Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How to pick names and logos.

When picking a name for your business, a lot of the work has to do with what you want to tell the world about the brand. Agilent Technologies toiled for the first four months of its life as “Newco.” The word Agilent (agile-nt) was finally chosen to signify speed, focus, accountability, and agility (the -nt at the end just adds more weight to the word). The word "lego" is a combination of the Danish words "leg godt," which means "to play well." In Latin, lego means "I study," or "I put together." The best product names are short, catchy, positive, easy to remember and clearly communicate what the product is about. Since most startups have limited funds, a new product needs to virtually sell itself.

When choosing a logo, aim for an image that conveys clear meaning at a glance. The UPS logo, created by Paul Rand in 1961, is a good example. The logo is economical and succinct, simple yet distinctive, businesslike yet warm. It communicates the company's essential mission without needing a tag line to explain it -- a package with a bow, just enough detail to be jaunty but spare enough to be timeless. The name of the company is reinforced because it's integrated into the logo, and the classic shape -- a shield -- makes it look official. The emblem signifies trustworthiness and inspires customer confidence. And the colors brown and gold, not the standard blue and green that are usually found on corporate logos, make the company memorable to consumers. The overall effect is that people get the message without being barraged with excess information. Although the shipping business has changed considerably since Rand created that design almost 50 years ago, the UPS logo remains timeless and effective.

The name of your company should be the vessel through which all your marketing flows. It’s the one thing your competitors can’t take away from you. Your marketing has to send the message that you’re relevant: it has to give people reasons to buy. For example, the marketing and advertising for the new VW Beetle presents a reason to buy if you’re one of the select few who have an optimistic personality and you don’t take yourself too seriously. Your personality matches the personality of the car. This is your car. Your decision is not about price, it’s about what this product means to you, how it fits into your life. Now that’s a reason to buy.

Branding is everything on the Internet, where all but the largest branded websites find it increasingly difficult to attract visitors. Branding tactics that work in the real world don’t always work online because companies aren’t allowed to say or market anything online unless the customer wants to hear it. The fact that the customer is in charge is the central theme differentiating television from Internet marketing. On the Internet, the advertiser must “pay” the consumer to endure the brand message by performing some kind of service in return. At startup, Saturn’s site offered the usual dealer referrals and car specs. But it also provided a lease-price calculator, an interactive design shop for choosing options, and an online order form. As a result, in its early years, 80% of Saturn’s customer leads came via the Internet.

It pays to develop high visibility. Promotion is about getting your message out without spending a lot of money in the process. Think creatively and have a sales message on all your communication. That way, you get publicity without paying extra for it. If you can’t be #1 in a category, create a new category where you can be because no one remembers #2. And the customers’ perception is the only reality.

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