There are many ways to build a brand. There was a time when rock radio stations took money called “payola” to play certain songs over and over again. Hits built with payola weren’t necessarily good songs, but they became popular by rote and familiarity. I mention that because you can build a brand a number of ways, but not all of them are effective. Here are just a few ways to build a brand and their possible pitfalls:

  1. Just throw money at it. TV, radio and print media would love to take your money to run your ads, but even they will warn you that it doesn’t work unless you buy a number of ads spread over a long period of time. That can get very expensive, and the results are questionable.
  1. Build a brand by becoming the exclusive. This happens when you have a product that’s so well distinguished that you are the only option in the category. Or you may even create a new category yourself.
  1. Build a brand through distribution. This is the way that most consumer brands are built. This means that the brand is displayed or somehow in the consumer’s face wherever he or she shops.
  1. Build a Brand by word of mouth or networking. What’s interesting about word-of-mouth brand building is that it can actually be hurt by commercial advertising. What compels people to tell others about a brand is the sense that they are turning their friends onto something that they would not normally hear about. If you discover a brand that’s terrific but unknown, you tell your friends, family, or associates. But people who are spreading the word about your product will stop doing it when they see an ad.
  1. Build a brand on the Internet. This kind of brand building requires an entire Internet campaign: a website, blogging, tweets, Facebook and it’s only effective for certain kinds of products.
  1. Keep going. Once you’ve built your brand, you’re not done. Part of brand building is dogged, determined stick-to-it-ness. You can say, I’m going to build a brand and sell it, but the acquirer has to continue building the brand or it dies. Building a brand definitely goes through different stages depending on the market. If you’re not adding value to your brand, then you’re losing it. Brands either grow or shrink, there’s no in-between. Brand building requires constant work and vigilance, with attention to: adding value, staying current, and constantly communicating a message that’s relevant to your market.

You can build a brand a number of ways, but not all of them are effective. The Barefoot Wines brand was built using a term we coined “worthy-cause marketing.” We relied on word-of-mouth brand building, and did no commercial advertising to build it to a national best seller.

Of course, there’s much more that could be said on this subject. What’s been your experience? Michael Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Wine, the largest wine brand in the nation, invites you to lend your voice to this discussion on How to Build a Brand with your comments, thoughts, and opinions below.