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Monday, August 27, 2007


I've been brainstorming branding lately for a friend of mine and I thought I would talk a little on what branding is.

Branding is a word that has grown in meaning over the years. Initially, it meant a logo, a mark that identifies a product. But it's far more complex than that now.

A brand uses several elements at once, creating and reinforcing an emotional attachment to the product. Let's take Dan Brown as an example.

The recurring theme in all of Brown's novels (so far) is the idea of cryptography. His genre is the thriller and mystery fiction. A favorite conflict centers on secret societies.

From what little I've given you so far, you can see a pattern forming---a brand. It gives you imagery, and more importantly it conjures an emotional response. Whether that's a positive or negative response isn't important in Brown's case. Luckily for him, both kinds of responses merit huge profits.

This is the important part. All the fancy art and all your promotional endeavors mean nothing if you can't create an emotional response from the reader.

Dan Brown's website is extraordinary. Notice the little touches. Dan Brown's author photo is professionally done. On top of that, he photographs well and his publicity team uses that photo for all its worth. (You see it everywhere.)

The primary color on his website is black with a rich rust-red color. The main graphic uses Mona Lisa's eyes, from his book, The Da Vinci Code. Other graphics illustrate and support parts of his novels. The text is succinct and extremely well written, with links to other sites in case the content piqued your interest enough to do further research.

Notice the torn page effect under Common Questions and the interactive sites that encourages the reader to participate. Everything in this website reinforces the concept of secrets and codes. (Kudos to Brown's web designer.)

So what can you take away from this virtual field trip? When you think about branding, think about what you write in broad terms. Think about the patterns, the themes, and the emotional draw of your particular voice.

Jot down your genre and write every word that YOU think describes that genre. For example if you write mystery, your list might look like this: dark, cryptic, secrets, danger, black, blood, murder.

Jot down every word that describes the elements in your stories. Now give them a corresponding image. Pick out two or three images that keep resurfacing.

Finally, jot down a short declarative sentence describing your voice. My voice is on the snarky side. My heroes/heroines are brash, emotionally flawed and not always right, but always have their hearts in the right place. So if I were to create an image describing my voice, it would be something in clear focus and something very tangible. If your voice is more on the poetic side, you might consider soft backgrounds and wispy settings. You're looking for something that reflects your writing style.

When you've gathered all this information, you should find recurring elements that illustrate your genre, novel, and voice. Use that as your base, bearing in mind that you want to instill an emotional response from the reader.

If you've done your homework, you might discover a brand of your very own.