Tag Archives: Branding

Basic Rules of Branding: Crafting Your Image in the Public Mind

A lot of people spend time merely trying to mimic the business models and ad campaigns of iconic brands without really looking deeper into what makes those brands stick. Whether you’re putting together a new brand for your start-up idea or you’re conducting a brand refresh to focus your messaging after major market shifts or changes in leadership, it’s vital that you stick to some basic rules.

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Your Brand is Built upon Core Principles

Contrary to popular belief, your brand is about more than your name and logo, or it should be. Your logo, slogans, product presentation and especially your company name are critical to the impact your brand has, to be sure.

Your efforts to build and manage a brand need certain fundamental ideas and values that anchor it. It’s when brands forget those key values that their brands are based on that they stop projecting an image to customers and the public that resonates.

Those core principles need to be more than just empty platitudes, though. Ask yourself and your executive team just what is important to them about operating in your industry, what sets them apart from competitors and what kind of presence they want your brand to communicate.

You Have to be Consistent

This means you have to defend your brand against erosion by bad marketing or just the variety of minds working on your campaigns. Inconsistent graphic design, colors, logo presentation, haphazard marketing copy that doesn’t project a consistent tone or follow central brand principles—your brand manager needs to corral all of these disparate messages into a consistent brand representation.

It’s much easier to maintain brand consistency if you’re able to launch your brand internally, getting buy-in from all of your staff and ensuring that branding gets consideration in everything you do. When everyone is aware of—and reminded of—your core principles and branding standards on a regular basis, they’re more likely to maintain a consistent brand representation collectively.

Customer Experience Must be Controlled

If you properly present your branded messages to customers in every instance, you’ll be successful in creating a consistent impression within just a few impressions. But if your messaging, styling and tone are all over the place, they may fail to remember your brand at all.

This is the reason for your obsession about consistency in graphic design, messaging and everything else. Not every customer will see every display ad, every commercial or every business card. But that’s all the more reason to keep them tightly controlled, so you get the same effect no matter where the customer is exposed to your brand. You’re controlling the image of your brand in customers’ minds by controlling the contexts in which they experience it.

Follow the KISS Rule

I don’t want to fall into the cliché of simply saying that you need to “keep it simple, stupid!” because it’s easy to dismiss. Yeah sure, you should keep your brand simple, but why and what does that mean? I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean that you should dumb down your brand; just the opposite, in fact.

The principles around which you’re organizing your brand should be basic, but they shouldn’t be communicated in a cliché or tired manner. For example, everyone wants to say that they provide good service to their customers; you’re not going to impress anyone just by making sure you mention it in every branding message or slogan. But you will impress people by getting that message across elegantly, and in a manner that almost communicates that your brand is about service without actually saying so. This can happen in the tone and style of a branding message, right down to the way a brand tweets.

Mike Mann is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist who funds his many charitable aims through profits from his many successful companies. Learn more about his principles of success in business and charity by downloading his book or reading his blog.

Choosing a Brand Name: How Not to Screw it Up

I’m a little tired of people saying that groups come up with a brand name as an afterthought. If that’s true, those businesses are run by idiots. People put plenty of thought into their brand names, but it usually doesn’t go much further than picking a stylish name and dreaming up logo concepts. The truth is they’re actually shortchanging themselves and possibly even sabotaging their branding efforts by not going deeper.

Before you jump deep into the details of your logo, color schemes and the legalistic rituals of solidifying your brand, you need to do your homework and make sure you come out with a brand name that will be the foundation for everything else you do. Here are some rules to follow so you don’t fail colossally at choosing the right name for your brand.

Nametag Hello I am Your Brand Marketing Yourself Networking


Keep it Short

This may seem like common sense, but I’m not sure people get just how short a name should be in order to remain memorable, and I do mean short. I’m talking, like two or three syllables at most. Think of the big brand names you know (“Google,” “Apple,” “Coca-Cola”). Short names resonate; they have a verbal and aural texture that makes them stand out of the ordinary so they stick.

Organizations that have long names often resort to acronyms, but those are usually hard to brand. You should stay away from them unless the acronym itself is especially catchy. Even then, people will likely not know what it represents, like “M&M” or “IKEA”, for example.

What Connotations Does Your Brand Evoke

Think of naming your business like naming a band. It can really help to have some kind of impact; have some meaning behind it. Hearing it should fire off a host of other associations with other ideas and concepts in people’s brains, or at least not bring up any negative ones. Those ideas, feelings and concepts will attach themselves—however obliquely—to your brand, and they shape the first impression people have of it.

A lot of companies try to walk the line between being edgy and offensive/ridiculous, but it often fails because they’re going for a gimmick rather than thinking about the core values they want their brand to evoke. Don’t think you can beat a cultural or linguistic association, it’s a losing battle, and your branding energy is better spent elsewhere.

Watch Out for Unknown Slang

Our culture is an increasingly complex and fragmented one, with each subculture having its own slang, phrasing and terminology. Therefore, you need to be careful not to run afoul of bad associations with your brand name. Check the Urban Dictionary and do exhaustive web searches to make sure you’re not naming your company or product line after a dirty euphemism or otherwise embarrassing slang. Then your brand will be a joke and you won’t have a prayer of controlling your public image.

Check International Usage as Well

It doesn’t happen so often now that checking your brand name is as simple as Googling it, but you could be stumbling on a brand name that matches one in another country, even if the name has a different meaning there.

International translations and slang can also get you into trouble by associating your brand with inappropriate terms and concepts. It’s impossible to fully guard against this problem, but in our increasingly globalized marketplace, you should at least screen for the most obvious translations and associations to avoid future branding problems overseas.

Always(!) Shop the Name Around before Committing

As with brain surgeons and hair dyes, it’s usually a good idea to get a second opinion before you really commit to a brand name. Sometimes you’re just too close to the idea to look at it objectively anymore. Float the name(s) you’re considering internally first and collect as much feedback as you can from the people most familiar with what your business is. Then go external and find some trustworthy folks who will give you honest opinions and expert advice about whether the name matches your branding goals and values.

Following these types of rules can help you avoid the worst branding mistakes. Hopefully, they’ll help warn you off of conceptually flawed brand names and steer you toward a name that makes it easy to shape the brand, and its accompanying linguistic and cultural associations, in a way that pushes the image you want for your product or company.

What’s the worst brand name you’ve ever heard of?

Mike Mann is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist who funds his many charitable aims through profits from his many successful companies. Learn more about his principles of success in business and charity by downloading his book or reading his blog.