The Plain Truth About Branding for Newsletter Publishers and Web Designers

Branding, or brand marketing as some now call it, is one ofthe buzzwords of public relations and marketing.

I searchedseveral dictionaries in vain for a precise definition ofthis high profile concept as it is applied in the businessworld. The closest I got was the one that explained the verb"to brand" as "to impress firmly."

On the other hand, perhaps I wasn't so unlucky after all.Not the whole story, maybe, but this is, after all, the veryessence of what branding in business is.

When you brand something - be it a company, an individual, a product, a service, a concept or a process - you impressstrongly on people's minds whatever is special anddistinctive about it. You make some kind of lasting impactthat leaves them in no doubt that your special somethingstands apart from everything else in the same category.

It sounds simple enough. The problem is that even somemarketing professionals, if they know this at all, have notyet internalized it. They think of brands in terms oftrademarks. They apparently believe that branding is just amatter of well designed logos and striking, unforgettablevisual images.

Not that they're necessarily so far off the mark. We allknow that the right visual symbols do help to create animpression of distinctiveness. The Coca-Cola people haveexploited this principle to absolute perfection. Smash oneof their familiar bottles, and you can still recognize thatthe fragments were once part of a Coca-Cola bottle.

Nor does it have to be confined to the sense of sight.

Occasionally, you just have to hear a few strains of somemelody to immediately associate it with a certain company orproduct. And then there's the famous Singapore Airlinessmell. A few years ago, the flight attendant of thatairline began distributing, before and after takeoff, hottowels that gave off a very distinctive aroma. Onceexperienced, it's not easily forgotten.

The truth is, though, that characteristic symbols andimages, whether visual, aural or olfactory, importantthough they are, simply not enough. Even mighty Coca-Colacould not have captured the lion's share of the soft drinkmarket with the design of its bottles alone.

And if you're just a small guy, well, it's a different ball gamealtogether.

The easiest way to understand this concept is to think of itlike this: if you run a website, what would happen if youremoved your logo and your company name?

Would I still be able to recognize your brand? Or, let's sayyou're the owner of a brick-and-mortar outfit.

One day youmove to a new location but you haven't had a chance to putup your signs yet. Were I to stumble into your store bychance, would I be able to tell it apart from those of yourcompetitors?

Now, what if you publish and email newsletter, and youremove your masthead, your name and your subscribeinstructions?

I pose this question because I often read differentnewsletters published by different members of the sameprofession or trade.

It's clear that all these people arekeenly aware of the pivotal role their newsletters should beplaying in marketing their talents, enhancing clientrelationships, or in furthering other personal or businessobjectives.

I'm saddened, however, whenever I see so little todistinguish one from the other - and I'm not only referringto visual appearance and actual content, which are importantenough.

On the one hand, these publishers are trying very hard tomarket themselves as experts or purveyors of services infields in which they have quite a lot of competition on theInternet.

But on the other, they're doing very little toshow me what makes them stand out from the pack, or even whythey're different from any of their competitors.

Even their publications are undistinguished, veryrun-of-the-mill; why should things be different when I usetheir professional services?

Practical tips

Here are just a few short tips to help you brand yourselfand your newsletter.

  • Study your competitors! Read and research as many otherlists as you can and in particular those on the same topicor published by other businesses or practitioners in yourfield. Look for gaps - see what YOU can offer that theycan't, or just don't!

  • Your personality is unique (which means there's nobodyelse in the world quite like you!) Don't be afraid to usethat truism to your advantage. The best newsletters on theNet revolve around their publishers' personalities.

  • See how you can "personalize" the physical appearance ofyour newsletter, so that your readers will recognize it assoon as they open it even before they read the words - fromthe layout, masthead design, and other visual clues. This, to be sure, will be easier with HTML newsletters, but evenwith plain text there are many possibilities.

Branding yourself may be hard work, but once you achieveyour goal, you'll have a valuable intangible asset thatno-one can easily steal or plagiarize. Good luck!

Azriel Winnett is creator of - Your Communication Skills Portal. This popular website helps you improve your communication and relationship skills in your business or professional life, in the family unit and on the social scene. New articles added almost daily.

© Athifea Distribution LLC - 2013