branding

what's in a name?

One former client likes to introduce me as the "Razzles guy". Others  know me for carving out a $6 billion market niche for Unisource Worldwide, including their business paper gigabrand, ECONOSOURCE,  with one single product SKU surpassing $1 billion annually.

Having named hundreds of products and brands, I can say most of them have done very well. While writing for American Express, Barclays Bank and Chemical Bank, I learned that words often have as much impact on shaping a brand legend as logos and graphics. So brand identity can be just as much what you say as how you say it. The company name for CANDOR Consulting came from the immediate impression one of its founders made in our first meeting.

Re-branding often means you can't change the name. So it's done with a new look and a good line, maybe even owning a color. Software company Vivat went from resembling a relic of soviet industrial chic in gray and metallic blue to Vivat!, a nimble SaaS provider with impatient ideas, in lime green and bright orange. Think xpedx READY TO RUN. vs. Unisource. ONE SOURCE. MANY SOLUTIONS.

It was an RGB butterfly that brought TMM's video technology back to life with Better Pictures. Smaller Files. Sphinx remained unchanged through the millennia until we remodeled the timeless stationery symbol in cobalt blue. Can you picture Godiva in any color other than gold? Or Klondike wrapped in something other than silver?

what if it was yellow?

For years, Wilson Sporting Goods had a lock on selling tennis balls. With an 85% share in the US, they owned the rapidly growing market. But they didn't manufacture the balls. They were made by General Tire in a factory in western Pennsylvania. After years of working together, the two companies had a falling out. Wilson felt invincible. General Tire felt they could do better going on their own. Game on.

Unseating a dominant leader is always a daunting challenge—even more so in the staid world of tennis. Like the outfits players wore, Wilson tennis balls were white, even though yellow showed up better on TV.  During a contentious brand-strategy meeting, General Tire's CEO insisted each ball be white and carry the red and black, oval-shaped General Tire logo. After all, the company's proud slogan boasted, "Sooner or later, you'll own Generals." But the stalemate was broken when an agency copywriter lobbed a fuzzy yellow ball, hastily colored by Pantone markers with a crude black Penn logo, across the boardroom table, serving up, "What if it was yellow?" Our opening branding salvo: "Penn… when you're serious about tennis." was just the beginning.  Advantage: General.

Sometimes branding means being the enforcer, as in working with IBM and Cummins, two iconic brands from the grand hand of Paul Rand. Notoriously rigid NFL team color guidelines are a breeze next to the rules of engagement for promoting the Star Wars franchise. And even though ha! was the gleefully cheeky logo for Henson Associates (Kermit green, of course!) there was never any funny business when it came to working with licensed products for The Muppets brand. Great brands must hold high standards to keep their value.

They're still cleaning up with VIVA towels, and V8 will always make your Bloody Merrier, but the name xpedx remains my personal favorite, not merely because they pushed through the $7 billion mark before finally merging with arch rival Unisource.

 

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