Tag Archive: mailers

Branding and Naming Your Product: Here Are Some Tips

Branding and Naming Your Product: Here Are Some Tips

Product naming is a key aspect of branding. The name you ultimately choose will reflect who you are, your company’s personality and vision. But more importantly, it must unforgettably embody the promise of your product’s main benefit to your potential customers. It can dovetail generically with your competition, but ideally, it should stand out from the crowd. Where to begin? Here are some basic guidelines.

If the field’s too crowded, be unique

MSN Search, Netscape Search, AOL Search, they all stayed in the same category, so you could play it safe and go with Stupendous Search or Super-Duper Search. This works for a time, but as soon as the field gets too crowded, you’ll be lost in the mush of sameness with ever diminishing name recognition. If you’re in it for the long haul, better to break away from the crowd with a name like Google, Yahoo, or even Dogpile (though I’m not a fan of going into the scat category just to be unique). Even Kinkos—the founder’s nickname (he had kinky red hair in school)—is different enough to be memorable.

Avoid tongue twisters

There’s a little part in all of us that hates to be embarrassed. When we ask for a product or talk about it with friends, we want to sound literate and not fumble over pronunciations. So be kind to your potential customers and avoid tongue twisters, or any name that’s unusually long or foreign sounding. If you can’t find a single-word name, don’t go over two or three syllables.

Alliteration can help with longer names

Okay, so the president of the company likes all the longer names on your list. You can make them more memorable and/or easier to pronounce by using alliteration. Consider Circuit City (originally, the incredibly bland, monosyllabic, Wards). Or Downtown Disney, Or the most famous brand in the world, Coca Cola. All four syllables, yet they roll off the tongue with surprising ease.

Avoid abbreviations

Abbreviations lack personality and communicate very little in terms of benefit or brand character. Sure, IBM, MCI and ABC have big recognition and identity, but they also spent years and millions in virtually all media to promote their image—using images of people and situations that were warm and fuzzy. Even billionaire Bill Gates chose Microsoft over MS (which has some undesirable connotations).

Convey an implied benefit

If you don’t have a lot of media dollars to spend on name recognition, try for a name that conveys a benefit or describes content. Snapple started out with a name that combined two of its original flavors: Spice N Apple. Silk—the soy-based milk brand—combines soy and milk. Benefit-oriented names include EasyOff oven cleaner, Miracle-Grow plant food, and Hearthwarmer (a fireplace insert).

Lost in Translation…or worse!

Most of us have heard the story of Chevrolet introducing their “Nova” in Spanish-speaking countries. The car tanked because ‘nova’ means “doesn’t go.” Fiat found they had to rename their “uno” in Finland, since “Uno” means garbage in Finnish. Canadian products require labeling in both English and French, which is why on some cookie boxes, the English phrase “without preservatives” has been unintentionally translated into the French “sans preservatives,” which means “without condoms.” ‘Nuff said.

Shun fads

The shelf life of a faddish name is short and sweet. It rises to the stratosphere of recognition then nosedives into obscurity faster than you can say, “radical,” “tubular” or “outta sight.” Another problem with fads is they’re often limited to one demographic or clique. In a market as broad and diverse as the U.S., it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Protect your image

If you’re like most companies, you worked hard and spent some real money creating the image of your company. So it only makes sense to protect your investment with a product name that’s consistent with your existing brands and image. Rolls Royce had to pull the name of its newest addition to the Silver Cloud line, which they tentatively named the “Silver Mist,” since in German, “mist” means manure. So build on what you have. A good example: Google’s entry into online shopping with Froogle. Incidentally, if you’re wondering where “Google” came from, it’s a variation on the math term googol, a huge number with endless zeros.

Don’t forget legal

Once you’ve settled on a few ideal prospective names, hire a good lawyer to make sure they’re not already being used and not confusingly similar to someone else’s in your industry.

Hopefully, this brief overview will help guide you through the subtleties of product naming. Remember, try to be unique and benefit oriented without being confusing or offensive. Avoid fads, abbreviations and tongue twisters. And, by all means, protect your image.

10 Things Mark Twain Can Teach You About Adverting

10 Things Mark Twain Can Teach You About Adverting

“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”

Advertising is life made to look larger than life, through images and words that promise a wish fulfilled, a dream come true, a problem solved. Even Viagra follows Mark Twain’s keen observation about advertising. The worst kind of advertising exaggerates to get your attention, the best, gets your attention without exaggeration. It simply states a fact or reveals an emotional need, then lets you make the leap from “small to large.” Examples of the worst: before-and-after photos for weight loss products and cosmetic surgery—both descend to almost comic disbelief. The best: Apple’s “silhouette” campaign for iPod and the breakthrough ads featuring Eminem—both catapult iPod to “instant cool” status.

“When in doubt, tell the truth.”

Today’s advertising is full of gimmicks. They relentlessly hang on to a product like a ball and chain, keeping it from moving swiftly ahead of the competition, preventing any real communication of benefits or impetus to buy. The thinking is, if the gimmick is outrageous or silly enough, it’s got to at least get their attention. Local car dealer ads are probably the worst offenders–using zoo animals, sledgehammers, clowns, bikini-clad models, anything unrelated to the product’s real benefit. If the people who thought up these outrageous gimmicks spent half their energy just sticking to the product’s real benefits and buying motivators, they’d have a great ad. What they don’t realize is, they already have a lot to work with without resorting to gimmicks. There’s the product with all its benefits, the brand, which undoubtedly they’ve spent money to promote, the competition and its weaknesses, and two powerful buying motivators—fear of loss and promise of gain. In other words, all you really have to do is tell the truth about your product and be honest about your customers’ wants and needs. Of course, sometimes that’s not so easy. You have to do some digging to find out what you customers really want, what your competition has to offer them, and why your product is better.

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.”

In advertising, you have to be very careful how you use facts. As any politician will tell you, facts are scary things. They have no stretch, no pliability, no room for misinterpretation. They’re indisputable. And used correctly, very powerful. But statistics, now there’s something advertisers and politicians love. “Nine out of ten doctors recommend Preparation J.” Who can dispute that? Or “Five out of six dentists recommend Sunshine Gum.” Makes me want to run out and buy a pack of Sunshine right now. Hold it. Rewind.

“Whenever you find you’re on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.”

Let’s take a look at how these stats—this apparent majority—might have come to be. First off, how many doctors did they ask before they found nine out of ten to agree that Preparation J did the job? 1,000? 10,000? And how many dentists hated the idea of their patients chewing gum but relented, saying, “Most chewing gum has sugar and other ingredients, that rot out your teeth, but if the guy’s gotta chew the darn stuff, it may as well be Sunshine, which has less sugar in it.” The point is, stats can be manipulated to say almost anything. And yes, the devil’s in the details. The fact is, there’s usually a 5% chance you can get any kind of result simply by accident. And because many statistical studies are biased and not “double blind” (both subject and doctor don’t know who was given the test product and who got the placebo). Worst of all, statistics usually need the endless buttressing of legal disclaimers. If you don’t believe me, try to read the full-page of legally mandated warnings for that weight- loss pill you’ve been taking. Bottom line: stick to facts. Then back them up with sound selling arguments that address the needs of your customer.

“The difference between the right word and almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

To write really effective ad copy means choosing exactly the right word at the right time. You want to lead your customer to every benefit your product has to offer, and you want to shed the best light on every benefit. It also means you don’t want to give them any reason or opportunity to wander away from your argument. If they wander, you’re history. They’re off to the next page, another TV channel or a new website. So make every word say exactly what you mean it to say, no more, no less. Example: if a product is new, don’t be afraid to say “new” (a product is only new once in its life, so exploit the fact).

“Great people make us feel we can become great.”

And so do great ads. While they can’t convince us we’ll become millionaires, be as famous as Madonna, or as likeable as Tom Cruise, they make us feel we might be as attractive, famous, wealthy, or admired as we’d like to think we can be. Because there’s a “Little Engine That Could” in all of us that says, under the right conditions, we could beat the odds and catch the brass ring, win the lottery, or sell that book we’ve been working on. Great advertising taps into that belief without going overboard. An effective ad promoting the lottery once used pictures of people sitting on an exotic beach with little beach umbrellas in their cocktails (a perfectly realistic image for the average person) with the line: Somebody’s has to win, may as well be you.”

“The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession.”

We’re all part of the same family of creatures called homo sapiens. We each want to be admired, respected and loved. We want to feel secure in our lives and our jobs. So create ads that touch the soul. Use an emotional appeal in your visual, headline and copy. Even humor, used correctly, can be a powerful tool that connects you to your potential customer. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling shoes or software, people will always respond to what you have to sell them on an emotional level. Once they’ve made the decision to buy, the justification process kicks in to confirm the decision. To put it another way, once they’re convinced you’re a mensche with real feelings for their hopes and wants as well as their problems, they’ll go from prospect to customer.

“A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.”

Ain’t it the truth. More money, more clothes, fancier car, bigger house. It’s what advertising feeds on. “You need this. And you need more of it every day.” It’s the universal mantra that drives consumption to the limits of our charge cards. So, how to tap into this insatiable appetite for more stuff? Convince buyers that more is better. Colgate offers 20% more toothpaste in the giant economy size. You get 60 more sheets with the big Charmin roll of toilet paper. GE light bulbs are 15% brighter. Raisin Brain now has 25% more raisins. When Detroit found it couldn’t sell more cars per household to an already saturated U.S. market, they started selling more car per car—SUVs and trucks got bigger and more powerful. They’re still selling giant 3-ton SUVs that get 15 miles per gallon.

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Who gets the girl? Who attracts the sharpest guy? Who lands the big promotion? Neiman Marcus knows. So does Abercrombie & Fitch. And Saks Fifth Avenue. Why else would you fork over $900 for a power suit? Or $600 for a pair of shoes? Observers from Aristotle to the twentieth century have consistently maintained that character is immanent in appearance, asserting that clothes reveal a rich palette of interior qualities as well as a brand mark of social identity. Here’s where the right advertising pays for itself big time. Where you must have the perfect model (not necessarily the most attractive) and really creative photographers and directors who know how to tell a story, create a mood, convince you that you’re not buying the “emperor’s clothes.” Example of good fashion advertising: the Levis black-and-white spot featuring a teenager driving through the side streets and alleys of the Czech Republic. Stopping to pick up friends, he gets out of the car wearing just a shirt as the voiceover cheekily exclaims, “Reason 007: In Prague, you can trade them for a car.”

Focusing on An Effective Adverting

Focusing on An Effective Adverting
Get out all the ads you ran last year. Go ahead. Tear them out of your magazines or newspapers (if you’re lucky enough to have proof sheets, so much the better). Tear out your competitor’s ads too—as many as you can get your hands on. Next, fold the company names, addresses and logos out of view. If the company names are in the headlines block them off with paper and tape. Now tape them up to the wall, putting yours on top, your competitors’ below. Now back off, at least five feet. We’re going to gradually close in on the most effective ad in the group (hopefully one of yours).

The “Eye Test” View

First, and this is very important, don’t read any of them. Instead give them a quick, visual once over—what I call the “Eye Test.” Do your ads stand out? Or do they dissolve into the mush of sameness? Remember, your audience will see your ad, not in a vacuum but with dozens of competitive ads in the same or similar magazines or newspapers. If your ads stand out, you’re ahead by a length.

Step in, Feel the Image

Now move in a little closer to your ads. Close enough to get the feel or image they project Like a new salesperson who walks through the door, the first thing people react to is the overall image he or she projects. It’s the same with advertising. The colors, the design, the typeface should be consistent with the image of your company. A tennis shoe salesperson can wear a referee shirt and a whistle around his or her neck, a medical sales rep can’t. If your ads are in sync with the image of your company, you’re a step closer to your audience—and a sale.

Are You Projecting a Consistent Look?

Next comes an equally important aspect: consistency. All your ads should project the same image. No, they don’t have to have the same visual or the same headline. They should, however, look like they all come from the same company. After all, this image is your “familiar face” in the crowd. It’s also something you worked very hard to create. And it’s uniquely yours, no one else’s. Just like a good salesperson who finally got in the door to make that first sale. You wouldn’t dream of switching salespeople after that. If your ads look like they came from several different companies, your audience might assume your product does. If your ads pass this test, effective advertising is within your reach. Which is exactly where you need to be for the next step. Focusing on An Effective Adverting

Arm’s Length for Positioning

An arm’s length away from your favorite campaign of ads. The object of this test is to see how well you’ve positioned yourself. Yes, you can now read your ads, but not for details. How you position yourself should be fairly evident by the time you finish the first paragraph. Positioning is basically how your audience perceives your product, service or company. For example, businessmen, engineers and students all need computers, yet each has a different idea of what computers can do for them. Advertise a computer to a businessman and you might do better to position it a management or accounting tool. Students might respond better to an ad showing computers as a writing and study aid. And engineers would be better persuaded to buy a computer if you positioned it as a design or research tool. In each case, the products are the same but the positioning generates the unique appeal for any given market. And the greater the appeal, the greater the sales. If you’ve done your research, your positioning should bring the reader a little closer to your ad and your product. Focusing on An Effective Adverting

Move in to One Ad

We’re now going to concentrate on one ad. So pick your favorite one and move in close enough to read it in comfort. The headline and visual should answer the question “what’s in it for me.” If it doesn’t do that quickly and effectively, your audience may gloss over it without ever bothering to read it. Some of the best salesmen in the world start their pitch with a direct customer benefit—even before they introduce the product. They’ve learned that customers want to know right off what the product can do for them—the big benefit. If your product’s benefit is buried in the body and your main visual is an un-involving product shot or a photo of earth floating in space, your ad won’t go the distance. And the sale will go to your competitor.

The Revealing Close-up

Ok, time for the close-up: the body copy. It should “payoff’ or back up the claim you made in the headline by forcefully and effectively communicating your product’s key benefits. In essence, you still have to answer the Question “what’s in it for me,” but now you have more room to do it. You can be flowery, you can be humorous, you can even get technical. But you must convince the reader that there is a strong benefit to be gained in choosing your product over the rest. If you‘ve done a good job, your ad goes the distance. What’s left is what all good salesmen do before they leave. Focusing on An Effective Adverting

Close in and Ask for the Order!

For this, you’ll have to get in close to the bottom of your ad. Close enough to read your call to action, which should be short and direct, leaving no doubt in the reader’s mind what to do after reading the ad—call, clip a coupon, circle a bingo card. It should also be clear as to what the reader can expect to receive—more information, arrange a demo, have a salesperson call, get a trial sample. The reader shouldn’t have to get too close to read this either (don’t put this or your phone number in fine print). Remember, when a salesperson asks for the order or gives his or her phone number, it’s always loud and confident, never a whisper.

There are obviously many market, demographic and personal factors we haven’t considered. But if you meet the key objectives we’ve introduced, your audience can’t help but close in on your ad—and your product. And that’s what effective advertising is all about. Focusing on An Effective Adverting