Monthly Archives: April 2014

Developing brand names today…way more complex than in “Mad Men” days.

Developing a brand name has evolved into a very complex process that extends way beyond the cultural and geographic boundaries of the country in which the brand name originated. Developing a brand name now encompasses consideration of many more factors than in the day of “Mad Men”…pre-Internet.

The ultimate goal in developing a food brand name is to create an emotional connection with consumers that can be leveraged in all forms of advertising from logo/identity and packaging to promotional materials, print and online advertising, websites, and social media. Brand names represent a significant portion of the total value of a brand, in the case of Coca Cola it is estimated to account for approximately 30% of shareholder value. Considering the potential longevity and value of a brand name, here is a checklist of the most important considerations in brand name development:

1. Trademark.  For the short list of proposed brand names, is the trademark available in applicable trademark categories? It is definitely worth the effort to do this search first before proceeding any further in developing the brand.

2. URL. For the short list of proposed brand names, is the URL, or reasonable derivations, of the brand name available in both .com and .net?   While you may choose to use only one extension, you want to control the other so that in the future some enterprising individual  does not buy the alternate domain and try to sell it back to you. It is equally important to also perform this task before proceeding any further in developing the brand.

3. Pronunciation.  Is the proposed brand name easy to pronounce in its native language? Many brands have been tripped up on this one. If consumers have difficulty or are uncomfortable pronouncing a brand name, they won’t and that does not foster brand building. Food brands need consumers to talk about them, the more the better.

4. No negatives.  Are there any negative pronunciation issues or other negative phonetic impacts in other languages? We live in a global community with many languages other than the native one that are spoken or at least comprehended. The classic example is Chevy Nova, “no go” in Spanish, a misguided brand name for a car.

5. Memorable.   Is the proposed brand name memorable and easy to recall? Choosing a brand name with a strong tie to the brand promise is an important consideration in creating consumer recall.

6. Differentiation. Does the proposed brand name differentiate the brand from its competitors? Within the food industry, many product categories are very crowded and creating differentiation among brand names can be challenging, but the effort will be rewarded in building the brand.

7. Reinforces. Does the proposed brand name reinforce the brand’s story and promise? The stronger the connection between the brand and its promise, the easier it will be to build the brand and maintain a consistent brand message.

8. Translates. Does the proposed brand name translate to a visual metaphor? A brand’s logo is its visual metaphor and the brand name needs to translate to a visual mark that will resonate with consumers.

9. Relevance. Will the proposed brand name retain its relevance over time?  Brands with substantial longevity may need a refresh from time to time, but those brand names retain their relevance relative to the brand’s message and to its consumer audience.

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Do consumers trust what you say about your products?

Based on a recent YouGov Omnibus Survey (2014), 50% of US consumers who are aware of advertising claims, regardless of product category, don’t trust what marketers say about their products. Moreover, over 40% think that advertising claims are downright dishonest and almost 60% want beefed up requirements for  proving the accuracy of advertising claims. To be clear, advertising is defined as the claims made about a product whether in print, broadcast, digital, on packaging, or any other vehicles for the advertising messages.

The good news is that the food industry fared much better than many other product categories. Financial/insurance products, pharmaceuticals, cars, and diet products all were considered least trustworthy, each exceeding 20% of respondents who express this degree of distrust.  By contrast, fast food restaurants and and health foods were both at the 10% distrust level, while food products other than health foods were considered untrustworthy by only 6% of respondents.  Casual dining restaurants fared the best with only a 3% distrust response.

Some other highlights that relate to the food industry include that nearly 25% of US consumers tend to believe that the advertising claims made by the casual dining segment of foodservice fairly reflect the services, capabilities, and product quality they deliver. By contrast, fast food advertising is viewed as credible by only 16% of those surveyed.

Three common advertising tactics did not fare well. Comparing a brand with a named competitor is a less credible message to 26% of respondents. Touting awards won by a brand or product generated a fairly even response, 20-22%, either more likely to believe or less likely to believe the claim and its benefit to the consumer. Testimonials by experts/scientists resulted in 29% of respondents viewing such statements as not credible or relevant to them.

In developing message points for food advertising, branding, and packaging design, it is important to choose your words wisely.  Trust and believability are the core elements of branding, and without them brands struggle for market share.

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How did they come up with that food brand name?

Creating a new food brand name…where does the inspiration come from? There are many approaches to take in creating a food brand name and each has its upsides and downsides.  In the end, however, it is important to understand that whatever brand name is chosen, it must be unique, distinctive, memorable, and most importantly…ownable. It is equally important to remember that a name is only one aspect of the total brand experience and it will be the layers of brand story, presentation, and meaning that will build the brand.

Here are some approaches that can be used to create a new food brand name:

1. Invented names.  These are made-up words…think Eggo or Kleenex for example. Inventing a name has several upsides:  they are definitely unique and create differentiation in the market. They are a blank branding canvas in that these words do not carry any emotional baggage or associations. In the digital space, URL’s of these names are more likely to be available. The biggest downside is the time it may take consumers to associate a word they have never seen or heard with the product…it takes a little more patience to market invented brand names.  The most important caveat is to make sure that the name is not difficult to say or spell.

2. Functional/descriptive names.  These are totally literal brand names…think Pizza Hut or Weed B Gon for example.  These are the simplest forms of brand names, but with some creative tweeking, they can become unique and memorable. The biggest upside for functional brand names is that consumers know immediately what the brand delivers in terms of product purpose, and all that remains is to build brand awareness and a positive brand experience.

3. Associative/image based names.  These names evoke a personal response…think Red Bull or Mustang.  Associative/image based brand names rely on the response mechanism of consumers to associate the brand name with an image that encompasses the brand. These names are often metaphors for the functionality of the brand and build on the emotional needs of the target audience. The one caveat to remember with these types of brand names is to make sure that the brand name does not conjure up negative emotions, images, and responses. This is particularly relevant for global brands that have to play well in many cultures and languages.

4. Provenance based names.  These names are associated with the origin of the brand…think Evian or American Airlines.  These brand names are associated with their geography or history, their origin or provenance, and that association has a high value in terms of marketability. If the provenance is somewhat obscure, but still very relevant, it may take a greater brand building effort to educate consumers about the provenance of the brand name.

4. Abbreviations/initials based brand names.  These names are simplified or  truncated versions of brand names…think BMW rather than Bavarian Motor Works.   These brand names are often created when descriptive names are awkward or have lost their context and importance. It is not uncommon for brand names of provenance to eventually be reduced down to an abbreviation. It is important to make sure that the abbreviation does not inadvertently spell a word or have a double meaning that would be detrimental to the brand.

5. Founder brand names.  As suggested, these names are based on the brand’s founder…think Smucker’s or Newman’s Own. Founder brand names evoke a sense of trust in consumers, but only if the founder’s reputation is impeccable. A famous founder, such as Paul Newman, has the same or greater value as a celebrity endorsement. There is one caveat to consider in basing a brand on the founder’s name and that is if some future event clouds the founder’s reputation, the entire brand can suffer by name association.

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