Monthly Archives: August 2007

Branding for Referrals? Tell a Story

You’ve probably concluded if you’re a regular reader of The Branding Blog that I’m a fan of Scott Degraffenreid and his insights into referral marketing (Embracing the N.U.D.E. Model, The New Art and Science of Referral Marketing). I am.

He speaks to Novelty, Utility, Dependability and Economy as the four attributes a product or a service must have if it’s to be a good candidate for referrals. He further states that novelty and utility have a tension between them that helps people remember the brand’s story. He also proposes that dependability and economy also have an “opposites” relationship of the same type.

I’ve deduced from his work that the key to referrals is to develop a short, interesting and memorable “story” based upon the N.U.D.E. Model.

The model as Scott had formulated it really meant product or service attributes. But as a marketing communicator, I think the brand story incorporating those attributes is almost as important as the attributes themselves.

There’s been a lot written in the past several years about creating a brand story. But I’ve not read anywhere just what should go in to such a story, who should be telling the story, or to whom the story should be told.

Well, if referrals are important to your brand, The N.U.D.E. attributes should go in the story, those people doing the referrals should know and relate your story for you, and the people hearing the story will be part of the network of friends, family and associates of the story-teller.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – Number 32 in a Series

Continuing with evaluation techniques, here are the general criteria I use to judge names:

  • Is it meaningful?
    Is it unique?
    Is it relevant?
    Does it suggest a benefit?
    Is it memorable?
    Is it appropriate?
    Does it elicit a positive emotion?
    Is it easily pronounceable?
    Is it descriptive?
    Is it in good taste?
    Is it short enough?
    Will it “have legs” over time?
    Does it appeal to all stakeholders?

Now I may assign different weights to different criteria depending upon the entity being named, the product category in which it resides and the perceived desires of target market participants. The scale is usually a 1 to 5 semantic differential scale with five being “absolutely essential” and one as “not at all important”.

Once the weights are applied for each criterion, I rate each name candidate against each. Again, I use a semantic differential scale, five being “absolutely meets this criterion” and one being “absolutely does not meet this criterion”. I multiple each candidate’s score for a particular criterion by the weight I’ve assigned to it. Then I add up the resulting individual scores for each candidate.

Now this is a “scientific” approach to evaluation. For me it’s just a guideline.

There are times I’ll recommend a name that isn’t one of the five highest scoring simply because I’ve created one or two “out-of-the-box” candidates that defy scoring but just “seem right”.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a way to winnow down a list of quality candidates, this approach can be helpful.

Martin Jelsema

Camel No.9 stirs up Victorian age rage

Last week, The Associated Press reported that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is getting static about their newest brand extension, Camel No.9. Reynolds is being accused of “cynically aiming (Camel No.9) at getting young women and girls to start smoking”. Womens organizations and public-health organizations want the brand removed from the shelves.

Camel No.9 is packaged much differently than the traditional and familiar Camel package. It’s black with pink (regular) or real (menthol) trim and a small camel in silhouette. It’s trade dress and ad style is right out of the Victorian age. Yes, it was designed for and marketed to women.


Shame on you, R.J. Reynolds for not ignoring a major market for your product. We all remember the “Joe Camel” promotions that were also allegedly aimed at young people. Joe was mostly a “man’s thing” since Camels were positioned as a The Joe character was pretty juvenile and critics did have a case that Reynolds was targeting under-age smokers.

But Camel No.9, though feminine and “dainty” has not, at least through its packaging and its “Light and Luscious” tagline, singled out underage smoking women. So as long as smoking is legal in the U.S.A., and the tobacco companies comply by regulations, I say let them be.


But the real subject of this blog has to do with R.J. Reynolds taking a product its positioned for 75-years as a blue-collar, bordering on red-neck, smoke, and attempting to line-extend it to a female market.


A hope there was animated and even angry arguments about the pros and cons of that move. I’m pretty sure, though I don’t know him personally, the brand manager in charge of Camel must have fought tooth and nail to maintain the integrity and uniqueness of the brand.

Perhaps they envisioned the success Marlboro had when the brand went from a “female” brand to a “macho” brand and leapt to the top of the heap. But this is different in a lot of ways. First, Camel is and has been known as a masculine brand for at least 75-years. Second, Marlboro relinquished any claim to its weakly-held position in the feminine arena when it morphed into the cowboy brand.

As a women, do the Camel associations of pick-up trucks, pro wrestling and construction workers appeal?

Here is a fine example of how not to position. This example is precisely what Ries and Trout warned about in their classic book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

Perhaps, in the long run, R.J. Reynolds will find their interests better served if they back away from Camel No 9. Then, go ahead and introduce a new brand for that market later. They would then save the Camel position and introduce an untainted feminine brand.

R.J. Reynolds, my fees are reasonable. Give me a call.

Martin Jelsema

Branding for Referrals: Think Networks Instead of Markets

Scott Degraffenreid of Necessary Measures and author of Embracing the N.U.D.E. Model: the New Art and Science of Referral Marketing has a interesting perspective on niche marketing for referrals.

He contends that markets and market segments are no longer the best way to define marketing targets. Now, with the Internet and wireless media accellerating, a more precise and functional way to approach the marketplace is by identifying, and then identifying with, networks of like-motivated people.

It’s not just a semantic thing. There are real differences between a market as traditionally defined and a network.

Defining “Market”

A definition of a good market has always meant to me, at the consumer level, a group with demographic and psychographic similarities that meet four criteria:

1) The group is large enough to be profitable for me and my competitors.

2) The group has a desire for products/services in my selected category.

3) A major part of the group has the means to buy my offering.

4) I am able to identify and reach them economically.

Using this set of criteria I begin to define a market by the members’ age bracket, income level, family size, geographic location, abode type and special interests.

The market segments based upon special interest in a particular activity or event, i.e., golfing, gourmet cooking, first-time parenting or owning 10-year-old luxury cars, may only have that special interest in common with others. If so, you’re getting closer to marketing to a network of like-minded people. Here you’ll likely find both formal and informal gatherings and communications around shared interests.

Let’s take golfers. First, they play together. They also network in club houses, pro shops and clinics. Because of their common golfing interest they are likely to pass on referrals for my stroke-reducing gadget – if it meets Scott’s N.U.D.E. model of Novelty, Utility, Dependability and Economy. They also have tons of sources of information available including magazines, TV shows, and most importantly lately, the Internet. And they’re willing to share it, to help other network members.

Major Difference Between a Market and a Network

Here’s the big difference between a network and a market: Members of a network have opted to be part of the network whereas marketers dictate who will comprise their market(s).

If you are seeking out and immersing your company in a network, you are in a sense practicing “permission marketing” even though it may not be exactly what Seth Godin had in mind when he coined that phrase and book title.

The thing about networks is that if you’re an active part of the network, you belong. You will share common interests and concerns. You will not be an outsider attempting to “sell them something”.

Networking Implications for Branding

So as far as branding is concerned, There are three major considerations if you wish to before a marketer to network members. This is particularly applicable to the local, service-oriented business, but by breaking your organization into networking groups at local and regional levels, these precepts will apply.

1) Build relationships. The main objective is to become a relationship-building entity. Your people, whether it’s only you or a whole division of sales reps, need to become part of the network. Your people need to share info, participate in conclaves and tournaments, contribute to forums, volunteer to lick stamps, provide a venue, sponsor an activity.

2) Personalize the brand. Bring it down to local personalities. In a larger organization, this may mean finding and hiring only certain personality types (within the law of course) that will both represent the brand by being a spokesperson and by genuinely conveying the brand personality through their own personality. Honesty and relationship-building needs to replace “salesmanship”.

3) Walk the walk. A level of openness with employees and with prospects needs to emanate from “headquarters”. There must also be a “brand story” that is simple enough for every employee to convey with ease. There must be a code of ethics and a deep understanding that in effect, the brand is the individual employee. All these efforts must be honest and true. Management must “walk the walk” as well as employees. Finally, the branding activities must make it easy and natural for employees to take on and express the brand persona. 

Now with that said, there are still basic branding tenets to be observed, the most important of these is consistency. Every decision should be filtered through the “how will this affect the brand?’. Also, the traditional branding elements need to be in sync with the brand story and personality. There should be no disconnects or confusion. This is way a brand platform, brand story and code of conduct need to be integrated and communicated to all.

Okay, I’m stepping off my soapbox now.

I hope that thinking of branding for marketing for networks will begin to pervade your branding thought process. Please let me know how you’re changing the emphasis from internal constructs of market segments to serving networks of living, breathing souls.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – Number 31 in a Series

Continuing in the brand name evaluation process, Metaphor Naming Consultants  suggests the following five questions be asked about any name candidate whether it be for naming a product, service or company.

  • Is it appropriate and credible?
  • Is it appealing – pleasing to the ear and the eye?
  • Is it distinctive and unique among competitors?
  • Is it unambiguous – easy to spell and pronounce?
  • Is it available – can you legally own it?

Certainly these criteria can and should be applied to any name. You may add a criteria or two based on your particular market and/or offering , but as a general evaluation measure, these five criteria are essential.

But if you’re after a GREAT name, Metaphor suggests the following criteria be added to the evaluation process:

1. Does the name speak to the target audience? Does it address market needs/expectations?

2. Does the name illuminate the company/product positioning? Does it advance marketing objectives?

3. Does the name evoke a unique character/personality? Does it provide the cornerstone for brand development?

4. Does the name communicate key benefits (not features) to ensure longevity?

5. Does the name inspire promotional/advertising campaigns? Does it generate market interest?

Now these are difficult criteria to measure. You’ll argue among your team about certain candidates meeting them. But by asking the questions, you’ll easily eliminate many good-sounding but irrelevant candidates and discover an elite list of potential winners. They also provide a filter to reduce the reliance on emotional name selection.

As with other selection criteria, you may want to weight each in importance for your particular naming project. And in the end, you may even have to sacrifice one or two significant criteria because of a candidate’s strength in others.

Best of luck.

Martin Jelsema


Make it simple to refer a brand

I’ve quoted Scott Degraffenreids’s book, Embracing the N.U.D.E. Model: The New Art and Science of Referral Marketing, as it pertains to branding.

One of his basic assumptions is that people refer products and services to their friends and acquaintances in order to look good in the eyes of the referee. Referrers like to be thought of as experts and purveyors of inside information.

So if I were to set as a goal for my brand that it enable people to refer others to it, I’d make it as simple as possible to do so.

I’d first look to the name of the product or service. First, it must be memorable. People won’t refer a product without naming it.

Second, and the real subject of this blog entry, people must be able to pronounce the name.

Both of these tenets seem obvious, but look what a recently introduced prescription drug did.

They named their product AcipHex. Their commercial voice-over pronounces the word as if spelled “acifex”, using the “ph” as a voiced aspirate (according to my old copy of the American Heritage Dictionary). In other words, “ph” sounds like “f”. But look at the way they present the pH. They’ve done that to be “creative” since the pharmaceutical addresses acid indigestion. So it starts with “acid”, adopts the measurement for acidity (pH) and ends in the ever-popular “ex”.

But I have a difficult time pronouncing the word while looking at how it’s spelled. I want to pronounce it “acip-Hex” not “aci-phex”.

I think they’ve given up a lot of referral opportunities because of the name. People unsure of the product’s pronunciation are more likely to remain silent than to risk looking like they don’t know what they’re talking about.

The answer, beginning with the name, is to use brand elements that are simple, memorable and clear.

Combine that piece of advice with Scott’s N.U.D.E. Model (standing for a product or service that is Novel, Utilitarian, Dependable and Economic) and your chances for referrals will increase considerably.

Martin Jelsema


Brands and Color:number seven in a series

Still going around the color wheel, we’ve finally come to primary color, red.

This is a color of mixed messages and associations.

First, red is powerful and aggressive. It tends to dominate other colors in combinations. We all know it’s a warm color. And at its most intense, red is associated with hot. It invokes excitement and action.

Red is the color of blood and violence. But it’s also the color of romance and valentines. And Santa Claus wears a red suit. It’s the traditional color of fire engines, rescue efforts and traffic signs/signals meaning “stop”. In nature, healthful fruits and veggies are often red.

 Apple red

We speak positively of red-letter days and the red carpet treatment. Negative expressions include: seeing red, being in the red, red tape, a red flag and a red herring.

Red’s cultural meanings and associations vary worldwide but are generally positive. Brides in Hindu, Islamic and Chinese cultures usually wear red. In India, a red mark on the forehead purports to attract good luck. Red in Singapore symbolizes joy. It is associated with good fortune in China.

Because red is vibrant and powerful, a little dab might be all you need to convey a message of action and vitality.

Green is the complement color to red. Orange and purple are analogous to red. Names for different shades and hues of red include scarlet, crimson, maroon, burgundy, ruby, flame, vermillion.

If you are looking to associate your product/service/organization/event with a festive, forceful, hot, bold, and/or dynamic color, red would be first choice. Brands associated with sports, energy supply and youth often look to red.

Logos using red

Those people who prefer red are usually impulsive, athletic and sexy. They are optimists and passionate about their activities. They want to experience life to its fullest, even though they will have swings in their emotional natures.

Although red is a popular color for branding, there are some darker shades that are not used as often that will also impart the associations provided by bright reds.

Martin Jelsema


A Trademark is the Narrowest View of a Brand

At least that’s the way it’s viewed by intellectual property lawyers and the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Not being a lawyer, or ever wanting to be, I’ve never attempted to advise clients on the legal aspects of protecting their brands.

But recently I ran across a small book – if it were a large tome I’d have left it on the shelf – entitled Protecting the Brand and subtitled A concise guide to promoting, maintaining, and protecting a company’s most valuable asset. It was written by Talcott J. Franklin, J.D., M.A..

I learned some interesting things and got clear on a couple of others. So I’d thought I’d pass some of that wisdom on.

First fact: A company’s name cannot be trademarked. Well, it might be in some cases but probably wouldn’t stand up in a federal court. The valid trademark is an adjective whose sole purpose, according to trademark law, is to identify the source of a product/service/entity/event rather than the object (or company) itself.

Thus, I cannot trademark my company name, “Signature Strategies, LLC.”

But I can trademark “Signature Strategies” as a source of branding and positioning knowledge and experience. That means I can’t use it as a noun, just as an adjective. In other words, I shouldn’t say, “Signature Strategies® is a branding firm”. Instead I should say “Signature Strategies® services are multitudinous”. In this way it identifies to the source of a service.

Incidentally, you can legally acquire the “®” only by having your trademark registration accepted by the USPTO. You can use the mark “™” even if you haven’t applied for a trademark.

Not even the most diligent of corporate brand police can always catch the misuse of a trademark in this way because people being people will use shortcuts. But a company must demonstrate its intent to comply if it ever comes up in court.

In a very practical way, business cards and stationery can comply by adhering to this simple rule: Keep the trademarked designation away from the legally adopted name and address, and  if you use the trademark be sure to use the legal name as well.

As I say, I’m not a legal eagle. So I’d say its best to get advice from an intellectual properties law firm before tackling the USPTO website and their “simple” registration process.

Martin Jelsema