Monthly Archives: April 2007

Colorful Branding – Number 1 in a series

Without doubt, color is a vital element of branding. Except for a powerful brand name, color is the most important branding element, in my opinion, because of the emotional power of color.

Color invokes associations and set moods. It may be a “subliminal” element in that most people will not consciously be aware of a brand’s color(s) or the associations it evokes. In fact, unless a color is absolutely prominent (and may even have the color’s name in the brand name – GreenThumb, Selsun Blue), most people could not name a color associated with a brand unless its been around for years – think Kodak, Scott’s, Tide and UPS.

The emotions elicited from colors can be greatly influenced by the context in which it appears. For example, green is the color of money and suitable for financial service businesses. But it is also the color of trees, lawns and shrubs so environmentally-conscious brands will probably opt for green. Green is also associated with “green light”, “green horn”, Kermit the Frog and a Jolly Green Giant.

Then, too, colors may signify different associations in different cultures. For the Japanese, white is associated with death, whereas in Western culture it stands for purity and beginnings. Care in selecting colors for a global brand is almost as important as selecting a brand name that “translates positively”.

HGB color wheel

Another factor: most brands have multi-colored visages. So what happens when two colors tend to “contradict” each other? What affect does the FedEx  purple and orange have on target audiences, if any? Just another factor to consider when establishing the elements of your brand.

Then there are other ways to combine and contrast colors based on color theory and the color wheel. These techniques will provide cohesion, harmony, vitality, tension, serenity, and any number of other reactions to  the brand.

So this series will tackle color. I’ll start with blogs about each of the major colors, then speak to color combinations and then to color theory as it pertains to branding.

So please keep coming back to explore colorful branding facts, ideas and opinions, and please let me hear from you about your experiences with color in branding.

Naming Tips – Number 20 in a series

Accumulate a naming “swipe” file.

This may be practical only for those who have three or four naming projects a year: i.e., “professional” namers because it needs time and patience to collect examples from many different sources.

But just like direct response copywriters collect compelling sales letters, it’s a good idea to collect good names and sources of name candidates. Not that you want to copy them, but they can lead to inspiration and connections.

First, you might want to keep a running list of those unique “aha” names you occasionally come across, names like Travelocity, Buzzoodle, Rare Bear, Fitzwell. Over time, that list can become an invaluable “idea sparker”.

Then, you might collect the unusual “last names” businesses could use instead of  the ordinary “Zone” or “Express”. (The newest “fan” name to stay away from: “Authority”. Here are fresh several examples: Cache, Grove, Prime, Yard. I’ve collected over 600 “last names”, and I refer to that list with almost every naming project. Though mostly applicable for naming a business, I’ve found perusing the list can help me intuit product names as well.

  1. Other swipe file contents might include lists of:Prefixes and suffixes
    Meaningful initials (MVP, PDQ)
    Positive idioms and phrases (fast forward, breathe easy, rest assured)
    Family names (Goodman, Weldon, Merrywell)
    Place names
    Active vowels

The best thing about this suggestion is that it’s open-ended. Any list you think might be helpful can be started just by beginning a new page in your “name idea” document. It’s fairly easy to accumulate candidates with a word processing program that allows you to periodically sort them in alphabetical order. At least that helps me feel like I’m organized.

Use your files for ideas and directions. The bigger they get, the more valuable those files become.

A new definition of branding.

Here’s a little different definition of branding. Branding is establishing a two-way relationship by matching your needs to your company core competencies with the needs of specific, selected market segments.

The emphasis is building a two-sided relationship. It’s knowing your prospects and their needs, both physical and emotional needs. It’s fulfilling those needs and helping them achieve their desires.

By finding those segments that you can serve better than your competitors can is the first step in establishing your brand.

The elements of the brand (name, logo, tagline, package design, etc.) and its associations (spokespersons, alliances, media selection, etc.) can be deliberately and specifically tailored once you match segments to competencies.

Now you have a strong foundation for a brand. Segments and competencies are two of six planks I’ve identified as essential in building a brand platform. (The others are positioning/differentiation, analysis of industry and product category, analysis of competitive SWOT, and brand hierarchy.)

But most essential in developing a power brand is the match of market to your strengths so that both company and customer benefit.

Martin Jelsema

Think networks, not markets, when building a power brand

From a branding perspective, I’ve come to appreciate a potent comment by Scott Degraffenreid, author of Embracing the Nude Model – The Art and Science of Referral Marketing. In a conversation several months ago, he suggested we think about networks rather than markets.

No one says, “I’m a member of the market for pink, hip-hop-toned cell phones”, but they’ll passionately admit to being part of a MySpace community of teen-aged girls who adore Eminem. Networks have common interests and might even have an agenda. They are populated by like-minded and like-motivated individuals. Some “reside” on the Internet and some are locally connected.So our goal in branding and marketing is to become part of selected, relevant networks. Don’t try to “manage” those networks or even manipulate them. Just relate in positive ways. Contribute meaningfully to them. Support them in their common quests to achieve whatever the network represents.

Once members “resonate” with you, once they see your goals are their goals, you build trust, and for some, an obligation to do business with you.

For larger companies with national or global distribution and traditional infrastructures, this will be a significant paradigm shift; one that most will not make even if they so desired. Too much baggage. Too many “old school” practitioners. Too few visionaries.

But small organizations, particularly those oriented to local markets, can surely benefit from thinking in terms of networks. Individual entrepreneurs and franchise operators could certainly embrace marketing to networks.

Here’s an example. If I were a dry cleaner with shops throughout a metro area, I might approach schools about helping to raise money for band uniforms or to finance a bowl trip. If I both contributed to those funds and made my shops collection centers, I’d gain recognition and appreciation. I might even clean uniforms for half-price and clean flags and banners for free. I’d not only gain appreciation from band members and their families, I’d probably get their regular cleaning business as well.

The idea of branding on the Internet takes on greater significance if you wish to explore Web2 and the implications for social networking. Here the possibilities become almost limitless. I’ll be blogging about this phenomenon and how it could affect your branding process in the coming weeks.

Martin Jelsema


Naming Tips: Number 17 in a series

Here are two proven sources of brand names. And even if names don’t sprout directly from the techniques described, often they will at least open your mind and expand the domain in which you normally live and think.

Number One: Create a list of metaphors that might represent your brand. Think about how your product is like: a famous person (who from history would be a passionate spokesperson?), an animal (think of the characteristics of natural prototypes), a sport (and all its terminology, equipment and techniques), an activity (what type of dance is most appropriate for your product?), an event (where would I use the product except at home?). You can expand this list by reviewing the attributes and characteristics of appropriate metaphors.

Additional categories might include mythology, geography, literature, movies, tools, astrology, fictional characters, colors, shapes, science and music.

Number two: You can name your brand by creating and naming a character. By naming that character, you’ve also named the brand, and given it a personality as well. Precedents include Marie Callender, Sara Lee, Uncle Ben, Orville Reddenbacher and The Pep Boys. My own contribution to the gender: Weldon Wright.

Although the examples above may not relate directly to a brand benefit or attribute, through use and story-telling they begin to become associated with the desired position and niche envisioned by their creators. If the name and representation of the character are appropriate, there’s no better way to convey a brand promise than through a character who not only speaks for, but actually is the brand.

Martin Jelsema

Branding: a function of strategy

To me branding is establishing a two-sided relationship by matching the needs of specific market segments with your company core competencies.

It begins with devising the products, services, infrastructure and mindset to be of importance to your market. Then, you “dialog” with market members in a way meaningful to them. The entire branding process is based on interpreting the market’s needs and desires and communicating a solution in a unique, memorable, relevant and appropriate way.

Branding isn’t a function of the marketing department and ad agency alone. It’s the responsibility of the executive office residents to lead the development of the brand or brands through their actions as well as direction. The company drives the brand, and the brand drives the company.

The brand is the mission, the value proposition, the vision, the corporate goals and the corporate culture in action. It is the personality and the core of the organization.

This doesn’t just apply to the one-product company, either. Each product in the portfolio will be there because it “fits”. Each service might appeal to different market segments, but will be backed by the corporate commitment that differentiates it from competitors and makes it desirable to prospects and customers.

Each offering may be branded separately as far as having separate brand elements such as names, logos, packaging, etc., but all should have a consistent, unabashed connection to the greater brand – the corporate commitment to establishing strong and lasting relationships with market members through an honest desire to be of great service to them.

If this sounds much like something you encountered several years ago as “corporate image” or corporate identity”, I’d just suggest that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

Branding is a strategic function. It should have a champion at the very highest corporate level in charge of forming, communicating, policing, assessing and evolving the brand in all its facets and faces.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – Number 16 in a Series

Most business owners seem to think their company name should describe the business they’re in.

But when you do this, you’ve named a product category in which you’re participating as well as your company, This does not differentiate you from competition, and your name becomes common, dull and probably too long.

An effective and relevant name can suggest the product’s major attribute or benefit. It can evoke positive associations surrounding the product. It can promise a solution to a problem or the fulfillment of a desire. But an effective name, one that differentiates and will be remembered, will not define the offering.

So look to other means if you’re looking for a fresh, unique and memorable company or brand name.

Martin Jelsema

Branding on the Internet

I’ve blogged about how direct response marketers often disdain branding, believing it is not necessary.

To them, the offer is king. Make an enticing offer and back it up with benefits, testimonials bonuses and a great guarantee. Then get that package into the hands of a targeted list of known buyers of similar products and you have the making of a direct response empire.

Thousands of folks are attempting this very formula on the Internet today, and a few are making a darn good living with it. There’s one more aspect to the business model. It’s called the “back end”. That’s where they attempt to sell their first-time customers more related stuff as often as you can. That usually means until the customer get sick and tired of more offers hyping more mediocre ebooks and study courses and they cancel their email association with the marketer.

As a somewhat skeptical student of their methods, I’ve been deluged with email notices, newsletters, RRS feeds and “viral” give-aways promoting these products. And though almost to a person they will tell you they are building relationships with their customers, these “marketers” are really only selling whatever they believe they can foist upon their customer base before those customers become non-customers.

Their concept of building relationships is starting their email with…”Hi Martin, I hope your day is going well. I think the offer below will double your income in a month. Learn the secrets and earn big bucks with this new…” Gag!

But I think things are changing.

Several Internet marketing “gurus” seem to have retrenched and have reconsidered the value of branding as a tool for building and maintaining relationships.

Rich Schefren, one of the most astute Internet coaches around, has been preaching for over a year that Internet marketers need to quit being opportunists. If an Internet marketer is to be more than a “freelance gunslinger”, he/she must build a business that stands for something their customers desire. And branding is one of the major tools to do that through recognition of market needs and desires, company core values attuned to those desires, and a desire and presentation that reflect both. An on-line brand needs to be as strong, as consistent, as unique as a brand for a glass-and-mortar business. 

Now another voice is being heard. Ben Mack, a veteran brand planner with several large ad agencies, has written Think Two Products Ahead. Though not primarily directed at Internet marketers, he launched the book to Internet marketers using some of their favorite devices and methods. Ben deplores the lack of appreciation of branding by small companies. He advocates determining what he calls “brand essence”, which is similar to the “intersection” of “company strengths” and “what customers value” presented by LePla and Parker in their really practical book, Integrated Branding.

Ben describes a process that small businesses, including Internet marketers, can use to develop a brand. It’s practical and fairly easy for a business person to do because Ben has made it his goal to “take the mystery out of branding”.

So for those Internet marketers reading this blog, I suggest paying some attention to establishing long-ranging relationships with your customers through the simple idea of matching your core competencies with customer needs and desires, and do it consistently through branding.

Martin Jelsema