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My views on marketing are generally well known and scathing (just ask my colleagues) but I’m slowly coming round to a better appreciation of branding.
Words have power - names doubly so – and choosing the right way to promote your company through defining what it stands for is vitally important.
Names are like micro-elevator pitches. Forget explaining what your company does in sixty seconds – what about defining the entire company with its name?
Telecom had that – it was a phone company. These days of course it isn’t, and in a previous life I used to get calls from little old ladies complaining that “Telecom hasn’t printed my name in the phone book,” and asking “When is Telecom fixing my broken phone line?” and so on.
Telecom hadn’t been that company for several years – yet it was saddled with a name that implied it did. I wasn’t at all surprised when Simon Moutter announced the company was changing to Spark and connotations of the electricity industry aside, the idea of creativity, of starting something new, of instigating something is a powerful one.
Not all rebrands go well, however. Remember the expensive exercise of PricewaterhouseCoopers rebranding its consulting arm as Monday? That name lasted two weeks and ended abruptly when IBM bought the unit and quietly dropped it.
And then there was the Post Office (Britain’s aged postal service) which rebranded as Consignia as part of a move to privatisation, and then just as rapidly became the Royal Mail (something I always thought they were called anyway).
All of those rebrands moved the company’s name away from its core function to something else – generic, made up names that have no resonance with customers or staff. Tying in the company with the company name is vital if you’re going to reinforce your place in the market.
Xero has pretty much nailed it. What does the company do? It reduces accountancy pain to zero. Small business owners can get back to the job of being in business instead of spending time and energy on the managing of the business.
The name is genius because not only does it reflect what the company does, it’s also unique. Search online for Telecom and you’ll find millions of hits relating to the generic industry term. Search for Xero and you’ll find Xero.
It’s a funny old world where we don’t have Telecom and just as odd is one where I blog about brand and marketing. Good luck to Spark, I say, and when you’re coming up with your Next Big Thing spend some time up front thinking about what you’re going to call it.
Paul Brislen is Executive Director at Anthem.