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“Branding” is such a hotbutton catchphrase these days, isn’t it? When I was growing up, it was all about advertising, and then marketing, and now? Branding. Now that corporate America has numbed our senses with an onslaught of smarmy sales pitches and obnoxious billboards, let’s get back to what’s real. What’s important. Connecting with the people (I really wish we had a sarcasm font)!

“Branding” is defined as the establishment of the personality that identifies a product. So it connotes an element of human relationship, connection, authenticity. So why are so many brands and companies fixated on branding themselves outside the context of their..selves?

When I spoke at the Action Sports Conference last week, I was asked something that usually comes up from inquisitive The Hundreds fans, fresh upstarts, and mega-conglomerate suits alike. How did The Hundreds garner such a vast audience? What kind of marketing did we do, what kind of branding strategies did we implement to draw exposure? Was it Twitter or Facebook or free lollipops or some other trendy of-the-moment social networking platform?

If you’re asking questions like these, you’re already far off the mark. Again, branding is about personality, and that is what The Hundreds has always understood. From the start, The Hundreds was formulated as a personal brand, an authentic and intimate lifestyle project. Meaning that everything you see from us, whether here on the website or in our print magazine, the shoes on your feet or the wallet in your back pocket, has been infused with our own story. We do, and make, what comes logically from us and our backgrounds and interests, and that complements the sensibility of the brand. That was never intentional or strategic, as it was natural and organic. We’re obviously the best at being us, why try to be something we’re not?

Twitter and Facebook and iPad apps aren’t the answer to your company’s brand awareness issues. These are just tools, they are NOT the solution! For example, if your company emphasizes community amongst its staff and customers, if the brand is identified around personality, then it might make sense to interact with your base through powerful social tools as these. But maybe you’re a high-end, exclusive mountain hiking brand that targets a sophisticated niche French clientele with expensive taste. Perhaps blasting product tweets to 13-year-old girls isn’t the best idea.

The secret to branding is staying authentic to your brand identity, and that comes from closely observing who you (the owners, architects, and staff) are as people, the philosophy by which you run your business, and the effect you want to impress upon your customer. And every step you make with your brand should go back to reinforcing that identity, whether it’s your website’s background color or the cut of your t-shirt. Now there’s your answer.

Just keepin’ it real,

by bobbyhundreds

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