Transform Your Business Name into a Brand Name

Phillip Davis

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It's easy to think that because you have a name, logo and tag line, that you have a brand. But corporate identity is just the first step of building a brand image. The name, logo and tag line are two dimensional elements in a three dimensional world. And to become “real", to become a living, breathing, brand name, companies must possess three dimensional attributes. In other words, they must possess the same qualities that people do - specific, consistent traits and characteristics that customers can easily indentify, remember and relate to.

This is where most companies fall short. In an attempt to be all things to all people, they have no identity. They try to compete on every level. . . price, quality, service, selection and so on. It sounds like a good strategy but it fails nearly every time.


Because our minds are like little mail rooms. When we get incoming messages, we sort them and file them in their proper slots. Wal-Mart goes into the low price mail slot for when we need to save money. Rolex goes into the quality slot for when we win the lotto and want to enjoy the best. Nordstrom's goes into the service category for when we want to really be pampered. The more specific the trait or characteristic, the easier it is to recall.

So when companies try to appeal to everyone, it's the equivalent of meeting someone named “George".

George who? George Washington? George Foreman? George Jetson? Curious George?

If you lack specific, identifiable features, you will be sorted, discarded and tossed in the mental mailroom trash basket, never to be recalled.

Here's a hypothetical, but typical, example. A bunch of zealous entrepreneurs want to form a sporting goods company. They want to succeed on every level and win over every potential customer. So what's synonymous with being on top, king of the hill, a company at the peak. . . what else but. . .

Summit Sporting Goods

So let's say they now want a tag line. Not wanting to limit themselves, they develop a “positioning" statment such as “We're more than just sporting goods". The logo is a large “S" on a triangle. So the store opens and a customer sees an ad that says

"Summit. . . We're more than just sporting goods"

What does that say about the company? Not much!

Let's say another bunch of enterprising types get together and decided to place all their marbles on basketball equipment. They name their company. . .

Slam Dunk!

. . and their tag line is “Score Huge Savings Everyday!" Which of these two companies are you going to remember? Arguably the first company may have more selection and better prices. . . but how would you know? At least with the second company you know what they are claiming. . . basketball equipment for less.

To add to their new image, they incorporate “Hoop it up Friday" where all shoes are half price. . . scoreboards show how many items were sold that day. . . buzzers go off when an in-store sale is announced. Now the name begins to take on an identity, a personality, a predictable nature. . . a brand!

This brand can be further stengthened by adding a jingle, using the corporate colors throughout the store interiors, using the name in the product line (i. e. Slam Dunk shoelaces), etc. If done well, a customer should be able to describe a company as well as they describe a friend. Think Apple. . . clean, attractive, likes music, fun to work with, creative, innovative, etc. It goes way beyond just the name Apple or the logo.

So when developing a company, start with a great name and then go from there. Add personality that customers can relate to and remember. Own a “position" in their minds, rather than avoiding one. Be what you are instead of what you think you need to be to attract every potential customer. Then you'll be memorable, effective and real. And those qualities make for a great brand.

Phil Davis is an 18 year veteran of naming and branding. His work can be viewed at


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