Monthly Archives: February 2008

Naming tips: number 58 in a series.

Study your competitor’s names.

This may sound obvious, but I’ve known many instances where it hasn’t been thought of, or has been give short shrift.

So why do it? Well, first, you want to know what NOT to do.

Do not use a name that’s like a competitor’s name. Now I know some short-sighted entrepreneurs who would want to come as close to a competitor’s name as the trademark laws would allow in hopes that their brand might “steal” some business from that competitor.

It seems like a sound strategy on paper, but it will diminish any chance you might have of long-range relationships with customers, particularly if those customers are thinking they are buying the older brand. This is a short-range, no-win tactic that handicaps your brand from the start.

In addition, a study of competitive names will give you some idea about the type of product category you’re dealing with. If most competitive names are descriptive, then you’re probably dealing with a conservative, unimaginative category that might be ready for a contrarian competitor.

An aside: why do most ad agencies name themselves after their founders?. That’s not a way to differentiate meaningfully, or to demonstrate an agency’s creativity. That’s why I named my agency Industrial Strength Advertising. 

The point is: try to be relevant with your offering and your market, but different from your competitors.

Martin Jelsema

David S. Cohen’s 3-R’s of Branding

David Cohen, blogging at Left Brain, Right Brain, has presented and explained the “Three R’s of Branding”.

The post incorporates the basic ideas of branding, and presents a very succinct and well conceived way of thinking about branding.

His three R’s are: Recognition, Reputation and Reaction.

I found his discussion of reputation particularly cogent. Here’s a quote:

“Reputation: In the end your branding is a suggestion that your company makes about relevance and meaning, and it is your customers, prospects and partners who get to decide what your brand truly means to them.”

And that’s the key: successful branding will influence your stakeholders, but in the long run, they themselves perceive and define your brand.

That’s a hard fact for Type-A executives to fathom. But until you’ve set long-term branding goals, developed consistent and integrated brand signals and messages, and made sure you are able to live up to your brand promise, you only confuse and sometimes disappoint customers and prospects.

Short-term “solutions” to sagging quarterly revenue numbers may damage a brand. Brand integrity must be maintained through the rough periods. Reacting to a five-percent drop in stock value by compromising the brand is foolhardy.

And so, remember where the brand resides – in the collective minds of stakeholders. Compromising branding messages and brand delivery will cause confusion and dilution of the mental picture you’ve spent time, money and energy to develop and sharpen.

Reputation takes time to build but perhaps only days to demolish.

To read David’s entire blog, click Branding’s Three R’s.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips: number 57 in a series

If you’re going to make naming brands, products, companies, services, events, etc. part of your marketing communications arsenal, you’re probably something of a word connoisseur already.

So I probably don’t have to tell you that word games are both enjoyable and instructive. I’ve learned more about syntax, word structure, and linguistics every time a spent over lunch with my newspaper’s cryptogram, Jumble™ and crossword.

Now I’m not into New York Time crosswords – I do the simple ones. So the words I discover are actually usable in everyday conversations. Cryptograms are especially helpful in recognizing frequent combinations. And Jumbles get me putting letters together in “logical” sequences, even when I don’t know the words I’m searching for.

Day after day after day, if I’m eating alone, I’m doing word puzzles.

Not only does this enjoyable function help me invent new words/names, it brings me joy and satisfaction as well.

Martin Jelsema

Wall Street Journal brand is losing focus

I picked up the following announcement off the B2B news alert this morning:

“Wall Street Journal’ glossy magazine renamed ‘WSJ.’
“Story posted: February 20, 2008 – 12:10 pm EDT

“New York—The name of The Wall Street Journal’s glossy magazine, slated to debut Sept. 6, has been changed from Pursuits to WSJ. WSJ., which will focus on luxury markets, will be delivered to 800,000 subscribers of the Journal as an insert in the newspaper’s “Weekend Edition.” A spokesman for Dow Jones & Co., which publishes the Journal, said the name WSJ. resonated with both readers and advertisers.”

Now producing and distributing an insert focusing on “luxury markets” may be a smart move on the part of Dow-Jones. But calling it WSJ. ? (Note the “distinguishing “.” That’s part of the name. Does that save the three initials without the “.” for the newspaper? I don’t think so.)

Their rationale: WSJ. “resonated with both readers and advertisers”. 

Of course it does! Anyone having performed any name preference studies knows people tend to prefer the familiar. That’s why most coined-word names perform poorly in research. So they’re going to dilute the Wall Street Journal brand with a “luxury market” insert with a name that means Wall Street Journal to most readers.  It may be aimed at the right market, but not the right mind-set.

This follows an announcement last month stating that the Journal was going to introduce a sports section to the paper. More unfocus. More grabbing ad revenues at the expense of the brand’s solid reputation as a business barometer and financial advisor.

If this is the direction the Journal is taking because of the Rupert Murdoch influence, then I’ll bet there are editors and reporters anguishing over the fate of the Wall Street Journal as I write this. And though I’ve never been a staff member, I can relate.

I mourn the death of another brand built to mean something significant to its stakeholders, but diluted and rendered impotent by attempting to become everything to everyone with the mistaken idea that growth by any and all means is vital. Greed reigns.

Martin Jelsema

A brand should be creditable and relevant

So the question is, why would K-Mart automate a blue light bulb as their spokes character? Why is a blue light bulb the way to demonstrate low prices?

Now I know the blue light bulb has a “history” with K-Mart. It was used in the “glory days” of K-Mart. “K-Mart shoppers, look for the blue light (in the store) that spotlights today’s specials.” The blue light was a traffic signal within the store.

But now it’s taken on an animated life that speaks for K-Mart. Yes, it’s novel. Yes, it’s attention-getting. But it’s no longer just a brand signal, it’s become the core of the brand. So how does it generate credibility? How does it become relevant to people’s life? How is it different from Wal-Mart’s “smiley face”? And most importantly, how does a blue light bulb differentiate K-Mart in a meaningful way?

A blue light bulb means nothing to me. Connotations are absent. Relevancy is absent. Credibility is absent. Differentiation is almost absent.

 K-Mart’s blue light bulb becomes spoke character

As an identifier of K-Mart the blue light bulb works after a number of ads exposures. But we all know there’s more to a brand than awareness and the association with a character.

If the icon were a Jolly Green Giant or Betty Crocker or Mr. Clean, then you’d immediately get the connection and relevancy between brand and character.

Sorry, K-Mart. Resurrecting and promoting the blue light bulb to brand status just doesn’t cut it. Find a differentiator that people care about.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips: Number 56 in a series

Here’s another opportunity for substitution.

Let’s assume you’ve generated a list of 100-150 words you might find descriptive or evocative of your project. Peruse this list looking fin the words beginning with “ex”, “on”, “an”, “in”, etc. – syllables beginning with vowel-consonant. Then just substitute another set of vowel-consonant combos.

An easy way to do this is to make a copy of the list, and in your word processor use the “find and replace” function.

For instance, find all instances of “in” and replace with “or”. One caution, if a word has more than one instance of “in” in it, you’ll probably have to change the second one back to an “in”. Like you might begin with “inning” and get back “ornorg”.

Just make another copy of the original for each iteration you want to try and save the results.

Martin Jelsema

Online color scheme tools for branding

As promised, here are several web sites with color tools of all sorts. If you’re going to select corporate brand colors, a spectrum of product line packages, or design a “web safe” Internet presence, these tools can be helpful.

But be warned: they can be so absorbing and fascinating that they tend to be time eaters. But if you’ve found just the right combination of compatible colors, it’ll be worth every minute.

Color Schemer Online – choose a color and receive a color scheme; lighten or darken the color scheme, and get the color hex codes.

HyperGurl Website Color Match – scroll down to the bottom half of the page to play with the color tool. ColorShades – lighter and darker Web color hexidecimal codes and swatches.

Color Scheme Maker Tool – create and view a mockup of your own color scheme.

Color Chart Based on Shades – see tints and shades of colors together to help you decide between them.

Color Scheme Generator – online color scheme generator based on the color wheel.HGB color wheel

Online Color Chart Picker – play with colors and get their hex codes.

Get the Color Palette from an Image – enter the URL of an image (size 25k or under) and get the image’s color palette.

Note: I picked up this list from the vast arsenal of tools for Internet authority site builders at I’m a paid member so I have access to all their resources. If you’re interested in exploring authority site creation using a blog format, click ASC.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips: Number 55 in a series

I’ve been running a series within this series about creating coined words as brand name candidates.

Here’s another technique.

But this one doesn’t have a unique designation – until now.

I’ve not seen it discussed anywhere else so I guess I’ve got the right to name it. I’ll call this technique “consonant coupling”

Consonant coupling (not the same as doubling consonants like “tt” in “little”) is based on the fact that some consonant pairings routinely exist in language. For instance: “st”, “br”, “ph” are coupled consonants.

Anyway, if you have a list of appropriate words you’ve associated with the  offering you’re naming, scan the list looking for those that begin with “b”, “c”, “d”, “f”, “g”, “k”, “p”, “s”, “t”, ”w”, and are immediately followed by a vowel.

Now you can create new words by adding a second consonant that naturally couples with the first consonant. For instance, look what happens to “salt” when you add the second consonant: “shalt”, “skalt”, “smalt”, “snalt”, “spalt”, “stalt”, “swalt”.

You can also look for those words that begin with a consonant that is often the second letter of a consonant coupling and add an appropriate first consonant. Thus, “ring” can become “bring”, “cring”, “dring”, “fring”, “gring”, “kring”, “pring”, “tring” or “”wring”.

Inventions like these are rarely fruitful, but it only takes a minute or so to review your list in this manner, and you’ll never know when that one “AHA” pops up.

Martin Jelsema