How Costly Should Branding and Packaging Be?

Today, the 4th of July, marks the anniversary of our inherited freedom. Today marks the display of many symbols of that most cherished civil liberty, products displayed in our three national colors of red, white, and blue, a variation of the three, or others.

Investopedia wrote a detailed article on what branding entails. Companies spend millions to brand and package themselves and their products uniquely in attempts to vie for consumers’ money, affection, and trust. They ensure that the exterior of their products will drag buyers who are disinclined to spend belabored income.

A perfect scenario occurred this morning as I brewed my usual morning hot beverage. The same size of rectangular bags housed all tea leaves in my cabinet regardless of the manufacturer. I yawned at the colorful boxes staring back at me because, despite the colorful containers, the predictable interiors could not fool me.

I confess to buying the products, but the containers, that is, the book covers, misled me. Many rectangular bags dangled from strings, and I felt like a puppeteer. I yawned again. Oh, help!Image A sachet in a plain but unusual attire winked at me with confidence. It had no string and was not rectangular. It wore an unpretentious circular outfit. Talk about effortless packaging! How ingenious and distinctive can a circle be? The packaging was simple sophistication. Like our patriotic colors, it had its own unique three colors on the box: orange, white, and black.

The simple ingenuity of what I now call “tea discs” had my brain popping. Branding does not have to cost a fortune! The other manufacturers must have spent mined treasures on threads, colorful paper folded many times over to cradle each bag, words printed in color, foil caches, and other exorbitant branding expenses. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my tea ceremony.)

When I untied the strings and removed the colorful papers with the brand names imprinted on them, I could not distinguish one company’s tea from the other. Imagine the resources wasted in an attempt to look different only to end up losing the exclusiveness they sought.

The round bags stood unencumbered, proud, unique, and, might I add, FREE! The box that contained them displayed an artist’s light strokes of scenic London and her busy inhabitants. The container must not have cost that much to create.

Does packaging reputation and image have to run one into a poor house? Should reputation and image speak for themselves so they are not packaged? (Public relations executives are having seizures at the thought of images and reputation left to run rampant without proper supervision and channeling.)

Consumers2013-07-01 19.21.47_compressed judge a product by its packaging first. Readers judge a book by its cover first. How does a writer set himself or herself apart from the millions of past, present, and future writers? The competition is cut-throat even from babies in the womb who already know they are born writers. (Isn’t that what we say? “From birth…”)

How much money and effort should a writer expend on branding himself/herself? On packaging a book? The book should come first and should brand the author (as I wrote previously) and his/her reputation and image. Should a writer pour every available funds into the design of a cover?

What about the interior, the story? What if it sounds like every other story? What if the characters are as unmemorable as a bore’s equally mind-numbing routine? What if the peak rises no higher than balled dough without yeast? Therein lies the problem. Like movies, no one can guarantee success or failure of a literary piece until after its release. 2013-07-03 10.33.14_compressed

I would like to think that the story, the interior, captivates than the cover, which makes me an oddball. One should judge a book by its interior first. After readers sacrifice sleep to devour the interior of a book, that is truly when branding and judging should begin.

Like an impatient reader, I just want to get to the story/tea quickly and dispense with the frustrations of threads and unwrapping. The brew in the circular bag titillated my senses. Like the exceptionally suspenseful story it held inside the Camellia sinensis, I gulped every drop and wanted a second London cuppa! (This is not a paid endorsement or advertising.)

Building a BRAND with SWAG

I found an intriguing article written exactly one year ago today. To mark the anniversary of Elise L. Connors’ article, I need to examine my writing style by engaging in an introspective search of my own branding. As an aspiring author, I am constantly writing with passion. Writing is an obsession, an ambition, an aspiration, and is the essence of my being and my survival.

As such, I have been writing without worrying about branding or doing it with swag. I am borrowing these words, brand and swag, from Connors in the context that she used them in her article. I confess that I never paid attention to brand and swag in terms of writing.

It is now time to excogitate. Assuming that I do have that BRAND and that I built it with SWAG, what would the package look like exactly? I presume that after I have built my brand, I would like to maintain it for the duration of my “new-found” career. Branding oneself is a long-term goal and process and relies on audience perception. I do not know if I have an audience yet, considering that my Kickstarter project did not start; pun intended shamelessly.

I will now attempt to examine the acronym Connors created in order to gauge my progress in the branding-with-swag endeavor. She states that “Success as an author depends not only on writing a quality book (which is VERY important) but also how you are able to connect with your audience.”

As Connor’s defines it, brand is more than my name. It is my identity. It is how the general or reading public views me. BRAND stands for:

B oldness (You have to be able to say things others are afraid to.)

R elevance (Are you talking about the things your audience wants to hear about?)

A nd

N otable (Are you saying things that are “newsworthy”?)

D edication (Are you dedicated to yourself and your audience?)”

What is SWAG? This isn’t the swag that normally comes to mind. This is SWAG:

S ophisticated (Are you offering high-quality content? Big tip: proofreading is important.)

W orthy (Are you doing anything to deserve the notoriety you’re seeking?)

A nd

G rateful (Are you appreciative for your audience?)”

Taking the first word and dissecting it, I would say that I definitely am bold. I do not flinch from situations, and I say it like it is, which tends to contradict with the expectations of people. I try to make my postings relevant, always looking at the grand picture, always seeing how my postings will benefit people, and trying to find out what readers want. It is difficult to please every preference, but my aim is to try.

I will help Elise L. Connors a little by changing the word, “And, to Accessible. In acknowledgement of that substitution, I make my postings accessible by linking my blogs and other literary efforts to social media and other viable avenues.  

If you visit my Yahoo! Voices postings, you will discover articles about people who are making strides in their different fields. In that sense, these are notable people and notable topics, newsworthy people and newsworthy topics.

The final component of BRAND is dedication. I am a loyal, committed, and dye-in-the-wool kind of person. I thrived in education for decades, have stayed in the same volunteer capacities for decades, and I am unswerving in my devotion to my writing and my love of it, which has lasted almost four decades. It is that love of writing that gripped me at an early age, caused me to obtain two degrees in it, and I am poised to obtain a third one.

For the next acronym, SWAG, I want to believe that by virtue of having a Master of Arts degree in journalism and by being an editor, a freelancer, a book reviewer, and a copy writer–among other attributes, that my content is sophisticated in quality.

Anything we put out in cyberspace or publish brings with it the positive and the negative. The question is, “Are you doing anything to deserve the notoriety you’re seeking?” Notoriety carries both a negative connotation and a negative denotation. I want to see my glass as half full and take the good that exposure brings to me. I hope that I am worthy of fame and should deserve it when it arrives by dint of my hardwork.

Again, I am going to substitute the word, “And,” with another adjective that begins with “A.” That word is “Adventurous.” Am I allowing myself the courage to explore my creativity and take it as far as audacity will allow? Although several colleagues have recognized creativity in my intellectual products, I hope to grow in my ability to drizzle morsels of words with different tasty confetti that will entice all to partake in and savor the cornucopia of literary offerings that I craft.

The last word on the list is grateful(ness). I want to believe that I am appreciative of my audience. As I check my readership, I find it increasing daily, weekly, and cumulatively. I am eternally grateful to all who have stopped by and all who will visit. Please leave a mark of your presence by putting down comments so that I can express my gratitude formally.

I want to thank Elise L. Connors for providing the foundation for today’s posting, and I hope to Pay It Forward by returning the same type of favor to several people. As my friend and critic, Cynthia Adams, said, “Frances Ohanenye is a writer with a finger on the pulse of creativity.” I could not have said it better myself. Thank you, Cynthia, for always being my sounding board.