If it’s obvious, it’s radioactive

If it’s obvious, it’s radioactive

I was at a presentation last week and the subject turned to branding. At this point someone at the back piped up, announced themselves as a trademark lawyer, and went on a bender about the stupidity of naming your company according to what you do.

I sat there with a pretty decent grin on my face as this played out as this is a subject I’ve spent a lot of time discussing with clients and prospective clients. I must admit though it was fun to listen to the same argument being put forward using different reasoning. When I say different, we weren’t at polar opposite ends of the spectrum, but she was saying how hard your brand would be to trademark if you proceeded to name it according to what you do. In fact she said her first response, after you suggested your brand name, would be to laugh. Followed shortly thereafter by the motivation to cry.

For me, I move straight onto the crying part. Choosing to name your business according to what it does violates the #1 rule of marketing - differentiate yourself. How does this play out in practical terms? I’ll tell you:

1. Nobody will ever remember you. Considering that this is a fairly important step in getting people to buy from you, it’s a significant problem.
2. People will confuse you with your competitors. Luxury Echuca Cleaning, Echuca Luxury Cleaning and Luxury Cleaning Echuca are each unlikely to hold pride of place in their own bit of your brain space. Whereas nobody is going to confuse Google, Uber and Nike (who, for arguments sake could have been ‘Search Specialists’, ‘Clean and comfy drives’ and ‘Cool looking activewear’).
3. People will think you’re boring. You gave yourself a boring name, of course they’ll think you’re boring. And you know what, they’re right. You are boring (when it comes to marketing). And that’s ok, many people are similarly afflicted. It takes a lot of training and experience to consistently be not boring at marketing - I don’t blame people for it. What I blame them for is having a qualified marketer in front of them telling them what to do and then ignoring their advice.
4. You’ll lose money. If you want to sell your business at some point down the track, having a boring, homogenous name will drive the price down. Whereas having a unique, memorable, known brand will have the opposite effect.
5. You’ll sell more. A good brand sets the foundation for all of your company’s marketing for the life of the business. Get it right and it’ll be the biggest competitive advantage you ever have (as it can’t be matched, unlike price or features). Get it wrong and it will have devastating repercussions. Admittedly most of these repercussions won’t be obvious to you. After all, you can’t measure the value of a lost opportunity. All those sales that went to your competitors and opportunities that were lost - you can’t put a price on them. But they’ll happen, and you’ll be worse off because of it.

Like many things in life (a stimulus package during a recession comes to mind) I can’t show you a graph that outlines exactly what would have happened if you chose a different set of sliding doors. But I’m right about this (that’s all that training and experience kicking in again) and if you ignore my advice you’ll lose and someone else will win. And all you had to do to change that was say yes (instead of “Can we change the name to Gippsland Tyres, Wheel Balancing and Hi-Fi installation”).
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