Monthly Archives: January 2007

Branding Basics – Step 4

 

I promised in the last episode of this series we’d begin building our brand platform this entry. But I forgot one vital plank we must fashion prior to putting it all together.

That plank is differentiation.

Let’s start by defining differentiation. My American Heritage Dictionary defines differentiate thusly: “to become distinct or specialized; acquire a different character”.  That works for me, except I’d add this: “in order to achieve a unique and compelling competitive advantage”.

It’s the way you will fundamentally position your offering in an unoccupied portion of your product category. Or it may be the way you create an entirely new product category.

Marty Neumeier, author and consultant of the highest caliber, wrote an entire book around the concept of “ZAG”. When others zig, you zag. Incidentally, the title of the book is ZAG, and you can get it by clicking on the title. I recommend it.

Jack Trout, co-author of Positioning: a Battlefield for Your Mind, also wrote a book on differentiation. It is called Differentiate or Die. You can also buy this book by clicking the title.

Marketing a truly unique service, or a specialty product, or a new type of event can differentiate you.

Another class of differentiator can be deliberately achieved if accompanied by good timing and a modicum of luck. These include being preferred by authorities, being on the leading edge of a hot trend, establishing industry standards around your product’s proprietary strength, or being an industry (or neighborhood) leader.

Then there are the differentiators that a company can create deliberately through core competencies. It may be in the way a product is made (materials, process, patent), or the way in which a service is performed. It might have to do with the way you concentrate your attention on particular design aspects (like safety, ergonomics, or customization). Another differentiator might be the commitment you make to a particular market or market segment. It is possible to become a leader in certain segments through a concentration of resources. Or perhaps you can establish a unique distribution model.

Note that all these differentiators are derived from a strategic commitment to them. They are not marketing/advertising tactics. Unless they emanate from the business’s very core, they will be, rightly, viewed as so much hype.

Only one powerful and customer-relevant differentiator is enough.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Naming Tips: Number 6 in a Series

I’ve blogged and articled the danger of using initials for brand names for at least 12 years.

The idea that people will immediately built associations to a brand comprised of group of three initials just doesn’t jibe. Initials have no personality and are usually very hard to remember. Those who have succeeded with initials have spent a lot of money rising above the static.

But like most admonitions, there are exceptions.

If you can adopt a set of initials that already have meaning to your target markets they can be effective. Think MVP, PDQ, NCO. Those sets that have their own associations can work so long as those associations are positive and relevant.

Also, you can explore combining solo letters with words or word parts: A-One, Double-D, E-Zee, Factor-X come to mind. You might try combining a letter or two with a number or two: A-1, 4-F, 7-Up, HQ-101.

Another tip: look to geographic place names (recommended by the founder of Haverhill) that sound good and are short, pronounceable and have no negative connotations. This can extend to foreign places, ancient places, mythic places as well as locations gleaned from a comprehensive atlas. Unique American Indian names, French and Spanish names, and descriptive names abound in the U.S..

It’s best not to go for well-known places unless you want to associate your product-company with the region or a certain quality linked to the area: N’Orlins Gumbo, El Paso Mexican foods. Positive word combinations that describe a location’s main attribute abound, yours for just going to the place index in the back of your Rand-McNally. Names like Cold Creek, Green Leaf, Sweet Water are ready-made for some products. If they fit the brand platform, go for it.

I know of no better way to generate a long list of brand name candidates quickly than using your atlas.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Power 150: ranked 118

Beware of Complicated Logo Designs

I recently offended the proud owner of a brand new logo. She had just paid a lot of money to a well-respected design center for a logo in full-color with gradients, fine line work and copy-over-icon.
 
Even though it passed all the designer-important standards (good use of contrasting colors, relevant imagery, proper proportions, a distinctive typeface), it was too limiting for real-world applications.
 
There was no way you could have used the logo in a black & white ad. If it were reproduced smaller than an inch wide, it was illegible. There were no allowances for reproduction as jewelry or ad specialty applications. It had been designed to look good on fine paper and on the website, and without regard for any other application.

When I pointed that out, the owner accused me of being jealous and walked out. Sorry, she wouldn’t leave me a copy to show you.
 
Here’s another example of pushing an original logo design past its limits. Just south of Denver is a relatively new community, Highlands Ranch. It’s a planned community developed by big money. They went all out in designing streets, neighborhoods and, yes, their brand..

But their logo stinks.

They’ve taken a dramatic piece of art depicting an eagle (I think) taking off into the wind. Its feathers are in disarray just as they would be in nature. Quite dramatic. But then for almost every sign in the community – from major “entering” monolithic displays to street signs, they display the logo in silhouette as shown here.

Highlands Ranch logo - b&w

Without the explanation, I’ll bet you too would be hard-pressed to identify this icon, this symbol of a city.

A note: look at the small logo from Todd’s And Top 150 below my signature. In larger sizes, it’s a colorful, unusual and relevant logo. But look what’s happened to it when shrunk to a smaller size. You can’t read it or identify the Lego blocks as Lego blocks. Oh, well.

The moral is to ask your designer to design a logo that can be used in a variety of applications, from one-column “help-wanted” newspaper ads to four-color 24-sheet posters. Also ask them to sacrifice their “artistic” mind-set for something both relevant to the project and intelligible to viewers.

There are certain criteria I apply to logo design, but that’s the subject of a future blog.
 
Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Power 150: ranked 118

Brand Basics – Step 4

I promised in the last episode of this series we’d begin building our brand platform is entry. But I forgot one vital plank we must fashion prior to putting it all together.

That plank is differentiation.

It’s a description of how you are going to differentiate your offering from competitors. It’s the way you will fundamentally position your offering in an unoccupied portion of your product category. Or it may be the way you create an entirely new product category.

Marty Neumeier, author and consultant of the highest caliber, wrote an entire book around the concept of “ZAG”. When others zig, you zag. Incidentally, the title of the book is ZAG, and you can get it by clicking on the title.

Jack Trout, co-author of Positioning: a Battlefield for Your Mind, also wrote a book on differentiation. His is called Differentiate or Die. You can also buy this book by clicking the title.

Marketing a truly unique service, or a specialty product, or a new type of event can differentiate you.

Another class of differentiator can be deliberately achieved if accompanied by good timing and a modicum of luck. These include being preferred by authorities, being on the leading edge of a hot trend, establishing industry standards around your product’s proprietary strength, or being an industry (or neighborhood) leader.

Then there are the differentiators that a company can create deliberately through core competencies. It may be in the way a product is made (materials, process, patent), or the way in which a service is performed. It might have to do with the way you concentrate your attention on particular design aspects (like safety, ergonomics, or customization). Another differentiator might be the commitment you make to a particular market or market segment. It is possible to become a leader in certain segments through a concentration of resources. Or perhaps you can establish a unique distribution model.

Note that all these differentiators are derived from a strategic commitment to them. They are not marketing/advertising tactics. Unless they emanate from the business’s very core, they will be, rightly, viewed as so much hype.

Only one powerful and customer-relevant differentiator is enough.

Naming Tips: Number 5 in a Series

Here are three more naming tips I’ve used in the fascinating business of naming companies and then naming their products:

Tip 1: Add an appropriate but unexpected suffix to a descriptive root word: Ideatrics, Visioneering, Profitology, Travelocity are examples. But for this technique, known as “tacking” in some circles, to be effective, the first word part should be familiar and really stands on its own. The suffixes also must “fit”, i.e., add something meaningful about the named entity.

For instance, Ideatrics is a good name for the company that adopted it – they help surgeons design and produce specialized surgical instruments. Thus, the “atrics” suffix (meaning medical treatment) puts the company in the medical field. And coupled with “idea” defines the business in a unique way.

Tip 2: Consider incorporating the names of colors in your name. Often reciting the name of a color will produce an emotional response almost as strong as viewing the color itself. Thus, Red Bull, Greenway, Yellow Book convey energy, natural and bright respectively even in a radio commercial.

Remember, there are literally hundreds of names for colors – just stand in front of the swatch panels at Home Depot to get a flavor. As a matter of fact, I’ve been known to scan these walls for naming inspiration.

Tip 3: Though limited in application, you might explore numbers as part of the name. The number might rank (Five-star), or indicate sequence (1-2-3), or express an order of magnitude (Deca). Look to numeric prefixes (bi, tri, quad…), or degrees (360 or 32F), or Greek (alpha, beta, etc.), or roman numerals. Then there are mathematical symbols and terminology that can be adopted for product names (prime, pi, square, sine, vector, factor, etc.).

Perhaps these tips won’t apply universally, but for some companies and some products, you may want to consider these sources and other unusual repositories. 

Power 150: ranked 118

An aside: The small icon above indicates that Todd And’s Power 150 has determined The Branding Blog is in the top 150 marketing blogs. He determines this on a variety of factors, including his own assessment of content, frequency, etc. All I can say is, “Thank’s, Todd”. To see the others just click the icon.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Back to Basics – 3

Step 3 has to do with positioning.
 
Positioning was first presented by Al Reis and Jack Trout in their 1981 book, Positioning: The Battlefield for Your Mind (I own a first edition).
 
The main idea is that the marketplace actually positions (ranks and/or stereotypes) a brand within the collective mind.

Now most marketers believe they are responsible for positioning their offering – product or service – in the marketplace by practicing certain strategies and tactics, particularly through setting price and creating compelling messages.

Well, the truth is they do influence what market members think. But the key consideration here is the market perceives the product in their own context and through their own experiences, some not even related to the product itself. This includes experiences with competitive products and products in adjacent categories, their histories with similar products over time, and their social backgrounds among other factors.

A provider can certainly influence and persuade people that their product ought to occupy a certain position (number one, the first, the least expensive, the most responsive, etc.). However, if a competitor is already making – and backing up – that claim, you’ll most likely never dislodge the competitor from the position you’d like.
 
It’s therefore vitally important that you find a positive, unoccupied position in which to compete. That means research.
 
The first thing to determine through research is what attributes are really important to your prospects. That is, what motivates them to buy. Then you need to find out how your prospects now position your competition within the product category. Once you know those two pieces of intelligence you can begin looking for an unoccupied position with favorable attributes.

To read more about positioning and see how the research process works, I’ve a section about positioning on my Signature Strategies website. Just click Positioning to review that process.

Anyway, based on the research, whether a formal study or a “seat-of-the-pants” analysis, you begin to identify unoccupied positions with potential appeal and velocity.

Now you are ready to develop a product/service tailored to that position, and to begin the alignment of marketing factors to support the position.
 
As an example, let’s say you sold replacement windows, and you determined that the market and the category had a gap in the high-end remodeling market. Here, your customers are the contractors, not the ultimate consumer. You would then provide the essential help a contractor would need to design in your windows. You would want to establish a reputation for being there when the contractor wanted you on the job site. You’d also provide the contractor with marketing aids to help him/her convince the home-owner that both the contractor and the window were of good value and prestige.
 
In other words, you would plan to do what is necessary to make that position yours. But you must always remember it’s the market that does the positioning. All you can do is anticipate, participate and validate the market.
 
Now we’re ready to begin building our brand platform
 
More on that in Step 4.

When should you perform a brand audit?

There are several situations that require a brand manager to review and reevaluate the brand. Quite often this is an activity dictated by an unexpected event or circumstance which intuitively calls for the review. These often occur because of competitive activity, particularly when inytroducing a technologically superior product. The event may also be something as “trivial” as a critic’s product review.

Yet there are some more predictable situations where your brand management people should perform this review, also called a brand audit. Ideally, brand audits will be scheduled annually and receive as much attention as the brand plan. But if not, they should be reviewed when any of the following situations occur:

When contemplating a decision to enter a new market or product category in which you have not as yet established a position.

When assessing the pros and cons of extending a brand into a new product category or developing a new brand for that category.

When determining whether to sub-brand or utilize a corporate brand – and to assess the balance between the two.

When a brand’s market share is slipping or is not meeting realistic expectations because of competitive activity.

When considering the establishment of a new product category in which your brand will be the first participant.

When you are not certain of your brand’s position, strength or effectiveness in relation to competitive offerings.

When it’s time to establish a cohesive branding plan, and implement it through the creation of relevant branding elements: name, positioning statement, logo, packaging, graphic standards, associations, events, etc.

On my Signature Strategies website, I’ve outlined the elements of a complete brand audit. Just click on the name Signature Strategies to review and print out this doc.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Power 150: ranked 118

Naming Tips: Number 4 in a Series

Here are two more approaches to generating unique names.

The first is a method of creating coined names by combining word parts called truncating. Take parts of two words, preferably from words that describe the subject being named, and combine them into one. Webolution, Byerlympics, Champale are examples.
 
Second tip: Spell descriptive words phonically or alternatively:  In this technique, “Names” becomes “Knames”, Gnames”, “Naims”, “Naymes”, Naimz”.  Sigh becomes Psy, Psigh, Sy, Cy.  There is a caution in that some candidates are really homonyms that could become confusing. (Homonyms are words pronounced the same way but spelled differently. (feet, feat, fete).