A Revisionist History of Branding – Part 1

It started out in the old west. Pioneers were settling the land. Cattle ranches started popping all over the landscape.  In those days, beef was in high demand. Ranchers knew that raising cows was a great way to make a living. As a result, many ranchers grew big herds of cattle (did you know that twelve or more cows are called a flink?). Eventually, the ranchers’ flinks became so vast that the ranchers found it next to impossible to contain their own flink in one area. The cow’s grazing meadows could not be fenced in.  Cows wandered off and wound up intermingling with other rancher’s cows.

Two problems arose. First, ranchers didn’t have a way to identify their own cows from their neighbor’s cows. And, second, ranchers didn’t have a good way to protect their cows from poachers, unless the rancher could find and shoot the poachers. Ranchers needed a distinctive and easily recognized way to identify their own livestock. This would be a foolproof way to prove ownership of their livestock.

So, what did the ranchers do? You guessed it. They used a branding iron and branded their cows (today, in the state of Nebraska, there are more than 15,000 unique brands used by livestock owners).

By now, you’ve probably figured out what this has to do with branding yourself and your business. The ranchers represent your business (or a corporation).  The cows represent your product or service. The meadow represents the vast marketplace. Commingling has to do with the competitiveness of business environment. The actual brand represents your businesses unique identity.

Branding & Personal Branding

My intent here is to give you a quick look at branding and to stimulate your thinking so you are prepared to venture off and start branding your cows. Entrepreneur.com defines branding as, “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products”.

Most branding strategies are designed for large corporations who are competing for huge chunks of market share.

From a strategic perspective, here are some thing to know about branding:

  • Most of what is written about branding focuses on branding for corporations
  • Most branding strategies focus on product branding, rather than services branding
  • A brand can be created by using a:
    • Name
    • Logo
    • Symbol
    • Motto

My definition of personal branding is “a combination of marketing activities you do to influence how others see you”. You influence your customers and referrers by presenting a positive image of yourself. You’ll see how personal branding and marketing as the management strategic relationships are one in the same.

Let’s get closer to home.’ Branding is not about using spin doctors (spokespersons who you hire to give a favorable impression of you to the public) or publicity agents to manage you as a brand. I’m referring to how you package yourself and projecting a positive image in the eyes of your customers.

Personal branding is a combination of marketing activities you do to influence how others see you.

Here are two things you learned reading this.

  1. A flink is a group of twelve or more cows.
  2. My definition of branding: A combination of marketing activities you do to influence how others see you”.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of A Revisionist History of Branding. You’ll meet Rose, who used a branding strategy to her advantage.