Monthly Archives: March 2007

Naming Tips – Number 15 in a Series

Carrying on from last week, here are a couple of additional functions a brand name can assume aside from identifying the company, product, service or event.

The name can help in the selling process for the product, primarily by stating or implying a benefit. Think Easy-Off Oven Cleaner. Or Healthy Choice. Or Die-Hard. Or Secure Horizons.

Closely allied with the benefit-imparting function is the emotional trigger. Here the name is used to stir something in the “gut”.

Perhaps mystery (Obsession) or domesticity (Hearth & Home), or patriotism (Minute Man), or security (RightGard) can be aroused simply through the name.

But quite often the name won’t be able to function as either a benefit or emotional trigger for a number of reasons: legal, professional, competitive and/or strategic. If this is the case, it’s usually time to create a tagline that states the benefit or acts as the trigger.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

An effective brand requires tension.

People are awakened and amused by novelty. But they are comfortable with the familiar.

For a brand to stand out and make a statement, it must begin by being unique. And by sticking with that personality, people will become familiar with it. It might take some time, but in the interim, people just may talk about the new brand because it is unique.

Novelty is a buzz-generator.

But I’ve seen near-panic from several clients reacting to a novel brand and/or brand elements. They are afraid to go where “no (professional) has gone before”. In an effort to be “open-minded”, they may resort to informal “market research” polls to determine if a unique brand concept is “meaningful”.

In most cases, the results were obvious: friends and associates want the familiar rather than the unique. They want to “protect” the entrepreneur.

Those clients are seeking comfort just as intensely as they are novelty even if they won’t admit it. Comfort often wins out at the expense of a differentiated brand, so the brand never raises above the static. But one unstated goal is met – no one is offended or challenged.

Commonality and conformity has never generated buzz.

Novelty in face of conformity produces tension, and if there’s anything that produces buzz it’s tension.

So a little discomfort in the branding process is both healthy and effective. Go for it! My advice: go for the unique and damn the faint of heart.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Branding Basics – Step 12

Well, here we at the final step in this series: Step 12. We’re sliding home. Now’s the time to check alignment.
 
I’m assuming you haven’t “launched” as yet, but that you’re on the verge. So if need be, it’s not too late for an early-course correction.
 
Now you need to step back several paces and see just what you’ve done. In the heat of hands-on sculpting of the various brand elements, and overcoming particular obstacles and impediments you’ve encountered, you might have compromised a bit and strayed off course.
 
So begin by reviewing your original branding documents. See if on the whole, and individually, the elements convey the tenor and content you had intended for the brand. Look for disconnects and contradictions.
 
Review the elements as presented in the graphics standards for consistency.
 
Once you’re satisfied your brand is integrated, coherent and powerful, launch with confidence and enthusiasm.
 
One more point: I assume during this process you’ve asked associates and mentors to review and comment upon you brand.
 
Well, don’t listen to them.
 
OK, go ahead and listen.

Then remember that almost all advice you’ll receive from non-experts will tend toward the conventional and conservative. Their opinions reflect middle-of-the-road thinking.
 
Your brand should not be conservative. It must demand attention, at least from those you most want to influence by the brand. It must be out-of-the-box even in a very conservative product category. (Everything being relative, an out-of-the-box brand for a bank may be stodgy in the Hip-Hop music category.)
 
If you’ve hired bright, professional branders to help you with the brand, and the brand fulfills your brand strategy, and you feel comfortable with the brand representing you and the way you do business, go with it. This is no time for buyers remorse or second guessing. Do not hesitate.

Launch!

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Naming tips – Number 14 in a series

The name can – and probably should – have more than one function. Of course, identity is number one. But aside from that, consider how the name can help your brand in the following ways:

Contribute mightily to the brand’s “personality”.

One of the techniques I use when getting input from a client is to have them define the personality they believe their offering should possess. I give them a list of personality “traits” and ask them to choose the three most appropriate. Name generation and evaluation can be guided by these attributes of “style” and “tone”.

Here are five of the 40-plus traits I suggest a brand could have:

    • Assertive
      Beauteous
      Bright
      Business-like
      Classic

If you’d like the entire list, just click on the “Comments” button below and let me know you want it. And provide any feedback you think might help me serve you better.

Another possible function of a name is to help “position” the offering

Now positioning can never be achieved through a name only, and in fact, is often better served through other branding elements.) But it is possible to fashion name candidates that can help to position the entity…

    • in its industry/product category.
      in a specific market.
      with a specific type of buying influence.
      with a specific application.
      with a strategic differentiator.
      with its heritage/tradition.
      as a new market entrant.
      as a market/industry leader.
      as the premier provider of a specific attribute or characteristic.

Just describe the desired position (for example, “first-to-market with Internet-based solutions”) and ask name-generators to consider that position when exploring possibilities.

I’ll address some additional functions of the brand name next week.

Who is the leader of the brand?

I received a comment last week that struck a chord with me.

The commenter was concerned that the name of the brand received much more attention than it deserved, particularly in defining the brand itself.

I see his point.

The brand is much more than a name, a logo, a slogan and a color palette. All those elements are necessary in conveying a prime, unique brand personality. But the essence of the brand is in the guts of the company or product.

Read the chapter New Business: New Brand from Tom Peter’s Re-imagine! Here he discusses the essence of a brand. Why is it being introduced? What is it’s “Dramatic Difference” (one of Doug Hall’s “laws of marketing physics” as Mr. Peters points out).”

Expose the vision and share the passion behind the product or service. That’s why you should start the branding process with a look at the emotional reasons you plan to introduce the new brand. (I do believe today that every new successful product introduction was first a decision made with emotion and passion of champions with a dream. Only then did they find a way to rationalize the decision, but that was justification for the already-made decision.)

Anyway, it’s the branding team who needs to discover and “bottle” that passion as a brand. The way you differentiate and position and segment and finally crystallize the brand identity, how you demonstrate the emotion to targeted prospects, determines the success of the brand.

And now back to my main point: it is the name above all other elements that will stand for the product. If the name can convey that emotional level and tenor, it has become the vanguard of the brand. With a single word or two, the brand attracts associations, emotions and attributes that set it apart as a memorable, viable brand.

Yes, the name is just one branding element. It’s part of the brand in the same way the drum major leads the marching band. All are in step and their uniforms are, well, uniform. But who wears the fanciest uniform? Who sets the tempo and is the first to be seen?

Let’s just say the name is the leader in the band of brand.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Branding Basic – Step 11

Now you have your name and logo, and possibly a tagline.
 
Now the challenge is to use these elements in a consistent and professional manner whenever you have the opportunity to display and promote your brand.
 
This can become difficult. Particularly when you’re under the gun.
 
The media salesperson, bless her/his heart, volunteers to “recreate” your logo for their ad so you won’t be late for the meeting. You give this Samaritan your business card as an example and thank him/ her with great sincerity. Until you see how they butchered the logo in the final ad.
 
Over time it gets worse. You mislay the repro sheets, or your assistant accidentally deletes the logo file for 2-color reproduction. You forget the PMS color for your logo. The recommended proportion for logo to tagline disappears. With more employees needing to imprint the logo and the brand “look” to more and more materials, one or two will take matters into their own hands and “redesign” on the spot with the resources they have handy. Your new graphics designer decides you should be using the type face Americana because it’s now all the rage.
 
All these “little” course adjustments add up and you find, like so many small businesses do, that they are sailing “off the edge”. Their brand has no consistent personality. Their brand has become unfocused and diluted.

I’ve taken four fairly long paragraphs delineating the problem because it’s so insidious and niggling.

The answer is relatively simple if you’ve taken my advice about hiring an experienced logo designer. A veteran designer will want to develop graphic standards for your brand.

A graphic standards document, usually in the form of a .pdf file, will display and describe accepted use and variations of the logo itself, identify colors for the logo for use in printing (PMS) and electronic applications (RBG), provide specifications for stationery, recommend compatible type faces, possibly recommend a color palette for promotional materials, describe the placement and proportion of the logo with a tagline and/or a descriptor, and finally, set down rules (policy) for all to follow – employees and suppliers alike.
 
Accompanying this document will be the files of the various accepted logo variations and formats, with recommendations for acquiring the preferred accompanying fonts. Make two copies, one on a CD, and another for day-to-day use. Also make copies of the standards and distribute them to all graphic arts vendors and tell them to use it. Make copies for your employees, too.

This would be a minimum, though probably all that’s required for a start-up company, to assure consistent and professional logo usage.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Naming Tips: Number 13 in a series

This time I want to address some brand naming preliminaries.

I believe naming is a discipline that can be learned and practiced, and just like dance or jazz improvisation, a thorough grounding in the basics is vital before you can successfully take wing.

So here are two tips for preparing to tackle the task of naming your brand.

First, be clear about what you’re naming.

Quite often an entrepreneur will consider the company and the product as one in the same. This is probably a bad idea, particularly if there’ll be additional products or services later on.

Establish an “architecture” for your current and future name hierarchy. Consider how you’ll differentiate product extensions from the “mother” product. Determine how you’ll treat models of the same brand. Think about the relationship between the corporate name and the product name(s). Consider, too, any relationships between product lines, products and services, and the to-be-named offering with other brand associations already established within the organization.

The hierarchy can take the form of a genetic tree, or a mind map perhaps. It is a tool that can also be used in the strategic planning process.

Create a naming brief.

A naming brief will undoubtedly contain much of the same information as the brand platform. But it is usually condensed and made specific to the naming process. This is especially important if “outsiders” are hired to contribute name candidates because the naming brief does not need to contain confidential information, whereas the brand platform will.

The naming brief should contain specific and focused information concerning:

* Background about mission, strategy of introduction, brand hierarchy, markets served, product category characteristics, identification of competitors and their positioning and branding strategies, buying influences and practices.
* Product/Company attributes such as aspired position within a product category, differentiators, feature-advantage-benefit table, brand personality descriptors.
* Other pertinent information that might contribute to insight concerning the brand.

Use these tools in the beginning and your list of name candidates will be long but much more focused. From relevant comes relevancy.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Branding Basics – Step 10

Now comes the question, “Do you need a tagline?”
 
The answer is, “It depends”.
 
There are several possibilities here. First, the brand name may not require an “expander”. In and of itself the name may identify and differentiate the company, product or service. This would be classified as an ideal name. They don’t occur frequently. That’s why almost everyone thinks they need a tag (aka, slogan).
 
A tagline can serve as many as four purposes, but normally no more than one or two. That being the case, you’ll have to choose which purpose you believe is most appropriate and important. If another function can be accommodated, so much the better.
 
First, a tagline can be a positioning statement. That means it’s the tagline’s function to express how the offering attempts to differentiate itself from competition.

Second, the tagline can define the product category in which the offering is based. Sometimes it will also include an unsubstantiated claim about the superiority of the offering within its category.

Third, the tagline can communicate an overt benefit that may or may not be exclusive to the brand. This can become a “preemptive” tactic to associate the benefit with the brand before competitors become known as the provider of this benefit.

Fourth, the tagline will identify the prospects for the product or service. This may be particularly valuable if you offer different “versions” of the product/service, and you promote each version to its intended market or industry.

For instance, he tagline for my business, Signature Strategies, attempts to serve two purposes: communicate a benefit and identify prospects. That line is: “helping smaller companies profit from the power of branding”.

But beware of the tagline as platitude. Y2K Marketing purports that most taglines are platitudes that mean nothing to the prospect or customer. Their test is this: if your reaction to a tagline is, “Well, I should hope so!”, then you don’t have an effective tagline that communicates with credibility or meaning. You have a platitude.

How well do you think the line performs those objectives? Comments welcome.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975