The Dark Magic of Branding

Brands are quasi-magical shape-shifting entities that control your mind. If you own a business, freelance or work in marketing, you need to have a good idea of what a brand is.

Brand Definition

There are so many technical ways to describe this, but you’re not getting one right now.

A brand is something evoked when you look at a logo or hear the name spoken. Just one look at a particular yellow sign on a red background immediately causes a mental encyclopedia to emerge of every quality and characteristic. It should also carry the essential truth of the company. The essential truth. That’s about as close as you’re going to get to understanding the universe.

Why Does So Much Work Go Into Developing a Brand?

Believe it or not, brands affect your purchases or investments far more than you think. You might think you only buy the lowest price or the best quality or the most convenient, but you don’t.

Even though you might go shopping for the cheapest food, chances are you have your eye out for the brands that you know which typically offer lower prices. So when they slip a more expensive bag of parakeet feed on the shelf, you will probably buy it unknowing of the lesser expensive one.

parakeet

Basically, good branding is a powerful voodoo that draws you in without having to advertise as much. Alternatively, you can see it as that reliable love of your life who you appreciate for their personality instead of needing to be constantly reminded of why you should stay.

Branding Yourself

Okay, put down that hot iron. The only tool you need for personal branding is the Internet. Forbes actually has a phenomenal piece on how to do this which you can find here.

Much like a business, people will be confused about what you have to offer if you haven’t spent time on your own personal brand. It’s not just one more thing to worry about–it’s one more thing to tinker with and have fun with.

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“Peril”

I felt like I found “the One” moments ago.

Reading through a slew of blog posts I overwhelmed my browser with, I came upon a word that caused whiplash in my eye sockets. Well, almost that dramatic. Once I read the word “peril”, my mind’s eye created a quick crack of close thunder in a very dark, scary place. That place was probably my own head, but I digress.

goldfinch

Sometimes a tiny word in the right place can provide very enjoyable communication for the reader. I wish there was a database containing all of these words, but alas, these word preferences really vary from person to person.

Asking one of my sisters what word gave her the “chills”, she told me, “clock”, an everyday noun.

“Clock” is indeed a satisfying word. It really perfectly captures the staccato of the ticking hand. It doesn’t do me any favors when I’m reading, but that’s the ol’ variation from person to person at play.

Dear “peril”…where will you be next? Part of the excitement for me is not seeing you too often. While I hope to be at peace tonight, maybe you will pop up in a future blog post and perfectly convey the dangers of abusing SEO tactics once more.

 

Do you Want Your Work Skipped Over or Read?

Would you rather eat dirt or a sandwich?

This post concerns the marketing world, the field I spend the most time in. If you’re looking for a path or are just curious, then come on with me and learn about “readability”, something useful for mostly web material. Novelists, poets and academic writers might scoff at it.

What is Readability?

It is how easily the message of your text is understood. Things like long words and long sentences can deter the average Internet user. This is not because the average user is incapable of understanding your brilliance. It just jogs their brains a bit. Anything that slows down reading also tests patience.

If someone is snuggled up with a cup of tea ready to delve into a story, they want to savor the artistry of writing. If someone is navigating web pages, they want a quick dump of information. And that’s just the way we are.

seedy_bird

How Simple?

If your article/blog post can be easily read by a 7th or 8th grader, you have good readability. The Flesch Reading Ease Test measures several factors to determine this. Generally the more you can chop up a sentence, a paragraph or phrase, the better your score.

The Price of Ignoring It

Does Google look for readability when selecting search results? How big a factor is it? We just don’t know. Google likes to be mysterious. It is unrivaled, though many hardcore technology geeks use other search engines along with their Linux setup. And their Tor browsers. (We love you).

What to Choose

I am not a stickler on readability for this blog. For one, it’s actually about writing, and most people reading it are at least college-aged. This post in particular measures on an 8th grade level. My main concern is paragraphs. No one likes a text block.

Writing for other websites is a different story. Web writers need to dice up their material before submitting. Add subheadings. Throw out the passive voice. Stir in a few connector words. Make sure you don’t sprinkle in too much of the keyword. Viola, an omelette. Um, article.

Test your readability: 1

If you want to learn more: 2

How to Stop Going on Autopilot

“I’ll bet a fiddle of gold
Against your soul
‘Cause I think I’m better than you”

You had a five-page assignment due and managed to squeeze it in in a solitary day. You feel proud that you’re so efficient and are one click away from turning it in to your professor or employer. You feel as confident as Johnny taking on the devil on the fiddle. You reluctantly give your work a quick skim and even more reluctantly come to the realization that writing has to be original to be impressive, not just speedy.

The paper is full of cliches and fillers and doesn’t even flow smoothly. Looks like you went on autopilot and just thought you were having a creative streak. It’s a great realization right before a deadline.

Satisfying the Word Count VS Writing

There are no less than five paragraphs in your paper that all say the same thing. When a paragraph ends, the small point should be over. If the reader arrives at the same conclusion multiple times, it’s dull and a dead giveaway that the author does not care about the material.

Genuine Interest

This is the key factor in writing well. You have to engross yourself in the writing. Always make sure you are putting effort to feel something, anything about the topic before you begin. If your interest is being shy and you are tempted to expand contractions to meet your word count, there are a couple go-tos to help make yourself interested.

Compare Statistics

Statistics is a magical world. There’s nothing that sparks interest quite like inferring conclusions from numbers. It is difficult to explain, but you know when an article is backed up by real statistics that that article just came to life.

poowpyouw

Relate Personally

Remember something related to the material that personally happened to you so that you can evoke real emotions to use for solid writing. This goes back to the days when you thought your third grade teacher was very interested in your personal life but really just wanted to prompt you to write well.

Add further ideas in the comments!

The BuzzFeed Writing Evolution

Depending on how old you are, the website “Buzzfeed” may bring a different collection of thoughts and feelings  to mind. There is sort of a trichotomy among millennials. Different people of slightly different age groups remember this website in different ways.

Stage One

BuzzFeed.com first emerged in 2006. The site was a different animal back in the day. It has remained basically the same idea, but, um…Check the archives if you would like a better idea. There’s even a disclaimer in these baby articles: “This is class post from BuzzFeed’s earlier days and may not represent BuzzFeed’s current editorial standards.” I’ll say!

A basic frame of there “articles” was a linked a list of articles from various sources related to a certain viral topic with a couple of introductory sentences. Humble beginnings.

Stage Two

By 2010, Buzzfeed had grown in popularity and was known as junk “journalism”. It had earned a reputation for plagiarizing, though at the time, no lawsuits were made. The difference in this stage was that there was more content, and articles, even though they were based on other content, were a little more substantial. It was, however, still a mishmash of photos and quotes and explanations, with a very similar creativity level of gluing a precut wooden bird to a premade wooden birdhouse.

glue

Stage Three

Someone was finally sued for plagiarism. BuzzFeed exploded into more diverse content. Not only were original articles written, but original videos were made as well. The site still caters to a younger crowd and “clickbait” titles are reigning freely.

So do you want to write for BuzzFeed? Is it “real” journalism? In stage three, why not? In several years, maybe everyone will have forgotten its early Internet days anyway. And maybe the Reddit/BuzzFeed conflict will be resolved. (I will save the details for another day). There are still many websites that operate at stage one or two, and I have written for one. Just make sure that if you do write for a viral website, you can cite sources.

How do you define “real” journalism, and do you think the distinction is necessary?

Writing for Video Games

It isn’t difficult to see why there might be a need for a writer for video games. There is often a story that needs to be written for the game, usually with character dialogue. The joining of two hobbies, writing and gaming, seems like the perfect pair for many.

How much of a demand is there for video game writers? At the time this post was written (July 4th, 2016), Ninja Division Publishing LLC is seeking one position as a game developer and studio writer in Garden City, ID. The requirements seem easy for the average creative writer: good communication skills, knowledge of basic programs, good organization (arguably the hardest one for creative types) and good customer service. The applicants only need a high school education as well. Just send a 500 word prompt for a specific choice in their game and your resume and cover letter.

As most applicants will quickly realize, writing video games is a competitive field. Yes, yes, most jobs are. Even your local restaurants have people fighting over dishwasher positions the moment one comes open. However, video game writing is on another level. The closer a field is to a popular hobby, the more difficult the jobs are to obtain.

Always apply anyway. Do not get discouraged if you get rejected/ignored by every single opening you apply to. Just move on and keep writing and playing video games. Rejection is the most frequent response even the most successful people get. You’re not a failure just because you haven’t achieved getting paid for your ultimate passion. Remember my previous article about fame-seeking?

And for the sake of your self-esteem, measure your success realistically. If you fail at being a video game writer, welcome to the majority of the population that succeeds in other fields. It doesn’t really mean anything to be rejected. I doubt I could bird watch for a living, but I can still do it my way on my downtime.

birdwatch

For any video game writers who may be reading–how did you break into the field? Do you still enjoy it?