Friday, June 14, 2013

Persona vs. Brand: What's the Difference?

Most, if not all, of the marketing information targeted at authors tout the necessity for an author to develop their "brand" and "platform".  One of the main reasons we started this website is our strong conviction that this advice is WRONG.

CORPORATIONS and businesses have brands.  Politicians and activists have platforms.


So, what's the difference between a "brand" and a "persona"?

Let's take a moment to examine one of the most successful brands in existence today: Coca-Cola. Aaahhh, quintessential Americana at its best, right? The company name alone conjures images of summer cookouts, cute polar bears, curvy bottles, and that scrolling logo. All of these feelings, images, and emotions are branding at its best. You see their logo and you immediately have a full understanding of the experience you are going to have when you buy their product. And guess what.....Coca-Cola's brand manager is probably skipping with glee, because of your response. As a company, Coca-Cola has invested a ton of time, money, and energy into cultivating their consumer brand. This isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's a GREAT thing.  Stockholders are happy, jobs are created, and goods are sold.
Note: One company can own multiple brands. For example Estee Lauder owns: MAC, Clinique, Coach, Michael Kors, Aveda, Tommy Hilfiger, with their original Estee Lauder brand and associated products, among others. Each brand has its own target audience and is promoted accordingly. From a shareholders perspective, Estee Lauder is considered to be a 'diversified' company.
In the publishing world, each publisher has a brand that includes multiple lines and imprints. Harlequin has its Carina Press, HQN, MIRA, LUNA, and Kimani Press lines, to name a few. Regardless of the line or imprint, when you hear the name 'Harlequin' you immediately think 'romance'. And this is exactly what Harlequin wants you to think. However, each imprint is marketed with different banners, colors, and fonts on the book covers to reflect the style of the story being promoted to the audience.

Each of these companies employs scads of marketeers to plan and promote their brands. Though legally a corporation can be treated like a living entity, it is not a human being.

So what do authors market? Their books? Yes, but on a bigger picture level authors are marketing themselves or rather their 'writer' selves - also known as their PERSONA. Through their Author Persona they promote their books. 

To paraphrase Carl Jung, a persona is our public face or the mask that we wear in our day-to-day social engagements.  For an author, a persona is the hyper-realized self that you use to interact with your readers via your website, in person, and through social media.  While in your persona, you do NOT air your dirty laundry, discuss the details of your latest ailment, or rant about your significant other - UNLESS one of these issues is somehow related to your BOOK!  Your goal should be to cultivate a persona that represents you and your books well.  

Remember, you want your readers to become raving fans of your books and the worlds that you create.  How do you build a raving fan base? Create a positive customer (reader) experience and consistently produce great stories / books.

Some examples of authors who have successfully cultivated a distinct persona:
From Stephen King's spooky horror with a sci-fi twist to Charlaine Harris' paranormal southern gentility, each of these authors have a consistent look, feel, voice, and attitude present in their books and marketing.

Questions for you to ponder:
  • When a reader picks up your book or sees your name, what images, feelings, emotions, and thoughts would you like to see spring into their minds?  
  • How are you cultivating your persona to plant these thoughts and images so that they are associated with your books?
  • How is your Push, Pull, and Point-of-Purchase marketing reflective of your persona and your desired reader experience?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for this differentiation between brand and persona. I've been really struggling with the whole brand thing for a couple of years now. Instead I adopted a persona for each of my two author names: Maggie Jaimeson and Maggie Faire. It works much better for me.

    In essence they are fairly similar, because let's face it I can't get away from myself easily. However, I see Maggie Jaimeson as the more serious persona--someone who has lived life with all its ups and downs and is willing to share those experiences with my readers.

    Maggie Faire is a little more fun and younger. It allows me to exercise that part of myself that remembers being a teen and living through it. The Maggie Faire persona is mired in worlds of fantasy too, which is loads of fun for me and gives me an outlet to share all that world-building amazement with my readers.