Branded! You've read the column. Now you can get the complete marketing solution.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – As you can see elsewhere in this issue, younger merchandise with bold claims but unproven track record and shelf life is now attempting to take over the marketplace with flashy niche concepts targeted to narrow demos. This should be of little concern to dominant products like you and me, having established our value over time. Still, now would seem as good a moment as any to take a look at yourself to see if your brand is in the kind of shape you need it to be in. Insufficient branding is the leading cause of personal obsolescence.

Your brand is you. It must at once reflect the genuine nature of the product or service you provide and also take the extra leap to offer something illusory, aspirational, emotional. A good brand promises not only what you can deliver but what you could deliver if the consumer dared to dream very simply in images even a child could understand. That should be easy for most of your customers, particularly if they are senior officers.

Branding isn't easy, and for cattle it can be quite painful. Even for those who accept the benefits of branding, it's sometimes far more natural simply to mosey along, grazing peaceably at the side of the road. But in an environment with so many choices, many of whom carry the inherent premiums of low cost, good attitude, and excellent hair, it's foolish not to take the time to set your brand up right. Since I did, I feel a whole lot better. Not that I wasn't feeling great before. Of course I was. Feeling terrific is part of my brand. Another brand characteristic is that I assume you're interested in my brand. And if you're not? Get out of here!

--Overall brand concept: I'm large and feisty. In a fragmented marketplace filled with small, ultrafocused products that are very immature and virtually indistinguishable, it helps to be a major brand with good recognition. Bing[trademark] is therefore a broad-based brand with great appeal to anybody who's willing to come even two steps out the front door to meet him.

--Target audience: Let the other guys aim low and to the right. Bing[trademark] is for everybody who has to work for a living and wants more than what he has: more fun, more parties, more food, more wine, more promotions, more clothes, more electronic equipment, more destruction to his enemies, more money, more power, more meat with less vegetables. True, some of his desires, problems, and concerns trend upscale, but the engine that drives him is just like yours and mine. You don't have to own a $50,000 car to want one. Bing[trademark] wants one. So do you. That's why you'll like Bing[trademark].

--Product positioning: One of the great aspects of American life is that in a real (if somewhat limited) sense we have succeeded where communism did not and are now heading toward a classless society. Sure, there are very poor and very rich people, quite a few of them. But in the middle there is an enormous horde of hard-working folks with access to Saks, Nordstrom, Costco, KFC, and designer water, cigars, and liquors. The guy who lives alone in a tiny apartment on $45,000 a year can reach for the same inflated, self-defining products as the family man who's squeaking by on $250,000. We all consume the same entertainment and media, and none of us, except perhaps for Michael Kinsley, has any established sense of moral or intellectual superiority. So there Bing[trademark] sits, right in the middle of that big middle class, as bourgeois as anybody. He's come a long way, and he's got a long way to go. Look in the mirror, pal. You're Bing[trademark].

--Brand packaging: Bing[trademark] tries to wrap himself tight but doesn't quite succeed. The brand tends toward dark blue, but once a week goes for brown and pulls it off handily. Doesn't do dress-down Fridays, because you never know when you're going to be called into a meeting and also because Bing[trademark] looks a little chunky in casuals. No pink or yellow power ties, nor any shoe that costs more than an hour of his time. Likes to surround himself with good quality objects, consumables, and accouterments that offer Bing[trademark] as a brand a host of ancillary merchandising opportunities.

--Possible tie-ins to the entire Bing[trademark] zeitgeist: Macanudo cigars, Bombay Sapphire gin, Ketel One vodka, Laphroaig single-malt Scotch, Eddie Bauer, BMW, Kraft American singles (for the kids), any Brie as long as it's not too runny, Lincoln Mercury, Volvo, the Zagat restaurant guides, McDonald's, Time magazine, the New York Stock Exchange, Pellegrino/Evian/Ramlosa/Panne or any bottled water as long as it doesn't smell like eggs, Intel, KMD, Frito-Lay, the Metro North railroad, American Airlines, Zantac, Mylanta, Rogaine (but not Viagra), the Hyatt Hotel in Aruba, the city of New Orleans, Hebrew National salami, Pirelli (for tires), Peroni (for beer), Europe (the continent), and Kellogg, because Bing[trademark] gets going in the morning, and so should you. Merchandisers interested in approaching Bing[trademark] for a product tie-in are encouraged to do so, care of this magazine. See? Bing[trademark] isn't ashamed of selling himself! He's just like you, only he has this column to do it in! Isn't that great for Bing[trademark]?

--Pricing: Like all things that are good in this society, Bing[trademark] does not come cheap. In fact, Bing[trademark] is mercilessly expensive. This may leave some who don't have the scratch itching for more Bing[trademark] than their bucks can buy. But the Bing[trademark] brand is all about wanting just a little of what's outside your reach. So save your pennies for the day when you can belly up to the bar and say, "Gimme some more of that Bing[trademark]." Until then, you can let other people pay the freight and watch from outside the box. You've done that before, huh? Sure. We've all been there, perhaps Bing[trademark] most of all.

--Logo: It's up there at the top of this column. The guy with the cigar whose face you can't see? That's right! That's Bing[trademark]--only he's lost a couple of pounds since that picture was taken. That's part of the Bing[trademark] brand too! He's always just lost a couple of pounds.

--Slogan: I've tried out quite a few over the years, but here's the one I've finally settled on: "Bing. He's fictional. Just like you." I like it. It's punchy. And true.

Okay! Once you've got your brand, of course, you've only just begun. The next step is taking that brand, hitting the field, and leveraging it. What the heck does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine. But we'll be back with a coherent answer to that and other issues of self-marketing in a future installment of Bing[trademark]!

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.