Category Archives: Branding

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

Tension creates a branding dilemma

Last week, I expressed the need for a powerful brand to create a certain tension between novel and utilitarian.

This is really a concern when branding a new company, product or service. For the consumer to put a new product in context to their needs and desires, they must have some sort of understanding of the purpose of the brand. In other words, they must comprehend its utility.

For my own part, I’m still not clear just what Blackberry means to me. Nor do I know enough about Blue Tooth to know if it even applies to me. And what is a “Blue Ray”? Until I’ve actually experienced the technology and gotten past the strangeness of it can I begin to appreciate its benefits to me.

So do I begin by branding uniquely and then through my marketing efforts build some familiarity, or do I attempt to brand based on knowing my customer’s collective mind-set well enough to make the new product familiar right from the beginning?

To me the challenge is to brand with a novel name and icon structure that conveys benefit in a context in which customers can immediately identify. I want my cake and eat it too.

Most technologically driven companies won’t stand for that. They claim the product is so revolutionary that it’s no longer relevant to “the old paradigm”. So begins the long gestation period where market segments, usually one at a time, begin to “get it”.

There’s a bit of arrogance in this position.

And an expensive approach to market penetration.

So I say, yes, make sure the branding elements are unique, but place them and your “brand story” in the familiar arena of your prospects’ frame of reference.

Now that’s a difficult assignment. Sometimes, as in the case of Hewlett-Packard, it has to do with re-defining the product category as they did back in the 1970’s when they “invented” the “programmable calculator” and then evolved it into a “desktop computer”. They evolved, and their target engineering/scientific markets were accepting the transition. That base is the foundation to all that followed for H-P in the small computer and peripheral business.

So it can work. Just requires some work and a market’s view-point instead of a technologist’s.
Martin Jelsema


Naming Tips – Number 15 in a Series

Carrying on from last week, here are a couple of additional functions a brand name can assume aside from identifying the company, product, service or event.

The name can help in the selling process for the product, primarily by stating or implying a benefit. Think Easy-Off Oven Cleaner. Or Healthy Choice. Or Die-Hard. Or Secure Horizons.

Closely allied with the benefit-imparting function is the emotional trigger. Here the name is used to stir something in the “gut”.

Perhaps mystery (Obsession) or domesticity (Hearth & Home), or patriotism (Minute Man), or security (RightGard) can be aroused simply through the name.

But quite often the name won’t be able to function as either a benefit or emotional trigger for a number of reasons: legal, professional, competitive and/or strategic. If this is the case, it’s usually time to create a tagline that states the benefit or acts as the trigger.

Martin Jelsema

An effective brand requires tension.

People are awakened and amused by novelty. But they are comfortable with the familiar.

For a brand to stand out and make a statement, it must begin by being unique. And by sticking with that personality, people will become familiar with it. It might take some time, but in the interim, people just may talk about the new brand because it is unique.

Novelty is a buzz-generator.

But I’ve seen near-panic from several clients reacting to a novel brand and/or brand elements. They are afraid to go where “no (professional) has gone before”. In an effort to be “open-minded”, they may resort to informal “market research” polls to determine if a unique brand concept is “meaningful”.

In most cases, the results were obvious: friends and associates want the familiar rather than the unique. They want to “protect” the entrepreneur.

Those clients are seeking comfort just as intensely as they are novelty even if they won’t admit it. Comfort often wins out at the expense of a differentiated brand, so the brand never raises above the static. But one unstated goal is met – no one is offended or challenged.

Commonality and conformity has never generated buzz.

Novelty in face of conformity produces tension, and if there’s anything that produces buzz it’s tension.

So a little discomfort in the branding process is both healthy and effective. Go for it! My advice: go for the unique and damn the faint of heart.

Martin Jelsema

Branding Basics – Step 12

Well, here we at the final step in this series: Step 12. We’re sliding home. Now’s the time to check alignment.
I’m assuming you haven’t “launched” as yet, but that you’re on the verge. So if need be, it’s not too late for an early-course correction.
Now you need to step back several paces and see just what you’ve done. In the heat of hands-on sculpting of the various brand elements, and overcoming particular obstacles and impediments you’ve encountered, you might have compromised a bit and strayed off course.
So begin by reviewing your original branding documents. See if on the whole, and individually, the elements convey the tenor and content you had intended for the brand. Look for disconnects and contradictions.
Review the elements as presented in the graphics standards for consistency.
Once you’re satisfied your brand is integrated, coherent and powerful, launch with confidence and enthusiasm.
One more point: I assume during this process you’ve asked associates and mentors to review and comment upon you brand.
Well, don’t listen to them.
OK, go ahead and listen.

Then remember that almost all advice you’ll receive from non-experts will tend toward the conventional and conservative. Their opinions reflect middle-of-the-road thinking.
Your brand should not be conservative. It must demand attention, at least from those you most want to influence by the brand. It must be out-of-the-box even in a very conservative product category. (Everything being relative, an out-of-the-box brand for a bank may be stodgy in the Hip-Hop music category.)
If you’ve hired bright, professional branders to help you with the brand, and the brand fulfills your brand strategy, and you feel comfortable with the brand representing you and the way you do business, go with it. This is no time for buyers remorse or second guessing. Do not hesitate.


Martin Jelsema