Michelle Isenhoff

The Appeal of a Great Brand

Have you, by chance, noticed a little more sweetness around Bookworm Blather lately? That’s because I’m finally taking everything I’ve ever learned about branding to heart. I find I have time for such improvements when I finish a novel.  (Hee! hee! See how I cleverly worked a plug in there?)
There are so many fish in the publishing (or blogging) sea it’s really easy to blend in and never be noticed. Branding is one way to set yourself apart. Basically, all branding is is choosing what you want to be known for and then playing it up. According to popular consensus, three attributes seems to be the number to work with. (For over a year now I’ve been reading about what “everybody” says and trying my best to apply it. I’m finding that not all this great advice works for me, and I’m starting to form some of my own opinions. But more on that in later posts.) I happen to be in complete agreement with the masses on this one. I just haven’t done the most wonderful job of implementing it.
I want to give you an example of very effective branding. Catherine Ryan Howard publishes a blog I really enjoy. She’s an author who writes for adults, both fiction and narrative non-fiction, and her blog is about self-publishing. Like many bloggers, the ultimate motive behind her effort is to sell her books. I have not read her books; I don’t even have an interest in her books. But I’m drawn to her blog because 1) she offers me something (great information and a few chuckles) and 2) she does it so well.
What makes Catherine’s blog so effective? Primarily it’s good content. But the way she portrays herself is really catchy. That’s her brand shining through. Look at her blog title: Catherine Caffeinated. See the coffee cup? Notice a color theme? Notice the typewriter? When I think Catherine Ryan Howard, I think pink, coffee, and self-publishing. That’s how she’s marketed herself and every post ties in. She always writes about self-publishing but she does it in a nice package. Sometimes she reminds us to bring coffee. Other times she mentions that she hasn’t had enough caffeine yet. And still other times she may say somethings like, “Keep dropping by if it isn’t too pink for you.” It’s good content that’s tied up with pink ribbons and coffee beans, which makes the content that much more enjoyable. Does she sell more books because of it? It hasn’t influenced me to buy. But it’s grown her blog and helped her stand out, and that notoriety probably does help sales. (And notice how I, a non-buyer, am spreading the word to other potential purchasers purely on the quality of her blog.)
My personal application? I haven’t done quite as inclusive a job of branding myself. Those who know me think children’s literature–I hope that’s obvious immediately. But I also wanted my blog (and my writing) to be known by the kid-friendly attribute of ‘adventurous.’ That’s why I switched over to the more eye-catching header and background images a few months ago. But it was time to evolve a little more. I started with a new subtitle: “Sweet adventures in children’s literature.” Adventure’s still there, but “sweet” is new. It has three great meanings: 1) tasting of sugar 2) wickedly awesome! and 3) that which invokes the word “Awwww…” It’s general. It’s expressive. It can be used to denote a feeling of innocence I value in my work. And I can plug in chocolate cupcakes. I might not sell more books, but I think I’ll have fun with it. 🙂 From here on out my posts will be getting a little sweeter and a little more adventurous. I’m even considering dribbling a few cookies into Gilbert’s (the shark) mouth.
I’d love to hear your feedback. What are your thoughts on branding? Is it worth bothering with? What kind of branding have you seen or done?
Over Memorial Day weekend, I’ll be Up North where an internet connection is occasionally available at the end of the driveway IF I stand on one foot while waving my left arm in circles and cock my head at a 45 degree angle. If I’m feeling like a contortionist, I’ll get to those comments right away.  Otherwise look for me on Tuesday. Have a great holiday!

The Appeal of a Great Brand

4 thoughts on “The Appeal of a Great Brand

  1. Hi Michelle,
    I think branding is an important part of one’s overall effort to sell books. This new world of self publishing ebooks is quite a challenge to all of us who basically started out with the desire to write and publish a book. Now we have to do everything. Marketing is entirely different from writing. I find I enjoy the marketing when I have the time, but as you said in your post, it is difficult to determine exactly how much it leads to sales.
    Recently I have read about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and it seems to be yet another vital task in order to get noticed on the Internet.
    Still, this all really is about books. All the marketing in the world will not help if we don’t write good stories. This summer, I plan to write and write and get more stories out there for sale.
    Good luck with your branding and writing.

    1. You may not realize it, but you’ve got your brand all over your blog. It’s obvious: A kid who loves to read and share books. And it works! You are very unique, you’re talented, and you’re an enjoyable kid. No wonder you have so many followers! 🙂

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