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The Dos And Don'ts Of Branding - A Minefield Of Names

Monday 17 September, 2007
A company's brand stands on three legs: Name, Logo and Tagline. None of them is easy to get right, yet all of them are keys to defining the company, building recognition in the marketplace and developing loyal customers.

A strong brand can evoke emotions or perceptions that influence customers' purchasing decisions.

Advertising folks like to think that they make brands, but advertising is just one component of building a brand. The best campaign will not help a company that falls short on other counts, like the way the phones are answered, product quality, packaging and delivery. Even the look of the truck and its driver matter. A single dirty Woolworths truck can tarnish the image of the Fresh Food People.

The benefits of a strong brand

  • The brand reflects the special attributes of your company and its value proposition.
  • Your brand gives your marketing and sales campaigns clear focus - on websites, newsletters, events, advertising, PR and even product packaging.
  • A brand defines the product, its quality, characteristics and usability.
  • A brand makes a promise to the customer, a promise that you and your employees must deliver on every day.
  • The customer relies on your brand to deliver. If it does, loyalty and repeat business are guaranteed.
  • The customer expects your brand to be responsive to the needs of a changing world (example: Nike's treatment of workers in poor countries brought the company a lot of bad PR).
  • A brand confirms a customer's self-image and self-esteem. Proud customers are loyal customers.
  • Strong brands command bigger profit margins and greater market share than weak ones (customers are prepared to pay a premium for a top brand).
  • Strong brands are more attractive to investors.
  • A strong brand is immune from product life cycles - companies can maintain the brand while altering the underlying product (example: Apple iTV, iPhone).
  • Strong brands lend themselves to brand extension, i.e. spin-offs or new products.

The minefield of company names

Company names are often historical, sometimes carrying the name of the founder. That's not a drawback unless the name is awkward or common. 

These days, most company names are ‘designed' by naming or branding agencies. With so many mergers and acquisitions, new names are needed in large numbers. Coming up with new names tends to involve serious brainstorming, intensive research, carefully selected focus-groups, market testing in special clinics and more.

Often the results do not reflect the effort invested in the process, with names giving the distinct impression that they've been random-generated by a computer.

Rule 1: Clever is good, too clever is not - If the name means nothing to most people, it may be too clever and therefore loses all its power.

Rule 2: Names that are awkward are more than obstacles - A ravine many customers may not cross if they can't ask for it without blushing.

Rule 3: Names that need explanation lead to obfuscation - It should be clear straight away.

Rule 4: Names devoid of meaning are, well, devoid of meaning - Vapid names are all the rage it seems. They're easier forgotten than remembered and make us hark back to strong names like 'Broken Hill'.

Rule 5: Insist on a reality check - The agency assures you the name tests off the charts on the scalar measures of distinctiveness and appropriateness, but it may leave us scratching our heads.

Rule 6: Re-branding is a rare opportunity not to be squandered - The idea is to make the change an improvement on the existing name.

Branding is an art form

Money can't buy us love or happiness. The same applies to great names and taglines. Creativity does not reach greater heights in proportion to the money spent on it. Like great novels, names and taglines aren't created by committees and focus groups. Some of the best ideas have come to a single mind thinking about the right idea at the right time, in the right way.

In the same way, the most effective names and taglines are created with individual skill. It comes down to word craft, and a knack for playing with words, meanings, humour and quirky angles. It can happen standing in the shower or walking along the street - something triggers something else and it ‘clicks' into place.

Author Credits

Kim Brebach is a consultant with Technoledge, a marketing group based in Sydney, Australia that focuses on IT, biotechnology and healthcare marketing. The more detailed original article, too long to reproduce here, can be found at http://www.technoledge.com.au/resources.htm
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