Category Archives: Branding Resources

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.

Color & Branding – Number 2 in a series

Let’s start with a secondary color instead of a primary, just to keep us on our toes.


Orange is the color this week.

Incidentally, the major source of information on individual colors I’ve used to formulate these blog entries is About:Desktop Publishing. You can access the entire color spectrum at

It’s interesting that when I went to the page on “orange” on the website, the Google ads were all about the fruit, oranges. This just serves as a reminder that many words may have more than one meaning or association. In the evaluation phase of developing a brand name, be sure to take that into account.

Anyway, back to the color orange in branding.

Major attributes of orange are warmth, energy and cheerfulness. First of all, it’s a warm color on the spectrum, with red on one side and yellow on the other. It’s also the color associated with our most pervasive icon, the sun.

Orange demands attention but doesn’t scream for it. Thus, though it can be vibrant, it can be a background or secondary color in some palettes. Think about a box of Tide. Yet, as an accent with a complementary or contrasting color, orange will stand out and make a statement. It is not frail.

Examples of orange in branding

Because it’s energetic, and because it’s the color of the very healthful orange fruit, orange can be associated with good health, particularly when combined with a solid green.

Though it’s vibrant, orange also has a “dark side”. It’s the color of falling, (that is dead) leaves, so it’s associated with fall and Halloween. It’s the color chosen by the Fightin’ Gators of of the UofF, my almamater and the bane of the rest of the SEC. But orange is predominantly a cheerful, friendly color.

Medium blue is the color diametrically across the color wheel from orange blue. That makes for a contrasting combination in tension but also provides a pleasing combination. When combined with red and/or yellow, you have analogous colors that form an exciting, warm and attention-getting palette.

And FedEx found the combination of purple and orange to be both exciting and unique. Home Depot’s logo and trade dress is predominantly orange, using white as its partner.

Orange can be associated with the tropics, summer, friendliness, good health, warmth and excitement.

According to Mitch Meyerson, a psychologist associated with Jay Conrad Levinson,s Guerrilla Marketing empire, orange appeals to intellectuals, and it’s a good choice to accent business-to-business communications.

Looks like we started this series off with a winner.

Martin Jelsema


Colorful Branding – Number 1 in a series

Without doubt, color is a vital element of branding. Except for a powerful brand name, color is the most important branding element, in my opinion, because of the emotional power of color.

Color invokes associations and set moods. It may be a “subliminal” element in that most people will not consciously be aware of a brand’s color(s) or the associations it evokes. In fact, unless a color is absolutely prominent (and may even have the color’s name in the brand name – GreenThumb, Selsun Blue), most people could not name a color associated with a brand unless its been around for years – think Kodak, Scott’s, Tide and UPS.

The emotions elicited from colors can be greatly influenced by the context in which it appears. For example, green is the color of money and suitable for financial service businesses. But it is also the color of trees, lawns and shrubs so environmentally-conscious brands will probably opt for green. Green is also associated with “green light”, “green horn”, Kermit the Frog and a Jolly Green Giant.

Then, too, colors may signify different associations in different cultures. For the Japanese, white is associated with death, whereas in Western culture it stands for purity and beginnings. Care in selecting colors for a global brand is almost as important as selecting a brand name that “translates positively”.

HGB color wheel

Another factor: most brands have multi-colored visages. So what happens when two colors tend to “contradict” each other? What affect does the FedEx  purple and orange have on target audiences, if any? Just another factor to consider when establishing the elements of your brand.

Then there are other ways to combine and contrast colors based on color theory and the color wheel. These techniques will provide cohesion, harmony, vitality, tension, serenity, and any number of other reactions to  the brand.

So this series will tackle color. I’ll start with blogs about each of the major colors, then speak to color combinations and then to color theory as it pertains to branding.

So please keep coming back to explore colorful branding facts, ideas and opinions, and please let me hear from you about your experiences with color in branding.

Naming Tips – Number 20 in a series

Accumulate a naming “swipe” file.

This may be practical only for those who have three or four naming projects a year: i.e., “professional” namers because it needs time and patience to collect examples from many different sources.

But just like direct response copywriters collect compelling sales letters, it’s a good idea to collect good names and sources of name candidates. Not that you want to copy them, but they can lead to inspiration and connections.

First, you might want to keep a running list of those unique “aha” names you occasionally come across, names like Travelocity, Buzzoodle, Rare Bear, Fitzwell. Over time, that list can become an invaluable “idea sparker”.

Then, you might collect the unusual “last names” businesses could use instead of  the ordinary “Zone” or “Express”. (The newest “fan” name to stay away from: “Authority”. Here are fresh several examples: Cache, Grove, Prime, Yard. I’ve collected over 600 “last names”, and I refer to that list with almost every naming project. Though mostly applicable for naming a business, I’ve found perusing the list can help me intuit product names as well.

  1. Other swipe file contents might include lists of:Prefixes and suffixes
    Meaningful initials (MVP, PDQ)
    Positive idioms and phrases (fast forward, breathe easy, rest assured)
    Family names (Goodman, Weldon, Merrywell)
    Place names
    Active vowels

The best thing about this suggestion is that it’s open-ended. Any list you think might be helpful can be started just by beginning a new page in your “name idea” document. It’s fairly easy to accumulate candidates with a word processing program that allows you to periodically sort them in alphabetical order. At least that helps me feel like I’m organized.

Use your files for ideas and directions. The bigger they get, the more valuable those files become.

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

When should you perform a brand audit?

There are several situations that require a brand manager to review and reevaluate the brand. Quite often this is an activity dictated by an unexpected event or circumstance which intuitively calls for the review. These often occur because of competitive activity, particularly when inytroducing a technologically superior product. The event may also be something as “trivial” as a critic’s product review.

Yet there are some more predictable situations where your brand management people should perform this review, also called a brand audit. Ideally, brand audits will be scheduled annually and receive as much attention as the brand plan. But if not, they should be reviewed when any of the following situations occur:

When contemplating a decision to enter a new market or product category in which you have not as yet established a position.

When assessing the pros and cons of extending a brand into a new product category or developing a new brand for that category.

When determining whether to sub-brand or utilize a corporate brand – and to assess the balance between the two.

When a brand’s market share is slipping or is not meeting realistic expectations because of competitive activity.

When considering the establishment of a new product category in which your brand will be the first participant.

When you are not certain of your brand’s position, strength or effectiveness in relation to competitive offerings.

When it’s time to establish a cohesive branding plan, and implement it through the creation of relevant branding elements: name, positioning statement, logo, packaging, graphic standards, associations, events, etc.

On my Signature Strategies website, I’ve outlined the elements of a complete brand audit. Just click on the name Signature Strategies to review and print out this doc.

Martin Jelsema

Power 150: ranked 118

Back to Basics – 2

The previous entry in this series addressed defining target markets as the first step of “Branding Smart from the Start”.
Step 2, competitive evaluation, is also a foundation activity upon which a successful brand can be built.
Here we are identifying and evaluating your anticipated competition.
Now, I’ve been told by at least a dozen entrepreneurs that “They don’t have any competitors”. I say poppycock! I say that’s a cop-out.
And I’m not speaking about the old saw that says you’re competing for a piece of market members’ limited resources. No, I suggest that your competition is probably the product, method or system market members are using today in order to cope with the need or desire your offering promises to address. So the horse and buggy competed with automobiles in the pioneering days of the auto. Bookkeepers compete with Quick Books. Faxes compete with e-mail. Fresh vegetables compete against packaged salads.
Yours may be a more speedy, cheaper, thorough and elegant solution to a problem. But because people in general are reluctant to change – they get comfortable with the way things are – the old ways need to be addressed and acknowledged as you develop your branding strategy.
No one has addressed this need better than Geoffrey A. Moore in his ground-breaking book, Crossing the Chasm. On page 154 of the soft-cover edition he presents a formula for a positioning statement, or elevator speech, to introduce a product that is going to replace a traditional product.

For (target customers)…
Who are dissatisfied with (current market alternative)…
Our produce/service is a (new product category)…
That provides (key benefit/solution)…
Unlike (product alternative)…
We have assembled (key features addressing the application).

For new products in which you are inventing a new product category (as I advised a new dry cleaner who offered all type of clothing care products to do by introducing the company as a “Clothing Care Center” rather than a “dry cleaner”.) and for products entering an established category, identify each major and each up-and-coming competitor and perform a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis.
This will allow you to position each competitor against the attributes important within the product category. I suggest you go to my web site and review the positioning research example I’ve presented there concerning the restaurant business in a hypothetical small town in southern Colorado. Click Positioning Research Example.
You may not need to actually poll people about the competition if you have other sources of market intelligence. The idea is to at least roughly place competitors in the “pecking order” for each important attribute. Now you’ve established a map of your playing field, and can better see where your offering will fit within it.
Next time it’s on to Step 3 in the next blog when I’ll address the need for “classic” positioning.