The decisions you make when choosing how to brand your business aren’t the only thing that will determine your success or failure, but making the wrong choices can guarantee delays, legal issues and confusion. Unfortunately, when it comes to branding business owners can be the most bullheaded and stubborn and service providers and consultants that work with early stage clients would rather just take a check than try to explain or create better alternatives. This is not a good combination.
Luckily (?) – I only work with a select group of clients, and am not so worn out and jaded that I won’t even try to prevent or correct the damage if it isn’t too late. So that said, names and details changed to protect the usual suspects, but this needs to be addressed and why not have a laugh if you can?
Recently I had a discussion with a colleague on what to do about taking on a new client who is branding from scratch and insisting that her business and domain name include her name and keywords that she likes. Doesn’t that sound reasonable and why wouldn’t it be fine?
1. She is not a celebrity and people are not going to be looking for her business by her last name. Even if they did, in her local area there is a very large system of businesses named after someone (no relation) in basically the same industry with the same last name. If her business grows to any size at all, it’s likely they will ask her to remove her website and marketing. If she doesn’t grow to any size or have a big marketing budget, her name won’t benefit the business at all – it’s an expense and delay waiting to happen.
2. Keywords she has chosen are innocuous, but similar to the other fellow’s due to them being in the same industry in a broad sense. We suggested “keyword A” a very close match for what people would search for, but only 790 monthly searches and “keyword B” not the exact match, but what she offers is a very good alternative and should appeal to people searching for “keyword B” and give them something to talk about. “Keyword B” gets 49,500 searches per month in her local area. “Keyword C” that she chose gets zero monthly searches in her local area.
3. She is an experienced business person, but is not experienced in the pace, the filters and the extremes in transparency, how very easy it is for people protecting their interests to find you and how difficult getting actual potential clients to find you is in this internet era. Will she be open to guidance or will her insistence in “this is my name, I can do what I want” be a liability? I don’t know… If we take the client and do it her way, will she be perpetually unhappy with the results we can deliver with these barriers in place and no big budget to blast past them with advertising in mass media or press release campaigns to mitigate them? We really, really like what she’s doing, but offering a great product or service is not enough – you have to be found by people who want them and have money to spend.
This was a big topic of discussion in a grad school marketing class I took… there was a large Midwestern chain of gas stations and convenience stores called “Kum and Go” that tried to expand in my area. They were not warmly welcomed and people my age and especially younger were aghast because this is a slang variation of um, man juice. However, the Founder’s last names are Krause and Gentle and being German “Krause Und Gentle” turned into Kum… perfectly innocent and reasonable to them. Merchandise sales went up in 2006 when a character in one of the Jackass movies wore a “Kum and Go” T-shirt.
Should your idea, your dream, your freedom to choose to call your business whatever you want (at least until the lawyers get you) steer your branding decisions? If money doesn’t matter to you and the business is a hobby, do whatever you want! Enjoy it! If you think that having more stability and profits will matter to you, your shareholders, family and employees, finding other ways to create personality within your business or as a leisure activity is what I’d recommend.
One more… and how I got the title of this post. A few years back I was at a business conference and was talking to a potential new client. I was just starting to learn how to do websites and gave him a heck of deal, but we did discuss his overall marketing and he went to give me his business card.
Out comes the card and a tan Sharpie marker… he draws two connected sideways letter C’s (like a McDonald’s M) and dots the middle. (He’s officially a scientist, so you have to know that they don’t really see things the same way on the surface… be kind.) He smiles and slides the card to me across the table as I stare at it.
“What’s that?” I ask. “Do you always decorate your cards like this?”
“Oh yes,” he says smiling and goes into a fairly long explanation that this is the letter “blahbadablah” in Chinese and it means health and prosperity or something nice like that.
I smiled back and said “Dude, those are 8008’s. There are 3000 characters in the Chinese alphabet, find another one.”
“No that isn’t!” he protested.
“Yes, it is – to me and probably to a lot of other people who just think you like them a lot. We all like them a lot, they don’t belong on your business card.” (If you want a lot of sugar coating and flattery, I’m not a good person to work with… if you want to work hard, be smart and have fun we can talk.)
This issue is the exact reason we had to take our own medicine and change what used to be the N. U. D. E. model to the NUTS model. The acronym for Novelty, Utility, Dependability and Economy fits the research results a little bit better, but the previous version was annihilated by search engine filters. The plus side? We didn’t leave it with NUTS and added BOLTS and this Branding article is just a preview for more to come!
Have you ever tried to explain brand perceptions that are … shall we say “off” to a business owner or friend? Did it work?
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