Once the heavy lifting in creating your brand is done, basic care and ongoing maintenance to preserve and protect it must not be overlooked. “Nurture your brand as you would a child,” says brand expert Jagdeep Kapoor, author of the bestselling “Twenty-Four Brand Mantras.” Just like all living things, a brand requires nurturing to remain healthy and to grow.
From creation through to end-of-life, a brand can encounter unexpected challenges arising from all sorts of corners, not just from the competition. From a poorly planned campaign to a corporate takeover, and from an outspoken CEO to a badly chosen name, a few examples that made recent headline news are worth a closer look to form takeaways and lessons learned for brand owners and managers everywhere.
Case Study: Rhode Island Is Not Iceland – Tourism Campaign Has Too Many Mistakes, Says Governor
America’s smallest state ought to know that details matter. When Rhode Island set out to create its new $5 million integrated tourism and new business promotion campaign, big guns were brought in. Who better, you might think, than Milton Glaser, the graphic designer who created the iconic I ❤ NY campaign?
Lesson #1: Politics matter! Milton Glaser and Havas PR North America, chosen for the PR contract, are New York City firms, not Rhode Island firms.
The newly launched campaign featuring a slogan “Cooler & Warmer” left many people cold…and guessing. What does it mean, they queried across social media channels. One Commerce Corporation board member said he saw “no emotional connection” and “no personal brand to the state or the people.”
An ATOM Media executive in Providence, RI said, “Usually a slogan is something that people know instantly and understand. I think the fact that you need to explain it could be a little problematic.” That sentiment was echoed by the owner of a Newport, RI marketing and graphic design agency, who said the slogan, “Doesn’t make any sense to me. In order to create a good tagline you have to have a brand strategy.”
Lesson #3: Graphics must reflect and express a brand’s persona, and that must be one that resonates with people, not one that needs to be explained.
Lesson #4: Social media matters! A tagline containing a special character or symbol (such as the ampersand in Cooler & Warmer) won’t function as a hashtag. Ever.
That wasn’t all. A YouTube video released with great fanfare was yanked within 24 hours when it was pointed out, “Hey, that’s not Rhode Island — that’s the Harpa concert hall and conference center in Reykjavik. Iceland.” Other footage featured a highly acclaimed restaurateur who had already moved his operation to Boston. And the video also claimed 20 percent of America’s historic sites are in the little Ocean State, when it’s actually 2 percent.
This was the ‘alternative’ Rhode Island Cooler & Warmer ‘spoof’ version produced by The Wonderful Show!
Lesson #5: Accuracy matters! The state’s marketing director resigned. Media partners are returning their contract fees to the taxpayers. Cooler & Warmer was scrapped.
After an initial attempt — picked up internationally, even by The China Post — Governor Raimondo took a different tack at a news conference, saying, “One of the things I’ve learned from listening and engaging with people is that there should’ve been more public participation in this thing from the get-go.”
With that in mind, Newport Buzz posted a public contest, pitting “Cooler & Warmer” against the previous slogan, “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island,” and a local amateur entry, “Sea to Believe.” With 15,000 votes in so far, the local resident’s idea is clear away the favorite with 80 percent, versus the traditional one at 18 percent and the costly new-fangled entry coming in dead last at 2 percent.
Lesson #6: There’s no room for ivory tower decision-making. Consultation is critical, brand audits are essential.
More Takeaways: All brands should consider geographical location of their contractors and supply chains when performing due diligence in order to avoid potential embarrassment. The look and feel of the brand via tagline, logo, adverts, all brand collateral, media and all touchpoints must resonate with its audience, make an emotional connection and be authentic. The importance of fact-checking and the need to eliminate exaggerated claims cannot be overstated. Handle a brand crisis with carefully thought-out strategy, not something to poke fun at.
Case Study: Brand Takeover – Richard Branson Reacts to Virgin America Sale
Sir Richard Branson is himself a brand who runs a brand that has sub-brands. The self-made billionaire wasted no time addressing the Alaska Airlines purchase of Virgin America — just in case of any tarnish rubbing off on the overall Virgin brand name.
Image via www.virgin.com and Virgin America
Well aware of the fierce loyalty of Virgin America fans for what they consider a superior product at parity prices, Branson let everybody know, “I would be lying if I didn’t admit sadness that our wonderful airline is merging with another. Because I’m not American, the US Department of Transportation stipulated I take some of my shares in Virgin America as non-voting shares, reducing my influence over any takeover. So there was sadly nothing I could do to stop it.”
Lesson #7: Confront a brand crisis. Deal with it, manage it, communicate about it professionally and do not hide from it.
In a statement that’s a pleasure to read in its entirety, due to the passion readers can sense, Branson goes on to discuss the importance of the brand, “…once Alaska witnesses first-hand the power of the brand and the love of Virgin America customers for our product and guest experience, they too will be converts and the US traveling public will continue to benefit…”
Even in the face of a forced merger, the rest of the Virgin brand received immediate reinforcement from the top. “Our Virgin airline has much more to do, more places to go, and more friends to make along the way,” Branson stated.
Lesson #8: Find the silver lining. Notice how Branson uses this corporate takeover event as an opportunity to reiterate the ongoing benefits of a Virgin travel experience.
Case Study: Tarnished Brand – Trump Empire?
In his run on the US presidency, Donald Trump’s raucous attention-grabbing style and statements is affecting custom at Trump Collection branded apartment towers, hotels, resorts and golf courses.
Image via http://www.npr.org
Polling and consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland survey results found that 45 percent of respondent US residents with annual earnings of $200,000 or more will make a point of not visiting a Trump hotel or golf course over the next four years. Within that group, 77 percent indicated they would actually boycott the Trump brand.
Lesson #9: From the CEO to front line employees to the back of the house operation, your brand is represented by everyone in each and every customer (and potential customer) interaction. Everyone is, or should be, an ambassador for your brand.
Case Study: Stay Relevant, For The Times They Are A-Changin’
In the 1980’s, four-time Olympic diving gold medalist and five-time world champion Greg Louganis was passed over for one additional honor — an appearance on the Breakfast of Champions Wheaties Legends cereal boxes. Louganis is openly gay, HIV-positive and an LGBT activist. He is also “widely viewed as the greatest diver in the history of the sport,” according to a recent communication from the Wheaties maker, General Mills.
Calling it “a ground swell of love,” Louganis told Hollywood Today that a petition signed by 40,000-plus people brought the oversight to the attention of General Mills. At age 56, Louganis joins a highly decorated Olympian swimmer and hurdler, a woman and a black man, in the brand’s revamped Wheaties Legends series packaging, available on the grocery store shelves (one million boxes!) from May 2016.
Image via http://www.blog.generalmills.com
Lesson #10: A brand needs to stay relevant to stay alive. The brand must respond to feedback and act to correct an out-and-out mistake.
Case Study: What’s In a Name – Law School Learns to Study Harder
Experts highly recommend that even the smallest of brands invest time and effort in getting a name right from the start to avoid potential legal issues and massive upheaval if a change is required. That advice takes into consideration everything from spelling to acronyms to trademark and domain name. Later, a brand might tweak a logo, revamp packaging design, shift media channels, or even undertake a rebrand if necessary.
AdWeek reports that a recent study by U.K. research firm MillwardBrown found “many brands that change their names can expect an immediate 5 to 20 percent drop in sales, and that the new brand image ‘may not be as strong as it was before.’”
After U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February, George Mason University outside Washington D.C. renamed their law school after Scalia upon receiving a $30 million gift to do so.
Several tweets later, the school realized the awkward acronym they’d created and made a swift change away from Antonin Scalia School of Law, or ASSOL. A crisis was averted at Antonin Scalia Law School before any signs went up or ribbons were cut.
Image via https://www2.gmu.edu
Spelling Counts: When Small Brands Make Big Mistakes
Branding experts point out that misspellings, bad foreign language translations and tricky signage is an area frequently causing trouble at small companies which attempt an in-house branding effort. Even big brands don’t always get it right, with sometimes alarming results.
Amusing examples can occur when random neon lights fail and the Essex House becomes Sex House and Dynasty Restaurant becomes Nasty Restaurant.
Image via Reddit
Even an airport parking garage can be considered part of the airport’s brand. Here’s a curious example of why details matter, right down to vetting your contractors and proofing the signage.
Image via Reddit
Lesson #11: Seek professional assistance in naming a brand to avoid potentially disastrous errors and oversights.
Questions to consider:
• Would you agree that branding is even more important and valuable for small businesses than it is for big companies?
• Have you fully considered and defined differentiation within your brand? How is your brand really different distinctive and memorable?
• Have you determined that your brand rings true and authentic for its target audiences? Have you developed you purchaser personas for each of your different customer types?
• Have you seen other examples of common mistakes amongst other brands that you can learn from?
Google made us uncomfortable!
On a recent midsummer Silicon Valley afternoon, the Co-founder and CEO of Google morphed into the CEO of Alphabet before our eyes. What’s Alphabet, we wondered?
Larry Page opened his official blog post saying, “We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant.”
Image via https://abc.xyz
“Uncomfortably excited” is a state of mind that Googlers are well familiar with; they say it comes up frequently during internal meetings. When Larry Page addressed the graduating class of the University of Michigan in 2009, he counseled, “Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting.”
“We Do Search”
With the perspective of a few days and hundreds of pieces of content produced by Google observers, the picture came into focus. People realized that Google wasn’t disappearing (audible sigh of relief), but rather that Alphabet was born to give Google the space to be Google. The bottom line is that from a consumer perspective, it’s business as usual!
Google is a search engine and an advertising platform. And clearly, it’s a cash cow — which has everything to do with funding the next big breakthrough and nothing to do with Google’s (um, Alphabet’s) next passion project, whatever it may be.
As an obscure campus startup, Google’s mission was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Two years on, Google AdWords launched with 350 customers. Overwhelming success has been declared in the blink of an eye, in about one and a half decades.
The authors of “The Google Story” discussed the profound impact of the founders’ vision to make all web-based information searchable via PageRank algorithms, comparing it to the first mechanical printing press in 1440. They wrote, “Not since Gutenberg…has any new invention empowered individuals, and transformed access to information, as profoundly as Google.”
“We do search,” was the core of Google’s philosophy as expressed in its original “Ten Things We Know to Be True” document. However last winter, Larry Page said, “Google has ‘outgrown’ its 14-year-old mission statement.”
So, on second thoughts, no one should have been surprised by Google’s big announcement. In October 2014, Page laid it out in an interview with the FT, expressing his desire to step away from daily chores at the colossal search engine. “The world’s most powerful internet company is ready to trade the cash from its search engine monopoly for a slice of the next century’s technological bonanza,” is how the FT put it.
Spelling it Out
Alphabet is about brand innovation. When Larry Page titled his announcement “G is for Google,” the implication is that it leaves another 25 letters for Alphabet to dream big.
Several of the spaces on the virtual Scrabble board have already been filled in: Life Sciences, working on the glucose-sensing contact lens; Calico, focused on longevity; Nest for smart-home products; Fiber for super-connectivity and whatever words are played next, sometimes via acquisition.
Google X is the think tank for moonshots, artificial intelligence, robotics, longevity, health advancements, biotech, self-driving cars and smart glasses. Google Ventures re-invests.
It’s all about staying “uncomfortably excited” and attracting the best minds for collective ideation.
Brand Architecture : A House of Brands
Alphabet is now an umbrella for one of the largest brands we’ve known. From a brand architecture perspective, Google bucks the trend of the last decade which has seen large brands consolidate toward a single ‘brand house’ approach e.g. Unilever (2004), P&G (2011), Coca-Cola (2015). Google is doing the opposite by creating a ‘house of brands.’
The scale of Google’s size and scope demands a more efficient approach for managing multiple brands with different cultures, complex mergers and acquisitions, innovation, brand sub-cultures whilst satisfying Wall Street demands for accountability.
As an article published in the Harvard Business Review points out:
“…the financial returns of the search engine and advertising business could not be observed separately from the investments in all of the new businesses. The new structure ensures that there will be, at a minimum, independent accounting numbers produced for the Google business, and perhaps for the others as well.”
The Alphabet umbrella brand also reduces risk in terms of brand reputation management, with risk being ring-fenced around each individual brand and its own CEO within the ‘house of brands’. Alphabet will be much less vulnerable to major scandal or irregularity and it will also not be a consumer brand.
The point of a ‘house of brands’ structure is that the corporate brand becomes essentially invisible to the outside world, only relevant to senior employees and investors. How clever is Google?
What are the Branding Takeaways?
For smaller businesses, it’s more advantageous to manage a single brand or ‘brand house’ with one budget, one culture, one organisational structure, one employer, one leadership team and so on.
At first blush, the immediate branding Alphabet/Google learnings or takeaways from their initial announcement, for any size company or organisation, are as follows:
1) Continually evaluate your core business, product or service and re-evaluate ancillary revenue streams, products and services to remain properly focused. [Note: Apple’s Steve Jobs used to tell Larry Page that he was trying to do too much. Page told Jobs that Apple wasn’t doing enough.]
2) Secondly, re-visit your mission statement. It doesn’t belong in a box file in a drawer, but in a frame on the wall at reception and in the lunch room. Dust it off and discuss it, make it the heart of your business, a living breathing, authencitic expression of who you are and what you do and the true reason why you do what you do.
Image via http://www.gapingvoidart.com, Hugh MacLeod
4) Does your existing brand name properly represent your business today and into the future or has it become something of a misnomer as your business has grown and evolved? Do you need some help re-evaluating your brand name relevance?
Larry Page explained the decision behind their new name.
“We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha-bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for!”
You may also like:
Are you getting uncomfortably excited about your own business? Or just excited? Let us know what you think about these questions that pop into your mind as we ponder the changing Google landscape.
- Something’s gone wrong. How do I determine if my entire brand is in trouble or if there are other solutions?
- What are the signs that a true rebranding strategy is in order and where do I begin?
- How can I know whether a rebrand will help or hurt my business and its reputation?
- How can I budget properly for all that a rebranding entails?
- Are there potentially moments in the life of a business when a brand health check or rebrand is the right strategy, even when the company is performing well, like Google?
 Larry Page’s University of Michigan commencement address
 Vise, David, and Malseed, Mark. The Google Story, Delta Publ. (2006)
 Samuel Gibbs (November 3, 2014) The Guardian.
 Richard Waters (October 2014) Financial Times.
Is your brand struggling to stay relevant, afloat, or sinking in the marketplace? Do you feel that your brand could be capturing more market share—but it just isn’t happening on your current platforms?
Renaming your brand or changing your tagline can be a powerful strategy for brand renewal or revitalisation, but it’s not a process that should be taken lightly. Effectively pushing the reset button on your brand requires careful consideration and planning, and a sound strategy based on the right reasons.
The name of your company, product, service or range etc. is often the first thing anyone will come in contact with. It’s your first impression. The question here is, do you want your first impression with your primary audience to be something that’s interesting and helps tell your story? Or do you want something that sounds like many others, an industry or category norm but consequently has less impact because it blends in with the rest – that might be a strategic choice but often not the one most desired.
A good name is a compact easy-to-communicate piece of information, it can grab peoples attention and makes them want to know more. It can make them stop and think, laugh or smile, or let people know how you feel about the world around you. Ideally a good name should communicate one key objective, which is strongly founded on your brand promise, positioning, brand values and tailored to fit with your core customer mind set.
Image via google.com
A great brand name is vital to the success of your business. As an example of the power of a name, look to one of the most recognised and powerful brand names in the world: Google. Would the search engine giant have risen to the same heights the organisation enjoys today if they’d kept the original company name of BackRub? Perhaps unlikely—that particular brand renaming might have been one of the best ideas in history.
When creating compelling brand names for our clients we use our Nail it Naming System™. If you’re considering re-naming with some inhouse brainstorming, then here are some of the key factors that you should consider before changing your brand name or brand tagline in order to optimise the effectiveness of a re-naming brand strategy, and ensure true growth for your brand.
Reasons for Brand Renaming: Good versus Bad
The first thing you should consider with a renaming strategy is why you want to change the name of your brand, and / or use a different tagline. There are many good reasons for brand renaming—and some not-so-good reasons.
Some good reasons for changing your brand name include:
- Your brand name has damaging associations. Mistakes happen, but a mistake in business can have a substantially negative impact on your brand name. If your sales or market value are suffering because of a past problem, renaming your brand can give you the opportunity to start afresh with a clean slate.
- Your current brand name is obsolete. Every brand must stay relevant in order to be successful. If your brand name sounds old-fashioned (but not retro), a brand name change may be a good strategic decision.
- Your brand name doesn’t capture the essence of your offering. Consider the brand name Quantum Computer Services. What does that tell you about the brand? Maybe you’re thinking ‘not much’ or assuming it must be some kind of computer repair company. But when this organisation changed their name to America Online (AOL), the brand became synonymous with their service offerings.
Image via www.aol.com
- Your business has expanded beyond the original brand. If your company name originally conveyed particular founding offerings, but you’ve outgrown and expanded beyond what the brand name originally referred to, changing your brand name can help you refocus and expand to capture other larger markets further afield.
- Another brand has a similar name. This type of issue often arises for businesses that are expanding their geographical reach. If there are established businesses in new markets with a brand name that’s similar to yours, renaming your brand can help you compete in these new markets. As an example, 11-year-old Miller Insurance Group based in Florida was looking to expand nationally in the United States, but Millers Mutual already had a strong presence in the Northeast. The company rebranded to Brightway Insurance and successfully grew a national market base.
- Your company is experiencing a merger or acquisition. When two or more companies come together, there are a few different branding options. In some cases it makes sense to keep the brand name for the strongest brand—but a complete brand renaming may also be a viable option for the newly formed company.
On the other hand, here are some situations where renaming your brand may be the wrong strategy:
- Change for the sake of change: Renaming your brand because you think another name would sound better is a poor decision for change. Brand renaming should not be done on a whim—you need to invest time and resources in a brand name change in order to ensure the desired commercial returns. Changing your name without a solid strategically driven reason can also confuse or alienate your customers.
- Destroying brand equity: For brands that are already well established, changing your brand name can be incredibly risky. If your customers already have a strong association and connection with your brand name, renaming it can substantially undermine and negatively impact your business amongst existing loyal customers. Their trust in your brand can become weakened, resulting in market confusion and plummeting sales.
Evaluating Your Existing Brand Equity
Brand equity should also be a top evaluation factor for any brand considering a name change. With brand renaming, you not only risk confusing or alienating your existing customers, you could also end up with high costs for your rebranding efforts that may not deliver the desire return on your investment. For example if you have a large amount of existing brand collateral, changing your brand name can be expensive.
Your customers and transitioning them through a potential brand name change is perhaps the most important factor in your brand re-naming brand strategy. Before deciding to change your brand name, you’ll need to conduct some detailed research or a brand audit of your existing brand equity. Find out how customers really feel about your brand, what qualities do they associate with it, what do they think your brand name stands for and how much influence does your brand name have on their purchasing decisions.
If you have significant valuable brand equity, but still need to rename your brand—for reasons such as your brand name no longer appropriately reflects your offering, your business has expanded beyond your current brand name’s relevance, another brand has a similar name, or you’re being legally compelled to change the name—you should implement a transitioning strategy that will help both existing and new customers associate the new name with your original brand name thereby helping them make the move with you and reducing the potential risk of any loss of business.
As an example, U.S. based company CallCopy was launched in 2004 as a provider of call recording software. The company expanded its market and its product offerings, and recently added a complete suite of tools for workforce optimisation, providing greatly enhanced and expanded functionality beyond merely recording calls. The organisation needed a new name, because existing customers continued to associate their brand with just the original more limited offerings—but they already had strong brand recognition for their founding name in their market.
Image via www.uptivity.com
After deciding on the brand name Uptivity, the company not only created new brand collateral and physical materials like employee shirts and business cards, but also launched two parallel business websites. One used the original business name, and the other was under the Uptivity name, but branded with “formerly CallCopy.” The company kept both sites running for three months to build SEO before redirecting the CallCopy website entirely to the new Uptivity URL and phasing out the “formerly” rubric.
Choose Your New Brand Name Wisely
Google is synonymous with Internet searches, but that wouldn’t have been the case if the company had remained “BackRub”—primarily because the original name had no association with the company’s offerings and would potentially have triggered the wrong emotional response for customers.
There are many different ways to name a brand. Briefly, a few of them include:
- Founders’ names, like Cadbury or Disney
- Geographic names like Patagonia or Cisco (short for San Francisco, the company’s home base)
- Descriptive names like Whole Foods or Internet Explorer
- Evocative names that paint a picture of the brand
- Alliteration or rhyming names
- Made-up names (neologisms) like Twitter
- Hybrid names like Microsoft
- Acronyms (did you know that Yahoo! stands for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle?)
Whatever naming convention or strategy you choose, your brand’s new name should succinctly encapsulate your offerings and capture the emotions you want customers to associate with your brand. It should be memorable, engaging, and differentiated from your competitors. Choose a brand name that is unique to your company and your platform, and your brand renaming efforts will have a much higher chance of success.
So, what do you think?
• Is your brand succeeding as a result of, or in spite of your brand name?
• If your brand is struggling, can it be attributed to your current brand name or tagline?
• Is your brand name outdated, irrelevant, or non-descriptive?
• Can your customers recognize the types of products or services you offer based on your brand name? How can you give it more meaning and relevance?
• How much brand equity do you have built into your current brand name? Does your business situation still demand a renaming?
• What brand collateral or platforms would you have to change when renaming your brand?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
Have you ever wondered which Persona Branding and Design articles are the most popular with readers?
We’re always interested to see which of our posts resonate most with you. Even though we do lots of research and planning, there are no guarantees which topics will get the most attention.
Today we’re giving you an exclusive peek into our top ten most popular posts of 2014, some of which you might have missed.
I know you’ll find at least one that will be very useful to your business.
As 2014 draws to an end, now is the time to review, revamp, and update your branding strategies for the year to come. Successful branding is the key to driving business growth and profitability – and in 2015, it will be more important than ever to have a strong, thriving brand.
Building a strong brand is the undisputed key to success in today’s business world, and robust differentiation is an absolute must to build a powerful and compelling brand. There are many ways you can differentiate your brand. The skill lies is developing and applying the most effective brand differentiation strategy in a way that appropriately reflects your brand’s personality, values, promise, way of doing things and key characteristics.
Brands are not static, unchanging identities – the most successful brands live and breathe, evolving along with changing shifts in market tastes, trends and demands. Rebranding or brand revitalisation, when properly planned and implemented, can be a powerfully effective strategy for rescuing or reinventing a failing brand, jump-starting a stagnant brand, expanding your markets, or initiating substantial business growth. A rebrand may be subtle or evolutionary in nature, or it may involve radically transforming a product, service, or entire brand.
Have your sales hit a slump? Are hot new brands drawing your customers away? If your brand seems to have lost its shine, it may be time for a brand audit or brand health check. Brand audits are effectively a health check for your brand. These comprehensive, honest evaluations look at the overall effectiveness of a brand and its current position in the market compared with the competition, as well as pinpointing inconsistencies and weakness, and identifying potential areas for improvement.
Research shows that you have less than 9 seconds to engage your customer and close the sale. In a fast-paced and highly competitive world, packaging design has become one of the most crucial elements for communicating your brand and standing out from the competition. Your brand might be the best in its category, but without packaging that grabs your target audience, customers won’t investigate your product to find out more or see what’s inside.
Brand Naming is all about strategic rationale, not emotion and not politics. It’s your first impression so it’s critical you get it right. A good name is a compact easy-to-communicate piece of information. It grabs peoples’ attention and makes them want to know more and it carries a hugely significant portion of your brand recognition all on its own.
Creating a brand with an authentically strong character is central to your branding strategy success. Just as people can be larger than life, a brand’s personality can take on a life of its own. Creating a brand with an authentically strong character is central to your branding strategy success and effectively the decider between just another average price fighter or a truly magnetic and profitable brand.
A brand promise is what your company or brand commits to delivering for everyone who interacts with you. A strong brand promise describes how people should feel when they interact with your brand, how your company delivers its products or services, and what sort of character your company embodies. Is your brand promise authentically ‘walking the walk’?
Amazon is one of the most recognizable companies in the world, occupying and serving more global regions than any other organization. While your company may not have the reach and capabilities of Amazon just yet, there are still several branding lessons you can take away from the mega-store’s strategies, positioning and brand management.
The company leader is the single most powerful influencer on branding, the visionary and voice behind the brand, particularly in a small, medium or large businesses (SMEs). Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Maxine Clark and Johnny Earle are all very different visionary leaders behind their brands but they have shared characteristics – the secrets to their incredible brands success.
Which is your favourite?
• Do you have a preferred article from Persona Branding and Design that didn’t make the top 10 list?
• Which of these top 10 posts did you find most useful?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments! We love to hear from you!
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This immortal line from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” reminds us that names have only as much power as we give them – but Shakespeare didn’t have to worry about branding.
The name of your company, product, service or range etc. is often the first thing anyone will come in contact with. It’s your first impression. The question here is, do you want your first impression with your primary audience to be something that’s interesting and helps tell your story? Or do you want something that sounds like many others, an industry or category norm but consequently has less impact because it blends in with the rest. That might be a strategic choice but often not the one most desired.
So what’s in a name, really? Everything, when it comes to your brand. A great brand name is a vital element for brand success, yet so many companies neglect to place enough emphasis on this key ingredient as a fundamental aspect of what makes a sustainable and impactful part of their branding strategy. Naming is all about strategic rationale, not emotion and not politics. If its comfortable and safe – don’t be tempted, it’s totally forgettable too.
Why is your brand name so important? A good name is a compact easy-to-communicate piece of information. It can grab peoples’ attention and make them want to know more. Ideally a good name should communicate one key objective which is strongly founded on your brand promise, positioning, brand values and tailored to fit with your core customer mind set. An effective brand name is memorable and enables it to carry a hugely significant portion of your brand recognition all on its own. It captures a piece of your customers mind share. On the other hand, a forgettable brand name forces you to work much harder to keep your brand visible or even memorable to your customers.
Here’s some ideas on how you can create a powerful brand name that’s memorable, resonates with your target audience, and serves to strengthen your brand collateral while adding amplification to your overall branding strategy.
Understanding the Different Types of Brand Names
Brand naming should not be a haphazard process or a random occurrence. It’s equally a systematic, holistic and creative process driven by very clear branding and commercial objectives. The first step to choosing an effective brand name is to familiarize yourself with the many styles of brand names, and decide which type is conceptually appropriate for your company, your products or services, and your target audience. Set clear and consistent objectives with a solid brand naming brief for your name selection. Avoid the temptation to choose your name subjectively and rigorously benchmark against your agreed criteria during the creative process. Before we start any work creating names for our clients we’ll have completed the brand profiling work which shapes and provides the direction and rationale for the whole brand together with the brand naming brief and its only then we set to work using our Nail It Naming System™.
Here are several brand name types that can serve as a starting point for your brand naming process.
Top Ten Brand Name Creation Categories
1. Founders’ Names:
Among the simplest type of brand name, this one can also sometimes be difficult to use effectively. This style uses the name of the person who founded the company as the brand, with or without further qualifiers that describe the products. Disney, named after founder Walt Disney, is one of the most famous examples of this. Other examples include Cadbury (after John Cadbury), Tata Group (after Jamsetji Tata), and Horlicks (after founding brothers William and James Horlick).
Image via www.cadbury.ie
2. Descriptive Names:
Another fairly straightforward brand naming convention, this style uses brand names that describe the products or services offered. Some examples of this include Internships Ireland, Slendertone, O’Egg, Whole Foods and Internet Explorer. One important thing to note with this category is that sometimes, brand names which seem to describe a product are actually powerful brands that have become synonymous with the products they offer – such as Xerox for copy machines, Band-Aid for elastic bandages and Scotch tape for clear cellophane tape.
When you get so big you’re your trademark protected brand name becomes the byword for the whole category, it potentially becomes a huge problem for the brand owner. These types or brand names are almost victims or their own success and are now fighting the problem of generification. Whenever we say we want to search for something online we say ‘I’ll Google it’, now the byword for search! Frequently people will say they’re ‘Hoovering’ when they mean vacuum cleaning! When a brand name becomes so commonly used, it can lose its value and in worse case scenarios, it can also lose its legal protections! Although it has to be said the brand’s with these problems are in the minority!
3. Geographic Names:
Once again, this simple naming convention is what it sounds like – the use of a region or landmark associated with a product or service in a brand name e.g. Patagonia, Clonakilty Black Pudding. Connemara Seafoods is a premier shellfish company named after its location, the coastal Ireland district Connemara. Emo Oil is named after the company’s home village of Emo. Global tech company Cisco Systems, Inc., draws its name from a shortened version of the company headquarters’ location in San Francisco.
These brand names are centered around either a real or mythical person who is not the founder, and may not even be associated with the company. Personification brand names may use historical figures, legends, or may create a brand personality around a fictitious company mascot – such as Aunt Jemima or Betty Crocker.
Image via www.bettycrocker.com
5. Evocative Names:
This type of brand name is designed to paint a vivid and relevant image for the customer e.g. The Body Shop, Amazon. For example, Sea Wynde rum evokes images of relaxation on a Caribbean beach with a cool drink in hand.
6. Alliteration or Rhyming Names:
This category includes names that are both memorable and fun to say e.g. YouTube, Piggly Wiggly. Dunkin’ Donuts uses alliteration and a shortened word to create a rhythmic and easy to remember brand name.
Image via www.youtube.com
7. Derivative Names:
This category includes names that are almost like something you’ve heard but have somehow been changed to sound different e.g. Nespresso, Zappos. It can be one of the most creative ways to create a name that is unique and is very reflective of more contemporary naming trends and can be easier to legally register, protect and buy the relevant URL.
Image via www.zappos.com
8. Neologisms (new made-up words):
Some brands use completely made-up new words, which creates a sense of uniqueness and infuses memorable qualities with the brand that help to set it apart from the competition. Examples here include Omniplex, Kodak and Twitter. Neologist brand names, when developed properly, can be among the most powerful brand naming strategies and like Derivative names, easier to register and protect. However they typically require more initial marketing resources to become highly recognized and given meaning through the branding strategy.
Image via www.twitter.com
9. Hybrid Names:
This category refers to brand names like Swissair, ThinkPad, Microsoft, Swisscom and Nice and Easy. All are combinations of current words or recognized syllables which when combined send the right message and potentially highlight attributes and benefits relating to the brand. This form of naming can deliver very creative and memorable results too and like Derivative and Neologist Names are less likely to infringe on other trademarks.
Image via www.swissair.com
10. Acronyms and Initials:
This category refers to brand names that stand for something longer, such as KFC for Kentucky Fried Chicken, VHI for Voluntary Health Insurance, and HP for Hewlett-Packard, GE for General Electric. Names like AA for Automobile Association and BMW for Bavarian Motor Works, only became acronyms after each company had made its mark. They’ve typically rebranded when the long name version no longer served its purpose as effectively e.g. it was so well known and well established in the market place and customers were shortening it colloquially because it was too long winded!
Image via www.bmw.com
Note: Initial or acronym brand names typically work best for companies that are well known or large corporates and have already established a brand under their full names, and shortening the names won’t impact their existing brand equity. For most brands this type of naming convention is best avoided as it effectively amounts to a meaningless mix of letters leaving the customer confused and indifferent.
Image via www.ikea.com
Brand naming can also combine several of these conventions to arrive at a distinctive and powerful name. IKEA is a great example of this. On the surface, IKEA is a neologism, a made-up word that’s easy to remember, and it’s also fun to say. But looking into the origin of the company name, it’s actually an acronym for the founder’s name and the Swedish property and village where he grew up: Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.
Below are three brand naming methods and tips with strategies you can use to come up with a memorable and effective brand names.
A. Brand Naming Methods: Strategic Brainstorming
Brainstorming, or coming up with as many ideas as possible in a short amount of time, is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. When it comes to naming your brand, you can engage in focused brainstorming by asking and answering a series of questions in as many ways as you can, and then narrowing down to the best choices. It’s important to do this also within the context of an agreed naming brief and a very clear branding rationale based on your brand profile and brand strategy to keep everyone on track.
Some questions you can brainstorm include:
- What does your product or service do?
- What is the purpose or function of your industry?
- How does your product or service benefit your customer?
- What’s your brands’ mission?
- How does your brand promise solve your customers problems?
- What is unique, different, or interesting about your product or service?
- How do your brand values enhance your customers lives?
- What are some of the common terms in your industry’s lingo or jargon, that apply to your products or services?
Once you have a list of solid possibilities, you can take your brainstorming a step further and list all of the synonyms for the words or phrases you came up with during the session.
B. Brand Naming Method: Name and Word Lists
With this method, you can generate lists of words or names in certain categories that are relevant to your brand, and spin the results into possible brand names. For example, a brand that is based on heritage, classic themes, and timeless roots might look up lists of geologic periods, Latin or Greek roots, historical figures or events, and geographically appropriate legends or myths. Enter “list of [your term]” into Google, and you’ll find plenty of lists to choose from.
When choosing which lists you’ll look up, consider your products or services both literally and abstractly. You may find useful, evocative, or memorable words and names in unexpected places that can create powerful connections with your audience.
C. Brand Naming Method: Puns and Plays on Words
If your brand would benefit from a sense of fun, a touch of whimsy, or cheeky and humorous themes, using a pun or play on words can give you a memorable and highly effective brand name. There are some great examples of brands that use word play like alliteration, alternate spellings, partial word or letter replacement, letter dropping, rhyming, and more, including:
- Poo-Pouri®: A toilet odour control product
- Krispy Kreme®: An American donut brand
- Slim Jims®: A brand of meat jerky snacks
- Burt’s Bees®: Natural skin care products made with beeswax
Image via www.burtsbees.com
Play with your brainstorming and word list phrases, and look for opportunities to create plays on words. Experiment with combining and replacing until you come up with several possibilities.
Your brand name is one of the most important elements for the success of your company. Taking the time to create a memorable, evocative, and distinctively unique brand name will give you an unshakeable foundation for an effective branding platform that ultimately leads to your brands success and growing profitability.
What do you think?
• Do you already have a brand name for your company, products, or services?
• How did you come up with your brand name? Was it a process, or did you end up using the first idea that came to mind?
• What brand name type or types is best suited to your brand’s goals, themes, and brand personality?
• Are there any people (real or fictional) or places that tie into your brand? How would you use them in a brand name?
• What categories would you consider relevant to your products or services, either literally or abstractly, that would help you create a great brand name?
• Are your products or services suitable for a brand name that’s a play on words?
• Is your brand naming part of a rebranding strategy and if so how near or far away from the previous old name does it need to be?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
Local versus Global. If you are considering launching your product or service on the international market you’ve probably invested significant amounts of time, effort and resources to date in developing your offering or solution.
When it comes to brands or sub-brands, the name is one of the most important elements in its proposition. A name is often the first act of public branding and helps establish the tone for your product or service which is even more important if you plan trading on an international market. Being a distinctive, different, memorable yet familiar name takes you miles closer to the sale.
You might think naming your brand is very easy and in some instances there are “happy accidents” that work brilliantly, but they are largely in the minority. In the commercial world your brand’s name can have a very strategic impact on your business, particularly if its use is for a global market and this often stretches far beyond casual observation or the aurally pleasing.
Typically brand names fall into the following categories:
• Evocative: Names that evoke a relevant vivid image
• Personification: Many brands take their names from real or myth
• Descriptive: Names that describe a product benefit or function
• Neologisms or Madeup Names: Completely made-up words
• Founders’ Names: Using the names of real people
• Geography: Many brands are named after regions and landmarks
• Alliteration & Rhyme: Names that are fun to say and are memorable
• Foreign Word: Adoption of a word from another language
• Acronym & Initialism: A name made of initials
The Irish market is becoming increasingly multicultural and leveraging your growth through the internet can effectively make your market borderless, depending on what you sell. These factors cumulatively demand considerably more strategic thinking if you want successful target market penetration on a larger scale, rather then just your local catchment area.
Global giant Kraft Foods, who arguably have the marketing budget to make any brand name well known, recently invested considerable effort behind the naming of their new global snacking division.
The name selected, ‘Mondeléz’ (pronounced mohn-dah-LEEZ), is the result of suggestions garnered from thousands of Kraft employees around the world. It was created from two separate submissions, one from North America and the other from a European employee. Kraft executives explain that the Mondelēz name is a portmanteau that communicates the idea of a “delicious world” through the Latin word for “world” (Monde) and “delēz,” which is a “fanciful expression of “delicious.”
According to CEO Irene Rosenfeld “for the new global snacks company, they wanted to find a new name that could serve as an umbrella for our iconic brands, reinforce the truly global nature of this business and build on our higher purpose – to ‘make today delicious.’ Mondelēz perfectly captures the idea of a ‘delicious world’ and will serve as a solid foundation for the strong relationships we want to create with our consumers, customers, employees and shareholders”.
On the other hand large Chinese brands are finding it increasingly difficult to break into western markets because of the lack of understanding, by western consumers, to the meanings and pronunciation of ethnic brand names.
Referred to as ‘silent dragons’, companies, such as Li-Ning, a sporting clothing company, have huge brand value in their home markets but are failing to impact globally. Li-Ning even re-named its brand after the towering Chinese basketball player who made headlines at the Beijing Olympics but to no avail. Western audiences have simply not responded to a name that carries little meaning in their own market.
Equally Irish names might have resonance to Irish consumers but how would some of them fare in international markets? Could global consumers pronounce them easily or understand what they mean? Can they transcend cultural barriers? These factors can have a very significant bearing on your brand even being noticed, not to mention recall amongst your target audience.
Connemara Seafoods, Ireland’s premier seafood cultivator, processor and exporter have been exporting very successfully to the global markets for decades now. The brand name, Connemara, now has a high recognition value amongst its target market but they have consistently invested in their brand over the years to achieve these results. Their brand is very firmly rooted in their Irish geographic location with is Class A Waters off the West Coast of Ireland, the consistent premium quality of their product ranges, their multi-award winning reputation, highly regarded leadging edge expertise and the value of the family provenance with decades of specialist knowledge.
Certain types of Irish products and services have very successfully developed powerful and highly recognized brand names on the global markets particularly in the areas of food, beverages, alcohol, glass wear, foot wear and fashion. Indeed some of our best known brands are leaders in their categories e.g. Guinness, Jameson, Dubarry, Kerry Group, Baileys and Waterford Crystal to name a few.
If you are re-branding or considering a new name for your product or service for a global, or even local market, then please don’t treat it as an after thought. Give it the strategic input it deserves at the beginning to avoid the biggest pitfalls and you’ll reap the rewards into the future.
Key name selection criteria for a global market include:
• Fit with the brand proposition
• Be relevant for all target audiences
• Be distinctive, different and memorable
• Future-proofed for the life of the brand
• Linguistically and culturally acceptable and appropriate
• Appropriate if translated into other languages or cultures
• Easy to spell, pronounce and refer
• Registerable and protectable as a trademark and URL
• Approvable by the requisite regulatory authorities
Set clear and consistent objectives and criteria for your name selection and be unwavering in benchmarking potential name against those criteria. Don’t be tempted to choose your brand name subjectively!
• Consider, who is the target audience for your product or service and exactly who are you trying to appeal to?
• What meaning will your brand name convey to your ideal customer and will it help shape the desired identity of your brand?
• How does the brand name fit with positioning strategy of your product or service?
• What is the role of your brand name within your company’s overall brand strategy?
• Is your current brand conveying the desired meaning to your customers or do you need a re-branding strategy?
Persona Branding & Design Consultants
Contact: Lorraine Carter
T: +353 1 832 2724
Howth, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Copyright © 2007-2022 All rights reserved.
Persona Design Consultants Ltd.
Registered in Ireland: No. 201997