Branding is much more than that catchy name [Nation (Kenya)]
(Nation (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) What does your customer look for in your brand?
It is certainly more than the brand name, regardless of the brand and how much trouble you took to reach the name.
Indeed, we often spend so much time and energy looking for names when we should, instead, be developing the brand offering.
It is as if the name is the most important thing about the brand. However, this is hardly the case.
Yes, the name will eventually identify your product or service from the rest. However, it will not make the brand difference.
Ultimately what counts is the delivery of the brand promise and even exceeding the promise.
You will often hear people talk about rebranding, almost as if this means no more than a change of name, colours and other cosmetics.
This will not do, no matter how beautiful your brand colours may be, or how catchy the name sounds.
In the name of rebranding, people have done new letterheads, new logos and other cognitive symbols and identifiers.
They have spent hours looking for new names. They have even spent colossal sums of money and inordinate hours at workshops, looking for new labels for the products or services, when they should in fact be looking for the competitive edge in their service or product offering – or both.
Ideas have been floated and discarded in quick succession, before names and symbols are eventually accepted.
Some leading global brands, however, suggest to us that there are more critical things to brand making than names.
In fact almost any name will work, provided that the more critical things have been satisfactorily addressed.
Consider how some leading brand names were arrived at, for example. It is humbling that these names were decided upon without much fuss, or waste of time and other resources.
Some names were even stumbled into, accidentally. Merriam Associates have a beautiful inventory of the origins of some leading brand names.
Adidas, the famous sports brand, was the nickname of Adolf "Adi" Dassler, the founder of the German company that became Adidas.
The Amazon bookstore was named for the most voluminous river in America. It was thought that the sales should also become as voluminous as the river. Bridgestone is the English translation of a Japanese name that means "bridge of stone."
Coca cola simply means made from coca leaves and cola nuts. Pepsi was named for the digestive enzyme pepsin, while Samsung is Korean for three stars. Volkswagen is German for people's car. It does not get easier.
The lesson is that it is not so much of the name as the quality that the customer gets from the product or service. What is the value proposition in the product or service on offer?
When the customer eventually interacts with the service or product, do they confirm what you promised them, or do they get disillusioned?
They say in Kiswahili that the good thing will thrive on the fuel of its good reputation while the hopeless one will flog itself on the market.
Yes, every product or service will require some amount of marketing – let us call it brand positioning. As you position your brand, you will say some good things about it – perhaps even many good things.
You will say good things about the price and even suggest, no matter how costly the product might seem, that you are giving it away for a song.
Yet, ultimately, it is not the nice things you say about your brand that matter. It is not the good name you give it.
The taste of this pudding is in the quality the customer finds in your brand. If you have high-sounding lofty names and a bogus product, nobody will even want to hear about that name a second time.
Conversely, a "non-name" will become an instant hit, if the brand quality and delivery resonates with the customer's expectations.
Where should you put your money, therefore, in this business of brands? Certainly accent should be on product planning for consistent quality delivery.
When you have got this right, give it just about any name in the world; it will work well for you. A great poet once quipped about names, concluding, "That which we call a rose, by any other name will smell as sweet."
We have similar wisdom in my village. We say that whatever name you give a child is just fine. The name alone will not prevent him or her from growing up.
Ultimately, there are many more important things about the character of this child than the name. Invest in the character of the product and service. The rest will be just fine.
Dr Muturi is the executive director, Kenya Institute of Management.
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