Apple, Nike, Amazon, Oprah. What do these brands have in common, besides being iconic? I am so glad you asked. They are all considered experts in their respective industries, i.e. Apple-innovation in technology, Nike – athletic footwear and apparel, Amazon-online retail, and the brand known as Oprah actually overlaps two industries-media and personal development.
If you doubt these are, in fact, expert brands, consider this: Nike commands almost half its industry’s market share at 47% (as of Mar. 2014). Amazon has become “the Walmart” of online retail, particularly online book sales. Apple’s release of new products and the pandemonium that comes with it (long lines as people camp out at Apple stores for hours to be the first to get the newest iPhone) has become a normal occurrence. And Oprah has helped a number of others establish their own expert brands such as Dr. Phil McGraw, Dr. Oz, and Iyanla Vanzant.
If you want your brand to be considered an authority, here are four ways to do so:
Understand the best brands – those considered authorities – have engaging personalities.
Whether we’re talking about a brand for an individual or a brand for a business (and any other organization), that brand must have a personal element. Obviously, there are people behind business brands. The brand is created as a result of the vision, values, and strategy of people. Apple’s awesome brand is rooted in the late co-founder Steve Jobs’ brand. Do not overthink branding. People get confused about personal branding vs. business branding. Ultimately, the two are intertwined. If you’re looking to establish a memorable brand for your business, start with the internal vs. the external. What you envision and what you want to be known for, should translate into your brand. The core message of my company, SWAG Strategy Solutions is all about the ICP Method: identifying, clarifying, and personifying your brand, which is based on leveraging your “SWAG Factor”(that awesome thing you offer the world…essentially your greatness).
Know that expertise is not enough.
Yes, being an expert is about having expertise. Duh. Everyone knows that, right? It has to go beyond that though. Colleges, universities, think tanks, etc. are filled with very intelligent people who have expertise in a particular area (in some cases more than one area). However, if you cannot really connect with your target audience, you will make an impact on no one. To be an expert brand, you must be able to effectively communicate. Your brand must resonate with people. It should evoke even an emotional reaction in people. When people believe you have walked in their shoes (and/or that you genuinely care about the shoes in which they’re walking), they are more likely to see your brand as an authority. Oprah’s brand is as powerful as it is for several reasons, but perhaps the most important reason is her ability to connect with people and make them believe she really wants them to live their “best life”. After all, she has encountered major challenges that many in her mostly female audience has encountered.
Have a branding strategy.
Another reason branding is often confusing is that it’s perceived as too broad. It is a term tossed around a lot these days, but what does it really mean TO YOU. Branding goes far beyond just business cards, websites, and brochures. Those items help promote your brand. They are not the actual brand! There should be a strategy in place for your brand. Once you establish the vision for your brand, you need to position your brand. Will you position your brand as a leader, based on target audience, or based on scarcity? These are just a few ways to position your brand. What do you most want your brand to accomplish? I’m big on turning “brand assets” into financial assets. That requires a strategy. Too many people just throw brand ideas against a wall and hope one sticks. Your brand is a lot less likely to reach expert status with that approach.
Embrace expert status (but don’t take yourself too seriously).
It is hard for some people to accept their expert status. They apologize for it. They feel awkward about it. They try to diminish it. This is especially an issue for women. Often, we think we will be seen as pompous or arrogant. That is a perception we’re not typically comfortable with. However, if you really want to be seen as an expert, behave as an expert: with confidence and focused on the positive change your expert brand can bring about in others. That does not have to look like arrogance. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, does not come across as pompous. Some would say he’s kind of geeky. Still, he comes across as an expert, a visionary, and innovator which is reflected in Amazon. As I mentioned before, though, Bezos does not take himself too seriously. Once you start drinking your own expert Kool-Aid, you’re headed for trouble. Realize you can always learn more, be more strategic, have more of an impact, and make your brand better. Embrace your expert status but stay hungry.
About the Author
Rachel Wilson Thibodeaux, also known as the SWAG Strategist & Leverage Your Brand Coach, is Founder and CEO of SWAG Strategy Solutions. SWAG is an acronym for Strategic Women Achieve Growth. SSS offers business coaching, professional speaking, training and development to women entrepreneurs – both current and aspiring entrepreneurs, along with sales professionals. Rachel helps clients get so strategic about their brand and business that their competition becomes irrelevant. Rachel is the author of the upcoming book, “A Rocket For Your Journey: Powerful Affirmations, Quotes, and Questions to Turbo Launch Your Success.” Contact SWAG Strategy Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a complimentary Brand Strategy Session. Find out more at www.swagstrategy.com