What's in a Name?

Author:Mr Graeme Thickins
Profession:GT&A Strategic Marketing Inc.
 
FREE EXCERPT

Well, everything.

One has to wonder if branding has now finally gone mainstream, with even IT magazines now sporting articles about it. Can it possibly be the new universal job skill? Sounds crazy, but somehow, branding is everywhere and everybody's doing it. The media can't leave it alone, and branding consultants are popping up like dandelions on a bad corporate softball field. Everyone's expected to know what it is, how to do it, what it's worth, how to measure one's own...blah, blah, blah.

But very few out there in businessland (save us branding consultants and the Great American Hero, the entrepreneur) have actually created a brand—sat and stared at a blank piece of paper (or napkin) to go about the daunting task of inventing a brand and building it from scratch.

Just how does one do it, you ask? Well, for those of you still among the great branding unwashed out there, or those contemplating joining the above-mentioned Hero ranks, here's a primer.

Welcome to Branding 101

It all starts with naming. Once you have made the decision to start a new business or launch (or relaunch) a new product or service—technology-related or otherwise—and have at least the basic resources in place, one of the biggest challenges will be deciding what to name it.

Figure out your goals. Sometimes you might be after something that is simply ear- or eye-catching: The dotcom boom saw plenty of these with the likes of Fatbrain, Foofoo and Quokka and even survivors like Google and Monster.com. (For an inside look at how a few dotcom-bombs picked their names, read What's It Mean?). Other times the goal is to break with the past. Accenture rose phoenix-like from Andersen Consulting. Philip Morris would rather be called Altria. The consulting firm Deloitte recently redubbed itself Braxton, a name spirited from one of its own past acquisitions. And some new corporate names smell strongly of compromise: AOL Time Warner. ExxonMobil.

For a task that seems so simple on the surface, most experienced entrepreneurs will admit (if you press them, anyway) that they spend an inordinate amount of time on naming.

Sure, there are always those who'll make a flippant decision, tossing something out and worrying about the consequences later. But most business founders, especially those who've done it more than once, know just how far-reaching the naming decision can be.

Marketers have long maintained its importance. Authors Al Ries and Jack Trout (Positioning and several other classics), call...

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