Crash & Burn Branding: Sarah Palin Style

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Education & Training with Big Phish Partners

A few days after the Republican National Convention, I wrote a little piece about Sarah Palin's acceptance speech and how America just seemed to eat it up (Hockey Mom in the White House, Sept 08). Then, within a few more days, she said enough to make me eat my words. So, being an eternal optimist, I'm going to scrape the egg off my face and try to cook up some sort of instructional omelet. Hope you've got a strong stomach, because today's special is a heaping helping of Brand Identity.

A lot of people confuse Brand Identity with Brand Recognition, and that's understandable. But your brand identity consists of more than just the ability to recall or recognize your brand name. It's comprised of the consumer's 360-degree experience with your brand - both personally and otherwise. In other words, your brand identity isn't built in the media or marketplace. It's built in the mind of the consumer. One impression at a time. For better or worse. As consumers, we really do notice the car you drive and the clothes you wear (even if someone else went out and bought them for you). We pay attention to the words you use, the ones you don't, and the ones others use to describe you. We care what you name your kids, if you can name a newspaper, and if you've ever been named in a criminal suit.

Granted, none of these things may have anything to do with your work or your ability to perform it. But we've all heard the bit about Perception vs. Reality, and brand identity relies much more on the former than the latter. Every little thing you say or do - or don't say or don't do - all make a tiny little deposit in the "identity bank" that exists in the mind of your prospects and customers and the people who will never become your customers but could influence the people who might.

It's chilling to discover that people you don't know - and who don't know you - may already have an opinion of you. But that's the way brand identity works. It's even more chilling to discover that the cumulative effect of all those positive identity deposits can be bankrupted by one false move. (That's why no one names their kid Judas anymore and the word "Lewinski" still makes people snicker). So, to those who might tell you not to sweat the little things, I'd say the little things are the only ones worth sweating. More often than not, build-ing a positive brand identity is little more than managing impressions and word-of-mouth.
Do you think differently?
Robert

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