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Do You Know Your Brand's DNA?

As a publicist, I get asked a lot of the same questions by prospective clients. Questions like, “How long will it take until I start seeing my name appear in print?” and “How does one measure or monetize PR value?” make an appearance at almost every initial meeting.

These are valid questions, and I am always happy to answer them. But there's one question that can lead to a much more interesting discussion of what it means to manage a brand’s direction and its image as a whole, and that's about the possible difficulty of publicizing two or more brands in the same market.

For instance, a few years ago, I was representing three different men’s underwear manufacturers. During my initial meeting with the owner of each brand, each asked some variation of the following: “Won’t it be a conflict of interest to represent us all? How could you choose between which one of us you will promote at any given time?”

I think they expected me to see that this was a valid concern, but to try and cover it up or sugarcoat it with some phony answer.

But to me, the answer was clear: While there may certainly be similarities, is any brand the exact same as another?

Think about it. You meet two people. Both dress similarly, have similar personalities, and know some of the same people. But is there reason enough to believe they are exactly the same? Of course not. Two people are never going to be identical. Even as identical twins, they're not the same person.

What's really in a brand?

My answer to my clients was this: “You both may sell the same type of product and may have similar styles, but each brand has its own DNA. Your brand’s DNA is always going to be different from that of another’s."

Each brand is going to have its own background story. Maybe one was founded by a man who went through a life-changing experience, and because of that experience, decided to go into business for himself. Maybe another owner purchased his brand from someone else. And maybe another decided to go into business with his wife, as a means to strengthen their relationship. Right there, you have three similar brands with entirely different stories. Their DNA is different already.

Take a few spas that are all in the same city. Maybe one focuses more on men’s skincare, while another specializes in that of women’s. And the third also caters to women, but their price point is a bit higher because they offer a more luxurious experience, while the former example caters more to those who want to be in and out quickly.

On the surface, each spa seems to be competing, but when you break it down, they’re all different. Hence, they have their own unique DNA.

Do you know your brand's DNA?

In the worlds of marketing, advertising and PR, this is how campaigns are structured on a daily basis; each nuance is sought out, so that every brand or individual’s market can be targeted precisely.

But this isn’t a quality inherent to just these industries; rather, it's a useful tool to help any business owner to sell their services, any entertainment artist to sell their art, and even any employee to sell themselves. Once you know the difference, it's much easier to distinguish what you do from the competition.

Stuck on how to ID your brand's DNA? Here are a few places to start:

  • Background: Is there an illuminating backstory that allows for the public to see that your passion is directly intertwined with your service? If so, that could make for a good human interest story. To know one's future, one first needs to know his or her history -- and embrace it.

  • Price Point: If you own a restaurant that specializes in Southern cuisine, right down the street from another, you will need to distinguish what sets you apart. Maybe your restaurant offers better value at a lower price point, while the other is more high-end.

  • Community Involvement/Philanthropy: Is your brand contributing on a local or regional level to its surrounding community, or even involved in charitable giving? Better yet, maybe your giving highlights a trend that conveys you brand's mission.

  • Target Market: Your brand may sell the exact same product as another, but if one is more actively targeting a niche market, and the other is focusing on the wider, mainstream market as a whole, that changes the playing field and creates opportunities in totally different areas of media coverage.

  • Quality: Take two national clothing brands. Both seemingly service the same exact demographic and portray the same active, no-holds-barred lifestyles. Both offer their clothes at the same price point. But one brand is using stronger materials, and its jeans are lasting twice as long. That brand can market itself as offering a better value or better quality products. What value are you offering?

Take inventory of all of these differences and think about how they can help you carve out your own special hook or elevator pitch, and how it can serve to illuminate your path.


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