Rebranding in 2018: 5 To Watch

Lots of big brands decided to undertake rebranding in 2018.  Cultural shifts have made updates to messaging critical. Keeping up with trends, bringing renewed energy, and displaying a forward focus are all reasons brands are rebranding in 2018.

There are lots of great examples, but some of the most notable examples of rebranding in 2018 are older, bigger brands ready to let the world know they’re making changes and keeping up. Here are some to watch.


WW (Weight Watchers)

With diet culture under more scrutiny than ever, how does a brand like Weight Watchers stay relevant? By revising its name to match a new, modern message. To pivot from a focus on numerical weight, they’re removing it from their name. The shift to “WW” leave room to reinterpret the old diet standby as one focused on wellness and overall well-being.



New England natives have referred to Dunkin’ Donuts as just “Dunkin'” forever. The brand decided to shorten their name officially and add more modern products, like cold-brew taps and digital ordering. This is supposed to be the future of the chain, and all locations will drop the “donuts” by January.



In 2018’s political climate, the American Civil Liberties Union is more prominent than ever. In order to reflect their robust past and vital importance to America’s future, their rebranding includes modeling what they say by creating a “new standard of accessibility” and inclusion in their choices in UI, text, color, and language.



That classic stalwart. Vintage is hot, but Tupperware’s image had cooled. They needed to catch up to the modern marketplace. To regain consumer confidence, they created a new image, new messaging, utilized new fonts, and created a new logo. You can see the complete rebrand here.



Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport

DFW’s new brand idea, “a clear path forward” is the crux of their new brand identity. “We’re in the best position of any airport in the U.S. to compete on the global stage. We just need to go do it.” stated DFW’s CEO, Sean Donohue. The new image and idea were received warmly by customers and stakeholders, elevating DFW to a world-class airport experience.



Those are some of our “rebrands to watch” for 2018—what are yours? Let us know in the comments.

Is your font stolen?

Owning your fonts is every bit as important as owning your images.

Do I need to own the fonts in my brand?

To answer this question simply, Yes. Font ownership for small business is something that needs to be addressed in every rebrand.

Picture this: You just completed the creative process, and decided on your final unique logo that will be the visual interpretation of your brand. What’s next? You might have already received a magical brand bible that holds all the necessary information about your brand, also known as your brand guidelines. One of the most important but often overlooked pages in your brand guidelines is the Typography page. But What is Typography exactly and Why is it important? Typography is the art and technique of arranging letterforms and transforming them from verbal language to visual language. Typography is important because it helps readers to visually perceive the information they are reading. With the correct choice of color, font, messaging etc. it can be a vital tool to attract your ideal target audience. Think about it, the typography that The New York Times uses is very different from the typography that USA Today uses. It helps each of their readers know where the info that they are reading is coming from, and reinforces each brand.

Once you’ve chosen a font that matches your brands, the next step towards finalizing your brand identity is owning your font. To the unfamiliar, font ownership for small business websites may be a little scary, often people are very confused and unaware what they are doing or what they’re looking at… some people are so overwhelmed or even surprised at the costs of some fonts that they begin to ponder…Do I REALLY need to own these fonts??

Yes! In the long run, these fonts are going to help you generate revenue. They are a piece in the puzzle that attracts the clients you want by effectively transforming your verbal language into a visual language to peak the interests of your target audience. Why not give credit where credit is due? Fonts are made possible by Type Foundries (companies that design or distribute typefaces) and Font designers who spend countless hours over a course of months, or even years developing fonts that have several weights, styles and thousands of glyphs. These artists are often overlooked and taken for granted, even though Type is EVERYWHERE.

What is a font license?

A font license is a type of font ownership for small business that grants the purchaser, a certain right/freedom to use the font/typeface as they see fit, for both commercial and non-commercial works.


Some variables to look out for:

  • Some fonts come with 1 license, and others come with 5 or 10. licenses. A font that comes with only one license means that you could only install that font on one of your computers. If a font comes with a 1-5 licenses, then this allows you to install the font on five computers. If there are additional members of your team that need the font, then you would need to purchase another instance of the font that allows more than five users to install the font on their computer.
  • Who should purchase the font? The designer or client? The answer is the client. If the designer were to purchase the font, and the client uses it for commercial use, then the client is at risk of legal issues for using fonts that they do not have legal rights to.
  • If the designer is using the font for the sole purpose of the project, and is not intending to produce work in a commercial environment with said font/typeface, then it is not crucial for the designer to have licensing to the font.
  • What about Free Fonts? We’ve all come across websites that allow you to download fonts for free. But just like in life, nothing is ever really free. Oftentimes, these free font resources have restrictions that allow you to use the font privately but are not allowed to be used for commercial purposes, some may even only allow permission unless you get permission from the designer.


Are you hesitant to believe that companies have faced legal issues for font licensing? Well, in 2009, one of America’s leading type foundries, The Font Bureau, sued NBC Universal for failing to secure the rights to several trademarked fonts- which were used to promote programs such as The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. To read more about this legal dispute, read the article here.


The lesson here is, just buy the font! It’s better to be safe than sorry. You’ll save yourself the headache, the hole in your wallet from legal fees, and you’ll sleep better at night knowing that you have a solid visual identity system.

Below is a list of resources of some of the best type foundries to choose from if you are on the hunt for a great font:

5 Ways To Define Your Target Market

Target Market. Target Audience. Ideal Clients. Your Niche.

These terms have all become business buzz-terms. It doesn’t seem you can have a conversation about business for more than a few minutes without one of these terms coming up, and for good reason.

A brand is a desired perception, which means it lives in the minds of your target audience. Therefore it is really, really important we understand what your target audience looks like and what is going on in their minds.

Understanding as much as you can about your target audience is instrumental in brand building and marketing.

But how do you define your target market? Who are your customers? What does their day look like, what do they care about and what are their purchasing decisions?

Below are 5 ways to define your target market. If you can gain clarity on these 5 areas, you will be on your way to understanding your customers better than they know themselves. When you can do that, you can create a powerful brand that resonates deeply with your target audience, target market, ideal customers, niche, or whatever the new buzzword of the day is.

1. Demographics

Demographics seem to be passé these days but they are still very, very important.
Demographics are still very important because we can only start to understand how people think by first knowing who they are.

Things like:

Singularly, and in isolation, these tell us very little about an individual, as our age, gender, race, etc, don’t drive our purchasing decisions alone. However, we can take inference on a larger group of people based on this information. How we sell to white women over 55 is very different from how we would sell to African-American males under 25.

Demographics don’t tell you everything, but they’re a great place to start. To understand your target market even further, lets dive into number 2.

2. Psychographics

Just like demographics, where we gain insights on our audience based on who they are, we can also gain insights on people based upon their personality traits, attitudes, interests and lifestyle.
By segmenting our audience on this deeper level, we can market to them in an even more focused manner.

For example, if we know that charitable work is very important to our target audience, this information can help us on multiple levels. For one, we now know that giving back is a core value, so we can craft messaging and marketing that appeals to this value. Additionally, if this core value is a major factor in purchasing behavior we could get creative, and incorporate giving back into our business model.

Psychographics are key to defining your target audience. Great brands always have an eye on their target audience’s behavior and thinking.

3. Wants and Desires

There is an old saying in marketing, sell them on what they want, give them what they need.
You MUST know what your target audience wants, and when we say what they want, we mean what they REALLY want.

For example, if you are selling skin care products, your customers don’t actually want skin cream. That’s simply the tool that delivers the benefit they want, which is smooth, clear skin.
And why do they want smooth, clear skin? Let’s dive even deeper. Let’s go deeper than “skin deep.” Why does someone want smooth, clear skin? So they can look great, and feel confident. They buy skin cream so they can look great, be wanted, and be admired.

When assessing your target audience, ask yourself what your customers are really buying. By effectively utilizing this knowledge of wants and desires, your audience will be yearning for your brand in short order.

4. Fears and Frustrations

On the flip side of wants and desires are fears and frustrations.

We want to know what is keeping our audience up at night so we can eliminate their worry and ease their concerns. For example, if our audience is weary of spending money, we can incorporate a money-back guarantee. Or if our audience’s biggest frustration is that the companies they buy from aren’t genuine or honest, we can highlight our integrity. Many times, people are driven to purchase more out of fear than out of desire. Going back to the skin cream example, do we really want to look young, or are we terrified of looking old?

Understand what keeps your audience up at night, and you will be on your way to creating a brand that speaks to them.

5. Key Purchasing Decisions

What makes someone actually pull the trigger on a purchase?

After all, we all have many wants and desires, fears and frustrations, and there are a myriad of products/services that appeal to these factors. So what is it that separates one company’s product/service from the other?

Many times it comes down to key purchasing decisions. Some people only want to work with the best, and will pay for that privilege. Others are more concerned with “value” and will search for the most bang for their buck. Other times a key purchasing decision comes down to how well you understand where your audience is coming from. Some people want to buy from someone who they admire, others want to buy your product/service because of what it says about them.

There are lots of decisions that determine whether someone buys your brand or not. You must understand them and focus your efforts on making these decisions as painless as possible for your audience.

All 5 of the areas mentioned above are inherently linked, and shed light on the others. When combined, they provide you with powerful knowledge that can be used to shape your audience’s perception of your brand, allowing your brand to resonate with them on a deeper level than your competitors. Take the time to know your audience, define them, understand who they are, what they want and what makes them tick, and you will be richly rewarded for it.

Is my brand working?

How do you know when your brand is working, or whether you need a full brand evaluation?

I need help! Or do I? How do I know when my brand isn’t working? Often, these are the unspoken questions when people ask us for our opinion on their business card or their website.  Entrepreneurs want to know that their brand works, but don’t always know when to ask or how to self-evaluation. It’s always great to seek feedback, but the feedback must be meaningful and relevant. Your mom may want you to sell Hallmark-style greeting cards, but that might not be relevant for your target audience. What is relevant is whether your brand is reaching that audience. Because it’s the target audience, not your mother, who will generate your greatest revenue. So, how do you know when your brand is working effectively? Here are 5 tips to help you assess when a full brand evaluation may be necessary

1. People don’t understand what you offer.

Your technical expertise should be irrelevant. Every business has a target audience. Your goal is to find and connect with that target audience. Obviously, your target audience should understand what you do.

This also means that everyone else (your non-ideal audience) should understand that they are not your customer. Why? As a starting point, you don’t want an irrelevant email list. Harley Davidson doesn’t want Volvo-driving soccer moms opting in for an email blast, because it will never sell to those consumers. The messaging and resources become meaningless and inefficient. If your message is sent to the wrong audience, you might as well be singing to an empty auditorium.

Can people describe you easily? Are they forgetting what you do?

2. You apologize.

We often call this “brand shame.” Do you introduce yourself, your business card, or your website, and then follow it up with an apology or an excuse? If the phrase “oh but I need to update this” comes out with some regularity, then listen to your gut. Entrepreneurs often have great instincts: listen to yours. It may be telling you something is off with your branding.

3. You mirror competitors.

Most entrepreneurs are not copycats. Here, we’re talking about something much more subtle that sometimes follows burnout. It’s great to seek inspiration and watch competitors, but always pay attention to your differences. Do you find that your competitors say what you want to say? Are they hosting the event that you want to do? Have your services blended in? Can you identify, with clarity, how you are different from the competitor down the street? If you struggle answering those questions, or find yourself thinking “that competitor always seems to have my idea,” it may be time to reconsider your positioning through a brand evaluation.

4. Conversions are dropping.

If, over time, your conversion rates decrease, you’ll want to know why. It could be a branding issue. Perhaps your perception has changed. Perhaps you’ve outgrown it. It could also be a marketing issue: your message isn’t being communicated efficiently to the right audience. Numbers, by themselves, aren’t enough, but they can indicate something that a brand evaluation will help identify.

5. “What’s a brand platform?

If you don’t know what a brand platform is, if you haven’t looked at your branding in several years (or… gulp… never), then it’s time to look at it, thoroughly. Although your focus as entrepreneur should be on your business, your brand (your desired perception) is a significant aspect of that company. You should at least have a high level understanding of your brand, your positioning, and know that you have a platform in place for your team to communicate your story consistently and effectively.


If any of these resonate with you, then you may have signs that something isn’t working. Because there’s no one signal (perhaps other than bankruptcy) that your brand stopped working, a brand evaluation in the form of an audit may be appropriate. At BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE, our 7-Point Audit takes an in-depth look at logo, color, font, positioning, and more, because your perception is built by multiple visual and verbal elements. A stellar brand evaluation will help you assess where these elements are working together effectively, and where there are opportunities for improvement.

Here a Touchpoint, There a Touchpoint, Everywhere a Touchpoint!

Selecting branding touchpoints: easier than picking an insurance plan!

It’s been said that a brand is the summation of all the touchpoints for a business, including toilet paper. It is true that your perception (which is your brand) is affected by every touchpoint or encounter that your target audience has with you… and it’s not limited to your website. Although you might not be focused on a “great coffee experience” and don’t have to worry about providing customers with quality toilet paper, you should consider every moment when your target audience engages with you. Fortunately, businesses have some control over when and where: websites, customer service, marketing emails, lead magnets, social media, print and video ads… the list is quite extensive. There’s more good news! Selecting branding touchpoints doesn’t have to be a complex calculus problem. Here are 3 suggestions for selecting branding touchpoints for your business.

1. Map everywhere your target audience will, or could, experience you.

This is, essentially, the “customer journey map” you create when reviewing your customer experience branding. Rather than taking the perspective of what your target audience currently experiences, keep this broad: what other points of contact are available (even if you don’t use them)?

Remember, these could be digital design (like a website), print (like stationary), copy-related (lead magnets, newsletters), or physical (trade booth, billboard). Put it down on paper. Reports often map out stories and ideas… don’t be afraid to consider the same approach.

One way we like to organize touchpoints is based on when the touchpoint is relevant: before, during, or after purchase. This helps ensure that you aren’t focusing solely on the front-end of a relationship, but considering all points of contact throughout your target audience’s experience. That type of map could start like this:

Here’s another, more detailed sample map, organized by different categories, that shows how detailed you can make this exercise:

2. Identify a flexible priority list when selecting branding touchpoints.

Not every point of contact will be relevant to every business. How many brands need a billboard? How many brands require physical locations for their target audiences? Stationary might be fun to pick, but will you actually mailing anything at all?

Be flexible – you might realize within a few months (or weeks) that you’ll meet your target audience better with an emailed newsletter rather than a static blog.

According to one survey websites are still the primary touchpoint for consumers… but don’t limit yourself. Selecting branding touchpoints is about seeking your target audience and finding them where they are. That same survey cites email, mobile, social media, and search engines as critical.

Gone are the days when business correspondence was sent to a mailroom. As this commentator wistfully points out, email has replaced printed, mailed letters. Email accompanies a wide range of touchpoints, whether sending newsletters, marketing funnels and delivering lead magnets, responding to online orders, or customer service follow up.

3. Don’t be afraid to explore.

Have fun. Don’t be afraid to be an early adopter of new marketing strategies – or at least try. Brands must meet consumers where they are found, which could include any number of social media platforms beyond facebook, or on mobile devices rather than desktops. One caveat: don’t follow a trend for the sake of the trend: always keep in mind your target audience and positioning. What works for one brand will not work for all brands.

Remember that branding is both science and art. You are building a desired perception with a target audience. Even in your perfect target audience, individual customers will have a wide range of interests, perceptions, and stimuli that trigger their needs and wants. Some people like Facebook. Others loathe it. Some people love blogs. Others prefer to read articles with established news and business organizations. Your brand may solve the same problem for each one of them… but you must find and connect with them first. Although the touchpoints you use today might be different in a year, your end goal is the same: reach your ideal audience and make their decision—to purchase from you—easy.

How To: Find a COLOR That Matches Your Personality!

Mold your brand with colors by personality: make pink masculine!

We speak a lot about the personality of visual elements. We even dedicated an article to the personality of fonts. To be sure… font choice is insanely critical! Proper typography could have avoided this year’s Oscar blunder. Color palettes are just as significant: you’ve been told that colors can influence people… but did you realize that your brand can also be shaped with colors by personality? We’ll explain why below. But for now, what this really means is that pink CAN be masculine… orange CAN be luxurious…. blue CAN be fun! How? Context matters.

First, let’s understand the purpose of a color palette.

A color palette is a selection of colors and color schemes that provides a visual tone for your brand… that “look and feel” you want to express visually. When anywhere from 62 to 90% of a target audience’s decision is based upon color alone, there’s significance to selecting colors based upon the perception you want to create. So if the palette helps establish that tone, then we need to understand consumer perceptions of colors by personality.

So what are the expectations for colors by personality? 

Determining colors by personality has to integrate a complicated mix of perceptions, and cultural experiences. Even if the study of color psychology is lacking formal, scientific data, one need only consider a sampling of global perspectives on color (such as here, or here) to realize that these perceptions do exist. Still, articulating a steadfast rule on colors may be, as this writer noted, as subjective as a Tarot card reading.

But that doesn’t mean throw your hands up! You don’t need a scientific study on color to use it in branding. We know, from our own individual experiences, that target audiences are influenced by color. We know, from our own individual experiences, that certain target audiences associate particular views with specific colors: why else do so many Americans paint a girl’s nursery pink? So, rather than relying on undisputed proof or rules about colors by personality, use known predictions and expectations about your target audience to shape and create the perception you want for your brand. It’s less about the color itself and more about context of your positioning and your target audience. That context is how you can shape color personality so orange can be luxurious.

Let’s consider some common expectations around colors by personality:


Compare these expectations with some actual logos:


Do you see a connection? Does this explain why PayPal uses blue? Why Whole Foods uses green? Those logos and color choices may feel almost stereotypical, like painting a nursery blue for a boy.

But did you notice something else, perhaps a little bit unexpected? Hint: British Petroleum and Whole Foods both use green. Here’s another: compare Harley Davidson’s orange with Hermes.  Still think pink is feminine? You must not be part of The Pink Lion Rugby Club.  Blue isn’t just for the suits over at Chase, Paypal, Capital One, Bank of America, Citibank… it has a little fun, too, at JetBlue. 


Why would an oil company and a grocery store both use green? Why would motorcycles and handbags both use orange?  

These brands are playing off predictions around your expectations, and, in some instances, challenging them… as part of their effort to draw you in! When the inspiration for Thomas Pink is “contradiction with a dash of cunning,” no wonder the luxury brand uses the color pink. On a rugby ball.


 But I still don’t get orange for luxury?

You aren’t alone. Yet, Hermes is highly successful: in 2015, among major luxury brands, it returned the highest after tax profit in 13 of 15 years. According to more than one blog source, its orange boxes stem from a WW2 shortage of paperboard supplies. The color stuck, now rooted in a tradition much younger than the 180-year-old company. Specifically, according to at least one writer, bold, visibility, and tradition are the perceptions that Hermes uses to target consumers. We agree, and posit that it isn’t very far off from the same perceptions that Harley Davidson uses in connecting with its very-different-but-just-as bold target audience.

The question of color personality takes us back to something we consistently raise: your positioning in the market. Color is significant. But you cannot pick a color based on a rule book. It must be part of a well-analyzed visual and verbal identity so that you understand the context and circumstances in which your brand operates.

That is how you make blue fun, orange luxurious, and pink masculine. What other ways can your brand play with expectations of colors by personality?

The Value Of Branding

One of the most valuable ways branding can help your business is by allowing you to charge more. A recent study by Mckinsey and Co. prove just how staggering the value of branding really is.

“During a First Insight executive retail dinner this fall, two partners from McKinsey and Company spoke to the value of a strong brand. McKinsey has identified a number of factors that are predictive of total shareholder return. They determined that fifty percent of value can be attributed to performance (strategy and execution). The remaining 50% is due to perception, which includes the brand “narrative.”

That’s a pretty shocking statistic. 50% of your company’s value has nothing to do with you. 50% has everything to do with how you are perceived in the minds of your customers.

This statistic naturally raises the question,”Do you spend 50% of your time controlling the perception people have of you? Or are you like most people where you spend the majority of your time dedicated to the other 50%: strategy and execution?”

But why exactly is branding so valuable? Why is the perception of your company worth as much as the company itself?

The answer is simple. Branding turns commodities into distinct products and services.

Commodities are by definition fungible goods and services. Branding takes the fungible and makes it unreplicatable.

Commodities compete on price and price alone. A gallon of gas from company A is no different from a gallon of gas from company B and therefore a rational buyer will buy the cheaper option every time.

When services and products are fungible, the only way to compete is on price, and that my friend is a very hard thing to do.

Trying to compete on price is how Walmart put so many small shops out of business. These smaller shops couldn’t compete with Walmart on price because these shops didn’t offer customers anything different from Walmart. These shops commoditized themselves by not developing strong brands and signed their own death warrant in the process.

With the Walmarts and Amazons and Starbucks of the world in full force, developing a well-defined and unique brand is more important than ever. You simply must develop a brand that makes you unique (a brand that makes you NOT a commodity) in order succeed.

And that’s where your opportunity lies. You may not be able to beat Walmart on price, but you can offer a better shopping experience or better customer service. You may not be able to match Amazon’s convenience but you can stock unique local products that Amazon can’t.

Starbucks is able to charge $5.00 for a cup of coffee exactly because they have a great brand. They offer a fantastic selection and an in-store experience that is comfortable and inviting. Before Starbucks, coffee WAS a commodity. They made it something more.

You may not sell coffee but you can create a brand that makes you unique. A brand that makes you irreplaceable. If you don’t, you’ll be a commodity and that’s the last thing you want to be.

Lessons Learned From Super Bowl Ads

Lessons Learned From Super Bowl Ads

The Superbowl isn’t just the biggest day of the year for football. It’s the biggest day of the year for branding and advertising. Every company puts their best foot forward in an attempt to wow consumers and the competition.

And although the Superbowl is reserved for big brands with big budgets there are still valuable lessons we can learn from the big boys.

1. Nostalgia Is In

The Superbowl ads were very much focused on the past instead of the future. Marylin Monroe was in not one but two commercials, The Budweiser clydesdales were galloping once again, Pokemon celebrated their 20th anniversary and Audi tapped into everyone’s childhood fantasy of becoming an astronaut.

Lesson learned:

Innovation is always important, but so is heritage. Knowing who you are as a brand, and reminding your customers of your identity deepens the your relationship and customers as well as their level of comfort with you.

2. Humor Is Hit Or Miss

This year’s “funny” commercials were pretty polarizing and most left a lot to be desired. We don’t know about you, but the “PuppyMonkeyBaby” left us frightened, not laughing.

Additionally we saw babies flying out of wombs for a bag of Doritos, fields of “wiener” dogs and that was just the first half. Interestingly enough, although the “PuppyMonkeyBaby” by Mountain Dew was one of the most polarizing spots, it was also the most shared, ranking number 1 for social shares and other social impression metrics.

Lesson learned:

Humor is completely dependent on an agreed upon point of view between the audience and the speaker. In other words, what you think is funny might not be funny to someone else and vice-versa. Humor is polarizing, and that’s a good thing for marketing. A great message doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, but rather resonate highly with a certain segment. Mountain Dew knows who drinks their product, and they made a real impression on them.

3. Brands Are A Touch Sensitive

The Super Bowl 50 commercials for Buick, Mini and Toyota all carry whiffs of defensiveness: A guy is surprised that a cool convertible is a Buick, Randy Johnson wants you to know he really can fit inside a Mini, and the cops chasing robbers in a Prius warn dispatch that “this thing is actually pretty fast.” And that’s just the car companies. T-Mobile used Verizon’s own rolling ball shtick against them and Budweiser took on the microbrewers nipping at their clydesdalian hooves.

Lesson learned:

No one is going to change your reputation but you. If there are misconceptions about your business, change them. If your competitors are encroaching on your space, push them back. You have the ability to control how you are perceived so be thoughtful and strategic with your marketing and branding efforts in order to create a brand that is positioned for maximum growth.

brand audit

When do you change your company name?

At the BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE, the topic came up about the proper strategy for rebranding ISIS. By ISIS, we mean ISIS Pharmaceuticals.

ISIS (The Jihadist Group) is, putting it mildly, a huge problem in the world, and they are also causing huge problems in the world of branding, particularly when it comes to naming.

“Even though people know we’re not associated with the terrorist group, the name itself has so many negative connotations,” D.Wade Walke, Isis Pharma VP-Corporate Communications & Investor Relations told CNNMoney.

Coincidence or not, Isis Pharmaceuticals shares dropped four percent on Monday, when trading resumed after the weekend. The company trades on the NASDAQ under stock symbol ISIS in capital letters.

Says ISIS Pharmaceuticals CEO Stanley Cooke, “It drives me crazy … our investors should be sophisticated. And we’ve been ISIS for 25 years, and I don’t feel like I want to capitulate to these terrorists by changing my name. They can change their name,”

As of last October, there were more than 270 US companies that had Isis in its name, according to the US Patent and Trademark Offices.

This brings up an interesting topic. The importance of naming. Almost everyone knows that ISIS Pharmaceuticals and all the other companies in the U.S. with ISIS in their name aren’t related to ISIS the terrorist organization, yet it still matters to people.


Because their name now has a negative connotation.

Naming, as it relates to branding, and in turn, the perception people have of your company is a nuanced undertaking.
Words stick with us and they bring up all types of emotions, often irrationally so. We are irrational when it comes to words, just as shareholders were irrational when selling off shares of stock in ISIS Pharmaceuticals.

Chances are your business name isn’t as drastically negative as ISIS Pharmaceuticals, but your name could have a negative connotation to it that is effecting customer’s perceptions of you.

Lets look at 2 less extreme examples:


Last month, office supply brand United Stationers announced it would change its name to Essendant. The original name had served the brand since 1922, but times changed. CEO Cody Phipps described it as “a combination of the iPad effect, cloud storage and the millennials.” Translation: People aren’t using much paper anymore, and “Stationers” sounds too much like “stationery.”


When NBCUniversal decided that its aging Sci Fi Channel sought to broaden its reach in 2009, executives changed the name. Sort of. Phonetically, nothing changed at all, but the network’s new tag—Syfy—boasted two critical differences from its predecessor: It was spelled differently and, more importantly, it could be copyrighted. “We couldn’t own Sci Fi but we can own Syfy,” is how network group chieftan Bonnie Hammer phrased it to Time Magazine. Fans mocked the new name, but have come to accept it.

Both of these examples raise the question:

When do you change your company name?

In the case of United Stationary it was when they realized their name didn’t speak to their current abilities, but rather reminded people of outdated products and services. Sci Fi Channel renamed because they couldn’t own their name.

Each case of renaming is unique, and depends on a. the name, and b. the equity you have in that name. The more equity you have in a name, the more challenging and risky a name change becomes.

Unfortunately we can’t give you a sure-fire rule that will tell you when it is appropriate to change your name due to the reasons above. However, a general rule of thumb is that if your name has a negative connotation, you should strongly consider changing it.

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical. Let’s say you run business consulting firm called “Engaged Consulting,”

The idea is that you, as consultants are engaged in the consulting process, you work closely with your clients, partnering with people and take a real “hands-on” approach. This approach is what sets you apart, it is your differentiator and provides a lot of value to your clients.

This seems like a great name, but the word “engaged” is a homonym, meaning it has multiple meanings. I, as a potential customer might see that name and think you are a matchmaking company, helping people find the love of their lives. Helping them to become “engaged.”

That’s a bit of an obvious dual meaning. But what about a less obvious nuance to the definition of “engaged?”

Engaged can mean you, as a consulting firm, are heavily involved in the work with your clients. Or it could mean you help your clients create better customer engagement or employee engagement. Without the proper context, the word “engage” can mean many different things to many different people.

A company’s name is usually the very first thing people see when they interact with a brand. The point being: naming has a larger effect on people’s perception of brands than most realize.

When and if you do decide to change you name, there are three things you MUST do to help customers understand why you are changing a name they have grown accustomed to. Just as we would want to know why a friend changed his/her name, we expect the same of the brands we purchase from.

You Must:

Explain why the named changed.
Explain how the name change benefits customers and clients.
Have a brand story that is even more powerful than the previous story.

These 3 steps are critical to a successful renaming undertaking because it explains how and why this name change matters to the customer. Without these three steps, a name change will seem arbitrary to your customers, and the trust you have built with your customers will dissipate. Customers are wary of change, so explain to them why this change is a good thing, and what it means for them.

After all, you aren’t trying to distance yourself from what made you successful, but change peoples perception of you so that they can better understand how you can help them. That’s how your name has a positive connotation, and that is great for your brand.


The Most Popular Drink Nobody Likes

Its harsh taste is unmistakable. The thick stickiness lingers in your throat long after you drink it down. People pay a premium price for the privilege of drinking this liqueur, yet when the shot comes, either alone or with a Redbull, they hesitate and brace for the uneasiness that is about to come.

I am of course talking about Jagermeister. The most popular drink nobody likes.

Jagermeister has grown 40% per year since 1985.

That kind of growth will make Apple jealous.

So what happened in 1985 that turned a modest selling import among German immigrants into one of the most popular liqueurs of all time?

Everything changed because of a fascinating psychological trigger (For more on this, and the story of Jagermeister, I highly recommend you pick up the book Fascinate by Sally Hogshead. It’s…well… fascinating).

The trigger I am talking about is mystique. More specifically, we’re talking today about using mystique as a brand strategy.

In 1985 the man in charge of marketing at Jagermeister, Sidney Frank, who also went on to invent the Grey Goose brand, came across a story in the Baton Rouge Advocate describing the drink as a cult drink. The article claimed it was jacked up with all sorts of drugs; quaaludes, opium, valium and aphrodisiacs amongst other things.

Most people would suppress such bad publicity.

Not Sidney Frank.

He copied the article and posted it in college bars around the country. College students visiting New Orleans would bring bottles of it back to their school and boom, almost overnight Jagermeister was anointed the drink of wild times and partying.

So what made it so popular? The answer itself has mystique. Nobody knows. It just became the cool thing to drink.

It became the cool thing because it was so mysterious. It was shrouded in mystique. Why can I only buy it in New Orleans? What is it made out of? Does it really contain deer blood? What does Jagermeister even mean? By withholding information, the Jager brand became shrouded in mystique, and it fascinated people.

The truth is people didn’t like the drink, they liked the brand, and they loved what the brand said about them.

Sidney Frank even leveraged this in his favor. His bar poster showed a brawny guy just after doing a shot of Jager, grimacing in disgust, with the tagline, “So Smooth.”

Once you have captured people’s fascination. It’s game over. You have won. Sit back and watch as your company and brand take off.

Now keep in mind this is just one way to build your brand, and mystique doesn’t work for every industry. For example I don’t want my accountant to be shrouded in mystique. I look for different qualities when it comes to tax returns as opposed to my liqueur.

It’s also a very tricky balancing act. Intriguing enough to get noticed, complex enough to stay interesting, yet mysterious enough to prompt questions. It’s tough to pull off, but if you do, it is TREMENDOUSLY powerful. It’s also a great way to pick up ladies (Or men) at the bar. I’m not saying I have used this trigger this way, but I’m not saying I haven’t.

Your love life aside, this could be a great avenue for your business. So how do we build mystique?
There are four main ways:
1 Spark curiosity
2 Withhold information
3 Build mythology
4 Limit access

To learn how to these factors work, tune in next week for part 2!