Who Are You Going to Be?
In their seminal marketing book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Al Ries and Jack Trout argue against the concept of line extension—trying to introduce new products under an established brand. It’s almost always impossible to make work.
Once you’re in the consumer’s head with one product, it’s hard to get into their head with another.
Example: When Xerox was the god of the copier world, they decided to start selling computers. The “Huh? I don’t remember that,” going through your head right now is testament to the fact they failed miserably. They were known for copiers, but computers? No way. They spent millions trying to establish themselves as a computer manufacturer. Whoops. (By the way, IBM tried to sell copiers; it worked about as well as Xerox’s idea to sell computers.)
Would you buy a DVD player from Nike? Probably not. I know, that’s extreme, but would you buy something closer to their brand, say a soft drink with the swoosh on it? History says no.
Did you know A1-Steak sauce spent $18 million dollars on A1-Poultry sauce? Yeah, I’m not using it on my chicken these days either.
How does this apply to us as writers?
You can’t write both fiction and non-fiction. (See Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, John Grisham, etc. What? You’re not familiar with their non-fiction books?)
You must choose. Fiction? Great, stick with it. Non-fiction? Fine, but know that you’ll always been seen as a non-fiction writer first.
What kind of fiction? Suspense? Speculative? Historical? Once you choose readers will want to see the same type of stories from you every time. (No, even though I think Stephen King is a wonderful writer, I can’t ever see him topping the romance charts.)
This is key: Whatever you’re known for first, will be your identity forever. It’s very difficult to change someone’s mind about a brand once it’s first burned into the brain. Let me prove it to you:
When Orville and Wilbur did their Kitty Hawk thing and proved powered flight was possible they blew people’s minds. No one in America will ever forget them.
You’d think the same thing would happen in Australia, wouldn’t you? Don’t you think Australian’s would remember the first man to fly a plane in their country? They don’t, and here’s why: They remember this man for something else. This man had already burned himself in their brains with another brand, and there wasn’t room for him to be known for anything other than the greatest magician that ever lived, Houdini.
So when you’re trying to decide what you want to be known for, think about what the ancient knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade said to Harrison Ford, and “Choose wisely.”
Jim Rubart is a professional marketer whose clientele has included ABC, AT&T/Cingular, and Clear Channel Radio. He is also a professional speaker, and writes recurring columns for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. His first novel ROOMS comes out this April from B&H Fiction. http://tinyurl.com/yj7pp2l Jim and his wife and their two teenage sons live just outside Seattle, Washington. You can catch up with him at http://www.jimrubart.com/ and http://www.barefootmarketing.com/