Category Archives: Branding

Customers brand B2B companies

It may surprise some readers that there are still companies today that are driven by manufacturing.

These are companies that have mastered a particular production technique, or are very well skilled in an arcane technology.

So what does that have to do with branding?

Even manufacturing-driven companies are branded, usually by their customer base and industry leaders. The branding process is actually unconscious on the manufacturer’s part. It just happens.

I was employed by such a company.

For five years I reported to the Vice President of R&D at CoorsTek (then still named Coors Porcelain Company), the nation’s leading supplier of highly engineered, custom-designed ceramic parts and products. My job was to assess various ceramic applications Coors was not serving because they had neither the material nor plant to fabricate them. Many were future applications for high temperature, and/or highly stressed components, mostly for energy-related technologies.

But I also provided much of the information and thought concerning the company’s strategic positioning. I strongly urged the company to change its name from the archaic Coors Porcelain Company. I suggested back in the early 1980’s that they needed to be more conscious of branding and marketing, not just rely on their sales force to establish relationships – which they did exceptionally well.

Over time, after I’d left to form my own company, the company did become Coors Ceramics. And after acquiring metals and plastic fabrication facilities tthey became CoorsTek.

CoorsTek thrives today as a well-equipped engineered materials  fabrication provider  for most problem applications in electronics, transportation, paper making, electric utilities, materials handling systems, etc.

Coors “survived” a major thrust from Japanese competitors, particularly Kyocera in the electronics industry in the 1980’s. But over time its ability to work with customers, to develop relationships with engineers who specified the product, made them able to capture major market shares in the most profitable application areas. It has also survived several reorganizations performed by its then-parent company, Coors Brewery. Now completely independent, the company has developed a reputation for materials and fabrication know-how second to none. .

So what’s the point?

Their reputation is their brand.

Even manufacturing-driven companies are branded through reputation.

Now, as a successful and progressive company CoorsTek is beginning to pay attention to its brand. I am really impressed with their web site, CoorsTek. They now present themselves as a leader and a problem solver. If you go there, click on the “History” link to see just how far they’ve come.

Their current tagline, Amazing Solutions, speaks to the unique materials they have formulated as well as the fabricating processes they have developed.


Did branding get them where they are today? I don’t think their attempts at branding did so, I think their performance in the marketplace branded them. Today’s “new image” will, I believe, help them maintain and grow their brand, but for them and most B2B marketers, brand is tied directly and strongly with performance.

Martin Jelsema

How important is branding for a B2B service provider?

The BrandingWire posse of pundits are doing their monthly “thing” – all 10-12 of us blog on a single branding topic.


This time, Lewis Green of biz solution plus suggested we all blog on a situation I’ve personally encountered: “how to brand and market a B2B consulting firm”.

That’s exactly what I’ve had to do, and what I do for at least three-quarters of my clients. First, I’ll answer the questionin the headline: yes, branding is important – no, vital – to the success of a B2B service provider.

Now, as I begin writing this I became troubled with a case of déjà vu. Last month’s BrandingWire blog addressed the branding needs of an IT provider who is, of course, a B2B consulting (or service) business. Rather than repeat my comments from September, I’ll just supply this link, This IT company needs to focus.

The major points from that blog are three-fold:

Find a viable niche
Demonstrate your expertise in print and in person
Differentiate your business from competitors

Now that that’s out of my system, I’ll share some additional observations, opinions and suggestions.

A question of personalities.

What’s a better tack: branding the company or the founder?

I personally believe both should be “branded” in the sense that the people of the firm are the “product” the firm is offering. In my particular service category, brand consultancy, Profit does a good job of co-branding people and the firm. Scott Davis and David Aaker are both well-known authors and speakers. Aaker is probably the most quoted branding guru around. Profit encourages its directors and specialist to author articles and become guru specialists in certain aspects of branding and strategic marketing. They fill “niches”.

Now Profit goes after the big clients. But the same approach for a consultancy serving smaller clients can be powerful.

In addition to authoring articles, speaking at every occasion and belonging to niche-related associations and groups, the individual consultants can indeed become known as specialists within the firm. They are part of the team an account manager can call upon to address client problems. Even a one-person consultancy can take advantage of this approach if he/she has a competent network of specialists to call on.

When services become products

A common practice, one advocated by Anthony O. Putman in his highly-valued book, Marketing Your Services: A Step-by-Step Guide for Small Businesses and Professionals, is to “package” your services. Based upon knowledge of the needs of the market segments you serve, package your services to provide a complete solution to a problem your customer base commonly faces. Then, establish another package addressing a second problem and so on.

Incidentally, Putman’s book has been my guide book from its publication in 1990. Several other books and manuals I highly recommend to service marketers are:

All of Harry Beckwith’s books: Selling the Invisible, What Clients Love, The Invisible Touch.

C.J.Hayden’s book, Get Clients Now.

Robert Middleton’s website and his Info Guru Manual.

You’ll find other materials abound, but those above will provide a solid base for planning and action.

Building On-going Relationships

This is the key to successful consultancies. And you’ll hear the complaint from some clients that consultants are always trying to sell them something more. What’s a consultant to do?

There are three suggestions here. The first I also recommended last month, and that is to build relationships as far up the organization chart as possible. Speak to those people in strategic terms. Become a confidant.

Second, become the “auditor” or the “educator” in your particular specialty. Accountants and legal firms establish the auditor type of client relationships naturally. On-going education in HR topics and sales are particularly effective for high-turnover employee businesses. If you address a truly valuable function within the company, becoming its auditor is a source of income as well as being a way to continually interact with management.

The third area is to perform on-going research. While an audit is primarily an internal function, research, be it market, technology, competitor, best practices or industry trends, is out-going and can be highly useful to the client and profitable to the consultant. It’s helpful to create a research “product” and brand it.

While working on the Hewlett-Packard account at Tallant/Yates Advertising here in Denver (1974-1978), we conducted benchmark research every year to determine market share trends, attitudes among engineers about electronic products and advertising effectiveness. A great source of income as well as a way to maintain client relationships at the top of the ladder.

Personal experience in relationship building

I admit, I don’t pay enough attention to it. I’ve always been of the opinion that my work speaks for itself. When I end a project I always get a good reference from the client. They are pleased, but they are through with the branding process. I’ll hear from them again in a couple of years to update a brochure or to send someone a logo.

Most start-up small businesses, the niche I’ve targeted, only want a name, logo, tagline, stationery, a brochure and a website. They haven’t the funds for more even if I were to convince them of a need for more.

So what’s the answer?

Find market segments with on-going branding needs. Then develop the service packages and auditing systems they recognize they need. Then I’ll talk and write about those solutions. That’s where I’m pointing my business. It’s a challenge and an adventure.

Now go to The BrandingWire to read the responses from the other posse members. Each site is listed under the blogger’s names in the right column, or go to The BrandingWire blog site to get the overall picture before visiting the various sites. I’m sure you’ll find perspectives, many different from mine, that may be just what your business needs to develop and sustain client relationships.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips – number 37 in a series

I’ve spoken about coined names before and how they’ve become more and more popular because of the competition for unique brand names. They seem to be all that’s left. And while that isn’t true, coined names have several advantages despite their popularity.

I recently did an analysis of company names from the INC 500 Index of America’s Fastest Growing Companies for the past 10 years. (With the newest issue of INC on the stands, I’ll have to update that study shortly). From 1997 through 2006, coined names gained popularity, from twenty-percent in 1997 to thirty three-percent in 2006. Contrast that to descriptive names which declined from twenty two percent to twelve-percent.

I just blogged about the strongest names from a legal point-of-view. Seems courts favor coined names whenever a name has been challenged or needs to be defended.

So for originality, a large pool of candidates and legal strength, look to coined names as a major approach to naming companies and products.

Oh, if you’d like a copy of my INC 500 Name Analysis, you can email me at:

Martin Jelsema

Branding a Law Firm to Fill a Niche

Recently on late hour television here in Denver there’s been a flight of commercials directed at motor cycle riders by a local law firm.

Not only have they found a niche, they’ve branded their firm as the law firm for motorcycle-related legal matters.

Their name says it all: Lawyers That Ride.

Not only do the attorneys in this firm know the law and niche their practice, they are involved in the biker community. According to the commercial, they all ride. They wear leathers. They hang out with bikers at biker events. They are bonafide members of the community they serve.

They share a passion with their market, and have looked upon their market as a network of like-minded people.

We all know the lessons of the Harley-Davidson “cult”. We also know that bikers come from all occupations, cultures and backgrounds. But when they get together, they identify with one another. They have a bond and they express it and associate it with the Harley-Davidson BRAND. That’s what makes them a network first a market second.

This law firm, probably started over a beer or two at a biker’s hangout one Saturday, capitalizes on being part of the network in which they are passionate, and which values the unique services associated with legal problems of bikers.

Truly a great case of “Having your cake and eating it, too.”

And though the commercial is pretty amateurish in production values, the message comes across with impact: If you’re a biker needing a lawyer, call Lawyers That Ride. You’ll be with attorneys that know and relate to your problem.

Niche marketing means you must belong to the niche to be truly successful.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips – number 36 in a series

What does your brand name mean?

If you don’t ask this question with research, you may run into trouble. Look at every name candidate very critically.

There is potential danger when people are looking for meaning in a name and finding none. Or if you’ve endowed the product with a name meaningful and positive to you but not to your market members. This includes names derived from coined words (which I endorse as the strongest type of brand name), from mythology and legend, from history, and even from geographical origins.

For instance, naming a PDA or a hard drive “Minerva” may sound appropriate because of its old connotation of being wise. That name was originally given to the Roman goddess of wisdom. But without knowing its origin, many would just think it a woman’s name with little association with a powerful information product.

In another context, you may inadvertently adopt a name with poor, even vulgar or silly connotations for certain geographic or cultural market segments. Remember when Incubus was introduced, only to be hastily rebranded after learning the moniker had originally belonged to a mythical, medieval demon who made love to women as they slept.

It’s always a good idea to have your most favored name candidates researched for unfortunate associations and connotations, for vulgarity or embarrassing foreign meanings, and for words so similar in spelling or pronunciation that they might “take over” your brand’s associations and meaning.

Martin Jelsema

What trademark types are strongest?

Talcott Franklin in his book, Protecting the Brand, has classified the types of brand names by their strength as legally protected trademarks.

The strongest brands are so-called “fanciful” marks. These are names (and/or identifying marks) that are invented to function as trademarks. This is another way to describe “coined names”. Here we’re talking about names like Kleenex, Swiffer and Oreo. The only problem is that they must be vigilantly protected both internally and by stakeholders in general lest they become the product itself rather than the product’s source. Then you find people using the word as a noun (Google is my search engine instead of I use the Google search engine) or verb (I’ll Google Talcott Franklin), and that weakens the brand legally. In fact, many fanciful names have because generic because of the owner’s lack of customer education and vigilant protection (Thermos, Yo-Yo and Trampoline are examples).

The second strongest marks from a legal standpoint are “arbitrary” names. Franklin’s definition of arbitrary names is the same as mine: words or symbols in common use but not in the context of the product being named. Franklin’s examples include “Apple” and “Camel”.

Franklin says that courts give the next strongest degree of protection to “suggestive” names and marks. These names suggest an attribute or characteristic of products but do not describe them. Often they evoke positive associations. Commonly, these names are metaphors that allude to benefits. “White Rain”, “Husky”, “Titan” and “Mr. Clean” are examples.

“Descriptive” marks will have the lowest degree of protection if challenged in court. And, this type of name/mark will be the type most often challenged as well. That’s because descriptive names tend to the generic. Synonyms for product type will obviously fall into this category. But so will those words that are descriptive of a product characteristic. Some examples: “Progressive” and “Clean-Up”.

In addition the USPTO will not award registration to marks that incorporate geographic names, personal names, common symbols, titles of publications and several more obscure classifications.

As I’ve said every time I blog about trademarks, copyrights and incorporation, I suggest retaining an intellectual properties attorney. The regulations can be pretty convoluted and the case histories too numerous for comfort.

Since a trademark can be the foundation of the brand, it’s best to get it right from the beginning. As I’ve said in several blogs and other web pages, “Brand Smart for the Start”.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – Number 35 in a Series.

Consider name hierarchies and brand architecture before naming a product or service.

In other words, spend some time thinking about what you’re naming and the long-range implications of that name on your company’s portfolio of offerings, current and future.

Name hierarchies have to do with a product or product line line and how it “fits” within a company’s family of products, product lines, product models, product styles and product extensions.

Brand architecture addresses the structure of brands within a company’s portfolio of products and services. For instance, will the corporate brand, aka master brand, dominate or assume a background role to product brands. It also considers co-branding under the corporate umbrella and with strategic partners. The internal organization – division, subsidiary, department, function, technology or other brand-associated structures – also needs to be known and considered. These questions are strategic in nature. That means chief executives need to provide guidance here.

Here’s a simple set of classifications I ask my clients to consider so both of us know the scope and implications of a naming project.

Is the new offering…

Market-specific, application-specific
General-market, application-specific
Market-specific, multiple application
General-market, multiple application
Member of existing product/service family
Unique product/service bearing no relationship to existing products/services
Unique product/service that replaces an existing product/service
A new family of products/services

This is an example of “first things first”.

Martin Jelsema

Here’s a modest product with pro-like branding

Usually you’ll find me criticizing a branding travesty on these pages.

I can’t help it. There are so many of them and they stand out because they cause discord and disharmony. (And don’t give me the old story that any notoriety helps your brand. Not when with a little care and attention good vibes can be achieved for the same amount you’d spent on lousy branding.)

 Anyway, today I’m here to praise.

I saw an ad for a tattoo removing solution in last week’s USA Weekend. A 3/4 page, modestly colored ad with the headline “Finally…TATTOO REMOVAL. Beneath the headline a picture of the box was tied to the tagline, “It’s easy as opening this box.” The copy, a column on the right interspersed with visuals, speaks to the product’s advantage over laser procedures and a risk-free guarantee. Then an 800-number and an “ask for order” with bonus close.

Now I can’t vouch for the product, nor am I a prospect. I dodged a couple of “lets go get a tattoo” episodes in my college days. Sometimes I wonder how I survived those days, but that’s a subject this blog will not explore. Ever.

Anyway, the product’s name is WRECKING BALM.

 Wrecking Balm package

Isn’t that a great name for a tattoo fading product? See the tension? Isn’t it memorable? Won’t that be the kind of name people will enjoy repeating to friends and associates? 

The logo goes well with the name even though it smacks of patent medicines of a hundred years ago. Yet it does depict a character, Doc Wilson, who may or may not be real. Nevertheless his name lends some credence to the product.

 Wrecking Balm logo

The color palette, a faded rust and black, provides contrast and seems appropriate. If Wrecking Balm ever makes it to store shelves, it will display very well.

All in all, I’d say this was a first-class branding and advertising effort.

Now that this product’s on the market, perhaps I’ll look into getting that tattoo I nixed 50 years ago.  Nah.

Martin Jelsema