Category Archives: Branding

Announcing BrandingWire. Because 12 heads are better than one.

I belong to IBI Global, an organization dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurs.

Their mantra is “collaboration instead of competition”.

Now I’m a part of a new group with this very same philosophy.


It’s a group made up of 10-to-12 very savvy branding professionals. Normally competitors, we all believe that the common good is served when we band together to problem-solve branding issues. The group is called BrandingWire. Its platform is the Internet and its format is web blogging.

It will kickoff on Monday, June 11.

Every month this “posse of pundits” will tackle a branding issue, one that’s true-to-life and of interest to both start-ups and organizations wishing to re-brand.

We each have a perspective and background that’s a little different from the next so our responses will be varied – and possibly contradictory. There will certainly be some sparks from this wire. We’ve even adopted a tagline which describes what you’ll take away from the BrandingWire: “provocative perspectives from a posse of pundits”.

Each of us will post our observations and recommendations at approximately the same time on our own blogs. They will then be consolidated at our collaborative site, BrandingWire. There you’ll also be able to access “Pundit Portal” where you can access each contributor’s blog since we all post with great frequency.

Remember, next Monday, June 11, it begins.  BrandWire will energize anyone looking for electric ideas about branding.

And of course, you’re welcome to comment on any and all posts.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips: Number 23 in a series

We’ve talked about brainstorming for brand names, but I’d like to suggest two different types and purposes for the naming process.

I won’t go into the brainstorming process itself. There are plenty of source documents on the web that explain that. But there are several ideas of particular importance to name braninstorming.

First, select creative people, yes. But you also want people with diverse backgrounds and interests. You want a mixture of male/female, even though the offering to be named might be purchased and used by only a single-gender. You want old and young, analytical and spontaneous, extrovert and introvert.

Once chosen, and they agree to participate, arm them with background documents. If you’ve created a brand platform and a naming brief, supply those. Just edit the sensitive info out of their copies if they aren’t covered by a non-disclosure or employment agreement.

You should also provide:

  • The specifications and benefits of the product/service/event. If a company is being named, then certainly the mission and vision statements, the strategic goals and a description of the business model should be provided.
  • Descriptions and images of competitors and/or competitive products, together with their features and benefits. Then, develop a table that compares the features and benefits and business practices of the major competitors and the newly named offering.
  • The marketing plan for the new offering.
  • A comprehensive list of keywords gleaned from an Internet keyword generator such as Overture, Google, WordTracker, WebMaster Toolkit or Keyword Elite. Normally used to provide searchable keywords for search engine optimization by Internet marketers, these lists provide alternative ways of stating the searches people make to find specific topics with search engines. These lists can help people get the creative juices started.
  • A list of questions that will generate concepts concerning the offering. For instance: If the product were an animal, what might it be? How would it be more powerful if it were twice its present size? If it had wheels, who would be the number one market for it? These questions are designed to evoke lateral thinking and discover unusual but relevant ideas associated with the offering.

Provide this information about a week before you plan to have your first brainstorming session.

In this session, you will not ask them to come up with names. Instead this session is to concentrate on ideas concerning the concept, personality and emotions associated with the offering. These ideas will come in response to the conceptual questions you provided earlier, as well as the “facts” from the plan and brief.

Here’s a list of the kind of concepts that might spring out of this initial session:

+  If our event was a type of music, I’d call it Dixieland
+  The product will be used by men but usually purchased by women
+  It reminds me of an old Humphrey Bogart detective movie
+  Only teenagers will understand how to use this technology
+  Competition isn’t paying attention like they should
+  This service would probably be performed by a lion tamer

The ideas generated through this process are recorded and distributed to the team. Once the team members have digested this report, they will be invited to another session. This time participants will be asked to brainstorm name candidates.

From sessions like these a great name may arise. Or more often a great many candidates may be generated that, in turn, will be expanded upon, They may be disassembled and reconstituted with substitutions, tacking/clipping, reversals, and many of the other techniques suggested in this series.

Remember, the more candidates get generated, the more options and directions you cam explore.



Color and Branding – Number 4 in a series.

Today let’s look at green.

As with all color descriptions, green shares some seeming contradictory characteristics depending upon context, culture and color attributes.

First, we mostly think of green associated with nature – green forests, fields, grass and veggies.


But there’s also the association, in the United States, with money. And on the negative side, envy and greed – the green-eyed-monster – and inexperienced – greenhorn – are also green associations. 

Today, the word “green” has positive environmental connotations. Except, perhaps when associated with the Greenpeace organization.

There are numerous shades of green: forest, olive, pea, lime, jade, sage, sea come to mind.

In the Color Harmony Handbook, green is labeled “fresh”. Because it is a combination of the warm, sunny yellow and the cool, peaceful blue, it is a “balanced” color that’s easy to live with and can find a home in either hot or cool palettes. The Handbook also suggests that green recedes when combined with other colors, making them stand out with more authority. Thus, green may be selected as a second, background color for a predominantly red, its complement.


When combined with blue, green really connotes nature, warm months, and new beginnings. Dark green combined with red certainly brings Christmas to mind. Again, dark green, this time with a deep blue or a rich gold, can convey a prosperity and dignity. And with deep browns, grays and other earth tones, green imparts a mature and resolute impression to the palette. When pale greens are used with other pastels, a feminine, fresh look is achieved.

If not the most versatile, green certainly ranks high on that scale.

Naming Tips: Number 22 of a Series

If you add a single character to a word, you can create a unique brand name.

What makes this an attractive naming method depends upon the word to which you attach the single letter or number.

I’ve written previously about how prospects don’t like really novel names. They want names they can relate to even if they aren’t unique. (At least that’s their initial reaction to a new name. Once they’re exposed several times, their negative first impression diminishes as long as they can pronounce the new name.)

So here is an opportunity to take an existing word with good associations and tack on a single, perhaps descriptive, character and create a unique yet familiar brand name.

There are two approaches to this technique. The first, more traditional method is to separate the solo character and the familiar word with a hyphen or dash. Some examples: T-Mobile, A-One, 7-Up, Square-D.

A second approach is to eliminate the hyphen/dash and possibly make the solo letter lowercase even if it’s the first character. Immediately iPod comes to mind, In fact, the lowercase “I” and “e” have become “fads”. From the 2005 INC 500 Index of Fastest Growing Privately Owned Companies, five were named iXxxxxx and four were named eXxxxx. In the news this week, Microsoft has just acquired the company, AQuantive Inc..

As with most of the tips in this series, you will not always find a particular suggestion appropriate for your naming project, but my hope is that they will stimulate you to explore different directions.

Martin Jelsema

Color & Branding –Number 3 in a series

Yellow is today’s topic as a prime color for branding applications. In its most pure, yellow is a primary color whose complement is purple and its neighbors are yellow-green and orange.

The color has two main attributes: it denotes a cheerful countenance, and it provides an effective contrast to black and deep blue. Thus, yellow was a “natural” for the “smiley face”, as it is for “yield” signs and high-lighters.

Yellow daffodil

Research, according to Pantone which is the company responsible for standardizing colors for print, digital and textile applications through their color guides, suggests a yellow background and black type provides the best legibility combination. They also claim yellow to be the first color the human eye gravitates to when the entire spectrum is presented.

Other positive attributes of yellow include caution, intelligence, joy, and Springtime. Like every color, there are possible negative associations with the color. And though I don’t recognize these as associated with yellow, according to Jason OConnor writing for , laziness, criticism and cynicism are yellow attributes. I know cowardness to be associated – someone with a “yellow streak” – but not the others. Then we’re sometimes stuck with a “lemon”.

One problem with yellow: unless it’s a darker gold shade, it does not stand out on a white background. It requires additional colors, specifically dark colors, to make a strong impression. In that environment, yellow provides a spark.

The Color Harmony Workbook suggests that yellow creates “motion”, that it is particularly applicable for sports-related brands. The Workbook also states that, “Yellow is cheerful, uplifting and spirited; it stimulates communication, intellect and attention to detail.

Thus, in a logo or for a trade dress palette, yellow with a dark color provides contrast, “vibrates” and suggests “action”. But all by itself, it tends to fade into neutral backgrounds. Yellow best works as background or as an accent.

Here are some who have adapted yellow into their brand.

 Yellow logos and trade-dress
Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips: Number 21 in a series.

I’ve blogged about the names of colors as a brand naming source. Because colors are emotional stimuli, using them as names can evoke those emotions.But the names of colors aren’t the only word types that can be associated with positive emotions or characteristics.Today I’ll describe several other types of emotion-evoking words that might help you develop your list of name candidates.

First, think about flavors.

Spices come easily to mind – cinnamon, thyme, sage, nutmeg, etc. You can go to for a most comprehensive list. Then there are the flavors of fruits and vegetables.

In the same arena as flavors are aromas.

In fact, many sources of flavors are also aroma sources – basil, clove, orange. But there are also odor-only associations like pine forests, ocean-sprays, after-rain ozone, camp fires. Though the list may be small, candidates from it may be powerful emotion-evokers.

Another area to explore is texture.

Think smooth, shiny, pebbled, leatherly, steely, grainy, gooey,

The idea is that any sense-related words that evoke the desired emotion can be a candidate for a relevant and memorable brand name.

Martin Jelsema

Good logo design means legibility first.

You can find quite a few hints and tips concerning logo design on the branding and graphics sites on the Internet. Many are helpful and worth considering.

But I don’t remember anyone addressing the shape of a logo.

I believe proportion is crucial.

It can really make a difference in legibility, particularly when logos need to be reproduced in a small size. Also, when a group of co-sponsors are listed, either on a web site or a print publication, their logos need to be reproduced with a uniform height and/or width. And so you see some logos that stand out and some you’ll be hard put to read at all. As the sample array demonstrates, square and circular logos don’t lend themselves to the co-op array at all.

 an array of logos

There are four branding elements that need to be considered here: name, font, symbol and tagline. For smaller logo reproduction, I’ll usually recommend the tagline be eliminated since it can’t be read anyway.

In designing logos, you’ll face your first problem if your name is a long, three-word descriptive group of words. Either you compromise the name (probably turning it into three initials) or you stack the words. Neither is a perfect solution.

This brings us to the second element, the font. Quite often a designer will resort to a condensed font if they’re presented with a longer name. But when shrunk, condensed type becomes illegible, particularly if it’s also bold face. Also, many designers are so intrigued with an unusual font “look” they’ll sacrifice legibility for the novel.

Finally, the symbol: legitimately, it might stand-alone in place of the name in logo form. But before that happens, it must become associated with the company and its name. One of the problems with using both a symbol and name together is the placement. If the symbol is placed to the left or right of the name, the entire line becomes too long and doesn’t standout when arranged with other logos. On the other hand, if the symbol is placed atop the name, when reduced to a standard height with other logos, it becomes far too small.

 Four approaches to the problem

So I suggest that when evaluating logo designs you ask the designer to show you how the recommended designs will occupy a one-inch by half-an-inch space. Or indeed, just download the array of logos here and ask her or him to overlay the recommended design on top of one.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips: Number 19 in a Series

Once you’ve identified your direction, compile a list of prime words or phrases – those that represent the idea of the brand, and therefore make the name unique and memorable.

Concentrate on those prime ideas only. Don’t be concerned with modifier words. You can add and match modifiers – those words that allude to product category, level of competence, method of delivery or product/service type – once the primary ideas are on paper.

Here are a couple of examples.

In naming Signature Strategies, “signature” was a prime idea signifying both identification and uniqueness. “Strategies” was one of several modifiers that could have completed the name. Considered were “solutions”, “identities”, “creations”, etc. But when matched, “signature” and “strategies” worked.

A client providing drug testing services for fleet operators in accordance to DOT regulations wanted the idea of “compliance” in his name. Many ways to express “compliance” were generated, including, strangely enough,  “compliance”. Then we generated a list of modifiers and began matching them. Up jumped “Compliance Alliance”, the final and successful name.

Note in these examples that two lists are compiled, the list of ideas and the list of possible modifiers. They are compiled at different times and with different objectives in mind. Quite often, words will be found in both lists. Then, begin matching entries from the two lists to find appealing and memorable name candidates.

Ideally, you’ll find a one-word name that needs no modifier or amplifier. But if you do need a second word, using the method above will keep you on track and provide viable candidates.