Branding vs Reality

I applied the term “branding” recently to weblogs in order to describe the setting of expectations for visitors to a given site.

It is a term, unfortunately, which raised the hackles of some weblog writers, probably because they do not enjoy the idea of their particular oeuvre being viewed as part of a commercial transaction.

So, let us use another term, “reality”, which communicates the degree of agreement between two ends of a communication line. If I talk about salt and you know what salt is, we have agreement on what I mean.

In the same way, if you have come to my site several times and you have read material that you like, you have a certain reality on what it is that I am doing. That reality contains an expectation of what material I will be offering in the future.

If I make small changes in my site, but the new material relates closely to what I have already produced, you will probably not get upset with me because I have not violated your reality on what to expect.

If I make extreme changes in the kind of material I present, I will probably upset most of my existing readers, even if the new material is well researched and more informative. An existing reader’s expectations will not be met and this invariably causes upset.

Bob Dylan did this several times as he evolved his style of music. Each new style was more popular than the last, but earlier fans were upset at each change.

If I set expectations properly, you as a reader will know what to expect from future visits. This can increase the possibility that you will return or may guaranty that you will delete this link from your blogroll. Either way, there should be no upsets on the part of the reader.

Whether you prefer the term reality or branding, a certain consistency as well as excellence of product is necessary for continuing reader satisfaction. I hope that I am providing that for most of you.

I welcome your thoughts on this.

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0 Responses to Branding vs Reality

  1. fletch says:

    My rhetorical question is: How much should reader’s expectations control the content of the blog? A certain theme or line of thought is expected of readers, but the author should feel free to experiment and express him/herself without concern for losing the audience. If Dylan’s primary concern was retaining old fans, he would have suppressed a desire to explore new areas and his music would have become stale, making himself and his fans unhappy in the long run. If you find yourself catering to an audience in a way that suppresses spontaneity and freedom of expression, you need to re-examine what you are trying to accomplish with the blog, or just start multiple blogs with different themes as many do.

  2. David says:

    You bring up several important points: 1. a blogger’s need to experiment and 2. who controls the content of the blog?

    1. I think that some bloggers have created multiple weblogs to handle their need for different themes, but I think it’s possible to set reader expectations broadly enough so that a writer has scope for experimentation.

    2. If a blogger lets his audience control the content of his blog because he so craves their admiration, he has lost his integrity and might as well work for mainstream media and get paid for his work.

    Praise and admiration are one of the side benefits of any good performance. However, needing and craving admiration puts a performer completely at the effect of anyone who wishes to manipulate him.

    A writer or a photographer with a weblog is able to have a dialog with their audience. If the blogger doesn’t care what the audience thinks, the weblog becomes a monolog to an emptying hall. A dialog has give and take, with the audience providing feedback in real time.

    If the blogger has something new and important to say and the present audience wants to stick with old favorites, the blogger has to make a decision. He may lose his old audience if he tries to use the old venue for new ideas.

    On the other hand, this blogger might develop a Taco Bell/KFC solution*. Develop a separate blog with a distinctive name for the spicy stuff, while keeping the old favorites going strong under the old name. Link both together, but keep the names and themes separate.

    * If you don’t have KFC/Taco Bell in your city, Kentucky Fried Chicken now provides Taco Bell food at the same counter as Chicken Nuggets. Each food retains it original brand appeal, but both are available under one roof.

  3. Beth says:

    Um. . . was that Morton’s, kosher, or sea salt?

  4. Linda says:

    Dear David,

    “If a blogger lets his audience control the content of his blog because he so craves their admiration, he has lost his integrity and might as well work for mainstream media and get paid for his work.”

    Quite. I once had to take a long hiatus from writing because I got so tied up in meeting my audience’s expectations of who I was, and what I should think, that I lost my own voice and burned out.

    Incidentally, and still *somewhat* on-topic, I’ve moved to http://civilization-calls.mu.nu. I’m really interested to know what you think of the new branding, as it were. 🙂

    Yours,
    Linda

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