Selling blue suede shoes

I was recently inspired about the subject of branding on a trip to Memphis, Tenn. I was speaking at an event and was shown great Southern hospitality on my first trip to Graceland. I was immediately impressed by the story of how Priscilla Presley had taken this amazingly modest home and turned it into one of the biggest international tourist destinations. Thirty-three years after the death of Elvis Presley, people who weren’t even alive during his lifetime travel thousands of miles to visit, pay homage and spend hard-earned dollars on Elvis paraphernalia. All of this happened by leveraging the personal and corporate brand of Elvis.

I thought about what we as businesspeople can learn from the Elvis branding exercise. I was treated to some answers later in the day from a speech by a quiet, yet effective, brander named Trace Hallowell of Tactical Magic. I was impressed with Hallowell’s presentation. It was certainly different than my own.

Trace was slow, simple and elegant. While differing from me in style, he was able to effectively articulate his few points with the support of graphics and a number of Elvis quotes that demonstrated the King’s approach to personal branding that brought on the legendary success.

The Elvis quote that resonates heavily with me is this: “I guess I always knew if you want to stand out in a crowd, you gotta be different.” Differentiation is at the core of a successful branding exercise. The idea of creating a brand is to attract customers predisposed to buy at a premium price. You want to be in the customer’s mind when he or she first thinks of needing your product or service. Then you want them to perceive there to be additional value to go with you versus your competitors. Otherwise there is no value in the brand.

Branding is not just about having a catchy name and slogan. Good branding requires connecting with your customer on an emotional level that will keep you in their brain. Before spending a ton of money promoting a brand, it helps to know who is likely to be responsive to your offering. Many executives wrongly assume that everyone is a potential customer if only they were aware of your product or service, but most often, this is not the case. Today, customers can be grouped more effectively and efficiently by location, product type and the emotional need to buy your product or service. By segmenting your customers into these categories, you can associate your brand with the customer’s strongest emotional connection.

Your brand needs to be steeped in authenticity to be successful. Often companies attempt and fail to brand themselves around promises they can’t keep or slogans that don’t reflect their actual experience.

The following questions will help you get started on a branding approach that will make you stand out from the competition.

1. How does your current brand promotion reflect your current offering?

2. Who is your target market that most benefits from your product or service?

3. What are the emotions your prospects feel when they are ready for your offering?

4. What are you and your employees passionate about when servicing customers?

5. What do you do that your competitors can’t or won’t?

Whether you attempt to create your own brand or hire an expert like Hallowell, you will need to invest time and find a way to approach the subject objectively. This may be difficult, but the rewards are worth the time and effort. Branding is an approach that requires patience. Done right, branding can drive easier lead generation, higher conversion and higher margins, getting your salespeople and investors to quote Elvis with a, “Thank yah. Thank yah very much!”

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the best-selling author of the Amazon No. 1 best-sellers “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle” and “Green$ense For the Home: Rating the Real Payoff on 50 Green Home Projects” both in bookstores now. He is also a speaker and marketing consultant. Reach him at [email protected]. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at