rock at branding

5 Ways Women Can Rock at Branding

I've been a woman in business for the past 25 years - specifically the branding business - and I've learned so much working with world-class brands like Virgin, Pantene, Heinz, Intel, and Orbitz. I've also learned that when it comes to being a successful brander (for any brand) you don't need to check your femininity at the door. In fact, I think there are some things about being female that can actually help women be stronger branders.

Put them to work for you, and I promise you'll see amazing results.

# 1: Get emotional

I'm not talking about strutting around the office like a diva or crying in meetings. I'm talking about building a brand promise that connects with consumers' hearts, and not just their heads. Women are often comfortable expressing emotion and this can be a plus in branding because great brands connect with consumers on an emotional level; they satisfy our functional needs, but they go beyond this to promise something more experiential. Think about Nike: they are not only promising athletic prowess, they have raised the bar to stand for personal achievement. The same is true for Zappo's who are delivering happiness, not shoes. Virtually all of the iconic brands that consumers list as their favorites (Starbucks, Virgin, Apple, Zappo's, etc.) have made their mark by reaching deeper and promising something more.

# 2: Put on your pretty

Looks matter in branding. A strong visual presentation of a brand helps communicate quality and this can help consumers choose your brand faster, with more frequency, and often be willing to pay a premium. For example, using color strategically can help brands stand out. Think about Tiffany and the iconic blue box, or how the Starbucks green mermaid logo can be seen from far away on any city block. Look at how ING uses vibrant orange to stand out from the sea of red, white and blue banks. Go ahead spend quality time and resources on "wadrobe and make-up" you will be rewarded by building a brand that stands out in its category and makes the most out of every dollar in your marketing spend.

# 3: Be a good friend

Branding tools like social media are two way conversations. You need to invest time in getting to know people. Listen, give advice, and check in frequently. And just like real world friendships you need to mix it up a bit. If you had a friend in real life and every time you saw them they were trying to sell you something, chances are they would not stay on your friend list for very long. The same is true of brands. Sometimes it's fine to provide discounts or sales in social media, but make sure you are also providing useful information, having some fun and showing a more human side of your brand personality. As women, we know how to nurture our friendships. Apply this skill to building your brand.

# 4: Make connections

Women are natural connectors. Use these schmoozing skills to add value to your brand. Focus on quality introductions. Connect your users to other useful and complimentary products and services. Look for strategic partnerships that can be win/win situations for your brand. Don't think you have to do all the heavy brand building on your own. These days, many brands even cooperate with competitors to help build and broaden the market for all. Often in my practice, I can't take on a piece of consulting business because of workload, schedules or conflicts. But I never hesitate to refer someone to a so-called "competitor". Keep the virtual rolodex constantly spinning and you will be paid back with loyal followers that trust your advice and are open to trying new brand experiences from you.

# 5: Play a little hard to get

Remember how your mother always said "No one will buy the cow when they can get the milk for free?" The same is true in branding. Be generous, but keep some things a little out of reach. For example, give enough advice to get a potential new client intrigued, but no too much that they don't think they need to hire you. Keep a bit of mystery and keep them wanting more. Make sure your elevator pitch presents a compelling reason for potential targets to want to engage with you. But beware of the "over-share". As women sometimes we feel like we've got to get our whole story out on the first date. But too much information can be a turn off. Tell your brand story succinctly, draw customers in and then follow up with more details when the time is right.

Branding is as much an art as a science. But no matter what category your business is in, the best way to build a strong brand is to genuinely want to add value to the lives of your customers. In this way, the natural giving nature of women can be a real plus. Trust your intuition, be authentic, and please don't forget to have fun along the way.

Julie Cottineau  |
Julie Cottineau, founder of the brand consultancy BrandTwist, has been an executive at Interbrand and VP of Brand for Virgin, and regularly posts free, actionable branding advice like this on the BrandTwist blog and newsletter. To learn even more about brand building, check out her new 8-week online course, Brand School, that gives you all the knowledge and hands-on exercises you’ll need to build a profitable brand