Monday, October 15, 2012

Branding Lessons from Wine

How do we judge the value of a bottle of wine? What exactly is it that makes one wine 'better' than another?

The easy answer is that the value judgements of wine are a reflection of the palate of the taster. But, really, is it that simple?  Am I simply guided in my determination of a 'good' wine by my taste and palate OR is my experience of the wine influenced by; the story my friend shares about the wine as he pours it into my glass, or the review it received by an 'expert', or perhaps as simply as the price on the bottle?

Our judgements are never, seemingly, simply our own.  Every subjective experience that we have can (and is) influenced by the shared experiences of others.  This is an important sentence, it bears repeating...
Every subjective experience that we have can, and is, influenced by the shared experiences of others.
People's experience of your brand will be influenced by the expressed interpretation that others have of your brand.  Think of it this way.  You're at a party and you have a close friend talking to you about a co-worker you have never met.  They share not only some workplace anecdotes but also their feelings about that person.  When you finally meet that co-worker you are likely to view them through the lens of perspective  your friend has already provided you, regardless of whether their impression had been largely positive or negative in nature.  You have already been primed by your friend to interpret the co-worker's behaviours a certain way.

This is why the consistency of your personal brand is so important.  Your brand must be the same regardless of the audience or the situation.  The more consistently you craft the experience that others have of you and your brand, the stronger your brand.  When people speak about you, and you know they do, you need to ensure that the message they are sharing is one of your choosing and design.

All too often we go out of our way trying to please others, to be and do what we believe they want and need.  In so doing, we tend to dilute our brand.  Our efforts to be all things to all people in all situations tends to weaken our presence rather than build it.  A strong brand is built on consistency, but it starts by having clarity over just what your brand is.  Your behaviours and interactions are then measured against this image, ensuring that everything works in alignment with and support of the brand.

Many companies work extremely hard at not only crafting their desired brand but also ensuring that everything they do, every decision they make supports that brand.  Consider Harley motorcycles.  You know exactly what type of bike a Harley is, you know exactly what your experience of a Harley will be, you know exactly what others will think of you on a Harley.  This is a strong brand.  It is clear, it is consistent, it is memorable.  This is the brand that others share and spread.  Whether you have ever ridden a Harley or not, you are already primed to 'experience' a Harley in a specific way.

Now consider what the advertised experience of 'you' is.  What messages are being communicated about you to others, priming their future experience of you?  If it's not likely one that you want... start crafting a new one and use it to guide all of your future behaviours and actions.  The more consistent these behaviours,  the more others can trust in them to be true, the more they will share them with others, 'selling' and spreading your message of you, for you.

If you don't like to brag about yourself, then this is the strategy for you.  Instead of having to toot your own horn... get someone to do it for you!

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