What makes a brand?

April 13, 2012

By Caroline Johnston, Intern

I recently attended the Lexus Nashville Fashion Week “What Makes a Brand?” industry panel at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

The audience—which included women, men, young and old, those with strong fashion sense, as well as those with … other skills—taught me my first lesson: Branding matters to everyone.

We all have a brand, whether professionally or personally, online or in life, and our success is heavily influenced by how well we maintain that brand on a daily basis.

(L to R: Rachel Halverson, Rose Apodaca, Mike Wolfe, Susie Crippen and Dr. Dave Gilbert)

Photo Credit: Nashville Fashion Week

The panel was moderated by Dr. Dave Gilbert and included Rachel Halverson, a budding interior designer; Rose Apodaca, writer, editor, curator and co-owner of A+R; Mike Wolfe, best known as the star and producer of the History channel’s American Pickers and owner of Nashville’s American Pickers store, Antique Archeology; and Susie Crippen, entrepreneur and co-founder of J Brand jeans.

While branding can and should mean something different to everyone, the panel addressed many key points that we can all implement. Here are just a few:

Know how to define your brand.

If you cannot define your brand, neither can your consumer.

Be authentic.

Gimmicks and ploys do the trick, but only for so long. Be authentic in your product and your voice. Your consumers will relate to it and love it.

Make it about you. Find a voice and use it.

A brand should be built upon the original notion of the product. Susie Crippen said, “If I don’t make my product about me, the customer can’t make the product about them.”

People want to relate to a brand.

Consumers want a story, and everyone has one. Share your story, and you will provide an opportunity for your consumers to connect with you in a meaningful way. Be true to yourself, and your consumers will be true to you.

A healthy fear of social media is a good thing.

Overuse of social media for branding purposes can overwhelm your consumers, so use it judiciously. Rachel Halverson discussed the successes she has had branding her blog and interior decorating service through her Pinterest board.

Building a brand is not like it used to be.

Dr. Gilbert said, “We are now in a world where the locus of control of the brand has shifted from the production side to the consumption side. Brands now are being negotiated in real time with consumers and with the market.”

We must remember that branding is a two-way street: broadcasting your brand to your consumers while also maintaining an awareness of how your brand is being received.

Allow your brand to grow organically.

When Susie Crippen co-founded J Brand jeans in 2004, she did not even have a website. She began by securing public relations services and seeking exposure through photos of celebrities wearing her jeans in Us Weekly, Life & Style and People. As awareness rose, so did her branding efforts.

The most important thing is and always will be the product.

A good product sells.

So … which brands are you loyal to? What do you believe makes a good brand?

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