Branding. It’s a word that is vastly misunderstood. Some people think your brand is your logo. Others think it’s your company name. While both your logo and company name are elements of your brand, they aren’t your brand in its entirety. Not even close.
Your brand is actually the perception the marketplace has of your company. That perception is created by several factors including your logo, company name, tagline, staff photos, pricing, website design, position, font styles, packaging, color palette, signage, vocabulary, customer experience, the way you and your team dress/speak and so much more.
Your brand is everything that separates you from your competitors. It’s the reason people do business with you instead of them. It’s your lifeline.
In today’s post I’m going to answer some of the most common branding questions I’m asked. If you learn better by watching and listening rather than reading (and you don’t mind the unedited version of Stephanie teaching), stop reading and watch the video version of this blog now:
If reading is your thing, sweet. Let’s dig in. Here are 8 recent questions I’ve been asked about branding:
1. Why do companies change their names? Why might I want to consider changing my name?
There are 5 main reasons a company might choose to change their name:
- They have a bad reputation. I know of a business owner in San Diego that owns a restaurant overlooking the ocean. It’s a prime location in a tourist hot spot and because of that, it gets a lot of foot traffic. The problem? The owner. The owner is toxic and he creates one horrific customer experience after another. But instead of changing his way of doing business, he simply changes the restaurant. He gives it a new menu, new name, new interior design, new, new, new. And then, once he gets enough lethal reviews, he closes it down and starts the process all over again. Seriously.
- They’re merging with another company. Often times a merger requires a brand update to reflect changes in leadership, additional service offerings, new initiatives, etc.
- They’ve outgrown their niche or are entering a new market. Let’s say there’s a company called San Diego Pencil Sharpeners. Now, that’s a horrible company name but bear with me. If they called themselves that, and then expanded to Orange County, or to Portland or New York City, they’ve suddenly outgrown their name and will have to rebrand.
- Political or cultural shifts. This is an interesting one. At one point there was a mobile payments company, backed by some of the big cell phone carriers, originally named Isis. At the time, it wasn’t a big deal but can you imagine if that was still their name today? Would you want to send your money to Isis?? This company was forced to rebrand because of something completely out of their control.
- They need to “level up” or modernize. Some of the biggest companies in the world originally had absolutely atrocious names. A bad name gets you nowhere fast. But a good name, with a solid marketing plan behind it, can make you a household brand. Keep reading to learn what Pepsi, Google, Nike, Hertz, and Sony all once had in common.
There are probably many other reasons to consider changing your name but really, only you can decide if/when it’s time to do so.
2. How do I choose my company name?
There are a lot of things you’ll need to consider before making this decision. To start, think about:
- Your brand voice (if your brand was a person, how would you describe it? Are you friendly & playful? Are you serious & analytical? Are you edgy and rebellious? Or are you something else entirely?)
- Your brand promise (what is the ONE thing you promise to do for your customers, EVERY time?)
- How you want to be known (how do you want people to see your brand in one, five, ten years from now?)
You also need to decide whether you’re going to use existing words, or make up your own when naming your company. Making up your own word can result in a name that’s totally unique to you, but it can also be dangerous. You don’t want your business name to be hard to say or spell… you want people to remember you and to be able to find you easily!
That said, there are some businesses that have done this really, really well. No one knew the word Google until, well, Google. They made up that word, but now? If you tell someone to “google it,” they know exactly what you mean! Kleenex is the name of one company that produces tissues but it’s become such a household name that you probably ask for a “kleenex” just as often as you ask for a tissue. Making up a word isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you just need to be super deliberate about what word you choose.
I chose to take two existing words, sizzle and force, and combine them to create my business name. It has the benefit of being easy to say and spell, while still being completely unique and setting my business apart in the marketplace. Plus it’s fun. Whenever I explain my business name to people, I tell them it’s “Sizzle, like bacon, and Force, like ‘May the Force be with you’.” Every time I say that, people laugh – which is a great way to start a conversation, and immediately tells people something about my business – we like to have fun. While my business is very smart and strategic, I wanted to be known for being fun, playful, and easygoing. So I made my business name reflect that.
If you’re planning on renaming your business, be really intentional about it. Put some serious time and thought into coming up with your new name. You’ll want to ask for feedback from other people, but keep in mind that opinions are like noses—everybody’s got one. Opinions are also subjective. If you ask your mom what she thinks of your new name but your mom knows nothing about your ideal client, her opinion is just that–an opinion. You need to ask for input from the people that actually resemble your target audience–that understand their pain, their frustrations, their wants, their lifestyle and yada, yada, yada. Those are the opinions that matter when you choose your brand name.
3. How important is it to keep the “well known in a small niche” name?
No one can determine how important your company name is to your existing customers but you. That said, here are a couple of things to consider:
- Sometimes, changing the name is the best thing a company can do. In fact, some of the biggest household names out there have done it!
- Pepsi used to be called “Brad’s Drink”. The founder, Caleb Bradham, decided to name his drink after himself (because who wouldn’t?) and then somewhere along the way, someone with way more creativity came up with the name Pepsi, they rebranded, and the rest is history.
- Google used to be called Back Rub. Yes, really. Look it up. It’s true.
- Nike was once Blue Ribbon Sports.
- Hertz Rent-A-Car used to be Drive-Ur-Self.
- Sony used to be Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo.
- SizzleForce Marketing (yay!) used to be Impressions Marketing Studio (yuck!)
I broke all of my own rules when I created my company originally. I did what I thought I should do rather than being authentic to what my brand was, who I am, what I bring to the table, what my team brings to the table etc. I named my business, did all the paperwork, did my branding, and then immediately started kicking myself because I hated the name. I hated introducing my business because the name had no “zing,” it didn’t represent what I wanted my business to represent. And then there came that horrible day when I went to a networking meeting and met another marketer with an almost identical company name and a little part of me died right then and there. As a marketer, this is a cardinal sin! If you’re just getting started and you haven’t yet named your company, please…don’t make the mistake I made!! It is time-consuming and expensive to recreate a brand! Save yourself the hassle and do as I suggest the first time! If you’ve already named your company and found that it’s just not working for you, it may be time to rebrand. Whether or not you should, is a question only you can answer.
If you do decide to rename your business, there are a few things you need to know:
- It can be expensive. You’ll probably need to have your logo redesigned, new business cards designed and printed, any other print material redone, website, social media art, etc. It’s a process and it’s an investment.
- Communication is key. Be sure to clearly communicate the change, and the reasons for the change, to your existing customers, as well as any other businesses you partner with. You’ll want to do this mostly through a great email nurturing campaign that keeps them in the loop so they know you haven’t disappeared.
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4. Is it ok to change my company’s colors?
Yes! Absolutely! If your company needs to be refreshed a little bit, changing up the colors is a great way to do that.
I will warn you: there is a lot of strategy in choosing colors. If you decide to do this, make sure you do some research into color psychology. Don’t just pick colors because you like them or because you think your target market will like them. Do some digging, keeping in mind what you’re trying to project as a company, and choose your colors accordingly.
- Blue is associated with loyalty, conservativeness, safety, protection, etc. This is why a lot of lawyers, banks, and insurance firms use this color.
- Red is an intense color. It can be very alarming and eye-catching, and some say it can even make people angry. Yet it can also convey power, romance and other things people find very attractive.
Different colors evoke different emotions. Figure out how you want your audience to feel when they experience your brand, and then figure out which colors will facilitate that response.
5. Does my company need a tagline?
The short answer? Yes.
Now, if you’re running your business more like a hobby–maybe making an extra couple hundred bucks a month, then no, you probably don’t need a tagline. But if you’re running an established company, or if you’re trying to level up your business, you absolutely need one. A tagline is a differentiator for you. It quickly makes people aware of what your brand promise is and what value you bring to the marketplace. It will separate you from your competition. A tagline is powerful! If you need help developing one, give me a call or send me an email and we’ll make it happen.
6. Is it ok to change my company’s tagline?
Yes, absolutely! Huge companies do it all the time! What may have been a brilliant tagline for your company two years ago, may not be so brilliant anymore. That’s okay! If your tagline no longer represents your brand well, you absolutely can change it – in fact, you should change it. Doing so shows you care enough about your brand NOT to remain stagnant.
7. What are the most important things to know about rebranding?
- There is risk involved. There definitely have been times when a new CEO comes in and changes everything, and it completely bombs. When you rebrand, you have to handle it very delicately with your community. The bigger your business, the more delicately you’ll need to handle it. A lot of times people get attached to things being a certain way so you really have to communicate the reasons for the changes well and make it a benefit to your prospects and your existing customers.
- You need an outsider’s perspective. The truth is, you have a skewed perspective of your brand. But you’re not alone. It’s very, very difficult to see your own stuff. Case in point, I write for a living. I write copy for other companies with no problem but when it comes to my own branding… let’s just say, it’s a struggle–a massive struggle sometimes. I’m simply too close to my own work. That’s why I always get outside input whenever I’m making any substantial changes to my brand. An outsiders perspective brings clarity.
8. What should I absolutely NOT do?
- Don’t choose something just because you feel like it or because you like it. You have to think about what your ideal clients like, want, and need from you. Do some research, then do some more, until you have a really clear understanding of where you’re at and where you need to go as a company.
- Don’t do it alone. You need your team and, as I mentioned before, you need an outsider’s perspective. Trying to do this by yourself will be a disaster; I promise.
- Don’t be cheap. There are a lot of websites that promise to design an amazing logo for pennies. Sounds great right? The problem is that often, the logo they design isn’t original at all. A lot of them have been ripped off from other companies, but you would have no way of knowing that if you haven’t seen the other company. There’s virtually no accountability. A lot of them are also overseas. Now, I’ve seen people overseas do amazing work. I’ve even used some of them myself. But when it comes to branding, you really want someone who understands the culture that you are working in and marketing to. That person in Russia may be an amazing graphic designer but if you’re marketing to people in New York City, there might be a cultural disconnect.
- Don’t jump into the visual aspect without doing research. Before you start on the design phase, you need to have a super clear understanding of what your brand stands for, what your brand voice is, who you’re marketing to, what message you want to send out, what action you want people to take, etc.
There really is so much that goes into branding, or rebranding, your company. It’s important that you don’t rush into this process. If you need help figuring out where to start, we have a great solution for you. We developed this quiz that helps you identify the smartest steps you can take right now to get your company to the next level. Take our quiz, now!