I’m sure a lot of you have given much thought to the branding elements of your blog, business and website, such as the name and logo, and that you may be reasonably happy with the choice you have made. But unless you have paid a creative agency thousands of ZAR’s to do research and come up with an appropriate name and equally appropriate elements for your business, chances are slim that you know or fully grasp the criteria for selecting them.
Brands such as Coca-Cola, Virgin, Nike and Google have established firm names and elements in their respective industries and although almost every single person you know have heard of all these brands – unless they live under a rock – it doesn’t mean that it didn’t come with a lot of hard work and a whole lot of marketing and branding expenses throughout the years.
Let’s explore the 6 main criteria for selecting appropriate brand elements for your business. And by business, I mean anything from products to services that you supply, including business-to-consumer and business-to-business brands, whether you supply goods or information – it doesn’t matter, because somewhere someone is your client, even though they only consume the information on your platforms and social media channels.
How memorable are the elements of your brand? Is it exceedingly difficult to remember, pronounce or spell, and will it make people sit up and take note when they hear or see it for the first time? I recently conducted a case study, and a brand that most South Africans may not be familiar with, unless they have travelled to various states of America and unless they have a palate for above-average sweet things, is Voodoo Doughnut. Yeah sure, we are all familiar with Dunkin Donuts (who failed miserably on home turf) as well as Krispy Kreme, but VOODOO DOUGNUT? Perhaps not. But here’s the point – the mere sound of VOODOO doughnut grabs your attention and make you wonder what this doughnut brand is all about. With a logo that depicts a Voodoo character, their signature doughnut being the Voodoo Doll, and their slogan being ‘the magic is in the hole’, one cannot help but sit up and take note. Is the name memorable? Easy to pronounce, spell and write? YES! Is it attention-grabbing and interesting? YES! Will you go look them up the next time you are visiting Universal Studios Theme Park or the weird town of Portland in Oregon? My guess is YES. And this is precisely what the owners of Voodoo Doughnut set out to achieve. Creating a weird brand with a weird name in the equally weird town of Portland. Go look them up on Instagram and Facebook – it’s the quirkiest thing you’ll see all day on social media. But that right there is the crux of it all – the memorability of the name constantly achieves a high level of brand awareness among tourists to the US of A.
How well does your brand elements convey the general information about the functions of your product or service? Let me give you an example. A blog a lot of us are familiar with is called ‘The Vegan Rainbow’. Does it give you an idea of what the blog is all about? Sure it does! The author is probably a vegan and writes about all things vegan, such as vegan recipes, vegan restaurants, various vegan products and where to find them and, hopefully, vegan wines. (Coz’ wine’s my thing, you know.) Another example is a blog called ‘F29 Collection’. Does that give you an idea of what the blog is all about? Hell no! You get where I’m going with this.
When I had to decide on a name for my business, it took me months to come up with something that ticked all the boxes. And we’ll get to the other boxes in a bit. So now you ask: what the heck does ‘Liquid Pulse’ mean? Fair question. My research has shown that Liquid Pulse is also the name of a night club (I think that’s kinda cool for a vibey place with laser lights and lots of deafening trans music), an energy drink (also pretty cool if you think about the benefits of an energy drink), as well as a record label and a mobile bar services company. So no, the name for my business wasn’t that unique, but to make the name meaningful to my audience and clients, I incorporated a wine glass to replace one of the I’s in the name. And the wine glass is very much a part of the brand mark. Wherever possible, the name will always be displayed with the wine glass. Does the name now have meaning? I’d like to think so. Ok, so Liquid Pulse with the symbol of a wine glass still doesn’t tell you exactly what the business is all about, right? I mean, Liquid Pulse can be a wine bar, a wine brand, a logistics company providing services to the wine industry and so on and so forth. And that is precisely why I have incorporated the words ‘Marketing & Communications’ into the brand mark. When you look at the image below, does it now have meaning? Yes. You know that this is a marketing and communications company that specialises in the field of wine. Also note the wine-red colour I have chosen for the brand mark. Not blue, not green, but wine red. All these elements combined have persuasive meaning and suggest something about some aspects of the particular service and key points-of-differences of my business. It also suggests the type of person or client who might use the brand’s services.
Independent of its memorability and meaningfulness, do customers find your brand elements aesthetically appealing? Is it visually likeable? Is it verbally likeable? Remember that brand elements can be rich in imagery and inherently fun and interesting which makes it likeable. Here’s a great example: ‘WineFolk’. Look at the brand name and the logo below. What message does it convey? For me, the word ‘folk’ means ‘people in general’, the average guy on the street. See the windows in the wine glasses and the lights in the wine bottles reminding of skyscrapers or residential blocks in a busy city? That conveys the message ‘wine for every-day people, anywhere’. As a wine consumer, does it resonate with me? Yes. Do I like it? For sure! One can also think of online retailer GetWine. The same is memorable, likeable, it has meaning, and the bonus is that the name is also a very clear call-to-action.
Transferability measures the extent to which the brand element adds to the brand equity for new products or in new markets for the brand. In other words, if your brand was to develop a new product or service, will the name and elements be transferable to said product or service? In general, the less specific the name, the more easily it can be transferred across categories. Let’s look at my business name as an example. As mentioned above, I could possibly use Liquid Pulse for a potential wine brand, or a wine bar, or a mobile bar service, or even a logistics company providing services to the beverage industry. But should I want to develop, market and sell diapers tomorrow, Liquid Pulse will probably not work (and have a whole different meaning!). So far, I am safe – no baby diapers in the near (or distant) future for me, thanks.
Voodoo Doughnut successfully transferred their name to a – wait for it – bacon-maple-doughnut flavoured ale! Food and beverages have a natural affinity in their collective marketability, so Voodoo Doughnut’s elements could easily be transferred to an ale product. They even transferred their elements to coffee mugs. Think about any American movie with cops as characters. There are almost always a doughnut and a cup of coffee involved somewhere.
But what about other names that you may be familiar with? Ferrari is well known as a brand that manufactures and sells sports cars. Their audience is predominantly male, so it made sense for them to transfer the name into various other product categories such as Eau de Cologne and fashion accessories, apparel, eyewear and collectibles for men (and women!) in the highest bracket of LSM (living standard measure). Should Ferrari want to transfer their brand elements to vacuum cleaners, though, it may be slightly hard for consumers to suck up.
Think about the transferability of your blog’s brand elements. Do you write about wine? About travel? About beauty products? About finances? Gadgets? Cars? Food? Let your name and brand elements reflect that!
Campbell’s name is based on one of the founder’s names, but it has no inherent meaning binding to a specific product. Therefore, it is appropriate for a large variety of products within the food category and makes the brand name element easily transferable.
The fifth consideration for brand elements is their adaptability over time. Because of changes in consumer values and opinions, or simply because of a need to remain contemporary or current, most brand elements must be updated. The more adaptable and flexible the brand element, the easier it is to update it. If your logo can be given a new look or a new design to make it appear more modern and relevant, then you are good to go. Two bloggers who updated their brand elements to make it more contemporary and relevant are LivingItUpCapeTown and The Wine Girl Cape Town.
The example below of Mercedes Benz is just one of many brands who adapted their brand elements over the years to remain modern and relevant. One element that remained almost constant throughout the years, is the three-spoke steering wheel, which was evidently adaptable over time.
In the same breath I want to say that, should an image of your face – whether photographic or animated – form part of your brand elements, you might want to rethink this strategy. You wouldn’t want to update your ‘look’ every few years or so as the grey hair and wrinkles set in. Neither Pam Golding, nor Adi Das, Walt Disney, Walter Chrysler, John Dunlop or Henry Ford chose their faces to be part of their brand elements. Go figure. Unless you are an internationally recognised celebrity, marketing gurus advise against it.
The last consideration is the extent to which your brand elements are protectable – both in a legal and a competitive sense.
Everyone is familiar with Meerlust wine, right? Some years ago, another wine brand decided to call themselves Meerrust. On the eye it looks similar, in pronunciation it sounds similar. Even the spelling is similar and only one letter made the distinction between the two names. Was Meerrust distinct enough? No. Could Meerrust protect their name? No. Did it save Meerrust’s ass in court? No. And with good reason. Both brands operated in the wine industries, meaning Meerrust wasn’t protectable in a competitive sense. Needless to say, Meerrust lost that battle against Meerlust and opted for the name Allée Bleue instead.
My question is this: If you were to search for your blog’s name right now, how many blogs with similar names will pop up? Because if your name is not protectable, it means your business is not sellable. And therein lies the equity of your brand. You are in the blogging business because you (hopefully) want to build a name for yourself, build brand equity with consumers and clients and maybe make some money. Will someone buy the Stacey Everywhere blog in a few years from now? How about Miss Peachy? Nah, didn’t think so. Will someone consider buying Winemag.co.za? Well, someone did.
It’s simple – if you cannot register your business name with the CIPC (the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission), then you’ve chosen an unsuitable name. It will not stand the test of time. No one will buy it, no one will invest in it. Consumers will not take you seriously and neither will paying clients. Perhaps in the short run, but in a few years from now, you’ll have little to show for the endless hours behind your laptop or smart phone, editing pictures, attending creative writing and photography workshops and slaving away for a few freebies.
Are you worth more than that? If the answer is YES, then go forth from this day and carve out your brand elements. And do so thoughtfully.
Footnote: You will note in the banner image at the start of this article that I have positioned the LIQUID PULSE logo amongst the some of the world’s most recognisable and successful brand marks. You will also note that I have eliminated all colour from all logos – the McDonald’s arches aren’t yellow, the BMW logo is not black and blue, Netflix is not red. The point of the illustration is to prove the memorability, transferability and meaningfulness of each brand mark, irrespective of its colours.