in saying that the <Title>, that's the thing you forget about at the top of the screen, can have the brand name anywhere in it. It will also appear in a SERP as well, but again my brain will register it's there. So I want to do what it takes to get into that SERP. Common, current wisdom suggests that the keyword first is rated more highly by the Search Engine. So that's what I do. I want to get as high a position and before as many eyeballs as possible. I would be very surprised if the brand name is lost or in any way diminished by that practice.

#21 Grumpus

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 08:06 AM

Most often if you really know someone there is no single thing that defines them, it's a whole package of things associated with different senses and parts of your brain.


Yup. And, what do you attach your "package of associations" to? The person's face (if you know them in person). Which, maybe not coincidentally, is the first thing you see when you look at a person... :lol:

If you guys are correct and it doesn't matter where your brand appears in the page title (or on the TV screen or print ad copy or whatever) then why to big companies spend so much money making sure that that brand logo/name appears in a consistent location?

What are some brand names that have come out since the advent of the internet's popularity - ones that are now familiar to us all, but were nothing but a dream a decade or less ago? (a few of these may not be as big in other countries, but...)

Google. Amazon. Monster. Yahoo!

Any more come to mind? If so, go check out their web sites and I bet you'll be hard pressed to find one that doesn't have their brand name at the beginning of their page titles on virtually every page on their site. The brands that have been around forever do it too.

If you guys are right and the brand can come anywhere, then why do such a high percentage of the recognizable brands on the web put it first?

G.

#22 projectphp

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 08:29 AM

My objective is to make them aware of it. The only way I can do that (in a search engine) is to "brand" it.

I have to respectfully disagree. Again, we are both speaking purely from our gut feel, but I fail to see how titles offer a branding message that is positive above the impact better visitor rates would have.

I have an exercise to :lol:

Go to a page you visit daily, lets say this forum. Write down a list of all the common elements on the page, navigation, common links etc. Right them all down.

OK, where are all those elements? One comes to Cre8 daily (at least I do) yet I don't really remember where the link to the member list is. I am blind to it cause I see it so often.

Now, go to a SERP. You are pretty much blind to all the common elements, and if all you titles look the same, people will become blind to your titles as well.

Again, all MHO, but the branding benefit of a title is between non-existent and bugger all. I would far rather be guaranteed to talk to agnostic visitors off the bat, and let a site do the branding work. I personally believe Branding is better served by pushing the specific info first, but if anyone has any research on this that disagrees, I am all ears.

#23 bwelford

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 08:29 AM

I think it's easy for the big guys. They could put their name anywhere and it wouldn't matter, what with back links, etc.

I think the brand name should certainly appear somewhere in the Title in a SERP. However I would use the most valuable real estate at the front of the title to optimize the keywords.

Possibly it should also appear in the part of the Title that appears at the top of the screen, which may be shorter. However the proportion of the audience that sees that is incredibly small.

#24 Grumpus

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 09:16 AM

I think it's easy for the big guys. They could put their name anywhere and it wouldn't matter, what with back links, etc.


They could - but they don't. Why?

And, they weren't always the big guys - none of those companies I listed even existed 15 years ago. (Well, maybe Amazon and Yahoo were formed around then... I forget, but they haven't been "big guys" throughout any adult's lifetime...) Did they start out putting their name at the end of the subject line and then wake up one day and say, "Hey, I'm a big guy! Let's move our name to the front of the title?"

So, again, I ask - if it doesn't make a difference, or if it's better to put it later - why do the guys who are big (but who weren't always big) virtually ALL do it the way I'm suggesting?

G.

#25 Black_Knight

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 09:45 AM

All great points so far, and a very rewarding and interesting discussion.

We've mentioned the brand of Cre8asite in many posts so far, and Barry's post prompted me to post my own observations about what our brand (and market position) seem to be, taken purely from observing the comments of others.

Cre8asite is a polite, helpful, warm community with some truly excellent viewpoints expressed clearly, deeply and with respect for other views. Cre8asite can be very high-brow, yet remains accessible.

Barry is quite right that it feels like a local pub, rather than a big trendy wine-bar where any one conversation gets lost in the general din of the crowds and the juke box. But what a local it is. It is more intimate than some other forums, yet still has 'famous' and worthy patrons.

Most of that brand is in how the forums feel to those posting here, rather than in what we put in a tag-line. Every moderating decision, the rules we have posted (and the way we implement them), and the treatment of our members is what has built the brand.

Brand is the 'personality' of a business or product. It is rarely about what you say, so much as how you say it, and more still about how you act on what you say. Honesty and integrity, keeping promises, matching competitors, being aware of the market, and responding to changing demands are all brand-building in different ways.

Branding is one of the marketing activities that is often spoken as a buzzword, yet rarely explained. It has become like some magic password or incantation. Sooner or later in any marketing discussion someone will mention branding, and everyone will nod sagely. The problem is that each person nodding will almost certainly have a different idea of what it actually means. Worse, some nod yet don't really have any clear idea of a meaning at all.

What is 'brand'?

Brand, in essence, is about identity. In fact, corporate identity is a vital factor of any good brand. Brand is about building recognizable and identifiable characteristics into your products and services, and indeed, to your whole company image.

Image is a very appropriate word, because that's what we are aiming to do with brand. "A picture speaks a thousand words" goes the saying. It does so at a glance. A brand should similarly convey a complex concept instantly and visually. A strong brand is iconic.

- Product Branding

Branding products attributes characteristics to them. Making a product more individual, and assigning characteristics and even a measure of personality to the product helps customers to identify with that product. This not only helps sell the product, but also helps make the product unique, and different from other (even technically identical) products on the market.

It starts as simply as giving a product an individual name rather than a generic one based on its function.

- Company Branding

At the basic level, brand is simply a matter of identifying and focusing your company identity, and ensuring you communicate it and live up to the core values of that identity. A smaller business generally has a far easier time in branding than a larger company.

A large company is rarely as obviously imbued with the personalities of those involved, because there are so many more of them, and thus more conflict. The smaller company usually takes on the personality traits of those running the company, and thus is more personal and individual.

However, strong leadership tends to equate to strong branding. Sometimes the personality of a strong leader permeates the entire company, especially where they are a demanding leader who insists that things are done a certain way.

The company that builds cheap to lower expectations of great customer service (disposable products and services, rather than ones that last) is branding just as much as the company that provides craftsmanship and excellent customer care and product support. They are branding in different ways, creating different identities, and these often reflect the personal preferences of those who built the company.

#26 bwelford

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 09:50 AM

In response to Grumpus's prior post, I did some checking and many of the big guys don't put anything other than the name of the company in the <title>. The only one who thinks that's a good idea that I know of is DMOZ. I don't think anyone is suggesting that we shouldn't put keywords somewhere in the <title> if we want to rank well in the SERP's. However if we copied the big guys that's what we might do.

Let me try another theory. Perhaps most were trained as I was at school to put a Title at the top of anything we wrote. Old lessons die hard. So we should do the same for web pages. Yes? Well what exactly is a Title?

Well even on a simple thing like this, there can be confusion. We have two items we might use. There's a <title> and there's the Heading that can appear at the top of the web page, in other words what appears within the <H1> section, if there is one. It's normally suggested that a web page should have a <H1> Heading and that's what's most visible when you're on the web page. It also has some weight within the Search Engine algorithm.

The <title> is stuck up there at the top of the screen. It's not part of the body of the web page: it's part of the head of the web page. So which should it be: the <title> or the <H1> heading. I'm in the camp that says <title>s are mainly for Search Engines and <H1> Headings are mainly for web page visitors. So I pitch them accordingly.

#27 Grumpus

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 10:44 AM

The technique of using the title to please the search engine and the heading to please the visitors (in respects to establishing and building brand recognition) only works if the person makes the click.

When a person does a search, the words they search for are emphasized by the search engine by making those words bold. The only way you have of emphaszing your brand name in a search (unless the brand name IS the search term) is to put it first. By putting it first, more people are going to see it (even if only on a subconscious level) because it is first. They will see your keywords no matter where they are located on the page because those keywords are emboldened.

Even if the person moves past my SE listing and never clicks it - my brand is right there - first word in my listing. Click or not - somewhere in their mind, they say: "Cre8asite" has something to do with "google forums" or whatever the term is.

Mechancally, there probably is some validity to your argument. But, search engines are more concerned with "proximity" and "density" (and "spread") of the keywords than they are with "how close to the top of the page" the word is - especially nowadays. Not that "how close to the top" isn't a factor, but the proximity and density are definitely more important. So, putting a non-keyword up front that serves another purpose isn't really going to affect my rankings all that much - and even if it does drop me a place or two, IMO, developing brand recognition is far more important to my long term goals than being #1 in the SERPS. (Remember, I'm running a business, so if I'm counting on my free search engine results to drive my business and all my web site traffic, I'm in a whole different area of woes).

Besides, how many pages do you have on your web site that only have a single search term that brings traffic to it? There is always more than one search term that's going to bring traffic - even if it's a variation on the primary term. So, chances are, that all of the words used to find your site aren't going to be in the page title, anyway. So, not only does your page title not have all the terms, but it doesn't "feature" your brand name either - sure it may be there, but does it stand out if it isn't in front?

G.

P.S. Great Post Ammon. Once the concept of branding is understood, the next step is to break it down into those categories. The "A brand should similarly convey a complex concept instantly and visually" statement is highly important, too.

#28 DCrx

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 01:26 PM

A strong brand is iconic.


Suggestion: A brand becomes iconic as end result, but starts out as idiom. "Cutting Edge Chess" is an icon in training. The term sounds good, but you have to propose associations which the customers then pass judgement on. Startbucks proposes the upscale coffee associations, but customers have a vote. Starbucks must lead and then listen - maintaining a feedback loop with customers.

As the process of proposal and judgement develops, the brand becomes stronger. This is more a two-sided conversation, I think.

#29 Ron Carnell

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 04:29 PM

For me, SEO comes third, Branding comes second, and Usability comes first.

They may be important in search engines, but for the user, Titles are really the labels attached to a bookmark. I really don't want to see essentially the same Title applied to every page I bookmark at a site, but if the Brand comes first and is longer than a word or two, that's precisely what I *will* see in the limited width column available to display my bookmarks. Hardly a day goes by where I don't have to rewrite someone's page title because it doesn't adequately describe the page I just bookmarked. To me, that's poor usability.

Honestly, many of my sites, including my largest one, rarely includes the site name in the title at all. It's not at the beginning, nor at the end. In part, that's because I'm promoting my authors (their name is *always* in the title), in part it's because the site has been around long enough to already be fairly well branded in its niche, but mostly it's because I think branding is more than simply being exposed a whole lot.

If my page solves someone's problem, I hope they'll remember our name and associate it with a positive experience. If my page doesn't solve their problem, I'd just as soon that association wasn't made. That's not how I want the site to be remembered.

#30 BillSlawski

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 05:11 PM

This is more a two-sided conversation, I think


Listening is the part that many companies have a hard time learning to do.


Here are a couple of blogs on branding that I think are filled with some interesting materials on brands. It's worth looking into their archives for past posts, too.

Brand Autopsy

The Origin of Brands Blog (Make sure to check out the excellent recent posts about positioning)

What's Your Brand Mantra?

#31 Grumpus

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 05:12 PM

I'll agree with that order, Ron. Though I might suggest that good usability is a consideration that'll effect branding, so you could almost invert the two and the end result would be the same.

And yes, if your site name is long, you're doing yourself a huge disservice by using it first - and, of course, you're also doing yourself a disservice by using such a long name and trying to attach a brand to it. 8-9 characters is the max, in my book. We're doing it wrong here by leaving the word "forums" in there up front. It should just say "Cre8asite".

Whatever you are attaching your brand to, as Ammon and I have both pointed out (and I'll use Ammon's words because I like it better)

A brand should similarly convey a complex concept instantly and visually.


Instantly, and visually. You shouldn't have to "read" it, it should convey an image. Long words and multiple words just don't do that. You can't use a logo in your page title, so you have to use a word of some kind. It may be as simple as an abbreviation - BobsDiscountWidgets.com may just be "BDW" in the title page.

And, if you don't do that - that's fine. You won't be broke, but you'll be missing out on a free branding opportunity by getting your brand in front of far more eyes than are actually visiting your site. That's the only point I'm trying to make. It's free to put your brand up front - and there aren't a lot of free and effective things out there.

G.

#32 DCrx

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 06:12 PM

Instantly, and visually. You shouldn't have to "read" it, it should convey an image.


I beg to differ, but only slightly. A brand does convey and image within the minds of those already branded. This seems like a pointless quibble, but I think there's more to it. The Nike "swoosh" became iconic, but I think it had to work to associate the idea "just do it" to the image. Now people don't think, because the process was completed successfully.

This kind of distinction is irrelevant to Nike now, but invaluable if you are aspiring to develop new brands. It is also important -- and sometimes forgotten -- by companies who've established brands which then have to develop a new one.

Readers, encountering a new word, sound out the phonics. Once experienced enough, the recognition becomes so automatic, readers only see the word shape. For a long time a war has raged between "phonic" and "whole word" literacy camps. Both sides were intractable, convinced their evidence was right. And both sides were right. I read an article some time ago describing how readers use phonics for discovery and whole word for regular practice. This seems rather like the progress you would hope for from those first encountering branding efforts to those who've become branded.

As for the usability point, I mostly agree. But what about an arguably iconic web design firm like 2advanced? Perhaps this shouldn't be dismissed too quickly.

#33 Grumpus

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 06:54 PM

You're confusing what I'm saying, DC. What you attach your brand to needs to be short and visual - you shouldn't have to read it. The golden arches are not McDonald's brand, the swish is not Nike's brand, they are the image that represents the brand.

As we've said, your brand itself - the impression that people have of your company and/or products is rich and multilayered. But, if you don't have something for people to attach that rich, multi-layered message and set of impressions to, then it gets lost.

G.

#34 DCrx

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 08:36 PM

But, if you don't have something for people to attach that rich, multi-layered message and set of impressions to, then it gets lost.


I doubt many people "don't have" this something. Quite the opposite -- too many have the same something. What if you've decided on a logo which is just a little too similar to others? It may be it never generates a clear association because of confusion between companies in a similar field. So I think yes, your point on the "short and visual" could be fleshed out for me to get a fix on.

The classic short circuiting of image and association is the Energizer/Duracell bunny.

While many, many consumers remembered the clever advertising campaign, when they got to the store they failed to remember the brand of battery it sold. Some even associated the ads with Duracell, Eveready's chief competitor. Eveready ultimately resolved the dilemma of a strong ad campaign but weak brand association by using the pink bunny on its packaging. 


Called a retrieval cue, the reminder device -- in this case, product packaging that matches a memorable visual element of the advertising campaign -- allows marketers to place greater emphasis on persuasive information and allows greater creativity in advertising.

--Stanford business site.



I think we're not too far apart. I do think "short and visual" is easier said than done. The image / association link is a point of failure and vulnerability. For example now the Nike swish thing is done by companies a lot. Howver this probably happened well after Nike was successful. Had this been a design fad at the time Nike was developing the brand, my suspicion is it would have been a tougher road to success.

Another side of this is where generics creat "look alikes" of top brands. On the web recent examples underscore this is not a trivial matter.

#35 Grumpus

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 10:12 PM

I didn't say it was easy. If it was easy, this thread wouldn't be three pages long, would it. :lol:

G.

#36 bwelford

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Posted 21 July 2004 - 06:34 AM

As Grumpus said, it's not easy. I was particularly struck by the discussion whether Title's were best with the Brand at the front or the back. Although I was in the "back end" school, I was struck by the thought that having it at the front was OK provided it was very short. This brings me to my current dilemma.

With my liking for the KISS principle, I like brands that are also easily found by Search Engines. Up to now, I haven't tried to create a brand for my own business activities. The company is known as Strategic Marketing Montreal and many know that company as SMM. The domain is www.StrategicMarketingMontreal.ca All outgoing e-mail messages have subjects starting [SMM] . However I have used the name BWelford in many places on the web, so that is possibly becoming like a brand. Until now I hadn't thought of going for a brand, although this thread encourages me to do so.

My dilemma is that a Google search puts SMM at #19. The English SMM's that are higher are the following:
SMM - Science Museum of Minnesota
SMM - Shareware Music Machine
SMM - (Trade show for) Shipbuilding, Machinery and Marine Technology
SMM - Society for Marine Mammalogy
SMM - Solar Maximum Mission (a Nasa project)
That's a pretty illustrious crowd and the ones that are below include some fairly prestigious names too.

So should I abandon the thought of using SMM as a brand. Here's a thought. Yahoo faced with a similar problem decided to include punctuation and make the brand Yahoo! as I describe here. They seem to have done OK, although it's not clear how much the '!' helped. Perhaps the Strategic Marketing Montreal brand could be:
[SMM] or ][SMM][
Unfortunately the Search Engines ignore punctuation. A search for "[SMM]" produces exactly the same result as a search for SMM.

So what do you think? Is there any point in my trying to create a brand name. If so should I soldier on with SMM, or should it be [SMM] or ][SMM][ ... or should I go back to the drawing board and try something completely different like WOW - for Wise Owl Wisdom. On the other hand, perhaps the 'World of Warcraft' or the 'World Organization of Webmasters' may complain. :D

#37 BillSlawski

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Posted 21 July 2004 - 07:22 PM

Hi Barry,

Your post reminded me of my blog entry from yesterday Say You Know You've Got a Reputation.

The idea of reputation and brand aren't all that far apart. Your presence online, your newsletters, and your kind, intelligent, and helpful posts in forums are efforts that build a postivie reputation. That reputation is associated with your name, and your avatar.

I wonder if working separately upon attempting to build a brand for your company would diffuse your efforts at reputation building? Have you even given much thought to reputation building?

#38 Caissa

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Posted 22 July 2004 - 06:54 AM

Barry, here is my 2 cents worth. I think initials are only viable if you have a strong presence already. Like IBM. When a small business tries to be known by it's initials it will get lost in the crowd easily. When people have to think about what those initials stand for you have lost them.

But, your name is unique. As Bill says you have a reputation already (you are branded!). Exploit that. Build on it. The groundwork is laid.

I do believe that small businesses must brand and position themselves. That is the only way to survive in this exceedingly competitive marketplace. The question is how to go about it? Obviously, it is a slow process, so much patience is required to stay the course.

#39 bwelford

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Posted 22 July 2004 - 07:10 AM

Bill, you're much too generous in your words but they are much appreciated. Thanks. I wrote what is below before I saw Caissa's post so since you're both agreeing perhaps I should stick with reputation.

Nevertheless, I hadn't thought at all about 'reputation' versus brand prior to this thread. ... and as I said, I hadn't though much about brand, either.

I guess what I thought I was looking for (as the owner of a brand is) was a single device that will help me stand out from the crowd. As I've said elsewhere, my picture of the Internet is one of those "Where's Waldo?" pictures, only worse. Millions of churning masses of individuals are milling around in the plain below. The searcher flies over in her helicopter and looks on the GoogleScreen to try to find say an Internet Marketing Coach. A list appears and by pointing a cursor at one of the items on the GoogleScreen, that individual down there is highlighted by an invisible ray and appears on the GoogleScreen. Looks good so let's bring the helicopter down and start to dialogue with that individual.

Well that's one way. However I want something that helps the individual stand out from the throng without needing a GoogleScreen. Almost as if they had a beacon on the top of their head. Something that is so noteworthy that people remember it, something that is so simple that it's easy for people to mention to their friends. "If you're looking for an Internet Marketing Coach, then check out IMC." The more complex it is, the lower the percentage of people who may remember it.

So the current bottom line on my reflections is that I think brand is probably easier and works more effectively as a beacon with more people. Once you've got their attention and a dialogue has begun, then reputation is obviously very important in helping to make the deal. However you'd really have to be someone with an immense reputation for that to be a beacon - say like Michael Moore. ;)



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