is indistinguishable from magic.”
Marketing. Sometimes it all seems like magic, and marketers look and act like magicians. But like a lot of things, marketing comes down to common sense. (It only appears to be magic to the uninitiated.) So let’s start at the beginning, and see if we can demystify the basics of marketing, so you can see clearly what needs to be done for your business.
It’s all in a name.
Your company name is possibly the most important decision you’ll ever make about your business. Names tell customers and prospects not only who you are but a lot more about yourfirm than you might think. Look at it this way – take two products…let’s say “Janitor in a Drum” and “Summer’s Eve.” The first is an industrial-strength cleaner, the other is a feminine hygiene product. But what if the names were reversed? I doubt seriously that you’d trust an industrial cleaner to work well, called “Summer’s Eve.” And you wouldn’t let a feminine hygiene product called “Janitor in a Drum” anywhere near you. Names mean things. Picking a good one is essential.
So what’s a good name? A good name needs to be memorable. “General Motors”…isn’t. (Don’t feel badly, GM. Neither is “General Electric.”) It needs to give the public an idea about what you do. “Tesla” is a great name. It sounds vaguely European. It’s sexy. And if you know anything about science, you know that Nicola Tesla was one of the early inventors who’s work defined how we use electricity. A good name should focus on benefits, not features. Think not “what do we do,” but “what do we do for you.” My company’s name is “Novel Idea.” It’s what we do – provide unique ideas as solutions to marketing problems. Notice that, nowhere in my company name does it say “marketing,” “advertising,” or “design.” Too limiting. And too literal.
A good name needs to be unique. Coined words are great. If you make up a word, it’s yours. In your field, a vaguely-Latin, Italian or European word would give it an air of Continental sophistication. (And coined words are far easier to deal with, when trying to secure an address on the web.)
A good name needs to be easy to pronounce and spell, especially over the phone. I used to run a company by the name of “Grokmedia.” Great name. Clever, especially if you know your Robert A. Heinlein. But few people could pronounce it without help, when reading it. (I got a lot of “groake media” instead of “grawk media” when people read the name.) And trying to get people to spell it properly when talking with them on the phone meant spelling it out. Not good.
A good name needs to resonate. The best names communicate not just what your company does, but how it makes people feel. It’s the emotional response you want, as opposed to the intellectual one. Why? Because nobody buys anything because of logic and reason. They buy it because they want it from an emotional desire point of view. (They then use logic and reason to justify their purchase to themselves and others.)
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can start with any old name, and change it later. Every dime you spend promoting a bad name is money you’ll spend again. fixing the name. If you have a less-than-stellar name, change it. Change it now.
Branding. It isn’t just for cattle any more.
Once we have the company name settled (and ONLY after we do), then we turn our attention to your brand. What is a brand? Much like a cattle brand, it’s something you stamp on everything, connoting ownership. But it’s much more than that. A brand is almost like shorthand, conveying almost subliminally to consumers exactly what it is that your company does, and more importantly, how they should feel about what it is that you do.
When you think about the great brands of the world, you will find yourself thinking emotionally. Think about brands like Cartier. Channel. Lamborghini. Burberry. These brands call up mind pictures. And these images help you feel something about their brands. That’s what you want: to get an emotional response. Companies like these spend a great deal of money making their brand the focal point of their messaging to the public.
The most important things to know about branding:
- Your brand must be consistent
- Your brand must be in sync with perception
- Your brand must be unique
Let’s take these one by one. Consistency is essential. Everything you do with your brand either reinforces it, or weakens it. Strong brands are consistent, visually, as well as experientially.
Perception is more important than reality. If people assume you are young, it doesn’t matter how old you are. If people take you for a 30-something, they will treat you differently than if they think you’re in your 50s. (Conversely, if they assume you’re old enough to drink, you might not get carded at a bar.) Brand perception means that your image needs to be consistent with the public’s expectations. If you have a brand that positions your company as “spa-like” and they walk in to see industrial-looking gadgets and people in overalls, the brand won’t be in sync with reality. But if they walk in and see expensive furniture, mood lighting, and Persian rugs, the brand and the perception are in sync.
Every business needs to have something they can ‘hang their hat on’ that makes them unique. Let’s look at cars. You have luxury brands (Mercedes, Lexus, Infinity), sports brands (Porche, Dodge) macho truck brands (RAM, GMC) and so forth. But sometimes brands try to be all things to all people, and they dilute their uniqueness. Is Chevy a starter-car brand? Is it a sports car brand? Is it a macho truck brand? I have no idea. Chevy is no longer a brand – it’s a meaningless symbol. (The Cadillac brand, on the other hand, is focused on a single market. Therefore, in the minds of the consumer, “Cadillac” means “American Luxury car.”) You want your business to have a consistent image that provides a unique factor, when people try to compare you to other companies. It doesn’t matter if you’re the only game in town. Think globally. Everyone else does.
What’s a “logotype” and why do I need one?
The outward and visible representation of brand is a “logo,” (short for “logotype.”) Logotype is a 19th Century construct from the Greek logos (word) + type. A logo is the visual symbol of your brand. It is oftentimes the first thing anyone will see regarding your company. A strong logo will make for a strong visual brand. A logo can be made up of a “bug” or symbol (think the tri-star of Mercedes, or the apple with the bite out of it from Apple), it can be words expressed in a distinctive typeface (John Hancock insurance, IBM), or it can be both (MetLife, McDonalds).
Think of good logos. They are memorable. Vibrant. And they reflect the perception of the brand they represent. If we showed you some brands without the names attached, I’d bet you lunch you could name 9 out of 10 of them without batting an eye. Logos are powerful. And you want a logo that will act as a visual shorthand to communicate your brand to the public.
A logotype is the most important component of your corporate identity. The corporate identity includes the logo, a style guide showing how to use the logo, and a set of corporate colors, as well as typefaces used for to create your brand. Think of these things as the facets of a jewel, or better yet, the basic ingredients you’ll use to concoct any number of things to represent your business – signage, brochures, television spots, et cetera.
Once we establish your brand, all other design flows from the brand. That means your website, brochures, your TV commercials, your radio commercials all resonate from and enhance the brand. Designing a website, for instance, before you have established the parameters of your corporate identity and brand is like saying “Fire! Ready…aim!” Not a winning strategy.
Where do we go from here?
- Find the perfect company name/URL. We can help. Naming is one of the many services we provide.
- After you settle on the right name, we begin development of your logotype. We’ll present you with a number of ideas from which we can work together to refine it.
- In step three, we take the logo, and develop your new corporate identity, including picking colors, typefaces, et cetera. We’ll provide you with a corporate style guide to help you (and others) use the logo to maintain your brand’s visual integrity.
- Step four: we design business cards, brochures, letterhead, envelopes, industrial signage – whatever you need.
- Step five: build (or revise) your corporate website, based on your brand.
- In Step six we extend and expand the branding to television, print ads, and other media.
So what are you waiting for?
It’s never too soon to start working on your brand. If your brand needs help, don’t wait until it’s too late. Call us today.