Branding – It’s more than a name game.

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Branding – It’s more than a name game.
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This morning, I was pleased that a good friend reached out to me to help her take the next step in her business. Like many, though, she had waited to do that step until the 11th hour – when the doors were opening and the business name had to be communicated. A rush of instant messages later, I longed for more time with her. Instead, I have translated this into more time to educate you – the person reading this, in hopes that you will catch yourself before the critical moment and give yourself the time you need to express your business identity in a way that resonates with your customer and that you absolutely love.

Let’s start with the basics. What is a brand?

Many will pipe up at this point and say, “well, that’s easy. It’s the name or a business or the logo on a product. Like the Nike Swoosh, that’s a brand.”

They are part right. While visual representation is part of a brand, the real meat of a brand is in its meaning to your customers and potential customers. What does it say to them? If they have absolutely nothing but your name in front of them, what would they feel? What would they assume? As humans, we are protected by our assumptions. Those carry over to many things in life, including the businesses we choose to work with. Branding is the process by which we cultivate and express that feeling. When brands have a lot of money, they can infer meaning. Take Nike for example. What does that Swoosh mean? Taken out of the brand meaning that Nike has built for it. It means nothing. But, through millions in television advertising, celebrity endorsements, creative packaging, events, and other far-reaching forms of media spend, Nike has crafted the feeling of winning, excellence, taking flight, being the best you can be… on and on behind it’s name, which is actually the name of the Goddess of Victory.

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As a small to medium-sized business owner, you may not have millions to create feeling from obscurity. In such cases, your brand needs to be more literal. Here are seven questions you can ask, during brand development, to see if you are on the right track:

1) What do I do, really? This isn’t just the physical thing you do, it’s the action people take when they see you, the feeling you give them.

2) What do I want people to think of my business? This is the blind date test. If someone just saw your brand and that’s it, what do you want them to think or feel? What thought or feeling will lead them to take the next step and stop in, call, or buy?

3) What don’t I want people to think of my business? It’s just as important to think of what you don’t want to project as what you do. Be as intentional about what you do not want to be as you are about what you do want to be.

4) Is there anyone else in a competing business using this name right now? This is important. Accidentally naming your business the same as or similarly to another can result in cease and desist letters, customer confusion, or worse – you’ll look amateur.

5) Is my URL available? Hop over to GoDaddy and check the availability of your URL. Is your perfect .com available? Can you live with a .net or other extension if not? Be sure your brand can grow with your ability to communicate.

6) Does this name comply with what is appropriate within my industry? Industry standards, cultural considerations, and other details are important when you are dealing with a larger brand. And although the Chevy Nova didn’t lack in sales in Mexico, contrary to popular urban legend, you still want your brand to go.

7) Have I kitchen-tested this name with actual customers to see if I am hitting the mark? Ask your customers this, “if you just saw this brand and that’s it, what would you think or feel about this business?” Do a gut test. Are you OK with potential customers seeing you this way? Give them one name at a time, never multiple choices and keep your question and intention directed.

Sit with your brand for a bit. Make sure YOU love it, too. You’ll be living with it for a long time. All the academic exercises in the world are not going to develop your best brand if you can’t not only live WITH it, but develop your company culture around it, express it in all your marketing communications, and feel PROUD of it. After you decide on a name, THEN you can think about a logo. But, that’s another article for another day.

Until then, need help? I’m here to help you decide What Works for you.

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