It was only in the 80’s onwards that a trend to develop more generic brand names happened, really to reflect on the wider group of people involved and indeed, as the founder died.
Equally too, when a brand name is that of a person, you can see the potential brand problem of the vagaries of that person, that human being.
So, if they say or do something controversially offensive, the brand suffers and that does happen. Once they become ‘well known’ from the Advertising, everything they do makes the news and their actions, can publicly can damage the brand. They are under the spotlight for even small deviations.
Hence brands moved into generic brand names or created ‘characters’ to stand for the brand which they could control. The Jolly Green Giant, The Marlboro Man, built trust too because they could create the ‘person’, the character, in their own design. They were sort of ‘people’ but not real and could be controlled because they were ‘created’.
Something that’s ideal in advertising creativity, using characters with stories that can interest your audience.
Generically named brands like IBM, Interpublic, Lintas, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google, Instagram, Oracle, Zoom, Skype, Intel, Tesco and very much the vogue of today’s tech darlings but it makes Advertising life much more difficult and costly, to connect a generic meaningless name with customers, because you have to explain it.
What does it mean and what does it stand for? It replaces a person’s name with a more intangible name, but it does remove those human vagaries risks.
In other words, you have to explain what it does. What is IBM, what does it mean and what does it stand for? So, brands with contrived names take longer to promote and build customer relationships. They’re more functional than emotionally personal.
Now that said, you can build an intangible name like ‘Virgin’ around a person like Richard Branson and do both. A bit of a half-way house but it’s even harder work and riskier.
So, the important point is trust. People want a brand (and they’ll pay more for it remember?) if they trust it.
Trust is key. You can only deliver what’s achievable and you can only promise what you can deliver. End of sermon.
Don’t fake it, don’t try, and say something you’re not.
This is in part related to that old, worn conversation about Advertising not being ‘truthful’ you’ll hear now and again. It’s not necessarily that Advertising is untruthful but rather, the brand promise might be. The Ads promised the brand would do something that actually it doesn’t.
It’s not the Advertising that’s lying, it’s that the brand expectations haven’t been met. Trust has been broken.
Separately, Brands too may fall away because they didn’t see a trend coming. Think Polaroid, Kodak, or Blockbuster.
However, if you advertise a product that says your hair will never fall out and it does, it’s a lie no matter what or how you communicate that message. Or this cream will reduce ageing when it doesn’t.
Advertising can convince a customer to buy it, but only once, because if it doesn’t work, they’ll never buy again. You must build trust and deliver on your promise.
And that’s important – don’t dream up a promise you can’t deliver on. Dream up a promise you can, which may even mean creating a new one. Create something that really does work.
For example, in today’s market, If you want to say that your business is environmentally ‘green’ because you think that will appeal to defined customers, make sure it is. Implement green strategies in the business, green targets, change machines to green and environmentally friendly practices – don’t just say it. Make the business green and prove it. Trust.
We bring that up because as we speak, a lot of companies are saying they’re onto climate change but are they doing it? We’re sceptical in the main anyway.
So, you must deliver on a promise and build truth, build trust. Make the intangible, tangible – in other words prove it. Show me that you really are ‘green’ and perhaps even more fundamentally, make it believable by proof. So, your proposition must be true and instantly believable.
“Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.” David Ogilvy.
Early Brand Building worked better because they were clear and fundamental to the business.
The reason these early brands were named after people is of course because the people were mainly those who had the idea and who started the company. So, it was obvious.
Henry Ford developed cars, so they were called Fords. But they didn’t just ‘start’ a company, they started with a customer reason because they identified a want. A want that they thought was there and they took the risk to build it and to see if they were right. They saw a gap in the market and went through it.
As Henry Ford said, if he asked anyone for advice, they’d have told him to “build a faster horse”.
Ford thought differently, he thought cars were the future and instead of building a faster horse, he was prepared to take a risk because, he identified a reason, and an unfulfilled market want that would ultimately become, a need.
That want was that he thought every home would want to have a car (but despite popular belief, he didn’t invent the car instead, he simply saw the opportunity to develop the car through mass manufacturing, mass distribution and mass marketing). He was a marketer not an inventor.
Clearly he was right, but he could have been wrong, so he took a risk, the very meaning of entrepreneur (someone who takes a financial risk in the hope of a profit gain). And of course, those founders like Ford, were at their businesses Boardroom table, mostly at the head of it. So, when it came to how to sell or advertise their invention or their service, they were very clear as to what they were doing, who they were doing it for and why they were doing it.
The Marketing questions were already worked out first because they had thought it through in the very first place. He was obstinately sure of what Ford was about and he put his name to it.