Category Archives: Branding Strategies

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

Branding for referrals: two principles

Many, many businesses rely on a referral pipeline for growth and profit. You know if you’re one of them.

So can you develop a brand that helps you get referrals? Can your brand stimulate word-of-mouth “buzz” and generate referrals from qualified prospects?

I think so.

We’ve heard a lot about experiential marketing, permission marketing, word-of-mouth marketing and relationship marketing in the past ten years or so. Over that time, I’ve read and observed – always from the perspective of what it all means to branding and how branding can contribute to referrals.

There are a couple of ideas I’ve come to call the “principles of referral branding”. Though there are undoubtedly more, I think the following, if followed, will increase the number and quality of referral leads you can generate through branding.

First, I doff my hat to Scott Degraffenreid, a “social network analyst” and author of Embracing the N.U.D.E. Model – The Art and Science of Referral Marketing. That little book is based on his work in statistically analyzing major research on the behavior of referrals of prescription drugs by doctors and their patients. Through his analysis, he isolated four attributes of a product or service that helps generate referrals. Those attributes: Novelty, Utility, Dependability and Economy: the N.U.D.E. Model.

If you have a mixture of those four attributes people will refer your service or product to others.

Now why are those specific attributes important? Two reasons: Because unless they are present the product or service is not memorable, and because the referrer will only look good in the eyes of their associates if those characteristics are present.

Remember this: above all else, a referrer wants to look good in the eyes of those he or she refers a product to. That’s why people make referrals.

So the two principles I advance for branding for referrals are pretty simple:

One: Build your brand by incorporating and communicating the N.U.D.E. attributes.

Two: With every branding decision, ask yourself if it helps or hinders a person’s ability to look good while referring your product or service.

I’ll blog further about referral branding in the next couple of weeks, but for now, just remember the N.U.D.E. Model.

Martin Jelsema

Estes Park: a Resort with an Inferiority Complex

As you probably know if you’ve been here before, I’m a member of the BrandingWire posse, one of twelve branding bloggers who monthly tackle a common branding subject.

This month that subject is branding a resort destination, specifically, Estes Park Colorado. You’ll find a branding brief we all worked from at

Estes Park has an inferiority complex.

Situated at the east entrances of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Estes Park appears to want to be known for that and nothing more. It’s image is subservient to RMNP and it accepts that role. On the official website, there are great photos of RMNP, but not one good photo of the town itself.

Estes Park logo

Residents of the area apologize for the town’s gift and souvenir shops and the congestion of its main street. And although everyone knows taxes are reasonable only because of the tourist traffic, most of the better educated, retired segment of the community would rather there be no expansion or the hurly burly of a summer tourist season.

Even the long-standing tagline is deflective: “Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park”. (You go through a gateway, you don’t spend a week there.)

As stated in the branding brief, Estes Park requires a larger tax base and cash flow to maintain traditional town services and to promote Estes Park as a desirable place to vacation.

The Town of Estes Park itself is responsible for funding and managing promotional activities, and they certainly are doing a great job in distributing literature to anyone who asks. They also run several modest ad campaigns as well. The town just completed a new convention and visitors center, a concert venue and a new website – They are instigating shuttle buses to get visitors from the motel areas into downtown this summer.

In order to achieve their financial goals, I suggest FOCUS.

An unfocused Brand Is Confusing

And Confused Prospects Don’t Become Customers.

I believe the solution is market segmentation.

There are several market segments to choose from, and several that need minimum “maintenance”. The day-trippers and RV nomads will come through as they have ever since the automobile became common. The small group of summer residents with second homes in the Estes valley, and families who habitually rent cabins by the week, will continue to come.

Scenes of Estes Park and RMNP 

I suggest focusing on two specialized groups: conference and meeting organizers and tour organizers. Though both segments are very competitive, Estes Park can be differentiated to appeal to these organizers and their clientele. There are two advantages for Estes Park: 1) extending the season into the fall and spring, and 2) welcoming people predisposed to spending money – some expense account derived – over a three-five day period.

It Takes a Village 

I’d work with facilities – the YMCA of the Rockies, The Stanley Hotel, the more up-scale restaurants and motels – to provide the infrastructure for such groups. I’d make sure there was entertainment and activities available for non-meeting times, even during off-season. I’d encourage attendees to spend by offering coupons and discounts for attractions.

But most of all, I’d want the stakeholders of the town, residents and merchants alike, to buy in. In other words, do an internal branding program. Help make each stakeholder an ambassador and evangelist to visitors.

The Brand, Estes Park, starts with the scenery and wildlife, and continues through the activities and events people experience. But the thing that will encourage folks to return to Estes with their families, and to talk up their Estes Park experience to others back home, is the overall feeling that they were welcome and that the people of Estes Park wanted them to return. That emanates from gracious and hospitable people whose honest desire is to help visitors enjoy their experience.

Also, for all market segments, I’d attempt to change the way Estes is thought of as a place to stop for a night or two and then venture on. I’d want to implant the idea that Estes Park is the only place you need to go to enjoy a vacation of a lifetime. That Estes provides all the activities and events that any and all family members will find enjoyable and memorable.

Think of Estes Park as a Destination Instead of a Gateway

So instead of branding Estes Park as “The Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park”, I’d go with the idea of “Awesome in So Many Ways”, or “Estes Park: It’s a Happening”. Then I’d make sure the Estes Park website and promotional literature reflected the variety of an Estes Park experience.

As it now stands, the website is static. I’d place plenty of videos on it. Panorama sweeps, wildlife sequences, downtown walk-abouts, concert and horse show performances. I’d show people enjoying Indian crafts, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, snow-shoeing, golfing. I’d do views from the aerial tramway.

I’d video kids splashing in a pool, riding a train, playing miniature golf, etc., etc.. Also, I’d set aside a section of the website for travel agents and tour organizers, together with programs to get them to do tours TO Estes. I’d have another web section for meeting and conference planners.

Then I’d hire a staff to coordinate these activities.

These suggestions do mean synchronizing and focusing the town’s thinking. Instead of attempting to be everything for everyone, in means singling out certain lucrative market segments and concentrating efforts there. And those efforts mean not only promotional materials and tactics. It starts with the mindset of the town’s influentials, then spreading that evangelistic message to every resident, every merchant, every tour and meeting organizer, every travel agent. And finally, by demonstrating the message to visitors, you allow them to carry the message back home: “Estes Park is the only place you need to go to experience a vacation you’ll remember forever”.

Estes Park: Focus and follow through. Focus and fulfill your promise to visitors. Focus and thrive.

Now that you’ve read my blog, you can read what the other posse members have to say about branding Estes Park. Just go to, or look up individual blogs from the BrandingWire listing in the right column.

Martin Jelsema


A group of Dutchmen are watching us

They’re called Springwise BV. Their main purpose is to “scan the globe for smart new business ideas, delivering instant inspiration to entrepreneurial minds from San Francisco to Singapore”.

Their insights can be particularly valuable in developing brand strategies and tactics.

They’ve recruited a global network of “spotters”, some 8,000 of them. All the data collected is classified, interpreted, analyzed, transmuted, funneled, pummeled, condensed and finally reported at two different websites.

The mother blog is, “your daily fix of entrepreneurial ideas”. Its sister (presumably an aunt) is with the purpose of reporting “global consumer trends, ideas and insights”.

Both offer free newsletters and I believe they live up to their own press. It’s a valuable resource for those connected with branding.

As an example, here’s the way Trend Watching classified several new and emerging lifestyles. The website provides detail at On Our Radar 2007.


“Attractive to consumers driven by experiences instead of the fixed, by entertainment, by discovery, by fighting boredom, who increasingly live a transient lifestyle, freeing themselves from the hassles of permanent ownership and possessions.

“We dubbed these consumers TRANSUMERS in our November 2006 briefing, and there will be many more of them in 2007.”


Especially for younger consumers, participation is the new consumption. For these creatives, status comes from finding an appreciative audience (in much the same way as brands operate). No wonder that it’s becoming increasingly important to hone one’s creative skills. Status symbols, make way for STATUS SKILLS?”


In a post-material world, all that’s left to covet is…. other people? From networking sites to buddy lists to to a boom in members-only clubs, social status 2.0 is all about who you connect to and who wants to connect to you, tribal-style.”


“With the environment finally on the agenda of most powers that be, and millions of consumers now actively trying to greenify their lives, status from leading an eco-responsible lifestyle is both more readily available, and increasing in value.”


One thing you can’t go wrong with in 2007 is to ask yourself how your current and new products and experiences will satisfy a plethora of very diverse status seekers. In fact, once you get rid of the habit of only believing in traditional status symbols, there is no end to the number of STATUS LIFESTYLES you’ll be able to identify.”

It’s worth looking at the sites, subscribing to the newsletters, and for some, investing in their reports and profiles.

I’m adding Springwise to my blogroll.

Martin Jelsema

Unconscious Brand Building

I’ll wager there aren’t many readers of this blog who have ever heard of North American Manufacturing.

But I believe they’re one of the best-branded companies going.

They’re a very successful old-line provider of combustion components and systems for industrial applications.

I think they’ve gone about establishing a brand in the business-to-business sector that serves as an example all of us might attempt to achieve.

I first learned of North American Manufacturing while working as new product marketing manager for Coors Ceramics. (Many don’t know that Coors founded this business before WWI to supply bottle stoppers for their beer, and then chemical porcelain equipment when war with the Germans become imminent. Until Coors began making these vessels, Germany was our prime source for these vital lab tools.)

Anyway, I was asked to explore joint developmental partnerships with combustion-related companies to test a high-temperature industrial ceramic heat exchanger for industrial furnaces and kilns back in the late 1970’s.

Since Coors was a customer of burner manufacturers for their kilns, our R & D people were very familiar with combustion component suppliers. They suggested I first talk to North American Manufacturing.

I made a trip back to their headquarters in Cleveland. Their plant was old, undistinguished. Inside, their offices were sparsely furnished with old wooden desks and book cases filled with all sorts of data associated with combustion. I met with their marketing people and their product development staff. Almost to a man (no women in executive positions in those days) these people were engineers. They carried slide rules, wore ties and short-sleeved shirts and brought their lunch boxes to work.

North American Manufacturing logo

I found out later that every individual I met had written articles, book chapters, standards documents and white papers about combustion. They were experts. And more, they were passionate about combustion.

Because of these individuals, and those who came before, the company had established itself as the leader for combustion-related equipment

They had actually written the Combustion Handbook for Industrial Applications. Whenever combustion people gathered for technical symposiums or conventions, North American Manufacturing engineers participated on the panels. Almost single-handedly, North American Manufacturing had written the ASME standards for combustion.

What was more, these engineers were always available for one-on-one consultations with customers and prospects. They didn’t consider themselves to be “marketing” or “sales” people; they were just advisors for their customers’ combustion solutions.

Most innovations in burners, insulations, etc., were developed by North American Manufacturing.

They still dominate the combustion equipment industry. With worldwide distribution, and with the decline of “rust belt” industry in the U.S., North American Manufacturing has adapted.

I may be presumptuous, but I doubt while building their brand anyone within the company had consciously thought about branding. They just wanted to be the best at what they did.

So what can we all learn from this example? I’ve identified seven strategies that I believe have contributed to their leadership:

  • Find and develop employees passionate about your company, your products and your customers.
  • Be active in your industry’s development through standards committees, trade associations, seminars, workshops and publications.
  • Actively innovate new products and product improvements.
  • Provide innovative and dedicated services to install, maintain and troubleshoot customer applications.
  • Stick to what you know best and do best.
  • Practice patience and look to long-term growth.
  • Finally, associate with major engineering schools to further the science and engineering of your product category, and to develop preference among students in the field.

Is business-to-business branding any different from consumer product branding? I think there are major differences, and this example from the combustion industry demonstrates several of them.

Martin Jelsema

BrandingWire Case Study: Opinions by the Dozen

As promised, here’s the initiation of a monthly series of blogs based on case studies that twelve of us – a posse of pundits – will be addressing through the vehicle called BrandingWire. Our first “problem” was contributed by Steve Woodruff at Sticky Figure. Here’s the company profile he’s presented us:

“Growing A Company from the Coffee Grounds Up”
“A small coffee company in America’s heartland has been in business for 8 years and is ready for real growth. To date, they are moderately successful, profitable, and carry no debt. They roast their own beans on-site and their retail sites are relaxed, and kind-of country-funky. The locals love them but no one outside the region knows they exist.

This is a family business and the owner is committed to doing whatever it takes to create a thriving business. Before they do, however, they have a few “challenges”. Their brand name may be inadequate to go national, their tagline, “Great coffee at great prices!” sucks, and they have no marketing/branding pieces that can carry their growth. Finally, their logo looks like a five-year old drew it. On the upside, they have lots of roasting capability and their coffee sources can deliver all the beans they will need. They also have money to invest in growth, without placing any burden on their operations.”
You can read my ruminations and recommendations below, and the other eleven perspectives by accessing BrandingWire. But since you’re here, please read mine first.:o)

My Concept of Branding

First I should define what I believe branding is. Before the more traditional tasks such as naming a company or creating a logo, branding is a strategic activity that defines the very business to be created. It involves assessing the market, paying attention to trends and positioning the company in relation to competitors. It is the junction where customer desire and company strengths cross. I call it the brand platform.

So I suggest exploring the very nature of the business.

At present, the owners of this company are deeply committed to competing in the “coffee shop” category head-to-head with Starbucks, the semi-successful Peabody Coffee and a few other “me-too” coffee shop chains and local imitators. If as stated, the owners are “committed to do whatever it takes to create a thriving business”, I’d ask them to think more broadly.

I’d want to explore creating a new product category in which there is no significant, organized competition. This is a matter of combining the coffee-making component with another, equally attractive service business opportunity.

How to Create a New Product Category

How would I go about that? First I would study trends. And I would study Starbucks and try to find those areas in which they are not strong.  I’d look at activities in which coffee drinking could be an accompaniment, much as beer is hooked to bowling. I’d then associate with those types of establishments and sell my brew from under their roofs or in co-owned facilities. This is being done in at least one market, bookselling.

Here’s an example of one direction I’d explore based upon my own, very narrow experience in Starbucks, and knowing about one significant trend in American life. I’d want to walk through the financials before exploring it much further than I have here.

Here’s the premise:

There are few places where small groups can meet regularly except in the back rooms of a handful of restaurants where participants are required to eat a meal. And those groups, either business or social, are becoming more popular what with the trend toward social networking. So I’d provide a place where leads groups, master-mind groups, MLM groups, sales networks, plus non-business groups like mother’s morning break groups, retired social groups and charity organizers could meet regularly for a room fee and the cost of refreshments.

I’d have up to five semi-private areas of different sizes, each of which equipped with conference table, whiteboards, sideboard for refreshments and coffee. These “pods” would offer some privacy. Plus the meetings would no longer dominate the entire seating area as they do when groups “invade” a Starbucks. There would also be a “public area” for one and two people seating, and a take-out function as well.

But instead of being known as a coffee house, I’d create a new category: meeting place. I’d call it something like “Rendezvous”

I’d serve great coffee and variations, but the thrust is a place to gather and to come back regularly to meet, even though you could meet with a friend there anytime, and occasionally just drop in for a cup.

The networking propensity of group members will provide word to spread about this meeting place so that when some one asks, “where can I gather with my cohorts?”, Rendezvous comes to mind.

Think Outside Your Existing Category

So, by thinking outside the traditional product category, by creating your own category in which you are the first to reside, by designing the business around a particular type of customer, by targeting niche activists, by combining business concepts, these coffee folks can compete effectively without competing directly with the Starbucks machine.

If the new model has legs, then I’d build a brand platform upon which the traditional branding elements can be created and integrated into a differentiated new business that just happens to sell great coffee.

Now go visit the BrandingWire and read what the other eleven members of the pundit posse have to say about growing coffee shops. (Their individual blogs can also be reached from the “Posse of Pundits” blogroll in the right column.

Martin Jelsema


An early branding mistake by duPont

In the early 1960’s, I was a participant in one of the classic branding failures of the era. No, not Edsel. Not nearly as glamorous or as expensive as that one, but equally embarrassing to the brand owner, duPont.

The brand was Telar, the never-drain anti-freeze. I was an assistant account exec on that account while at BBDO. Here’s the story.

For many years the sale of anti-freeze was falling. Why? Because the “new and improved” anti-freezes of the day, and especially the Prestone brand, kept getting better. People discovered they needn’t drain their anti-freeze every spring even though the “experts” and the anti-freeze companies admonished everyone to do so unless they wanted their radiators to rust out.

Dow Chemical developed a new product they called Dowguard, a full-fill anti-freeze. It contained distilled, corrosion-retarding water and anti-freeze mix. Folks had to completely drain their cooling systems and fill it completely with Dowguard and they were told they wouldn’t ever need to drain and refill their cooling systems again.

This worried duPont, and so they developed and introduced Telar.

Now they’d done some research concerning sales of anti-freeze. They found that about 35-percent of respondents did not drain their anti-freeze annually. Another 30-percent drained their own.

Remember, this was circa 1960. Discount stores were just becoming popular. This was a trend anticipating Pep Boys, Checker and NAPA toward do-it-yourself auto servicing.   “Traditional” outlets like service stations, garages and auto dealerships were feeling the pinch.

duPont had a strong relationship with the auto servicing industry. Their entire distribution system for all their automotive products was as strong as any in the industry. Their relationships were very tight and DuPont thought the best way to market Telar was through this strong network and not through discounters and chains. So they only sold through their traditional chain and advertised as such, both to consumers and to the trade. And to make the deal even juicier for dealers, DuPont priced Telar at about 30-percent higher than their regular Zerex anti-freeze.

But dealers, knowing this was a “never-drain” product, feared they would lose sales (especially from the 35-percent who were still visiting their facilities to have radiators drained yearly). So they weren’t enthusiastic partners, stocking only token amounts of Telar, not promoting it and only installing it if customers asked them to.

Consumers who came in asking about Telar (the ones who rely on their mechanic’s advice) were not getting really enthusiastic endorsements. Thus, because of no dealer support and a product that flew in the face of many years of tradition (drain every year), Telar failed.

What duPont  had not considered were industry trends and consumer behavior. There was some arrogance involved. Mighty duPont, management thought, could buck the trends toward discounters and maintain a viable network of servicing dealers. Based on past innovations, they believed consumers would embrace any new product from the duPont labs, even if priced above comparable performing products.

The moral: be sure to scan and interpret industry trends and consumer behavior before branding new products.

That is why I encourage branders to build a branding platform with one of those planks being industry/product category trends, and another being complete descriptions of market segments and supply chain participants, and the factors that motivate members of those groups.

Quite often these planks are overlooked by smaller organizations because of research costs and the time it takes to gather critical information.

But I believe it’s just as essential to the success of a brand as positioning the product or creating the brand’s identity.

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.