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branding, advertising and promotion

Here are some guidelines on branding, and for planning and managing advertising and promotion activities, especially for small businesses. (The principles transfer to very large businesses too, in fact many very large organisations forget or ignore these basic rules, as you will see from the featured case-study example).

branding

Branding refers to naming a business or product or service. A brand will typically also have a logo or design, or several, associated with it.

Businessballs is a brand. It has a name and a logo design.

So is Cadbury (a company brand, although now a division of a bigger one), and so is Milky Way (a Cadbury product brand). Each of these have associated logo designs; several actually for different situations.

So is Google a brand (so big a brand and a part of life it’s become a verb, ‘to google’). On its main webpage, Google cleverly, and for fun, changes its logo design quite often, according to special events in the calandar.

So is Manchester United a brand (upon which a vast merchandise business has been built). The power of the Manchester United brand is so great that it transcends its sport and particularly the notion of a ‘local football team’.

And so increasingly, your local school, hospital, and council are all brands. Brands are everywhere.

If your name is John Smith and you start a landscape gardening business called John Smith Landscape Gardening, then John Smith Landscape Gardening is a brand too.
If your name is John Smith and you start a landscape gardening business called John Smith Landscape Gardening, then John Smith Landscape Gardening is a brand too.
Branding is potentially a complex subject because it extends to intellectual property and copyright, trademarks, etc., for which, if you are embarking on any significant business activity, you should seek qualified legal advice. When doing so contain your ambitions and considerations (and your legal fee exposure) so that they are appropriate for your situation.
Branding is potentially a complex subject because it extends to intellectual property and copyright, trademarks, etc., for which, if you are embarking on any significant business activity, you should seek qualified legal advice. When doing so contain your ambitions and considerations (and your legal fee exposure) so that they are appropriate for your situation.

There is much though that you can decide for yourself, and certainly a lot you can do to protect and grow your brand so that it becomes a real asset to you, rather than just a name.

General guidance about business and product names, your rights to use them, and ways of protecting them, are provided (for the UK) via the UK Intellectual Property Office website. Many of these principles apply internationally, although you should check your local laws for regions beyond the UK and especially beyond Europe.

Aside from the legal technicalities certain basic points should be considered concerning branding:

If your name is John Smith and you start a landscape gardening business called John Smith Landscape Gardening, then John Smith Landscape Gardening is a brand too.

As a general rule, but not a consistent point of law, you are usually much safer (in avoiding risk of breaching someone else’s rights to a brand name) if you use a generic (properly descriptive) word or phrase to brand your business or product, than if you use a made-up name, or any word which does not properly describe your business or product.
As a general rule, but not a consistent point of law, you are usually much safer (in avoiding risk of breaching someone else’s rights to a brand name) if you use a generic (properly descriptive) word or phrase to brand your business or product, than if you use a made-up name, or any word which does not properly describe your business or product.
As a general rule, but not a consistent point of law, you are usually much safer (in avoiding risk of breaching someone else’s rights to a brand name) if you use a generic (properly descriptive) word or phrase to brand your business or product, than if you use a made-up name, or any word which does not properly describe your business or product.
As a general rule, but not a consistent point of law, you are usually much safer (in avoiding risk of breaching someone else’s rights to a brand name) if you use a generic (properly descriptive) word or phrase to brand your business or product, than if you use a made-up name, or any word which does not properly describe your business or product.
For example – if you open a pet shop in Newtown and you call it (give it the brand name of) ‘Newtown Pet Shop’ then probably this will not breach any existing protected rights belonging to someone else in the pet business. If instead you want to call (brand) your pet shop ‘Petz’ or ‘Furry Friends’ then there is a strong likelihood that someone else might already have protected such a brand name, which could give problems for you in the future, especially if your business becomes big and successful, or you wish to sell it one day, or if the rights-owner happens to be particularly aggressive in protecting their own rights.
Websites – which by their nature are accessible globally – lead to additional complications in protecting your brand, or in avoiding breaching somebody else’s brand rights. A country domain suffix, such as a .co.uk, is generally more appropriate for a small local business, than a .com suffix, but arguments can easily made for securing the equivalent .com domain name as well as a local country suffix website name, if only for protective reasons. If a particular com domain name is available then this generally and logically indicates that nobody else has a great interest in that particular brand name (unless there are issues of similar spellings). If in doubt you must research trade mark registers in the territories concerned (which can commonly be done online), and/or seek suitable reliable qualified help.
It takes many years to build trust and reputation in branded names (of businesses, services, and products) so making frequent changes to business names and brand names is not a good idea, and in some cases even making a single change can produce surprisingly powerful problems. See the case-study example of ineffective branding and organization name changing below.
If you must change a brand name, and there are times when this is necessary, you should plan (unless there are strong reasons for ceasing the previous brand) a transition which customers and the wider market-place understand. An obvious solution is to phase the change by merging the old and new brand names. The UK Nationwide Building Society is a good example of this when it joined with the Anglia Building Society. For several years the new company was then branded the Nationwide Anglia, only dropping the Anglia when the market fully recognised the change. Commonly executives and agency folk managing a new brand name project tend to overlook the sensitivities of customers who know and trust the old brand, and this is especially risky to customer loyalty and business continuity wherever a brand with a strong reputation is replaced.
Beware of creative agencies giving you advice that’s more in their interests than yours and your customers. Brands and advertising are primarily communications with customers, they are not works of art or the personal statement of a designer. The creative aspect of a brand (particularly design or logo) must be of good quality, but the creative element is not an end in itself. Often the best solution is the simplest one, because customers understand it. Always ask yourself – “Will people understand this (brand or brand image/communication)? Will it be meaningful to my target audience, and does it truly fit with what I’m trying to do in my business?”

Brand names must be meaningful and memorable in a positive relevant sense. Ideally your customers should associate your brand(s) with your business, your quality, and perhaps some other aspects of your trading philosophy and style.
The DTI was formed in 1970. It was a merger of the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Technology.

For very many years the UK government department responsible for business was called the DTI – Department for Trade and Industry.

The DTI was formed in 1970. It was a merger of the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Technology.

The name DTI was effectively a brand. It was a government department, but in all other respects it was a massive branded organization, offering various services to businesses, and to regions and countries also.

The DTI had a logo, a website. It had staff, a massive target audience (of billions globally), customers (effectively, tens of millions), a huge marketing and advertising spend, including national TV campaigns, posters, informations brochures, and every other aspect of branding which normally operates in the corporate world.

branding and name-change – case-study example – how not to do it

Not surprisingly, the DTI name developed extremely strong brand recognition and reputation, accumulated over 27 years, surviving at least two short-lived attempted name changes during that period (each reverting to DTI due to user critical reaction) – until the name (brand) was finally killed off in 2007.

For more than a generation, millions and millions of people recognised the DTI name and knew it was the British government’s department for business. Many people also knew the website – if not exact the exact website address, they knew it was ‘www.dti….(something or other)’.

Simply, tens of millions of people in the UK, and also around the world recognised the DTI as Britain’s government department for business.

For people in business, this is a very substantial advantage for any organization to have. In a corporations, this sort of brand ‘equity’ is added into balance sheets, and can be valued at many £millions.

The organization name ‘the DTI’, was an obvious and recognised abbreviation of ‘Trade’ and ‘Industry’, and this described very clearly what the department was responsible for.
BERR became instantly the most forgettable, least logical, and most stupid departmental brand in the entire history of government department naming and branding cock-ups.

The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform – BERR.

Twenty-seven years of brand equity and reputation gone, just like that.

BERR became instantly the most forgettable, least logical, and most stupid departmental brand in the entire history of government department naming and branding cock-ups.

No-one knew what it stood for, no-one could remember what it was called, and no-one could understand what it was supposed to be doing even when it was explained.

Then in 2007 the government finally forced through a name change, and the DTI was replaced, with, wait for it…

And what is ‘regulatory reform’ in the context of business and enterprise? Hardly central to international trade. It was a bit like renaming Manchester United Football Club the Trafford Borough Playing Fields, Caterers and Toilets.

Not surprisingly BERR didn’t last long, and duly in 2009 the government changed the name again to BIS – (the department for) Business, Innovation and Skills. Let’s see how long this name lasts. I’ll give it a year or two at most.

It’s only taxpayers’ money, so the enormous costs and wastage caused by this recklessness and poorly executed strategy are not scrutinised like they would be in a big company.

You can perhaps begin to imagine the costs, losses and other fallout caused by changing such a well-established organizational name and presence, twice in two years.

Even the term ‘business enterprise’ was a nonsense in itself. What is business if it’s not enterprise? What is enterprise if it’s not business?

The case-study does however provide a wonderful example of re-naming/re-branding gone wrong on a very grand scale.

So is Google a brand (so big a brand and a part of life it’s become a verb, ‘to google’). On its main webpage, Google cleverly, and for fun, changes its logo design quite often, according to special events in the calandar.

So is Manchester United a brand (upon which a vast merchandise business has been built). The power of the Manchester United brand is so great that it transcends its sport and particularly the notion of a ‘local football team’.

And so increasingly, your local school, hospital, and council are all brands. Brands are everywhere.

There is much though that you can decide for yourself, and certainly a lot you can do to protect and grow your brand so that it becomes a real asset to you, rather than just a name.

General guidance about business and product names, your rights to use them, and ways of protecting them, are provided (for the UK) via the UK Intellectual Property Office website. Many of these principles apply internationally, although you should check your local laws for regions beyond the UK and especially beyond Europe.

Aside from the legal technicalities certain basic points should be considered concerning branding:

For example – if you open a pet shop in Newtown and you call it (give it the brand name of) ‘Newtown Pet Shop’ then probably this will not breach any existing protected rights belonging to someone else in the pet business. If instead you want to call (brand) your pet shop ‘Petz’ or ‘Furry Friends’ then there is a strong likelihood that someone else might already have protected such a brand name, which could give problems for you in the future, especially if your business becomes big and successful, or you wish to sell it one day, or if the rights-owner happens to be particularly aggressive in protecting their own rights.
Websites – which by their nature are accessible globally – lead to additional complications in protecting your brand, or in avoiding breaching somebody else’s brand rights. A country domain suffix, such as a .co.uk, is generally more appropriate for a small local business, than a .com suffix, but arguments can easily made for securing the equivalent .com domain name as well as a local country suffix website name, if only for protective reasons. If a particular com domain name is available then this generally and logically indicates that nobody else has a great interest in that particular brand name (unless there are issues of similar spellings). If in doubt you must research trade mark registers in the territories concerned (which can commonly be done online), and/or seek suitable reliable qualified help.
Websites – which by their nature are accessible globally – lead to additional complications in protecting your brand, or in avoiding breaching somebody else’s brand rights. A country domain suffix, such as a .co.uk, is generally more appropriate for a small local business, than a .com suffix, but arguments can easily made for securing the equivalent .com domain name as well as a local country suffix website name, if only for protective reasons. If a particular com domain name is available then this generally and logically indicates that nobody else has a great interest in that particular brand name (unless there are issues of similar spellings). If in doubt you must research trade mark registers in the territories concerned (which can commonly be done online), and/or seek suitable reliable qualified help.
It takes many years to build trust and reputation in branded names (of businesses, services, and products) so making frequent changes to business names and brand names is not a good idea, and in some cases even making a single change can produce surprisingly powerful problems. See the case-study example of ineffective branding and organization name changing below.
If you must change a brand name, and there are times when this is necessary, you should plan (unless there are strong reasons for ceasing the previous brand) a transition which customers and the wider market-place understand. An obvious solution is to phase the change by merging the old and new brand names. The UK Nationwide Building Society is a good example of this when it joined with the Anglia Building Society. For several years the new company was then branded the Nationwide Anglia, only dropping the Anglia when the market fully recognised the change. Commonly executives and agency folk managing a new brand name project tend to overlook the sensitivities of customers who know and trust the old brand, and this is especially risky to customer loyalty and business continuity wherever a brand with a strong reputation is replaced.
Beware of creative agencies giving you advice that’s more in their interests than yours and your customers. Brands and advertising are primarily communications with customers, they are not works of art or the personal statement of a designer. The creative aspect of a brand (particularly design or logo) must be of good quality, but the creative element is not an end in itself. Often the best solution is the simplest one, because customers understand it. Always ask yourself – “Will people understand this (brand or brand image/communication)? Will it be meaningful to my target audience, and does it truly fit with what I’m trying to do in my business?”

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