How to avoid some common mistakes in developing your brand strategy

Is your brand strategy built on a solid foundation?

How confident are you that you have a sound brand strategy?

This blog post will give you some tips to help you develop a clear brief for your brand strategy.

Would you build a house without first securing title to the land and making sure you had the approval to build?  You would probably want to check the planning regulations before even buying the land.  What size house could you build?  What about neighbouring properties?

Is your brand strategy built on a solid foundation?

Is your brand strategy built on a solid foundation?

There are three main factors to consider

Too many companies rush into building a brand without doing some basic market research or thinking ahead.  If you are starting a new company, there are three main factors to consider:

  1. Company name: is your chosen name available and if so, is there likely to be any confusion or association with an existing company name?
  2. Domain name: is a .com domain name available?
  3. Trademark:  even if you do not want to register a trademark, you must check to make sure you are not infringing on the rights of other companies.

You should consider the type of market you will be competing in and the profile of your customers.  What is your market positioning going to be?  If you are thinking of exporting, you also need to assess the markets you are likely to be interested in.  This is very important for both domain name and trademark.  Take a look at your competitors too.

Finding the ideal brand name is not easy

The ideal is a catchy name that resonates with your target customers and is easy to find on the Internet.  You also want a name that is distinctive and does not get confused with existing names. This is “easier said than done” and there are a number of conflicting factors you need to be aware of.

Once you have developed a list of possible names, you need to find out which ones are available.  You may need to be a bit creative to find names that are both available and suitable. This will be an iterative process as you check available company names, domain names and trademarks.  If you already have a company name, changing this name may be a simple exercise.  This will depend on the regulations in the country of registration and this may not have to be the country you operate from.

Now let’s discuss these conflicting factors and what influences these factors.  The main tension is between trademark and keywords for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  Trademarks must be distinctive and not descriptive.  You can have a name that implies rather than describes the nature of the service, such as “Bullet” for a courier company.   This means you cannot use popular keywords as your brand name, but you might be able to use a keyword as part of your brand name.

There is a direct conflict between a trademark that is distinctive and a name that is easy to find.  People will search on established brands and common descriptive words such as “emergency plumber”.  No-one will search on a new brand name, so what do you do?

One solution is a made-up name and then one or more by-lines that are descriptive.  Another solution is a composite name: “XYZ Plumbers”, again with by-lines.  These by-lines can change over time and you may have a family of by-lines that relate to product category or market segment.  The former is more company centric and the latter more customer centric.  This by-line can also form part of your website SEO Title and Description, such as: “emergency plumbers Auckland”.

How will your brand name work in other languages?

You may need to check how your chosen name works in other languages.  Two frequently cited examples come to mind.  One is fact and the other myth, but both illustrate the importance of doing the research.  The Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow was a natural successor to the Rolls- Royce Silver Cloud.  The original name chosen for this model was “Silver Mist”, but this was changed when Rolls-Royce realised that “Mist” translates into manure or dung in German.  There is a more common translation of the German word “Mist” in German, but sh**, we are too polite to mention it!

The other example is the Chevrolet Nova, which turns out to be myth according to the Name Quest blog.  The short story is that Chevrolet Nova was dismal failure in Spanish speaking countries, because “no va” in Spanish means “does not go”, as opposed to “nueva” or “nuevo” meaning “new”. The blog post debunks this myth and gives the example of the Mexican oil company that used the brand name “Nova” without any problems.  There was no confusion because “nova” has the accent on the first syllable and whereas “no va” has the accent on the second syllable.  The author uses the example of English-speakers not being confused with “table” and “notable”.

These two examples show the importance of doing the language research and checking with native speakers of these languages.  I was not aware of the Nova myth until checking my sources for this blog post.  Make sure that your brand strategy is not based on myths!

Let’s summarise the main points:

  1. Do your research first to check if your desired brand name is available.
  2. Company name and domain names are relatively straightforward.  Your desired name either is or is not available.
  3. You don’t have to register a trademark, but you must check that your desired brand name does not infringe on the rights of another company.
  4. It helps to be clear about your target market and the type of image you want to convey.

There is something else you will need to consider and that is the names of your social media channels, such as: YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.  You do not want to find out some time later that that you cannot use your brand in one of the major social media channels.  We will cover this topic in a separate blog post.

You should now be in a better position to brief the person or company that is going to develop your brand.   Your business strategy should guide your marketing strategy, which in turn should guide your brand strategy.  All three must be consistent and each one should underpin the others. Forewarned is forearmed!

Contact me if you would like some help clarifying what you want your brand strategy to achieve.

Simon Fawkes
Accredited Mindshop Facilitator
Business to Markets Ltd

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