Category Archives: Branding Resources

My very first meme

Memes are new to me – at least in the way they’re used on the Internet. The term used to mean a symbol/word/musical note/image that had universal understanding. It was a cultural phenominon. But in this new context, a meme is a picture/caption that may go “viral” because of its appeal to a certain audience. Anyway, this meme is sort of lame, but it does make a point.

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Violet with yellow: withdrawn and unimaginative.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

Another fine branding resource

I’ve read and recommended books by David Aakers (Building Strong Brands and Managing Brand Equity) and by Scott Davis (Brand Asset Management and with Michael Dunn, Building the Brand-Driven Business).

Aakers, Davis and Dunn are authorities, Aakers with an academic background, Davis and Dunn with in-the-trenches credibility.

All are associated with the branding consulting firm, Prophet.

And the Prophet website is home for literally hundreds of articles, new releases and white papers concerning branding and brand management. Not only do Aakers and Davis contribute prolifically, so do various executive staff members, many of whom are industry specialists.

Not only are there archives articles and other resources to be found at the site, you can be assured that they continue to churn out materials, ideas and techniques as they become current. They don’t sit on their hands.

And there’s also a Prophet blog you might want to check out. It’s a co-op for Prophet pundits as well as a newsfeed for branding in the news. I’m adding their blog, called Backpocket, to my blogroll and I’ve subscribed to their RSS feed.

Check’em out.

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

Brands and Color:number seven in a series

Still going around the color wheel, we’ve finally come to primary color, red.

This is a color of mixed messages and associations.

First, red is powerful and aggressive. It tends to dominate other colors in combinations. We all know it’s a warm color. And at its most intense, red is associated with hot. It invokes excitement and action.

Red is the color of blood and violence. But it’s also the color of romance and valentines. And Santa Claus wears a red suit. It’s the traditional color of fire engines, rescue efforts and traffic signs/signals meaning “stop”. In nature, healthful fruits and veggies are often red.

 Apple red

We speak positively of red-letter days and the red carpet treatment. Negative expressions include: seeing red, being in the red, red tape, a red flag and a red herring.

Red’s cultural meanings and associations vary worldwide but are generally positive. Brides in Hindu, Islamic and Chinese cultures usually wear red. In India, a red mark on the forehead purports to attract good luck. Red in Singapore symbolizes joy. It is associated with good fortune in China.

Because red is vibrant and powerful, a little dab might be all you need to convey a message of action and vitality.

Green is the complement color to red. Orange and purple are analogous to red. Names for different shades and hues of red include scarlet, crimson, maroon, burgundy, ruby, flame, vermillion.

If you are looking to associate your product/service/organization/event with a festive, forceful, hot, bold, and/or dynamic color, red would be first choice. Brands associated with sports, energy supply and youth often look to red.

Logos using red

Those people who prefer red are usually impulsive, athletic and sexy. They are optimists and passionate about their activities. They want to experience life to its fullest, even though they will have swings in their emotional natures.

Although red is a popular color for branding, there are some darker shades that are not used as often that will also impart the associations provided by bright reds.

Martin Jelsema


Naming Tips – Number 29 in a Series

It seems every naming company or branding guru has set down their criteria for naming a product or naming a company.

I’m an advocate of establishing a set of criteria based upon the specifics of the naming project as defined within a Naming Brief document.

The brief contains the creative direction all involved in the naming process should have up front. The criteria (the last chapter of the brief) should be thoroughly studied along with product characteristics, competitive postures, stakeholder perceptions and other subjects included in the brief.

I think it is necessary prior to beginning the naming process, even though some will say I’m limiting the creative process by imposing criteria too soon.

My experience is that criteria and direction focuses people but doesn’t limit their ability to be creative. (I’ve blogged before that successful brainstorming is based on the participants being well-briefed prior to setting down for a session.)

So, over the next several blogs in this series I’ll discuss some sets of criteria other naming pros espouse. I suggest these as guidelines from which you can build your own set of criteria specifically for your next naming project.

I’m starting with the list published on the Strategic Name Development website. Specifically, this list is meant to evaluate how well a name sounds in an International context. Here are their words:

From phonemes to fricatives — what makes a great sounding name?

* easy to pronounce;
* short, preferably three or fewer syllables;
* well-balanced where vowels and consonants alternate evenly throughout;
* resonate and whether achieved through alliteration, haplology or poetics, when a great name sounds right, you just know it; and
* often imply speed and dominance; so when naming a business, keep in mind that some of the greatest brands (Barbie, Pepsi, Boeing, Procter & Gamble) begin with one of seven all-powerful consonants — B, C, D, G, K, P or T.

I certainly won’t quarrel with these criteria. The list certainly pinpoints several well-documented attributes of good naming practices. So I’d keep them in mind and used them as appropriate. But I’d also broaden my criteria. The sound is absolutely important but so are other criteria I’ll cover in subsequent blogs.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – Number 28 in a Series

Brand naming resources abound on the internet.

Here are two I’ve used with some success even though they aren’t exclusively created for naming companies or products.

The first is an authority site concerned with the creative process. It’s called GoCreate.Com. It provides links to creative systems, software, techniques, and other resources promoting and aiding creative thought and action. Two resources you’ll find listed on the home page are specifically helpful directories of resources:

* Creativity Toolbox at
* Head Shed at

In the Creativity Toolbox you’ll find several relevant naming resources, including Brainline where you can ask others to help you  in an on-line branstorming session, Naming Prompts which stimulates lateral thinking through slightly off-beat questioning, and the Rhyme Zone where you enter a word and ask for rhyming words or synonyms or more sophisticated searches like matching consonants only.

Head Shed contains most of the same resources as Creativity Toolbox, but you may find some different nougats there of interest for your particular naming project, or for other creative explorations.

The second resource is word-oriented. It’s called Lexical FreeNet. It proclaims to be a “connected thesaurus”. You type in a couple of words and select whether you want the online program to generate relationships, connections, intersections, etc. The most meaningful I’ve found is asking for a “Substring” which “finds words that contain the first as a substring”—i.e., variations on the theme. There’s a lot of power in the programeven though most is not applicable to naming. However, if you’re fascinated by words and their relationships, you’ll find this site satisfying.

Branding and Color– Number 5 in a Series

This week, the subject is blue. Blue has a lot going for it.

It’s a primary color with all kinds of tones and hues.

They range from an almost-black navy to the lightest of pastels, from bright sky-blue to dignified royal blue, from greenish turquoise to purplish ultramarine.

 blue sky

Basically, blue is a cool color. That means it’s complementary to the hot secondary color, orange. Analogous colors are green and purple.

Blue is the most-liked color. It has a universality of good associations beginning with sky and water. Yet, it is not a color associated with food, with the exception of blueberries. Blue has a masculine orientation as well.

Large companies seem partial to blue as a company color – IBM, AT&T, GE and GM among them. And of course there’s the Tiffany blue box.

array of blues in branding 

In general, blue imparts “good vibes”. It has come to represent importance, intelligence, stability, harmony, peace, confidence, masculinity, power, trust and serenity.

The word “blue” turns up in phrases that are generally positive: true blue, blue ribbon, blue skies, blue book.

Blue can also be associated with sadness and depression. Feeling blue and singing the blues come to mind.

In its lighter, brighter tones, blue imparts a freshness and a casualness. Blue-gray is a modern, formal color. The dark blues can conger formal and classic associations.

People whose favorite color is blue generally have a need for calm. They are usually gentle and sensitive and tend to form strong attachments and relationships. They display a high sense of responsibility, trust and confidence.

Medium and dark blues can be combined with warm and hot colors for contrast and tension. When dark blues are matched to dark colors like maroon, black and gold, a somber, dignified association is created. Lighter tones combined with earth tones like tan imparts a nature-oriented association. Mid-toned blues are mutually compatible with contrasting and monochromatic colors, and offers great flexibility.

No wonder it’s the most popular color.

Martin Jelsema