A Branding Lesson

We live in an ever-changing world. New people are born, others die. Businesses come and go. Technology continually grows, changing the way we interact with others and do business. New products are invented. And new books are written daily.

A Branding Lesson

One Christian book company has had to make the move to change their branding after developments in the United States outside the book industry began to impact the book company’s business.

For twenty years, Christianbook.com has operated under three distinct brands: Christian Book Distributors, CBD, and Christianbook.com. The company recently announced that they are moving all their brands to one brand: Christianbook.

The company made the following statement about their branding move:

Over the last 12 months, there has been a rise in popularity of a medicinally used product derived from the cannabis plant—cannabidiol, commonly referred to as “CBD.” Across the country, people see signs for “CBD sold here,” which creates brand confusion. In the past, a Google search for “CBD” would place our company at the top of the results page. Now “our CBD” is nowhere to be found in the search results, only sites for the cannabis product are listed, and paid ads are no longer allowed. As this wave of popularity over the “other CBD” is not likely to subside, we will stop referring to ourselves as “CBD” and will also drop the word “Distributors” from our company name. Going forward, we will operate under the name of “Christianbook.”

Christianbook is not alone. Any company that has been in business for a number of years has the potential to run into branding confusion. As our world grows—now 7.7 billion people, a growth of 54% in the past 30 years—so do the number of businesses, brands, and acronyms.

The lesson for small publishers and authors is not to hold too tightly to your brand.

As CBD became more widely known for the product derived from the cannabis plant than a Christian book company, changing their brand was the wise choice for Christianbook.  Wise authors and publishers will monitor their brand and be willing to make changes should a more popular similar name or acronym become more of an impediment to their brand than an asset.

Changing a brand does not destroy a business. In fact, sometimes it can help a business by bringing more attention to it. When a business changes their branding, it creates an opportunity for both media exposure and messaging to their audience.

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Branding: It’s More Important Than You Think

My daughter is a senior in high school. This means that we are in the process of visiting colleges and taking tours in an effort to find a good school match. Recently, at one college we were touring, we sat in a seminar conducted by the university’s Career Center.

As I listened to the Director of the Career Center talk to prospective students, I heard phrases like:

  • “Brand yourself”
  • “Branded candidate”

These statements caught my attention. Branding is no longer just a term that is applied to companies and products. It is now a term that is also used for anyone seeking to secure a position, whether that be in the job world, being admitted to a university, in politics, or on social media.

branding

The Director of the Career Center went on to talk about how employers are not necessarily concerned about a student’s major; they are more concerned about motivated candidates. He stated that motivated candidates give prospective employers and graduate schools the following two messages:

  1. This is who I am.
  2. This is what I can do for you.

Sound familiar? It should. This is the same message that you, an author, should be sending.

Just like college graduates, authors must also brand themselves. You must tell your prospective readers:

  1. This is who I am.
  2. This is what my book can do for you.

Just as employers want to know what they will get from a college graduate if they hire him or her, readers want to know what they will get from you, the author, in your book if they purchase and read it.

The Director of this university’s Career Center went on to talk about how a student’s brand is the image they present to prospective employers and schools. If they want to be seen as a serious student, then their social media posts should not show them partying and skipping classes.

The same is true for authors. Your brand or image needs to be consistent. For example, if you have written a book on prayer, then the image you present on social media to the public and your potential readers should be one of someone who believes in and is involved in prayer on a regular basis. If you were to begin talking about “luck” or “fate” in your social media posts, you would not be representing your brand—instead you would be confusing people.

When releasing a new book, be sure that you have branded your book and answered the two questions above. If you want to learn more about Branding a Book, check out my on-demand seminar on “Branding Your Book.”

This and my other on-demand seminars are free for Members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), but I have also made them available for a reasonable fee for everyone to view.

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What’s Your Promise?

Integrity. It’s about keeping your promises—doing the right thing in a reliable way.

Branding Thumbnail for Web

Are you reliable? Can people trust you?

If you are an author, readers need to trust you to buy your book. Readers need to trust that you will keep your promise.

What is your promise? Your promise is what you tell readers they will get from your book. This promise is extremely important. It is what draws the reader into purchasing the book.

Yes, your book meets a need, but if all you tell your potential reader about is the need, you are not hooking them. You need to not only identify the need your book fills, but also to let the reader know how your book will fulfill that need. This is your promise.

I recently met with co-authors of a book that was just released. They wanted me to look over their sell sheet and tell me how they could improve it. The authors had done a great job of leading with a need and making it bold and big on their sell sheet—“Do you need comfort in the midst of trouble?

However, their promise was buried in the text. It was not bold and attention grabbing. I encouraged these authors to make sure that they made their promise as big and bold and arresting as identifying the need their book met—“Find comfort and hope in these stories from those who have suffered.

What does your book promise? If you are struggling with this concept, or just want to learn more about creating a brand—also known as a promise—for your book, I encourage you to watch my new online, on-demand seminar Branding Your Book.

This 30-minute seminar covers how your book is like a business, what a brand is, how to craft a brand for your book, and how to create a book title that reflects a brand. You can access Branding Your Book by clicking here. The cost is just $20 to watch the video. Members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have free access to this on-demand seminar on CSPA’s website.

Learn how to make a promise to your reader. When your book keeps your promise, your readers trust you and keep coming back for more.

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What Are You Promising?

The November issue of the CSPA Circular, Christian Small Publisher Association’s monthly e-newsletter, contains an article on “Four Steps to Effective Book Marketing.” In this article, I set forth the proposition that every book is a business. Therefore, launching a new book is like opening a startup business.

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Every business needs a brand, a promise they make to their customers. So too, your book must make a promise to your readers.

Consider some of these brand promises that you already are familiar with:

  • 7up: The uncola.
  • American Express: Don’t leave home without it.
  • eBay: The world’s online marketplace.
  • KFC: Nobody does chicken like KFC.
  • Jaguar: Don’t dream it. Drive it.
  • Lucky Charms: Magically delicious.

Each of these brands or products is promising you something, something different from their competition. Your book must also promise something different from the competition.

All services or products offer a benefit. That benefit fits into one of the following categories:

  • Economic
  • Emotional
  • Experiential
  • Functional

Think about this. Walmart, with its promise “always low prices,” offers an economic benefit. One of the US Forest Service slogans’ offers an emotional experience. That slogan is “give a hoot, don’t pollute.” Nike offers an experiential benefit with their “just do it.” You can experience the difference Nike makes in helping you get active. FedEx offers a functional benefit with “the world on time.” You know your packages will get delivered on time.

Your book must offer a benefit, or people won’t buy it. What is your book’s benefit? Is it functional or it is emotional? Most fiction books will have an emotional or experiential benefit, while most nonfiction books will tote an economic or functional benefit.

What promise are you making with your book? It needs to be something that your audience cares about that they can’t get anywhere else. Don Miller, the bestselling author of Blue Like Jazz and the founder of StoryBrand Workshops, says, “If you confuse, you lose.” So, too, your book’s promise not only needs to be unique, it also needs to be clear and simple, much like the examples from the businesses listed above.

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A Branding Lesson from a Radio Station
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A Branding Lesson from a Radio Station

I recently took a tour of a local Christian radio station. The radio host conducting the tour explained that the station’s main audience was women 20 to 50 years of age.

The host went on to state that many listeners had requested that their radio station do programs for children and men. However, while the station thought these were great ideas and noble programs, the station managers had decided that they could not be all things to all Christians. Therefore, this station had decided to focus on one audience. That audience is women, mostly Christian moms.

This station’s goal is to be there for their women listeners 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That way, no matter when a listener tunes in, she will hear what she is expecting: uplifting Christian music and encouragement.

This Christian radio station understands the power of branding! They also have identified their target audience. Rather than trying to reach every Christian with their music, they have picked one Christian audience, focused on that audience, and served them well.

Christian publishers can take a lesson from this radio station. Many independent publishers I know offer such a wide diversity of books that their marketing message and branding becomes too diluted.

Instead of publishing just historical romance, Christian living nonfiction, or Christian biographies, these publishers publish a wide range of topics both fiction and nonfiction. Each book produced has a slightly different target audience. As a result, the publisher has to develop a new audience and marketing strategy to reach consumers for each new book published. Most often, because the publisher is already overworked, these marketing campaigns are not targeted effectively and end up being less effective than desired.

Consider Summerside Press. This Christian publishing house began their publishing journey by producing a series of Christian romance novels called Love Finds You in… Each novel in the series was set in a town in North America. It was not until Summerside Press had developed a loyal following of Christian romance readers (women) that they began to expand their offerings through adding romantic suspense novels and devotionals for women.

Doing one thing and doing it well creates a strong brand and allows publishers to develop a targeted, loyal audience to promote their books to.

If you are a new publisher, think seriously about your brand and the audience you want to reach. Don’t reinvent the wheel with each new book. If you are an established publisher, it is never too late to start afresh.

Do one thing and do it well!


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