Notes on Brand Creation and Growth

A brand is more than a name and a logo. Brands need a personality and a ‘physicality’. Brands need to exist in the minds of consumers as much as they do on a product label or in an advertisement.

Brands are the expression of intangible values and attributes through the use of tangible symbols – names, symbols and phrases.

Here are some notes on the basics of brand creation:

Brand Name

It has never been more important to get a brand name right, particularly if your aim is to enter global or international markets.  A famous example is the use of the name Nova by Vauxhall.  In the UK, Nova was not a problem but General Motors couldn’t use that name in Spanish speaking territories. Nova in Spanish means ‘doesn’t go’.  Hence the car was marketed in Europe under the Opel badge as the Corsa.

Your target customers are likely better educated and have access to more information than past consumers.  It is easy for consumers to do research thanks to the internet. As a result they are more likely to react negatively to names capable of causing offence. Even big businesses get brand names wrong, or suffer when they try to change a name. For instance some people in the UK still complain about Marathon Bars having their name changed to Snickers.  Some existing product names have cultural associations.

Brand names can be imbued with values and gives clues to consumers about what to expect from a product or product range. Such associations allow consumers to describe and understand the brand fully.

Brand names can also act as a barrier to new market entrants. Hoover became the generic descriptor of a vacuum cleaner in the UK, and this allowed Hoover to dominate the market for decades.  Only when Hoover suffered financial setbacks, through the production of the Sinclair C5 and the fiasco of their free flights offer was space in the market created for competitors like Dyson.

However, becoming the generic descriptor for a type of product, like Hoover, or Jacuzzi, can destroy intellectual property rights.

Names should reflect useful and unique associations e.g. friendly, reliable, fast.  They should be easily symbolised e.g. the Apple logo. Names need to be memorable: being different and being creative helps memorability. Names shouldn’t be too complex. Names should also be pronounceable – people do not remember names they cannot pronounce. Names should also avoid unfavourable associations in wider culture.

Brand Symbols

Brand symbols – logos and images – can be more memorable than names.  McDonald’s can be identified through the golden arches; Nike can be recognised by their tick.  Coca Cola through the distinctive bottle shape. Symbols can have a faster impact than a name – better brand recognition.  Remember, the first trade mark wasn’t a brand name, it was the Bass red triangle – a brand symbol.

Symbols must portray something of the brand and be associated in the minds of consumers with positive feelings.  Symbols should also be able to evolve over time. This allows brands to avoid becoming dated.  However, for some brands history and tradition are important signifiers e.g. Lyle’s Golden Syrup.

You must be able to protect your brand symbols; both from the actions of competitors or even over enthusiastic internal campaign proposals.  Promotional campaigns cannot allow a brand symbol to be devalued or lose their meaning.

Brand Slogans

Some brands are as well known for their slogan as they are for their name or logo:

Beanz Meanz Heinz

Just Do It

Never Knowingly Undersold.

Each of these slogans is as memorable as the brand name itself. (Heinz, Nike and John Lewis and Partners)

Slogans help consumers transition to brands.  They speed up brand recognition and imbue brands with values and meanings.

Strong competition and mature markets require brands to be easily recognisable and you need to deliver brand associations quickly – a slogan can do this.

Slogans can infer a brands’ current and future aims.  They can assist in the repositioning of a brand or aid current positioning initiatives.  For example, following the 2008 financial crisis, Lloyds Bank changed it’s slogan to, “The best bank for customers’, in an attempt to reposition the brand away from the casino of investment banking and back to its roots in retail and business banking.

Slogans must provide additional associations beyond those provided by names and symbols.  They also need to reinforce the associations provided by names and symbols.  Slogans need to be specific, brief and memorable.

Finally, a brand name, slogan and symbol need to provide competitive advantage.  If they don’t, you need to go back to the drawing board.