What is Brand Discovery?

What is brand discovery?

Brand discovery is the process companies undertake to better understand how their unique value exists in relation to target needs and wants, their competitors, marketplace changes and perceived opportunities. Multiple, simultaneous inquiries into a broad range of business and marketing topics, often led by a branding consultant or discovery facilitator, aid the organization in objectively exploring today’s marketplace, the current brand strategy, the current brand identity and potentially more lucrative or sustainable brand positioning opportunities. Most commonly, brand discovery serves not as independent exercise, but as a precursor to a formal brand assessment or the development of a new brand strategy for the company. In traditional settings and small businesses, brand is typically viewed as an adjunct to marketing. In more progressive organizations, the brand and the business are considered to be synonymous.

What elements are typically involved in brand discovery?

Though the elements utilized in brand discovery may differ from agency to agency and consultant to consultant, there are some common themes. While some firms are content to have you complete a form, just as you would a brief for an individual assignment, other agencies and consultants use the information you’ve provided on the form as only a jumping-off point.

  1. Input sessions, creative exercises and brainstorming with the brand team to establish objectives and timelines, facilitate buy-in and explore the following topics
  2. Your company’s unique history
  3. Your products & services
  4. The features, benefits and self-expressive benefits of those products & services
  5. Your targets (needs, wants, demographics, psycho-graphics)
  6. Your competition
  7. Your vision for the future
  8. Your values
  9. Your primary points of difference
  10. Your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  11. The emotions relevant to the purchasing decision and the brand experience
  12. Your existing marketing materials
  13. Any extant marketing research
  14. Key stakeholders and their connection to the brand
  15. Financial and marketing performance data (depending upon the scope)

For more on my distinct point of view as a brand consultant:  brand discovery.  In very near future blog posts, I’ll share more with you about what I think constitutes a fully-cracked brand, the true role of the brand discovery facilitator, the importance of building business development pragmatics into every branding endeavor and why the value of Message-centric Branding™ exceeds that of traditional branding. But if you have questions for me right now, why not give me a call or shoot me an email? I’m always happy to have a chat or lend any upfront advice I can.

 

Big Naming Company Options and Alternatives

Finding a great name for a new business, new product or service leaves many marketers feeling lost.

Let’s assume you already know a little bit about branding. Let’s further assume you quickly recognize the difference between a cool, catchy and unique name and a lame one. In fact, let’s assume the search for a standout company name is what brought you here in the first place.

Your options are limited.

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but naming fees might paralyze you.

On the one hand, you have the global naming agencies and the reputable New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles naming firms. I don’t begrudge them their rates. The good ones (of which there are really only a handful) are worth every penny, but for the small business on a budget, $25,000, $50,000 and even $250,000 are simply too much to pay for a name. This is especially true if you a startup or you’re launching a new product right out of the gate.

Some call it crowd sourcing. For naming, I think it’s the equivalent of practicing medicine without a license.

On the other end of the continuum from the big brand naming companies, there are the crowd sourcing options. I mean, who can argue with a couple hundred bucks, right? Most of the prospects I talk to and people who believe in higher standards, that’s who takes issue with the crowd-sourced naming options. Of course, the premise here is so intriguing, I have to admit that on the surface it sounds like a terrifically modern approach to the age-old naming challenge, even to me. So, where’s the rub?

Problems with crowd sourcing naming projects:

  1. Knowing how to wordsmith does not impute the strategic ability to properly position a company.
  2. One hundred or two hundred awful to mediocre contenders does not in any way equal 12-18 brilliant options, one of which you’ll actually select, clear through your trademark attorney and rave about.
  3. Of the submitted names, an overwhelming majority will include misspellings of common words, unavailable dot com domains and trademark trouble.
  4. There is a time and a place for cute. While your naming project could be one of them, it’s usually wise to explore all of your naming options, not just the cutesy ones, the cheesy puns, etc.
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Technology name example by Los Angeles branding consultant & naming consultant Scott Silverman, Articulated Brands.

So, is there a company naming agency that can go toe-to-toe with the New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco naming agencies at 50% less cost?

Hi, I’m Scott. So glad we met like this. Check out the company and product names portfolio. Read through the testimonials. I made naming a specialty of Articulated Brands® because it’s a chance for me to give people a leg-up from the get-go. Though I’m based in Los Angeles, I’m giving those New York and San Francisco naming agencies a run for their money. (Not to mention the Chicago naming agencies, the Seattle naming agencies, the Fargo and Fairbanks naming agencies… you get the idea.)

Brand Strategy Consulting Is Business Development Done Right

What’s a copywriter, branding consultant and company naming guy doing consulting on business development for over 20 years?

Not every copywriter, branding consultant or company naming agency will focus this intensely on your business development fundamentals.

And that’s my point, exactly.

Sure, sometimes your deadline is looming and your budget is tight. You need an experienced copywriter who has enough familiarity with all manner of copy assignments to quickly dig in and make you sound polished, professional and personable. I still fill this gap for people everyday. And, of course, I’m fortunate to have this much experience creating high-impact marketing and advertising. And, yeah, a quick wit and a conversational style, well, those have certainly come in handy. (For examples of short, snappy, often humorous copywriter samples, please see advertising copywriter portfolio.)

But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking these creative executions, this tactical work… even when it spikes sales, wins awards and opens up new pathways of thinking… can even come close to what you can accomplish when we focus our attention on something much more critical to scalable, sustainable success: how we’re going to build what we know about customer creation into our very foundations.

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A recent website and branding example by Los Angeles’ Articulated Brands®, the message-centric branding® & company naming agency founded by brand strategist and veteran, freelance creative copywriter Scott Silverman.

As a copywriter, the focus is on how to say it best. But as a branding, positioning and messaging consultant, my focus is on accelerating strategic growth, pure and simple.

Even slight adjustments to how you are capturing your company’s core value can exert a profound influence on your ability to captivate and resonate with your most important prospects. A few years ago, I sorta coined the term “telescopic clicks” because what may seem to like nuance and hair-splitting to the uninitiated actually has the capacity to change your field of vision… and the game. When you need someone to creative interpret and breathe life into your extant brief, that’s the copywriting side of me. When you want a fresh, objective perspective on business development – from how you are defining the market opportunity to how to render your vision in a more target-centric way, and from the operations side of your pillars to whether adequate, relevant differentiation has been built into your model, you want to be talking to the one guy who has set himself apart by making branding make business sense…. even for the smaller business.

The Harvard and Wharton grads have their tools and methodologies. I use branding and brand discovery to provide a framework for business development because it’s a brilliant opportunity to kill multiple birds.

You wouldn’t think someone who operates in these disciplines would be engineered for efficiency and results, but, for me, saving companies marketplace time is the holy grail of strategic accomplishments. There’s just no sense in building brands that haven’t been engineered to forge real connections and real results. There’s just no sense in hiring consultant after consultant only to realize later that a holistic approach is far better, both financially and psychologically, than a series of half-answers. When your company is in a position to nurture a longstanding relationship with a copywriter, by all means, grab it! You’ll experience a cumulative benefit to the copywriter’s increasing understanding of your unique business and your environment. But when what you really want is business growth and a galvanizing brand, you need far more than a wordsmith. Count on the one brand consultant who brings clarity and focus first and foremost to your business development strategy and then, of course, to your communications.

 

 

 

 

 

Company Names Need Great Taglines, Too

As if finding a unique company name weren’t challenging enough… guess what. You need a great tagline, too.

Since I spend a lot of time talking about company names, today, I want to give company taglines their due. While your unique company name may begin to tell the story of your brand, your tagline can further build on the intrigue. If the human tendency is to think literal for naming, that tendency becomes even more pronounced when you are trying to sell a client on a great brand-building company tagline. When clients are thinking function, function, function, I gently try to remind them of context. Since your three primary brand identity elements of name, tag, logo are more about “setting the stage” for the sale than actually making it, a tagline limited only to the “what” of what we do can be a giant missed opportunity. A missed opportunity for what, ask my two readers. A missed opportunity to stand for something larger than yourself and your own commercial gain. This is why, in brand discovery, we get into bigger picture issues of vision and values. Because if we can identify a point of target intersect, a place where the company’s beliefs overlap with customer vision and values, that’s a solid brand position. If we can capture the essence of that in a simple tagline, all the better.

Company name first, company tagline second

I know a lot of company naming agencies present name options with taglines. Over the years, I’ve really come to dislike this practice. To each his/her own, I suppose, but I think it’s a short-cutting of something ripe with possibility. The advantages of having a final name selection in place (including legal clearance) prior to developing taglines are:

  1. We now have the benefit of all the conversation held around the name options; odds are there were many strong contenders and the client had a lot to say about each and every one. Can any of the juice around those other names become inspiration for the tagline?
  2. The name is strong in many ways, but not all. Can we use the tagline to round your story out?
  3. Generating multiple taglines for multiple name options is exhausting. I think it’s akin to “using creative as a search for strategy” — something I’ve long since retired. It’s bad business, inefficient both for clients and for myself, and demoralizing for the creative talent involved.

By way of example, I want to salute two great taglines

Instead of talking about my own work like an egomaniacal, coked-up chef (wouldn’t it be more fun just to call — wouldn’t it make for a better story?), I just want to use two great taglines to illustrate at least some of what I like and why.

Dow Scrubbing Bubbles – ya know, the bath stuff? No, that’s not the tagline. It’s (as if I need to tell you):

We work hard so you don’t have to.

First, it’s conversational over wordplay (sometimes okay) and punniness (careful, kid!) Second, they tie the us-side into a direct human benefit. Most companies get lost (and lose all of their marketing muscle) in a world of me-centrism. Third, the previously mentioned benefit… it’s enormous! Less work? Are you freaking kidding me? I’m writing taglines here! Who’s got time to scrub, and that’s assuming I even know how to scrub. Come to think of it, maybe I should spray some on the laptop right now. Maybe those little dudes can help with this blog post? Fourth, the common sense inherent in the line is almost Franklinian; with a practical magic like that at work, I can think of this as a very practical purchase… and not the indulgence it probably is. (For what it’s worth, I do use this stuff on everything. With bubbles on my side, I can!)

USAA – the insurance company for veterans and their families:

We know what it means to serve.

Okay, so here there is some wordplay, but look at how good it is! It’s not clunky; you can read it as a simple statement without feeling goofy. What other brilliant thing did they do here? They tied their how promise – a qualitative distinction around the typically-to-be-avoided-at-all-costs abstraction of “service” – into their why! While I don’t know for sure it’s authentic, it certainly feels true for them. Relevant and resonant? I’d say their targets would appreciate the sentiment. Differentiating? Well, for their primary audience, I think they captured the difference already in the brand… and knocked it out of the park. Somebody’s getting a fan letter…

What does a brand consultant do?

The role of your brand consultant is to better connect you to your target audiences. Period.

Too many folks are out there calling themselves brand consultants. In reality, what they provide is image consulting. Drives me nuts. People are investing serious dough into their businesses. They’re doing it on the expectation that “being branded” is going to pay off. Sure, looking and sounding a little more professional and contemporary does pose some advantage, but this is marketing we’re talking about. We’re not off to the red carpet; we’re off to create customers. And that means not just looking and sounding great but looking and sounding right.

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Portfolio sample from Los Angeles branding consultant Scott Silverman showing how style meets substance.

Do perceptions matter? Absolutely! Real brand consulting is perception management of the highest order. But the truth of the matter is, you are already branded, by default. When you wish to bring more intention to your brand, the more you need to know about the overlap between you and your customer base. If that core business success imperative were easy, every business would have more customers lined up, salivating. But this is not the world you and I live in. Branding is far from easy. Anybody who tells you differently is doing it wrong. (For more on the difference between building a house of cards and building your brand on a solid foundation:  Los Angeles branding consultant.)

So, what’s the difference between those who invest in quick-fix brand makeovers and those who invest in genuine, problem-solving branding & design? It’s the difference between renting and buying. How long are you planning to stay?

If I were hiring a brand consultant, here’s what I would ask:

  • How would you define the difference between brand consulting and brand strategy?
  • What is your process for understanding the business — simplistic, superficial and tactical or deep, immersive, strategic and holistic? (Caveat: anybody can use these words. Does the personality match the promise?)
  • For the creative choices you made with prior clients, can you please explain why you made them?
  • What did you specifically choose NOT to do and why?
  • What new insights and understandings did you bring to bear on the business?
  • How did your brand consulting work tie in with the present-day realities of the business?
  • What were the unique complexities in helping get your clients to more connective design, more powerful positioning and more meaningful messaging?
  • Of the brand strategies he/she has helped conceive, are the platforms:

Authentic

Differentiating

Target relevant

Moat-widening

Robust enough to serve the business outside of marketing (operations, HR, etc.)

Actively leveraging known sales truths about the business

Aggressively positioning you for future opportunities

Anticipatory of competitor and marketplace shifts

  • What is his/her experience with taglines? Those short, little phrases sit as the cherry on the brand sundae he/she has just helped construct. Together with name and logo, these should tell the Cliff’s Notes story of your promise to the world. Wordplay is okay sometimes, mostly because it’s memorable. But what was the “angle of attack?” A pun on the industry? Something a competitor could have just as easily claimed? Look for big, bold, emotional promises. Look for a distinct point of view. Look for a company tagline that srender the business a one-of-a-kind force with which to be reckoned. That’s as sure a sign as any you’re talking to a brand brain and not a sloganeer. Here you can view some brand-building company taglines.
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Los Angeles branding consultant Scott Silverman wrote this brochure for a Montreal radio station. He branded it as the go-to source for media buyers and advertisers in search of female spending power.

Brand consulting is not image consulting.

This is not art for art’s sake. It’s not about gussying you up… for gussying’s sake! Genuine brand consulting obviously includes aesthetics, but the work of actually attaching objectives to those aesthetics? That’s where you need to be paying keen attention to the business model, its drivers and to the defined opportunity. When people entrust their brands to me, I feel as if a torch, often a multi-generational torch, is being passed. There’s just too much riding on it. There’s simply too much to protect and too much value to the opportunities that can be discovered, to confuse brand work with cosmetics. Even in personal branding and celebrity branding, the point is to connect our clients with income streams, revenue opportunities and relationship opportunities. Of course, we want our brands to exude personality and style. But growing businesses and individuals serious about taking their careers to the next level need more than stylists. They need substance, professional brand consulting from people engineered to help them better engineer their brands. Horses before carts. Good rule!

Web Copywriting With Personality

Why is personality so important to web copywriting?

Personality matters in web copywriting for the same reasons personality matters in sales… and pretty much everything else! Aside from boring your visitors to death, web copywriting that doesn’t connect you to your visitors isn’t worth much, is it? The problem, of course, is that there is already so much heavy-lifting to do on your website. We’re thinking about the architecture of your website and the user experience. We’re thinking about your fundamental marketing, and, if you’re me, we’re thinking about the entire business and its business development strategy. We’re thinking about how your web copy fits into your overall sales cycle. We’re thinking about SEO objectives. Now, how do we take all of that and give it a strong but empathetic human voice? Moreover, why should we even bother? And, dammit, Scott, why do we have to think about our brand? Isn’t it enough just to laundry list the features of our business and prattle on about how great we are? Um, no.

People buy from those they trust, respect and admire.

Whether serving as a brand strategist, a brand consultant, a copywriter or a company naming consultant, I face one fundamental challenge on every project. You’d think it would change from client to client or industry to industry, but it doesn’t. It’s, how am I going to connect you to the people that matter most to your business? While brand-savvy marketers know that simple statement opens up myriad, simultaneous inquiries and a scope of brand discovery few entrepreneurs and small businesses have planned for, let’s start with the basics.

People buy from those they trust, respect and admire. We agree on that, right? Good, but uh-oh. Here comes the rub. 99 times out of 100, your creative brief won’t spell out how to get to trust, respect and admiration. Your unique value props may provide a start, but they won’t get you to the T-R-A trifecta, either. Your whiteboard sessions where the team got together to list out all of your many features and benefits? A worthwhile endeavor, to be sure, but it provides no sure path to cultivating trust, respect and admiration. What we have, in most environments, are terrific supporting points, which is the equivalent of a great speech delivered by an egocentric, uncharismatic boor. (Be honest about your company’s personality. Put some adjectives on it. Now, send those adjectives off to a cocktail party or a picnic and ask yourself whether the guests enjoyed your company’s company.)

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Example of website copywriting with personality and humor; image from the Kalish & Sons’ website.

As a Los Angeles copywriter with over 20 years’ experience, I’d like to share 10 points with you on the uber-serious purpose of humorous, personality-infused web copy:

  1. You have somewhere between 3 and 7 seconds to show web visitors their time investment is going to be worthwhile. In other words, it’s show time!
  2. You will garner that attention more reliably by putting yourself in your targets’ shoes.
  3. When you put yourself in their shoes, you suddenly find they do not want to engage in a conversation with a cold, sterile enterprise. They want — all people want — to connect with something. Your business has a far greater chance of forging genuine human connections when the business itself is perceived as real and human.
  4. To be perceived as real and human, breathe life into your brand with web copywriting that pops with personality.
  5. If you can make them laugh, great! There are few things that can bring people together like a well-made joke and a shared laugh.
  6. If you can’t make them laugh, at least show them that your presentation to them mattered to you — prove that you were willing to invest in the sale, just as you are asking them to invest their time and attention.
  7. Instead of claiming to be a leader, demonstrate that leadership with a strong voice and an unapologetic Point of View.
  8. Instead of claiming success and experience, demonstrate that successful experience with web copy that telegraphs business maturity.
  9. In addition to arresting attention, you will also keep that attention, which leads to better traffic flows and increased dwell times… both of which lead to higher conversions.
  10. The big win:  by committing to website copywriting that has a distinct, tonally-appropriate personality you will achieve far more than greater credibility, greater engagement and greater sales. You will have set yourself apart from the competition (and competing demands on our time and attention) by providing a memorable experience, one that speaks volumes about the future value you have in store for them.
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Example of website copy subhead with brand-building personality; image from Texollini website.

Have fun with your web copy. It’s okay. Tell ’em Scott said so. Even in B2B.

If a business enjoys what it does, if it takes its work seriously but not itself, a funny thing happens. By expressing itself more freely, it more freely attracts others to it. This includes customers, of course, but also the kind of employees and strategic partners that will also lead to future growth.

So go ahead. Start that new website of yours with a strong concept that lets visitors know from the get-go they’re in for something special. Then, use headlines and subheads throughout that, yes, make the points they need to, but while simultaneously exuding human warmth, intelligence and wit. Throughout, try to balance your sale on the table with their needs to express their own vision and values.

In the hands of the right website copywriter, you’ll have more fun with your marketing. More importantly, your targets will have more fun with your marketing. You’ll make more connections. You’ll make more money.

You can view more examples of personality-infused website copywriting.

 

Website Copywriter: Tips for How to Hire

When you need to hire a website copywriter, here’s 8 things to keep in mind:

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Recent website copywriter sample for an amazing educational technology product, Lessoneer, by EdCaliber of Portland, Orgeon.

  1. Great web copy needs to expand upon and give fresh meaning to your Unique Value Propositions. If you aren’t beginning with a clean brief and a solid strategic center, work with a web copywriter who has the brand strategy and brand consulting experience to help you sharpen your marketing sword.
  2. Website content needs to do 3 things simultaneously. To be effective, your online copywriting needs to solidify your marketplace position in order to advance the sale. It needs to breathe energy and life into your brand, further setting you apart so that visitors are actually moved by the online experience. Lastly, it should work to increase your authority and, thereby, your SEO ranking.
  3. Attention, connection and differentiation are, in my experience, marketing’s Golden Triangle. But too often I see companies (at every size, believe it or not) who are all too eager to build a website when they really need to be thinking about building a stronger brand first. Your website is an outgrowth of your brand strategy, not the other way around. I often use humor and human warmth to set my clients’ websites apart. Would your company benefit from having a stronger, more polished voice? Yes, indeed-y. (Industry term for “you betcha.”)
  4. Experienced designers and developers know we must think through the “what to say” side of the equation prior to exploring “how to say it best.” If you are beginning with the visuals, you are not only barking up the wrong tree, you are leaving your web copywriter very little room to help you crack your sale.
  5. Talk to any veteran, multi-million-dollar-producing sales person and you’ll be receiving earfuls on the undeniable importance of bringing the right message to prospects. Should you wish your website to serve in any kind of sales capacity (either primary or support), forget about hiring a wordsmith. Hire a copywriter who can balance your brand objectives (differentiating, staking claim to a bold position, making you sound smart and engaging) with your fundamental marketing & sales objectives.
  6. Should your web copy be short or long? This depends upon your industry, your ideal customers and, of course, your objectives. For a page to have any authority at all with the SERP’s, you need about 300 words. Big brands can get away with less because their authority is derived from the brand itself. Of course, it’s true many people won’t read every word of your copy. People skim, especially with mobile’s insanely fast growth rate. Just be sure your killer copy’s still there, though, because if you can hook them with a funny headline or a clever and engaging subhead, you’ve gotta back it up with something. I know I’d much rather buy from a company who actually has something valuable to say. You?
  7. Specific industry experience in your field is far less critical than many think. The real experience you want in your website copywriter is in building brands, helping companies better understand their strategy for creating target connections.
  8. As with all of your hires, there’s just no substitute for intelligence & problem-solving, character and drive. Don’t get too lost in the marketing and web jargon.
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Website copywriter Scott Silverman converts features into easy-to-understand benefits for companies who insist on breaking through.

Most web copywriters define the role as word-provider. I think it’s about growing your business.

I hope these 8 points have given you some good things to think about. I know it’s not easy to find a website copywriter who shares your performance expectations. But if mastering your web content is important to achieving your business vision, I’m here to help in every way I can. You can see more Los Angeles website copywriter examples, but please feel free to gimme a shout at any time.

Company Naming Agency Favorites

As a company naming agency, playing favorites would be like picking which of your kids you like best.

(Sorry, Timmy.)

So I’m not gonna pick a favorite company name. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent. (Man, haven’t made that Bush-Carvey reference in ages!) Nope! Not gonna pick a favorite product name, either. Instead, I’m going to discuss the various naming style types. Of these, I certainly do have two favorites:  the unexpected and the operative metaphor. I find these to be “the brandiest” of the bunch. Meaningfully different and wonderfully sticky.

Examples of company names from my company naming agency that benefit from the unexpected would be IfThenWow™ and ManifestEquity™. I think the reason I like these so much is that they’re just so hard to generate. You really need to be knee-deep in the company naming process for things like this to surface. IfThenWow™ was the name chosen by a software and web development firm; the combination of brilliant coding with elegant design was the perfect set-up for a name based upon coding language, with a twist. ManifestEquity™ is a financial services firm specializing in connecting Americans with overseas investment opportunities. Not right for everybody, perhaps, but certainly a good fit for their investor base.

Examples of metaphors, probably the most common naming convention in the Hall of Great Names, would include Wildfire Networking, Shine Candles, Libretto Espresso and the entire suite of license plate recognition cameras my naming agency created on behalf of Perceptics, among them:  the PassPort Series, the Sentinel Series, etc.

What other category types do company naming agencies use?

The most commonly utilized naming category is the portmanteau, a conjoined form of two other words or word roots. While it typically lacks the appeal of some other name styles and can often result in a meaningless mouthful, it’s always worth exploring. Recently, my Los Angeles company naming agency had some major hits with Lessoneer, Parfecta and Orgodomo, so I would never retire this category completely. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to name Intuit QuickBase developer, Sympo, and I continue to think this will be one of my best names ever. Short. Kid-like. Benefit-driven. Yay, me. Or, as the tagline has it:  Click, click, hooray! From my list of available .com pharmaceutical names, I continue to put full faith in www.Benogen.com. It’s from the Latin, meaning good life. Who doesn’t want that? Correction: who doesn’t want that for a cool million?

For more on my company naming agency, ya know, point, hover and click in the manner in which you’ve become so masterful. To see more pharmaceutical names, do the same thing, but this time, you’ve got an entirely new target.

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Okay, so this one isn’t a real fast food company name.

My friends Nick and Rich of Lucky Airlines were shooting a spot for Five Hour Energy and they needed a name to show what a pain the drive-thru line can be, especially during lunch hour. If you think your naming category is crowded, try naming a burger restaurant! It’s madness. Nevertheless, what was needed was a name that implied speed isn’t all it’s cracked to be. Also, costly and protracted litigation is a common client preference. Picky, picky. The answer: Beef Burners. Coming soon to a TV near you.

Brand Consultant Basics

How many branding consultants don’t get that position comes before brand?

Sadly, most. When you offer your branding consultant services to the general public, I think it’s important you tell them exactly from where your brand know-how comes. Now, I don’t expect to see Harvard or Wharton every time (I’m from the school of experience myself), but I do expect that you are more than a make-up artist, more than a web designer or web developer, more than someone who has the right trade alliances. My expectation, and I certainly hope it’s yours, is that your brand consultant will serve as your brand marketing consultant. It’s not brand instead of marketing and business development. It’s brand on top of the marketing and business development fundamentals.

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Personally, my 20 years’ experience includes not only copywriting and marketing but the study of successful business and marketing practices. Moreover, I’ve led the positioning and branding efforts for dozens of companies. Having worked both large and small, I know where the mistakes are made. More importantly, I know how to avoid them. And building brands atop weak, unclear or unsound positions is more than an egregious, costly error. It’s bad medicine. These brands will ultimately fail. The so-called branders get rich and the businesses lose time and money. Bad, bad, bad.

If you define brand as this branding consultant does, as a holistic method of creating stronger target connections, you know position must come first.

Your position is the space you want to occupy in your targets’ minds. Think of it as mental real estate. The property lines in this metaphor are:

  1. For whom you exist to serve… specifically (not just broad demographics)
  2. What you uniquely provide them
  3. The benefits (not features) those products and services deliver
  4. The experiential benefits they can expect by conducting business with you. From here, you can begin adding dimension to your brand personality, with design and messaging that even more precisely delivers a uniquely memorable experience.

But too many firms are out there building websites and so-called brands without first defining their client’s unique value propositions. They can’t help it. They’re not marketers. They don’t think that way. But do you want to know what sits at the heart of all great marketing campaigns? It’s not an idea or a funny joke or even a single piece of marketing insight. It’s the strategy brief. It tells the creative talent exactly what they need to say in order to capitalize on the identified opportunity. It includes your company’s Unique Value Proposition and your Unique Selling Propositions for each product & service, for each target market. If it’s important for a single piece of marketing communications, exactly how many times more important is establishing the strategic specs for your brand?

Build your marketing house in brick.

There’s only one solid foundation upon which enduring brands are built. Start with your strategic positioning. Know your value props, know what sets you apart from the competition, know why your clients and customers would be silly not to buy from you. Rely on a branding consultant who insists you solidify your positioning before tackling the even bigger, more nuanced and sophisticated issues of brand. (You’ll thank him in the long run, and the long run will come sooner than you think.)

If it seems regimented or diva-ish, please take a few minutes to think about what your branding consultant is really trying to tell you. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some legendary craftspeople and I now fully understand the similarities. When somebody’s counting on you to deliver enduring quality, when they expect you to live up to your reputation, you don’t compromise on your choices in materials and you don’t abandon a process that has served you so well for 20 years. In the world of brand consulting, I refuse to build anything less than a brand actually capable of forging profitable target connections. That means starting with a position engineered to fuel business development.

Basement before penthouse. I know, I know. Not as exciting. But do you know what is exciting? Doing the heavy-lifting (and thinking) required to ultimately give clients the brands that do a whole lot more than look good and sound good.

Seacrest out. (Is that show still even on?)

 

My Branding Beliefs & Business Development Philosophy

Copywriter, Brand Consultant, Brand Messaging Specialist, Scott Silverman, Articulated Brands, Los Angeles

I believe in some things about branding and business development I simply don’t see available anywhere else.

That’s why I founded Articulated Brands® in 2007.

I believe that how most have come to define branding (including too many of its practitioners) barely scratches the surface of what it really is, how it should be approached and how much it can do to accelerate your business growth.

1.  I believe a business is a machine of interconnected parts and that real branding presents an opportunity to reorganize and put “customer creation” (Drucker) back at the center of the enterprise.

2.  I believe position and message are the two tools every business has at its disposal, yet they go under-utilized and under-leveraged because they are too often dealt with downstream rather than in the CMO’s, marketing director’s or CEO’s office.

3.  While nothing can compare to the visceral power of design in setting expectations, elevating perceptions of value or creating a differentiated experience, design must take as its key inspiration and direction a company’s core position and its fundamental messages. When these are all spelled out ahead of time, you actually wind up with both better design and, get this, less copy. The holy grail. To get to simple, we must walk through the fires of the complex.

4.  I believe business is about leverage, allocations and timing; as tough as these may be to manage on a physical, real-world level, they are both exponentially more difficult to manage and proportionally more fruitful when we are playing in the realm of ideas. Your core values and vision are great starting points for creating customer connections. By all means, don’t stop there!

5.  I believe the business world has come to expect less of its agencies and so-called creative partners. As disappointing as this may be, it also leaves the door wide open for someone like me to come in and actually deliver the strategic business development service for which America’s companies have been clamoring.

6.  I believe in embracing the difficult in order to get to the simple. I believe people who seek out band-aid solutions to monumental challenges wind up wasting more time and money. I once had a client who called this “the tendency to step over quarters to pick up nickels.” I like that people may be wising up to brand’s unique combination of marketing proactivity with age-old sales wisdom.

7.   As a brand messaging specialist, I worry less about what the latest, greatest, flavor of the month tool of target reach may be. I worry more about the brand, position, core messages and content with which we’re going to fill those channels. Call me old-fashioned, but I think the onslaught of tactical choices these days forces people into a cart-before-the-horse mentality. You can find your audience via the media, but to reach them, to truly reach them, well, that takes a brand messaging specialist. Yes, that’s a sale, but it has the additional advantage of also being true.

8.  I believe in a process that is more authentic and personal than formal as I’ve always found it more conducive to genuine collaboration and innovation.

9.  I believe it doesn’t take a big firm to deliver big ideas or to facilitate big think. That said, I do believe there are some companies who are so massive, with so many different sub-brands, that they may be better off with an international branding firm with a deep bench of resources.

10.  I believe Articulated Brands market smarter and harder because they’ve taken the time not just to spell out who they are, but because they have neatly defined their points of target intersect. A company who knows who it must be in relation to its targets is a company that communicates with greater clarity, resonance and impact. When it defines itself uniquely, all go-forward dollars, marketing and otherwise, serve to carve out a more unassailable space, adding impact to the company’s customer creation efforts and increasing its marketplace value.