Star Wars, Coke, and Other Things to Ponder

I did a whole big branding worksheet not long ago, and it asked questions like – Why do you write? Where do you fit in? How are you different? Only, I had to think beyond my normal answers. Deeper. And man, was it HARD. I’m interested in EVERYTHING. And I’m currently in the switch from writing YA Contemporary to… everything while I figure out what direction I want to go next. In my mind, none of this “everything” or “experimentation in writing” fit with any kind of brand–although, I’m learning differently. Anyway, this is what’s been on my mind lately. (If you’re curious, you can find the worksheet HERE)

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I listened to a great episode of This American Life the other day, the one with the real Coca-Cola recipe. (If you’re curious, you can find that HERE.)

The people behind This American Life worked hard to re-create Coke using a recipe they found while visiting the Coca-Cola archives. They found the same suppliers for the specific ingredients of Coke, they learned as much as they could about what made Coke one of the biggest companies in the U.S. The Jones Soda Co even helped them out with the mixing/stirring/creating. In the end, they had a product that was almost indistinguishable from the real deal.

And then… They went to a grocery store and had people take a taste test, comparing the real Coke to the version they’d created. Some got it right, some got it wrong, but the interesting take away for me came from one sentence, spoken by one person… “This tastes like my childhood.”

Coke isn’t just a flavor, it’s a brand. They have DECADES of marketing behind the flavor. So, Coke is about a lot more than just what people taste after they pop open the can.

And before you wonder if I’m getting paid to promote Coke, know that I like Pepsi better.

So, the flavor is the same, the texture is the same, but Jones Soda Co could never recreate Coca-Cola. There’s too much behind that name for them to compete.

And to jump to Star Wars, for those of you who were paying attention and read the title of this post 😉

We went with the masses to see THE LAST JEDI, and love that film, hate it, feel meh about it, millions of people watched that movie. There was much discussion  in my family about what we liked and didn’t like (no spoilers, PROMISE!) And my daughter wondered why anyone would watch any more STAR WARS after seeing the prequels. (She did love the most recent). But again, STAR WARS is so much more than each individual movie. Every time I see those letters scroll up the movie screen and hear the opening music, I’m 8 years old again. STAR WARS is my childhood.

So why on EARTH am I talking about Star Wars and Coke on a website set up for writers? I mean, no one is expecting you to run out and be the Coke version of an author. But there’s still something to be learned.

AUDIENCE IS IMPORTANT. How your readers feel is IMPORTANT. When I open a novel from Stephen King, I know (at least some) of what I’ll get. When I open a book by Sarah Eden, I know (at least some) of what I’ll get.

Do people know what they’re getting from you? As much as I occasionally despise the idea of “branding” it is so important. Find your readers. Find your people. Be conscious of WHO will read your books, and how you want them to feel. Put thought into your posts, newsletters, social media, etc… This isn’t about you, this is about them.

I’m a very slow work-in-progress with this, but being mindful is the first step, right? RIGHT??

Happy Writing!

~ Jo

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IMG_9581Jolene talks about everything, but is most happy when encouraging other writers to be writers. She is the author of 8 traditionally published YA novels, and many indie published romance novellas and novels. She works as a freelance editor, interned with The Bent Agency, and is the current chair for the Storymakers Conference in Provo, UT.

You can find her at and, or just hiding behind her laptop in her bathroom where she (occasionally) hopes to not be discovered by her family.



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