A friend asked me on New Year’s Day if I had a twenty-second elevator pitch to share with people I meet about myself, my brand. I replied that I couldn’t provide an answer right now. I needed time to reflect (I had just finished cooking dinner and elevators and brands were the last thing on my mind). Since it is wise that we often put ourselves in a self-reflective mode about who we are, how we want to be perceived, who we want to become, and how we are actually perceived, the new year is as appropriate a time as any to consider elevator pitches and brands. What is a brand or brand marketing? Do I know what my brand is? How am I branding myself? A brand, if I remember correctly from when I was married to a marketing professor, has to do with product quality, packaging, dissemination, and name. The American Marketing Association identifies a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”
The conversation with my friend about elevator pitches and brands took place in the context of how I would get the message out about my new book, among other things. Whom do I need to reach (who is my audience) and what do I want to share with them that they would need or want to buy? This is worthy reflecting upon because there just might be a dissonance or disagreement between what I want people to “buy” and what (and how) I am actually “selling.” I am reminded of Jesus’ conversation with his disciples concerning whom the people (and the disciples) understood him to be (see Matt 16:13-20/Mk 8:27-30/Lk 9:18-21;cf. Matt 11:1-6; 22:41-45). The opinions varied and we would be quick to say that for those with the wrong answer, the fault is theirs and not Jesus’. But even when Peter blurts out the apparently correct answer, either the time (or the messenger, which can impact the brand) is not right. It is important that our brand is understood and communicated correctly and at the right time.
Some of the dissonance that will occur is unavoidable because the purchaser is not critically aware (an uninformed buyer; remember caveat emptor!). But I can control to some extent what it is I’m selling, how it is packaged by me and others I allow to represent me, and to whom I deliver it in that package. I can construct my brand and I should take the time to critically reflect upon and produce a quality brand that will transform the marketplace of this world and not content myself with a generic rip-off of empty, abstract rhetoric. I will keep thinking about branding in more specific, concrete terms, and I’ll get back to you in another post. Share your thoughts.