Branding 101: Why Its Critical to Business Success and How to Do It Right

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What's Your Brand?

A brand is a product/company personality that helps distinguish it from the competition. It evolves out of the product essence. So, what's yours? Quality? Service? Price? Whatever it is it's something your marketing must reinforce across all communication channels, from business card to TV spot. Even your office space. You can't brand yourself as a cutting-edge ad agency if your office looks like a law firm. It also shouldn't try to be all things to all people. "The best, cheapest, easiest, most fun" is not a clear brand. Above all, your brand must be truthful.

What's in a Name?

For a start-up or a new product, don't underestimate the value of a good name. Because once you decide, you don't want to change it. A good name should be more than something personal or catchy. It's a key part of your brand identity that must help define your business for a lifetime.

A name should trigger an emotion with your prospects. And not just any emotion, but the right emotion. Huge companies like P&G know this and each year invest millions on testing to attract consumers and build their brands. Knowing this, I'm surprised how many smaller businesses treat naming so casually.

I was once asked about a name that a business owner was considering for his natural gas company. The name sounded like something from the mind of a child. After offering my tempered opinion I asked about the name's genesis. "My 10-year old kid came up with it. I kinda like it," he replied proudly.

Similarly, a European entrepreneur asked me about his product's name: "MiaManna". Any guesses what it is? Something Italian or Spanish perhaps? A bread, maybe? MiaManna is a dried-fruit snack, from Germany. It's actually a terrific, healthy product that deserves a great name. When I suggested he rethink the name, at least for the US market, it was as if I'd insulted his wife. I haven't heard from him since.

One of the catchier names I've seen is "Guzzle". Cool name, right? Well, that would depend on what you're guzzling. Instead of a sports drink, a juice, or beer, Guzzle is ketchup. That's right,ketchup. Clearly, the owner thinks his ketchup is good enough to guzzle.

If it's not obvious, the problem is that it's difficult for business owners to be objective, even for something as seemingly simple as naming their own product. No doubt most day-to-day management decisions aren't fun, so it's not surprising why they get jazzed at the chance to be creative. Unfortunately, you see what can happen. So, if you're a business owner and you really need to name something, name your kid, your dog and your yacht. But when it comes to your business, get the help of an expert.

Follis Fact #1
Anyone crazy enough to be running a businessshould seek professional help.

Knowing your business or product doesn't mean knowing how to market it. As just described, it's disturbing how otherwise savvy business owners can sabotage their marketing effort. Successful owners realize they're not marketing experts. The problem is, they often aren't sure who is. Often because they have an existing relationship with a design firm or PR agency, it's easy to assume (or be convinced) that those same folks can handle advertising and marketing. I've seen it happen too often. If your business needs legal help, hire a lawyer. If it needs financial help, hire an accountant. If it needs office cleaning, hire a cleaning service. So, when it needs marketing help, do yourself a favor and hire some.


"Just do it." "We try harder." "The Ultimate Driving Machine." "Be all that you can be." Taglines are one of the best ways of branding a product, service, company, or organization for years. Like these:

Please don't squeeze the Charmin. (since 1964)

A diamond is forever. (since 1948)

All the news that's fit to print. (since 1896)

Another classic case is Avis. When Avis (the # 2 car rental behind Hertz) incorporated the tagline, "We try harder", they not only turned being #2 into a positive, they also gave their company a likeable, underdog personality. To support that company personality, every ad that Avis created evolved from that simple, brilliant, three-word tag about better service. Now, over fifty years later, Avis still uses it. Another example is, "You're in good hands with Allstate." Being "in good hands" conveys a caring, protective personality. Another example is "Think different" for Apple Computer. The line gives Apple the personality of being innovative and above the rest.

So, what else makes a good tagline? A general rule is: The shorter the better. However, if you blindly follow that logic you'll be asking for trouble. You don't want to compromise a great line for brevity. And shorter doesn't always mean more memorable. One of the most famous taglines of all time is 10 words:

With a name like Smucker's, it has to be good.

So, as much as you may try to break creativity down to a formula, you really can't. A great tagline involves the perfect mix of right-brain creativity and left-brain strategic thinking. Both are critical. After all, it doesn't matter how clever it is if it's the wrong message, and it won't matter how strategically smart it is if it's dull.

Like a name, a tagline is something you'll want to live with forever. So, if you decide on getting a tagline, be sure it's great. Because just as a tagline can help your business, a bad one can do the opposite.

(For more Follis branding facts, see booklet info below.)

? 2005 John Follis. All rights reserved.

John Follis is one of the 12 "Best Advertising Minds of New York" as voted by The New York Ad Club. His campaigns are in 3 college textbooks, he has written for ADWEEK, and he has taught at 3 New York universities. Currently, John works on select projects, consults, and speaks. He may be reached at

For John's booklet: How to Attract and Excite Your Prospects: A Guide for Getting the Best Marketing Results, visit:

For consulting info, visit: Marketing Therapy:

For speaking info, visit: Follis Speaking:

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