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Your Brand Is Not What You Sell

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Your Brand Is Not What You Sell

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One of my core beliefs of effective content marketing is to deliver content people actually want. Publish stories they actually will enjoy – to read and to share.

To do this you have to follow a very small set of simple rules:

  1. Make it interesting. A great story. Relevant to your audience. An important lesson or a key trend.
  2. Make the reader the hero of the story. Don’t sell. Connect on a human level. Tap into emotions.
  3. Take the brand out of the story. Don’t promote the brand. Be the platform. Not the story itself.

Some iconic consumer brands like Coca-Cola can break these rules because for many, there is already an emotional connection. I mean who doesn’t want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. And almost all of you know what I mean without even clicking the link, or watching the video.

Take the brand out of the story? Don’t promote our products? Yeah, right!

I know this is tough. Whether you are with a large company or you work for yourself, we all work for businesses that want to see results. We have limited budgets and even shorter attention spans. We do not have the time to prove ROI.

How many of you have been asked the question “Oh yeah? But how does this help me sell some stuff?”

So we are constantly fighting this instinct to talk about our products or promote our brand.

I recently saw this video, simply called “IBM on Brand” by Jon Iwata that provides some amazing and heartfelt perspective. Jon is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communication at IBM. He is also a 30-year veteran of the company so I think he knows a little bit about the tradition of the IBM brand. Here is a summary transcript:

  • In the video, Jon talks about how there is not much formal documentation in all the 100-year archives on the IBM brand. And yet it has grown into a “globally recognized, respected and valued” brand.
  • They don’t try to manage the IBM brand they try to manage their “character as a business.” And they’ve never “defined IBM by what they are selling.”
  • Jon continues that they’ve learned that “if you make that mistake, you will have to go through a lot of expense and trouble” to change people’s minds once whatever it is that you are selling, is replaced by something new. Jon used great examples from punch cards, to mainframes, to PCs, to cloud and analytics.
  • So what defines the brand if it isn’t defined by lots of documentation and brand guidelines and what you sell?
  • His answer is corporate character which he defines as your “belief system, purpose and mission.” Jon suggests that “if we take care of that, the brand takes care of itself.”
  • He also suggests that this drives them to change but also to maintain the things that should never change.

Check it out here. I really suggest you watch the 2:15 minutes.


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