My First Branding Lesson [Video]

1984 TV commercial for the Radio Shack TRS-80

1984 TV commercial for the Radio Shack TRS-80

I often share how important branding is to business success.

If you’re a service professional who makes a living selling your expertise—such as a coach or consultant—odds are there are plenty of other people who do what you do. So how are your ideal clients going to know to choose you, if you don’t set yourself apart and give them a reason to?

How can you make sure they’ll even stop long enough to take notice of you and your business?

If you’re just another [fill in the blank] coach or consultant, you tend to blend in with crowd. But when you stand for something more, or at least package yourself in a way that stands out, it can make or break your ability to succeed. Or at least make it a heck of a lot easier!

That’s why branding is so important.

I studied marketing in college and my first real branding lesson came during a regional advertising competition. Our task was to come up with a campaign to promote the Radio Shack TRS-80 personal computer (yes, it was a LONG time ago… 1984 to be exact!).

After spending hours researching the brand and brainstorming ad campaigns, my team and I decided to position the computer as “Your Silent Partner.” The idea was the computer allowed business executives to get more work done. It was like having a silent partner behind the scenes supporting them.

We thought we had a winner.

We packed up all of our research and creative work and headed to Palm Springs to present our campaign to the judges.

And we got skewered!

Turns out they felt the brand platform we were so proud of was GENERIC. A positioning that ANY personal computer company could use. Any personal computer could help a business executive get more work done. We were advertising the CATEGORY not the TRS-80 specifically. We didn’t focus on why a business executive should purchase the TRS-80 over all other personal computers. We didn’t identify what made it unique. We didn’t package it in a way that compelled our ideal client to feel the TRS-80 was THE personal computer they should choose. We simply sold them on the idea of buying a personal computer.

To stay with the personal computer theme, contrast this to Apple. They clearly delineate what makes their products stand out from the rest. They’ve taken a solid position and it’s not only featured in their marketing, it runs through the entire company and all of its products. And it started with Steve Jobs and his passion for combining technology and simple design. THAT is the cornerstone of a solid brand platform. And as a service pro, you can call upon your passion, or your unique combination of expertise or experience to brand yourself as well.

We were crushed.

But my fellow advertising students and I also learned a valuable lesson. And that was, for a brand to be effective, it has to be tied specifically to the business, product or service attributes. It shouldn’t be something that ANY business or product in the same category could use.

Over the years I’ve helped create a lot of brands. Some for myself. Some for large companies. And, some for other service pro’s. And I’ve always tried to remember this early lesson and focus on a brand platform and identity that uniquely represents the business, product, or service. And to steer my clients away from being generic.

Yes, doing branding the right way can be challenging.

But it does pay off when you take the time to find out what you truly represent and package it in a unique and compelling way.

By the way, you can watch Radio Shack’s 1984 TRS-80 TV commercial below.

I’m not sold they did a much better job of identifying a unique or compelling brand positioning than we did!


About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. Now she helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

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