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 Springwise.com, “your daily fix of entrepreneurial ideas”. Its sister (presumably an aunt) is Trendwatching.com 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 meetup.org 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

Naming Tips: Number 26 in a Series

Pay attention to the “shapes of sounds”.

In linguistics, which has a language all its own, the sound of certain letters and character groupings assume different perceptions. They make some brand candidates “better” than others because of the intrinsic reactions people have to them. They make words sound vital or passive, large or small, strong or weak.

The sound imparts an intrinsic meaning. For instance, “plosives” characters like “j”, “k”, “p”, “t” are pronounced with more force than other consonants so they lend vigor to the words in which they appear. Letters like “a”, “h”, “m”, “n” roll off the tongue and are more passive. The “ee” sound is perceived as small whereas the “o” is broader and sounds larger. When combined in words, you’d like to have a varied “tempo” consisting of both plosive and soft sounds.

Some examples: Viagra, Prozac, Acura, and Brillo. There are some syllables that will better relate to the object you’re naming. While I can’t list them all, or even start, here are some that impart a subtle meaning if incorporated into a name: mom, vel, ram, tib, lil, kra, etc. 

Sound combinations impart subliminal and global reactions just because of their construction, and though you needn’t become a linguist, you should pay attention to the linguistic “sound” of brand name candidates.

Along the same theme, names can be more memorable if they have a specific and unified “look” as well as sound. That means the characters of the name work together for a unique but unified presence. The letters just look good together. Usually they will be short words. Several come to mind: Bolo, Oreo, Jada, Google, Jello. If the name can be presented in an interesting graphic treatment that emphasizes the unity of the letters, your memory retention will be enhanced.

Martin Jelsema

Commenting on OPB Generates Branding Insight.

In commenting on Jonathan Trenn’s branding blog at Chris Abraham’s Marketing Conversation, the words below just popped onto the screen as my fingers did their “thing”. In fact I though they were insightful. So I thought they might bear repeating here (with a minor edit or two).

Jonathan: I think something is missing from your definition of branding: it has to do with providing an arena in which people can identify themselves as members.

From the perspective of target market members, this is the key to top-of-mind awareness that draws people in and leads them to becoming zealots advocating the brand. It may be a feeling of being leading-edge, It may be a feeling of comfort and safety. It may be a feeling of participating in history. It may be the feeling of adventure.

That, to me is what branding is about: providing a theater for your market’s emotional satisfaction.

Jonathan had made some really valid statements on Brand Building that are worth reviewing. Just click “Brand Building” to read his definition(s).

Martin Jelsema


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

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

Naming Tips: Number 25 in a Series

A metropolitan library is still a great resource. Here are just two ways I’ve used my regional library to local brand name candidates and ideas that spur my creative juices.

I look for reference books, text books and industry reports that contain valuable information about the markets they address Within those documents you might find glossaries of terms, one or two of which may trigger name candidates. Also, scan the indexes for terms and characteristics that might lead to naming ideas.

Also, a resource I find stimulating and fruitful in the business reference section of larger libraries are the twin volumes by Gale Research: Brands and Their Companies and Companies and Their Brands. In Volume 1, all registered and active U.S. trademarks of brands are listed alphabetically with references to their owners. The second volume lists companies alphabetically and then the brands each owns.

There are two ways to use this naming gold mine. First, because most trademarks are only registered for one or two trademark categories, it is entirely possible that you could claim one or more from the list if the trademark owner isn’t a competitor.

Second, both volumes provide a swarm of naming ideas. By scanning and picking word parts, prefixes, suffixes and formats you find appropriate, you can generate new word lists you can combine with words you’ve generated from other sources to increase the quantity of naming candidates.

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


Naming Tips: Number 24 in a Series

There’s a concept I believe S.I. Hayakawa, the modern father of linguistics, introduced back in the 1960’s. At least that’s when I first learned about it in a copy-writing seminar Marstellar Advertising conducted for its staff.

Ever hear of the abstraction ladder?

It’s easier to cite an example than to define it.

Picture a ladder and perched on the top rung is a person who declares, “I have assets”. When you ask him, “what do you mean by that”, he steps down a rung and states, “I have agricultural holdings”. You ask again for a more explicit description and he steps down another rung as he declares, “I raise livestock”. Once again you ask for clarification. He again descends another rung and says, “I’m in the cattle business.” You want more specifics and he goes to the next lower rung and pronounces that, “I’m partial to dairy cows”. You ask what kind of dairy cow and he steps on the next rung down to exclaim he “likes Guernsey cows”. Finally as he leaves the bottom rung and plants his feet squarely on the loam he confesses, “I own a cow named Bessie”.

That’s the abstraction ladder.

Each rung represents another level of abstraction, and the higher you go the more abstract becomes your phraseology.

Keep this in mind as you attempt to name a business. When you use the abstract words from the top rungs, your images and impact are limited. Thus, names like the following – all real names owned by members of the INC500 fastest growing companies list – will have less impact than will solid, low-rung names that people can actually visualize and identify with.

  • Associated Business Systems
    Advanced Technologies & Science
    Enterprise Development Services
    Advanced Technologies Group
    Innovative Technical Systems
    Advanced Solutions Engineering
    Universal Systems & Technology
    Integrated Science Solutions

Honest. Those are actual names of companies that grew fast during the last ten years – IN SPITE OF TERRIBLE NAMES. Might they have enjoyed even more and continued success if they had been introduced to the abstraction ladder?

Just to be on the safe side, I’d stay on the lower rungs where specific, action-based concrete words resonate with market members.


Just one more reminder: Monday, June 11, I’ll be blogging on a single branding case study with eleven other branding and marketing “pundits”. I think you’ll find my perspective, and the others you’ll find through http://brandingwire.com to be well worth your attention.

Martin Jelsema