Category Archives: Branding

Brands need more than a single color to express a mood

A while ago I posted about colors – individual colors.

I wrote about the emotional and cultural characteristics of the major colors, and then I promised I’d discuss color combinations.

I forgot about doing that until I reviewed my blogs of last year to determine what subjects I might explore this year.

So here goes.

Few brands are monochromatic. And that’s a good thing.

Colors in combination provide a much wider range of expressions and moods.

By combining them in many different ways, basic colors can elicit new emotional responses. And then using different tones, tints and shades of various colors in combination provides almost infinite palettes to choose from.

But other than combining colors that look good together – esthetic choices – the reason for using a specific combination may be elusive.  In fact, esthetics is as far as many designers go in developing a palette.

That’s why I use a series of books, all originally created in and by Japanese publishers, to understand the emotional pull of different combinations. In this blog, I’ll just address Designer’s Guide to Color (volume one of five), and one page of its combination discussion and exhibition. On that page, eight different colors, including black and gray, were combined and presented to respondents in the Luscher color test.

Several significant responses were identified. The hues were “pure”, intense colors without tint or shade.

Brown with violet: evokes luxury and indulgence.
Blue and grey: means a serene environment.
Red and yellow: depicts volatile and outgoing.
Yellow with brown: insecurity is the main attribute.
Blue and brown: evokes security and peace.
Red and grey: brings to mind irritable, threatened feelings.
Violet with yellow: withdrawn and unimaginative.

Now some of these findings, mostly determined within the German culture, may be surprising because of what we know about the emotions evoked by the single colors in the studies. But it points out the need to be aware and careful of the combinations designers present to us. Just because the dictators of taste and style had OKed teal and sea green as the color combo of the year does not mean they’re right for your particular brand.

There are still several more posts about color combinations and corporate colors to follow.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips – number 52 in a series

Continuing on methods to create coined word brand names, I’ll address tacking and clipping today.

Essentially, tacking means adding letters; clipping means subtracting them.

Tacking is different than adding a prefix or suffix, however. Usually it’s just a single letter that’s added so you get names like iPod, eTrade and BeanO. You could also tack on a new multi-letter syllable such as “aroo” to the back end of “Chef”, or “OK” to the front of “oak”.

Clipping just eliminates a letter or two from traditional spelling of a word to make it a unique name. Here are a couple of examples: BankServ and Orange Glo.

Next week: combining words.

Martin Jelsema

Should there be different approaches between B-2-B and B-2-C branding?

I first had to come to grips with this question as I cut my teeth as an assistant account exec at BBDO while working on the DuPont advertising account in 1960.

Would the messages we created for consumer ads for Telar the Never Drain Antifreeze, resonate with the auto dealers and service stations who would be our business customers?

The answer, of course was a resounding “no”. The appeals of the product as an end user looking to save money while protecting a vehicle where very different from the appeals to the dealer who wanted profits, fast inventory turnover and no servicing problems.

DuPont ignored the dealer networks, as they had done with other products with some success, to create “demand pull” from end users. This time it didn’t work. Telar was a flop.

And later, while working as account exec and copywriter on the IBM data products account at Marstellar’s New York office, I learned another lesson.

Appealing exclusively to engineers, programmers, systems analysts, operations managers, and business execs meant that rational messages on benefit and specifications were damned important. Making emotional appeals, unless very subtle ones that were meant to assuage human fears – “no one got fired buying IBM” – were not the way to sell computer systems.

Even though engineers were “human”, when evaluating business propositions they wanted to be treated as if they were, well, engineers. Just the facts, ma’am.

So the question I raise is just this: are there approaches to branding a B-2-B that should be significantly different from a consumer-goods company?

Well, I think so.

What do you think?

Please leave your comments, pro or con, about this question.

I’ll be exploring this question in several blogs over the next month concerning those differences and approaches to branding.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips: Number 51 in a series

Several weeks ago I wrote about combining words and word parts to form new name candidates.

Today I’ll address several ways to make these combinations. And then I’ll continue with some additional approaches to combinations next week as well.

So first let’s look at prefixes and suffixes.

It is possible to find and combine a prefix or suffix to a common descriptive word, usually a noun. I’ve done this successfully for several clients, most notably, Ideatrics and Profitology.

The former is a company that helps surgeons design, manufacture and market custom surgical instruments. So combining the Greek suffix “atrics”, meaning medical treatment, with “idea”, I created a name that is both unique and descriptive. Profitology uses the suffix meaning “science of” with “profits” for a consultant who sets up and trains incoming call centers for her clients.

All you need is a comprehensive list of prefixes and suffixes. I forget where I attained my list, but an Internet search will surely find such a list you can print out and put in your “Naming Aids” notebook.

Get your Hyundai luxury car before they’re all gone.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article today about Hyundai’s entry into the luxury car market. The piece is comprehensive and addresses the major points any brand-conscious marketer might ask.

You can see the entire article by clicking “Hyundai Bets New Sedan
Is a Luxury It Can Afford”
. But before you do, here are my comments.

First, I’d ask Hyundai if they think introducing a luxury car under their own name (instead of founding new divisions such as Toyota [Lexis], Nisson [Infiniti] and Honda [Acura] have done) won’t “taint” the new model, called Genesis? 

Hyundai is claiming comparison to BMW and Mercedes, but at a much lower price.

Is that an oxymoron? Is a luxury brand sold on value? And can anyone ever think of Hyundai as a luxury vehicle?

 Hyundai’s new Genesis luxury carThe perception that Hyundai had been what my mechanic called a “throw-away” car when it first arrived in the U.S. still persists according to the WSJ article. People don’t know its quality rivals Toyota and Honda. I know because I drive a Hyundai Elantra and love it.

So how can Hyundai introduce a value-priced luxury competitor and have any credibility? Where’s the panache? Where’s the heritage? Where’s the prestige?

It takes a long time for perceptions of a brand to change. In this case there are two problems: the existing perception of Hyundai and the idea that a luxury car comes with a value price tag.

There’s another factor: their timing. Hyundai follows the Japanese “big three” by at least a decade. And the market is trending toward fuel efficiency and “thinking green”. For a company like Hyundai, that would be a better direction to take in today’s environment. There’s where they could make a difference sooner and with more impact and credibility.

Good luck, Hyundai. I love you, but I think you’ve taken a wrong turn.

Martin Jelsema

I don’t need no stickin’ taglines

If you’ve been reading this blog with any frequency, you know I’ve made quite a point about bad taglines, aka slogans.

I’ve ranted about specific examples of meaningless and confusing taglines. My stance was that they should help differentiate a company or product from its competitors. In other words, it should strengthen the brand.

Now I see someone else has the same thoughts. Only he isn’t as negative as I’ve been.

John Moore, he blogs at, made a point recently that establishing a brand without using taglines at all will produce a stronger brand! In other words, let the other branding elements – name, logo, colors, ambiance, story, etc. – carry the message and set the tempo for your brand. Here’s a quote from his blog:

“A marketing world without taglines is about designing interesting customer experiences where people interact with the brand in order to better understand and appreciate the reasons why the brand deserves the right to exist. It’s about realizing a brand’s unique style is its best form of advertising.”

And here’s John’s author box: John Moore was formerly in marketing at Starbucks Coffee and Whole Foods Market; he now runs the Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice. Moore is also the author of the marketing book, Tribal Knowledge. His blog is

Note, too that BrandAutopsy is featured on my blogroll. He’s a pro and provides good insights and information.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips: number 50 in a series

I have compiled a Naming Aids notebook.

I started it many years ago and it just keeps growing. In fact it’s now up to two 3-inch, 3-hole binders and I’m about to start a third.

It contains all sorts of information – articles, definitions, lists, a collection of good and great names, some linguistic principles and most importantly, all the name candidates I’ve created for clients over the years. They are a source of inspiration and often enough, candidates for current client naming projects.

The notebook contains all my source data on morphemes and phonestemes and other linguistic resources. It has comprehensive lists of suffixes and prefixes with definitions. There’s a major list of given names and their meanings. I even developed a list of ALL two, three and four-letter combinations containing vowels and consonants in accepted English presentation.

It also contains specially-compiled lists. One such list contains some 800 potential “last names” a business might acquire (Arsenal, Arts, Associates, Attic, Authority, Avenue are examples). A subset of this list is for real estate developers who almost always want the last name of their developments to be a connected with geography – Cove, Trace, Woods, Fields, etc.

Then there is a page of potential “second syllables” to combine with positive “first syllables”. Last syllables like “fair’, ‘faith”, “fast”, “felt’, “fest’, “field” can be combined with words like “First”, ‘Fitz”, “Fair”. The result is an “English-like” name that has a positive, possibly meaningful connotation for the company or product named.

If you are in the naming business, even peripherally, I strongly suggest you begin your own Naming Aids notebook.

Just like a copywriter’s “swipe” file, you’ll find a Naming Aids notebook quite valuable.

Martin Jelsema

Find your niche for long-term growth

I preach the principal of focusing your marketing efforts.

I believe it’s particularly vital for a small businesses to find a niche that they can own and focus their resources and attention on that niche exclusively.

Mostly people nod agreement, then ignore this advice.

There are two reasons, I think.

First, they aren’t patient enough. Understandably, they are cash poor in the beginning. We know the biggest concern of start-up businesses is cash flow. If you can help a business generate cash flow, you are considered an angel. Never mind where the customers come from or how they are acquired or how loyal they may be or how fragmented their needs may be, if they represent immediate cash they’re welcome.

So business owners try a coupon mailing. If the first one “doesn’t work” in generating immediate customer activity, they abandon it and begin listening to the radio salesperson, or the list broker with a sure-fire traffic generator. Flitting from one medium to the next, from one message to a second, from one offer to another, whatever income is produced by unfocused promotions is funneled to another medium promising better results.

Thus, prospects may never hear more than one or two messages. And according to Jay Levinson of the Guerrilla Marketing empire, it will take an average of 17 exposures to your message before prospects will consider purchasing from you.
The second reason entrepreneurs won’t focus is because they might miss some business. Their attitude is that if they do not address “the masses”,  they will leave money on the table. It’s not greed so much as fear that they may be missing a great and on-going opportunity if they narrow their focus.

If you focus upon a specific market segment, fashion your product/service, your brand and your message to meet needs in that segment, you can build a brand and a business that will thrive long-term because it “means something” to your customers and to those they will refer to you.

Selecting the market segment(s) you will serve may be tricky. There are three criteria I believe a segment must meet to be viable
1.       Is it large enough to accommodate your business?
2.       Are the members of the segment willing and able to buy what you’re selling?
3.       Can you readily identify those populating the segment?

It’s worth exploring niche marketing as a major strategy. Just be patient and never fear.

Martin Jelsema