AOL. Yahoo. Amazon. Coca-Cola. They've all got it. A name you not only recognize, but you know who they are and what they do, and it's all because of branding.
Marketing strategies seem to all be about "building a brand," but if you ask an average group of people, most would likely not be able to define what that is. The definition of a brand is kind of one of those, "I know it but I can't articulate it" kind of things.
There are lots of definitions out there of what a brand is. On the Brand.com web site, they describe a brand as, "the proprietary visual, emotional, rational, and cultural image that you associate with a company or a product."
Given that it's so difficult to define a brand, is it any wonder that building and creating a brand is no easy feat? There are plenty of resources on the subject -- books on branding, web sites, magazines, consulting companies -- but none of them can even necessarily assure success in building brand identities.
There are things that a company should do if it wants to develop a strong brand identity -- pick a strong name, associate what you are and what you do in the viewer's mind, associate certain emotional attributes with your deliverables -- but outside influencers also play a role: timing (some of the strongest online brands were first to market), circumstances (President Clinton was photographed sipping a frozen concoction in a Starbucks Cafe -- think that helped their brand image any?), the situation (does anyone remember an advertiser from this year's cluttered SuperBowl front?), and word of mouth (if you've heard of HotMail, you know what I'm talking about) are a few.
Self-professed branding expert Rob Frankel says as one of his "Laws of Big Time Branding": "Brands are not about you. Brands are about them." What he means by this is that you could have the best branding experts and strategy around, but if your audience doesn't latch on, for whatever reason, you're up the proverbial creek.
Go through the motions of brand development -- buy yourself a book or read up on the Web about the fundamentals of creating a brand.
Once you have established your brand, it's very hard to change it, so be really sold on it and ready to stick with what you've got for the long haul.
After you've gone through the steps of identifying how you're going to position your brand, promote that position passionately and with every effort. Every promotion should somehow reinforce the brand.
Be sure that your marketing message communicates your brand identity by testing it out on others. If tell them your marketing message and ask them to then tell you about your brand, can they?
Be true to thyself -- consistency has a lot to do with reinforcing a brand. If you're going to say that you do something, do it! All the time!!