Building Your Brand

It really is about branding, if you want to be known.

The noted essayist, playwright and novelist Gore Vidal, who died recently, understood this. He took to the medium of television and created the Gore Vidal brand: sardonic, intelligent, quick-witted, supercilious and provocative. This helped him not only sell his works, but made him known. This was before the age of the Internet, but Vidal understood the nature of the powerful medium of television for crafting image.

Everyone needs to brand himself or herself. If you’re building a platform for your ideas and to spread your message, you’re already creating your own brand. You may  not be a professional provocateur like Vidal – but you do want to be provocative, you do want to offer ideas that challenge, that make people think outside the norm.

And you want to build your business.

You don’t always have to be a writer – you can do as the chef Marcus Samuelsson is doing. This New York-based chef has created an empire of several restaurants, cookware, teas, websites and even a memoir (all right, he does get some writing in). But Samuelsson became known for his cooking. He’s telegenic, certainly, and has appeared on TV.

But he built his brand through his excellent cooking, his ability to tap into what Americans want to eat, his smart crafting of his image as an accessible icon for all Americans (born in Africa, raised in Sweden, he is a black man who transcends race by embracing it and his international roots without question). His Red Rooster restaurant in New York’s Harlem neighborhood is one of the hottest, hippest spots in town, serving country-style cooking that is familiar to Americans black and white, but with a sophisticated edge.

Samuelsson is smart about building the brand, adding pieces to his empire, doing select endorsement deals, but always remaining true to himself as a top chef who understands and challenges the American palate. Samuelsson understands Scandinavian cooking, American cooking, soul food, African food and more: he’s able to offer something new by hewing to and straying from tradition.

This should be your approach to: write what you know, but to challenge yourself to grow. Demand the response of your readers to push you further, so that you never become complacent, and that you’re always seeking to learn something and to introduce what you’ve learned in a way that will make people think.

Be your brand, and keep that brand new by being present when your audience speaks to you.

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One Response to “Building Your Brand”

  1. Anonymous August 29, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    Samuelsson is a great example of branding. That makes it pretty clear how the process holds true for more than just internet marketers. And I appreciate your emphasis on being present when your audience speaks to you. How rude would it be to just ignore someone you were having a face-to-face conversation with? Ignoring online interaction would be just as rude. Great post, Bob.

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