Is one of the sacred tenets of branding – that all great brands must be distinctive – worth believing? This post takes a quick look at what’s behind the words.
As a namer I talk a lot about the distinctiveness of names. One of the measurements we use at Stokefire to determine the effectiveness of our names is obtained by comparing the name and brand strategies to those used by the presumed competition (assuming that there is no way to find a new market, of course.) If the whole universe of competitors is using wacky and freewheeling names then adding your own “Zooblumachoo” to the mix tends to make you invisible. Lacking difference makes you harder to see.
So, if copying is inadvisable, then having a descriptive or otherwise different name would be a benefit, right?
Not so fast.
We’ve seen many branding firms claim distinctiveness as its own benefit and we disagree.
Distinctiveness is a feature, not a benefit. If distinctiveness was a benefit we’d see it somewhere in a concrete way – like on the balance sheet, or measured in good will. Being different can be good, but the good that comes of being different is a few steps removed…
Distinctiveness typically leads to two different positive results:
2) Stronger Brand Image
So, are these the benefits? In our view – nope.
Both memorability and brand image are still features. But these do have a measurable benefit that matters to businesspeople who care about the bottom line. Memorability and brand image have been strongly linked to increased marketing Return on Investment and reduced cost of sales. That’s something that we’d say is a benefit.
Branding (and therefore naming) is all about making it easier to reach your goals – and for the vast majority of organizations, services, or products that’s going to mean measuring income, expenses, or margin. Increased memorability is only desirable because of what it gets you – more money, clients, members – or at least the potential for each.
Distinctiveness, brand image, and memorability are all important. They’re just not the goal. Branding should answer the question “Who cares?” with a response from the target audience that is something close to “I do.” If the audience cares then it’ll likely cost less to get them to pay attention to your message – and ultimately to invest in your brand.
So whether you’re paying $50 or $500,000 for your spiffy new name and brand you’re not paying for distinctiveness – you’re paying for the brand’s ability to multiply the effectiveness of your marketing and to hold down sales costs. It just so happens that distinctiveness is one of a slew of factors that can lead to those results.
There’s little to prevent you from making a whole bunch of money with a name that has no distinction at all – as long as you have the time and money available to make up for what the identity may lack. If you’re insanely rich and have lots of free time on your hands I’m not sure I could come up with a compelling reason for developing your brand at all. Just blanket the media with your message and business will probably come… A quick look at all the massive acronymic companies on the Fortune 500 is proof enough of that.