Even today, Abraham Lincoln is powerfully connected with values like honesty, integrity, and the American Dream. But he didn’t become one of our most respected presidents without knowing quite a bit about marketing his own cause. Here are three lessons we can learn from Abe about creating our own strong brand identities.
Know Your Brand
If you want to be a strong brand, you have to be a strong leader. Lincoln’s house-divided acceptance speech on the night of his nomination alarmed people in the South, who interpreted it as a direct attack on slavery. People in his own party worried as well; they thought it was too radical and had jeopardized his chances for election. His reply to these responses was: “You will see the day when you will consider it the wisest thing I ever said.”
Your brand must ultimately remain true to you and your values. Your customers can help you improve your products, and can even contribute to your brand image, but if you let them control the brand entirely, you’ll end up compromising and your brand won’t represent what you stand for. Let your passion and your belief in your products or service help you discover who you are, and inspire others to take that leap with you.
The best small business brands are extensions of the personalities that created them, so start with you. Ask yourself: what are the core values that you run your business by?
Lincoln strategically used photography, an emerging technology at the time, to help him convey his brand image – that he was someone that people could trust and follow. In the beginning of his political career, Abe deliberately tousled his hair before he allowed his photograph to be taken so the folks from the frontier would understand that he was one of them. And when he posed with any group, he made sure he stood in the center, wearing his tall stovepipe hat, which allowed him to dominate the picture and make the viewer feel he was in command.
Ask yourself: What do you want people to say and feel about your brand? Then make sure every single part of your brand experience, from design to marketing to customer service, is consistent with that message.
Lincoln grew up poor and had little money or time for school, but he found ways to learn what he needed, once walking 20 miles to borrow a book on law and later working as a postmaster delivering newspapers so he could read through the nation’s papers and get acquainted with national politics that way. At a time when many people would have declared the Union unsalvageable, he took the time to talk with people to get to know them, to find out what they stood for, and learned how to persuade them to see things the way he did.
To build a brand, you need patience and perseverance. Are you putting out messages and brand experiences that consistently communicate and support your brand promise? Are you being innovative and using all of the new media platforms to continually get your message out there and connect with your audience? Are you using traditional direct marketing tactics as well? Building your brand is a long-term investment, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t reap the rewards right away; they will come with time.
Whether you’re uniting a country or running a business, these are some of the fundamental steps to developing brand awareness, loyalty and advocacy. Are you using any of these steps to build your brand? Share you thoughts with us in the comments!