Fashion entrepreneur, author, and television star Daymond John discuss the importance of branding and how he's used social media to understand his customers and educate them about his products.
Daymond John is founder and owner of FUBU, star of the ABC series "Shark Tank," and a corporate branding consultant. He has been named Marketer of the Year by Brandweek and New York Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young. In his new book, "The Brand Within: How We Brand Ourselves, From Birth To The Boardroom," John draws from his experience over almost two decades in the fashion business to explore the loyalty-based relationships between brands and customers.
Recently, John spoke with InformationWeek SMB about the importance of branding for businesses of any size, the relationship between personal brands and business brands, and why the Treasury Department is the only organization that doesn't need to manage its brand.
InformationWeek SMB: Let's start with why brands are important, particularly for small and midsized companies.
Daymond John: Whether they take the time to make the conscious effort about it or not, they are being branded. So it all depends on if you're going to cultivate your brand. People buy into your brand and your asset because of the value you're offering. The people running these companies are giving you something, like a value-related service; maybe it's an accounting business. The core of that business value is to save you money; it has nothing to do with being a big or small company. No matter what, you have to brand yourself by the value you offer. No matter what size company, you have to make sure that your customer knows the value you offer. The only company that doesn't need to brand itself the Treasury Department as far as I'm concerned.
Whether you offer the cheapest product or great customer service business branding is absolutely necessary... it's your calling card. It's what people are going to say about you once you're gone. You can sit there as a company and say anything you want to somebody, but once you brand yourself a certain way, it's more important what that person is saying to everybody else about you. That is what's going to give you the business that you need to move forward - especially in a time and age like this. People are going to go towards brands that they really are comfortable with because you have to pick and choose in an economy like this. You're going with what you call your "safest bet." And when you brand yourself, in some way or another you're creating the perception that you're a safer or better bet than anybody else.
InformationWeek SMB: What about the distinction between a personal brand and the brand of the business? For smaller organizations where the owner or president is very hands on, are they one in the same or is there a distinction between the person and the business?
John: They're absolutely are one in the same. Look at Steve Jobs. If he even looks sick, the stock goes down 20 percent. In my world, I deal with a lot of musical artists and there are several have wanted to start a clothing line or fragrance line, but look at the ones who were successful. There's only two or three maybe: Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, and Puff Daddy. Those three people were fashion-forward before they ever came out with anything else. If you look at other artists who aren't as fashion-forward, when they put out fashion lines the products didn't match their DNA and most failed. On "Shark Tank," when people walk down that aisle we judge them and we brand them way before they open their mouths because of the way they are: They're shifty or the way they're dressed or the way they ask a question. The brand and its association with who they are is really why they get the deal or not.