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What's in a name? – Bob Harper, Director of Portfolio

Bob Harper, Director of Portfolio


Have you ever been sent to Coventry? I don’t mean the city, I mean when no one speaks to you. 

Now, I had a happy childhood and was not bullied or a bully, but I do have a strong memory of being sent to Coventry once while at primary school. I recall we all took turns and I remember it was not nice; being on the outside of the pack is against human physic. Nobody likes to be ignored. It makes us depressed or even paranoid! We want to be accepted and part of the crowd (we are not all Russell Brand). 

Why is this important? Well, when it comes to marketing, the whole idea is to differentiate your business. The objective is to stand out (be outstanding) and remarkable (so people talk about you). All this is very scary to the average person because we crave to fit in. 

As humans, we spend time naming things like our children and pets, even our cars, and people who set up a business must decide on a name for it. Interestingly, it has been proven that giving your child a weird name negatively affects their performance at school, so most parents go for common names. But the opposite is true for business; common names can hurt business performance. 

It is worth keeping in mind that your business name IS your brand and your brand is effectively your business. These are not separate areas; they are one and the same, each being the product of serious consideration and the sum of your parts. Branding is more than a logo and colour scheme – it is what your business is. 

Most just call their business after themselves, for example Bob’s Buildings, or, if I want to appear more professional, Harpers Construction. But how likely is it that the name given to me by my parents or my surname communicates what my business is? 

Your business name must reflect many things: 

1. The reason why you are in business. This is not to make money; that is a result of a good business 
2. You firm’s personality in terms of values 
3. Your target audience 
4. Your value proposition 
5. What you do and how you do it 

How much time went into your business name? How much of the above did you consider? 

If an alien landed at your business, would they know anything about you from the way you present your name? 

Every effort should be made to differentiate and push away from the crowd. If you stand alone, you have no competition. Pricing is no longer an issue because there is no competition. If you feel you have price pressure from the competition you are not over-priced; you are simply under-exclusive. 

When thinking of a name, remember that business names do not need to be easy to remember, they need to be hard to forget. 

Next, consider the topic of a logo. My conclusion on this is that, for small businesses, associating the logo with the name is too cost-inefficient. So I recommend using the name as the logo and creating an interesting mark within or around the name. 

The reason for the interesting mark or symbol is that with social media you need an image that is 1×1 inch square. We believe that brand-savvy firms should use the name, accentuate an area of the name in an inventive fashion and then let that small detail become the symbol of the name rather than a separate logo. 

But the logo question is only one element of the jigsaw; there is a much bigger picture. Branding is not a design exercise; every member of the business must embrace it and live what your firm promises. This is why internal branding is as important as external. 

Your firm’s brand value is the average of the total of opinions that the market holds. Each opinion matters and because service firms do not have tangible products the brand name can be added to – your people are effectively your brand. 

So, if you are an existing business it may be worth doing some strategic thinking. The world is changing fast and perhaps you need a new name for the next phase of your business journey. Perhaps you need some new people. Maybe you have more than one value proposition under one brand and need a separate brand because a brand name should only stand for one thing. 

Big brands get big by doing and being known for one thing; they get into trouble when they stretch their brand because no one knows what they stand for anymore.

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