In crowded markets, branding is the one mechanism that can make your product stand out. It is easy for consumers to understand, as they know the rules. Yet branding only makes any searing impression on buyers over time. With this evaluation go strong implications of repeat purchases.

Brands matter. Good brands can be phenomenally valuable in their own right. At the start of the second millennium, Interbrand valued the Coca-Cola brand at no less than $84 billion. Brands, regardless of who (within reason) administers them, are a door opener to market share. Nestlé was prepared to pay nine times the book value of the long-established English confectioner, Rowntrees, to gain control of their brands like Kit-Kat.

Brands also allow you to charge more. General Motors and Toyota share a production plant in Europe, where they ran off almost identical cars—the Toyota Corolla and the Geo Prizm. The Toyota Corolla sold for $2,000 more than the Geo Prizm. Yet even with this premium, the Toyota Corolla outsold the Prizm by 200 percent, because the Toyota brand name has greater brand value.

The concept of a brand covers many possibilities. It wraps up everything that competition, trade, and customers associate with your product.

♦ How your market feels about it

Chosen thoughtfully, a brand name can enable you to model the impression buyers will form in their minds. Like love at first sight, it can be a very quick process. To get a brand off to a good start, find a name that encapsulates your product and catches your public's imagination. Choose one from the final list that makes an immediate mark yet has potential to develop. The concept of your brand name needs to be supported by a complete suite of visual furniture. So think logo. Think symbol. Think typography. Think color. Think style. Think music. Think everything that can support your brand by association or mood. Think!

A strong branding culture endows new products with an immediate identity and enables developers to exploit consumer recognition. Because the concepts of branding are more ambitious than simply naming, good brand names need to meet more criteria. A good brand name meets as many of the following as possible:

♦ Evokes a suitable mood—Nike, Hyatt, Smarties

♦ Is reasonably short—Rawplug, Birds Eye, Oracle

♦ Suggests the product area—Band-Aid, Oxo, Pepsi Cola, Microsoft

♦ Evokes a strong visual association—Shell, Orange

♦ Is internationally acceptable—Rolex

♦ Is free from negative associations—Sony

The more the brand captures the public imagination the more immediate its acceptance and the less you have to invest on pumping information. Whenever the brand is a desirable one, people naturally pay more attention. Not unsurprisingly, successful software houses spend around 80 percent of their advertising on promoting the brand and only 20 percent disseminating information.

Where a name is too long or means nothing to a foreign buyer, initials almost always take over (IBM instead of International Business Machines, BMW in lieu of Bayrische Motorenwerke, or SAP instead of Systeme, Anwendungen, Produkte in der Datenverarbeitung).

Brands are a complex subject, but there are two aspects on which you might concentrate:

♦ The name you choose is likely to be much more useful if, like an ice cream cone, it is able to carry all the flavors of the product that you foresee.

♦ You need to single out the most useful single attribute that could be associated with your brand.

Begin by whittling down a shortlist of advantages. These might include reliability, integrity, speed, time saving, and prestige. Set up a list and work out a pecking order by consensus. Then put all your imagination into finding a name that lives up to the expectations you have for your product.

To arrive at a professional exposition of your logo, use a consultancy that specializes in branding, if possible. Alternatively, consult your friends in the business.

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