Branding, Branding, Branding

Branding seems to be a hot topic in the business blogosphere lately, so you may find this article on that topic interesting.

Entrepreneur Chrissy Azzaro has business down to a "T." Well, down to a T-shirt, actually. Azzaro, 28, is founder of My-Tee, a 4-year-old Los Angeles fashion company. Besides its signature product—the My-Tee T-shirt—the six-employee company makes its own line of skirts, shoes, tank tops and accessories that retail from $32 to $78. Publicists and buyers browse My-Tee's trendy showroom in Los Angeles for the latest trends and clothing lines. The company has built considerable buzz: Celebrities from Hilary Duff to Courteney Cox have been photographed in My-Tee clothing. This exposure helped the company rack up $1 million in sales in 2003.

Azzaro defines her brand as sassy clothing that's casual yet sexy. Branding, she says, has built her business. "It pushed us out of the pile of other people," Azzaro contends. "Instead of being underneath 100 T-shirt companies, it pushes you to the top. Branding is very important for any small business."

Or is it? Ask a group of entrepreneurs how much branding really matters, and you'll get different answers. Some think it's really important, while others don't. Each entrepreneur could have a slightly different definition of branding, and a few might not even know, or really care, what branding is. To brand or not to brand—that's the question. And everyone has an opinion.

Here's the question I have. If you are introducing a new product or service, should you hold the brand strong until customers get it, or should you be flexible and let customers to some extent determine what your brand represents? If you want to take the high-end Starbucks route for your product, but customers for whatever reason begin perceiving it in another way, do you go with what they want and hope to increase sales or do you stick with the high margins and hope people catch on?

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