Category Archives: Branding

Naming tips – Number 14 in a series

The name can – and probably should – have more than one function. Of course, identity is number one. But aside from that, consider how the name can help your brand in the following ways:

Contribute mightily to the brand’s “personality”.

One of the techniques I use when getting input from a client is to have them define the personality they believe their offering should possess. I give them a list of personality “traits” and ask them to choose the three most appropriate. Name generation and evaluation can be guided by these attributes of “style” and “tone”.

Here are five of the 40-plus traits I suggest a brand could have:

    • Assertive

If you’d like the entire list, just click on the “Comments” button below and let me know you want it. And provide any feedback you think might help me serve you better.

Another possible function of a name is to help “position” the offering

Now positioning can never be achieved through a name only, and in fact, is often better served through other branding elements.) But it is possible to fashion name candidates that can help to position the entity…

    • in its industry/product category.
      in a specific market.
      with a specific type of buying influence.
      with a specific application.
      with a strategic differentiator.
      with its heritage/tradition.
      as a new market entrant.
      as a market/industry leader.
      as the premier provider of a specific attribute or characteristic.

Just describe the desired position (for example, “first-to-market with Internet-based solutions”) and ask name-generators to consider that position when exploring possibilities.

I’ll address some additional functions of the brand name next week.

Who is the leader of the brand?

I received a comment last week that struck a chord with me.

The commenter was concerned that the name of the brand received much more attention than it deserved, particularly in defining the brand itself.

I see his point.

The brand is much more than a name, a logo, a slogan and a color palette. All those elements are necessary in conveying a prime, unique brand personality. But the essence of the brand is in the guts of the company or product.

Read the chapter New Business: New Brand from Tom Peter’s Re-imagine! Here he discusses the essence of a brand. Why is it being introduced? What is it’s “Dramatic Difference” (one of Doug Hall’s “laws of marketing physics” as Mr. Peters points out).”

Expose the vision and share the passion behind the product or service. That’s why you should start the branding process with a look at the emotional reasons you plan to introduce the new brand. (I do believe today that every new successful product introduction was first a decision made with emotion and passion of champions with a dream. Only then did they find a way to rationalize the decision, but that was justification for the already-made decision.)

Anyway, it’s the branding team who needs to discover and “bottle” that passion as a brand. The way you differentiate and position and segment and finally crystallize the brand identity, how you demonstrate the emotion to targeted prospects, determines the success of the brand.

And now back to my main point: it is the name above all other elements that will stand for the product. If the name can convey that emotional level and tenor, it has become the vanguard of the brand. With a single word or two, the brand attracts associations, emotions and attributes that set it apart as a memorable, viable brand.

Yes, the name is just one branding element. It’s part of the brand in the same way the drum major leads the marching band. All are in step and their uniforms are, well, uniform. But who wears the fanciest uniform? Who sets the tempo and is the first to be seen?

Let’s just say the name is the leader in the band of brand.

Martin Jelsema

Branding Basic – Step 11

Now you have your name and logo, and possibly a tagline.
Now the challenge is to use these elements in a consistent and professional manner whenever you have the opportunity to display and promote your brand.
This can become difficult. Particularly when you’re under the gun.
The media salesperson, bless her/his heart, volunteers to “recreate” your logo for their ad so you won’t be late for the meeting. You give this Samaritan your business card as an example and thank him/ her with great sincerity. Until you see how they butchered the logo in the final ad.
Over time it gets worse. You mislay the repro sheets, or your assistant accidentally deletes the logo file for 2-color reproduction. You forget the PMS color for your logo. The recommended proportion for logo to tagline disappears. With more employees needing to imprint the logo and the brand “look” to more and more materials, one or two will take matters into their own hands and “redesign” on the spot with the resources they have handy. Your new graphics designer decides you should be using the type face Americana because it’s now all the rage.
All these “little” course adjustments add up and you find, like so many small businesses do, that they are sailing “off the edge”. Their brand has no consistent personality. Their brand has become unfocused and diluted.

I’ve taken four fairly long paragraphs delineating the problem because it’s so insidious and niggling.

The answer is relatively simple if you’ve taken my advice about hiring an experienced logo designer. A veteran designer will want to develop graphic standards for your brand.

A graphic standards document, usually in the form of a .pdf file, will display and describe accepted use and variations of the logo itself, identify colors for the logo for use in printing (PMS) and electronic applications (RBG), provide specifications for stationery, recommend compatible type faces, possibly recommend a color palette for promotional materials, describe the placement and proportion of the logo with a tagline and/or a descriptor, and finally, set down rules (policy) for all to follow – employees and suppliers alike.
Accompanying this document will be the files of the various accepted logo variations and formats, with recommendations for acquiring the preferred accompanying fonts. Make two copies, one on a CD, and another for day-to-day use. Also make copies of the standards and distribute them to all graphic arts vendors and tell them to use it. Make copies for your employees, too.

This would be a minimum, though probably all that’s required for a start-up company, to assure consistent and professional logo usage.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips: Number 13 in a series

This time I want to address some brand naming preliminaries.

I believe naming is a discipline that can be learned and practiced, and just like dance or jazz improvisation, a thorough grounding in the basics is vital before you can successfully take wing.

So here are two tips for preparing to tackle the task of naming your brand.

First, be clear about what you’re naming.

Quite often an entrepreneur will consider the company and the product as one in the same. This is probably a bad idea, particularly if there’ll be additional products or services later on.

Establish an “architecture” for your current and future name hierarchy. Consider how you’ll differentiate product extensions from the “mother” product. Determine how you’ll treat models of the same brand. Think about the relationship between the corporate name and the product name(s). Consider, too, any relationships between product lines, products and services, and the to-be-named offering with other brand associations already established within the organization.

The hierarchy can take the form of a genetic tree, or a mind map perhaps. It is a tool that can also be used in the strategic planning process.

Create a naming brief.

A naming brief will undoubtedly contain much of the same information as the brand platform. But it is usually condensed and made specific to the naming process. This is especially important if “outsiders” are hired to contribute name candidates because the naming brief does not need to contain confidential information, whereas the brand platform will.

The naming brief should contain specific and focused information concerning:

* Background about mission, strategy of introduction, brand hierarchy, markets served, product category characteristics, identification of competitors and their positioning and branding strategies, buying influences and practices.
* Product/Company attributes such as aspired position within a product category, differentiators, feature-advantage-benefit table, brand personality descriptors.
* Other pertinent information that might contribute to insight concerning the brand.

Use these tools in the beginning and your list of name candidates will be long but much more focused. From relevant comes relevancy.

Martin Jelsema

Branding Basics – Step 10

Now comes the question, “Do you need a tagline?”
The answer is, “It depends”.
There are several possibilities here. First, the brand name may not require an “expander”. In and of itself the name may identify and differentiate the company, product or service. This would be classified as an ideal name. They don’t occur frequently. That’s why almost everyone thinks they need a tag (aka, slogan).
A tagline can serve as many as four purposes, but normally no more than one or two. That being the case, you’ll have to choose which purpose you believe is most appropriate and important. If another function can be accommodated, so much the better.
First, a tagline can be a positioning statement. That means it’s the tagline’s function to express how the offering attempts to differentiate itself from competition.

Second, the tagline can define the product category in which the offering is based. Sometimes it will also include an unsubstantiated claim about the superiority of the offering within its category.

Third, the tagline can communicate an overt benefit that may or may not be exclusive to the brand. This can become a “preemptive” tactic to associate the benefit with the brand before competitors become known as the provider of this benefit.

Fourth, the tagline will identify the prospects for the product or service. This may be particularly valuable if you offer different “versions” of the product/service, and you promote each version to its intended market or industry.

For instance, he tagline for my business, Signature Strategies, attempts to serve two purposes: communicate a benefit and identify prospects. That line is: “helping smaller companies profit from the power of branding”.

But beware of the tagline as platitude. Y2K Marketing purports that most taglines are platitudes that mean nothing to the prospect or customer. Their test is this: if your reaction to a tagline is, “Well, I should hope so!”, then you don’t have an effective tagline that communicates with credibility or meaning. You have a platitude.

How well do you think the line performs those objectives? Comments welcome.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips: Number 12 in a Series

In a previous entry in this series, I mentioned exploring the words that define colors (i.e., red, blue, etc.) in brand names because they invoke emotional responses just like the hues do.

Now comes another source of large lists of brand name candidates.

Many paint companies name their various shades and hues of paint with compelling and descriptive names. These same names can be inspiration for product names, and yes, for company names as well.

You can venture to your local Home Depot or Lowes and pick up some sample color strips, or better yet, visit the web sites of the following paint companies:

Now here’s another tip, but this one’s not about naming.

You can use these websites, as well as those of Dutch Boy and Benjamin Moore, to view and select color combinations you might want to use for logos or packaging. You get to select and match colors on-line. And if your brand is web-oriented, you’re seeing the colors as they’d be on your web site.

Just download the graphics containing your selection, open the jpeg in your imaging software, use the color-picker feature and there you have your palette. Then if you’re into trade dressing, you’ve also identified paint colors for your walls and fixtures.

Pretty neat if I do say so myself.

Martin Jelsema

What were they thinking?

Television ads continually amaze me.

To find one that really works is rare these days. It seems that fewer and fewer actually make sense. They tend to ignore the product and its benefits so they may display the agency’s creativity.

I believe there’s more to advertising than mere attention-gaining.

And now I’m noting that brands themselves are boarding that same rickety bus. They are branding for attention, and only for attention.

Here’s the latest, and in my opinion one of the worst, of this mongrel breed.

FishEye Wines.

FishEye wines?

What were they thinking?

How in the world do you find any relevance in a name like that for a beverage? Do they squeeze the eyes of fish to make it? Do they inspect it with a special lens? Not only is it irrelevant, it’s repulsive.

Now this is a boxed wine. It may have its appeal, if any, with a younger target market I just don’t understand. But I can’t see any of my grown children finding FishEye wine to be at all appealing. Even if the price were in the “Thunderbird” range, it is a put-off.

I’d like to hear from members of the 20’s age group, particularly if they can point out something I’m missing.

I can only guess that they thought a brand name like FishEye was so out-of-the-box that it would sell boxed wines.

Unique is prized in branding, but there’s got to be more.

My consulation?

I’ll bet there won’t be many catching FishEye.

Martin Jelsema

Branding Basics – Step 9

Now the brand needs a logo.

Here is where many entrepreneurs stub their toes. Here they have a momentary lapse of judgment.

Since their sons or daughters are pretty good on the computer, and there’s software named “Logo Creator” or “Business Logos in Minutes”, they believe they can cut corners and do-it-themselves.

I’ll stir the pot a little here by saying: “how can a novice create a powerful logo when most graphic artists can’t create powerful logos?”
Non-designers (and I include here design students and other acquaintances without logo design experience) will make a lot of unprofessional mistakes that are just “nits” to most entrepreneurs. They don’t consider such things as: kerning and line spacing, proportion of graphic to logotype and of logotype to tagline, color selection for consistency in all media, typeface selection that’s relevant to the brand story, need for variations in different media and context, scalability, legibility, need to document specs for future applications, and a myriad other details that surround the main theme of the logo.
And main theme problems abound, too. They include reverting to cliché, rendering the name illegible through “gimmick” technique, over-designing so it won’t convert to very small or very large display, using an icon no one understands or appreciates, introducing extraneous and distracting elements, considering how the logo will interact with other brand elements, selecting an inappropriate type style or piece of clipart.

Another favorite approach designers take is to take initial caps from the brand name and somehow make that their logo. Now IBM and GE made that work, but especially for a start-up company, I believe the entire name should be part of the logo. Initials in and of themselves have no personality let alone meaning. Unless you’ve plenty of money and time, relying on initials to establish a brand is pretty tenuous. (Incidentally, “logo” used to mean the name rendered uniquely, but common usage allows the graphic elements accompanying the name to be considered part of the logo.)
Now, convinced you should seek help, where do you go? I suggest you go to an established graphics designer with credentials in logo design. You might ask for references and ask those references about how the designer approached the project based on the discussion presented here.
Then provide the designer with direction, including your brand platform (Step 5), your brand story (Step 6) and your naming brief (Step 7).
There are four reasons many graphic artists have a problem creating powerful logos:
1.   They weren’t given direction about the logo’s function within the brand.
2.   They become enamored with the design aspects of initial caps.
3.   They tend to think beauty before function.
4.   They tend to follow the latest trend in logo design (now it’s arches and arcs
So have discussions about your brand and share your branding story and vision with the designer. Then give them direction. Don’t worry, a competent designer will appreciate getting direction based on strategy. It will not curtail the “creative process”.
Tell them you do not want a logo based on the initials of the name – you want the entire name as part of the logo. Tell them how you anticipate using the logo. Tell them how it should interact with other elements like taglines, product/divisional designations, logos of partners. Also, give them your personal “sacred cows” and “taboos” up front.
Then, make sure they know they can call you anytime to test an idea they may come up with. They’ll almost never call, but make sure they have permission, and that they understand the importance you attach to the logo as part of the brand.
In addition to the logo, I also suggest you find out from your preferred designer how they intend to document the use and reproduction of the logo for various applications. We’ll cover this in more detail in the next step.