Friday, May 6, 2011


Last night at dinner with some of my favorite writer friends, (Lou, Dianna and Donna the concept of branding came up. Most writers don’t think of their writing as a product, but it may be beneficial for writers to think like marketers with a product to sell.

Branding is the practice of identifying products while differentiating them from others. According to Wikipedia (I know, I know, I don’t even let my students use it as a source, but I’m going to allow it to make my point here because the definition was clear and concise) a brand identifies a product, service or business. The word “branding” came from the practice of branding cattle so ranchers could identify their own livestock. Without the brands to identify them, the cattle would be indistinguishable from each other. No one would know which cow belonged to which rancher.

When we apply that idea to products in the marketplace, consumers wouldn’t be able to distinguish cars, soap or books from one another without brands (or titles). Early in the 20th century, soap came in big blocks, and when a customer wanted soap, a store clerk would cut off a piece. Once companies began to market their brand of soap to distinguish it from other soap, customers would ask for a particular brand, which increased sales.

“Brand is the personality that identifies a product, service or company (name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or combination of them) and how it relates to key constituencies: customers, staff, partners, investors etc.

“Some people distinguish the psychological aspect, brand associations like thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and so on that become linked to the brand, of a brand from the experiential aspect.”

“Harry Potter,” “Stephanie Meyer” and “Stephen King”

What did you think when you read each of these names?

“Wizards,” “Twilight” and “horror?”

Those are the words I came up with. Successful marketers know how to brand their products so consumers/readers associate their product with certain words or feelings. If they can get us all to think the same thing, then the brand is strong with a clear identity.

When the actor Vincent Price was once asked if he was tired of being typecast as a villain (his “brand”), he said he wasn’t because it made him a very rich man.”

What do you think?



  1. Great discussion, Mary! I always enjoy brainstorming with you all.

  2. Hi Mary,

    Thanks for your thought-provoking post (and for mentioning my blog) ;-)

    Our discussion last night and your post today got me thinking about branding as it relates to writers.

    As a writer, I think that in addition to genre, voice is what makes writers unique--what somemight call an author's brand.

    The late Erma Bombeck will always be remembered for the wonderful way she wrote about everyday life with a humorous voice. There is even an award named after her which honors writers who write in a similar fashion. But why not be a trailblazer and be yourself rather than being recognized for "writing in the fashion of" ----- fill in the blank.

    I believe the term branding can be overused, especially if it pigenholes a writer or limits her to one genre. Some nonfiction writers also write fiction. Same for poets.

    And while the name Stephen King conjures up horror novels, he is also an accomplished literary short story writer.

    While "branding" is a way to easily identify someone or something, it can also be limiting to a writer who wants to set herself apart from the herd.


  3. Thanks, Dianna!

    And point well taken, Donna, especially about Stephen King and Erma Bombeck. It's not easy in this day and age of agents who say "We want something different, but the same!" What's a writer to do? I guess it goes back to the old adage, "write what you know." If we spend too much time trying to "fit" in the mold, then we may lose our own voice.